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RPO announces The William L. Gamble Chair

For Immediate Release: August 15, 2016
Media Contacts:   Sally Cohen, 585-749-1795,


Also welcomes four new musicians for 2016/17
Matching challenge grant continues through Aug. 31


Rochester, NY – The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) announces the naming of its Principal Viola position, starting with the upcoming 2016/17 season and continuing for 15 years. Violist Melissa Matson currently holds this position, which will be known as The William L. Gamble Chair through the 2031/32 season. The Chair’s title honors the legacy and bequest of the late Mr. Gamble, a music lover and RPO patron who was also a member of the Golden Link Folk Singing Society and played in the Hoot’n Holler’n Hotshots Band.

Matson received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastman School of Music, where she is currently an associate professor. She’s also a versatile chamber musician, and is artistic director of First Muse Chamber Music, a series of concerts at First Unitarian Church of Rochester. Matson is also a member of the Amenda Quartet (with RPO violinist Patricia Sunwoo, violinist David Brickman, and cellist Mimi Hwang), whose 2015/16 season marked its first “Beethoven Cycle” – performances of all sixteen Beethoven string quartets. Outside of music, Matson creates hand-dyed artisan fabrics and garments ( and has shown her artwork in local galleries.


“I am very grateful to be the recipient of this newly-endowed Chair with the orchestra,” says Matson, who has played with the RPO since 1983. “I’m looking forward to honoring William L. Gamble with our performance of Mozart’s Sinfonie Concertante in January.”

The RPO’s  Music of Mozart Sunday Matinee on January 22, 2017 will feature Matson and RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde (The Caroline W. Gannett & Clayla Ward Chair), and is made possible by The Mozart Performance Fund: Sarah D. Atkinson, M.D. and Steven Hess.

Support from music lovers such as Mr. Gamble helps to ensure that all members of our community have access to the joy of a live performance. Each year, the RPO’s Education and Community Engagement Programs captivate and inspire more than 70,000 adults and children throughout the nine-county Rochester Metropolitan Area, presenting them with an unforgettable experience that lays the foundation for a lifetime of enjoying the arts.

Donors have until August 31 to double new or increased contributions with a $100,000 challenge grant to match donations “dollar-for-dollar” to the RPO’s 2015/16 Annual Fund. Special thanks go to the Elaine P. & Richard U. Wilson Foundation, Board Member Ilene Flaum and husband David, Board Member Dr. Stephen Rosenfeld and wife Elise, and an additional anonymous benefactor. Find out more at

“As a world-class orchestra that is deeply committed to serving the community, we in turn look to the community for support,” adds RPO President & CEO Ralph Craviso.

The RPO also welcomes four new musicians to its ranks, beginning with the 2016/17 season opener, Stare Conducts Beethoven 7 + Nakamatsu Returns, on Thursday, September 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, September 17 at 8 p.m. in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre:

  • New Principal Second Violin Hanna Landrum, a Minnesota native, was most recently guest concertmaster for the Youngstown Symphony and the Canton Symphony, where she also served as principal second. She has been featured in both chamber and orchestral performances at festivals across the country, including the Brevard Festival, in which she served as concertmaster in both the Sinfonia and Chamber Orchestras and performed Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence alongside Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster William Preucil. A passionate advocate of contemporary music, Landrum has worked with many renowned composers, and has premiered and recorded multiple new works by young, upcoming composers. She studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she received both the Dr Jerome Gross and Jim Hall awards, and from which she earned her bachelor’s and professional studies degrees.
  • New Associate/Assistant/Utility Horn Nikolette LaBonte was most recently Acting Assistant Principal Horn of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, as well as Associate Principal Horn of the Hawaii Opera Theater and Oahu Choral Society.  She will also complete her undergraduate degree coursework at the Eastman School of Music under the direction of the RPO’s own W. Peter Kurau. Outside of the concert hall, LaBonte has been extremely active in promoting classical music throughout the community. 
  • Cellist Una Gong has been pursuing her Artist Diploma as a Fellow at the San Francisco Academy Orchestra. There, she studied with Amos Yang, associate principal cellist of the San Francisco Symphony, and received the 2015 Academy Prize in recognition of outstanding artistry. Gong has worked with such prominent artists as Itzhak Perlman, Paul Katz, Laurence Lesser, Sylvia Rosenberg, Lawrence Dutton, Daniel Avshalomov, Cavani String Quartet, and Peabody Trio.
  • Born in Shanghai, Zexun Shen served as principal cellist of the Mannes College of Music Orchestra, where he also received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees on full scholarship and won the Goldsmith Foundation Award. He has performed extensively in the U.S. and abroad as both a soloist and chamber musician, and has taken part in many music festivals, where he has worked with member of the Borromeo and Brentano String Quartets, the Moscow Rachmaninoff Piano Trio, and many others.

Single tickets as well as subscriptions for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO)’s 2016/17 season, presented by Dawn & Jacques Lipson,  are currently on sale online at, by phone at (585) 454-2100, or in person at the RPO’s new Patron Services Center at 108 East Avenue and at all Wegmans That’s T.H.E. Ticket! locations. For a complete schedule, please visit

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been committed to enriching and inspiring our community through the art of music since its founding in 1922. The RPO presents approximately 160 concerts and broadcasts a year, serving up to 170,000 people through ticketed events, education and community engagement activities, and concerts in schools and community centers throughout the region. 12th Music Director Ward Stare joins the ranks of former notable RPO music directors, including Eugene Goossens, José Iturbi, Erich Leinsdorf, David Zinman and Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman. Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik has earned a national reputation for excellence in pops programming during his 22-year tenure with the RPO. With Michael Butterman as Principal Conductor for Education and Community Engagement (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair) – the first endowed position of its kind in the country – the RPO reaches more than 12,000 children through its specific programs for school-aged children.

Media please note: High-resolution images and a complete listing of 2016/17 concerts are available at, and interviews and photo/footage opportunities can be arranged.