Birch Creek Symphony

Registration for the 2022 Symphony Session is now open!

Birch Creek’s program is unique in symphony and chamber music education in that it incorporates a student/mentor approach in virtually every aspect of training. Students rehearse and perform alongside their teachers, receiving an abundance of personal attention. In such a nurturing environment, students develop excellent practice habits, rehearsal skills and progress at an amazing rate. Seven public performances of four different orchestral programs are given over the two-week session.

Please note: Birch Creek will be following CDC and local public health guidelines at the time of programming. Programs are subject to change. Students must be fully vaccinated (as described by the CDC) at the start of the session. A negative test is required within 48 hours of arrival. This website will provide current updates so please check the COVID-19 page for the latest news.

Symphony Academy Session

July 3 – July 16, 2022 | Tuition: $2,200

Need-based and merit scholarships are available.

Areas of Study

Repertoire Standard orchestral literature is rehearsed and performed during the two-week session. Past repertoire includes Gustave Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major “The Titan,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor “The Great G Minor” and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Suite. 2022 repertoire will be posted on the Birch Creek website when confirmed. Please review application instructions for suggested audition repertoire levels.

Orchestra Rehearsals Two to four hours daily depending on performance schedule and repertoire.

Sectionals One hour of rehearsal by section every day. Students work with experienced faculty preparing the repertoire for general rehearsals.

Chamber Ensembles One hour every day. Students read and rehearse chamber music under the guidance of a coach. The product of these chamber music rehearsals is performed during Prelude Concert (before the Orchestra Concert) and during intermission.

Techniques One hour every day. Classes of like instruments meet once a day for instruction on instrument specific technical and musical aspects.

Seminars Two or three seminars, on topics pertinent to the music profession, are presented to the students every summer. Past topics included preparing for auditions, careers in music and avoiding injuries.

Apply Now

Nimrod Variation from Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36

Composer: Sir Edward Elgar Conductor: Brian Groner Play length: 3:53

At Birch Creek, students combine with the faculty to form the 80 member Birch Creek Symphony Orchestra. They perform 6 concerts (4 entirely different programs) during their 2-week residency, plus have numerous opportunities to perform in their chamber ensembles.

Symphony Faculty

Subject to change

Taka Matsunaga
Symphony Guest Conductor

Elmhurst, IL

As the recipient of the 2021 Conductor of the Year granted by the Illinois Council of Orchestras as well as the third-place winner of the 2020 and 2021 American Prize in Orchestral Conducting, Taka Matsunaga is currently the Director of Orchestras and Assistant Professor of Music at Elmhurst University, where he conducts the University Orchestra. He is also a Founder and Music Director of the Midwest Philharmonic Orchestra in Schaumburg, Illinois. 

Matsunaga came to the United States in 1998 to pursue his violin studies with David Taylor, Joseph Golan and Robert Chen while attending Roosevelt University and Northeastern Illinois University, where he received his master’s degree in music. 

From 1999-2001, Matsunaga was a regular member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In March 2000, he performed at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Maestro Daniel Barenboim. While playing in the Civic Orchestra, Matsunaga has played with world-renowned conductors including Neeme Järvi, Christoph Eschenbach, Osmo Vänskä, Pierre Boulez and Pinchas Zukerman, to name just a few. 

Matsunaga has studied at the National Orchestral Institute at the University of Maryland as a full-scholar musician under the direction of Gerard Schwarz, a former music director of the Seattle Symphony, and Lan Shui, a conductor laureate of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Matsunaga went on to join the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra and the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, where he served as an Assistant Concertmaster. 

As a conductor, Matsunaga made his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2018 with the Midwest Philharmonic Orchestra. He has conducted in Vienna, Salzburg, Detroit and at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center in Chicago. Matsunaga presented his conducting workshop for young conductors at the Illinois Music Education Conference virtually in April 2021 and also in January 2022 in Peoria, Illinois. He was also invited to conduct as a guest conductor at the Northern Illinois High School Orchestra Festival at Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa, Illinois in January 2022. 

Matsunaga is a member of the College Orchestra Directors Association (CODA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA), and American String Teachers Association (ASTA). 

He lives with his oboist wife, Naomi, and three children, Edward, Cecile, Felix, and a cockapoo named Tito. 

Ricardo Castañeda
Symphony Program Director | Oboe & Chamber Music Retreat Program Director

Oak Park, IL

2021 marks Ricardo Castañeda’s 24th year at Birch Creek and his 21st year as Symphony Session Program Director. Castañeda received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music performance from Northwestern University. He is a winner of the Northwestern University Concerto Competition and a recipient of the Wade Fetzer award for excellence in performance. He has appeared as a soloist in Latin America, Europe, the United States and more recently Japan. Castañeda is currently Principal Oboist with The Chicago Sinfonietta, and solo English Horn with The Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also a member of the Chicago Ensemble and Barossa Woodwind Quintet. An active freelance musician, Castañeda enjoys performing all genres of music. He has played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Opera Theater and has been principal oboist for orchestras for The Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and Joffrey Ballet as well as numerous Broadway in Chicago shows. Castañeda is on the faculty at University of Illinois at Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University. Ricardo is integral to the development and oversight of Symphony session programming.

