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art-music of the 20th and 21st centuries


Robert A. Baker, director and conductor
Composer, theorist and conductor of new music, Robert A. Baker's compositions have been performed at festivals and conferences in North America and Europe including the St. Magnus Festival (UK), Jihlava International Choral Festival (Czech Rep.), Festival "Giuseppe Rosetta" (Italy), and Miami New Music ISCM. His music is published by Musikverlag Zimmermann (Germany), SCI Journal of Music Scores (USA), and the Canadian Music Centre. As a theorist, his research focusses on 20th-Century analysis, particularly music by Wolfgang Rihm, Henri Dutilleux, and Pierre Boulez, and his writing has appeared in Perspectives of New Music, and Circuit musique contemporaines. Robert holds a Ph.D. in Composition from McGill University, was Associate Professor of Theory and Composition at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (2013-2021), and is now based in Denmark.



David LaVorgna, flutes
David Lavorgna began playing flute at age 14, and received his Bachelor of Music degree at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and his Master of Music degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. His major teachers have included Trudy Kane, Timothy Day, Bonnie Lake, Jacqueline Hofto, and Julius Baker. He has performed with the Baltimore, Rochester, and New Jersey Symphonies, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and Baltimore Opera Company, as well as numerous internationally acclaimed artists such as Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, Bobby McFerrin, and Linda Ronstadt. He currently plays flute/piccolo with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, Capitol Hill Chamber Players, and Trio Amici, and is on faculty at Goucher College and Loyola University.

Melissa Johnson Lander, clarinets
Equally accomplished in large ensembles and chamber groups, clarinetist Melissa Johnson Lander currently serves as clarinetist and Executive Director of Symphony Number One. Previously she served as soloist and co-principal clarinetist of the US Army Field Band. Ms. Lander regularly performs with chamber groups and ensembles throughout the Baltimore/D.C. region. Ms. Lander holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music, the University of Michigan, Interlochen Arts Academy and is currently pursuing the Graduate Performance Diploma in clarinet and chamber music from the Peabody Conservatory where she received the 2016 Grace Glagett Raney Prize for exceptional chamber music accomplishment.

Jeff Stern, percussion
Jeff Stern performs and premieres contemporary music around the world in halls such as Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall. He has appeared at the Yellow Barn, Avaloch Farm, Bang on a Can, and Norfolk music festivals. Formerly a member of Baltimore’s SONAR New Music Ensemble and the Yale Percussion Group, Jeff is a founding member of the 2 piano/2 percussion group, the icarus Quartet. He holds degrees from UMass Amherst, Peabody Conservatory, and the Yale School of Music. Jeff is a proud artist endorser of Vic Firth sticks and mallets and Pearl/Adams drums and percussion.

Anna Nizhegorodtseva, piano
Russian-born pianist Anna Nizhegorodtseva has won 1st prizes as a soloist and chamber musician in numerous international competitions including the 17th EUTERPE International Music Competition (Italy), the Lewisville Lake Symphony International Piano Competition (USA), MTAC in Los Angeles, and the International Piano Competition in Kiev (Ukraine). She has performed in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and the American Cathedral in Paris, and has served on the jury of the 2016 Xi’an International Music Festival in China. Anna began piano lessons at age six, and holds an Artist Certificate from Azusa Pacific University and a Doctor in Musical Arts from The Catholic University of America in Washington DC.

Lauren Rausch, violin
Violinist Lauren Rausch enjoys a dynamic career as an artist-teacher in the mid-Atlantic region and beyond. An active recitalist with programs this spring at Catholic University and historic Dumbarton Church in Georgetown, she performs regularly with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and recently represented Carnegie Hall as a teaching artist for PlayUSA, a program that supports music for children in underserved communities across the country. A devoted performer of new music, Rausch is a founding member and Managing Director of SONAR, an award-winning ensemble based in Baltimore. She regularly appears as a soloist for Baltimore’s Evolution Contemporary Music Series where she has worked with composers such as John Luther Adams, Caroline Shaw, and Missy Mazzoli. 

Ismar Gomes, cello
Cellist Ismar Gomes is a chamber musician, recitalist and orchestral player. Recent collaborations include working with members of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Emerson Quartet, and the Johannes Quartets. A member of the Virginia and Delaware Symphonies, he frequently performs with the Charleston and Baltimore Symphonies, and spends summers mentoring students in cello and chamber music at the Rushmore Music Festival and the Baltimore International Piano Festivals. Mr. Gomes has studied with esteemed cellists such as Alison Wells, and Amit Peled, and Colin Carr, with whom he received his DMA from Stony Brook University.



Bethany Slater, oboe
Based in Washington DC, Bethany Slater is the oboist and English hornist for Inscape, whose debut album, "Sprung Rhythm," was nominated for a 2014 Grammy. Previously, she was the principal oboist with the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra and 2nd oboist with Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. Bethany holds a BM from the Eastman School of Music and continued her studies at the Paris Conservatory with a Fulbright grant. She makes and sells reeds worldwide through her business, Bethany’s Reed Shop.  For more information, go to

Chris Gekker, trumpet
Chris Gekker has been a featured trumpet soloist at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and many other venues throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. Praised by the New York Times for his “bright virtuosity” and “clear toned and pitch perfect” playing style, Chris is a featured artist on Deutsche Grammophon’s 2005 compilation “Masters of the Trumpet.” A former member of the American Brass Quintet, and former faculty at the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, and Columbia University, he has been guest principal with the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Baltimore Symphony. Currently Chris is principal trumpet of the National Philharmonic at Strathmore and Professor of Trumpet at the University of Maryland, School of Music.

