Dr. Ernest Pereira

The Symphony Guild of Charlotte Endowed Chair and Conductor of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras, Dr. Pereira has vigorously improved and expanded the two ensembles over the past twenty years, leading the CSYO in performances at Charlotte's Festival in the Park and Summer Pops at Symphony Park, as well as the prestigious venues of Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, SC, and Carnegie Hall in New York, NY. He has guest conducted the Charlotte Civic Orchestra and has appeared on several local chamber music series as either a violinist or conductor. For a number of years, Dr. Pereira was featured at the Charlotte Symphony's annual Youth Festival, conducting the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra as well as the combined professional and youth orchestras. He currently co-directs, with Dr. Nitsch, the Fun with Chamber Music program for youth at Queens University. Students from his orchestra and private teaching studio have gone on to major in music at noted conservatories and universities, including the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Juilliard School, University of Texas at Austin, the Yale School of Music, the Peabody Institute at the Johns Hopkins University, Oberlin College, North Carolina School of the Arts, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Vanderbilt University.

A native of South Africa, Dr. Pereira received his early training in violin in Pretoria from Walter Mony and Alan Solomon and holds Teacher and Performer Licentiates from the University of South Africa. He studied in this country with David Cerone, graduating as valedictorian from the Cleveland Institute of Music with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1981 and a Master of Music degree in 1982. He received his Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Texas in 1987, studying with Vincent Frittelli. Dr. Pereira served as Concertmaster of both the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra as well as the University of Texas Orchestra and conducted the University of Texas String Project Orchestra. Since 1985, Dr. Pereira has been a member of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared frequently as a soloist and chamber musician in the United States, South Africa and Namibia and has soloed with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and the Charlotte Civic Orchestra. He believes strongly in educating young musicians and maintains an active and successful violin studio.

Christine Rydel

Christine Rydel has been manager of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras since 1998. Mrs. Rydel earned a Bachelor of Music double degree in Clarinet Performance and Music Education from New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA and a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. Prior to her appointment at the CSYO, Mrs. Rydel was a member of the Greenville (SC) and Roanoke (VA) symphony orchestras, band director at Concord Middle School and was the early school music teacher and ensemble director at Charlotte Preparatory School. In 2000 and 2005, she was acknowledged for excellence as a distinguished educator in "Who's Who Among America's Teachers". In November of 2007, Mrs. Rydel was the recipient of the CCDS Faculty Exceptional Performance Award and in 2010 she was one of twenty-seven Mecklenburg County educators selected to attend the Teaching Fellows Institute of Charlotte. Mrs. Rydel is the Upper School Director of Instrumental Music and Fine Arts Coordinator at Charlotte Country Day School.


Ernest Pereira - Conductor/Violin 1
Violinist Ernest Pereira is a native of South Africa where he first studied the violin. He came to the United States to further his musical education. In 1981, Ernest earned a BA degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and followed that with a Master of Music degree and then a Doctoral degree in Music from the University of Texas in 1987. He began his tenure with the CSO in 1985. Dr. Pereira was the first conductor for the JYO in 1988 and in 1998 he became the conductor for both youth orchestras. He has now been with the CSYO and JYO programs for 27 years.

Kathy Jarrell - Violin 2
Violinist Kathleen Jarrell was born and grew up in South Bend, Indiana and earned her Bachelor of Music degree at Eastman School of Music in 1990. Kathy obtained her Master of Music degree in 1993 at Northern Illinois University. Kathy won her position of Assistant Principal Second Violinist of the Charlotte Symphony immediately after graduation and has been a coach with the CSYO program for 20 years.

Ning Zhao - Viola
Violist Ning Zhao joined the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in 1995. He was born in Guangzhou, China and came to the United States in 1986 to further his music education. Ning graduated from Kent State University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Music in Violin performance. He then received his Master of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1993. Before joining the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Ning played with many orchestras both in the US and in China.  Ning has been a coach with the CSYO program for 20 years.

Alan Black - Cello
Alan Black is in his twenty-eighth season as Principal Cellist with the Charlotte Symphony. Alan graduated in 1980 from UCLA, and received a Master's Degree from Indiana University in 1983. Alan has been actively involved in many highly successful musical projects in North Carolina. He founded Chamber Music at St. Peter's in 1996, and four years ago started a very successful summer Teen Chamber Music Workshop that now resides at UNC-Charlotte. He currently teaches as an Artist Associate in cello and chamber music at Davidson College.  Mr. Black has been a CSYO coach for 8 years.
Jeff Ferdon - Double Bass
Charlotte Symphony double bassist Jeff Ferdon began his musical studies in his hometown of Duluth, Minnesota and, as a high school student, spent his summers studying at the Symphony School of America. He received a Bachelor of Music degree in double bass performance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and then joined the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in 1985. Jeff has been a coach with the CSYO for 27 years and has appeared as a guest soloist with the orchestra on several occasions. Jeff is an adjunct instructor of double bass at Davidson College, is a composer and arranger of music for the bass and often performs in early music ensembles on viola da gamba and violone.
Lori Tiberio - Woodwinds
Bassoonist Lori Tiberio had begun studying the clarinet and saxophone but when her Pittsburgh high school concert band needed a bassoonist, Lori agreed to give it a try. Bassoon became her major at Carnegie-Mellon because she had received a scholarship to study the bassoon. Lori holds both BFA and BME degrees from Carnegie-Mellon. Lori has been with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra for close to 25 years and her duties include playing the bassoon and the contrabassoon and she teaches at UNCC. Lori has been the coach for the wind section of the CSYO program for 32 years.

