Meet the Musicians!

During rehearsals for opening night of the 2012/13 season, we asked the orchestra to answer a few questions to provide our audiences with a bit more information about the outstanding musicians that comprise this year’s ensemble.

The answers to those questions are listed below (in alphabetical order).


Michael Armstrong, piano, 26

Hometown: Sunland, CA

1. How were you introduced to your instrument?

I was born into a family of professional musicians.  I can’t remember the first time I played so I must have been pretty young!

2. What made you want to join AYS?

I had an opportunity to sit in and play a rehearsal for the John Williams concert that we did a few years ago.  I really enjoyed playing with the orchestra and appreciated the high level of musicianship and interaction.

3. Aside from AYS, what other music programs or groups are you involved with?

 I am a church organist, a trumpet player, and a conductor.  I conduct my own community orchestra in Westlake Village and I work for a couple youth orchestra programs as a coach/ mentor.  I also do a lot of collaborative piano work in addition to orchestra, dance band, and jazz gigs.

4. What has been your most memorable musical experience?

Our John Williams concert really stands out in my mind as a thrilling and unforgettable experience.  I am a HUGE lover of film scores, and it was such an honor to perform under the baton of one of the greatest composers alive today.

5. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

I love to ride motorcycles, read books, and travel travel travel!!!


Alessandra Barrett, violin, 22

CalArts | Hometown: Santa Clarita, CA

1. What’s a typical day like for you?

Wake up at 8 or 8:30… Coffee!!! Practice. Lunch. Practice. Break. Practice. Gym. Shower. Hang out.

2. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved with music.

I began studying the violin at age 4. My mom is a Violist, and naturally had a lot to do with my involvement with music. My sophomore year at CalArts, I began learning the viola as well and fell in love with its sound.

3. Where would you like to be in five years?

New World Symphony!

4. What’s the best part about being a member of AYS?

Where to begin… Playing along side the best young musicians on the west coast is definitely one of the reasons. Having an outstanding conductor is another reason. And, the music… Making Legitimate music from day 1.

5. What would be your dream job?

Playing in an outstanding orchestra like this one!

6. What’s the best day you’ve ever had?

One that involves both productivity and leisure.

7. What kind of music do you listen to?

Anything from Deth Klok to Haydn🙂

8. Any advice you could give to young musicians who share the same dreams and aspirations you do of becoming a great musician?

Practice! Take many breaks to preserve your precious bodies! And be optimistic!

9. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

I love to read, hang out with friends, and travel.


Gregory Cardi, Principal Violin, 21

Colburn Conservatory

1. How were you introduced to your instrument?

My cousin was playing some theme from Cinderella when I was around 6 years old…I tried the violin out and begged my parents to get one, but they wouldn’t. They eventually came around.

2. What made you want to join AYS?

Maestro Treger is a great influence for me.  His expression and musicality brings out an incredible sound from the orchestra.  I really like his watch too.

3. Aside from AYS, what other music programs or groups are you involved with?

I’m involved with a bunch of programs here at Colburn: the orchestra, chamber music, and, of course, the Colburn Table Tennis championships.

4. What has been your most memorable musical experience?

I vividly remember playing Mahler’s Second Symphony under Robert Spano at the Aspen Music Festival.  Performing the final movement, after listening to it millions of times, was quite the experience.

5. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

I used to play tennis at around the same level as violin, but I eventually had to choose between the two.  Violin offers perspective on life, and increases your life emotionally one thousand fold.  Tennis didn’t really do that for me, but that would have definitely been on my top 5 list of things to do.  Other then that, I enjoy table tennis, practicing (sometimes), and playing with my 3 Newfoundland dogs.


Matthew Chen, cello, 17

Oaks Christian High School | Hometown: Westlake Village, CA

1. How were you introduced to your instrument?

I was introduced to the cello by my parents. I did not have any sort of passion for music but when I was introduced I fell in love with it.

2. What made you want to join AYS?

My passion for music just recently grew very strong and I had never experienced such an amazing, professional orchestra.  I wanted to join AYS because I wanted a professional experience of an orchestra that plays exceptionally.

