September 2017


Solomiya Ivakhiv, violin

Head of Strings, Assistant Professor of Violin and Viola at the University of Connecticut, violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv as quickly earned a reputation for performing with “distinctive charm and subtle profundity” (Daily Freeman, New York) and a “crystal clear and noble sound” (Culture and Life, Ukraine). She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, CBC Glenn Gould Studio, Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and the Tchaikovsky Hall in Kyiv, in addition to making solo appearances with the Istanbul State Symphony, Charleston Symphony, Henderson Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Hunan Symphony Orchestra in China. She has premiered numerous new works for violin by composers Eli Marshall, David Ludwig, John B. Hedges, Bohdan Kryvopust, Yevhen Stankovych, and Oleksandr Shchetynsky. Ms.Ivakhiv has been featured at many prestigious chamber music festivals, including Tanglewood, The Embassy Series, Ottawa Chamberfest, Newport Music Festival, Nevada Chamber Music Fest, Bach Festival of Philadelphia, The Banff Centre and Ottawa Chamber Fest (Canada); Musique de Chambre à Giverny (France), Prussia Cove Open Chamber Music (England), Kammermusik Bodensee (Switzerland); AlpenKammerMusik (Austria), Modern Music “Contrasts” and KyivFest (Ukraine). A dedicated educator, she has conducted master classes and chamber music coachings at Yale, Columbia, Pennsylvania State University, University of Hartford Hartt School of Music, SUNY -Fredonia Universities, Boston Conservatory, Curtis SummerFest, Bard College Prep, Guangzhou and Hunan Conservatories in China, and regularly collaborates with high schools in outreach programs throughout the United States. Her latest album, Ukraine–Journey To Freedom with pianist Angelina Gadeliya, releasedon Labor Records with NAXOS of America, has been featured among the top 4 new classical albums on iTunes. Ms. Ivakhiv has been the Artistic Director of the “Music at the Institute” (MATI) Concert Series in New York City for seven years, where she also regularly appears as a performer.

Dr. Ivakhiv graduated from the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where she studied with Joseph Silverstein, Pamela Frank, and the late Rafael Druian. During this time she was concertmaster of both Curtis and Tanglewood Center Symphony Orchestras. Ms. Ivakhiv holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Stony Brook University where her principal teachers were Philip Setzer and Pamela Frank.Visit her website:

October 2017

David de Vries

David de Vries, narrator

David de Vries is an award-winning actor, director, and narrator, based in Atlanta.  He has performed on Broadway as Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, along with three other National Companies in the show’s long and successful history. He was proudly with the company when it took its last bow at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre in 2007. He also played Dr. Dillamond in the smash hit Wicked for three years in Los Angeles, Chicago and originated the role for the 2nd National Tour.  In addition to his musical theatre credits, David has frequented regional theatres in shows like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Glengarry Glen Ross, Death of a Salesman, Arcadia and Freud’s Last Session.  He also has the annual honor of playing Ebenezer Scrooge in the Alliance Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol.  On screen, his television credits include  “Halt and Catch Fire”, “Nashville”, “Devious Maids”, “Living The Dream” for Sky TV, “Christmas in Homestead” for Hallmark and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” for HBO. Feature Films include Captain America: Civil War, The Founder, Kill The Messenger, Lila and Eve and The Accountant among many others.  An “Audie” Award Winner for Pam Muñoz Ryan’s “Echo”, David has over 120 audiobook titles to his credit spanning virtually every genre.   As a director, David recently staged the World Premiere of Pancakes, Pancakes! at the Alliance Theatre and took home Atlanta’s Suzi Bass Award in direction for his production of “I’m Not Rappaport” at the Aurora Theatre.  He holds a B.A. in Performing Arts from American University and an M.A. in Communication from Gonzaga University.

January 2018


JoAnn Kulesza, Guest Conductor

JoAnn Kulesza is presently Interim Chair and Music Director of the Opera Department at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, MD. The Department produces between six and ten performances a year, serving between 85 and 100 singers. With her years of experience in the professional world, she provides an important aspect of the aspiring professionals’ training. Well versed in Opera’s vast repertoire, she teaches classes in recitative, repertoire and works with collaborative pianists and conductors at the school. She team-teaches a seminar in Opera Conducting with the master teacher Gustav Meier.

A life-long lover of choral music, Ms. Kulesza worked with the renowned Margaret Hillis at the Chicago Symphony Chorus and as assistant to Chorus Master Philip Morehead at the Chicago Lyric Opera. She was chorus master for the Wolf Trap Opera Company for many years and prepared the chorus for Washington National Opera’s Romeo and Juliet in 2004, under Maestro Bertrand de Billy. She presently conducts the Arundel Vocal Arts Society, a chorus of 35-45 members, in two concerts annually, of a wide variety of repertoire; she is in her eighth year as Music Director of this ensemble.

Since entering the conducting realm, Ms. Kulesza has conducted three world premieres and led as well as played continuo for productions of Mozart, Rossini, and Britten. She has worked with some of the most notable conductors in the field – Loren Maazel, George Manahan, Heinz Fricke, Stephen Lord, Margaret Hillis – and is in demand as a clinician and educator around the country. She made her Opera Omaha debut in February ’11, conducting and playing continuo for Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

April 2018

julien formal large(1)Julien Benichou, Guest Conductor

Conductor Julien Benichou currently serves as Music Director of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra, as well as Orchestra Director at Towson University, and is currently Visiting Conductor at Montclair State University.

