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Music Academy of the West Instrumentalists Arrive in New York for 2017 NY Philharmonic Global Academy Fellowship Program

Santa Barbara, CA — Eleven outstanding Music Academy of the West musicians arrive in New York as Zarin Mehta Fellows on January 5 to participate in the third year of the New York Philharmonic Global Academy Fellowship Program. This novel collaboration provides the Fellows with the opportunity to learn directly from Philharmonic musicians and experience all aspects of an orchestral player’s life from audition to performance, representing an innovative and immersive approach to training the next generation of world-class musicians for successful careers.

The 2017 Zarin Mehta Fellows were selected by audition from Music Academy of the West instrumentalists, all full-scholarship participants during the summer of 2016. They are: Kevin Chen, violin; Minji Choi, cello; Michael Daley, percussion; Kaelan Decman, double bass; Ao Peng, viola; Emily Switzer, violin; Alexander Volkov, violin; Jack Walters, clarinet; Justin Woo, violin; and Hyeree Yu, viola. 2016 Global Academy Fellow Rainer Saville, trumpet, deferred his participation last season and joins the 2017 Fellows for the upcoming program.

These Music Academy of the West instrumentalists will undergo a ten-day training program during their time in New York, which will include training and playing alongside Philharmonic musicians in Brahms’s Symphony No. 3, conducted by Music Director Alan Gilbert, for the Philharmonic’s January 11-14 subscription concerts. The final performance on January 14 will be broadcast on Facebook Live. Other highlights of the schedule include two mock auditions; a chamber music concert performed by the Fellows with music of Mozart, Poulenc, Pereira, and Wuorinen; and a “Playing Fit” seminar led by trainer Jennifer Johnson. The Fellows will also visit local schools, attend concerts, and take private lessons from musicians in the orchestra. Just prior to the concert on January 11 will be a Music Academy of the West 70th Anniversary Season unveiling and celebration event, and Academy President and CEO Scott Reed will host a closing dinner after the Fellows’ afternoon chamber music concert on January 15.

As Scott Reed commented on the Global Academy Fellowship Program:

“The Music Academy’s partnership with the New York Philharmonic is providing invaluable and innovative leadership to our fellows that is tangibly assisting them to take a next step in their careers. Exposure to and mentorship by the players of the New York Philharmonic are an invaluable experience for these young musicians, providing the highest caliber orchestral experience to take with them throughout their very promising professional careers.”

New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert added:

“I have been inspired by the passion and commitment of the Music Academy of the West fellows with whom I’ve worked in Santa Barbara over the past three summers. I know that these players, selected as the best among their talented peers, will benefit tremendously from their exposure to top-level orchestral life during their immersive week in New York, and from working with Philharmonic musicians, who have the ability to inspire and instruct to an astounding degree.”

Since the New York Philharmonic’s Global Academy Fellowship Program began in 2015, several alumni of the program have already been appointed to professional orchestras. 2015 Zarin Mehta Fellow successes include Anthony Bellino, trumpet, who recently won a position in The President’s Own Marine Band. Matthew Cohen, viola, took first prize at the 2015 Vivo International Music Competition ($3,000 and performance at Weill Hall). Sean Krissman, clarinet, is now the Principal Clarinet of Houston Grand Opera. Simon Michal, violin, is now a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Michael Severance, bassoon, is a member of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

2016 Zarin Mehta Fellows are also earning positions with major orchestras. Mark Teplitsky, flute, is now Principal Flute of the San Antonio Symphony. Nikolette LaBonte, horn, served last year as Assistant Principal Horn of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and is now Associate Horn of the Rochester Philharmonic. Rebecca Reale, violin, is now Associate Principal Second Violin of the Houston Symphony.

The four-year partnership, which began in the summer of 2014, combines training of Music Academy fellows by Philharmonic musicians; biennial performances by the Philharmonic at the Music Academy Summer Festival; and Academy Festival Orchestra performances at Music Academy Summer Festivals led by Alan Gilbert. This collaboration is the formalization of a long relationship between the orchestra and the school; 13 New York Philharmonic musicians are alumni of the Music Academy of the West.

