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The Academy also provides special support and preparation to students who enter local, regional, national and international solo and chamber music competitions. Numerous Music Institute of Chicago Academy students are prize winners and matriculate to the nation’s top conservatories and universities.

Class of 2023-2024 Accolades and Achievements


Violinist Clark Snavely toured with the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra.  He will be featured as soloist, and will perform Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Queen Elizabeth Hall in Antwerp, and the Parkzaal Musis Sacrum in Arnhem.  There is a bon voyage performance at the Sharon Lynne Wilson on Saturday, July 8th.  Clark will be the featured soloist with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra on July 5th as part of 40th anniversary Concerts on the Square series.  The audience could exceed 50,000 people that day.  He will perform the first movement of Prokofiev's second violin concerto.  (event details:

Academy pianist Noah Kim won 1st prize and Young Jury Award at the Arthur Fraser International Piano competition in South Carolina. Noah, a student of Marta Aznavoorian's, will perform a complete concerto with the South Carolina Philharmonic in Masterworks concert series during the 2024/2025 season.  For one week every June, the Southeastern Piano Festival transforms the University of South Carolina School of Music and the city of Columbia into a major cultural destination that draws in audiences and young piano talent from across the United States.  Twenty of some of the best most accomplished pre-college pianists on the piano scene today take part in a rigorous program that includes daily lessons with University of South Carolina piano faculty, master classes with guest artists and up to five hours of practice a day. The week's events culminate with the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition, adjudicated by a distinguished panel of judges. Past Academy winners include David Hou, Yerin Yang, and Sean Yeh.

•    Cellist Serge Kalinovsky and violinist Clark Snavely split 3rd prize in the senior category of the Ronald Sachs International String Competition. Violinist Lily Sullivan split 3rd prize in the junior category of the competition. 

•    Cellist Simon Updegraff and former Academy violinist Leo Zupko, winners of the Chicago Chamber Music Concerto Competition, soloed at Northeastern Illinois University on October 18, 2023, under the baton of conductor Ben Firer and the NEIU Orchestra.

•    Cellist Jan Vargas Nedvetsky performed at the Annual Hope for Miracles Gala and fundraiser in Lake Placid, New York. Hope for Miracles is a nonprofit organization bringing hope to families of children with Neuroblastoma and other childhood cancers, by funding research for life saving trials and cures. You can read more at

•    Pianist Zachary Guo was selected as the winner of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Senior Piano Division for the state of Illinois.  Zachary competed in the regional divisions in March of 2024.  Zachary is a student of Matt Hagle.

•    YoungArts Winners - Founded in 1981, YoungArts identifies exceptional young artists, amplifies their potential, and invests in their lifelong creative freedom. Every year thousands of performing, visual and literary artists age 15-18 apply to YoungArts through our national competition. Award winners with distinction attend National YoungArts Week to collaborate with peers and develop their crafts with internationally recognized leaders in their fields. Award winners with distinction in their senior year are further eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts—one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students. This year, the following academy students were YoungArts winners: Bianca Ciubancan, Zachary Guo, Matthew Hahn, Noah Kim, and Xavier Miyazaki.

The YoungArts Award with Distinction recognizes work that demonstrates exceptional technique; a strong, sophisticated, nuanced, and clear artistic point of view; and a depth of thinking/performance that far exceeds the level of peers at this career stage. Winners at this level are invited to participate in National YoungArts Week and are also considered for nomination to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. This year, academy student Jan Vargas-Nedvetsky was a winner of this prestigious honor.  

•    Cellist Jan Vargas Nedvetsky, student of Hans Jensen, was selected as a Junior Division Semi-finalist in the 27th annual Sphinx Competition.  The Sphinx Competition is a national competition held in Detroit, Michigan, offering young Black and Latinx classical string players a chance to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges and to perform with and receive mentorship from established professional musicians.

•    Neena Agrawal is one of six finalists for the American Viola Society Competition, Junior Division. She will be going to the Colburn School in Los Angeles, California in June to compete as part of the American Viola Society Conference, which is held in conjunction with the Primrose Competition.  Neena studies viola with Sang Mee Lee. 

•    Clark Snavely, student of Almita Vamos, won second place in International Young Artist Concerto Competition with his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major. Violinist Sasha Varchenko, student of Grigory Kalinovsky, was a semifinalist and cellist Serge Kalinovsky, a student of Susan Moses, received an honorable mention. The International Young Artist Concerto Competition showcases extraordinary young talents from around the globe, offering an opportunity for young musicians aged 18 and under to perform as soloists alongside a professional orchestra in the semifinal and final rounds. 

•    At the invitation of performing artist Vadim Gluzman, violinist Lily Sullivan performed the first movement of the Brahms Concerto for Emmy Award-winning violinist Robert McDuffie at the North Shore Chamber Music Festival Onstage/Offstage Series in December. Lily is a student of Grigory Kalinovsky.

•    Cellist Lucy Wu tied for first place in the Strings 9th Edition of the ENKOR International Competition. ENKOR provides young musicians with the unique opportunity to be heard and recognized by hundreds of professionals and influential people in the music industry and has a Jury Board consisting of 500+ members from 70+ countries on 6 continents.

•    The Elysian Quartet, made up of Nolan Chang, Kai Isoke Ali-Landing, Vivian Van de Sype-Cucu, Katarina Kenney, and coach Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff received an Honorable Mention at the 2024 Rembrandt High School Chamber Music Competition.

