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Michelle Djokic, artistic director of Musikiwest, and the Musikiwest ChamberFest in Pebble Beach. (photo: Jim Fawcette)

Palo Alto-based chamber ensemble presents summer festival at Stevenson

As seen in the Monterey Herald

Happy 4th of July everyone! The holiday not only commemorates our nation’s Declaration of Independence in 1776; in our region, it signals the beginning of the summer music festival season. The big one on this side of the Monterey Bay is the Carmel Bach Festival, which begins July 13, bringing two weeks of world-class music by an acclaimed international ensemble. A few pre-festival opportunities take place the week before the main programs begin.

A new festival comes to our region this summer, tucking into the week before Carmel Bach opens—July 7-12. Artistic Director Michelle Djokic of Musikiwest, a Palo Alto-based chamber ensemble, announced that the group will be presenting its inaugural summer festival at the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach. “Musikiwest ChamberFest” brings participants from the country’s prestigious music schools for intensive rehearsals, along with workshops that focus on integrating wellness modalities with the collaborative power of chamber music.

Professional musicians from across the United States will lead the festival, which will culminate in two public performances. Faculty and students will perform a variety of chamber masterworks together, including Antonín Dvořák’s String Sextet in A Major, Op. 48, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20.

On the wellness side, Dana Fonteneau, founder of The WholeHearted Musician, and Colburn School Wellness Professor Jennie Morton will present three public workshops that share insight into essential skills, such as empathy, communication and creativity, as it applies to both professional and personal life.

Djokic says, “While chamber music is at the heart of Musikiwest ChamberFest, our rehearsals and workshops are specifically tailored to explore the subtleties of positive collaboration, maintaining emotional health and increasing empathic awareness, skills that are essential in achieving more harmonious group results.

“These sensitive topics are frequently left unaddressed during formal music training and education, yet they are vital to our emotional well-being and long-term success as individuals and performers.”

The public is invited to experience these workshops as well as the concerts. Djokic says that the themes and topics in these sessions are also relevant to everyday situations and provide valuable insights into life at work, school and personal relationships.

Musikiwest ChamberFest has selected four students as the festival’s fellows. They are violinists Cher Liu and Quinn Price (Cleveland Institute), violist Alexandra Simpson (San Francisco Conservatory of Music) and cellist Josh Halpern (Curtis Institute). Throughout the week, they will work alongside senior artists, violinists Siwoo Kim and Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, violist Ayane Kozasa and cellists Michelle Djokic and Paul Wiancko, in preparation for the two public chamber performances on July 11 and July 12.

On July 7, Fonteneau, a psychotherapist and former cellist, will lead a presentation on the art of successful teamwork and essential communicative skills. For two decades, she has served as a professional career coach and consultant for music students and professionals alike.

Morton leads two interactive workshops on July 8 and July 9. The first looks into the origins of creativity and how this relates to common performance issues such as anxiety and perfectionism. The second explores the crucial communicative role between performers and audiences. She received artistic training as a vocalist and ballet dancer and has served as an osteopath, clinical anxiety treatment professional and mental health integrative medicine provider. She is also the founder of Healthy Performers, dedicated to promoting the wellbeing of all professional artists.

Concert I, the Dvořák and Mendelssohn works, takes place July 11 at 7:30 p.m., Concert II, including quartets by Arensky and Schubert, takes place July 12 at 7:30 p.m.

The Art of Successful Teamwork workshop with Fonteneau takes place July 7 7:30 p.m. Creativity and Emotional Health with Morton takes place July 8 at 1 p.m., and Empathy and Communication July 9, at 1 p.m. An open rehearsal of The Essentials of Positive Collaboration takes place July 10 at 1 p.m.

The performances take place at the Church in the Forest; workshop locations are to be determined. Tickets for both are available online at or at the door. Free admission for patrons 18 and under.


by Barbara Rose Shuler – June 26, 2019