Artistic Director:

Edward Benyas, Conductor, New Chicago Chamber Orchestra/SIUC

Edward Benyas is Professor of Oboe and Conducting at SIU Carbondale, Music Director of the Southern Illinois Symphony, the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra— with which he made his European conducting debut—and founder and Artistic Director of the Southern Illinois Music Festival, which presents three-dozen concerts annually each June. The Illinois Council of Orchestras named him “Conductor of the Year” in 2005, the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce presented him the inaugural “Keeping the Arts in Business” Award in 2007, and the Southern Business Journal named him a “Leader Among Us” in 2012. Under his leadership, the Southern Illinois Symphony was named Community Volunteer Orchestra of the Year. A student of Ray Still, Robert Morgan, Victor Yampolsky, and the late Charles Bruck and Georg Tintner, Mr. Benyas holds graduate degrees in Orchestral Conducting and Oboe Performance from Northwestern University, as well as Bachelor and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Michigan. He has conducted orchestras and opera companies throughout North America and in Europe. Of one appearance, a California reviewer wrote: “Maestro Benyas simply swept the audience away with a beautiful presentation of this piece.” His conducted repertoire includes nearly 400 works, including a dozen world premieres and several dozen complete operas and ballets. Mr. Benyas also enjoys an active career as an oboe and English horn player, having performed with the Chicago Symphony under Daniel Barenboim, the Lyric Opera under Zubin Mehta, the Milwaukee and Grant Park Symphonies, the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, at the Spoleto and Banff summer music festivals, as Principal Oboe of the Des Moines Metro Opera for six seasons and for Andrea Bocelli’s National Tour. He is a member of the state bar of Illinois and has been elected to the Jackson County Board and the Carbondale Elementary School District Board of Education.



Director Josh Shaw has a distinctive artistic vision, formed over a decade of work in opera and music theatre and the experiences from over 100 productions. He is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Project (POP), a Los-Angeles based company dedicated to producing affordable, accessible, and ENTERTAINING opera.  During the 2015 POP season Mr. Shaw directed sold-out and critically acclaimed productions of Ariadne auf Naxos, Falstaff, Viva la mamma!, and Abduction from the Seraglio.

Mr. Shaw is the Resident Director for Chamber Opera Players of Los Angeles and has directed productions of Il segretto di Susanna, A Hand of Bridge, Gallantry, A Sunday ExcursionThe Man on the Bearskin Rug, Three Sisters who are not Sisters, and The Last Silent Voice (World Premiere) for the up and coming company.  He has been on staff at Opera Neo in San Diego for the past three seasons where he has directed multiple productions and events and has served as the Director of Community Events. Other recent directorial projects include Tosca: A moving production, La bohème AKA “The Hipsters”, La CalistoThe Turn of the Screw, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Le nozze di FigaroThe Mikado, Cosi fan tutte, Trouble in Tahiti, Sweeney Todd, and Don Giovanniand with POP; Carmen, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Abduction from the Seraglio at the Southern Illinois Music Festival; The Medium for Redlands Opera Theatre; Cavalleria rusticana and I pagliacci with the Celestial Opera Company; and Madama Butterfly with Saltmarsh Opera.  

In 2016 Mr. Shaw will direct several revivals of his “Star Trek” Abductionincluding performances at The Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood, CA, Opera Piccola San Antonio, Festival Opera in Oakland, CA, and at Salt Marsh Opera in CT.  He will also direct Guillaume Tell at the Southern Illinois Music Festival and The Merry Widow, The Rake’s Progress, The Impresario, and Prima la musica, e poi le parole (Salieri) at POP.  Both Widow and Impresariowill feature new English book and libretto by Mr. Shaw.

Mr. Shaw is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and Southern Illinois University, with a master’s degree in Opera/Music Theater. 

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Marisa BUCHHEIT, Soprano, Chicago


Marisa Buchheit is an operatic soprano who has performed in critically acclaimed productions around the world.  She sings in ten languages, including those of her own ethnic heritage: Thai, Chinese, and German. She studied vocal performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music where she graduated with Academic Honors and served as President of Mu Phi Epsilon Music Fraternity. She is currently pursuing her Master's Degree in opera at DePaul University.

