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News, Events, Awards & Achievements

Academy Fall News Roundup 2023

YoungArts Winners, Award-Winning Ensembles, and Outstanding Alumni

the Academy at WFMT Senn High School

From YoungArts winners to prize-winning ensembles and accomplished alumni, the Academy has kicked off its 18th season with remarkable achievements. Let's take a look at what the Academy has achieved this year!

HarrisFest: Music + Dance in the Park

The Academy’s 18th season began with HarrisFest: Music + Dance in the Park, an all-day event in Millennium Park hosted by the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. The celebratory event kicked-off the Harris’ 20th anniversary season and featured Tristan Zhu (violin) and Jan Vargas-Nedvetsky (cello).

Goya Trio

2023 Rembrandt High School Chamber Music Competition Winner

The Goya Piano Trio, violinist Lily Sullivan, cellist Serge Kalinovsky, and pianist Noah Kim, performed at the Rembrandt Players Annual Gala -- Rembrandt Rendezvous at Salvatore's Chicago, on Sunday, November 5th. Rembrandt honored one of their longstanding collaborators, Chicago composer Stacy Garrop, who has greatly impacted American classical music. The Goya Trio is the 2023 Rembrandt High School Chamber Music Competition Winner, and performed The Solitude of Stars by Garrop. You can watch the multi award-winning trio here

Zachary Guo

MTNA Senior Piano Division Winner

Zach Guo, one of 20 students competing, was selected as the winner of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Senior Piano Division, for the state of Illinois. Zach will move on to the regional division next. The MTNA National Competitions are the most successful and prestigious student competitions in the country. Each year, thousands of students compete for top prizes and national recognition. The winners/representatives of each state's competitions advance to a video-only division competition. Division winners compete in the national finals at the annual MTNA National Conference. Go Zach!

ILMEA District Festivals

Congratulations to the students who participated, by school invitation, in the Illinois Music Educator Association (ILMEA) District Festivals. District 7 was represented by Annalise Song and Ethan Zheng from Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire. Lauren Kim represented Hoffman Estates High School and Julia Perekhozhuk represented Benet Academy in District 9. Ethan was one two pianists selected from his district.

Seraphim String Quartet

WFMT’s Bach to School

The Seraphim String Quartet (Clark Snavely and Tristan Zhu, violins, Sasha Varchenko, viola, and Serge Kalinovsky, cello) was selected as the Academy high school ambassador for WFMT’s Bach to School at Senn High School in Chicago. The Academy students performed solo and ensemble repertoire for CPS students, and participated in a Q&A. This is a new WFMT initiative of bringing music into classrooms with resident pre-college ensembles. 

Jan Vargas Nedvetsky

National Sphinx Competition

Cellist Jan Vargas Nedvetsky has been selected as a Junior Division Semi-finalist in the National Sphinx Competition held in Detroit, MI in January 2024. The competition offers 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. Meet Jan here.

National Pathways Festival Orchestra

Violist Neena Agrawal was chosen to be Principal Viola of the National Pathways Festival Orchestra, a program of Equity Arc. The National Pathways Festival Orchestra is an ensemble composed of young artists who study at Pathways programs across the country. 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. Equity Arc will match BIPOC instrumentalists with mentors and provide a variety of advancement opportunities, to help break down barriers and ensure success in the field. Neena will be playing with the Nashville Symphony April 5-8, 2024. 

YoungArts Award Winners

Bravo to six Academy Fellows! Every year thousands of performing, visual and literary artists ages 15-18 apply to YoungArts through the National Arts Competition. Congratulations to Jan Vargas Nedvetsky, Winner with Distinction, who will be attending National YoungArts Week in Miami, January 7-13, 2024, and to all our winners who competed against thousands of high school students.

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 will have their work further evaluated for cash awards of up to $10,000. Award winners with distinction who attend National YoungArts Week and meet the eligibility requirements are also considered for nomination to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

List of Winners:

Jan Vargas-Nedvetsky
Classical Music/Violoncello
Winner with Distinction
Wilmette, IL

Bianca Ciubancan
Classical Music/Violin
Northside College Prep High School
Chicago, IL

Zachary Guo
Classical Music/Composition
Deerfield High School
Deerfield, IL

Matthew Hahn
Classical Music/Piano
Lake Forest High School
Lake Forest, IL

Noah Kim
Classical Music/Piano
Vernon Hills High School
Vernon Hills, IL

Xavier Miyazaki
Classical Music/Violoncello
St. Ignatius College Prep
Crandall, IL

Joshua Brown

Alumni News

Not only are our current Academy students making incredible strides, but so are our alumni! Take a look at what they’ve been up to:

Tabitha Rhee joined the viola section of the New York Philharmonic in September 2023. She has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Princeton Symphony Orchestra, APEX Ensemble, and Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players. She is the winner of the Juilliard Concerto Competition and has appeared as soloist and served as principal viola with the Juilliard Orchestra. 

Adé Williams is the newest member of The Stradivari Society. Adé is a two-time Sphinx Organization Competition laureate and has enjoyed a thrilling solo career, from her debut with the Chicago Sinfonietta at age six to her concerts with over 50 orchestras by the age of 18 

Joshua Brown won the The China International Music Competition--a gold medal, top cash prize and three years of concert tours. For the five years prior to NEC, Joshua studied with Almita and Roland Vamos as a Scholarship Fellow in the Academy (recipient of both the Rachel Barton Pine Scholarship and the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Fellowship). Joshua, and siblings Nicholas and Isabella were all members of the program.

Learn more about the Academy: Pre-Conservatory Training program here.