Meet the Orchestra
Nicholas Bailey, age 15, started playing clarinet at age 11. He is currently in 10th grade at Katy High School. 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. He has been a member of the Katy High School Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, and Jazz Band for 2 years under the direction of Terence Gorton. Nicholas has been a member of the All-Region Band Region 23 for 1 year and Region 30 for 2 years. He also consistently receives superior ratings at Texas UIL Solo and Ensemble contest. 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, playing tenor and baritone saxophones, 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, age 16, started playing violin at the age of 5. She is currently in 11th grade 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. A Brazilian native, she enjoys speaking Portuguese with her parents, along with Spanish and German. When she is not practicing, Nicole enjoys figure skating, spending time with Mom doing Bible studies, cooking and baking, going on motorcycle rides with Dad, and spending time with her dog and cat.
Dominic Block, age 14, has been taking violin lessons with Melissa Williams since 2017, when he was nine. Dominic also plays the viola and composes music, and several of his pieces have been performed. He is currently enrolled in Cathedral High School and will be entering ninth grade in the fall. He has been a part of the Houston Youth Symphony for three years and was accepted into the Philharmonia orchestra for the 2022-2023 season. Over the years Dominic has played in quartets and trios at AFA on violin and Opus 1 Chamber Music School on viola and attended the AFA Summer Music Festival three times. Dominic has played for several gala fundraising events and competed with Western Academy at the Moore’s School of Music Jazz Festival. Dominic’s hobbies and interests include running cross country, basketball, reading, learning Latin and Spanish, and playing the piano and guitar. He enjoys camping, playing chess and making movies with his six siblings. He is very excited to be a part of Virtuosi of Houston.
Agata Bochnak, age 17, has been playing cello for 11 years. She is a junior at Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, Texas. Agata recently emigrated from Poland, but was born in Colorado. She currently takes lessons with Eunghee Cho from the University of Houston Moores School of Music. In addition to Virtuosi of Houston, she also participates in Opus 1 Music. Agata has gone to the International Cello Institute’s summer camps in 2018, 2020 and 2022 and winter camps in 2020 and 2021. When not practicing, she enjoys listening to music, watching movies and eating delicious food.
Christian Bravo, age 18, has been playing viola for 9 years. He began playing music at the piano at age 3 and picked up the viola at age 9. Graduating from Clements High School, he is a freshman in college, planning to transfer to the University of Houston. Christian has been a member of many music programs such as Virtuosi of Houston, Houston Youth Symphony, the Josef Gingold Chamber Music Festival of Miami, and AFA Summer Music Festivals. Being a TMEA Region 13 Philharmonic member, as well as being an All-Area contestant, he enjoys the competitiveness and intensity of high-level orchestral music. Christian has studied under Gary Levinson of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Michael Klotz of FIU in Miami, and Yuriy Bekker of Charleston Symphony Orchestra. He currently studies privately with Lauren Haley. Christian is passionate about weightlifting, singing, watching anime, and never tires of traveling and seeing new places. As a proud Caribbean-American, he is looking forward to heading back home to beautiful beaches and summer parties.
Avangeline “Ava” Cossé is 15 years old from Houston, TX. She began playing violin at 2½ years of age, and currently studies with Mrs. Lisa Shihoten at the Rice University Music Preparatory School. Ava is a sophomore at J. Frank Dobie High School performing in the Chamber Varsity Orchestra. This summer, Ava was one of twenty-five students admitted to the esteemed Sphinx Performance Academy at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA. She also attended the Texas Strings Festival in Austin, TX to study with violin professor Mimi Zweig from Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music along with other esteemed faculty. She consistently receives superior ratings at Texas UIL Solo and Ensemble contests and earned positions in the TMEA Region 19 Orchestra since 2017. Ava is an Honor Roll student and a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority’s Rhoer club for young women. She is a second time recipient of the James Miles Musical Innovation Grant for Continuing Education Award through the Black Violin Foundation, Inc. Ava enjoys spending time with her friends, composing/ arranging music, crafting, playing soccer, and spoiling her dog Fermata with treats.
