Meet the Studio
Ava Conway, Los Angeles native, is a freshman horn performance major at the Eastman School of Music. She began her horn studies in middle school with Amy Sanchez, Professor of Horn at the University of California Los Angeles. In high school she joined the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts, where she took private lessons with Dr. Annie Bosler. Ava was principal horn of the Colburn Wind Ensemble and participated regularly in California All-State ensembles. In 2015, she was chosen to play with the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall. Ava was a member of the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, which went on a China tour in the summer of 2016. She has performed with the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and has played side-by-side Pacific Symphony. She has attended the Idyllwild Chamber Festival, Brevard Music Festival, Colburn Horn Camp, and 2015 International Horn Symposium. Ava studied piano with Dr. Janet Favreau, and is a two-time winner of the Southern California Junior Bach Festival. In addition to her studies with W. Peter Kurau, she has worked with artists such as Andrew Bain, William VerMeulen, Hazel Dean Davis, Wolfgang Wipfler, and Kristy Morrell.
Megan Heller is a freshman horn performance major hailing from Rhinebeck, NY. While in Rhinebeck, Megan studied with Szilard Molnar and Barbara Hill. She was a member of the Bard College Conservatory Preparatory Division. Starting at age 15, Megan was the Principal Horn of the Bard College Orchestra, which she continued performing with until graduation from high school. Over the past two summers, she attended the New York Summer Music Festival, where she was a scholarship winner and this past year performed in the top woodwind quintet. Megan is a dual degree student also pursuing a BS in Mechanical Engineering.
In her free time, Megan enjoys playing sports, especially soccer and tennis. In high school she also enjoyed playing doubles in the school steel drum band.
Leah Jorgensen is currently a Sophomore Horn Performance and Music Education major at the Eastman School of Music. She is from Jacobus,PA. In high school Leah played in the Allegretto Youth Chamber Orchestra, York Youth Symphony, Franklin and Marshall College Orchestra, and many PMEA festivals including All State Orchestra, and NAfME’s All National Orchestra. Leah was the winner of her school’s concerto competition and the John Phillip Sousa band award. Over the summer Leah has been able to attend Lutheran Summer Music Camp, Tanglewood Music Camp, and Interlochen Arts Camp. In high school, Leah studied French horn with Dr. Brian Norcross. Leah also enjoyed being able to teach French horn lessons. Also, Leah enjoyed being active in her church including teaching Sunday School, going on hikes, being a LINK crew(for high school freshman orientation)leader, volunteering, participating a in Big buddy program and spending time with her family and friends. Leah is excited for all Eastman has in store for her, and where music will lead her in life.
Shimon Ohi, a horn performance major at the Eastman School of Music, is from Greer, South Carolina. He began his musical studies in middle school and began playing horn in high school and studied with Paula Riddle and Anneka Zuehlke. Starting his junior year of high school, he attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, and was principal horn in Greenville County Youth Orchestra’s Young Artist Orchestra and Carolina Youth Symphony. He has attended the Interlochen Summer Arts Horn Institute and Brevard Music Festival where he studied and attended masterclasses with Peter Kurau, William VerMeulen, Gustavo Camacho, Richard Deane, Hazel Davis, and Bob Rydel. Shimon enjoys being Japanese and doing kendo, a type of Japanese fencing.
Kara Miller, a Texas native, began learning horn at age 11. Studying most recently with James Wilson, principal horn of the Houston Ballet, she is now pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in horn performance at the Eastman School of Music under the teachings of W. Peter Kurau. In addition, she also plans to seek a minor in business at the University of Rochester. While in high school, Kara advanced to the Texas State Solo and Ensemble Contest four consecutive years for both a solo and a brass quintet; her senior year, she received the recognition of Outstanding Soloist of the day. She also achieved the title of Texas All-Stater three times and performed in ensembles under the direction of Frank Ticheli, Mallory Thompson, and Kevin Sedatole. Furthermore, in her senior year Kara won second prize in the Houston Civic Symphony Concerto Competition and was also given the opportunity to perform the first movement of Gliere’s horn concerto with her school’s full orchestra. Over the past few summers, Kara attended Interlochen Center for the Arts twice with full scholarships and also the Boston University Tanglewood Institute where she had the privilege of working with such people as Brad Gemeinhardt, Bruce Henniss, Frøydis Ree Wekre, W. Peter Kurau, and Kevin Owens. In her free time, Kara enjoys running half marathons, playing with her dogs, and being an active member of her church.
Ethan Mattingly is a sophomore at Eastman School of music studying under Professor W. Peter Kurau. In the past he has studied with Professor Leslie Norton from Vanderbilt University and Erin Horner. He has received numerous scholarships such as a full scholarship for one week at Kendall Betts Horn Camp, The Mira Jackson Pre-College Scholarship, a full-paying scholarship for the pre-college program at the Blair School of Music in Vanderbilt, and more. In his free time, he composes, learns East Asian musical instruments, and is intrigued by foreign language. He is currently taking his fourth year of French classes, and he is also teaching himself Japanese.
