Artists & Faculty


Katie Althen-Velázquez, Flute
Jonathan Cziner, Composition
Paul Frucht, Composition + Percussion
Graeme Steele Johnson, Clarinet
Eric Mahl, Trumpet
Priscilla Rinehart, Horn
Rémy Taghavi, Bassoon

Jonathan Borden, Double Bass
Marika Bournaki, Piano
Julia Choi, Violin
Leah Ferguson, Viola
Emily Levin, Harp
Mitch Lyon, Cello
Francesca McNeeley, Cello
George Meyer, Violin
Ariana Nelson, Cello
Mika Sasaki, Piano
Giora Schmidt, Violin
Julian Schwarz, Cello
Jeremías Sergiani-Velazquez, Violin
Jacob Shack, Viola
Chelsea Starbuck-Smith, Violin + Viola

Katie Althen-Velázquez, Flute
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

An award-winning flutist, content creator, and educator, Katie Althen-Velázquez enjoys a rich career with a multifaceted impact on the arts. Widely recognized as a unique musician, the Boston Musical Intelligencer has praised her performances for their “great sinuous magic,” while flute legend Paula Robison describes Katie as “a true, intelligent artist with a wonderful sense of humor and awareness of life’s surprises.”

A Juilliard graduate, she has performed alongside Sir James Galway during his live 75th birthday celebration, shared the stage with Renée Fleming, and performed during the 2023 Met Gala with pop icon Lizzo. She appeared on the exclusive 2018 run of Rocktopia on Broadway, a fusion of classical and classic rock music. She has also performed across the United States in various orchestras, appearing with the Reading Symphony Orchestra, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, York Symphony Orchestra, Artosphere Festival Orchestra, among others, as well as with the chamber music ensemble Frisson. A dedicated collaborator, she frequently joins forces with the accomplished Mexican pianist, Santiago Lomelín. She has presented recitals and masterclasses across the US East Coast, as well as in Mexico and Argentina.

Katie is a founding member of the New York City-based Sonora Collective, a collective of musicians that brings chamber music to art galleries and other unique spaces. As a Co-Director, Katie has played a role in curating over ten distinct concert programs, spanning classical to contemporary compositions. The dedication to performing works by living composers is a hallmark of the collective’s mission. Katie has spearheaded commissions for flute and strings, collaborating with esteemed composers Paul Frucht and Jared Miller.

Eager to diversify her impact, Katie is known to a wide audience for her contributions to the flute community on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, where she has amassed over 230k followers and subscribers, as well as over 30 million views. Having grown her Instagram account since the summer of 2014, she is recognized as one of the first classical music content creators and was named one of Influencer Intelligence’s 10 Classical Musicians You Should Follow. On YouTube, she produces content demonstrating flutes from the Flute Center of New York, as well as full-length performances, vlogs, and practice tips. 

A firm believer in sharing her talent and love of music, Katie maintains a private flute studio where she teaches students from 6 to adult. She has been an Artist-Faculty member of The Charles Ives Music Festival at the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra since 2019. Previously she was faculty at Musart Music and the Great Neck Music Conservatory.

Katie is from outside of Reading, Pennsylvania, and holds a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School and a Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory, with additional studies at the Peabody Conservatory. Her principal teachers include Robert Langevin, Paula Robison, and Marina Piccinini. She is the winner of the Yamaha Prize at the 2011 Julius Baker Masterclasses, won third prize at the 2016 New York Flute Club Competition, and was a 2018 Astral Artists Finalist. She plays on a 9-karat rose gold Muramatsu flute and a copper-alloy Trevor James alto flute. When she’s not making music, Katie enjoys taking ballet class and studying Spanish. Katie lives in NYC with her husband, Argentine violinist Jeremías Sergiani-Velázquez, and their Havanese dog, Miguel. Katie’s webisite:
Jonathan Borden, Double Bass
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Double bassist Jonathan Borden is a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra bass section, a position he has held since 2014. Jonathan received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Juilliard School that same year as a scholarship student of Albert Laszlo. During his studies, Jonathan particularly enjoyed performing chamber music, and had the opportunities to learn from notable musicians such as Sylvia Rosenberg and Steven Doane. Since joining the BPO, Jonathan has also performed with the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra and with the Caroga Lake Chamber Festival, where he can often be heard transposing cello parts to the double bass. Prior to joining the BPO, Jonathan has performed with the Aspen Chamber Orchestra, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in Sapporo, Japan.

Beyond his regular duties performing with the orchestra, Jonathan participates in various committees within the orchestra, including the education, marketing, and artistic committees, in order to work towards expanding the orchestra’s audience and maintaining the relevancy of the arts within the city of Buffalo. He is also currently serving as a musician member on the BPO Board of Trustees.

Jonathan grew up in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and found his passion for the double bass while studying with Joseph Russo and Kurt Muroki at the Bowdoin International Music Festival. Other than music, his interests include photography, website design, curling, tennis, table tennis, and making weird sounds with digital synthesizers.
Jonathan’s website:
Marika Bournaki, Piano
(CIMF Guest Artist)

Described as “the Celine Dion of classical” by The Huffington PostMARIKA BOURNAKI is at once a world-class performer, dazzling pianist, vivacious young woman and one of the freshest faces on the classical music scene. Ms. Bournaki not only brings distinctive interpretations to favorite standards, but extends her passion for music by commissioning works from younger composers and collaborating with artists from various fields.

Marika Bournaki has appeared as guest soloist with the symphony orchestras of Bozeman, Duluth Superior, Richmond, Roanoke, Springfield (MO), Topeka, Montréal and St. Petersburg (Russia), along with Maryland’s Chesapeake Orchestra, The SYMPHONIA (FL), Romania’s Timisoara Filharmonica, Switzerland’s Verbier Chamber Orchestra and Canada’s Orchestre Métropolitain and Sinfonia Toronto. In addition to a benefit recital for the Glenn Gould Foundation at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, she has been presented in solo recitals and chamber music collaborations throughout the United States, Canada and the world, including Belgium, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and South Korea. Of special note was her survey of Beethoven’s complete 32-work piano sonata cycle, presented by the distinguished Bargemusic in Brooklyn.

A devoted chamber musician, Marika Bournaki performs regularly at Brooklyn’s Bargemusic, the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival and the Frankly Music series in Milwaukee, while serving on the faculties of the Eastern Music Festival and Canada’s Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance. She tours internationally with duo partner cellist Julian Schwarz, and together won 1st prize in the 2016 Boulder International Chamber Music Competition’s “The Art of Duo.” Ms. Bournaki is also a member of the Mile-End Trio with Mr. Schwarz and violinist Jeffrey Multer.

The award-winning documentary “I am Not a Rock Star,” featuring Marika Bounaki and directed by Bobbi Jo Hart, has captivated international audiences of all ages. The feature-length film chronicles Ms. Bournaki’s evolution as an artist from the age of 12 to 20. A runaway success at multiple film festivals throughout the world, screenings of “I am Not a Rock Star” and solo performances were recently presented in Chicago, Dallas, Memphis, Miami, Napa Valley, Palm Springs, Toronto and Vancouver, as well as in Greece, México and Spain. The film has also been seen in Greece (ERT), The Netherlands (NTS), Norway (NRK), Sweden (SVT) the United Kingdom (BBC4), Australia (SBS) and New Zealand (Sky). The documentary is the recipient of awards for Best Arts Documentary and Best Editing from the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards.

