Success Stories

Explore Recent News and Success Stories about MSM Students, Alumni, and Faculty.

  • Sep 14, 2022Percussion

    MSM percussion student Leo Simon (MM ’23) wins a position with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra

    Second-year Orchestral Performance Program student percussionist Leo Simon (MM ’23), who performs with the MSM Percussion Ensemble, has won a position with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra.

    He intends to finish his studies at MSM while taking on his new performance duties. At MSM, Leo studies with Christopher Lamb, Principal Percussionist at the New York Philharmonic.


  • Sep 13, 2022Jazz

    MSM Jazz Arts faculty to play key roles in Town Hall series celebrating four women composers

    MSM Jazz Arts faculty members Damien Sneed and Theo Bleckmann are both featured in a groundbreaking series at New York City’s Town Hall celebrating four women composers who have shaped American culture over the decades.

    Theo Bleckmann is part of Meredith Monk‘s Vocal Ensemble on Saturday, October 15, for the New York premiere of Memory Game. On January 7, composer/producer/arranger Damien Sneed will be music director in a program celebrating the Grammy-winning Gospel singer, songwriter, record producer, musician, and evangelist Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark.

    Also being celebrated as part of this Town Hall series: legendary singer-songwriter Judy Collins and composer Laura Kaminsky.

    More information on the series here.


  • Sep 11, 2022Piano

    MSM doctoral student Yeontaek Oh wins first prize at the 2nd International Piano Festival Rio de Janeiro

    Yeontaek Oh, a South Korean doctoral student at MSM, placed first at the 2nd International Piano Festival Rio de Janeiro along with Xiaohui Yang from China on September 10. Yeontaek studies at MSM with Solomon Mikowsky.

    The event received 35 entries from 14 countries. The Rio de Janeiro International Piano Festival continues the BNDES International Piano Competition, which discovered and promoted talents from Brazil and abroad from 2009 to 2016.

    More about the festival with video of Yeontaek Oh here.

  • Sep 8, 2022Woodwinds

    MSM doctoral student Leo Sussman joins DePauw University

    Flutist Leo Sussman, a current doctoral student at MSM, joins the faculty at DePauw University as Part-Time Assistant Professor of Music and will lead the university flute studio. 

    A native of San Francisco, Leo recently completed a fellowship with Ensemble Connect and has performed with groups including Alarm Will Sound, SEM Ensemble, and Metropolis Ensemble. Leo is a member of the New York-based wind quintet ConnectFive as well as Bash the Trash, an environmental arts group. 

    Learn more here.

  • Sep 3, 2022Piano

    MSM alumnus and current doctoral student Juan Lazaro named a 2022 MET Opera Lindemann Young Artist

    Peruvian/Russian pianist and répétiteur Juan Lazaro (MM ’17), currently a doctoral student at MSM, has been accepted into the Metropolitan Opera‘s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

    The program was created in 1980 to identify and develop extraordinarily talented young artists in the realm of opera. It has trained a new generation of celebrated American and international opera singers, as well as coaches and pianists, who perform at the highest standards in productions at the Met and opera houses around the world.

    Learn more here.

  • Sep 1, 2022Contemporary Performance

    Recent MSM alumna Teagan Faran (MM ‘22) joins faculty of DePauw University

    MSM alumna Teagan Faran (MM ’22), who studied Contemporary Performance at MSM, joins the faculty at DePauw University as Assistant Professor of Violin. She leads the violin studio and is launching an electronics experimentation studio for the department. 

    A native of Buffalo, NY, Teagan Faran is a multidisciplinary musician focused on enacting social change through the arts. Faran has collaborated with the International Contemporary Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, Palaver Strings, and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra. Recent recording features include albums with Carlos Simon, La Martino Orquesta Típica, and loadbang. Also active in the world of tango music, she has performed with Victor Lavallén and the Orquesta Escuela de Emilio Balcarce, as well as at festivals across the United States. 

    Learn more here.

  • Aug 22, 2022Strings

    MSM faculty member and alumnus Shmuel Katz named Associate Principal Violist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

    MSM faculty member and alumnus Shmuel Katz has been named Associate Principal Violist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Shmuel had been for many years an associate member of the MET Orchestra for a decade before this step up.  He also serves as Principal Violist of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center and the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra.

