Recent Alumni News


3.1.20 Alumni News - Congratulations to Academy violinist Maya Anjali Buchanan, 19, who was among 11 young musicians selected as winners in the 2020 Yamaha Young Performing Artists competition. The other winners are listed here. The annual program, conducted by the Band and Orchestral division of Yamaha Corporation of America, recognizes young artists ages 18 to 22 years in jazz, classical and contemporary genres. Buchanan and other YYPA winners each receive an all-expense-paid trip to the YYPA Celebration Weekend, which will take place in June as part of the Yamaha's  Music for all Summer Symposium at Ball State University in Indiana, with workshops, clinics, performing opportunities and career advice.


Maya is also one of three former Academy students selected for the 2020 Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition. Along with alumni Karisa Chiu and Zach Brandon, Maya was selected from a pool of 321 international candidates who will compete in Richmond, VA, in the eleven-day May festival.


1.26.20 Congrauations to alumnus Julian Rhee, 19, 1st Prize winner at the 2nd Triennial Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition. 

Julian Rhee received a cash prize of $30,000  (provided by Elmar and Sandra Robbins) as well as an Ultralight Violin (provided by Joseph Curtin); a Silver-Mounted Bow, Inspired by Elmar Oliveira’s Dominique Peccatte (provided by Rodney Mohr); a Musafia Violin Case (provided by Christopher Reuning, Reuning & Son Violins); more than 30 guaranteed national and international performances; and a limited edition of the book Wanderer/Wonderer provided by Bruce Babbitt. Additionally, the first prize winner will receive public relations and artist management support for three years. Julian was also the winner of the Community Engagement Award.


Academy Alumni Maya Buchanan, Karisa Chiu, and Zach Brandon will participate in what is considered the world's leading international competition for young violinists!

Three Academy alumni will participate in the next edition of the Menuhin Competition, Richmond, Virginia, May 14 – 24, 2020.  Zach Brandon, 21, Maya Anjali Buchanan, 19, and Karisa Chiu, 20, will be among 44 students competing from 18 countries. A record breaking 321 applications were received from the top conservatories and music schools around the world.

Zach, Maya and Karisa studied with faculty member Almita Vamos.

Held in the USA for the second time in the Competition's history! 2020 will be the second time that the Menuhin Competition has taken place in the USA since its inception in 1983. Most recently the Competition was held in Geneva, Switzerland (2018) and London, UK (2016) in celebration of Menuhin’s centenary. Prior to this the Competition took place in Austin, TX, USA (2014), Beijing, China (2012) and Oslo, Norway (2010).


 Alumna cellist Sonia Mantell, Section Cellist at Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago and former cellist - co principal/principal at Civic Orchestra of Chicago, has been awarded a seat in the Minnesota Orchestra. Sonia will begin her tenure there in September, 2020.


10.19 American violist Matthew Lipman has been praised by the New York Times for his “rich tone and elegant phrasing,” and by the Chicago Tribune for a “splendid technique and musical sensitivity.” Lipman has come to be relied on as one of the leading players of his generation, frequently appearing as both a soloist and chamber music performer.The Academy staff and faculty warmly celebrates the flourishing career of Academy alumnus Matthew Lipman -  “Dorn Music is thrilled to announce the signing of American violist Matthew Lipman for worldwide General Management.”


For more information and video clips:


10.19 Alumnus Giancarlo Latta, former violin student of Almita Vamos, recently joined the Argus Quartet in New York. The group  focuses on traditional and contemporary repertoire. The Quartet will be in the Chicago area April 3rd-9th, first for the Norton Building Concert Series in Lockport on April 5th, and then for the Dame Myra Hess series on April 8th. Giancarlo completed his undergrad and master’s degrees at Rice University with Paul Kantor.


7.7.19  Former Academy violinist Julian Rhee, 18, debuted with the San Diego Symphony at Embarcadero Marina Park South, on Sunday, July 7. The San Diego Symphony continued its Bayside Summer Nights season with Dvořák’s New World Symphony under the baton of Francesco Lecce-Chong.  This past month Julian performed in New York with the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players and soloed with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. He is the recent recipient of the Aspen Festival’s 2019 Dorothy DeLay Fellowship, First Prize winner of the 2018 Aspen Concerto Competition and first prize at the 2018 Johansen International String Competition, in Washington D.C. and a 2018 US Presidential Scholar.


