Meet The Fellows
Luis Celis Avila
Master of Music (MM) student, Double Bass
A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Luis Celis started playing the double bass at age 14. In 2021 he graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston where he studied with Susan Hagen on a full scholarship. Before that, he studied at the Jose Luis Paz Music Conservatory in his native Maracaibo for 11 years. During his time in Venezuela, Celis profusely enjoyed performing with a variety of youth and professional orchestras like the Maracaibo Symphony Orchestra.
During his time in Boston, Celis was fortunate to be part of one of the most vibrant and active communities in the world. As a former member of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, he studied with Danilo Perez, Kenny Werner, Victor Wooten and John Patitucci. In 2018 Celis was chosen to perform at a master class for Ron Carter at the college. In addition to these experiences, Celis has also performed with the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (including a tour to Brazil with pianist Anna Fedorova) and the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra.
Celis has participated in summer festivals such as the Curtis Institute Summerfest where he was able to work with Roberto Diaz, and the Bach Institute in Boston where he worked with John Harbison.
Celis has also performed with multiple Grammy-winning artists such as Jacob Collier, George Massenburg (Studio Recording), Aida Cuevas, Latin Grammy winner Miguel Siso and Tigran Hamasyan. Other highlights include performing for Lenin Moreno, president of Ecuador at Harvard, for Howard Shore as the principal bassist of the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra at a concert in Boston Symphony Hall and for the Nintendo Switch video game score Dragon Marked for Death composed by Ippo Yamada.
Master of Music (MM) student, Violin
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Maalik Glover has studied the violin since the age of 11. Glover’s first significant accomplishment was his acceptance into the Talent Development Program, an initiative launched by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra that targets gifted African-American and Latino music students to further develop their future careers as accomplished classical musicians. This program allowed him to meet and study with his first teacher, Justin Bruns (associate concertmaster of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), during his adolescence. In 2015, Glover graduated with a Fine Arts Diploma Seal from Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts.
Glover has performed in Italy, Canada and throughout the U.S. He made his first professional orchestra debut in October 2017 when he subbed with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra under the baton of George Del Gobbo. Glover has also spent two summers performing with the Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy in Powell River, British Columbia. While there, he received intense orchestral training from Dennis Kim and Richard Roberts, concertmasters of Pacific Symphony and Montreal Symphony Orchestra, respectively.
In May 2019, Glover graduated summa cum laude from Columbus State University’s Schwob School of Music. During his time here, he studied with Boris Abramov, principal second violinist of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. While attending the Schwob School of Music, Glover received recognition at competitions such as being awarded an honorable mention in the Schwob School of Music Concerto Competition and was a finalist in Lagrange Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition.
Artist Diploma (AD) student, Viola
Tyler McKisson is a 24-year-old orchestral and freelance violist from Arvada, Colorado who has recently received a Master of Music degree from the University of Colorado – Boulder in viola performance. During his Master’s, he studied under Erika Eckert. McKisson received a Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance at the University of Northern Colorado where he studied under Christopher Luther and Anne Lanzilotti. McKisson’s musical career started at age 10 when he joined his school’s string orchestra program. At age 14, he began his studies under his first private instructor, Brian Cook.
McKisson has participated in master classes as part of an ensemble and as a soloist led by artists such as Guillermo Figueroa, Robert deMaine and Matthew Dane. McKisson has been a member of the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra for four seasons and has been a substitute for other local orchestras including the Boulder Symphony Orchestra and the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra. McKisson has also been named a substitute for the New World Symphony Orchestra, based in Miami, FL. He is a member of the Dynamix String Quartet which has performed an array of pop songs, classical pieces, and new music. Dynamix has performed two world premieres by local composers Eric Scott Alexander and Conner Lee Shaw. McKisson is also a member of the All Angles Orchestra which was the recipient of the Downbeat Student Music Award for Large Jazz Ensemble in 2018. Additionally, the ensemble recorded their debut album, New Angle, in 2017 through the Outside in Music Record Label.
