The Oracle Chamber Music Festival 2020

Last January 2019, Oracle Piano Society achieved a major milestone; the establishment of our First Oracle Chamber Music Festival. This January, we boldly launched the new year with a vibrant second year of the program.

Taking suggestions from the 2019 Festival student survey, we added new improvements to enrich our offerings in 2020. These included individual lessons with faculty, daily public masterclasses, and an improvisation themed concert and presentation.

To encourage a greater sense of community, students and faculty lodged at the beautiful and historic El Rancho Robles Guest Ranch:

The first concert on January 2 featured members of the 2020 Oracle Chamber Festival Faculty including Artist Advisory Committee Chair, Robert Hamilton, piano; Luciana Gallo, cello; Milton Masciadri, double-bass; Monte Belknap, violin & viola; Patricia Cole, violin; Jeffrey Weisner, double-bass; and myself on piano. Composer James DeMars was present at the concert and spoke about his wonderful Piano Quartet, which was included in the program.

Video selections from the Faculty concert can be viewed below:

The second concert, (January 3), featured a fascinating demonstration of historic improvisation techniques by improvisation specialist John Mortensen of Cedarville University. Dr. Mortensen also presented a seminar class on the topic for students and members of the community the following day. Videos of the events can be viewed below:

The January 4 student showcase concert served as the festival's grand finale. With less than one month to learn their music, and only days to collaborate with their partners, our students delivered polished, professional, and expressive performances of challenging repertoire. The level of artistry, enthusiasm, and commitment to craftsmanship displayed by these musicians was truly an inspiration! Members of the faculty including Greg Hamilton, Jeffrey Weisner, Milton Masciadri, Patricia Cole, Monte Belknap, myself, and my assistant Yi Lu performed alongside the students as well.

The video can be viewed below:

A festival of this magnitude would not have been possible without the extraordinary generosity and tireless efforts put forth by the Oracle Piano Society board of directors, community volunteers, and the Oracle community. I have listed these vital contributors below:

Oracle Piano Society Board Chairman, Coralee Thompson: Supervised the preparation for all of the delicious meals during the festival; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She was also involved in coordinating many logistical elements before, during, and after the festival. With her relentless work ethic, commitment to excellence, and infectious enthusiasm, Coralee is an ambassador of goodwill in the community and a force for innovation and progress.

Board Treasurer Kathy Blacic: Her work during the festival was completely astounding! Not only was she there for every single meal to prepare, serve, clean up, she also managed all of the tickets, student tuition, name tags, OrCA clean up, transportation, ordering, purchasing and delivering food, printing, all of the El Rancho Robles logistics, making calls when a stranded horse was outside the kitchen, and so much more!

Board Member Sarah Hardin: Prepared her famous pies and cookies for all for the dinner meals and snack at the concerts. Kiki Welfel also made cookies for the festival.

Sarah & David Hardin: Provided their home piano as practice space, transportation of musicians and instruments, set up of OrCA, and ran last minute errands as needed.

Board Member Shelley McEwan provided home stay for students, transportation, and help with concerts and meals.

Assistant to the Artistic Director Yi Lu: Coordinated transportation, assisted with itinerary and schedule development, assisted with a student trio as performer.

Monte Belknap, Gregory Hamilton, and Robert Hamilton for serving as advisors during the planning stages of the festival

Monte Belknap- Provided cross-country transportation for his students to and from Utah and within Oracle.

Luciana Gallo- Provided cross-country transportation for her students to and from Nevada and within Oracle.

Gregory Hamilton- Provided student transportation to and from the Phoenix area and within Oracle.

Judy Kalish assisted with every single meal for prep and a heroic feat of washing practically EVERY single dish, utensil, pot and pan!

Rachel Opinsky, Cyn-d Turner, Jean Wilcox, Jeff Zucker, Mike and Kiki Welfel, Ed Nelson all provided help in the kitchen!

Elizabeth and Joseph Papandrea: Provided student transportation to and from the Phoenix area and within Oracle.

Oracle Union Church, Pastor Ed and William Busse "Buzz" for practice space at Trowbridge Hall and the lovely chapel for master classes. Buzz and Ed were there to warm up the buildings hours in advance every morning.

Oracle Patio Cafe for help with ordering food and the use of all their kitchen items stored at Rancho Robles.

Elaine Helzer, Oracle's local piano teacher for housing Dr. Mortensen and providing practice space on her beautiful piano.

DeMarcos Pizzeria for donating freshly made pizza for our last dinner.

Giauque Family- Provided student transportation within Oracle.

Sky Island Roasters for donating coffee.

Jamie Miller for sharing his music for our last evening together.

Diana and Ned Creighton for opening their home to Monte Belknap and students.

Shelley McGrew for loaning her cello.

David Jaffrey for loaning his double bass.

Southwest Strings for loaning a double bass.

Scott Legear of A. Subset Photography for documenting our entire festival in photos. He roamed from location to location during the festival capturing hundreds of photos and spent several days processing them for an amazing collection.

Neal Flint for masterfully tuning all the pianos.

Arizona Commission on the Arts Grant Funding

Anonymous Donation in Memory of Alice Carpenter

Lynne Cooper Harvey Foundation

OWN Oracle, Nyla Butler, Shelley McEwan, and Oracle Piano Society Silent Auction Committee for student scholarships

These beautiful people from all ages and walks of life joined together for one positive purpose; the love of music.

Their commitment to this cause is humbling and I am forever grateful. It is because of their passion, dedication, and effort that the Oracle Chamber Music Festival continues to grow.

Drawing from the momentum of the 2020 Oracle Chamber Festival, we are now in the process of planning the 2020-2021 and will strive to make it even better than the last!

Dr. Stephen Cook, Artistic Director

Oracle Piano Society



Robert Hamilton

Arizona State University Professor of Piano

Hamilton Trio

Oracle Piano Society Artist Advisory Committee Chair

Dr. Stephen Cook

Oracle Piano Qaurtet

Oracle Piano Society Artistic Director


Patricia Cole

Oracle Piano Quartet

Monte Belknap

Brigham Young University


Dr. Luciana Gallo

University of Nevada at Reno

Tucson Symphony Orchestra

Oracle Piano Quartet

Dr. Gregory Hamilton

Concordia College

Hamilton Trio


Dr. Milton Masciadri

University of Georgia

Jeffrey Weisner

National Symphony Orchestra


Dr. John Mortensen

Cedarville University

Steinway Artist

Classical Improvisation Specialist


Yi Lu


Student videos from THE 2019 festival:


To sponsor a student for the festival, please send your tax deductible donation check to:

Oracle Piano Society P.O. BOX 1564 Oracle, AZ 85623

Make sure to specify that you would like your donation to support the Student Financial Support Fund.

You may also donate online using the link below: