Symbiotic’s CLPs are a group of passionate and profession musicians who believe that performing with a dedicated group on a regular basis will ensure the best product for your event. The CLPs are made up of preformed groups Freya String Quartet, Eldertone, Hot Metal Strings, as well as a few other young professionals.
The Chamber Light Players occasionally present chamber concerts or take part in recording projects both for Symbiotic Collusion and for third parties. The styles of music mastered among these musicians range from classical to Latin, and Broadway to indie rock.
As well as being skilled chamber performers, the Chamber Light Players perform with many of the surrounding orchestras and performing groups including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, West Virginia Symphony, Wheeling Symphony, Westmorland Symphony Orchestras, Erie Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Ballet, and others.
Cellist Charles Akert has captivated audiences around the world as both a soloist and chamber musician. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, Akert began his studies at age 5. At age 13, he joined the Fairbanks Symphony and the Arctic Chamber Orchestra as one of their youngest members. Akert completed his Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Northern Colorado and received his Master of Music degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as an Osher Scholarship winner.
Passionate about chamber music, Akert has been an active chamber musician for over 15 years and has performed in venues throughout North America and Europe. He was a founding member of the Douglas String Quartet and is one of the few musicians to win the Angie Southard award in both chamber music and as solo cellist. As a member of the Nexus Quartet, Akert has participated in chamber music residencies at both the Banff Centre and the Aspen Music Festival. In 2010, he won the Grand Prize at the National Plowman Chamber Music Competition.
Wanting to share his talents with others, Akert has become a sought after music instructor. He has taught at festivals around the nation, including the Kinhaven School of Music, Blue Lake Fine Arts Festival and Astoria Music Festival. In 2011, he co-founded the Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival in Northern California and became an active private instructor in the surrounding Pittsburgh area.
Ashley Buckley, a founding member of Freya String Quartet, studied violin performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music with David Updegraff and at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music with Cyrus Forough. Ms. Buckley has been featured in chamber concerts throughout the United States including performances at the KennedyCenter for the Performing Arts and Severance Hall while a member of the Starling Foundation String Quartet, and in the Grand County Series as a member of the Parnassus String Quartet. Ashley has been coached by members of the world’s greatest chamber groups, including the Cleveland Quartet, Pacifica Quartet, Alexander String Quartet and Cavani String Quartet.
Ms. Buckley has worked with organizations such as Global Volunteers and Cultures in Harmony to promote music as a means for cross-cultural dialogue. Projects with such organizations have had her work throughout the United States, Ghana and Turkey. Ms. Buckley is a founding member of Pittsburgh’s Living Room Chamber Music Project, a group dedicated to performing concert music throughout Pittsburgh in the comfortable, intimate spaces where chamber music has its roots. Ashley has also performed live with popular artists Barry Manilow, Josh Groban, Clay Aiken, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Currently, Ms. Buckley is an active performer and teacher throughout Western Pennsylvania.
A native of Mexico, Miss Conlon has performed to much acclaim across the globe as soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player. She has participated on half a dozen recordings as a classical artist, cross genre violinist, light rock improv and tango violinist. Miss Conlon has appeared on television and radio in several countries and is prize winner of many national and international competitions in both the United States and in Mexico.
She began her studies at an early age in her home town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato Mexico. Miss Conlon subsequently pursued further studies at Rice University, Penn State University and Carnegie Mellon University studying with Kenneth Goldsmith, James Lyon, and Andres Cardenes respectively.
An ardent chamber musician, she co-founded the Trio Nova Mundi with whom she has performed across the Americas and appeared as soloist with various orchestras. In addition, she is member of the Argentine tango group AquiTango, and co-founder of string quartet Hot Metal Strings.
As an orchestral player she is member of the Erie Philharmonic and Sphinx Virtuosi and has played with many orchestras such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra, National Philharmonic, Wheeling Symphony, Akron Symphony, Virginia Symphony, and Sphinx Symphony,
A passionate educator, she is currently Adjunct Professor of Violin/Viola at Grove City College and violin instructor at Musik Innovations in Wexford, PA where she holds a private studio. Her students have won awards, auditions, and competitions locally and have gone on to pursue music professionally. Miss Conlon is frequently invited to teach masterclasses at various music festivals, schools, and institutions both in the U.S. and abroad.
She resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and when not playing the violin enjoys eating good food, watching movies, and traveling.
Jason Hohn, a founding member of Freya String Quartet, began his viola studies in Bismarck, ND. Mr. Hohn received his Bachelor of Arts in Music and German Studies from Minot State University as a student of Dr. Jon Rumney and did his Master of Music in Viola Performance studies at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music under the direction of Toby Appel. As a member of the Dorothy J. Starling Foundation String Quartet, Mr. Hohn has been featured in performances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Steinway Hall, Severance Hall, and Tong Ji University in Shanghai.
Mr. Hohn has studied chamber music with members of the Ying Quartet, Los Angeles Piano Quartet, and the Cuarteto Latinoamericano. As a recipient of numerous fellowships to some of the finest music institutions, Mr. Hohn has studied at the Brevard Music Center, the National Orchestral Institute, the American Institute of Music Studies in Graz, Austria, and the Ohio Light Opera. Currently residing in Pittsburgh, PA, Mr. Hohn maintains an active viola and violin studio and performs regularly with many of the region’s top ensembles. He can be heard in an upcoming recording of Arnold Schoenberg’s chamber orchestra arrangements of works by Gustav Mahler and Claude Debussy with Juan Pablo Izquierdo on Mode Records. Jason plays on a Kelvin Scott viola.
Katya Janpoladyan is a founding member and cellist of Freya String Quartet. Ms. Janpoladyan is also a founding member of Symbiotic Collusion, a company dedicated to quality performance, education, and innovation through music.
Ms. Janpoladyan is a native of Armenia, where she completed a Bachelor of Music degree and Artist Diploma from the Yerevan State Conservatory under the direction of Zareh Sargissyan and Medea Abramian. Ms. Janpoladyan continued her studies at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she received her Master of Music degree. She is currently a doctoral candidate as a student of Yehuda Hanani.
An active performer, Ms. Janpoladyan is a former member of the State Piano Trio “Shell” of Armenia and a former member of the Baur Quartet with whom she was the 2001 winner of the Pierre Lantiere International Chamber Music Competition. Ms. Janpoladyan has collaborated with artists such as Cyrus Forough, James Dunham, Yehuda Hanani, Ross Harbaugh, Awadagin Pratt, Piotr Milewsky and the Montclair Quartet. She has been featured as a soloist performing with the Yerevan Chamber Orchestra, the Camerata San Marco (NY), and the Mary Miller Dance Company. With the Freya String Quartet, Ms. Janpoladyan has been a featured performer with the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. Ms. Janpoladyan has also collaborated with several living composers and is an avid proponent of new music.
With a dual passion for performing and educating, Ms. Janpoladyan has served on the faculties of the University of Cincinnati, Wyoming Fine Arts Center, the Cincinnati Starling Project, the Great Wall Music Festival, and the Bacchannalia Festival. She has taught masterclasses throughout the US, China, and Chile. Ms. Janpoladyan currently resides in Pittsburgh where she maintains a private cello studio and performs regularly.
Cuban born violinist Sandro Leal-Santiesteban was introduced to music by his mother at the age of three. After settling in the U.S. in 2001, Sandro studied for a year at the preparatory school of New England Conservatory with former Boston Symphony principal Marylou Churchill. He attended the Eastman School of Music where he studied violin performance with Prof. Mikhail Kopelman. Sandro also studied with Prof. Cyrus Forough at Carnegie Mellon School of Fine Arts where he obtained his master degrees.
While doing his undergraduate at Eastman School of Music, Sandro was coached by world-renowned artists such as the Ying Quartet, Brentano Quartet and Shanghai Quartet. In 2006, he was one of the semi-finalists at the Sphinx Competition for African-Americans and Latinos, held in Michigan, Detroit. The same year, he was also given full scholarship to participate in the Youth Orchestra of the Americas under its artistic director and conductor Plácido Domingo traveling throughout Belgium, Italy, Germany, France and England. In 2007 he was accepted on to the sub list for both the New World Symphony in Miami, FL, and in the Pittsburgh Opera. He also participated as assistant principal in concerts at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. While in his studies at Carnegie Mellon, Sandro performed in masterclasses for the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Miami String Quartet and violinist Ilya Kaler. He also collaborated with violinist and conductor Andrés Cárdenes performing the Mendelssohn Octet. Sandro was first prize winner at the 2009 Carnegie Mellon concerto competition performing Behzad Ranjbaran’s violin concerto.
