Cellist FRANISCO VILA-HAAS returns to Brevard


With a world made weary by politics, it’s time to come together. And, there’s no better way to make that happen than with “Summer of Love,” a chamber concert chock-full of romantic themed classics and headed by two extraordinary young artists growing in acclaim.

The concert will have two performances, Thursday evening in Vero Beach and Friday evening in Melbourne. It features cellist Francisco Vila-Haas and pianist Steven Lin performing Bach, Beethoven, Dvorak, Saint Saens, Davidoff and more.

“There’s a big message there that music knows no boundaries,” said Vila-Haas, who was featured years ago in a special Florida Today arts section with a slant on who to watch in emerging artists.

That has certainly proved with the case with both Vila-Haas and Lin.

Born in Ecuador, Vila-Haas moved with his family to Melbourne, Florida when he was eight years old, the same age when he started the cello. Born in California, Lin grew up in Taiwan.

Currently, Vila-Haas is the principal cellist for the Aalborg Symphony in Denmark. Lin is the pianist with the DITTO Ensemble, a popular Korean chamber group. The two met a year ago at a young artists showcase in New York City.

“I heard him play and I immediately wanted to bring up the idea of playing together,” Vila-Haas said. “He said ‘Of course.’ That’s how these concerts came about. They’ve been a year in the making.”

Despite the long waiting period, the concert rehearsals will be the first time the two play together. The two sought-after musicians carved time out of their busy professional schedules to make this happen.

Speaking from his home in Denmark, Vila-Haas said “This is the time of year (summer) when you try out different and new projects…I thought what better and more relaxed place than at home.”

Like any professional musician, moving around has been a part of life for both Vila-Haas and Lin.

After graduating from Eau Gallie High School, Vila-Haas moved north where he studied at The Boston Conservatory. From there, he moved to Bloomington to attend Indiana University to study with legendary cello teacher, the late Janos Starker.

“(Starker) used to tell any exiting student to keep carrying the flag, which meant whatever you learned here, teach to your own students. Always promote beauty, balance and purity in music.”

Indeed. Studying with Starker became a soul-shifting experience for Vila-Haas. It was so important, he said, that he approached Starker’s estate to purchase his teacher’s bow, which Starker got from his teacher.

Bows are just as important as the cello itself and are frequently quite dear. Moreover, many serious string musicians play on rare instruments owned by a foundation. In Vila-Haas’ case, while he owns his E. Tubbs bow, he performs on a 1790 Vincenzo Panoramo cello loaned to him by the Saul B. and Naomi R. Cohen Foundation.

Lin was only 10 years old when The Juilliard School awarded him a full scholarship to study with Yoheved Kaplinsky. That led to his debut with the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall. He was only 13 years old.

His growing list of awards includes those from the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and the 2014 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition.

Lin has performed world wide, been featured on PBS and currently travels Asia with the DITTO Ensemble, which, in Korea, is “at the same level of fame as any pop group,” Vila-Haas said.

Like Lin, the award-winning Vila-Haas has performed frequently as a soloist with orchestras throughout the world. He also helped build the Festival International de Musica de Esmeraldas which is held in Ecuador.

“The aim is to allow 30 artists from all over the world, but mainly South America, to have free master classes with fantastic international artists,” he said. “Two members from the Juilliard String Quartet will be guest artists.”

The program will include Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1,” which includes Bach’s “Prelude,” both a challenging and uplifting piece. Lin will perform Beethoven’s lively “Waldstein Sonata,” considered one of the most thrilling piano sonatas. Both works demand deft musicianship.

Again, Vila-Haas said, the concert speaks in a universal language designed to unite, rather than divide.

“Music is a language that knows no boundaries of race or politics,” he said. “It has none of that. When you go to a concert you don’t think about who you voted for or your feelings about immigration status. You think of how it affects you emotionally…It’s really filled with love, passion and happiness.”

Summer of Love concert is presented by the Space Coast Symphony. It begins 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10, at the First Presbyterian Church of Vero Beach, 520 Royal Palm Blvd., Vero Beach; and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11, at the Eastminster Presbyterian Church, 106 N. Riverside Drive, Indialantic, FL. Tickets are $25 at the door and $20 in advance. It is free to those 18 years and younger with student ID. Call 855-252-7276 or visit

This is an edited version of a story running in the Melbourne Beachsider. Photo is provided by the artists.