The SFCO has a long and proud history of presenting the professional solo debut of talented young artists from the Bay Area. Our own music director Benjamin Simon was an SFCO Debut Artist once upon a time! Maestro Simon selects each season’s Debut Artist for inclusion in one of our Main Stage Concert programs.


2014–2015 Debut Artist:
Sterling Elliott, cello

Franz Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, D. 821 (arr. Klug)

Sterling Elliott, 2014

Fourteen-year old Sterling Elliott began his cello studies at the age of three under the direction of Suzuki Cello teacher Susan Hines. Sterling, the youngest of 3 siblings, did not originally want to play the cello; he wanted to play the violin like his older brother and sister. After a bit of encouragement, he made The Elliott Family String Quartet perfect by learning to play the cello. Sterling performs frequently with his siblings and mother in the Elliott Family Quartet/Trio.

Sterling made his orchestral solo debut at the age of 7 when he became the first place Junior Division winner of the Peninsula Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition. He went on to place first in many concerto competitions resulting in orchestral solo appearances, as well as personal solo invitations with several orchestras in the Hampton Roads area. Sterling appeared on From the Top on NPR, a nationally syndicated radio broadcast featuring America’s most talented young musicians, where he was announced as a recipient of a $10,000 Jack Kent Cooke Award. Sterling’s musical maturity has resulted in several Summer Music Festivals making exceptions in their minimum age requirements so that he could attend them. He has excelled at music festivals by winning concerto competitions and making solo numerous appearances.

Sterling is a straight “A” honor student at Menchville High School in Newport News, Virginia and enjoys math and sciences. In his free time, he enjoys reading, swimming, playing sports, video games, and hanging out with his big brother and sister. He is currently a private student of Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist, Mike Daniels, and has been generously loaned a Tupper cello by the Carlsen Cello Foundation in Seattle, Washington.


2013–2014 Debut Artist:
Jared Pabilona, double bass

Bottesini: Double Bass Concerto No. 2 in B minor

Jared Pabilona, 2013

Before taking up the double bass, Jared Pabilona took lessons in violin and piano. Later becoming interested in jazz and big band music, Jared decided to learn the double bass and was given the opportunity to do so when he began middle school. Beyond the available school ensembles, Jared began to pursue other orchestral opportunities, performing with the Silicon Valley Symphony and later serving as their associate principal bass.

Jared has since performed with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Soson Ensembal, and Bach Festival Orchestra, and in 2011 was assistant principal bass for the California All-State Orchestra. He is currently principal bass of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra.

Jared studies with Bruce Moyer, principal bass of the Monterey Symphony, and Stephen Tramontozzi, assistant principal bass of the San Francisco Symphony. Jared has also played in master classes for world-renowned bassists such as Jeff Bradetich, Dennis Trembly, Christine Hooke, Paul Ellison, Peter Lloyd, Larry Wolfe, Don Palma, Timothy Cobb, and Hal Robinson.


2012–2013 Debut Artists:
San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows

Barber: A Hand of Bridge, Op. 35 & Mozart: Bastien und Bastienne, K. 50

Adler Fellows, 2012

Founded in 1977 as the San Francisco Affiliate Artists–Opera Program, Adler Fellowships are performance-oriented residencies for the most advanced young singers and coach/accompanists. Under the guidance of San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley and Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald, the Adler Fellowship Program offers intensive individual training and roles of increasing importance in San Francisco Opera’s main-stage season. Each year, a select group of exceptionally gifted singers from Merola Opera Program is invited to continue their education as Adler Fellows. With Merola participants selected from a pool of over 800 candidates, these young artists represent whom the classical music world can and should expect to see on celebrated opera house stages throughout the world in the very near future.


2011–2012 Debut Artist:
Hilda Huang, piano

Haydn: Piano Concerto in D major

Hilda Huang, piano. Photo credit: Asa Mathat, 2011

Hilda Huang, 15, studies piano with John McCarthy and harpsichord with Corey Jamason in the Preparatory Division at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She has also received coaching from Anton Nel, Gilbert Kalish, and Wu Han.

Hilda was awarded the top prize in the 2010 International J.S. Bach Competition in Würzburg, Germany. She became the first American and the youngest prize-winner in the competition’s twenty year history.

In 2011, Hilda won the first prize in the Ross McKee piano competition and the Marylin Mindell concerto competition.

In addition to her instrumental studies, Hilda was invited to conduct the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra in a family concert in April, 2010. She also conducted the San Francisco Bach Choir along with its Baroque Orchestra for their 75th Anniversary Season concert in March, 2011.

In October of 2010, Hilda won the First Prize at the Tureck International Bach Competition for Young Pianists. She was also awarded the Special Jury Prize and the Faust Harrison Piano Recital Award, and presented a solo recital in 2011 featuring J.S. Bach’s piano works.

Hilda has performed on both the nationally-broadcasted television program ‘From the Top at from Carnegie Hall’ and ‘From the Top’ on National Public Radio. She has also been a student in the Music@Menlo Chamber Music Institute in California for the past five summers.

Hilda studies at the Palo Alto High School and will graduate in 2013. In addition to her musical pursuits, she enjoys acrobatic sports such as diving and gymnastics and serves as a copy editor for The Viking, Paly’s sports magazine.


