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Academy Alumni News


Academy Alums in the News

6.2016 Academy alumna and former Almita and Roland Vamos student Allie Switala will be in Chicago this summer rehearsing and performing in the Grant Park Orchestra as a member of the Project Inclusion Fellowship.

Allie is one of the newest fellows of Project Inclusion, a partnership with the Chicago Sinfonietta that guides young minority musicians in their career, with a goal of increasing diversity among orchestral ensembles. As part of the program, the f...ellows will be mentored by members of the Grant Park Orchestra and experience life as a professional musician. During the ten-week program, the quartet will also engage with the Chicago community, performing in neighborhoods around the city as part of Mayor Rahm Emanual's Night Out in the Parks, and leading workshops and demonstrations for Classical Campers, a music and arts immersion program that introduces young children to classical music. 


5.19.16 The Calidore String Quartet of New York won the $100,000 grand prize at the inaugural M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition at the University of Michigan on Thursday night. The prize is the most lucrative award in the world for chamber music. Calidore violinist Ryan Meehan, a member of the Academy in its inaugural year, is a graduate of the Colburn School Conservatory of Music. His teachers include Robert Lipsett, Arnold Steinhardt, Almita Vamos, Roland Vamos and Amy Schwartz Moretti. In 2014, Ryan joined the faculty of Stony Brook University as an artist-in- residence and visiting assistant professor of music. 


The Calidore quartet, which just completed a two-year residency at Stony Brook University of New York and whose members average 27 years of age, beat out two others ensembles in the Finals Concert — the Kenari Quartet, a saxophone ensemble from Indiana University in Bloomington, and Yarn/Wire, a quartet of two pianists and two percussionists based in New York. The Calidore quartet — which impressed the 15-member jury with its polished performances of standard repertory by Debussy, Haydn, Webern and Mendelssohn — already has a reputation as a fast-rising ensemble. It plays about 60 concerts a year, has major management with Opus 3 of New York and a trail of other competition victories in its wake. Still, Berry said M-Prize will take the group to another level of prominence.

In addition to the cash, the group wins performances in coming seasons on six important arts series in America and Germany, including the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor in 2016-17. 


5.15.16 Ethan Hoppe, former violin student of Almita Vamos, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for violin studies and performances in Israel next year, sponsored by The United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. He will be taking lessons with Hagai Shaham at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University and will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with international partners. Ethan plans to engage local communities and diverse audiences in Israel through outreach concerts in different parts of the country. This summer Ethan will be a Fellow in the Vermont Mozart Festival, a new program in Burlington, VT.  Ethan received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and will complete his Masters from Yale University this month.

5.4.16 MIC Alumnus Santiago Osorio Earns Fulbright Award

Born into a musical family, Santiago E. Osorio is pursuing a diverse musical career as a conductor, violist, and teacher. He is currently based in Berlin, Germany. Santiago studied at MIC (1999 - 2008) with Desiree Ruhstrat. In his last two years at MIC, he was a member of the Academy . He holds a degree in viola from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Samuel Rhodes of the Juilliard Quartet, and a Master of Music degree in conducting from the Pennsylvania State University under the tutelage of maestro Gerardo Edelstein.


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Fulbright Program, the U.S. government's flagship international educational exchange program funded by the U.S. Department of State, has so far selected six Penn State students and four alumni as award recipients for the 2016-2017 academic year. These Penn Staters will travel the globe, some spending close to a year, others spending up to two years, living with and learning from the people of their host countries. Some will conduct research at host universities, while others will help teach English to local students and carry out projects in support of the community. All will serve as cultural ambassadors of Penn State and the U.S., engaging in the community, gaining an appreciation of others' viewpoints and beliefs, and promoting cultural exchange and mutual understanding.


Santiago Osorio
From Highland Park, Illinois, Osorio received his master of music in conducting from Penn State in 2015. His Study/Research Award is contingent upon a successful audition and acceptance into a German music program, where he hopes to improve his skills as a conductor, his ability to bring great music to wide audiences, and help foster relationships between audiences and orchestras. He looks forward to becoming a part of Germany's long tradition of excellent musical training, its support for the arts, and to better understand the relationship between the country and its cultural institutions. 


4.1.16 Congratulations to Academy alumnae Leah Ferguson, former student of Roland Vamos, who will join the Boston Symphony in September. Leah studied at MIC from 1999 to 2011. As a member of the Academy, Leah was a member of the award-winning Quartet Danaë.Danaë, junior gold medal winner at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and silver medal winner at St. Paul String Quartet Competition. 

A native of Chicago, Leah recently earned her bachelor's degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music under the guidance of Robert Vernon. She is currently pursuing a graduate diploma at The Juilliard School as a recipient of the Kovner fellowship, studying with Heidi Castleman and Cynthia Phelps. 