04.19 Juilliard alumnus Peter Oundjian returned to conduct the Juilliard Orchestra in Alice Tully Hall. The program featured Bloch’s Suite for Viola and Orchestra with Juilliard violist Tabitha Rhee and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (“Romantic”).  Tabitha, a former Academy student, will also participate in the Music @Menlo International Program this summer.  Music@Menlo’s seventeenth festival, Incredible Decades, uncovers chamber music’s astonishing evolution in seven specific chapters, each a program dedicated to an especially rich and consequential decade in musical history.


7.1.19 Former Academy cellist Alexander Hersh has been announced as a Young Artist of the National Federation of Music Clubs. The 25-year-old cellist, who studied at the New England Conservatory under the tutelage of Paul Katz and Kim Kashkashian, will receive $20,000 and 2 years of booking engagements. Other Young Artists include the soprano Lily Arbisser, pianist Susan Yang and tenor Paul Wolf.

Founded in 1898, the NFMC has become the largest nonprofit organization in America to promote and support American music, performers and music education. It provides musical opportunities for all ages: professional and amateur musicians, benefactors, volunteers, music lovers, music teachers, music students, and parents. 


6. 5. 19 Former Academy cellist, Johannes Gray, a student of Gilda Barston and Hans Jørgen Jensen at MIC, has advanced to the first round of The XVI International Tchaikovsky Competition, one of the major events in the international music community. Held once every four years, a record 954 applications from 58 countries competed in the virtual round. Following  the results of the virtual selection, Johannes is one of 24 cellists who will take part in the first round of the competition, June 17-19 in Moscow and St Petersburg. Six winners will be chosen in four of the disciplines, with a further two in the winds and brass categories: first prize category winners will be awarded $30,000 each, and of these one Grand Prix recipient will be awarded an additional $100,000. Held every four years, the competition is open to pianists, violinists, cellists, woodwind and brass players between 16 and 32 years of age, and singers between 19 and 32 years of age. Founded in 1958, it was the first international music competition to be held in the Soviet Union. In Russia the Competition is considered a landmark of national musical culture.  For full details visit the Tchaikovsky Competition website.


Former Academy cellist James Baik has been awarded 1st prize at the 2019 34th Irving M. Klein International String Competition – in San Francisco. A student of Hans Jørgen Jensen, James is a former 1st prize winner at the DePaul Concerto Competition and the Walgreens National Competition. He will receive US $13,000 – plus a number of solo orchestral debuts.


6.2.19 Congrtulations to alumni Josh Brown and Karisa Chiu--Semi-Finalists in the 2019 Leopold Mozart International Violin Competition – in Augsburg, Germany.

The 2019 Semi-Finalists are:

Joshua Brown (United States)

Karisa Chiu (United States)

Alexander Won-Ho Kim (South Korea)

Issei Kurihara (Japan)

Kunwha Lee (South Korea)

Kaoru Oe (Japan)

Yun Tang (China)

Chinatsu Tatsumi (Japan)

Jaewon Wee (South Korea)

Simon Wiener (Switzerland)

Milena Wilke (Germany)

Julen Zelaia (Spain)

Open to international violinists aged 15-30, the 1st prize winner will receive €20,000, a CD recording – plus a number of important orchestral and festival performance opportunities.


4. 19 Josh Brown performed  April 18 on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert, Preston Bradley Hall, Cultural Center, Chicago. 


Kudos to Matthew Lipman, viola, Gabe Cabeza, cello and Leah Ferguson, viola....alumni with exciting news to share!

Matt, a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center,  just released his debut album titled Ascent this past spring.

Over the past year, Gabe and the ensemble yMusic joined "Homeward Bound-The Farwell Tour" as featured performers alongside Paul Simon and his band on late night television and in concerts across the globe.

Leah, a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra,  recently became a  member of the New York Philharmonic.


2.2.19 Sphinx awarded more than $100,000 in prizes to the nation's top young musicians at the 22nd annual Sphinx Competition for young Black and Latinx string players. 

 Former Academy Violinist Adé Williams placed 2nd and received $20,000. She is a student at Cleveland Institute of Music and studies with Ida Kavafian.


10/18 Academy alumnus Ethan Hoppe, born in Chicago, is a first-year Violin Fellow at the New World Symphony. He recently completed an master of musical arts degree at Yale School of Music, where he also earned his master of music degree in 2016, studying with Ani Kavafian. As a Fulbright Fellow in Israel in 2016-17, he studied with Hagai Shaham and performed recitals and outreach concerts throughout the country. Mr. Hoppe received his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University under the tutelage of Almita Vamos.


