Violinist Frank Almond held the Charles and Marie Caestecker Concertmaster Chair the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for 25 years. He has also held the Concertmaster position with the Rotterdam Philharmonic with Valery Gergiev and Guest Concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra with Kurt Masur.
Frank regularly performs as a soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and as soloist and chamber musician throughout the US and Europe. He is the founder of his own chamber music series in Milwaukee, Frankly Music, consistently recognized for innovative programming and its ability to attract leading performers from around the world, most recently including Lynn Harrel, Orion Weiss, and the Miró Quartet.
At 17, Frank Almond was one of the youngest prizewinners in the history of the Nicolo Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, and five years later was one of two American prizewinners at the Eighth International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, which was documented in an award-winning PBS film.
His extensive recording discography includes a wide range of repertoire on various labels that have garnered multiple Grammy nominations.
His most recent series of recordings, A Violin’s Life, chronicles the extraordinary history and lineage of his current violin, the 1715 Lipiński Stradivarius. This instrument has direct ties to Giuseppe Tartini, Edvard Grieg, Johannes Brahms, and Robert and Clara Schumann.
On January 27, 2014, the “ex-Lipiński” Stradivarius was stolen from Mr. Almond in an armed robbery after a concert. The violin was recovered nine days later, and the story continues to make headlines around the world. The robbery and recovery are the subject of a new documentary film, “Plucked,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April (2019). Frank was also featured at Lincoln Center on “The Moth Radio Hour,”the critically acclaimed story-telling program heard on Public Radio stations nationwide.
Community outreach and giving back to the Milwaukee community are also at the heart of Frank Almond’s artistic priorities. He mentors young musicians of all performing levels and backgrounds, and performs in nontraditional venues where classical music has a rare and unusual presence.
Frank holds two degrees from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Dorothy Delay, Michael Tseitlin, Felix Galimir, and Joseph Silverstein. He currently serves on the Faculty at Roosevelt University in Chicago and is the Johnston Family Artist-in-Residence at the Milwaukee Youth Symphony, one of the largest youth arts programs in the United States. Previous teaching positions include positions at Northwestern University and Texas Christian University.
Frank Almond writes an online column, as he admits, “instead of practicing.” Nondivisi offers his thoughts, hopes and expectations for the present and future of classical music and other topics.
More information about Frankly Music, A Violin’s Life and the Lipiński Stradivarius is available at frankalmond.com.
Violinist Pamela Simmons has performed throughout the Midwest and trained MYSO musicians as a chamber music and orchestral coach for more than 30 years. Violinists from her studio have won many notable competitions including the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Audrey Baird Stars of Tomorrow Auditions, Madison Symphony Orchestra Bolz Young Artist Competition, MSO Bach Double Competition, CMA High School Showcase, Wisconsin Philharmonic Shining Stars, the Madison Symphony Youth Competition, and placed in the semifinals of Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Ms. Simmons’ students have earned leadership positions as Concertmaster and Principal Second Violin in all five MYSO orchestras, and in addition, they have won the concerto competitions for String Orchestra, Sinfonia, Philharmonia, Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and the Senior Symphony. Many of her students have continued their studies at institutions such as Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Oberlin Conservatory, UW- Madison, Roosevelt University, and the Colburn School, and have attended programs such as the Interlochen Summer Music Camp, Madeline Island Chamber Music Festival, and Bowdoin International Music Festival.
Ms. Simmons has performed for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Skylight Theater, Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Festival City Symphony, Midwest Mozart Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and with Bel Canto, the Florentine Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Broadway touring productions, and with many artists including Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, Maureen McGovern, Della Reese, Mannheim Steamroller, and Michael Feinstein.
Ms. Simmons’ teachers and mentors were Dr. Gerald Fischbach, Ralph Evans of the Fine Arts Quartet, Wolfgang Laufer, Patrick Rafferty, and Robert Hanford.
Toby Appel has appeared in recital and concerto performances throughout North and South America, Europe, and the Far East. He’s been a member of such renowned ensembles as TASHI and the Lenox and Audubon quartets; a guest artist with the Vermeer, Manhattan, Alexander, and Dover quartets; and a frequent guest with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and jazz artists Chick Corea and Gary Burton. His festival appearances include Mostly Mozart; Chamber Music Northwest; the Seattle Chamber Music Society; Music from Angel Fire; the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; the Marlboro, Manchester, Colorado College Summer, and Bravo! Vail music festivals; and festivals in England, France, Korea, Germany, Italy, Finland, and Greece.
A highly versatile artist, Mr. Appel has narrated performances of Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Alan Ridout’s Ferdinand the Bull, Arnold Schoenberg’s Ode to Napoleon, Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, André Caplet’s The Masque of the Red Death, and William Walton’s Façade. He’s also a frequent commentator for National Public Radio’s Performance Today.