3. Aside from AYS, what other music programs or groups are you involved with?

Besides AYS I am involved with the Canejo Valley Youth Orchestra, Young Musicians Foundation, and my school’s orchestra.

4. What has been your most memorable musical experience?

My most memorable music experience was when I went to Philadelphia the summer of 2011 for Music Camp.  It really sparked my love for music and inspired me to take my music to a level of pursuit.

5. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

I love to run.  I also love to write poetry, be with friends, and participate in representing my school.


Sean Chung, viola, 23

Pomona College | Hometown: Irvine, CA

1. What’s a typical day like for you?

I work during the day as a research associate for the local City of Hope National Hospital and my alma mater, Pomona College. We are at the moment utilizing Drosophila Melanogaster (aka fruit fly) in experiments to better understand how certain drugs affect the brain. I like to pick up the viola when I am not working.

2. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved with music.

I emigrated from South Korea when I was 12 years old. I was introduced to the world of classical world by my parents before my permanent transition but such a move ultimately became the first opportunity for me to pick up the viola as part of the public music education system. I’ve enjoyed playing on it since.

3. Where would you like to be in five years?

I would like the viola to continue to be an integral aspect of my daily life. I would also like to be developing a career in medicine where I would contribute to the discipline in my own way through research and application.

4. What’s the best part about being a member of AYS?

I enjoy the professional attitude towards performance. It is very refreshing and humbling.

5. What would be your dream job?

A simultaneous career in music and the sciences. But I personally enjoy teaching.

6. What’s the best day you’ve ever had?

The last day of my recent summer trip to Prague, Czech Republic.

7. What kind of music do you listen to?

Bach

8. Any advice you could give to young musicians who share the same dreams and aspirations you do of becoming a great musician?

Listen, breathe, and adjust–adapt.

9. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

Going to the beach with a good book.


Paul Curtis, Contrabassoon/Bassoon, 25

USC | Hometown: Long Beach, CA

1. What’s a typical day like for you?

I work at the USC Law School in the morning, then I drive to Diamond Bar to teach a few of my 25 bassoon students. Then in the evening I either have a gig or I spend some time with my beautiful Fiance.

2. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved with music.

Both of my parents are musicians and my life growing up revolved around music. I could sing before I learned how to talk. My Mother is a choir director and my Father is a retired band director. As I turned four I began to play the piano and ever since then I have been learning every instrument I could get my hands on.

3. Where would you like to be in five years?

I would like to be performing full time in a Symphony Orchestra.

4. What’s the best part about being a member of AYS?

Being around such amazing young talent and getting to work with Alexander Treger for so many years.

5. What would be your dream job?

Contrabassoonist of the London Symphony Orchestra.

6. What’s the best day you’ve ever had?

The day my now fiancé said that she would marry me.

7. What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to a little bit of everything, but what comes up most of the time for me is classical and rock music.

8. Any advice you could give to young musicians who share the same dreams and aspirations you do of becoming a great musician?

Keep practicing and love what you do.

9. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

I love hiking with my fiancé and our 3 dogs.


Natalie Hoe, Clarinet, 18

The Colburn School | Hometown: Hong Kong

1. Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years, I’d like to have graduated with a Masters degree and be hopefully taking auditions for a place in a professional orchestra. I’d also hope to be starting the initial planning of how to bring music to the homeless people and their shelters and use music as a means for them to regain some faith and hope in the society.

2. What’s the best part about being a member of AYS?

The best part about being a member of AYS is the fact that we get to play amongst many great young musicians who have the same passion and similar aspirations in music. Everyone has so much energy and pizzazz that the artistry when combined is breathtaking and overwhelming.

3. What would be your dream job?

My dream job would ultimately have to be somehow making music accessible to anyone and everyone in this world… Whether they may be healthy young children, people with disabilities, the homeless or convicts. Everyone deserves a chance to have music flowing in their lives one way or another. Music heals and brings out an array of emotions, and that’s what I hope to do.

4. Any advice you could give to young musicians who share the same dreams and aspirations you do of becoming a great musician?

