Hailed by The Washington Post for his “poised and imaginative playing,” Filipino-American pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion has appeared in concert halls in Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, Turkey and the USA, as a recitalist and concerto soloist. He played his orchestral debut at the age of 18 with the Manila Chamber Orchestra, and his New York recital debut in Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall in 1999. In addition, he has worked with conductors including Sergio Esmilla, Enrique Batiz, Mei Ann Chen, Zeev Dorman, Arthur Weisberg, Corrick Brown, David Loebel, Leon Fleisher, Michael Stern, Jordan Tang, and Bobby McFerrin.
A chamber music enthusiast, he has performed with artists such as Lynn Harrell, Zuill Bailey, Andres Diaz, James Dunham, Antonio Meneses, Joshua Roman, Cho-Liang Lin, Giora Schmidt, the Dover, Emerson, Serafin, Sao Paulo, and Vega String Quartets. He was on the chamber music faculty of the Aspen Music Festival, and the Garth Newel Summer Music Festival. He was also the pianist for the Garth Newel Piano Quartet for three seasons. Festival appearances include the Amelia Island, Highland-Cashiers, Music in the Vineyards, and Santa Fe.
His recordings include the complete Sonatas of L. van Beethoven with cellist Tobias Werner, Sonatas by Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff with cellist Joseph Johnson, the Rachmaninoff Sonata with the cellist Evan Drachman, and the Chopin and Grieg Sonatas, also with cellist Evan Drachman. He is featured in the award winning recording “Songs My Father Taught Me” with Lynn Harrell, produced by Louise Frank and WFMT-Chicago. Mr. Asuncion is the Founder, and Artistic and Board Director of FilAm Music Foundation, a non-profit foundation that is dedicated to promoting Filipino classical musicians through scholarship, and performance.
He received his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in 2007 from the University of Maryland at College Park under the tutelage of Rita Sloan. Victor Santiago Asuncion is a Steinway artist.
Margarita Giannelli is a soprano that receives praise for her expressive singing, riveting portrayals and powerful voice. Margarita has been described as a gifted and unique artist possessing warmth, imagination, wit and humanity.
Margarita’s most recent appearances include singing the soprano solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Manila Symphony Orchestra led by Maestro Arturo Molina, her debut as “Mimì” in a production of Puccini’s La bohème by MusicArtes at Samsung Hall, in Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle at the Ayala Museum, performing excerpts from Verdi’s Aïda in a celebration of Verdi’s Bicentennial at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Resorts World Manila/MusicArtes’s “Best of Opera” gala event featuring staged operatic excerpts, her debut as “Micaela” in Bizet’s Carmen produced by the Lyric Opera of the Philippines and a concert of operatic arias and duets with Camille Lopez Molina and the Manila Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Arturo Molina at the PhilAmLife Auditorium. Critics deemed this performance the “vocal event of the year” and that the concert “established vocal history”.
At the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Margarita has been a guest artist of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra led by Maestro Ruggero Barbieri as well as a featured artist in the Filipino Artists Series. She has also been heard as soloist for the Manila Chamber Orchestra and the Philippine Youth Orchestra as well as the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, the UC Berkley Symphony Orchestra, the Chautauqua Music School Festival Orchestra and The Symphony Orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music. Margarita has appeared on Philippine television shows such as A Little Night of Music, Ryan Ryan Musikahan, Concert at the Park and Paco Park Presents. Margarita was a featured soloist before Pope John Paul II at the Catholic Mass Media Awards during his historic visit to the Philippines. In celebration of Philippine Independence Day, Margarita appeared with the late Maestro Oscar Yatco on violin and noted Filipina concert pianist Nena Villanueva in Madrid, Spain. Margarita has also collaborated with concert pianist Nena Villanueva at the l’Hôtel National des Invalides in Paris, France and at the Philippine Ambassador’s residence in New York City.
Margarita’s performance repertoire includes Paz Pardo de Tavera in the world premiere of Ryan Cayabyab’s Spoliarium: Juan Luna, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Antonia in Les Contes D’Hoffmann, Ginevra in Ariodante, Contessa Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Musetta in La Bohème, Elettra in Idomeneo, Sisa in Francisco Feliciano’s Sikhay sa Kabila ng Paalam, Doray in Antonio Molina’s sarsuela Ana Maria in and the Nightingale in the world premiere of fellow Curtis alumnus Luis Prado’s one act opera, The Nightingale and the Rose. Margarita has also appeared as the soprano soloist in Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, Vivaldi’s Magnificat and Missa di Gloria, Poulenc’s Gloria, Händel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem in D minor and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle. She has also performed works such as Villalobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras, Haydn’s Scena di Berenice and songs by composers such as Fauré, Weill, Brahms and Abelardo. Margarita has also been praised for her interpretations of Canteloube’s Chants D’Auvergne, Carter’s Cantata and Montsalvatge’s Cinco Canciones Negras.
