VIOLIN

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Sarah Whitnah

I have played with Sphere for about 7 years. My favorite Sphere piece to play is whatever we are currently working on! I LOVE everything we do, 100%! Outreach with Sphere means bringing people into our musical family in an intimate way. It means sharing the best parts of our humanity with each other through music. I owe so much of my ensemble skills to Steven Amundson, former conductor of the St. Olaf Orchestra. And I owe everything about my individual violin abilities to Dr. Madeline Schatz and Linda Wang (DU). Another musical group near and dear to my heart is Playground Ensemble. This ensemble has gained a reputation in Denver, CO for doing out-of-the-box concerts and collaborations, and it's always exciting to be involved in those endeavors. The cutest member of my family is our mini-dachshund, Stormageddon. My favorite place to travel is Tokyo, Japan (for the unique culture and absolutely delicious food!) More information about Sarah at: www.sarahwhitnah.com

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Emily Lewis

I have played with Sphere for 11 years! Since the very first concert in 2011! My favorite Sphere piece to play - Wow, this one is difficult because we've done so many in 11 seasons! So here are my favorites - All the Rowboats for its chaotic energy; Shostakovich 8 because it was super challenging and rewarding at the same time; Strum, because it is a texturally cool piece; and Oye Mi Guaguanco because of the energy and the singing!  Other than Sphere, where I play the most is in the pit for the main stage productions at the Arvada Center, and I occasionally get to play with the silent movie orchestra, Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.  Outside of music, I like to garden and sew! Learn more about Emily at: https://www.emilyrlewis.com

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Autumn Pepper

This is my second year playing with the Sphere Ensemble and it’s my absolute favorite group! My favorite Sphere piece that we’ve played so far has been Dave Short’s arrangement of Bohemian Rhapsody because of how much fun it is! The piece is so dynamic and expressive and takes you on a journey that can make you feel so many emotions. One of my favorite aspects of Sphere is the outreach component. Making music, for me, is about connection. Through music, we seek artistic expression and when we share that with others, we create a bond of the human experience. Especially when we share our music with audiences who would be unlikely to stumble upon us, it gives me a sense of hope and purpose. My favorite outreach was when we visited a juvenile detention facility. The students there responded so positively to our music and their level of interest and engagement made me feel like I was doing something really healthy for them. It’s the best feeling to help and uplift people! While Sphere is my ensemble of choice, I also play with the Greeley Philharmonic full-time and have made appearances in most of the regional orchestras of the region. I also teach a studio of about 30 private violin and viola students! My students keep me busy and let me realize my vision of encouraging others to find their joy through music. I have a unique violin origin story: I owe it to Celine Dion and her song “To Love You More!” I come from a non-musician household but I was determined to get as good as I could be on the instrument from a young age. A few non-musical tidbits about me: I have a pet rabbit named Hubble, and I like exploring new things and going on adventures! (...One of the reasons Sphere feels like home.) Learn more about Autumn at: https://autumnpepper.wordpress.com/ 

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Mary Evans

This is my second season playing with Sphere Ensemble and every concert has been an absolute joy! I’m not sure it’s possible for me to choose a favorite piece we have performed. One of my favorite things about this group is variety of composers, genres and styles we play even within one concert program. I relish every opportunity to dig into a fabulous pop arrangement – I don’t often get the chance to be so theatrical – but I think my favorite performance so far has been Reena Esmail’s “Teen Murti”. Her music has a beautiful way of highlighting individuals while maintaining a strong sense of unity. For me, creating that kind of art with people I respect and appreciate was a profound and special experience, and I could not be more grateful. As a newer member I have only precipitated in a few outreach events with Sphere Ensemble but I have loved every one. I believe it is vital to share our love of music with not only those who might not have access to concert tickets but also those who might never have known to seek us out. Music and art can mean so many things to so many different people, and Sphere offers an opportunity to explore that range in a fun and inclusive setting. I feel incredibly lucky to be touching on so many of my favorite aspects of music in my current professional life. In addition to Sphere I am a member of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and the Colorado Ballet Orchestra as well as playing with other orchestras and ensembles all over the Front Range. I also help run Alpenglow Music Program, an educational chamber music program in Colorado Springs, which allows me to share my love of music with students and amateurs of all ages. When I am not working you can usually find me in the kitchen making far too much food for my friends or curled up on the couch with my knitting watching movies or TV. Learn more about Mary at: www.maliziaviolin.com