3.6.16 MIC Cello Alum Wins Schadt String Competition 


Alexander Hersh, 22, a student at the New England Conservatory in Boston, won the 20th annual Schadt String Competition presented by the Allentown Symphony Association. The finals were held March 6 at Miller Symphony Hall. Hersh performed Schumann's Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129. Hersh, a member of MIC's Academy 2008 – 2011, studied with Hans Jørgen Jensen and was a member of the award-winning Emerald String Quartet.


Hersh won $8,000 and a solo performance with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra in November. He will perform the Schumann concerto. Second place went to Sujin Lee, 24, a student at the New England Conservatory, who won $2,500. Third place of $1,500 went to Noemie Raymond-Friset, 24, also a student at the New England Conservatory.


Judges included Richard Aaron, professor of cello at the Juilliard School and The University of Michigan; Natasha Brofsky, professor of cello at the New England Conservatory; David Moulton, principal cellist of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra; and Diane Wittry, Allentown Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor.


2.1.16 Congratulations to Academy alum, Ryan Meehan, student of Almita and Roland Vamos, and the Calidore Quartet.  The Calidore Quartet has recently been named the winner of the 2016 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship. Ryan shared, "we join their highly acclaimed roster of soloists and chamber musicians including our own mentors the Quatuor Ebène, our friends Benjamin Beilman and the Navarra Quartet, and many others whom we have always looked to for inspiration, like Augustin Hadelich, Cuarteto Casals, the Pavel Haas Quartet, Martin Fröst, and Vilde Frang. This is a particularly special award because we are the first North American ensemble to be given a BBT prize in its 13 year history. From the beginning of the quartet, one important goal has been to create an international presence. BBT, a UK based organization, is aimed at promoting and sustaining international careers and we are truly honored to be a recipient of the award. By joining their roster, we are given financial assistance, public relations guidance, and a network of artistic support that extends internationally."

The Calidore String Quartet has established an international reputation for its informed, polished, and passionate performances. They are currently artists-in-residence and visiting faculty at Stony Brook University (SUNY) and appointed to the prestigious roster of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Two for the 2016- 2019 seasons. 



1.11.16 Congratulations to composer Jonas Tarm, commissioned by the Tallinn Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Jonas' piece, Refugee at Sea, was written for a concert titled American Serenade that focused on Estonia's, and more generally, immigrants' reflections on America. Later, Jonas was asked by the Estonian media if this is a current-affairs related piece; Jonas replied that this is a theme that eternally keeps repeating itself and also referred to his grandfather. The music begins at 1:32 in the video.



11.15.16 Cellist Gabriel Cabezas, former Academy student of Hans Jensen, is the recipient of the 5th annual Sphinx Medals of Excellence. On March 16, 2016, Sphinx will honor three outstanding artists of color who demonstrate the following qualities: artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination, and great potential for leadership. The awards will be bestowed at the official Sphinx Medals of Excellence luncheon and honorees will be celebrated at a black-tie private dinner in Washington, D.C. The three Medalists will also each receive a $50,000 artist grant for their career development. "We are honored to celebrate these exceptional musicians. Individually and collectively, they exhibit authenticity, commitment, and true artistic leadership, which is so essential to Sphinx's mission and our field, as a whole." said Sphinx President, Aaron S. Dworkin.


Gabriel Cabezas, Cello

An intense player who connects to music naturally, without artifice, and brings a singing line to the cello" (The Oregonian), Gabriel Cabezas is one of America's most sought after young musicians. Combining a superb technique, intellectual curiosity and a pioneering musical spirit, Cabezas is at home in front of an orchestra, performing with a singer-songwriter or sharing the stage with a dance troupe.

Cabezas has appeared as soloist with America's finest orchestras, including those of Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston, Pittsburgh, and Nashville. He is also a member of the New York sextet yMusic, hailed by NPR's Fred Child as "one of the groups that has really helped to shape the future of classical music." Cabezas studied at the Curtis Institute of Music with Carter Brey, and is a recipient of the Career Grant by the Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation. He is a winner of the 2014 Astral Artists National



A committed advocate for community engagement and education programs across the country, Gabriel is involved with Midori's Partners in Performance, the Sphinx Organization and Chicago's Citizen Musician movement. Cabezas was the first place Laureate at the Sphinx competition twice - in the Junior Division (2006) while studying with Jensen at the Music Institute of Chicago and in the Senior Division (2012). 


