John Sant’Ambrogio has enjoyed an illustrious career as a cellist in top orchestras, chamber music ensembles and as a pedagogue for over five decades. Appointed Principal Cello of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) in 1968 after being a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for nine years, Mr. Sant’Ambrogio has served as Principal Cello of such orchestras as the Casals Festival (Puerto Rico), Grand Teton Music Festival (WY), Lancaster Festival (OH) and the Seventh Army Symphony (Europe).
In 1987, he founded and was the first Artistic Director of Strings in the Mountains in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. His discography includes chamber music and orchestral recordings on the TELARC, RCA, IMG and VOX labels. Mr. Sant’Ambrogio studied with Leonard Rose, Paul Olevsky and Diran Alexanian and has passed on these pedagogies while on the faculties of Washington University, the St. Louis Conservatory and Boston University. His students have won jobs in major symphony orchestras including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Retiring from the SLSO in 2005, he moved to Steamboat Springs, CO to pursue his love of skiing, hiking, cycling and photography. Still a very active chamber musician and teacher, he founded the Generations Piano Trio in 2005 with violinist Dmitri Pogorelov and pianist Judith Lynn Stillman.
Elissa Greene, cello, has been a member of the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra since 2008. She is a Suzuki cello teacher and maintains a small studio. She also participates often in SSO’s education programs. She began cello at age four and piano at age nine. She graduated from Colorado College in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music.
Elissa joined the year-round staff of Strings Music Festival in 2007 after working in the Strings Box Office for several summers. At Strings, she works closely with the Music Director to create classical and cross-genre programming, and began the successful Strings School Days program. She became the Executive Director of Strings in 2015.
Mary Beth Norris
Mary Beth Norris is the founder of the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra and SSO’s past executive director. She began playing music in early elementary school on a little plastic SongFlute, by age 10 had discovered the flute and began her studies. In High School, Mary Beth traveled Europe performing with the School Band of America. With a Bachelors of Music Education from Fort Hays State University, she taught public school music until she moved to Steamboat Spring in 1977.
Mary Beth Norris taught music appreciation at Colorado Mountain College for 10 years, studied under flutist Geoffrey Gilbert (1983-1886). She studied the Suzuki Flute Method with Tatsumi Shiojima and Kenichi Ueda and is recognized internationally for her creation of the Penny Whistle School, an innovative pre-flute pedagogy method. Over the past 35 years, she has taught flute to hundreds of Steamboat children, and teaches every summer at music institutes and workshops. Mary Beth and her students’ performances include the ’98 Winter Olympics International Gala Concerts, National Flute Association, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Denver Young Artist Orchestra, All state Band and Orchestra, Strings Music Festival and of course, the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra.
Eduardo Cassapia – From Bolivia to Colorado
In Bolivia, music is involved in every aspect of life and every Bolivian child instinctively learns to play the native flute or the guitar. Although he was born and raised in Bolivia, Eduardo Cassapia’s musical influence was not exactly typical. Cassapia’s Indian-born grandfather lived with the family and was passionate about and often played a recording of Scheherezade by Rimsky-Korsakov, which tells the story of the 1001 Arabian Nights. One solo within the musical piece particularly resonated with Cassapia. Later, as an adolescent, he learned the source of that enchanting sound. It was an oboe.
As a teenager in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Cassapia was part of the middle-school band and his teacher assigned him to learn the saxophone. One day, alone in the classroom, Cassapia spied an oboe. He picked it up and played a few notes. It belonged to the teacher, who became very angry that Cassapia had touched his instrument without asking. That was the point of no return for this passionate musician.
He went on to study oboe, Anthropology and Ethnomusicology, the study of music in its cultural context. As a young adult, Cassapia played with the National Symphony Orchestra of Bolivia and later the Youth Orchestra of the Berlin Philharmonic. He met his wife, American harpist Rachel Browne in Bolivia where they were both members of the National Symphony Orchestra. The couple ended up making their home in Austin, Texas, where Cassapia continues to research the roots of Andean music and how music became so important to that culture. “Music is the physical body of the soul; it’s important to every aspect of life,” says Cassapia about his research and his life passion. “Music is a powerful tool as well. It embodies many emotional aspects,” he continues.
Cassapia’s wife, Rachel, was recruited to teach at Steamboat’s Rocky Mountain Springs Harp Program combined with the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory, and it was through that connection in January 2017 that Cassapia was invited to perform a duet with Theresa Steffan Greenlee, a concertmaster and violinist for the local orchestra. As often happens, one thing led to another and Cassapia also became a member and oboist for the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra. When he is in town for concerts, Cassapia looks forward to taking advantage of the valley’s many hiking tails and the Strawberry Hot Springs.
Désirée Suàrez Ward
Désirée Suàrez Ward, originally from Venezuela, started violin at ten years of age in the Boulder Public Schools. She received her bachelor of music degree from the University of Northern Colorado and graduate degree from the University of Minnesota. While in Minnesota, she studied with Jorja Fleezanis, concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, when she earned the position as fellow with the New World Symphony. Her orchestral experience has taken her to all different parts of the world, from Korea, to Latin America, as well as Europe. Désirée has had the opportunity to work with world renowned conductors Michael Tilson Thomas, Eiji Oue, Jean-Pascal Tortelier, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Robert Spanno and Zdenek Macal. She has performed with the Boulder Philharmonic, Fort Collins Symphony, Cheyenne Symphony, Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra and as soloist and guest concertmaster with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Thomas Wilson. She has also been soloist with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boulder Youth Symphony and the National Repertory Orchestra. One of her passions is working with Englewood Arts where she teaches violin to the low income communities of Denver. She enjoys helping kids discover their potential and seeing them realize they have talent and can be successful. She currently resides with her husband in Lakewood, where she enjoys