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, the Southern Business Journal named him a “Leader Among Us” in 2012, he received the Legacy Award from Carbondale Community Arts in 2015, and the Carbondale Lions Club gave him the David Kenney Award this year. 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 and China. 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.


David Taylor, violin

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David Taylor joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as Assistant-Concertmaster in 1979. Born in Canton, Ohio, he first studied violin with his father beginning at the age of four and later continued his studies with Margaret Randall and Rafael Druian at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He later studied with Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School, where he received both bachelor and master’s degrees. He became a member of the Cleveland Orchestra in 1974. With the Chicago Symphony he has made numerous solo appearances, including performances with Sir Georg Solti.  He also has served as Acting-Concertmaster of the Saint Louis Symphony and was the Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony. He has also served as temporary Concertmaster of the Seattle and Dallas Symphonies. As a lover of chamber music he often performs in recitals and solo performances in the Chicagoland area, at Ravinia and on WFMT. He is a also a frequent soloist with the regions local orchestras. He teaches privately, at the Moody Bible Institute and at Roosevelt University. A frequent coach of orchestral violinists he has students in orchestras across the United States and Japan. David lives in downtown Chicago and is married to Michelle Wynton, also a violinist. 

Evan Wong, PIANO, Chicago

Silver medalist and audience prize winner of the 2016 Sendai International Competition in Japan, Taiwanese American Pianist Evan Wong has appeared in recitals and concerts throughout North America, Europe and Asia. 

Mr. Wong has appeared as a soloist with the Sendai Philharmonic, New Sendai Philharmonic, Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie, World Civic Orchestra, Saga Philharmonic, Northwestern University Symphony and the NEC Philharmonia Orchestra as well as conductors Pascal Verrot, Julian Kuerti, Victor Yampolsky, Paul Meyers, Yuri Nitta, Seitaro Ishikawa and Vincent Koh. 

A frequent guest in several renowned festivals, Mr. Wong has performed at the Verbier, Lucerne, Ravinia, Aspen, Gilmore festivals where he has worked and collaborated with musicians such as Itzak Perlman, Miriam Fried, Gary Hoffman, Midori, Mihaela Martin, Pamela Frank, Franz Helmerson, Laurence Lesser, and members of the Cleveland, Takacs and Juilliard Quartets. 

Evan holds degrees from the Hannover Hochschule fur Musik Drama und Medien in Germany (Solo Klasse), The Juilliard School (M.M) and the New England Conservatory (B.M) in the U.S, and is currently working towards his Doctorate Degree at Northwestern University under a full scholarship. A recipient of the 2013 Chi Mei Artist Award and the 2017 PACE Music Award, Mr. Wong has recorded for the MPR (Minnesota, USA), KBS (South Korea) and the Taipei Classical , Radio Taiwan International, National Education, and Voice of Han (Taiwan) stations. Other accolades include first prizes from the 2017 Thaviu Issak Competition and the concerto competitions at the New England Conservatory and Northwestern University. 



One of Musical America’s Top 30 Innovators in Classical Music in 2016, Josh Shaw is the Executive and Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Project (POP), a Los Angeles based company dedicated to presenting accessible, affordable, and ENTERTAINING opera.  Over the past nine seasons, he has directed over 30 productions at POP including The Rake’s Progress, Ariadne auf Naxos, La calisto, Tosca: A Moving Production, and La boheme: AKA “The Hipsters”.  Mr. Shaw’s reimagining of Die Entführung aus dem Serail as an episode of Star Trek has gained national attention and has been produced by eight companies selling out houses with record-breaking numbers. Since turning his attention to directing in 2011, he has directed over 70 productions at companies including New Orleans Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Intermountain Opera, The Southern Illinois Music Festival, Opera Neo, Alamo City Opera, Queen City Opera, Opera Orlando, and Salt Marsh Opera. Recent projects include productions of Don Giovanni, La gazzetta(Rossini), La traviata, Guillaume TellCarmen, and Tabasco: A Burlesque Opera, a newly rediscovered operetta by G. W. Chadwick, last performed in 1894. Mr. Shaw also wrote a new book and additional lyrics for the project that celebrated the McIlhenney Company’s 150thanniversary. In addition to the rewrite of Tabasco and the new book and lyrics for Abduction from the Seraglio, Mr. Shaw has written several English version librettos for operas including a Wild West setting of Die Lustige Witwe, a contemporary setting of Die Schauspieldirektor, and most recently a hit production of Die Zauberflüteset in the world of 1980s video gamesand a groundbreaking production of Madama Butterflysung in Japanese and English, a co-production of POP and Opera in Heights (Houston). Upcoming projects include, The Mikado at POP, Gianni Schicchi at Opera Columbus and I pagiliacci at Salt Marsh Opera. More details at


