There are many ways to make this world a more beautiful, happy and peaceful place, and music has the ability to change hearts and soothe the soul. Steven Sigurdson, a world-renowned cellist and educator, knows how to make the sounds of music bring healing and joy to the human heart. He takes his cello into his hands, and the magic begins.
One of these magical moments is coming up this weekend, as Sigurdson introduces north shore audiences to a lovely cello concerto as part of the "Italia Mia" concert program presented by Waukegan Symphony Orchestra. This concert is to celebrate the life and legacy of beloved Waukegan music educator, Joe Favero, and will take place at Orlin Trapp Auditorium, located at Waukegan High School, at 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 22, lighting up a chilly October afternoon with the warm and sunny sounds of music by Italian composers. The orchestra's all-Italian program will also feature well-known tenor, Cornelius Johnson, who has performed with Lyric Opera.
The Waukegan Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1974 and is considered to be a true 'community' orchestra with over fifty devoted musicians of all ages, ethnicities and varying levels of musical experience. Music Director, Stephen Blackwelder, has put great time and effort toward culturally enriching the Waukegan community by organizing four subscription concerts each season, as well as by providing chamber music concerts and community outreach and educational programs.
The orchestra is excited to feature Mr. Sigurdson as he performs the solo in the Cello Concerto in B-flat Major by Boccherini. Although, this is considered to be his most famous cello concerto, according to Sigurdson, "Only the concerto's principal melodies were composed by the great classical Italian composer, Luigi Boccherini, himself an accomplished virtuoso cellist of his day. But in 1895 the renowned German cello virtuoso and pedagogue, Friedrich Grützmacher, took melodic material from several of Boccherini cello concertos and compiled them into this romantic piece, which is wrongly attributed only to Boccherini. In my opinion it should be called the Grützmacher Cello Concerto in B-flat Major based on melodies of Boccherini."
Either way, Sigurdson views this piece as a unique composition that deserves special attention, and he is happy to let the audience create its own opinion about its proper title. On his side, he will make sure that its presentation will be unforgettable and will touch the heart of every audience member.
Born in Interlochen, Michigan, to a family of performers, Sigurdson seemed destined to become a brilliant musician. His father was a professional flutist, who taught him to love music and the beauty of harmony. His mother was a ballerina with American Ballet Theatre who helped develop his taste of elegance, charm, and grace. He started playing cello at age eight and swiftly became a serious student of the instrument. In answer my question why he chose cello as little boy, Sigurdson said: "I heard 'The Swan' by Saint-Saëns when I was eight, and that was it. The sound was like a person's voice."
His passion for the cello has resulted in great achievements. Sigurdson began appearing as a solo cellist with orchestras when he was fifteen. He received his bachelor's degree from The Juilliard School as a student of Leonard Rose and Channing Robbins. Upon graduation, he was chosen by Michael Tilson Thomas to be among the founding cellists in Miami's celebrated New World Symphony, an ensemble with which he performed and toured internationally for three seasons. He was then hired as associate principal cellist of the Florida Philharmonic where he played for thirteen years, finishing his tenure as the orchestra's principal cellist. Over his twenty five year orchestral career, he has performed under dozens of legendary maestros, including Leonard Bernstein, Sir Georg Solti, and Seiji Ozawa. As a soloist and chamber musician, he was a finalist in both the National Society of Arts and Letters Cello Competition and the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition.
Interestingly, the cello that Sigurdson plays on is an exquisite modern copy of a rare 1739 cello by Domenico Montagnana which was made for him in 1994 by celebrated maker, James Morris. The Waukegan audience will be thrilled by the sound of such a great instrument during his performance.
Another great achievement in his life is the impact that he makes on younger generations. Sigurdson has always been an active advocate for young musicians and has been teaching for over twenty five years. "I love communicating emotions to people through music," he says. "I particularly love music's effect on children. Getting children to be excited about really great music at a very early age can literally change the entire course of their lives -- particularly children from families that have no musical background. Parents must be made aware of the significant benefits that musical activity has on early brain development, and this is why I'm passionate about promoting the Suzuki Method and teaching four and five year olds through this great method." He is currently being formally trained as a Suzuki cello teacher in Ann Arbor, and he considers it an honor and a privilege to help children establish a relationship with music that they will cherish throughout their lives. He is also an experienced orchestral conductor who dedicates himself to working closely with youth orchestras wherever his career leads him.
In addition to being a busy musician, educator and performer, Sigurdson has developed a passion for performing and recording with Folk and Rock artists -- most recently with an outstanding, Chicago-area singer-songwriter named Vessy Mink, and artist whose music has been used on the hit TV show, Gilmore Girls. The arrangement of her latest song, Splash (you can hear it on YouTube), features some lovely cello lines of which Sigurdson is quite proud. As a studio artist, Sigurdson's solo performances are also featured on recordings by well-known popular artists including Gloria Estefan, Extreme, Collective Soul, Zakk Wylde, Julio Iglesias, and many others. For over twenty years he has had the honor of being among a select number of recording artists who are also voting members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), which presents the annual Grammy Awards.
The "Italia Mia" concert is coming up this weekend, and as always, this devoted and hardworking musician is ready to impress his audience. His performance of the Boccherini Cello Concerto with the Waukegan Symphony Orchestra will surely be another gem in Sigurdson's mosaic of musical achievements. The day before, on Saturday October 21, at 9 a.m. Sigurdson will be teaching a free masterclass open to the public, held at Jack Benny Center for the Arts. Cellists interested in performing should contact the Waukegan Park District. Please, follow these links for information on tickets, masterclass sign-ups and Sigurdson's solo CD:
Oct 22 Concert Info:
or call 847-360-4740.
Solo CD Info:
What: "Italia Mia" concert by Waukegan Symphony Orchestra featuring Steven Sigurdson and Cornelius Johnson
When: 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 22, 2017
Where: Orlin Trapp Auditorium, 2325 Brookside Ave, Waukegan, IL 60085