Marika Bournaki’s innovative approach to her art and performance is reflected in a number of multimedia projects intended to reach out to new audiences. Additionally, her role as Ambassador to the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal’s summer event, “A Cool Classical Journey,” afforded new and stimulating ways to share her music with the public.

Marika Bournaki holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from The Juilliard School, where her principal teachers were Yoheved Kaplinsky and Matti Raekallio. She and her husband, the renowned cellist Julian Schwarz, make their home in Virginia.
Julia Choi, Violin
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Violinist Julia Choi joined the First Violin section of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 2019. Prior to her appointment with the MET, she has performed with various ensembles, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Montclair Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, San Diego Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and has appeared as Guest Assistant Concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Choi has also served as the Concertmaster, Principal Second, and other leadership positions for the Juilliard Orchestra, Juilliard Opera, Nww York String Orchestra Seminar, Music Academy Festival Orchestra, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, and the Manhattan Chamber Sinfonia.

A versatile and well-rounded musician, Ms. Choi enjoys a varied musical career of solo, chamber, and orchestral appearances throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Ms. Choi has been praised for her “narrative sweep and involving performance” (NY Times), and “delightful idiosyncrasy” (The Classical Source).
She was a co-founding member of the Hyon Trio, with Kevin Ahfat on piano and her sister Jennifer Choi on cello, who made their Alice Tully Hall debut in 2015. Together with her sister, a cellist currently with the Dallas Symphony, Ms. Choi has performed the Brahms Double Concerto in Santa Barbara, and presented several duo recitals throughout New York City. Ms. Choi has premiered works as a member of the New Juilliard Ensemble and AXIOM, and has collaborated with various groups in New York City, including the Korea Society, Manhattan Chamber Players, BalletX, OnSite Opera, Scandinavia House Events, Music on Park Avenue, and Music for Life International.

Ms. Choi has spent her summers performing at the Verbier Festival, Artosphere Festival, Charles Ives Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, Spoleto Festival USA, Great Mountains Music Festival, and Meadowmount School of Music. She is also a prizewinner of competitions including the LISMA International, NJ ASTA, Music Academy Concerto, and Caprio Young Artists Competitions.

A native of New Jersey, Ms. Choi began her intensive studies with Sally Thomas at the Juilliard Pre-College Division, and went on to receive her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the Juilliard School, where she was a scholarship student under the tutelage of Glenn Dicterow, Sylvia Rosenberg, and Sally Thomas. She was generously awarded the Juilliard Alumni Scholarship and the Irene Diamond Graduate Scholarship for her studies. In 2017, Ms. Choi earned a Professional Studies Degree in Orchestral Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Glenn Dicterow and Lisa Kim of the New York Philharmonic.

A third-generation educator, Ms. Choi is on faculty at Manhattan School of Music’s Pre-College Division, and is part of the Artist-Faculty with Charles Ives Music Festival in Ridgefield, CT. Previousy, she was a Teaching Assistant of the Ear Training Department at Juilliard for both the College and Pre-College Divisions for three years, with Mary Anthony Cox, Dr. Kyle Blaha, and Dr. Wayne Oquin. Ms. Choi has taught and led coachings for Juilliard Pre-CollegeNYC Music School, and Friends with Music. Ms. Choi also teaches violin privately, enjoying a teaching experience of over a decade, with student accomplishments including regional competitions, orchestral auditions, and acceptance to Pre-College programs throughout NYC.

Born in Korea, she was raised and is currently based in New Jersey and New York City. She is currently on the roster at Steven Ray Artists.
Jonathan Cziner, Composition
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Jonathan Cziner is an American composer whose music combines colorful harmony and texture with nostalgic lyricism, creating a sound-world that ranges from dark and mysterious to vibrant. His music has been praised for its “brilliant timbrel effects and contrasting moments of resonance and delicate filagree” (Theater Jones), “daring harmonic explorations” (Dallas Morning News) and “individual voice and the knowledge and technique to convey ideas in a striking and kaleidoscopic manner” (Chicago Classical Review).  Drawing on a wide variety of inspirations, Jonathan’s writing engages the senses and the emotions, fully immersing listeners in the musical experience.  

Jonathan’s works have been performed throughout the United States by ensembles including the Minnesota Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony, Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra, Juilliard Orchestra, and New Juilliard Ensemble, and by acclaimed artists including conductors Osmo Vänskä and David Robertson, cellist Julian Schwarz; harpist Emily Levin; violinist Stella Chen; and pianist Steven Masi among others. 

In addition to a 2018 Charles Ives Scholarship recipient from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Cziner has received numerous awards including the William Schuman Prize for most outstanding score at the BMI Student Composer Awards as well as two consecutive Palmer Dixon Prizes (2017 and 2018), awarded to the most outstanding work composed at the Juilliard School.

His work has been selected by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Cone Institute, Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra’s Classical Evolve Competition, Juilliard Orchestra competition, among others. Jonathan heads the composition program of the Charles Ives Music Festival, which focuses its programming on the music of Ives, as well as other past and present American composers. Equally dedicated to film scoring, he has worked with writer/director Nora Unkel on numerous films including her first feature film, A Nightmare Wakes, now streaming on Shudder. 

Cziner was named Composer-in-Residence of the Illinois Philharmonic for their 2022-2023 season for which he composed three new works including his first symphony entitled Celestial Symphony. Recent and upcoming projects include Solaris, a work for Violin and Orchestra for Stella Chen, and Clarinet Concerto for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s principal clarinetist Gregory Raden. He received a Bachelor of Music degree at New York University and completed both his Master of Music and Doctor of Music degrees at The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Justin Dello Joio.  Jonathan lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife Emily Levin, the Principal Harpist of the Dallas Symphony. Jonathan’s website:
Leah Ferguson, Violin
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Violist Leah Ferguson joined the New York Philharmonic in October 2018, having previously been a member Boston Symphony Orchestra since 2016. Originally from Chicago, Leah began playing the violin at age five and switched to viola at age twelve, studying with Roland Vamos. 

Leah has performed as Guest Principal Viola with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Guest Associate Principal with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, and as Assistant Principal with the Rochester Philharmonic. Her performances have been broadcast by WCLV Cleveland, WFMT Chicago, WQXR The Greene Space, NPR’s From the Top and HBO’s documentary television series Masterclass. 

