ARC Orchestra performs with renowned pianist


Award-winning pianist Jon Nakamatsu, right, gives a pen back to American River College Orchestra director Steven Thompson in the ARC Theater on Oct. 30, 2015. Nakamatsu was invited to sign the grand piano after performing with the orchestra. (Photo by John Ferrannini)

John Ferrannini

The American River College orchestra performed a concert in the main theater Friday with award-winning pianist Jon Nakamatsu, who received a standing ovation from the audience.

Nakamatsu became the first American in 16 years to win the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1997. He performed Piano Concerto No. 2 in G. Minor, Op. 22 by the 19th century French composer Camille Saint-Saens on the piano.

ARC professor Steven Thompson said that the orchestra was honored to play with a musician of such high caliber on both Wednesday and Friday nights.

“We have had a wonderful week with him. We had a private rehearsal for one hour and he was so kind and so gracious,” said Thompson. “He played and everyone was wowed.”

Thompson also noted that Nakamatsu is “a product of the community college system,” having attended Foothill College in Santa Clara County.

Piano Concerto No. 2 was one of three choiced Nakamatsu gave to Thompson, the director of the orchestra, for the group to play.

The concerto is in three parts, beginning with an almost sad piano solo. The second part, “Allegro scherzando,” is very light. The concerto reaches a climax with the fast-paced and extravagant “Presto.”

After the performance, Nakamatsu was invited to sign the grand piano in the main theater.

Thompson said that the applause and encore is a tradition that stems from the early days of opera.

“They’d clap to bring them back,” said Thompson. “There was no Spotify in those days.”

The orchestra is made up of musicians from around the community, not necessarily current ARC students. In the audience, Stephanie Pottier sat with a red rose as she watched her fiance, Ben Eagleton, perform.

“I think they were phenomenal,” said Pottier. “I liked the selection of music and the different pieces.”

Eagleton, who said that he just finished law school in May, joined the orchestra to brush up on his cello.

“I hadn’t played cello in some time and I decided to take advantage of the orchestra at ARC,” said Eagleton.

Nakamatsu performed with the orchestra following the intermission. Before that, the orchestra performed Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, op. 68 by the German composer Johannes Brahms.

Nakamatsu was not available for comment following the performance.