Romario Escobar, age 17, is a junior 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 also participated in the American Festival of the Arts Summer Music Festival (AFA). Romario has been a member of the TMEA Region 19 for four consecutive years. He was ranked first in his region for two 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, teaching his dog new tricks, going off roading with his cousins, and boxing. Romario looks forward to his annual summer trips to Mexico.
Virginia Fairfield, 17, is a trumpet player and junior at Memorial Senior High School. Avidly involved in music, she played the piano, violin, and the trumpet in elementary through middle school. She began playing the trumpet in the fifth grade and transferred from violin to trumpet to further her musical pursuits. She is under the instruction of her high school band directors, Suzanne Scott and Jeffery Munger. Throughout middle school she received Outstanding Musician awards and in summer programs. She has attended the Sam Houston State University band camp, the Houston Blues & Jazz Festival Summer Jazz Workshop, and the 2021 and 2022 American Festival of the Arts Orchestra and Chamber Music program. She has received all 1’s in UIL Solo and Ensemble, and has placed in the TMEA Region 27 Band and Jazz Band consistently. She is currently a member of the Honors Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, and Symphony Orchestra, and the orchestra for Memorial’s 2022-2023 musical, The Addams Family. She plans to be a professional classical and jazz musician. Virginia is an artist and writer, receiving regional and national awards for her short stories and art in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition. She loves reading, video games, and her friends.
Mary Kathryn Gibson, age 16, is a Homeschooled Sophomore. She has been playing the violin for over 12 years. She has also been a member of Virtuosi of Houston for three seasons. Mary Kathryn has been participating in All-Region Orchestra since her sixth-grade year. She attends violin lessons with Rodica Gonzalez, a member of the Houston Symphony, First Violin Section. She has also been a member of the Houston Youth Symphony Orchestra for many years. Among other things Mary Kathryn is a competitive athlete as a long-distance runner, she has competed nationally and broken meet, state and national records and one world record. She continues to pursue her dreams musically and athletically.
Arturo Gonzalez, age 16, began playing violin at age of 6 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. Arturo is a sophomore at Woodlands College Park High School in the Woodlands, Texas, under the direction of Dr. Peter Kempter and Emanuel Coraza. He studies cello privately with Wendy Smith-Butler. Arturo is a member of the Houston Youth Symphony, the Woodlands Symphony, and is returning for his third season with the Virtuosi of Houston. He has also attended other programs such as the American Festival of the Arts (AFA), and the Luzerne Music Center in Lake Luzerne, New York. Arturo has earned 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. After taking instruction with Omar Gomez Blanco, his uncle and former teacher of the Vicente Emilio Sojo Conservatory, Arturo is continuing teaching himself piano. He enjoys working out, composing, and studying computer science.
April Guo is in the 8th grade currently. April began playing the piano at age five and added playing the harp in sixth grade. She has 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 as a 7th grader. She earned bronze and silver medals for the Solo and Ensemble contest. April transferred to the Awty International School of Houston for eighth grader and joined the Virtuosi of Houston Chamber Orchestra for the 2022-2023 season. She really enjoys music, playing the Harp, and performing extra events as harpist outside of school. She is learning the Harp with the instruction of Mrs. Susanna Campbell and piano with Dr. Yan Shen. She participated in piano competitions earning fourth prize in the International American Protege Piano Competition in 2020 and passed the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) test. April participates in volleyball, where she plays a front-row position in her school team. She also does Public Forum debate, where with a partner won first place in the yearly Dulles Classic debate tournament and third place in this years’ Springwoods debate tournament.
Mary Brook Hartmann, age 16, is a cellist, composer, and junior at the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas under the music direction of Dr. Brad Smith. She has been a member of Virtuosi since the age of 12 and Principal Cellist for the last two years. As a cellist she has won First Prize at the Bonn (Germany) Grand Prize Virtuoso International Music Competition, the Clear Lake Symphony Orchestra Youth Concerto Competition, and the Helen and Immanuel B. Olshan Concerto Competition, performing as a soloist with both Virtuosi of Houston and Clear Lake Symphony Orchestras. She has attended the Texas Strings Festival, the International Cello Institute, the Eastman Cello Institute, Vivace Cello Festival, Boulder Cello Festival, OSSI, Greenwood Music Camp, ENCORE, and Bowdoin International Music Festival. She was one of 10 high school composers in the U.S. selected for the 2022 Young Composers Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and recently won the High School Division of the 2022 Voices of Change Young Composer’s Competition. She studies composition in Rice’s Michael P Hammond Preparatory Program with Dr. Pierre Jalbert, Professor at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music. She studies cello with Richard Aaron, Professor of Cello at the Juilliard School and the University of Michigan, and in Houston with Latitude 49 cellist Max Geissler.
