Sarah Kwak in 2006 with the Minnesota Orchestra/photo by Jeff Wheeler

The Minnesota Orchestra is losing a longtime high-profile player. Sarah Kwak is leaving to become concertmaster with the Oregon Symphony. The 24-year veteran has been first associate concertmaster and a frequent soloist with Minnesota.

Kwak served as acting concertmaster in Minnesota from January 2010 to September 2011, following the departure of Jorja Fleezanis. She has also performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Houston Symphony and the Curtis Chamber Orchestra. In 2008, she won a McKnight Artist Fellowship.

Her departure follows that of her husband, violinist Vali Phillips. He won a spot in the string section earlier in the season in Oregon. Kwak and Phillips will move to Portland this summer.

Kwak played with Oregon in three recent programs, including a concert involved in recording Ralph Vaughan Williams’ fifth symphony. According to reports from Portland, those performances convinced Oregon officials they had the right person.

Kwak’s long term as acting concertmaster in Minnesota generated chatter about whether she would be chosen officially to succeed Fleezanis. That issue was put to rest when Erin Keefe won the job last fall.


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