Class of 2018 - 2019 Accolades


Four Academy students were named 2019 National YoungArts Foundation Winners for Classical Music. The YoungArts’ signature program is an application-based award for emerging artists ages 15–18 or in grades 10–12 from across the United States.  Selected through a blind adjudication process, the winners represent the top 10 percent of applications. Winners are named Finalists, the organization’s highest honor, Honorable Mention and Merit.


Finalists have the opportunity to participate in National YoungArts Week in Miami in January.  All Honorable Mention and Merit Winners become part of a professional network of over 20,000 alumni artists and are eligible to participate in YoungArts’ regional programs, including YoungArts Miami in February, YoungArts Los Angeles in March and YoungArts New York in April. Students spend a week fully immersed in their art form, participate genre-specific master classes, and network with equally motivated peers, and perform at leading venues in New York.


Honorable Mention Winners

Isabella Brown, Classical Music/Violin

Alon Hayut, Classical Music/Cello


Merit Winners

Claire Arias-Kim, Classical Music/Violin

Irina Casasnovas, Classical Music/Violin


Recognition Levels 
Merit: The YoungArts Merit award level recognizes work that has been deemed as commendable by the panel, strong technically with a clear artistic point of view.  Merit winners receive a medallion and are invited to participate in a regional program, space permitting.

Honorable Mention: The YoungArts Honorable Mention award level recognizes work that demonstrates exceptional technique; a strong sense of artistry; and a depth of thinking/performance that exceeds the level of peers at this career stage. Honorable Mention winners receive a medallion, a $250 monetary award, and are invited to participate in a regional program, space permitting. 

Finalist: The YoungArts Finalist award 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. Finalists receive a medallion, and are invited to participate in National YoungArts Week. During National YoungArts Week participants have the opportunity to work with the panel in person.


11.18.18 Cellist Alon Hayut, student of Horacio Contreras, was awarded the AUDIENCE PRIZE in the final live round of 2018 Michigan Solo Competition sponsored by MASTA, a state chapter of the American String Teachers Association. 



The Fifteenth Annual Sejong Music Competition was held yesterday, Sunday, November 4, 2018 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Performing Arts Center. This competition is open to all pre-college violin and piano students. The Winners’ concert will take place on Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 at 2pm at the Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center (2nd floor), 78 E. Washington Ave., Chicago.



FIRST: Isabella Brown

SECOND: Katya Moeller

HONORABLE MENTION: Claire Arias-Kim and Sidney Lee



FIRST: Esme Arias-Kim  

SECOND: Sameer Agrawal


Congratulations to faculty members Almita Vamos, Sang Mee Lee, and I-Hao Lee.


Dating back to 2006, the Academy has had long-standing success at the Sejong Competition.  Previous Academy winners include Ria Honda, Zachary Brandon, Karisa Chiu, John Heo, John Schindler (piano), Joshua Brown, Julian Rhee, Hannah White, Gallia Kastner, Serena Harnack, Adé Williams, Ethan Hoppe, Paul Juhn (piano), Sean Yeh (piano), Siwoo Kim, Samantha Bennett, Lydia Umlauf, Jessica Cho, (cello), David Mei, (cello), Nicholas Brown, Claire Bourg, Seoyun Baek, (piano) Kyle and Ryan Jannack-Huang, (piano), Hansuh Rhee, Mira Williams, (viola) Sofia Kim, Tabby Rhee, Sophia Cho, Hannah Selonick, Jennifer Cha, Barbara Juminaga, Michaela Wellems, Tabitha Oh, Ben Lash, (cello) Laura Park, Mindy Park, (cello), Erika Gray, Shelley Liu, Susie Kho, Natsuki Kumagai, and Ashley Sachay.


The goals of the Sejong Music Competition are to discover talented young musicians and encourage them in their studies, and to also introduce traditional Korean music expressed through Western media. The competition strives to increase the awareness and understanding of Korea’s cultural heritage amongst the younger generations growing up in the United States so as to promote harmony among people of various ethnic backgrounds and bridge Asian and Western cultures.



10.27.18 The American Liszt Society Chicago/Midwest Chapter celebrated Franz Liszt's 207th birthday by featuring International Liszt Competition winners Joseph Kingma, Chen-Shen Fan, and young rising star, Yerin Yang, performing piano works of Franz Liszt. Yerin, a member of the Academy, studies with Alan Chow and James Giles.  Yerin was awarded First Prize, Best Performance of Solo Work Award, and the Young Jury Award at the 2018 Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition. In March 2018, Yerin was named winner of the 2018 Chicago Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition. With this achievement, she will perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during the 2018/19 season.      


