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2024 Summer Chamber Music Workshop at St. Paul's

July 15-19, 2024

St. Paul Lutheran Church
1658 Excelsior Ave
Oakland, CA 94602
Or, Click Here for a printable version of the registration form. Please email the completed form to
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(510) 717-1111


Sample Daily Schedule:

10:00 -  Check in, stretches, group activity

10:15 - Chamber Music Coaching/individual practice

11:00 - Chamber Music Coaching/individual practice

11:45 - Snack/Break

12:00 - 12:30 - Independent group rehearsal

12:35 - 1:00 Master Class


2:00 - 4:00 Lessons TBA, Theory Classes, Movement, Misc. projects TBA



Mornings: 10-1 - $300 for the week  

Afternoons (optional): 2-4 - $100/hour 

  • Stay tuned for more information!


Meet our Teachers! 


Misha Khalikulov is a cellist and music educator for over 15 years, now based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Classical Cello Performance from UCLA under the tutelage of Antonio Lysy. Since then, he has been a member of many ensembles that have performed extensively around North America, Europe and Asia, including: Rupa and the April Fishes, modern chamber group StringQuake, Hungarian folk group Vadalma, and Eastern European trio Baymele. In September 2018, Misha and his cello class from Bay Area Music Project were invited to perform with Yo-Yo Ma at the Dreamforce Convention in San Francisco. In January 2019, playing both cello and electric bass, he joined acclaimed Vietnamese musician Van-Anh Vo on a tour to Vietnam for a concert/university presentation tour sponsored by the US Embassy in Vietnam. Overall, he has recorded on over 40 albums with a wide array of musicians and styles. He teaches through three non-profit organizations: Harmony Project Bay Area, Bay Area Music Project, and Young Musicians’ Choral Orchestra. It continues to be incredibly fulfilling for Misha to help students find joy through music and to help them create opportunities for themselves through practice and dedication. Misha respects all musical traditions, and is passionate about bridging divides between people through the experience and study of music in his community.

Ariel Wang began studying violin at the age of 9, and since then has earned a Masters in Music for Violin Performance from San Francisco State University. She has many years of performance experience, as well as teaching experience in violin, guitar, and piano, and can put together any ensemble for your event needs - strings, strings with piano, full band, and more. She plays concertmaster for Les Ameriquains, a baroque dance band, has sat concertmaster for the Echo Chamber Orchestra in Marin which focuses on modern compositions as well as favorite long-standing repertoire, plays and composes music for CAPO (Composer Arranger Performer Orchestra), and has also played with multiple artists and groups, including Miss Lauryn Hill and the Fugees, Stockton Symphony, Chuck Prophet, Jazz Mafia, Sapphire Lung, Django Moves to Portland, and more. She has recorded for Aneesa Strings, Catch Prichard, Rachel Lark, and more.


Violist Jacob Joseph has a varied career as a freelance musician in his native bay area. Aside from appearing with many of the regional symphony orchestras and with touring Broadway productions, he is a founding member of the Oakland based Town Quartet, the unofficial resident string quartet of Oakland CA. He has been a member of the Schleswig-Holstein, Glimmerglass, and Spoletto festival orchestras as well as the orchestra of the New York City Ballet, and is currently principal violist of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera and assistant principal violist of the Berkeley Symphony. He has performed in chamber music recitals with members of the Juilliard String Quartet, The Claremont Trio, and with pianist Alon Goldstein and violist Toby Appel, as well as sharing the stage with the likes of Johnny Mathis, The Eagles, The Moody Blues, and Nick Cave among others. He received his bachelors and masters degrees from Juilliard in the studio of Toby Appel. Other teachers include Paul Yarbrough, Karen Ritscher, and Jurgen Weber. When he’s not at home practicing he can be found smoking meat on the BBQ, making pickles, or at the Oakland Coliseum for an A’s game. 


Sara Usher, violin, has been a successful freelance performer, chamber musician and teacher since moving to the Bay Area in 1977. She has a BA from CalStateEastBay and a MM from Yale Graduate School of Music. Ms. Usher served on the board of the Cazadero Performing Arts Camp, and the American String Teachers Association - SF Chapter “Grants and Special Projects” Coordinator for many years. She was Co-Founder and Director of the Home of United String Ensembles program in the Oakland Public Schools from 2012 - 2021. Ms. Usher is a substitute music teacher for Oakland and Piedmont Public Schools and coaches chamber music for the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra. Ms. Usher performs as a tenured violinist with the San Francisco Opera Center Orchestra and as Concertmaster of the Diablo Symphony, a position she has held since 2014. She continues to freelance, play chamber music and teach. In her spare time she is General Manager of the popular RTSO, a bay area orchestra for RT adult amateur string players.

With Rossmoor Strings and the Open Mic Iranian Music Club

March 8, 2024

RTSO and Rossmoor Strings played side by side at the Rossmoor Open Mic Iranian Music club's monthly event. Philia Wu, age 8, made her orchestral debut as a violin soloist playing the Rieding Violin Concerto.

