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Travis J. Cross Named New Chair of the Department of Music

April 16th, 2018 · No Comments

Photo: Laura Schneider/UCLA

Professor Travis J. Cross, a conductor, composer and arranger, will become chair of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Department of Music on July 1, 2018. Cross, who joined the UCLA faculty in 2013, will serve a three year-term. He succeeds Professor Neal Stulberg, who successfully led the Department of Music for four years, including helping to write the proposal that resulted in the formation of the school in 2016 as the first — and only — school of music in the University of California system.

A vice chair of the music department since 2014, Cross also served as associate dean for academic mentoring and opportunity during the inaugural years of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Cross currently conducts the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band and directs the graduate wind conducting program.

“Professor Cross’s achievements exemplify key areas within the Department of Music,” said Judith Smith, dean of the Herb Alpert School of Music. “He excels at conducting; he is a composer and arranger of band music; he taught in high school and now teaches in the department’s Music Education curriculum.”

Over the past five years, Cross has reinvigorated the UCLA Wind Ensemble, leading the band in invited performances at the California All-State Music Education Conference and College Band Directors National Association Western/Northwestern Division conference. In February, the UCLA Wind Ensemble participated in centenary performances of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Cross established the UCLA Wind Conducting Workshop, bringing dozens of music educators and conductors to campus for a week of training and professional development with leading teachers in the field each summer, and revived the UCLA Wind Ensemble Invitational, welcoming hundreds of high school band students from across the region to perform on the stage of Royce Hall.

“I look forward to serving the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music in this role and anticipate building upon the achievements of my predecessors to sustain the Department of Music as a home for world-class composition, music education, performance and scholarship,” said Cross, professor and incoming music department chair. “I also hope to foster collaboration and connections between the acclaimed faculty and talented students in our department and the major cultural institutions, school music programs, and community arts organizations throughout California, as well as nationally and globally.”

Cross holds degrees from St. Olaf College (bachelor of music cum laude in vocal and instrumental music education) and Northwestern University (master and doctor of music in conducting), where he was named a Jacob K. Javits Fellow by the United States Department of Education. Prior to graduate study, he taught for four years at Edina (Minn.) High School, and after completing his doctoral coursework, he served as assistant professor of music and wind ensemble conductor at Virginia Tech for five years, where he led students in performances at the Virginia Music Educators Association conference, Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall.

His original compositions and arrangements are published by Boosey & Hawkes, Daehn Publications, and Theodore Music. He has appeared as a guest conductor, composer, and clinician in more than 30 states; Canada, China, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates; and at the Midwest Clinic. Professor Cross is a Yamaha Master Educator.

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Chancellor’s Residence–April Recitals

April 13th, 2018 · No Comments

Mrs. Block has shared with us some more photos from her annual recital series at the Chancellor’s residence.

From April 4th, mezzo soprano Meagan Martin and accompanist Douglas Sume:

And from April 5th, saxophonist Matthew Lombard, seen here with Mrs. Block:

There will be more photos and information to come, as recitals will continue on through May.

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Mezzo-Soprano Meagan Martin Takes Top Prize at the UCLA Hershey Felder Competition

April 12th, 2018 · No Comments

Meagan Martin, first-prize winner, on day one of the competition.

Popper Theater came alive last week as six UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music students competed in the two-day Hershey Felder Competition for Classical Musicians. The inaugural competition, generously funded by award-winning actor, playwright, director and producer Hershey Felder, encouraged classical musicians to dig deeper into what it takes to perform at the highest level.

Day one featured Felder coaching voice, string and piano students during a public masterclass, where he emphasized the importance of interacting with the audience in a personal and personable way, and he challenged them to “make every note count.” The following day, each of the student competitors, pianists Irina Bazik and Veola Sun, violinist Joyce Kwak, cellist Euan Shields and mezzo-sopranos Meagan Martin and Gal Kohav, put into practice what they learned from Felder as they competed before a live audience, who would later cast votes for their favorite performer.