He has been a national finalist in the MTNA Competition Chamber Division and has received a number of scholarships and grants to aid his undergraduate and graduate studies. McKisson has participated in several summer music programs including; Zodiac Music Academy Festival in Valdeblore, France; Music in the Mountains in Durango, CO; and Rocky Ridge Music Festival in Estes Park, CO. This summer, McKisson will be attending the Aspen Music Festival and School as a fellowship recipient.
Artist Diploma (AD) student, Double Bass
Born and raised in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Amy Nickler began playing the violin at age six. Six years later she switched to the double bass and has loved it ever since.
In recent years, Nickler has participated as a fellow in several festivals and orchestras such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, The Orchestra NOW, Oslo Kammerakademi, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and Miami Music Festival. In July 2016, Nickler was a winner of the Concerto Competition honoring Ida Haendel with the opportunity to perform as a soloist in the New World Center with the Miami Music Festival Orchestra. Aside from performing, Nickler enjoys her time as a teaching artist for the Nat King Cole Generation Hope, Inc. and the Volta Music Foundation in Havana, Cuba.
Nickler received her Bachelor of Music at Lynn Conservatory in 2017 with Professor Timothy Cobb and she received her Master of Music at Yale School of Music with Professor Donald Palma in 2019.
Artist Diploma (AD) student, Cello
Max Oppeltz-Carroz started playing the cello at the age of four as a student of El Sistema in Caracas, Venezuela. As a part of the world-renowned music program, Oppeltz-Carroz played in the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, the Chacao Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Caracas Municipal Orchestra. He studied with Cesar Noguera, Marek Gajzler and German Marcano. He also participated in numerous master classes with cellists such as Natalia Gutman and Phillip Muller.
In 2014, Oppeltz-Carroz moved to the U.S. to study at the Juilliard School with Professor Richard Aaron. As an undergraduate student, Oppeltz-Carroz participated in several lessons and master classes with cellist Franz Helmerson and studied chamber music with musicians such as Roger Tapping, Sam Rhoades, Sylvia Rosenberg and Jerome Lowenthal. In 2016, Oppeltz-Carroz was fortunate to attend the Music Academy of the West, the highlights of which were taking lessons with Lynn Harrel and performing alongside faculty Warren Jones and Kathleen Winkler.
In 2018, Oppeltz-Carroz moved to Denver to study at the Lamont School of Music as a Newman Graduate Fellow under Matthew Zalkind. While in Denver, he was fortunate to perform alongside faculty both at the University of Denver Lamont School of Music and at the Denver Chamber Music Festival.
Oppeltz-Carroz is extremely grateful to be playing on a 1880 French cello from the Caussin School, generously loaned by the Virtu Foundation.
Artist Diploma (AD) student, Viola
Javier Otalora was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, and began playing violin at age six. In 2018, he graduated from Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he studied violin with Gregory Fulkerson and Sibbi Bernhardsson and viola with Kirsten Docter and Peter Slowik. Otalora is also a recent graduate of the University of Michigan where he received his Master of Music in viola performance with Caroline Coade on a full scholarship.
Otalora was an Orchestral Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival in 2019 and has attended summer festivals such as the Meadowmount School, the Red Rocks Chamber Festival, the Dali Chamber Festival and Spoleto Festival USA. Otalora is a passionate orchestra, chamber and contemporary music player. He has performed with musicians and groups such as the Lansing Symphony, the Aspen Conducting Orchestra, the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, members of the International Contemporary Ensemble, the University of Michigan’s Contemporary Directions Ensemble and Sibbi Bernhardsson from the Pacifica Quartet.