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Nina Fronjian

I have played with Sphere for 8 years! This is my 9th season. My favorite Sphere piece to play… this is a tough one! Dave Waldman's Parliament Funkadelic arrangement comes to mind because it's just so soulful and too fun.  Also, just about anything Alex Vittal arranges because you'll never run out of something to listen for, whether it's a little percussive effect hiding somewhere in the texture or a beautiful harmony. Thoughts on Sphere’s outreach program: To me, the most meaningful part of making music is getting to share it with others.  I believe that we feel each other’s humanity - all of our heartbreaks, joys, pains, comforts - when we share in a piece of music together, and it's very important not to limit whom we're sharing with.  If we only share with those who can access our music easily, we’re missing out on so many rich, magical collective experiences.  One of my favorite Sphere outreach events was when we played for young people at a juvenile detention center. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music sometime in high school. I was interested in so many things, but music was what I felt the most limitless curiosity about. I felt like I could never get sick of learning about it and pursuing it.  My other interests outside of music are cooking, studying languages, spending time outdoors, and traveling. Learn more about Nina at: www.ninafronjian.com

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Sarah Cranor

I have played with Sphere since 2018! My favorite Sphere piece to play… this is a tough one… but three recent highlights have been Sarah Witnah’s arrangement of Bjork’s Cvalda- not only was this music totally unknown to me, I got to play some auxiliary “instruments” including trash can lids and tin grilling pans…. I like that it challenged me to think of music in a broader sense.  A close second would be Oye Mi Guaguanco (arranged by Alex Vittal) especially when we got to play with El Sistema Colorado young musicians in a layered arrangement Alex made so that everyone could participate even though we had varying levels.  I also really enjoy when we play major Classical works arranged especially for Sphere, such as Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony: I’ve always wanted to play the wind and brass parts, too, and it’s an incredible way to get to know this music! I love how outreach with Sphere means we meet people in their spaces, and we get to interact in a unique way.  For example, when we played at Gilliam Youth Services Center this past season, one kid shouted out “man that was cool!”, or when someone plays an awesome solo (**Nina’s amazing P-Funk solo!**) everyone feels free to whoop and holler…. Or a particular reaction after we played Automne: “I felt like God was touching my soul.”  I think it’s a powerful reminder that music transcends boundaries- and challenges and delights us regardless of setting.   I direct Tonos del Sur, and also I play with the West Texas Symphony, Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, Permian Basin String Quartet, Bourbon Baroque, Charlotte BachAkademie, and the Chasqui Quartet. In the other side of my professional life I play the baroque violin and approach music from the lens of of historical performance.  I’ve become really interested in pushing my comfort boundaries in long-distance running… I’m training for my next ultra-marathon race! My favorite books are The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons!!! Learn more about Sarah at: https://www.sarahcranor.com

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Evan De Long

I have played with Sphere for 1 full season (since 2021).  I can't pick just one favorite Sphere piece to play, since I'm rather new to the group, I don't feel like I can answer this one quite yet! But I've thoroughly enjoyed everything I've played so far with Sphere. It's exciting to play such a wide variety of music at every concert and I find the large chamber music aspect, with generally each of us being on our own part, to be one of the most exciting things about the music we play!  The outreach component to Sphere Ensemble makes this group very special, and my experience doing an outreach event for students at El Sistema was rewarding. It was wonderful to perform for an enthusiastic audience of kids who were in the process of learning to play string instruments, and also, the kids got to perform one piece with us, which was awesome! Outreach performances also feel special for me, because my first experience listening to string instruments was at an outreach concert I attended as a kid, and is what sparked my interest in music!  In addition to Sphere ensemble, I am principal 2nd violin for the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, hold a section position with Boulder Philharmonic, and play as a substitute violinist for the Colorado Symphony and Opera Colorado. I also play piano, and work as a collaborative pianist for students at the University of Denver, as well as for Suzuki programs around the metro area. I also have a large teaching studio of both violin and piano students.  Probably the most exciting job I had was in the summer of 2019, when I performed on a cruise ship as part of a program called Lincoln Center Stage. I played in a string quintet, and over the course of 4 months, performed about 20 different programs regularly during my contract. The musical component was super exciting, but also, I got lucky to be on an extremely exciting itinerary through Northern Europe! I got to visit over 10 countries in that region, my favorites being Norway and Iceland.

