Beyond the Notes 2018


Guest Artist

David Leisner, guitarist, composer, and author


David Leisner is an extraordinarily versatile musician with a multi-faceted career as an electrifying performing artist, a distinguished composer, and a master teacher.

“Among the finest guitarists of all time”, according to American Record Guide, David Leisner’s career began auspiciously with top prizes in both the 1975 Toronto and 1981 Geneva International Guitar Competitions. His recent seasons have taken him around the US, including his solo debut with the Atlanta Symphony, a major tour of Australia and New Zealand, and debuts and reappearances in China, Japan, the Philippines, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, the U.K., Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, Puerto Rico and Mexico. An innovative three-concert series at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall included the first all-Bach guitar recital in New York’s history, and currently he is the Artistic Director of Guitar Plus, a New York series devoted to chamber music with the guitar. He has also performed chamber music at the Santa Fe, Vail Valley, Rockport, Cape and Islands, Bargemusic, Bay Chamber, Maui, Portland, Sitka and Angel Fire Festivals, with Zuill Bailey, Tara O’Connor, Eugenia Zukerman, Kurt Ollmann, Lucy Shelton, Ida Kavafian, the St. Lawrence, Enso and Vermeer Quartets and many others. Celebrated for expanding the guitar repertoire, David Leisner has premiered works by many important composers, including David Del Tredici, Virgil Thomson, Ned Rorem, Philip Glass, Richard Rodney Bennett, Peter Sculthorpe and Osvaldo Golijov, while championing the works of neglected 19th-century guitar composers J.K. Mertz and Wenzeslaus Matiegka.

A featured recording artist for Azica Records, Leisner has released 9 highly acclaimed CDs, including the most recent, Arpeggione with cellist Zuill Bailey, and Facts of Life, featuring the premiere recordings of commissioned works by Del Tredici and Golijov.  Naxos produced his recording of the Hovhaness Guitar Concerto with Gerard Schwarz and the Berlin Radio Orchestra. Other CDs include the Koch recording of Haydn Quartet in D with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Hovhaness Spirit of Trees for Telarc with harpist Yolanda Kondonassis. And Mel Bay Co. released a solo concert DVD called Classics and Discoveries.

 Mr. Leisner is also a highly respected composer noted for the emotional and dramatic power of his music. Fanfare magazine described it as “rich in invention and melody, emotionally direct, and beautiful”. South Florida Classical Review called him “an original and arresting compositional voice.” Recent commissioners include the baritone Wolfgang Holzmair, Arc Duo, Stones River Chamber Players (TN), Fairfield Orchestra (CT), Red Cedar Chamber Music (IA), and the Twentieth Century Unlimited Series (NM). Recordings of his works are currently available on the Sony Classical, ABC, Dorian, Azica, Cedille, Centaur, Town Hall, Signum, Acoustic Music, Athena and Barking Dog labels. The Cavatina Duo’s recording of his complete works for flute and guitar, Acrobats (Cedille) was released to exceptionally strong reviews. His compositions are mostly published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co., as well as AMP/G. Schirmer, Doberman-Yppan and Columbia Music.

David Leisner is the co-chair of the guitar department at the Manhattan School of Music. Primarily self-taught as both guitarist and composer, he briefly studied guitar with John Duarte, David Starobin and Angelo Gilardino and composition with Richard Winslow, Virgil Thomson, Charles Turner and David Del Tredici.



February 2nd, 2018  -  7:30pm

51 Walden Performing Arts Center

51 Walden St.

Concord, MA 01742


Guest Artist: David Leisner, guitarist, composer, and author


You asked...?

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Q: What was the most exciting venue you played in this past year and what did you play?

DAVID: I can’t think of a particularly exciting venue - I must get more interesting concerts! It does, however, make me think of the time I was playing a summer concert outdoors in New England. I remember playing Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal. At the quietest moment in the piece, a mosquito decided to land on my knee and take its dinner from my blood. I wanted so badly to slap it, but of course had to continue playing the very quiet, delicate music.

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Q: What was the most exciting venue you played in this past year and what did you play?