Marisa’s recent performances include recitals and fully staged operas in the United States, Italy, France, Austria, and Thailand. Her performances include Le nozze di Figaro (Susanna), Don Giovanni (Zerlina), Rigoletto (A Page/Gilda understudy), L'incoronazione di Poppea (Venus), Romance of the Western Chamber--National Premier Tour (Ying-ying), Carousel (Julie), and Chicago (Mary Sunshine), with companies such as Wichita Grand Opera, DePaul Opera Theater, American Chamber Opera, Carnegie Arts Center in Indiana, CIM Opera Theatre, and the Case Western Footlighters in Ohio. She was also a featured soloist the past 2 seasons with the Elgin and Peoria Symphony Orchestras. Marisa has sung the national anthem for the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Air & Water Show, and also for many charitable organizations.


Baritone David Dillard enjoys a career that encompasses both teaching and performing. Now in his twelfth year at Southern Illinois University, Dr. Dillard teaches applied voice, lyric diction, opera history, and voice pedagogy. Professionally, he appears most summers at Union Avenue Opera and the Southern Illinois Music Festival. His eclectic operatic repertoire includes both comprimario and leading roles such as Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Escamillo in Carmen, the Police Sergeant in Pirates of Penzance, Polyphemus in Acis and Galatea, Owen Hart in Dead Man Walking, and Gunther in Götterdämmerung just to name a few. He has also performed with Florida Grand Opera, DiCapo Opera Theater, Austin Lyric Opera, Tanglewood Music Festival, and Lake George Opera.

In addition to opera, Dr. Dillard is passionate about art song. In 2015, he coached Jake Heggie’s song cycle A Question of Light with the composer. He has performed Schubert’s Winterreise with internationally acclaimed collaborative pianist Martin Katz at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. At the Franz-Schubert-Institut in Baden bei Wien, Austria, Dr. Dillard studied with Wolfgang Holzmair, Elly Ameling and Helmut Deutsch, among others.

In 2016, Dr. Dillard taught at Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Spring Training Program and participated in the McClosky Institute for Voice Summer Seminar in Redlands, CA. In 2015, he completed Levels I and II of Jeannette LoVetri’s Somatic Voicework TM and in 2007 he was a NATS intern. He earned music degrees from Principia College, The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

E. Scott Levin, Bass-Baritone, Los Angeles

Bass-Baritone, E. Scott Levin, described as having a “smooth, buttery voice,” “incredibly sharp timing,” and “a gifted comic actor,” has been making audiences laugh for the past fifteen years. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis and Graduate Certificate in Vocal Performance from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

While in St. Louis, Scott sang numerous roles in over twenty productions with Union Avenue Opera including Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin, the Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly, the Mandarin in Turandot, Wagner in Faust, Pistola in Falstaff, Benoit and Alcindoro in La bohème, the Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, Marco in Gianni Schicchi, Le Dancairo in Carmen, Baron Zeta in Die lustige Witwe, Hortensius in La fille du régiment , Alidoro in La Cenerentola, Masetto in Don Giovanni and most recently as Pooh-Bah in The Mikado.

Since moving to Los Angeles, Scott has regularly performed with Pacific Opera Project as Leporello in Don Giovanni, Schaunard in La bohème, Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd, Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, the Sacristan in Tosca, and KoKo in The Mikado among others.

In addition, Scott has performed with Long Beach Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Celestial Opera, Center Stage Opera, Redlands Opera Theater, and Orange County Opera. He recently made his debuts at Townsend/Fresno Opera as the Sacristan in Tosca and Los Angeles Opera “Off-Grand” as Babayan (Bartolo) in Figaro 90210!. In 2015, Scott made his LAO mainstage debut as Dr. Spinelloccio in Gianni Schicchi, starring Placido Domingo and under the direction of Woody Allen. The video recording is now available on the Sony Classical label.

Scott also performs as a concert soloist. Between 2003 and 2006, he served as the Liturgical Soloist at Temple Sha’are Emeth and as the Baritone Young Artist with the Bach Society of Saint Louis. For the past seven years, he has been a featured soloist with the Los Angeles Bach Festival.

He is the co-founder of Chamber Opera Players of LA (COPOLA), a chamber opera troupe that regularly performs in Glendale, CA.