    Shmuel is on the viola faculty and the orchestral performance program faculty at MSM. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at MSM, where he studied violin and viola with Pinchas Zukerman, Michael Tree, and Patinka Kopec.

    Learn more about the appointment here.

  • Aug 17, 2022Piano

    Pianist and alumna Erica (Xiaoyan) Guo appointed joins Minnesota Opera as Resident Opera

    Pianist and MSM alumna Erica (Xiaoyan) Guo (BM ’15), a former student of Solomon Mikowsky at MSM, has been performing as music staff at the Santa Fe Opera this summer in Carmen and Tristan und Isolde. This fall, she joins the Minnesota Opera as a resident artist and principal pianist.

    The Chinese-born Ms. Guo has spent over a decade performing internationally as a solo pianist, collaborative pianist, and chamber musician. She has performed at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Nymphenburg Palace, and Temppeliaukion Kirkko and Musiikkitalo in Helsinki, Finland.

    Now a highly sought after collaborator in both opera and song, her repertoire includes Later the Same EveningLa finta giardinieraOwen Wingrave, Die Zauberflöte, Falstaff, Partenope, The Bartered Bride, Proving Up, Le nozze di Figaro, and La bohème, as well as an extensive catalog of song repertoire.

    Learn more about Erica here.

  • Aug 8, 2022Precollege

    Pianist and MSM Precollege faculty member Adam Kent releases critically acclaimed recording

    In his new recording out on Albany Records, MSM Precollege faculty member and pianist Adam Kent performs music for piano by 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winner Tania Léon, which she composed over a span of almost 50 years.

    On July 28, The New York Times featured the recording as its top pick in its choice of “Five Classical Albums You Can Listen to Right Now.”

    Adam Kent has performed in recital, as soloist with orchestra, and as a chamber musician throughout the United States, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Latin America. A winner of the American Pianists Association Fellowship and Simone Belsky Music Awards, Dr. Kent has also received top prizes in many prestigious competitions.

    Learn more about the CD here.
    Learn more about Adam Kent here.


  • Aug 1, 2022Percussion

    MSM alumnus Kevin Ritenauer appointed Associate Principal Timpanist/Section Percussionist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

    Kevin Ritenauer (BM ’16) has been appointed Associate Principal Timpanist/Section Percussionist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

    Kevin was a fellow at New World Symphony and has also performed as extra with the Cleveland Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra, among others. Mr. Ritenauer was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and Music Academy of the West.

  • Jul 20, 2022Strings

    MSM DMA student cellist Thomas Mesa wins a Sphinx Medal of Excellence

    Cuban-American MSM alumnus and current doctoral student Thomas Mesa (DMA ’17) is the First Prize-winner of the Sphinx Medal of Excellence given to three recipients by the Sphinx Organization.

    The medal recognizes extraordinary Black and Latinx classical musicians who demonstrate artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination, and an ongoing commitment to leadership and their communities.

    Thomas won the Sphinx Organization’s inaugural Robert Frederick Smith Prize in 2016, and was a winner of the Astral Artists 2017 National Auditions. He has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras that include the Cleveland Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.

    Learn more here.

  • Jul 18, 2022Percussion

    Marcelina Suchocka (BM ’16, MM ’18) named Principal Percussion of the Sarasota Orchestra in Florida.

    Born in Białystok, Poland, Marcelina Suchocka (BM ’16, MM ’18) has been named Principal Percussionist of the Sarasota Orchestra and Britt Festival Orchestra.

    Ms. Suchocka enjoys a diverse career spanning orchestral, chamber, new music, and solo playing. She was a fellow at the New World Symphony and has performed as an extra/substitute percussionist with the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, and Utah Symphony.

    Ms. Suchocka earned her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music at Manhattan School of Music, studying with Christopher Lamb, Duncan Patton, She-e Wu, and Kyle Zerna.

    Learn more about Marcelina here.