During the Music Academy of the West’s 2016 Summer Festival, Alan Gilbert conducted the Academy Festival Orchestra, and Philharmonic musicians served as visiting artists in Santa Barbara, training Music Academy fellows in collaboration with Academy faculty (including leading master classes, chamber music coaching sessions, private lessons, and lectures). The New York Philharmonic will perform in Santa Barbara next summer as part of the Music Academy of the West’s 70th anniversary.

The Music Academy’s partnership with the New York Philharmonic has been made possible through the generosity of lead sponsors Linda and Michael Keston.

The Global Academy Fellowship Program, in association with the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, is supported in part by The Hilaria and Alec Baldwin Foundation, Inc., an anonymous donor, and other gifts made towards the Zarin Mehta Fund.

Additional support provided by Shirley Young/U.S.-China Cultural Foundation.

About the New York Philharmonic

The New York Philharmonic plays a leading cultural role in New York City, the United States, and the world. This season’s projects will connect the Philharmonic with up to 50 million music lovers through live concerts — in New York City and on its worldwide tours and residencies — as well as through a digital recording series; international broadcasts on television, radio, and online; and through its wide range of educational programs and the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives. In the 2016–17 season the New York Philharmonic celebrates its 175th anniversary and Alan Gilbert’s farewell season as Music Director.

The Orchestra has commissioned and/or premiered works by leading composers from every era since its founding in 1842 — including Dvořák’s New World Symphony, John Adams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning On the Transmigration of Souls, dedicated to the victims of 9/11, and Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

A resource for its community and the world, the Philharmonic complements its annual free citywide Concerts in the Parks, presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, with Philharmonic Free Fridays and wide-ranging educational programs, including the celebrated Young People’s Concerts and the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, collaborations with partners worldwide offering training of pre-professional musicians, often alongside performance residencies. The Global Academy was created following the launch of the flagship collaboration with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Shanghai Conservatory of Music, forming the Shanghai Orchestra Academy. Additional Global Academy partners include the Music Academy of the West and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

Renowned around the globe, the Philharmonic has appeared in 432 cities in 63 countries. The oldest American symphony orchestra and one of the oldest in the world, the New York Philharmonic has made more than 2,000 recordings since 1917, including several Grammy Award winners, and its self-produced digital recording series continues in the 2016–17 season. Music Director Alan Gilbert began his tenure in September 2009, succeeding a distinguished line of 20th-century musical giants that includes Leonard Bernstein, Arturo Toscanini, and Gustav Mahler.

About the Music Academy of the West

The Music Academy of the West is among the nation’s preeminent summer schools and festivals for gifted young classically-trained musicians. At its ocean-side campus in Santa Barbara, the Academy provides these musicians with the opportunity for advanced study and performance under the guidance of internationally renowned faculty artists, guest conductors, and soloists. Admission to the Academy is strictly merit-based, and fellows receive full scholarships (tuition, room, and board). The Academy’s distinguished roster of teaching artists has included eminent soprano Lotte Lehmann, composers Darius Milhaud and Arnold Schoenberg, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, pianist Jeremy Denk, and current Voice Program Director Marilyn Horne. Academy alumni are members of major symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras, ensembles, opera companies, and university and conservatory faculties throughout the world. Many enjoy careers as prominent solo artists. In 2014 the Music Academy entered into a four-year partnership with the New York Philharmonic, resulting in unprecedented training and performance opportunities for Academy fellows, and Summer Festival residencies for Philharmonic musicians.

The Music Academy of the West cultivates discerning, appreciative, and adventurous audiences, presenting more than 200 public events annually, nearly half of them free of charge. These include performances by faculty, visiting artists, and fellows; masterclasses; orchestra and chamber music concerts; and a fully staged opera. The 2016 Summer School and Festival will take place from June 13 to August 7 at the Academy’s scenic Miraflores campus and in venues throughout Santa Barbara. For more information, visit

About the 2017 Zarin Mehta Fellows

Kevin Chen violin, 23, born in Ithaca, New York, earned his master’s degree from The Juilliard School. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University as part of the Columbia-Juilliard Exchange program.  Mr. Chen won the Princeton Festival Violin and Riverside Symphonia Young Artist competitions, and has performed with the Livingston Symphony, Riverside Symphonia, and Columbia University Orchestra. He has also served as concertmaster of the Columbia University Orchestra and Juilliard Orchestra.