Website: Chicago Sinfonietta – Ricardo Castañeda

Jodie DeSalvo
Piano

Naples, FL

Jodie DeSalvo is a frequent soloist with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. She has toured extensively as a piano soloist appearing with the orchestras of Chicago, Geneva, Lucerne, San Francisco, Hartford and Chautauqua. DeSalvo also has a recital/lecture series at the Artis-Naples and has numerous CDs to her credit. In recent years, she has added the comedy of Victor Borge to her repertoire, with interpretations of his skits, including Phonetic Punctuation and Inflationary Language, as well as writing her own original material. 2021 will mark her 25th year as a Birch Creek faculty member.

Robert Everson
Percussion

Oak Park, IL

Robert Everson is the timpanist with several orchestras in the Chicago area, including the Chicago Philharmonic, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, the Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Percussion Performance from DePaul University, and is the percussion instructor at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois. 2021 is Everson’s 21st year as a Birch Creek faculty member.

www.cuchicago.edu/faculty/college-of-theology-arts–humanities/music/robert-everson/

 

Shannon Finney
Flute/Piccolo

Kansas City, MO

Shannon Finney is Associate Principal Flute with the Kansas City Symphony. She is also a member of the Kansas City-based chamber music ensemble, Summerfest. Finney has been with Birch Creek for 17 years.

Website: www.kcsymphony.org/ContentCtl/ViewAct/Musician/46

John Gaudette
Bassoon

Chicago, IL

John Gaudette studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA. He played in the Dallas Symphony, CBC Radio Orchestra, and was assistant principal in the Vancouver Symphony. Gaudette freelances in the Chicago area with the Chicago Symphony and Philharmonic, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Music of the Baroque, and Fulcrum Point. He currently teaches at Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. John has been a Birch Creek faculty member for 15 years.

Amanda Grimm
Viola

Chicago, IL

Amanda Grimm enjoys a versatile career as a freelance artist in the greater Chicago area. A graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory and Carnegie Mellon University, she has performed as a soloist, recitalist, and concertmaster in both the United States and abroad. Grimm is an active orchestral musician and is Principal Viola of both the Elgin Symphony and Orchestra Iowa and is Assistant Principal of the Illinois Philharmonic. A passionate chamber musician, she is also a member of the KAIA String Quartet, a Chicago-based ensemble that advocates for the music of Latin America.

Brian Groner
Symphony Conductor

Glenwood, IL

2022 marks Brian Groner’s 27th season as conductor of the Birch Creek Symphony Orchestra. 2019 marked the end of his successful 23-year tenure with the Fox Valley Symphony in Appleton, WI. Formerly, Groner was the Music Director of the Fox Valley Orchestra in Illinois and the Artistic Director for the Midwest Mozart Festival. As a guest conductor, he has appeared on the podium for many notable ensembles including the Shenzhen Symphony (China), The San Diego Symphony, The Czech National Symphony Orchestra (Prague), and The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. Maestro Groner’s concerts have been broadcasted via satellite by National Public Radio in over 50 major cities across the United States. He has also conducted the world premiers of over twenty substantial new American compositions.

EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks
Violin

Providence, RI

Armed with a performance degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a doctorate from SUNY Stony Brook, EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks serves on the faculty at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and as principal second violinist with the New Bedford Symphony. This is Holmes-Hicks 17th year on the Birch Creek faculty.

Katherine Kohler
Clarinet

Nashville, TN

Katherine Kohler joined the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in the fall of 2018 as Assistant Principal and E-flat Clarinet. From 2016-2018 Katherine was the second clarinetist of the Phoenix Symphony, and previous to that she spent three years with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. She has also performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Florida Orchestra, and since 2011, the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra.

During the summer of 2015, Katherine participated in the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, performing under Alan Gilbert as a clarinetist on Mozart’s Gran Partita and E-flat clarinetist on Messiaen’s Des Canyons Aux Étoiles, the latter of which was released in 2016 on the Koch Label. As a chamber musician, Katherine has also performed with the Gateway Chamber Orchestra, Downtown Chamber Series, Chamber Music Milwaukee, and with the Roma Trio.

She started her orchestral training in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Encore Chamber Orchestra. At the age of seven, Katherine began her clarinet studies with David Boyd, followed by studies with Todd Levy from 2005-13. She graduated from the Peck School of the Arts, University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. Katherine is a Selmer Artist, performing on Selmer Signature Clarinets.

Matthew Lee
Trumpet

Elmhurst, IL

Matt Lee performs with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Chicago Brass Quintet. Lee also performs with the Millar Brass Ensemble, Tower Brass, and substitutes with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicago. This is his 27th year at Birch Creek.

