Chamber Music Workshop Faculty
Violinist Nurit Pacht was playing her violin at the Kerrytown Concert House in 2010 in Ann Arbor where Gabe Bolkosky worked. “As I walked up the stairs, I heard a captivating musician, with a sound I knew I had not heard or perhaps ever would. I pushed my nerve aside, interrupted the rehearsal and said ‘who are you?’” Over the next few years, it was through Gabe’s music festival, PhoenixPhest that the four players met and had opportunities to play, teach, and discuss ideas together.
To the quartet, it feels significant that they all met through PhoenixPhest. It’s a very specific environment focused on providing high caliber educational experiences for anyone and everyone, while encouraging joyful, empathetic, compassionate chamber music making. These are the values that drew them together. These are the values that the name Bayberry comes from.
Bayberry is Nurit’s neighborhood that has been a community since the early 1950s. Their emphasis on community, inclusivity, the highest standards, enduring family roots, and healthy happy living are what inspire us daily.
Violinist NURIT PACHT was a top prize winner in international competitions including the Irving Klein International Music Competition in California and the Tibor Varga International Violin Competition in Switzerland. As a soloist she was featured in major world events such as the European conference for the inauguration of the Euro in Brussels and under the auspices of the European Commission and United Nations she toured the former Yugoslavia, during the cease-fire in 1996. In 2015, she performed for Pope Francis on his visit to New York and gave a State Department funded recital tour of Ukraine. She has collaborated with stage director Robert Wilson, choreographers such as Bill T. Jones and has worked closely with many of today’s celebrated composers. She has toured as soloist with orchestras around the world including the Houston Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the Rhode Island Philharmonic and the Israel Chamber Orchestra. The Israeli Composer Noam Sheriff dedicated the violin concerto “Dibrot” to her and she performed it in several prestigious venues of Israel. As a baroque violinist, she has a master’s degree from Juilliard’s Historical Performance program. Ms. Pacht has recorded for Nimbus Records and Toccata Classics.
Violinist STEFFANI KITAYAMA splits her time performing, teaching, and dancing with a small ballet company in Michigan. She holds performance degrees from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory Music and Northwestern University where she studied with Won Bin Yim and Blair Milton. While residing in District of Columbia the past few years, she performed with the Grammy nominated Inscape Chamber Orchestra, the New Orchestra of Washington and various chamber music collaborations throughout the States. A passionate chamber musician, she has studied with some of the great quartet players, notably Mathias Tacke of the Vermeer Quartet and has performed in collaboration with YoYo Ma, Simon Fischer, Peter Salaff, and members of the Cavani Quartet, Lincoln Trio and Artemis Quartet. As a teacher, she has taught in a variety of settings from public school outreach to group classes and private lessons. She currently maintains a private studio with her husband, Gabe Bolkosky in Ann Arbor, Michigan and teaches at institutes across the States and abroad.
Violist GABE BOLKOSKY has performed and taught across the United States and abroad. Primarily a violinist, he performs a diverse repertory of classical and contemporary works with different collaborative artists from many genres of music making. Gabe released seven CDs that show his breadth as a musician focused in the areas of contemporary music, jazz and tango as well as traditional classical music. Over the last two decades, Gabe spent six years as Guest Artist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor teaching violin and chamber music and as the Executive Director of The Phoenix Ensemble, a nonprofit organization dedicated to being a musical resource for artists and educational institutions. Gabe also directs PhoenixPhest! and PhoenixPhest! Grande, two amateur chamber music festivals held each May and August intent on creating an environment open to all levels and ages of musicians. Recently, he founded the organization, Musicians Take a Stand, encouraging musicians to hold concerts for humanitarian causes and raise money through social media platforms.
Cellist LAURA USISKIN has performed throughout North America and Europe in such venues as Alice Tully Hall, Palazzo Chigi Saracini (Italy), Weill Hall, Barge Music, and many others. Notable performances include the complete J.S. Bach solo suites in Los Angeles and Connecticut and concertos of Dvoràk and Takemitsu with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra. With a penchant for music both old and new, she worked as a Baroque cellist through the Yale Baroque Ensemble and has also premiered dozens of works as well as commissioned works in her name. In 2011, Usiskin founded the Montgomery Music Project, an El Sistema strings program for students in Montgomery, Alabama. The program has given intensive string instruction to hundreds of low-income children across three counties. Usiskin has held orchestral positions with the New Haven Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, and Orchestra Iowa, where she served as Principal Cello. She also performs regularly as a founding member of the New York-based Arté Trio. Usiskin resides in Birmingham, AL, where she is on faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Birmingham-Southern College. Through UAB, she founder the series “Chamber Music @ AEIVA,” which presents free concerts connecting music with visual art. Usiskin graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and Behavior from Columbia University, Master of Music from The Juilliard School, and Doctor of Musical Arts from the Yale School of Music, where she was awarded the Aldo Parisot Prize.
Sarah Benton hails from Hattiesburg, MS and has worked in theatre education in various capacities for the past two decades. Educated at Belhaven University in Jackson, MS and an alumna of New Stage Theatre’s Education Intern program, Sarah’s most recent work is with the non-profit Meridian Performing Arts Center in Meridian, MS where she has choreographed, directed, and taught improv with their teen theatre group Stage 2 for the past ten years. Sarah has a great love for the way improvisational theatre brings out the best in a wide variety of people no matter their age or life experience and particularly the sheer joy to be found in playing alongside others.