•    Cellist Jan Vargas Nedvetsky was named winner in The Central Oregon Symphony Association Young Artist Competition. A celebration of exceptional talent and dedication to musical excellence, the competition attracted submissions from young musicians nationwide. Notably, winners were selected based on their outstanding performances and promise in the world of classical music. Each winner will have an opportunity to perform on the Central Oregon Symphony's Winter Concert Series, Bend Senior High School on February 24th and 25th, 2024.  This year's winners were selected by a panel of judges, evaluating performances that resonated with passion, technical skill, and artistic interpretation.  The COSA Young Artist Competition not only provides a platform for emerging talent but also offers monetary awards to support the winners' musical journeys. The first-place recipient will receive $1250, the second place will receive $1000, and the third-place winner receives $750.

•    In February, cellist Jan Vargas Nedvetsky and violinist Bianca Ciubancan were named finalists in “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, in conjunction with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, Concerto Competition for High School Musicians. The event was held in Washington DC. Seven exceptional high school musicians from across America convened at John Philip Sousa Band Hall to compete in the final round. The winner received a $2,500 scholarship courtesy of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and a performance with the Marine Band. This was quite an honor for our Academy students to be named finalists in this prestigious competition.

•    Cellist Lucy Wu, student of Stefan Kartman, has advanced to the finals of the Schubert Competition at Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, on Sunday, March 10. The Bruce P. Carlson Student Scholarship Competition, held each spring, awards a total of over $70,000 annually to young musicians to be used for further musical education. The competition began in 1922, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Schubert Club. It started modestly with three winners representing the categories of voice, violin, and piano. The competition has since grown to fifteen different categories with three cash prizes awarded for each category to be used for further musical education. The winners of each category are also invited to perform in the annual Winners Recital, Musicians on the Rise.  

•    Exceptional young musicians from all corners of the country competed in Midwest Young Artists Conservatory's Annual Walgreens National Concerto Competition at the end of December. Students from elementary through twelfth grade competed for more than $20,000 in scholarships and cash prizes in the MYAC Division and the Open Division, which were both further divided into the Junior Level (up to 8th grade) & Senior Level (grades 9-12). Cellist Amelia Zitoun was the overall Open Division grand winner. Violinist Clark Snavely was a winner in the Senior Division in the Early Music category and received an honorable mention in the Strings Category of the Senior Division. Cellist Lucy Wu also received an honorable mention in the Strings Category of the Senior Division.

•    Academy students competed in the DePaul Concerto Festival. Since 2003, the DePaul Concerto Festival has given students from the Midwest the opportunity to compete and receive performance evaluations from well renowned judges. Winners had the opportunity to perform a movement of a concerto with the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago in March of 2024. Cellist Lucy Wu and violinist Clark Snavely were winners in their instrument categories, and violinist Kai Isoke Ali-Landing received an honorable mention. 

•    The MYA Chicago Chamber Music competition is an annual event designed to provide an educational and competitive experience for young chamber ensembles. The competition is open to chamber ensembles in 12th grade and younger and consists of two divisions (Open and MYAC). The competition is open to all instruments and is divided into the following two instrument categories: Strings and Piano and All Other Instruments (brass, percussion, voice, winds). Contestants compete for over $5,000 in cash prizes and scholarships and the winner of each category in each division will perform in a Winners Recital. Quartet Meraviglia, made up of academy students Elle Cho (violin), Lauren Kim (violin), Emily Chen (viola), and Lucy Wu (cello), won the Overall Open Division and were the winners of the Strings and Piano Category. 

•    Cellist Lucy Wu is a finalist in The Audrey G. Baird Stars of Tomorrow competition. This competition highlights the great musical talent of teens across the state of Wisconsin. Three student finalists will appear as featured soloists with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, along with an exciting performance featuring musicians of the MSO side-by-side with semi-finalists for a public performance on Tuesday, April 30, 7:30pm. 

•    In February, Quartet Meraviglia had the opportunity to perform at the Pilgram Chamber Players Rising Stars concert in Highland Park. Each year, Pilgrim dedicates one concert to showcasing the talents of advanced high school musicians. It's a free event, open to the community, and features exceptional young soloists and chamber ensembles, all 18 years old and younger.  Quartet Meraviglia is made up of violinist Elle Cho, violinist Lauren Kim, violist Emily Chen, cellist Lucy Wu, and coach Rodolfo Vieira. 

•    Cellist Amelia Zitoun, student of Hans Jensen, advanced to the finals of the 2024 Concert Artists Guild Competition. Winners receive management and performance opportunities and join a network of rising young artists who are ready to launch their careers internationally. Amelia will perform in the finals concert in New York City on May 10. MIC alumna Hannah White, former student of Hye-Sun Lee and Almita Vamos, was a semifinalist in the competition this year.  Amelia is also a semi-finalist in the prestigious  Irving M. Klein International String Competition. The Klein Competition which will be held in San Francisco in June. Celebrating 39 years of nurturing and championing the world’s finest young string players, the event takes place on June 1-2 at the San Francisco  Conservatory of Music. Audiences will view eight contestants compete for cash prizes and performance contracts in front of a live audience, as a jury of seven convenes to determine the winners. The Klein will also stream worldwide on the Violin Channel, Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube and our website.

Academy former winners:
•    2021 – Ria Honda, 4th, violin
•    2019 - James Baik, 1st place, cello
•    2018 - Julian Ree, 2nd, violin
•    2017 – Karisa Chiu, 4th, violin
•    2015 – Erika Gray, 4th, viola
•    2012 – Emma Steele, 2nd violin,  Alexandra Switala, 3rd violin
•    2011 – Mindy Park, cello, 4th
•    Pianist Zachary Guo performed with his school orchestra in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London at the end of March. While playing viola for most of the concerts, Zach also performed organ solos at three churches.

