Meet the Orchestra
Nicholas Bailey, 16, started playing clarinet at age 11. Nicholas also enjoys playing baritone sax,
alto sax, base clarinet, and tuba. He is currently in 11th grade at Katy High School and in his
second year at Virtuosi. Before moving to Katy, TX in 2020, Nicholas was a native to Ft. Worth,
TX where he was alternate chair for the Fort Worth Philharmonic Orchestra 2020. He has been a
member of the Katy High School Marching band, Wind Ensemble, and Jazz band for 3 years
under the direction of Terence Gorton. He is Clarinet Section leader for the 2023-24 Katy High
Band year. Nicholas has been a member of the All-Region Band Region 23 for 3 years and
Region 30 for 1 year. He also consistently receives superior ratings for Texas UIL Solo and
Ensemble contests the last 5 years as well as receiving exceptional results at all region band. He
has received a Division 1 Texas State Gold Medalist for Solo Region 23, 2023. Nicholas is a
current member of the Musical Horizons International Orchestra where he will be performing
across Europe in Summer 2024. Nicholas has performed at Disney and the Katy Jazz Festival.
He currently studies clarinet and saxophone with Mr. Chester Rowell. When he is not practicing,
he enjoys mission trips and camps with his youth group at Cinco Ranch Church of Christ,
helping other band students master music, hanging with his friends and spending time with his
niece and nephews. Nicholas plans on pursuing Music Education, Performance and Composition
at university after he graduates High School.
Nicole Barnhart, 18, started playing violin at the age of 5. Valedictorian of her graduating class, she is currently in 12thgrade as a virtual student. She was a member of Houston Youth Symphony (HYS) for 3 years, where she was concertmaster under Carolyn Vandiver and Ann Victor, and currently studies violin under Mrs. Natasha Cerrone. Nicole also enjoys engaging in public service, such as playing for retirement homes and underprivileged communities to bring music and joy to their lives. A Brazilian native, she enjoys speaking Portuguese with her parents, along with Spanish and German. When she is not practicing, she enjoys figure skating, doing Bible studies with her mom, as well as cooking and baking.
Dominic is sixteen years old and has been taking violin lessons with Melissa Williams since 2017. Dominic also composes music, with several of his pieces having been performed. He is currently enrolled in Cathedral High School and will be entering tenth grade. This is Dominic’s second year with Virtuosi, before which he played with the Houston Youth Symphony for three years. Dominic has played in quartets and trios with AFA and currently plays with Opus 1 Chamber Music School and has attended the AFA Summer Music Festival and UT’s Texas Strings Festival. Dominic has played for several gala fundraising events and competed with Western Academy at the Moore’s School of Music Jazz Festival. Dominic has many hobbies and interests, including basketball, reading, chess, performing magic tricks, learning Latin and Spanish, and playing the piano and guitar.
Nathaly Bonilla is age 15 and a sophomore in J. Frank Dobie High School. She is a Violist and has played Viola 6 years. She also plays multiple more instruments like the Violin, accordion, guitar, electric bass, and ukelele. In her first UIL Solo and Ensemble contest in 8th grade, she played a grade 3 solo and got a 1. In her 9th grade year she played a grade 1 solo and got the superior award. She also auditioned for the TMEA Region 19 Orchestra and for her first time auditioning, she earned fourth chair. In her second year of auditioning, she earned first chair. In her third year, she earned 2nd chair. Nathaly is also currently part of the Dobie varsity high school orchestra which is under the instruction of Angela Badon, Stephen Payne, and Tam Doung. She e also currently studies Viola privately with Sarah Mason. She has studied with her for 6 months. In her free time, she likes to write and research things she’s interested in.
