Alumni Spotlights

//Alumni Spotlights
Alumni Spotlights 2017-06-07T16:01:04+00:00

Marcus Norris (MM ’17, Composition)

Recent School of Music graduate, Marcus Norris (17’), has been awarded the prestigious Eugene Cota-Robles (ECR) Fellowship at UCLA where he will receive a full scholarship and a $100,000 fellowship to pursue his doctorate in music composition. He has plans to start his own production company and record label, South Side Sound. He’s worked as a studio instructor, producer and engineer for Donda’s House, a nonprofit based in Chicago, whose mission is to support young artists. He has also enjoyed success producing music for artists such as the Grammy Award-Winning Rhymefest, Tink, and Jean Deaux. Norris has been called a “new Musical Talent in our Midst” by Chicago’s N’digo Magazine READ MORE.


Edgar Sanfeliz-Botta (BM ’17, Vocal Performance)

Edgar Sanfeliez-Botta was recognized by FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg as a Worlds Ahead graduate at FIU’s 2017 spring commencement ceremony. Edgar distinguished himself with his talents as a counter tenor and his ability to play the beautiful 4,226-pipe Shantz organ in the Wertheim Concert Hall at FIU School of Music. Edgar now works professionally as a singer, organist and elementary school music teacher at Conchita Espinosa Academy. After graduation, Edgar plans to pursue his doctorate in music at the prestigious Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. READ MORE.


Matthew Sheary (BM ’14, MS ’16, Music Education/Viola)

Matthew Sheary has been appointed as executive director of the Greater Miami Youth Symphony (GMYS). He received both a Bachelor of Music Education (2014) as well as a Master of Science in Music Education (2016), while he studied viola performance under the direction of Michael Klotz, a member of the Amernet String Quartet. READ MORE.



Nimia Marquez (MM ’16, Choral Conducting)

Nimia Marquez was recognized by FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg as a Worlds Ahead graduate at FIU’s 2016 fall commencement ceremony. Only 22 students received this honor . A professional singer and choral conductor in her native Cuba, Nimia Marquez arrived in Mexico as part of a musical tour of the country. At the time, her choral career was blossoming, but she knew that the freedom she craved for herself and her family was within close reach. So after she completed the tour, Nimia made a leap of faith and crossed over into the United States. Today, she teaches music at Archimedean Academy in Miami, FL. READ MORE.


Keba Williams (BM ’11, Vocal Performance)

A Trinidadian-born artist with rhythm in her blood, Keba burst onto the scene after completing a degree in Chemistry, when she decided to pursue her passion for music and songwriting instead. In 2013, she debuted Wildfire, her first studio album, which she composed in collaboration with producer Erik Nunez and released under their independent label, Labrat Music. Since then, the singer/songwriter has earned recognition for her original songs from both the USA Songwriting Competition and the International Songwriting Competition.

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Eva Reyes-Cisnero, (BM, ’11, Instrumental Performance )

She was appointed in December 2016 as Librarian in the U.S. Library of Congress, which houses more than 162 million items, working under the Iberia/Rio Office Section of The African, Latin American and Western European Division. While studying at the FIU School of Music as a classical guitarist, she first worked at the FIU Green Library in the cataloging department, audio/visual collections and digital collection center and holds a certificate from FIU in Cuban and Cuban-American studies. Despite her accomplishments in research, she continues to be engaged with music by participating at the Library of Congress Chorale. READ MORE.


1Darwin Aquino Tejeda, (MM, ’15, Conducting)

A musical product of ‘El Sistema”, Darwin has been hailed as the new star in orchestral conducting of the Dominican Republic. He was appointed Principal Conductor of the National Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic and was awarded the Hildegard Behrens Young Artist prize and the Arts Advocacy prize (Florida Higher Education Arts Network) for his outstanding musical leadership throughout the Americas. His career has led him to conduct the Philharmonisches Orchester Mainz in Germany, the Alfredo de Saint Malo Festival Orchestra in Panama, the FIU Symphony Orchestra in Miami, Opera Naples in Florida, the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, the Filarmonica Boca del Rio in Mexico, FIU Opera Theater and the Sembrando Talentos Festival Orchestra in Uruguay. Follow Darwin’s career by clicking here.



