MEET OUR JUDGES
American violinist KURT NIKKANEN is an international soloist of the highest order. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he began his violin studies at the age of three, later studying with Roman Totenberg and Jens Ellerman. At twelve he gave his Carnegie Hall debut, performing with the New York Symphony; two years later he was invited by Zubin Mehta to perform the Paganini Concerto No.1 with the New York Philharmonic for a Young People’s Concert. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where he was a scholarship student of Dorothy DeLay.
Mr. Nikkanen regularly receives invitations from the leading orchestras and presenters in the USA and Europe, and has toured Japan and the Far East. In North America he has appeared with the Dallas Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Cleveland Orchestra, and in Europe with the BBC Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Dresden Staatskapelle. He has worked with many leading conductors.
An enthusiastic advocate of contemporary music, Kurt Nikkanen has given numerous performances of the John Adams Violin Concerto, with orchestras such as the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Oregon Symphony, Hallé Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony (all under the composer’s direction).
Highlights of recent seasons have included a UK tour with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, performances with the Gothenburg Symphony and Neeme Jarvi at the BBC Proms, and concerts with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Prague Symphony and RTE Orchestra in Dublin; also with the Bayerischer Rundfunk and Suddeutscher Rundfunk orchestras, both with the late Yakov Kreizberg, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with Junichi Hirokami. He has also appeared with the Belgian National Orchestra, Trondheim Symphony and the orchestra of RAI Turin, the Detroit Symphony and Orchestra of Galicia, the Bilbao Symphony, the Malaysian Philharmonic and performances of the Dvorak concerto with the Czech Philharmonic and Vladimir Ashkenazy, both in Prague and on tour in the USA, with concerts in New York and Chicago. In 2011, he was featured as soloist in a performance of the Barber Violin Concerto and Ravel Tzigane with the Turku Philharmonic in a live webcast that was streamed worldwide.
Mr. Nikkanen has had many works written for him, including Steven R. Gerber’s violin concerto, which he has recorded for Koch International. In 2009, Mr. Nikkanen performed the world premiere of Mikko Heinio’s concerto Alla Madre, subsequently recording it for Sony Classical with the Turku Philharmonic under Petri Sakari and released in 2010. His recording of William Walton’s Violin Concerto with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra was released on the Nimbus Alliance label in 2010 and was chosen as “Critics Choice for 2010” in Gramophone Magazine.
Mr. Nikkanen gave the New York premiere of the Violin Concerto by Thomas Adès in May 2010 and has since performed it in Australia with the Perth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Daniel.
In addition to his orchestral appearances, Kurt Nikkanen performs regularly as a recitalist both in the US and abroad with his wife, pianist Maria Asteriadou, presenting repertoire ranging from the complete Beethoven sonatas to Piazzolla tangos.
He is the Concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra and maintains a private teaching studio in New York, where he resides with his family.
A charismatic and versatile flutist, JANET ARMS has been a member of the New York City Opera orchestra since 1988. She has also performed and recorded with the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Ballet, Metropolitan Opera, as guest principal flutist with the St. Louis Symphony in the US and throughout Europe, as well as with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston, at Tanglewood, and on tour. She had a long-standing association with the Bard Festival Orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra, has worked with the NYC Ballet, American Ballet Theater, New Jersey Symphony, as well as subbed on Broadway in The King and I, Finding Neverland and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
As a faculty member of the Hartt School, Janet holds the title of Senior Artist Teacher as well as the Associate Chair of Chamber Music of Winds and Brass. As a newly appointed member of the flute faculty, Janet Arms is now teaching at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, where she started in the fall of 2018. She has been a faculty member of the Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy - PRISMA in Powell River, BC for many years and has spent several summers in Brazil, teaching and performing with the faculty of the renowned Festival Eleazar de Carvalho in Fortaleza. She spent one recent summer performing chamber music in Greece at the St George International Music Festival.
As an active performer in commercial recording here in NYC, Janet can be heard on a number of film documentaries for PBS. Scored by Michael Bacon, these include Jewish Americans, The Kennedy Years, and The Roosevelt Years to name a few. She made her recital debut at Carnegie Hall as a prizewinner of the Concert Artists International competition while completing her Masters degree at Juilliard.
Ms. Arms’ chamber music career has included appearances with her NYC Opera colleagues at Lincoln Center, performances at the Eastern Shore Chamber Music Festival, with the Concordia Chamber Players, the New York Chamber Soloists and appearances at PRISMA with her colleagues from the Chicago Symphony, Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, LA Philharmonic, Vancouver Symphony, and Victoria Symphony Orchestra.
Her most recent chamber music project, The Pandora Duo, is a collaboration with guitarist and fellow Hartt faculty member Christopher Ladd. Concertizing throughout the northeast, the duo is busy recording and working with living composers, promoting new music and adding new works to their ever expanding repertoire.
Pianist JUN CHO has appeared as both solo and chamber musician in United States, Italy, Spain, and South Korea. He is largely active in New York City, performing a wide range of repertoire in major venues including Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, and Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. An avid collaborator, Mr. Cho has performed with renowned musicians including Itzhak Perlman, Philippe Quint, and Randall Goosby. He has given extensive collaborative performances at the Aspen Music Festival and the Sejong Music Festival, and served as a piano faculty member at the Heifetz Institute. He currently serves as an artist-faculty member at the Perlman Music Program, and the current studio pianist of violinist Itzhak Perlman at the Juilliard School.