Julia Hearn, 17, has studied violin for ten years, and this is her first year in Virtuosi. She is a senior at Northland Christian School where she is the concertmaster of her orchestra under the direction of Kelly Hearn. Julia currently studies with Hannah Watson, and previously studied with Mauricio Oliveros. Some of Julia’s notable accomplishments include being a Houston Youth Symphony member, concertmaster of the TMEA Region 33 Symphony Orchestra, a two-time TMEA All-State Orchestra member, and a five year TPSMEA All-State Orchestra member where she was a principal for four years. She has served as concertmaster at Kinhaven Senior Session and UTA Summer Strings, where she received the Jenifer Lenin scholarship, and has also attended the AFA Summer Music Festival. Aside from music, Julia participates in her school’s varsity basketball, track, and cross country teams, and she is looking forward to continuing orchestra on the college level.
Madeleine Hearn, 17, is a senior attending Northland Christian School, under the orchestral direction of Kelly Hearn. She began playing the cello at the age of 8. Madeleine currently studies with Donna Rogers and Maki Kubota, and has previously studied with Hyeok Kwon and Alex Pancheri. In past summers, Madeleine has attended Kinhaven, the American Festival for the Arts (Principal cellist 2021), and UTA Summer Strings, where she was Principal cellist for 2 years and received the Jenifer Lenin Scholarship. She has also participated in the TMEA All-State Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras, has been the Principal cellist of the TMEA Region 33 Symphony Orchestra for three consecutive years, and is a 5-year TPSMEA All-Stater, where she earned the position of first stand for 4 out of the 5 years and was awarded the TPSMEA Thayne Tolle Scholarship. Madeleine recently received recognition at the 2023 Clear Lake Concerto Competition, and is looking forward to participating in more musical activities in college. In her free time, Madeleine enjoys being a part of Houston Youth Symphony and playing varsity volleyball and basketball at her school.
Trisha Hoang is a senior in high school attending J. Frank Dobie High School in Houston Texas. She has made positions as a first violin in TMEA Region from her 8th grade until now. In her freshman year of high school, she was ranked concertmaster of the Philharmonic Region orchestra. She is currently studying private lessons with Abigail Bracewell and teaches private lessons of her own with middle schoolers in hopes of becoming a music educator. As a member of Dobie’s varsity Chamber, her orchestra has received UIL sweepstakes during her entire high school career. She also received outstanding marks on her solo and ensemble projects. Throughout her high school years, Trisha enjoys playing gigs whether it be at a church or elementary school for more experience in the music field outside of school. Trisha likes to be involved in the community by being a part of clubs at school such as Key Club and Asian Student Association (ASA) which allows her to volunteer and give back. She also finds joy in playing video games, crocheting, and collecting plushies.
Mani Hourfar, age 16, is a junior pianist at the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA). He has been playing piano since the age of 9. He currently studies with Richard Marshall in the Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, and also studies advanced music theory and composition with Ethan Soledad, and had a masterclass with Dr. Robert Roux, Chair of keyboards. He has had multiple masterclasses by the Fischer Duo, and privately by piano faculty, Charlie Tauber. He studies chamber music at Opus1 Camber Music School, where he is coached by Matt Lammers. Mani has attended programs including Palmetto international Piano Festival, Atlantic Music Festival in Maine, and the Interlochen piano one week intensive, where he had masterclasses with esteemed pianists. Mani received an honorable mention in the 2021 Houston Youth Chopin competition, and a finalist in the 2021 TMTA solo piano competition. He was awarded second place in the 2022 HSPVA Concerto Competition earning a performance with the HSPVA Symphony. Mani has also played the violin since the age of 6. His hobbies include chess, reading, and playing music with friends. He volunteers as a piano tutor with the organization Teaching to Give, and has teaching piano for over 3 years.