Be open to ideas, listen to anything and everything, be creative, be wild, stand your ground with your own interpretation and sound, constantly think, change and develop… And most importantly, enjoy every second you get to bring music out to the world around you.


Jennifer Fagre, Viola, 25

UCLA | Hometown: Cloquet, MN

1. What’s a typical day like for you?

I like to wake up early and get some exercise by walking up the mountain through my neighborhood in Glendale. I set time aside to practice for auditions and to work on some of my composition projects. If I have the entire day off, I like to go to the beach. I work at a French Restaurant in Pasadena in the evenings. If I don’t work, I also enjoy cooking, although I’m still learning!

2. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved with music.

As a young child, my mom and grandparents started me with piano lessons when I was 6. I absolutely loved it and progressed very quickly and started to write my own music. I was able to get a piece published in Clavier’s Piano Explorer magazine when I was nine! Then in middle school I decided I wanted to play a string instrument in the orchestra. I originally wanted to play the viola because a friend also played, but was told there were too many people wanting to play viola (probably the first time in history). So I instead was told to try the cello considering my hands were a good size for it. But after considering the fact that I was moving around a lot between my mom’s and my grandparents’ house, we went with the violin because it was most portable. Then of course in my late college days I ended up switching to the viola anyway, so things have sort of come full circle.

3. Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years I’m hoping to finally have my PhD in Composition. It would be perfect if I’ll be starting my second year of teaching undergrad music theory at a college or university. I would love to also be playing with a professional group, like an opera orchestra or larger ensemble. I would use my private studio at the college to compose for commissions and personal projects. I’m also hoping I’m anchored enough to buy my own house finally!

4. What’s the best part about being a member of AYS?

It’s a great feeling to be sitting in a room with so much potential. It would be fun to really follow everyone and see where their careers take them, considering that everyone still has their entire lives ahead of them!

5. What would be your dream job?

I would like to teach undergraduate theory at a college or university while also performing gigs on the side. I would use my private studio at the school to compose for my own personal projects. I also have an interest in learning how to prepare taxes on the side. I love math.

6. What’s the best day you’ve ever had?

I would have to say that my best day I’ve ever had is travel related, but there are so many to choose from. Recently I was able to travel to Istanbul and was invited to a family’s traditional Iftar dinner during Ramadan. I fasted all day until 8:30pm, where I was able to enjoy one of the most amazing home cooked meals I’ve ever eaten and had the pleasure of learning so much about the Turkish culture. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.

7. What kind of music do you listen to?

I of course love classical, and in a more narrow focus I love the romantic and early 20th century genres. And as a polar opposite, I love to listen to Top 40 and dance music. I appreciate most all music though, but am not very adventurous when it comes to indie bands.

8. Any advice you could give to young musicians who share the same dreams and aspirations you do of becoming a great musician?

Follow your true dreams first! If you don’t try to succeed at what you really want to do and settle for something more “realistic,” you’ll live wondering if you could have ever made it work doing what you REALLY want to do.

9. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

I love fostering kittens! I foster stray kittens through the Burbank Animal Shelter and have had an absolute blast doing so. It can be quite challenging at times, from the mess they make at meal time and teaching them how to eat solid foods, but I love to take care of them. They bring so much joy into my life and it’s a greatly rewarding experience!


Sean Fischer, cello, 23

UCLA | Hometown: Irvine, CA

1. What’s a typical day like for you?

A typical day for me is pretty straightforward. I wake up, eat breakfast, and practice until lunch. Then, depending on what I have going on that day, I’ll continue to practice, go teach, or go to school for classes, rehearsals, or anything else I need to do. In the evenings, I work out, and then it just depends on what my schedule looks like. I could rehearse, practice, or go do something fun with friends.

2. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved with music.

My family is very musical. My dad is a music teacher and trombonist, my grandpa plays violin, my grandma plays piano, and everybody sings. My sister and I both started piano at a very young age, and then we both switched to string instruments when we were in fourth grade. We’ve gone to concerts and musicals for as long as I remember, so I just grew up with music.

3. Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years I hope to be playing in an orchestra for a career. I’m not sure where that’s going to happen since auditions are few and far between, but that’s the goal. I’d also like to be teaching, recording, and doing chamber music as much as possible.