SARAH: I can think of an exciting venue that I recently played at and then a very unique one that is coming up. I was in Washington D.C. last weekend and played at the National Gallery of Art with my quintet, SYBARITE5. The space was in the most gorgeous rotunda and there was greenery and flowers everywhere - kind of like paying in a jungle! Coming up, I'm going on a very exciting adventure. I'll be performing with my string trio, Trifecta, aboard a cruise ship for the Azamara Club Cruises and traveling to Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand! I Can't say that I've ever performed on a floating venue before!

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Q: I am Interested in the [stage] set - does it travel with you? Pedestals, etc.

SARAH: I wish it did! I specifically designed the stage set up for this space. The black and white screens are a new addition, which I'm loving!

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Q: Tell us about your life growing up: what made you get interested in music. Do/did you play other instruments? What is your family like?

DAVID: I came from a broken family. My parents divorced when I was 5 years old, and my mother was mentally unstable. When music came into my young and troubled life, it was my savior. When I was 9, my mother wanted me to play the violin, so I tried it. After a half-year of sawing away at Mary Had a Little Lamb and sounding quite awful, I gave up and looked for another instrument. Since we didn’t have much money and a guitar could be rented until it was fully paid for, it seemed the most practical choice, and I liked the sound.

Q: Tell us about your life growing up: what made you get interested in music. Do/did you play other instruments? What is your family like?

SARAH: Both my parents played violin when I was growing up and have always been unconditionally supportive of my music. The reason I started playing violin was actually because of my older brother, Eric. Eric was taking violin lessons and I begged and begged my parents to get me my own violin so I could be as cool as Eric :) Shortly thereafter, he switched instruments and has since quit playing all musical instruments (except maybe the kazoo?). So I'm now a professional violinist and he works in technology.

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Q: How often do you and David (or any collaborator) practice a piece all the way through before performing?

DAVID: Quite a few times. Since Sarah and I are pretty quick studies, already in our third rehearsal, we decided to do a run-through of the entire program, just to gauge where we stood with each piece and to begin to get a sense of the pacing this program required.

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Q: Guitar - who made it? How did you find it?

DAVID: My guitar was made for me by one of the truly great American guitar makers, John Gilbert, in 1982. I had heard a couple of guitarists play his instruments and fell in love with the sound and feel of those beautiful guitars. Since 1982, it has been my one and only guitar.

Q: What do the left and right pedals do on your "loop"?

SARAH: The pedals on my loop machine enable me to start and stop the loops, so the pedal sort of acts as a record button. Each time I want to start something new (aka a new loop), I have to begin and end it with the pedal. However, whatever I've just recorded will keep playing so I'm able to layer as many layers as I want, essentially turning myself into an orchestra!

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Q: I believe both your parents play the violin. Did you play together when you were little?

SARAH: Yes, actually! Believe it or not, there was a Whitney family string quartet for a very short time! When I was in middle school my brother played cello and there was one time the four of us performed as a quartet together! I believe it was a tango and may have involved us throwing a rose into the audience at the end. Typical tricks for a family band, I guess...!

Beyond the Notes 2018


Guest Artists

Ani Kalayjian, cello


Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “representing the young, up-and-coming generation,” and a “superb cellist with a large, expressive, singing tone, passionate musicianship, and magnificent playing” by the Journal Tribune,  Armenian-American cellist Ani Kalayjian enjoys a prolific career as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician and educator that has taken her to Japan, Australia, Canada, the Middle East, and throughout Europe and the United States.   

Ani’s engagements in the 2016-2017 season included tours with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra around the U.S. at Ordway Hall in St. Paul, Dartmouth University, the 92nd St. Y in NY, and in Rome, Bologna, Siena, Berlin and Vienna.   She made several trips to Lebanon serving as principal cellist of the Lebanese Philharmonic for multiple concerts given at the American University of Beirut as well as solo concerts at Haigazian University where she performed a World premiere, ‘Yesterday is No More’ written for her and violinist Rebecca Jackson by award-winning composer Polina Nazakinskaya.  During her time in Lebanon, Ani gave outreach performances to underserved communities at St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Insan School for Iraqi & Syrian refugee children, Byblos Birds’ Nest Armenian orphanage, KarageusianFoundation, and in the Syrian refugee camps. 

