Music with the Masters

Featured Artist - Ricardo Morales, Clarinet
Tim Ribchester, Piano
May 12, 2014

Ricardo MoralesRicardo Morales is one of the most sought after clarinetists of today. He joined The Philadelphia Orchestra as principal clarinet in 2003. Prior to this, he was principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, a position he assumed at the age of 21 under the direction of James Levine. His virtuosity and artistry as a soloist, chamber, and orchestral musician have been hailed and recognized in concert halls around the world. He has performed as guest principal clarinetist several times with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and at theinvitation of Sir Simon Rattle, performed as guest principal clarinet with the Berlin Philharmonic. He also performs as principal clarinet with the Saito Kinen Festival Orchestra, at the invitation of Maestro Seiji Ozawa.

A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mr. Morales began his studies at the Escuela Libre de Musica along with his five siblings, who are all distinguished musicians. He continued his studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Indiana University, where he received his Artist Diploma. During his tenure with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Mr. Morales soloed under the baton of James Levine in Carnegie Hall and on two European tours.

An active chamber musician, Mr. Morales has performed in the MET Chamber Ensemble series at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall with James Levine at the piano, at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, on NBC’s The Today Show, and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Mr. Morales is also highly sought after for his recitals and master classes, which have taken him throughout North America and Europe. He currently serves on the faculties of the Juilliard School, Temple University, and the Curtis Institute of Music. Mr. Morales has joined forces with internationally recognized master acoustician and instrument maker Morrie Backun to create MoBa, a company of top of the line clarinets and clarinet accessories, including mouthpieces, bells, and barrels.

Tim RibchesterTim Ribchester, a native of Denver, Colorado, and raised near Edinburgh, Scotland, has emerged as one of the Philadelphia area’s most versatile, energetic, and creative musicians, acclaimed by colleagues and press alike for "awe-inspiring" musical leadership "as passionate as it is expert." As the recently appointed Music Director of the Delaware County Symphony and a faculty pianist, conductor, and vocal coach at the Academy of Vocal Arts, Russian Opera Workshop, and Bryn Mawr Conservatory, he is equally at home conducting opera, early and contemporary choral music, and instrumental ensembles. Tim is also a frequent guest conductor for the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia, Concert Operetta Theater, Opera Libera, and Delaware Valley Opera Company. A performance practice specialist in both English and Italian Baroque music and the music of Astor Piazzolla, he has researched and performed the latter in collaboration with New York’s most distinguished tango musicians.

In addition to hosting lectures and interviews for organizations including the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tim has served as a judge for the Philadelphia Lieder Society, New Jersey State Opera, and American Composers Forum, and was recently appointed Assistant Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s new video production team. He acted as scriptwriter, co-presenter and assistant director for SpectiCast’s HD simulcasts of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia to movie theaters and community venues around the United States. He was subsequently invited by cable channel RCN to direct their annual symphony broadcasts, and by Longwood Gardens to direct live video for their International Organ Competition (including recorded footage for a PBS documentary). He has also served as Adjunct Lecturer in Music History at Temple University's Boyer College of Music, on the piano faculty of Settlement Music School, and for five years was the music representative on the University of Pennsylvania's Critical Writing faculty.

Featured Artist - Brad Russell, Bass Guitarist
Jason Furman, Drummer
April 9, 2014

Michelle Johnson HeadshotBorn in Detroit to a multi-talented family, Brad Russell (aka Russo) was raised in a musically diverse household. He recalls," my brother Brian listening to James Brown and the Temptations, my brother Kevin jamming to Grand Funk Railroad or Aerosmith and my mother spinning her favorite Bill Evans record. And this was all before dinner!" In high school, Brad won numerous solo bass competitions and scholarships to the Interlochen music academy in northern Michigan. Upon recommendation from "American Idol's" Randy Jackson, he received a scholarship to the highly acclaimed University of Miami where he earned both a bachelors and masters degree in music. While living in Miami, Brad 'cut his teeth" on everything from symphonic music to rock cover band gigs.