Hailed by KUSC Los Angeles as the “next great tenor”, Brian Cheney,protégé of legendary tenor Jerry Hadley, has gained international acclaim for his portrayal of characters such as Don José in   Carmen  , Mario Cavaradossi in   Tosca  , Rodolfo in   La bohème  , the Duke in   Rigoletto  , Edgardo in   Lucia di Lammermoor  , and Canio in   Pagliacci  . “It is tenor Brian Cheney as the brave painter Cavaradossi who really blew me away. Cheney has that terrific tenor sound: the power, richness, and vocal color of a high baritone combined with ringing, awe-inspiring high notes” ( Stage and Cinema. ) Of his performance as Don José in   Carmen  , critics hailed:  “Tenor Brian Cheney's portrayal of Don José was the most effective dramatic and vocal realization of character in the production...this excellent singer revealed a voice of amazing power and great beauty. Cheney's booming tenor voice and effective dramatic realization of the passionate Don José soon made him the audience's favorite character."  ( Classical Voice of North Carolina )  Last season, Mr. Cheney created the role of Victor Frankenstein to critical acclaim in Gregg Kallor’s World Premiere   Frankenstein   in New York, made his debut with the National Philharmonic as the Celebrant in Bernstein’s   Mass  , performed as Scalia in Derrick Wang’s   Scalia/Ginsberg  and the title role of   Werther   with Opera Delaware, Canio in   I Pagliacci   with Opera Orlando, Nicely Nicely in   Guys and Dolls   in Concert with New Haven Symphony, the tenor soloist in the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s performance of Verdi’s   Requiem  , sang Haydn’s   Creation  with Glacier Symphony as part of their Easter Festival, and as a tenor soloist in Attila Glatz Concert Productions New Year’s Concert   Salute to Vienna  in Chicago, Boston and Hartford.  In 2020, Mr. Cheney will make his Virginia Opera debut as Radames in Verdi’s   Aida  . To watch his 6 part documentary and to purchase his critically acclaimed album please visit  his website  (, for more details.

Hailed by KUSC Los Angeles as the “next great tenor”, Brian Cheney,protégé of legendary tenor Jerry Hadley, has gained international acclaim for his portrayal of characters such as Don José in Carmen, Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca, Rodolfo in La bohème, the Duke in Rigoletto, Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Canio in Pagliacci. “It is tenor Brian Cheney as the brave painter Cavaradossi who really blew me away. Cheney has that terrific tenor sound: the power, richness, and vocal color of a high baritone combined with ringing, awe-inspiring high notes” (Stage and Cinema.) Of his performance as Don José in Carmen, critics hailed: “Tenor Brian Cheney's portrayal of Don José was the most effective dramatic and vocal realization of character in the production...this excellent singer revealed a voice of amazing power and great beauty. Cheney's booming tenor voice and effective dramatic realization of the passionate Don José soon made him the audience's favorite character." (Classical Voice of North Carolina)

Last season, Mr. Cheney created the role of Victor Frankenstein to critical acclaim in Gregg Kallor’s World Premiere Frankenstein in New York, made his debut with the National Philharmonic as the Celebrant in Bernstein’s Mass, performed as Scalia in Derrick Wang’s Scalia/Ginsbergand the title role of Werther with Opera Delaware, Canio in I Pagliacci with Opera Orlando, Nicely Nicely in Guys and Dolls in Concert with New Haven Symphony, the tenor soloist in the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem, sang Haydn’s Creationwith Glacier Symphony as part of their Easter Festival, and as a tenor soloist in Attila Glatz Concert Productions New Year’s Concert Salute to Viennain Chicago, Boston and Hartford.