•    Cellist Katarina Kenney was one of four winners of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 2024 Bolz Young Artist Competition. She competed with the other winners in the Final Forte, and she won first prize, receiving a scholarship, and the Marian Bolz Prize for Distinguished Musical Achievement. The performance was broadcast live on PBS Wisconsin and Wisconsin Public Radio. As the first-place winner, Katarina also had the opportunity to perform on Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Spring Young People's Concert. PBS Wisconsin came to the Academy to film Katarina in chamber music and orchestra rehearsals as a part of a feature on the finalists. Katarina is a student of Cornelia Watkins.

•    Five Academy chamber groups advanced to the live quarterfinal round in the Junior Strings Division of the 51st  Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Known as one of the largest and most prestigious chamber music competitions in the world, Fischoff offers winners cash prizes as well as performance opportunities and prestige. The quarterfinal round will take place in South Bend, Indiana on May 10. The following groups were accepted into the next round of the competition: Callisto Trio*- Lily Sullivan (violin), Amelia Zitoun (cello), Noah Kim (piano) coached by Rodolfo Vieira & Marta Aznavoorian; Elysian Quartet- Nolan Chang (violin), Kai Isoke Ali-Landing (violin), Vivian Van de Sype-Cucu (viola), and Katarina Kenney (cello), coached by Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff; Quartet Meraviglia- Elle Cho (violin), Lauren Kim (violin), Emily Chen (violin), and Lucy Wu (cello), coached by Rodolfo Viera; Seraphim Quartet- Clark Snavely (violin), Sasha Varchenko (violin), Tristan Zhu (violin), and Serge Kalinovsky (cello), coached by Sang Mee Lee; Trioscuro- Mingshi Xia (violin), Simon Updegraff (cello), and Ethan Zheng (piano), coached by Elaine Felder and Stefan Kartman.  * Due to a date conflict with another competition, Callisto Trio forfeited their quarterfinal spot.

•    Academy chamber groups Quartet Meraviglia and Elysian Quartet advanced to the finals of the St. Paul String Quartet Competition in St. Paul Minnesota on April 13, 2024. Founded in 2012, the St. Paul String Quartet Competition provides an educational opportunity for young musicians in Minnesota and surrounding states to hone their chamber music skills, perform, and compete for monetary prizes, scholarships, and musical gifts. Quartet Meraviglia is made up of violinist Elle Cho, violinist Lauren Kim, violist Emily Chen, cellist Lucy Wu, and coach Rodolfo Vieira.  Elysian Quartet is made up of violinist Nolan Chang, violinist Kai Isoke Ali-Landing, violist Vivian Van de Sype-Cucu, cellist Katarina Kenney, and coach Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff. 

•    Seraphim Quartet, Clark Snavely (violin), Sasha Varchenko (violin), Tristan Zhu (violin), and Serge Kalinovsky (cello), won 1st Place and Grand Prize at the Twelfth Annual A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Chamber Music Competition, Sunday, March 17, 2024. This regional competition offers cash prizes and an opportunity for chamber ensembles in grade 12 and under to compete. Quartet Meraviglia, Elle Cho (violin), Lauren Kim (violin), Emily Chen (violin), and Lucy Wu (cello) received an Honorable Mention. Seraphim Quartet is coached by Sang Mee Lee and Quartet Meraviglia is coached by Rodolfo Vieira. 

•    Jan Vargas Nedvetsky was one of six cello fellows in the Music Academy of Lichtenstein. Jan received a full scholarship to study with Jens Peter Maintz, a Professor of Cello at the Berlin University of the Arts, one of the world’s leading cello pedagogues. Jan performed in masterclasses at the Academy and in a concert in Vaduz, capital of Liechtenstein.  
•    Violinist Neena Agrawal was chosen to be Principal Viola of the National Pathways Festival Orchestra, a program of Equity Arc. This program selects the top students from all US programs for underrepresented students in classical music and brings them together for a weekend to play with a professional orchestra. Neena will be playing with the Nashville Symphony April 5-8, 2024. Neena is a student of Sang Mee Lee.

May 2023


Amelia Zitoun, 17
United States

Amelia Zitoun, 17, is a scholarship Fellow at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy, a training center for advanced pre-college students. She has been a student there since 2019. She currently studies cello with Hans Jensen.

Most recently Amelia was the 1st place winner of the Bolz Final Forte Competition in Madison, WI. In October of 2022, Amelia played the Barber Cello Concerto with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra on their Family Concert and Youth Performance Series. In May of 2022 Amelia was the winner of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Stars of Tomorrow Competition. She was also a winner of the 2022 Civic Music Association of Milwaukee’s High School Competition. In 2021, Amelia won First Prize in the Schubert Club Competition, and in 2020 she was a winner of the DePaul Concerto Competition, performing the Kabalevsky Concerto with the Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra.

Amelia is also an active chamber musician. As a member of the Pelios String Quartet they recently won 2nd place in the 2023 Barnett Chamber Music Competition, and will be competing in the 2023 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, as well as the St. Paul String Quartet Competition. In 2022, as a member of the Hermes Piano Trio, she competed in the Quarterfinals of Fischoff. In 2020, as a member of the Aurora Piano Quartet, her group won First Prize in the Rembrandt Chamber Music Competition, as well as advancing to the Quarterfinals in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.

This summer, Amelia will attend the Perlman Music Program. In the summer of 2022, Amelia attended the Heifetz International Music Institute, as well as the Moulin d’Ande Cello Festival in France, where she studied with Jerome Pernoo (Paris Conservatory).







Today is your day. You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!”  ― Dr. SeussOh, The Places You'll Go!

