Current Student Achievements


Student Achievements Class of 2014-2015

Maya Anjali Buchanan , 14 violin student of Almita Vamos, won first place in the Junior Strings MTNA South Dakota Solo Competition in November. She will advance to the West Central Division competition on January 10. The winner will then compete at the national competition held during the MTNA National Conference in March. 

12.6.14 The Eleventh Annual Sejong Music Competition  was held on Saturday, December 6 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Performing Arts Center. The goals of the Sejong Music Competition are to discover talented young musicians and encourage them in their studies, and to also introduce traditional Korean music expressed through Western media. The event helps to increase the awareness and understanding of Korea's cultural heritage amongst the younger generations growing up in the United States so as to promote harmony among people of various ethnic backgrounds and bridge Asian and Western cultures.


Violin Senior Division

First, Joshua Brown, 15, student of Almita and Roland Vamos

Second, Karisa Chiu, 15, student of Almita Vamos

Third, Serena Harnack, 16, student of Almita Vamos

Honorable Mention, Nicholas Brown, 18, student of Almita and Roland Vamos


Violin Junior Division

Second & Best Interpretation of a Korean Piece, John Heo, 14, student of Almita Vamos and Cornelius Chiu


The Winners' Concert will be held on Sunday, January 18, 2015 at 2pm -  Claudia Cassidy Theater - Chicago Cultural Center- 78 E. Washington, Chicago.


12.7.14 Lydia Rhea, 15, student of Hans Jensen, placed second in the Carmel Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition, playing the 4th movement of the Elgar Cello Concerto. The CSO Young Artist Competition encourages and affords student musicians from Central Indiana the opportunity to compete with their peers at the highest level of artistic excellence. This year's event marks the 34th year of competition.


12.7.14 For a number of years, Ars Viva and MIC has partnered to offer students the opportunity to perform in a side-by-side concert event with maestro Alan Heatherington and the Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra. Through the years, select Academy students have been invited to perform as part of the professional orchestra on one program per year. Congratulations to Academy violinist Katie Gallagher, 18, Naperville, student of Almita Vamos, and to cellist Richard Li, 18, Bolingbrook, student of Gilda Barston, who will join the Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra for their December 7 concert on an afternoon of Beethoven.


The YoungArts Foundation has announced, out of more than 11,000 applications received, they have awarded 786 YoungArts Winners in the visual, literary, design and performing arts. These young artists represent some of our nations very best in: cinematic arts, dance, design arts, jazz, music, photography, theater, visual arts, voice, and writing. Nicholas, 18, studies with Almita and Roland Vamos and Nathan, 17, studies with Gilda Barston.


Every year the country's most promising young artists are selected from across the country as National Winners. These Winners have the opportunity to attend YoungArts programs which include master classes with internationally renowned artists, workshops, interdisciplinary activities, performances, and exhibitions. In addition, all YoungArts Winners join the ranks of our 20,000 YoungArts alumni and go on to the top universities and conservatories across the country to become leading professionals in their fields.


Last November, National Winners from the Academy included Gallia Kastner, Hansuh Rhee, and Zachary Brandon.  

Recognition Levels

Merit: Receive a Certificate of Achievement, a medallion, a Recommendation Letter and are invited to participate in regional programs. The winner's high school also receives an engraved plaque with the names of every winner from that school.

Honorable Mention: Receives the same benefits as a Merit winner plus a $250 monetary award.

Finalist: Receives the same benefits as a Merit winner plus an invitation to National YoungArts Week held in January for final adjudication to determine award designation (Level 3 $1000, Level 2 $1500, Level 1 $3000, Silver $5000, Gold $10,000). 


12.1.14 Josiah Yoo, 16, cello student of Hans Jenson, won first place in the Senior Strings MTNA State Solo Competition held November 8-9 at Millikan University, Decatur IL. Josiah will advance to the East Central Division competition in January, which in turn takes place in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The winner of the East Central Division will then compete at the national competition held during the MTNA National Conference in March. 


12.1.14 Ria Honda, 14,  violin student of Almita Vamos, won first place in the Junior Strings MTNA State Solo Competition held November 8-9 at Millikan University, Decatur IL. State winners will advance to the East Central Division competition in January, which in turn takes place in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. The winner of the East Central Division will then compete at the national competition held during the MTNA National Conference in March.  


11.14 Katherine Gallagher, 18, violin student of Almita Vamos, won first place in the Northern Illinois University School of the Arts (CSA) Sinfonia Concerto Competition. She performed Concerto #5 in A minor, 1st movement, by Henri Vieuxtemps.   Players are expected to perform one memorized movement of a standard concerto or work with orchestral accompaniment. The winner receives a prize of $200 and performs the concerto with the orchestra at the February 18th concert.  

