2014 events


Sunday, January 19th
2:00pm to 6:00pm
MIC Campus
1490 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL

This CCS event will allow cellists to experience an orchestral audition as a candidate or an observer, develop the skills necessary for a successful audition experience and receive helpful feedback from a professional panel of local musicians. Please see the attachments for more information or contact Rebecca Zimmerman at violoncellogirl@hotmail.com.



Sunday, February 2nd
Buntrock Hall, Symphony Center
220 S. Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL

Join CSO Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Civic Orchestra for an afternoon of conversation and music-making. The first portion of the event will include dialogue with Mr. Ma, Civic Orchestra musicians, and members of the audience regarding the opportunities for musical entrepreneurship in today’s cultural landscape, and the importance of practicing both one’s instrument and one’s values in engaging with the world. Mr. Ma and the Civic musicians will share their experiences from work together on the Civic’s Artistic Challenge project and the Citizen Musician Fellowship pilot program. The second portion of the event will include a moment for audience members to join in a reading session of Haydn’s C Major cello concerto and selections from Grieg’s Holberg Suite.

This event is open to invited guests from the Chicago Cello Society, Roosevelt University Department of Music, and Civic Orchestra. Members only are eligible to attend.

Please note that RSVPs are required and capacity is limited. You may RSVP for this event by emailing 1) your name, 2) your affiliation, 3) your instrument, noting whether you would like to play in the second part of the session. RSVPs should be emailed to cellotrope@yahoo.com by Monday, January 27, 2014.


Each Chicago Cello Society event will have a String Bin Donation Box where you can drop off your used strings. These strings will be distributed to students in the Chicago area who cannot afford a nicer set. You are also welcome to drop off old metronomes, rock stops, rosin or any other gently used cello-related items.


Monday, March 24th
Curtiss Hall
410 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL

The Chicago Cello Society is pleased to announce it will bring back one of the most successful programs ever presented by the CCS. On December 3, 1990 (!), fifty members gathered together to "test" old instruments against new – something that is probably as old as instrument making itself. At that program, we attempted to improve on the test that was conducted at the Fourth Cello Congress in the summer of 1990 held in Tempi, Arizona. The improvements included (1) providing guidelines on the ballot for judging the instruments, (2) having two cellists doing the playing to show that different players can make an instrument sound different, and (3) adding passages to extend the playing to the outside limits of the instrument. The modern cellos were all from Chicago area makers: Carl Becker, Gary Garavaglia, Bernard Gutterman, August Olshovy, Gunther Reuter and T. Lynn Spiegel. The old instruments were by Grancino, Kennedy, Mantegazzi, Montagnana and Rugeri. For our 2014 session, we will, once again, seek the best of the modern to compete with the best of the old with two of the finest cellists available. As an added accompaniment to this event, we will be hosting a wine tasting; pairing each cello with a complimentary wine. You will not want to miss this gala evening of cello testing and wine tasting redux!

Please RSVP for this event to Karen at cellotrope@yahoo.com by Monday, March 17th.


Monday, May 5th
Nichols Hall
1490 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL

Our season will conclude with an event featuring Latin-inspired music performed by both Chicago youth and professional cellists in a unique cello choir setting. Celebrate with us after the performance with traditional Cinco de Mayo refreshments!

Admission:  FREE  for current CCS Members
                      Adults - $10
                      Students - $5
                      RSVP - none, payment collected via cash or check at the door


the endpin enigma

Guest post by Zach Preucil

There are many potentials for mishap in a given performance, but none incites greater fear amongst cellists than that of the endpin slip. What fate could be worse than finding yourself performing a great romantic sonata, maintaining a perfect balance with the piano and executing difficult passages with impeccable accuracy, only to go up for a climatic high shift and suddenly find your instrument slip from your hand with a sickening jolt, resulting in a horrible squelching sound that causes the audience to shudder? Indeed, many a cellist's nightmares are likely to have included such a scenario, and unfortunately, many a cellist has had the grave misfortune of having such nightmares realized. We can all recall at least one performance where we had to play on some metallic surface with the friction of an icy sidewalk, resulting in several minutes of terror and a subpar presentation. Even when we take all possible precautions, our stubborn endpins can still manage to get the better of us. The much-lauded "anchor straps" do not always guarantee stability--one exuberant cue and you find yourself facing the pianist instead of the audience--and those God-awful "doughnut" rock-stops that nobody seems to use after high school could be put to better use as hockey pucks. In fact, I suspect that an actual doughnut might be a better solution, if it weren't for the fantastic mess it would create (just imagine the state of a Krispy Kreme after a performance of the Dvorak concerto). Some cellists claim to have found a fool-proof solution in the bent endpin, but even these can't save us when faced with a particularly adverse surface. The only real way to ensure endpin stability is to provide one's own endpin-friendly material--a rug or a carpet, for instance--but that can be problematic for a variety of reasons. For one thing, there still is the potential for such material to come out of place itself (giving a new meaning to the phrase, "It was as if the rug had been pulled out from under me!") and for another, plopping down your grandmother's prized homemade rug on the stage of Weil Recital Hall will probably not bode well with the critics ("While the interpretation of the Beethoven was certainly impressive, one could hardly help but be distracted by the bright colors and utterly inappropriate presence of the tattered floorpiece that was placed somewhat awkwardly under the chair and--even more scandalously--draped over the corner of the stage!").