Jeff Cortazzo, trombone 
Trombonist and composer Jeff Cortazzo has performed with major orchestras across the United States including the Chicago, Baltimore, and National Symphony Orchestras, the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra, as well as pop icons such as Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, and Barry Manilow. Bass trombonist of The U.S. Army Blues since 1992, he currently performs with the National Philharmonic, The Capitol Bones, the Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra, the National Gallery Orchestra and the Washington Trombone Ensemble. Jeff holds degrees from West Chester and DePaul Universities, and is currently completing a Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition at The Catholic University of America.

Sarah Manley, trombone 
Sarah Manley is a Baltimore-based trombonist, and has appeared with numerous orchestras and ensembles including The Washington Chamber Orchestra, Sonar Ensemble, Mind On Fire, Symphony Number One, Londontowne Symphony, and Occasional Symphony. Last spring, Sarah performed in Peabody’s Now Hear This series, performing Georg Haas’ concert-length, spectral masterpiece, In Vain. Sarah completed a BM in Trombone Performance at The Peabody Institute, and is currently completing her Teaching Certification as a music instructor in Baltimore-area elementary schools.

Brendan Betyn, percussion
Percussionist Brendan Betyn is currently pursuing a DMA at the Peabody Conservatory, and also teaches for the Orchkids program, a body devoted to music education in Baltimore-area public schools. Brendan completed his undergraduate at Michigan State University, where he also performed with the Jackson, Battle Creek, and Holland Symphony Orchestras. More recently, he has played with the Occasional Symphony and Baltimore’s Symphony Number One. A recipient of numerous prizes and scholarships, Brendan has attended the Eastern Music Festival and So Percussion Summer Institute, and was the grand prize winner in the Michigan Federation Music Club Percussion Competition.

Francesca Hurst, piano
Francesca Hurst enjoys performing traditional and contemporary repertoire. She recently gave a chamber concert for the Washington International Piano Series, and solo and ensemble recitals in Salerno, Italy. She has performed as a guest artist at contemporary festivals including New Music Gathering and Charlotte New Music Festival. She has played at the Kennedy Center, the National Gallery of Art, and many other venues in the US and abroad. Dr. Hurst is an adjunct piano professor at Catholic University in Washington, DC, teaches privately and performs in community concerts. 
Ivo Kaltchev, piano
Prizewinner of international piano competitions and a Bösendorfer Concert Artist, Ivo Kaltchev has enjoyed a successful performing career as recitalist, soloist with orchestras, chamber musician and recording artist. “Formidable technique” (England), “possesses the genius of rubato” (France), “distinctive and original” (Russia), "glittering,” (The Washington Post) - these are some of the words which music critics have used to describe Mr. Kaltchev’s artistry. He has performed in musical centers throughout the world, including Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Weill Recital Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory. Dr. Kaltchev is Professor of Piano and Head of the Piano Division at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. He is co-Director and co-Founder of the Washington International Piano Festival (

Deanna Said, viola
A native Texan, Deanna Said, was introduced to music in public school at around the same time she was introduced to line dancing, and at age 16 she began viola lessons. She went on to complete degrees at the San Francisco Conservatory, University of Nevada Reno, and most recently from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. An avid orchestral performer, she has played in many orchestras including the Grant Park Orchestra at Millennium Park in Chicago.  She lives in D.C. and is on faculty for the DC Youth Orchestra Program and a member of the contemporary string quartet, Rogue Collective. To find out more, please visit

Tobias Werner, cello
Tobias Werner is the music director at The Chamber Music Conference of the East, artistic director of Pressenda Chamber Players, and is an Arts for the Aging (AFTA) teaching artist. He has appeared as a soloist with orchestras in the United States, France, Germany, and Romania, with recent performances Dvoƙák, Elgar, Haydn, and Boccherini concertos, and has recorded on numerous prestigious classical labels such as ECM, Darbringhaus & Grimm, Bayer Records, and Orfeo. Recent releases include the Bach Cello Suites, and the Beethoven Cello Sonatas. Tobias studied at the Musikhochschule Freiburg, Germany, and at Boston University, and his teachers have included Andrés Díaz, Christoph Henkel, and Xavier Gagnepain. He plays on an 1844 J.F. Pressenda cello.

Jesus Apodaca, bass
Bassist and Texas native Jesus Apodaca has performed with the Fairfax, Annapolis, and Maryland Symphonies, and often performs early music with the Baltimore Baroque Band. Currently a DMA student at the Peabody Conservatory, Jesus also received his Masters from Peabody, after his undergraduate at University of Texas at El Paso. At Peabody, Jesus has served as Principal Bass of the Peabody Symphony Orchestra under such esteemed conductors as Marin Alsop, Leon Fleisher, and Leonard Slatkin, and his principal teachers have been Paul Ellison and Ira Gold.

Michael Rittling, bass
Michael Rittling is the Associate Principal Bass with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Section Bass with the Apollo Orchestra, and Principal Bass with Symphony Number One. He joined the bass section of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra in 2009, and served as Principal from 2011 to 2014. Michael has also performed with the National Philharmonic, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, Lancaster (PA) Symphony Orchestra, and Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. Michael received Bachelor degrees in Music and Music Education from Florida State University in 2006. He attended Indiana University and completed a Master’s of Music degree in 2008 and a Performer Diploma in 2009.


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