From Cookies to Cultural Concerts

By Steven Libowitz   |   January 30, 2020

If violinist-violist Sara Bashore hadn’t been craving cookies as a kid, she might never have made it to Montenegro. At least that’s what Bashore remembered about her first exposure to the violin at age five.

“My parents took me to an orchestra concert and asked me if I was interested in any of the instruments,” she recalled. “I told them I liked the violinist in the front because not only did they get to sit in the front row, but they were also closest to the cookies at the reception. My desire to eat cookies changed my entire life.”

Fast-forward a few years shy of a couple of decades later and Bashore is still sitting in the concertmistress seat of both the UCSB Chamber Orchestra and the student created and managed UCSB Pops Orchestra and also plays first violin with the Santa Maria Philharmonic. It was early in her senior year at UCSB in 2018 when Bashore received the honor of representing Santa Barbara at Kotor’s annual arts festival in Montenegro that summer as part of the Sister Cities program. 

“They hadn’t done anything like exchanges of musicians before,” Bashore said of the program that had Kotor-SB programs that had previously facilitated swaps of water polo players, youth theater actors and culinary students. “We were like the scouts for that process,” she added, referring to last year’s UCSB-to-Kotor participant graduate cellist Katrina Agate.

“I’d never been outside of North America before. To travel by myself like that was crazy, and I was a bit worried that I’d be a stranger in a strange land. But the people were so nice and Kotor is similar to Santa Barbara in that both places have water on one side and mountains on the other. It turns out the culture is quite similar, too. Everybody goes to the beach, and they have a relaxed, happy lifestyle. I felt quite at home and everybody was excited to hear about America.”

Now Bashore and Agate – who attended the Music Academy of the West’s summer festival in 2015 and now enjoys a varied career that includes numerous recitals and recent appearances and a recording with Coldplay – will serve as the home team for the other side of the exchange, as Montenegran violinist Nastasja Vojinović and pianist Andrija Jovović are headed our way for a pair of performances on Friday, January 31. The foursome will play a variety of selections from the standard classical repertoire, showcasing the instruments in a number of combinations.

“We’ve only communicated by email, but they seem very nice,” Bashore said. “And one of the things I learned from the cultural exchange is that there really aren’t any vast differences in rehearsals, concerts, and the music itself. That cheesy line that music is the universal language is actually true. When I was there, I was able to rehearse with people as if I’d known them my whole life. Now the musicians from Kotor are flying in on Wednesday night and we will only have one day to prepare. That speaks to their quality that they can be ready to go in 24 hours. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Santa Barbara-Kotor Sister Cities concert takes place 7 pm Friday at Weinman Hall on the MAW campus. Visit


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