Mr. Hoppe has given many recitals at venues around the Chicago area, east coast and in Israel. As a chamber musician he has performed with Ani Kavafian, Dave Bowlin, Hillel Zori, Alan Gampel and Robert Blocker. He has received awards from both of his alma maters, including the Broadus Erle Prize from Yale School of Music, and at competitions such as the Fischoff National Competition, Sejong Competition, Skokie Valley Symphony Competition and others. He has been broadcast on the national radio show From the Top, as well as on Chicago-area radio stations. Mr. Hoppe participates in summer festivals such as Kneisel Hall, Music Academy of the West, Aspen Music Festival, The Chautauqua Institute, Pinchas Zukerman’s Young Artists’ Program and the Keshet Eilon International Mastercourse in Israel.


10.14.18  Don't miss the chance to hear the award-winning Kairos String Quartet on NPR's From the Top! The Academy alumni quartet, Joshua Brown, Julian Rhee, Thompson Wang (New England Conservatory) and Lydia Rhea (Cleveland Institute of Music) will record in Boston on October 14. The program will air later in November. Stay tuned!


6.2.18 The Houston Symphony Orchestra has announced marimbist Jisu Jung as the 1st prize winner of the 2018 43rd Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition – in Houston, USA.

2nd prize was awarded to former Academy violinist Hyun Jae Lim.

3rd and 4th prizes were awarded to former Academy cellist Alexander Hersh and violinist Michael Ferri.

The annual competition, named in honour of Houston Symphony co-founder and former President Ms Ima Hogg, was established to identify outstanding young instrumentalists and support their pursuit of careers in music. 


5.6.18 Violinist Ethan Hoppe, former student of Almita Vamos, has completed his graduate studies at Yale Univeristy with Ida Kavafian, and will be begin with the New World Symphony. The New World Symphony, America's Orchestral Academy (NWS), prepares graduates of music programs for leadership roles in professional orchestras and ensembles. In the 30 years since its co-founding by Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas and Lin and Ted Arison, NWS has helped launch the careers of more than 1000 alumni worldwide. 


5.1.18  20-year-old Violinist Hyun Jae Lim from South Korea was awarded 3rd prize in the senior division of the 2018 Menuhin Competition - in Geneva, Switzerland. Hyun Jae was a member of the Academy in 2011/12 and studied with Shmuel Ashkenasi.


4.4.18 Congratulations Calidore String Quartet on the well-deserved Avery Fisher Career Grant. Over the past seven years your ensemble has been on an incredible journey! Thank you, Ryan Meehan, former MIC Academy student, for keeping us informed of Calidore's success. 


1.28.18 Maya Buchanan, 17, Rapid City, SD, who won First Prize in the Blount Slawson Young Artists Competition In addition to cash and scholarship awards with designation towards the study of music, Maya will perform with the Montgomery Symphony at the Davis Theater on April 30, 2018. Korngold Violin Concerto in D Major. Op. 35. Since 1981, the competition has grown from a local event with a dozen children vying for a few hundred dollars in prizes to a nationally recognized event where 70-80 young musicians compete for nearly $17,000 in prizes.

2018 - 1st Maya Buchanan, violin (alumna)

2016 - 1st Karisa Chiu, violin; Finalist - Nathan Mo, cellist

2013 - 1st Gallia Kastner, violin; 2nd Ade Williams, violin

2012 – 3rd Claire Bourg, violin

2011 – 1st Kelly Talim, violin; 3rd Alexandra Switala, violin
2010 – 1st Matthew Lipman, viola; Finalist - Vincent Meklis


1.18 Gallia Kastner, 20, Colburn Conservatory of Music, has been named the American Youth Symphony First Violins Concertmaster (The David Frisina Concertmaster Chair). The American Youth Symphony provides landmark Fellowships to musicians in high school through doctoral programs to prepare them for leadership in 21st Century orchestras and ensembles. Musicians receive in-depth exposure to the varied styles of symphonic music being performed today by professional orchestras, from classical masterworks to world premieres and innovative film scores. Competitively selected, Fellows receive a tuition-free scholarship, per-concert stipends, perform at renowned venues such as Royce Hall and Walt Disney Concert Hall, and work alongside world-class guest artists such as Daníel Bjarnason, Anna Clyne, Sarah Chang, Johannes Moser, John Williams, David Newman, Alan Silvestri, Charles Fox, and Lera Auerbach. Designed to challenge, nurture, and inspire, the American Youth Symphony is a musical laboratory where Fellows not only master their parts and develop a deep understanding of musical scores, but also explore their role as musician citizens within their community. 