That honor went to mezzo-soprano Meagan Martin, whose performance of “Una voce poco fa” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and “The Boy From…” by Mary Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim earned her the top-prize.

“It was liberating for me to focus on the exchange of energy with the audience and on the comedy within the music instead of getting so caught up in my technique,” said Martin, a vocal performance D.M.A. student. “On the second day I came into the competition with the intention of enjoying my performance and of the audience enjoying it too, and it made a huge difference.”

Martin had shied away from talking to an audience in previous concert and recital settings. “It can feel so vulnerable,” she said, “but it’s such an amazing way to establish a connection before I’ve sung a note.”

Due to a tie between the other five competitors, Felder generously announced an increase in his gift to be able to award each competitor with a share of the cash award.

“It gives me great satisfaction to know that this competition and award has motivated these students to explore their individuality as performers, to build on their musical talent and training, and ultimately, to determine how to engage and build an audience,” he said. “I am so proud of all six students and their improvement following the masterclass. I look forward to next year’s competition and working with new classical music students at UCLA.”

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2018 Chancellor’s Residence Recital Series

March 12th, 2018 · No Comments

Mrs. Carol Block and her staff have provided us with some photos of the early performers in this year’s series, as seen below. This series is now in its tenth year. Mrs. Block invites UCLA staff from areas and departments all over campus to come to the residence to hear UCLA’s talented students perform. Mrs. Block is also featured in each of these photos.

From February 28:
Ian Bankhead, Nicole Galisatus, Sarah Wooden, Jamie Kang, Tiffany Wee–Brahms Clarinet Quintet

From March 1:
Hannah Yocute, Joseph Seyedan, Juan Rivera, Aaron Dozal, Payam Larijani, Joan Greenwald, Peter Yates — Classical Guitar Ensemble

From March 6:
Gal Kohav with accompanist Victoria Kirsch– Worlds Apart: Songs of Loss, Songs of Love

From March 7:
Jade Cook and Douglas Sumi–Vocal Performance

From March 8:
Vanessa Martucci, Jared Jones, Vicktoria Kirsch–German Leider

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Professor Antonio Lysy Announces New CD

February 15th, 2018 · No Comments

Grammy winning cellist, Prof. Antonio Lysy, performs with his father, the legendary Argentine violinist Alberto Lysy in the Kodaly duo, and Coco Trivisonno (one of the last living members of Piazzolla’s ensemble) performs bandoneon in three arrangements we commissioned from him of songs by Carlos Gardel. With tango milongas taking place all over the world, the timing of South America seems fortunate. Luxuriate also in the Casals and Bach/Villa Lobos cello choirs, performed all by Antonio Lysy himself in the glorious acoustics of Cammilleri Hall at The Brain and Creativity Institute.

Read more HERE


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Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute Helps Bring Back Iranian Music Program, Gives $60,000 to Establish Elahe Omidyar Mir-Djalali Fund for Iranian Music

January 22nd, 2018 · No Comments

Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute was founded by Mir-Djalali in 2000.

Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute was founded by Mir-Djalali in 2000

Iranian Music had been on a two-decade hiatus at UCLA, until 2016 when instructor Amir Hosein Pourjavady – a Bruin who received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from UCLA – returned to UCLA, working with The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Department of Ethnomusicology to revive the Persian Music Ensemble and related seminars. A key group of individual donors with vision and a passion for Iranian Music gave generously to sustain the program quarter by quarter. Now, a two-year gift from Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute for $60,000 is providing vital funding to keep the ensemble and seminars available for the near future.

The Elahe Omidyar Mir-Djalali Fund for Iranian Music will support the ongoing Persian Music Ensemble, a popular class with a quarterly waitlist of students eager to learn more, the annual ensemble concert, seminars in Iranian Music, and related concerts, lectures and public events. The first public event supported by the Fund is the upcoming “Classical Persian Music: Hossein Omoumi, from Isfahan to Irvine,” on Monday, February 5 at 7 pm in Schoenberg Hall. More details here.

Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, which was founded by Mir-Djalali in 2000, supports cultural and educational activities and nurtures new educators who can preserve the transmission and instruction of Persian language and culture. The institute has awarded several million dollars in grants to establish and strengthen Persian academic programs at prestigious universities in the U.S. and around the world, including the Elahe Omidyar Mir-Djalali Fellowship for Excellence in Persian Studies, which was established at UCLA in 2002, and most recently, the Elahe Omidyar Mir-Djalali Postdoctoral Fellowship in Iranian Linguistics at UCLA.

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Music graduate Dr. Xiao Chen wins Lorin Hollander American Prize

January 4th, 2018 · Comments Off on Music graduate Dr. Xiao Chen wins Lorin Hollander American Prize

Dr. Xiao Chen, a recent graduate of the Music Department’s piano program where she studied with Professor Inna Faliks, has recently won the Hollander American prize. More information can be read on their blog by clicking HERE.


From the blog:

The American Prize
in Piano Performance (concerto), 2017-18?The Lorin Hollander Award
(college/university division)

The American Prize winner:
Xiao Chen Los Angeles CA
Rachmaninoff Concerto #2

Chinese-born pianist Xiao Chen is actively engaged as a solo and chamber musician. She received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree under Inna Faliks from University of California, Los Angeles. She obtained her Master of Music degree at The Juilliard School in New York, where she studied with Jerome Lowenthal. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from Bard College Conservatory of Music, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Language and Literature from Bard College. She studied with Melvin Chen at Bard.

Ms. Chen has performed numerous concerts and recitals throughout the U.S., China, and Europe. Her recent solo recital in Shanghai Concert Hall was well received and interviewed by Shanghai Youth Daily (?Her energetic, exquisite, breathtaking performance? impressed the audience?). Her performance of Rachmaninoff?s second piano concerto with UCLA Symphony was the highlight of the concert season. She is the prize winner of many competitions including Frances Wlaton Competition, American Protege International Competition, The Muse International Competition, ?London? Grand Prize Virtuoso International Music Competition, and Steinway & Sons International Youth Piano Competition China Regional Competition. As a winner of Frances Walton Competition, she played a concert tour in Washtington State and performed a solo piano program on radio live broadcast concert at Classical KING FM 98.1. She has been invited to perform in numerous music festivals including The Morningside Bridge Summer Festival, Yellow Barn Music Festival, Pianofest Summer Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Manchester Music Festival, and Italy Perugia Music Fest.

Hearty congratulations to Xiao Chen!

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GRAMMY Nominations at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

December 7th, 2017 · Comments Off on GRAMMY Nominations at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music


The 60th GRAMMY Award nominations, announced recently by the Recording Academy, include a handful of UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music faculty, artists-in-residence, staff or alumni, among them Richard Danielpour, Billy Childs, Chris Potter, Daniel Seeff and Randy Newman.

Award-winning composer and Professor of Composition Music Richard Danielpour tops the list. He is competing for two GRAMMYs for Songs of Solitude & War Songs, a recording he made with baritone Thomas Hampson and the Nashville Symphony. The album —Songs of Solitude & War Songs— was nominated for Best Engineered Album, Classical, and the cycle “Songs of Solitude,” for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. “Songs of Solitude” is Danielpour’s artistic response to 9/11. “War Songs” (2008) was prompted by photographs of young soldiers killed in Iraq.

Composer and jazz pianist Billy Childs, a current Monk Institute Composition Artist-in-Residence, received two nominations: a Best Jazz Instrumental Album nomination for his album Rebirth, and the album’s track “Dance of Shiva” is competing in the Best Improvised Jazz Solo category. Chris Potter, who was an Institute Artist-in-Residence several years ago, is also up for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for “Illimba” and Best Jazz Instrumental Album for The Dream is the Dreamer.

Daniel Seeff, West Coast Director, The Thelonious Monk Institute, is the co-writer, bassist, guitarist, and saxophonist on one song “Shot Down” on Ledisi’s Let Love Rule album, which is competing for Best R&B album. Seeff was nominated last year for his role on Anderson Paak’s album Malibu, where he was recognized as co-writer on “Your Prime” and on “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance.”

