Music Director & Conductor for PACO, Sinfonia and Debut Ensemble
Benjamin Simon, a native of San Francisco, has performed around the world as a violist with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Music from Marlboro, and the Naumberg Award-winning New World String Quartet. He has served as principal violist with the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the New Century Chamber Orchestra, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Ben studied viola with Raphael Hillyer at Yale College and was a graduate student of Lillian Fuchs at the Juilliard School. Ben has studied and performed chamber music with members of the Budapest, Guarneri, Amadeus, Galimir, and Juilliard String Quartets. He has recorded for MCA Classics, Vox, Musical Heritage Society, Centaur, CRI, and Laurel Records, and was awarded Grand Prix du Disque in 1991 with the New World String Quartet.
His first conducting teacher was Denis DeCouteau; later mentors include Otto Werner Mueller at the Yale School of Music and Denis Russell Davies at the Aspen Music Festival. Ben has conducted orchestras and contemporary ensembles in the United States and Europe, as well as music for the theater and a major motion picture soundtrack. Ben has taught at Harvard University and joined the faculty of Stanford University in 1992 as a member of the Stanford String Quartet. Ben is currently in his tenth year as Music Director of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. He has been on the chamber music faculty at UC Berkeley since 1998, and is the Music Director of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Prep Chamber Orchestra. He still performs frequently on the viola – mostly chamber music – and lives in Oakland with his wife, teenage son, and two dogs.
Director of the Preparatory Orchestra & Superstrings
Kris Yenney ~ cellist, conductor, composer, and educator ~ holds a M.M. from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Postgraduate studies have been conducted at such institutions as the Julliard School, the Tanglewood Institute, the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Chisti Sabri School of Classical Indian Music (Marin, CA and Jaipur, India) and Sabhal Mor Gaelic College on the Isle of Skye. The first woman to win the National John W Work III Composers’ Competition, Ms Yenney was also honored by inclusion in “ Who is Who in American Colleges and Universities (1984).” Recently, she was similarly honored by “Who’s Who among Americas Teachers” for her work in Music Education.
Kris has been involved in PACO since joining the Junior PACO orchestra in 1967. Founder William Whitson invited her to conduct the SuperStrings in the late 90s, and she subsequently also took the helm of Preparatory ensemble. Kris occasionally coordinates and conducts the older players and sometimes local or visiting Paco alums in such events as the annual PACO Bach Celebration.
A sought-after chamber music coach and private instructor, Kris also maintains a full studio of cello students. She is an active freelance performer throughout the Bay Area and can be heard sitting in with various ensembles, including the San Francisco and San Jose Chamber Orchestras, San Jose and West Bay Opera Orchestras, Schola Cantorum and TheatreWorks ensembles.
As cellist in the New England String Quartet (’87 – ’90) – resident Artists at the U Mass Boston and the “Five Colleges” – Ms Yenney traveled and performed, competed and coached extensively – in France, Jamaica, New York (Carnegie Hall), throughout New England. NESQ participated in several Festivals, including at the Tanglewood, Meadowmount and Yale/Norfolk Summer Festivals and in Northern California. Quartet Highlights also included presenting a private Schubert quintet performance with Yo-Yo Ma and a series of collaborations with New York Jazz pianist and composer, Fred Hersch.
Her lifelong passion for the cello and its relatives (bowed string instruments) has led to a growing collection of stringed instruments from around the world – many upon which she performs in her Celtic Ensemble, “Broceliande,” or her Folk Trio, “Biddy Early’s Bottle,” and occasionally with the SuperStrings. Her catalog of treasures includes a Swedish Nyckelharpa, a Persian Kamanche, a Bulgarian Gadulka, a Hungarian Gardon, and Indian Sarangi and many more… She commissioned a local (Santa Cruz) luthier to design and create a ten-stringed “Hardanger cello d’Amore,” a one-of-a-kind neo-baroque beauty.
Kris’s whimsical line drawings of musicians are featured on the PACO organizations’ promotional materials and programs and have appeared in numerous music magazines, web sites and cd jackets. A number of originals hang in private collections.
Guest Conductor of Sinfonia Orchestra
Michel Taddei is pleased to make his debut with the PACO Sinfonia Ensemble this season. He is Administrative Director of Music at the Crowden School in Berkeley, where he teaches double bass, French, and chamber music, and conducts the orchestras there. Highlights of his Crowden experience include being Music Director for the original opera Cerberus, co-composed by Crowden students, and sharing conducting duties on international tours with the students to Canada and New Zealand. Michel has also led rehearsals for the PACO Sinfonia, the Wellington (NZ) Youth Orchestra, and staging rehearsals for Oakland Opera Theater’s production of Malcolm X.
Michel is also an accomplished double bassist and singer. He was solo bassist for the Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Lyon (France) for seven seasons, and is principal bassist for the Berkeley Symphony and San Francisco Chamber Orchestras. He has toured with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble in the US and in Central Asia, and other chamber music credits include being a founding member of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and performances with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, Earplay, the Moab Music Festival, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. He has also recorded extensively. Michel’s experience as a tenor encompasses opera, oratorio, and concert work, with Candide, Barber of Seville, Renard, and Israel in Egypt among the works performed.
Resident Conductor of Debut Ensemble
Whether conducting, coaching chamber music, or teaching cello in his private studio, Eugene Sor has had a distinguished career working with music students of all ages and abilities. He has been a member of the faculty at Crowden Music Center in Berkeley since 1998 and is the Resident Conductor of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, with whom he has worked since 2001. He has held teaching positions at San Francisco State University, California State East Bay University, Notre Dame de Namur University and Black Pine Circle School, and has been a guest clinician for several music education seminars. Recently Mr. Sor was named Conductor of the Preparatory Division Orchestra at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is Director of Crowden Center for Music in the Community (CCMC), and serves on faculty for both CCMC and The Crowden School.
Eugene received his early musical training from renowned cello pedagogue Milly Rosner and completed his graduate studies in cello performance with Barry Gold at UCLA in 1996. He is a member of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and an avid chamber musician. He is formerly Principal Cellist of the Stockton Symphony and a member of the Chamberlain String Quartet. His wide range of performance experience has been integral in his success as a music teacher, providing him insights into how to maximize his students’ potential through challenging repertoire choices and strong rehearsal technique.