Meet the NRO
Oscar Soler, Concertmaster – The Robert and Nancy Follett ChairOscar Soler has earned a Master of Music degree in violin performance and Suzuki pedagogy at the Cleveland Institute of Music in May 2009. This fall he will be attending the University of Colorado at Boulder to start work on a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree; he will study with renown violinists Edward Dusinberre from the Takcs Quartet, and Lina Bahn. He is a native of Caracas, VenezuelaRebekah Durham, Assistant Concertmaster – The Breckenridge Associates Real Estate ChairRebekah Durham received her Artist Diploma and BM from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music under the instruction of Linda Wang. She has recently given critically acclaimed solo performances with the Denver Philharmonic and the Lamont Symphony Orchestra. As a member of both the Playground Ensemble and the Denver Contemporary Chamber Players, she has premiered many works by various Colorado composers. Rebekah has been on the roster of the Young Musicians Foundation of CO since 2007 and will begin graduate studies at Juilliard in the fall. Natasha Makhijani, Assistant Concertmaster – The Pat and Jack Thomas ChairNatasha Makhijani received her MM in May from the Eastman School of Music and holds a BM from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). Principal teachers include Catherine Stewart, Bettina Mussumeli and Zvi Zeitlin. She has served as concertmaster and assistant concertmaster of orchestras at Eastman, SFCM, Eastern Music Festival and Las Vegas Music Festival. She is a founding member of the Ganesh String Quartet and a current member of the Monterey Symphony Orchestra.Brandie Phillips, Assistant Concertmaster – The William and Joan Houlton ChairBrandie Phillips earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Performance from Columbus State University where she studied with Sergiu Schwartz. She is now pursuing her Master’s Degree at Southern Methodist University under the tutelage of recording artist Chee-Yun Kim. Ms. Phillips has participated in Masterclasses with renowned musicians such as Midori and Zakar Bron, and has had the opportunity to perform as a soloist and orchestral violinist in two performances at Carnegie Hall, as well as other venues in the US and Europe. Erin Zehngut, Assistant Concertmaster – The Grand Lodge on Peak 7 ChairViolinist Erin Zehngut is pursuing graduate studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music as a student of Stephen Rose. She holds a BM from the University of Michigan, where she studied with Aaron Berofsky. Professionally, Erin performs with the Canton Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, and has also served as concertmaster of orchestras at CIM and The University of Michigan. She also enjoys solo and chamber music, having worked with the Takcs and Cavani String Quartets, as well as David Kim, Andrs Crdenes, Ruggiero Ricci, and Sylvie Gazeau. Autumn Chodorowski – The Bonnie Kirschenbaum Chair Autumn Chodorowski is currently a first year student at the Glenn Gould School of Music, where she studies violin with Paul Kantor. Recently, she was named a finalist in the Glenn Gould School concerto competition, and last year she was asked to solo with the Mendelssohn Chamber orchestra. Previously, she studied with Annie Chalex Boyle and participated in Midwest Young Artists’s symphony orchestra and chamber program.Kyra Davies – The Town of Frisco ChairKyra Davies is an active orchestral, chamber and solo musician. After winning a scholarship to Rice University, she studied under Kenneth Goldsmith, graduating with a Bachelor of Music at age twenty. An advocate of new music, Kyra has appeared with the New England Conservatory Contemporary Ensemble. In May 2009, she soloed in an all-Vivaldi program with the Orchestra of St. Margaret Mary. Kyra currently studies with Eric Rosenblith. She also performs as a Celtic fiddler and singer.Ashley Dyer – The Carol Erickson Chair Ashley Dyer is a violinist from Virginia Beach, Virginia. A 2009 graduate of the University of Michigan, she earned a Master’s in Music Performance while studying with Yehonatan Berick. In 2007, Ashley graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music Performance from East Carolina University where she studied with Ara Gregorian. Currently a freelancing performer and teacher, Ashley will serve as an associate member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago for the 2009-2010 season.Isabel Escalante – The Fatty’s Pizzeria ChairIsabel Escalante started her musical studies at El Conservatorio de Carabobo, Venezuela. In 2003, she was offered a full scholarship to continue her studies at the University of Southern Mississippi where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in music. Escalante was the winner of the William T. Gower Competition, won 3rd place in the Emil Friedman Violin Competition and was one of the semifinalists in the Sphinx Competition. Currently, Escalante is working on her master’s degree on violin performance at Louisiana State University. Rachel Fellows – The Sandy Mortensen Chair Rachel Fellows is currently a Junior pursing her