As a chamber musician, Leah has participated in summer festivals including Music@Menlo, Ravinia, Verbier, and the Perlman Music Program. She has worked closely with musicians including Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and Miriam Fried, and toured with Musicians from Ravinia’s Steans Institute and the Perlman Music Program. Leah performs chamber music regularly with her NY Philharmonic colleagues and has been a guest of the Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Leah holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a Graduate Diploma from The Juilliard School, where she was a recipient of the Kovner Fellowship. Her teachers include Robert Vernon, Mark Jackobs, Heidi Castleman, and Cynthia Phelps.
Paul Frucht, Composition & Percussion
(CIMF Artistic Director)

Hailed as a “composer with a career to follow” by Hearst Media, Paul Frucht is an American composer whose music has been acclaimed for its “sense of lyricism, driving pulse, and great urgency” (WQXR), “jagged beauty” (Buffalo News) and “excellent orchestration” (Ridgefield Press). His music has been commissioned and performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Atlantic Music Festival Orchestra, Chelsea Symphony, Juilliard Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Weill-Cornell Music and Medicine Orchestra, Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra, American Modern Ensemble, Asian American New Music Institute, Euclid Quartet, Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music, LONGLEASH Trio, New York City Ballet Choreographic Institute, Utah Arts Festival, Buffalo Chamber Music Society, Midsummer’s Music, and the Eastern Music Festival among numerous other performing ensembles and organizations. 

His work Forever is Composed of Nows was recently commissioned and premiered by the Grammy-Award winning trio Time For Three in Ketchum, ID at the Argyros Performing Arts Center and will be performed at the Geneva Music Festival Princeton Music Festival among other venues as the group tours with it this year. Summer 2023 also features the world premiere of There Are Stars, a new work for flute and string quartet commissioned by the Sonora Collective and the world premiere of Finding Religion, a new work commissioned for violinist Jeffrey Multer, cellist Julian Schwarz, and the Eastern Music Festival Orchestral lead by Gerard Schwarz. The 23-24 season will also feature the world premiere of Rhapsody II, a new string quartet commissioned by the Carpe Diem String Quartet as well as performances of Paul’s violin and piano work What a Time, performed by William Shaub, the concertmaster of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, on the KSO Merchant and Gould Concertmaster Series.

Paul has long prioritized cultural engagement through his work as a composer and artistic leader. In 2013, he wrote Dawn, in memory of Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal, Dawn Hochsprung, who was his middle school principal when he was a student at Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury, CT, which neighbors Newtown, CT. The work honors her legacy of courage and dedication to education and has been performed around the United States by the American Composers Orchestra, Atlantic Music Festival Orchestra, Bowling Green State University Orchestra, Chelsea Symphony, Eastern Music Festival Orchestra, and Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra. The wind band version was recently premiered by the UMKC Conservatory Wind Symphony led by Steven Davis, who will lead a subsequent performance at Interlochen Center for the Arts with the World Youth Wind Symphony in August 2023. Additionally, in 2021, the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra led by Yuga Cohler gave the world premiere of A More Perfect Union, an orchestral song cycle for baritone and orchestral based on the speeches of Pres. Obama, commissioned for baritone Jorell Williams and the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra. Paul and Yuga collaborated on the work with Cody Keenan, Pres. Obama’s chief speechwriter and the work was profiled in a NowThis feature.

Recently, Paul was named the winner of the 2023 Lake George Music Festival Composition Competition. Additionally, he has been the recipient of a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Brian H. Israel Prize from the Society of New Music, an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award, Juilliard’s Palmer Dixon, Arthur Friedman, and Gena Raps Prizes, the American Composers Orchestra’s 2016 Audience Choice Award and has been recognized for his work by the Copland House, American Modern Ensemble, the Nashville Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Red Note New Music Festival, Chelsea Symphony,  Periapsis Music and Dance, the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, and the Spectrum Chamber Music Society.

In 2015, Paul founded the Charles Ives Music Festival (CIMF), of which he currently serves as the artistic director. Based in Ridgefield, CT, CIMF explores the rich history of Ives and his legacy, American music, through dynamic artist concerts and interactive educational events, with a particular focus on presenting the works of living American composers. The festival presents ten concerts and events per year, primarily concentrated during the first two weeks of August when the festival holds its educational programming, which brings talented artist-faculty from leading American orchestras and chamber ensembles to CT to perform side-by-side with 55 youth musicians. Leading American musicians and composers including composer Kevin Puts, double bassist Ranaan Meyer, cellist Julian Schwarz, harpist Emily Levin, and composer Justin Dello Joio have been featured artists.

A passionate educator of all ages, he has been a faculty member at New York University’s Steinhardt School since 2015. Paul received his doctoral of musical arts and master of music degrees at the Juilliard School and a B.M. from New York University, where he studied with Justin Dello Joio. Paul’s website:
Graeme Steele Johnson, Clarinet
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Praised for his “elegant and rounded sound” (Albany Times Union) and “effortless…unmatched” technique (The Clarinet Online), Graeme Steele Johnson is an artist of uncommon imagination and versatility. His diverse artistic endeavors range from a TEDx talk comparing Mozart and Seinfeld, to his reconstruction of a forgotten 125-year-old work by Charles Martin Loeffler, to his performances of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in its original form on a rare elongated clarinet that he commissioned. He has appeared in recital at The Kennedy Center and Chicago’s Dame Myra Hess series, and as a chamber musician at festivals and concert series around the country, including Chamber Music Northwest, Ravinia, Phoenix Chamber Music Festival, Maverick Concerts, Music Mountain, Kallos Chamber Music Series and Yellow Barn. He is also a regular performer at the Annapolis Chamber Music Festival, Archipelago Collective Chamber Music Festival and Caroga Lake Music Festival. As a concerto soloist, he has performed twice with the Vienna International Orchestra, as well as with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Caroga Arts Ensemble, Vermont Mozart Festival Orchestra and the CME Chamber Orchestra. He is the clarinetist of the award-winning quintet WindSync, one of only two American wind quintets with a full-time, international touring schedule. WindSync is represented by MKI Artists.

Johnson is the winner of the Hellam Young Artists’ Competition and the Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition; other recent accolades include the Saint Botolph Club Foundation’s Emerging Artist Award and the inaugural Lee Memorial Scholarship from the Center for Musical Excellence. He has recorded commercially for Hyperion Records, MSR Classics and Musica Solis Productions, as well as a recent recording project at Abbey Road Studios with WindSync.

Driven by his interest in shedding fresh perspective on familiar music, Johnson has authored numerous chamber arrangements of repertoire ranging from Mozart and Debussy to Gershwin and Messiaen, and performed them around the country with such artists as the Miró Quartet, Valerie Coleman and Han Lash. Other distinguished chamber music collaborators include Ani Kavafian, Anthony Marwood, David Shifrin, Lucy Shelton, Allan Vogel, William Purvis and Bridget Kibbey, and ensembles such as the Imani Winds, the Callisto and KASA Quartets, New York New Music Ensemble, Frisson Ensemble, Metropolis Ensemble and American Modern Ensemble. As an orchestral musician, he performs regularly with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, New Haven Symphony Orchestra and Pegasus: The Orchestra.