Past Events            

                                           Annual RTSO Senior Concert Summer Workshop 2023!

                                                                                June 30 - July 2



Friday - June 30  
      7:30 - 9pm.  St Clement's Palache Hall, read through
Saturday - July 1
      10am - Stretch!
      10:15 - Sectionals for Mendelssohn
      11:05 - Supervised Practice
      11:45 - Break & Snacks
      12:05 - Sectionals for Bach
      12:40 - Supervised Practice
      1:00 - Lunch - BYO lunch or find food in the neighborhood
      2:00 - Check in, music talk
      2:10 - Sectional for Follow the Drinking Gourd, Cumbria and I Got Plenty...
      2:50 - Supervised Practice
      3:30 - Break with more Snacks
      4:00 - 5:00 Dress Rehearsal
Sunday - July 2     Meet at Lake Park Senior Living
                     1850 Alice St., Oakland 94612
         1:30pm - Warm up, tops and tails
          2:15 - Concert #1  
          3:00 - Drive to Cardinal Point Senior Residence, 
                      2431 Mariner Square Dr. Alameda 94501                  
          3:30 TEA
          4:15 - Concert #2

Suggested Donation for the Weekend $75, or $25 per session by cash, checks to RTSO, or online -, all good!
For those who would like to enjoy dinner together afterwards, Pelican Pasta is across the street!  We can reserve a table, if that's of interest.  

Music - Here is the link to my Google Drive where you'll find the RTSO Workshop 2023 folder with pdf's, a couple scores, parts with bowings found either in the score as in the Sinfonia, or in the individual parts of all the rest! Also, the Iranian Party Music is there for those who can do that on July 14. Once in there, scroll to your part and print out what you need. Let me know if you have trouble getting to the folder.I will have hard copies at the workshop.

This will be a fun time finally getting back to "in person" visits! Please let us know if you will be able to play, as well as whether you want to enjoy a "no host" dinner after at Pelican Pasta!

Happy days....Sara


                 Welcome Spring 2022 Party
                     Berkeley Morris Dancers


                        Please join us!

                                    May 15, 2022      


                                    Palache Hall

                    St Clement’s Episcopal Church

           2837Claremont Blvd, Berkeley, CA 94705


Masks and proof of vaccination required. A donation at the door appreciated!


                           Suggested donation $20  


                                                   July 2021

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis         Ralph Vaughn Williams                                            Corvo String Quartet      

           Mass in G                                                            Franz Schubert                                                        RTSO Chorale

                                Shannon Houston, Conductor

2020 Annual RTSO Summer Intensive
 Senior Concert Video!

A huge thanks to Susy Hovland, Tanja Canon and David Morris for their terrific contributions. Also, many thanks to all the soloists and orchestra musicians who met in David's backyard and sent videos made from home for us to create our masterpiece! It's a fun show done with our special style! Please enjoy watching it here:         


     10th Anniversary Concert - August 11, 2019

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Concert at Cardinal Point in Alameda, 2017

Concert In Endinburgh

Our trip to Scotland in 2014 was a fantastic experience for all participants. Please enjoy this description of our adventure! 


RTSO Debuts in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival


Five lucky members of the RTSO (Really Terrible String Orchestra) Chris Gold, Sherry Cohen, Claire Max, Jon Arons and Susanne Hering, plus Sara Usher, (our RTGM - Really Terrible General Manager - and co-conductor with David Morris), joined their parent orchestra, the RTO, on August 23rd 2014, for a sold-out concert at the beautiful Canongate Kirk on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The RTO, the original Really Terrible Orchestra, whose program notes include "we hope, as usual, to scale the heights of musical mediocrity", has inspired the creation of 5 such orchestras in the US, of which our RTSO is one. The RTO invited members from each of its sister orchestras in the US to join them and add to the fun of the Fringe Festival.


Despite gusty winds and teeming rain, which were timed precisely for when the musicians were assembling for the pre-concert rehearsal resulting in inside-out umbrellas but undampened spirits; a wonderful and hilarious time was had by all. Among concert highlights was a rendition of "My Heart Will Go On," the theme song from the movie Titanic, performed by Kit and McConnel (a tenor and pianist team). The song started off with full orchestra backup, but Kit was forced to stop twice to request the unloading of various orchestral sections (the women and children) into the lifeboats, as he was being "drowned" out. Later the resident contra-bassoonist, Alexander McCall Smith (the well-known author of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, as well as many other books), entertained the audience with a speech in which he explained that the RTO performed best with little or no rehearsal, this because the players would find the notes too difficult and the ensuing loss of self-confidence would render them incapable of producing any sounds at all. The concert concluded with the beautiful Ashokan Farewell, conducted by our own Sara Usher.


If you play a classical bowed instrument and like to have fun, please grab your instrument and come to Palache Hall on the last Sunday of the month at 6:30 to join the RTSO. Who knows where we’ll be going next?!