Alexander Kappes, age 17, is a senior attending Katy High School. Alexander has been playing the bassoon since he was in the 6th grade and studies with Elise Wagner of the Houston Symphony and the University of Houston Moores School of Music. At Katy High School, Alexander is a member of the KHS Wind Ensemble with Terance Gorton director, and the KHS Symphony Orchestra with Dale Fremin director. Alexander has attended the Bocal Majority double reed camps and ADRIT workshops, as well as the American Festival of the Arts orchestra and chamber music camp. He is a member of the Houston Youth Symphony Philharmonia Orchestra with Michael Isadore director. Alexander has been a member of the TMEA Region 23 freshman All-Region band and symphonic band, as well as the Region 23 Philharmonic orchestra. He has also been a two-time TMEA Area qualifier. Alexander enjoys spending time with friends and family with his hobbies such as cooking, drawing/painting and going to the movies.
Chloe Lee is a junior at Stephen F. Austin High School. She has been playing the violin for eleven years and currently takes lessons from Sean O’Neal. In addition to her high school’s orchestra, she is a member of the Spread the Music Association and has performed in various other orchestra concerts as a guest. Chloe is also an officer for her school’s National Art Honor Society and enjoys drawing and painting.
Isaac Linerode is 15 years old. He is a bassoonist and has been for 4 years. He also plays the piano, and he played it for 5 years before he started playing the bassoon. He is currently attending Glenda Dawson High School in Pearland, and he is currently a sophomore. He often attends an art camp during the summer. He has received recognition for making all district and region band through TMEA. He is currently under the private instruction of Hugo Doege, and his band director is Aaron Brown. He has studied 2 years of French, has been in many robotics clubs, and is interested in piano, cooking, and art as hobbies.
Jonah Loper, age 16, is an 11th grade student at Clear Falls High School where he is currently the principal double bassist with the Chamber 1 orchestra under the direction of Christopher Tran. He began studying Double Bass with Lavelle Florence in 2017. Since then, he has participated in the Region 17 Orchestra every year and has received superior ratings three times for Solo and Ensemble. Jonah’s passion for music is matched by his passion for engineering. He is an active member of various STEM related organizations and national, engineering, mathematics, and Spanish honor societies. Jonah holds various leadership positions in competitive robotics teams with FRC team 324 Chips, the Clear Falls High School Vex team, and BEST team Jigsaw. He shares his passion for robotics with others by volunteering at robotic events and mentoring elementary, middle, and high school robotics teams. Jonah recently began a new robotics club at Clear Falls High School that will further engage others in STEM-related applications.
Jay Marenco, age 17, is a bassist in 12th grade at Cypress Ranch High School. He has been in Virtuosi of Houston since 8th grade, making this his 5th year in the program. Jay started taking bass lessons at age 10 with Gabriel Katz, studied with Nick Puccia for 3 years, and currently taking lessons with Andrew Moritz. Jay has been selected to be in the Cy Fair Region 27 orchestras for the past 7 years and was selected to be a member of the TMEA All-State Orchestra during for the past two years, ranking 8th overall for String Bass in the 2022-2023 cycle. When not playing the bass, Jay enjoys playing the piano, cooking, reading, and rock climbing. He is also a member of the Cypress Ranch Jazz Orchestra and the Cypress Ranch Literary Criticism UIL Team. Jay has two older sisters who play the viola and cello at Texas A&M University.
Corinne McLeod is a junior at Legacy Academy. She is returning for a third season of Virtuosi of Houston. Corinne began study of violin in 2011 at age 5 under Lauren Kossler of the Winston Salem Symphony, with Caroline Ewan of the Cypress Violin Studio until 2021, and now studies under Dr. Matt Lammers in the Preparatory Program at Rice’s Shepard School of Music. She joined the Houston Youth Symphony in 2019 and principal second violin for the 2020-21 season. In 2022 she led as Concertmaster of Philharmonia with Michael Isadore director, and the current season plays in Symphony with Dr. Michael Webster. She also enjoys small ensembles and leads a quintet of the Opus 1 Chamber Music School. Corinne attended 2022 Interlochen Arts Camp (IAC) where she studied under Janet Lyu of the University of Michigan for violin performance and artistry. She was accepted to the World Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) and performed with violin soloist Randall Goosby with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She was selected to perform in IAC’s final solo string recital. Corinne enjoys attending music festivals and camps. She frequently plays chamber music with friends and siblings at Second Baptist Church. Corinne also enjoys horseback riding, golfing, and calligraphy.