Johnson’s writing about music has been published by the international journal The Clarinet, as well as in program booklets by Carnegie Hall, Chamber Music Northwest, Yale and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and as liner notes accompanying albums by David Shifrin, Ricardo Morales, Lloyd Van’t Hoff and the Center for Musical Excellence. He holds graduate degrees from the Yale School of Music, where he was twice awarded the school’s Alumni Association Prize. His major teachers include David Shifrin, Nathan Williams and Ricardo Morales, and he is now a doctoral candidate at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York under the mentorship of Charles Neidich. In 2021, Johnson joined the faculty of the Mahanaim School in Huntington, New York as Adjunct Professor of Clarinet. Graeme’s website:
Emily Levin, Harp
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Praised for her “communicative, emotionally intense expression” (Jerusalem Post) and “technical wizardry and artistic intuition” (Herald Times), harpist Emily Levin has forged a multifaceted career as a soloist, orchestral musician, chamber collaborator, artistic director, and advocate for new music. 

The only American to receive top prizes at two of the most prestigious international harp competitions, Levin won the 2013 Bronze Medal at the 9th USA International Harp Competition, and at just 18 years old, was named a finalist and Renié Prizewinner at the 2009 International Harp Contest in Israel.

Levin is principal harp with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where she holds the Elsa von Seggern Chair. She has also served as guest principal harp with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Houston Symphony, and appears regularly with the New York Philharmonic.

As a soloist and chamber musician, she has performed at leading venues throughout North America and Europe — including Carnegie Hall, National Sawdust, Bravo! Vail, the Kimmel Center, and the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Rugen, Germany. At the request of conductors Jaap van Zweden and John Adams, she has twice appeared as a soloist with the Dallas Symphony. Other concerto engagements include performances with the Jerusalem, Colorado and West Virginia Symphonies; the Louisiana Philharmonic; and the Ojai Festival and Lakes Area Music Festival. 

Guided by her mission to expand the harp repertoire, Levin works extensively with established and emerging composers alike. In 2021, she founded GROUNDWORK(S), an initiative commissioning 52 American composers — one from each state, plus Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico — to write new works centered on the harp. Recent and upcoming commissions have included works by Angélica Negrón, Reena Esmail, Michael Ippolito, Aaron Holloway Nahum, and Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate.

Levin’s 2023/2024 season also include joining the Boston Symphony as guest principal harp for their fall European tour, performances of Dylan Mattingly’s Lacrimae Rerum for two harps and two detuned pianos at Los Angeles’s Green Umbrella, and a North American tour of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Freude with harpist Michelle Gott.

This season will also bring the release of a new album of trios for harp, violin, and cello featuring Levin alongside violinist Julia Choi and cellist Christine Lamprea. Slated for a spring 2024 release on Azica Records, the new album will include music of Henriette Renié and Reena Esmail, as well as Angélica Negrón’s Ave del paraíso, a work commissioned and premiered by GroundWork(s) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In Dallas, Levin is the artistic director of Fine Arts Chamber Players (FACP), which presents local musicians in a series of free chamber music concerts tailored to families and children. In building FACP’s 2023–2024 season, Levin has centered programming on the theme of “The Ties That Bind,” exploring the threads that connect us to each other and the larger world. 

Levin was a winner of the 2016 Astral Artists National Auditions and was named the Classical Recording Foundation’s 2017 Young Musician of the Year for her debut album on Iris Records, Something Borrowed.

A committed educator, Levin is currently an adjunct associate professor of harp at Southern Methodist University, a faculty member at the Aspen Music Festival and Young Artist’s Harp Seminar, and will serve as a guest professor of harp at Baylor University for the fall 2023 term. Levin has led master classes at the New England Conservatory of Music, Northwestern University, Puerto Rico Conservatory, and the Universities of Arizona and Ottawa.

She received her Master of Music from the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Nancy Allen, where she was a teaching fellow for both the Ear Training and Educational Outreach Departments. A self-described bookworm, Levin completed undergraduate degrees in music and history at Indiana University with Susann McDonald. Her honors history thesis discussed the impact of war songs on the French Revolution.

Emily lives in Dallas with her husband, composer Jonathan Cziner, and their dogs Charlie and JoJo. Emily’s website:
Mitchell Lyon, Cello
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Cellist Mitchell Lyon approaches music making with a zeal for harnessing the unique power of musical experience. At home with audiences of all types, he has performed in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to intimate private homes. Mitch is a founding member of Empire Wild, a genre-bending crossover trio and Ambassador Prize Winner of the 2020 Concert Artist Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition. Last season the trio delighted audiences with their signature mix of original songwriting and unique arrangements at venues across the country including a stop at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center and a concert on the Harriman-Jewell concert series in Kansas City. This fall will feature a Midwest tour through ten states along with educational workshops in Iowa and Ohio. 

Passionate about community engagement and education, Mitch has been on the Teaching Artist Faculty of the New York Philharmonic since 2014, visiting schools across all five boroughs of NYC and scripting and performing interactive concerts for thousands of students. He frequently leads workshops for students of all ages and abilities, most recently at The Juilliard School Extension Division and the Preucil School Chamberfest (IA). An alumnus of Juilliard (B.M., M.M.), Mitch was the recipient of several fellowships and led a multidisciplinary team of performing artists—actors, dancers, and musicians—to New Orleans in 2012 and 2013 to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina. 

Mitch regularly spends summers as an artist faculty member at Omaha Conservatory of Music’s Soundwaves Festival and the Charles Ives Music Festival at WCYO. In past summers, Mitch has performed at the Caroga Lake Music Festival, the Fontainebleau School in France, Finchcocks Museum of Keyboard Instruments in Kent, UK, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and at the Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School in Santa Cruz, CA. 

Mitch’s primary teachers have included Bonnie Hampton and Timothy Eddy along with masterclasses with Steven Isserlis, Mark Kosower and Andres Diaz. He also spent four summers at the Meadowmount School of Music working with Melissa Kraut and Hans Jensen, as well as time at the Castleman Quartet Program and Montecito Summer Music Festival. Away from the cello, he can be found cooking, reading something geeky or plotting his next hike. Mitch’s website:
Eric Mahl, Brass & Conductor
(CIMF Artist-Faculty & Orchestra Conductor)

Eric believes in music’s unique ability to spur positive, meaningful, and lasting change in the world above all else. He views his role as a conductor/leader as one in the same as how he views his role in the world – to take as large a part as possible in proactively fostering an environment which is inclusive, compassionate and invigorating while encouraging vulnerability, expression, human connection and excellence. With music and kindness as his primary tools, he strives on every occasion to develop this world, not just within the orchestra itself, but to stoke the flames of inspiration and goodness throughout the communities that we serve.

Eric is the Music Director of the Northport Symphony, Geneva Light Opera Company, Philharmonia Orchestra at Third Street, and Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra, as well Associate Conductor and Community Engagement Coordinator with the Greenwich Village Orchestra and faculty/festival ensemble conductor at the Charles Ives Music Festival. Eris is also the founder and Music Director of OrchestraOne, a NYC based non-profit that has community involvement and participation as its foundation. He is grateful that through these positions he is able to create programming that is unique, meaningful and diverse, as well develop forward thinking and holistic initiatives for both our communities at large and the ensembles themselves. 

Eric is also grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate and perform consistently with world-class musicians both as soloists and ensembles members from orchestras such as the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Houston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Baltimore Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic and more, as well as Grammy winning and nominated musicians throughout the orchestral season. 

