Matthew Howard, NRO 2013, recently won the position of Principal Percussion at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The NRO was Matthew’s first summer music festival and he shares this about his experience, “I would have to say that, NRO has to be in the top 3 of best orchestral music festivals in the world. There is no other place that offers real life experiences within one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I enjoyed every second in Breckenridge and would not be where I am today without NRO and the doors that it helped me open.”
After attending NRO, Mr. Howard went to Boston and studied at the New England Conservatory with Will Hudgins of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The summers following the NRO, he was a member of the Verbier Festival Orchestra and Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. He then graduated from the New England Conservatory and immediately was offered a fellowship with the New World Symphony in Miami. After a year in Florida, Matthew won the position of Principal Percussionist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which happens to be his hometown orchestra that he grew up listening to.
NRO Alumna (2012) and Flutist Amanda Blaikie was recently appointed 2nd Flute of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
“Attending NRO was one of the best musical experiences of my life, giving me the confidence to pursue my dreams and obtain an orchestral position. This festival trained me to learn and perform orchestral repertoire at a rapid pace and at an extremely high level. I look back on my summer at NRO with great fondness for the numerous performance opportunities, guest conductors, and the inexplicable beauty of the Breckenridge mountains. I left this music festival a better musician and a better person.” – Amanda Blaikie
Ms. Blaikie previously held the position of Principal Flute with both the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra and the Sarasota Opera in Florida. Amanda has performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for several years and can be heard on various DSO recordings and webcasts. An avid chamber musician, she also performs regularly with Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, Chamber Music at the Scarab Club, New Music Detroit, and Cut-Time Players.
Other previous orchestral positions include Principal Flute with the Miami City Ballet and the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra. Amanda has substituted with the New World Symphony and Orlando Philharmonic, and has performed on numerous occasions with the New York Philharmonic, including a European Tour and a PBS Live from Lincoln Center television broadcast.
As a soloist, Amanda performs recitals around the country and has twice been featured with the Allegro Chamber Orchestra. She made her solo debut at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall after being named a Winner of the 2013 Alexander & Buono International Flute Competition. Passionate about teaching and sharing her love of music, Amanda is a Flute Instructor at Oakland University and maintains a private flute studio in Ferndale, Michigan.
Amanda began the flute at age 10 after previously studying piano and voice. She avidly listened to her opera-singing grandfather from a young age and eagerly adopted his passion for music. Amanda earned a Professional Studies Degree at the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Robert Langevin, Principal Flutist of the New York Philharmonic. She also received a MM in Flute Performance from the University of Miami and a BA in Music from Principia College. Her additional primary flute teachers include Christine Nield-Capote, Marie Jureit-Beamish, and Jenny Robinson.
Amy Pikler received her BM degree with highest honors from the University of Michigan where she studied with Professor Yizhak Schotten. Recently, Amy was appointed as section violist in the San Antonio Symphony. Previously, she served as violist in the New World Symphony and Ann Arbor Symphony as well as co-principal violist of the University of Michigan Symphony. Other programs and festivals include the New York String Orchestra Seminar, YOA Orchestra of the Americas-Orchestre de la Francophonie-Orford Arts Center, Aspen Music Festival and American Academy of Conducting Orchestras, National Repertory Orchestra (2011), Chautauqua Music Festival, and Civic Orchestra of Chicago. She was first place winner of the American Viola Society 2014-15 Orchestral Excerpts Competition, received a Farwell Trust Award from the Musicians Club of Women (Chicago), and was a finalist in the NFAA/YoungArts program. As recorder soloist, Amy was featured with flutist Mary Stolper and Chicago’s Music of the Baroque in Telemann’s Concerto for Recorder and Flute. In 2011, Amy presented the United States premiere of Sir Malcolm Arnold’s Recorder Concerto with the I’Solisti Chamber Orchestra. She has appeared as violin, viola, and recorder soloist with several Illinois orchestras including the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and Oak Park River Forest Symphony.
Ms. Pickler tells us, “It is truly remarkable the quantity of orchestral music I was able to cover within such a short time at NRO! Subsequently, I performed many of the works introduced to me and was grateful to initially study them in such a high caliber orchestra. I will always remember my wonderful host family; Amy Perchick, Lenny Weisberg, and Danielle Weisberg; as well as the talented musicians that I met in Breckenridge”.
Michael Kemp, NRO Timpani 2014, has been the Principal Timpanist of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Canada since 2015, and previously held the position of Principal Timpanist with the Erie Philharmonic in Erie, PA. In demand as a Guest Principal Timpanist, Michael has appeared with many orchestras including the Detroit Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, West Virginia Symphony, and the Reading Symphony.
Mr. Kemp adds, “My summer performing with the National Repertory Orchestra was an incredible and invaluable experience. Having recently completed my graduate studies when I joined the NRO, the experience I had that summer was extremely helpful in preparing myself for the professional world and gaining confidence in myself as a player. The opportunity to perform such a large volume and variety of music at a high level in a very short amount of time taught me how to be more efficient with my preparation. The training provided at the NRO allows serious musicians the perfect opportunity to hone their craft under the guidance of great conductors and along side highly skilled colleagues who share their passion and excitement for music making. To be able to do all of this while living in the unbelievable beauty of Breckenridge was an extraordinary experience. My summer at NRO was extra special because I was able to attend the festival and make music with my now fiancée, Anna Scheider, who plays bass. I also really appreciated how the NRO connected its musicians with the community by assigning each musician a host family. I was fortunate enough to have a terrific host family in Joe and Rose Mary Grove as well as be welcomed into Anna’s host family, Mike and Jeanie Kramer, with open arms. I am deeply grateful to have been a part of the National Repertory Orchestra and fondly reflect upon my musical and personal growth during that summer”.
