The Upton Trio was founded by Sylvia Upton Wood in 1989 to present chamber music concerts for the artistically underserved in Kershaw County (S.C) schools, nursing homes and hospitals, as well as such public agencies as Kershaw County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs, Wateree Correctional Institution and Stop Child Abuse SC. As the Trio moves into the professional spotlight, its work in the schools remains paramount.
In 1989, Billy Shepherd served as ensemble pianist. In the nineties he accepted artistic and business management of the non-profit organization. Since incorporation as a 501c3 non-profit 1999, the Upton Trio has been governed by a board of directors. [visit www.uptontrio.org] Billy Shepherd, a Camden native, learned formal piano from Sandra Crater at Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy, and at age 12, began studies with John Adams at the USC School of Music in Columbia. He later studied with Joel Spiegelman at Sarah Lawrence College before his doctoral work in piano performance with Raymond Dudley at the USC School of Music.
Shepherd’s leadership has inspired the creation of four independently produced compact discs. The first is a recording of Tchaikovsky’s A Minor Trio. The second is Carmen/Mendelssohn Trio II with the violinist Taylor-Kinosian and cellist Jacqueline Taylor. The third CD was their most ambitious, The Upton Trio Evolutions, a commissioned jazz suite by Dick Goodwin, Shostakovich’s E Minor Trio and Taylor-Kinosian’s compositional debut, ‘Trilogy.” The Fourth, The Upton Trio Transformation, is all Taylor-Kinosian.
The Trio’s work in the schools as part of the National Endowment for the Arts outreach in rural America has been featured on the “NBC Nightly News,” National Public Radio’s Theme and Variations and twice on Bowed Satellite Radio with the emphasis on Taylor-Kinosian’s compositions. The Trio also performed at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in June 2006 with an all-Taylor-Kinosian program. During the past 20 years the Trio has given numerous concerts in art centers, museums, colleges and universities, churches, temples, private homes. They are diversifying their venues to include, parks, taverns and night clubs.
Shepherd and Susan Harper, then executive director of the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, co-founded the Celebration Gospel Ensemble, a nine-voice a cappella group that has performed throughout South Carolina. The Trio together with Celebration has collaborated with Hootie and the Blowfish, Edwin McCain and BeBe Winans.
Composer and violinist Mary Lee Taylor Kinosian, concertmaster of the S.C. Philharmonic and assistant concertmaster of the Greenville Symphony, is the daughter of National Symphony Orchestra cellist Alan Taylor. She began playing the violin at 5 and has performed chamber music with her sister, Jacqueline Taylor, almost since then. At age 14 she debuted with the S.C. Philharmonic Orchestra.
After graduating from USC, she joined California’s San Jose Symphony, and in 1990 was appointed principal second violin in the Nashville Symphony. In 1997 she joined the Upton Trio. “We share a unique chemistry and charisma in our ensemble which few performers can match,” she said.
Taylor-Kinosian’s composing came late. World events seemed to trigger her. On the one-year anniversary of 9/11, a ferocious syncopated piece for one piano became “Evocation” In Memoriam (September 11, 2001).” In 2003, she dusted off a song she had written in her Nashville days, built on it and came up with “Trilogy.”
Then, as a follow-up to the school concert programs, she composed “American Dance Suite”, drawing from all genres of American music. Her cross-disciplinary work,
“Fundamental Forces: The Music of Science,” became the first expression of such universal forces as gravity and electromagnetism, not in mathematical, but in musical terms.
“Four Elements” represented a quantum leap forward in her composition,” Shepherd said. “With ‘Currents of Air,’ ‘River Rhythms,’ Mother Earth’ and ‘Fire Dance,’ Mary Lee shows a greater depth and complexity than ever before.”
Dusan Vukajlovic (cello), who joined the Trio in 2006, comes from a family of prominent classical musicians in Belgrade, Serbia, has performed regularly with the Belgrade Philharmonic as well in European radio and television. He completed his masters degree from Georgia State University in 2003 and is completing his DMA studies with Robert Jesselson at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.
The Upton Trio has just signed with Albany Records. Their new CD, “These Are Different Times,” will soon be available in stores internationally and online. A May CD release part is being planned by Columbia’s Hunter Gatherer. CD Baby, Apple I-Tunes, Target.com and Amazon.com distribute the Upton Trio’s previous CD Transformation online. It is sold retail in Columbia by Papa Jazz and Sounds Familiar, also in Columbia.”
“Upton Trio at 20” was excerpted from an article by Tony Scully, published in theCamden Chronicle-Independent, April 10, 2009.