  • Jul 14, 2022Collaborative Piano

    Houston Grand Opera appoints MSM alumna Maureen Zoltek (DMA ’13) as Music Director of the HGO Studio

    In her new role beginning in September, Maureen Zoltek (DMA ’13) will work with HGO Studio Director Brian Speck to support young artists, the company’s casting committee, and work on its recital series programming.

    “Our young artist program is known for being one of the most distinguished in the world, and it will continue to grow with talent like Maureen joining the team,” said Houston Grand Opera General Director and CEO Khori Dastoor.

    Maureen is currently at the San Francisco Opera, working as assistant conductor, vocal coach, and orchestral keyboardist.

    Learn more about the appointment here.
    More about Maureen here.

  • Jul 11, 2022Musical Theatre

    Recent MSM graduate Alysia Velez (BM ’22) makes Broadway debut in Sondheim’s Into the Woods

    Recent MSM Musical Theatre graduate Alysia Velez (BM ’22) is making her Broadway debut as Rapunzel in the critically acclaimed, star-studded revival of Into the Woods. The hit production of Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s beloved musical officially opened on July 10, with its initial limited run now extended through October 16.

    The cast includes Sara Bareilles, Gavin Creel, Joshua Henry, Bryan d’Arcy James, Patina Miller, and Phillipa Soo.

    “I’m grateful to go into the woods each night with these people,” writes Alysia on a post of photos from opening night on her Instagram account.

    The show famously combines elements of fairy tales like Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk into a unique musical whole.

    Read about the production here.
    Learn more about Alysia here.


  • Jun 28, 2022Vocal Arts

    MSM alumna mezzo soprano J’Nai Bridges (BM ’09) is featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert accompanied by MSM students

    On June 27 as part of its celebration of Black Music Month, National Public Radio (NPR) featured MSM alumna and mezzo soprano J’Nai Bridges (BM ’09) on an episode of the acclaimed series Tiny Desk Concert.

    J’Nai was accompanied by MSM students Christian McGhee (MM ’23) on drums, Nolan Nwachukwu (BM ’23) on bass, and MSM faculty member Damien Sneed on piano.

    Watch the concert here.

  • Jun 26, 2022Piano

    MSM alumnus Kirill Gerstein (BM ’99, MM ’00) performs to a sold-out crowd of 23,000 in Berlin

    On June 25, MSM alumnus Kirill Gerstein (BM ’99, MM ’00) performed to a sold-out crowd of more than 32,000 spectators at the Berliner Philharmoniker’s season finale at the Waldbühne outdoors venue in Berlin.

    Conducted by Kirill Petrenko, Kirill played Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and the Rachmaninoff arrangement of the Kreisler “Liebeslied” as an encore.

    At MSM, Kirill studied with Solomon Mikowsky.

    Learn more about Kirill here.

  • Jun 25, 2022Composition

    Toronto Symphony Orchestra names MSM alumna Alison Yun-Fei Jiang (BM ’15) as RBC Affiliate Composer

    Alison Yun-Fei Jiang (BM ’15) has been named the RBC Affiliate composer with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). She was previously the Carrefour Composer-in-Residence with Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra (2020-22) and her compositions have been performed in Canada and across the United States.

    The TSO’s Affiliate Composer position offers an emerging composer a chance to create works for one of North America’s finest professional orchestras, and gain insight into the organization.

    “Alison’s music is full of originality and colour, and she has an important voice to share with our orchestra and audiences,” said TSO Music Director Gustavo Gimeno in a media release. “We were impressed by Alison’s blending of cultures and genres into exciting melodies and textures.”

    Read more about her appointment here.

  • Jun 22, 2022Vocal Arts

    MSM vocal arts alumnus baritone Justin Austin (BM ’14, MM ’17) is featured by WQXR classical radio

    New York City’s classical music station WQXR featured MSM vocal arts alumnus baritone Justin Austin (BM ’14, MM ’17) in its on-going website series Around the Boroughs. The article is written by MSM vocal arts alumna, Heather Donovan (MM ’20).

    During the 2021-2022 Metropolitan Opera season, Mr. Austin made his house debut as Marcellus in the company premiere of Brett Dean’s Hamlet, while also covering the leading role of Charles Blow in MSM trustee Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones.

    Read article here.

