Class of 2017 - 2018 Academy Student Accolades


2.12.18 As senior division winners of the , MIC students performed with the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago at the Winners' Concert on Sunday, February 12, 2018 at DePaul Concert Hall. 

Congratulations DePaul Concerto Festival for Young Performers 2018 Senior Division Winners:


Cello James Baik (student of Hans Jensen) - Shostakovich, D.: Concerto in Eb Major, Op. 107, Mvt. 1

Piano Yerin Yang (Winston Choi and Alan Chow) - Grieg, E.: Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, Mvt. 1

Violin  John Heo (Almita Vamos) - Wieniawski, H.: Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22, Mvt. 1


2.4.18 Congratulations to Second Prize winner John Heo and Zechary Mo, who received Honorable Mention, at the DuPage Young Artists Auditions, Sunday, February 4. John and Zechary study violin with Almita Vamos. The DSO Strives to encourage serious study and musical excellence among young musicians through its annual Young Artists Auditions. This experience has been designed to be rewarding as well as educational. 


2.2.18 Sphinx Competition Finalists

2018 Junior Division - Irina Casasnovas, violin; Claire Arias-Kim, violin

Senior Division - Hannah White, violin - Achievement Award 


1.31.18 Violinist Julian Rhee has been selected as a nominee for the 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic and artistic excellence. Julian, 17, Brookfield, WI, has been a student at MIC since 2011. He currently studies in the Academy with Almita Vamos. Julian is nominated in the Classical Music discipline.

YoungArts is the sole nominating agency for this high honor and the 60 candidates, representing 25 states and nine artistic disciplines, are all YoungArts winners.

The candidate applications will be reviewed by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, which will ultimately select 20 high school seniors to be recognized as U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts for their academic and artistic accomplishments, demonstrated leadership, community service and outreach initiatives, and overall creativity.


Former Academy pianist David Hou has also been nominated in Classical Music. 


1.28.18  Students of Almita Vamos, Joshua and Isabella Brown, are performing with two area orchestras on Sunday, January 28.

Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra

January 28, 2018 - 3:00 PM

Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church

Vivacious Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Artist: Joshua Brown, violin

Conductor: Stephen Alltop


Northbrook Symphony Orchestra -

January 28, 2018 - 4:00 PM

Sheely Center for the Performing Arts

2300 Shermer Road, Northbrook

Rustic Revelry

Michael Hoover, flute

Soloist: Isabella Brown, violin


1.25.18 Violinist Ria Honda will be featured on NPR's From the Top with Host Christopher O'Riley. The show will be recorded in Highwood, Illinois on Thursday, 2/1/18. Show 348

From the Top is America's largest national platform celebrating the stories, talents, and character of classically-trained young musicians. Ria will perform Carmen Fantasie by Franz Waxman with Christopher O'Riley, piano and "Estrellita" by Manuel Ponce (1882-1948), arr. Jascha Heifetz, with Christopher O'Riley, piano.


Ria Honda, 17, lives in Wilmette, Illinois where she is a senior at New Trier High School. She studies violin in the Academy with Almita Vamos. Ria competed in the Menuhin International Competition in 2016, won the M-Prize competition, and earned the Silver medal at the Fischoff Chamber Music competition with her quartet, the Astera String Quartet. She has also spent five summers at Meadowmount. Outside of music, Ria enjoys cooking, travelling, and trying new foods.

Release Date Monday, February 26, 2018 

1.14.18 The Kairos String Quartet won first place yesterday in the Rembrandt Chamber Musicians 23rd Annual High School Chamber Music Competition, widely regarded as one of the premier competitions of its kind in the Midwest.

The Academy quartet is comprised of Julian Rhee, 17, Brookfield, WI, Thompson Wang, 18, Fountain Valley, CA, Joshua Brown, 18, Gurnee, IL, and Lydia Rhea, 18, Fishers, IN. The group is coached by MIC faculty member Rodolfo Vieira. 


