by Maria Karpenko
From "hello" to a chamber music club and more
A serendipitous “hello”
I enrolled in writing courses at Stanford University to test my potential as a writer in 2008. I had just graduated with a B.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Waterloo and was considering medical illustration or science journalism as the next step.
I was in California for the first time and didn't know anyone. So I picked up conversations wherever the opportunity came up, connecting with classmates, potential tennis partners, and arts lovers. I spent a lot of time at the Stanford Coffee House (CoHo) and that’s where I heard Christine McLeavey-Payne play the piano for the first time. I had no idea that muscling up the courage to say “hello” that time would blossom into a long-term friendship and eventually land me my first Board of Directors seat.
How Opus 415 started
With degrees from Princeton University and the Juilliard School of music under her belt, Christine was working on an MD/PhD at Stanford University at the time. I visited the Bay Area every couple years before I moved in 2014. Over the years, I got to know Christine as a talented and inspiring musician and she got to know me as someone who enjoyed entertaining and bringing people together around the arts.
The idea to collaborate occurred to us at one of Christine’s house concerts. We co-hosted the Strawberry Social in June 2012. Over 50 PhDs, entrepreneurs, and creatives gathered for chamber music served up with strawberry-themed appetizers, desserts, and drinks. Christine co-founded Ensemble San Francisco (ESF) with clarinetist Roman Fukshansky in early 2013. Soon thereafter, violinist Rebecca Jackson suggested starting a chamber music club. That’s how Opus 415 started (4-1-5 is one of San Francisco’s area codes).
What is Opus 415?
ESF won over the hearts of many guests at its inaugural Opus 415 chamber music party, Jingle & Mingle, in December 2014. I had the pleasure of opening my home to ESF/Opus 415 musicians and everyone eager to hear them play and savour sparkling wine and delicious bites for Bach & Bubbly in January 2015. For the 2016 holiday season, we decided to gather to heal smiles worldwide by supporting Operation Smile with a Chamber Music Party to Benefit Operation Smile.
I’m excited to continue to work with ESF to develop Opus 415 into a thriving chamber music club in Silicon Valley. The concept is to make chamber music accessible and interesting to a modern audience with various levels of exposure to classical music. Musicologist Kai Christensen, guest speakers, board members, and ESF musicians provide relevant information to all musical pieces. Opus 415 is a place to enjoy quality chamber music in an intimate, relaxed, and social setting.
Join the Opus 415 community!
I’m so glad I said “hello” all those years ago. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the musicians, bringing people together, and making classical music a vibrant part of my life. I encourage you to join ESF at a main stage or outreach concert and bring a couple friends to an Opus 415 chamber music party - come say “hello”!
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Maria Karpenko ~ Board Member, Ensemble San Francisco
I’m tremendously grateful to my parents for a "renaissance" upbringing and their encouragement and support of all my creative pursuits. I was born in Moscow, Russia, and moved to Germany at the age of 6 and to Canada at the age of 14. I started painting oil-on-canvas at the age of 9 and had my first exhibition at the age of 10, selling many paintings and making waves in local newspapers. In high school, I took up piano and dance lessons and got into fashion design and creative writing. Yet, I decided to formally study how two cells turn into 37.2 trillion cells and work cohesively together, making imagination and innovation possible. In the first year of undergraduate studies, I picked up graphic design and tennis and made it onto the varsity team in third year. Around the same time, I started looking for a creative angle to science. This led me to Stanford University for writing courses and then a Masters of Journalism at Harvard University. Fast forward and I’m back in Silicon Valley, leading marketing and design at a Stanford-StartX healthcare software startup.