As a fervent supporter of New Music, Eric is frequently asked to conduct various New Music Ensembles in the Greater NYC area, has led ensembles in the performance of more than twenty world premiers and has commissioned nine pieces for full orchestra through the ensembles he directs. These and other projects have led to many collaborations and commissions with professional and student composers including the world premieres of fully-staged operas, experimental ballet, and countless small and large ensemble pieces of all genres and instrumentations. 

As a passionate educator, Eric has taught all ages and instruments at public and private schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City, and frequently work with student musicians from under-served communities. As a firm believer that music can provide a transformational experience for any child regardless of background, he attempts to engage and inspire students from as many cultural and geographic backgrounds as possible through community engagement activities such as free lectures, workshops, and concerts in addition to working with student orchestras.

Eric received his Bachelors of Music in Education from Ithaca College and continued his studies both at Universite de Montreal and the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he received his master’s degree. He has studied with some of the foremost conducting pedagogues in the United States including Marin Alsop, James Ross, Harold Farberman, Neil Varon, Marc Gibson, Larry Rachleff, Don Schleicher, Jean-Francois Rivest, Paolo Bellomia, and Joseph Gifford. He has also participated in workshops and competitions in the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic; at the Eastman School of Music, College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Bard College, and at the Cabrillo festival for contemporary music. Eric has had guest conducting experiences with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Ridgefield Symphony, Litha Symphony, New Amsterdam Symphony, Greenwich Village Orchestra, The Chelsea Symphony, Urban Playground Orchestra, and the University Orchestras of the College Conservatory of Music (CCM), Orchestra de l’Universite de Montreal, and SUNY Fredonia. Eric’s primary instruments are trumpet and piano and he continues to perform in orchestral, jazz, and chamber music settings. Eric’s website:
Francesca McNeeley, Cello
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Haitian-American cellist Francesca McNeeley has received critical acclaim as a collaborator and soloist, her playing described as “virtuosic”, “impressive” and “a remarkable display” by the Boston Musical Intelligencer. She enjoys an eclectic career in the Boston area as a chamber musician, orchestral player, and modern music advocate. She has premiered dozens of works, solo and chamber music—including pieces by John Harbison, Bongani Ndodana-Breen, Mark Neikrug, Augusta Read Thomas, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Joseph Phibbs, and Tyson Davis. Since the fall of 2022 she has become a core member of the Grammy-nominated A Far Cry chamber orchestra. She frequently performs with Castle of Our Skins and the Celebrity Series of Boston. She has also performed with the Boston Symphony, Boston Pops, Boston Ballet, and Sarasota Orchestras, and can be heard on BMOP/sound with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Catch her new album release, Homage: Chamber Music from the African Continent & Diaspora, performing with Castle of Our Skins and Dr. Samantha Ege.

Ms. McNeeley graduated Princeton University Phi Beta Kappa, and went on to receive scholarships to attend the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and the New England Conservatory for her graduate degrees in cello performance. She has earned fellowships and prizes from the Tanglewood Music Center, where she also served as a New Fromm Player. With her Fromm colleagues she has founded the Chroma Trio, championing modern string trio repertoire. She has received fellowships to attend the Music Academy of the West, Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, & Toronto Summer Music. She has been awarded multiple grants from the Sphinx Organization, and now serves on The Artist Council for the National Alliance for Audition Support. Her teachers and mentors have included Tom Kraines, Darrett Adkins, Norman Fischer, Yeesun Kim, and Astrid Schween.

Francesca is dedicated to community engagement through teaching and mentoring. In addition to her private teaching studio, she serves on the faculties for the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Intensive Community Program, Project STEP, as well as the Charles Ives Music Festival at the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra. Francesca’s website:
George Meyer, Violin
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

George Meyer plays the violin and writes music. He has performed his own compositions in a variety of settings, including Chamber Music Northwest, Bravo! Vail, the Savannah Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Telluride and RockyGrass Bluegrass Festivals, the Charles Ives Concert Series, the Rome Chamber Music Festival, and the Kyoto International Festival. He has appeared in performance with his father Edgar Meyer, and with Mike Marshall, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Fred Sherry, and Paul Neubauer. 

He has been commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest, Astral Artists, and Bravo! Vail. In 2016, Quodlibet Ensemble premiered his Concerto Grosso, a 15-minute work for string orchestra with solo string quartet, in New York City.

His violin teachers have included Naoko Tanaka, Laurie Smukler, Stephen Miahky, Lucy Chapman, Jennifer Frautschi, Carolyn Huebl, and Carol Smith. He holds degrees from Harvard College and the Juilliard School. He is from Nashville, TN. George’s website:
Ariana Nelson, Cello
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Cellist Ariana Nelson is a member of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, and is based in the DC area. Ariana most recently lived in Houston where she is a core member of the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra. She frequently performs with other ensembles in the Houston area, including the Houston Symphony, Houston Ballet, and Texas New Music Ensemble. Ariana has taught and coached as an adjunct faculty member at Texas Southern University, and at AFA’s Chamber Music Academy. She is an avid proponent of new music and loves experimenting with different styles, including improvisation and folk music. This passion led her to co-found the Pacific Crest Trio in 2020, a group that dives into multiple genres and prioritizes engaging more audiences and community outreach. Her eclectic tastes have also led her to appearances at Jazz at Lincoln Center, performances for patients recovering in Mount Sinai Hospital’s transplant ward, and a performance with the Silk Road Ensemble at Tanglewood. In 2015 Ariana was invited to perform in a small chamber orchestra to accompany Yo-Yo Ma at the Kennedy Center as part of the Kennedy Center Honors event. Ariana has received many honors as a soloist, most recently winning third prize at the 2016 Eisemann Young Artists Competition in Dallas, Texas.

A native of Seattle, Washington, Ariana was steeped in chamber music as a child. Family influences in music extend three generations back to her grandfather, Alan Iglitzin, who was the founding violist of the Philadelphia String Quartet. Her mother Karen was the first violinist of the quartet before she started her own chamber music organization in Seattle, called Chamber Music Madness. From a young age Ariana participated in this program, which involved monthly all day chamber music marathons with like minded peers, sight-reading difficult string quartet repertoire. As a high schooler she became a teaching intern and gained the experience of teaching and coaching young students playing chamber music. Forming her first string quartet at age eight, Ariana has been a member of numerous groups. During her first year of her undergraduate studies, she played in Trio d’ell Anima, a piano trio that performed in Houston. The following year she co-founded the Azure Quartet, which over two years was cultivated into a prize winning chamber ensemble, with a performance of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 9 and Haydn’s Sunrise Quartet that garnered them the second prize at the Music Teachers National Association 2014 chamber music competition. At Juilliard, her quartet the “Eva Quartet” performed in venues across New York City, and created a unique outreach project. Her extensive chamber music experience has included coaching with renowned musicians such as Emanuel Ax, James Dunham, David Finckel, John Harbison, Desmond Hoebig, Jon Kimura-Parker, Joseph Lin, and Roger Tapping. 