1.7.18 DePaul Concerto Competition

The DePaul Concerto Festival for Young Performers was founded in 2003. To accommodate the increasing difficulty of repertoire, a decision was made to conduct the Festival with a full symphony orchestra. A partnership was formed in 2007 with the Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Mina Zikri. That year, thirteen winners had the privilege of performing a concerto movement in concert. In 2008, the Festival was opened to students outside of the Community Music Division. Viola was added in 2009, clarinet in 2012, and oboe and bassoon in 2013. In 2018, the Festival expanded to include a Junior division for piano, violin, and viola. 

Senior Division Winners 2018


James Baik - Shostakovich, D.: Concerto in Eb Major, Op. 107,
Mvt. 1, student of Hans Jorgen Jensen


Cameron Chiu - Kabalevsky, D.: Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 49,
Mvt. 1, student of Horacio Contreras

Mia Wimbiscus - Elgar, E.: Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85, Mvt. 4, student of Hans Jorgen Jensen



Yerin Yang - Grieg, E.: Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, Mvt. 1, student of Winston Choi and Alan Chow


VIOLIN WINNERS – The following students study with Almita Vamos

John Heo - Wieniawski, H.: Concerto No. 2 in D Minor,
Op. 22, Mvt. 1


Thompson Wang - Mozart, W.A.: Concerto in D Major,
K. 218, Mvt. 1


Claire Arias-Kim - Mozart, W.A.: Concerto in D Major,
K. 218, Mvt. 1

Irina Casasnovas - Mozart, W.A.: Concerto in D Major,
K. 218, Mvt. 1 


Julian Rhee, Brookfield, WI, will appear on an upcoming episode of From the Top, the hit NPR radio program featuring America's best young classical musicians and hosted by acclaimed pianist Christopher O'Riley.

.Julian studies violin at the Music Institute of Chicago Academy with Almita Vamos and is a senior at Brookfield East High School. He is the winner of the 2018 National YoungArts Foundation and the class president of his high school. In addition to music, Julian enjoys basketball and table tennis, and dreams of being a sports announcer.


The episode was taped before a live audience at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall in Boston on October 1, 2017. On the broadcast, Julian performs "Subito" by Witold Lutosławski with Christopher O'Riley, piano. He also performs "Norwegian Ballage" alongside Time for Three.

From the Top is America's largest national platform celebrating the stories, talents, and character of classically-trained young musicians. 


1.2018 Cellist James Baik and violinist Irina Casasnovas have advanced to the preliminary round of the 2018 Blount-Slawson Young Artists Competition. Since 1981, the Symphony League has mounted a concerto competition for pre-college instrumentalists with the winner appearing as a guest artist with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra. The competition will be held on Saturday and Sunday, January 27 - January 28, 2018 at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. The top entrants from Saturday's preliminary round of competition will compete on Sunday at 1:00 PM in a final round of competition which will be open to the public.


First Prize: Performance with the Montgomery Symphony at the Davis Theater on April 30, 2018; $10,000 consisting of a Cash Award of $2,500 and a separate Educational Award of $7,500 with designation towards the study of music. │ Second Prize: Cash award of $3,000│ Third Prize: Cash award of $2,000 │Fourth Prize: Cash award of $1,000 


12.28.17 Midwest Young Artists  Walgreens Concerto Competition Young musicians from all corners of the USA competed in Midwest Young Artists' (MYA) 21st Annual Walgreens National Concerto Competition. The open senior division took place on December 26 - 28, 2018. Students competed for more than $10,000 in scholarships and cash prizes in the MYA Orchestra Division and the Open Division. The Open Division Overall winner, MYAC Orchestra Division Overall Senior Level winner and Overall Junior Level winner from the 2017 - 2018 competition will perform with the MYAC orchestra on February 25, 2018 at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston, IL. 