10.12.15  Former Academy violinist Vincent Meklis is studying with Tanja Becker-Bender at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, Germany. Meklis received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 2014 at the USC Thornton School of Music, where he was under the tutelage of Distinguished Professor Midori Goto. He performed in the Netherlands in Summer 2014 as part of the International Holland Music Sessions. Meklis has been a guest soloist with various orchestras, including the Grand Ra...pids Symphony, and was the 2012 Stulburg International Strings Competition Bronze Medal winner.


Meklis will perform on the Dame Myra Hess concert series on March 16, 2016. The Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts are named for British pianist Myra Hess who organized some 1,700 free lunchtime concerts for Londoners during World War II, in the years of nightly air raids. King George VI awarded her Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1941. WFMT FM Radio broadcasts the concerts on Wednesdays at 12:15pm. 


10.1.15 Former Academy violinist Emma Steele visits from Copenhagen, where she is Concertmaster of the Royal Danish Orchestra, to perform at the California Music Center. The center will present past winners of the Irving M. Klein International String Competition. Emma (2nd Prize 2012), will appear with San Francisco pianist, Ian Scarfe, founder and director of the Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival. The program features works by Sarasate, Ravel, Debussy, Saint-Saëns and Fauré.


10.1.15 Adé Williams, violin student at the Curtis Institute of Music and former Academy student of Almita and Roland Vamos, has been very busy these past few months.

* She competed to attend the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan and won a spot where she played as the youngest, among esteemed musicians such as concertmaster of Vienna and principals of brass and winds of Berlin,

under the baton of Gergiev. The festival culminated in a short performance tour in Tokyo.

* She played at the White House at the state dinner for the Obamas, the president of China and his wife, and their guests.

* In January, she'll be soloing with the Baton Rouge Symphony at the invitation of her conductor from the Chautauqua Institute. 


5.23.15 Congratulations to Samantha Bennett, former Academy violin student of Almita and Roland Vamos, who recently won a seat in the violin section of the Florida Orchestra. 


4.1.15 Congratuations to Andrea Jarrett, former Academy violin student of Almita and Roland Vamos, who recently won a position with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.


3.28.15 Congratulations to Academy alum Ryan Meehan, former violin student of Almita Vamos and current member of the Calidore String Quartet.


The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center recently announced the appointment of the Calidore String Quartet to its prestigious CMS Two program beginning with the 2016-2017 season. Chosen from an international pool of applicants by a distinguished panel of performers, educators, and artistic administrators, the quartet is an award-winning ens...emble with exceptional musical training and significant careers.

Appointment to the three-year CMS Two residency program affords the young members three full seasons of potential opportunities to participate in CMS's various New York concert series, touring, recordings on both the in-house CMS Studio Recordings label and the CMS Live! digital download series, and numerous educational outreach programs.

Calidore String Quartet (Jeffrey Myers, Ryan Meehan, violin; Jeremy Berry, viola; Estelle Choi, cello) has been described as "a miracle of unified thought" (La Presse, Montreal) and as "four highly intelligent, deeply sensitive virtuosos" (Strings Magazine).


Within two years of its formation in 2010 at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, the Calidore String Quartet won grand prizes in virtually all the major American chamber music competitions, including the Fischoff, Coleman, Chesapeake, and Yellow Springs competitions and captured top prizes at the 2012 ARD Munich International String Quartet Competition, and Hamburg International Chamber Music Competition. 


3.20.15 Violist Matthew Lipman, 23, former student of Roland Vamos, was awarded the Avery Fisher Career Grant, which consists of $25,000 for career needs. Each of the five 2015 recipients – who received their awards in an event on Wednesday in The Greene Space – are early-career musicians, under the age of 30. The Avery Fisher Career Grants have been given out annually by the Avery Fisher Artist Program since 1976. A committee of arts administrators, musicians, and conservatory deans selects the grant recipients. Ben Beilman, former violin student of Roland and Almita Vamos and Conrad Tao, former piano student of Emilio del Rosario, were Avery Fisher Career Grant recipients in 2012. MIC alums Wendy Warner, cellist, and Jennifer Koh, violinist, were grant recipients in the 1990s. 

Academy alumni violinists Kelly Talim and Leah Ferguson recently participated in a YoungArts master class with Joshua Bell, one of the most celebrated violinists of his era with a career spanning over 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, and conductor.

October - Congratulations to Academy alum Adé Williams who is enjoying her first year at the Curtis Institute of Music and getting great reviews on a recent performance!