  • Jun 21, 2022Conducting

    MSM faculty member Damien Sneed receives rave review from the New York Times

    Jazz Arts faculty member Damien Sneed received a rave review for his conducting and arrangement of the June performance of  The Ordering of Moses at Riverside Church. The Harlem Chamber Players presented R. Nathaniel Dett’s 1937 oratorio in honor of the centennial of the Harlem Renaissance, for the Juneteenth weekend.

    MSM Alumna Krysty Swann (BM ’08)was the mezzo soprano soloist.

    “Sneed’s harmonization gave it a discordant underbelly reflective of struggle — a reminder that it has been only two years since protests for George Floyd swept the globe, and one year since Juneteenth, an annual observation of Emancipation dating to 1866, was consecrated as a federal holiday,” writes NY Times critic Oussama Zahr.

    Read the review here.

  • Jun 18, 2022Orchestra

    Seven MSM alumni are part of the historical Juneteenth celebration at the Hollywood Bowl

    Seven MSM alumni took part in the Re-Collective Orchestra at the June 19 concert JUNETEENTH: A Global Celebration for Freedom in Los Angeles. The event marked the first-ever performance of an all-Black symphony orchestra in the Hollywood Bowl’s 100-year history.

    The MSM alumni are: Alex Laing (MM ’98) Clarinet, Monica Ellis (PS ’98) Bassoon, Jannina Norpoth (BM ’03) Violin, Burt Mason (MM ’08) Trombone, Tia Allen (PS ’10, PD ’12) Viola, Chris Johnson (MM ’08) Bass, Kyra Sims (MM ’12) French horn.

    The concert featured performances by Khalid, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Roots, Chaka Khan, Lucky Daye, Robert Glasper, Billy Porter, and more.

  • Jun 17, 2022Piano

    MSM alumnus Jason Flowers (BM ’19, MM ’21) interviewed by CBS News New York

    Classical pianist and MSM alumnus Jason Flowers (BM ’19, MM ’21) recently graduated from Columbia University’s Teachers College, and is now a music instructor. He was interviewed by CBS News New York on June 16, commenting on a recent study that shows children respond well to having a male teacher of color.

    “I think when my students look at me, they can see something that they can relate to. They see opportunity,” he told the network.

    Watch the news report here.

    Learn more about Jason here.

  • Jun 16, 2022Piano

    Pianist and MSM alumnus Chang Hyoung-joon (DMA ’92) named new president of the Seoul Arts Center

    The Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has named pianist and professor Chang Hyoung-joon (BM ’86, MM ’88, DMA ’92) the new president of the Seoul Arts Center effective June 17.

    Chang will lead the country’s top art complex for the next three years. Located in southern Seoul, the center has attracted more than 55 million visitors since its opening in 1988.

    Born in 1962, Chang received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the Manhattan School of Music studying with Constance Keene. He has been teaching piano at Seoul National University since 1995.

    He has collaborated with world-renowned orchestras such as the London Philharmonic and the Tokyo Philharmonic.

    Read more here.

  • Jun 9, 2022Musical Theatre

    MSM recent graduate Alysia Velez (BM ’22) cast as Rapunzel in the Broadway revival of Into the Woods

    Recent MSM Musical Theatre graduate Alysia Velez (BM ’22) has been cast as Rapunzel in the upcoming Broadway revival of the Stephen SondheimJames Lapine musical Into The Woods on Broadway opening June 28 at the St. James Theater for an eight-week run.

    Information about the production here.

    Learn more about Alysia here.

  • Jun 1, 2022Jazz

    MSM faculty member Damien Sneed is featured in the June issue of Opera News

    The feature article in Opera News by Karen Chilton with photography by Darío Acosta spotlights MSM faculty member Damien Sneed conducting The Ordering of Moses at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City on June 17, presented by the Harlem Chamber Players.

    Read the article here.

    Learn more about the production here.

  • May 26, 2022Vocal Arts

    MSM alumnus Justin Austin (BM ’14, MM ’17) receives rave review from The New York Times

    The program by Justin Austin (BM ’14, MM ’17) presented in the Board of Officers Room at the Armory included three sets of Langston Hughes poems.