Eric McCluskey, baritone, has performed throughout the United States with several opera companies and symphony orchestras, including: Opera Theater of Saint Louis, New York City Opera’s National Company, San Francisco Opera’s Western Opera Theater, Kentucky Opera, Sarasota Opera, Connecticut Grand Opera, Spoleto Festival, St. Louis Symphony, and Nashville Symphony. Some highlights from his career include singing Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” with the Paris Opera Ballet while the late, Rudolf Nureyev, danced. He also sang ‘Opera At Sea’ aboard the HMS Vistafjord and Sagafjord for three extended cruises. McCluskey is the recipient of several awards that helped jump start his career including the William Matheus Sullivan Award, the Richard Gaddes Award from Opera Theater of Saint Louis, as well as winning the Young Artists Competition from the Women’s Association of the Saint Louis Symphony Society.  Dr. McCluskey is an Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of Evansville and when he is not teaching enjoys performing recitals and working with several ensembles including the Evansville Philharmonic, Winter Opera St. Louis, and the SI Music Festival.

Justin John Moniz, Tenor 

Justin John Moniz.jpg

Winner of The American Prize in Voice – Chicago Musical Theatre Award, Justin John Moniz’s “s nuberb high tenor" and “commanding stage presence” has been thrilling audiences in opera houses, theaters, and concert halls across the nation, among them Opera Grand Rapids, Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, Sarasota Opera, Florida Grand Opera, the Opera Company of Middlebury, Opera New Jersey, DreamCatcher Theatre/Adrienne Arsht Center, Orchestra Miami, Gulfshore Opera, Palm Beach Dramaworks, the Orchestra of Northern New York, and Chicago Symphony Center. His unique style and versatility have afforded him an active career in opera, concert and musical theatre, having sung over 80 roles to date. Most recently, Mr. Moniz’s star turn as Prince Karl Franz in The Student Prince with Opera Grand Rapids received high praise and great acclaim, the press hailing his performance as “simply outstanding…glorious” (Encore Michigan). His performance also earned him the prestigious BroadwayWorld Award for Best Actor in a Musical. 

Mr. Moniz holds the Doctor of Music in Voice Performance from Florida State University, a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, where he was recently selected as the recipient of the 2015 Rising Star Award for having demonstrated outstanding professional achievement in the first decade following graduation. As the youngest recipient in the college’s history, he joins the company of past recipients Stephanie Blythe, Dimitri Pittas and Margaret Lattimore, among others. Mr. Moniz is a proud member of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA).

Ariel Pisturino, Soprano, lOS aNGELES

The Los Angeles Times hails soprano Ariel Pisturino as “an impressive young discovery,” after seeing her professional debut performance as Nancy T’ang in Long Beach Opera’s production of Nixon in China. An enthusiastic advocate of contemporary works and collaborations with composers, Ariel performed the role of Lover in The Industry’s nationally-acclaimed production of HOPSCOTCH and created the role of Laurie in Mark Abel’s premiere opera Home is aHarbor, released on Delos Records. She collaborated with Abel once before on his song cycle Five Rilke Songs on the album Terrain of theHeart, also for Delos Records. Most recently, Ariel created the role of Rosina Brandram in a newly written Gilbert and Sullivan review, HailPoetry, with Opera a la Carte.

Propelled by her interest in promoting new works, Ariel co-founded the performance troupe Chamber Opera Players of LA and the new music summer concert series unSUNg, focusing on new and unknown vocal music. Highlights of her work with Chamber Opera Singers of LA include her commission and premiere of the opera TheLast Silent Voice by George N. Gianopoulos and a commission of electronic opera The Master and Margarita by Russian composer Gamma Skupinsky.  Other contemporary performance highlights include her performances with Long Beach Opera as Witch 1 in Bloch’s Macbeth and the premiere of the oratorio Circular 14: TheApotheosis of Aristides by Neely Bruce in remembrance of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who saved thousands during the Holocaust.

Ms. Pisturino not only performs new works but also lends her creamy legato to traditional roles such as Donna Elvira, Fiordiligi, and Micaëla. She has also been heard as the soprano soloist in the Fauré Requiem, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Requiem, and Rutter Gloria.

An avid language student, Ariel is conversationally fluent in Italian and attended the Russian Opera Workshop to study the Russian language and perform the role of Tamara in Rubenstein’s opera, The Demon.  

Ariel holds a Masters degree from the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music, a Bachelors degree in Music from Northern Arizona University, and is an OperaWorks alumna. Born in San Francisco but a native of Kingman, Arizona, she now resides with her bass-baritone boyfriend and three kitties in sunny Los Angeles.  


A bass vocalist of increasing demand, Andrew Potter is a true Basso that has been hailed by audiences and critics across the country for a larger-than-life stage presence and a powerful, lithe voice.