There's simply no getting around it--endpin slips are just one of those unpleasant aspects of cello playing, like Popper etudes and that impossible-to-find high F# in the second movement of the Brahms clarinet trio. But accepting this fact does not mean we are surrendering to the power of that pesky metal stick; on the contrary, when reacted to with quick thinking and a positive attitude, endpin slips can become an exciting addition to a performance. The initial glide of the cello causes the audience to lean forward in horror, but a clever save makes them relieved and even more impressed with the performing cellist's grace under fire. Perhaps the best "save" I ever witnessed was during a recital given by Laurence Lesser at NEC of the complete works of Beethoven for cello and piano. At the end of a tranquil adagio section, Lesser experienced a major slip, an unexpected slide during a prolonged whole note which he just barely managed to stabilize. The endpin was still precariously balanced against a thin crack in the stage floor, however, and all of us cellists in the audience were on (wait for it) pins and needles--would the pin give way again, resulting in utter desecration of the phrase? Would he regain optimum balance in time for that scary shift in the next section? But Lesser, obviously experienced in these matters, showed no fear. During a brief piano tutti, he actually picked up his cello, jammed it into the floor, and played on like there was no tomorrow. As a young freshman who still used a strap for everything out of sheer paranoia, I was quite impressed.

It's funny that while most of us do give considerable thought to the stability of our instruments, the greats don't seem to be nearly as concerned with such petty matters as endpin slips. Last year, I had an opportunity to witness such a carefree attitude when I saw Yo-Yo Ma give an impromptu performance with Renee Flemming at a food court in Chicago's Thompson Center. Organized in secret by the Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony, details of the performance were not revealed to the general public, but as my Dad is a Lyric Opera cellist, he got word of the event and the two of us excitedly drove downtown to see the two soloists' unexpected appearance. Once we arrived and secured a table fairly close to where the performance was going to take place, my Dad pointed out that the floor would be absolutely terrible for Yo-Yo's endpin--it was metallic and slippery without even a crack between the tiles.

"If he starts slipping, you should go up there and offer him your belt to slip under his chair," he suggested to me excitedly.

"What! That's ridiculous!" I responded. "I'm not going to just stand up in the middle of a food court and give Yo-Yo Ma my belt!"

"Well, how many people can say they've done that?" Dad pointed out.

I sighed; Dad is a big proponent of the "belt" solution, having used an old, brown tattered one exclusively for several years (although he wisely chose to leave it backstage at his 2002 Carnegie Hall debut). Even he will admit, though, that it has some disadvantages; like the strap, it can sometimes rotate unexpectedly, and as Dad once discovered during a performance of Paul Schoenfeld's, "Cafe Music," it cannot be depended upon to stay in place whilst spinning one's cello in an unrestrained burst of excitement. In spite of these shortcomings, however, using a belt is arguably one of the better solutions to the endpin enigma--unlike the strap, it allows for greater flexibility in the positioning of the pin, and offers a reliable surface to sink into without causing a visual distraction like a carpet. Nonetheless, I was not going to present such an option to Yo-Yo; if he didn't have a rock stop, he would just have to deal with it himself.

Minutes before the performance was due to start, word got around in the crowd that the world-class musicians were to make an appearance, and so it was with enthusiastic applause that Yo-Yo and Renee were greeted as they stepped out of a side door and into the center of the makeshift "stage." And lo and behold, Yo-Yo was without a rock stop! I sat on the edge of my restaurant chair as he and Renee began to perform an arrangement of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise," half-expecting to witness a cringe-inducing slip, but to my amazement, his cello--presumably the famous Davydov Stradivarious--remained solidly in place for the duration of the performance. Dad and I spent a large part of the drive home speculating as to how he had managed such a feat--our best theory was that he had somehow held his instrument in place by gently squeezing it with his knees, but he had been moving about passionately as usual. I guess he's just that good.

