What is the Ostrega Uhl project?

Beautiful music doesn't require a symphony hall, a theater or a trip to the city. It just requires talented musicians to play it and interested people to hear it.

That's the philosophy behind the Ostrega Uhl Project, the brainchild and passion project of violinist Brian Ostrega and pianist Stephen Uhl. Whether it's a retirement community, a public library or a church, Ostrega and Uhl want to take classical chamber music anywhere an audience might gather.

"If there's an audience and there's appreciation for it, we will perform for them," Ostrega said.

The season finale of the Ostrega Uhl Project takes place Friday, March 22, at Union Church in Hinsdale (see Page 24 for details). "Best of Brahms" is a collection of pieces by the famous composer, a favorite of both Ostrega and Uhl. Together with special guests violinist Stephane Collopy, violist Oana Tatu, and cellist Brian Gaona, the quintet will explore Johannes Brahms' music from his early compositions through his later works.

Union Church is a familiar venue for Uhl, who has served as the church's organist since 2018. He also teaches music at Glenbard East High School and Elmhurst University, and plays piano for the St. Charles Singers. Raised by a pair of amateur musicians, Uhl said he began playing piano at age 9 and enjoyed it immediately. He went on to study music in college and to pursue a career that involves sharing music both as a teacher and a performer.

Ostrega also is a full-time performer and teacher. He serves as orchestra librarian and violinist with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and hold various teaching positions.

Ostrega began playing violin at age 5. He studied music in college before pursuing his master's degree at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of the Performing Arts. That's where he met Uhl and discovered not only their shared admiration for Brahms, but their shared desire to bring music outside the orchestra hall.

Ostrega said he and Uhl don't believe people should have to drive long distances or pay a lot of money in order to enjoy quality music. That's where the Ostrega Uhl Project began in 2017. While providing performances throughout the city and suburbs, the Ostrega Uhl Project also provides performance opportunities for talented musicians, such as those playing at Union Church.

"We have a main theme that drives the program," Ostrega said of each concert. One included a repertoire that explored Mozart's influence on musicals.

"People absolutely loved it," he said.

The two expect a similar reaction to the Brahms concert, which features major works written for orchestra and re-arranged for the quintet.

"There's so much to explore in the richness of Brahms' writing," Uhl said.

Audience members will experience dense, complex sounds as well as simple melodies as the concert explores the unique texture of Brahms' music.

"All of it is just woven together so wonderfully," Uhl said.

Both Brahms fans and newcomers will be entertained, Ostrega said.

"It's a powerful concert with powerful musicians and you're going to have a powerfully good time," Ostrega said.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean