Sheryl Staples, Principal Associate Concertmaster

The New York Philharmonic

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Sheryl Staples

Violinist Sheryl Staples joined the New York Philharmonic as Principal Associate Concertmaster, The Elizabeth G. Beinecke Chair, in September 1998. She made her solo debut with the Philharmonic in 1999 performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, led by Kurt Masur. She has since been featured in more than 25 performances, playing concertos by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Haydn, Bach, and Vivaldi with conductors including Alan Gilbert, Lorin Maazel, Kent Nagano, Jeffrey Kahane, and Sir Colin Davis. In addition she has performed as soloist with more than 45 orchestras nationwide, including The Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Diego and Richmond Symphony Orchestras, and Louisiana Philharmonic. Most recently, she performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, led by Concertmaster Frank Huang, in May–June 2018.

The New York Times wrote that “she is a perceptive musician, who plays with great rhythmic integrity and a lucid sense of phrase structure. ... she draws a wonderful array of vibrant and luminous colors ... interpretive honesty and unmannered elegance.” The Los Angeles Times said she has a “tantalizing mix of qualities. ... refinement and boldness, polish and fire. ... big, rich, sweeping tone, lacking nothing in warmth and evenness.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer praised her “aristocratic artistry coupled with violinistic mastery ... pinpoint accuracy and daring that took the breath away.”

An active chamber musician, Ms. Staples is a member of the New York Philharmonic String Quartet, established in the 2016–17 season, and frequently performs in the New York area in venues including David Geffen Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, 92nd Street Y, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ms. Staples has performed chamber music for U.S. Ambassadors in London, Paris, Berlin, Beijing, and Hong Kong, and in 2013 she toured Mexico, Brazil, and Chile. Recent summer festival appearances include La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, Boston Chamber Music Society, and Salt Bay Chamberfest. She has also collaborated and performed at the chamber music festivals of Santa Fe, Mainly Mozart, Seattle, Aspen, Sarasota, Martha’s Vineyard, Strings Music Festival, and Brightstar Music Festival. She appears on three Stereophile compact discs with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Sheryl Staples is a native of Los Angeles, where she developed her love for ensemble work at an early age. She began studying the violin at age five, and her major mentors were Robert Lipsett and Heiichiro Ohyama. Before finishing studies at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Thornton School of Music, Ms. Staples was appointed concertmaster of the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and other professional ensembles in Los Angeles. She then became concertmaster of the Pacific Symphony in 1994 while enjoying a varied career consisting of solo appearances, chamber music, teaching (at USC’s Thornton School of Music and the Colburn School of Performing Arts), and Hollywood studio recording work for numerous major motion pictures.

At the age of 26 Ms. Staples joined The Cleveland Orchestra as associate concertmaster, a position she held for three years. In addition, she taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Encore School for Strings, and Kent/Blossom Music Festival, and she was a member of the Cleveland Orchestra Piano Trio. Currently she is on the violin faculty at the Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard Pre-College Division. She also serves on the faculty of The Juilliard School working with students aspiring toward orchestral careers.

Ms. Staples resides in New Jersey with her husband, percussionist Barry Centanni, and children, Michael and Laura. Mr. Centanni and Ms. Staples premiered William Kraft’s Concerto a Tre for piano, violin, and percussion, written for them, at Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society’s summer festival and recorded it for release on the Albany Records label in 2008. They also premiered David Sampson’s Black River Concerto for solo violin, percussion, and orchestra in April 2011 with the Montclair State University Symphony.

Ms. Staples performs on the “Kartman” Guarneri del Gesu, ca. 1728, previously on loan from private collector Peter Mandell and now in the collection of the New York Philharmonic.

“I began playing the violin at age five. I was enchanted by a tiny violin that had belonged to my aunt as a young girl.”

Q&A with Sheryl Staples

THE FACTS: Born in Los Angeles, California. Studied at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences and Colburn School of Performing Arts; Artist Diploma from the University of Southern California. Prior to the Philharmonic: associate concertmaster, The Cleveland Orchestra; concertmaster, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and Pacific Symphony in California. At the Philharmonic: Joined in 1998. Solo debut with the Orchestra in 1999, performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto led by Kurt Masur.

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: Listening to my father practice the trombone and watching him every week on The Lawrence Welk Show. I began playing the violin at age five. I was enchanted by a tiny violin my father pulled down from a closet, which belonged to my aunt as a young girl. The strings and bow hair were broken, but I really wanted to play, so my parents fixed it up for me. The first piece I fell in love with was Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, but it would be many years before I was able to play it!

DESCRIBE YOUR ROLE AS PRINCIPAL ASSOCIATE CONCERTMASTER: I must be prepared to lead the section and the Orchestra at any time. When I sit in the second chair, next to [Concertmaster Frank Huang], I work in more of a supportive role, following his lead and ensuring blend and cohesiveness throughout the section. Sitting in the Concertmaster seat, there are added responsibilities: leading and deciding about bowings, phrasing, and articulation and performing any solos.

WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT ASPECT OF YOUR JOB? Sometimes the hardest part is getting to work from New Jersey via the George Washington Bridge! Musically, with so many programs, it can be challenging (though essential) to be sure that I am always prepared to perform at the highest level. With two children at home, this often means I am practicing until midnight or later.

MOST INSPIRING WORK: I have always been particularly fond of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and I am always deeply moved by Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS WITH THE ORCHESTRA: In recent years, performing Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons as soloist with Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic in Vail, and the mindboggling production of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre.

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN LISTENING TO RECENTLY? Ella Fitzgerald and Bach’s Solo Cello Suites

ARE THERE OTHER MUSICIANS IN YOUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY? My husband, Barry Centanni, is a percussionist with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and teaches at Montclair State University. My children, Michael and Laura, both play violin, and Michael recently took up electric guitar.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? When not at work I’m with my family. Between the Philharmonic schedule, touring, and traveling for solo and chamber music engagements, I cherish quality time with them. I often miss important events for my children, so I am thrilled when I can be there for their music lessons, sporting events, performances … and this year, even Halloween!

As of November 2012
Upcoming 2018-2019 Performances

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March, 2019 Sunday

Goerne and Trifonov at 92Y

3:00 PM Concert

Goerne and Trifonov at 92Y

Program To Include
Schubert Lieder tba
Eisler Ernste Gesänge
Beethoven / Arr. A. Schmalcz "Adelaide"
Beethoven / Arr. A. Schmalcz "Die Löwenbraut"
Brahms Zwei Gesänge, Op. 91
Brahms Piano Quintet
Frank Huang Violin
Sheryl Staples Violin
Cynthia Phelps Viola
Carter Brey Cello
Timothy Cobb Bass
Matthias Goerne Baritone
Daniil Trifonov Piano

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