SAMEER AGRAWAL - Curtis Institute of Music majoring in Violin Performance, studying with Midori
KANA AIHARA - Royal College of Music (London, UK), Bachelor of Music (Honours), Main specialism Violin, studying with Prof. Detlef Hahn

ZAK CHEN – University of Wisconsin - Madison, double majoring in Chemistry and Violin Performance, studying with David Perry
MA’AYAN KERTCHER - Oberlin College and Conservatory, majoring in Cello Performance and Environmental Studies, studying with Darrett Adkins
ANNA KNIGHT – Anna will continue to study piano with Marta Aznavoorian, as she makes college decisions.

PAVLO KYRYLIUK – Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, majoring in Violin Performance, studying with Almita Vamos
LUKE REAUME - University of Missouri, dual degree - BS in Business and BA in Music Performance/Double Bass, studying with Sue Stubbs
ELLEN ZHOU – Colburn Conservatory of Music, majoring in Violin Performance, studying with Martin Beaver

Violinist Neal Eisfeldt, student of Almita Vamos and Injoo Choi, has been awarded first place in the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra's Concerto Competition in Maryland.  He has also been invited to play with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra in June as a part of their Winner and Juneteenth celebrations.  Neal will be playing Henri Vieuxtemps Violin Concerto #5 in A minor with the Orchestra, and will be a recipient of the Scott Wood Scholarship. The MSO was founded in 1946-47. Since launching its youth concerto competition, the MSO has showcased several winning soloists, providing an opportunity to perform with them at their annual June concert.

Violinist Lily Sullivan, student of Grigory Kalinovsky, was awarded first-place in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Michael Ben and Illene Komisarow Maurer Young Musicians Competition!   The Young Artist Competition is a highlight of the IYO season as an opportunity to engage the talents of young musicians from around the state of Indiana. The competition features two divisions: the Senior Division, which includes ages fourteen through eighteen, and the Junior Division, which includes musicians through the age of thirteen. The Winners Concert, live with the ISO, will be at the Hilbert Circle Theater at noon on Wednesday, July 12, 2023.

The Goya Piano Trio, winners of the 28th Annual Rembrandt High School Young Artist Competition, will perform Sunday, May 7 in NCH, at 3pm on the Rembrandt Chamber Players Where the Sidewalk Ends. Experience the future of chamber music with the 2023 Rembrandt Young Artists, The Goya Piano Trio. Ticket and program information:

MIC GALA BENEFIT - Sameer Agrawal, Pelios String Quartet, Svitanok Piano Trio, Duo piano students Ethan Zheng, Anna Knight, Zachary Guo, and Noah Kim, and the Academy cellists will perform at the Annual Gala Benefit at the Peninsula Hotel. The cellists open the program with the famous tango from Carlos Gardel, Por Una Cabeza, and end the night with a finale under the baton of Marin Alsop with a reprise of The Aria from Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 with soprano Angela DeVenuto and faculty cellist Bianca d'Avila Do Prado.

April 2023

The 18th Annual Saint Paul String Quartet Competition
With great confidence, poise, and precision performances, we are incredibly proud of ...

PELIOS STRING QUARTET (Ellen Zhou, Clark Snavely, Tristan Zhu, and Amelia Zitoun)
1st Prize Gold Medal & Best Haydn

CALCIFER STRING QUARTET (Zak Chen, Kana Aihara, Leo Zupko, and Jan Vargas-Nedvetsky)
3rd Prize Bronze Medal and Haydn Honorable Mention

The Academy community is proud of the hard work these students put into a busy spring schedule with many extra rehearsals, coachings, and performances. We also salute their parents for helping to make this all happen, and we are grateful for their dedicated coaches—Rodolfo Vieira, Jasmine Lin, Paul Zafer, and of course, a few other special teachers along the way who deserve acknowledgement—Jim Setapen, Sang Mee Lee, and Linc Smelser.

Pianist Noah Kim, student of Marta Aznavoorian, will be performing solo piano concerts in collaboration with Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Sister Cities International on Tuesday, March 28 in Paris, France (at Rachmaninoff Conservatory)  and on Saturday, April 1 in Hamburg, Germany (at Hamburg City Hall).

BRAVO to the winners at the Eleventh Annual A.N and Pearl G. Barnett Chamber Music Competition, sponsored by the Merit School of Music.

The Barnett Competition awards a monetary prize to the top ensemble of the competition, as well as to the 1st and 2nd place winners within each division. The Barnett competition is open to musicians aged 18 and under with two divisions:

  • Strings and Piano
  • Winds, Brass, Percussion, and Voice

Goya Piano Trio, 1st Place Strings and Piano -  Lily, Serge, and Noah Kim  | Coached by Mark George and Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff

Last Sunday’s win meant a three-peat for Goya, also winning the Rembrandt Chamber Musicians 28th Annual Chamber Music Competition and the String and Piano Category of the Chicago National Chamber Competition earlier this year.

Pelios String Quartet, 2nd Place Strings and Piano – Ellen, Clark, Tristan, and Amelia | Coached by Rodolfo Vieira

The Calcifer and Pelios String Quartets have advanced to the finals of the 18th Annual Saint Paul String Quartet Competition, which will take place on Saturday April 22, 2023 (Junior Category). The Saint Paul String Quartet Competition's primary mission is to celebrate excellence in string quartet playing, foster an increased appreciation for the chamber music art form, and enhance the music culture in this country. Diversity and Inclusion are now at the forefront of the competition, and they have created required competition rounds for Women composers and Composers of Color.

The selection jury members were Andrew Jennings (Concord String Quartet), Mari Sato (Cavani String Quartet), John Largesse (Miró String Quartet), and Laura Sewell (Lark Quartet/Artaria String Quartet).

March 2023

Cellist Amelia Zitoun won 1st place in Strings 2 division and Lucy Wu won 2nd place in the Strings 1 division of the Schubert Club Student Scholarship Competition. Kana Aihara was also a finalist in the Strings 2 division.

