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May I Present: Santa Cruz Chamber Players musical director Rebecca Jackson came up with Music in May as a way to give back to the community.

Classical Pass

A series of free concerts by the Santa Cruz Chamber Players spreads the love of music around.

By Scott MacClelland

Even though domiciled under the venerable Santa Cruz Chamber Players' umbrella, Music in May is a brand new project. Brainstormed by violinist Rebecca Jackson and cellist Jason Calloway, it will be inaugurated this Wednesday, May 7, through May 11 as a series of seven concert events at four locations in Santa Cruz and one in Aptos. Not only are they all free of admission charge, they also feature outstanding visiting artists, including special guest Shmuel Ashkenasi, founder of the Vermeer String Quartet and top prizewinner of the Tchaikovsky and Queen Elisabeth international competitions. From the start of her music education, at home, with the cello from age 3 and violin from 5 on, her mother's strong commitment to the idea of "giving back" continued to propel Jackson and her art. After graduating from the Juilliard School, Jackson returned home to Santa Cruz to pursue a graduate degree in performance from UCSC under the wing of Roy Malan. At first, Jackson shopped around her Music in May proposal. Then David Kaun, a UCSC economics professor, clarinetist and "huge supporter of the arts," took a look at it.

Jackson explains, "We had forged a friendship around the time I spoke at one of his classes, and he thought it was a perfect opportunity to seek a partnership with the Chamber Players."

Jackson has played frequently as a concerto soloist and in chamber music in the United States and abroad, and is a founding member of the Vols Quartet.

"And I'm taking auditions," she adds, having recently done one for NBC's America's Got Talent. Jackson says that giving back is right at the top of the "life skills" her mother taught. "I wanted these concerts to be free," she says, "and in large part due to David Kaun, the musicians' fees are getting paid." She also credits Michael Stamp for his efforts in support of Music in May. Donations at the door will be distributed to Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Association, Willowpond Ranch and the Museum of Art and History.

Joining Jackson, Calloway, Malan and Ashkenasi are pianist Edward Auer, violinist Laura Albers, violist Michael Klotz and others in great works by Schubert, Dvorák, Prokofiev, Beethoven, Chopin, Piazzolla, Schumann and many more. The Mother's Day program includes a new arrangement by Malan for 10 strings of Vaughan Williams' popular Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.

THE SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS' Music in May opening gala, with violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi, is Friday, May 9, at 8pm at First Congregational Church, 900 High St., Santa Cruz. Free. For complete schedule visit or call 831.425.3149.

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