Conductors


Benjamin Simon

Music Director & Conductor for PACO, Sinfonia and Debut Ensemble

Ben has performed for audiences around the world as violist of the Naumburg Award-winning New World String Quartet, the Stanford String Quartet, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonic Orchestras.

A native of San Francisco, Ben began his conducting studies in the Bay Area with Denis DeCouteau, continuing at Yale College and the Juilliard School with Otto Werner Mueller and at the Aspen Music Festival with Dennis Russell Davies. Ben has led orchestras and contemporary ensembles in the United States and Europe, and conducted performances for the theater as well as sound tracks for major motion pictures. He has taught at Harvard and Stanford Universities and has been a member of the music faculty at UC Berkeley since 1998.

Ben served as director of the Crowden School in Berkeley from 1999 to 2002, where he founded the popular chamber music series Sundays at Four. In 2002, he succeeded founding music director Edgar Braun at the SFCO, and in the same year was appointed music director of the award-winning youth ensemble, the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. Although conducting takes the lion’s share of Ben’s time and energy, he can still be heard performing onstage at the SFCO’s Classical at the Freight and around the Bay Area with various friends and colleagues.


Kris Yenney

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.

Michel Taddei

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.


Eugene Sor

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.

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