But regardless of Yo-Yo's apparent immunity to endpin slips (or the possibility of there being a very distinct hole engraved in the floor of the Thompson center), it is vitally important that we do not allow an endpin's stubborn lack of cooperation to interfere with a given performance. Many a cellist has allowed the misfortune of a slip to become a source of embarrassment and increased anxiety, but if one takes it in stride and goes on to continue performing with a defiant conviction, the performance will be successful no matter how many times the cello attempts to escape. So, the next time you encounter a slip on stage, smile to yourself. Even if it turns out to be a disaster, you'll have a great story to share with your fellow cellists afterwards--or an even greater blog post.


Remembering Janos Starker

Guest post by Zachary Preucil
(originally published on Polyphonic.org's On Campus Blog)

Like many cellists across the world, I was deeply saddened this past Sunday to learn of Janos Starker's passing. For me, however, his death didn't only represent a cultural loss, but a personal loss as well, for I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Starker on multiple occasions, and I'm actually distantly related to him--my uncle is his son-in-law. As a matter of fact, my Dad, a cellist in the Lyric Opera of Chicago orchestra who also served as my teacher when I was growing up, studied with Mr. Starker for two years, and so much of his teaching has influenced my personal identity as a cellist, both technically and musically. As I sat in front of my Facebook newsfeed on Sunday afternoon, watching tributes to Mr. Starker pour in from many of my cellist friends, I found myself reflecting on the few occasions I had had the opportunity to meet with him, all of which were brief but none of which were insignificant--for as all who knew him will surely agree, having a mere conversation with the man was an unforgettable experience, let alone hearing him perform. Whenever you entered his presence, you just knew that you weren't interacting with an ordinary human being. You were in the presence of a genius.

Probably the first time I heard of Mr. Starker was when my Dad slid a copy of his famous technique book, "An Organized Method of String Playing," onto my music stand when I was in seventh grade. Mr. Starker's name was somewhat familiar to me, but only because I had heard it thrown out in conversation on random occasions throughout my childhood, along with other seemingly insignificant words like "Eastman" and "Gingold" and "Strauss" (clearly, my musical aspirations had yet to take hold when I twelve). Dad gave me some exercises to work on from Mr. Starker's book, and I remember finding them to be extraordinarily helpful as I began to focus on the finer points of cello playing for the first time. My first memory of actually meeting Mr. Starker was about a year after I first encountered "An Organized Method," when he was playing a concert with my cousin (his granddaughter) in a Chicago suburb not far from where we lived. Afterwards, my family and I went backstage, and I distinctly remember my grandmother shepherding me over to where the Starkers were holding court.

"Zachary, do you want to say hi to Mr. Starker?"

"Oh--okay," I agreed. I wasn't sure if I had actually met him before, but I knew he was supposed to be famous, and he had certainly sounded pretty good in the concert, so I figured I'd introduce myself. I went up and shook his hand; my grandmother told him how I'd played "Song of the Birds" in church that morning, and my Dad said how he was passing Mr. Starker's "secrets" on to me. I forget what Mr. Starker actually said, but I know it was something about how great it was to have another cellist in the family and how much he loved "Song of the Birds." (I doubt he would have loved the way I'd played it in church, after having my fingers ice over during the sermon. But that's beside the point.)

The next time I saw him was about four years later for my undergrad audition at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, where he had been teaching for half a century. It was a cold January day in Bloomington, and considering it was my first college audition, I was quite nervous. This feeling of trepidation was only exacerbated when the person auditioning before me went into the room and I caught a fleeting glimpse of Mr. Starker sitting sternly behind the professors' table.

He's on the committee? I remember thinking to myself, somewhat unnerved. The possibility of him listening to me hadn't crossed my mind. What if I played badly? What would he say? What if…

But there was no more time for "what ifs"; before I knew it, the door had opened once more, and I anxiously stepped inside, wordlessly handing my program sheet to the judges. As I got situated, Starker looked up.

"Zachary, we received a Christmas card from you, but you didn't write that you were coming to audition here!" he exclaimed, with a hint of an indulgent smile.

"Oh, well, I guess we didn't mention that," I said awkwardly; I hadn't realized my parents had thought to send our annual Christmas letter to the Starkers. Did that mean they knew I "enjoyed biking, running, and writing novels"? I made a mental note to exercise greater editorial power in the writing of future Christmas letters, and tried to focus.

"And what will you be playing for us?" Mr. Starker said seriously; the ghost of a smile had suddenly vanished. Now was the time for music-making.

"The first movement of the Lalo concerto," I responded.