Open String Division

Winner: Julian Rhee, violin student of Almita Vamos

Honorable Mention: John Heo, violin student of Almita Vamos 


12.21.17 The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, (CMS) is one of eleven constituents of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The performing artists constitute a revolving multi-generational and international roster of the world's finest chamber musicians.

On December 21, after performing The Brandenburg Concertos at the Harris Theater the night before, four CMS artists joined Academy students for 90-minute master classes at The Music Institute of Chicago's Evanston campus. Both the artists and students applauded the classes, and CMS artists looks forward to a return in the spring.


Through the rewarding benefit of a long-standing relationship with Wu Han and David Finckel, Co-Artistic Directors of the Chamber Music Society, and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance where CMS is in residency, CMS artists have presented master classes to Academy students since 2006.

Violinist Daniel Phillips - Isabella Brown and Ria Honda
Violinist/Violist Yura Lee - Natalie Morin and Joshua Brown
Violinist Kristen Lee - Claire Arias-Kim and Esme Arias-Kim
Cellist Nicholas Canellakis - Alon Hayut and Mia Wimbiscus 



11. 30.17 Congratulations to YoungArts 2018 winners!

The National YoungArts Foundation identifies and nurtures the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts and assists them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development. YoungArts aspires to create a community of alumni that provides a lifetime of encouragement, opportunity, and support.


Congratulations to Julian Rhee, 2018 National YoungArts Foundation Finalist in Classical Music/Violin. Julian, one of 171 Finalists, will attend National YoungArts Week in Miami, January 7-14, when Finalists present their work during an intensive, week-long and all-inclusive program. Artists across 10 disciplines participate in master classes and workshops with internationally recognized leaders in their field.


Congratulations to Ria Honda, Honorable Mention Winner in Classical Music/Violin and to Claire Arias-Kim and Irina Casasnovas, Merit Winners in Classical Music/Violin.

Honorable Mention and Merit winners have the opportunity to participate in the New York Regional Program, April 24 – 29, 2018, where students spend a week fully immersed in their art form and participate in interdisciplinary and genre-specific master classes.


Violinists Julian Rhee, Ria Honda, Irina Casasnovas and Claire Arias-Kim are all Academy members in the studio of Almita Vamos.


Academy alumni winners include:
David Hou | Classical Music/Piano (Finalist)
Brendan Tarm | Classical Music/Violoncello (Honorable Mention)
Maya Anjali Buchanan | Classical Music/Violin (Merit)


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.

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.

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 who meet eligibility requirements are considered for nomination to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. 


11.20.17 21st Annual Sphinx Competition Jan. 31 – Feb. 4, 2018

The Sphinx Competition is held every year in Detroit, Michigan. The competition is open to all Junior High, High School, and College age Black and Latino string players residing in the U.S. The Sphinx Competition offers young Black and Latino classical string players a chance to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges and to perform with established professional musicians in a competition setting.




11.12. 17 The Sejong Cultural Society strives to advance awareness and understanding of Korea's cultural heritage amongst people in the United States by reaching out to the younger generations through contemporary creative and fine arts. It is our hope that, through this, the rich culture behind Korea's colorful history will be accessible to people of any ethnicity and nationality while being a unique part of the larger, more familiar Western culture, and that such harmonizing of the two cultures will create a better understanding between them. Music Competition - The Sejong Music Competition seeks to both encourage talented young musicians in their studies and introduce traditional Korean musical themes to young musicians.


Violin Senior Division

First Ria Honda  - Wilmette, IL Almita Vamos

Second Thompson Wang  - Glenview, IL Almita Vamos

Third John Heo -  Northbrook, IL Almita Vamos

HM Claire Arias-Kim -  Hoffman Estates, IL Almita Vamos

Best interpretation of a Korean Piece-  John Heo

11.11.17 2017 Young Concert Artists International Auditions in NY - Joshua Brown advanced to the 2017 Young Concert Artists Finals on Saturday, November 11. Young Concert Artists, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering and developing the careers of extraordinary musicians from all over the world. Winners of the Auditions are selected by a Jury of distinguished musicians. The sole criteria are exceptional musicianship, virtuosity, and individuality. The musicians compete against a standard of excellence – not each other. Joshua was not selected as one of the winners, but was one of the youngest members in the competition.