In 2020, Mr. Cheney will make his Virginia Opera debut as Radames in Verdi’s Aida. To watch his 6 part documentary and to purchase his critically acclaimed album please visit his website (, for more details.


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.

Christopher Goeke, Tenor, Missouri

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Christopher Goeke, tenor, is currently professor of music at Southeast Missouri State University. Goeke is an active performer, teacher, and opera director. At Southeast, his primary responsibilities are applied voice and opera (including conducting, directing and serving as technical coordinator). Dr. Goeke is an active member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), for which he serves as Central Region Treasurer, and has served as the Missouri Governor. Goeke is also a member of the National Opera Association (NOA).  
Goeke began collegiate studies at Southeastern Community College and completed his undergraduate degree and Master's of Music degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Iowa. He later returned to the University of Iowa and completed a D.M.A in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy. Goeke appeared with the Central City Opera in Colorado, the State Repertory Opera of New Jersey, Westchester Opera in New York, the Light Opera of Manhattan, New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, New York Choral Artists, Santa Fe Desert Choral, Cedar Rapids Symphony, Muddy River Opera (IL), and the Bach Society of St. Louis. Some of his operatic roles include Almaviva in Il Barbieri di Siviglia, Tamino in The Magic Flute, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliette, Spoletta in Tosca, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Alfred and Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus.   Recently, Goeke has appeared as Rudolphe in Rossini's Guillaume Tell and Monostotos in The Magic Flute with the Southern Illinois Music Festival.  The tenor is also active in recital and enjoys presenting art songs of all periods including Schubert’s masterpiece Die Winterreise and song cycles by Schumann, Britten, and Cipulo.  
Goeke lives in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with his wife, Lori Shaffer, an active soprano, who maintains a private voice studio and teaches through the University.

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 sixteen 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.

Since 2002, Scott has portrayed almost sixty distinct roles. Many of those have come from appearing in over twenty productions with Union Avenue Opera in Saint Louis, 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 The Merry Widow, Hortensius in La fille du régiment , Alidoro in La Cenerentola, Masetto in Don Giovanni, and 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, Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro, Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd, Pane in La Calisto, Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, the Sacristan in Tosca, Baron Zeta in The Merry Widow, Maestro Biscroma Strappaviscere in Viva la Mamma!, and KoKo in The Mikado.

In addition, Scott has performed with Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera, Long Beach Opera, Center Stage Opera, Redlands Opera Theater, Definiens Project, OperaWorks, Orange County Opera, and Celestial Opera. In 2015, Scott made debuts at Los Angeles Opera both “Off-Grand” as Babayan (Bartolo) in Figaro 90210!, and mainstage as Dr. Spinelloccio in Gianni Schicchi, starring Placido Domingo and under the direction of Woody Allen, now available on DVD. In 2016, Scott made his Opera Santa Barbara mainstage debut as Simone in Gianni Schicchi and returned the following year as Badger/Priest in The Cunning Little Vixen.

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. From 2009-2014, Scott was a featured soloist with the Los Angeles Bach Festival.


Eric McCluskey, baritone: Is a native of Southern Illinois where he received his early training at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. After completing a Master’s Degree in Carbondale, he began performing 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, and the Spoleto Festival. One of the more unique singing engagements of his career was singing Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” with the Paris Opera Ballet while the late Rudolf Nureyev danced. 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.  After singing professionally for eighteen years, McCluskey returned to school and earned a doctor of music degree from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. 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 Southern Illinois Music Festival.

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 a Harbor, released on Delos Records. She collaborated with Abel once before on his song cycle Five Rilke Songs on the album Terrain of the Heart, also for Delos Records. Ariel created the role of Rosina Brandram in a newly written Gilbert and Sullivan review, Hail Poetry, 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 Players of LA include her commission and premiere of the opera The Last Silent Voice by George N. Gianopoulos in conjunction with Ned Rorem’s Three Sisters who are not Sisters. Other contemporary performance highlights include her performances with Long Beach Opera as
Witch 1 in Bloch’s Macbeth, creating the role of Margarita in a new electronic opera The Master and Margarita by Russian composer Gamma Skupinsky, and the premiere of the oratorio Circular 14: The Apotheosis 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, Micaëla and Second Lady. She has also been heard as the soprano soloist in the Brahms Requiem, Fauré Requiem, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Requiem, and Rutter Gloria.