Starker merely nodded; I took that as a sign to play whenever I was ready. Taking a deep breath, I lifted my bow and started the Lalo. Mr. Starker seemed to pay attention during the opening, but after a minute or so, he began to look through my application materials, as if he'd already made his decision. Yikes, I thought to myself. I hope that was good…..

It seemed to have been satisfactory, though, because soon afterwards another professor on the panel asked for my Bach, and then just like that, the audition was over. However, Mr. Starker wasn't quite finished with me.

"Who drove you down?" he asked.

"Oh--my Dad," I said tentatively.

"Send him in," Starker nodded.

"Oh--okay," I replied, hoping that Dad hadn't wandered too far away; luckily, he was right outside the door, and was happy to step in and visit. Still recovering from the audition experience, I packed up my cello in the hall and tried to avoid making eye contact with the poor boy auditioning after me, who was undoubtedly confused as to why my Dad had been invited into the audition room. Later, driving back to Chicago through the dark, barren cornfields of southern Indiana, Dad remarked on the privilege I'd just experienced.

"That's so cool that you got to play for Starker!" he exclaimed, his excitement evident.

"Yeah--after that, I can do anything!" I replied.

Funnily enough, the next time I came into contact with the great master was just two months later in March, when the Chicago Cello Society presented a concert commemorating Mr. Starker's famous recording of twenty concert pieces by David Popper. Each cellist was assigned one of the pieces, including my Dad, and Mr. Starker himself made the trek up from Bloomington to be in attendance. As a result, about half of the cellists in the Chicago area showed up that night, and all of us who were there remember how truly inspirational it was. Perhaps the most memorable part of the evening was when the president of the society recognized Mr. Starker's presence at the start of the program, acknowledging him as "one of the greatest cellists of the past fifty years." There was thunderous applause as Mr. Starker stood, one hand on his cane for support, acknowledging the crowd with a genuine nod of thanks. All of the performers ended up playing great, and in spite of a brief scare when my Dad went on without the music after having told my mother and I he was planning to use it (we spent the entire performance, which ultimately went well, praying in the upper balcony), it proved to be an unforgettable evening. The concert was made even more special by the fact that several of the cellists were former students of Mr. Starker's; I remember finding my eyes widening steadily as I scanned the bios in the program and saw his name crop up again and again. It was inspiring, and quite literally awe-inducing, to contemplate just how many students Mr. Starker had taught throughout the course of his five decades in Bloomington, and how many of them had gone on to become such amazing and influential musicians.

Four years passed before I saw Mr. Starker again, in January 2012, for what was to be the last time. Now a senior at the New England Conservatory, I was once again traveling the music school circuit as I applied to graduate schools, and Bloomington had found its way onto my list for a second time. This time, however, Mr. Starker wasn't on the committee; his health was deteriorating, and while he was still employed by the Jacobs School for the fifty-fifth consecutive year, he was only teaching a few students from his home. Wanting to take advantage of our brief stay in town, my Dad emailed Mrs. Starker to see if we could visit after my audition, and it was arranged that we would head over to their house in the early afternoon. It was a bright, clear day as we drove through the streets of Bloomington; the remains of a mid-winter snow dripped from the sun-drenched trees lining the Starkers' street, and to my surprise there were even a few birds that flitted about the rooftops, chirping pleasantly in the crisp January air.

A maid answered the door when we arrived; after we'd announced ourselves, we were led directly into the Starkers' music room, which was a true feast for the eye. An enormous portrait of the master hung on the back wall, while several shelves of recordings covered the wall opposite, gleaming in the sunlight that streamed through the corner windows. Comfortable couches surrounded a polished wooden end table, upon which multiple cigarette holders were placed, each emblazoned with a golden S. If I hadn't already known Mr. Starker, I think I could have pretty much figured out the type of person he was just by looking around that room. It exuded his personality in every sense.

He entered a moment later, alert but still quite dependent on his cane, and greeted us warmly.

"How was your audition?" he asked me.

"Oh, it was all right," I smiled.

"I remember all those audition days--listening to umpteen cellists," he sad jokingly. I was reminded of just how thick his accent was; whenever I spoke with him, I found myself having to employ particularly great concentration in order to process what he was saying.

He led us over to the couches and we all had a seat, Mr. Starker reaching for a cigarette. My goodness, could that man smoke. He went through two cigarettes in our thirty minute conversation, the smoke funneling through his nostrils and hovering around his head in a wispy fog. Within seconds, I felt it seeping through my nose, scratching uncomfortably at the back of my throat. I swallowed compulsively.

"Where else are you applying, Zachary?" Mr. Starker asked, leaning back in his seat. I reeled off my list of schools and teachers, which he acknowledged with a silent nod of approval.

