Mission: To seek and share inspiration

Meet the Fellows


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Camellia Aftahi, Master of Music (MM) student, Double Bass


Class of 2018-2020 fellows

For incoming San Diego participant, Camellia Aftahi, it was the Diversity Fellowship’s aspiration that was part of the appeal. “What drove me to apply for the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship was not only my desire to perform with and learn from a group of high caliber musicians but also to have an opportunity to bring representation to minority groups on stage,” said Aftahi.

Aftahi began playing double bass at the age of 12. She earned her Bachelor of Music in Double Bass Performance at San Diego State University where she studied with Jeremy Kurtz-Harris and Jory Herman.

An avid freelancer, Aftahi has performed with many groups in Southern California, including the San Diego City Ballet, the Opera NEO workshop, the BRAVO Festival and the La Jolla Symphony under the direction of Steve Schick. Aftahi also takes enjoyment in teaching and maintains an active private studio in addition to coaching at local public schools.

Aftahi will begin her master’s degree at CCM in the Fall of 2018 where she will study with CSO Principal Bass and CCM Adjunct Assistant Professor Owen Lee. She hopes that her studies at CCM will allow her to fuse her love for performance and scholarship with her commitment to civic and educational outreach.

Outside of performing music, Aftahi’s interests include reading 20th-century fiction and poetry, going to museums, eating vegetarian food, studying music and its various intersections with social issues, and playing board games.

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Yan Izquierdo, Master of Music (MM) student, Violin


Born in Havana, Cuba, violinist Yan Izquierdo enjoys an interdisciplinary, cross-genre music career. He has extensive performance experience throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Spain. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the College of Charleston Orchestra. In 2010, he played the national anthem for the NCAA NIT College Basketball Finals game at Madison Square Garden. He has attended the Aspen Music Festival and performed at Spoleto USA with members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. He was the winner of the 2004 South Carolina MTNA Young Artist Performance Competition in the strings category.

As an orchestral musician, he has performed with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of New York, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas and Symphony in C, with notable appearances at Carnegie Hall, David Geffen Hall, Kimmel Center, Kennedy Center and Meyerson Symphony Center. He participated in the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas’ “Music Without Borders” North American concert tour, which included educational outreach programs with youth symphonies in Mexico City, culminating in a joint concert televised by the Televisa network. Equally, at home in non-classical genres, Izquierdo has appeared with Grammy Award-winning Bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs, as well as Clay Aiken and Anne Murray. He was a founding member of Shayna and the Catch, acting as a songwriter, violinist, mandolinist and backing vocalist. The band toured extensively throughout the United States and Canada, including appearances at SXSW, CMJ Music Marathon, Summerfest and Times Square New Year’s Eve Celebration. His songs have been featured in TV and film, including an international Ford Edge commercial campaign.

Izquierdo began violin studies at the age of seven in Madrid, Spain. At the age of 14, he received a full scholarship to attend the Idyllwild Arts Academy, where he studied with Todor Pelev. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Charleston, studying with Lee-Chin Siow. Additional mentors include Almita Vamos, Herbert Greenberg, and Garrett Fischbach. He currently resides in New York City.

Izquierdo will begin his master’s degree at CCM in the Fall of 2018 where he will study with Professor Kurt Sassmannshaus, the Dorothy Richard Starling Chair in Classical Violin.

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Arman Nasrinpay, Master of Music (MM) student, Violin


Arman Nasrinpay began playing the violin at the age of 10 through the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra Program. He has since performed at venues such as the Kennedy Center Hall and Millennium Stage, Strathmore Music Center, the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the Shakespeare Theatre for Performing Arts.

He has held many prestigious positions in orchestras, including assistant concertmaster of the McLean Youth Orchestra, assistant principal second violinist of the American Youth Philharmonic, Principal Second of the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra, Assistant Principal Second of the Aspen Philharmonic and Assistant Concertmaster of Indiana University’s Concert Orchestra, among others.