2010–2011 Debut Artist:
Nathan Chan, cello

Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello & Orchestra

Nathan Chan, cello

Eighteen-year-old cellist Nathan Chan demonstrated his talent for music at an early age. Before he was two, he could mimic the styles of conductors he saw on music videos. As a toddler, his imitations were so intuitively musical that he caught the attention of San Francisco Opera Assistant Conductor Sara Jobin. Under her eye, he made his debut as a conductor at age three, leading the San Jose Chamber Orchestra in a set of Mozart variations. At five, he began formal music lessons with cellist Irene Sharp.

Nathan Chan has performed as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, and the Peninsula Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Chan has performed benefit concerts for causes such as global warming, the American Alzheimer Association, Friends of Children with Special Needs (autism), and the Foundation for the Fine & Performing Arts. For his contributions to the community, he won the Peninsula Arts Council’s Ray Lorenzato Diamond Arts Award in 2007.

Mr. Chan was recently featured in The World’s Greatest Musical Prodigies, a three-part British series documenting a global search for talented musicians under the age of fifteen. In 2010, Chan was the winner of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition.

Chan has played concerts around the world at places like London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vancouver. Last year, he was the Debut Artist with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and also played with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, soloing and premiering a new work by Alexander Prior.

Besides the cello, Nathan Chan plays saxophone, piano, and electric cello. He enjoys table tennis, badminton, filmmaking, and social media. He is currently a freshman attending the Columbia University-Juilliard School Exchange. Chan now studies with Richard Aaron at Juilliard in New York City.


2009–2010 Debut Artists:
Isabel Lau & Benjamin Luo, cellists

Vivaldi: Double Cello Concerto in G minor

Hsiao Hung Luo, cello

Isabel Lau recently performed in South Korea at the Fourth International Great Mountains Music Festival and School where she also participated in master classes and lessons with Aldo Parisot. Isabel also recently performed the Elgar Cello Concerto at California Summer Music and at a public concert in Carmel. Isabel served as assistant principal cellist in the Peninsula Youth Orchestra fall concert.

Isabel Lau, cello


2008–2009 Debut Artist:
Stephen Waarts, violin

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in D minor

Stephen Waarts, violin. Photo credit: Maik Schuck.

Stephen Waarts, born in California in July 1996, started his violin studies at age 5 and piano studies at age 8. Since September 2011 he has been attending the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Bachelor of Music Program, where he studies violin with Aaron Rosand. Until September 2011, he studied at the San Francisco Conservatory, Preparatory Division, with his long time violin teacher Li Lin. Since January 2009 he has studied concurrently with Alexander Barantschik, Concertmaster of San Francisco Symphony, and Baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock.

Stephen is a student at the Perlman Music Program, headed by Itzhak Perlman and has for the past two years attended the summer program in Shelter Island, NY and the winter residency in Sarasota FL. In addition, during these last two years he has been attending the intensive violin program headed by Aaron Rosand in Summit Music Festival, NY. Previously he has attended for 4 years the Music at Menlo chamber music summer program headed by David Finckel and Wu Han.

His performances have received rave reviews in numerous publications including the Strad and the UK Daily Telegraph. In the last three years, Stephen has performed fourteen complete concertos and three show pieces with twenty orchestras, often multiple times internationally in Weimar, Pamplona, Oslo, Moscow, NewYork, and in the US with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, Fremont Symphony, Symphony Parnassus, Redwood Symphony, and Silicon Valley Symphony among many others.

Besides his numerous accomplishments on the violin, Stephen has also won awards for his piano playing and national awards in math competitions. In his free time he likes math, reading, drawing, table tennis, card games, and playing with his friends, including younger sister and twin brother.


2007–2008 Debut Artist:
Audrey Vardanega, piano

Bach: Piano Concerto in F minor

NAME, INSTRUMENT

Audrey Vardanega, a sixteen year old pianist, violinist and composer from Oakland, California, began studying the piano at the age of six and soon followed up with violin studies at the age of nine. In 2002 she began formal piano training with acclaimed pianist Robert Schwartz. Audrey studies the violin with violinist Victor Romasevich as well as composition with Arkadi Serper. She has taken lessons with notable names like Gary Graffman, teacher of Lang Lang, Seymour Lipkin, and Meng-Chieh Liu of Curtis institute of Music. She attends the College Preparatory School in Oakland. Currently, she is the pianist for the San Francisco Youth Orchestra.

In the spring of 2008 Audrey was selected as the Debut Artist for the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and earned acclaim from the San Francisco Classical Voice for her piano solo performance citing Audrey’s “assurance and mastery” of Bach’s Piano Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056. At the beginning of the year 2008, Audrey performed the Brandenburg Concerto 5 at the Junior Bach Festival as a solo pianist with a Crowden school ensemble. She has been praised for her “dexterous keyboard techniques” and “[ways] with the music’s harmonic depths” by Joshua Kosman.

An award-winning composer, Audrey adapted Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, composing a fresh musical score for her adaptation, which premiered at the Lower School at The Crowden School in 2006. In 2005 Audrey was the winner for the Music Teachers’ Association of California’s Composers Today for Sonata in G (for piano solo).

In addition to Audrey’s professional performances, she engages audiences with recitals at community outreach events. A passionate young woman with a refined sensitivity, she studies the piano and violin for personal enjoyment and desires to engage her audience. Alongside her musical endeavors, Audrey and her friend have recently initiated an organization called Kids for Children that uses benefit concerts to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Oakland. Audrey enjoys spending time with friends, listening to LMFAO, and eating.