andrew briggs Andrew Briggs: Seven years with Cantabile

Cantabile has been an absolute pleasure over the past seven years. It has truly been an honor to sing with such a talented group of musicians and to work with such a wonderful artistic staff. When I first came to Cantabile I could neither have dreamt that I would be given so many opportunities, nor that I would forge such lasting friendships under its auspices. From singing at Carnegie Hall and performing with the Kronos Quartet, to travelling around the world on tours, Cantabile has never failed to amaze me at every turn. It seems strange to consider the inevitable - that come next fall, I will not know exactly where I will be each Monday evening. Yet, it is a great comfort to know that the community we have built here is one that will continue, and with luck will mean as much to future choristers as it has done to me.

All the best at the University of Washington, Andrew!

jessica feinberg Jessica Feinberg: Six years with Cantabile

Just before seventh grade began, I stood in a Cantabile room, heart racing, auditioning for Elena. The peak of my terror occurred when she began to check my theory and I realized, with horror, that in my panicked rush I had misidentified each interval by one – a fourth was marked as a third, and a first and unison were somehow different. I watched a red pen saturate the test and was absolutely convinced this audition was to be the start and the end of my choral career. Miraculously, Elena saw past that deficiency and I entered Cantabile a shy 12-year-old that bears little resemblance to the loud, confident person and musician I am today. After six years, I can look back and reflect upon how wonderful the experience of being in Cantabile has been for me. The choir itself is incredible, giving me a community that has lasted for years, and music – a language shared by the world – opened doors for me I had never known were closed. I have made countless friends through these choirs, and felt the joy of hours of effort paying off when the choir snaps into the “pocket of the sound.” Elena opened my eyes to worlds beyond mine, and we constantly delved into pieces’ histories, exploring myriad religions and cultures. There were days when I felt I was learning more about the world during the short hours I spent at Cantabile than during entire weeks at school. I will forever be impressed by the ability of music to open windows to both the entire world and one’s entire self, and I graduate Vocalise and Aria completely changed for the experience of singing in this organization.

Good luck at Smith College, Jessica!

niki griswold resize Niki Griswold: Seven years with Cantabile

Cantabile has been such a special part of my life for so many years and has not only played a major role in the person I am today, but has blessed me with some amazing experiences and memories that I will never forget. I remember being very intimidated when I first joined Cantabile, being surrounded by talented individuals whose knowledge of and passion for music far exceeded my own. But it turns out that being challenged by my peers and Elena was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I was inspired by the people around me and developed an intense passion for music and sharing it with others. I learned how to be sensitive, compassionate and hard-working, and I developed a deep appreciation for the power music has to bring people together. Cantabile’s tour of England a couple years ago was probably one of the best experiences of my life - I remember feeling as if time had stopped as we sang in some of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen, making friends with singers from around the world, and exploring various towns in England with some of my closest friends. I couldn’t be more thankful for what Cantabile has taught me, and I know I will carry these memories close to my heart for the rest of my life.

Niki, good luck at Northwestern University!

haley king Haley King: Ten years with Cantabile

I cannot stress enough how much these ten years in Cantabile have given me. Being a part of Cantabile has been the most amazing experience. Through countless hours of intense rehearsal, travel, and performance, I have learned more than I could ever imagine.  Because of Cantabile and its amazing teachers, I have found that I want to pursue Music Education in college, and I never would have thought of that without their help.  In addition, Cantabile has given me great friends that I will keep in touch with even as we part. So thank you Cantabile, for all the laughs, education, and great opportunities that I will remember for a lifetime.

We wish you all the best at St. Olaf College, Haley!

darya likhareva Darya Likhareva: Ten years with Cantabile

I still remember my first Cantabile rehearsal as if it was yesterday: too many strangers in too big a room, and I, timidly sitting in my corner, staring at the formation in front of me. The conductor was ushering children of about my age into an unbroken hand-in-hand line as he proceeded to walk around the room until a perfect circle was made. He then started dancing by shaking his hands up and down, and the children followed. I remember thinking “is this really what a choir does?" The director then motioned for me to stand and as he passed me, took my hand and pulled me into the procession. When the director stamped, we stamped, when he clapped, we clapped. He stopped and sang a short melody in syllables I had never heard before. People around me followed as if they’d done this their whole lives. I hesitantly copied what they did and realized that I had never heard anything so lovely before. I instantly fell in love with that sound. That was my first day in Cantabile, the choir that I am so passionate about now. Cantabile for me has been more than just a class; it has been an experience through which I found friendship and acceptance. From Stephen Hatfield’s choral arrangement of a traditional Nepali ceremony Tjak, to our appearance on the stage of Carnegie Hall, to singing in a professional production of the opera Carmen, Cantabile and Elena never bored me. Every rehearsal was an enriching lesson of history, music, and culture. Thank you Elena, and Cantabile, for everything you have given me.

All the best at De Anza College, Darya!

student caitline nuckolls Caitlin Nuckolls: Three years with Cantabile

Unlike most of the other seniors, my Cantabile journey has been quite short. This is my third year in Vocalise, after discovering Cantabile while looking for an alternative to the school choir. I've sung in choirs all my life, finding that it complements my solo career very well. The community shocked and intimidated me when I first joined; singers had known each other their whole lives. Yet I was quickly and warmly welcomed, and soon felt like I had been singing here all my life. The friends I have made have already supported me through so much, and it is astounding to think that music was what brought us all together. I honestly feel that Cantabile has given me lifelong connections, and even provided me with a relationship that has thrived for over two years. Elena Sharkova has touched me more than any other director in my life; her ramblings and struggles with American colloquialisms only enhance the deep passion for her art that is so apparent. She has provided a nurturing environment in which I have grown as both a choral and solo performer. She constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me solos and pieces that expanded my abilities beyond things I could achieve in private lessons. College is another step for my career, and as I continue my path through music I will never forget my wonderful family here at Cantabile.  