Sandro is currently section first violin in the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. He is also a section first violin in the Erie Philharmonic and has served occasionally as principal second violin. Sandro also teaches private violin lessons at Johnstonbaugh’s Music Center in Gibsonia, PA and Brighton Music Center in Pittsburgh.
Jason Neukom is the first violinist and founding member of Freya String Quartet, and is also a co-owner and founding member of Symbiotic Collusion. Mr. Neukom was born and raised in the small community of Devils Lake, ND, where at the age of four he began violin lessons with his father, Richard Neukom. Jason studied at Minot State University under Jon Rumney where he received a BSE in Music Education and was a featured soloist with the Minot Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Neukom continued his studies at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music for a Masters in Music Violin Performance degree under Piotr Milewski and subsequently at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music in the Performance Residency Program under Cyrus Forough.
Mr. Neukom has been the recipient of many fellowships to study at music institutions such as the National Repertory Orchestra, the National Orchestral Institute, the Britten Pears Festival Orchestra in England, the Opera Theater and Music Festival of Lucca, Italy, and others. Jason has intensively studied chamber music with members of the Ying Quartet, the Fry Street Quartet, the Daedalus Quartet, and other well known ensembles. In addition to his frequent classical concerts, Jason has performed live shows with popular artists such as Barry Manilow, Josh Groban, Lee Greenwood, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Pink Martini, Mannheim Steamroller, Tony Orlando, and others. An active educator, Mr. Neukom has worked for various education programs, including the New York Summer Music Festival, and the Cincinnati Starling Project.
Currently, Mr. Neukom resides in Pittsburgh where he maintains an active violin studio and has frequent performances with Freya. Jason also works on artistic projects for Symbiotic Collusion, including composing “covers” for the Chamber Light Players, creating music videos, and is currently working with Sean Neukom as co-producer on projects such as Freya’s in-progress collaborative album, Freya Plugged In, and Freya’s upcoming debut album featuring ten lighter works by Sean Neukom and Richard Neukom. Jason also performs frequently with the area’s top ensembles, including the West Virginia Symphony and Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra as associate concertmaster. You can hear Jason and the Freya String Quartet on the Symbiotic Chamber Orchestra’s release, ‘The Ghost and Mr. Able’, available now.
Sean Neukom was born and raised in North Dakota and has degrees in violin performance from Minot State University (BS) and the Cleveland Institute of Music (MM). Sean is active as a performer, composer, audio engineer, and producer. These roles are realized through his organization, Symbiotic Collusion. Symbiotic, an organization started to develop a sustainable model as an arts organization, has been active since January 2011 and was co-founded with Freya String Quartet. A multi-instrumentalist, Sean plays violin with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and drums for the Symbiotic Chamber Orchestra and the indie trio, John Russell.
As an educator, Sean has been on faculty for the New York Summer Music Festival, the St. Claire School for Strings based out of Dunedin, New Zealand, and will be returning to Dakota Chamber Music for his fourth season.
Sean’s composition stems from the desire to continue pushing where tonality and rhythm can go without abandoning melody. Sean has been commissioned by groups including the MSU String Ensemble, the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra, Freya Quartet, and the Fresh Ink music series. Most recently, Sean was awarded a commission from the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble to be premiered in July 2013.
Upcoming studio projects include Symbiotic’s first full scale album The Ghost & Mister Able; Freya String Quartet’s innovative album, Freya Plugged In; and a collaboration with violinist Sandro Leal-Santiestiban featuring Sean’s first four solo violin sonatas. For more information about Sean’s works or Symbiotic, visit his artist page here.
