Artist Bios (scroll down)

Peter Askim, Composer and Bass

  • Active as a composer, conductor and bassist, Peter Askim is the Artistic Director of the Next Festival of Emerging Artists and the conductor of the Raleigh Civic Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, as well as Director of Orchestral Activities at North Carolina State University. He was previously Music Director and Composer-in-Residence of the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra. He has also been a member of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and served on the faculty of the University of Hawaii-Manoa, where he directed the Contemporary Music Ensemble and taught theory and composition. A dedicated champion of the music of our time, he has premiered numerous works, including works by composers Richard Danielpour, Nico Muhly, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Christopher Theofanidis and has collaborated with such artists as the Miró String Quartet, Matt Haimovitz, Vijay Iyer, Jeffrey Zeigler, Nadia Sirota, and Sō Percussion. As a composer, he has been called a “Modern Master” by The Strad and has had commissions and performances from such groups as the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the Honolulu Symphony, Cantus Ansambl Zagreb and the American Viola Society, as well as by performers such as ETHEL, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, flutist/conductor Ransom Wilson and violinist Timothy Fain. Mr. Askim is the founder and Artistic Director of The Next Festival of Emerging Artists, a summer festival dedicated to cultivating the next generation of performers and composers. Focusing on the music of living composers, the festival artists frequently perform World Premieres and collaborate closely with prominent composers on performances of their works. Led by Mr. Askim, The Next Festival has received numerous grants and awards for performances of American music, adventurous programming and educational outreach since its inception in 2013. In conjunction with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis and Tony Nominated choreographer Christopher D’Amboise, Mr. Askim founded the Next Festival Composer and Composer/Choreographer, connecting early-career performers, composers and choreographers in an innovative and highly collaborative laboratory for the creation of new works.

Amadi Azikiwe, Viola

  • Amadi Azikiwe, violist, has been heard in recital in major US cities including an appearance at the US Supreme Court. Mr. Azikiwe has been a guest of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He has also appeared in recital at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, on the La Jolla “Discovery” recital series, the 1993 International Viola Congress, and at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Since then, he has performed in Israel, Canada, South America, Central America, India, Japan, Hong Kong, and throughout the Caribbean. He has also collaborated with artists Awadagin Pratt, Mitsuko Uchida, Andras Schiff, Nobuko Imai, David Soyer, and Felix Galimir.  As a concerto soloist, Mr. Azikiwe has appeared with the Virginia Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Winston-Salem Symphony, Salisbury Symphony, Gateways Music Festival Orchestra, City Island Baroque Ensemble of New York, the National Symphony of Ecuador, and at the Costa Rica International Music Festival. He has also performed at the Marlboro, Sarasota, Tanglewood, Aspen, Norfolk, and San Juan Festivals. His performances have been broadcast on National Public Radio’s “Performance Today” and “St. Paul Sunday Morning” along with television appearances in Israel and South America. Among Mr. Azikiwe’s awards are those from the New York Philharmonic, Concert Artists Guild, the NC Symphony, the National Society of Arts and Letters, and the Epstein Young Artists Award from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, with whom he still maintains a strong artistic and mentoring association. Mr. Azikiwe is on the faculty of James Madison University and is the Music Director of the Harlem Symphony Orchestra.. After early studies with his mother, he began his formal training at the North Carolina School of the Arts as a student of Sally Peck and continued his studies at the New England Conservatory with Marcus Thompson. Mr. Azikiwe was awarded the Performer’s Certificate from Indiana University, where he received his Master’s degree in 1994 as a student of Atar Arad.

Debby Azikiwe, Piano

  • Debby Azikiwe, pianist, is a native of Hong Kong. An active performer and teacher, she received her training in the US in such schools as Edgewood College, Santa Monica Community College and University of California at Santa Barbara. Her teachers include Edward Walters and Charles Ash. For years, Mrs. Azikiwe maintained a large private piano studio in Hong Kong and was on the faculty of Eddy's Piano Company, Ltd. She has also given duo recitals at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. In the United States, Mrs. Azikiwe has performed extensively throughout Wisconsin, as accompanist in New York City, at James Madison University in Virginia, and served as guest faculty at the Bennington Chamber Music Conference in Vermont. She has also served as accompanist and teacher at the Mammoth Lakes Chamber Music Festival in California.

Calyx Piano Trio

  • It has been said of the CALYX PIANO TRIO, “whether you’re a confirmed fan of chamber music, or simply curious about this time-honored genre, Calyx Trio never fails to delight audiences.” (New Bern Magazine). Formed in 2001, the critically acclaimed Calyx Piano Trio features Catherine French, violin, Jennifer Lucht, cello, and Nina Ferrigno, piano. The group’s bright, accomplished musicians have earned Calyx the reputation of defying stereotypes with a repertoire that combines classical masterworks with original pieces by living composers. All seasoned chamber musicians, each member of the Calyx Trio has been described as “a shining star in her own right”. Performances include those on series at San Francisco State University (Morrison Artist Series), Collage New Music (Boston), Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music, Pamlico Music Society (NC), The Music House (NC), and Sheldon Concert Hall and Kranzberg Arts Center (St. Louis). Multi-year residencies include those at the Missouri Chamber Music Festival and Carolina Chamber Music Festival, with new trio commissions funded by the Barlow Foundation and Chamber Music America.

Melvin Chen, Piano

  • A native of Tennessee, pianist Melvin Chen is recognized as an important artist, having received acclaim for performances throughout the United States and abroad. As a soloist and chamber musician Mr. Chen has performed at major venues in the United States, including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Weill Recital Hall, the Frick Collection, Kennedy Center, and Boston’s Jordan Hall, in addition to other appearances throughout the United States, Canada, and Asia. In recent seasons Mr. Chen’s concerts have included solo recitals at Weill Recital Hall, concerto performances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Marin Symphony, Springfield Symphony, and the Paducah Symphony, along with numerous solo and chamber music appearances internationally and in the United States. He was the pianist in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice, which was presented by Lincoln Center  and which received a special citation from the Obie awards. Mr. Chen’s performances have been featured on radio and television stations around the globe, including KBS television and radio in Korea, NHK television in Japan, and NPR in the United States.Solo recordings include Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations on the Bridge label, praised as “a classic” by the American Record Guide, and a recording of Joan Tower’s piano music on the Naxos label. Recent recordings of the Shostakovich piano sonatas and Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice were released to critical acclaim. An enthusiastic chamber musician, Mr. Chen has collaborated with such artists as Ida Kavafian, Steven Tenenbom, David Shifrin, Pamela Frank, and Peter Wiley; with the Shanghai, Tokyo, Miami, Penderecki, and Miro quartets; and in contemporary music collaborations with the Da Capo Chamber Players and The St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble. Mr. Chen is an alumnus of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: Chamber Music Society Two, where he appeared with members of the Chamber Music Society in performance and educational programs for two seasons. A performer in numerous music festivals, he has performed at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Music Mountain, Chautauqua, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Bard Music Festival, and Music from Angel Fire, among others. Mr. Chen completed a doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University, and also holds a double master’s degree from The Juilliard School in piano and violin, where he studied with Seymour Lipkin and Glenn Dicterow, respectively. At Juilliard, he was the recipient of the U.S. Department of Education Jacob Javits Fellowship, as well as the William Petschek Piano Scholarship and the Ruth D. Rosenman Memorial Scholarship. Previously, he attended Yale University, receiving a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and physics. Upon graduation he was awarded the New Prize by the fellows of Jonathan Edwards College. During his tenure at Yale he studied with Boris Berman, Paul Kantor, and Ida Kavafian. Mr. Chen is associate professor of piano and deputy dean at the Yale School of Music. Previously, Mr. Chen was on the piano faculty of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, where he was also associate director.

Beth Denisch, Composer

  • Beth Denisch’s music has been performed at Moscow’s Concert Studio of Radio “Kultura,” in Russia, at Jordan Hall in Boston, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York, across the U.S., and in Canada, China, Ecuador, Finland, Greece, Japan, and Scotland. Her music has received radio play and tracks are available online; CDs from Albany, Juxtab, Odyssey, and Interval record labels. Scores are published/distributed by Juxtab Music, ClearNote Publications, and TrevCo Music.  Denisch frequently draws inspiration from artists as well as authors such as Henry James in Sorrow and Tenderness, commissioned by the Handel and Haydn Society; Jeanette Winterson, for Jordan and the Dog Woman, commissioned by the Equinox Chamber Players; and Kathleen Jamie’s The Tree House, commissioned by the Concord Women’s Chorus. The Calyx Trio commissioned her most recent piece, Factor Fiction. Many ensembles and organizations have awarded Denisch including the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin in Moscow for Fire Mountain Intermezzo; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with the Philadelphia Classical Symphony for The Singing Tree, inspired by the Maxfield Parrish painting; and the Composers Guild for Motherwell Lorca’s Bagpipe Lament (piano solo version). Others who have supported Denisch’s music include The PatsyLu Fund of Open Meadows Foundation, American Music Center, Our Bodies Ourselves, and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. Denisch is Professor of Composition at Berklee College of Music where she teaches Music Composition and Theory. 

Nina Ferrigno, Piano

  • Nina Ferrigno, pianist, is a collaborative artist at home in a multitude of diverse musical settings. Described by the St. Louis Post Dispatch as “a magnificent pianist,” her playing is said to be, “...always precise with superb accentuation and warmth of feeling...”. Nina is a founding member of the Boston-based Calyx Piano Trio. She has performed with such ensembles as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony/Pops, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Her festival appearances include Tanglewood, Banff, Norfolk, and the Skaneateles Festival. She has also appeared at the Carolina Chamber Music Festival and Missouri Chamber Music Festival where the Calyx Piano Trio has held residencies.  

Catherine French, Violin

  • Canadian violinist Catherine French, a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1994, has established herself as a versatile and accomplished soloist and chamber musician in addition to her distinguished orchestral career. Ms. French garnered the grand prize at the Canadian Music Competition, the C.B.C. Radio Competition and the National Competitive Festival of Music, Canada’s three major music competitions. She has performed as soloist with many leading Canadian orchestras and given recitals throughout North America and Argentina. Ms. French was featured with the Juilliard Orchestra and James dePreist, the Boston Pops and John Williams, and at Carnegie Hall in her debut with David Gilbert. Lauded for her “superbly lyric” playing and her “amazing level of artistry” by Strad Magazine, Ms. French is a dedicated member of the Calyx Piano Trio and Collage New Music. Her avid interest in chamber music has led to performances at the Marlboro, Banff, Portland, Missouri and Carolina chamber music festivals, quartet tours of Germany and China, and annual concerts as part of the Prelude series at Tanglewood and the Curtisville Consortium. Ms. French has recorded for Albany Records and is featured in Donald Sur’s Berceuse for Violin and Piano with pianist Christopher Oldfather. Ms. French began Suzuki violin at age four then continued her studies under esteemed Canadian pedagogue Dr. Lise Elson. Ms. French graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor’s of Music degree and a Performer’s Certificate, then earned a Master’s degree from the Juilliard School. Her teachers were Miriam Fried, Felix Galimir and Joel Smirnoff.

Jennifer Lucht, Cello

  • Cellist/CCMF Director Jennifer Lucht has been heard in chamber music performances at the Kennedy Center, Weill Recital Hall, New York’s 92nd Street Y, the Ravinia, Portland (ME) and Bravo! Vail Festivals, and the Missouri Chamber Music Festival (MOCM), as well as on the Greater Philadelphia Performing Artists Series and NPR’s “Performance Today.” Praised for "superb" playing by the Boston Globe and "beautiful, finely detailed sound" by the Boston Herald, she has been concerto soloist with orchestras including the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra and Vermont Symphony. She can be heard in chamber music recordings on the New World, Albany, and Archetype labels. Ms. Lucht is a member of the Calyx Piano Trio, Director and co-founder of the Carolina Chamber Music Festival in New Bern, NC, and a regular performer with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra in Boston and on tours throughout the US, Canada, and Japan. Ms. Lucht received her Bachelor and Masters degrees with a Performer's Certificate from Indiana University and continued her education with post-graduate studies at the New England Conservatory of Music. Her major teachers include Janos Starker, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Laurence Lesser, Colin Carr, and Carter Brey.

Rachel Harmatuk Pino, Violin

  • Rachel Harmatuk Pino, violinist, has taught and performed internationally and across the US. She is Principal Second Violin for the Long Bay Symphony Orchestra, Executive Director of Trent River Chamber Players, and Concertmaster of New Bern Civic Strings. She has appeared as Principal 2nd Violin in the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra and Opera Carolina and has performed with the Crystal Coast Choral Society, Greenville Choral Society, Carolina Chamber Music Festival, RiverTowne Repertory Players, New Bern Civic Theater, Ratio Theatre, and Cape Fear Regional Theater. She has also served as guest Principal Second Violin of the Amman Symphony Orchestra in Jordan. She books orchestras and performs for Craven Community Chorus, Carolina Coast Choral Festival, and New Bern Riverfront Convention Center. Ms. Pino frequently appears as a teacher at the NC Suzuki Institute at East Carolina University, in classes presented by the Greenville Suzuki Association, and as adjunct professor at Craven Community College. Ms. Pino was a Suzuki Violin student from the age of 5 studying with Andrea Thomas and Joanne Bath. After attending the UNC School of the Arts, she studied with Lucy Chapmann at Boston Conservatory and received Master’s degrees from ECU in Suzuki Pedagogy (with Joanne Bath) and Violin Performance. She has Suzuki Certification from renowned teacher trainers and, in 2006, she founded New Bern Suzuki Strings, which now has nearly 80 violin students of all ages. For more about Ms. Pino, visit www.trentriverchamberplayers.com and www.newbernsuzukistrings.com.

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