Sakura, an ensemble composed of five of this generation’s most engaging and extraordinary cellists, will open Chamber Music Sedona’s 34th season on Sunday, Nov. 6, at 2:30 p.m. at the Sedona Performing Arts Center, 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road. The concert is made possible with support from Jan and Loren Haury.

Sakura is based in Southern California and has been hailed as “brilliant” and “superb” by Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times. Sakura members are students of the esteemed cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, whose artistry and virtuosity can be observed in the members: Sarah Rommel, Peter Myers, Yoshika Masuda, Michael Kaufman and Rainer Crosett.

The 2:30 p.m. concert will include music from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story”; a set of Renaissance works; “Lament, In Memory of Matthew Shepard,” by Anne Wilson; “Nocturne No. 13” by Gabriel Faure; “Vocalise” by Sergei Rachmaninoff; and the world premiere of “Fluttering Hearts” by Brett Banducci, made possible with a financial support from the Tarisio Trust — Young Artist Grants.

“In May I was invited to attend the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival at the University of Southern California that included performances by YoYo Ma, Misha Maisky and Ralph Kirshbaum with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and LA Chamber Orchestra,” said CMS artistic director Bert Harclerode. “Sakura performed on the same concert as other Sedona favorites, including the Calder Quartet and Temple professor of cello Jeffrey Solow, I was captured by Sakura’s presence, performance, sound and personality, and began exploring concert dates with them. We’re delighted that Sakura will be performing on the series as well two Concerts for Youth on Monday, Nov. 7.”

Sakura functions as a true chamber ensemble, rehearsing extensively and distilling its interpretations through time. The quintet is named in honor of the great mentor and cellist Kirshbaum, with whom all five members studied and continue to work: Sakura [Japanese] and Kirschbaum [German] have the same meaning — “cherry tree.”

Drawing from the rich heritage of a repertoire that spans eight centuries, eclectic and unexpected programs are constructed around conceptual threads, with an overarching commitment to opening new vistas of beauty and expression by showcasing the great warmth and scope offered by the sound of five cellos.

Rommel is a George Enescu International Cello Competition prizewinner who has received awards from the Frank Huntington Beebe Fund Grant, Anna Sosenko Trust Grant and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artists Award. She performed at Music from Angel Fire, the Ravinia Steans Institute of Music and Marlboro Music Festivals.

Myers is the founding cellist of the Saguaro Piano Trio. He has performed at the Marlboro Music Festival, tours with Musicians from Marlboro, and has appeared as guest principal cellist of the
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Myers studied at the Colburn Conservatory with Ronald Leonard and completed his graduate studies with Kirshbaum at USC. He holds a master of chamber music degree from the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, Germany. He is also a composer and arranger and is co-director of music for the American Contemporary Ballet in Los Angeles.

Masuda was born in Kobe, Japan, and studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in the UK where he studied with Kirshbaum and received the Principal’s Prize. Masuda was awarded first prizes at the National Young Artist Competition in the USA and the Australian Concerto & Vocal Competition and later won first prize at the 11th All Japan VIVA HALL cello competition and the Yumetajima audience prize. He has performed at the festivals of Aldeburgh and Leicester in the UK, Festival Amfiteatrof in Italy and the inaugural Piatigorsky Cello Festival in the USA. Masuda recently earned his doctorate from USC, studying with Kirshbaum.

Kaufman was born in New York City and has performed at Zankel and Weill Hall at Carnegie. He has worked with composers Thomas Adès, John Adams, Donald Crockett and Stephen Hartke. Kaufman is a member of the Mühlfeld Trio and has collaborated with Midori and Joseph Silverstein. He has participated in music festivals including the Open Chamber Music at Prussia Cove, Music@Menlo, Verbier and Kneisel Hall. Kaufman is the founder and co-director of Sunset ChamberFest. He earned his master’s degree and doctorate from USC studying with Kirshbaum.
Crosett has appeared as a soloist, chamber musician and principal cellist at Carnegie Hall, Boston’s Symphony and Jordan Halls and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. He participated at The Perlman Music Program, New York String Orchestra Seminar, Aspen and Kneisel Hall.

Crosett graduated from the Harvard-New England Conservatory Joint Program and was recognized with Phi Beta Kappa membership, a John Harvard Scholarship, and an Artist Development Fellowship. He received his undergraduate degree magna cum laude in philosophy and his master’s degree with honors in cello performance. He is pursuing graduate studies at USC with Kirshbaum.

Crosett is a passionate advocate of classical music as a force for social change and he is involved in activism for human rights in North Korea having worked for a North Korean human rights organization in Seoul.

“The sound of the cello is so close to the human voice, and when performed beautifully — as this concert will be — the live experience is heartwarming. This concert promises to be an important highlight during our 34th season,” Harclerode said. “Our pre-concert talk will take place from 2 to 2:15 p.m. when the five musicians and I will talk about the concept of ‘Cherry Blossoms & Chestnuts,’ their careers and the concert program. Then, post-concert, we’ll have a question-and-answer session.

“On Monday, Sakura will perform in-school ‘Concerts for Youth’ at Sedona Red Rock High School and later that morning at Sedona Charter School, made possible with support from the city of Sedona. I encourage all readers to join us for this invigorating program with five remarkable artists.”

Concert tickets are $55 reserved and $38 general admission per person and may be purchased online at CMS’ next event will be Sunday, Dec. 11, when it presents a Victoria Christmas celebration at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock.

Chamber Music Sedona is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported in part by the city of Sedona and more than 200 Sedona and regional households.