9.1.17 Violinist Maya Anjali Buchanan, 17, was honored to perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto in Chengdu China with the Sichuan Symphony Orchestra earlier this month. The average age of musicians in SSO is 30, making it the youngest symphony orchestra in mid-western China. The city is also home to the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a conservation center where visitors can view endangered giant pandas in a natural habitat. 


9.1.17 Born in 1992, Sophia Cho began her violin studies at the age of three in Chicago, Illinois. Since then, Sophia has enjoyed performing in venues such as Carnegie's Weill Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, and Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. In addition, she has participated in distinguished summer festivals such as the Aspen Music Festival and School and Music Academy of the West. Sophia received her Bachelor's degree from Rice University and a Master's degree from The Juilliard School. Her former mentors include David Chan, Catherine Cho, Paul Kantor, Almita Vamos, and Roland Vamos. Sophia will begin her orchestral career this fall as a member of the Indianapolis Symphony. Sophia was a member of the Academy from 2006 - 2010.


2.16.17 The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts announced its second class of Emerging Artists, recognizing diverse talents, from a visionary filmmaker to world-class musicians. Each recipient was nominated by one of Lincoln Center's eleven resident organizations, acknowledging his or her extraordinary talent and budding career. The 2017 winners include the Calidore String Quartet. Violinists Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan (MIC graduate), violist Jeremy Berry, and cellist Estelle Choi formed the Calidore String Quartet in 2010 at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music. The quartet recently provided a master class at the Academy, where Ryan was a member from 2006-2008, studying with Roland and Almita Vamos.


The Emerging Artist Awards provide recognition and funding as artists chart their careers. Former honorees include cellist Alisa Weilerstein and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.


Calidore String Quartet, Chamber Music Society - Heralded for its informed, polished, and passionate performances, the Calidore String Quartet performs in prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, and festivals, including Verbier, Ravinia, and Mostly Mozart. Winner of the 2016 inaugural M-Prize, the largest chamber music prize in the world, the quartet is also a BBC New Generation Artist, member of Chamber Music Society Two, and recipient of the 2016 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship. The quartet received top prizes in the Fischoff, Coleman, Chesapeake, Hamburg, and ARD Munich competitions and serves as visiting guest artists at the University of Michigan and the University of Delaware Schools of Music. 



1.9.17  Erika Gray, 21, Curtis Institute of Music student and former Academy violist, will be performing as solo / principal viola ("Sancho Panza") for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances of Don Quixote, February 10th and 11th at Symphony Center. Erika's Curtis colleague, Oliver Herbert, will be playing solo / principal cello ("Don Quixote de la Mancha"). You can see a program note here.

The 2016/17 Family Matinee series features performances 11am and 12:45pm on Saturday, February 11th.


Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Edwin Outwater conductor

Erika Gray viola

Oliver Herbert cello

Sandra Delgado actor

Wes Daniel visual artist

David Kersnar director - See more at: 


11.19.16 Cellist Krystian Chiu, former student of Hans Jensen, has been accepted in the New York String Orchestra Seminar at Carnegie Hall that takes place over winter break. Eight cellists were selected from a pool of applicants from around the country. A New York City holiday tradition for more than 40 years, the young musicians of the New York String Orchestra's seminar have made Christmas Eve a time to celebrate with great music. "This season they perform an all-Mozart program that features the stately overture to his opera Idomeneo, his virtuosic Violin Concerto No. 3 with soloist Jennifer Koh, and the magnificent "Jupiter" Symphony—his final symphony and one of his crowning achievements."


9.1.16 The Calidore String Quartet, (Jeff Myers, Ryan Meehan, Jeremy Berry, and Estelle Choi), is thrilled to be selected as BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists (NGA).Over the next two seasons they will produce several recordings for the BBC which will be aired internationally on BBC broadcasting. In addition, they will perform in many of the major venues and festivals in the UK.Calidore violinist Ryan Meehan is a former MIC Academy student who studied with Almita Vamos. Calidore is also the first receipient of the $100,000 prize in M-Prize, an international chamber arts competition based in Ann Arbor, at the University of Michigan. Also members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the quartet will perform the Mendelssohn Octet with the Emerson String Quartet on October 19, 2016 at the Harris Theater in Chicago. 


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. 

Special Master Class with Midori April 17, 2021 Academy students perform