The Oregon Symphony welcomed Concertmaster Sarah Kwak to the orchestra in August 2012, when she performed as soloist on Carlos Gardel’s Tango on the annual Waterfront Park Bowl concert program. Since then, she has performed to critical acclaim throughout Oregon. Hailed as a “world-class soloist,” Kwak is renowned for her “lyrical depth, thoughtful phrasing, myriad shadings of tone, and easy technical prowess.” After her concerto debut with the Oregon Symphony, the Oregonian said she “tore it up in a performance as dazzling as any recent star guest soloist.”
Sarah joined the Oregon Symphony after serving as first associate concertmaster in the Minnesota Orchestra from 1988 to 2012 and as that orchestra’s acting concertmaster from January 2010 to September 2011. Kwak, a 2008 McKnight Artist Fellowship winner, has been soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony, and Curtis Chamber Orchestra, and she has toured internationally with the Casa Verde Trio, including a three-and-a-half-week tour of China. She was a founding member of the Rosalyra String Quartet, which made its New York debut in 1996 and was awarded a McKnight Artist Fellowship in 2000. The first artist ever to capture all three memorial awards at the Washington International Competition, Kwak also won the 1989 WAMSO Young Artist Competition. She has served on the faculty of Princeton University and at the University of Nevada at Reno.
She has participated in the Marlboro Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest Winter Festival, Portland Piano International Summer Festival, Pensacola Festival, Pittsburgh Summerfest, Bargemusic of New York, Festival Mozart in France, and the Siletz Bay and Astoria festivals. She is the concertmaster of the Oregon Bach Festival and has toured with Asia Philharmonic Orchestra under Myung-Whun Chung. In addition, she has served as guest concertmaster with the Utah Symphony.
Born in Boston and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Kwak entered Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute at 12, studied briefly at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik, and graduated from Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music in 1983. Among her teachers were Joseph Sivo, Ivan Galamian, and Szymon Goldberg.
Kwak is a founding member of Classical Up Close, a non-profit organization whose mission is to present free chamber music concerts in neighborhoods around the metro area and to make classical music accessible to all.