Grammy-winning cellist performs with Fresno State music faculty


In the music industry, many artist’s break off from a group to start a solo career, but self proclaimed team player Lynn Harrell enjoys performing with others.

Harrell, two-time Grammy Award-winner, performed with other guest artists in a string Chamber Music Extravaganza at Fresno State on March 4 in the department of music Concert Hall before a full audience.

Harrell, who describes himself as a team player, often performs as a soloist with orchestras around the world, which is why he enjoys playing with smaller, more intimate chamber groups.

“There is much more responsibility playing in chamber music because you’re not the main protagonist. Occasionally, of course, the cello has the solo and people will be obliged to follow the soloist,” said Harrell. “But so often I have to fit in with others, and I love doing that.”

The other performers included: Stephen Boe and Limor Toren-Immerman, a music professor at Fresno State, on violin; Michael Chang and Paul Coletti on viola; and Thomas Loewenheim, head of strings and conductor of the university orchestra at Fresno State, on cello.

The sextet performed two works by Johannes Brahms and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, both Romantic era composers. Throughout each movement of the two works, a wide range of emotions was felt by the audience and the performers.

“I grew up playing the Tchaikovsky with my teachers when I was a young kid, so for me I always see my teacher playing the first violin part when I play,” said Coletti, a Grammy nominated recording artist. “When I look at the first violins I don’t actually see [Boe], I see my teacher sitting there, so it’s a chance for me to see him again because he’s been dead for many years.”

Of the two pieces, Harrell prefers the Brahms because of the “infinite truths about humanity” in the work, and he specifically enjoys the first movement.

“It’s, of course, the longest because there’s a big repeat, but it’s just so tender and warm and loving. But it has some anger also,” Harrell said.

For this concert, Harrell was the main attraction for most of the audience.

Lynn Harrell is such an incredible character in the first place. He is so warm and he embraces [you] just through his speaking and his playing and his being. So having him on stage is like being invited into the music,” said Julia Copeland, executive director of  Youth Orchestras of Fresno.

While Harrell’s presence was a major reason audience members attended the concert, many attendees were also fans of the works chosen by Loewenheim.

“I love listening to this repertoire; Brahms is amazing, and it’s rare to hear a sextet. Usually it’s the normal quartet,” Erin Adams, music performance master’s student, said. “And to get all of these colleagues from different schools, it’s really interesting to see the interplay between the musicians while they’re playing.”

This chamber concert was a way to raise awareness for the FOOSA Summer Orchestra Academy, an orchestra immersion program on Fresno State’s campus. The two-week summer program is how college and high school students to receive daily individual lessons, orchestra rehearsals and more. Which all culminates with a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

For Harrell, he enjoys using music as a way to reach out to students.

“It’s always a wonderful opportunity for me to connect with friends here and to make music on this level,”  Harrell said. “And the students and what this is for, for the young people, is very close and dear to my heart.”