VIOLA

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Alex Vittal

I have played with Sphere since the second ever concert, back in 2011. My favorite Sphere piece to play is so hard to choose! I love Rhapsody in Blue because it is so iconic and has so many contrasting sections. I also really enjoyed Reena Esmail's Teen Murti because it had such interesting sounds and rhythms, and it is a lot of fun to recreate the energy and sounds of the pop songs we have done from various arrangers and time periods. Thoughts on Sphere's outreach programs: Everyone deserves to have good opportunities in life, an outlet for emotions, and the ability to have joyful and cathartic experiences with live music and art. While we do not have the capacity to provide meals or shelter, it feels good to know that by getting out in the community to share what we do in Sphere Ensemble with our neighbors, we are able to provide the conditions for powerful music-inspired emotions to flow, and perhaps catalyze positive changes for people. Performing our arrangement of Bach's Chaconne in the bone marrow transplant and oncology units of the University of Colorado Hospital at Anschutz back in 2019 was a particularly moving experience for me. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music when I played Stravinsky's Petrouchka at a summer program in Idyllwild, California the summer before my senior year in high school. That music was so thrilling to learn, and the students came from all over the world, and the setting was beautiful. It was such an inspiration to have that experience and to visualize myself doing music as a career. Locally, I also play in Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, Steamboat Symphony Orchestra, Zero Hour tango orchestra, and Highlands Square Ensemble. My most exciting musical experience was when I had the honor of conducting Yo-Yo Ma performing Bach's Air on G with students from El Sistema Colorado in a free community concert in August 2018! Outside of music… I've been baking sourdough bread for 6 years now, I have been a runner since elementary school, I enjoy skate skiing, and I am super interested in history. I love so many books, in particular anything by Ursula K. Le Guin. Recently, I really enjoyed André Alexis' Quincunx books, and Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet series.

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Brightin Schlumpf

I played my first concert with Sphere in 2016. I have loved every opportunity I have had to play with this wonderful ensemble. The collaborative style of performing and imperative role of every musician makes the experience invigorating. I can't think of a piece of music that I haven't enjoyed playing with Sphere, but one of my recent favorites was Rhapsody in Blue. There were so many layers to the arrangement and beautiful nuances that continued to evolve the more we rehearsed. Involving the community is such a crucial part of being a musician - not only for the sake of engaging a larger audience, and encouraging future music lovers and musicians to continue the tradition of our art form, but also to bring joy and experiences to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity. One of my favorite outreach performances with Sphere was at the Colorado Children's Hospital. Our concert was broadcast to hospital rooms and hopefully brought some joy to the patients receiving care. I enjoy playing with many other ensembles throughout the state, including Colorado Symphony, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Boulder Philharmonic, Fort Collins Symphony, Greeley Philharmonic, and others. I also have a private violin and viola studio and enjoy working with the violin learning app, Trala. In my spare time, I enjoy many hobbies including running, hiking, skiing, biking, traveling, and spending time with my feline companion, Mr. Kitty, and my husband. You can find out more about me here: https://linktr.ee/brightinrosestrings.

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Aniel Cabán

I have played with Sphere since the group was founded back in 2011!! Favorite Sphere piece to play… Alex Vittal's arrangement of The Beatles' Abbey Road.  This is one of my favorite albums from one of my favorite bands so it was truly fun and special being able to play some of its songs the Sphere way. Thoughts on Sphere’s outreach program: it is so important for us as musicians to get out of our bubble and bring our art to communities that otherwise would not be able to come see our performances.  One of the main reasons I love playing with Sphere is precisely that we make it our priority to always include an outreach session during our rehearsal week. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music.. when I was a freshman in High School. Other groups I play in are the Boulder Philharmonic, Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Greeley Philharmonic, Colorado Bach Ensemble, Colorado Ballet, Colorado Symphony.

CELLO

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Erin Patterson

This is my 2nd season playing concerts with Sphere Ensemble. I particularly love the covers that Sphere members make of their favorite songs - you can feel the joy that went into arranging a song and that makes it all the more enjoyable to play! Outreach and education is a vital part of the future of all genres of music. I appreciate that Sphere Ensemble not only performs in concert halls, but works regularly with El Sistema Colorado in Denver, and makes high level music accessible to audiences of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music after attending Sewanee Summer Music Festival my Freshman year of High School. I didn't realize playing music with friends could be so rewarding until then! My most influential and incredible teachers and mentors are Alan Rafferty, Avi Friedlander, and Matt Haimovitz who all inspired me to explore my unique voice and place within the classical music industry. My most exciting musical experience has been performing concerts in Germany with Uccello! Right now, I'm listening to a lot of Charlotte Day Wilson, Anderson .Paak, Joe Hisaishi, Daniel Caesar, Puccini, K Drama OSTs. When I’m not playing music I am exploring with my rescue pup, Lilo, practicing yoga, and baking sourdough.

