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Chamber music series brings Schubert alive

By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Special to the Loomis News
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As 31-year-old Franz Schubert lay in bed dying from what is now believed to have been mercury poisoning, he composed a romantic story with musical notes that remains immortal. The 19th century Austrian composer’s “Piano Trio” in B flat Major reveals a thrilling tale that musicians from Rocklin’s Chamber Music Alive! perform as part of their eighth season of concerts. “I suppose the Schubert trio is emotionally one of the most satisfying pieces ever written,” said Ben Dominitz, founder of Chamber Music Alive! of Sierra College. “It just will make people’s hearts melt. Schubert wrote it just before he died at the full bloom of his genius.” They are powerful works of music played by internationally acclaimed musicians, whom Dominitz calls Rocklin’s “best kept secret.” In 2003, Dominitz, the former founder and chair of Prima Publishing, left the marketplace and pursued his lifelong love of melody as a professionally trained violinist, conductor and series director. After presenting an informal concert for faculty at Sierra College, administrators and students begged for a series. “We all carry music around in our CD players, but there’s nothing like hearing music live,” said Brian Haley, dean of learning resources at Sierra College. “Chamber Music Alive! really enriches the lives of people who love music. Ben’s able to get the finest musicians around. The Dietrich Theater is a nice size as it only holds about 500 so you don’t have the sense of being lost and it has very good acoustics.” Dominitz said widely admired artists who play Mondavi Center, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall look forward to spending a Sunday at Sierra College, creating a local cultural treasure. “I invite the very best of the area musicians as well as some of the finest musicians from around the country and the world,” Dominitz said. “The reputation of the series is such that people actually ask to be invited.” In partnership with the Sierra College Foundation, Chamber Music Alive! presents three concerts a year in autumn, winter and spring. The next concert, on Jan. 30, will open with the season’s theme celebrating the bicentennial of the great Romantic composer Robert Schumann. In addition, a moving Beethoven string quartet entwined with a Russian theme is expected to amaze concertgoers. “Prior to hearing each piece, Ben explains the history of the music and the composer and gives you a background,” said Jim Rodda, owner of Pottery World and supporter of Chamber Music Alive! “He gives you an appreciation on the thought process of some of these great composers way back when they wrote it.” Eleven-year-old Alexis Keller, of Loomis, is a concert regular who said she enjoys watching every chamber musician from the violinist to the pianist. “It’s really cool because you see them playing live,” said Keller, who plays violin for the Sacramento Youth Symphony. “The musicians have fun facial expressions and they move around a lot. I noticed the viola player. He would stand up a little bit during certain louder parts. Their music is really fun to listen to.” The Sierra College Foundation invites parents who attend Chamber Music Alive! to apply for the SAK (send a kid to concert) Program to receive complimentary tickets for their children. Musicians in the Jan. 30 concert will include award-winning pianist Natsuki Fukasawa, Anita Felix of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Dominitz on violin, Jory Fankuchen of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra on viola, and cellist Richard Andaya of the San Francisco Symphony. “Audiences are very enthusiastic and really feel great after the performance,” Dominitz said.” At the last concert, we saw people laughing and clapping and many said they wanted to go in the aisle and dance to the music. “People who have not attended our concerts are surprised how much fun they have and how excited they are,” said Dominitz. “This is a very natural reaction. I talk about the musical pieces and give the audience a little bit of a historical background so they can put it all together. Our music completely fills them with hope and excitement.”