  - Chris Gold

RTO concert speech 2014


delivered by A. McCall Smith


It has been a tradition in the RTO that at every concert there should be a speech given by a member of the orchestra or by some well-wisher, or indeed by some member of the audience chosen at random at the performance itself. I am giving it today because of my failure to attend any rehearsals for this concert. 


Now this does not really make much difference: very few of the members of this orchestra make any progress at all during rehearsals and many, indeed, play even more badly after extensive rehearsing because rehearsing simply destroys what confidence they had in the beginning. You will have heard the expression “negative equity” when applied to mortgages; in the orchestral context there is something called “negative confidence”, that applies, I’m afraid, to the RTO, along with “negative understanding” and “negative timing”.


But we must not be negative today, because this is a very special RTO concert at which we are joined by representatives of five off-shoot really terrible orchetras in the United States. We very much appreciate the arrival of our American colleagues, who bring to our shores their own particular brand of musical incompetence. The RTO, you see, ladies and gentlemen, has become more than a local disaster, it has become an international, universal disaster – and we are very proud of that fact.


Now I would like to say a few words about how the orchestra has done over the past year and about challenges ahead. As far as this last year is concerned, it has been much the same as the year before and the year before that. In other words, nothing at all has changed, which is exactly what the RTO stands for and has always stood for. And we have no intention of changing anything in the year ahead. We shall play the same music, at the same standard, and we shall play it several times. Then we shall go back to the things we have played before, and we shall play them again. Our beloved conductor, Sir Richard, will say the same things to us as he has always said, and we shall ignore him just as we always have done. We shall not be facing any new challenges, and if one should arise, we shall ignore it.


However, it would be wrong to think that we are somewhat complacent. Far from it: we are extremely complacent. We have, though, been looking at the issue of supply of future members. This is bit of a worry – but not something that we are worried about because we have conducted some research into the future supplies of musically challenged people for orchestra membership. Our results bear a startling similarity to the figures surrounding North Sea oil. There are plenty of musically challenged people still there: indeed our researches show that the supply of musically challenged people in Scotland will last at current levels at least until the year 2056.


That involves issues of public policy, and indeed we have had dealings with the Scottish Government this year in which they sent us their newly published Guideline for Orchestras. This is a very interesting document and it reveals that the Government has certain targets for orchestras – rather like the time-keeping targets it has for trains. These targets include the advice that all orchestral players should try to finish the piece at the same time. 


I must admit that there is some room for improvement in this respect. So far this year the RTO has finished a piece together on 6% of occasions. That is not very good – we freely admit it – and furthermore we accept that on half of these occasions finishing together was by accident rather than by design. We had much better success with the issue of free performances. The Government, as part of its accessibility agenda, says that all orchestras should give 10% of their performances free.


The RTO, I can report, gives all its performances free, as it is inconceivable that anybody would pay to hear us. Now somebody has mentioned to me that there were people selling tickets at the door today. They have nothing to do with us. Those people are engaged in a common scam in which they purport to sell tickets for events that are, in fact, free. We warn people every year about this, and they disregard our warning and pay good money for these unnecessary tickets. It is not our fault.


Finally, you may have noticed that there is a referendum coming up in Scotland. This is, in fact, the RTO’s referendum concert, in which the choice of pieces sends a coded political signal. That will not have escaped your attention, and I feel that I do not need to say anything more about that.


But I might just tell you about a survey that was carried out into the voting intentions of this orchestra – a survey that produced some fascinating results. Here is a summary of the main findings:


When asked about the referendum,


  • 46 % of the orchestra said: what referendum?

  • 15% - including the entire trumpet section – didn’t hear the question in the first place.

  • 25% of the orchestra heard the question but did not answer it because it was asked by the conductor, Sir Richard, and they never pay any attention to what he says anyway.

  • 93% said that any change in Scotland’s constitutional status would make no difference to them: whatever happens on September 18, on September 19 the RTO will still be unable to play very well.


These are fascinating figures, ladies and gentlemen, that might just have some effect in swinging the result one way or the other, or, on the other hand, might not. But we should not spend any more time contemplating them because the second half of the concert is coming up and the sooner the orchestra gets on with that, the sooner you’ll be able to go home. Thank you.


And the words Kit, (of Kit and James) sang to the love theme from The Titanic:



Every night in this place

I see you, I hear you

And I wonder how you go on.


Never mind the distance

And spaces between notes

You will always, always go on.


Here, there, despite all the bars

I believe that you’ll carry right on.

Once more, ignoring the score

Losing sight of the beat

And the beat will go on and on.


Loud or soft means nothing

I really mean nothing.

Quite a feat that you still go on.


Keys are just a notion

A drop in the ocean

Why should they obstruct you at all?


C, D, you don’t mind a bit

You’ll majestic’ly carry straight on

Ma-jor, or minor, who cares.

It’s all here in your heart

And your heart will go on and on.


I, can’t, believe what I see,

That these crowds come to hear you go on.

Pre-serve that brass neck, that nerve

For they’re here in their hordes

Just to hear you go and on.

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