Dyer McLeod, age 16, is a sophomore at Legacy Academy. This is his second season with Virtuosi after placing 4th in the 23rd annual Virtuosi Concerto Competition. Dyer began playing violin at 4 years old. He studied with Lauren Kossler of the Winston Salem Symphony. He is a member of the Symphony Orchestra at Houston Youth Symphony (HYS) under Dr. Michael Webster. Dyer received an Honorable Mention at HYS 2022 competition. Dyer studies privately with Dr. Matt Lammers from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. At the Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program at Rice, he studies solo performance and music theory. Dyer also leads a quartet in the Opus 1 Chamber Music School. After a summer with the American Festival for the Arts in 2021, he attended the Interlochen Arts Festival in 2022 as an Orchestral Scholar. He enjoyed playing in the World Youth Symphony Orchestra, chamber, solo, and orchestral performances. During his time at Interlochen, Dyer studied with amazing musicians and conductors from around the world, and shared the stage with members of the Detroit Symphony while at Interlochen. Dyer enjoys playing golf both competitively and casually with his family. His other activities include water fowl hunting and fishing with his friends and family.
Sadie McLeod is a 14 year old violinist in 9th grade at Legacy Academy. Sadie began playing under Lauren Kossler at the age of 3. She studied with Caroline Ewan from 2017-2021 and now studies with Dr. Matt Lammers of the Rice Preparatory Program. She played with the Houston Youth Symphony for two years and performed under Dr. Jackson Guillen, Mrs. Carolyn Vandiver and Mrs. Ann Victor and was recently accepted to Philharmonia. Sadie was Principal Violin at the American Festival for the Arts (AFA) in 2021, and performed under Dr. Michelle Blair and Dr. Clif Evans in the 2022 session. Sadie studies under Dr. Marisa Ishikawa at the Opus 1 Chamber Music School. She plays at church and with her siblings in the Cloud Five Violin Trio, and hopes to pursue a career in music. Sadie enjoys horseback riding and spending time with her pet hedgehog.
Maureen Min, age 14, is in the 9th grade at The Kinkaid School. She began playing violin at age 6 in the Frostwood Fiddler program. She currently studies with Dr. Mauricio Oliveros in the Kinkaid Upper School Orchestra and has previously studied with Padua Canty and Katie Hemphill. She participated in the Sewanee Summer Music Festival (SSMF) for music composition in 2020. In 2021, she participated in the SSMF with Dr. Lin He for violin performance and advanced to the semi-final at the Jacqueline Avent concerto competition. Maureen participated in the 2022 Philadelphia International Music Festival and also attended The Credo Music Festival at Oberlin College and Conservatory. Maureen is a Houston Young Artist for 2022-2023. She has been a member of the Houston Youth Symphony from 2018-2020. In 2019, Maureen played in the Symphony Orchestra for TMEA Region 27 and ranked number one in 2021 in the region. She has received Outstanding Performance three times solo and ensemble contests. Maureen earned second place in the 23rd Annual Immanuel and Helen B. Olshan Foundation Concerto Competition. In addition to violin, she has played piano since age 4, winning multiple awards. Maureen also enjoys musical theatre and playing tennis.
Natalie Min, age 13, is an 8th grader at Memorial Middle School. She started playing violin in the Frostwood Fiddlers at the age of 6 with Padua Canty and later Katie Hemphill. She studies under Hannah Watson and currently studies under Dr. Mauricio Oliveros. For 2 years, she participated in Houston Youth Symphony. She is playing violin in the Chamber Orchestra and viola in the Symphony Orchestra at Memorial Middle School which had previously been under Megan Saavedra and Bethany Prindle, and later under Kevin Ray and Bethany Prindle. In both 2020 and 2021, she was awarded STAR Student in Memorial Middle School. In 2021, she ranked fourteenth chair in TMEA Region 27 Symphony Orchestra. In early 2022, she received outstanding performances in UIL Ensembles. Outside of orchestra, she enjoys year-round swim team, drawing digitally, and hanging out with friends.