Betty Lewis
Violin

Wilmette, IL

Betty Lewis received her B.M. from Chicago Musical College at Roosevelt University as a student of Elaine Skorodin. She is an active violinist and violist in the Chicago area performing with groups as diverse as Broadway in Chicago and as an extra with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Lewis teaches violin, viola and piano and conducts the high school orchestra at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago. She is also the violin teacher at the Chicago School of Violin Making. In the summer, Lewis is a member of the Peninsula Music Festival, also in Door County, Wisconsin. 2021 is Lewis’ 27th year at Birch Creek.

Marcia Henry Liebenow
Concertmaster

Peoria, IL

Marcia Henry Liebenow is Concertmaster of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and teaches violin, viola and chamber music at Bradley University. She leads a multi-faceted career as a teacher, recitalist, chamber musician, and soloist across the U.S. and abroad. She is a member of the Concordia String Trio and Peoria Lunaire, a new music ensemble. In the summer, in addition to Birch Creek, Marcia is a faculty artist at the Red Lodge Music Festival in Montana, and has performed and taught at festivals in Italy, Alaska, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Vermont. She has three CDs on the Centaur label – the Grieg Violin Sonatas with internationally acclaimed pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi, and two Concordia String Trio CDs — American Vistas and Viennese String Trios. Her work has been recognized with the Outstanding Studio Teacher Award from Illinois ASTA, and she was named a Distinguished Alumni of Ohio University School of Music. Marcia earned degrees in Violin Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music and Ohio University. 2021 marks her 23rd year at Birch Creek.

Website: www.marciahenry.com

Emily Mantell
Cello

Orland Park, IL

Emily Lewis Mantell is a busy freelance cellist in and around Chicago. She is a member of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Sinfonietta. She teaches adjunctly at local colleges and from her home studio in Orland Park, IL. Mantell has been a Birch Creek faculty member for 26 years, and she is delighted that her daughter Sonia, a Birch Creek alumna and now a cellist in the Minnesota Orchestra, will be soloing at Birch Creek this summer.

Dan O'Connell
French Horn

Chicago, IL

Dan O’Connell is the horn instructor at North Central College and maintains a private studio. As a performer, he has played with most of the Chicago area’s great orchestras and ensembles. O’Connell received a BM from The New England Conservatory and an MM from DePaul University. 2021 is Dan’s seventh year on the Birch Creek Symphony faculty.

Charles Schuchat
Tuba

Chicago, IL

Charles Schuchat is a performer with the Elgin Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, Tower Brass and Joffrey Ballet. He is  a tuba instructor and head of the brass department at the Chicago College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University. This will be Schuchat’s ninth year on the faculty at Birch Creek.

Tom Stark
Trombone, Low Brass

Schaumburg, IL

Tom Stark performs with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and Northwest Indiana Symphony. Stark is also trombone instructor at Concordia University, Elmhurst University and Harper College. This is his 17th year at Birch Creek.

Alan Steiner
String Bass

Buffalo Grove, IL

Alan Steiner is a former member of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, L’Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec and the Canadian Opera Company. He was a soloist in the world premiere of Likht un Shotn with the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra. He maintains a private studio. Steiner has been with Birch Creek for 20 years.

Elizabeth York
Violin

Saint Paul, MN

Violinist Elizabeth York is Associate Concertmaster and Personnel Manager of South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, and performs on baroque violin with Lyra Baroque Orchestra. She teaches at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University and St. Cloud State University. York holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in violin and viola performance from Stony Brook University in New York. 2021 is her eighth year at Birch Creek.

Taka Matsunaga
Symphony Guest Conductor
Ricardo Castañeda
Symphony Program Director | Oboe & Chamber Music Retreat Program Director
Jodie DeSalvo
Piano
Robert Everson
Percussion
Shannon Finney
Flute/Piccolo
John Gaudette
Bassoon
Amanda Grimm
Viola
Brian Groner
Symphony Conductor
EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks
Violin
Katherine Kohler
Clarinet
Matthew Lee
Trumpet
Betty Lewis
Violin
Marcia Henry Liebenow
Concertmaster
Emily Mantell
Cello
Dan O'Connell
French Horn
Charles Schuchat
Tuba
Tom Stark
Trombone, Low Brass
Alan Steiner
String Bass
Elizabeth York
Violin

VIEW ALL SUMMER MUSIC ACADEMY FACULTY BIOS

Symphony Concert Repertoire

Beethoven, “Symphony No. 6 in F Major ‘Pastoral'” Mozart, “Symphony No. 35 in D major, ‘Haffner'” Bach/Stokowski, “Passacaglia in C minor” Stravinsky, “Pulcinella Suite” Rossini, “LaGazza Ladra Overture” Copland, Variations on a Shaker Theme Dvorák, “Czech Suite”