Guest Artists

This season’s guest artists come to us from around the world—and right here in Tucson.


Sheryll McManus


Sheryll McManus moved to Tucson in 2012 after driving through too many blizzards in Indiana and researching areas with more sunshine. She had been living in a historic mansion in Peru, IN that was difficult to leave. The mansion was once owned by Cole Porter’s cousin, and Cole Porter himself had played piano there. McManus had the opportunity to participate in annual Cole Porter festivities, playing and singing Cole Porter tunes. Coming from a musically inclined family, she began piano lessons at age 4 and eventually received her undergraduate degree from Oberlin Conservatory and graduate degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She served as keyboardist for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years and performed as piano soloist with a number of orchestras and chamber ensembles. Since arriving in Tucson, she has been busy playing piano and violin with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, singing with the Tucson Symphony Chorus and maintaining a private piano studio. McManus left a large studio in Indianapolis, where a number of her students were prize winners.

Christi Amonson


Soprano Christi Amonson serves on the faculty of Troy University in Alabama. Recent concert engagements include touring China as a soloist with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra and pops concert with the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra, as well as singing Amy in Little Women and Adele in Die Fledermaus with Opera Delaware. Opera News described her sound as “liquid silver” after she sang Nannetta with Chautauqua Opera. Ms. Amonson was a winner of the Classical Singer Competition in Philadelphia and the Liederkranz Competition in New York City, and she was a Metropolitan Opera finalist in Seattle. In Tucson, she was the winner of the UA President’s concert, sang Hannah in The Merry Widow with SASO, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Southern Arizona Opera and was the soprano soloist for SASO’s Carmina Burana. She has been a soloist with the Las Vegas Desert Chorale and Orchestra, the Tucson Chamber Artists, The Wieck Chamber Singers and Orchestra, Reveille, Sons of Orpheus, the Arizona Opera Guild and the Tucson Masterworks Chorale. Dr. Amonson earned her DMA in voice and theatre under the tutelage of Grayson Hirst at the University of Arizona, where she has also been an instructor. She earned her M.M. in voice at the Manhattan School of Music and her B.M. in music education at the University of Idaho. In New York City, she sang with several opera companies and directed choirs for the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Urban Voices Program.

Larry Leung


Blessed with the desire to learn and play music, Larry Leung has become an accomplished musician. Remarkably, without attending any school of music or receiving formal training, he is self-taught and can barely read musical notation-. Through sheer determination and his love of music, Larry, with the guidance of Master Li Ma, learned how to play the guzheng with weekly lessons for six months. Over a five-year period, Larry’s passion for the guzheng led to the rekindling of his Chinese roots. Larry first played with SASO in 2011, performing He Zhanhao’s “Lu You and Tang Wan” Concerto for guzheng with orchestra, chorus and soprano. He traveled with SASO on its first China tour, playing this. For the second China tour he played He Zhanhao’s The Butterfly Lovers. Larry is in his 60s and his motto in life is “never too late to learn.”

Emily Sun


Emily Sun was born in Sydney. She began playing the violin at age five, taught by her father, Daniel Yi Sun, a recognized Australian composer. She received her Australian Associate Diploma of Music in piano at 13 and Licentiate in violin at 14. She studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Robin Wilson and is pursuing a degree at the Royal College of Music in London. Ms. Sun made her concerto debut with the East-West Philharmonic Orchestra at age 10, and has since been a soloist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Queensland Symphony Orchestra, and appeared in collaborations with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. She was the soloist in the 2012 Sydney Festival’s “Symphony in the Domain,” performing Bruch’s Violin Concerto with the Sydney Symphony to an audience of 50,000. Ms. Sun has appeared as soloist in such venues as the Sydney Opera House, Tel Aviv Opera House and the Louvre Auditorium.

Brett Deubner


Brett Deubner, one of this generation’s most accomplished violists, has inspired worldwide critical acclaim for his powerful intensity and sumptuous tone. The New Jersey Star Ledger commented, “Deubner played with dynamic virtuosity, hitting the center of every note no matter how many there were,” and Strad noted his playing for its “infectious capriciousness.” Recent performances include concerto appearances with more than 40 orchestras on four continents.