"Well, if you should find yourself landing in Bloomington, I would be happy to hear you," he said seriously.

"That would be a privilege," I replied, my stomach doing a slight flip as I imagined how nerve-racking--and yet utterly amazing--it would be to play for him.

But my cellistic prospects did not dominate the conversation for very long; our discussion soon turned to Mr. Starker's countless accomplishments, which were staring unblinkingly at us from every corner of the room.

"So you've recorded all of the Bach suites three times?" my Dad asked him.

"Five," Mr. Starker corrected him. "The last one won a Grammy, it's right over there.…"

I gulped nervously as I turned my head to the corner where the golden trophy sat, gleaming majestically.

"Are all these recordings yours?" Dad inquired, looking up at the towering shelves behind us.

"No, the first row is from my students," said Mr. Starker, gesturing with his cigarette. "Second row is also from my students….third row is your brother and the quartet….fourth row, now, those are mine…."

Later, as the ash tray filled with residue and the smoke from Mr. Starker's second cigarette wound its way up to the ornate wooden ceiling, he began to share some reflections from his life, talking about how he had started at Bloomington and where some of his first students had ultimately ended up. I once again found myself in awe of how genuine and selfless he was. He never bragged; he just stated the facts. It just so happened that the "facts" were something anybody else would probably have bragged about.

"I always tried to bring cellists together," he said, his face alight with reminiscence. "So that we can have our own community and get along. We can't always be fighting about things."

He smiled, his eyes glassy from the smoke.

"I don't get too many applicants these days," he told us abruptly. "Most people know the situation here, but I do have some students come to the house. It's a good living. I just get to sit here and do crossword puzzles and twiddle my thumbs…."

We sat in silence for a moment, listening to the song of the birds echoing outside. I was suddenly struck by the enormity of the man's life--of all he had accomplished, of all he had done for the world of music and cello playing. It was mind-boggling to realize that he had been living here, in this small Indiana college town, for over half a century, teaching students who had gone on to become some of the greatest musicians alive today. And he was happy--he was content. His life's work was complete, and now he had the luxury of reflecting upon its fruits.

It soon became evident that our visit was over; Mr. Starker needed his rest, and we needed to get on the road. I shook his hand and expressed my hope that we'd meet again soon. He nodded and led us to the door.

"All the very best," he said in farewell, his Hungarian accent crackling like a perfectly-executed up-bow staccato. As we exited onto the walkway outside, I glanced back at him one last time. His gaze had turned to the stained glass window, which cast his face in a dancing rainbow, throwing his aged skin into sharp relief. It was as if he was looking ahead, beyond this life, into the next great adventure. He knew he was in the twilight of his years, and he was more than ready to embrace the dazzling new dawn.

It is interesting that, while these were the only times I actually met Mr. Starker, I feel as though I've come to know him well, through the influence of his students, colleagues, and teachings. In my practice, I employ his technique, and in my performances, I attempt to emulate the virtues of cello playing he so extolled. In the end, it doesn't matter how many times I met Mr. Starker, for I have met him hundreds of times in the music that I play. His genius was so great that he continues to live wherever a fledgling cellist opens his technique book in a small practice room, listens to his recordings in a library, or takes a lesson with one of the myriad of his former students. His contributions to the world are an inextinguishable flame, burning brightly wherever the passion for music-making is strong. As he once famously stated, "Music is one of the essentials in human existence, almost identical with eating, sleeping, making love, the basic functions that keep a human being alive. Music simply, is one of the blessings and joys of civilized human existence."

Rest in peace, Mr. Starker. And may the memory of your life forever remind us what it means to truly live.


recap: awareness through movement/ feldenkrais workshop with the vardis

Guest Post by Kyra Saltman

By the time I made it to Curtiss Hall for the Chicago Cello Society's ATM event, my shoulders and neck were pinched from carrying my cello case on my back and a headache had begun to form. CTA closures due to construction on the Wells Street Bridge had caused me more trouble than I excepted, and I'd tried to walk from my student's condo near Merchandise Mart to the Fine Arts Building before giving up halfway and taking a cab.

Luckily for me, Hagit Vardi began the event not with a verbal introduction to the Feldenkrais Method but with a practical demonstration. She led us through a series of lessons which illustrated the power of tiny, simple movements to relieve pain and fatigue in our necks and backs, perhaps because she read my mind. After a few minutes my discomfortable had evaporated, replaced by strength and lightness.

