Birch Creek Symphony

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. This website will provide current updates so please check back for the latest news.

Registration begins January 4, 2021.

Symphony Academy Session

June 27-July 10, 2021 | Tuition: $2,100

Need-based and merit scholarships are available.

Apply online beginning on January 4, 2021.

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

Ricardo Castañeda
Symphony Program Director | Oboe

Oak Park, IL

2020 marks Ricardo Castañeda’s 23rd year at Birch Creek. Ricardo Castañeda received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music performance from Northwestern University, where he was a student of Ray Still, former Principal Oboist of The Chicago Symphony. He is a winner of the Northwestern University Concerto Competition and a recipient of the Wade Fetzer award for excellence in performance. Having made his solo debut with the National Symphony of El Salvador at age fifteen, he has since appeared as a soloist in Latin America, Europe, the United States and more recently Japan. Castañeda is currently Principal Oboist with the Lake Forest Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Sinfonietta, and solo English Horn with The Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also a member of the Chicago Ensemble and Barossa Woodwind Quintet. Previous positions include Principal Oboist with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra, Elgin Symphony Orchestra and solo English Horn with the Mexico City Philharmonic. 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 Adjunct Professor of Oboe at University of Illinois at Chicago and at Northeastern Illinois University. As we engage our students and faculty for Birch Creek Online, 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. 2020 will mark her 24th 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 Lake Forest Symphony, the Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra. He earned his Bachelor and Master degrees in Percussion Performance from DePaul University, and is the percussion instructor at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois.

Website: www.cuchicago.edu/faculty/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 16 years.

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

Benjamin Firer
Symphony Guest Conductor

Franklin, WI

Benjamin Firer is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Northern Illinois University where he directs the Philharmonic Orchestra, Opera Theatre, and teaches courses in orchestral literature and music theory. Along with his duties at NIU, Firer actively serves as a conductor throughout the Midwest, including the Dubuque Symphony Youth Orchestra in Iowa, and Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, Illinois.

Firer is passionate about inspiring the next generation of musicians. He previously held teaching posts at Yale University, Pennsylvania State University, Merit School of Music, Juniata College, Performing Arts School of Central Pennsylvania, and Northwestern University.

Firer was selected as an Emerging Conductor with the Peninsula Music Festival and as the Conducting Fellow for the Atlantic Music Festival.  He has garnered awards including The American Prize in Conducting, The Woolsey Concerto Competition, Yale Chamber Music Competition, Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship, and the Long Island University Conductors Award.  Recognized for his musical entrepreneurship, he was awarded the SUNY Thayer Fellowship in the Arts and the Emma Peters Hooper Endowed Award.

As a guest conductor, Firer has made appearances with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra, Dubuque Symphony, Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra, DuPage Symphony, Miami Symphony Orchestra, Fargo-Morehead Symphony, Orchestra de la Francophonie, Northwestern University Opera Theatre, Alice Millar Brass Ensemble, and New Music New Haven.  In demand as a clinician for school and youth orchestras, he collaborates regularly with the Midwest Young Artists, The People’s Music School, McHenry County Youth Orchestras and CPS All-City Orchestras.

Benjamin holds a Doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from Northwestern University and a Master’s Degree from Yale University.

Renée-Paule Gauthier
Violin

Chicago, IL

Dr. Renée-Paule Gauthier is a passionate performer, teacher, and high-performance coach whose career has taken her across the United States and Canada as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, orchestral leader, and clinician. She  is passionate about helping musicians unleash their performance potential. In addition to offering performance coaching, she blogs about creating meaningful practice, and she hosts the popular Mind Over Finger Podcast. The podcast offers discussions on mindful music-making, efficient practice, and building a purposeful career with the performers, pedagogues, and innovators who are shaping the classical music world today.

Dr. Gauthier also leads a busy performance career. She joined the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons, and she performs with some of Chicago’s finest ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Joffrey Ballet, Elgin Symphony, and Chicago Philharmonic. She is the String Area Coordinator, Co-director of the Chamber Music Program, and Violin Instructor at North Park University. Dr. Gauthier presents masterclasses and clinics on the topics of mindful practice, audition preparation, and anxiety management to audiences across the world.

Website: www.mindoverfinger.com/

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.