Pursuing his undergraduate in Vocal Performance at Liberty University he got a taste of the stage performing roles like the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance, Poo Bah in The Mikado, and Baron Mirko Zeta in The Merry Widow.

In 2012, Andrew was cast by Opera on the James in their performance of Die Fledermaus as a chorus member and dancer. Opera on the James then re-cast him in their Spring production of The Magic Flute as The Second Armored Man. In their 2013-14 season, Opera on the James cast Andrew as Betto in Gianni Schicchi, Mr. Dashwood in Mark Adamo’s Little Women, and the Big Bad Bully in Stop Bully – an outreach opera performed in schools and community centers.

Opera NEO cast Andrew in his long awaited role debut of Sarastro in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in San Diego; and has recast him in their 2015 season as Escamillo in Carmen and Argante in Rinaldo. Andrew made his Verdi debut with Undercroft Opera, singing Ramphis in Aida in Pittsburgh, PA. St. Petersburg Opera cast Andrew as Fiorello and the Bartolo cover in their 2015 production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

Upcoming operatic engagements for Andrew in the 2015-16 season(s) include the roles of Osmin, Larkens, Zoroastro, Colline, Escamillo, Argante, Il Commendatore, and Dr. Dulcamara. He will also be making his musical theater debut as Beast (in Beauty and the Beast). Andrew Is under the management of Leota Arts in Illinois.

Instrumental Artists:

Robert Allison, Trumpet, sOUTHERN ILLINOIS

Robert Allison hails from Memphis, Tennessee, and is Associate Professor of Trumpet and Jazz Studies at Southern Illinois University. He has also taught at Millikin University and the Latvian National Conservatory in Riga, Latvia.

Besides fulfilling his teaching duties at Southern Illinois University, Dr. Allison is active as a recitalist and clinician, and in addition to the New Arts Jazztet, also performs regularly with the SIUC Faculty Brass Trio and the Brass Ensemble of Illinois.

He has performed with numerous jazz artists, including James Williams, Cal Thomas, Willie Thomas and Stanley Clarke.

Dr. Allison received most of his training at the University of Illinois where he was a student of Ray Sasaki, David Hickman and Mike Tunnel. He is also a former winner of the International Trumpet Guild's Jazz Improvisition Competition.

Michael Barta, Violin, Hungary/SIUC

Violinist and violist, Michael Barta, studied at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary and received his degree with highest honors. In 1973 he won the 2nd prize at the Joseph Szigeti International Competition and the Gold Medal of the Ysaye Society in Brussels, Belgium. In 1974 he received a Diploma as Finalist of the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, Russia. From 1975-1980, he held the title Soloist of the National Philharmony in Hungary and was first violinist of the Kodály String Quartet. He came to the United States in 1980 and became professor of violin at Central Michigan University. He currently serves as Professor of Violin and Chamber Music at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, a position he has held since 1985. Mr. Barta has performed in 25 countries, including many European countries, China and Japan. He performed such venues as Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall in the United States, in Wigmore Hall in London, at Radio France in Paris, and many others. He served on the summer faculty of the Central Catalonia Music Festival and Academy in Spain and regularly teaches master classes in Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta, Latvia and Austria. He is co-founder of the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society, and also performs as the Assistant Concertmaster of the Illinois Symphony and Chamber Orchestra and as Acting Concertmaster of Sinfonia da Camera in Urbana, Illinois.


Pianist, Kara Benyas has served on the faculties of Southern Illinois University and McKendree University. She holds degrees from Northwestern University and SIU, and has also studied at the Aspen Music School. She has been an accompanist for the voice studio of the late William Warfield and with the Des Moines Metro Opera. Ms. Benyas has appeared several times as a soloist with the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra, on subscription concerts in downtown Chicago and on tour throughout the Midwest. She has appeared as soloist with the Southern Illinois Symphony and soloist and chamber music artist with the Southern Illinois Music Festival on numerous occasions. Ms. Benyas appeared on the Dame Myra Hess Recital Series at the Chicago Cultural Center, a performance broadcast on local television, on WFMT-FM in Chicago and syndicated nationally over the internet. In 2011 and 2013 she performed a series of concerts in Northern Italy, including Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. In Southern Illinois, Ms. Benyas helped establish Klassics for Kids, a highly acclaimed concert series that exposes preschool and school age children to a variety of live classical music and jazz. She and her husband live in Southern Illinois with their two children, Gabriela and Maya, and their dogs, Carmen and Rosina.