Avangeline “Ava” Cossé is 16 years old and is from Houston, TX. She began playing violin at 2 ½ years of age, and currently studies with Mrs. Lisa Shihoten at the Rice University Music Preparatory School. Ava is a junior at J. Frank Dobie High School performing in the Chamber Varsity Orchestra under the direction of Angela Badon, Stephen Payne and Tam Duong. This past summer, Ava attended the Sewanee Music Festival. She was a member of the Cumberland Orchestra where she served as Concertmaster and Principal 2nd violin. She was also one of ten students chosen to participate in the concerto lab program where she performed as a soloist with orchestra. Ava is an alumni of the Sphinx Performance Academy at the Curtis and Cleveland Institutes of music. Ava has consecutively earned positions in the TMEA Region 19 Symphony Orchestra since 2017. She is a 2023 Texas All-State Orchestra member. When she is not practicing, Ava enjoys spending time with her friends, playing cello and piano, composing/ arranging music, playing soccer, and spoiling her dog Fermata with treats.
Romario Escobar, 18, is a senior at J. Frank Dobie High School, where he performs with the Varsity Chamber Orchestra directed by Angela Badon, Stephen Payne, and Tam Doung. Romario started playing the cello in the 5th grade. Romario has received superior ratings at Solo and Ensemble festival consistently for 5 years now. He has participated in the American Festival of the Arts Summer Music Festival (AFA) and attended (SMF) Sewanee Music Festival this past summer. Romario has been a member of the TMEA Region 19 for 4 consecutive years. He was ranked first in his region for 3 consecutive years and is Principal Cello for this years Region 19 Orchestra. He currently studies under Ms. Bing Wei, a respected cellist who studied under Norman Fischer at Rice University Shepard School of Music. In his free time, Romario enjoys spending time with his family, and looks forward to his anual summer trips to Mexico.
Leonardo Fazzini, 15, is a sophomore at Cypress Woods High School, where he plays the viola with the Varsity Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Kristin Isaacson and Logan Thoeni. He started playing in 6th grade, and he has been a member of both the middle and high school TMEA Region 27 symphony orchestras. Leonardo participated in several orchestra camps in Houston, and in Majano, Italy, where he played for the “Centro Ricerca Divulgazione Musicale”. Additionally, he earned top ratings at Solo and Ensemble for three years, and he qualified to the All-State Solo and Ensemble with the help of his private lesson teacher, Laura Cividino. Lastly, Leonardo was born in Italy, and he loves to play soccer while also volunteering with his friends for Key Club.
Arturo Gonzalez, age 17, played violin for one year in the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs of El Sistema in Caracas, Venezuela. He later began playing cello at age 11, and has been teaching himself piano since he was 14. Arturo is currently a Junior at The Woodlands College Park High School in the Woodlands, Texas, under the direction of Emanuel Coraza and Mary Kate Hom. He has also been studying cello privately with Wendy Smith Butler since 2021. Arturo has had the honor to perform as principal cellist for the HYS Symphony Orchestra, the Woodlands Symphony, and the Luzerne Music Center in Lake Luzerne, New York. This is his fourth season with the Virtuosi of Houston, where he is also principal cellist. Last year, Arturo earned 9th chair in the TMEA All-State Symphony Orchestra, thus having the privilege of performing with Texas’ most talented musicians. He has also achieved top positions in the TMEA Region IX Middle and High School Symphony Orchestras, CISD Honor Orchestra Middle and High School Orchestras, and earned top ratings in UIL Solo and Ensemble. Other than music, Arturo enjoys working out and learning foreign languages.
April Guo is a freshman and was born in Calgary, Canada. April had started playing the harp since she was in sixth grade and has been playing the piano since she was five. In the past, she participated in the middle school All-Region contest and the Solo & Ensemble contest while she attended Fort Settlement Middle School. She qualified as the first chair harpist in the Symphony Orchestra in her second year of playing the harp and earned a bronze and silver medal for the Solo and Ensemble contest, performing a harp solo and trio with her classmates. She transferred to the Awty International School as an eighth grader and joined the Virtuosi of Houston. She enjoys music, playing the Harp, and has participated in various Harp performances outside of school. She is learning the Harp with the help of Mrs. Susanna Campbell and studying piano with Dr. Yan Shen.