Naoto Osako, age 13, is a senior at Pin Oak Middle School, has been playing the violin since the age of 6 under Mr. Ton Ta. Naoto is in his first year with Virtuosi of Houston. He has been selected to be in the Region 23 orchestra for 3 years. Naoto enjoys building plastic models and solving Rubik’s cubes at his free time.
Olivia Owen, age 15, is a sophomore at Seven Lakes High School in Katy ISD. She started playing the French Horn in 2018 with Billie Wilbanks, a member of the Lone Star Symphonic Band as her private lesson teacher. Currently, she performs with the Seven Lakes Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra under the direction of John Mays and Desiree Overree. This summer, Olivia was accepted into the Eastman School of Music’s Summer Classical Studies program, where she studied the horn under the supervision of Maura Corvington. Olivia has consistently scored outstanding ratings at her solo and ensemble contests for UIL Region 23. As a junior high student, Olivia placed in the wind ensemble and orchestra for her 7th and 8th grade years, securing 1st chair in 2020. In 2021-2022 school year, she earned a spot in the Region 23 Philharmonic Orchestra. A month later, she received a 4th chair placement in the Wind Ensemble for the Region 23 band auditions, to advance for audition at the UIL Area contest. Olivia also likes to play the piano, play soccer, and spend time with her family, friends, and Labrador Retriever, Riley.
Meena Pak, age 15, is a sophomore at Memorial High School. This is her third year with Virtuosi of Houston but her first as a violist. She began playing violin at age 5 in the Forestwood Fiddler Suzuki Method program under Padua Canty (2012-2017). She participated with the Houston Youth Symphony and AFA summer festivals in 2016-2018. She studied violin under Hannah Watson (2017-2021) and viola under Meagan Saavedra and Bethany Prindle at Memorial Middle school. She is currently a member of the Sinfonia Orchestra at Memorial High school under the direction of Danielle Prontka and Matthew Chen. Recently, she has fully transitioned and committed to the viola and studies under Laura Cividino at Tallwood’s Academy of Fine Arts Program. Outside of orchestra she enjoys watching Netflix, musicals, listening to Taylor Swift, hanging out with friends, going out to eat and traveling with her family.
Ayla Patel, age 14, is a 9th grader at The Kinkaid School. She began playing violin at the age of 6. She currently studies with Frances McLean. 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. She qualified to play in Region 23 orchestra in 2021, as well as playing in the Philadelphia International Music Festival’s Symphony Orchestra in 2020 and 2021. Ayla has had the pleasure of performing as concertmaster of the Houston Youth Symphony’s debut orchestra in 2021, as well as performing as concertmaster of the Katy Youth Symphony from 2018-2020. 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, age 16, started playing viola at the age of 9 and has just started his first season with the Virtuosi of Houston Chamber Orchestra. He currently studies with Melissa Escobar, a University of Houston student and Virtuosi of Houston Alumni. He is also currently in his junior year at J. Frank Dobie High School and performs with the Chamber Varsity Orchestra. Some of his accomplishments are consistently making it to TMEA Region 19 since 2018. Aside from music, Alan enjoys dancing with the folkloric dance group, Las Americas Ballet Folklorico, where they perform and share their beautiful Mexican culture.
Andrea L. Ramirez-Salazar is a 15 year-old violinist and sophomore at Memorial High School. She plays in the Memorial High School Sinfonia Orchestra under the direction of Danielle Prontka and Matthew Chan. Andrea has been playing the violin for nearly eleven years and began her studies at Wilchester Elementary School through the Suzuki Program led by Patricia Karakas. She currently studies with Katrina Bobbs Savitski. In middle school, she was selected for the Region 27 Middle School Symphony Orchestra in sixth and seventh grade, both times as a first violin. In ninth and tenth grade, she was a member of the Region 27 High School Symphony Orchestra, and also auditioned for the Texas All-State Orchestra. This year, she was selected as one of the 15 winners of the 2022 HMTA Baroque Competition. Along with enjoying the violin, Andrea has other musical hobbies such as piano, guitar, and singing. Andrea is returning for her fourth season with Virtuosi of Houston.
