Fresh off Disney Hall concert, FOOSA Philharmonic performs Sunday in Fresno

Atalented group of musicians on Friday night got to perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Now it’s back to Fresno for them. Members of the FOOSA Philharmonic are hanging out in the L.A. area Saturday, but everyone will be back in town tomorrow for a free event you don’t want to miss: the FOOSA gala final concert (7 p.m. Sunday, June 23, Peoples Church, 7172 N. Cedar Ave.)

Pictured above: FOOSA concerto competition finalists are, from left, Maria Hincapie, piccolo; Clara Saitkoulov, violin, Hanna Zhdan, violin; Steven Baloue, viola; Victor Charriez, trombone; Thomas Loewenheim, artistic director; and Fermín Segarra-Cordero, violin.  Photo: Julia Copeland

The FOOSA Philharmonic, conducted by artistic director Thomas Loewenheim, is the premier ensemble of the prestigious Fresno Summer Orchestra Academy, which attracts talented student musicians and prominent faculty from around the world.

I’ve dug out of the archives a 2017 long-form story I wrote about traveling with the orchestra to L.A. and hearing it at Disney Hall. It’s worth a read.

At Sunday’s concert you’ll get to hear not only the orchestra, fresh from Los Angeles with Strauss and Shostakovich, but also the students of the FOOSA Half-Day Program, which provides opportunities for younger and less experienced players.

Another concert highlight: Hanna Zhdan, the winner of the FOOSA Concerto Competition, will be a featured soloist.

The competition this year was especially close. “It was a mind-blowingly great competition lineup,” says Julia Copeland, executive director of FOOSA.


Zhdan, 23, originally from Minsk, Belarus, received her bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Park University’s International Center for Music, studying with Ben Sayevich.She will perform the first movement of the Conus Violin Concerto.

She was recruited by Sayevich to Park University.

A graphic image of Hanna Zhdan on the Park University website.

“I wasn’t planning on going to the United States because it was too far,” she says. “It was just a dream, and my mother wanted me to stay close to family.” But after an offer of a full scholarship, her music professor in Minsk convinced her mother to let her come to the U.S.

Zhdan credits Sayevich with trying to understand “my mentality, my culture, my language. He is a great teacher and that is not very known. He teaches you how to practice by yourself. The main thing in a musician’s life is to learn how to practice because you are on your own the majority of the time. You need to learn to work and not waste time. Once you get out of school, you have to be your own teacher. And Ben was able to teach me how to do that.”

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She received a full scholarship from the highly prestigious Colburn School in Los Angeles, California, where she will pursue a Master of Music Degree while studying with Martin Beaver.

“My dream while at Colburn is to start applying to orchestras,” she says. “I love being in a group and creating music together. It would be the dream job.”


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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