About The Mission Chamber Orchestra of San José
The mission of the Mission Chamber Orchestra (MCOSJ) is to present professional level performances of classical music in such a way as to encourage the growth of classical music audiences. By attracting and appealing to both traditional and non-traditional concert-goers (especially teens and young adults) MCOSJ plays an important role in expanding our community’s continuing appreciation of classical music.
About the orchestra
Mission Chamber Orchestra of San Jose (MCOSJ) is a group of 35 – 50 volunteer musicians, performing professional quality classical concerts in San Jose and the South Bay. The orchestra was founded by conductor and musical director Emily Ray in 1996, with the goal of presenting classical performances that are inclusive, accessible and affordable – relevant to first-time concert goers as well as those who already love classical music.
Each annual season is made up of four concerts in San Jose, plus one or two “season extra” concerts at other South Bay venues. The concerts include new and unfamiliar works alongside great classical masterpieces. MCOSJ makes a point of championing living and local composers and has given World Premiere performances of more than 20 works, and West Coast Premieres of many more. Most concerts feature a professional soloist, some are already internationally known, while others are emerging musicians at the outset of their careers. MCOSJ fosters the development of the next generation of musicians by inviting select high school string players to perform side-by-side with the orchestra each season. MCOSJ has released three CD recordings, and frequently collaborates with other local groups to bring exciting larger scale performances to the community.
We welcome musicians interested in performing with the Mission Chamber Orchestra to audition. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to advise us of your interest, and you will be contacted by the Music Director. The orchestra currently needs violinists, violists, and bass players, in particular.
Music Director • Emily Ray
Currently the Music Director and conductor of the Mission Chamber Orchestra in San Jose, Emily Ray’s inspired performances are earning her a growing reputation throughout California as an extremely gifted and creative conductor. Her recent concerts have earned standing ovations and enthusiastic praise from musicians and critics alike.
Prior to her term in San Jose, Ms. Ray was the Music Director of the Nova Vista Symphony for several years. She also conducted the Lo Sospiro Ensemble while serving with the Hayward Area Symphony. A great advocate for new music, throughout her career she has promoted and premiered the works of many California composers, as well as those of composers living in other parts of the U.S., and in England.
Ms. Ray began her musical studies at the age of 7 when she began taking piano lessons and later studied the violin. Participating in numerous recitals and performing groups, she continued her study of music in college, receiving a Master of Arts degree from California State University at Hayward after graduating with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley. She studied conducting with Michael Senturia and Denis deCoteau and made her conducting debut with the University Symphony in May 1975.
In 1996 Ms. Ray formed the Mission Chamber Orchestra and has continuously served as Music Director and conductor. During the orchestra’s second season, Ms. Ray and the orchestra recorded a compact disc, Dreams, which was broadcast by radio stations across the country. A second disc, Reflections on the Hudson, was recorded and released in 2000. It is a part of Arizona University Recordings’ Contemporary Composers Series, as it contains the orchestral works of Palo Alto composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen.
In February, 2003, Ms. Ray and the Mission Chamber Orchestra premiered a cantata written by internationally recognized composer Craig Bohmler for San Jose, California. Another important work, Lee Actor’s Violin Concerto, premiered in April, 2006. Ms. Ray served as the Orchestra Director at Santa Clara University for several years. Guest conducting has included the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Youth Orchestras of Southern Alameda County, California Orchestra Directors Association string ensemble, and Winchester Orchestra of San Jose.
Concertmaster • Geoffrey Noer
Geoffrey Noer started playing the violin at the age of six and has studied with several notable teachers including Barbara Sonies and Charles Gray. Geoffrey is currently Concertmaster of the Mission Chamber Orchestra of San Jose, having performed with the group since its founding in 1996. Heard in venues across North America and Europe, he is also an avid chamber musician. Outside of music, Geoffrey holds a computer science degree from Swarthmore College and enjoys a successful high technology career in Silicon Valley.
Principal 2nd Violin • Anne Spector
Anne Spector was raised in the Washington D.C. area and holds bachelor degrees in music therapy and music education in addition to a performance certificate in violin from Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Virginia. Starting her career as a music therapist for emotionally disturbed children, Anne currently teaches instrumental music at a public junior high school in Los Altos. While she enjoys spending her days teaching band, orchestra, and guitar, she also finds great pleasure in playing in Mission Chamber Orchestra and has been part of the orchestra since 1998. Anne also makes time to garden, bake, and play violin or viola in smaller chamber music groups.