Violinist Zak Chen was selected as the Bryant Scholarship Winner for Wisconsin Philharmonic Shining Stars Competition. The name “Shining Stars” refers to students in the community who have exceptional musical talent. Zak was chosen unanimously by the judges to be the recipient of a $1,500 Scholarship provided by Anthony and Andrea Bryant and the Wisconsin Philharmonic. The Wisconsin Philharmonic offers scholarships to middle and high school students who reside in Waukesha County. Auditions are held annually in the Spring. Scholarship winners are required to perform in the Shining Stars Recital also held in the Spring where students perform for an admiring audience and are awarded their scholarship funds.

Zak will perform on Tuesday, April 18, at 6:30 p.m. at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Waukesha in the Shining Stars Recital.

Bravo to Academy cellist Amelia Zitoun, winner of the 2023 Final Forte, the Final Round  of the Bolz Young Artist Competition. MIC is incredibly proud of Amelia and Academy cellist Lucy Wu (Honorable Mention), two of the four finalists who took the stage on March 8 to perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Amelia studies with MIC affiliated faculty member Hans Jensen and Lucy is student of Stefan Kartman.  The four finalists were chosen from eight competitors at the Bolz Young Artist Competition Semi-Finals for the opportunity to compete in The Final Forte. The Bolz Competition is a highly regarded statewide competition in which Wisconsin’s young musicians compete for scholarships and the opportunity to perform as soloists with the MSO. Each winner receives a $2000 scholarship and the Marian Bolz Prize for Distinguished Musical Achievement or the Steenbock Youth Music Award. 

Amelia:  “Both of my parents are musicians. My life is basically music. I listen to it all the time. I’m always thinking about it. It’s my focus, it’s my goal.”

And if the Final Forte is not enough, Amelia has been selected as a semi-finalist in the 48th Annual Stulberg Competition in May. Twelve semifinalists will compete in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20, 2023, before a panel of judges and an audience. Semifinalists will perform a selection from a required list of Bach and a movement(s) from a standard concerto. Bringing in students from all around the globe, the Stulberg International String Competition is a great way for gifted artists under the age of twenty to participate in an internationally recognized competition. 

Judges include violinist Benjamin Beilman, former Almita and Roland MIC student, class of 2006.

Congratulations to piano student Ethan Cheng, awarded First Place Winner for the American Protégé Concerto Competition, playing the Grieg Piano Concerto. Ethan will be performing at Carnegie Hall this December.   The American Protégé International Concerto Competition is open to all instruments, including strings, piano, voice and winds. Students in the competition get the opportunity to perform in  Isaac Stern Auditorium, Zankel Hall and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City.  This year competitive applicants from 67 countries submitted videos.

50TH Anniversary Fischoff National Chamber Music Association - Three groups advance to the quarterfinal round! 


Lily Sullivan, student of Grigory Kalinovsky, has won First Prize in the Grand Prize Virtuoso Brussels and London International Competition. The International Music Competition Salzburg "Grand Prize Virtuoso" is open to all nationalities and ages for: strings, piano, wind, vocal and chamber music disciplines.  A selected group of winners will receive an invitation to debut at the Solitär Mozarteum in Salzburg (Austria) the birthplace of the 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Lily has decided to decline the concert opportunities in Europe.

Lily has also passed through the preliminary round of the Arthur Grumiaux International Competition.  The "Arthur Grumiaux International Violin Competition" is a competition open to violinists of any nationality and organized by the Arthur Grumiaux Foundation. The 15th edition will take place from April 11 till April 16, 2023, in Brussels, Belgium at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels (KCB).

Academy piano student Noah Kim, winner of the 2022 Crain-Maling Foundation CSO Young Artists Competition, will be performing with the CSO under the baton of Vinay Parameswaran on May 3 and 4. It would be wonderful to get a group of students, parents, faculty, and staff to attend the Youth Concert with his teacher Marta Aznavoorian --to cheer him on!  There is a 10:15am and noon performance on each day. We are thinking about the Wednesday concert at  10:15! Ticket information can be found at:

February 2023

With a moving and powerful performance of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66, first movement, the Goya Piano Trio (Lily Sullivan, violin, Serge Kalinovsky, cello, and Noah Kim, piano) students from the Music institute of Chicago Academy, won first place yesterday at the Rembrandt Chamber Musicians 28th Annual Chamber Music Competition in North Park’s University’s Anderson Chapel. The group, coached by MIC President Mark George and Academy faculty member Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff, has been together since September. Lily and Serge travel to the Academy each Saturday from Bloomington, IN.

Rembrandt founded its highly acclaimed Annual High School Chamber Music Competition in 1995. Winning ensembles receive cash prizes, coaching sessions from Rembrandt musicians, performance opportunities, and participate in educational outreach projects for Chicago-area schools.

The West Suburban Symphony Society is pleased to announce violinist Tristan Zhu the winner of the 74th Annual West Suburban Symphony Solo Competition for string, woodwind, and brass. Tristan will perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major with the symphony on May 7th at Hinsdale Central High School. Each year since its founding, the symphony has provided an opportunity for high-school musicians to compete to perform a solo work with orchestra.

January 2023

The DePaul Concerto Festival for Young Performers was founded in 2003 to provide an opportunity for intermediate level pianists in the Community Music Division to perform with an orchestra. In 2004, the Festival was expanded to include violin, In 2006, cello and flute were added to the roster of instruments. A partnership was formed in 2007 with the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago under the direction of Mina Zikri. In 2008, the Festival was opened to students outside of the Community Music Division, and today the DePaul Concerto Festival attracts nearly 150 participants in piano, strings, and woodwinds from the Midwest who audition for a chance to perform with the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago.

