Isaac Pastor-Chermak leads an active musical life at home in Northern California and around the United States. Educated at the University of California, Berkeley and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he maintains a vigorous schedule of appearances as soloist, chamber musician, orchestral player, recording artist, teacher and conductor.
A career orchestral player, Pastor-Chermak is currently Principal Cellist of Portland Opera and Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony, Associate Principal Cellist of Stockton Symphony, and a member of Santa Barbara Symphony, Monterey Symphony, Santa Cruz Symphony, and Dayton Philharmonic. During the summers, he is an orchestra member in the Eisenstadt Classical Music Festival in Austria.
He is the cellist of Black Cedar Trio, a flute-cello-guitar ensemble with a wide range of classical, folk, and contemporary repertoire. With sonata partners Miles Graber and Alison Lee, he has performed much of the cello-piano repertoire at venues throughout Northern California, including a performance of Elliott Carter's Cello Sonata in June 2016 with Mr. Graber, and the complete Beethoven cello sonatas in Summer 2017 with Ms. Lee.
Pastor-Chermak began his cello studies with Linda and William Wharton in Moscow, Idaho. After undergraduate work at the University of Idaho, he received his bachelor’s degree in music with honors from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied cello under Irene Sharp, historical performance under Davitt Moroney, conducting under Marika Kuzma, pedagogy under Jonathan Koh, and music history under Richard Taruskin. His studies at Berkeley culminated in winning the Lyon Prize, “for academic achievement and distinction in performance,” and the Witzel Prize, “for creative achievement in stringed instrument performance.”
Pastor-Chermak received the Master of Music degree in cello performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, his studies supported in part by the Margaret Rowell Cello Scholarship. At the Conservatory, he studied cello under Jean-Michel Fonteneau and viola da gamba under Elisabeth Reed. Pastor-Chermak held an assistantship in music history at the Conservatory, participating in instruction and curriculum design in the undergraduate music history survey; the Conservatory awarded him honors in music history in recognition of his outstanding work as a scholar and academic teacher.
He concluded his formal education as a Barbara K. Jackson Fellow in Orchestral Conducting at the University of California, Davis during the 2013-2014 academic year. In 2016, he was offered a professional-trianing fellowship in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, but declined this prestigous appointment to continue his teaching and performing in California.
An enthusiastic practitioner of contemporary music, Pastor-Chermak has commissioned and/or premiered nearly two dozen new compositions – both solo and chamber music – by composers including Albert Behar, Daniel Bukvich, Matthew Cmiel, Cindy A. Cox, Afrooz Family, Stephen Feigenbaum, Andrew Sibulsky, and Philip Wharton. Frequently on the leading-edge of technical innovation in performance, he enthusiastically embraces electronic music, sampling, and modified and invented instruments such as the ‘mechanized cello’ pioneered in Afrooz Family’s Tentations for cello and computer operator. In February 2016, he recorded extensively with producer/DJ Steven Doman, resulting in several new tracks.
Pastor-Chermak is equally at home as a practitioner of early music. Performing on baroque cello and viola da gamba, he is in frequent demand as a continuo player and soloist. Pastor-Chermak has appeared as soloist and ensemble member at the Berkeley Early Music Festival, the American Bach Soloists Academy (San Francisco), and the International Baroque Institute at Longy (Cambridge, MA). He recently edited the first modern edition of a 1785 cello concerto by Luigi Borghi (c.1745-1806) – and was the soloist in its first modern performance, accompanied by the UC Davis Baroque Ensemble. In Summer 2016, he performed all six Bach cello suites in a single evening in Berkeley, including the sixth suite on a five-string violoncello piccolo.
Active as a teacher as well, Pastor-Chermak is Beelard Foundation Artist-in-Residence at the Young Artists Conservatory of Music in Vacaville, CA, where he teaches cello and conducts Solano Junior Strings, Vacaville's first extracurricular youth orchestra. He is a faculty member at Dominican Sisters School of Music in Fremont, CA, where he teaches cello lessons. Pastor-Chermak was for many years a cello section and chamber music coach in the Berkeley, CA public schools, where his students regularly took top honors at regional adjudications. During the summers, he is a faculty member at All Things Cello Camp (Boise, ID) and has taught at Chamber Music in the Mountains (Tucson, AZ). In 2015, he directed Davis Cello Days, a solo and ensemble workshop for middle-school cellists.
Pastor-Chermak plays an 1810 Gennaro Fabricatore cello, generously on loan from a private collector, and a modern bow from the workshop of Ole Kanestrom in Port Townsend, WA. He performs the sixth Bach suite on a 1982 five-string cello by Antonius Rosius. His instruments are maintained exclusively at the shop of Roland Feller in San Francisco.
Isaac makes his home in the hills of Berkeley, California, but is at home wherever the music takes him.
Photo: Francis Lau.