"Another guest soloist was the ever impressive first place laureate of the Junior Division of the Sphinx Competition (2012), Adé Williams. This 17 year old brilliant player stood in the spotlight, tearing up the stage and her bow with her fury on John Corigliano's Red Violin Caprices, transfixing the audience, and keeping us on our toes throughout the piece. She danced and shook with the power of her own playing, and by the end of the piece some of her bow strings were hanging off the other end of the staff, making it very easy to see how and why she placed first in the competition."
LA Splash

"The violinist Adé Williams, 17 ... had John Corigliano's impetuous 'Red Violin Caprices' all to herself and played it stunningly." New York Times, 10-30-14 

August - Ryan Meehan, former Academy violin student of Almita Vamos, continues to make big news with the Calidore String Quartet. The Calidore String Quartet --Jeffrey Myers, violin, Ryan Meehan, violin, Jeremy Berry, viola and Estelle Choi, cello -- has been appointed Quartet-in-Residence at The Stony Brook University Department of Music for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic years. They will join the Emerson String Quartet... as members of the faculty, and will also be coached by members of the Emerson Quartet and David Finckel, former cellist with the quartet.

Formed at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles in 2010, the Calidore String Quartet quickly won grand prize in virtually all American chamber music competitions including the Fischoff, Coleman, Chesapeake, and Yellow Springs competitions. Internationally they captured top prizes at the 2012 ARD Munich International String Quartet Competition and the 2012 Hamburg International Chamber Music Competition. David Finckel, Artistic Co-Director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, noted, "This dynamic and intelligent ensemble has already demonstrated skill and maturity beyond their collective years, and they show seemingly endless potential."


7.2.14 Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto - Academy alum Gabriel Cabezas, former cello student of Hans Jorgen Jensen, will perform in his Grant Park Music Festival debut on July 2, 6:30pm. Guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero leads the Grant Park Orchestra and the 21-year-old Chicago area native, as he performs Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 1.


6.25.14 Congratulations to Lydia Umlauf! Hello Texas!

Lydia Umlauf, former violin student, will be sitting in the 2nd chair section of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in the fall.


Academy alums Arianna Smith, viola, former student of Roland Vamos, and Allan Steele, cello, former student of Hans Jorgen Jensen, were both accepted to the Colburn Conservatory at 16-years-old, and now have both graduated. Ari is heading off to pursue her Master's degree at The Conservatoire de Paris & Allan won the position of principal cellist with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.


5.2.14 NEC Composition Student Jonas Tarm Commissioned to Write Orchestral Work for New York Youth Symphony - Composition to Receive Premiere at Carnegie Hall in March 2015


NEC Composition student Jonas Tarm '16, a student of John Mallia, has been commissioned to write a new orchestral work by the New York Youth Symphony to be played at Carnegie Hall. The honor came with his selection as one of seven winners of the prestigious First Music competition sponsored annually by the orchestra. Called "invaluable" by The New York Times, the 31-year-old competition is widely seen as a leading force in the U.S. for spotlighting up-and-coming composers under age 30.


Tarm, was selected based in part on his work for string orchestra, Headline Hues, which had its world premiere in Estonia last year by the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Risto Joost. It received its American premiere at NEC, April 9, performed by the NEC Symphony and conductor Paul Biss.

The Estonia-born Tarm, who moved to the Chicago area at age 10 and attended Highland Park High School, has received national and international attention, including as a winner of a National YoungArts Foundation Award. He graduated from the Music Institute of Chicago's Academy program where he studied composition with MIC's Dr. Matthew Hagle and Dr. Mischa Zupko and violin with Northwestern University Professor Gerardo Ribeiro. Composers of orchestral, chamber music, and jazz works were eligible to participate in the First Music competition, which is judged by a panel of professional composers. The competition is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts.


5.1.14 Congratulations to violist Matthew Lipman, former Academy student of Roland Vamos, who has been selected by the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center in New York. The Chamber Music Society is pleased to announce the appointment of eight exceptional young artists to its prestigious CMS Two program. The recent audition-winners were selected from an international pool of 237 applicants, 41 of whom were invited to participate in the rigorous live competition process. Ranging in age from 19 to 33, the new members will join the CMS Two roster effective with the 2015-2016 season. They are cellist Dmitri Atapine, pianist Michael Brown, violinist Chad Hoopes, violinist Paul Huang, violist Matthew Lipman, clarinetist Tommaso Lonquich, violinist Danbi Um, and pianist Qian Wu.


5.1. 2014 Violin virtuoso Benjamin Beilman, former student of Almita and Roland Vamos, returns to his Chicago from his London Philharmonic debut to perform on the Chicago Philharmonic's season finale, Romantic Rapture. Conductor Scott Speck and Beilman will present the popular overture to Verdi's La forza del destino, "The Power of Fate," and Mendelssohn's beloved Violin Concerto. The concert closes with selections from Prokofiev's ballet suites for Romeo and Juliet, with excerpts from Shakespeare's play performed by actors from Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The concert takes place on Sunday, May 11th, 7:30p.m. at Pick-Staiger Hall in Evanston. 

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