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 Park Bowl concert program. Since then, she has performed to critical acclaim throughout Oregon. Hailed as a “world-class soloist”, Kwak is renowned for her “lyrical depth, thoughtful phrasing, myriad shadings of tone and easy technical prowess”. After her concerto debut with the Oregon Symphony, the Oregonian said she “tore it up in a performance as dazzling as any recent star guest soloist.”
Sarah joined the Oregon Symphony after serving as First Associate Concertmaster in the Minnesota Orchestra from 1988 to 2012 and as that orchestra’s Acting Concertmaster from January 2010 to September 2011. With the Minnesota Orchestra, Sarah performed as soloist in many works, including 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 Sommerfest, most recently Brahms’ B-major Piano Trio at Sommerfest 2011. In 2006 she was a soloist in two world premieres: Kevin Puts’ Sinfonia concertante and Steve Heitzeg’s Peace Cranes.
Kwak, a 2008 McKnight Artist Fellowship winner, has been soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony and Curtis Chamber Orchestra, and she has toured internationally with the Casa Verde Trio, including a three-and-a-half-week 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. She has participated in the Marlboro Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, Pensacola Festival, Pittsburgh Summerfest, Bargemusic of New York, Festival Mozart in France and Astoria Festival. She is the Concertmaster of the Oregon Bach Festival and has been invited to tour with the Asia Philharmonic in Japan and Korea for the past two summers.
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 Sivo, 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. Before going to the Twin Cities, she served on the faculty of Princeton University.
During her first season with the Oregon Symphony, Kwak and her colleagues founded Classical Up Close, a community engagement program which presents a festival of free chamber music concerts in neighborhoods around the Metro area each spring.