Hagit explained that many of the exercises we performed were designed to activated the muscles necessary to perform a certain action with the greatest ease. For instance, we all first tried looking over one shoulder and then performed minuscule leg movements she explained were designed to passively activate the muscles in our lower backs and hips. She then asked us to look over our shoulder again, and most of us found that we could go significantly further than before. These exercises involved only moving our toes or hips a tiny bit and amazingly, it was equally effective to simply imagine moving our toes.

Like most Cello Society events I've attended, there was a relaxed, communal atmosphere and a mix of ages and a range of students, parents, professionals, and amateurs present. I found the reaction of the parents particularly entertaining, since there were several who dutifully brought their children presumably expecting to be relegated to observational roles who were smiling widely and nodding vigorously in appreciation after performing the exercises while their 15 year- olds rolled their eyes at them.

Uri Vardi working with Johannes Gray
The second part of the event was a masterclass taught by Uri Vardi, cello professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Four high school students from the Chicago Youth Symphony performed. Vardi identified aspects of the students' playing which seemed to be a result of habit rather than choice, such as the positioning of the feet, neck, eyes, and mouth. He gave them activities to perform - closing one eye, lifting up a foot, smiling or shaking their heads - which ranged from uncomfortable to humiliating (one student understandably requested the entire audience close their eyes when she was ordered to stick her tongue out) but ultimately caused a discernible change in the students' sound, bow control, and phrasing.

I found it interesting that the masterclass was aimed specifically at teenaged cellists, who typically do not suffer from playing-related injuries that cause many people turn to the Feldenkrais Method. I wondered at first whether the class would have been more beneficial if it was aimed at older cellists - but then realized I had arrived at exactly the wrong point. Learning to use our bodies the way they are meant to be used shouldn't be a reward reserved for those who have suffering through injury and discomfort. Everyone in the room could hear the effect of freedom and flexibility on these young cellists' playing, not as solutions to a problem, but as rewards sufficient unto themselves.


meet the secretary

CCS Secretary,  2012 -
Rebecca Zimmerman is an active chamber musician, orchestral musician and teacher in Chicago. She performs regularly with Camerata Chicago (Assistant Principal), New Millenium Orchestra and Elgin Symphony.

Rebecca is in her fifth year on the faculty of Merit School of Music where she is very involved in the Bridges program – an outreach program that takes classical music into the inner-city schools of Chicago. After months of practicing, the children are rewarded at the end of each year with their very own concert at Symphony Center, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In 2012, Rebecca joined the faculty of Northwestern University Academy. She is honored to be employed by her alma mater, and enjoys teaching private lessons and group classes. Rebecca also teaches several students in Lakeview as well as in her Oak Park apartment.

For the past 9 summers, Rebecca has held a position at the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina where she leads sectionals, teaches private lessons and chamber music, and collaborates with colleagues in weekly chamber and orchestral concerts.

Before coming to Chicago, Rebecca was a member of Canton Symphony Orchestra in Ohio, Richmond Symphony in Virginia, New World Symphony in Miami and Northwest Indiana Symphony. Rebecca received her M.M. from Northwestern University, Magna Cum Laude, under the instruction of Hans Jorgen Jensen and her B.M. from the Cleveland Institute of Music under the instruction of Stephen Geber.  Rebecca plays on a William Whedbee cello and a Seppelfrick bow – both of which were created by Chicago-based artists.

Rebecca has been immersed in music from a very early age. She started taking piano from her mother at the age of four. At the age of eight, Rebecca saw Yo Yo Ma performing on PBS and immediately fell in love with the cello. Her parents encouraged her to continue practicing piano to prove that she was devoted to music, and then started her on cello two years later. She studied with Dajing Yang from the Shanghai Conservatory, James Wilson from the Shanghai Quartet and Neal Cary from the Richmond Symphony.

In 1999, Rebecca made her solo debut with the Richmond Symphony performing Dvorak Cello Concerto in B Minor, and in 2000, she performed Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Eastern Music Festival Orchestra. Rebecca was homeschooled from pre-school all the way through high school – an experience that she greatly appreciates and supports.

In her free time, Rebecca enjoys running, reading, blogging and walking Hilde – her 14 lb. puggle named after Hildegard von Bingen.

She enjoys projects and recently started a book club called the Literary Ladies of Chicago which meets once a month in members’ homes. Karen Schulz-Harmon, the president of CCS is an active member.  One of her most recent initiatives is a blog that follows her journey with the Cello Suites of Johann Sebastian Bach.

This summer Rebecca is excited to go on a European Tour with Camerata Chicago. The chamber orchestra has recorded with cellist, Wendy Warner, and is traveling to celebrate and announce their cd release under the Cedille label.

