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American Bach Soloists announces the second annual Jeffrey Thomas Award

Gretchen Claassen playing gamba (right) with her MUSA colleagues
Gretchen Claassen playing gamba (right) with her MUSA colleagues
by Matthew Washburn, courtesy of the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music (covered by Creative Commons)

Last year, in celebration of their first 25 years of presenting historically informed performances of the highest caliber, American Bach Soloists (ABS) launched the Jeffrey Thomas Award to commemorate their Music Director’s 25 years of inspired leadership. The award would provide a means to honor and encourage emerging early music professionals of remarkable merit. The inaugural recipient was the English tenor Guy Cutting, who performed as a soloist with ABS last month, in addition to receiving a cash prize.

Today ABS announced that the recipient of the second annual award is cellist Gretchen Claassen. Claassen recently completed her graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, studying cello with Jennifer Culp and participating in the Conservatory Baroque Ensemble while studying with Elisabeth Reed. She was a two-time winner of the Baroque Concerto Competition and received an Artist Certificate in Chamber Music in addition to her Masters Degree. She is also an alumna of the ABS Academy.

Her approach to pursuing a career after leaving the academic environment has been nothing short of industrious. She is a founding member of the Cello Street Quartet and two period ensembles, MUSA and the Alchemy Trio, the latter with baroque violinist Natalie Carducci and harpsichordist Derek Lam. Last month Alchemy was one of the guest ensembles with Voices of Music for their Saturday Night at the Movies concert, at which their performances of music from the French Baroque were captured on the high-definition video equipment assembled and managed by Voices of Music co-Director David Tayler. Claassen also has experience performing with the ABS ensemble and will be featured as a soloist during the 2015 series of subscription concerts.