Bachelor’s of Music in violin performance. In fall 2008, Ms. Fellows and her quartet competed in the MTNA Collegiate Chamber Music Competition, where they placed as 1st Alternate at the State Level. Fellows made her solo debut performing the Sinfonia Concertante by Mozart with her sister. Rachel has participated in the Musicorda Festival, the Encore School for Strings, and the NYU String Quartet Seminar. Sarah Franklin – The Reginald and Pamela Gray ChairSarah Franklin, violin, has performed orchestral and chamber music throughout the United States, Ecuador, and Italy. A Massachusetts native, she recently earned her Masters degree at Manhattan School of Music studying with Curtis Macomber. Her principal teachers also include Marilyn McDonald and Philipp Naegele. Ms. Franklin has performed in master classes for Sylvia Rosenberg and Mark Steinberg, and has worked with esteemed conductors such as Kurt Masur, Robert Spano, and David Zinman. Sarah currently resides in New York City, where she enjoys freelancing and teaching.Emily Kalish – The Helen Harrison Foundation ChairEmily Kalish holds a Masters of Music from Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Burton Kaplan and a Bachelor’s of Music from The Hartt School, where she studied with Katie Lansdale. An avid chamber musician, she worked with members of the Colorado, American, Ying, Brentano, Borromeo and Miami Quartets. She currently lives in Bethel, CT and teaches violin lessons in Fairfield and Westchester Counties. She is also a busy freelancer, playing regularly with such orchestras as Berkshire Symphony, Binghamton Philharmonic, and Westchester Chamber Orchestra.Cheryl Kim – The Alexandra Espy Chair Cheryl Kim, 20, from Los Angeles, California, is an undergraduate at the Colburn Conservatory, where she studies with Robert Lipsett. Past highlights include performing at LACMA’s “Sundays Live,” broadcasted on KCNS, being a finalist at Coleman Chamber Music Competition, participating in masterclasses of Bernard Greenhouse and Arnold Steinhardt, performing at Carnegie Hall, and recording for Daniel Lentz’s, Saladino DVD Project. She has attended Music Academy of the West and Interlochen Arts Camp as an Emerson Scholar. Lisa Kim – The Briar Rose Chophouse & Saloon ChairLisa Kim, age 21, began her violin studies at the age of 4. She is a junior pursuing her Bachelor of Music in Violin performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music with David Updegraff,. Last summer, she attended the International Music Academy-Pilsen in Czech Republic. In 2006, she received first place in Seattle Music Teacher’s Association, Simon-Fiset String Competition. She was a finalist in the playoffs at the Seattle Young Artist Music Festival. Melissa Kunz – The Barefoot Wine Brut Cuvee ChairMelissa Kunz is from Salt Lake City, Utah and is currently a senior studying Violin Performance at Brigham Young University. Along with her aspirations toward a professional career with an orchestra, she also plans to run a private teaching studio. In addition to her violin studies, she is an accomplished pianist and loves to compose in her spare time. Courtney Lubin – The Fugere Family Foundation Chair Courtney Lubin began studying violin at the age of eight with Eunja Kim. She served as both principle and concertmaster in two of the orchestras that comprise the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and was a member of the Birmingham Musicale for five years. She is recipient of the Traub Music scholarship from Andover High School as well as numerous other musical awards. Courtney is currently studying at the University of Michigan under Yehonatan Berick.Jiyeon Min – The FirstBank of Summit County Chair Jiyeon Min, born in South Korea, began studying the violin at age 7. She attended the Juilliard Pre-College under the late Dorothy Delay and Hyo Kang, and earned her Bachelor’s of Music Degree at the Cleveland Institue of Music under Linda Cerone. She has begun to appear as a soloist with the Busan Philharmonic Orchestra from the age of 14. Jiyeon Min has won numerous competitions, and also is a recipient of the Atlanta Music Club scholarship.Ai Nihira – The Sovereign Hospitality Chair Ai Nihira is currently a first year Artist Diploma student at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She holds a B.M. from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a M.M. from the Yale School of Music. Her current and former teachers include William Preucil, Stephen Rose, Peter Oundjian, Soovin Kim, Henry Gronnier, Margaret Shimizu, and Mihoko Hirata. She has participated in the Pacific Music Festival Quartet Program, Taos School of Music, Tanglewood Music Center, and Encore School for Strings.Mari Nihira – The Richard and Marguerite Heider Memorial ChairMari Nihira is 21 years old and is currently a student of William Preucil at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She was born in Bellevue, Washington and began studying the violin at the age of three. Her teachers include Mihoko Hirata, Margaret Shimizu, Richard Schwabe, and Henry Gronnier. She won the 2004 Concerto Competition for Young Artists in Culver City and was a finalist in the 2005 Peninsula