Her first performance for the Chicago Cello Society took place last spring for the Chicago Composers Concert. She performed two works by composer Ilya Levinson, Columbia College.  Rebecca joined the CCS board as our secretary in the fall of 2012.


meet the treasurer

CCS Treasurer,  1998 -

Lawrence Block, a native of Chicago, was a founding member of the Chicago Cello Society, the second President of the Society and currently serves as Treasurer.  An avid chamber musician, he founded the Highland Park Strings in 1979 in collaboration with Francis Akos, former assistant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has served as General Manager of the orchestra and been its principal cellist from its first concert. 

Now in its 31st season, The Strings gives five concerts a year in Highland Park. World-class soloists have appeared with the orchestra, including over 40 members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Mischa Dichter, Peter Frankl, Lazlo Varga, Glenn Dicterow, Jorge Federico Osorio, David Shifrin and Janos Starker, who has played with the Strings on four separate occasions. 

The Strings has toured in Italy, Israel and Mexico, where he performed as soloist. On the occasion of his 60th birthday he performed Schubert and Boccherini Quintets at Steppenwolf Theatre with Victor Aitay, Francis Akos, Janos Starker and Robert Swan. At that time, Janos Starker announced that Mr.
Block would be named a Chevalier du Violoncelle by the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center of Indiana University for his contributions to cello playing, a rare and special honor for an amateur cellist. 

A Trustee of the Ravinia Festival, Mr. Block serves on the board of directors of Steppenwolf Theatre, Highland Park Community Foundation and is past president of Highland Park Rotary. For 50 years he has been a member of the law firm Schiff Hardin LLP and was the firm's Chairman and Chief Operating Partner. While holding a “day job” as an attorney, he was a member of the Evanston and Skokie Valley Symphonies. For more than twenty years he played with the Lake Forest Symphony, conducted by Victor Aitay, where he often served as principal cellist. 

Mr. Block began his cello studies at age ten in order to play trios with his brother who is a violinist and his sister who is a pianist. He first studied with Alice Baker Lawrence, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, then with Hans Hess, at the Chicago Musical College. While a student of Hans Hess, he won the Society of American Musicians Competition in the Junior and Senior Divisions. He plays the ex-Janos Starker William Ebbsworth Hill cello made in 1846 and a Diamond Coda bow.


meet the president

Karen Schulz-Harmon, a native of St. Louis, is an avid chamber musician and teacher. She performs with the Chicago Philharmonic, Chicago Bach Ensemble, Chicago Opera Theater and the Chicago Trio. She loves recording and collaborating with different composers and various instrumentalists. Karen is a member of the faculty at the Chicago Academy for the Arts (CAA) where she teaches private cello and music theory. She also coaches chamber music at CAA and for the Chicago Youth Symphony.

After moving to Chicago Karen attended Northern Illinois University at the invitation of cellist Marc Johnson on full scholarship. She graduated in 2005 with a Masters of Music degree in Cello Performance. During her time at NIU she enjoyed working with the members of the Vermeer Quartet and also purchased her current cello made in 1840 by Jacob Fendt and bow by André Vigneron, ca. 1900.

CCS President,  2011 -

Over the past few years Karen spent two months in Europe, which included observing the teaching (approximately 40 hours) of Robert Nagy, a principal cellist of the Vienna Philharmonic. During this time she also had the opportunity to interact with the private teachers and chamber music coaches at the Südsteirische Musiktage Festival in Austria founded by Wolfgang Klos, violist in the Vienna String Trio. Karen adores Vienna and cherishes the friendships she developed there.

In the summer of 2012 Karen was selected to attend the National Summer Cello Institute. While there she had the privilege to work with cellists Richard Aaron, Timothy Eddy, Ralph Kirshbaum and Uri Vardi. She also participated in an enlightening Feldenkrais workshop with Hagit Vardi.

Karen has been teaching both cello and piano for over 20 years. She continues to teach private lessons from her studio located in the Fine Arts Building, as well as from her home studio in Chicago's historic Kenwood neighborhood. A pedagogue emphasizing both tradition and innovation, Karen works with students of all ages. She considers it a great honor to pass her knowledge of craft on to her students and hopes she is inspiring lifelong music lovers in each one.

She has been heavily involved with the Chicago Cello Society for the past eleven years, serving as vice president for eight years and president since the fall of 2011, succeeding Tanya Carey. Some of her main achievements with the society have been reviving the Cello Scroll newsletter, creative programming and Website design.

When she is not teaching or performing Karen enjoys spending time with her husband, double bassist Andrew Harmon, and their two birds, Henry and Miles, as well as cooking (she recently received professional plant-based culinary certification), honing her food photography, hiking, biking, practicing yoga and language studies. She continues her exploration of the Feldenkrais technique in private sessions with practicioner, Steve Duke.