Robert Rydel - Brass
Robert Rydel attended high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy, and went on to study at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While there, he studied with Richard Mackey (Boston Symphony) in addition to playing with the Boston Philharmonic and Principal Horn with the New England Chamber Orchestra. He was also Principal Horn with New York String Orchestra Seminar program under the baton of Alexander Schneider. In the summers he has participated in many programs including the Pierre Monteux School, the National Orchestral Institute, and the National Repertory Orchestra. Robert is currently in the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and he has spent seasons with the orchestras of Charleston, Columbus, and Jacksonville and has ongoing relationships with the Atlanta and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras. Robert teaches privately and is also on the faculty of Winthrop University and Queens University of Charlotte. In addition to his playing responsibilities, Robert is also a recording engineer. His two production companies, Acoustic Mobility and Acoustic Annex, have worked with Centaur Records, Pro Organo, World of Opera, Performance Today, WDAV Classical Public Radio, and the Charlotte Symphony in addition to many others. Robert is the Assistant Director of Recording at the Brevard Music Center. 
Mr. Rydel returns  this season for his 5th year coaching the CSYO brass  section.

Leonardo Soto Percussion
Leonardo is the current Principal Timpanist for the CSO. Mr. Soto received his Bachelor's degree at the University of Chile and his Master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh PA; he was trained as a Latin percussionist by his father, Mr. Leonardo Soto Sr., who is one Chile's most prominent musicians in the field. Leonardo began his professional career as a substitute Percussionist with the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Symphony of Chile. He is a faculty member at Queens University of Charlotte and has been with the CSYO Program for 9 years.

JYO Coaches

Carlos Tarazona - Violin 1
Carlos was born and grew up in Guajaguil, Ecuador, where he first learned to play the violin. He studied violin with Michel Samson at the University of Louisville, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Music. Carlos came to the Charlotte Symphony in 2003. Mr. Tarazona has been a JYO coach for 12 years.

Sakira Harley - Violin 2
Born in Costa Rica, violinist Sakira Harley began playing the violin at the age of five with Suzuki pedagogue Tetsuo Yagi. Ms. Harley continued her studies in the United States at the New World School of the Arts with violinist Cathy Robinson of the Miami String Quartet. She later attended Indiana University School of Music where she earned a Bachelors Degree and studied with violinist Miriam Fried. Other principal instructors include Linda and David Cerone during frequent summer studies at ENCORE School for Strings.

Ms. Harley's orchestral career includes a four year fellowship as co-concertmaster with the prestigious New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. She has performed in numerous music festivals including Spoleto Charleston, Spoleto Italy, Schleswig Holstein Academy in Germany, and she is an alumna of the New York String Orchestra Seminar led by violinist Jaime Laredo. Ms. Harley has performed as a guest with the North Carolina Symphony, the Charleston Symphony, and the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway. Currently, Ms. Harley is a member of the Charlotte Symphony which she joined in 2015.

Ms. Harley's chamber music collaborations include performances with clarinetist David Shifrin, pianist Garrick Ohlsson, and the Quintet for New Tango. She has participated in concerts and radio performances for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Chamber Music Concert Series in Boston with international performances in Bilbao, Barcelona, Rome, and Costa Rica. 

As an avid educator Ms. Harley has given back to the NC community through her work with the Charlotte Symphony Education and Outreach Programs, of most importance to her are her participation with the El Sistema modeled music program at Winterfield Elementary, as well as her work as violin coach and mentor of the Charlotte Symphony Junior Youth Orchestra. 

Ms. Harley keeps a full private violin studio and presents two studio recitals every year. She is also a proud member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas. When she is not busy teaching, coaching, or performing, Ms. Harley enjoys spending time at home with her beloved pets.

This is Ms. Harley's third season as a JYO coach.

Viara Stefanova - Viola
Before joining the Charlotte Symphony in 2007, violist Viara Stefanova played with a variety of prestigious orchestras across the country including the Dallas Symphony, San Diego Symphony, and the New World Symphony. She was also the principal violist for the National Opera and Ballet in her native city of Sofia, Bulgaria and has traveled around the world to perform at several music festivals including Music in the Mountains in Colorado as well as international opera festivals in Switzerland, Japan, and Spain.