Eda Gurmen, age 13, is in her third year of playing the oboe. She is currently an 8th grader at Seven Lakes Junior High in Katy, Texas and plays in the Honors Band under the direction of Adam Seltzer. In 2022, she was a member of the TMEA Region 23 JH Band, and she received superior rating on her performance in the UIL Solo and Ensemble contest. Over the summer, she participated in the Bocal Majority Double Reed Camp. She currently studies with Dr.Anne Leek of the Houston Symphony and has previously studied with Leah Solis and Fatma Daglar. Outside of music, Eda runs on her school’s track and cross country team and enjoys reading.
Chloe Lee is a senior at Stephen F. Austin High School. She has been playing the violin for eleven years and currently takes lessons from Sean O’Neal. Additionally, she has been a member of All-Region Orchestra every year auditioned as well as an Area finalist and one-time All-State Orchestra member. Chloe is also the president of National Art Honor Society and has medaled and received awards for various art competitions. She recently attended the Carnegie Mellon Pre-College Art program. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, animating, going on long walks, and playing games with her older brothers.
Isaac Linerode is sixteen years old and plays the bassoon. He started playing when he was eleven years old. He also played the piano for five years before learning the bassoon. He is attending Glenda Dawson High School in the eleventh grade. Last year, he went to a summer festival called the Kinhaven Senior Session for six weeks. He has also taken summer art classes for seven years. He received a division one on all his solo performances and made TMEA region. He is studying under Hugo Doege and Adam Trussel and taking band from his director, Robert Brown. He enjoys working out when he has the time, and he enjoys doing nerdy things.
Josh Linerode is currently 17 years old, and this is his second year at Virtuosi of Houston. He plays the clarinet and has played it since he was 12 years old; additionally, he played piano for three years before he started the clarinet. He currently attends Dawson High School in Pearland and is a senior focused on preparing for university. Aside from Virtuosi of Houston, Josh is also in the Symphony Orchestra at the Houston Youth Symphony organization, and he is the principal clarinetist in his school’s top wind ensemble. His first private instructor was Mrs. Witt and he currently studies under Mr. Chester Rowell.
Grace Marie Maxian is a 17 year old violinist and pianist. She started taking violin lessons at the age of five, and is currently studying under Korinne Hamblin, located in Nashville, TN. She is a senior at Oxrose Online Academy. She attended the Hope All State and Region Camp this summer, along with a church camp and school camp in Missouri. She will be competing in the Region and All State competitions this year, and she plays piano for one of the Opus 1 chamber music groups. She enjoys baking, painting, calligraphy, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. She is excited to be a part of Virtuosi this season, as this will be her first orchestra experience!
Corinne McLeod, a junior at Legacy Academy, began her study of music at age 5 under Lauren Kossler of the Winston-Salem Symphony. She is fortunate to be returning for her fourth season of Virtuosi of Houston under Maestros Franz Krager and Andzrej Grabiec. She currently studies violin performance and music theory under Dr. Matt Lammers in the Micheal P. Hammond Preparatory Program at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.
After joining the Houston Youth Symphony in 2019, Corinne led as principal second violin in 2021 and concertmaster in 2022. She currently plays in Symphony as a first violinist under Dr. Michael Webster. Corinne leads a quartet of the Opus 1 Chamber Music School, where she frequently volunteers and performs. In 2023 Corinne attended the Meadowmount School of Music, where she was blessed to study under Janet Sung and Ivan Zenaty. Her quartet earned a slot in the chamber music playoffs, earning a performance in the final concert. Corinne attended Interlochen Arts Camp in 2022, where she worked privately under Janet Lyu of the University of Michigan. She was accepted to the World Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) for both sessions, where she had opportunity to work with incredible conductors including Cristian Macelaru, Tito Muñoz, Roderick Cox, and Tristan Rais-Sherman. As part of WYSO, she accompanied violin soloist Randall Goosby and shared the stage with members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She was selected to perform in IAC’s final solo string recital. In 2021 Corinne participated in the Sewanee Summer Music Festival (SSMF) with Dr Lin He, leading as assistant principal violin in the Cumberland Symphony Orchestra. In 2020 she attended Texas All-State Strings Camp, learning with members from the Houston Symphony and performing for cellist Mike Bloch. She frequently plays chamber music with her friends and siblings at Second Baptist Church. When she is not playing or practicing, Corinne enjoys gigging with her quartet, horseback riding, golfing, and calligraphy.