He later moved to the San Francisco bay area and worked for Shrapnel/Blues Bureau records producer Mike Varney. He has performed/recorded with a variety of artists such as: Mariah Carey, Clarence Clemons, Neal Schon, Gary Hoey, and jazz organist Lonnie Smith. Currently living in NYC, Brad has also performed for the Broadway musicals Jersey Boys, Grease, Memphis and Rock of Ages. In addition to performing, Brad is also a clinician and educator.

Much to the excitement of bass players around the world, virtuoso Brad Russell has released his debut solo album 'Let's Hear It!' on Steve Vai's Digital Nations label. Featuring guitar legend Joe Satriani, 'Let's Hear It!' explores musical frontiers where no bassist has gone before! Russell taps, slaps, and shreds his four string bass sounding more like a six string guitar. On tracks "Seven Shred" and "Brothers", his solos bring to mind Vai and Jeff Beck more than they do other bass players. On "Zattack", guitar great Joe Satriani joins Russell for a heavy shred fest; drummer Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth, Satriani, Santana) provides rhythmic genius on all tracks. Brad Russell is a true bass hero and provides a solid sampling of creative cutting edge "lead" rock bass playing.


Michelle Johnson HeadshotA native of the greater Philadelphia area, Jason Furman has been performing professionally as a drummer since the age of 10. In high school, Furman participated in top positions in the New Jersey All State Orchestra and the New Jersey All State Jazz Band. He studied with top teachers in the area and beyond, such as Dean Witten of Rowan University and Gary Chaffee of Berklee College in Boston. He continued his diverse musical career, playing in the Haddonfield symphony, multiple musical productions (including the touring show of "Funny Girl" featuring Deborah Gibson) and, during a summer off from his studies toward a degree in music at Rowan University, in the Disney College All Star Big Band, where he had the privilege of accompanying such names as Dianne Reeves, Diane Schuur, Arturo Sandoval and Dr. Billy Taylor. He also completed a portion of his undergraduate degree at Kingston University in London.

Furman was then accepted into the prestigious Studio Music and Jazz program at the University of Miami, Florida. It was here that Furman delved into his interest as a studio musician and recording engineer. His diverse musical background that was nurtured in childhood became a sought after quality at numerous studios in South Florida as a session musician and engineer. It was also during his studies at UM that he met two fellow students who would eventually become musical partners and collaborators in pianist Landon Knoblock ("Uncarved Block" in 2007 and "Gasoline Rainbow" in 2010) and bassist Brad Russell ("Let's Hear It" in 2012).

After having played full-time on Bourbon Street in New Orleans for a year, he returned to Miami, and subsequently moved back to the northeast in 2009, landing this time in the greater New York City area. Since being in New York, Jason has played in Off Broadway shows, straight ahead and experimental jazz gigs and cover bands, but has been maintaining his focus on the projects with Landon Knoblock, exploring musical improvisational possibilities, and with Brad Russell, in the genre of instrumental rock-fusion.

Featured Artist - Michelle Johnson, Soprano
& José Meléndez, Accompanist
February 21, 2014

Michelle Johnson HeadshotSoprano Michelle Johnson has been praised for her "extraordinary breath control and flawless articulation. Her voice is velvety and pliant - a dulcet dream." A highlight of Ms. Johnson's 2011/12 season was her debut with Opera Company of Philadelphia as the title role in Puccini's Manon Lescaut. The Philadelphia Inquirer acknowledged, "Johnson's singing has magnetic immediacy thanks to clean vocal lines and word coloring that made her singing speak in beautifully formed musical sentences, similar to young Renata Tebaldi." A graduate of the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, she was seen as the title role of Suor Angelica, Leonora in Oberto, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, the Countess in Capriccio, and Alice Ford in Falstaff.

