Symphony of the Vines launches Student Spotlight

Strings take center stage at Symphony of the Vines upcoming concert Violin & Cello DUO featuring regional musicians Maurice Sklar, violin, and Hilary Clark, cello. In addition, the concert will feature the organization’s first Student Spotlight. The concert is Sunday, April 14, 4 p.m. at Pear Valley Estate Wine in Paso Robles.

Violin and cello are powerful voices in string quartets and have wide capabilities. “From haunting harmonics, to full chords using double and triple-stops, individually or together, these instruments create music with remarkable richness in textures and overtones making this a delightful ensemble,” said Dr. Greg Magie, music director. The concert will feature selections for composers Cassadó, Ysaÿe, and Ravel.

Maurice Sklar studied at Juilliard School of Music and has won numerous competitions and awards. He has traveled the world as a guest soloist with orchestras.

Hilary Clark studied Cello Performance at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Western Michigan University,  UC Santa Cruz, and the Meadowmount School for Strings Summer Program. When not playing the cello, she is a nuclear medicine technologist at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.

Symphony of the Vines is also launching a new musician mentoring program called Student Spotlight. During chamber concerts, a local music student will be invited to perform a musical selection. 

Nick Bircher, 15, will be the organization’s first Student Spotlight. Bircher plays the violin and is a sophomore at San Luis Obispo High School.

The goal of Student Spotlight is to provide mentoring opportunities between students and professional musicians. Valerie Berg-Johansen, Symphony of the Vines Board Member, added that “It gives the budding musician a chance to preview the professional arena such as intense rehearsals, many hours of practicing, as well as a little dose of healthy pressure but without a competitive environment.”

Nick Bircher began playing the violin in the second grade after joining an after-school music program. He practices about 2 hours a day and is drawn to the Romantic era of music including Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Dvorak, and Saint-Saens.  He will play “Méditation from Thaïs” by Massenet.

In addition to learning the violin, he also runs competitively in cross-country and long-distance track. On top of that, he has two businesses — one that involves water-bottles and the other is a clothing line. He plans to have a career in software engineering and play the violin in an orchestra.

The committee will be contacting local music teachers to identify students to perform next season. If you have a recommendation, email Valerie Berg-Johansen at [email protected]

Ticket prices are $15 to $30 and K-12 Students are free with a paid adult. Purchase tickets at the door or online at

Symphony of the Vines is a non-profit, professional orchestra based in North San Luis Obispo County that features orchestra and chamber ensembles playing in various venues including Central Coast wineries. Symphony of the Vines also supports educational success with Student Spotlight, a mentoring program for intermediate and advanced student musicians.


Video News