About Oskar Espina Ruiz

Oskar Espina Ruiz has been described by the press as a “masterful soloist” (La Nación, Costa Rica) and a “highly expressive clarinetist” (Nevskoye Vremia, Russia). He has performed at major concert halls and festivals to high critical acclaim, including concerto performances at the Philharmonic Hall in St. Petersburg, Russia, and recitals in New York City, Washington DC, Moscow, Madrid, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. He has appeared as soloist with the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony (Russia), St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic (Russia), Orquesta Sinfónica de la Ciudad de Asunción (Paraguay) and Bilbao Symphony (Spain).

His chamber music collaborations include the American, Argus, Ariel, Cassatt, Daedalus, Escher, Shanghai, Ulysses and Verona Quartets, the Quintet of the Americas, pianists Benjamin Hochman, Ursula Oppens and Anthony Newman, and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra artists. He has been featured as soloist at the 20th Tokyo Summer Festival, the European Mozart Academy —performing throughout European capitals—the St. Petersburg Palaces XIII. International Music Festival (Russia) and the VI. Festival Internacional de Música Clásica Contemporánea de Lima (Perú). He has recorded for the Bridge, Kobaltone and Prion labels, receiving high critical acclaim by fellow clarinetists Richard Stoltzman and Charles Neidich for his solo recording “Julián Menéndez Rediscovered.”

During the 2022-2023 season Oskar Espina-Ruiz performs in concert with the Penderecki and Ulysses Quartets, including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Quintet, Brahms Clarinet Quintet, and the world premiere of a clarinet quintet by Seth Grosshandler; with Merz Trio and Trio Reverón, performing Messiaen’s iconic Quartet for the End of Time, and Gabriela Lena Frank’s Hilos; in recital with flutist Nicolas Duchamp and pianists Dmitri Vorobiev and Shari Santorelli, performing works by Valerie Coleman, Amanda Harberg, David Maslanka, Alfonso Fuentes and others; and in recital with Misha Dichter, performing Johannes Brahms’ late clarinet sonatas.

Born in Bilbao, Spain, his first musical training came at an early age, performing on Basque folk instruments, a fipple flute and drum, or “txistu” and “tamboril.” He later pursued the traditional conservatory training as a clarinetist and often performed with the Bilbao Symphony, as its youngest sub, from age sixteen. He came to New York City in 1991 to further his studies in clarinet at Mannes School of Music, and later won the top clarinet prizes at the Artists International and Olga Koussevitzky international competitions.

He holds an MFA from the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College, and a DMA from Stony Brook University, where his major teachers were Charles Neidich and Ayako Oshima. He was coached by flutist Aurèle Nicolet while at the European Mozart Academy. From 2009 to 2011 he was on the clarinet faculty at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, in San Juan, PR, and since 2011 is clarinet artist-faculty at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, currently serving as associate professor, in Winston-Salem, NC.

Awards, Recognitions & Honors

  • Won the top clarinet prizes at the Olga Koussevitzky and Artists International competitions
  • First prize of the International Clarinet Association Research Competition based on his work on Spanish Post-Romantic composer Julián Menéndez in 2006. Espina Ruiz later wrote an article for the March 2007 issue of The Clarinet magazine, which led to the acquisition of one of Menéndez’s clarinets by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for its Musical Instruments Galleries

Credentials

  • UNCSA Clarinet Faculty since 2011
  • Former clarinet faculty at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, in San Juan, PR, 2009-2011
  • Major teachers include Charles Neidich, Ayako Oshima, Peter Simenauer, and Florian Popa, as well as chamber music coaches Gilbert Kalish, Julius Levine, Donald MacCourt, and Aurèle Nicolet

Career Highlights

  • Recorded for the Bridge, Kobaltone and Prion labels, receiving high critical acclaim by fellow clarinetists Richard Stoltzman and Charles Neidich for his solo recording “Julián Menéndez Rediscovered”
  • Appeared as soloist with the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony in Russia, St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic in Russia, Orquesta Sinfónica de la Ciudad de Asunción in Paraguay and Bilbao Symphony in Spain
  • Chamber music collaborations include the American, Argus, Ariel, Cassatt, Daedalus, Escher, Shanghai, Ulysses and Verona Quartets, the Quintet of the Americas, pianists Benjamin Hochman, Ursula Oppens and Anthony Newman, cellist David Geber (founder, American String Quartet), Metropolitan Opera Orchestra artists, his UNCSA faculty colleagues, and many others

  • Featured as soloist at the 20th Tokyo Summer Festival, the European Mozart Academy (performing throughout European capitals), the St. Petersburg Palaces XIII International Music Festival in Russia and the VI Festival Internacional de Música Clásica Contemporánea de Lima in Peru
  • In an effort to bring important works and revisions into the clarinet repertoire, in 2003 Espina Ruiz performed the South American premiere of the original Copland Clarinet Concerto, reconstructed from the manuscripts at the Library of Congress and his orchestrations and adaptations include Ravel’s “Sonate Posthume,” works by Arriaga, Sarasate, Turina, Granados and Falla and Menéndez’s “Clarinet Concerto No. 2”
  • Deeply involved with the music of our time, Oskar Espina Ruiz has premiered works written for him by Chinese composers Ao, Hu and Chen, Spanish composers Bageneta and Villasol, French composer Gaigne, and American composers, Fuentes, Weymouth and Spinei, among many others. Oskar Espina Ruiz studied composition with Daniel Weymouth at Stony Brook University

  • His orchestral experience includes performing with the Bilbao Symphony since age 16-19 under the baton of Juanjo Mena, with the New York Youth Symphony as a member for its Carnegie Hall concert season under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and with New York City area orchestras, as a freelancer, including Juilliard Opera, Jupiter Symphony and Princeton Symphony, and in North Carolina, with the Winston-Salem Symphony

  • Adjudicator at the Manhattan School of Music Artur Balsam Competition for Duos, the J.C. Arriaga Chamber Music Competition, and the ICA Research Competition