10.19.14 The following students were winners in the 30th Annual Music Festival in Honor of Confucius held at the Merit School of Music on Sunday, October 19.

Founded in 1984, The Chinese Fine Arts Society (CFAS) is the leading champion of Chinese arts and culture in Chicago – from traditional to contemporary. The Chinese Fine Arts Society's annual Music Festival in Honor of Confucius (MFHC) introduces participants to the rich heritage of Chinese music through competitions, scholarships, and performance opportunities for winners. Every fall, hundreds of young musicians perform a required piece of Chinese music selected from Chinese repertoire and a western piece of their choosing for a panel of judges. The required repertoire reflects the beauty, majesty, and wide breadth of the Chinese musical tradition and is an inspiring challenge for the contestants. The flagship competition for cellists, violinists, and pianists, is for students ages 18 years or younger. First place winners will be featured at the Winners Concert on Sunday, November 23 at Gottlieb Hall, Merit School of Music.


VIOLIN – JUNIOR 2 (ages 12 – 14)
1st Place: Joshua Brown, student of Almita Vamos
VIOLIN – SENIOR (ages 15 – 18)
2nd Place: Nicholas Brown, student of Almita Vamos
3rd Place: Tabby Rhee, student of Hye-Sun Lee
CELLO – SENIOR (ages 15 – 18)
1st Place: Josiah Yoo, student of Hans Jensen
2nd Place (tie): Annamarie Wellems, student of Tanya Carey
2nd Place (tie): Nathan Mo, student of Hans Jensen


October - Natalie Nedvetsky, piano student of Jim Giles, will be featured on a rebroadcast of Introductions 98.7WFMT TONIGHT, October 23, at 10PM. Introductions features the Chicago-area's talented pre-college classical musicians every week.
J.S. Bach: Prelude and Fugue No. 16 in G Minor,WTC, Bk. 1.

Beethoven: Sonata in F Minor No. 23, Op.57
I. Allegro Assai

Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G Minor

Chopin: Etude in A flat major No. 1, Op.25

Debussy: Selections from Preludes Book 1:
Des pas sur la neige: Triste et lent
(Footsteps in the Snow) 


October 10 - Academy violinist Gallia Kastner, 17, student of Almita and Roland Vamos, will perform Waxman's Carmen Fantasy and Caprice in the form of a Waltz by Saint-Saens/Ysaÿe at Preston Bradley Hall on October 20, 2014. Gallia is a former winner of the Women's Club of Musicians Competition Jerome and Elaine Nuremburg Scholarship.


Gallia, a new member of the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra, will also perform this Sunday at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. The concert will feature winners of the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra's Young Artist Competition and Beethoven's powerful Symphony No. 7. Hear Tomorrow's Stars Today Concert - October 12, 2014, 3pm. 


Serena Harnack, 16, violin student of Almita Vamos and one of three Stanger Young Artist Audition winners, will be featured on the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra Concerto Night Gala on Saturday, October 18th at 7pm. The performance will be at the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, Elmhurst.  


September  - Hannah White, 14, violin student of Hye-Sun Lee and Almita Vamos, has been selected to tour with SPHINX VIRTUOSI, one of the nation's most dynamic professional chamber orchestras. Comprised of 18 of the nation's top Black and Latino classical soloists, these alumni of the internationally renowned Sphinx Competition come together each fall as cultural ambassadors to reach new audiences. Hannah will play first violin on the Sphinx Virtuosi tour. Hannah was named a Laureate in the 2014

17th Annual Sphinx Competition and will perform in fifteen concerts across the country in September and October. 


Summer Achievements Class of 2014-2015


July 18 - Krystian Jinwoo Chiu , Academy cello student of Hans Jørgen Jensen and Karisa Chiu, Academy violin student of Almita Vamos, attended the 4-week long Indiana University Summer String Academy hosted by the Jacobs School of Music. After winning the Haydn C Major Concerto Competition, Krystian performed at the Final Gala String Academy Concert in Auer Hall on July 18. This summer marked the 30th year of the Summer String Academy where students from around the world come to participate in two weekly private lessons, chamber music, master classes, and performances. Krystian and Karisa are members of the Atara String Quartet with Hannah White, violin and Tess Krope, viola. 


July 3 - Maya Anjali Buchanan, violin student of Almita and Roland Vamos, attended the Brian Lewis Young Artist Program in Ottawa, Kansas and performed the Waxman Carmen Fantasy with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra on July 3rd. The BLYAP is a tuition-free opportunity for twelve highly gifted violinists up to the age of 18 to receive intense daily private instruction on concerto repertoire, show pieces, sonata literature, scales and technical studies, solo Bach, duets, and music of Fritz Kreisler; to rehearse with both piano and perform as soloist with orchestra. Maya was also featured on NPR affiliate WJXR, Morning Classics, in Lawrence, Kansas and performed the Waxman Carmen Fantasy with pianist Laura Kennedy. 