Below is one of Karen's favorite quotes by the cellist who breathed life into our beloved Bach Suites:

"Real understanding does not come from what we learn in books; it comes from what we learn from love of nature, of music, of man. For only what is learned in that way is truly understood."

~ Pablo Casals


meet the founder

CCS Founder & President
1979 - 1998
In his fourth decade with the Chicago Symphony, David Sanders is the last remaining member of the cello section of the CSO's legendary principal cellist Frank Miller. Appointed to the Chicago Symphony in 1974 by Sir Georg Solti at the age of 24, David was the founder and president for 19 years of the Chicago Cello Society, as well as the editor of its newsletter, The Cello Scroll. He has organized and performed in concerts sponsored by the Society which included the complete cello sonatas of Beethoven, the complete etudes of David Popper and numerous cello ensemble concerts. In the spring of 2008, he helped organize and performed in a concert the Cello Society presented of 20 solo works of David Popper, a concert which included five cellists from the CSO. He has also given master classes and seminars on orchestral playing. In the fall of 2008, he organized and participated in a performance by five member of the CSO's cello section of the complete Beethoven cello sonatas.

Sanders began playing cello at the age of 14 in high school in Miami, Florida, and made his solo debut eighteen months later with the Miami Symphonic Society Orchestra. He was a scholarship student at the University of Miami and Florida State University summer orchestra festivals, the Eastern Music Festival and the London Symphony Institute. His teachers include Bernice Schwartz, Dudley Powers, Frank Miller, Channing Robbins and Raya Garbousova, and he has participated in master classes with János Starker, Zara Nelsova and Lynn Harrell.

Sanders has held principal cello positions with the Northwestern University concert and chamber orchestras, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Lake Forest Symphony and Florida Symphony. He also has played with the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony and Milwaukee Symphony, and he has appeared as soloist with orchestras throughout the Midwest. As a chamber musician, he played with the Montagnana Trio for 25 years and was the cellist of the Burnham String Quartet and the Colin-Mezin String Quartet. He has also appeared with the Chicago Symphony String Quartet.

David founded the Chicago Cello Society in 1979 on the urging of the great cellist and teacher, Janos Starker.  His impressive term as president spanned 19 consecutive years!  As president emeritus, he continues to remain actively involved in the goings-on of the Society.

David has two cats, Josh and Toby, two siblings that he adopted from a rescue organization. He owns one of the largest collections of rare books and autographs relating to string instruments in the world. Montagnana Books, his international company with customers as close as Chicago and as far away as Europe, Australia, Japan and Thailand, deals in books and autographs pertaining to the string player.


2013 events


Saturday, March 9th
11:30am to 3:00pm
Curtiss Hall
410 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL

Hagit and Uri Vardi join forces in a collaborative event you won't want to miss. The first hour and a half will include an interactive introduction to the Feldenkais Method followed by an Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lesson with feldenkrais practitioner, Hagit Vardi.  Those planning to participate in the ATM should plan to wear comfortable clothing and bring a yoga type mat or towel.  The remaining 2 hours will feature Uri Vardi, cellist and feldenkrais practicioner, in a masterclass where he will focus on body awareness as related to intent and execution, production of sound and communication of musical ideas.

This event is cosponsored by the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras.

Admission:  FREE  for current CCS Members
                      Adults - $25
                      Students - $15
                      RSVP - none, payment collected via cash or check at the door


Friday, March 29th
12:30pm to 1:00pm
111 North State Street
Chicago, IL

A perennial favorite every year, Macy's Flower Show heralds the beginning of Spring with their awe-inspiring spectacles of nature and breathtaking flower extravaganza. During this time, the store blossoms with musical and cultural special events, floral seminars, complimentary guided tours, specialty and children's gardens, fabulous contests and a lively selection of flowering fashion shows which complement the stunning vignettes of vibrant colors, lush greens and millions of flowers and trees that will be in full bloom. This concert will feature a cello quartet performing popular cello choir arrangements.

Admission:  FREE  Event



This event is still in the works.  We hope to have more information soon...


Sunday, June 2nd
Nichols Hall
1490 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL

Our season will conclude with a concert featuring works for cello beginning with a solo piece, then a duet, then a trio until we reach a massive cello choir! 

Admission:  FREE  for current CCS Members
                      Adults - $20
                      Students - $10
                      RSVP - none, payment collected via cash or check at the door

If you would like to be involved with or have suggestions for future events please email CCS President, Karen Schulz-Harmon, at cellotrope@yahoo.com.