Multi-instrumentalist and Cleveland native Nathan Balester has had an active performance career over the past decade throughout the Northeast and Midwest. His primary instruments are members of the clarinet family; however, he also performs professionally on both saxophone and flute. As an avid teacher, Nathan holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Ithaca College where he taught middle and high school students privately in addition to performing in numerous ensembles including the IC Klezmorim and a student-led clarinet quartet. In May of 2018, Nathan graduated with a master’s degree in clarinet performance from Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he taught courses in Music Theory and Aural Skills. Additionally, while at SIUC he participated in a variety of contemporary music ensembles and was among the winners of the university’s concerto competition performing Debussy’s Premiere rhapsodie. During the 2017-2018 academic year Nathan led the Southern Illinois Flute Choir and conducted the ensemble’s spring concert. Beginning in the Fall semester of 2019, Nathan will be enrolled in the Doctor of Musical Arts degree program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he will serve as the graduate clarinet teaching assistant. As a dynamic educator and performer, he feels equally at home in classical, contemporary, rock, and jazz settings. His primary teachers include Luiz Coelho, Ken LeeGrand, Dr. Richard Faria, Richard MacDowell, Dr. Eric Mandat,and most recently J. David Harris for clarinet, Ken LeeGrand for saxophone, and Dr. Douglas Worthen for flute.
Alyssa Tong and Terence Lo (from Elara Quartet)
Since its founding in 2017, Elara String Quartet has included supported composers in Illinois as part of their musical vision. Through the All Score Illinois program and its calls for works, it has premiered pieces by UIUC undergraduate Jeffrey Elem and University of Cincinnati’s Dr. Ellen Ruth Harrison (UIUC alumna) at local events, and has recently selected Anthony Fua’s “A Shadow” from a statewide call for emerging composers that they will premiere in October 2018. They were selected to perform Ralph Lewis’s “Losing Constellations” at College Music Society 2018, and were selected for the String Revolution program at Banff Centre of Arts with JACK Quartet. As students of Jupiter Quartet, they are excited to learn more about contemporary music as they continue to develop as an ensemble.
Michael N. McAndrew maintains an active schedule as a collaborative pianist and vocal coach, currently as music staff with Lyric Theatre at Illinois, coaching staff for Songe d’été en musique in Quebec, Canada, and DuoMotive with flutist, Michelle Li. He has also played with the Summer Harmony Men’s Chorus, Tri-Cities Opera, Binghamton Community Orchestra, Penn State Scranton Chorale, the Foothills Opera Experience, and has premiered several new works by student composers. He has worked with artists such as Phil Woods, Randy Brecker, Bob Dorough, the Momenta Quartet, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, Jeffrey Wahl, Julie and Nathan Gunn, Ricardo Herrera, Audrey Vallance, Marc Webster, and Maryte Bizinkauskas. Michael was also founder and director/pianist of the Night of Stars concert series, which fundraised for several organizations in the Southern Tier area of New York.
As a composer, he has been hailed as “harmonically gorgeous”, with a desire “to hear more from him”. He has had pieces premiered by the DeMarina Trio, Plexus Collective, the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, the Bel Canto Children’s Chorus, and the Momenta Quartet in various venues such as the Crane School of Music, the Beleura House and Garden (Victoria, Australia), Zoellner Arts Center, ICA’s Clarinet Fest, and at the renowned Christmas Vespers at Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, PA. He was selected as the winner of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s 2nd Annual Young Composer Competition in 2012, and recently was finalist in the 2019 NATS Art Song Competition for his cycle of the element and in the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies Call for Scores for his orchestral work Sandcastles of Yesterday. He is currently at work on a new opera, [i am a city], based on a libretto by Bogdan Mynka.
Michael is currently a DMA candidate in Vocal Coaching and Accompanying at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he studies collaborative piano with Casey Robards and Michael Tilley, and composition with Carlos Carrillo. He was the 2019 recipient of the Nancy Kennedy Wustman Award in Vocal Accompanying. While at UIUC, Michael was assistant conductor for The Rape of Lucretia, and music directed Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World at the Allerton Barn, which saw a repeat performance in January of 2020 after much acclaim. As music staff, he has also taken part in productions of La Bohéme, Crazy for You, Cunning Little Vixen, Cabaret, and A Little Night Music. He was also Chorus Master for Sinfonia da Camera’s performance of H.M.S. Pinafore.
Michael holds additional degrees from Binghamton University (MM), where he studied composition with Daniel Thomas Davis and collaborative piano with Joel Harder, and Moravian College (BM), where studied composition with Larry Lipkis and Sean O’ Boyle, piano with Barbara Thompson, and collaborative piano with Graeme Burgan. He is also active as pianist/organist for Faith United Methodist Church in Champaign, Illinois. In May, Michael joins Opera Saratoga as one of the Young Artists for their Summer 2020 season.
Composer and hornist Kayla McComb is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Musical Arts in Composition-Theory. While at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kayla studies primarily with Dr. Reynold Tharp (composition) and Bernhard Scully (horn). Kayla’s writing focuses primarily on the communicative properties of music, with an artistic intent to correlate transitory properties of sound and transitory qualities of the human experience. Kayla has had several works premiered throughout her undergraduate degree, ranging from solo works to — most recently — a sextet piece. She has appeared as a guest speaker at an Illinois Summer Youth Music 2019 composition elective course. Kayla was recently selected to participate in a master class with composer John Mackey. Kayla currently serves as the vice president for University of Illinois’s Group for New Music, an organization focused on composing and performing new student works. Along with composing, Kayla is also an accomplished hornist and, as a School of Music Merit-Based Scholarship Recipient, has performed with both the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra and Wind Symphony. In addition to composing, playing horn, and maintaining consistent Dean’s List level academics, Kayla manages three jobs and is employed at the Harding Band Building office, the Music Building, and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Geoffrey Schmelzer, baritone, is pursuing a B.M. in Voice Performance at the University of Illinois, where he studies with Professor Jerold Siena. Geoffrey’s upcoming roles include Carl-Magnus in Lyric Theatre at Illinois’ A Little Night Music this spring, and Pa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath with Aspen Opera Theater this summer. LTI highlights include the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance with Sinfonia da Camera, Parson in The Adventures of Little Sharp-Ears, and Sam/Pete in Crazy for You. Other roles include Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro (both with Manhattan Opera Studio), and Schaunard in La Bohème (Midwest Institute of Opera). Geoffrey has performed as a bass soloist in Messiah at First United Methodist Church, Urbana, and M. Haydn’s Missa Sancti Hieronymi with the UI Oratorio Society. Geoffrey is a member of the UI Chamber Singers and section seader at UniPlace Church.