Otalora is also involved in music education, having taught violin and viola in Panama for two consecutive years through Oberlin’s “Panama Project.” In addition, he has taught violin, viola and chamber music at the Oberlin Community Music School and was also a strings teacher at Mitchell Elementary School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In 2017, Otalora received the Martin L. King Career Grant which allowed him to return to Panama that summer and run his own chamber camp at the University of Panama. In his free time, Otalora enjoys eating pizza with friends, reading about airplanes, and fixing computers and printers.
Master of Music (MM) student, Cello
Venezuelan cellist Luis Parra, age 24, began his musical journey at age 10, studying with cellist Tibisay Silva at the world-renowned program “El Sistema'' in San Felipe, Venezuela. In 2012, Parra became a student of the Latin American Cello Academy, where he continued his studies with cellists William Molina and Wilfredo Perez and had the opportunity to work with other prominent cellists, including German Marcano and Marek Gajzler.
In 2013, Parra was named Principal Cellist of the Yaracuy Youth Symphony Orchestra and was invited to perform with the professional Caracas Municipal Orchestra and the Teresa Carreño Symphony. Parra made his solo debut with the Yaracuy Youth Symphony Orchestra in 2014, performing the Saint Saens Cello Concerto and his international debut with the Beirut Philharmonic in Ghalboun, Lebanon, where he performed the Elgar Cello Concerto.
As an accomplished chamber musician, Parra has participated in many festivals worldwide, including the Nuevo Mundo Festival and Academy in Aruba, the Yawmiyat Festival in Ghalboun, Lebanon, Center Stage Strings in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Amelia Island Festival in Florida.
In 2017, Parra moved to the United States, accepting a full scholarship to study at the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University with cellists Richard Aaron, Julie Albers and Leo Singer. At Mercer, Parra had the opportunity to perform in master classes for great cellists and pedagogues, such as Edward Arron and Clive Greensmith, and performed alongside the Cavani String Quartet. In May of 2021, Parra was awarded the General Excellence in Music Award from the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance. Luis Parra plays on a “Neuner & Hornsteiner” cello, generously loaned by the Carlsen Cello Foundation from Seattle, WA.
Artist Diploma (AD) student, Cello
Samantha Powell recently graduated with a Bachelor’s in Cello Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music. There she studied with the associate principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra, Richard Weiss. A 2017 graduate of Centennial High School, she was very involved in her orchestra as principal cellist, as well as her local church, where she has been a frequent featured soloist.
Powell started her music studies with cello at the age of five studying with John Landefeld, Associate Principal Cellist of the Plano Symphony Orchestra. She has won spots in the top All-Region orchestras in five consecutive years and has received All-State solo and orchestral honors. She was also a dedicated member of the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra where she was featured as a concerto winner of the GDYO Philharmonic and the principal cellist of the top ensemble.
At CIM, she has been a principal cellist of the orchestra, been very active in chamber music being in groups like the Thalia Quartet which was selected for the Advanced String Quartet program, and has participated soloistically in Sonata Seminar where again being featured in concert. She was recently awarded for best Bach in the Cleveland Cello Society Scholarship Competition. Festivals where she has been a participant include The International Lyric Academy, Graz American Institute of Musical Studies in Austria, National Symphony Orchestra Summer Institute and recently received a fellowship with the National Orchestra Institute.
Mwakudua Kuo San “Dua” WaNgure
Artist Diploma (AD) student, Violin
Mwakudua WaNgure grew up in Fort Myers, Florida, where he started violin at the age of four through the Suzuki method. He continued to study violin throughout his childhood and graduated from high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy. WaNgure attended the Oberlin Conservatory where he earned his BM in Violin Performance and studied with David Bowlin. WaNgure went on to earn his MM in violin performance at the University of Michigan where he studied under Aaron Berofsky and Kathryn Votapek.
As a student WaNgure attended festivals such as the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Summer Intensive. As a professional WaNgure performed as a member of the various groups in the midwest such as the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, the Jackson Symphony Orchestra and the Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival Orchestra. He also served as a violin instructor at Scarlett Middle School and Mitchell Elementary School in Ann Arbor.
