The Black Oak Ensemble took root in 2011 when they performed for a standing-room-only audience on Chicago’s prestigious Music in the Loft Series. Since then, the ensemble has performed for the Stradivari Society and appeared at the Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Cultural Center, Art Institute of Chicago, Mayne Stage, WFMT Radio, Windy City Live, Eau Claire University, St. John School for the Arts, and the Latino Music Festival. The ensemble was featured on a Ravinia Festival tour from Barcelona to Monte Carlo, and in summer 2016 and 2017 they toured France, with concerts in Paris, Toulouse, and other cities. 

The ensemble was named for the black oak, a beautiful tree native to their home state of Illinois (one stands in the front yard of Desirée Ruhstrat and David Cunliffe). 

Desirée Ruhstrat and David Cunliffe are both founding members of the Lincoln Trio, which was nominated for a 2017 GRAMMY Award for best performance by a small ensemble. 


Aurelien Pederzoli was a founding member of the 2017 GRAMMY nominate Spektral Quartet and the Anaphora ensemble. He has performed extensively in Europe and the U.S., including performances at the Verbier Festival, and under conductors Pierre Boulez, Kent Nagano, Daniel Barenboim, Valery Gergiev, and Lorin Maazel.  


In 2016, Black Oak started a music festival in the south west of France, from August 24th to August 30th, performing in rural areas and medieval churches.