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

2019 marks Brian Groner’s 26th season as conductor of the Birch Creek Symphony Orchestra. This past season marked the end of his successful 23-year tenure with the Fox Valley Symphony in Appleton, WI. He is the Music Director of the Fox Valley Orchestra in Illinois and is 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.. Website: http://www.briangroner.com/live/

Piero Guimaraes
Percussion

Associate Faculty, Providence, RI

Piero Guimaraes stands at the forefront of a new generation of international performers specializing in orchestral and contemporary music. A native of Brazil, Guimaraes presented the Brazilian premiere of several pivotal works by influential composers including Iannis Xenakis, Steve Reich and Peter Eotvos. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Stony Brook University in New York. Guimaraes is on faculty at the Rhode Island Philharmonic School of Music and is a member of Iktus Percussion.

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. She co-directs Rhode Island’s Newport String Project, an innovative program that combines chamber music performance with music education for underserved children.

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. He teaches at DePaul University and Elmhurst College. Lee also performs with the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra and substitutes with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This is his 26th year at Birch Creek.

Website: music.depaul.edu/FacultyAndStaff/L/mlee.asp

Betty Lewis
Violin

Wilmette, IL

Betty Lewis is a violinist and violist in the Chicago area, performing with groups ranging from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to Broadway shows. Lewis is also a member of the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra in Door County and teaches violin and viola at the Francis Parker School in Chicago. This is Lewis’ 26th year at Birch Creek.

Marcia Henry Liebenow
Concertmaster

Peoria, IL

Marcia Henry Liebenow is Concertmaster of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and Professor of Violin, Viola and Chamber Music at Bradley University. She leads a multi-faceted career as a recitalist, chamber musician, and soloist in Europe and the US. In addition to Birch Creek, she is a faculty artist at the Red Lodge Music Festival in Montana, and has performed and taught at festivals in Italy, Alaska, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Nebraska. Henry Liebenow is a founding member of the Concordia String Trio and Peoria Lunaire new music ensemble, and has released several CDs on the Centaur label. 2020 marks her 22nd 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. Now in her 25th year at Birch Creek, she is delighted to have her daughter Sonia, a Birch Creek alumnus and now a cellist in the Lyric Opera of Chicago orchestra, as her Teaching Assistant this summer.

Dan O'Connell
French Horn

Naperville, IL

Dan O’Connell is the horn instructor at North Central College, The Merit School of Music, 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.

David Scholl
String Bass

Madison, WI

David Scholl currently serves as Principal Bass for the Madison, Quad City, and Dubuque Symphonies. Scholl is the instructor of double bass at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Having earned his BM and MM from Indiana University, he continued studies as principal bass of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and at the Aspen Music Festival.

 

 

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 year will be Schuchat’s eighth year on the faculty at Birch Creek.

Faye Seeman
Harp

Palatine, IL

Faye Seeman, principal harpist of the Chicago Sinfonietta and Joffrey Ballet orchestras, is adjunct professor of harp studies at Wheaton College, Northern Illinois University, College of DuPage and Northeastern Illinois University. 2020 marks Seeman’s 30th year as a Birch Creek faculty member.

Website: www.fayeseeman.com/about.html

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 College and Wheaton 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 and teaches at A.E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Steiner has been with Birch Creek for 20 seasons.

Jim Westhoff
Bassoon

Associate Faculty, Ann Arbor, MI

Mr. Westhoff holds degrees in music performance and theory/composition from the Peabody Conservatory and Wichita State University. He has held positions with the Annapolis, Wichita, and Kenosha Symphonies, as well as the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Westhoff currently plays with the Jackson and Adrian Symphonies. As an educator, he teaches bassoon at Concordia University and the Plymouth-Canton, Saline, Chelsea, and Tecumseh school districts in southeast Michigan.

Website: www.jimwesthoff.com

Ricardo Castañeda
Symphony Program Director | Oboe
Jodie DeSalvo
Piano
Robert Everson
Percussion
Shannon Finney
Flute/Piccolo
Benjamin Firer
Symphony Guest Conductor
Renée-Paule Gauthier
Violin
John Gaudette
Bassoon
Amanda Grimm
Viola
Brian Groner
Symphony Conductor
Piero Guimaraes
Percussion
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
David Scholl
String Bass
Charles Schuchat
Tuba
Faye Seeman
Harp
Tom Stark
Trombone, Low Brass
Alan Steiner
String Bass
Jim Westhoff
Bassoon

VIEW ALL SUMMER MUSIC ACADEMY FACULTY BIOS

Symphony Concert Repertoire