The Bekesh Trio invites you to enjoy some of the most loved music written for piano trio, and hopes that you experience the transcendent beauty and inspiration of these great masterpieces. The trio finds a settled satisfaction in being part of a continuum that hands music from one generation to another. The newly formed group features seasoned, versatile musicians who have performed extensively in venues around the world.
Dr. Bethel Balge is artistic director and founder of the Summit Avenue Music Series (SAMS). She recently received an Artist Grant through the Prairie Lake Regional Arts Council, a grant sponsored by the McKnight Foundation. Last year she performed the Schumann A Minor Concerto with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra under conductor Kenneth Freed. She collaborates frequently with other musicians and has performed as soloist and in recital in Germany, Russia, and the U.S. It was at the Alte Oper (Frankfurt, Germany) that Balge’s “highly concentrated, technically secure and captivating interpretation” of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit entranced a reviewer from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
In December 2014, Balge received a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Minnesota. A scholarship student of Lydia Artymiw, Balge performed as a soloist in a Minnesota Public Radio live broadcast in the Bach Birthday concert organized by MPR host Michael Barone. She currently serves on the faculty at Martin Luther College and at Bethany Lutheran College.
Balge spent almost six years in Germany during which she studied piano performance at the University of Frankfurt’s Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik und darstellende Kunst. The Hochschule granted her a Diplom and the Hochschule faculty’s board of examiners invited her to continue her studies at the Konzertexam level, the terminal program of the German university system. Previously she received her Master of Music M.M. from the University of Wisconsin under Howard Karp. She is a cum laude graduate (Bachelor of Music) of Michigan State University, where she studied under Van Cliburn gold prize winner Ralph Votapek.
Balge has received numerous awards, including first place in the Grand Rapids Concerto Competition, first place in the Michigan State University Concerto Competition, first place in the Beethoven Competition in Madison, WI, first place in the Ida Schroeder Foundation Scholarship Competition in Milwaukee, WI, finalist in the Chicago Civic Orchestra Concerto Competition and third place in the Esther Wilburne Barnes National Competition in Georgia. As an undergraduate, she was awarded the Sudler Prize as the senior “who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in the creative or performing arts” while at Michigan State University.
For more information, please visit bethelbalge.com.
Kenneth Freed is an orchestral player and conductor, chamber musician, educator, and social entrepreneur.
A violist and violinist, Freed started music lessons at the Henry Street Settlement Music School in lower Manhattan with Elizabeth Weickert before attending the Juilliard Pre-College Division studying with Louise Behrend. He then received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Yale College and a Master of Music Performance degree from Yale University School of Music studying violin with Syoko Aki Erle. While at Yale, he was awarded the William Waithe Concerto Competition Prize, the Broadus Earle Memorial Prize for Violin, and the Tokyo String Quartet Prize for Chamber Music. He then studied in London with Helen Dowling, a student and assistant to Georges Enescu.
Orchestral music has been the primary focus of Freed’s career. He has been a member of the Minnesota Orchestra viola section since 1998. Before he joined the orchestra, Freed played second violin in the internationally acclaimed Manhattan String Quartet. He has served as Committee Chair for the Artistic Advisory Committee and served on the Member’s Committee as well. He now serves on the Diversity Committee.
Freed is enjoying his tenth season as Music Director of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra in southern Minnesota, where he has raised the artistic level of performances and collaborated with staff and board to enhance community engagement and garner increased contributed income. Thanks to his innovative programming, the orchestra has been awarded two NEA Fast track awards. This fall, thanks to local support and a state bonding bill, the orchestra will be moving into its new home at the Mankato Civic Center. The orchestra recently signed Freed to a five-year extension of his contract. His conducting training has included the National Symphony Orchestra’s Conductor’s Institute at the Kennedy Center and master classes with Jorma Panula. For the 2005-2006 season, he served as assistant conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra under Music Director Osmo Vänskä.
Freed is a founder of Learning Through Music, a music education nonprofit organization that has been using music as a teaching tool to improve learning outcomes since 2005 and which he closed in 2015. Learning Through Music received federal and local grants as well as private support to work in public schools, and has partnered with Minneapolis Public Schools, University of Minnesota, the MacPhail Center for Music, and the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies. For his work with children Freed won a Yale Music School Alumni award which help support the program in Mankato summer schools.
Freed has been quietly returning to his first love, the violin, and will be performing with the newly formed Bekesh Trio in southern Minnesota starting next season.
He and his wife Gwen have three children, Zachary, Eleanor, and Jonah.
Sharon Mautner-Rodgers is a native of Los Angeles, California. She began her cello studies at age 6 with Gretchen Geber. Mautner-Rodgers won numerous competitions as a soloist and as a member of “Trio Con Brio.”
She received a full scholarship to the Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, where she won the Herbert Zipper Award. While at Crossroads, she played in two masterclasses for Yo-Yo Ma. She attended the Curtis Institute of Music and got her B. of M. degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she received the Ellis A. Feiman award for excellence.
As a student, Mautner-Rodgers attended the Aspen Music Festival, ENCORE school for strings, Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, Taos Music Festival, and National Repertory Orchestra in CO. In recent summers, she has played with the Oregon Coast Music Festival, Bear Lake Music Festival, Endless Mountain Music Festival, and Lakes Area Music Festival, and she is in her ninth summer with the Missouri Symphony Society “Hot Summer Nights” festival.
Mautner-Rodgers has been a member of many professional orchestras, including the New World Symphony, Charleston Symphony, Naples (FL) Philharmonic, Memphis Symphony, Des Moines Symphony, Honolulu Symphony, and the Malaysian Philharmonic. She has taught and coached chamber music at the Luzerne Music Center, Weathersfield Music Camp (VT), the Drake University Preparatory school, and Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, as well as maintaining a private cello studio for over 20 years.
Currently, Mautner-Rodgers is an active freelance musician, frequently playing chamber music and orchestral performances. She is Principal Cellist with the Mankato Symphony, Associate Principal with the South Dakota Symphony, and a substitute cellist with the Minnesota Orchestra. She teaches adjunct cello at Gustavus Adolphus College, at Grace Christian School, and privately. Mautner-Rodgers will be teaching at the Cello: An American Experience cello camp in St. Paul, MN this summer.