An avid language student, Ariel is a dedicated Italian student 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 who towers at an imposing and athletic 6’10”, Andrew Potter is a true Basso who has been welcomed by audiences and critics across the country for a larger‐than‐life stage presence with a voice to match.

With years of studying under renowned teachers such as Rick Christman, Braeden Harris, and Kenneth Shaw; Andrew became a standout in mainstage roles at several of the nation's most prestigious Young Artist programs such as Des Moines Metro Opera, St. Petersburg Emerging Artist Program, and the Tyler Young Artist Program. 

He has since performed across the country proficiently demonstrating the vocal power and sonority to sing such roles as Mephistopheles in Gounod’s Faustand Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, the range and physicality to perform buffo roles like Don Bartolo (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Don Alfonso (Così fan tutte), Don Magnifico (Cenerentola); and the flexibility and agility to sing challenging Handelian roles including Zoroastro in Orlando, Ariodate in Serse, and Argante in Rinaldo.

Having proven his vocal diversity on stage performing roles spanning from basso roles like Osmin in Die Entführung, to varying Bass‐Baritone roles such as Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen and Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca; his is truly a vocal range granting incredibly rare versatility ‐ making him stand out among the growing community of low voices.

Megan Potter, mezzo-soprano


Mezzo-soprano Megan Potter’s rich vocal quality and powerful stage presence have earned her roles including Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Romeo (i Capuleti e i Montecchi), Hänsel (Hänsel und Gretel), Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Nerone (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Tisbe (Cenerentola), Effie (The Ballad of Baby Doe), and the title character in L’enfant et les sortilèges.

In recent seasons, she has been a young artist with Central City Opera, Emerald City Opera, and Up North Vocal Institute.  In concert, she has performed the Berio Folk Songs with chamber orchestra and as a soloist with Northern State University’s Symphony Orchestra. She received her Bachelors of Music Education from Northern State University and her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Colorado – Boulder.

Megan is currently a traveling opera singer with upcoming engagements as the mezzo-soprano soloist in Rossini’s Messa di Gloria, La Frugola (Il tabarro), Ulrica (Un ballo in maschera), and the Third Lady (Die Zauberflöte). 



Nyghél J. Byrd received his B.A. in Music from Berea College in Kentucky and his M.M. in Opera/Music Theatre and Choral Conducting. Byrd comes from a very musical family and has sung, played, and taught in various capacities. Byrd started studying music formally at Berea College and has since gained a love and joy for performing and teaching music. In 2012 and 2015, he assumed the lead role of Coalhouse Walker in the musical “Ragtime”, at Berea College and the Bay View Music Festival. Byrd has sung Peter in the opera Hansel and Gretel and Father in Children of Eden the musical at Southern Illinois University. Byrd’s most recent role was Armored Man II in the Southern Illinois Music Festival’s 2018 production of the Magic Flute.

Sarah Baer, Choreographer

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Sarah Baer began dancing at Sherry's School of Dance for seven years before joining Willow
Street Studios, the home of Susan Barnes Dance, where she has been attending classes for the past nine
years. In the fall of 2015 Sarah began studying under the teachings of Alexandra Zaharias at the
Alexandra School of Ballet in Chesterfield, MO and hopes to further expand her knowledge of dance
from here on out. Over the years Sarah has studied ballet, modern, contemporary, tap, and jazz, and has
explored a variety of different techniques within each style. She has participated in the Southern Illinois
Music Festival's productions of The Nutcracker, Carmen, Firebird, Petruchka, Mozart in Motion,
Raymonda, and Swan Lake, and is excited to be choreographing this year's opera Mozart's Magic Flute.
Sarah has also worked with Adam Stone as a dancer in the short film productions of Janet: A Silent Ballet
Film (2014) and Summer Friend (2016).