Aaron Lebos, (MM, ’11, Jazz Performance)

Lebos is a well-known, versatile guitarist born and raised in the South Florida area. His group Aaron Lebos Reality features Aaron on guitar, Eric England on bass, Jim Gasior on keyboards, and Rodolfo Zuniga on drums, who on their own are some of the most in-demand musicians in South Florida and beyond. They have been friends and played together for years in various groups, but joined together in early 2012 for a new project with a new sound and magic happened instantly. The band is highly active, playing hundreds of national and international shows yearly, and are currently touring in support of their latest release, an eight-track collection called, “Turning Point.” ALR shows are high-energy bolts of music that have no explanation other than sounds that go straight to the heart of the listener. For more information, please click here.



Celso Cano (MM, ’14, Classical Guitar)

In addition to performing solo concerts, Celso has collaborated with many ensembles. He has been a guest artist with the Florida Gran Opera in productions of Il Barbieri di Seviglia and Don Pasquale and a soloist with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. He was the first guitarist to win the Annual Concerto Competition at FIU and performed collaborated with noted conductors such as James Judd of the Miami Music Project. He is currently faculty of the Fraquhar College of Arts and Sciences at Nova Southeastern University and is working on a new CD featuring the music of Legnani, Mertz, Regondi, and Schubert. View his website by clicking here.



Ernesto Fernandez (BM ’11,  Flute)

At FIU, Ernesto studied with Elissa Lakofsky and Nestor Torres. Ernesto Fernandez is endorsed by Gemeinhardt Musical Instruments, Co. and is a clinician and performer at state and national flute conventions, and gives flute masterclasses throughout the United States. He also participated in the recording of the soundtrack for the movie Despicable Me 2  with Pharrell Williams, and performed in two PBS specials: Gloria Estefan’s “The Standards”, and Jazz at the Philharmonic with Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, Mark O’Connor, Terence Blanchard, and Dave Grusin. To learn more, visit his website.



Aldo Salvent, (MM ’15, Jazz Performance) recorded his first solo album as a leader with Dazzle Recordings Label in Denver-Colorado in August 2014, and has a busy schedule conducting master classes and concerts worldwide leading the “Aldo Salvent Jazz Quintet,” an innovative project created in 2010, based on Aldo’s original compositions.



1Kyle Motle (MM ’13, Jazz Performance) is a bassist, composer, improviser, and computer musician. Active in a variety of ensembles and settings, Kyle’s work crosses the boundaries between idioms as wide as free jazz, contemporary concert music, and extreme metal. Current interests include extended harmonic techniques for solo bass improvisation, electroacoustic performance with live electronics and improvising software, modular compositional schemes, recursive and generative structuring, and exploration of complex sonic spectra. Recent projects include a number of improvised duos and trios, as well as co-led ensembles performing music that blurs the lines between composed and improvised content. He is currently pursuing a DMA at UC San Diego, where he studies bass with Mark Dresser.





Elena Chernova-Davis (MM, ’06, Violin)

Prizewinner of the Aleksander Glazunov International Competition (Paris), Dr. Elena Chernova-Davis has enjoyed a career as soloist, chamber musician, and concertmaster in her native Uzbekistan and throughout the United States. After graduating with honors as a full-scholarship student from the Tashkent State Conservatory, she came to the United States to continue her studies with soloist Elmar Oliveira, the first violinist of the Vermeer Quartet ShmuelAshkenasi, and then the first violinist of the Amernet String Quartet Misha Vitenson. She is currently faculty at the Mason Gross School of the Arts At Rutgers. As a passionate and dedicated teacher her philosophy is to guide development and tailor an individual approach to each student that encourages growth, curiosity and motivation.