MIC Community Music School and Academy students have had great success through the years in the DePaul competition. A list of 2023 Academy winners are listed below. Watch for all MIC winners on social media and on the MIC website.

Students in piano, violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and saxophone in 12th grade or younger competed in the DePaul Concerto Festival for Young Performers.  Winners perform a movement of a concerto with the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago.

Cello Winner  (Serge was one of two winners in the cello division)
Serge Kalinovsky - Bruch, M.: Kol Nidrei, Op. 47 (student of Susan Moses)

Honorable Mention
Jan Vargas Nedvetsky - Haydn, F. J.: Concerto in C Major, Hob. VIIb:1 - Mvt. 1 (student Hans Jensen)
Lucy Wu - Elgar, E.: Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 - Mvt. 4 (student of Stefan Kartman)

Violin Winners
Emily Chen
– Mozart, W. A.: Concerto in G Major, K. 216 – Mvt. 1 (student of Injoo Choi and Almita Vamos)
Tristan Zhu - Mendelssohn, F.: Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 – Mvt. 3 (student of Almita Vamos)

Honorable Mention with Distinction
Clark Snavely
- Mendelssohn, F.: Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 – Mvt. 3 (student of Almita Vamos)

Honorable Mention
Julia Perekhozhuk
- Wieniawski, H.: Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22 – Mvt. 1 (student of Sang Mee Lee)
Leo Zupko - Bruch, M.: Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26 - Mvt. 2 (student of Sang Mee Lee)

More good news… Serge is also one of the semifinalists for the New Music School International Concerto Competition in Chicago (semifinals and finals are with orchestra). The semifinals are on Saturday, Jan. 21st. Stay tuned for more on this special event.

 Arthur D. Montzka Young Artist Competition, Northern Illinois

Congratulations to violinist Neal Eisfeldt, awarded Runner-Up in the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra's Arthur D. Montzka Young Artists Concerto Competition. Arthur Dale Montzka was the conductor of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years. During that time, the group expanded from a handful of amateur music-makers, practicing in church basements and high-school band rooms, to a full orchestra of more than 60 players performing a series of concerts for the public each year.

Mr. Montzka especially enjoyed working with young people, and he encouraged his private- and public-school students to join the orchestra. Knowing that there were many exceptionally talented young players in the area, he established the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. Since its inception in 1985-86, with the first concerto-competition winner announced in the 1986-87 season, more than 150 musicians have auditioned to play with the orchestra and four dozen have been selected for that opportunity. Many of the concerto winners have gone on to prestigious schools of music and successful artistic careers.

Previous Academy Winners

  • 2022 – Esme Arias-Kim, playing Korngold: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
  • 2020 – Isabella Brown, playing Beethoven: Violin Concert in D Major, Op. 61
  • 2019 – John Heo, playing Walton: Concerto in B minor for Violin and Orchestra
  • 2017 – Maya Anjali Buchanan, playing Korngold: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
  • 2016 – Karisa Chiu, playing Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
  • 2015 – Nathan Mo, playing Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107
  • 2013 – Kelly Talim, playing Brahms: Concerto for Violin, Op. 77
  • 2012 – Claire Bourg, playing Khachaturian: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • 2011 – Laura Park, playing Prokofiev: Concerto for Violin in G Minor, Op.63.
  • 2010 – Ryan Murphy, playing Sibelius: Concerto for Violin in D Minor, Op. 47
  • 2008 – Mindy Park, playing Shostakovich: Concerto No. 1 for Cello in E-flat Major, Op. 107
  • 2008 – Vincent Meklis, playing Ravel: Tzigane for Violin
  • 2007 – Benjamin Lash, playing Hindemith: Concerto for Cello, 1940, 1st movement

Bolz Young Artist Competition, Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison, WI

Update! Congratulations to cellists Amelia Zitoun, student of Hans Jensen, and Lucy Wu, student of Stefan Kartman, both ADVANCING TO THE FINAL FORTE!!

Amelia played the Barber Concerto and Lucy performed the Elgar Concerto.

Amelia and Lucy have advanced to the semifinal round of the competition where eight semifinalists were chosen from over 30 contestants.  They return to Madison tonight to play for a new panel of judges, when four finalists will be chosen for the FINAL FORTE! 

Hats off to the 2022 Final Four: Ellen Zhou (1st), Clark Snavely (2nd)  and Zak Chen (runner up).

Three rounds of the competition:

  • Preliminary Round: Saturday, January 7 and/or Sunday, January 8, 2023
  • Semi-Final Round: Friday, January 13, 2023 (evening)
  • Final Round (The Final Forte): Wednesday, March 8, 2023, at Overture Center for the Arts

About The Final Forte - The Bolz Young Artist Competition is a highly regarded statewide competition in which Wisconsin’s young musicians compete for scholarships and the opportunity to perform as soloists with the MSO. The competition is open to Wisconsin residents in grades 9-12.  The four semi-finalists compete in The Final Forte, which will be broadcast on PBS Wisconsin and Wisconsin Public Radio. Each winner receives a $2000 scholarship and the Marian Bolz Prize for Distinguished Musical Achievement or the Steenbock Youth Music Award. Up to two Honorable Mention scholarships of $1000 may also be awarded.

Violinist Tristan Zhu was named the winner of the 69th Annual DuPage Symphony Orchestra | Young Artists Audition.The DSO strives to encourage serious study and musical excellence among young musicians through its annual Young Artists Auditions. The audition experience is designed to be both educational and rewarding for the participants. Tristan will receive a cash award of $500 and the opportunity to appear as a soloist performing for 10-15 minutes with the DuPage Symphony Orchestra during the 2:00 PM & 4:00 PM “Our Talented Youth” concerts on Sunday, March 19, 2023.