Dr. Jessica D. Butler is currently a lecturer of low brass and music history at Southern Illinois University. Jessica completed her doctorate in trombone performance and pedagogy with a secondary emphasis in musicology at The University of Iowa in 2013 under the advisement of Dr. David Gier. Jessica also achieved her master of arts degree in trombone performance and pedagogy at the University of Iowa.  She achieved her undergraduate degree in trombone performance at Columbus State University, studying with Dr. Bradley Palmer.

As an applied studio professor, Jessica enjoys teaching graduate and undergraduate trombone, euphonium, and tuba students. In 2014, Jessica created SIUC’s Low Brass Collective– a low brass ensemble that allows students to develop chamber music skills. As a music history professor at SIUC, Jessica teaches Modern Music I and II, Romantic Music, Baroque Music, Music History I and II, and Music Understanding.

Jessica won the S.E. Shire’s trombone solo competition hosted by the Southeast Trombone Symposium in 2010. Her current scholarly research focuses on women’s roles in music and feminist musicology. Jessica has presented and performed at The International Women’s Brass Conference, The International Trombone Festival, The Southeast Trombone Symposium, The Midwest Trombone and Euphonium Conference, as well as various colleges and universities. Jessica looks forward to performing with the prestigious Cramer Trombone Choir this summer at the International Trombone Festival.

Bill Cernota, Cello, Lyric Opera of Chicago

William Cernota, violoncello, has been a member of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra since 1982.  From 1982 to 1996 he was a substitute cellist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  While a student of Chicago Symphony Principal Cellist Frank Miller, he was Principal Cellist of the Chicago Civic Orchestra.  During this period William performed as soloist in Don Quixote and Schelomo with the Chicago Civic Orchestra.  His other teachers include Alois Trnka, Raya Garbousova, Karl Fruh, and Daniel Morganstern.  He has also held principal cello positions with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Concertante di Chicago, Chicago Opera Theater, and Peninsula Music Festival.  In 2012 he was appointed Principal Cellist in the Southern Illinois Music Festival.  He performed the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata on a national broadcast from WFMT as part of its “Schubert Live” Series and was a soloist on two European tours of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra.  William is currently on the adjunct music faculties of both Northwestern and Loyola Universities.  Following graduation in Ideas & Methods and Biology from the University of Chicago he served for three years in the Peace Corps, Sierra Leone as a biology teacher and band director.  With special interests in new as well as old music, William appears regularly in contemporary music concerts and has also performed on baroque cello with several period instrument groups.  He performed Lutoslawski’s works for solo cello at Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago with the composer in attendance. With pianist Joy Doran, he recently issued a CD: On or About December, 1910.  He is a founding member and General Director of Chicago Camerata and the Overtones Ensemble in Residence at Loyola University Museum of Art.  William resides with his wife, Maria, and daughter, Naomi, in Chicago where he also works as a research scientist at Fermalogic, Incorporated and recently completed the Masters in Engineering Degree from the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Kurt Civilette, Horn, Michigan

In the fall of 2010, Kurt Civilette started as 3rd horn in Ann Arbor Symphony and as a member of the A2SO Brass Quintet. He frequently appears as guest principal in Ann Arbor Symphony and many local orchestras, playing that role with Michigan Opera Theater, Flint, Saginaw Bay, Windsor (ON), Midland, and West Michigan Symphonies. He substituted several times in the 2011-12 season with Detroit Symphony. For 15 years from 1995-2010, Kurt was full-time 3rd horn/associate principal with New Mexico Symphony in Albuquerque, substituting as interim principal horn for the entire 2001-02 season. Before winning the permanent job in New Mexico, he held temporary positions as principal horn with Charleston (SC) Symphony, principal horn of the Savannah (GA) Symphony, and assistant principal with Honolulu Symphony. While in New Mexico he was also 3rd horn with Santa Fe Symphony and appeared with Santa Fe Opera orchestra. As a successful freelance musician, he has appeared with Chicago Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony, St. Louis, Utah, Grant Park, Jacksonville and North Carolina Symphonies, and played many commercial jingles and recording sessions. During the summers, Kurt plays principal horn with the Southern Illinois Music festival in Carbondale. He has appeared in various US and international summer festivals including Spoleto festival in USA and Italy, the Assisi festival (Italy), the Kumamoto festival in Japan, and Music from Angel Fire. Kurt has performed as an extra player with Santa Fe Opera since 1998.