Vivian Gonzalez (MS, ’04, Music Education)

In her fifteen years of teaching, Ms. Gonzalez has taught thousands of students including students with special needs and music magnet. Currently, Ms. Gonzalez is a National Board Certified Teacher, teaching the magnet and general music students in grades three through five at South Miami K-8 Center. Among her many accomplishments are 2015 Grammy Music Educator Award Semi-Finalist, 2014 Grammy Music Educator Award Top-Ten Finalist, 2011-2012 South Miami K-8 Center Teacher of the Year, 2014 and 2013 Magnet Schools of America School of Excellence Merit Award Winner (Application Writer), Presenter at 2012 and 2013 American String Teacher Association National Convention, National Board Certification attained December 2006 EAYA Music,1st, 2nd, and 3rd place and Grand Champion winner of National Choral and Instrumental Festival 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2nd Place Winner of the National Steel Drum Festival in 2008.

Rhea Olivaccé (BM, Vocal Performance)

Soprano Rhea Olivaccé is known for her “wonderfully warm lyric soprano voice.” She has performed the leading soprano roles of Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème, both conducted by Martin Katz at University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. Other roles at UMAA include La Contessa in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Suzel in Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz. Additionally, Olivaccé performed the roles of Gasparina in Haydn’s La Cantarina and the title role in Holst’s Savitri with Florida International University Opera Theatre. She appeared as an Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera in 2011 where she covered Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème and Sarasota Opera in 2012 where she was awarded the Ann O’Donnell Scholarship Award for Outstanding Apprentice. Read More.

JoseJose Leonardo Leon (BM, ’05, Trombone)

Jose Leonardo Leon has worked with professional organizations and artists across different countries including the Florida Grand Opera, the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra in Spain, the Orquesta Filarmonica UNAM, and the Jalisco Philharmonic in Mexico.

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Jose Ruiz – (BM, ’03, Trombone)

Jose Ruiz is a seasoned trombone player with 20 years of experience. Through the years, Jose has played with several noted artists in the Latin/Latin Jazz/Salsa/Latin Rock/Jazz/Funk/R&B/SKA/Reggae/Classical communities, proving his versatility. Some of the artists with whom Jose has shared the stage include: Christian Castro, Eddie Santiago, Rey Ruiz, Lalo Rodriguez,Tito Nieves, Ismael Miranda, Lefty Perez, Arturo Sandoval, Nestor Torres, Paquito De Rivera, Richie Rey y Bobby Cruz, Tony Vega, Bobby Valentine, Tito Puente Sr., Tito Puente Jr., and Bill Watrous. In 2013, Jose won a Grammy award for recording the Best Tropical Album of the Year, “Retro.” In addition to playing, he is skilled in writing and arranging in a variety of genres.Also, he has 10 years of education experience teaching in the elementary, middle school, and high school levels, both privately and in the public sector.



Silvije Vidovic (MM, ’05, Piano)

Silvije‘s audio recordings have been released by Croatia Records, Art-Net Club, and Akadem Records. Furthermore, Mr. Vidovic has been featured in four documentary films produced by the Croatian National TV, which chronicle the lives and artistic careers of the three Vidovic siblings. Since 2011 Mr. Vidovic has been sponsored by the Concert Music Tour organization, which resulted with his performance in Vienna’s Musikverein Golden Hall. In 2013 Mr. Vidovic co-founded Karlovac Piano Festival, an inclusive music production which promotes artistic achievements in his birthplace Karlovac. Recently, Silvije has been active as a lecturer professor at the Florida International University, Lynn University, and University of Miami. Visit Silvije’s website by clicking here.



Marie-Elaine Gagnon (MM, ’02, Cello)

Gagnon is the first prize-winner of numerous music competitions in Canada, which led to many solo performances in her native home. She tours with the Rawlins Piano Trio and joined the faculty at the University of South Dakota in 2007.





Tony Succar (BM ’08, MM ’10 Jazz Performance)

President of his own entertainment company, Mixtura Productions, Tony Succar is well-versed in a number of professional roles: bandleader, percussionist, musician, producer, composer, and arranger. He is currently endorsed by Gon Bops, a top percussion brand, and Sabian, one of the leading cymbal manufactures in the world. Assembling an exceptional production team and featured artists, Tony has created The UNITY Project. The mission of the UNITY Project is to honor the legacy of Michael Jackson, with a sound that interconnects elements of American Pop, Jazz, Tropical, and World Music with the enduring foundations of the King of Pop. Unity features more than 100 musicians, such Latin superstars as Tito Nieves, Jon Secada, and India, and the mixing magic of Jackson’s legendary engineer Bruce Swedien. Follow Tony by visiting his website.