The Crain-Maling Foundation CSO Young Artists Competition

The Crain-Maling Foundation CSO Young Artists Competition is a prestigious concerto competition for Illinois’ top young soloists. Applicants audition live at Symphony Center for a distinguished panel of judges. Following a preliminary round, four finalists are selected to perform in the final round in Orchestra Hall, accompanied by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. The winner is featured on the following season as soloist with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as part of CSO School and Family Concerts.

This year’s competition was open to strings. The final event is hosted by WFMT’s Robbie Ellis next Saturday, January 21, 2pm.  Reserve tickets on the CSO website -general admission.

2023 Young Artists Competition

    • Esme Arias-Kim, violin (Academy alum) - WINNER
    • Jan Vargas-Nedvetsky, cello, Alternate Winner
    • Emily Chen, violin
    • Lauren Kim, violin
  • 2022 - 1st Noah Kim, piano
  • 2020  - 1st Isabella Brown, violin
    • 1st Alternate Winner  - Esme Arias-Kim, violin
    • Finalist - Mia Wimbiscus, cello
  • 2018 -  1st Yerin Yang, piano
  • 2017 - 1st Maya Anjali Buchanan, violin
    • 1st Alternate Winner Joshua Brown, violin
    • Finalist - Thompson Wang, violin
    • HM - Isabella Brown, violin
  • 2015 - Finalist, David Hou, piano
  • 2014 - 1st Gallia Kastner, violin
  • 2012 - 1st Kyle Jannak-Huang, piano
  • 2011 - 1st Johannes Gray, cello
  • 2009 – 1st Adam Kim, piano
  • 2008 – 1st Gabriel Cabezas, cello

26th Annual Sphinx Competition, Detroit, MI

2023 Junior Division Semi-Finalist  -  Jan Nedvetsky and Senior Division 2nd place winner--Alexandra Switala

The Sphinx Competition, held every year in Detroit (MI), is a national competition offering young Black and Latinx classical string players a chance to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges and to perform with and receive mentorship from established professional musicians. Cheer on Jan, January 25-28, 2023.

Exceptional young musicians from all corners of the country, competed in Midwest Young Artists Conservatory's Annual Walgreens National Concerto Competition at the end of December. Students from elementary through twelfth grades competed for more than $20,000 in scholarships and cash prizes in the MYAC Division and the Open Division, which were both further divided into the Junior Level (up to 8th grade) & Senior Level (grades 9-12). Watch for all MIC winners information posted to social media and the MIC website.

Congratulations to Clark and Neal, both string winners in their category, and to the following Academy students: 

    • Strings Winner: Clark Snavely, 17, violin student of Almita Vamos
    • Simon Updegraff, 15, cello student of Avi Friedlander, Early Music Honorable Mention
    • Jan Vargas Nedvetsky, 16, cello student of Hans Jensen, Early Music Honorable Mention
    • Ethan Zheng, 16, piano student of Marta Aznavoorian, Piano Honorable Mention
    • Strings Winner: Neal Eisfeldt, 13, violin student of Almita Vamos and Injoo Choi

IMEA ALL-STATE FESTIVAL - Congratulations to piano students Noah Kim and Ethan Zheng, and cellist Simon Updegraff all attending the (Illinois Music Educators Assn. (IMEA) All-State Festival in Peoria at the end of the month. Simon, and our talented pianists (Noah, violin) and (Ethan, clarinet) in the honors orchestra.

Clark Snavely was the first runner up in the Concord Chamber Orchestra Competition on Saturday, December 10th at Nicolet High School in Glendale, WI. The competition offered scholarship prize money and a performance opportunity.

December 2022

Congratulations to cellist Jan Vargas-Nedvetsky, a finalist in the 2023 CSO Young Artists Competition, and to violinists Lauren Kim and Emily Chen, both Honorable Mention winners. Violinist Aiden Yu in the Community Music School has also been named a finalist.

The Crain-Maling Foundation CSO Young Artists Competition is a prestigious concerto competition for Illinois’ top young soloists. Applicants audition live at Symphony Center for a distinguished panel of judges. Following a preliminary round, four finalists are selected to perform in the final round in Orchestra Hall, accompanied by the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. The winner is featured on the following season as soloist with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as part of CSO School and Family Concerts.

    • Esme Arias-Kim, violin  (former MIC Academy student)
    • Henry Auxenfans, violin
    • Jan Vargas-Nedvetsky, cello (MIC Academy)
    • Aiden Yu, violin (MIC Community Music School)
    • Emily Chen, violin (MIC Academy)
    • Bianca Ciubancan, violin
    • Kaylee Kim, violin
    • Lauren Kim, violin (MIC Academy)
    • Maurice Neuman, cello
    • Bea Sjostrom, violin
    • Joshua Wolford, violin

Congratulations to pianist Matthew Hahn, student of Christiana Tio and Winston Choi, who’s program was released on From the Top on December 12. Matthew performs Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op.38 by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849).

From the Top is America’s largest national platform celebrating young classically trained musicians. Through NPR broadcasts and digital content, and the Learning and Media Lab Fellowship, From the Top empowers young musicians to use their music and stories to engage and inspire audiences of all ages.

How to Listen:  Episode (SHOW 423) will air nationally during the week of Dec. 12
Listen on our website beginning 12/12/22:

Daily Joy
In addition, the Daily Joy series reaches thousands of fans who love to see videos of FTT performers, and Matthew’s recording will be featured on the series on 12/13/22.

