Oregon Symphony Musician Bio
Violin, Janet & Richard Geary Concertmaster Chair
The Oregon Symphony welcomed concertmaster Sarah Kwak to the orchestra in August 2012, when she performed as soloist on Carlos Gardel’s Tango on the annual Waterfront Concert.
Prior to joining the Oregon Symphony, Sarah was first associate concertmaster in the Minnesota Orchestra from 1988 to 2012, and acting concertmaster from January 2010 to September 2011. Sarah was the featured soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, Wieniawski’s Second Violin Concerto, Bach’s Double Violin Concerto, the Brahms Double Concerto and the Glazunov Violin Concerto. She was also featured in many chamber works during the orchestra’s Sommerfest, including Brahms’ B-major Piano Trio in 2011. In 2006, Kwak soloed in two world premieres: Kevin Puts’ Sinfonia concertante, and Steve Heitzeg’s Peace Cranes.
A 2008 McKnight Artist Fellowship winner, Kwak has soloed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony and Curtis Chamber Orchestra, and has performed internationally with the Casa Verde Trio, including a tour of China. She was a founding member of the Rosalyra String Quartet, which made its New York debut in 1996 and was awarded a McKnight Artist Fellowship in 2000. With Rosalyra, Kwak recorded a CD of Bartók and Beethoven quartets for Boston Records, as well as Shostakovich and Brahms CDs for the Artegra label; in 2008, the ensemble released an album of Fauré piano quartets.
Kwak has participated in the Marlboro Music Festival, Pensacola Festival, Pittsburgh Summerfest, Bargemusic of New York, Festival Mozart in France, Oregon Bach Festival, Astoria Festival, and has toured with the Asia Philharmonic in Japan and Korea.
Born in Boston and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Kwak entered Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute at 12, studied briefly at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik, and graduated from Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music in 1983. Among her teachers were Joseph Sivó, Ivan Galamian and Szymon Goldberg. The first artist ever to capture all three memorial awards at the Washington International Competition, Kwak also won the 1989 WAMSO Young Artist Competition.
During her first season with the Oregon Symphony, Kwak and several colleagues started Classical Up Close, a community engagement program that presents free chamber concerts in unconventional venues to audiences all over the Portland metro area.