Alumnus Randy Newman was nominated in the Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals category for “Putin” from his album Dark Matter.

For a complete list of GRAMMY nominations, please go here. The 60th GRAMMY Awards show is Sunday, January 28, broadcast live on CBS.

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Professor Inna Faliks Shares Photos From Recent China Tour

December 4th, 2017 · Comments Off on Professor Inna Faliks Shares Photos From Recent China Tour

We received the following news from Music Department Professor Inna Faliks, who recently performed several times in China and followed up that visit with a concert at the National Gallery of Art.

“I wanted to share a few snapshots from my recent tour in China. I had the great pleasure of playing recitals and giving masterclasses in conservatories in Xian, Nanjing and Chengdu. The students were wonderfully passionate, hard-working and sensitive, the faculty -most welcoming, and the sights and food – unforgettable. I include some rehearsal shots, a shot of me doing a Disklavier masterclass between Chengdu and Guangzhou, a snapshot of the Terracotta Army in Xian, and a stretching giant panda in Chengdu.

Next up for me is the Mahler 6 at the National Gallery of Art on December 3rd.”






And here is a link to the National Gallery of Art web page about the NGA concert by Prof. Faliks and Daniel Schlossberg:

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UCLA Students win Frances Walton Competition and Tour Eastern Washington

October 2nd, 2017 · 1 Comment



Earlier this year, right around the end of spring, before the summer heat would melt any organism along the West Coast of America, Xiao Chen and Xenia Deviatkina-Loh, who are both graduate students of UCLA?s School of Music, flew to Seattle to compete in the Frances Walton Competition. The day was surprisingly sunny, a deviation from Seattle?s usual sombre and dreary weather. It was as if the jolly climate was anticipating the outcome for the two ladies. Xiao and Xenia made UCLA victor that evening.

Representing UCLA proudly, Xenia, with James Lent as the associate artist, wowed the audience with her performance of the Cadenza and Burlesque from Shostakovich?s First Violin Concerto, and the First movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Sonata for Violin and Piano, otherwise known as the Kreutzer Sonata. Xiao, on the piano, charmed the judges with her brilliant and passionate playing of Brahms? First Piano Sonata and Richard Danielpour?s Mardi Gras. Xiao and Xenia were two out of the four winners of the competition, and the other two spots went to two USC ladies, BokYung Byun on Guitar, and Yasmina Spiegelberg on Clarinet.

Winning the competition no only meant receiving a substantial cash prize, but also a package of statewide touring throughout Washington State and a live radio broadcast on Classical KING FM 98.1 NW Focus. Xiao and Xenia chose to go on the Eastern tour, while the other two girls went on the Western tour. Both tours happened simultaneously during the week of September 10. While the Western tour winners had their radio broadcast after their week-long tour, the Eastern tour winners had theirs the evening before the tour began.


As expected, the broadcast was not a disappointment. Pianist Xiao brought an exciting solo piano program. She impressed the listeners and the radio host Sean MacLean with her powerful, colourful, and breathtaking performance. She picked three contrasting pieces with distinctive styles and techniques for this special night. She opened the hour by dazzling the listeners with Richard Danielpour?s wild and virtuosic work, Mardi Gras. She continued to impress the listeners with her subsequent work ? the First movement from Haydn?s Piano Sonata in C Major. Her rendition, full of tranquillity and eloquence, was an immense contrast to her previous piece. The authority and control she had under her fingers were impressive. Xiao finally ended her program that night with her climactic execution of an ?orchestral piece? on piano, the First movement from Brahms? First Piano Sonata.

Xenia, on the other hand, opted out of solo repertoire and decided to collaborate with her long-term pianist James Lent, playing a selection of movements from three different sonatas. She started the second half of the hour with the First movement of Beethoven’s Third Sonata for Violin and Piano. Both musicians conveyed class, fitting, for a classy work. The program then took a lyrical turn; Xenia and James followed the Beethoven up with the Second movement of Poulenc?s Sonata for Violin and Piano. What came next was a beautiful partnership begetting raw poetry. The dynamic duo concluded the broadcast in power, giving an exhilarating delivery of the final movement from Bartok?s First Violin Sonata. It can be noted that Xenia made James work extra hard for her chosen repertoire; but like usual, James did not disappoint.