Minji Choi (’15) cello, 24, born in Korea, is a graduate student at the Colburn Conservatory of Music. Ms. Choi won the Osaka International, Dong-Ah Newspaper, and Joong-Ang Newspaper Competitions, and was semi-finalist at the Gaspar Cassado Cello Competition. Ms. Choi has performed with the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic and Taegu Philharmonic Orchestras. This is her second summer at the Music Academy of the West.

Michael Daley (’15) percussion, 26, born in Oakland, California, is a graduate student at USC Thornton School of Music. Mr. Daley holds positions at the American Youth Symphony and Young Artists Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Daley has given recitals at New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory and appeared as soloist in Boston Conservatory’s New Music Ensemble. This is his second summer at the Music Academy of the West.

Kaelan Decman double bass, 21, who hails from Los Angeles, is an undergraduate student at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, studying with Bruce Bransby. Mr. Decman started playing electric bass at age 12, and began to take double bass lessons in secondary school. At age 14, he was appointed Principal Bass of the Asia America Youth Orchestra – a position he held for all four years of high school. Over the course of his collegiate studies at the Jacobs School of Music Mr. Decman has been appointed to various principal positions within the school’s five orchestras, including both the Indiana University Philharmonic and Indiana University Chamber Orchestra. He also holds positions in several regional orchestras, serving as Principal Bass of the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and Principal Bass of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Decman performed in Carnegie Hall with the New York String Orchestra Seminar in 2014, and spent the summer of 2015 at the Aspen Music Festival and School as an orchestral fellow. He spent the summer of 2016 at the Music Academy of the West. Mr. Decman has performed in masterclasses with Max Dimoff, Rob Kesselman, and Nico Abondolo.

Ao Peng viola, 22, born in Qinhuangdao, Hebei, China, is an undergraduate at Manhattan School of Music, where he attends on a full scholarship. Mr. Peng studies with both Karen Dreyfus and Samuel Rhodes. Mr. Peng served as associate principal viola from 2014 to 2015 in the New York String Orchestra Seminar.

Rainer Saville (’15) trumpet, 25, was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. He is a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where he studied with Leanne Sullivan. He also studied at the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne with Dave Elton and Tristram Williams. Mr. Saville performs regularly with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony, and is a member of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, where he performs on baroque instruments. In 2014, he participated and was a semi-finalist in the International Trumpet Competition “Cittá Di Porcia” in Pordenone, Italy. He has toured internationally with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. In 2016, he was a participant in the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, working alongside and learning from members of the Berlin Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony.

Emily Switzer (’15) violin, 20, a native of Denver, Colorado, is an undergraduate at Yale University, where she is co-concertmaster of the orchestra. Ms. Switzer won the 2015 Friends of Music Recital Competition, and has performed with Lakewood Symphony, Denver Philharmonic, and Littleton Symphony. Ms. Switzer was featured on NPR’s From the Top program. This is her second summer at Music Academy of the West.

Alexander Volkov violin, 21, from Toronto, Canada, is an undergraduate at the Glenn Gould School. Mr. Volkov won the 2013 Canadian Music and 2014 Glenn Gould School Concerto Competitions, and has performed with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra. Mr. Volkov recently attended Leonard Bernstein’s Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany.

Jack Ryan Walters clarinet, 24, born in Seattle, Washington, is a graduate student at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University under the tutelage of Richie Hawley.  He completed his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan studying with Daniel Gilbert and Chad Burrow.  Mr. Walters has been a substitute for the New World Symphony Orchestra, Dexter Symphony Orchestra, and has attended summer festivals including Texas Music Festival and Kent Blossom.

Justin Woo violin, 23, born in Spokane, Washington, is a master’s student at USC Thornton School of Music under the tutelage of Bing Wang. Mr. Woo participated in the Advanced Piano Trio program at Cleveland Institute of Music and the New York String Seminar, and performed in masterclasses for Leon Fleisher, Gilbert Kalish, and Jaime Laredo.

Hyeree Yu viola, 26, from Seoul, Korea, is a graduate student at the Colburn Conservatory of Music. Ms. Yu has received awards from the World Times, Music Journal, Bucheon Eum-yeon and Han-mi Competitions in South Korea. Ms. Yu participated in the Kneisel Chamber Music Festival, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and Gstaad String Academy.


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© 21C Media Group, December 2016

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