Graduates of the Program
Master of Music (MM), Double Bass
Camellia Aftahi graduated from CCM with a Master of Music in Double Bass in 2020. It was the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship’s aspiration that was part of her original interest in the program. “What drove me to apply for the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship was not only my desire to perform with and learn from a group of high caliber musicians but also to have an opportunity to bring representation to minority groups on stage,” said Aftahi.
Aftahi began playing double bass at the age of 12. She earned her Bachelor of Music in Double Bass Performance at San Diego State University where she studied with Jeremy Kurtz-Harris and Jory Herman.
An avid freelancer, Aftahi has performed with many groups in Southern California, including the San Diego City Ballet, the Opera NEO workshop, the BRAVO Festival and the La Jolla Symphony under the direction of Steve Schick. Aftahi also takes enjoyment in teaching and maintains an active private studio in addition to coaching at local public schools.
At CCM Aftahi studied with CSO Principal Bass and CCM Adjunct Assistant Professor Owen Lee.
Outside of performing music, Aftahi’s interests include reading 20th-century fiction and poetry, going to museums, eating vegetarian food, studying music and its various intersections with social issues, and playing board games.
Master of Music (MM), Violin
Venezuelan violinist Magdiell Antequera made his first debut as a soloist in with the Falcon Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela at the age of 10 and has continued to play as a guest soloist in various orchestras in South America and the United States. His work has been praised by legendary violinists including Midori Goto, Margaret Batjer and Glenn Dicterow. Antequera has participated in multiple master classes and private lessons with acclaimed professors from a number of conservatories including the Juilliard School. In addition, he has won and received recognition from important competitions such as the Solo Competition at the Academia Latinoamericana de Violin (Venezuela), Thursday Musical Competition (Minnesota), Schubert Club Competition (Minnesota), Texas Rising Stars, Rodolfo Lipizer International Violin Competition (Italy) and others.
Antequera attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s School as a member of the Pre-Conservatory Program from 2012–15, where he studied with Sally O ́Reilly at the University of Minnesota. In 2015 he was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied with Brian Lewis and kept an active solo career.
Artist Diploma (AD), Viola
Emilio Carlo graduated from the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program in 2018 with an Artist Diploma in Viola. He is a native of the Bronx, New York, and currently resides in Washington DC. He completed his Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance at CCM in 2016. His teachers included Catharine Carroll-Lees, Masao Kawasaki and Jan Grüning of the Ariel Quartet.
In previous years, he has attended the Aspen Music Festival and Japan’s Pacific Music Festival. He was also appointed as Principal Viola for a concert tour under the direction of Maestro Yutaka Sado. Outside of music, his hobbies include attending jazz concerts, cooking and exercising. Carlo is a 2012 recipient of the Brewster Award for young artists from the John. F Kennedy Center for the performing arts.
Artist Diploma (AD), Violin
Jordan Curry began playing violin at the age of six using the Suzuki method. A graduate of West Ottawa High School in Holland, Michigan, Curry continued to play violin and study music throughout his formative years.
He has participated in the Illinois Chamber Music Festival at Illinois Wesleyan University, the Michigan All-State Orchestra and the Holland Area Youth Orchestra. Curry furthered his studies with Korean violinist Young Shin and Mihai Craioveanu, professor of violin at Hope College.
He received his bachelor’s degree in violin performance at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo under the instruction of Professor Renata Artman Knific. Curry plays a violin from famed maker Mario Miralles on loan from acclaimed violin soloist Tai Murray. He recently received his master’s in violin performance the University of Denver under Linda Wang.
Cristian J. Diaz
Master of Music (MM), Viola
Cristian Diaz is a violist from Colombia who holds a bachelor's degree in violin performance from Colombia’s National University-Conservatory of Music, and a master’s degree in chamber music from Kent State University. His former professors include members of the acclaimed Miami String Quartet, Keith Robinson and Cathy Meng Robinson, and his viola professor Joanna Patterson Zakany, member of the prestigious Cleveland Orchestra.