In recent summers, Ariana has performed at the Grand Teton Music Festival, Strings Musical Festival, The Spoleto USA Festival, Fontainebleau Conservatoire Américain, Aspen Music Festival and School, Le Domaine Forget Chamber Music Festival, the Olympic Music Festival and the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival in Italy. She spent the summers of 2015 and 2016 at the Tanglewood Music Center as the recipient of the James Taylor Fellowship. Her interest in improvisation and international music inspired her to take part in the the Silk Road Ensemble’s Global Musican Workshop at Tanglewood, which included performing in concert with the Silk Road Ensemble at the Koussevitsky Music Shed. 

A fierce proponent of new music, Ariana has championed the works of many contemporary composers. She has played in a number of student composer concerts at the Juilliard School and the Shepherd School of Music. Her interest led her to perform with the AXIOM contemporary ensemble, directed by Jeffrey Milarsky, in which she performed works by George Benjamin and Thomas Adès. During Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music she performed chamber music and orchestral music by composers including Dallapicolla, Druckman, and Messaien. In 2016 she commissioned a cello and piano work entitled “Responses” by Juilliard DMA candidate Jonathan Cziner, which she premiered on her Master of Music degree recital. 

Ariana is passionate about bringing the joy of music to others in her community. For the past three summers, Ariana has been an artist faculty member at the Danbury Music Center’s “Chamber Music Intensive,” a week long program for young students. In conjunction with the Charles Ives Concert Series, she taught private lessons, coached chamber music, and performed several concerts featuring new and contemporary music in Danbury, Connecticut. At Juilliard, Ariana’s quartet the Eva Quartet, was part of a year long seminar called Chamber Music and Community Service Seminar led by Natasha Brofsky and Catherine Cho. Within the year, her group proposed and created a unique community engagement project. The Eva Quartet collaborated with Daniel’s Music Foundation, an organization providing free classes and socialization for the disability community in New York City, through music. The quartet frequently visited the foundation where they attended the classes and volunteered, all the while forging a relationship and bridging the gap between the institutions. They put on a collaborative concert at Juilliard, inviting the Lincoln Center community, as well as the same concert at Daniel’s Music Foundation for the disability community and their families. 

Ariana received her Master of Music degree at the Juilliard School in May of 2017 where she studied with Darrett Adkins. She completed her Bachelor of Music degree at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where she graduated cum laude in May of 2015. There she had the privilege of studying cello with Norman Fischer of the Concord Quartet. She was honored to be part of the first Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra tour in February, 2014, when they performed at the Meyerhoff Center in Baltimore, and in Carnegie Hall.  Ariana’s website:
Priscilla Rinehart, Horn
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Priscilla Rinehart, a Florida native, recently completed a horn fellowship at the New World Symphony, where she performed a variety of repertoire styles and time periods, including the newest music of today. The past two summers have seen Ms. Rinehart at the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. An active freelance musician, She has been a member of the Chineke! Orchestra. Ms. Rinehart received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Juilliard, having studied with Erik Ralske, principal horn of the Metropolitan Opera, and Jennifer Montone, principal horn of The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Mika Sasaki, Piano
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Praised as a “superb interpreter” (Fanfare) and for her “virtuosity… and sparkling sound” (Times Argus), pianist Mika Sasaki enjoys a versatile career as a soloist, chamber musician, and educator. She has performed across the U.S. and in the U.K., Italy, Japan, and Switzerland, appearing in notable venues such as the Library of Congress, the Metropolitan Museum, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. Her performances have been broadcasted on WQXR, WFMT, WCRB, KQAC, and Radio Sweden. She has appeared as concerto soloist with the Sinfonia of Cambridge, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, 92Y Orchestra, and more recently, with the InterSchool Symphony Orchestra of New York, performing Amy Beach’s Piano Concerto.

Mika is the pianist of the powerhouse sextet Ensemble Mélange (formerly SHUFFLE) and a newly appointed core member of Decoda, the affiliate ensemble of Carnegie Hall. As a guest artist, she has performed with the Manhattan Chamber PlayersOrpheus Chamber OrchestraEnsemble Connect (alum), Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Passionate about community and audience engagement, she has presented interactive performances at schools and community venues all around New York City and across the country. Together with violinist Becky Anderson, the Anderson-Sasaki Duo has been invited to Chattanooga, TN, for a Community Engagement Residency at String Theory at the Hunter (2022), and to Portland, OR, for an ongoing residency with Chamber Music Northwest (2022-25).

She is an alumna of summer programs such as the Tanglewood Music Center, Music@Menlo, Accademia Chigiana, Yellow Barn, Aspen, Icicle Creek, Mannes Beethoven Institute, and Taos School of Music, and has performed at festivals including the Focus!, Weekend of Chamber Music, Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival, Monadnock Music, Time:Spans, Shandelee, and the Rite of Summer Music Festival. She has also taught and performed at pianoSonoma, Rushmore, Omaha Conservatory SoundWaves, Taubman Piano Festival, WCYO Charles Ives Music Festival, Summer Performing Arts with Juilliard (Geneva, Switzerland and Orlando, FL) and Music@Menlo’s Chamber Music Institute.

Based in New York City, Mika is a faculty member at The Juilliard School, where she is the Supervisor of Secondary Piano in the College Division and teaches keyboard skills, piano, and chamber music in the College, Pre-College, and Extension Divisions. She is an alumna of the Peabody Conservatory (B.M., M.M.), Ensemble Connect—a two-year fellowship program of Carnegie Hall, Juilliard, and the Weill Institute, in partnership with the NYC Department of Education—and The Juilliard School (D.M.A.), where she studied with Joseph Kalichstein and received the Juilliard Career Advancement Grant upon graduation. When not at the piano, she can be found tending to her houseplants, cooking, or chasing after her cat.  Mika’s website:
Giora Schmidt, Violin
(CIMF Artist)

Praised by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “impossible to resist, captivating with lyricism, tonal warmth, and boundless enthusiasm,” violinist Giora Schmidt has appeared as soloist with many prominent symphony orchestras around the globe including Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Canada’s National Arts Centre, Toronto, Vancouver and the Israel Philharmonic. 

In recital and chamber music, Giora has performed at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, San Francisco Performances, the Louvre Museum in Paris, and Tokyo’s Musashino Cultural Hall. Festival appearances include the Ravinia Festival, the Santa Fe and Montreal Chamber Music Festivals, Bard Music Festival, Scotia Festival of Music and Music Academy of the West. He has collaborated with eminent musicians including Yefim Bronfman, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Lynn Harrell, Ralph Kirshbaum and Michael Tree.

Born in Philadelphia to professional musicians from Israel, Giora began playing the violin at the age of four. A graduate of the Juilliard School, his teachers have included Geoffrey Michaels, Patinka Kopec, Dorothy DeLay and Itzhak Perlman. Committed to education and sharing his passion for music, Giora is currently on the artist faculty at New York University (NYU Steinhardt) and Orford Musique Academy (Quebec) in the summer. He was previously on the faculty at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, the Juilliard School and Perlman Music Program. Through technology and social media, he continues to find new ways of reaching young violinists and music lovers around the world. 

