Office Phone: 530-823-6683

Member Biographies

Richard Altenbach, Concertmaster

An A-List Violinist, and Principal for Danny Elfman, Richard Altenbach has participated in over 1000 film scores with such composers as John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Howard Shore, James Newton Howard, and the two late greats Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry.

Richard received his Master of Music Degree from University of Illinois where he graduated magna cum laude under the tutelage of Sergiu Luca. Formerly 1st Violinist of the Los Angeles Chamber, LA Opera, Joffrey Ballet, and Houston Symphony Orchestras, he has also served as Concertmaster of the Mozart Camerata, Associate Concertmaster of the Omaha, Berkeley, and Hollywood Bowl Orchestras, and member of the Fontenelle String Quartet. Richard performs currently as Concertmaster of Auburn Symphony and InConcert Sierra. He has been featured locally as a chamber musician and as soloist for Music in the Mountains, inConcert Sierra, and the Apollo Arts Ensemble.
 
 
 
 

Jones, Christopher - Thumbnail

Christopher Jones, Principal Horn

Christopher Jones received his B.A. in Music at Stanford University in 1982.  During that time he played with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Peter Jaffe, who was earning his doctorate in conducting.  He performed concertos with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Stanford Wind Ensemble and Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra before taking a break from music while he completed his medical education.  Since moving to Sacramento, he has resumed his musical interests, playing principal horn with the Auburn Symphony, the Camellia Symphony and also performing with the Golden State Brass Quintet. 
 
 
 

Keller, Sunie

Sunie Keller, II Violin

Sunie Nelson-Keller began playing the violin at age 7. While pursuing a nursing degree, she took lessons from Glen Dictrow, who was concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the time.  She then went on to Loma Linda University and obtained a dental hygiene degree. She is a regular contributor to the Sacramento Youth Symphony sectional rehearsals, where her daughter has played for the last 8 years.  She currently lives in Rocklin, where she has her own legal nurse consulting business.  When she is not practicing the violin, she is on the water pursuing slalom water-skiing where she competes as an avocation.
 
 

Curtis Kidwell, Principal Oboe

Curtis Kidwell, Principal Oboe

Curtis Kidwell has a distinguished background and is one of the most accomplished musicians in Northern California. Among his many degrees, he earned a Master of Music in Performance in 1997 at the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is one of the most sought-after oboe players in the region and regularly performs as the principal oboe player for the Auburn Symphony, Napa Valley Symphony, Vallejo Symphony and Camellia Symphony. Mr. Kidwell has performed at nearly every prestigious music festival in the country and throughout Europe, including: Aspen, Tanglewood, Taos, Marrowstone, and Bowdoin, where he served as teaching faculty. Mr. Kidwell was the winner of the Fischoff Chamber Music, Carmel Chamber Society, and Colmann Chamber Competitions.
 
 

Maquette Kuper, Principal Flute

Maquette Kuper, Principal Flute

Maquette Kuper performs as principal flute with the Auburn Symphony and has appeared several times with the orchestra as a soloist.  Ms. Kuper is a founding member of Sacramento’s Capitol Chamber Players, and her most recent group, Trio MôD, made its debut in Sacramento in February of 2014–the ensemble redefines the concept of a trio by integrating classical music with genres such as jazz, gospel, or Native American music through innovative and creative arrangements.  She is also a member of the Crocker Art Museum Music Board, helping to organize their Classical Concert Series. A longtime Davis resident, Ms. Kuper teaches flute privately and is the director and founder of the Davis Youth Flute Choir, which has toured to Japan, South Korea, China, and garnered several awards and recognitions throughout the United States.  Ms. Kuper is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, spent two summers as a fellowship student at Tanglewood, and studied in Paris on a Fulbright fellowship.  She has also studied with Lloyd Gowen, James Pappoutsakis, and Michel Debost, and performed in numerous master classes given by Julius Baker.  Ms. Kuper is a winner of the Mu Phi Epsilon International Young Artist Competition and has appeared as soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra.  Her performances have taken her to Europe and throughout the United States, and she has been listed in Outstanding Young Women of America.

Nancy McKenzie is a charter member of the Auburn Symphony. She learned to play on her grandfather’s violin when she was in the 4th grade and she has been playing ever since without the benefit of private lessons. While not a music major, music has always been a big part of her life whether it was involvement in her high school and college orchestras, or as a member of the pit orchestras for musicals in the Bay Area where she grew up. After moving to Auburn in 1978, there was a void in her musical life until the Placer Classic Theater was formed where she was a violinist with the group. Then fate intervened when she answered an ad in the Auburn Journal looking for musicians for a local symphony. Starting out as a 1st violin, she moved to the 2nd violin section when juggling home life, raising a family and working full time kept her busy. She retired in June 2015 as the Director of Fiscal Services for the Newcastle Elementary School District and prior to that worked as the Business Manager of the Auburn Journal. She and her husband Dave have two sons, live in Auburn and look forward to new adventures in their retirement years – always reserving Tuesday nights as Symphony rehearsal night. Her high school orchestra conductor used to say that music will open doors to the world…all you have to do is stay involved and keep playing to see where it will take you. For Nancy it has enriched her life and continues to do so. To kick off her retirement, she traveled to Italy during the summer of 2015 spending 7-1/2 weeks as a violinist with the Tuscia Operafestival Orchestra participating in 4 operas, 9 concerts and over 100 hours of rehearsal time. As a charter member of the Auburn Symphony she is thrilled to be part of such a top notch group of musicians, performing under the batons of our fabulous Maestros and able to bring such great music to Auburn and the surrounding areas.