The ladies took one day off, celebrating their successful radio broadcast at the beautiful Snoqualmie Falls, before starting their week-long tour in Washington State. They were driven around the state by the members of the lovely couple, Janice, and Larry Gockel ? Janice Gockel is part of the LMC (Ladies Musical Club of Seattle) which organises the France Walton Competition ? in a big red Ford Four Wheel Drive. Their tour began with a Sunday Matinee recital at the Englewood Christian Church in Yakima as part of their ?Second Sunday Chamber Music Series?. The program consisted of repertoire ranging from Beethoven and Schumann to Salonen and Danielpour. Throughout the week, the two ladies would give two more recitals; one at the Lake Chelan Lutheran Church (which was part of the Lake Chelan Bach Fest), and the last one in the beautiful Omak Performance Arts Centre.


The tour was essentially an outreach tour throughout the Eastern parts of Washington State, reaching the communities of Yakima, Wentachee, Chelan, Cashmere, Pateros, Bridgeport, Omak, Tonasket, and Okanogan. In this competition?s history, some years, the winners are even able to give performances and classes to the children part of the El Sistema program in Yakima. Some might recognise El Sistema from Los Angeles Philharmonic?s Music Director Gustavo Dudamel; his musical beginnings were from El Sistema. The ladies would find themselves playing for over twenty schools and around twenty-four hundred school children, years ranging from pre-school to high school seniors. Repertoire was explicitly chosen for the school presentations. When asked, Xiao and Xenia stated that they picked pieces that were fun and flashy, and if possible recognisable; the more they can relate to the students, the better. As the week went by, it only grew more intense, yet there were no complaints; as the schedule was packed full of excitement and cheer.



As the winners of 2017 Frances Walton Competition, Xenia and I toured the part of Eastern Washington State for a week. This has definitely been one of the unforgettable and beautiful experiences for me. We had three concerts and more than twenty schools? performances. It is precious and touching to see the excitement, happiness, and satisfaction on the audience?s faces, especially on the children?s faces. We prepared a special program with familiar songs and folk tunes for the children and students. Our performances always ended with the students? questions and curiosity about music. It was such a joy to communicate with all the children and students face to face and to establish a musical connection with them. We always got more than twenty hugs

from the children after each performance, which deeply moved me. I still remember their sad faces when they had to say goodbye to us. One of the girls in elementary school asked me if I can go home with her and play more music for her. At that moment, I had tears in my eyes and realised the enormous power of music to these children. Some children had never heard classical music before, but their faces told me that their lives were enlightened by our music. And my life was also totally brightened and enriched by the smiles and hugs.

Playing with Xenia was super fun. She has the ability to connect with the children really well. Not only does she enjoy chatting with the children ? trying to get her away from the microphone during question time is very difficult ? but she would charm them through her music. One really strong memory that comes to mind is when we would perform Piazzolla?s Libertango to every class, Xenia had this idea of improvising towards the end of the work. It was around day 3 that she began doing that, and that was also the day she started to walk around the classroom, or gym, or assembly hall, or whatever room we would be playing in, when we performed that work. I bet if she was not playing the violin, she would have danced and got the kids up to do it with her.

The most amazing thing for me during the tour is that we never got bored or tired by performing the same program for more than twenty times. Every time we performed differently, with different feelings and moods. We were also inspired by different audiences every time. Every performance was special to us. The most beautiful thing for me is that music lives for that moment, for every moment. Even though I barely had time to practice during the tour, this experience enabled me to understand and perceive music more deeply. I remember after one of the concerts, an old lady came to me and held my hands saying, ?Your music makes me feel young again.? All of these moments will stay with me in my lifetime, and become part of my music.