“Since I was a kid, I have always dreamed of playing violin in a professional orchestra, and I couldn’t think of a better way to pursue this than the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program,” said Nasrinpay.

Nasrinpay has frequently performed — and to great acclaim — in the greater Washington, DC area, and gained recognition by winning top prizes and honors in numerous competitions. Among these are such prestigious contests as the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Feder Competition, the United States Army Young Artists Competition, the Lions of VA Bland Music Competition, the Asian American International Competition and the Gretchen Hood String Competition, among others.

Along with competitions, Nasrinpay has performed in master classes given by Aaron Rosand, Zino Bogachek, Karina Canellakis, Dmitri Berlinsky, Victor Danchenko, Itzhak Rashkovsky and Ani Schnarch.

“In my first year, I hope to continue to improve my craft and successfully compete in several auditions and competitions. I will strive to learn as much as possible and represent the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship honorably every day. I am also hoping to meet many new people, musicians and otherwise, and engage with them and the community as much as possible.”

During the summer, Nasrinpay has participated in various music programs. These have included the Indiana University Summer String Academy, the Summit Music Festival, Kent Blossom Music Festival, Chautauqua Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival and School, as well as the Bowdoin International Music Festival where he received instruction from Almita and Roland Vamos, Victor Danchenko, Itzhak Rashkovsky, David Halen and Cyrus Forough. Most recently, he studied at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music as a Premiere Young Artist under pedagogue Simin Ganatra of the Pacifica Quartet.

Nasrinpay will begin his master’s degree at CCM in the Fall of 2018 where he will study with CSO Concertmaster and CCM Adjunct Professor of Violin Timothy Lees.

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Alexis Shambley, Master of Music (MM) student, Violin


A native of Dallas, Texas, Alexis Shambley recently received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from CCM under the tutelage of String Department Chair Won-Bin Yim. Shambley started violin at age four and studied primarily with her mother, Xiao-mei Pelletier of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

She has previously attended the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival and The National Orchestral Institute and Festival as well as performed with local orchestras including Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Orchestra. An avid chamber musician, she enjoys doing outreach performances and participating in chamber music competitions, most recently placing second in CCM’s Annual Chamber Music Competition with her then sextet in 2016.

Shambley will begin her master’s degree at CCM in the Fall of 2018 where she will study with String Department Chair Won-Bin Yim.

“I am so honored to be a CCM/CSO Diversity Fellow and believe the program will help me achieve my goal of winning orchestral auditions,” Shambley said. “This opportunity is also particularly important to me because I aspire to one day create a studio aimed at providing music education to underrepresented youth.”

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Anita Graef, Master of Music (MM) student, Cello


Class 2017-19 Fellows

A native of Chicago, Anita Graef began her cello studies at age four and made her concerto debut at age 12. She went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance, where she studied with Professor Anthony Elliott. This fall, she will begin pursuing a master’s degree at CCM, under the tutelage of CSO principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn. She is thrilled to appear with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as part of the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship.

Previously, she has had the opportunity to work with cellists such as Stephen Geber, Johannes Moser and Felix Wang. Graef has studied with several members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, including Jonathan Pegis, Richard Hirschl and Brant Taylor. She has performed in several orchestras under the baton of maestros such as Leonard Slatkin, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, JoAnn Falletta and Keith Lockhart.

She recently participated in the 79th season of the Brevard Music Festival as principal cellist, as well as Credo Chamber Music Festival at Oberlin Conservatory. She is a proud member of the Juliani Ensemble, where she has collaborated with members of both the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera Orchestra, among others. She was recently awarded the Silver Prize with Distinction at the Young Classical Virtuosos of Tomorrow international competition.

Outside of music, she is an avid reader, equestrian and lover of all things fashion. She also enjoys traveling, weight lifting, hiking and quality time with friends and family.

