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- Feature: "The People We Play for Are Sipping on Champagne" · March 2, 2011
Pacifica Strings is one of San Diego’s few long-lived string quartets. Ken Jerahian plays first violin, Sarah Agler provides vocals and second violin; Gordon Grubbs contributes cello, while Karen Childress-Evans provides viola and musical direction.
Grubbs, originally from Wichita, Kansas, teaches music for a living and performs professionally whenever possible, often without the other quartet members and frequently in Mexico — La Paz, Mazatlán, and Ensenada, for example.
Jerahian, An electronics technician during the day, has been playing violin since he was seven years old. He holds a BA in music from University of San Diego. He has played “in most of the local orchestras — uh, Jolla Civic, USD orchestra. From the age of 13 to 25, I played with the San Diego Youth Symphony.”
Agler has been playing since the age of eight and received a bachelor’s degree in violin from the University of Nevada in Reno, followed by a master’s in voice performance from Indiana University.
“I didn’t tell anybody I was a violinist for eight years,” the musician-singer and mother of two says. “I was only singing. But there was more of a need for violinists than sopranos. I did a lot of moving around, performing in operas.” Agler moved to San Diego in 1984 and won first place in the Met (San Diego Metropolitan Opera) auditions in 1986. Agler met Childress-Evans while playing with the Grossmont Symphony.
Karen Childress-Evans started playing violin in the fourth grade in Yakima, Washington. “I had a wonderful teacher there,” she says. “This woman started off a whole bunch of violinists, and I realized right off I wasn’t going to be able to sit first chair so I decided I would start off with viola.” She laughs; the quartet members find this funny as well. “No,” she says, protesting the unlikeliness of the situation. “It’s true. I decided to play the viola because I wanted to go to All Northwest and All State and All City. And if you’re just one of several violins…” She trails off. “And I wanted to go to all of them and I did. It was a wonderful experience.”
As of 2011, the Pacifica Strings director also plays with the La Jolla Symphony. She got her undergraduate degree in music at Washington State University and her graduate work at Western Washington State University in music education. “It was a double major,” she explains, “a music degree and an education degree. Up until this year I taught strings for 24 years. I teach in the La Mesa–Spring Valley School District, and I teach at Parkway Middle School.”