Diaz has been part of many orchestras across the globe, and was runner up in the Kent State University concerto competition (2017), he was selected to become part of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra Academy 2018 in Dortmund, Germany, winner of the inaugural Diversity Fellowship of the CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra and is also a member of the Efferus String Quartet.
He has attended the XI Cartagena Music Festival (Colombia, 2017), the first and second International Festival of String Quartets (Colombia, 2015 and 2016), III Bogota's Viola Festival (Colombia, 2015), Santa Catarina Music Festival FEMUSC (Brazil, 2012) and also the Kent Blossom Music Festival (2019). Diaz began his master's degree at CCM in the fall of 2019 where he studies with professor Catharine Lees.
Artist Diploma (AD), Cello
Diana Flores graduated from the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program in 2018 with an Artist Diploma in Cello. She has performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Brazil, China and her home country of Costa Rica. At age nine, she started playing cello at the Instituto Nacional de Musica in San José. Ten years later, Flores moved to Boston to complete her undergraduate studies at the Longy School of Music, where she studied under Mihail Jojatu.
During her years in Boston she performed with the Boston Pops and Boston Philharmonic Orchestras. She was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summers of 2012 and 2013 and is a former member of Youth Orchestra of the Americas. She also travelled to Japan to participate in the Pacific Music Festival.
After moving to Chicago in 2013, she became a member of the Civic Orchestra, a two-year training program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. While there, she joined the MusiCorps String Quartet, a music education and advocacy program in which she performed in many Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Park Districts. Prior to her enrollment at CCM, Flores received her Master's Degree at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, studying under Richard Hirschl.
Master of Music (MM), Cello
Anita Graef graduated from the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program in 2019 with Master of Music in Cello. A native of Chicago, she began her cello studies at age four and made her concerto debut at age 12. She went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance, where she studied with Professor Anthony Elliott. At CCM, she studied with CSO principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn.
Previously, she has had the opportunity to work with such cellists as Stephen Geber, Johannes Moser and Felix Wang. Graef has studied with several members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, including Jonathan Pegis, Richard Hirschl and Brant Taylor. She has performed in several orchestras under the baton of maestros such as Leonard Slatkin, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, JoAnn Falletta and Keith Lockhart.
She has participated in the Brevard Music Festival as principal cellist, as well as Credo Chamber Music Festival at Oberlin Conservatory. She is a proud member of the Juliani Ensemble, where she has collaborated with members of both the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera Orchestra, among others. She was recently awarded the Silver Prize with Distinction at the Young Classical Virtuosos of Tomorrow international competition.
Outside of music, she is an avid reader, equestrian and lover of all things fashion. She also enjoys traveling, weight lifting, hiking and quality time with friends and family.
Master of Music (MM), Violin
Born in Havana, Cuba, Yan Izquierdo graduated from CCM with a Master of Music in Violin in 2020. He enjoys an interdisciplinary, cross-genre music career. He has extensive performance experience throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Spain. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the College of Charleston Orchestra. In 2010, he played the national anthem for the NCAA NIT College Basketball Finals game at Madison Square Garden. He has attended the Aspen Music Festival and performed at Spoleto USA with members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. He was the winner of the 2004 South Carolina MTNA Young Artist Performance Competition in the strings category.
As an orchestral musician, he has performed with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of New York, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas and Symphony in C, with notable appearances at Carnegie Hall, David Geffen Hall, Kimmel Center, Kennedy Center and Meyerson Symphony Center. He participated in the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas’ “Music Without Borders” North American concert tour, which included educational outreach programs with youth symphonies in Mexico City, culminating in a joint concert televised by the Televisa network.