In the spring and summer of 2012, Ms. Johnson made her debut with Glimmerglass Music Festival as Aida, and with Opera in the Heights as Leonora in Il Trovatore. During the 2012/13 season, she made her debut with Opera Santa Barbara as Aida, and performed Beethoven's 9th Symphony with Boston Philharmonic. She will also return this season to Houston's Opera in the Heights to sing Alice Ford in Falstaff, and she will make her debut at PORTOpera singing Mimì in La Bohème. Future engagements also include a return to Opera Philadelphia for Donna Anna in Don Giovanni.

Noted for her successes in numerous vocal competitions, Ms. Johnson was a Grand Prize winner of the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Winner; Top Prize and Grant Winner, William Matheus Sullivan Foundation; Second Place and Audience Favorite, Giargiari Bel Canto Competition, 2011; Grant, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition, 2011; First Prize, Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition, 2011; Encouragement Award, George London Foundation Vocal Competition, 2011; Second Place, Giargiari Bel Canto Competition, 2009; Encouragement Award, Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition, 2009; Finalist, Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, 2007; Encouragement Award, Marilyn Horne Foundation, 2007; and the Jan de Gaetani Award, Orpheus National Vocal Competition, 2006.


Michelle Johnson HeadshotPianist José Meléndez is in demand as a vocal coach, conductor, and collaborative artist. His professional engagements have taken him to Europe, South and Central America, Asia, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and throughout the mainland United States. He is committed to the artistic development of young and emerging singers, and has been associated with numerous young artist programs, competitions, and training centers. He holds a full-time position at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, where he is Assistant to the Music Director, Orchestra Librarian, and part of the music staff. He serves as Assistant Conductor, Collaborative Pianist, and Vocal Coach for various AVA productions and events, and he is also the Music Director of Concert Operetta Philadelphia, an organization dedicated to the performance of operetta in concert.

Mr. Meléndez has held professional positions with Glimmerglass Opera (Principal Coach), Opera Company of Philadelphia, Hawai`i Opera Theatre (Chorus Master, Repetiteur, Studio Artist Coach), Ocean City (NJ) Pops Orchestra (Conductor), Connecticut Grand Opera, Bay Area Summer Opera Theater (Conductor), Westminster Opera Theater (Music Director), Indianapolis Opera, and Opera de Puerto Rico. He worked with Opera New Jersey for over a decade as Assistant Conductor and Principal Coach, and as Music Director of the Young Artist Program. He made his Carnegie Hall debut as a solo pianist in a recital with pianist José Ramos Santana in May of 2011.

As a collaborative pianist, Mr. Meléndez is known for his colorful and sensitive playing, as well as his innovative programming. In the fall of 2013, he joined the faculty of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.



Featured Artist - Yu Xi Wang, Pianist
November 18, 2013

Yu Xi WangPianist Yu Xi Wang made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2002 as the winner of the Artist International Competition, and subsequently released her debut CD in China under JSCP. As an avid soloist and chamber musician, Yu Xi has performed in venues such as New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Jay Sharp Theatre of Lincoln Center, Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall, Rock Hall Auditorium at Temple University, Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University, and Gore Recital Hall at the University of Delaware. Her interest in performing in unconventional venues has led to her appearances in concert series held in churches, libraries, schools, and even patrons’ homes. Highlights include an all-Chopin recital at World Financial Center’s Winter Garden in 2010 (presented by Piano Culture for Chopin’s bicentennial celebration) and a recent appearance at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center as part of the 2013 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA).

As a faculty member of The Juilliard School, Yu Xi taught solfège at the pre-college division and Piano Topics at the college division. She was faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago for two years, teaching musicianship and piano for both community and academy programs. She has also taught piano at the Settlement Music School and Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Yu Xi is currently teaching at the Curtis Institute of Music as musical studies faculty.

A native of Beijing, China, Yu Xi began playing the piano at the age of three and later studied at the Central Conservatory of Music. After moving to the United States, she studied at The Juilliard School under the tutelages of Herbert Stessin, Jerome Lowenthal, and Julian Martin, obtaining her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in piano performance.



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