I met Robert on Match.com. On our first date, he brought me a CD of a Russian Jazz pianist, and I, a Cactus Pear Music Festival brochure. We started our acquaintance with conversation about music and it definitely worked in his favor when he said, “I know about this festival. I am a big fan and supporter.” I was thrilled to find out that Rob knows and loves music. We have been going to a lot of concerts since then and this summer, six years after that memorable first date, once again we have attended the festival as a couple.
Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio , concert violinist and former concertmaster of the San Antonio Symphony, founded the Cactus Pear Music Festival in 1997, one year before I founded Musical Bridges. I remember us playing together while she was pregnant with her first daughter Bella, and a little later, seeing a postcard from the festival of the newborn Gabriella, Stephanie’s second daughter, so small that she fit inside the violin case… It was great to see Stephanie; she did not age a bit, and it was unbelievable to see two beautiful young ladies who used to be those little girls. Time flies!
Every July, Stephanie brings fantastic chamber music to San Antonio and this year was no exception. Stephanie doubled as an artistic director of the festival and as a violinist, featuring many extremely beautiful ensembles. Her one-of-a-kind silky sound leads the way for the group, she is spectacular! It was great to hear again baritone Timothy Jones, an old colleague from my UTSA years in the early nineties. His voice matured and became even more velvety. He masterfully uses different colors for different characters in his singing. He is still very friendly and positive, a lot of fun to be around.
Another true star of the festival was a brilliant pianist Ryo Yanagitani, who also is a first prize winner of the previous San Antonio International Piano Competition. The pianist was fantastic on every level. The San Antonio International Piano competition is extremely proud of this level of winners that show the growth of the competition and its worldly recognition. It was a founder of the International Piano Competition, Ruth Jean Gorovez, who welcomed us freshly arrived Russian pianists to San Antonio and introduced us to the community of music supporters in 1991.
I have been in the US for 23 years now. Over this time a lot has happened, Stephanie moved to Reno, Nevada, Timothy Johns to Houston. Our kids have grown; my son is almost 30… for God’s sake… We are following each other’s families and professional lives on Facebook. We are happy for each other when things are good. Music connected all of us somewhere in time, my old colleagues, my new husband and a fabric of the San Antonio music community. This summer at the Cactus Pear Music Festival, it was great to hear music and see everyone in person under the same roof, it felt like my American Musical Family reunion.