Los Angeles Beginnings
I began playing cello at age six in my hometown of Los Angeles where my first teacher was a very kind woman named Evelyn Pennak. Many decades later I found out that she had an extensive performing career in the 1930's. In my teens, I received first place awards from the Coleman Chamber Music Competition and the Chamber Music Competition of the Monterey Peninsula before earning a master's degree in cello performance from the California Institute of the Arts. There, I studied with Joel Krosnick (currently, The Juilliard School) and Robert Martin (currently, Bard College Conservatory of Music). While in Los Angeles, I also performed frequently on Monday Evening Concerts, one of the longest running series in the world devoted to contemporary music.
New York City
Between college degrees, I lived in New York City, continuing private studies with Joel Krosnick. It was during that time that I was selected to participate in the New York String Orchestra Seminar, performing concerts at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. I also became the original cellist with the ensemble of composer Steve Reich, performing in premiere concerts of Music for 18 Musicians in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and performing in the first recording of Music for 18 Musicians (recorded in Paris by ECM Records).
After college, I was a resident faculty member of The Center for New Music at SUNY/Buffalo where I collaborated with visiting composers and members of the Buffalo Philharmonic in performances of mostly contemporary music.
I’ve also been principal cello of the San Antonio Symphony, and assistant principal cello of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra (NY) and the Colorado Music Festival (Boulder).
In addition to every type of classical music, my performance experience and interests include pop, rock, folk, and jazz improvisation, all styles that I enjoy including in collaborative and solo performances.
More About Me (actually, my family)
I've been married to my first and only wife, Debbie Torch, since 1982. Debbie earned her graduate degree in violin from the University of Michigan in the 70's, and played full-time in the San Antonio Symphony for more than 20 years. In 2006 she earned a graduate degree in Speech/Language Pathology from the University of Iowa. She is now a speech therapist at the Ann Arbor Preschool and Family Center.
Another First and Only
Our only child, Martin Torch-Ishii, was born during our early years in San Antonio. From about 5th to 10th grade, I was his first and only cello teacher. Debbie and I know very well what it's like to be the parents of a serious music student, having seen him through lessons, rehearsals, concerts, high-level summer camps, and cello performance degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music (BM, MM), and the University of Michigan (DMA). And even after all of those experiences, Martin and I continue to perform and work together occasionally.