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September 18, 2007
Concert violinist Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio is passionate about her instrument, teaching and chamber music. As assistant professor of violin and viola, Sant'Ambrogio will share her interests and talent with University students and Nevada's classical music enthusiasts as she has done in international venues and with the United States' most celebrated symphonies.
Sant'Ambrogio has wasted no time since joining Nevada's faculty this year. She has joined the Argenta Trio – the University trio in residence. She is teaching more than a dozen students, coaching the Nightingale String Quartet, and preparing for her first solo recital with pianist James Winn, Oct. 20, and the Argenta Trio's first concert, Dec. 7.
The ability to keep her packed schedule in refreshing perspective may be a family trait.
"I come from a long line of music pedagogues so I'm happy to be able to work with students and help instill in them a love of chamber music," Sant'Ambrogio said. "The best soloists and orchestral musicians are also chamber musicians. Chamber music creates an intimate experience between the musicians and the audience. It is a taste that can be cultivated."
Musical Legacy to Musical Prodigy
Music is in Sant'Ambrogio's DNA. She comes from a musical dynasty whose lineage of performance musicians can be traced for four decades. Her grandmother, Isabelle, and father, John, concert pianist and cellist respectively, founded and directed the Red Fox Music Camp in western Massachusetts for nearly 30 years. John retired in 2005 as Principal Cello with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Her sister, Sara, is the cellist in the Naumberg Award-winning Eroica Trio, which has recorded five CDs.
At age five, Sant'Ambrogio's father began violin lessons. By the eighth grade, she was teaching a handful of students.
A Career of Distinction
In 1985, Sant'Ambrogio was recording and touring internationally as first assistant principal second violin of the Cleveland Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnanyi.
As ambassador for the United States Information Agency, she performed in Estonia, Sweden, and Ghana in 1993 and, the following year, she performed in a string quartet that toured Italy – the country of her ancestors – with Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project.
When she returned to the United States, Sant'Ambrogio was appointed concertmaster for the San Antonio Symphony and has appeared as a soloist annually since 1994.
Hoping to foster a love of chamber music across all age groups, she created her own chamber music festival with no other suitable vehicles in southwest Texas.
Sant'Ambrogio founded the Cactus Pear Music Festival in 1996, a two-week event that draws record crowds to San Antonio for a celebration of chamber music. The festival presents Young People's Concerts, Kinder Konzerts, a Young Artist Fellowship Program, master classes and concert performances. As artistic director, Sant'Ambrogio found many opportunities to share classical music with larger audiences.
She has performed chamber music with notable artists including William Preucil, James Buswell, Ron Leonard, Richard Goode, Walter Trampler, Anne Epperson and Gunther Schuller. She has recorded on the Arabesque label and is often heard on American Public Radio's program, Performance Today.
Home means Nevada
Sant'Ambrogio was invited to perform with the Nevada Chamber Music Festival in its inaugural season in 2004 and has been invited back every year.
Then, opportunity knocked at the University.
"We are very pleased to have hired such an exceptional musician and person to join the faculty in the Department of Music and Dance," said Larry Engstrom, professor and director of the School of the Arts. "Her spectacular resume reveals a person with great energy, creativity, and talent. I am thrilled that our students have the opportunity to study with her."
Sant'Ambrogio hopes to foster interest in chamber music in the University community and northern Nevada.
"This is fertile ground for classical music. It is remarkable that a community of this size has developed such good audiences for symphony and chamber music," Sant'Ambrogio said. "I hope I can contribute to the appreciation for chamber music that is evident here in Reno and help to increase audience size and participation even more."
"Mastering chamber music requires exceptional skill," Sant'Ambrogio added. "Each instrument is discernable. It pushes you to be your best. Once a student learns to play chamber pieces, he or she can perform well in any classical music idiom."