Amici is Italian for friends.
It was the natural choice for a name when five classical musicians began to play for a larger group than just themselves. And it was an auspicious time, too, with the 2009 opening of the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater—of which Chamber Music Amici was the first to sign up as a resident company.
Come join us at the Wildish, an intimate setting with incredible acoustics. Treat yourself to a season of both widely-known and less-known works, all of which enjoy a thoughtful interpretation by core and guest musicians who spend weeks preparing for each concert. The five concerts during each season are amazingly diverse. Come and be astonished by the many moods created by these musicians!
After each concert all friends, musicians and audience alike, gather for refreshments on stage. Consider yourself invited to be among them.
Five core musicians founded Chamber Music Amici in 2009. They select the Artistic Director from among themselves; a practice which continues today. They also invite guest musicians to join them in performance as needed. The current core musicians are:
Eunhye Grace Choi, Artistic Director, piano – Korean pianist Eunhye Grace Choi has been praised for her “nice touch and excellent technique” (American Record Guide) and “meticulous attention to detail” (Fanfare). As an active pianist, Choi has performed extensively throughout the United States, France, Belgium, UK, and South Korea. She has recorded for Naxos, Emeritus, and Origin Classical labels. A versatile keyboardist, she appeared as harpsichord soloist in J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto cycle and collaborated with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Eastern Music Festival. Choi is a pianist of Chamber Music Amici and regularly performs with Oregon Bach Festival and Eugene Symphony. Dr. Choi served as Collaborative Piano Faculty at the Eastern Music Festival for six years, where she was the principal keyboardist of the Festival Orchestra under the renowned American conductor Gerard Schwarz. Choi has served as a music faculty and collaborative pianist at The University of Oregon (2017-2018) and Tennessee Tech University (2013-2017) as well as Buffet Crampon Clarinet Academy, Chapel Hill International Chamber Music Workshop, the Interlochen Arts Camp and the Interlochen Bassoon Institute.
Jessica Lambert, viola/violin – Jessica is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Zvi Zeitlin and members of the Cleveland Quartet. Other major teachers include Alice Schoenfeld and Alexander Treger. Concertmaster of the Corvallis Symphony Orchestra since 2007, she is also the Artistic Director of the OSU Chamber Music Workshop, an intensive quartet program held in Corvallis in July. Jessica is widely recognized as a teacher and maintains a private studio in Corvallis. Her students have won regional and national competitions and have matriculated to the nation’s most prestigious conservatories and summer programs. She performs as a soloist and chamber player throughout the Northwest.
Lillie Manis, viola/violin – serves on the string faculty at the University of Oregon, where she serves as the Assistant Director of the UO’s Community Music Institute and performs regularly alongside the members of the Oregon String Quartet. She is a graduate of the Hartt School, where she was winner of the Miami String Quartet competition and received additional honors for her performance of chamber music. She is nationally recognized for her work as a Suzuki educator, and maintains a studio of violin and viola students ages three – college. In the first decade of her teaching career, her string pedagogy graduate students have won college-level teaching appointments and full-time positions at highly regarded community music schools; her pre-college students have won competitions and scholarships to competitive summer music programs and have been selected for masterclasses with internationally recognized artists. She and her husband, jazz saxophonist Joe Manis, are the parents of a son, Ellery.
Steven Pologe, cello – Steven has performed throughout the United States, and in Italy, Sweden, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand and Canada. He has released two CDs with the Oregon String Quartet, plus works by Jon Deak for solo cello and piano trio, and the piano trio of Lev Abeliovich. Pologe is Professor of Cello at the University of Oregon and cellist in the Oregon String Quartet and Chamber Music Amici. He also performs and teaches at the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival. In his earlier career, he performed with the American Ballet Theater, Brooklyn Philharmonia, Grand Teton Music Festival and as principal cellist with the Honolulu Symphony and the Oregon Bach Festival.
Sharon Schuman, violin – Sharon studied violin with Carol Weston, a student of Leopold Auer. After a summer grant to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, she won a full scholarship in music to Stanford University, where she graduated in English. She earned a Ph.D. in English at University of Chicago. She has performed with the Oregon Bach Festival and the Eugene Symphony, Oregon Mozart Players and the Salem Chamber Orchestra. She has played concertmaster for Eugene Opera, Eugene Ballet, Eugene Concert Choir, and OMP. She co-founded Chamber Music Amici and is currently a core musician. She is also Assistant Concertmaster of the Eugene Opera Orchestra. Her book, Freedom and Dialogue in a Polarized World (U. Delaware, 2014), came out in paperback in 2016.
Board of Directors
Don Hirst, President
Laurel Ross, Secretary
Eunhye Grace Choi, Artistic Director, Core Musician
Rebecca Daniels, Director
Tory Heldt, Director
Jessica Lambert, Core Musician
Lillie Manis, Core Musician
Steven Pologe, Core Musician
Sharon Schuman, Core Musician, Founding Artistic Director
Chamber Music Amici has three part-time staff members. They are the Artistic Director, who coordinates artistic planning; the Executive Director, who oversees day-to-day operations; and the Development Director, who orchestrates and helps to implement fundraising and marketing strategies.
Grace joined the Chamber Music Amici in late 2019 as its core member and will start her journey as a new Artistic Director beginning the 2020-21 season. Grace is a highly acclaimed collaborative pianist and chamber musician who regularly appears on international concert stages and recordings with world-class musicians. She has been calling Eugene home since 2017 with her husband clarinetist Wonkak Kim and their 4-years old daughter.
Executive Director, Loi Heldt
Loi has been working for CMA since operations began, January 1, 2009. When Loi is not in the office she can be found working on her next quilt project, working out at the local Y, riding her bike or working around her yard. Loi is married to Bruce Heldt (31 years) and has two young adult children – Tory Marie (24) lives in Atlanta, GA and Aaron Alexander (21) lives in Flagstaff, AZ.
Bruce is a retired CPA and attorney, with a degree in Psychology and a life-long love for playing piano. He was involved in the creation of Amici and served as its first Board President. Responsible for initiating and developing long term partner, client, & employee relations as the former managing partner of Isler CPA, and having served terms totaling 67 years on the boards of 14 community organizations (including 6 arts organizations), he has returned to Amici to apply his experience assisting an organization that he loves with its donor relations. Be sure to let Bruce know what you love about Amici.
The opening of the Wildish Community Theater in 2006 in Springfield, Oregon, with its near-perfect acoustics and affordable prices, made it possible to create Chamber Music Amici. In 2007 Artistic Director Sharon Schuman was among the first classical musicians to perform in the theater. They presented the “American” string quartet of Antonin Dvorak, as part of the Chamber Music and Chocolate series of Oregon Mozart Players. That sold-out performance, after which enthusiastic audience members streamed on stage to praise the acoustics in every part of the house, led Schuman and the other core musicians to imagine forming a resident company to perform in the theater. The Board of Directors of the Wildish Community Theater agreed to this proposal in early 2009, and Chamber Music Amici was born.
As Amici continues to perform at the Wildish Theater to enthusiastic audiences and to nearly sold-out performances, we now perform one concert each season at the Shedd Institute for the Arts in Eugene, allowing Amici to reach a wider audience as the Jaqua Hall can hold well over 400 people.
The mission of Chamber Music Amici, the first resident company of the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater, is to produce excellent, affordable chamber music concerts which appeal to all ages. With the motto “Creating community through great music” we also aim to promote the development of a new generation of music lovers, in collaboration with public schools in Springfield, Eugene, and Cottage Grove, with other local and regional arts organizations, and with businesses and governments in local communities.