Catherine Palmer, I Violin

Catherine Palmer grew up admiring her grandfather’s and great grandfather’s mandolin and violin which she was never allowed to touch.  They passed away before she was born but she heard stories of their little group playing these instruments on which they had no formal training, playing only by ear.  In fourth grade, Catherine was given the opportunity to take violin in her school music program.  More than 50 years later, she still remembers the all-consuming excitement of her first day with a violin!  Being very active in the Phoenix youth orchestras, Catherine was the youngest member of the Symphonettes and concert master of many city and music camp orchestras while on scholarships.  High school brought other accolades such as playing in Arizona All-State orchestras as assistant concertmaster then concertmaster her senior year.  She went on to attend Arizona State University on a music scholarship while majoring in microbiology during which she was involved with the Sun Valley, Sun City, and Phoenix Symphony orchestras.  Once married, she moved to Lincoln, Nebraska and played in the Lincoln Nebraska symphony while being offered a full music scholarship to attend UNL.

Fast forward some 28 years without playing (life got in the way), she became a founding member of the Folsom symphony orchestra in which she played principal second violin and 1st violin.  Catherine also played in the Camellia Symphony and enjoyed years playing musicals in the pit orchestra of Runaway Stage Productions.  She founded Avalon Strings, a quartet which currently plays for weddings and other events.

Catherine also plays viola and as a youngster was Principal violist for the Phoenix Youth String Symphony chosen to play for the American String Teachers Association in Hawaii.  Recently she was principal violist for the Rancho Cordova Civic Light Orchestra.

In the summer of 2015, Catherine traveled to Italy to play for six weeks as a first violinist with the Tuscia Operafestival and International Lyric Opera Academy Orchestras. Catherine feels she has found her niche in life as a private violin and viola teacher in her Folsom music studio. Her 1863 Claude Miremont violin is her pride and joy!

Norma Sexton, Cello

Norma Sexton, Cello

Norma Sexton is a home-infusion pharmacist, teaches private lessons and enjoys playing chamber music.  She relocated to Auburn in 2011 from Bakersfield, California, where she was a member of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, served as librarian and board member for the Bakersfield Youth Symphony Orchestra and participated in numerous musical events.
 
 
 
 

Paul Simmons, Trumpet

Paul Simmons, Trumpet

Paul Simmons earned his B.M. at the University of Delaware, and his M.M. at CSU, Sacramento and has studied with Gary Dilworth, Robert Halseth, David Blackinton, Richard Solis, Gilbert Johnson, Tony Crapis and Robert Goodman. Paul has performed with the Camellia, Sutter, Folsom and Auburn Symphonies, the Newcastle Brass, California Brass, the Davis Brass, and Christiana Horns.  He has performed and/or recorded with ensembles from Philadelphia to Las Vegas including Daimon, East Coast Connection, the Big Band Express and Stone Gumbo, playing musical styles from traditional jazz to hard rock.
 
 

David Thorp, Principal Viola

David Thorp, Principal Viola

David Thorp began his career, in 1969, as a violinist in the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra, Tampa-St. Petersburg now named The Florida Orchestra. Later, after seven years in New York City, he took a train-ride to Sacramento to be met by Michael Goodwin and to contribute in local musical efforts around The Fellowship of Friends in Oregon House for nearly 30 years. David’s participation in the Auburn Symphony grew out of this. David is a member of the North State Symphony, the Stockton Symphony, and the Dolanc String Quartet.
 
 
 
 

Patty Wassum, Principal Clarinet

Patty Wassum, Principal Clarinet

Patty Wassum has been playing clarinet virtually all her life and earned a Bachelor’s in Music from CSU, Sacramento, in 1999 and her Master of Music from the University of South Carolina in 2001. During that time, she was a student of esteemed clarinetists Deborah Pittman and Doug Graham. From 2002-2012, she was the principal clarinet player of the Camellia Symphony Orchestra and was appointed principal clarinet for the Auburn Symphony in 2012. She is currently a music instructor in the Sacramento City Unified School District.
 
 
 
 

Cathleen Williams, Principal Bassoon

Cathleen Williams, Principal Bassoon

Cathleen Williams, a retired teacher, is currently principal bassoon in the Auburn and Camellia Symphonies. She earned a B.A. in bassoon performance from San Jose State University, a teaching credential in music from Sacramento State University, and an elementary education credential from Chico State University. Cathleen served as principal bassoon with the Monterey, Santa Clara, Vallejo and Napa Symphonies, and was a featured soloist with the Napa Symphony.