10.26 – 28.18   Illinois American String Teacher Association (ILASTA) Concerto Competition

Academy violinist, Irina Casasnovas, 18, student of Almita Vamos, was the Grand Prize Winner of the inaugural ILASTA Concerto Competition on Sunday, October 28. There were separate divisions for violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, and harp. Irina, who won the violin division, competed against the other division winners, including viola division winner, Zechary Mo, 16, also a student of Almita Vamos in the Academy.  The Competition was open to all string students aged 16-22 studying or living in Illinois who have an instructor who is an ASTA member.  Cash prizes of $300, $200, and $100 was awarded in each division for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places respectively.  A $1000 Grand Prize courtesy of Michael Becker Fine Violins in Park Ridge.


Irina was also the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Senior String Competition winner in DeKalb, Illinois on Friday, October 26. Irina performed Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, 1st movement, Bach Partita No.2, 1st and 2nd movements, and Inscriptions by Schulamit Ran. On Saturday, Irina performed Inscriptions at the Winners’ Recital in DeKalb. She will advance now to the Video Division Competition in December.  Division Winners and Representatives will be required to travel to perform at the MTNA National Conference in Spokane, Washington, March 16–20, 2019.


10.21.18 Piano student Eriko Darcy received Senior Division Honorable Mention in the Illinois State Music Teacher Association (ISMTA) Competition. Eriko studies with Dr. Matthew Hagle in the Academy.The Illinois State Music Teacher Association (ISMTA) Competition is a single tier competition offered at 2 different locations, ISMTA Competition NORTH and ISMTA Competition SOUTH.  Each competition is run independently with separate chairs and winners. Both ISMTA Competition NORTH and ISMTA Competition SOUTH are held in October, at least one week prior to the annual ISMTA Conference.  All first place winners at each division will be invited to perform at the Winners Recital during the ISMTA Conference. There were 7 Primary, 22 Elementary, 22 Junior, 13 Senior, and 3 Collegiate participants. The judges are Dr. Matthew Hagle of Music Institute of Chicago, Dr. Marcia Bosits, Dr. Karen Kan-Walsh, Heidi Mayer of Northwestern University,  Dr. Svetlana Belsky of University of Chicago, and Junichi Sato of DePaul University.


10.20.18   Claire Arias-Kim won first place at the Rockford Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition on October 20.  She will perform the first mvt of the Dvorak Concerto with RSYO at the Coronado Theater on Sunday, May 5, 2019.  The Rockford Symphony Orchestra and Rock Valley College collaborate to present this annual concerto competition targeting young musicians up to 21 years of age from a 50 mile radius of Rockford. Cash prizes are awarded for the top three competitors and the first prize winner is offered an opportunity to perform with the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra at its spring performance.


10. 14/ 18  Congratulations to the 2018 33rd Annual Music Festival in Honor of Confucius Competition Winners

The competition was held on Sunday, October 14 at the Merit School of Music. The Chinese Fine Arts Society (CFAS) is a Chicago-based non-profit dedicated to promoting the appreciation of Chinese culture, enhancing cultural exchange, and pursuing excellence in Chinese music, dance, and visual arts. Since its founding in 1984, CFAS has been a leading champion of Chinese culture, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to celebrate the beauty and majesty of both traditional and contemporary Chinese art.

First place winners of the competition will be featured at the Winners Concert on Sunday, November 18.


CELLO SENIOR 1st Place: Camille Toubol, student of Hans Jørgen Jensen

CELLO JUNIOR II 1st Place: Mia Wimbiscus, student of Hans Jørgen Jensen

VIOLIN SENIOR  Honorable Mention: Claire Arias-Kim, student of Almita Vamos  

Honorable Mention: Kaylin Liu, student of Almita Vamos

VIOLIN JUNIOR II  2nd Place: Linda Wang, student of Hye-Sun Lee and Almita Vamos


10.9.18 Irina Casasnovas and Claire Arias-Kim, violin students of Almita Vamos, will participate in a master class led by violinist Augustin Hadelich at Bein and Fushi on Tuesday, October 9 at 6:30 pm. Classes are held in the Great Room at Bein & Fushi, 410 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 1014  Chicago. Please RSVP to reserve your seat: or 312-663-0150. Admission is free, but seating is limited.  “He has firmly established himself as one of the great violinists of today. Showcasing a wide-ranging and adventurous repertoire, he is consistently cited for his phenomenal technique, soulful approach, and beauty of tone.”  Don’t miss this great class with two of our Academy violinists who were invited by special invitation.


10.7.18 Violinist Esme Arias-Kim, student of Almita Vamos, will perform on the Young Steinway series at the Skokie Public Library this Sunday Oct. 7 at 3:00. Esme will perform Dvorak , Bruch, Paganini and Sarasate. The concerts showcase young people with extraordinary talent, giving local audiences the chance to enjoy first-class music, for free, close to home. Concerts begin at 3 pm in the Petty Auditorium. Free tickets are distributed at 2:30 pm. Doors open at 2:45 pm, beginning with people with disabilities.


Cellist Luka Coetzee, student of Horacio Contreras, was featured on a Canadian Global TV interview promoting the Mount Royal University Conservatory Program in Calgary.


Violinist Claire Arias-Kim will be featured on "Introductions" in December. Introductions is WFMT’s weekly Saturday morning radio program that features talented pre-college classical musicians in the Chicago area. Claire was also invited to perform as soloist by the Elgin Symphony Orchestra on their education concerts.   She will perform the Polonaise in D major by Wieniawski in 8 concerts during April 2-5.  Claire spent two months this summer performing on concerts and master classes at the Aspen Music Festival and School.


9. 23.18 Esme Arias-Kim won first place in the New York International Artist Association (division 11-14yrs).  She will be one of six performers featured in a recital this Sunday, September 23rd, at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall where she will perform the first movement of the Bruch Concerto as well as Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen. This comes after an amazing summer that included Center Stage Strings in Michigan, the Il Piccolo Violino Magico Competition in Italy, and the Heifetz Institute in Staunton, Virginia.


8.19.18 Katya Moeller was featured in a "Recital to Benefit the Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra" on August 19 with the University of Iowa Symphony, conducted by Dr. William LaRue Jones.  On September 9, Katya performed on the Piano Sundays at the Old Capitol Museum "Rising Stars Showcase".  In its 12th season, the concerts are featured six times each year.


Yerin Yang was featured on Introductions last week.  Yerin won the 2018 Crain-Maling Foundation Chicago Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition, and as a result, she will perform with the CSO during the 2018/2019 season. She will also be featured on the 8th Annual Franz Lizst Birthday Gala Concert, Saturday, Oct 27 2018, Nichols Concert Hall. Watch for more information regarding tickets.



7.1.18  Each summer the Southeastern Piano Festival transforms the University of South Carolina School of Music into a cultural destination that draws in audiences and young piano talent from across the United States. The Southeastern Piano Festival is a high-level training platform for the young pianists, a presenter of new and world-renowned concert pianists and master teachers, an advocate for new piano music, and a vehicle for exploring different roles the piano plays on stage and beyond. Twenty of some of the best pre-college pianists on the piano scene today take part in a rigorous program that includes daily lessons with USC 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. 


MIC is happy to announce that Academy pianist Yerin Yang has won First Prize in the 2018 Arthur Fraser Competition along with the Young Jury Award and Best Solo Work. Yerin will perform a complete concerto with the South Carolina Philharmonic in Masterworks concert series during the 2018/2019 season. Earlier this spring, Yerin won first prize in the Crain-Maling Foundation CSO Young Artists Competition. 


6.5.18 Congratulations to twelve-year-old newly accepted Academy violinist Esme Arias-Kim, who will be representing the United States at the 2018 il Piccolo Violino Magico International Competition.

The competition will be held in San Vito al Tagliamento, Italy, from the 4th to the 8th of July. Open to international violinists aged 9 to 13 years old, the first prize winner will receive a cash prize and a number of international performance opportunities. 


6.4.18 Academy violinist Julian Rhee, first-prize winner in the 2018 Johansen International Competition, has won second prize as well as Best Performance of a work by J.S. Bach and Best Performance of this year's Commissioned Piece, in the Irving M. Klein International String Competition. Julian was one of only three finalists in this prestigious competition. Judges were Glenn Dicterow, Karen Dreyfus, David Froom (who wrote the JIC commissioned work in 2015!), Janet Horvath, Mel Margolis, Ian Swensen, and Barbara Day Turner.