All the best at the New England Conservatory, Caitlin!

karuna sangam Karuna Sangam: Seven and a half years with Cantabile

It seems like it was only yesterday that I was 10 years old, walking into my first Intermediate rehearsal without a clue as to how Cantabile would shape my life. While it wasn't my first experience in a choir, it plunged me into the world of choral singing in a way no other choir has. I have sung in the West Bay Opera production of Bizet’s Carmen, weathered through pouring rain on our tour to England, gained fascinating insights into music through Elena's tangents on music history, performed on the stage of Carnegie Hall, and had some rather interesting encounters with raccoons during choir camps. Our England tour, in particular, was one of my favorite trips of all time. I have a rather vivid memory of one of our concerts, which took place in a 1000-year-old church — we had just finished singing the two Russian pieces that were part of our tour repertoire, and there was a moment after the final chord when it really hit me that I was standing where countless people had stood before me and where countless others would stand in the future. It was an incredibly moving experience for me, and I believe that the feeling of being part of something so much bigger than oneself is the essence of choir. There's something about creating music together that connects people in a rather profound way, and nowhere have I felt this more than in my time than with Cantabile. I have grown both artistically and intellectually, but I've also grown immensely as a person, and it's the combination of all of this that has inspired me to find every opportunity I can to create more music. Through Cantabile, I have gained an understanding of art and humanity that will continue to serve me as a musician and as a human being as I take this next step in my life. These past seven and a half years have been a gift, and I am so thankful to Elena and everyone at Cantabile for having given me the opportunity to share it with all of my fellow singers.

Good luck at Bard College, Karuna!

ethan van steenburgh Ethan Van SteenburghTen years with Cantabile

I started Cantabile 10 years ago as a Preparatory student. Of course back then there wasn't Prep one, two and three, only one level of Prep. At that age, it was still easy to keep up with the girls even though I’m male. I continued to Intermediate the next year, under the guidance of Mr. Troll. I was consistently an alto two at this time, always getting to sing the harmony and had learned all about solfege, intervals and other parts of music theory. I was in Intermediate for 4 years, and eventually graduated to Ensemble. While everyone was supposed to have learned to sight-read by this time, I was a little behind. Due to my fast promotion from Ensemble to Vocalise, I missed out on much of the intense music theory training available in Ensemble, so my first year of Vocalise was VERY hard. It was good for me though, because it pushed me to learn to sight-read and catch up on theory. As the next five years progressed, I went from being behind everyone to being a leader, and later started to make arrangements for my school choir and a bass quartet that I am a part of. Even though I can no longer hit any of the notes I used to, I am leaving Cantabile with a feeling of satisfaction knowing that I have improved so much as a singer and overall musician.

All the best at California State University, Chico, Ethan!

caroline wheeler Caroline Wheeler: Thirteen years with Cantabile

I cannot remember a time when Cantabile wasn’t a part of my life. Starting out as a wiggly, hair-twisting five year old, I have marked my growth towards adulthood by my promotion into the more and more advanced levels of Cantabile. I have learned so much from each of my directors over the past thirteen years—not only how to sing beautifully, but also more intangible lessons as well, such as the thrill of exploring a passion and the importance of true friendship. Through international tours and the wide repertoire, Cantabile has introduced me to sounds, traditions, and people from all over the world. Although I will soon be leaving the Bay Area and my childhood behind, I will never forget the experiences I have had in Cantabile. From being stranded in a Russian hotel to the annual retreats at Camp Jones Gulch, to the joy that always accompanies performing in St. Joseph’s Cathedral every December, to simply showing up to Monday rehearsals and being greeted by smiling faces—Cantabile, and all the people I’ve met there, have meant so much to me. Thank you for instilling in me a lifelong love and commitment to music.

Caroline, good luck at Carleton College!

diana zhou Diana Zhou: Five years with Cantabile                

To a small, weak-voiced eighth-grader, Monday Vocalise rehearsals started as a terrifying experience for me. I constantly felt like I had something to prove and that everyone was learning and excelling at a presto pace, while I was at a pathetic largo. As groups of seniors left each year, I slowly but surely developed as a singer and musician. Cantabile has taught me about far more than just music. It has inspired in me a love of culture, history, art, literature, and every other aspect of humanity that music touches. Like Elena once said, “We don’t just sing songs. We explore humanity through music.” When I am dead tired during rehearsal and groaning about doing push-ups before singing, it is often too easy to forget what it first felt like to step into Cantabile. Aside from the initial fear, I was so pleased that I had a conductor who was so passionate about music and singing, and I was completely astounded and inspired by Elena’s speeches. When I leave this fall, I will sorely miss the absolute magic of Aria rehearsals and how we always manage to get everything done despite making too many jokes and spending too much time laughing. Aria has been the best example of teamwork and camaraderie that I have ever encountered, and I will miss being around these extremely talented people that I truly admire.  Cantabile has meant so much to me these past years, and I only hope that all Cantabile singers can have an experience at least half as wonderful as mine has been.

We wish you all the best at the University of Pennsylvania, Diana!


class of 2013