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Ian Saunders, Artist Diploma (AD) student, Double Bass


A multi-faceted musician, Ian Saunders enjoys an exciting career as a sought-after bassist and educator. The Virginia native began his studies with Christopher White, principal bassist of the Virginia Symphony, in his hometown of Norfolk. Within a year he received his first major scholarship from R&B legend Ben E. King. Saunders completed his bachelor’s degree under the tutelage of renowned bassist Robert Nairn at the Pennsylvania State University. As an undergraduate, he took part in several world premieres by the prolific Finnish composer Teppo Hauto-Aho.

Saunders continued his graduate studies under Nairn while fulfilling numerous professional engagements with the Williamsport Symphony, Penn’s Woods Festival Orchestra, Ballet Theatre of Central Pa and Manassas Ballet Theatre bass sections. In addition, he served as principal bassist of the Penn Centre Orchestra, Nittany Valley Symphony and Altoona Symphony.

In 2016, he received his doctorate from the University of Maryland while studying with Robert Oppelt, principal bassist of the National Symphony Orchestra. Saunders is currently in demand within the competitive Baltimore and DC freelance community, most notably as the bassist for the critically acclaimed Post-Classical Ensemble. In addition, he has also performed with the National Philharmonic and the Collaborative Artist of Baltimore. In March 2016, he was featured on WBJC 91.5 Baltimore performing Guillaume Connesson’s Sextuor. Furthermore, he has fulfilled engagements abroad in Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas as well as across America in renowned concert halls including the Kennedy Center, Heinz Hall and Carnegie Hall.

Outside of the classical world, Saunders has been invited to participate in orchestras backing Bootsy Collins, Kansas and hip-hop artist Thee Phantom. He can also be seen in the nationally televised special Cherish the Ladies: An Irish Homecoming, backing the Irish super group Cherish the Ladies. The program was nationally syndicated on PBS in 2013.

As an educator, Saunders recently served as the interim double bass professor at Penn State. In addition, he has taught classes at the University of Maryland, Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Saunders also spends his summers as the Associate Dean of Students at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC.

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Weiyi Shao, Master of Music (MM) student, Violin


Born in Daqing, China, Weiyi Shao began studying the violin at age five. She attended the Middle School of the Shenyang Conservatory of Music, where she was concertmaster of the school orchestra as a student of Professor Tong Mu. She came to the U.S. in 2011 with a full scholarship to the Texas Christian University (TCU), where she earned a bachelor of music degree in violin performance under the tutelage of Curt Thompson, Swang Lin and Michael Shih.

During her studies at TCU, Shao received numerous awards and prizes, including the Modena Rogers Clark Spitler Violin Scholarship in 2013 and the Faculty and Friends Chamber Music Society Award in 2014. In 2015, she was a Strings Department Winner of TCU’s annual Concerto Competition. She has also attended the Aspen Music Festival and School as a pupil of Naoko Tanaka, and performed in master classes given by Karen Gomyo, Augustin Hadelich, Gary Levinson and Midori.  Since 2013, she has been a member of the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra in Texas.

Currently, Weiyi is pursuing a Master of Music degree at CCM as a student of Professor Won-Bin Yim.

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Dan Wang, Artist Diploma (AD) student, Viola


Dan Wang is a first-year Artist Diploma student in viola performance at CCM. She is currently being mentored by CSO principal violist and CCM faculty member Christian Colberg and Jan Grüning, violist of CCM’s string quartet-in-residence, the Ariel Quartet. She came to the U.S. from Shenyang, China to study at CCM in 2009, graduating with a master’s degree in violin performance in 2012. She previously studied at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA). During her previous musical training, she had been mentored by CCM Professor Kurt Sassmannshaus, Professor Michael Ma and Professor Tong Mu.

Wang has also performed with the Shenyang Conservatory of Music Orchestra and HKAPA Symphony Orchestra as concertmaster, and with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta as section/substitute section violin. She has served as concertmaster of the CCM Philharmonia and CCM Concert Orchestra. In 2017, she won a permanent position in the viola section of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

Wang received a full scholarship from HKAPA and CCM. She has also won several music competitions, most notably fourth prize in the seventh China National Violin Competition.