He is the recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, The Classical Recording Foundation’s Samuel Sanders award, and was a Starling Fellow at the Juilliard School.  Giora plays a c. 1830 violin by Giuseppe Rocca and strings kindly sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld, Vienna.
Julian Schwarz, Cello
(CIMF Artist)

Julian Schwarz was born to a multigenerational musical family in 1991. Heralded from a young age as a cellist destined to rank among the greatest of the 21st century, Julian’s powerful tone, effortless virtuosity, and extraordinarily large color palette are hallmarks of his style. 

After making his concerto debut at the age of 11 with the Seattle Symphony and his father Gerard Schwarz on the podium, he made his US touring debut with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2010. Since being awarded first prize at the inaugural Schoenfeld International String Competition in 2013, he has led an active career as soloist, performing with the symphony orchestras of Annapolis, Boise, Buffalo, Charlotte, Columbus, Delaware, Des Moines, Hartford, Jacksonville, Louisville, Memphis, Modesto, Omaha, Puerto Rico, Richmond, Rochester, San Antonio, San Jose, Sarasota, Syracuse, Toledo, Tucson, Virginia, West Virginia, Wichita, and Winston-Salem, among many others. Internationally, he made his Australian debut with the Queensland Symphony, his Mexican debuts with the Boca del Rio Philharmonic in Veracruz and the Mexico City Philharmonic with frequent collaborator Jorge Mester, and his Hong Kong debut at the Intimacy of Creativity Festival. He has also appeared at the Salzburg Mozarteum, and the Verbier festival in Switzerland. 

As a chamber musician, Mr. Schwarz performs extensively in recital with Marika Bournaki. In 2016 Schwarz & Bournaki were awarded first prize at the inaugural Boulder International Chamber Music Competition’s “The Art of Duo”, and subsequently embarked on an extensive 10-recital tour of China in March 2017. Mr. Schwarz is a founding member of the New York based touring ensemble “Frisson” and was recently appointed as a core member of the Olmos Ensemble in San Antonio. He is a member of the Palladium Chamber Players (St Petersburg FL), the Alaria Ensemble (New York NY), and has given over 100 performances at Brooklyn’s Bargemusic. He has appeared at the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Josef Gingold Chamber Music Festival, Verbier Festival, and the Salzburg Mozarteum. In addition, he runs programming for the Tuesday evening chamber music series at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC.

Julian Schwarz is an ardent supporter of new music, and has premiered concertos by Richard Danielpour and Samuel Jones (recorded with the All Star Orchestra for public television in 2012, subsequently released as a DVD on Naxos). In the 17-18 season, he gave the world premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s first Cello Concerto with a consortium of six orchestras. Other premieres include recital works by Paul Frucht, Scott Ordway, Jonathan Cziner, Gavin Fraser, Alex Weiser, Ofer Ben-Amots, chamber music by Adolphus Hailstork, Henri Lazarof, Bright Sheng, and the US Premiere of Dobrinka Tabakova’s Cello Concerto. Of special note is Mr. Schwarz’s ongoing commitment to the music of Jewish experience, including projects with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (music of Joachim Stutschewsky and his circle), the Defiant Requiem Foundation (music of Holocaust composers and their influence) Central Synagogue (yearly feature on Jewish Broadcasting), the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music—for which he has recorded the complete cello/piano works of Ernest Bloch, and a new association with South Florida Public Broadcasting.

A devoted teacher, Mr. Schwarz serves as Associate Professor of Cello at Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University (Winchester, VA), and on the artist faculty of NYU’s Steinhardt School of Music. In the summer, he teaches and performs at the Eastern Music Festival and the Josef Gingold Festival. In 2023, he was one of the first cellists to record pedagogical tutorials for the online teaching platform Tonebase, including comprehensive examinations of the Elgar Concerto, Piatti Caprices, tone production, and vocal elements in cello playing. As a writer, he has contributed frequently to Strings Magazine’s Artist Blog, has written learner’s guides for The Violin Channel, and has edited a series of Ernest Bloch editions with written prefaces for Carl Fischer Publishing. Past faculty appointments include artist-in-residence at the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance (Nova Scotia, Canada), faculty teaching assistant to Joel Krosnick at The Juilliard School, and artist-In-residence at the pianoSonoma Festival.

Born in Seattle, WA, Mr. Schwarz studied at the Academy of Music Northwest and the Lakeside School. He continued to the Colburn School in Los Angeles under Ronald Leonard, and then moved to New York City to study with mentor Joel Krosnick at The Juilliard School (BM 14, MM 16). Other influential teachers include the late David Tonkonogui, the late Toby Saks, the late Lynn Harrell, Neal Cary, and chamber music mentors Andre Roy, Arnold Steinhardt, Jonathan Feldman, Toby Appel and Paul Coletti. Julian plays a Neapolitan cello made by Gennaro Gagliano in 1743 and American bows by Paul Martin Siefried. A Pirastro and Melos artist, he endorses and plays the “Perpetual” medium and edition sets of cello strings and Melos light rosin. Julian’s website:
Jeremías Sergiani-Velázquez, Violin
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Violnist Jeremías Sergiani-Velázquez has performed classical, contemporary, and tango music around the world. As soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral performer, he has been heard in 16 countries across four continents. He was recently appointed Principal Second Violin of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Born in Córdoba, Argentina, a teenage Jeremías’ big break nearly got him expelled. While he had finally been accepted to study with the vaunted violinist Fernando Hasaj, Jeremías needed to commute to Buenos Aires—a 20 hour round trip by bus which forced him to miss multiple days of school at a time. When threatened with losing his musical education, the young violinist underwent rigorous study to attain his high school diploma at 15, freeing himself to focus on music as his love.

His hard work paid off. Eventually plucked out of Argentina to join the New England Conservatory and later The Juilliard School, Jeremías quickly developed a deep orchestral resume: he was a member of both the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Chicago’s Grant Park Symphony. Throughout his career, Jeremías has been invited to the world’s most elite summer festivals, including the Perlman Music Program, Music@Menlo, Taos, Kneisel, Aspen, and Schleswig-Holstein.

Outside the symphony orchestra, Jeremías remains in demand from a variety of ensembles. Highlights include touring with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra to Carnegie Hall, Germany, and Canada; and making his National Sawdust debut with contemporary violinist Miranda Cuckson. He is a founding member of the Frisson Ensemble—with whom he was featured in NPR’s Performance Today—and has served as concertmaster of the New York Classical Players. Jeremías is also a member of the NYC based Sonora Collective, a musicians collective that collaborates with contemporary artists to create vibrant performance experiences in special venues and installation spaces. Holding close to his Argentinian roots, Jeremías also enjoys performing with several tango groups in New York. Most notably, he is a founding member of the Pedro Giraudo Tango Quartet, winners of the 2018 Latin GRAMMY® Award. 

In 2016, following the previous year’s devastating earthquake, Jeremías joined the acclaimed violinist Midori in Nepal for a benefit string quartet tour of refugee camps, hospitals, and schools, culminating in a performance at the United Nations in Kathmandu. Later in 2017, the same group would conduct a quartet tour across Japan, with feature performances in Tokyo’s Oji Hall and Osaka’s Phoenix Hall.