Marla hansen, Piano, Oregon

Marla Hansen graduated with a Masters in Collaborative Piano from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2015.  Her former piano teachers include Dr. Marie Jureit-Beamish (Principia College) and Dr. Paul Transue (SIUC), and she previously studied the violin with Todor Pelev, Laura Garritson Parker, and Michael Barta (SIUC).  She has performed in masterclasses with Boris Berman, Paul Badura-Skoda, Luiz de Moura Castro, and Martin Katz.  She has soloed on violin with the MSJC Symphony Orchestra and on piano with the Inland Valley Symphony and the Principia College Orchestra.  In 2010 and 2012, Marla was in a select group of students representing Principia College on the Spring Arts Tours which consisted of five performances on the west coast, and six performances on the east coast, including a performance in Steinway Hall, New York.  As a student of Principia, she was awarded the Ackley Music Award for exceptional work in performance and academics, the Georgie Graham Ives Music Award for excellence in music scholarship and performance, and the Frances Van Der Meid Smith Award for promoting musical excellence in the community.  As part of her graduate assistantship at SIUC, Marla served as rehearsal pianist for operas, accompanied the Concert Choir, and worked with numerous vocal students as well as instrumentalists.  She has served as a vocal soloist for churches, and she enjoys composing and arranging music as well as performing. She is currently living in Beaverton, OR, teaching private lessons and working as a collaborative pianist at nearby colleges and universities.

Anita hutton, PIANO, southern illinois

Pianist Anita Hutton retired from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2012.  She is the organist/pianist at First United Methodist Church in Carbondale.  Anita is a participant/coach at several chamber music workshops in the United States, Germany, and England.  She is also active as a musician and accompanist on the SIUC campus and in the community.  Anitaearned her Bachelor of Music Education (Vocal & Instrumental) from Idaho State University and her Master of Music from SIUC.


Kiril Laskarov is the Co-Concertmaster of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Director at the Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock. A native of Bulgaria, he received a Bachelor Arts degree from the State Academy of Music in Sofia and Master's degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he studied with Prof. Michael Barta. Laskarov has appeared as a soloist with the Arkansas Symphony, Las Vegas Philharmonic, Southern Illinois Symphony, Abilene (TX) Philharmonic, Texarkana (TX) Symphony, and Sioux Falls (SD) Chamber Orchestra. He will make his debut with the Symphony Irvine (CA) during the 2016/17 season as the featured soloist in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.

David peshlakai, cello, Grand Rapids Symphony

David Peshlakai has been Principal Cellist with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra since 2004 where he holds the Diether Haenicke Principal Cello Chair.  In reviewing the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra’s opening concert of the 2010-11 season, Mr. C.J. Gianakaris of the Kalamazoo Gazette described Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 as, “perfection — Garrick Ohlsson [soloist] and the KSO appeared in perfect synch, highlighted by cellist David Peshlakai’s ravishing solo passages.” 

Mr. Peshlakai was born and educated in Michigan.  He received his Bachelor of Music from Michigan State University in 1990 and his Master of Music from the University of Michigan in 1993, studying with Owen Carman and Erling Blöndal Bengtsson, respectively.  Other teachers who were also deeply influential include Louis Potter and Mario DiFiore.

 Mr. Peshlakai is also in great demand as an extra cellist with several regional orchestras throughout Michigan, including performing as principal cellist with the Battle Creek, Flint, Jackson, and Lansing Symphonies.  He has appeared as soloist with the Kalamazoo, Jackson, Battle Creek, Greater Grand Forks, Central Iowa, and Michigan State University Symphony Orchestras, the Hillsdale College/Community Orchestra, the Albion College Orchestra, and the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse Symphony Orchestra.

As cellist of the KSO’s Burdick-Thorne String Quartet, Mr. Peshlakai performs with his colleagues in their Epic Evenings Series.  The Quartet participated in master classes given by both the Emerson and Muir String Quartets.  He has performed in many chamber recitals and festivals throughout Michigan and in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Iowa.  His coaches have included members of the Juilliard, Alban Berg, Concord, Vermeer, and Kronos String Quartets.   

Mr. Peshlakai has been teaching cello at Hillsdale College since 1992.  In 2010 he was invited to teach at Kalamazoo College as well.  He previously taught at Albion and Alma Colleges and Grand Valley State University.  

