Isaac Pastor-Chermak

Isaac Pastor-Chermak leads a diverse and active musical life at home in Northern California and around the United States. A quintessential 21st-century artist, he engages deeply as a cellist, teacher, conductor, and administrator, motivated by an abiding love of sharing great music with friends and collaborators.

Though he is active in nearly every facet of today’s classical music profession, Mr. Pastor-Chermak is a career orchestral player. In any given weekend of the season, he can be found performing as Principal Cellist of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony; Associate Principal Cellist of the Stockton Symphony; or a member of the Monterey Symphony, Santa Cruz Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, and Dayton Philharmonic. Mr. Pastor-Chermak fills his summers with creative teaching and chamber music projects; and he concludes each summer season at the Lake Tahoe Music Festival. In past seasons, he has enjoyed time as Principal Cellist of Portland Opera, as well as membership in the West Virginia Symphony and Walla Walla Symphony.

Mr. Pastor-Chermak also maintains a wide range of chamber music commitments—both standing ensembles and ad-hoc projects with favorite colleagues. He is the cellist of Black Cedar Trio, a flute-cello-guitar ensemble with a wide range of classical, folk, contemporary, and commissioned repertoire. Black Cedar is proudly the only ensemble of this instrumentation in the United States. Mr. Pastor-Chermak frequently partners with pianists Miles Graber and Alison Lee in sonata programs. To him, the cello-piano sonata is the most challenging genre of classical music, requiring a soloist’s virtuosity and a sensitive ear for accompaniment, often simultaneously. He relishes the opportunity to tackle ambitious programs with Mr. Graber and Ms. Lee a few times a year.

Among Mr. Pastor-Chermak’s most notable projects are seven performances of the complete Bach Suites for Solo Cello, most recently in April 2018. With Ms. Lee, he performed the complete Beethoven Sonatas for Cello and Piano twice in 2017, and a program of sonatas by Prokofiev, Chopin, Gershwin and Beethoven in January 2018. Mr. Pastor-Chermak is a noted interpreter of the music of Elliott Carter, including a performance of Carter’s Sonata for Cello and Piano with Mr. Graber in June 2017. In Feburary 2018, Mr. Pastor-Chermak performed and conducted C.P.E. Bach’s Cello Concerto in A minor with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony, enthusiastically embracing the roles of conductor and soloist in a single piece. Only a month later, the Oakland Civic Orchestra featured him in Eugen d’Albert’s Cello Concerto in C major.

Mr. Pastor-Chermak is looking forward to a number of creative projects in 2018 and beyond. In September 2018, he will travel to Boston to play in the world-premiere recording of Elliott Miles McKinley’s String Quartet No.8, to be released Spring 2019 on the Navona/PARMA label. He plans to conclude 2018 with a recital honoring Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) and Claude Debussy (1862-1918). Summer 2019 will feature an all-Brahms recital: the two Cello Sonatas, and the Lieder Op.91.

Active as a teacher as well, Mr. Pastor-Chermak is Master Teaching Artist at Young Artists Conservatory of Music in Vacaville, CA, where he mentors a small-but-mighty studio of talented young cellists age 8-18. In 2015, he founded Solano Youth Chamber Orchestra, a dynamic and versatile group of 25 high-school string players, and continues to serve as its Music Director and Conductor. Every season, Solano Youth Chamber Orchestra presents two full-length orchestra concerts, often featuring professional soloists, in addition to a chamber music concert, and a collaborative concert with a local high-school choir. Mr. Pastor-Chermak was for many years a chamber music coach in the Berkeley, CA public schools. This formative experience shaped his teaching philosophy of joyful community-building through top-notch music-making, and introduced him to some of his best friends.

Mr. Pastor-Chermak began his cello studies with Linda and William Wharton in Moscow, Idaho. After undergraduate work at the University of Idaho, he received the Bachelor of Arts degree in music, with honors, from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied cello under Irene Sharp, conducting under Marika Kuzma, and music history under Richard Taruskin. His studies at Berkeley culminated in winning the Lyon Prize, “for academic achievement and distinction in performance,” and the Witzel Prize, “for creative achievement in stringed instrument performance.” Mr. Pastor-Chermak received the Master of Music degree in cello performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he studied cello under Jean-Michel Fonteneau. Mr. Pastor-Chermak held an assistantship in music history at the Conservatory, participating in instruction and curriculum design in the undergraduate music history survey. For his outstanding work as a scholar and academic teacher, the Conservatory awarded him honors in music history. He concluded his formal education with the Barbara K. Jackson Fellowship in Orchestral Conducting at the University of California, Davis.

In past seasons, Mr. Pastor-Chermak has been a member of the West Virginia Symphony, and an affiliate member of the New World Symphony. In 2016, he was offered a professional-training fellowship in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, but declined this prestigious appointment to continue his teaching and performing in California. In college and graduate school, Mr. Pastor-Chermak performed at the Eisenstadt Classical Music Festival in Austria, an experience that motivated his lifelong affinity for the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

Mr. Pastor-Chermak plays an 1889 Riccardo Antoniazzi cello, and a modern bow from the workshop of Ole Kanestrom in Port Townsend, WA. He performs the sixth Bach suite on a 1982 five-string cello by Antonius Garcius Rosius. His instruments are maintained exclusively by Roland Feller Violin Makers of San Francisco, and his bows are maintained exclusively by Brianna Goldberg Bows of Pasadena.

Mr. Pastor-Chermak makes his home in the hills of Berkeley, California, but is at home wherever the music takes him.