Cellist Jan Vargas-Nedvetsky, student of Hans Jensen, has been selected as a Junior Division Semi-finalist in the Sphinx Competition 2023, which will take place in Detroit, Mich. January 26-28, 2023. The Sphinx Competition is a national competition in the U.S. offering young Black and Latinx classical string players a chance to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges and to perform with and receive mentorship from established professional musicians. Finalists in both divisions have the opportunity to perform with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and compete for $100,000 in prizes, including the top Robert F. Smith Prize.  Each semi-finalist is introduced in a video:

November 2022

Senior violinist and 2022 Final Forte Winner, Ellen Zhou, was the guest musician on The Midday last week, a daily feature on Wisconsin Public Radio. Tune in for some beautiful Sibelius, Mozart, and Bach, and Ellen’s insightful interview. Congratulations, Ellen!

Congratulations across the globe to Lily Sullivan (and teacher Grigory Kalinovsky), who placed third in the International LOUIS SPOHR Competition for Young Violinists. This year, the competition received 113 applications across three age categories — of those, 60 candidates from 20 countries worldwide performed in Weimar for the event. Students in the final round performed the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, G minor op. 26, with the Orchestra of the University of Music FRANZ LISZT Weimar, with conductor Nicolás Pasquet. The competition is named for Louis Spohr (1784-1859), who was a masterful violinist, conductor, pedagogue, music festival organizer, and composer of almost 300 works including violin concertos, symphonies, string quartets, and operas. 

  • 1st Prize: Anton Carus - USA
  • 2nd Prize: Elza Siliņa - Latvia
  • 3rd Prize: Lily Sullivan – USA

Congratulations too, to Emily Chen, student of Almita Vamos and Injoo Choi, who was also accepted and participated in the international competition in Germany.

Sejong Competition - 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. Through this competition we hope to increase the awareness and understanding of Korea’s cultural heritage amongst the younger generations growing up in the United States to promote harmony among people of various ethnic backgrounds and bridge Asian and Western cultures. Visit the MIC website to see the full list of MIC winners.

  • Violin Junior Division Winner & Best Interpretation of a Korean Piece – Neal Eisfeldt, student of Almita Vamos and Injoo Choi
  • Violin Senior Division – 3rd place – Lauren Kim, student of Almita Vamos and Injoo Choi
  • Piano Senior Division Best Interpretation of a Korean Piece – Ethan Zheng, student of Marta Aznavoorian

To watch the winning performances online:

Kudos to Serge Kalinovsky, cellist in the Heifetz Ensemble in Residence. As the Heifetz Institute prepares for the next Heifetz Hear & Now Concert on Nov. 6, at Mary Baldwin University’s Francis Auditorium in Staunton, Virginia, they are showcasing the exceptional young musicians of the Heifetz Ensemble in Residence, who will perform alongside legendry violinist Ani Kavafian. Serge will play Schumann Romances, some of the Dohnányi String Trio with other students, and the complete Dvorak Piano Quintet with Ani Kavafian. Serge is a member of the Heifetz Ensemble in Residence with violinist Carlos Martinez Arroyo and violist Joseph Skerik. Serge studies with Susan Moses.

Here is Academy cellist Serge Kalinovsky, performing "Prayer," the first movement of composer Ernest Bloch's triptych "From Jewish Life," at the 2022 Heifetz Festival of Concerts.

September 2022

Cellist Jan Vargas-Nedvetsky, student of Hans Jorgen Jensen, will perform the Haydn Cello Concerto in D Major with Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Mina Zikri, at the Holtschneider Performance Center of DePaul University on Sept. 18, 2022.

Please see attached information.

Jan has been accepted into the masterclasses program at the Kronberg Academy in Kronberg, Germany, September 25th until October 3rd.  Kronberg Academy hosts cello masterclasses every two or three years, and it is an opportunity to meet the best of the world cello pedagogues as well as young cellists of ages up to 30 years of age. This is a particularly momentous year, as the masterclass schedule was interrupted by Covid, and because this event will coincide with the opening of Pablo Casals Concert Hall at Kronberg, where leading cellists will perform a series of concerts and masterclasses this year. Jan will be playing for Jans Peter Mainz, a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts and a renowned soloist.

Hats off to violinist Neal Eisfeldt, student of Almita Vamos, who had a busy end of summer! Neal composed his first solo violin piece in collaboration with “Chicago, From Scratch”, a composition project with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He called it “Ukrainian Dream and Cradle”.  Over the 8-week course of the program students learned about extended composition techniques, dove into an overview of non-traditional notational styles, and ultimately wrote a solo or duo piece of their own. Neal completed the studio recording of his piece in August, and will share the link once available.

Neal auditioned for NPR’s From the Top (FTT) program and has been selected as a Fellow. As a 2022-23 Fellow, Neal will record a performance and an interview on Sept 14 in Chicago’s WFMT studio, with host Peter Duggan - to be featured on the NPR radio show (date TBD). A critical element of being a FTT fellow is participating in the FTT Learning and Media Lab — a 7-part series of programs that includes workshops, community engagement, media content creation sessions, and learning events such as The Artist’s Life.

Summer 2022

Violinists Esme Arias-Kim and Sameer Agrawal competed at the Cooper International Competition earlier this month. The Thomas & Evon Cooper International Competition is a piano or violin competition held annually at the Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. Both students performed their programs for grateful audiences at The Merion and Westminster Place, local senior communities, before they headed to OH. Competing with outstanding musicians from across the globe, Sameer, advanced to the final round of the competition, and claimed Second Prize. Bravo, Sameer! Sameer studies with Sang Mee Lee and is also a member of CMPI.

Piano  student Zachary Guo wrote a piece performed on July 16 by Ensemble Dal Niente as a part of a DePaul summer program. Congratulations, Zach!

In addition, Zach created The Chicago Youth Contemporary Ensemble, a student-led group of musicians dedicated to performing lesser-known and played music, with a focus on works written in the 20th and 21st century. Rehearsals began this week at Deerfield High School. Please contact Zach if you want more information.