Natalie Min, 14, is a 9th grader at Memorial High School. She started playing violin in the Frostwood Fiddlers at the age of 6 with Ms. Padua Canty and later Ms. Katie Hemphill. She studied under Ms. Hannah Watson and currently studies under Dr. Mauricio Oliveros. For 2 years, she participated in Houston Youth Symphony. She is playing violin in the Lyrica Orchestra under Mr. Chan and Ms. Danielle Prontka. In middle school, she was selected for the Region 27 Middle School Symphony Orchestra in seventh and eighth grade, both times as a first violinist. In 2022, she received outstanding performances in UIL Ensembles. This year in her 9th grade, she made the Region 27 High School Symphony Orchestra. Outside of orchestra, she enjoys year-round swim team, water polo, drawing digitally, and hanging out with friends.
Naoto Osako, age 14, is a freshman at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) and has been playing the violin since age of 6, under Mr. Ton Ta. Naoto is currently in his second year with Virtuosi of Houston. He has been selected to be in the TMEA Region 23 Symphony orchestra for 4 years and earned the highest rank in UIL Solo and Ensemble. He had been in Pin Oak Middle School Orchestra, directed by Ms. Macleay, and is now in HSPVA Symphony Orchestra, directed by Dr. Smith. In his free time, Naoto enjoys solving Rubik’s cubes, watching movies and anime, and creating plastic models.
Olivia Owen, age 16, is a junior at Seven Lakes High School in Katy ISD. This is her second year playing the horn with Virtuosi of Houston. Connor Landers and Billie Wilbanks are her private lesson teachers. Currently, she performs with the Seven Lakes Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra under the direction of John Mays, Kyle Witty, and Desiree Overree. During her summers, Olivia has had the privilege of performing with chamber ensembles at Eastman School of Music and of Stacie Mickens at the University of North Texas (UNT). Olivia has had the pleasure of studying horn under the supervision of Maura Corvington (Eastman) and Stacie Mickens (UNT). From the very beginning, Olivia has consistently placed in top ensembles for local UIL region and AREA contests, earning a spot in February 2023 at TMEA All-State. When she is not playing her horn, Olivia volunteers for local organizations as a member of the National Honor Society at Seven Lakes and as a member of the National Charity League Lady Bird Chapter. In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano, spending time with her family, friends, and Labrador Retriever, Riley.
Meena Pak is a 16 year-old violist and a junior at Memorial High School. Currently, she is a member of the Memorial High School, Sinfonia Orchestra under the direction of Danielle Prontka and Matthew Chan. This is her fourth year with Virtuosi but her second as a violist, she was a violinist in the first two years. She began playing violin at age 5 with the Frostwood Elementary Fiddlers Suzuki program under Padua Canty (2012-2017). She has participated with the Houston Youth Symphony’s String Orchestra (2017-2019) and the AFA summer festivals in 2016-2018. She was concertmaster for the AFA summer festival in 2018. She studied violin under Hannah Watson (2017-2021) and viola under Ms.Meagan Saavedra and Ms.Bethany Prindle at Memorial Middle school (2018-2021). She has fully transitioned over and committed to viola from violin and studies under Laura Cividino at Tallwood’s Academy of Fine Arts Program. 2023 she received Outstanding Performance in her solo performance. This year she has been accepted to Region 27 High School Symphony Orchestra and qualified for the All-State Orchestra. Outside of orchestra she enjoys going to musicals, anything Taylor Swift, hanging out with friends and traveling with her family.