Principal Viola • Goetz Leonhardt
Goetz Leonhardt started playing the viola around age 6 in his hometown of Hamelin in northern Germany, where he grew up. He started playing in local orchestras soon after and throughout his time in high school. Towards graduation he was also a member of the state youth symphony orchestra of Lower Saxony, participating in concert tours all over Europe and Israel.
During his college education he was a member of several chamber music groups, and in addition to playing in amateur orchestras he also participated in semi professional groups, playing in churches, at weddings, as well as in all kinds of staged musical events like musicals and operas.
Soon after relocating to the Bay Area in 2001 for a job in engineering he joined the Mission Chamber Orchestra as principal viola. In addition he is involved in chamber music and other amateur orchestras and music groups in the South Bay.
Principal Cello • Garth Cummings
Garth Cummings began his cello studies in the public school music program in Seattle, Washington, and entered private study soon thereafter. Garth developed an interest in computer programming after being introduced to the subject in high school (in the pre-personal computer era). He used these skills to put himself through college and now works as a software engineer at Apple.
Mr. Cummings received his Bachelor of Music degree in Cello Performance from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. He went on to earn Master of Music degrees in Applied Cello and Music Theory from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he studied cello with Lowell Creitz and chamber music with members of the Pro Arte Quartet. He is currently a student of the noted cello pedagogue Irene Sharp.
Mr. Cummings has been principal cellist of Mission Chamber Orchestra of San Jose since 2000. He is also an active chamber musician. He is an instrument-rated private pilot and enjoys hiking, cooking, and kayaking. He lives in San Jose with his wife Ann and their retired racing greyhound Turbo.
Principal Bass• Clark Cox
Clark Cox is a bassist, bass guitarist, and software engineer originally from Louisville, KY. These days, he performs regularly with the Mission Chamber Orchestra, and the Nova Vista Symphony. Clark has been playing bass since the age of 7, is a graduate of the Youth Performing Arts School in Louisville, KY where he performed in the school’s symphony orchestras, jazz band, and pit orchestra, and was a member of the KMEA All-State orchestra 5 years running. He has performed with many orchestras including the Louisville Youth Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra.
The bass has been a part of Clark’s life for over 30 years in one form or another, and he is enjoying the return to performance that has been facilitated almost entirely by the Mission Chamber Orchestra.
Principal Flute • Amelia Archer
Amelia Archer has played principal flute with the orchestra since 2001. Her flute studies began with Angela Koregelos, who inspired her to study in France for a year with Alain Marion after graduating from UC Berkeley. Then a Fulbright Scholarship enabled another move, this time to New York City where she studied with master teacher, Keith Underwood. She continued her studies with him after the scholarship year in a masters in performance program at CUNY, Queens College. Amelia returned to the Bay Area to teach flute, conduct flute ensembles, and perform in new music ensembles and for other chamber music concerts. Playing with Mission Chamber Orchestra is one of the most rewarding outlets for her as a musician: rehearsing with friends, challenged by the repertoire, and uplifted with the direction and energy of the concerts themselves.
Principal Clarinet • Sue Biskeborn
Sue has been a member of the Mission Chamber Orchestra of San Jose since 1999. Originally from New Jersey, Sue studied at Oberlin and Manhattan School of Music, receiving her bachelor’s degree before going on for further studies at the Dalcroze School in New York. An active chamber and orchestral musician, she played in the Philharmonic Symphony of Westchester, Putnam Symphony Orchestra, and was principal clarinet for the Danbury Symphony Orchestra for 10 years before moving to California. Sue’s teachers include Gino Cioffi, Herbert Blayman, Peter Simenauer and Loren Kitt. She also presently plays with Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra, Lyric Theater, and is a member of the Santa Ana Winds woodwind quintet.
Sue lives in Hollister and enjoys teaching music in the one and two room rural schools of San Benito County.
Principal Oboe • Elizabeth Jensen Young
Elizabeth Jensen Young studied the oboe under Stefani Burk and Fred Cohen. She played in the Smith College, Dartmouth College, and Princeton University orchestras. Recently she was in the Germantown Symphony Orchestra in Tennessee. She moved to the Bay Area in 2018 with her Australian husband and two daughters. She teaches physics at Santa Clara University.
Principal Bassoon • Matt Volkar
I am enjoying my third season with the Mission Chamber Orchestra of San Jose. I went to school at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where I studied bassoon performance with Steve Paulson. I was able to perform in many different groups of varying caliber, genre, and even time period. Through the school’s fantastic Baroque orchestra department I was able to gain a lot of experience playing on period bassoons. I was also fortunate enough to partake in the Classical Music Festival in Austria.