I will repeat Xiao?s words that the week we spent in Washington State was unforgettable and beautiful. The entire week was like one long fun ride through an amusement park. Xiao and I chose specifically chose repertoire with children in mind, thus flashy and short pieces, and or songs that they might recognise. A favourite for the school teachers was George Gershwin?s Summertime.


However, for the children, they had more fun when Xiao and I played Monti?s Czardas, Piazzolla?s Libertango, and Khachaturian?s Sabre Dance. Xiao also charmed the students with her performances of Danielpour?s Mardi Gras and George Gershwin?s Preludes. What was more enjoyable was that these presentations allowed me to be a kid with them; I was allowed to act like a crazy fool and not feel ashamed of it. And like any partnership, there is always the more sane and settled one. And of course, Xiao was the more reasonable one. I am the younger one between us, albeit only by two years, but younger nonetheless. There was a time that she became so exasperated at me, she shooed me off the piano stool when I tried to demonstrate my poor piano skills to the children through a transcription of Tchaikovsky?s Dance of the Little Swans.


Can I say that some of the questions from the students were amazing? There was one kid, very young, around 6 or 7, who asked Xiao about her time in Juilliard and what was it like. There was another young kid in Grade 1, who asked Xiao how to make different sounds on the piano. Some students noticed I had ?funny? sounds when I played Sabre Dance ? the funny sound was col legno. The funnier ones ranged from ?Have you ever broken your violin?? (from primary school kids), to a day of middle school and high school kids asking me about my fashion, or more importantly, why I chose to wear what I wear. Many girls would also ask where Xiao bought her dress from (Ha Ha! It was my dress that she wore that day). These questions also reminded me that I was a kid before, that I also went through high school and wondered the same thing as them about music or strangers.


I have to make a claim; the week would not have succeed without Xiao?s partnership. I literally gave her my music at the start of the holidays and disappeared for 2 months. Like the little bratty sister I am, I stressed her out further by only managing two rehearsals before our presentations. Not only did she keep up with my idiosyncrasies, she managed it all while I improvised on Libertango, pranced around the room away from her sight, and taking numerous of liberties during my solos. Both of us grew closer during the week, and more importantly, our musicianship progressed immensely after all these presentations. The inability to practise due to the tightly packed schedule, consequently engendered our performances to be organic and fresh, and in a way, more invigorated. Not only were we responding to each other, we mostly responded to the children during our presentations. I would improvise Libertango differently every time depending on the students? faces and body language. Xiao would ad lib her solos depending on the mood the children in the room were emitting.


Touring through Eastern Washington was one of the best experiences I had, and in addition, Xiao and I were able to give music and show our love for children of all ages and backgrounds. Music has the ability to encompass everyone in one warm embrace and communicate without any barriers. But the greater thing about music is that every message that is delivered, it is personal. Everyone can take home with them a piece of something from a performance, and that something is only theirs. No one else will ever be able to own it.


I was honoured to collaborate with Xenia for both the competition and the radio broadcast, and to watch Xiao?s commanding performances in both the competition and live on radio. While I always enjoy hearing Xenia thrive under pressure, there was an unusual level of high stakes, risk-taking, and extra intense finely tuned musicianship present in both the competition and the radio broadcast. It was a joy to drive through Seattle with Xenia and Xiao after competing and enjoying the amazing scenery and weather, and it was like seeing Washington with new eyes when traveling along with Xenia and Xiao.

The radio broadcast was extra intense as there was an element of live on the radio interviewing that we were not expecting. The broadcaster Sean MacLean is also a Yale Alumni, so we bonded in discussing our common teachers, and had many unexpected topics to discuss in the live interview which reminded me how much has happened since our time in school. He was very excited by Bartok?s First Violin Sonata in particular, and was thrilled that we shared it in his radio broadcast, which will continue to be aired with our interviews for the next 5 years throughout the Pacific Northwest on radio stations and at the SeaTac Airport. All in all, the experience provided incredible exposure for UCLA and all of us in a very compact timeframe, and was truly a highlight of the summer!


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