Lila Sareen is an 18 year-old senior and first chair at Ridge Point High School. She began playing the trumpet in the 6th grade when she was 12. Lila takes private lessons from Noe Marmolejo, a Jazz Professor at the University of Houston. Her high school band directors are Luis Saldana, Amanda Marquart, and Charles Johnson. Starting her first two years of high school at Saint Agnes Academy, she decided to transfer to Ridge Point High School, where she participates in marching band. Throughout high school, she has made accomplishments such as TPSMEA All-State, 5A/6A Region, 5A/6A Area, Jazz Region, Jazz Area, and Region orchestra. In her free time, she likes to read, be with her friends and family, snowboard, and listen to music.
Brigham Smith, age 16, is a Junior at Westside High School where he is principal cellist of the Westside Orchestra, the Westside Jazz Band pianist, and a member of the FRC robotics team. Brigham started piano lessons at age 5 and studies with Yolanda Li. He won 1st place in the HMTA Piano Contest in 2018-2020, and a finalist in 2021. He is a member of the National Piano Guild and competed in the 2019 National Steinway Piano Competition. He received the Honorable Mention Award at the 2021 North Texas Young Artists Competition and a finalist in the 2022 Houston Young Artists Competition. Brigham began cello lessons at age 9, studies with Ed Harper and is a member of H-Town Strings performing ensemble. He has received many gold ratings at Region and State UIL solo contests and performed with a cello choir at Opus 1 Chamber Music School. In 2019, Brigham began studying organ with Kymberly Payne. He currently serves as the Sunday worship organist for a Vietnamese LDS church. He was selected as an organ soloist at the 2022 BYU Music Festival in Utah. Brigham is a 9-year TMTA Music Theory Gold Medalist. Brigham flies and repairs drones, accompanies his four siblings and enjoys playing music with his family.
Sheryl Sun, age 13, is an eighth grader at Fort Settlement Middle School and a member of the Chamber Orchestra. Sheryl started violin at the age of 5 and started taking lessons in Kentucky. She has enjoyed playing and competing in All Region, UIL, and other competitions. In May 2022, her FSMS Chamber orchestra won a gold medal in a national recording competition. She has also made Region 13 middle school orchestra for the past two years. She began private lessons in Texas from Danette Schuh and currently studies with Jackson Guillen. Her current middle school orchestra directors are Angela Peugnet and Roger Vasquez. Sheryl also enjoys badminton and debate as her other extracurriculars. Lastly, she is a big fan of gymnastics and loves traveling around the world to try new food.
Luis Urdaneta is an 18-year-old Venezuelan violinist who comes from El Sistema National Orchestra in Maracaibo, Venezuela. He started playing when he was 6 years old in 2010, and since then has been playing famous orchestral works like Mahler’s First Symphony and as a soloist as well, playing works like the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. But his musical career did not take off until he got to the United States, where he was welcomed by his high school teacher, who donated a violin so he could continue his musical studies. During his time here, he has made the All-Region orchestra all four years of high school, and he recently made the Symphony All-State Orchestra. He is also part of the Houston Youth Symphony and has gone to multiple competitions like the UIL Contest as a soloist, quartet member, and chamber group player. He loves playing for others and is also looking to major in music as a performer and teacher.
Ainsley Willis, age 18, is a senior at Dobie High School in Pasadena ISD. She has been playing bass since 5th grade and is now a member of the Dobie High School Chamber Varsity Orchestra and Camerata Junior Varsity Orchestra under the direction of Angela Badon, Stephen Payne, and Tam Duong. She has received superior ratings consistently at Solo and Ensemble festivals since the 6th grade. Ainsley has been a Region 19 member the last 6 years. In 8th grade, Ainsley was the Region first chair bass and in 9th grade she was second chair. In 2021 and 2022 she was ranked first in her region. She takes lessons with Becky Merritt, a member of the Pasadena Philharmonic, Galveston Symphony, and Clear Lake Symphony. She attended Master Classes at Bradetich for the double bass this past summer. She has been accepted at Sam Houston State University for Fall 2023 and will study Criminal Justice with a minor in Forensics. She hopes to work in a crime lab in the future. Ainsley likes to spend time with her cats and dogs, and hang out at home with her family and friends.