Violinist and violist Matt Pickart currently plays as principal viola of the Altoona Symphony Orchestra and has also performed with Johnstown Symphony Orchestra (principal viola 2010-2012,) Pittsburgh Opera, Wheeling Symphony, Ohio Valley Symphony, Erie Philharmonic, Quantum Theatre, Latshaw Pops Orchestra, Attack Theater, Alia Musica, Children’s Festival Chorus, and the Bach Choir on violin and viola. Outside of Pittsburgh, Matt has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Duomo in Florence, recital halls in Germany, Italy, Canada, and the Netherlands and has had his recordings aired on Milwaukee’s WMSE, Pittsburgh’s WQED, and National Russian Radio.
Matt has also recorded and or performed with several bands in the Pittsburgh area and can be heard on the newest albums of artists like Mother Sun, Broken Fences, Ben Shannon, and City Dwelling Nature Seekers. Matt currently plays jazz violin with Pittsburgh’s only hot club group, the Flying Dutchmen. He has also performed in the orchestras of Barry Manilow on tour, Bernadette Peters, and the Vogues.
Matt holds degrees from Duquesne University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he served as co-concertmaster of both school orchestras and principal violist at Duquesne. Pickart’s past violin teachers include Sidney Harth, Tyrone Greive, Eugene Purdue, Alison Jewer, and Tom Moore. Matt previously studied viola with Marylène Gingras-Roy. Matt currently serves as a violin and viola instructor of Duquesne University’s City Music Center, general music teacher at Highland Park Preparatory Academy of Pittsburgh, a member of the violin faculty at UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, assistant to the director of Interharmony International Music Festival in Germany and Italy, and as a former adjunct faculty of violin and chamber music at Beloit College.
Jeanne (Strittmatter) Tupper began studying the cello at the age of twelve. She began performing professionally two years later. Ms. Tupper studied under the direction of Pittsburgh Symphony cellists Anne Martindale Williams, David Premo, Mikhail Istomin, and Charlotta Klein Ross. She has participated in several masterclasses, including those with world renowned cellists Yo Yo Ma and Anner Bylsma. She attended Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for both undergraduate and graduate studies in performance and music education.
An avid chamber musician, she performs regularly with The Strittmatter Trio, and Hot Metal Strings, as well as several orchestral ensembles in the Pittsburgh region. In addition to her active freelance work as a performer, she has devoted much of her career to educating young musicians. Ms. Tupper has been a member of the faculty at the Carnegie Mellon University Preparatory School and maintains a large private teaching studio. She is currently the vocal music teacher at St. Thomas More School in the South Hills area of Pittsburgh. Ms. Tupper enjoys spending time with her husband, Bob and her young children, Benjamin and Rebekah.
Rachel White is a versatile violinist, experienced in playing and teaching. As an avid orchestra musician, Rachel has held permanent positions with The Florida Orchestra, the Akron Symphony Orchestra, the Canton Symphony Orchestra, and the Breckenridge Music Festival. She is currently a substitute musician with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Opera, The Wheeling Symphony and the Grant Park Music Festival. Rachel is also a member of the Hot Metal Strings, a String Quartet that performs for all occasions in the Southwestern Pennsylvania area.
Rachel is a coach for Symphonette, part of the Three Rivers Young Person’s Orchestra. She leads sectionals and chamber coachings for the organization. Rachel also teaches private violin lessons in the South Hills.
As a native Pittsburgher, Rachel’s musical education began with Huei-Sheng Kao of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She completed her Bachelor of Music Degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying with William Preucil and Stephen Rose.
Cellist Hannah Whitehead has garnered acclaim for her “warm and winning” sound and for the “knife-edge, fearless precision” of her interpretations. She is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree with David Premo at Carnegie Mellon University. Hannah’s already varied career has included studies at the Eastman School of Music, a fellowship at the New World Symphony, and performances around the world with the Youth Orchestra of the Americas. She has also been a member of the National Repertory Orchestra, the National Orchestral Institute, and has performed at the Spoleto Festival (USA). Her musical travels have taken her to Japan, where she performed chamber music in Yokohama and Tokyo; she has also traveled to England, where as a fellow of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, she studied and performed works of Benjamin Britten in the composer’s birthplace.