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Dave Short

I have played with Sphere since the beginning with a break in the middle!  My favorite Sphere piece to play is…any of them?  Each piece has unique challenges and its own beauty.  I am absolutely loving the colors and flow of Caroline Shaw’s Ent’racte from this concert.  I also have a spot for All the Rowboats, but I’m biased because it’s my arrangement. Doing outreach events with Sphere is important because music is meant to be shared, and music is all made from the same stuff regardless of the genre.  Bringing experiences to those who aren’t able to make it to a live show – for whatever the reason – means that their day is left a little brighter, their soul a little more fed, and their mind made just a little more open. Other groups I play in are Playground Ensemble, Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Opera Colorado…and more!  No, seriously, I play all over Colorado. My most influential teachers/mentors are Lizzy Simkin and Nikki Heinrich, who both taught me at Ithaca College.  I still use the principles they taught me every day.  They also taught me to see where you are, where you are going, and always have a plan for getting there. Outside of music I am a player and designer of boardgames.  And would love to hike, when there is time to do such.  And my cat’s favorite place to perch is on my lap while practicing, or on my leg while practicing, or on my back while practicing.

BASS

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Forest Greenough

While I only started playing with Sphere about a year ago, I really love playing with the group, as our repertoire really taps a lot into my past, and bridges the gap between what I do as a professional player and my actual listening tastes. Since I play with most of the other Sphere musicians in “traditional” settings, it is really a treat to get to play in this context where we really get to explore a huge variety of repertoire and pop arrangements. I also am very passionate about the power of music to change peoples lives, and love that a core principle of Sphere is to perform outreach to traditionally underserved communities, with my most personal and meaningful experience being with the Gilliam Youth Services Center, as music was really what “kept me on the path” in my teens. I have a pretty unusual musical background for a “classical” musician, as I spent much of my early days in music school playing heavy alt rock and later metal, then developed my early professional bass career to be about an equal split between jazz and classical. Some unusual things about me are even though I’m a university bass and music theory professor (CSU in Fort Collins), my main music tastes when I’m listening alone are modern progressive metal (Periphery, Tesseract, Leprous, Vola, Ashen, etc.) which is sometimes hard to explain the “why do you listen to that” to people. I’m also a class V whitewater kayaker, former river guide, backcountry snowboarder, and a mountain biker who gets after it, and love reading modern Sci-fi (Liu Cixin’s “three body” trilogy is one of my favorites in recent memory). Besides playing with Sphere and teaching at CSU, I also play with the Fort Collins Symphony, the Steamboat Symphony, Colorado Bach Ensemble, Front Range Chamber Players, and sub with the Colorado Symphony. I’ve been playing music for so long I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t part of my life in some capacity. Sound and timbre have affected me profoundly ever since I was a kid listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” wearing headphones and footie pajamas.

CONDUCTOR/VOICE/VIOLIN/COWBELL

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Alejandro Gómez Guillén

I joined Sphere in late 2018 after my great friend Alex Vittal invited me to join as a conductor within Sphere’s collaborative model. I love everything we play! But Alex’s recent arrangement of Tito Puente’s Oye mi Guaguancó is just remarkable and a standout for me. Getting to share our music with people who unfortunately don’t receive as much exposure to it as they deserve goes to the very core of our mission. Every time we go out into our communities we are reminded of music’s power to transcend boundaries and it’s some of the most important work we do as artists. A special highlight for me was getting to share with the people at Gilliam Youth Services Center. Truly one of the most moving experiences of my life as a musician. I never consciously decided to pursue a career in music, but this “bug” sort of found me as part of growing up in a very musical household and family. I guess I never decided to pursue music as a career, but I just knew I couldn’t live without music in my life, and the career aspect just sort of comes with it.  I am influenced by so many people who pursue what they do with passion, excellence, and generosity, from Leonard Bernstein to Lizzo. During my time in school at Boulder, Gary Lewis and Elizabeth Farr stand out as incredible mentors to this day. I am lucky to collaborate with Bloomington Symphony Orchestra in Indiana, the West Texas Symphony, the Omaha Symphony, and several others.  I will never forget the joy of getting to play Handel’s Messiah at the Berlin Philharmonie under the guidance of one of my most important mentors, Helmuth Rilling. To be in that iconic hall, playing such amazing music, surrounded by my peers, all for a full audience was really something! Three of my favorite bands are Punch Brothers, Residente, and of course, Sphere Ensemble! An unusual instrument that I play is, though I don’t know if this counts, I love to whistle! (Hey, also cowbell and cajón, though I wouldn’t say I am good at them…) Some of my interests outside of music are trail running, reading in the social sciences, and great food! My pets are Sirio, Mirzam, Abbie. Amazing dogs that have made my life better over the years and who have taught me about presence and love. Some favorites: Lord of the Rings & Love in the Time of Cholera / Run Lola Run / Midnight blue / Love all animals! / Thanksgiving (the aspect of getting to eat delicious food and expressing thanks) / The mountains of my beloved Colombia.  Learn more about Alejandro at: alejandrogomezguillen.com