After picking up his violin at the age of 3, Jeremías first toured his home country as a soloist at 10, and returned to win First Prize at the Argentine Hebrew Foundation Competition. He owes much of his great fortune to the violinist Miriam Fried who, upon their meeting at a music festival in Brazil, encouraged a young Jeremías to study with her at the New England Conservatory, where he received his Bachelor of Music. Jeremías holds additional degrees from The Juilliard School (M.M.) and the Manhattan School of Music (P.S.C.) and is also deeply grateful to his other primary teachers: Ronald Copes, Glenn Dicterow, Lisa Kim, Sylvia Rosenberg, and Fabricio Valvasori. 

He is based in New York City, where he lives with his wife, the flutist and social media influencer Katherine Althen-Velázquez, and their Havanese dog Miguel.  Jeremías‘ website:
Jacob Shack, Viola
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Violist Jacob Shack is based in Baltimore, Maryland, where he is Associate Principal Viola of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Appointed to this position in 2022, Jacob was previously Fourth Chair Viola of the BSO. He maintains a highly varied career of orchestral, contemporary, and chamber music performance.

As an orchestral musician, Jacob has appeared with symphony orchestras across the United States, including those of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, the National Symphony, New World Symphony, and New York Philharmonic. His festival appearances include Arizona MusicFest, Aspen Music Festival, Grand Teton Music Festival, Lake George Music Festival, New York String Orchestra Seminar, Sarasota Music Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, and Tanglewood Music Center, where he was a recipient of the Maurice Schwarz Prize. As a passionate proponent of contemporary music, Jacob was a member of the New Fromm Players at Tanglewood, which also served as the ensemble-in-residence at Bright Sheng’s Intimacy of Creativity Festival in Hong Kong.

When not performing, Jacob is a devoted educator. In addition to maintaining a private studio in Baltimore, Jacob has been an instructor of viola at Baltimore School for the Arts since 2018. He is also an artist-faculty member of the Charles Ives Music Festival, an intensive chamber music program for youth and adults in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

A native of Andover, Massachusetts, Jacob earned his bachelor’s degree in Comparative Religion from Harvard University in 2014. While an undergraduate, Jacob studied with Martha Strongin Katz of the New England Conservatory. He went on to pursue a master’s degree at The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Heidi Castleman and Misha Amory.
Chelsea Starbuck-Smith, Violin
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Acclaimed as a violinist of “compelling presence, fearless attack, and technical aplomb and bravado” (New London’s The Day),Chelsea Starbuck Smith is a young artist known for her infectious enthusiasm for the violin. She has performed as solo and chamber artist in venues across the United States and abroad, including Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, David Geffen Hall, Elbphilharmonie, Musikverein Wien, Citi Field, Carnegie Hall, Palais de Fontainebleau in France, and Centre National des Arts in Ottawa.

As a chamber, theater, and orchestral musician, Chelsea is at home with both classical and crossover styles. Recent collaborators include Diana Ross, Baz Luhrmann for the Met Gala, Chris Thile of the Punch Brothers, The Eagles, Kelly Clarkson, Debbie Harry & Blondie, and The Knights Chamber Orchestra. Chelsea has performed in over ten Broadway and off-Broadway shows, is a regular section-member of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular orchestra, and has served as concertmaster for Broadway’s A Christmas Carol and Rocktopia.  See below for more theater credits. As one-half of the crossover violin duo, Les Deux, she has been hailed as “unarguably gifted with a keen ear for arranging” by the New York Examiner. In 2015 the duo dazzled Citi Field with Chelsea’s original arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner at a New York Mets home game. 

Chelsea has made solo appearances with the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in Charleston, SC, and the Southern Finger Lakes Orchestra in Corning, NY. Her solo debut with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was called a “show-stopper,” and she was described by music critic Milton Moore as “dominating the stage and electrifying her audience with her high-powered and knowing performance.”

Beyond the concert stage, Chelsea can be seen in such television series as Glee and, perhaps most recognizably, as the featured violinist in the long-running NYU Langone national television commercial set in New York’s Grand Central Station. Other appearances include American Public Media’s Live from Here, The Today Show, WMNR Fine Arts Radio and Connecticut Public Radio, and The String Fingers Band’s debut bluegrass album Don’t Forget

Chelsea completed her studies at The Juilliard School in 2016, receiving a Master of Music degree under the tutelage of David Chan and Laurie Smukler, and graduating with the Norman Benzaquen Career Advancement Grant for “talent, promise, creativity, and potential to make a significant impact in the performing arts.” She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Juilliard where she studied with Sally Thomas. Other teachers and mentors include Ann Setzer, Glenn Dicterow, Laura Wright, Jorja Fleezanis, James Gaffigan, Pinchas Zukerman, and Patinka Kopec. A third-generation teacher, Chelsea is on faculty at Temple Emanu-El’s Nursery School and has taught in the NYC Public Schools as a teaching artist with the New York Philharmonic. You can listen to Chelsea’s newly released EP with Adam Rothenberg performing the Corigliano Sonata, and her debut album, Les Deux, featuring original arrangements, available on iTunes and Spotify. Chelsea performs on a 2004 Kurt Widenhouse violin. Chelsea’s website:
Remy Taghavi, Bassoon
(CIMF Artist-Faculty)

Noted for his “bubbling, charming” playing, Rémy Taghavi is a highly sought-after bassoonist and educator based in the Northeast, and has performed, toured and recorded with numerous groups across North America, South America, and Asia. Rémy has held the position of principal bassoon with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra since 2018 and has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Las Vegas Philharmonic, Orchestra New England (ONE), and the Cape and Princeton Symphonies, among others. He has previously been an associate member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and a substitute member of Symphony in C. His playing can be heard on ONE’s upcoming album of the orchestral music of Charles Ives on the NAXOS label. Rémy has performed as a soloist with the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra and the New York Symphonic Ensemble at Fukuoka Symphony Hall (Japan) and the United Nations (NY). 

As a chamber musician, Rémy has given performances at the Banff Centre, Domaine Forget, Bravo! Vail, the Atlantic Music Festival, FIMAC, Montréal/New Musics Festival, the Bermuda Festival, and the Annapolis Chamber Music Festival, of which he is co-director and founder. Mr. Taghavi is the bassoonist in Frisson, the New York-based nonet whose performances have been called “musical perfection” (Royal Gazette, Bermuda). He is also a member of SoundMind, a modern wind quintet which performs music by living composers alongside re-imagined works from across an expanse of style, genre, and instrumentation. Rémy is an alumnus of Ensemble Connect, a chamber music and career-development fellowship of Carnegie Hall and The Juilliard School. 

Mr. Taghavi is Assistant Professor of Bassoon at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and faculty at the Rocky Ridge Music Center’s Young Artist Seminar (Colorado). From 2014 to 2019 he was an instructor of music technology in the Evening Division at The Juilliard School. In addition to his faculty positions, he has given masterclasses at numerous colleges and universities across the country. Rémy graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music from the University of Southern California, received a Master’s degree from The Juilliard School, and completed his doctorate at Stony Brook University. His primary teachers include Dr. Frank Morelli, Judith Farmer, and Norbert Nielubowski. Remy’s website: