Martha Councell-Vargas enjoys an exhilarating career as a solo and chamber flutist, teaching artist, and scholar. She has performed in Central and South America, Europe, China and across the United States. A specialist in the music of Latin America and the Caribbean, she has performed as a guest artist in the Festival Internacional de Flautistas in Lima, Peru, the Festival Internacional de Flautistas en el Centro del Mundo (Quito, Ecuador), in Panamá City, Panamá; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Bogotá, Colombia. She was recently the featured as guest soloist with the National Symphony of Ecuador.
In 2011, Councell-Vargas traveled to Havana, Cuba, where she researched the Cuban charanga flute tradition – research that was inspired by her study, performance, and doctoral scholarship on Paquito D’Rivera’s Gran Danzón. Her research was subsequently published in The Flutist Quarterly, Journal of the National Flute Association.
Councell-Vargas is a top prizewinner in several national competitions, including the National Flute Association’s Young Artist Competition, Frank Bowen Flute Competition, and the Flute Talk Competition in Chicago. She competed on an international level in Paris, France, where she was invited to perform at the Jean Pierre Rampal International Concours de Flûte in 2005, and in Uelzen, Germany, where she was the only North American to participate in the International Friedrich Kuhlau Flute Competition in 2007, and was honored as a semi-finalist
She has performed across the United States in recital and concerto appearances, as a soloist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra, on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series at the Chicago Cultural Center, and at New York’s Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Her debut CD, Gran Danzón, features works of North, Central, and South American composers.
Councell-Vargas studied with the world’s leading flutists, including Michel Debost, Leone Buyse, Mary Stolper, and Gro Sandvik. She holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory, Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, and the University of Iowa. Currently, she is Assistant Professor of Flute at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
Sara Fraker is Assistant Professor of Oboe at the University of Arizona and a member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. She plays principal oboe with True Concord Voices & Orchestra, whose 2015 recording of music by Stephen Paulus was nominated for two Grammy awards. Sara has attended summer festivals including Tanglewood, Aspen, Chautauqua, Spoleto Festival USA, Schleswig-Holstein (Germany), and the Shenandoah Bach Festival. She has performed with the Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Opera, Illinois Symphony, Sinfonia da Camera, and Broadway in Tucson. Sara has presented recitals at four recent conferences of the International Double Reed Society, including the 2015 conference in Tokyo, Japan. She performs regularly as a member of the Arizona Wind Quintet and has given masterclasses at universities and performing arts schools throughout the Western US. She has been featured as English horn soloist in TSO performances of Copland’s Quiet City and Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela. Sara holds degrees from the University of Illinois (DMA), New England Conservatory (MM), and Swarthmore College (BA). Her principal teachers include Robert Botti, John Dee, Mark McEwen, Sandra Gerster Lisicki, and John de Lancie.
Jeanmarie Riccobono joined the Traverse Symphony Orchestra in 1996 and is currently the orchestra’s principal clarinetist. She has performed with scores of American orchestras including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony and has participated in the Spoleto, Aspen, Sarasota, and Chautauqua music festivals. She has been on faculty of the Interlochen Arts Academy, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and the Interlochen Arts Camp. An active recitalist and chamber musician, Ms. Riccobono was the 1996 grand prize winner of the Boosey and Hawkes/Buffet North American clarinet competition, culminating in a solo recital at the ‘Musicora’ Festival of the Paris Conservatory. She currently performs with Trio Joyeaux, a clarinet, harp cello ensemble and performs educational outreach and a new series of community concerts called “The Melodious Adventurers” combining the aspect of open rehearsals, concerts, artful cuisine and social gatherings with the Traverse Woodwind Quintet. Ms. Riccobono studied clarinet performance and earned her Bachelor’s and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music and Master’s from Northwestern University. Her major teachers include Robert Marcellus, Frank Kowalsky, John Bruce Yeh, Charles Neidich and Stanley Hasty. Interested in all aspects of music performance, she has served as fundraiser, personnel manager and orchestra manager for the Traverse Symphony Orchestra and Traverse Youth Orchestras and currently serves as fundraising and tour coordinator for Traverse City West High School Orchestra. She established the ‘Music on Monday’ performing artist series at the Traverse Children’s House where she taught music classes to young children for ten years. Active at all levels of music education, she is an in-demand clarinet clinician and currently teaches clarinet at her private studio and at numerous schools in the Grand Traverse area.
