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A. Jess Shenson Recital Series

The A. Jess Shenson Recital Series has brought extraordinary singers, pianists, and other collaborative partners to Stanford since its first season in 2005. This recital series offers Bay Area audiences the opportunity to experience live vocal performances in the intimate setting of the recital hall, conveniently located in the heart of Stanford campus. In addition to their recital appearances, the artists give free masterclasses and question-and-answer sessions for Stanford students, enabling personal student and artist interaction. The public is welcome to attend these masterclasses. 

All Shenson recitals and masterclasses take place in Campbell Recital Hall.

The Shenson Recital Series is generously funded by the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Funds at Stanford University.

W I N T E R   2 0 2 0


David Pershall, baritone, and John Churchwell, piano
Sunday, February 23 at 2:30 PM
Campbell Recital Hall
Program: Beethoven, Tosti, Rachmaninoff, and Finzi 


Hailed as a “Rising Star” in Opera News and as “passionate and resonant” in The New York Times, American baritone David Pershall is quickly establishing himself as an exciting and vibrant artist.

This season, his engagements ranged from a return to The Metropolitan Opera for Bizet’s Carmen to his role debut as Silvio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci at San Francisco Opera, praised as a “deft performance” by the San Francisco Chronicle. His upcoming engagements include Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Silvio in Pagliacci, and Marcello in La Bohème, as well as a tour as the baritone soloist in William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast at Woolsey Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, St John the Divine in New York City, and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Pershall made his debut at The Metropolitan Opera in 2015 in the role of Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and returned in subsequent seasons as Schaunard in La Bohème and Lord Cecil in Maria Stuarda. Mr. Pershall also made an appearance at Carnegie Hall as Lord Nottingham in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux with Maestra Eve Queller, to great acclaim from critics and audiences alike. He also debuted as Roucher in Giordano’s epic Andrea Chénier at San Francisco Opera.

David is an avid concert performer, having performed at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Vero Beach Opera, The View in Old Forge, the Sergio Franchi Foundation, and the Yale School of Music. Mr. Pershall was the baritone soloist in Carmina Burana with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and A Sea Symphony with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra. His debut recital at San Francisco Opera was lauded as being “wonderful to witness” by the San Francisco Chronicle. He will be performing recitals this season at La Jolla Music Society, The View in Old Forge, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and Stanford University to name a few. 

Mr. Pershall has won First Prize in several international competitions, including the George London Award, the Gerda Lissner Competition, the Jensen Foundation, the Marcello Giordani Foundation, the New Jersey Verismo Competition, the Connecticut Opera Guild Competition, and the Hugo Kauder Competition for Voice. He is also the recipient of several awards from competitions such as The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Giulio Gari Foundation, the Opera Index Competition, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, and the National Bel Canto Vocal Competition.

David Pershall received his training at the Yale School of Music and is a graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program and the Virginia Opera Resident Artist Program.

John Churchwell is one of the leading collaborative pianists of his generation, enjoying a career on the concert stage, as well as in the nation’s leading opera houses.

In August 2011, Mr. Churchwell was named Head of Music for San Francisco Opera. Previously, Mr. Churchwell was an assistant conductor for both the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera. He has assisted on more than 100 productions and has collaborated with some of the world’s leading conductors including James Levine, Nello Santi, Nicola Luisotti, James Conlon, Donald Runnicles, Sir Charles Mackerras, Marco Armiliato, and Fabio Luisi.

A champion of American music, John was involved in the world premieres of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby and Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. In recent seasons, Mr. Churchwell has prepared the world premieres of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Christopher Theofanidis’ Heart of a Soldier, the Philip Glass opera Appomattox, the Stewart Wallace/Amy Tan collaboration The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne, and the world premiere of Girls of the Golden West by John Adams, all for San Francisco Opera. 

On the recital stage, Mr. Churchwell has partnered some of today’s most sought-after vocalists including Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Diana Damrau, Larry Brownlee, Lisette Oropesa, Frederica von Stade, Leah Crocetto, Dawn Upshaw, Carol Vaness, David Pittsinger, Patricia Schuman, and Jill Grove. Other appearances have included San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis, CA, with tenor Michael Fabiano, and the Hollywood Bowl for Prairie Home Companion with soprano Ellie Dehn.

A native of Knoxville, TN, Mr. Churchwell studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and Tufts University, where he earned a Bachelor of Music in piano and a Bachelor of Arts in French, respectively. Mr. Churchwell continued his studies at the University of Minnesota where he earned a Master of Music and a Doctorate of Musical Arts in accompanying. Mr. Churchwell studied song literature at the Banff Centre for the Arts and remains the only pianist to be invited for three summers as a Tanglewood Fellow. Mr. Churchwell is a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program.


Voice Masterclass with David Pershall
Monday, February 24 at 4:30 PM


This masterclass for Stanford voice students is free and open to the public.