11.17.17 Congratulations to Irina Casasnovas, who is among eight finalists in the Young Artists Competition in Costa Rica. The finalists were selected from 70 participants during two sets of auditions. Irina will rehearse with the Orchestra from November 14-17, and perform in the final concert with the Costa Rica National Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Carl St. Clair on November 17 at the National Theater. St. Clair is the Artistic Leader and Principal Conductor of the USC Thornton Orchestras at USC and has conducted concerts in Bulgaria, Portugal, Switzerland, Israel, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Mexico. In Costa Rica, competitions do not select one winner amongst finalists; they are all considered winners because of the diversity of the pool of participants in age and instruments. Irina studies with Almita Vamos.


11.4.17 Piano student Yuelin Zhong received HM in the MTNA Illinois Senior Solo Competition last weekend at Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Illinois on November 3-4, 2017.  Yuelin studies with Ralph Neiweem.


11.1.17 Congratulations to Irina Casasnovas who has advanced to the second round of Young Artists Competition in Costa Rica. From a group of instrumentalists including percussion, piano, and voice, only three violinists advanced to the next round of 15. The competition is for young professionals under age 25 years; it includes all instruments of the orchestra, piano, and voice. 


10.30.17 Violinist Julian Rhee  recorded on NPR's From the Top with Host Christopher O'Riley at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall in Boston, MA on 10/1/17. (Show 346) Release Date Monday, January 1, 2018.
Julian performed "Subito" by Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994), with Christopher O'Riley, piano. Julian also joined Time for Three – violinist Nicolas (Nick) Kendall, violinist (and From the Top Alum!) Charles Yang, and double-bassist Ranaan Meyer. Julian studies with Almita Vamos.


10.14.17 Academy violinist John Heo soloed with the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, October 14 at the Calvary Community Church in Williams Bay, WI.

John performed Wieniawski's complete Violin Concerto No. 2 to a standing ovation. John studies with Almita Vamos. 


10.7.17 Violinist Joshua Brown, 17, debuts in Cincinnati this Sunday in the historic recital series, Matinée Musicale Cincinnati, following in the footsteps of some amazing violinists, including Nathan Milstein, Henry Szeryng, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Joshua Bell. He will be accompanied by excellent pianist Beilin Han.

"For more than a century — since 1912 — Matinée Musicale Cincinnati has presented recitals by instrumentalists and singers on their way to illustrious careers. Legendary pianist Arthur Rubinstein performed [on the series] in 1938. In 1955, 21-year-old Van Cliburn played for Cincinnatians in a Matinée Musicale recital, three years before he won the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. Coloratura soprano Beverly Sills sang in Cincinnati in 1969, the same year she debuted at the renowned La Scala opera house in Milan. In 1983 violinist Joshua Bell, then 16, performed his very first professional recital with Matinée Musicale. Today he's one of the world's most respected performers. Thanks to a generous bequest from philanthropist and classically-trained musician Louise Dieterle Nippert (1911-2012), Matinée Musicale's tradition of musical excellence continues." - Rick Pender 


9.24.17 Joshua Brown, 17 and Isabella Brown, 14, will perform at the opening series concert for the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra -- Music is Magic!

A festive, family-friendly, "Bring Your Grandkids Free" event, featuring a colorful potpourri of works by Debussy, Grainger, Smetana, Glazunov and Sarasate, and Ravel's beloved Mother Goose Suite. The superb brother/sister violin duo of Joshua and Isabella Brown will perform Sarasate's enchanting Navarra.