I have learned to develop my passion for music not just through playing, but through teaching, as well. While I work with other groups, including the San Jose Wind Symphony and various theater/opera companies, I also work for the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View. Through my company I am able to express my passion for music through all different topics, from Kodaly method and classroom music, to elementary school band, to music theory and history. Music is as fundamental to my person as is breathing or eating, and it fills me with immense joy to work with such great groups like the Mission Chamber Orchestra of San Jose!
Co-Principal Horn • Brian Holmes
Brian Holmes recently retired as a physics professor at San Jose State, where he taught a course on the physics of music. Among his scientific publications is an article on helium-filed whoopee cushions. He also plays horn with the Peninsula Symphony Orchestra, the Menlo Brass Quintet, and the Altos Brass. He is active as a composer, writing mostly for chorus, with dozens of commissions, publications, and awards to his credit. His overture Death’s Jest-Book was commissioned by the Mission Chamber orchestra. He is composer-in-residence of Vivace Youth Chorus of San Jose. He has written more Christmas carols (over sixty) than anyone you are likely to meet this week. Ask him very nicely, and he will promise not to play his alphorn for you.
Co-Principal Horn • Gary Crandell
Gary obtained his BA in music in performance on horn from Cal State University Hayward, studying under David Sprung and Dave Krehbiel. He has also studied with Vince DaRosa and Earl Saxton. He has been a freelance horn player in the Bay Area for over 40years. He has played extensively with Diablo Light Opera Company, Theaterworks, Broadway by the Bay, Redwood Symphony, Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra, Mission Chamber Orchestra, Nova Vista Symphony, Diablo Symphony, Walnut Creek Concert Band, Hayward Municipal Band, and Golden Gate Park Band. He currently plays with Mission Chamber Orchestra and the Diablo Symphony. He also plays Solo Tenor Horn in the Mission Peak Brass Band. He and his wife own a set of Wagner Tubas and freelance on them, as well. And, he currently works for BART fixing trains.
Principal Trumpet • Larry Blake
Larry Blake, an accomplished classical and jazz musician, has performed with Mission Chamber Orchestra of San Jose as principal trumpet for more than 20 years. He is a regular member in numerous groups across the Bay Area, from principal trumpet at Nova Vista Symphony to lead trumpet in bands such as Thrown Together Jazz Band and Toot Sweet Jazz Band. Larry’s extensive background includes hundreds of performances, including wedding ceremonies, backing up entertainers such as Frank Sinatra Jr, The Temptations, Lou Rawls, Patty Page and Billy Eckstine, and solos with chamber orchestras, choir, and organ. He is recorded on various labels and performs annually at the New Orleans’ French Quarter Festival. Larry attended the Berklee School of Music on scholarship and graduated from CSU Hayward with a BA in music.
Principal Percussionist • Gregory Messa
Gregory Messa is percussionist and native of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and is pleased to be making music in the Bay Area. He performs regularly with many groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Symphony Silicon Valley, Opera San Jose, Monterey County Symphony Orchestra, Santa Cruz Symphony Espressivo Chamber Orchestra, New Music Works Santa Cruz, Broadway By The Bay, and many others. He is also a regular performer at the Woodminster Summer Theater in Oakland, CA, as well as with the Mission Chamber Orchestra in San Jose, CA. Greg has also appeared with orchestras across the country including The Owensboro Symphony (KY), The Urbana Pops Orchestra (IL), The Columbus Symphony (IN), Capital City Symphony (DC), and the Columbia Orchestra (MD). In addition to orchestral percussion, he also was a member and teacher in the Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets Drum and Bugle Corp organization. His teachers include Galen Lemmon, John Tafoya, Kevin Bobo, Craig Hetrick, and Braham Dembar. Mr. Messa holds various degrees in music, including a Bachelors Degree in Music Performance from San Jose State University, as well as a Master Degree from Indiana University, where Gregory studied at the prestigious Jacobs School of Music. Greg also enjoys performing chamber and solo percussion, and some performances may be found on YouTube. As a passionate music educator, he teaches classes and lessons at West Valley College, including the newly-founded West Valley College Percussion Ensemble. In addition to coaching local high schools, Greg also is a conductor with the San Jose Youth Symphony Organization, working with their young percussionists. Greg also specializes in repairing and tuning orchestral percussion instruments, and enjoys building and maintaining percussion instruments from around the world.
Board of Directors
Jordan Selburn, President
David Eisbach, Vice President
Anne Spector, Secretary
Lynne Burstein, Treasurer