Ayla Patel, age 15, is a 10th grader at The Kinkaid School. She began playing violin at the age of 6. She currently studies with Rodica Gonzalez. She is in the Kinkaid Orchestra under Steve Kastner and Dr. Mauricio Oliveros. She has performed in several recitals in both solo and chamber and competitions. Ayla recently ranked 6th chair in the Region 27 orchestra. She has participated in TPSMEA Solo and Ensemble for the past 8 years, receiving top scores. In her free time, Ayla loves reading, running, and playing with her dog.
Alan Perez, a talented musician and performer, has dedicated eight years of his life to mastering the art of the viola. His exceptional skills have earned him consecutive sweepstakes awards for his solo performances, showcasing his dedication and passion for music. Recently, Alan embraced a new artistic venture by joining the ballet folklorico group Danzas Folkloricas de Solei. In this vibrant ensemble, he explores the rich traditions of folklorico dance, celebrating the diverse cultural heritage of various regions in Mexico. Folklorico, rooted in Mexican folklore, encompasses a range of traditional dances and music, often accompanied by colorful costumes and lively rhythms. Alan’s involvement in this group not only highlights his versatility as a performer but also demonstrates his deep appreciation for preserving and sharing cultural traditions through the captivating medium of dance. With a strong foundation in music and a newfound passion for folklorico, Alan Perez continues to captivate audiences with his artistic talents.
McKenna Petersen, 11 years old, is from Fulshear, TX. She attended her first Suzuki “baby” class at 6 months of age and began her study of the violin at age 3 with Danette Warren Schuh. She currently studies with Dr. Mauricio Oliveros. McKenna is a sixth grader at James W. Roberts Middle School where she sings in choir and helps with beginning orchestra. She is a member of Houston Youth Symphony’s Philharmonia under the direction of Michael Isadore. In 2023, McKenna performed with the Houston Civic Symphony as the winner of the Young Artists Competition Junior Division. She has attended Institutes in Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas. McKenna is also a National Champion Fiddler. She holds state titles in Colorado, Kentucky, and Oklahoma and won her division at the National Old Time Fiddlers Association Contest in 2022. She enjoys spending time with friends, reading, swimming and rock climbing.
Kalea began playing the violin at age 3½, and has played just about daily ever since. Beginning at age 5, she has participated in two to three competitions yearly in Taipei, Taiwan – most notably the Excellence Music Open Competition of Taiwan and the Taiwan Music Competition – consistently taking home 1st prize. Most recently, she achieved 2nd prize in the 15th Academy of Taiwan Strings Junior Violin Competition – the youngest ever to place in the top three for this prestigious competition. Kalea is currently studying with violinist Richard Lin, a graduate of both the Curtis Institute of Music and Juilliard School. Her favorites in her repertoire include Saint-Saens’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E-minor.
Kalea is attending the 4th grade at Colony Bend Elementary School in Sugar Land. In addition to the violin, she has also studied piano for a number of years. In her free time, she enjoys sports, drawing, and riding her bike.
Vanae has been playing the violin for the past 8 years, beginning at the age of 6. She has competed over the past several years in the Excellence Music Open Competition of Taiwan and the Taiwan Music Competition, regularly placing 3rd and 4th in her age group, and was a member of the Sounds Good youth orchestra in Taipei. She is currently studying with Ms. Cindy Ahn, a Rice University alumnus having studied with Mr. Paul Kantor. Her favorite composer is J. S. Bach, the transcendent Chaconne from his Partita no. 2 in D minor being a part of her repertoire.
Vanae is currently attending the 8th grade at First Colony Middle School in Sugar Land. She is a fluent Chinese speaker, an avid reader, and enjoys swimming and bicycling in her free time.
