Me Three: Exploring Female Composers Through Piano Trio

By | March 25, 2019

Housed in the College of Charleston School of the Arts, Charleston Music Fest will present esteemed faculty trio Janet Orenstein, (violin), Allison Gagnon (piano) and Brooks Whitehouse (cello), all hailing from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). Whitehouse and Orenstein were founding members of the Guild Trio, for whom composer Sheila Silver was commissioned by Chamber Music America to compose To the Spirit Unconquered. Gagnon was a founding member of the Martlet Trio in Montreal, Canada. Gagnon enjoys playing great works of the sonata literature with each of her colleagues, and together they now enjoy both the trio repertoire and playing in larger chamber ensembles together. This beautifully curated concert program for Charleston Music Fest will honor two of the foremost female composers of the 20th century, Rebecca Clarke and Sheila Silver. This concert is a special offering during College of Charleston’s Year of Women celebration and will take place on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall at the Simons Center for the Arts, 54 Saint Philip St. General admission is $25 and tickets for College of Charleston students are $10, available ONLINE, at the door, by emailing concerts@cofc.edu or calling (843) 953-6315.

Artist Bios:

Violinist Janet Orenstein has enjoyed an active performing career both in the United States and abroad as a chamber musician, soloist and advocate of contemporary music. She is a founding member of the Guild Trio and toured with them extensively in Canada, Europe and the United States for over 10 years. She has also appeared as a chamber musician in New York’s Alice Tully and Merkin Concert Halls, as well as at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. As a member of the Greensboro Symphony, she has appeared numerous times in chamber concerts with Dimitri Sitkovetsky.

Orenstein toured extensively in Africa, giving recitals and master classes with pianist Christina Dahl. Upon her return she contracted focal dystonia, which made it nearly impossible for her to move her left hand. Since moving to N.C. with her husband and two children, she taught violin and chamber music at various times at University of North Carolina Greensboro, Wake Forrest University and currently at UNCSA, where she teaches alongside Ida Bieler. In 2013, Orenstein gave her first solo recital in 17 years, after working continuously during those years to recover from focal dystonia.

Canadian pianist Allison Gagnon directs the Collaborative Piano Program at UNCSA, and appears in recital throughout the United States and Canada, and in Europe, with both instrumental and vocal colleagues. At UNCSA, she performs not only with faculty and students, but also with guest artists including Frederica von Stade, Jens Lindemann and the Miró Quartet. Before joining the UNCSA faculty in 1998, Gagnon taught at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada and was staff pianist at McGill University in Montreal. For nearly two decades she was a member of the piano staff at the renowned Meadowmount School of Music, N.Y.

A dedicated educator, Gagnon was a recent recipient of the UNCSA Excellence in Teaching Award. Graduates of the collaborative program she created at UNCSA have won positions in Texas, N.D., Tenn. and Pa., and have become active professionally in the United States and abroad. Her definitive edition of the piano reduction for Ernest Chausson’s Poème, Op. 25 for Violin and Orchestra has been published (www.encoremupub.com). She is preparing teaching materials in the field of collaborative piano pedagogy, and she has begun to explore the role of music in the well-being of those with dementia.

Gagnon completed her D.M.A. with Anne Epperson at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM). Her earlier teachers were Dale Bartlett (McGill), Michael Krist (Vienna Hochschule für Musik), Pierre Jasmin, and Margaret McLellan (Queen’s) and her mother Marjorie Gagnon. From CIM she holds the Brooks Smith Award of its Collaborative Piano Department. Her creative interests include ceramics and wildlife photography.

UNCSA cello professor Brooks Whitehouse has performed and taught throughout the United States and abroad. With The Guild Trio Whitehouse he won “USIA Artistic Ambassador” and “Chamber Music Yellow Springs” competitions, and has toured extensively in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia. He is the co-creator with Paul Sharpe of the popular cello/bass duo Low & Lower, and has appeared as guest artist with the American Chamber Players, Villa Musica (Germany), the Ciompi Quartet, The Apple Hill Chamber Players, and the New Zealand String Quartet. Recently he performed in Carnegie Hall with the Garth Newell Piano Quartet as part of their Fortieth Anniversary Celebration.


Housed in the College of Charleston School of the Arts, Charleston Music Fest presents intimate chamber music concerts featuring College of Charleston faculty, and local and international artists.