    “The baritone Justin Austin showed off a mighty lyric voice with dramatic flair at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan on Tuesday evening. Austin’s tone is deep and earthy, with a firmly stitched timbre that withstands some high-octane singing. At the Armory, he found operatic climaxes in most songs — his high notes were strong, shattering, indefatigable,” writes Oussama Zahr of The New York Times.

    Read the full review here.

  • May 12, 2022Jazz

    MSM Jazz Composition student Eliana Fishbeyn (MM ’22) is named a 2022 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer

    Recent MSM graduate, composer, and arranger Eliana Fishbeyn (MM ’22) is among 21 young composers named  a 2022 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer. She received the honor for her composition Unknown Knowns for big band, which had previously won the Sophie Desmarais International Composition Competition for Large Jazz Ensemble at the Université de Montréal in 2021.

    Eliana Fishbeyn is a composer and arranger of Russian-Jewish heritage from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who currently resides in New York City. She graduated with her Master’s degree in jazz composition at Manhattan School of Music in May 2022, having studied with Jim McNeely and Phil Markowitz.

    The ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award  is granted annually to encourage talented young jazz composers during the earliest stages of their careers. The recipients receive cash awards and are selected through a juried national competition.

    Learn more about the award here.


  • May 11, 2022Composition

    Two MSM alumni named the two finalists for the 2022 Pulitzer Prizes award for music

    MSM alumna Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti (DMA ’16) was named one of the two finalists in the Pulitzer Prize category for music for her composition “with eyes the color of time.” The other finalist in music is MSM alumnus Andy Akiho (MM ’09) for his composition “Seven Pillars.” The winning Pultizer Prize for music was awarded to Raven Chacon for his composition “Voiceless Mass.”

    Andy Akiho also received a 2022 Grammy Awards nomination this year for his composition.

    The Pulitzer music jury was headed by The New Yorker‘s music critic Alec Ross.

    Learn more about Anne’s composition here.

    Learn more about Andy’s composition here.

  • May 1, 2022Vocal Arts

    MSM Vocal Arts student Le Bu (BM ’22) a winner of the Met Opera’s Laffont Competition

    Bass-baritone Le Bu (BM ’22), from Yancheng, China is one of six winners named in the Met Opera’s 2022 Laffont Competition Grand Finals held on May 1.

    Le Bu, pictured above in a recital in Greenfield Hall at MSM, is one of six winners of the Met Opera 2022 Laffont Competition:

    Le Bu, 26, Bass-Baritone
    Matthew Cairns, 27, Tenor
    Alexandra Razskazoff, 30, Soprano
    Julie Roset, 25, Soprano
    Anne Marie Stanley, 30, Mezzo-Soprano
    Esther Tonea, 28, Soprano

    The winners each receive $20,000 prize money, and the chance to launch a major operatic career while accompanied by the Met Orchestra, conducted by Marco Armiliato.

    Learn more about Le Bu here.

  • Apr 25, 2022Conducting

    Conductor and MSM alumnus Earl Lee (MM ’13) is named winner of the 2022 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award

    The award is given annually by the Solti Foundation U.S. to a single promising American conductor 38 years of age or younger. It is the largest grant currently given to American conductors in the formative years of their careers. The prize includes $30,000 as well as career guidance and industry connections.

    Earl Lee currently serves as Associate Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

    This season, Lee made his debut with both the New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony. He was formerly resident conductor with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 2015 to 2018. He is a regular guest conductor with the orchestras of North America’s top music schools, including Manhattan School of Music and the New England Conservatory.

    Learn more about Earl here.

  • Apr 11, 2022Vocal Arts

    MSM alumna mezzo-soprano Erin Wagner (BM ’19) makes Carnegie Hall debut on April 19

    MSM alumnus and mezzo-soprano Erin Wagner (BM ’19) is being showcased at Carnegie Hall on April 19 at 7:30 PM as the Naumburg Foundation 2021 Vocal Award Winner.

    The concert marks the solo debut of Erin Wagner at Carnegie Hall, and takes place in the Weill Recital Hall with accompaniment by pianist Shawn Chang. Music performed is by Edie Hill, Fauré, Ravel, Errollyn Wallen, Shawn Change, and Mahler.

    For tickets visit the Carnegie Hall website here.

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