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One of the most versatile and respected musical artists of his generation - renowned as conductor, violinist, violist and concertmaster - Guillermo Figueroa is the principal conductor of the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra. He is also the music director of the Music in the Mountains Festival in Colorado and music director of the Lynn Philharmonia in Florida. He is the founder of the highly acclaimed Figueroa Music and Arts Project in Albuquerque. Additionally, he was the music director of both the New Mexico Symphony and the Puerto Rico Symphony. With this last orchestra, he performed to critical acclaim at Carnegie Hall in 2003, the Kennedy Center in 2004, and Spain in 2005.
International appearances include the Toronto Symphony, Iceland Symphony, the Baltic Philharmonic in Poland, Orquesta del Teatro Argentino in La Plata, Xalapa (Mexico), the Orquesta de Cordoba in Spain, and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Chile. In the US he has appeared with the symphony orchestras of Detroit, New Jersey, Memphis, Phoenix, Colorado, Tucson, Santa Fe, Fairfax, San Jose, Juilliard Orchestra, and the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center.
Mr. Figueroa has collaborated with many of the leading artists of our time, including Itzhak Perlman, YoYo Ma, Hilary Hahn, Placido Domingo, Joshua Bell, Olga Kern, Janos Starker, James Galway, Midori, Horacio Gutierrez, the Emerson and Fine Arts String Quartets, Ben Hepner, Rachel Barton Pine, Pepe and Angel Romero, Elmar Oliveira, Vadim Gluzman, and Philippe Quint.
Mr. Figueroa has conducted the premieres of works by important composers, such as Roberto Sierra, Ernesto Cordero, and Miguel del Águila. An advocate for new music, Mr. Figueroa and the NMSO won an Award for Adventurous Programming from the League of American Orchestras in 2007.
A renowned violinist as well, his recording of Ernesto Cordero’s violin concertos for the Naxos label received a Latin Grammy nomination in 2012. Figueroa was concertmaster of the New York City Ballet, and a founding member and concertmaster of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, making over fifty recordings for Deutsche Grammophon. Also accomplished on the viola, Figueroa performs frequently as guest of the Fine Arts, American, Amernet, and Orion string quartets.
Figueroa has given the world premieres of four violin concertos written for him: in 1995 the Concertino by Mario Davidovsky, at Carnegie Hall with Orpheus; in 2007 the Double Concerto by Harold Farberman, with the American Symphony at Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center; in 2008 the Violin Concerto by Miguel del Aguila, commissioned by Figueroa and the NMSO; and in 2009 Insula, Suite Concertante, by Ernesto Cordero with the Solisti di Zagreb in Zagreb.
He has appeared at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Music in the Vineyards in California, Festival Groba in Spain, and Music from Angel Fire. Figueroa has recorded the Three Violin Sonatas by Bartok for the Eroica Classical label, with pianist Robert Koenig, and an album of virtuoso violin music by for the NMSO label, with pianist Ivonne Figueroa.
Mr. Figueroa studied with his father and uncle at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. At the Juilliard School his teachers were Oscar Shumsky and Felix Galimir. His conducting studies were with Harold Farberman in New York.
My interest in violins began in a roundabout fashion when my father inherited an old French instrument from an aunt who was a classical violinist in Aberdeen, Scotland. When I was five, my parents asked me to choose an instrument to learn. I chose the violin.
For the next few years my academic work took sway and I set the violin aside. I received degrees from Michigan State University and Harvard University. While living in Cambridge, I returned to the violin, finding much needed relaxation in relearning the old fingerings and bowings. The year following graduation, I moved to Scotland, living in my family's croft on a small island in the Orkneys. Of course, my aunt's old violin, made the journey back across the Atlantic, and while gales blew across the North Sea, I found no shortage of opportunities to explore the lively rhythms and melodies of Scottish folk music. While I was in Scotland, I happened to meet an old man who made violins and Hardanger Fiddles. From that time forward, I was fascinated with the idea of violin making, reading any book on the subject that I could lay my hands on and beginning the slow accumulation of suitable wood and tools.
I decided that formal study was necessary if I was to practice violin making at an advanced level. I was fond of the Midwest and so it seemed natural to apply to the Chicago School of Violin making. At Tschu Ho Lee’s school, I received indoctrination to the basic methods of the violinmaker --the learning of patience in craftwork, the development of a self-critical sense of one's own work, and awareness of the lines and forms that lie at the heart of instrument making.
My study of violinmaking, took a fortuitous turn when the prominent American maker Gregg Alf offered me a summer position at Alf Studios. That first summer passed quickly and an offer to stay on indefinitely was extended, so I left school early to continue working and studying at Alf Studios. The environment at Alf Studios offered limitless possibilities for learning. Gregg Alf, a passionate and thoughtful follower of the classical Italian school, generously devoted his time and effort to seeing that his two apprentices came to appreciate the oft-misunderstood aspects of both the craft and art of violin making. Out of his love of violin making, he openly shared his extensive knowledge of wood selection, woodworking, and varnish.
Eventually, I opened a small shop in Chicago, and for three years set about developing personal and historical models that in the hands of musicians would compete in tonal quality and visual beauty with the finest quality of new and old violins. In spring of 2003, I moved my violinmaking studio to Knoxville, Tennessee and have continued to dedicate myself full-time to the making of instruments of the violin family.
I feel fortunate to be professionally involved in such an exciting discipline. My making is constantly invigorated through my contacts and conversations with players and fellow makers. I am particularly interested in forming collaborations with players...in the selecting of wood from my stockpiles, the choosing of a model, and the determining of the characteristics of the varnish, whether antiqued or new...all in the effort to design an instrument that matches the expectations of the musician who has entrusted me with the task of making them a new instrument.
I was gratified to win a gold medal at the 2004 Violin Society of America competition for a 16 1/4" Brecian viola. This first major award was followed by a string of subsequent medals for violin, viola, cello, and quartet, and I am proud that every single one includes recognition for superior tone, as this is the goal that is at the center of my endeavors as a maker. The in 2012, I received the designation Hors Concours or "above the competition" and am no longer allowed to compete in VSA competititons.
I am able to offer an extremely high-quality instrument at a reasonable price, but I like to let my instruments speak for themselves, and so I encourage players looking for a great instrument to contact me and begin a conversation regarding what they would like in a new violin and arrange a simple trial to see firsthand how well they perform.
Violinist Mary Ann Fennell received her Bachelor of Music from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, and her Master of Music from the University of Tennessee. She continued her graduate studies at Indiana University. Ms. Fennell has been a violin and piano teacher in the East Tennessee region for many years. She is a member of the first violin section of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and performs numerous times a year as a member of Dogwood Strings.
Julie Swenson received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Iowa. She also studied violin with David Cerone at the Meadowmount School of Music in New York, and Suzuki pedagogy with Doris Preucil at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City. Her Suzuki pedagogy training continued at the University of Tennessee with William Starr and Hiroko Driver.
Julie enjoys performing with the Knoxville Symphony and Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestras, and teaching at Suzuki workshops in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Washington. D.C.