James Ryon, Oboe, Texas

James Ryon is currently Professor of Oboe at the University of North Texas and Principal Oboist with the Baton Rouge Symphony. He received Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the Juilliard School, a degree in Engineering & Applied Science from Yale University, and performance fellowships with the Aspen, Berkshire, Blossom, Kneisel Hall and New College Music Festivals. He has also served as Principal Oboist with the Caracas Philharmonic, the Florida Orchestra and the Akron Symphony. His wide-ranging musical experience includes tours and concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Cleveland Opera, the Cleveland Ballet, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Ohio Ballet, the Canton Symphony, the Charleston Symphony, the Las Colinas Symphony, the Bach Aria Group and the British rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He taught for 8 years at Louisiana State University and for 19 years at the University of Akron, where he was also a member of the Solaris Quintet. His CD of 20th Century Brazilian Chamber Music for Oboe, Cello and Piano with the Burle Marx Trio is available on Jeanné Digital. His recordings with Solaris may be found on Capstone Records. For further information visit: 

JoshUA Schlachter, Violin, Grand Rapids Symphony

Joshua Schlachter joined the Grand Rapids Symphony violin section in 1999.  At the Southern Illinois Music Festival, he has performed as soloist and serves as Principal Second Violin.  Joshua has performed regularly as Principal Second Violin of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and has played with the Columbus Symphony and Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

Joshua received a Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.  Kurt Sassmannshaus, Peter Oundjian, and Geoffrey Applegate are among his principal instructors.  An active teacher, Joshua has served as Visiting Professor of Violin at Grand Rapids Community College and Adjunct Instructor of Violin at Aquinas College.  He and his wife, Tenille, live in Rockford, Michigan, with their children, Samuel, Zachary, and Sophia.

Charles Shapera, Bassoon, Chicago

Charles Shapera is a native of Chicago involved in performing, teaching, and conducting for over 30 years. As a performer, he is Principal Bassoon of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra and an original member of two outstanding chamber groups, the Oak Street Winds (with Maestro Benyas) and the Kallima Quintet. As an educator, Mr. Shapera teaches Elementary and Jr. High aged band. Twice a graduate of DePaul University, Mr. Shapera studied bassoon with Anne Eagleton, William Kaplan, Bruce Grainger, and William Buchman. This will be his eighth year participating in the SIFest. Mr. Shapera shares every day with his lovely wife Zoe - who generously allows him the time to come to Carbondale each summer - and his two beautiful children, Arza and Micah.

Abigail Simoneau, flute, new hampshire

Abigail Simoneau, a New Hampshire native, is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This past fall, she became part of the adjunct music faculty at Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina and is Flute Instructor at the Music Academy of North Carolina. Ms. Simoneau earned her Master of Music degree in Flute Performance from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Hampshire. Her teachers include Linda True, Peggy Vagts, Douglas Worthen, Carla Copeland-Burns, and Erika Boysen. Ms. Simoneau has performed with numerous ensembles throughout her college career, and this will be her fifth season with the Southern Illinois Music Festival.

Juan Carlos Siviero, Viola, Space Coast Symphony Orchestra/Argentina

This is Juan Carlos Siviero's 11th Season with the Southern Illinois Music Festival! A native Argentinian, Juan Carlos resides in Orlando, FL where he performs as Principal Violist with Space Coast Symphony Orchestra and holds membership with the Florida Lakes Symphony, The Villages Phiharmonic, and the Orlando Philharmonic. His orchestral experience included the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Rockford Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra of Argentina, and the Orchestra of the State of  Tucuman to name a few. Juan Carlos received his musical training from the Conservatorio Provincial de Musica de Tucuman, his Masters Degree from Roosevelt University, as well as a Graduate Certificate from DePaul University. He greatly enjoys teaching viola and violin. In his spare time, Juan Carlos is an enthusiast of Archeology, Astronomy, World War II, and American Civil War related subjects. He also cares for small cute felines.

Kelly Sulick, Flute, Virginia

Kelly Sulick currently teaches at the University of Virginia and serves as Principal Flute in the Charlottesville Symphony and Director of the University of Virginia Chamber Music Series. Prior to her appointment, she served as Principal Flute with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra and as Consortium Instructor of Flute at the University of Evansville for three years. She earned her Master of Music degree in Flute Performance from the University of Southern California and completed three seasons as principal flute with the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra in Los Angeles, California. Prior to her graduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Flute Performance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, where she graduated with highest honors and was named a James B. Angell Scholar for her academic achievements.