Serena Harnack, violin student of Hye-Sun Lee and Almita Vamos, also attended the Brian Lewis Young Artist Program. Serena was also invited to play in a quartet at the Midwest Conservatory of Music in Hoffman Estates. (Debussy, 1st violin). 


June - Tess Krope, viola student of Li-Kuo Chang, had the rewarding experience of attending two great music programs this summer. First, Tess attended the Madeline Island Music Camp as it began its second quarter century of chamber music excellence. They provide music training and performance for talented young musicians in a structured, residential environment on beautiful Madeline Island. Over the past twenty-five years, the Camp has refined its curriculum to offer a truly exceptional program devoted exclusively to the study and performance of chamber music with distinguished faculty and resident string quartets and woodwind quintets from across the nation. After a stay in the Midwest, Tess was off to the San Francisco Bay area and Music@Menlo, an internationally acclaimed chamber music festival and institute. Founded by David Finckel and Wu Han as a program of Menlo School, Music@Menlo features unique immersive programming, a roster of world-class artists, and a Chamber Music Institute for emerging and pre-professional musicians. 


June 21 - Serena Harnack and the Browns, Nicholas, Joshua and Isabella, performed live on a special broadcast from the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston in celebration of Make Music Chicago, a worldwide celebration of live music. The Browns performed Friedrich Hermann's Capriccio No. 2 for 3 Violins, Op. 5 and Serena performed Orange Blossom Special by Ervin T. Rouse and a movement of Vivaldi's Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, "La primavera" (Spring). All of the violinists study with Almita Vamos. Introductions features the Chicago-area's talented pre-college classical musicians every week. 


June 12 - Leevy Williams, cello student of Gilda Barston, toured with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras' International Tour to China. Students embarked on a ten-day tour of China to the cities of Beijing, Xi'an, Hangzhou and Shanghai.  In addition to performing at world class venues, Leevy participated in a variety of cultural activities designed to educate them about the history, culture and customs of China. Performance included: Beijing - National Centre of Performing Arts, Xi'an - Xi'an Concert Hall, Hangzhou - Hangzhou Grand Theater, and Opera Hall, Shanghai - Shanghai Oriental Art Center.


June 24 - Trio Solaris, Gallia Kastner, Nathan Walhout, and Andrew Guo, along with coach Sang Mee Lee, performed at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts in June. Continuing their incredible collaboration from a live performance at the Harris Theater in April with the Trey McIntyre Dance Project, Trio Solaris performed on a premiere of The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction. The work was inspired by the surreal imagination and characteristic pen-and-ink drawings of writer and illustrator Edward Gorey. The trio performed live accompaniment for TMP with Dmitri Shostakovich's "Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor" at six festival concerts. A National Historic Landmark and National Medal of Arts recipient, Jacob's Pillow is home to America's longest running dance festival, located in the beautiful Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. This summer, the Pillow will hosted its 82nd world-renowned dance Festival.


June 17 - Academy pianist Daniel Szefer, student of Ralph Neiweem, participated in the 8th International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians.  The prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition took place from June 23rd - July 3rd, 2014 in Moscow, Russia.


June 8 - The Lake Forest Symphony presented their annual Music in the Garden event at the beautiful garden estate of John and Posy Krehbiel, in Lake Forest. This is the sixth year Academy students  performed at a magnificent North Shore garden for this spring event. The Vox String Quartet --Serena Harnack and Hansuh Rhee, violins, Mira Williams, viola, and Nathan Mo, cello, coached by Mathias Tacke, performed along with Gallia Kastner, violin student of Almita and Roland Vamos, and Josiah Yoo, cello student of Hans Jorgen Jensen. Serena  also performed Orange Blossom Special for over 200 symphony guests. 


June 8 - Natalie Nedvetsky, piano student of James Giles, performed in a master class for Veda Kaplinsky at the Wisconsin Conservatory in Milwaukee. Natalie was invited by Piano Arts Festival. Kaplinsky, Juilliard Faculty, is a prizewinner in the J.S. Bach International Competition, Washington, D.C. and her numerous appearances in recitals, chamber music, and with orchestras, as well as on radio and television include master classes and performances throughout the U.S., Israel, and Korea. 


June 2 - Serena Harnack, violin student of  Hye-Sun Lee and Almita Vamos, performed at the Arts Alliance Illinois' 2nd Annual Benefit Luncheon at the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago. Nearly 500 of Illinois' cultural, civic, and corporate leaders gathered to celebrate the arts. Serena and pianist Milana Pavchinskaya performed the first movement of Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, "La primavera" (Spring) From the Four Seasons.