Staff Report

The public is invited to attend five world-class performances during the 40th anniversary season of the Santa Ynez Valley Concert Series, which starts on Sept. 21 and concludes on April 24.

“The opportunity to experience great artists of passion and integrity performing masterworks is a tremendously moving and inspiring experience,” said Series Coordinator Linda Burrows.

Since its inception by founder Rose Knoles at nearby Dunn School in 1981, this series has brought widely known classical artists to perform in intimate spaces in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Noted for its stunning acoustics and serene ambiance, St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church at 2901 Nojoqui Ave. in Los Olivos has been the home of this popular concert series since 2007.

At 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, a special gala concert opening the 40th season will feature internationally recognized soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian in a program of gypsy songs and tangos. She will be accompanied by Concert Series Artistic Director Dr. Robert Cassidy on piano and by Benjamin Jacobson on violin and Jonathan Moerschel on viola, both hailing from the Calder Quartet

After the performance there will be a complimentary champagne reception with the artists and a tribute to the series founder Rose Knoles who led the series as artistic director for 35 years.

Bayrakdarian is a winner of the 1997 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the same year she graduated from the University of Toronto cum laude with a biomedical engineering degree. Her broad musical career spans opera, concerts, recordings and film.

Some of Bayrakdarian’s notable accomplishments include the world premiere production of William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge in 1999; receiving first prize from Plácido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia competition in 2000, and her debuts with San Francisco Opera as Valencienne in The Merry Widow, and the Metropolitan Opera.

Soon thereafter, Mozart became a specialty: Zerlina in Don Giovanni (New York, Houston, Salzburg), Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (Los Angeles, London), and Pamina in The Magic Flute (New York, Toronto).

Bayrakdarian was a featured vocalist on the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack of the blockbuster film The Two Towers from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and on the soundtrack of Atom Egoyan’s Ararat. She also collaborated with the electronica band Delerium, which garnered a Grammy nomination.

She appeared in the BBC-produced short film Holocaust A Music Memorial Film from Auschwitz, and her Gemini-nominated film Long Journey Home, documenting her first visit to her homeland, Armenia.

Additional forays include her albums Tango Notturno and Joyous Light, a recording of Armenian medieval sacred music. Bayrakdarian currently serves on the voice faculty at UCSB.

Pianist Robert Cassidy has received widespread praise for his performances and recordings of both solo piano repertoire and chamber music. A native of Philadelphia, he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Piano Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, and his Doctor of Arts in Piano Chamber Music and Accompanying/Piano Performance from Ball State University.

His recent recordings of the Debussy Preludes have received worldwide acclaim for their sensitivity and insightful interpretations.

In addition to his performances, Cassidy continues his active teaching career and is currently Director of Piano Chamber Music for Santa Barbara Strings.

The Santa Ynez Valley Concert Series will also present these renowned artists in 7 p.m. concerts during the 40th season:

n Saturday, Nov. 9: Jackie Brand, violin, Erik Rynearson, viola, and Trevor Handy, cello, all of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Robert Cassidy on piano will present an evening of chamber music featuring the Mozart Piano Quartets and Martinu’s Second String Trio.

n Friday, Feb. 7: Organist Thomas Joyce and trumpeter Bill Williams featuring solos and duets from the last three centuries.

n Friday, March 20: Grammy Award-winning violinist and producer Johnny Gandelsman of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Ensemble, and a gifted solo artist, will present three Bach cello suites on violin.

n Friday, April 24: The Radian String Quartet with Mary Beth Woodruff, violin, Jane Chung, violin, Basil Vendryes, viola, and Andrew Smith, cello, will present an evening of string quartet masterworks.

Doors for each concert open 30 minutes prior to the start with tickets being sold at the door as well as online in advance at

A complimentary reception with the artists follows each concert.

Patron tickets are $35 and general admission tickets are $20. Thanks to a grant from St. Mark’s Women’s Guild, concert admission is free for all students (with any student ID).

For patron seating or other information, call or text Series Coordinator Linda Burrows at 805-705-0938 or e-m