Saulo DeAlmeida (MM, ’06, Cello)

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saulo DeAlmeida began his music journey early in life. At 15 years old, Saulo was playing violoncello at the National Symphony Orchestra in Brazil. Saulo came to America to further his studies in cello and earning a Master’s degree in cello performance from Florida International University. In 2008 Saulo was awarded a full scholarship to study jazz at the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Program at the University of Louisville. He completed his second Master’s degree in jazz bass in the spring of 2010. While at U of L, Saulo played with the Mixolegion Jazz Quintet recording a complete album sponsored by the University and performing concerts in America and in Russia. Currently, Saulo teaches cello and jazz studies at Campbellsville University and performs around the world with the Almeida Duo.


1Mauricio Pauly, (BM, ’02, Composition)

Pauly is a chamber electroacoustic music composer and electric bass player. Recent commitments include performances at Ultima Festival for Contemporary Music in Oslo, Warsaw Autumn, MATA Festival in New York and Aldeburgh as well as commissions for Darmstadt 2010 (Staubach Honoraria) and 2012. Recent performances in Paris, Geneve, Bordeaux, Berlin, New York, London, TelAviv, Florence, and Darmstadt 2014. In 2011, he was awarded the Costa Rican Composers Association Composition Prize. He is artistic co-director of Distractfold Ensemble and a founding member of the Altavoz Composers. He teaches at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and at the Architectural Association Interprofessional Studio in London. From September 1st 2014 until May 31st 2015, he was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. To follow Mauricio Pauly’s career, please click here.


Jean Caze, (MM ’07, Jazz Performance)

Jean Caze is winner of the 2006 International Trumpet Guild Jazz Competition, and the 2004 National Trumpet Jazz Competition, has emerged as one of today’s most exciting voices in jazz. At the age of twenty-seven Jean has performed with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Najee, Arturo Sandoval , Roberta Flack, Al Jarreau, and George Duke to name a few. While attending High School in 2000, Jean performed with the legendary rock group “Chicago” live on NBC. In 2007, the Haitian-born trumpeter won second place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. In 2009, Jean went on tour with Atlantic recording artist, Laura Izibor while freelancing in NYC with such groups as Roy Hargrove’s Big Band. Currently, he is on tour with Michael Bublé and working on completing his second CD. For more information, please click here.



“Kev Markus” Sylvester (BM, ’03, Violin)

Fusing hip hop and classical, this member of ‘Black Violin’ has performed an average of 200 shows a year in 49 states and 36 countries. He performed at the official President’s Inaugural Ball and the Kids Inaugural in Washington, D.C. He has wowed audiences at the legendary Harlem Apollo Theatre, accompanied Alicia Keyes at the 2004 Billboard Awards, and played for VH1’s “Unplugged.” He has also collaborated with Linkin Park, P.Diddy, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin, among others.



Juan Pablo Carreño, (BM, ’05, Composition)

Juan Pablo’s music has been played in several countries in the Americas and Europe by ensembles such as, among others, Ensemble Intercontemporain, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), Ensemble 2e2m, Nodus Ensemble, PluralEnsemble, Ensemble CG, l’Instant Donné, Ensamble Vortex, Tana String Quartet, Manolov String Quartet, and he has worked with conductors such as Ludovic Morlot, Jean Deroyer, Fabián Panisello, Pierre Roullier, Maxime Pascal, Ricardo Jaramillo, Kanako Abe, Jean-Philippe Wurtz, Pierre Strauch, César Leal, Roland Hayrabedian, and Zsolt Nagy among others. To follow Juan Pablo Carreño’s career, please visit his website here.