As a chamber music collaborator, Deubner has performed with the Tokyo and Vermeer quartets, pianists Joseph Kalichstein and Robert Koenig, cellists Wendy Warner and Sarah Sant’Ambrogio, violinists Gregory Fulkerson and Dimitry Sitkovetsky, flutists Ransom Wilson and Carol Wincenc, and New York Philharmonic principal oboist Joseph Robinson and Dallas Symphony principal oboist Erin Hannigan.

Deubner’s commitment to extending the repertoire for the viola is made evident by collaborations with some of today’s most noted composers, such as Richard Danielpour, Samuel Adler, Lalo Schifrin and David Del Tredici. To date, more than 80 works for viola including more than 30 concerti and numerous solo and chamber works have been dedicated to and premiered by him. Highlights of the 2014-15 season included the world premiere of Frank Levy’s Concerto for Viola and Winds with the Omaha Symphonic Winds, and Eric Whitacre’s River Cam for viola and strings in Seattle. During the 2015-16 season he will premiere and record Donald Appert’s Viola Concerto with the Oregon Sinfonietta; record the “Der Schwanendreher” Concerto of HIndemith in Vancouver, Washington;  tour Brazil with the Southern Arizona Symphony performing the viola concerto of Amanda Harberg (which he will also record with us) as well as give recitals in Ecuador, California, New Jersey and Italy. In the fall of 2017, Deubner will record and premiere Grammy-award winning composer Richard Danielpour’s viola concerto, specifically written for him. In addition to recording this important new viola concerto, Deubner will go on a five-city tour of the West Coast from Los Angeles to Vancouver as well as an East Coast tour culminating in a performance at Carnegie Hall.

Nicholas Armstrong

Guest conductor

Maestro Nick Armstrong is artistic director of the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, ensemble in residence at the Brooklyn Museum. Nick is currently in his 19th season with the orchestra and he continues to lead the dedicated musicians through a demanding repertoire of unusual and thrilling music. Under his creative leadership the orchestra has grown significantly in size and ability, and now enjoys the reputation of being Brooklyn’s finest community orchestra—certainly its most fun!

Nick is originally from the tiny village of Bursledon, outside Southampton in the south of England. He moved gradually to larger cities—Bristol, where he studied composition and viola at the University of Bristol; Venice, where he was a member of the orchestra of the famed Teatro La Fenice, and where he studied conducting at the Conservatorio “B. Marcello”; Richmond, VA, where he was a member of the Richmond Symphony while taking his Master of Music in conducting at Virginia Commonwealth University; Washington, D.C., where as a freelance opera and orchestra conductor he was in great demand; and New York, or more specifically, Brooklyn, where he has made his home since 1985. He is an accomplished violist, and specializes in Baroque music as a violinist, violist and harpsichordist. Nick is strongly committed to contemporary orchestral works, and during the BSO’s recent 40th anniversary year he gave the premieres of four works written by young composers for the orchestra.

A respected music educator and clinician, Nick has served as executive director of the Preparatory Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and as head of performing arts at Poly Prep Country Day School in New York City. He has guest-conducted numerous district-wide student orchestras in the New York tri-state region.

Ivo Stankov


Ivo Stankov has become one of Bulgaria’s leading and most versatile artists of his generation. Described as “a stunning virtuoso,” he has captivated audiences in the UK and Europe with his commanding style and spirited performances. His debut CD of Beethoven’s violin sonatas was recently awarded five stars by the magazine Musical Opinion, and received rave reviews in other music publications. Ivo is equally at home as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician and educator.

Lachezar Stankov


Lachezar Stankov is a winner of national and international prizes and awards. He was awarded in 2005 one of only two ABRSM International full scholarships to study at the Royal College of Music in London with professor Andrew Ball. At age 16 he performed with Varna and Shumen Philharmonic Orchestras in Bulgaria, earning him acclaim both from the critics and the audience. Since then he has been performing recitals at major venues in Bulgaria, and played concertos with orchestras both in Bulgaria and the U.K.

SASO’s Story

Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.