Margarita is a graduate of both The Curtis Institute of Music and the University of the Philippines College of Music. She has the distinct honor of being the first Filipina Laureate of the Rosa Ponselle Foundation. She has also received training from the Chautauqua Institution Music School, Centro Studi Italiani and the interim program of the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She recently had the privilege of working with Maestro Steven White of the Metropolitan Opera in a Potomac Vocal Institute workshop of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem.
Margarita has studied under teachers and coaches such as Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, Igor Chichagov, Mikael Eliasen, Marlena Kleinman Malas, Danielle Orlando, Prof. Rey T. Paguio and Joan Patenaude-Yarnell. She has also participated in Master Classes given by Thomas Hampson, Tom Krause and Renata Scotto.
Margarita’s current teacher and coaches are Don Marrazzo, Camille Lopez Molina, Pablo Molina and Maestro Giovanni Reggioli.
Hailed for his “beautiful command of tone and mood…and unruffleable savoir-faire” (San Francisco Chronicle), his “layers of emotional expression” (The Examiner) and his “level of artistry that seem far beyond his years” (Contra Costa Times), Carlos Avila is one of the most in-demand pianists on the classical music scene. His concerts have taken him across North and South America, Europe, and Asia.
Carlos began his professional career in 2001 when he stepped in for an ailing Stewart Goodyear at 24-hours-notice to play the Rachmaninoff First Piano Concerto with the California Symphony – a “pinch-hit homerun” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Since then, Carlos has been a guest at festivals such as Schleswig-Holstein, Tanglewood, Sarasota, Aspen, Banff, Music Academy of the West, Pianofest, Holland, ChamberFest Dubuque, Atlantic Music Festival, Lake George, and the Carnegie Hall Workshops where he had the opportunity to work and study with the late Isaac Stern, Daniel Barenboim, Michael Tilson Thomas, Emanuel Ax, Richard Goode and members of the St. Lawrence, Tokyo, Guarneri, Juilliard, Ying, and Borodin String Quartets.
Carlos is also an avid collaborator – he shares a 20-year partnership with acclaimed violinist Jay Oh, with whom he has given over 80 recitals across Asia and the United States. These past seasons, he performed in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s All-Access Chamber series and the New York Philharmonic’s Leonard Bernstein salon series. Prior to that, he embarked on a country-wide 29-city tour with award-winning Baritone Leon Williams. Carlos was also recently showcased on New York’s WQXR, where he gave an all-transcription recital broadcast as one of the winners of Juilliard’s prestigious Gina Bachauer Piano Competition.
A dedicated member of community outreach, he also collaborates frequently with the New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Concertmaster Michelle Kim and participates in the promotion of her Doublestop Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing young musicians with no-cost loans of high-quality instruments. He has also made a large part of his musical home in South Korea where he was recently awarded Honorary Ambassadorship of the city of Chuncheon for his work in the chamber music initiative “New York in Chuncheon” and promoting and supporting national and international activities in the fields of policy, tourism resources, culture and art.
Carlos is on Collaborative Piano Faculty at the Heifetz Institute, where he makes his summer home and for which he works year-round on American tours to promote the innovation of cross-disciplinary learning and communication in student training. Since the spring of 2018, he is also the new pianist of the Boreal Trio, represented exclusively by Sciolino Artist Management. In addition, he is also the studio pianist for Joel Krosnick at the Juilliard School.
A proud Filipino-American, Carlos is a graduate of the Juilliard School where he studied with Jerome Lowenthal and did prior studies at Yale with Peter Frankl and Claude Frank. He currently resides in New York City.
Qing Hou has been a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1997. A native of China, Hou studied at the Central Conservatory in Beijing before coming to the United States in 1988 to continue her studies. She holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory and New England Conservatory. Before joining the CSO, she was a member of the San Francisco Symphony.
An avid chamber musician, Qing has performed for the Andover Chamber Music Society and at festivals in Madison, Napa, El Paso and Sun Valley as well as in Europe. She has been heard on NPR’s Performance Today and regularly performs in the Chicago area in various ensembles. In 1997, Qing, along with her sister, CSO violinist Lei Hou and CSO violist Lawrence Neuman (now Qing’s husband), founded the Lincoln String Quartet.
As a soloist, Hou has appeared with orchestras in Boston, Baltimore, Chicago and China.
In the fall of 2003, she made her first appearance as soloist with the Chicago Symphony performing Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G Major conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
Lei Hou joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1997, appointed by Daniel Barenboim. Prior to her engagement, she was accepted by the Cleveland Orchestra after winning the audition for the first violin section of the orchestra. She also has served as assistant principal second violin of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C., for six years, appointed by Mstislav Rostropovich.
