Sara Sitzer, Cello
When did you begin to play your instrument?
I started on piano when I was about five years old and, two years into my piano studies, my parents enrolled me in the week-long Chicago Suzuki Institute. At the end of every day, after lessons and classes that were usually one-on-one in a small room with a piano teacher, I’d head back to my dorm, passing through a room chock full of 30 or so cellists having a grand time making music together as a cello ensemble. Not only did they all get to play together, but the sound was unlike anything I had ever heard before, and they looked like they were having the time of their life! Needless to say, I switched instruments immediately…and the rest is history.
Do you play any other instruments?
Nope, I’m a one trick pony!
Where did you study your main instrument; with whom?
I received my Bachelor of Music degree in Cello Performance from Boston University as a student of Andres Diaz and Michael Reynolds, then earned a Master of Music from the University of Wisconsin – Madison while studying with Uri Vardi. After that, I spent three years in Miami Beach, Florida, as a fellow with the New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.
When did you join ESO?
I joined ESO in 2011.
What other orchestras have you played with/do you play with now?
Besides playing with the ESO, I freelance all around the area, performing somewhat regularly with Chicago Opera Theater, the Milwaukee Symphony, and various other area orchestras and ensembles. Throughout its 3-year run on Broadway in Chicago, I was one of the regular subs that got to play in the pit for Hamilton, which was a blast. In addition to playing, I’m also one of the founding Artistic Directors of Chamber Music on the Fox (along with ESO bass trombonist Mark Fry), and I am the founding Artistic Director of the Gesher Music Festival, which takes place every August in my hometown of St. Louis.
What was your most memorable ESO performance?
Several seasons ago, the ESO was lucky enough to feature the famed cellist Lynn Harrell as soloist with the orchestra. In the music world, Harrell had always been looked up to as kind of a cello God, known for looking like he is exerting absolutely zero effort while playing any number of insanely difficult passages. Despite the fact that his fingers were about the size of large Italian sausages, he nevertheless played so delicately and beautifully that you were tempted to do a double take. So, not only was it a treat performing behind him as soloist, but then, being the absolute dear that he was, he also joined us from the back of the cello section in the Brahms 1st Symphony on the program’s second half. Afterwards, I ended up chatting with him until 1:00 am over beers at the Elgin Public House. Lynn Harrell passed away a few weeks ago and, besides the magnificent legacy he leaves behind, I will never forget his kind and wonderful spirit that week we got to spend with him in Elgin.
What are some of your interests, and how are you passing the time?
Since this recent pandemic has put the kibosh on public performances and I’ve got a lot more time on my hands, I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to with my quirky, delightful, entertaining three-year-old daughter. She’s got quite an imagination and plenty of curiosity, and with the recent nicer weather, we’ve spent a lot of time roaming around our neighborhood. So, first things first on our walks: we must pick dandelions to feed to the grotesques. Because…we are now experts on gargoyles vs. grotesques, and the lawn ornaments that you may think are gargoyles are not — if they don’t have a water spout, they are actually grotesques. And, according to 3-year-old Talia, grotesques feed on dandelions. Who knew? Additionally, I never before realized how many houses have frog lawn ornaments! Now, however, we visit each and every one of them daily. We typically transform into the “Old Dark Frog” (from the good old “Days with Frog and Toad” book), which I’m sure really puts our neighbors at ease. Did I mention she’s quirky? Quarantine is definitely not boring around here!