Ani has performed at major venues around the world including Izumi Hall in Osaka, Japan,  National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Myra Hess Series in Chicago, Little Rock Chamber Music Society in Arkansas, Lark Chamber Music Society in LA, BargeMusic, Brooklyn Historical Society, Dweck Center Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, Concerts International Memphis, the Rutgers Zimmerli Arts Museum in New Brunswick, NJ, Orange County Segerstrom Hall in California, and Benaroya Hall in Seattle, among others.

A passionate chamber musician, Ani has attended various festivals including the La Jolla Chamber Music Festival in California, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival as a Shouse Artist in Michigan and the American String Project in Seattle as well as the Lichfield Festival in England.  She has also performed at Michael Tilson Thomas’ Carnegie Hall workshop in New York, Pablo Casals Prades festival in France, Mendelssohn on Mull in Scotland, Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada as an Artist-in-Residence, Sarasota festival in Florida, Apeldoorn festival in Holland, London Masterclasses, Strings Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, New York String Seminar, Holland Music Sessions, RNCM International Cello Festival in England, and Chateau de la Moutte festival in St. Tropez.

Ani’s competition successes include winning Grand Prize winner of the International Chamber Music Competition of New England, First prize in the Anglo-Czechoslovak Trust competition in England as a soloist where she was also granted the Bohuslav Martinu Foundation Prize, as well as a top prize at the J.C. Arriaga chamber music competition.  Ani has enjoyed collaborations with such musicians as Ani Kavafian, Jorja Fleezanis, Andres Cardenes, Danny Phillips, Orion Weiss, Kim Kashkashian, among others, and has served as co-artistic director of AGBU’s Performing Artists at Weill Recital Hall.  She was one of two cellists accepted into the inaugural season of David Finckel and Wu Han’s Music@Menlo chamber music festival.  Ani was also featured in a BBC documentary playing in a masterclass with Steven Isserlis at International Musicians Seminar Prussia Cove in England.

An avid teaching artist, Ani is on faculty at the Elisabeth Morrow School and Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, New Jersey and enjoys giving masterclasses to musicians around the country.  She has also been on faculty at the Horace Mann School.  Ani received an M.A. with Distinction from the Royal Northern College of Music in England as a student of Ralph Kirshbaum and a B.A. from the Mannes College of Music as a student of Timothy Eddy.  

Upcoming performances include concerts in Los Angeles at La Sierra University with members of the LA Philharmonic, the Bartow-Pell Mansion, Saugerties ProMusica, Pleasantville Music Society, a summer residency at Wellesley College with pianist Adam Golka and violinist Jessica Tong, Music at Montauk Chamber Music Festival and Sebago-Long Lake Chamber Music Festival.


Cynthia Huard has appeared in recital as a pianist and harpsichordist throughout the United States and in Europe. Her versatile musicianship is a key element of the summer concert series of the Rochester Chamber Music Society, where as artistic director she performs with internationally known artists.

Devoted to chamber music and collaborative music making, she has performed with the Lark Quartet, cellist Nathaniel Rosen, and with chamber players of several orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony, the National Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Utah Symphony, and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. She has been a featured soloist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, and at the Aston Magna Early Music Festival, among others.

In addition to performing chamber music repertoire, she frequently performs with renowned vocalists. She has been heard on National Public Radio with the vocal ensemble “Counterpoint,” with whom she has recorded a CD of South American music. Most recently she has been presenting contemporary music, including a Vermont premier of a piece by nationally recognized composer Nico Muhly, commissioned works by Vermont composers Erik Nielsen and T. L. Read, and a piano solo by Middlebury College’s own Tristan Axelrod.

Ms. Huard spent three years as a fellowship student in Austria, studying piano and early keyboards and earning degrees in Piano Performance and Harpsichord Performance as well as Music Theory. At Indiana University she earned advanced degrees in piano and harpsichord as well as studying modern chamber music with members of the Borodin Trio and baroque chamber music at the Indiana University Early Music Institute. A grant for study of the Dorothy Taubman piano technique led her to Boston, where she established the Arlington Piano Trio and the Duo Florestan and developed classical music concerts for children. Ms. Huard is currently an affiliate artist at Middlebury College and teaches at the Middlebury Community Music Center.



July 9, 2018 - 4:00pm

Federated Church of Rochester

15 N. Main St.

Rochester, Vermont 05767

Guest Artists: Ani Kalayjian, cello & Cynthia Huard, piano