4. What’s the best part about being a member of AYS?

I love working with all the different musicians from Southern California. It’s such a privilege to get to know and work with so many talented individuals. It’s also an awesome experience to play under Maestro Treger; I’ve learned so much from him over the last few years.

5. What would be your dream job?

My dream job would have to be being a member of a top tier orchestra (LA, Chicago, Boston, etc). I’d also like to do studio work playing for movie scores, teach at a university level, and be on faculty at music festivals.

6. What’s the best day you’ve ever had?

It’s hard to pick one day that stands out above the rest. In music, I think my best day recently was when I had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in NYC with my brother-in-law (and former AYS violist) last January. I also had an amazing experience at the Round Top Music Festival this past summer.

7. What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to everything and anything. I have my car radio programmed to Classical, Rock, Pop, Jazz, Oldies, and more. Recently I’ve really enjoyed the Goat Rodeo Project and the Punch Brothers.

8. Any advice you could give to young musicians who share the same dreams and aspirations you do of becoming a great musician?

Don’t ever give up. It’s a very tough profession, and it’s easy to get discouraged. Continue to strive for your absolute best, and work hard every day.

9. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

I love playing sports: ultimate frisbee, soccer, golf, baseball, football, swimming, surfing.


Allen Fogle, principal horn, 27

USC | Hometown: Augusta, Georgia

1. How were you introduced to your instrument?

When I was about 5 years old, we watched a video in Kindergarten music class made to teach us about all of the instruments in an orchestra. They’d have funny little names for each of the instruments and a cartoon character playing each one in a sort of stereotypical way, like the snake-charming oboe, the sliding trombone, or the joking bassoon, which was the clown of the orchestra. I remember that for the Horn they had a sort of Bohemian girl playing it on top of a mountain and it was supposed to be the most noble of the brass instruments. I remember falling in love with the way it sounded right then and there and it was my first choice once I was old enough to join the school band.

2. What have been your most memorable musical experiences with AYS?

One of the best experiences I’ve had was playing Mahler’s 2nd. It’s a piece that I love and had always wanted to play, and it was both my first time performing it, and my first concert as a principal with AYS. It was really fun! And Beethoven’s 9th stands out, because it was the first concert I played with AYS in 2008, and it was so exciting!

3. What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your time with us?

One thing that’s been important for me is learning to be a strong leader of my section, especially when I’m working with new people. It seems to me, having been in the orchestra for several years, that there are now a greater number of younger, undergraduate members than there were before. It’s been a good experience for me to learn to lead those younger musicians, so that I can create a healthy environment that helps everyone to play their best and not be nervous. I don’t want anyone to think I’m going to be mad if they miss a note!

4. What do you think our musicians should take away from this experience?

I think everybody in the orchestra is incredibly talented, and deserves to be here. But if there’s one thing that a lot of people are still learning, it’s how to come in totally prepared. I think that’s one of the most important skills to develop here, in this middle step between the conservatory world and the professional world. It’s really important for a training orchestra to engender that discipline.

5. What keeps you coming back after 5 years?

It’s hard to get up early every Saturday morning, but I’m always so impressed by Maestro Treger’s ability to make you forget that it’s 9 am. He brings this immense amount of energy, and gives so much of himself, and it’s infectious! I can come in exhausted, but once we start making music, that doesn’t matter anymore. We all have such a high level of comfort and trust working with him.

And every year we get to play pieces that are exciting, and at least one or two that I’ve never played before. You can’t ever recreate the joy of playing a piece for the first time.

6. Has AYS helped you on your career path?

I can honestly say that being in AYS was the single most important factor in getting my career started in LA. I got my very first gig outside of AYS through a friend from the orchestra, and then my biggest break was meeting a major recording industry contractor after the gala concert in 2009. He came up to me and said, “I like your playing and I’d like to work with you” and I’ve been working with him ever since! A lot of people move here, and they wonder how to get work, and for me it’s been all the connections I’ve made through this orchestra.

