Sahar Hassan, mezzo soprano & artistic director

Egyptian American mezzo-soprano Sahar Hassan maintains a busy schedule as a chamber musician and frequent oratorio soloist. Committed to bringing lesser known works to life, she is artistic director of the Twin Cities based Ladyslipper Ensemble, which was born out of her love for chamber music. Ms. Hassan has been on the voice faculties of New England Conservatory’s Division of Preparatory and Continuing Education, Wellesley College, College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University and McNally Smith College of Music. She earned her Masters in Music from New England Conservatory of Music, with additional studies at the Conservatoire de Versailles in France and the Hochschule für Musik in Munich, Germany. In 2017, Ms. Hassan received an Artist Initiative Grant from the state of Minnesota to record a CD of vocal/instrumental chamber music. She is training to be a certified Alexander Technique teacher.

Sharon Carlson, managing director

sharon_head_250Sharon Carlson has been closely connected to the Twin Cities arts community for many years. As Assistant to the Director of The Schubert Club, she worked with its Executive Director Bruce Carlson from 1975 until his death in 2006. She is a graduate of Augsburg College where she majored in French and minored in Latin and also attended the University for American Universities in Avignon, France. Sharon  remains active in the local arts community. She is presently Chair of The Edvard Grieg Society devoted to promoting Norwegian art and culture, including the music of Edvard Grieg. She is on the Board of Norway House, and a member of the Cultural Arts Committee of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Sharon also sits on the board of the Saint Paul Conservatory of Music.

Helen Chang-Haertzen, violin

Helen Chang grew up in Massachusetts and studied with Bo Youp Hwang and Roman Totenberg. She attended the Curtis Institute of Music and Salzburg Mozarteum, after which she held the associate and principal second chair with the Bamberg Symphony in Germany. She has recorded the Bach Partitas with Cavalli Records and has appeared as soloist with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Minnesota Orchestra where she is now a member of the first violin section. She plays with the Isles Ensemble and is a 2018 recipient of the Minnesota Artist Initiative Grant.

Jane Cords-O’Hara, cello

Born and raised in Ireland, cellist Jane Cords-O’Hara moved to the Twin Cities in 2014. Previously, she freelanced in NYC for 12 years. A member of The Knights and Iris Orchestra, she also plays regularly with St Paul Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of St Luke’s, as well as maintaining a private teaching studio. She studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester before completing her studies with Timothy Eddy at Mannes College in New York. Jane lives in Minneapolis with her husband Dan and their daughter Aoife.

Oleg Levin, piano

Dr. Levin is an Adjunct Professor of Piano at the Concordia University, St. Paul and the piano faculty at the St. Paul Conservatory of Music and InterHarmony International Music Festival, Italy.  As a pianist, Dr. Levin has won prizes in a number of local piano competitions, including Schubert Club Competition, Marvin O. Mechelke II Piano Competition and Hutchinson Music Scholarship.  In 2015, Dr. Levin was awarded with a fellowship grant by the Minnesota State Arts Board to record a CD of Russian piano music of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Dr. Levin maintains an active performance schedule as a soloist and chamber musician.  Individuality and creativity have marked the overall pursuit of his musical career.


— Guest Artists —

Julie Elhard, viola da gamba

Julie Elhard appears regularly as a soloist and chamber musician. She has had several performances with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, including Bach’s St. Matthew Passion under the direction of Nicholas McGegan. Ms. Elhardt was awarded a 2016 and 2012 Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and a 2002 Jerome Foundation grant. She received a Performing Artist Certificate from the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague, Netherlands and has taught at workshops in North America and the Viola da Gamba Society of America’s national Conclaves. Currently, Ms. Elhardt teaches viola da gamba at St. Olaf and Macalester colleges, and the St. Paul Conservatory of Music, where she has created a viola da gamba method for children and non-string players called the “Passamezzo Method”.

Kristen Bruya, Bass

Kristen Bruya joined the Minnesota Orchestra as principal bass in February 2015. Prior to this, she was the assistant principal bass of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 2010 through 2014, and a member of Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s bass section from 2006 to 2010. Since moving to Minneapolis, Bruya has enjoyed performing in Minnesota Orchestra’s Chamber Music series, with the Colonial Chamber Series, as well as other chamber music projects. In recent seasons, she has also performed in the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and with the Santa Fe Opera.

Charles Block, Bass

Charles Block studied double bass at San Francisco State University with Shinji Eshima, and Indiana University with Bruce Bransby. He currently serves as Principal Bass of both Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in Madison and Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra. He can also be heard performing as a substitute with Minnesota Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Minnesota Opera, Grant Park Symphony, and Lakes Area Music Festival. Past positions include Assistant Principal of Memphis Symphony. Internationally, Charles has worked with RTE Irish National Symphony Orchestra, Macau Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and as guest Principal of Hong Kong Sinfonietta. Mr. Block lives in Minneapolis with his wife Kathryn Nettleman, a member of Minnesota Orchestra, and their daughter Inez.

Stephanie Arado, Violin

Violinist Stephanie Arado’s career encompasses a wide range of performance and teaching experience. Since her debut with the Chicago Symphony at age 12 , Ms. Arado has performed as soloist with symphony orchestras throughout the United States, including the Detroit, St. Louis, and Minnesota Orchestras. Ms. Arado spent 22 years as Assistant Concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra and also served as Concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony. She has participated in chamber music festivals both nationally and internationally and has had the privilege to perform with such masters as Paul Tortelier, Joseph Silverstein, and Yuri Bashmet. A recipient of a McKnight Foundation Grant for Performing Artists, Ms. Arado maintains a private teaching studio in Minneapolis and is an Artistic Director of the Bakken Trio.