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 Concertmaster of Sinfonia da Camera in Urbana, Illinois.


Gabrielle Baffoni is Associate 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.


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

Kurt Civilette is a freelance performer and teacher based in Lansing, Michigan. He holds several permanent orchestral positions in the area including principal horn with the South Bend Symphony and principal horn with Midland Symphony. He is also 3rd horn in Flint Symphony and Ann Arbor Symphony. As a member of the South Bend Symphony principal wind quintet and Ann Arbor Symphony Brass Quintet he performs chamber concerts and educational concerts. Other recent freelance engagements include playing sub/extra on stage with Detroit Symphony, Saint Louis Symphony, Utah Symphony, and Ft. Wayne Philharmonic and in the opera pit with Michigan Opera Theater and Santa Fe Opera. He is frequently asked to play guest principal, playing that role with Ann Arbor, Flint, Michigan Opera Theater, Kalamazoo, Saginaw Bay, Windsor (ON), and West Michigan Symphonies. He is the horn instructor at Lansing Community College and Michigan State University's Community Music School.

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, acting 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, 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, and Baroque on Beaver Island festival. 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.

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.  Anita earned her Bachelor of Music Education (Vocal & Instrumental) from Idaho State University and her Master of Music from SIUC.

YUKO KATO, PIANO, Southern Illinois

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Yuko Kato has performed as a soloist and collaborative musician in the United States and internationally. She has given recitals in Canada at The Banff Centre and at Carleton University (Ottawa), in Austria at Musiksalon Erfurt, and has performed at various music festivals, including Songfest in Los Angeles, the New Sound Festival at SUNY Fredonia, the St. Paul Concert Series in Cincinnati, the New Music Circle in St. Louis, the Gesher Music Festival in St. Louis, the Austin Chamber Music Center Festival in Texas, and the Cedarhurst Chamber Music Series at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Illinois. She made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 2004 as the winner of the Artists International Competition in New York. Dr. Kato has degrees in piano performance from Northwestern University and Manhattan School of Music, and currently serves as Associate Professor of Piano at Southern Illinois University.


Kiril Laskarov is in his 20th season as Concertmaster of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. A native of Bulgaria, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the State Academy of Music in Sofia and a 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, Symphony Irvine (CA) and Texarkana (TX) Symphony and also as a guest concertmaster with the Monroe (LA) Symphony and McCall (ID) Festival Orchestra. Mr. Laskarov presented the world premiere of the Double Concerto for Two Violins by Michael Fine (2017) with the Arkansas Symphony and the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello (2018) by Jacob Tews with the Southern Illinois Symphony.

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. Ms. Simoneau is adjunct music faculty at Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina and is Director of Music Education and Community Outreach at the Moore Music Company. 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 eighth season with the Southern Illinois Music Festival. She also performs regularly with the Piedmont Wind Symphony, Western Piedmont Symphony, and the Hickory Choral Society.

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

Juan Carlos Siviero has played 14th 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 Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, The Villages Phiharmonic, and Ocala Symphony Orchestra. 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.

James Thompson, Flute, Indiana


An energetic and passionate musician, Dr. James Thompson has performed on three continents in diverse venues ranging from LA's Walt Disney Concert Hall to medieval Italian churches to the Great Wall of China. Recently, James was named a winner of the National Flute Association Masterclass Competition, the Ball State University Graduate Concerto Competition, and the Illinois State University Concerto Competition. 

James performed for three years as the flutist of the Ball State Graduate Wind Quintet and he has been invited to perform at four National Flute Association conventions as a member of the flute ensemble, “Calliope.” James has also appeared in numerous music festivals such as Domaine Forget, the Southern Illinois Music Festival, the Fresno Opera & Orchestra Summer Academy, and the Sewanee Summer Music Festival.

Raised in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, James began studying the flute with his father at the age of 12. He now resides in Muncie, Indiana, where he completed a doctorate in flute performance at Ball State University. James currently serves as Education Coordinator for the Muncie Symphony Orchestra and is also a flutist with the orchestra.

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.

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.