7. Aside from AYS, what other music programs or groups are you involved with?

I love to perform chamber music as often as I can. Along with several AYS alumni including flutist Amy Tatum, oboist Jennifer Johnson, and bassoonist Maciej Flis, I perform and tour regularly with the Midnight Wind Quintet. This past year, former AYS hornists Dylan Hart and Annie Bosler, as well as our third horn, JG Miller, and myself formed the Los Angeles Horn Quartet and were selected as finalists for this past year’s Coleman Chamber Music Competition in Pasadena, CA.

8. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

I hope I don’t get into trouble for saying this, since it’s technically a “youth” orchestra, but I really enjoy craft beer. I love going on brewery tours and sampling good examples of the many varieties of beer. I also enjoy being active outdoors with my bicycle and play racquetball every week with our third horn player, JG Miller.


Michelle Hassler, violin, 26

Bob Cole Conservatory, University of Long Beach graduate

1. How were you introduced to your instrument?

I went to a violin recital in which a family friend was performing; my mom asked me if I would like to play and I agreed.

2. What made you want to join AYS?

It was recommended by my violin teacher as the best training orchestra in L.A.

3. Aside from AYS, what other music programs or groups are you involved with?

I graduated in May with my Master’s degree in Violin Performance; while in school I was one of the concertmasters of the CSULB Symphony Orchestra, as well as a violinist in the school’s University String Quartet.  Currently I freelance and am preparing for orchestra auditions.

4. What has been your most memorable musical experience?

Both being a semi-finalist in the national Sphinx Competition, as well as my summers at Bowdoin Music Festival.

5. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

Spend time with my husband.


Keila Huss, Viola, 21

UCLA | Hometown: Hollywood, CA

1. What’s a typical day like for you?

Loud. I just moved a few months ago and I now I wake up to the sounds of large trucks going by, occasional police sirens, and the construction site across the street. Glamorous, right? The rest of the time, I spend my time alternately between my local Starbucks (coffee and internet, what more could you want) and school.

2. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved with music.

I think I became involved with music before I was even old enough to consciously make a decision. I started out on violin when I was 6 years old, but even before that many of my childhood memories involve singing nursery rhymes over and over again in the car until I was satisfied that they were in tune. At this point, I didn’t get “involved” in music. It was just a part of living.

3. Where would you like to be in five years?

Working. As a incoming senior, the idea of finding a job next year is a bit daunting. Ideally, I would like to be working in music publishing or going to grad school to become a music librarian. As a Music History major, my focus has always been a bit more academic than most performers. But, if I had my way, I would still be performing somewhere, and I don’t plan to stop playing music, wherever it may be.

4. What’s the best part about being a member of AYS?

The level of talent. Sure, it’s a cliche, but when you’re around people who are better than you, it makes you play better. I may have studied a lot so far in my life, but I am well aware that plenty of my colleagues have put in even more time and effort. To me, listening to everyone around me and performing with such talented people pushes me to give my best.

5. What would be your dream job?

It probably sounds boring, but I would love to be a music editor. For me, it would be the perfect mix of creative and academic. I would be working with actual compositions, but I would get to utilize my great love of music theory and notation.

6. What’s the best day you’ve ever had?

Oh, gosh, I don’t even know. I’ve been blessed with a lot of good days. When asked this question, I find it hard to fixate on any one day, though; to me, a good day is when I’ve achieved something good and the people around me are happy. If I had to pick one, it might be the day I was accepted to my junior college: because I have had a very complicated academic background, that was the first time I could see how I was going to make it from child to successful adult and make my family proud.

7. What kind of music do you listen to?

Almost everything. My musical tastes don’t make very much sense; on any given day, I’ll listen to rock, pop, jazz, classical, musical theater and jump between decades anywhere from the 40s to the 2000s. I’m a huge fan of the Beatles, Eagles, and even dabble in the cheesy boy band stuff of my childhood.

8. Any advice you could give to young musicians who share the same dreams and aspirations you do of becoming a great musician?

Try not to be too hard on yourself. I think if you talked to a lot of musicians they would agree: we’re our own worst critics. Even when we play something beautifully, we know which bits could have been that much better. And for some of us, that’s not easy. I know it wasn’t for me. But I think I’ve finally realized that not being perfect is sort of exciting. Just think of how amazing you can be when there’s always the possibility of getting better.

9. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

Outside of music, I’m basically a lot like the kind of person you see at Comic-Con. I love TV and movies (not just passively watching them, but analyzing and discussing), books, and costuming.


Nathan Kirchhoff, second bassoon, 17

LA County High School for the Arts | Hometown: San Gabriel, CA

1. How were you introduced to your instrument?

I discovered the bassoon in sixth grade. At the beginning of the year, my band director introduced all of the instruments to his students but only briefly explained the bassoon and oboe. I chose the bassoon out of curiosity to learn more about it.

2. What made you want to join AYS?

I wanted to join for the playing experience as I have heard that this orchestra is very prestigious. I wanted to join also because I am interested in building my name and getting to know more musicians who are at a higher level than the typical teenage students I attend school with.

3. What has been your most memorable musical experience?

Well, there are many experiences I remember. So I’ll pick the most recent one: getting into AYS! When I found out that I had been accepted into this orchestra, being only 15 years old, I could not believe that I had beaten the many other college bassoonists who had also auditioned. Sometimes I still think I got into this orchestra out of pure luck.

4. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

I am a very avid freshwater aquarist. I have been keeping goldfish, bettas, tetras, angelfish, and “what-not” since I was four and I hope I never give up.


Cassie Nguyen, violin, 23

USC | Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

1. What’s a typical day like for you?

I spend most of my time focusing on my biomedical engineering studies – doing research that focuses on understanding children affected by movement disorders and attending engineering classes. I also make an effort to go to the gym or run and squeeze in time to play violin in the evenings.

2. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved with music.

I was largely following in my sister’s footsteps. She played violin and piano and I thought they seemed fun, so I wanted to play as well. When we got a piano, I simply started tinkering around on it, so my mom signed me up for lessons so that I didn’t develop bad technique. She then signed me up for violin lessons on my 7th birthday.

3. What’s the best part about being a member of AYS?

Music has been such a big part of my life that I feel so lucky to be able to continue challenging myself with this great orchestra. It’s such a great experience to be able to play with so many other talented musicians.

4. What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to a wide range of music. When I put my ipod songs on shuffle, it will commonly jump from classical to metal to showtunes to rock.


Simone Porter, first violin, 17

Colburn Academy | Hometown: Seattle, Washington


1. Tell us a little bit about your background. Do you come from a musical family?

I do not come from a musical family! My parents, both professors of International Studies at the University of Washington, were not exposed to much classical music growing up. When I was very young, they had only a few classical music CDs, including one titled, “Puccini for Saturdays.” They noticed that I showed great interest in this particular CD- I played it over and over again, and even quoted my favorite arias! One day, after I had heard Tosca wail “Mario, Mario!” for the umpteenth time, I strode into the kitchen, held out my sippy cup, and sang, “Mamio, Mamio, I want more milk!!” After this incident, my parents took note of my musical interests, and began to expose me to operas, ballets, and symphony concerts. I began to ask to play the violin, and started when I was 3 and a half. 


Gabriel Sears, Principal Tuba, 24

Colburn Conservatory | Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico

1. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved with music.

When I was in 5th grade the band director at my school came around and had students play some instruments for all the classes. After watching that I decided I wanted to play an instrument, however I didn’t know what I wanted to play. My friend wanted to play clarinet, so naturally, I did too! However, my parents weren’t too fond of that idea so we talked to the band director and she said she could use some low brass so I begun on euphonium. Half way through 6th grade my new band director came to me and asked if I wanted to switch to tuba. After thinking about it and talking with my private teacher, I had decided to switch. From the moment on, I was a tuba player and my life was changed forever!

2. Where would you like to be in five years?

Ideally in 5 years I would have a steady teaching job, either at a university or a private studio, and be gigging a lot around the city. I would love to live in LA long term so here’s hoping it all works out!

3. What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to all sorts of different music. I listen to bands such as A Day To Remember, Killswitch Engage, Senses Fail, and Gym Class Heroes. Of course I love listening to great composers such as Bruckner, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner. And I also love listening to the jazz greats such as Miles Davis or Coltrane.