Brigham Smith (17) is a Senior at Westside High School where he is Principal Cellist of the orchestra and a member of the FRC robotics team. He studies piano with Richard Marshall. Brigham won 1st Place in the HMTA Piano Contest 2018 – 2021 and placed 2nd in the 2023 HMTA High School Performance Contest. He was a 2022 Houston Young Artists Finalist and a 2023 TMTA Concerto Finalist. He placed 1st in the 2023 South Texas Concerto Contest. Brigham won both the Houston Symphony North Young Artist and the ECHO Young Artist Concerto Competitions and performed with both symphonies in 2023. He is an International Classical Music Awards winner and will perform at Carnegie Hall in March 2024. Brigham studies cello with Ed Harper and organ with Kymberly Payne. He is the Sunday organist for a Vietnamese congregation. He won 1st Place in the 2023 TMTA Organ Performance Contest. Brigham loves serving in his community and playing music with his family.
Oliver’s musical journey began at age 4 with piano lessons before switching to the double bass at age 11. He joined the Cook Middle School’s Varsity Chamber Orchestra a year later. Now a sophomore at Jersey Village High School, Oliver is in his second year with the Varsity Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Luke Sliva and Matthew Beland. He has studied privately with Andrew Moritz for three years.
Since 2021, Oliver has been a vital part of the TMEA Region 27 Orchestra. This year, he secured 1st chair in the TMEA Region 27 High School Orchestra auditions and is preparing a recording for the TMEA State Orchestra.
Oliver’s dedication is evident in his consistent Superior ratings at UIL Solo & Ensemble competitions since 2021. Additionally, he’s been attending the AFA Summer Music Festival since 2022.
In his free time, Oliver enjoys gaming has managed to complete ALL of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”.
Tara Tran-Huu is a 17 year old senior at Cypress Woods High School. She has been playing oboe for 6 years. Tara has in the past qualified for the regional band and orchestra, earning admission multiple times. Further in the All-State process, she has been a member of the 6A Texas All State Philharmonia and Concert Band consecutively in 2022 and 2023. In 2022, Tara won the honor to perform with the Honors Performance Series Symphony at Carnegie Hall, working under the direction of Kirt Mosier. In both 2022 and 2023, she performed as a finalist in the CyWoods HS Solo Competion. Tara is a two-year drum major in the marching band and has performed as a soloist in the marching show for three consecutive years. Her band program is under the direction of Head Director TJ Peterman with the assistance of Cinjin Casillas, Austin Byers, and Gabrielle Crouch, following the former direction of Head Director Tom Harrington. Tara currently studies under Dr. Anne Leek and Dr. Andrew Parker. Past instructors would include Dr. Bethany Lawrence and Kristen Bundy.
Theodore Villarreal, age 15, is a sophomore at Dobie High School in Pasadena ISD. He has played cello since 6th grade and piano since he was 5 years old. He has placed 4th chair in 8th grade, first chair in 9th and 3rd chair in 10th grade in TMEA regions. He also has competed in UIL solo and ensamble contest since 7th grade. He is currently a part of Dobie varsity orchestra under the instruction of Angela Badon, Stephen Payne, and Tam Duong. He had studied cello with Bing Wei for a year. In his free time he competes in Rubik’s cubes tournaments and does astrophotraphy.
Theodore Vu, age 15, is a sophomore at Cypress Ridge High School, where he performs with the Varsity Chamber Orchestra directed by Christopher Mustell. Theodore started playing the violin at the age of 12. Theodore has received superior ratings at the Solo and Ensemble Event for 2 years now. He has also formally participated in the Stephen F. Austin Strings Camp (SFA) 2020-2021 2021-2023 and the Sewanee Summer Music Festival (SSMF) 2022-2023. Theodore has been a member of the TMEA Region 23 for 2 consecutive years. He is currently studying under Kevin James Julipas, his respected violist/violin private lesson teacher who previously studied under Sheldon Person from the Houston Symphony. In his free time, Theodore likes to work out, enjoys listening to music, and likes to try out new things when he has time in his hands.