Previous positions have included Assistant Conductor of the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, Assistant Conductor of the Skokie (Illinois) Symphony Orchestra and the Columbia (Maryland) Symphony Orchestra.  As guest conductor, Mr. Benichou has led the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfonica do Parana in Curitiba, Brazil, and the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra in St. Petersburg, Russia. He also has conducted the Mobtown Modern new music concerts in Baltimore, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Mobtown Modern Synchronicity collaboration, and the New Music Ensemble at Towson University.

Before coming to the United States in 1995 for graduate studies with Gustav Meier at the Peabody Conservatory, Mr. Benichou held positions in his native France leading several choral ensembles.  Further studies were at the Rueil-Malmaison Conservatory in France where he studied conducting with Jean Sebastien Bereau.  He studied harmony and counterpoint at the Schola Cantorum in Paris and was the recipient of several awards.

In addition to receiving a graduate performance diploma from Peabody Conservatory, Julien Benichou earned a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University under Victor Yampolsky, and did further graduate studies at Yale University with Lawrence Leighton Smith.  Among the conductors with whom he has participated in master classes are Leonard Slatkin, Yuri Temirkanov, Marin Alsop, Michael Tilson Thomas, and JoAnn Falletta. At the Hot Springs (Arkansas) Music Festival Mr. Benichou received a fellowship as assistant conductor and the following summer as associate conductor.

Mr. Benichou has a special interest in new music and has led commissions, premieres, and a recording on the Centaur label. He has also written and conducted the sound track for a recent film. Also an opera and ballet conductor, Mr. Benichou has also worked with the Ballet Theater of Maryland, the Morgan State University Choir and Opera Workshop, as well as the Baltimore Concert Opera. He has conducted a fully staged production of Porgy and Bess at Morgan State University to great critical acclaim.

Another strong interest is music education. Mr. Benichou has taken the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra on three European tours, most recently to St. Petersburg, Russia where he led a side-by side concert with the St. Petersburg Symphony, and will be taking them on a tour of Ireland in the summer of 2016. He has been guest conductor for numerous honors orchestras in Maryland and California.

June 2018

Diane Kinsley colorDiane Kinsley, organ

Diane Kinsley is an active performer and teacher in the Baltimore-Washington area. She began piano lessons at the age of 4 ½, but did not begin her studies at the organ until the second semester of her undergraduate degree, after being encouraged to do so by her father. She studied organ with Melvin Dickinson at the University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, while studying piano with Lee Luvisi.

Ms. Kinsley has served as organist at several churches in the Baltimore area. Currently, she is the Assistant Organist at the United States Naval Academy.

As well as teaching both piano and organ privately, Ms. Kinsley is on the faculty of Anne Arundel Community College’s performing arts department. In 2014, she toured Austria as organist with AACC’s Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, playing in some of Europe’s most breathtaking and historic churches.

Other current collaborative projects include accompanying and performing with Opera AACC, Arundel Vocal Arts Society, New Moon Theater, and The Cabaret at Germano’s Piattini in Little Italy.

N.Spehar - HeadshotNatalie Spehar, cello

“Yet another wonderful example of the tremendous versatility of the cello in the right hands, which Natalie Spehar’s clearly are.” – Susan Scheid, Prufrock’s Dilemma
Natalie Spehar has made her mark in classical, rock, and folk music, performing most recently with artists including Disturbed, Cage the Elephant, 2 Cellos, Johnny Mathis, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, Roses & Revolutions, Amanda Palmer, Donovan, Michael Bublé and the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Natalie is a graduate of Eastman School of Music (BM’ – Cello Performance & Arts Leadership) and the University of Maryland (MM’ Music Performance), and is a current member of DC’s Great Noise Ensemble and new music quartet, Rogue Collective. An avid supporter of new music, Natalie has presented 45 world premiere performances, including works by Zoe Keating, Sarah Lipstate, Cornelius Duffallo, Hannah Lash, and famed Syrian recording artist Malek Jandali. As a soloist, she has traveled to perform & lecture on her work in string performance with electronics at universities across the United States.
Natalie is also an active composer and studio recording artist, working most recently with The Young Romans, Chris Brown, Starbucks artist Jesse Thomas, singer/songwriter Brad Carter (Red Parade Music), producer D.A. Doman (RCA Records) and jazz pianist Joel Pierson. Her playing appears in the soundtrack for the 2014 motion picture Decoding Annie Parker, as well as the television documentary Through the Eye of the Needle and the award-winning animated short film Test Anxiety, for which Natalie composed and recorded the original soundtrack.
With a strong interest in arts leadership, Natalie has worked closely with Young Audiences, Inc. and Music 4 Life, and is currently a performing member of the national MacDowell Music Club, promoting music education and outreach. In 2014, she founded the Annapolis Young Artists Program as well as the Urban Initiatives String Program in the greater D.C. metro area, encouraging young artists to be effective, creative & community-minded collaborators.