4. Any advice you could give to young musicians who share the same dreams and aspirations you do of becoming a great musician?

Practice, practice, practice…but on a more serious note, always be a life long learner. No matter how good you get at your given instrument, never stop learning. There is always something new that you can learn!


Allan Steele, Principal Cello, 21

Colburn Conservatory | Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Allan Steele was born in Chicago and began studying the cello at the age of four. He studied at the Music Institute of Chicago for four years, and was a long-time member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, soloing with both the Concert Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra at a young age.

Steele has studied with many eminent pedagogues such as Tanya Carey, Hans Jensen and Susan Moses. He is currently a fourth year Bachelor of Music student at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, where he studies with Ronald Leonard.

He has premiered several works in chamber or orchestral settings, including pieces by Mark Antony Turnage and Stephen Cohn. He has placed first in competitions such as the Society of American Musicians, Midwest Young Artists, St. Paul String Quartet Competition, and Fischoff Competition, as well as placing third in the Stulberg Competition.

Steele maintains an active solo career and has soloed with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, the Northwest Symphony Orchestra, and the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra. He has also been a participant at Indiana University’s Summer String Academy program, the Meadowmount School of Music, and the Montreal International String Quartet Academy.

He is a founding member of the classical music group “MC2,” and regularly performs in the Chicago and Los Angeles areas.


Stephen Tavani, co-concertmaster, 21

Colburn Conservatory | Hometown: Haymarket, Virginia

1. How were you introduced to your instrument?

My older brother played the violin. Originally I wanted to play the trumpet, but then when I got braces, I had to put it off, and eventually chose violin when I was 8 years old, because my brother played it.

2. What made you want to join AYS?

I heard it was a great experience, and I knew many fantastic musicians who were a part of it.

3. Aside from AYS, what other music programs or groups are you involved with?

Colburn Orchestra, Persinger Quartet.

4. What has been your most memorable musical experience?

One of them would be playing Mahler 5th Symphony in the Aspen Festival Orchestra. Another would be playing in the Colburn Orchestra for Bartok Concerto for Orchestra. Another would be playing Mahler 2’s Second Symphony with AYS last year. Another would be playing quartets with my quartet, the Persinger Quartet. There are too many to name.

5. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

Playing ping-pong, soccer, frisbee, reading, and going surfing.


Alexandra Wallin, principal flute, 26

USC | Hometown: Los Angeles

1. How were you introduced to your instrument?

I was introduced to the flute by the music instructor at my elementary school, in which she demonstrated several different instruments during an assembly program. Prior to the introduction, I was set on playing violin until she demonstrated the squeaks that will come out of the instrument if you don’t practice, so I picked the flute thinking it didn’t squeak at all… what little did I know.

2. What made you want to join AYS?

I had heard great things about AYS for years and knew what a special opportunity it was to be trained in an orchestral setting. I knew that this was an audition I had to take.

3. Aside from AYS, what other music programs or groups are you involved with?

I recently graduated with my Master’s degree in Flute Performance from the Thornton School of Music and finished a summer at the Round Top Festival Institute, performing orchestral and chamber music. I am currently involved with two chamber groups: the L.A. Flute & Harp Duo which performs at events in the greater Los Angeles area, as well as Flutes of Troy, a flute quartet that performs musical educational assemblies to schools in Los Angeles that may not otherwise get such an opportunity to be introduced to classical music.

4. What has been your most memorable musical experience?

About a year and a half ago, our flute quartet performed an educational assembly at a school and was approached by one of the faculty at the end of our program. She handed us a piece of paper and on this paper were musical words mentioned in our assembly program, as well as drawings of flutes. We found out this note was from a mentally handicapped child who responds best when he feels engaged with the material presented. Knowing that we struck a chord (no pun intended) in this child’s life is something unparalleled and something I will always remember.

5. Outside of music, tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

One of my favorite activities is traveling. I like revisiting favorite destinations, such as the Grand Canyon, or visiting new places. Among the places I’d like to visit most include Niagara Falls and Italy.