In addition to playing horn in the Spectrum Brass and Bay View faculty wind quintet, Aaron Brant is currently serving as principal horn of the Dayton Philharmonic as well as principal horn of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. He is also the instructor of horn at the University of Dayton. Prior to his appointment in Dayton, Aaron served as principal horn of the South Bend Symphony for four seasons where he made his solo debut in 2009, performing Richard Strausss Horn Concerto No. 1.
Aaron also spent four seasons as third horn of the Ann Arbor Symphony. He performs regularly with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and has performed with orchestras in eight states. He has worked with a wide range of chamber ensembles and over the past several years and had the opportunity to work with crossover, jazz and pop artists like Josh Groban, Diana Krall, Mannheim Steamroller and Andrea Bocelli.
Aaron earned his bachelors degree at CCM with Randy Gardner, formerly of the Philadelphia Orchestra. After undergraduate studies Aaron continued his training at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University where he studied with Peter Landgren, who at the time was a member of the Baltimore Symphony and is now dean at CCM. While at Peabody Aaron received periodic instruction with Barry Tuckwell.
Aaron is also committed to training and educating musicians. He keeps a busy private teaching studio of dedicated and successful students, participates in the DPO educational program SPARK and is a member of the Dayton Philharmonics Carillon Brass Quintet. Once, following a brass quintet performance in North Carolina an approaching audience member, Gunther Schuller, hailed him, saying "Aaron, youre a helluva of a horn player!"
From childhood as an Iowa farm girl, Jill's musical talents led her to the University of Michigan where she completed the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Wind Instruments. Her musical career spans nearly 40 years as performer, teacher and arts administrator. With Quintessence Chamber Ensemble, she toured from Alaska to the Panama Canal and California to the Caribbean, performing to nearly half a million people in an amazing array of concert and educational settings and for 25 years served as Arts in Education Roster Artists with the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Ms. Marderness represented Quintessence on panels addressing "The Performer as Educator" at the Chamber Music America National Conference, the Music Educators National Conference and “Outreach Within Residencies” for the Western Arts Alliance Conference.
Renowned as an artist teacher, Ms. Marderness has taught on the faculties of Saint Cloud State University, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Grand Canyon University, Maricopa Community Colleges and performed as an Educational Recording Artist for Carl Fischer Publishing Company with Trade Winds in Tampa, Florida. She has performed with Chamber Music Sedona, Red Rocks Music Festival, for children at Matsumoto Gakuen in Tokyo, Japan, and with the Flint Symphony, Duluth Symphony, Colorado Philharmonic and more. Her awards include the Silver Medal of the Minnesota Orchestra Young Artist Competition presented by Neville Marriner and both the Fischoff Competition Best Wind Group prize and Munich Competition semi-finalist selection with Quintessence.
Ms. Marderness is currently contracted with the Arizona Opera Orchestra and regularly engaged by the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Arizona Musicfest Festival Orchestra. Since 2004, Jill has served as Administrative Assistant for the Red Rocks Music Festival, and in 2007 she Co-Founded Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place www.yoursnap.org where she is currently Director of Operations. In 2012 Artistic Director David Shifrin appointed Ms. Marderness as Artistic Manager and in 2014 Operations Associate for the Winter Festival of the Phoenix Chamber Music Society.
In Michigan as resident artist at the Bay View Music Festival since 1979, Jill has “worn many hats” including performing all musical genres on bassoon and saxophone, performs with the Bay View Wind Quintet and Festival Orchestra, coaches chamber music, teaches Thriving in the Arts and Income from Outreach, and has accompanied Choristers and served as Music Librarian. Since 2008 Ms. Marderness has served as Youth Music Coordinator to develop the Music & Munchies, Tunes for Tots, and Behind the Scenes series plus The Rising Stars concert for the community music students of Bay View.
Jill resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband Fred Marderness, percussionist with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. Their daughter Emily is a Geography and Linguistics double major at the University of Arizona. Jill practices Bikram Yoga, enjoys healthy cooking, and loves riding the many beautiful bike trails in Scottsdale and the Little Traverse Bay area of northern Michigan.