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New director of choral studies to broaden musical horizons
STANFORD -- Harmonious voices soon will be heard in concert with lively drum rhythms in Memorial Church, thanks to the eclectic musical interests of the university's new director of choral studies.
As the newest full-time member of the music department, Stephen Sano aims to put a new spin on Stanford's choral programming.
"The choral ensembles at Stanford have a great tradition of performing the canon of Western choral repertoire, and we will continue to do so," Sano said. "However, there is a rich and in this country, still largely untapped body of new and world choral music waiting to be explored, and we will add this to our offerings."
Sano will lead the 24 members of the Chamber Chorale in the first choral concert of the season, "Music of Mystery and Meditation," at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15,in Memorial Church. The program includes the music of composers Samuel Barber, John Taverner and Arvo Pärt, in addition to a choral performance of Barber's Agnus Dei and a string quartet performance of Barber's Adagio for Strings, a favorite of romantic couples and classical music fans.
The Stanford Symphonic Chorus and Peninsula Symphony Orchestra will perform together, conducted by Sano and Mitchell Sardou Klein, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, in Memorial Church. The program features Ernest Bloch's Sacred Service and Dvorak's Te Deum, Op. 103.
The Stanford University Singers, directed by Sano, will present their annual performance of holiday music for chorus and orchestra at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, in Memorial Church.
General admission for all concerts is $8 and student tickets are $4. Tickets are available through Tresidder Ticket Office or may be purchased at the door. For more information call 725-2787.
Sano is a champion of the unconventional, blending the traditional canon with contemporary North American taiko, or Japanese American drumming, and ki ho'alu, Hawaiian slack key guitar. He also likes to combine performance ensembles, and as acting director of choral activities last year he presented a taiko performance followed by Carl Orff's popular choral and orchestral work Carmina Burana to sold-out houses.
Sano draws from his Japanese ancestry and from early musical studies to produce today's programs. Growing up in Palo Alto, he studied piano (but never "practiced hard enough") and family trips to visit relatives in the Hawaiian islands introduced him to the ki ho'alu.
He was drawn to conducting during his undergraduate years at San Jose State University, but it was not until he finished a nine-year stint in arts management and administration that he realized something was missing in his life a performance stage.
"It was an intense musical environment," he explained. "But not performing really inspired me and pushed me back in."
Sano enrolled at Stanford, where he earned master's and doctoral degrees in conducting. Here he also met two undergraduates who were using a research grant to study taiko as a musical form.
Since then, the research project has grown into a popular performing ensemble, one of the few of its kind in the country. Sano has garnered national recognition as a clinician and adjudicator in choral music, and he is a member of the conducting faculty at the Wilkes University Encore Music Group of Pennsylvania. He also has appeared as guest conductor with the Peninsula Symphony Orchestra and the Highlands Chamber Orchestra. Sano currently leads three performing ensembles and teaches conducting and theory classes as well as seminars on taiko and the slack key guitar.
"This is a happy place to be," Sano said. "There are people here who could be at any conservatory in the country, but they want an electrical engineering degree, too. They do music because they love it."
Sano said that three years ago programs were being cut at the music department because of budget constraints.
"But now we have faculty and an administration who are wonderful amateur listeners as well as practiced performers," he said.
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