As an active chamber musician and soloist, Hou has performed with Pinchas Zukerman at the Ravinia Festival and Northwestern University’s Winter Chamber Music Festival, with Yefim Bronfman at Symphony Center and with members of the Guarneri and Alban Berg quartets at the Marlboro Festival. She also has extensively performed as leading violinist of the chamber group formed with musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and German Radio Orchestra in concert tours in Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and Luxembourg, and she recorded chamber music of Mozart, Hoffmeister and Beethoven for German radio. As violinist of the Manchester String Quartet of Washington, D.C., for five years, she has given many concerts with the group around the country. Hou has been a featured soloist in concerts for National Public Radio, WFMT of Chicago and WBJC FM of Baltimore. In addition, she has served on the faculties of the music schools of the University of Maryland and American University. She has also served as the String Instructor for Den Nye Opera Academy in Bergen, Norway.
A native of Dalian, China, she studied at the Middle School of Music in Shanghai, China. She also attended the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Hou earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in violin performance at the Peabody Conservatory, where she was invited to study with Bert Senofsky under full scholarship. She also has studied with Earl Carlyss, former violinist of the Juilliard Quartet and with Sylvia Rosenberg. Hou was a young artist at Ravinia’s Steans Institute in 1988, and she has participated in the Tanglewood, El Paso, West Maryland and Sun Valley music festivals. Lei and her sister Qing, also a member of the CSO, recently were honored soloists at a state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao in Chicago.
Karen Basrak joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra cello section in 2012.
A native of Arlington Heights, Illinois, Basrak began her studies with Adele O’Dwyer, Gilda Barston and Richard Hirschl. She received her Bachelor of Music in cello performance at the University of Southern California (USC), where she studied with Eleonore Schoenfeld. While studying at USC she received numerous awards, most notably the Gregor Piatigorsky Award.
Before moving back to Illinois, Basrak was a member of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra as associate principal cello beginning in 2001, served as acting principal cello from 2002-05, and was principal cello from 2005-12.
Basrak has performed extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. She has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Harper Symphony Orchestra, Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Winnetka Chamber Orchestra, Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra, Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra, Greenville Symphony Orchestra, Westchester/Marin Del Ray Orchestra and American Youth Symphony. As an advocate of music education, she has performed in schools throughout the country; in recognition for her efforts she was awarded the key to the City of Greenville, South Carolina. Basrak is on the faculty of the Chicago Conservatory of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.
A member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1989, Catherine Brubaker is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where she was a student of William Lincer. Other teachers include Karen Tuttle and Masao Kawasaki. Brubaker is a former member of the Dallas and Seattle symphony orchestras. She has served on the music faculty at Northwestern University, teaching orchestral repertoire for viola.
An avid performer of chamber music, she appears annually on the CSO chamber series and MusicNOW, the contemporary music series. She has been a guest artist on WFMT “Live from Studio One” radio broadcasts, and the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts series. Other recent guest appearances include performances with the Pilgrim Chamber Players, Northwestern University’s Winter Music Festival, Rembrandt Chamber Players and the Civitas Ensemble. She has performed as soloist with the Kenosha Symphony and as principal viola of Music of the Baroque.
Reared in a musical family, Brubaker has siblings in the symphony orchestras of Minnesota, Houston and Tucson. Both her parents were active music educators in Arizona, where she grew up.
She currently resides in Evanston with her husband Erik Snapp and their four children.
Praised by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “impossible to resist, captivating with lyricism, tonal warmth and boundless enthusiasm,” violinist Giora Schmidt has appeared with many prominent symphony orchestras including Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Detroit, Toronto, Vancouver and the Israel Philharmonic.
As a recitalist and chamber musician, Giora has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, San Francisco Performances, the Louvre Museum in Paris and Tokyo’s Musashino Cultural Hall. His festival appearances include the Ravinia Festival, the Santa Fe and Montreal Chamber Music Festivals, Bard Music Festival, Scotia Festival of Music and Music Academy of the West.
Born in Philadelphia to professional musicians from Israel, Giora began playing the violin at the age of four. He has studied with Patinka Kopec and Pinchas Zukerman at the Manhattan School of Music, and Dorothy DeLay and Itzhak Perlman at the Juilliard School.
Through technology and social media, he continues to find new ways of reaching young violinists and music lovers around the world. Giora was appointed Assistant Professor of violin at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music in March 2018.
He is recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Classical Recording Foundation’s Samuel Sanders Award and was a Starling Fellow at the Juilliard School.
Born in Cebu, Philippines, Albert Tiu has been called “an artist of uncommon abilities” by American Record Guide. His latest Centaur recording, “The Classical Elements”, featuring twenty pieces grouped according to Earth, Air, Water and Fire, was praised by ARG for its “interesting groupings. Even more important is the playing, which perfectly captures the essence of each piece and links them together.” Fanfare goes further by describing him as “a weaver of magic spells and enchantments… the ability to intuit and differentiate for the listener the distinctive ambient essences of so many similarly themed pieces, therein lies the art, which Tiu possesses in abundance.”
