What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you? (eg Hidden talent or passion, or someone you’ve performed with / cool performance venue.)

Kelley O’Connor: I had the pleasure of traveling to Mumbai, India right before the pandemic in February to perform with the esteemed tabla player Zakir Hussain. He wrote a piece for myself, two Indian singers and himself playing. We premiered the piece with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC, and then he asked me to visit India and do the piece there. It was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Nicholas Phan: One of my very first gigs out right after I graduated from college was recording an operatic version of “So This is Love” from Cinderella for the Disney Princesses on Ice tour.

Your instrument is your voice. Do you play any other instruments?

KO: Nope. Studied some piano when I was younger. Sorry this isn’t more interesting!

An ornately decorated viola da gamba at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.

NP: I began playing the violin when I was four years old, and I played both violin and viola throughout my childhood and teenage years. I also studied viola da gamba in an early music ensemble during summers at the Interlochen Arts Camp. 

I fell in love with classical music through playing in youth orchestras, and miss playing greatly. There was always something so clean about putting the instrument back in the case when I was done practicing, rehearsing or performing. Carrying your instrument around inside your body can make it difficult to separate sometimes. However, I never felt like I had the control I needed with the violin in order to make music at the level I wanted to – my hands would often shake with nerves when I performed. Singing just always felt more natural and like it was what I was meant to do.

Do you have any holiday traditions or recipes you’d like to share? How and where will you be celebrating the holidays this year?

KO: Luckily, I will be in California with my Mother and Brother this holiday season. We make some INCREDIBLE sticky buns on Christmas Morning. Get them ready the night before and they just take 30 minutes in the AM!

Read the recipe for Kelley’s Family Favorite Sticky Buns.

 NP: My family always does a giant and elaborate multi-course meal for Christmas every year always paired with excellent wines from my Dad’s wine collection (he’s an avid wine collector). My parents are excellent cooks, so the meal is always pretty exquisite. Also, my mother traditionally makes this incredible, 40+ layer marzipan cake called Baumtorte, which is German for “tree cake” (the name comes from the fact that the 40+ layers make the inside of the cake look like a tree trunk when you slice it). My mother is a prolific baker, and in addition to that cake, she makes tons and tons of Greek Christmas cookies every year, as well.


Any holiday message for our audience?

KO: I truly hope that we are all able to appreciate what we do have this year. It is easy to wish things were different, but now is the time to be grateful. Making this concert with dear friends was a completely unexpected gift. This organization has really gone above and beyond to make music happen. Thank you to everyone at the California Symphony, and all of you for supporting them!

NP: I just want to wish everyone happiness, good health and peace as we head into the new year! 

Tune in to hear Kelley and Nicholas perform as part of our Second Saturdays @ California Symphony series in Season in Song, available to watch free online and on Walnut Creek TV on December 12, 2020 at 7 PM (PT).