Misty Bermudez (B.S. ’00, Music Education)

Highly sought after as a soloist, chamber artist, and educator, mezzo-soprano Misty Leah Bermudez has captivated critics and audiences alike with her “ravishing” voice and “compelling” concert performances (South Florida Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Arts Paper). Residents of South Florida will recognize Ms. Bermudez as a founding and current member of the Grammy-nominated vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire. Read more  about Misty.



Pablo Chin, (BM, ’06, Composition)

Pablo Chin’s music has been performed in 11 countries and across the United States. He has been commissioned by Ensemble Recherche, International Contemporary Ensemble, members of the Anubis Quartet, the MAVerick Ensemble, Chicago Humanities Festival, Latino Music Festival of Chicago, Claremont Concert Orchestra and ensemble dal niente among others. His music has also been performed by artists including Ostravská Banda, Donatienne Michel-Dansac, Pierre-Stéphane Meugé, Marino Formenti, Claire Chase, Eric Lamb, Gan Lev and Marcus Weiss. To follow Pablo Chin’s career, please visit his website here.



Jorge Grossmann, (MM, ’00, Composition)

Jorge Grossmann’s music has been performed throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe by ensembles such as the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, National Symphony Orchestra of Argentina, Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá, Peruvian National Symphony, New England Philharmonic, Aspen Sinfonia, Orquesta Juvenil Teresa Carreño (Venezuela), Kiev Camerata, Boston Musica Viva, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Da Capo Chamber Players, Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien®, Seattle Chamber Players, Talea Ensemble, ALEA III and the Arden, Amernet and JACK quartets. To follow Jorge’s career, please visit his website here.



Carlos Rafael Rivera, MM ’96, Composition

Carlos Rafael Rivera is a commissioned and award winning composer whose career has spanned several genres of the music industry. His soundtrack for Universal Pictures A Walk Among the Tombstones starring Liam Neeson and directed by Scott Frank, is now available through Varèse-Sarabande Records. A protégé of Randy Newman, he earned a DMA in Composition at USC’s Thornton School,where he studied with Donald Crockett and Stephen Hartke. Equally comfortable in popular music, he has performed onstage as opening act for The Who at the Hollywood Bowl, while his guitar work includes performances on feature soundtracks (Crash, Dragonfly); studio sessions for Island/Def Jam, and Universal Records; as well as ABC’s Scrubs, MTV, and VH-1. To follow Carlos Rafael Rivera’s career, please click here.


111Katherine Meloan (BM, ’96 Piano)

Katherine is currently choral conductor and chapel organists at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. She has been featured on American Public Radio’s Pipedreams after a performance at the St. Mary the Virgin in New York City, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., among other prestigious engagements. In 2012, Katherine joined the faculty at Manhattan School of Music. Read more by visiting her website.



Jeff Herriott (MM, ’99, Composition)

Jeffrey Herriott is attracted to sounds that shift and bend at the edges of perception. He creates unhurried music, using slow-moving shapes and a free sense of time. His works often explore repetition with subtle variations in gestural pace, instrumental character, and tuning. He hopes to craft personal, intimate music that invites listeners to focus on momentary details while a larger structure unfolds in ways that they may not quite grasp. He employs electronics extensively, as technology allows him to alter instrumental timbres and shift tunings by tiny amounts – changes that listeners may not actively perceive, but which can foster a sense of uncertainty and wonderment. He is currently an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, where he is the coordinator of the Media Arts and Game Development Program



Henry Vega, (BM, ’99, Composition)

Vega was born in New York City (1973), and is an active composer and performer of new music whose works appear in productions of theatre, dance and concert music that focus solely on modern artistic trends. His music ranges from virtuosic instrumental writings to subtle colorful compositions orchestrating traditional instrumentations with the world of electronic sound. His current interests lie within theatrical settings of his music in combination with video in the space of minimal aesthetics that cross simple harmonies over noisy counterpoints. Vega’s works have been performed at festivals and venues in Europe and the Americas often performing with his trio The Electronic Hammer. He has had the pleasure to write music for ensembles such as the MAE, VocaalLab, Ensemble Integrales, the Ragazze String Quartet as well as the Roentgen Connection. To follow Henry’s career, please click here.

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