Ms. Sulick won second place in the 2010 National Flute Association's Young Artist Competition, and was awarded the prize for the best performance of Kristin P. Kuster's Perpetual Afternoon. She has been a finalist or semi-finalist in numerous national competitions, including The Flute Society of Kentucky Young Artist Competition, the University of Michigan Concerto Competition, the Pasadena Showcase House Instrumental Competition, the Young Musicians Foundation National Debut Competition, and the Frank Bowen Young Artist Competition. Ms. Sulick has recorded several compact discs, including William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and of Experience under Leonard Slatkin, a Naxos release that received four Grammy awards including Best Classical Album.

David Tuttle, Clarinet, Chicago

David Tuttle is an active freelance musician who has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Honolulu Symphony, Ars Viva Chicago, and the Lake Forest Symphony.  He has been performing as an extra player with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1974.  He can be heard on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recordings of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Wagner’s Prelude and Love Death, and Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite.  In addition to his extensive freelancing, David currently serves as principal clarinetist in the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Light Opera Works, and the Southern Illinois Music Festival, for which he is also personnel manager.  He is the founder and director of Chicago Winds, Inc., which has presented more than 2,000 program in Chicago Public Schools.  Tuttle has been on the roster of Vandoren Performing Artists since 2011.


Gabrielle Baffoni is Assistant Professor of Single Reeds at Southeast Missouri State University, where she has been on faculty since her appointment in 2012. She previously held teaching positions at Tabor College, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Conservatory of Music and Dance, and the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. Dr. Baffoni earned her Doctor of Musical Arts in Clarinet Performance from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance where her final doctoral project was a lecture-recital presenting works for clarinet and percussion duo.

With a passion for chamber music, Dr. Baffoni has performed with several chamber ensembles over the last fifteen years, including the Liberace Winds Graduate Fellowship Wind Quintet at UMKC. As a clarinetist, Dr. Baffoni has performed with various ensembles throughout the United States and has appeared as a soloist with ensembles at the University of New Hampshire, UMKC, Bethel College, and Southeast Missouri State University.

She held the position of second clarinetist with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra from 2008-2011, and performed regularly with the Miami City Ballet, Hollywood (FL) Philharmonic Orchestra, Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia, and Civic Opera Theatre of Kansas City. She currently performs as principal clarinetist with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra in Kentucky, and appears regularly with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra.


Violinist, conductor and teacher Linda Veleckis Nussbaum has performed as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician throughout the United States and Europe. 

A dedicated teacher, Linda Veleckis serves as Director of Orchestras in Orland Park, Illinois, where she conducts four orchestras serving over 200 young musicians. Her private studio in Chicago focuses on developing strong technical foundation and preparing students for competitions and auditions. 

Orchestrally, she has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Elgin Symphony, New Philharmonic and currently serves as principal second violin with both the Illinois Philharmonic and Heartland Festival Orchestras

In recent recitals, she has performed the complete sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms, composers of the Baltic diaspora and several programs commemorating composers lost in the Holocaust. 

Her 2014 concert tour of Lithuania was met with critical praise for her “elegant playing, compelling tone and passionate interpretations”. This tour included an appearance at the “Operetta at Kaunas Castle” festival, where she captivated over 10,000 listeners with her transcriptions of operatic masterpieces. 

The Lithuanian Opera of Chicago holds a special place in Linda’s heart, as it was here that she first fell in love with opera. She serves as Concertmaster, Orchestra Manager and Assistant Conductor for the company, performing operas in the Lithuanian language on both sides of the Atlantic. This spring, she will be featured in Lehar’s rarely performed operetta Paganini. 

Linda performs on an 1878 violin by Samuel Nemessanyi (her “partner in life”) and an instrument made for her by Augustino Napoli (2013, Chicago).   

Robert Weiss, Trombone, Southern Illinois

Robert L. Weiss, Jr. is currently Director of Music at First United Methodist Church in Carbondale, Illinois and Professor of Music Emeritus at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he taught for 29 years, the last 13 of which he was Director of the School of Music.  He Holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Music Education from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in Education from SIUC.   In retirement from SIUC, he continues to play trombone and sail his Rhodes 22 sailboat on Kentucky Lake.