Mr. Eric Halen, Associate Concert Master, the Houston Symphony,
Featuring violinists Eric Halen and Kiju Joh,
violist Sheldon Person, and cellist Brinton Smith.
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Eric Halen joined the Houston Symphony as Assistant Concertmaster in 1987. In 1997, he assumed the position of Associate Concertmaster. After earning his bachelor’s degree at Central Missouri State University, he received his master’s degree at the age of 20 from the University of Illinois, while studying with Sergiu Luca. At age 23, he became artist/teacher of violin at Texas Christian University. Mr. Halen has performed in solo and chamber music programs in the U.S. and abroad, including solo appearances with the St. Louis and Houston Symphonies.
As a chamber musician, Mr. Halen has collaborated with many pre-eminent artists including violinist Sergiu Luca, cellists Gary Hoffman and Lynn Harrell, and pianists Christoph Eschenbach and John Kimura Parker. Locally, Mr. Halen has made frequent guest appearances with DA CAMERA of Houston, and CONTEXT. As a member of the Houston Symphony Chamber Players, he has toured the U.S., Japan, and Europe. Critics have described Mr. Halen’s violin playing as “sterling”, and “tenderly expressive and dramatic”. A review in the Chicago Sun-Times of Mr. Halen’s performance of Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” states, “…as the final, sustained tone of Eric Halen’s violin faded to close… there was no doubt that the evening had offered the best kind of virtuosity.” Mr. Halen plays a violin made in 1616 by Antonio and Hieronymus Amati.
Kiju Joh, originally from Chicago, Illinois, has been a member of the Houston Symphony since 2007. She earned her Master of Music degree in chamber music performance under a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. There she was a member of the Arreaux String Quartet in the Leonard Sorkin Institute of Chamber Music. Ms. Joh also holds a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance from Northwestern University, where she was a student of Myron Kartman and Blair Milton. Her principal teachers also include Betty Haag-Kuhnke, Victor Aitay, and Robert Hanford. Ms. Joh enjoys performing orchestral and chamber music throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. Each summer, she travels to Asia and performs as a member of the Asia Philharmonic Orchestra, a touring festival orchestra directed by Maestro Myung-Whun Chung. Ms. Joh’s orchestral experience includes performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and the National Repertory Orchestra. She has also made solo appearances with the National Repertory Orchestra and the Houston Symphony.
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, violist Sheldon Person currently lives and works in Houston, Texas, where he is a member of the Houston Symphony. He was previously a member of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and has performed as a guest with the London Symphony Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. As a fellow of the Aspen Music Festival and School, Sheldon has served as the Assistant Principal Viola of the Aspen Festival and Chamber Orchestras. He has also appeared as soloist with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
As First Prize winner of the 2005 Royal Overseas League’s Bernard Shore Viola Competition in London, Sheldon appeared in recitals throughout London, including an appearance at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. As a member of the Artea String Quartet, Sheldon performed throughout the UK, including concert appearances at Wigmore Hall, the South Bank Centre, the Brighton Festival, Buckingham Palace, and live on BBC Radio 3. Since moving to Houston, he has performed twice on KUHA Houston Public Radio.
Sheldon holds degrees and certificates from The Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London), Indiana University, Rice University, and the University of Alberta. His principal teachers have included Atar Arad, David Takeno and Karen Ritscher.
Sheldon performs on a modern viola by Theodore Skreko that won the Silver Medal for Tone at the 2010 Violin Society of America Competition.
Praised by New York Newsday for “extraordinary musicianship...forceful, sophisticated and entirely in the spirit of the music,” American cellist Brinton Averil Smith's performances have elicited rave reviews around the world, praising virtuosic performances and musical ideals rooted in the golden age of string playing. Smith’s debut recording of Miklós Rózsa’s Cello Concerto with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra on Koch Classics won widespread international critical acclaim, including the annual Gramophone Awards Issue which praised Smith as a “hugely eloquent, impassioned soloist,” and continued, “The sheer bravura of Smith’s reading is infectious.” His recording of Fauré’s Piano Trio and Après un Rêve with Gil Shaham was selected as one of BBC Music magazine’s best albums of the year and the American Record Guide praised their performance as “Stunningly beautiful”, continuing “I cannot imagine a better stylistic match for Shaham”
Mr. Smith has appeared regularly as a soloist with the Houston Symphony since joining the orchestra as principal cellist in 2005. Prior to this, he was the first musician chosen by Lorin Maazel to join the New York Philharmonic and the principal cellist of the San Diego and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestras. Mr. Smith's North American engagements have included performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Marlboro Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Banff Centre for the Arts and with orchestras throughout the country. A passionate advocate of unjustly neglected repertoire, Mr. Smith recently gave the North American premiers of rediscovered works of Jean Sibelius and Alexander Zemlinsky. His performances have been broadcast on CBS's Sunday Morning and on the radio throughout the U.S., including NPR’s Performance Today and Symphonycast.
An active chamber musician, Smith has collaborated with violinist Gil Shaham on numerous occasions including Carnegie Hall's Gil Shaham and Friends series. He has also collaborated with cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell, violinists Cho-Liang Lin, James Ehnes, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Sarah Chang, soprano Dawn Upshaw, pianist Jonathan Biss and members of the Beaux Arts Trio and the Guarneri, Emerson, Juilliard, Cleveland, and Berg quartets. Smith has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Marlboro Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Seattle Chamber Music Society, the Sarasota Music Festival, the New York Philharmonic Chamber Series, the Killington Music Festival, El Paso Pro Musica, the Mainly Mozart Festival, the Brevard Music Festival and the Texas Music Festival and is an artistic director of the Restoration Chamber Music festival in Galveston. As a student, he was a prize winner in the Leonard Rose International Cello Competition and in several consecutive Juilliard concerto competitions and was invited to perform at the American Cello Congress. Mr. Smith is currently a member of the faculty at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, and has given masterclasses throughout the United States, including at the Aspen Music Festival, the New World Symphony and the National Orchestral Institute.
The son of a mathematician and a pianist, Brinton Averil Smith was admitted to Arizona State University at age 10, where he took courses in mathematics and German and, at age 17, completed a B.A. in mathematics. He subsequently became a student of Eleonore Schoenfeld at the University of Southern California, where he was also a teaching assistant in the mathematics department, and completed work for an M.A. in mathematics at age 19. He then studied with the renowned cellist Zara Nelsova at The Juilliard School, where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, writing on the playing of Emanuel Feuermann. Mr. Smith resides in Houston with his wife, the pianist Evelyn Chen, and their daughter, Calista.