Equally, at home in non-classical genres, Izquierdo has appeared with Grammy Award-winning Bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs, as well as Clay Aiken and Anne Murray. He was a founding member of Shayna and the Catch, acting as a songwriter, violinist, mandolinist and backing vocalist. The band toured extensively throughout the United States and Canada, including appearances at SXSW, CMJ Music Marathon, Summerfest and Times Square New Year’s Eve Celebration. His songs have been featured in TV and film, including an international Ford Edge commercial campaign.
Izquierdo began violin studies at the age of seven in Madrid, Spain. At the age of 14, he received a full scholarship to attend the Idyllwild Arts Academy, where he studied with Todor Pelev. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Charleston, studying with Lee-Chin Siow. Additional mentors include Almita Vamos, Herbert Greenberg, and Garrett Fischbach. He currently resides in New York City.
At CCM Izquierdo studied with Professor Kurt Sassmannshaus, the Dorothy Richard Starling Chair in Classical Violin.
Master of Music (MM), Violin
Arman Nasrinpay graduated from CCM with a Master of Music in Violin in 2020. He began playing the violin at the age of 10 through the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra Program. He has since performed at venues such as the Kennedy Center Hall and Millennium Stage, Strathmore Music Center, the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the Shakespeare Theatre for Performing Arts.
He has held many prestigious positions in orchestras, including assistant concertmaster of the McLean Youth Orchestra, assistant principal second violinist of the American Youth Philharmonic, Principal Second of the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra, Assistant Principal Second of the Aspen Philharmonic and Assistant Concertmaster of Indiana University’s Concert Orchestra, among others.
“Since I was a kid, I have always dreamed of playing violin in a professional orchestra, and I couldn’t think of a better way to pursue this than the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program,” said Nasrinpay.
Nasrinpay has frequently performed — and to great acclaim — in the greater Washington, DC area, and gained recognition by winning top prizes and honors in numerous competitions. Among these are such prestigious contests as the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Feder Competition, the United States Army Young Artists Competition, the Lions of VA Bland Music Competition, the Asian American International Competition and the Gretchen Hood String Competition, among others.
Along with competitions, Nasrinpay has performed in master classes given by Aaron Rosand, Zino Bogachek, Karina Canellakis, Dmitri Berlinsky, Victor Danchenko, Itzhak Rashkovsky and Ani Schnarch.
“I hope to continue to improve my craft and successfully compete in several auditions and competitions. I will strive to learn as much as possible and represent the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship honorably every day. I am also hoping to meet many new people, musicians and otherwise, and engage with them and the community as much as possible.”
During the summer, Nasrinpay has participated in various music programs. These have included the Indiana University Summer String Academy, the Summit Music Festival, Kent Blossom Music Festival, Chautauqua Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival and School, as well as the Bowdoin International Music Festival where he received instruction from Almita and Roland Vamos, Victor Danchenko, Itzhak Rashkovsky, David Halen and Cyrus Forough. Most recently, he studied at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music as a Premiere Young Artist under pedagogue Simin Ganatra of the Pacifica Quartet.
At CCM Nasrinpay studied with with CSO Concertmaster Emeritus and CCM Adjunct Professor of Violin Timothy Lees.
Master of Music (MM), Viola
Edna Pierce is a native from the Cincinnati area and a recently graduated student from CCM in the spring of 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts and a minor in Spanish. She currently studies viola performance as a Master of Music student at CCM. She has been studying viola under the tutelage Professor Catharine Lees. Pierce has been involved in programs such as the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS) Audition Intensive, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Cincinnati Young Artist Chamber workshop, and the National Orchestral Institute and Festival (NOI+F).
In addition to her love for the orchestra and playing viola, Pierce has sought out opportunities to expand her scholastic endeavors by completing a minor in Spanish language, joining the Sigma Alpha Iota women’s music fraternity and becoming a Ronald E. McNair scholar at the University of Cincinnati.
