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Introducing two new members of the SPCO

We’re excited to announce that violinist Maureen Nelson and violist Sifei Cheng have been named the orchestra’s newest permanent members.

A native of Pennsylvania, violinist Maureen Nelson first came to the attention of the orchestra during a 2008-09 season residency with the SPCO as a part of the Grammy-nominated Enso String Quartet. Since then, she has kept a busy touring schedule, with engagements across the United States and abroad, and has led the quartet to top prizes at several major competitions, including the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, the Banff International String Quartet Competition, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, and Chamber Music Yellow Springs. As a winner of the Greenfield Competition, Maureen appeared as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1990, and has since enjoyed international success as a chamber musician, soloist and orchestral player. Nelson returned to the SPCO as a Guest Musician for the 2015-16 season this past fall, and was unanimously chosen by the musician-comprised auditions committee to become a permanent member of the violin section.

Nelson will be featured as solo violinist for Dvorák’s Romance in F for Violin and Orchestra in SPCO performances April 21-30, 2017, and can be heard in rotating positions in the first and second violins throughout the coming season.

Born in Taiwan and raised in California, violist Sifei Cheng has performed as a substitute musician with the SPCO for many years. He joined the Minnesota Orchestra in 1995, and has served as Principal Viola of the Charleston Symphony, New World Symphony, and the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra. He has led sections under Michael Tilson Thomas, Alexander Schneider, Eiji Oue and Christoph Eschenbach. As a chamber music performer, Sifei has played in the Ravinia Festival, Caramoor Music Festival, Taos Chamber Music Festival, Pacific Music Festival and the New York String Seminar. Some of his past coaches include Michael Tree, Samuel Rhodes, Miriam Fried, Paul Biss, Alan de Veritch, the Tokyo String Quartet, and the American String Quartet. He has collaborated in chamber music with artists such as Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank, Alicia de Larrocha and the Shanghai String Quartet. Sifei holds a degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and studied at the Juilliard School in New York. His past teachers include Karen Tuttle, Michael Tree and William Kennedy.

Cheng will be featured in small ensembles throughout the season as part of the SPCO’s Chamber Music Series. Performances will include Wynton Marsalis’s String Quartet No. 1, At the Octoroon Balls (November 10-13, 2016), Duruflé’s Prelude, Recitative and Variations for Flute, Viola and Piano (December 2-4, 2016), and Mendelssohn’s Quintet in A and Octet in E-flat (February 16-19, 2017). Cheng can also be heard in rotating viola positions throughout the season.

SPCO Artistic Director and Principal Violin Kyu-Young Kim noted, “To be true to our goals in hiring, we have had very extensive trial periods for finalists for these positions. Both Maureen Nelson and Sifei Cheng—besides playing terrific auditions to win the unanimous votes of their respective audition committees—played numerous trial weeks as guests spanning a broad range of SPCO repertoire, and we knew the musical chemistry with these players was just right and that their personal qualities would add greatly to the ensemble.”

Full press release (PDF)