Grammy Award-winning cellist will play at the Chief Theater in Steamboat Springs |

Grammy Award-winning cellist will play at the Chief Theater in Steamboat Springs

Cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio rehearses with pianist Christel Houston for this weekend's presentation of "The Music Thief" at the Chief Theater, which will feature Sant'Ambrogio, a Grammy Award-winning cellist who has played on the world's greatest stages as a soloist and with her ensemble Eroica Trio. The show is part of the Chief's Friends and Family Series.
John F. Russell

— Growing up in Missouri, world-renowned cellist Sara Sant’Ambrogio was familiar with the song, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” but never had experienced the scent first hand.

At age 16, she attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and to her amazement saw food carts of roasting chestnuts on almost every street corner during the winter.

One day, she was feeling homesick and started thinking about Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.” She began singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and realized, as she walked by one of the food carts selling chestnuts, that the two songs were exactly the same notes but with different rhythms.

“There are only so many notes, many of which overlap,” Sant’Ambrogio said. “It’s fun when you get your brain moving in an arranging way to suddenly see how you can meld together different songs.”

On Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m., Sant’Ambrogio will perform in “The Music Thief,” which is part of the Chief Theater’s Friends and Family Series. The Grammy Award-winning cellist, who has performed on some of the world’s greatest stages on six continents, will share the spotlight with her father, John Sant’Ambrogio, and local pianists Christel Houston and Marie Carmichael.

“Part of our goal for the series is to take classical music out of big concert halls into more intimate venues like the Chief,” said Scott Parker, executive director of the Chief Theater. “Sara is as good as they get. It’s amazing to watch her play. It’s not a show you passively sit and watch. The audience essentially becomes part of the show.”

The show is centered around the cello’s versatility.

“It has such a wide range that every note on it is within the human voice range, which lends itself very much to stealing songs,” Sant’Ambrogio said.

Sant’Ambrogio constructed all the arrangements for the show, according to John Sant’Ambrogio. Each was taken from classical pieces that have withstood the test of time and she pieced them together to create something new.

“She’s teaching me now,” John Sant’Ambrogio said. “She inspires me and makes me work harder.”

At age 2, Sant’Ambrogio started playing the piano, then switched to the cello at age 6.

“Music is like magic. It transforms something that is so tragic into something beautiful and then all the beings in the audience are all sharing this emotional experience together, which transforms it into something really beautiful,” she said. “That to me is why I can never stop doing it. I think it’s one of the most magical and beautiful ways you can transform the world.”

She’s played in venues all across the world, from the Forbidden City in Beijing to Yemen, Dubai and Lebanon. But no matter where she performs, the reactions from each audience are similar.

“No matter where I go and play music, we are all the same,” she said. “We all have the same fears, joys, loves and even desires. Borders, nationality or gender don’t matter. What matters is that you are playing or speaking sincerely. That’s something that human beings all connect with.”

Tickets for the show are $20 for adults and $5 for students. They can be purchased at the Shoe Chalet (next to the Chief Theater) or online at

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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