Artist Diploma (AD), Violin
Vijeta Sathyaraj graduated from the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program in 2018 with an Artist Diploma in Violin. Born in Macau, China, she began violin studies in the Philippines at the age of three. By age six, she was featured on the Philippine National Broadcast and was studying with Basilio Manalo. She went on to study with Fan Ting at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts and later took lessons from Dennis Kim. Sathyaraj graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy where she studied with Vesna Gruppman. She later earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin Conservatory and her Master of Music degree from Lynn Conservatory.
Sathyaraj has performed solo recitals in Denmark, India, Hong Kong and the United States. In 2001, she was featured in a CNN broadcast, and in 2004, she organized and performed in a piano trio to raise $3,000 for development work in Hanoi, Vietnam. She has performed in the Idyllwild Arts Festival Orchestra and she joined the Oberlin Symphony for a performance in Carnegie Hall under Robert Spano in 2007. She has attended the Meadowmount School of Music, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival.
Before coming to CCM, Sathyaraj completed her Professional Performance Certificate at Lynn University where she studied under Carol Cole. Former mentors include Milan Vitek, Andrew Jennings, Sally Thomas, Ann Setzer, and Midori. Sathyaraj’s commitment to outreach and diversifying audiences to Western classical music led her to apply to CCM.
Artist Diploma (AD), Double Bass
Ian Saunders graduated from the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program in 2019 with an Artist Diploma in Double Bass. A multi-faceted musician, he enjoys an exciting career as a sought-after bassist and educator. The Virginia native began his studies with Christopher White, principal bassist of the Virginia Symphony, in his hometown of Norfolk. Within a year he received his first major scholarship from R&B legend Ben E. King. Saunders completed his bachelor’s degree under the tutelage of renowned bassist Robert Nairn at the Pennsylvania State University. As an undergraduate, he took part in several world premieres by the prolific Finnish composer Teppo Hauto-Aho.
Saunders continued his graduate studies under Nairn while fulfilling numerous professional engagements with the Williamsport Symphony, Penn’s Woods Festival Orchestra, Ballet Theatre of Central Pa and Manassas Ballet Theatre bass sections. In addition, he served as principal bassist of the Penn Centre Orchestra, Nittany Valley Symphony and Altoona Symphony.
In 2016, Saunders received his doctorate from the University of Maryland while studying with Robert Oppelt, principal bassist of the National Symphony Orchestra. Saunders is currently in demand within the competitive Baltimore and DC freelance community, most notably as the bassist for the critically acclaimed Post-Classical Ensemble. In addition, he has also performed with the National Philharmonic and the Collaborative Artist of Baltimore. In March 2016, he was featured on WBJC 91.5 Baltimore performing Guillaume Connesson’s Sextuor. Furthermore, he has fulfilled engagements abroad in Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas as well as across America in renowned concert halls including the Kennedy Center, Heinz Hall and Carnegie Hall.
Outside of the classical world, Saunders has been invited to participate in orchestras backing Bootsy Collins, Kansas and hip-hop artist Thee Phantom. He can also be seen in the nationally televised special Cherish the Ladies: An Irish Homecoming, backing the Irish super group Cherish the Ladies. The program was nationally syndicated on PBS in 2013.
As an educator, Saunders recently served as the interim double bass professor at Penn State. In addition, he has taught classes at the University of Maryland, Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Saunders also spends his summers as the Associate Dean of Students at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC.
Master of Music (MM), Violin
A native of Dallas, Texas, Alexis Shambley graduated from CCM with a Master of Music in Violin 2020. She had previously received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from CCM under the tutelage of String Department Chair Won-Bin Yim. Shambley started violin at age four and studied primarily with her mother, Xiao-mei Pelletier of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
She has previously attended the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival and The National Orchestral Institute and Festival as well as performed with local orchestras including Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Orchestra. An avid chamber musician, she enjoys doing outreach performances and participating in chamber music competitions, most recently placing second in CCM’s Annual Chamber Music Competition with her then sextet in 2016.
“I am so honored to be a CCM/CSO Diversity Fellow and believe the program will help me achieve my goal of winning orchestral auditions,” Shambley said. “This opportunity is also particularly important to me because I aspire to one day create a studio aimed at providing music education to underrepresented youth.”
Master of Music (MM), Violin
Weiyi Shao graduated from the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program in 2019 with a Master of Music in Violin. Born in Daqing, China, she began studying the violin at age five. She attended the Middle School of the Shenyang Conservatory of Music, where she was concertmaster of the school orchestra as a student of Professor Tong Mu. She came to the United States in 2011 with a full scholarship to the Texas Christian University (TCU), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance under the tutelage of Curt Thompson, Swang Lin and Michael Shih.
During her studies at TCU, Shao received numerous awards and prizes, including the Modena Rogers Clark Spitler Violin Scholarship in 2013 and the Faculty and Friends Chamber Music Society Award in 2014. In 2015, she was a Strings Department Winner of TCU’s annual Concerto Competition. She has also attended the Aspen Music Festival and School as a pupil of Naoko Tanaka, and performed in master classes given by Karen Gomyo, Augustin Hadelich, Gary Levinson and Midori. Since 2013, she has been a member of the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra in Texas.
During her time at CCM, Weiyi was a student of Professor Won-Bin Yim.
Artist Diploma (AD), Double Bass
Maurice Todd graduated from the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program in 2018 with an Artist Diploma in Double Bass. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, he received his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Double Bass Performance from CCM. He is a current section bassist in the Lexington Philharmonic. In addition to being a seven-time Aspen Fellowship recipient, Todd previously won the Dayton Philharmonic Minority Fellowship, was the low string winner of the CCM concerto competition, earned the National Symphony Orchestra League Scholarship and was a fellowship recipient in the Spoleto Italy Opera Festival. Most recently, he received the distinguished Excellence in Teaching Award from the UC Graduate School.
Todd has performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, Richmond Symphony and Kentucky Symphony. He has been a soloist with the Louisville Orchestra, Seven Hills Sinfonietta, Wired and the CCM Concert Orchestra.
At CCM, Todd has served as the graduate assistant for the double bass studio under the tutelage of Professor Albert Laszlo. His mentors include Owen Lee, Edgar Meyer, Chris Hanulik, Bruce Bransby, Rob Oppelt, Eugene Levinson and Hal Robinson.
Artist Diploma (AD), Viola
Dan Wang was an Artist Diploma student in viola performance at CCM. During her time at CCM, she was mentored by CSO principal violist Christian Colberg and Jan Grüning, violist of CCM’s string quartet-in-residence, the Ariel Quartet. She came to the United States from Shenyang, China, to study at CCM in 2009, graduating with a master’s degree in violin performance in 2012. She previously studied at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA). During her previous musical training, she had been mentored by CCM Professor Kurt Sassmannshaus, Professor Michael Ma and Professor Tong Mu.
Wang has also performed with the Shenyang Conservatory of Music Orchestra and HKAPA Symphony Orchestra as concertmaster, and with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta as section/substitute section violin. She has served as concertmaster of the CCM Philharmonia and CCM Concert Orchestra. In 2017, she won a permanent position in the viola section of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
Wang received a full scholarship from HKAPA and CCM. She has also won several music competitions, most notably fourth prize in the seventh China National Violin Competition.
Master of Music (MM), Cello
Denielle Wilson is a cellist from Lithonia, Georgia. A former resident of Evanston, Illinois, she has played in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and maintains a studio of private cello students. She completed an undergraduate degree at Northwestern University in 2017, having majored in cello performance and music education. Her musical mentors have included Hans Jørgen Jensen, Joel Dallow and Nan Kimberling. She has spent summers at the Meadowmount School of Music, Bowdoin Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Grant Park Music Festival. She plays in a piano trio with her siblings, and they enjoy sharing classical and religious music with their local community.