On June 9th, after taking thirty plus orchestral auditions for the past eleven years Maurice Belle won the section bass position with the Greenville Symphony in South Carolina. Mr. Belle attended the NRO in 2007 as section bass and in 2010 as co-principal.
Since his time with the NRO, Maurice has been freelancing in NYC as well as taking auditions. In the summer of 2015, Mr. Belle decided to move back to Atlanta, where he grew up, and break in to the freelance scene. This has also given him the opportunity to sub with the Chattanooga Symphony and other orchestras in the southeast. In addition to performing and teaching, he works for a pet sitting company in Atlanta taking care of both dogs and cats.
The Carl Topilow quote that Maurice remembers most is, “ATTITUDE ATTITUDE AND ATTITUDE!” This obviously stuck with him as he persevered in his quest to win a spot with a professional orchestra.
Yuriy Leonovich, NRO 2007, just finished his 3rd year as Assistant Cello Professor at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC and also conducts the university’s string orchestra. In fact, one of his students is NRO 2016 cellist, Stephen Hawkey!
Stephen recently played Bloch’s Schelomo with the BJU Symphony (after winning the concerto competition) and Popper’s Elfentantz at the Annual Music Contest, which he also won. Derek Eilert, another one of Mr. Leonovich’s students, just got on the Greenville Symphony Orchestra’s sub list.
Yuriy shares, “NRO prepared me to learn difficult orchestral and chamber repertoire in a very short amount of time. I think of Maestro Topilow every time I play with my string orchestra without a conductor on my red (sadly not red, white and green) cello.”
After his time with the NRO, Mr. Leonovich completed his DMA at CIM. In October, he and his wife, Kristin, are playing a recital of 21st Century cello music, featuring pieces by Jeremy Allen, Mark Kilstofte, David Janssen, Patrick Zimmeli, Evan Fein (world premiere of his 3 Romances for cello solo) and two of his own works.
Christopher Martin, NRO alumnus from 1997, was recently appointed Principal Trumpet at the New York Philharmonic.
After attending the NRO, Chris joined the New World Symphony very briefly before winning Associate Principal with The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1997. After three years in Philadelphia, he joined his hometown orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, as Principal for five seasons. Since 2005, Mr. Martin has been Principal of the Chicago Symphony.
“The summer I spent at the NRO was the perfect experience for me at that time. It helped me transition from the mentality of ‘student’ to ‘professional’. The high level of performance, the plethora of great music performed each week, and the camaraderie of the ensemble are unlike anything most of us experience as students. NRO teaches the tools and confidence needed to succeed as performing musicians of the highest level,” Chris says.
He would also like to give a shout-out to his fellow ’97 NRO trumpet section: Billy Hunter (Principal, Metropolitan Opera) and Kevin Finamore (2nd, Dallas Symphony Orchestra).
Ryan Brewer, NRO 2016 trumpet, recently won an audition for a position in the U.S. Army Field Band’s Concert Band, one of the Army’s two premiere wind bands! The band tours 100 days a year and is based out of Ft. Meade, MD, in between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. He will be shipping out to Basic Training this month and starting with the band in early November.
As Ryan shares this news with the NRO, he explains, “My time at NRO has been invaluable because there is no substitute for experience. I believe that the NRO provides the greatest number of performances and the greatest variety of orchestral repertoire of any festival on the planet. Under Maestro Topilow and the many excellent guest conductors, the orchestra was able to achieve a high level in a short period of time and it was quite humbling to perform with so many talented musicians. NRO definitely fulfills its purpose — preparing musicians to play with a professional orchestra.
The accommodations are lovely, there are tons of fun things to do around Breckenridge, and the organization is superbly well-run by the staff and donors. Also, my experience with my host parents, Joanne and Rob, has been great. They have been wonderful to me and I really appreciate their hospitality!”
Cellist, Dahae Kim attended the National Repertory Orchestra’s summer music festival in 2012 and went on to finish her master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music. Shortly after graduating, Dahae became Assistant Principal of the Detroit Symphony. Recently, however, she has moved to Los Angeles, CA to fill the role of Assistant Principal of the of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
She tells the NRO, “Performing new programs weekly on a few rehearsals was challenging at the time, and it really helped me develop my own skills and tactics to learn quickly and take responsibility for my role in the orchestra. The schedule was similar to that of a professional orchestra and I am grateful to have experienced NRO as a student.”
Congratulation Dahae and good luck in LA!
After her summer with the NRO as the Development Intern in 2015, Marit Evans made her way back to Tallahassee, FL to finish up her last year of her master’s degree in Arts Administration. During the Fall semester, she had the pleasure of interning with the Florida Department of State – Division of Cultural Affairs, where she helped orchestrate their state-wide conference Convening Culture 2016. Similar to her experience with the NRO, it was a great hands-on learning experience that greatly increased her readiness for ‘the real world’.
Just a few weeks ago Marit left the East Coast behind once again for the Colorado Mountains! She has joined the wonderful team at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center as the new Development Associate.
Marit states, “I am extremely excited to be joining the development team at Anderson Ranch, and to finally be able to call Colorado my home! My time spent with the NRO has proved to be an invaluabe stepping stone to securing a top-notch job in the Arts Administration field. The professional experience the NRO provided me was absolutely a major contributing factor to my success in easily securing a job after graduation and without it, I surely would have struggled. I cannot thank the NRO enough for giving me the opportunity to be a real part of the team, and hope they know what a major role in my success they have played. Thank you NRO, and here’s to a bright future!”
Marit was a vital part of the NRO team last summer and will surely be a wonderful addition to the team in Aspen. And, since she’s not that far away, we expect to see her often. Good luck in your new position, Marit!