Viara received her B.M. in 1998 from the Music Conservatory in Sofia, Bulgaria and, while earning her degree, won first prize at that country's National Viola Competition in 1996. After receiving full graduate scholarships and assistantships from two universities, Viara went on to earn her Master of Music from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Besides performing, Viara also enjoys spreading her passion for music with others. From 2000 until 2002, she was a music teacher at the "Saint Sofia" Private School and, from 2004 until she joined the CSO in 2007, she also taught violin and viola at Highland Park Middle School in Dallas. She joined the CSO in 2007 and has been a coach with the JYO for 7 years.

Elizabeth Burns - Cello
Cellist Liz Burns is a Charlotte native and former CSYO member. A graduate of UNC Charlotte, she received her Master's in Cello Performance from Winthrop University where she is professor of cello and coaches student string quartets. Liz is a founding member of the Hodges Taylor Ensemble, a professional string quartet which performs frequently throughout the area, and she teaches orchestra at Trinity Episcopal School. Liz has been the cello coach for the JYO program for 22 years.

Kurt Riecken - Double Bass
Kurt Riecken was appointed principal bassist of the Charlotte Symphony in January 2015. Kurt attended the University of Central Florida and studied double bass with Don-Michael Hill. He graduated with honors with degrees in music performance and electrical engineering. Kurt then attended Indiana University where he received his master's of music under Craig Brown and Kurt Muroki. At IU, Kurt was appointed as an associate instructor of double bass. In 2014, Kurt was a recipient of the Lawrence Hurst Scholarship award.

Kurt has attended numerous music festivals on scholarship including Eastern Music Festival, National Orchestral Institute, Hot Springs Music Festival, National Repertory Orchestra, and Aspen Music Festival and School. In 2012, he was a participant in the Pirastro Elite Soloists Program under Jeffery Bradetich. Kurt has performed on recordings for the Naxos label and has played on major motion picture soundtracks. In 2014, he was appointed co-principal of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he has performed as a substitute with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Kurt enjoys teaching privately as well as coaching in group and masterclass settings. Outside of music, Kurt enjoys reading, cooking, and hiking. Kurt lives in Charlotte with his wife Jacqueline, also a bassist, whom he met in Greensboro, NC at the Eastern Music Festival.  This is Mr. Riecken third season as acting bass coach for the JYO.

Amy Orsinger Whitehead  - Woodwinds
Amy Orsinger Whitehead has played flute in the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra since 1997. A Pennsylvania native, Amy is a founder of and instructor at Atlanta's Sizzlin' Summer Flute Fest, a yearly flute camp for young flutists in Georgia. Amy holds flute performance degrees from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Institute of Chamber Music and is currently on faculty at Davidson College. She has been the woodwind section coach of the CSYO program for 14 years.

Scott Hartman - Brass
Orlando, Florida native Scott Hartman joined the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra as Principal Bass Trombone in September 2014. Prior to joining the CSO, he was the Bass Trombonist of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Scott graduated summa cum laude with honors from DePaul University, where he studied with Charlie Vernon and Mark Fisher. He is an alumnus of the Tanglewood Music Center, Music Academy of the West, National Repertory Orchestra, Brevard Music Center, and Bar Harbor Brass. Scott has won International Trombone Association Competitions as well, winning both the Edward Kleinhammer Orchestral Bass Trombone Competition and the Donald Yaxley Bass Trombone Competition. He was also a medal winner at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition as a member of the brass quintet Lincoln Chamber Brass. Scott has performed in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as well as contemporary music group Ensemble Dal Niente. This is Mr. Hartman's third season coaching the JYO brass.
Josh Walker - Percussion
As a professional musician, Josh Walker has worked in the Carolina region for 20 years, including as percussionist with the Charlotte, Charleston, and Union Symphonies. He has performed with the Moody Blues, Manhattan Transfer, The Four Tops, Natalie Cole, and many other artists. Josh frequently performs on timpani, drum set, jazz vibes, marimba, and ethnic and orchestral percussion.
Josh has taught at several area high schools, including three state championship marching band programs: Nation Ford, Indian Land, and York. He currently serves as Worship Academy Director at GraceLife Church of Pineville in North Carolina. In this role, he is a member of the adult praise band while also coordinating music instruction for all ages 2 through 18.
As a private instructor, Josh has taught numerous All­Region and All­State percussion students, another who has participated in Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, and several who have gone on to college music careers at University of Cincinnati, Winthrop University, Furman University, the University of South Carolina, and UNC Greensboro.
He has recently recorded, produced, and released an album of his jazz­influenced arrangements of classic hymns. It is entitled Reimagined: Classic Hymns for a Modern Audience.
Josh studied at Winthrop University where he earned a Bachelor of Music Performance in 1998 and a Master of Music Performance in 2001. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching degree at Winthrop and an arranging certificate from Berklee School of Music.
He and his wife, Michelle, live in Fort Mill, SC with their daughter. This is Mr. Walker's third season as a JYO coach.  

Celebrating 56 years of musical excellence this season!