Mr. Appel enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music at age 13 under the guidance of violist Max Aronoff. In 1975, he was featured on a CBS television special performing works he commissioned for three violas, all of which were played by him, and in 1980, he was a Young Concert Artists winner. Mr. Appel is currently on the viola and chamber music faculties of The Juilliard School in New York City, where he’s been teaching for the past 32 years. Other teaching positions have included professorships at the State University of New York, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Yale School of Music. He’s toured for the United States Department of State and performed at the United Nations and at The White House. His chamber music and recital recordings can be heard on the Columbia, Delos, Desto, Koch International, Opus One, and Musical Heritage Society labels.
Toby Appel lives in Santa Fe and New York City with his wife, Carolyn, and their dog, Morgan.
Amanda Grettie Koch received her education at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, with a Bachelor of Music degree, and The Juilliard School with a Master of Music degree. She has been a member of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra since 2001 and performs as a substitute musician with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. Ms. Koch teaches all levels of viola and beginner to intermediate violin at her private teaching studio in her Cedarburg home. She is also on the faculty at Concordia University-Wisconsin where she is the viola instructor and teaches a string pedagogy class. A student of Karen Tuttle, Lynne Ramsey, and Jeff Irvine, Ms. Koch’s teaching philosophy and curriculum focuses on a relaxed and confident approach to playing string instruments. Ms. Koch is regularly brought into Milwaukee area public schools and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and a string instructor and coach.
Ms. Koch has recently earned a degree in music therapy at Alverno College and is a Board-Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) on the Wisconsin registry of Music Therapists. She has experience working with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, mental health, and dementia.
Prior to relocating to the Milwaukee area, Ms. Koch performed as full-time member of the Virginia Symphony and taught on the faculties of the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC, and The Academy of Music in Norfolk, VA.
Stefan Kartman represents the rich tradition of pedagogy and performance passed on to him by his distinguished teachers who embodied the rare designation of Artist/Teacher.
Dr. Kartman currently serves as Professor of Cello and Chamber Music at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee where he teaches cello and chairs the string area. Dr. Kartman also performs regularly as Principal Cello in the Festival City Symphony. He has performed to critical acclaim as cellist of Trio Antigo, the Kneisel Trio and the Florestan Duo, giving performances and masterclasses in conservatories of music and institutions of higher education worldwide including the Cleveland Institute of Music, the China Conservatory of Music, the Xiamen Conservatory of Music, and the D’Albaco Conservatory of Music, among many others.
An avid chamber music enthusiast, Dr. Kartman has served on the faculties of the Vianden Chamber Music Festival in Luxembourgh, the Madeline Island Chamber Music Camp, the Garth Newel Chamber Music Festival, the Alfred University Summer Chamber Music Institute, the MidAmerica Chamber Music Festival, the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, and was artistic director of the Milwaukee Chamber Music Festival. His early training in chamber
music was with his father, Myron Kartman of the Antioch String Quartet and during his formal training as a chamber musician, he studied with members of the Guarneri and Juilliard String Quartets and the Beaux Arts Trio.
Stefan Kartman received degrees from Northwestern University, The Juilliard School of Music, and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Rutgers University.
He has been teaching assistant to Harvey Shapiro and Zara Nelsova of the Juilliard School and proudly acknowledges the pedagogical heritage of his teachers Shapiro, Nelsova, Bernard Greenhouse, Alan Harris, and Anthony Cooke.
Pianist Jeannie Yu was awarded first prize in the Frinna Awerbuch Piano Competition in New York, the Flint Symphony International Concerto Competition, the Portland Symphony International Concerto Competition, and the Kingsville Piano Competition in Texas. She also earned the prestigious Gina Bachauer Memorial Scholarship Award, a full scholarship for a Master’s Degree program at the Juilliard School where she also received a Bachelor’s Degree. Subsequently she was awarded an accompanist fellowship at the Peabody Conservatory of Music where she received her Doctor of Musical Arts Degree.
Dr. Yu has performed as soloist with the Flint Symphony, Portland Symphony, Marina del Rey-Westchester Symphony, Des Moines Symphony, Des Moines Brandenburg Symphony, the Xiamen Symphony Orchestra in China, Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra, Festival City Symphony, and the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra.
As a soloist and collaborative artist she has performed on WQXR in New York, WOI in Des Moines, IPR in Interlochen, WFMT in Chicago, and numerous chamber music series throughout the United States. For nine years, she was a member of the Rembrandt Chamber Musicians based in Chicago. She is the pianist of the Florestan Duo which has recorded the complete works for cello and piano by Beethoven. Recently, she is active as a keyboardist in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.