Jun received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at The Juilliard School, and doctoral degree from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. His mentors include Julian Martin, Jon Kimura Parker, and Seymour Bernstein.
With a voice described as “honey-coloured and warm, yet robust and commanding” (The Globe and Mail), baritone TYLER DUNCAN has performed worldwide to great acclaim in both opera and concert repertoire. Recent and upcoming engagements in 2021/22 include Handel’s Messiah with TENET Vocal Artists, Schubert’s Winterreise with the Aspect Chamber Music Series and selections from J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with Early Music Vancouver. In 2022, Mr Duncan will appear with Arizona Early Music in Handel’s Apollo e Dafne and Bach’s Ich habe genug, join Vancouver Symphony in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, returns to the Handel and Haydn Society in C.P.E. Bach’s Magnificat, re-join Music of the Baroque as the bass soloist in Haydn’s Creation and reprise Bach’s Ich habe genug with Mercury Chamber Orchestra.
Mr. Duncan has performed at The Metropolitan Opera as Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, Huntsman in Rusalka, Fiorello in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Moralès and Le Dancaïre in Carmen, Herald in Verdi’s Otello, Millhand in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and the Journalist in Lulu. At the Spoleto Festival USA, he debuted as Mr. Friendly in the 18th-century ballad opera Flora, returning the next season as Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte. Other notable appearances have included Raymondo in Handel’s Almira, Dandini in La Cenerentola with Pacific Opera Victoria and Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Princeton Festival. In the realm of new opera, he recently performed the role of Raymond in Nic Gotham’s Nigredo Hotel with City Opera Vancouver and sang the world premiere of Jonathan Berger’s Leonardo at the 92stY in NYC. In the summer of 2021, Mr. Duncan covered the role of Arthur in Le roi Arthus (Chausson) at Bard Summerscape.
Mr. Duncan has received prizes from the Naumburg, London’s Wigmore Hall, and Munich’s ARD competitions, and won the 2010 Joy in Singing competition, 2008 New York Oratorio Society’s Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition, 2007 Prix International Pro Musicis Award, and Bernard Diamant Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts. Originally from British Columbia, Canada, he now resides in the scenic Hudson Valley of New York and holds a passport from both countries. Mr. Duncan earned music degrees from the University of British Columbia, Hochschule für Musik (Augsburg), and Hochschule für Musik und Theater (Munich) and is currently on the voice faculty of the Longy School of Music in Boston.
RICHARD HIRSCHL joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s cello section in 1989. A native of Washington, Missouri, he began cello lessons with his father, an amateur cellist. His intermediate studies were with Savely Schuster, associate principal cellist of the St. Louis Symphony. He was accepted into the class of Leonard Rose and Channing Robbins at the Juilliard School, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1987 and a master’s degree in 1988.
Hirschl was an associate teacher at Juilliard before moving to Chicago. He was the winner of the 1988 Juilliard Concerto Competition, 1988 Irving M. Klein International String Competition and 1980 St. Louis Symphony Scholarship Competition.
In addition to his New York debut with the Juilliard Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, Hirschl has given concerto performances with the Peoria Symphony, the Northwestern Indiana Symphony, the New Philharmonic, Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra, Jupiter Symphony, St. Louis Philharmonic, Maracaibo Symphony (Venezuela), National Repertory Orchestra, St. Louis Chamber Orchestra and Philharmonia Virtuosi of New York.
He has appeared in chamber music performances with celebrated pianists Daniel Barenboim, András Schiff and Ursula Oppens, cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell and violinist Vadim Repin. He is on the faculty of the Chicago Conservatory for the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and has a large class of private students. He plays a Venetian cello made by Matteo Goffriller in 1710 and a cello made in Chicago by William Whedbee in 2014. He and his wife Laura make their home in a downtown high-rise where they are the proud parents of Ava Clare and Vivian Rose Hirschl.
Clarinetist DEAN LEBLANC has been performing with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra as an Associate Musician since 1998. He enjoys a versatile performance career as an orchestral musician and has also performed with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Orchestra, Lincoln Center Festival, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, American Symphony Orchestra, Bard Music Festival, American Ballet Theatre Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. As a chamber musician he has performed with the MET Chamber Ensemble, Skaneateles Festival, Windham Festival, the New York Chamber Music Festival, and the New York Philharmonic’s CONTACT! Series to include a few.
Mr. LeBlanc has recorded for Decca, Atlantic, Telarc, New World Records, and EMI labels as well as for numerous major motion picture soundtracks including the Emmy Award Winning HBO Miniseries Mildred Pierce and the Oscar Winning Film True Grit. He can be heard on two of the MET’s Grammy Award winning recordings, including The Tempest where he played Principal Clarinet and on Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle as a section member.
Mr. LeBlanc holds a bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music where he was a recipient of the Performer’s Certificate Award, and a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music. His teachers have included Kenneth Grant, Franklin Cohen, and Ricardo Morales. Mr. LeBlanc is a Selmer Artist and serves on the Adjunct Faculty of the Juilliard School.