Jessica Elder is a horn performance major from Mobile, Alabama where she studied with Susan Unger and Rob Seebacher. Jessica was the principal horn and president of the Mobile Symphony Youth Orchestra, and she was a finalist in the MSYO concerto competition. Additionally, Jessica performed with the Alabama All State Band and Orchestra and was awarded second place in the All State Solo Festival. In her summers, Jessica attended the Interlochen Horn Institute, the Brevard Music Center, and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute where she studied with such artists as Jeff Nelsen, Hazel Dean Davis, and Zachary Smith. Jessica is thrilled to be currently studying with W. Peter Kurau at the Eastman School of Music!
Kyle Schober is a performance major from Greer, South Carolina. He began playing at the age of 11 and studied with Paula Riddle. In his sophomore year of high school, Kyle was selected to attend the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities as an early admissions student. Kyle joined the Carolina Youth Symphony at age 13 and held the principal position in the top orchestra from age 15 until his graduation. In his senior year, Kyle was named most outstanding senior musician in the Carolina Youth Symphony and was also selected to perform Richard Strauss’ 1st Horn Concerto with the orchestra. Kyle has also competed in the MTNA Senior Brass competition twice, most recently taking second place at the national level. He has attended summer institutes such as the Interlochen Horn Institute and the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Horn Workshop where he studied with Eric Ruske, Eli Epstein, Rose French and Gustavo Camacho.
Nikolette LaBonte, a native of South Florida, has quickly emerged as a distinguished performer in the field of orchestral horn playing. Nikolette currently serves as the Associate/Assistant/Utility Horn of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. She joined the RPO in 2016 but prior to that, LaBonte was appointed acting assistant principal horn of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra in 2015. While living and working with the orchestra in Honolulu, she also served as the associate principal horn of the Hawaii Opera Theater and Oahu Choral Society. In addition to the RPO and HSO, she has had the opportunity to perform with orchestras across the country including the New York Philharmonic, Buffalo Philharmonic, New World Symphony, and Syracuse-based Symphoria.
LaBonte will be returning to Rochester not only as a performer, but also to complete her undergraduate degree coursework at the Eastman School of Music, under the direction of RPO Principal Horn W. Peter Kurau. Outside of the concert hall, LaBonte is active in promoting classical music throughout the community. She currently maintains a private studio, is a guest clinician with the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and previously worked as the education coordinator of the Hawaii Symphony and as an instructor with “Kalikolehua,” an El Sistema program. She has served as a member of a variety of chamber ensembles including the Spring Winds and Upstate Brass Band and is the co-creator and coordinator of “Olympic Overtures”, a multimedia project designed to spread awareness of classical music through collaboration with Olympic athletes. Away from the horn, she enjoys hiking and scuba diving, although she’ll likely have to reserve the latter for her visits to more tropical climates.
Valerie Ankeney hails from Dayton, Ohio and is currently a junior horn performance major at the Eastman School of Music. Most recently, she won the Frizelle Orchestral High Horn Audition at the International Horn Society’s 2015 Symposium in Los Angeles, California. She was the IHS Paul Mansur Award winner and was a winner of the Masterclass Participation Competition and performed in David Krehbiel’s masterclass at the IHS 2015 Symposium.
She made her solo debut with her horn quartet when they won the concerto competition performing In the Mind’s Eye by James Beckel with the Eastman Wind Ensemble. Valerie has attended the Texas Music Festival and Brevard Music Festival and was a finalist in the Jan and Beattie Wood Concerto Competition during the 2015 Brevard Music Center season. She was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2014 Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition.
Prior to her matriculation at Eastman, Valerie was a winner of the WDPR 88.1 Young Talent Search. In addition, she earned appointments as principal horn in Ohio All-State ensembles, the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and Cincinnati Conservatory Brass Choir (Preparatory Department). Valerie was a finalist in the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Young Musicians’ Concerto Competition for two years, a finalist in the U.S. Air Force Band “Young Artists Competition,” and Friends of the Lima Symphony Concerto Competition. She attended the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and participated in the Young Artists Orchestra, Young Artists Wind Ensemble and the Horn Workshop. Valerie studied with Robert Johnson, Elizabeth Freimuth and is currently under the tutelage of W. Peter Kurau at the Eastman School of Music. In her free time, she enjoys exploring outdoors with her family, friends and her dog Lucy.
Caroline Baker, a native of Colorado, is a Horn Performance major at the Eastman School of Music. Caroline made her soloist debut with the Denver Concert Band after being named the winner of their Young Artist Scholarship Concerto Competition. She also competed in the final round of the Arapahoe Philharmonic Collegiate Concerto open to Colorado and its seven surrounding states. Caroline has enjoyed playing Principal Horn in the Colorado All-State Orchestra and Band in 2012 and 2013 along with other various statewide honor ensembles. Throughout her high school career she relished in playing with the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra and Denver Young Artists Orchestra. In 2013 she was involved in a natural disaster awareness ensemble where she had the privilege to perform in Japan for victims of the earthquake and tsunami that struck in 2011. During the summer Caroline participates in the Rafael Mendez Brass Institute in Denver and Kendall Betts Horn Camp in Lyman, New Hampshire. Aside from playing the horn, Caroline enjoys riding horses, hiking, and spending time with her cat.