His earlier Centaur recording, “Nocturnal Fantasies”, featuring Chopin and Skryabin, was dubbed “one of the all-time great piano recordings” by Fanfare. “One of the most inventive recital programs ever seen or heard” (ARG), this “compelling and poetically imaginative recording” (Clavier Companion) was also hailed for “performances where heart and mind unite in a deeply affecting union” (Gramophone).
Currently Associate Professor of Piano at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore, he studied with Jerome Lowenthal at the Juilliard School, with Michael Lewin at Boston Conservatory, and with Nita Abrogar-Quinto and Nelly Castro in the Philippines. A recipient of Juilliard’s William Petschek Award and a prizewinner of competitions in Calgary (Honens), Helsinki (Maj Lind) and Santander (Paloma O’Shea), he won the First Prize and two concerto prizes in the 1996 UNISA International Piano Competition in Pretoria, South Africa.
Known for his passion for innovative programming, he has presented recitals with themes like “Chopin without Chopin” (music by Godowsky, Busoni and Rachmaninov influenced by Chopin), and “Bee Flat” (the two Sonatas in B-flat by Beethoven). He has performed with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Hamburg Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony, Gstaad Festival Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic, Winnipeg Symphony, and Philippine Philharmonic. In 2005, he gave the Singapore premiere of Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto with the Singapore Symphony under Tang Muhai.
Soon to be released is a solo disc entitled “Grand Russian”, pairing Tchaikovsky’s Grand Sonata and Rachmaninov’s 1st Sonata. Other recent recording projects include collaborations with tenor Alan Bennett in Schubert’s “Winterreise” on Centaur; with violinist Kam Ning in “Road Movies”, a Meridian disc featuring American composers; and with cellist Qin Li-Wei, in two discs on Decca of Beethoven and Rachmaninov.
He is absolutely addicted to Angry Birds, and in his spare time manages to practice some piano. This is a constant source of both humour and chagrin in the family. When it is in season, his addiction spreads to ice hockey, in which he supports the Pittsburgh Penguins (no relation to Angry Birds).
“Above all his playing exudes a golden tone that sounds as if it was made for 19th century Russia. Add an uncanny sense of timing, supple fingers that seem to be everywhere at once, pedalling that constantly enriches, and penetrating understanding into what makes Russian romantics tick, and you have an authentic mix for spectacular success.” The Advertiser, Adelaide, Australia
Professor of cello and music history at Sao Paulo State University in Campinas, Brazil, Lars Hoefs performs and teaches in South America, the United States, and Europe. 2018 included concerts in Chile, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and Alaska, as well as solo appearances with Brazilian orchestras.
Lars has established himself as a leading expert on the cello repertoire of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and was the first cellist to perform together in one program the complete works for cello and orchestra by Villa-Lobos. Lars is artistic director of the annual Villa-Lobos International Chamber Music Festival in Southern California, the only festival dedicated to Latin American chamber music in the United States. Lars also actively promotes contemporary Brazilian music, premiering and recording works by composers Liduino Pitombeira, Joao Guilherme Ripper, Paulo Costa Lima, and Paulo C. Chagas among others.
As soloist in Brazil, in recent years Lars has performed concerti by Haydn, Schumann, Saint-Saens, Lalo, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Elgar, and Villa-Lobos with orchestras throughout the country. Notably Lars gave the South American premiere of Korngold’s Cello Concerto as well as performing the title role in Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote with the Orquestra Sinfonica Municipal of Campinas. Lars is a frequent guest at the Rio International Cello Encounters and the Festival Virtuosi in Recife, and in 2009, Lars spent the year as co-principal cellist of the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira in Rio de Janeiro under conductor Roberto Minczuk.
Originally from Appleton, Wisconsin, Lars earned his high school diploma at the North Carolina School of the Arts, a Bachelors from Northwestern University studying with esteemed pedagogue Hans Jorgen Jensen, and both Masters and Doctorate degrees from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where he studied with former Los Angeles Philharmonic principal cellist Ronald Leonard. At Sao Paulo State University in Campinas, Lars founded and leads the Unicamp Cello Ensemble, a conductorless cello orchestra consisting of his current and former cello students. The Unicamp Cello Ensemble has performed at Brazil’s most prestigious festivals and concert halls including the Campos do Jordao Winter Music Festival, the Rio International Cello Encounters, and the Sao Paulo Cultural Center to name a few. In 2016 they recorded a CD of world premiere recordings, featuring Lalo Schifrin’s Divertimento, and toured throughout the state of Sao Paulo, and in 2018 they performed in Southern California, collaborating with cellists from Hollywood cinema orchestras and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.