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Great musicians perform at Brightmusic Festival: Again with feeling, Concert #2 – and then #3 with gusto!

Samuel Formicola, Zach Reaves, Parthena Owens
Brightmusic musicians (L-R) Samuel Formicola, Zach Reaves and Parthena Owens. Photos provided.

The City Sentinel Online Staff Report


Oklahoma City – The Brightmusic 2019 Summer Festival, which began on Thursday evening, continues Saturday, June 8 and Sunday June 9 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral (127 NW 7th St, 73102) in downtown Oklahoma City. The theme for this year’s Festival is “Intimate Portraits in Chamber Music.”

Saturday’s concert (number two in the four-concert series) is at 7:30 p.m. with the theme “Duos and Trios.” Sunday’s focus is “Trios with Stings.”

Featured artists for Saturday evening include Zach Reaves (cello); Parthena Owens (flute); Chad Burrow (Clarinet); and pianists Ruirui Ouyang and Sallie Pollack. Burrow’s credentials were reviewed in a previous story.

Each artist “new” to the 2019 Festival in these two performances are highlighted below, with information adapted from the Brightmusic website biographical sketches.


Zach Reaves

Zack Reaves is a highly sought after cellist and chamber musician. His career has taken him around the globe.  His open-minded and collaborative approach to music has earned him praise among a wide range of audiences.

In 2011, Reaves founded the Altius Quartet, which went on to receive many awards. Altius became particularly well known for their inviting stage presence as well as their educational outreach programs for school children.

Since leaving Altius Quartet in 2018, Zack has composed his first children’s opera, as well as a recording project for which he has commissioned several new works for solo cello by young American and Canadian composers. He now teaches cello at Denver School of the Arts and Boulder Valley Waldorf School and serves as Assistant Principal Cello of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra.

This fall, Reaves will begin a one-year appointment as Visiting Instructor of Cello at the Wanda L. Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University while current professor, Tomasz Zieba, is on sabbatical. He will also serve as Interim Music Director of the Oklahoma Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra.

Reaves has performed around the world, including in Crested Butte, Hong Kong, and Aspen. He has recorded on the Centaur and Navona labels, and with the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble. A new album, Quadrants, is scheduled for release this summer. Zack is now based in Westminster, Colorado with his wife, Parisa.


Parthena Owens

Parthena Owens joined the Oklahoma City University music faculty in 1989. She was raised in Kansas and earned her undergraduate degree from OKCU. She is a flutist with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lyric Theatre Orchestra, the chamber ensemble Go For Baroque and with Brightmusic.

She was a member with the now-defunct Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, and has performed solos with the Oklahoma City University Symphony Orchestra and Wind Philharmonic. She is a founding member of the Oklahoma Flute Society and a member of the Oklahoma City Sigma Aloha Iota alumni group.

As Adjunct Professor of Flute at OCU, she directs the OCU Flute Choir, which performed at the 2001 National Flute Association convention in Dallas. At the convention, she and her husband, Roger Owens, gave the world premiere of a flute and percussion piece composed for them by Frank Lynn Payne.

Parthena maintains a private flute studio and is an active freelance and recording musician. She and her husband have one son, Cameron.


Ruirui Ouyang

Ruirui Ouyang is a native of Tianjin, China. In 2008, she first came to Oklahoma City for advanced music studies, where she received her MM with honors in Piano Performance at Oklahoma City University.  in 2011 under the supervision of Dr. Sergio Monteiro. After serving as a piano teacher in and around Macau, Ruirui returned to the U.S. for doctoral studies.

Since returning to America in 2014, Ruirui has won four piano competitions.

She served as the pianist and assistant conductor of the University of Alabama Opera Theatre, as well as a vocal coach. Her piano teaching in Macau, Tianjin and Zhuhai, China led to several teaching awards, including the Liszt Memorial Prize for Excellence in Teaching at the Hong Kong International Piano Open Competition.

Ruirui has served as a vocal and instrumental accompanist in the United States and China, as well as a piano competition judge in China – and a church pianist and organist in Stroud, Oklahoma.


Sallie Pollack

Pianist Sallie Pollack joined the faculty at the University of Central Oklahoma’s School of Music in the fall of 2011 and is now Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano and Piano Division Head. Dr. Pollack received a Bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University. She was a recipient of the 1996 Fulbright Scholarship for study at the Royal Conservatory of Belgium where she was awarded the Premier Prix in Piano Performance.

After completing a Master of Music in Chamber Music and Accompanying from the University of Illinois, she worked at Texas Tech University until 2000. Pollack garnered her Doctor of Musical Arts award from Manhattan School of Music.

As soloist, Dr. Pollack has performed with the Fort Worth Symphony, the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra, TCU Symphony Orchestra, and the Colorado College Summer Conservatory Orchestra.

She has played in Carnegie Hall, toured extensively with the Texas Boys Choir, played for the Fort Worth Ballet, coached opera for Theatre-Hof in Bavaria, the Illinois Opera Theatre, and the TCU Opera Workshop. She has recently been collaborative pianist for the National Flute Association, the North Carolina Summer Institute of Choral Arts and the American Choral Directors Association National Honor Choirs. Pollack has performed in music festivals in Colorado, North Carolina, Nevada, Belgium, Canada and South America; she has collaborated with several of the finest performers in contemporary classical music.