A native of Ann Arbor Michigan, hornist Rennie Cotner is currently a junior studying Horn performance with Professor W. Peter Kurau at the Eastman School of Music. In Ann Arbor, Rennie studied horn with Tammy Kosinski and performed in youth orchestras through the University of Michigan and the Detroit Symphony, and was a student in the Grammy Award-winning Pioneer High school music program. She attended New England Music Camp, and there studied with C. Scott Smith of Ohio University. She was a finalist in the concerto competitions at New England Music Camp and Pioneer High School in 2012, and was also nominated for the Michigan Youth Arts Festival Outstanding Soloist Competition. Now at Eastman, Rennie performs with the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra and the Eastman Wind Orchestra. Aside from large ensemble work, Rennie is also an avid chamber musician and has performed works with strings such as the Beethoven Septet and Brahms Horn Trio, and currently is a member of the Emerson Wind Quintet at Eastman. Rennie is also interested in early music and studies natural horn with Professor Derek Conrod. Outside of music, Rennie is pursuing a Minor in Religion at the University of Rochester, and is on the executive board for the Rochester Student Association for Interfaith Cooperation.
Katelyn Fridmann is a performance major from Buffalo, NY. She began playing horn at age eight, and at age nine started to compete in annual New York State (NYSSMA) and Erie County (ECMEA) music festivals. She attended Conference All-State in 2011, and performed in the Symphonic Band. Katelyn returned the next year to play principal horn of the Conference All-State Symphony Orchestra. In April, 2013 she traveled to Hartford, Connecticut and was the principal horn in the NAfME All-Eastern Symphony Orchestra. In her hometown, Kate was the principal horn of the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra for two years and played side-by-side with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in that position. Katelyn has attended the Fredonia Summer Music Festival in downstate NY, as well as the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in Lymon, New Hampshire. She was a winner of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame scholarship and was awarded the honor of playing onstage with the United States Navy Band at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. Once she has her degree, Katelyn plans to pursue a career in studio music, with a long term goal of being the horn player that plays the Universal theme song.
Sara Petokas is from rural Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. She began her horn studies at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania where she studied Music Education and Horn with Dr. Rebecca Dodson-Webster. Sara was principal horn with the Northern Tier Symphony Orchestra for 4 years. She was a substitute horn with the Williamsport Symphony and the Orchestra of the Southern Fingerlakes for 3 years. Sara had solo performances with the Northern Tier Symphony for which she played Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4. She was also a Concerto Competition Winner and performed with the Mansfield University Orchestra, on Camille Saint Saëns Morceau de Concert. Sara was an Intern with the Endless Mountains Music Festival for Summers 2013-2014. Sara has taken lessons with William Purvis, William Caballero, Randy Gardner, Joseph Rounds, and Anneka Zuehlke.
Currently, Sara is getting her MM in Horn Performance and Literature and studying with Professor Peter Kurau at the Eastman School of Music. Sara is TA for the Eastman Horn Studio. She is teaching horn lessons through the Eastman Community Music School for which she has her own studio. She teaches Secondary Horn lessons at the Eastman School of Music. Sara is also teaching Horn Methods for the Education Program at ESM. Sara is hoping to continue her studies and get her DMA to teach at the collegiate level.
Erin Futterer is in the final year of her doctoral studies at Eastman, where she has honed her skills as a communicator and artist on the horn under the careful tutelage of Peter Kurau. In addition to the great canon of classical repertoire, she has a passion for early music and jazz and enjoys exploring the more unusual facets of horn playing, such as the alphorn. She is a founding member of the Ensemble True Concord, an all-period classical group, and served as the natural horn assistant at Eastman for 5 years. She has appeared with a few local jazz ensembles and recently had the opportunity to perform with several great jazz musicians in the Palm Springs, CA area such as Bill Marx, Michael Healey, and the Shelley Yoelin Group.
Erin earned her BA from Northwestern University, where she studied with Gail Williams, and her master’s work in horn was completed at the Norges Musikgøgskole in Oslo, Norway with Frøydis Ree Wekre. As a Fulbright Fellowship recipient, she began work on Frøydis’s biography, a project (now nearing completion!) that led to the rescue and revitalization of several pieces for solo horn dedicated to Ree Wekre. Following her performance and presentation of these works at the International Horn Workshop in LA last year, Erin was asked to excerpt several passages of the existing biography for publication in the Horn Call. Inspired by all of her mentors, Erin is dedicated to the the promotion of new music and the expansion of horn repertoire, she has also undertaken two commissions, one for a small chamber ensemble, and the other a full scale concerto for Horn and Wind Ensemble, both scheduled to be complete within the upcoming year.
In Rochester, Erin works as a freelance horn player in the jazz, classical, and early music scenes, and has her own business as professional gardener and landscape designer.