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Emilio Carlo, Artist Diploma Viola


Class of 2016-18: Diversity Fellowship Alumni

Emilio Carlo is a native of the Bronx, New York, and currently resides in Washington D.C. He is a first-year Artist Diploma student at CCM and recently graduated from the conservatory with a Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance. He previously studied with Catharine Carroll-Lees and Masao Kawasaki and is currently under the tutelage of Jan Grüning of the Ariel Quartet.

In previous years, he has attended the Aspen Music Festival and Japan’s Pacific Music Festival. He was also appointed as Principal Viola for a concert tour under the direction of Maestro Yutaka Sado. Outside of music, his hobbies include attending jazz concerts, cooking and exercising.

Carlo is a 2012 recipient of the Brewster Award for young artists from the John. F Kennedy Center for the performing arts. He is honored to be a member of the inaugural class of the Diversity Fellowship, which he feels will prepare him to win a professional orchestra audition in the near future.

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Diana Flores, Artist Diploma Cello


Cellist Diana Flores has performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Brazil, China and her home country of Costa Rica. At age nine, she started playing cello at the Instituto Nacional de Musica in San José. Ten years later, Flores moved to Boston to complete her undergraduate studies at the Longy School of Music, where she studied under Mihail Jojatu.

During her years in Boston she performed with the Boston Pops and Boston Philharmonic Orchestras. She was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summers of 2012 and 2013 and is a former member of Youth Orchestra of the Americas. She also travelled to Japan to participate in the Pacific Music Festival.

After moving to Chicago in 2013, she became a member of the Civic Orchestra, a two-year training program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. While there, she joined the MusiCorps String Quartet, a music education and advocacy program in which she performed in many Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Park Districts. Flores is finishing her Masters Degree at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, studying under Richard Hirschl.

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Vijeta Sathyaraj, Artist Diploma Violin


Born in Macau, China, Vijeta Sathyaraj began violin studies in the Philippines at the age of 3. By age 6, she was featured on the Philippine National Broadcast and was studying with Basilio Manalo. She went on to study with Fan Ting at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, and later took lessons from Dennis Kim. Sathyaraj graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy, where she studied with Vesna Gruppman. She later earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin Conservatory and her Master of Music degree from Lynn Conservatory.

Sathyaraj has performed solo recitals in Denmark, India, Hong Kong and the United States. In 2001, she was featured in a CNN broadcast, and in 2004, she organized and performed in a piano trio to raise $3,000 for development work in Hanoi, Vietnam. She has performed in the Idyllwild Arts Festival Orchestra and she joined the Oberlin Symphony for a performance in Carnegie Hall under Robert Spano in 2007. She has attended the Meadowmount School of Music, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival.

Sathyaraj recently completed her Professional Performance Certificate at Lynn University where she studies under Carol Cole. Former mentors include Milan Vitek, Andrew Jennings, Sally Thomas, Ann Setzer, and Midori. Sathyaraj’s commitment to outreach and diversifying audiences to Western classical music led her to apply to CCM.

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Maurice Todd, Artist Diploma Double Bass


Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Maurice Todd received his Bachelor of Music in Double Bass Performance from CCM. He is a current section bassist in the Lexington Philharmonic. In addition to being a seven-time Aspen Fellowship recipient, Todd previously won the Dayton Philharmonic Minority Fellowship, was the low string winner of the CCM concerto competition, earned the National Symphony Orchestra League Scholarship and was a fellowship recipient in the Spoleto Italy Opera Festival. Most recently, he received the distinguished Excellence in Teaching Award from the UC Graduate School.

Todd has performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, Richmond Symphony and Kentucky Symphony. He has been a soloist with the Louisville Orchestra, Seven Hills Sinfonietta, Wired and the CCM Concert Orchestra.

This year, Todd will graduate from CCM with a Master’s Degree in Double Bass Performance, where he serves as the graduate assistant for the double bass studio under the tutelage of Professor Albert Laszlo. His former mentors include Owen Lee, Edgar Meyer, Chris Hanulik, Bruce Bransby, Rob Oppelt, Eugene Levinson and Hal Robinson.