Competition.Veronica Pigeon – The Thomas and Kathleen Fingleton ChairVeronica Pigeon obtained a Bachelor of Music degree and Orchestral Studies certificate from Denver’s Lamont School of Music under Yumi Hwang-Williams and Linda Wang, winning the Chamber Music Competition twice. Past and present orchestral positions include Principal Second, Denver Philharmonic; Concertmaster, Lakewood Symphony; substitute, Colorado Symphony and Section First Violin, Boulder Philharmonic. A returning NRO musician, she also participated in the Colorado College Summer Music Festival, studying under Scott Yoo, Stefan Hersh, and Bion Tsang. She plans to pursue a Masters in the fall.Theresa Prokes – The Brian and Melinda Follett Chair Ta Prokes, 23, is originally from Buffalo, NY where she began studying the violin at the age of four. She was awarded her Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance by Boston University in May of 2008 as well as a Bachelor of Music Education degree in December of 2009. She has appeared as a soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Ta is excited about pursuing a Masters Degree in violin performance at the University of Michigan next fall.Joel Schut – The Rotary Foundation of Summit County ChairJoel Schut, violin, is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance where he was awarded the Albert. A. Stanley Medal, the schools highest honor. He serves as Music Director of the Livingston Symphony Orchestra, is a member of the Flint Symphony Orchestra and is an intern with the Saline Fiddlers. In addition to performing and conducting, Joel is a passionate music educator.Rachele Sills – The Ann McCrerey Family Chair Rachele recently received a Masters Degree in Violin Performance from The Boston Conservatory where she studied with Lynn Chang. She received her Bachelors degree at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) studying with Dr. Airi Yoshioka. Rachele has studied at many prestigious programs including the Peabody Preparatory and the Meadowmount School of Music. Additionally, she has played in numerous ensembles including the Neponset Valley Philharmonic Orchestra, and the UMBC Symphony Orchestra where she was Concertmaster. Jennifer Sours – The Galen and Ada Belle Spencer Foundation ChairViolinist Jennifer Sours, of Woodland, WA holds a Master of Music degree from The Cleveland Institute of Music where she studied with David Updegraff. She has a bachelor’s degree in performance from Western Washington University where she studied both violin and piano and received the outstanding graduating senior award from the music department in 2005. Jennifer has also studied the violin privately with Camilla Wicks. Irene Stroh – The Joe and Marty Davis Chair Irene Stroh graduated from the Musikhochschule in Lbeck(Germany), where she was a student of Maria Egelhof. She has been a prize-winner of the International Shostakovich Competition, Indianapolis “Matinee Musicale” and others. Irene gained her experience in orchestras such as the Hamburger Symphoniker, Muncie Symphony Orchestra, and others. In 2007 Irene was awarded a graduate assistantship at Ball State University, where she is an Artist Diploma student of Anna Vayman. She is concertmaster of the Ball State Symphony Orchestra and has had master classes with Natasha Prischepenko (Artemis Quartet),Walter Levin (LaSalle Quartet), Anna Netshiporouk-Bron, the Moscow Piano Trio and others.Yuko Tatsumi – The Laurie and William Bolthouse Chair A native of Nara, Japan, Yuko Tatsumi is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance at the Indiana University Bloomington Jacobs School of Music, where she studies with Henryk Kowalski. Her former teachers include Akemi Takayama and Koichiro Harada. She has attended numerous summer music festivals including Centre d’arts Orford acadmie de musique, National Orchestral Institute, and Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and Spoleto Festival USA.Jennifer Whittle – The Mayer Family Foundation Chair Jennifer Whittle received her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Southern California where she studied with Lyndon Johnston Taylor. She recently completed a Master’s degree in Violin Performance at the University of Victoria. Jennifer is currently the Assistant Principal Second Violin of the Vancouver Island Symphony and plays regularly with the Portland Opera, Oregon Ballet and Victoria Symphony. She is also in demand as a chamber musician and is a founding member of the Saturna Trio.Jessica Wiersma – The Theobald Family Historic Preservation ChairEdward Cumming, conductor of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra has described Jessica Wiersma’s playing as “lovely…courageous.” Miss Wiersma has performed with both the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra and the West Suburban Symphony Orchestra upon winning concerto competitions sponsored by both organizations. Completing her Bachelors of Music, Miss Wiersma moved to Chicago where she teaches, coaches and freelances. At the end of NRO’s summer season, she will be starting her Masters at the University of Memphis.
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