Cellist Chad Burrow’s storied credentials were reviewed in The City Sentinel’s story on the first concert for the Brightmusic Summer Festival.


About Concert  No. 2 on Saturday, June 8

Concert No. 2 is at 7:30 pm, Saturday, June 8 Duos and Trios. It will feature the composer whom many deem the greatest music composer in human history. However, the other two composers featured in this concert of the festival must not be neglected.

First on the program will be the Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano, by Bohuslav Martinů (Decenber 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959), a Czech composer of “modern classical” music. His six symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballets and many other compositions assure his place in contemporary performances, including here in Oklahoma City.

Third on the Saturday program will be Carl Frühling’s  Trio in A Minor for Clarinet, Cello & Piano, Op. 40.

The Austrian Fruhling (November 28, 1868 -November 25, 1937) wrote in the Romantic tradition. A fine pianist, his compositions were not fully appreciated in his own lifetime. However, Steven Isserlis (a modern cellist) has brought about a fresh appreciation for his work.

The other composer featured in the second Brightmusic Festival concert is the incomparable Ludwig van Beethoven (Sonata for Cello & Piano No. 3 in A Major, Op. 69). He remains the subject of endless praise among those who know only a little about the classical genre, and will retain a special place in the hearts of those with profound knowledge of the challenges of this kind of music. He lived a long life (December 1770-March 26, 1827). He was in virtual despair for decades as his difficulty hearing transitioned to full deafness.

Beethoven’s final major work (the Ninth Symphony) was arguably the pinnacle of his creative genius. When it premiered, he did not realize the stunned and rapturous response of the audience until a friend turned him around to face the sustained ovation of adoring fans.

Featured artists for Concert No. 3 (the Mae Ruth Swanson Memorial Concert) will include Gregory Lee and Samuel Formicola (violins); Mark Neumann (viola); Zach Reaves (cello); Parthena Owens, flute; and Chad Burrow, clarinet.

The professional and personal biographies of Lee, Neumann, Reaves, Owens and Burrow were sketched in earlier reporting, above or here.

Violinist Samuel Formicola’s career highlights, adapted from the Brightmusic website, follow.


Samuel Formicola

Samuel Formicola received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, Texas, studying with Camilla Wicks. He later studied in Norway, then at the Mozart Academy in Poland.

Now a violinist with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, he has held positions with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Colorado Symphony and Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra in Philadelphia, and has worked extensively with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  He has also played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera, and the San Diego Symphony.

Sam also taught violin, viola and chamber music at Oklahoma City University from 2011-2014 and at Biola University in Los Angeles, California from 2004 to 2010. He has taught master classes in Oslo, Norway, at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Masterworks Festival in Indiana, and was co-founder and co-director of the Gold Coast Chamber Music Festival in Woodland Hills, California near Los Angeles for 9 years.

Formicola has performed with pianists such as Menahem Pressler and Jeffrey Kahane, and acclaimed violinists Cho-Liang Lin and Scott Yoo, as well as violist Paul Colleti, and cellist Alyssa Weilerstein. He is experienced in radio and studio performance as well and has appeared twice on the Grammy Awards. Sam came to Edmond in 2019, after time in California’s Simi Valley.


About Concert No. 3 on June 9

Please note the Sunday concert begins at 4 p.m. – still at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral.

The Mae Ruth Swanson Memorial Concert, designated  Concert No. 3 and featuring Trios with Strings, the event will commence with Beethoven’s  String Trio in C Minor, Op. 9, No. 3.

Following will be Ingolf Dahl, Concerto a Tre for Clarinet, Violin & Cello.

Dahl (June 9, 1912 – August 6, 1970) is a perplexing figure. Born in Germany, he long hid his Jewish roots, even after gaining some success in America as a composer, pianist, educator and conductor.

Following Dahl’e “Tre” is Franz Joseph Haydn’s London Trio No. 1 in C Major, Hob. IV:1 for Flute, Violin & Cello. The magnificent Austrian composer of classics lived Mary 31, 1732 – May 31 1809). Music scholars have called him both “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet.”

Closing the Sunday, June 9 concert will be Ernö Dohnányi, Serenade for String Trio in C Major, Op. 10.  Born July 27, 1877, Dohnányi was a Hungarian conductor and pianist who garnered a fine reputation for his compositions, including the work Brightmusic’s musicians will share on Sunday afternoon.

Beethoven’s essential role in the development and sustained history of classical music is sketched earlier in this story.


About the 2019 Brightmusic Summer Festival

The Summer Festival will conclude on Tuesday (June 11).

For more detailed overviews of each of the composers whose ageless works are featured in this year ’s concerts, see Pat McGuigan’s story.

Tickets for each concert are $20 at the door.

Children, students and active-duty military personnel are admitted free with ID. Free parking is available south of the cathedral. For ticket details information, including online purchases, visit  For more information, visit

To make a contribution by check supporting the world’s best music, send to: Brightmusic Society of Oklahoma, P. O. Box 20254, Oklahoma City, OK 73156 .

Note: Patrick B. McGuigan, publisher and editor of The City Sentinel newspaper, contributed to this report. He joined the Brightmusic Board of Directors last month.

Ruirui Oyang, Sallie Pollack
Brightmusic musicians Sallie Pollack (left) and Ruirui Oyang. Photos provided.

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