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Music Institute Academy Ensembles Take First and Third in Fischoff Junior Division; Lincolnshire Student in Third Place Ensemble

Lincolnshire's Devon Naftzger (R) is a member of Quartet Ardella, which took third place in the Fischoff Junior Division

Lincolnshire's Devon Naftzger (R) is a member of Quartet Ardella, which took third place in the Fischoff Junior Division

The Music Institute of Chicago confirmed its status as one of the best schools in the nation for chamber music study with students from its prestigious Academy for gifted pre-college musicians earning first and third place wins in the Junior Division of the 2012 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. The Music Institute offers one of the largest and most accomplished chamber music programs in the U.S. and presents some of the finest chamber music ensembles at Nichols Concert Hall.

Founded in 1973 in South Bend, Indiana, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, presented by the Fischoff National Chamber Music Association, has become the largest chamber music competition in the world and one of the most illustrious classical music prizes attainable today. Since its founding, more than 5,000 musicians have participated, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in music performance and education.

Quartet Stracciatella, coached by Academy faculty member Marko Dreher and featuring Erika Gray, violin (16, Wilmette); Hyun Jae Lim, violin (14, Wilmette); Stephanie Block, viola (17, Barrington); and Johannes Gray, cello (15, Wilmette), earned the First Place Medal and Scholarship of $2,000.

The Third Place Medal and Scholarship ($1,000) went to the Quartet Ardella, coached by Academy faculty members Hans Jorgen Jensen and Desiree Ruhstrat and featuring Laura Park, violin (18, Des Plaines); Jennifer Cha, violin (16, Naperville); Devon Naftzger, viola (18, Lincolnshire); and Ben Solomonow, cello (16, Evanston).

In addition, the judges made an unprecedented move to award two honorable mention designations, one of which went to the Academy’s Pallas Trio featuring Kelly Talim, violin (16, Buffalo Grove); Mariel Werner, cello (20, Belgrade, Montana); and Kate Liu, piano (17, Winnetka).

“The quality of contestants at this weekend’s Fischoff competition was very high,” commented Academy Director Jim Setapen. “From an initial field of 70 junior applicant groups nationwide, 10 of the 24 quarterfinalists were from the Music Institute and six of the 12 semi-finalist groups advancing were from the Music Institute’s Academy. This is a tribute to the extremely high level of chamber music instruction at the Academy and the Music Institute, as well as to the students’ dedication to excelling in this area of their music studies.”

Students in the Music Institute’s Academy have taken first place in the Junior Division in four of the past five years, as well as earning five additional top medals:
• 2012 – 1st, Quartet Stracciatella; 3rd, Quartet Ardella
• 2010 – 1st, Quartet Danae; 2nd, Emerald String Quartet
• 2009 – 1st, Aurelia String Quartet; 3rd, Quartet Danae
• 2008 – 1st, Quartet Polaris; 2nd, Ridere Quartet; 3rd, Aurelia String Quartet

In addition to wins at Fischoff, two Academy chamber groups made it to the final round in this year’s St. Paul String Quartet Competition, showcasing the nation’s finest pre-college string players. Academy groups took first and second place in both 2009 and 2010. This year, Quartet Ventoso, coached by Academy faculty member Desiree Ruhstrat and featuring Jennifer Cha and Erika Gray, violins; Caitlin Adamson, viola (17, Evanston); and Johannes Gray, cello, received the Haydn Prize for best interpretation of the master’s work and Audience Prize.

Another competition in which the Academy has dominated is the Jules M. Laser Chamber Music Competition, which offers chamber ensembles with members ages 10–18 the chance to win a $1,200 award, live broadcast on WFMT 98.7 and performance opportunities at the Music in the Loft and 2012 Society of American Musicians’ Winner's Concert. This year, Quartet Ventoso took first place, the fourth consecutive year of first place wins for Music Institute ensembles.

Broadcast on more than 200 stations nationwide to an audience of more than 700,000 listeners each week, From the Top is one of the most popular classical music programs on radio. Many Music Institute students and alumni have performed on the program, most recently the Academy’s Al Dente String Quartet featuring Ade Williams, violin (14, Chicago); Claire Bourg, violin (17, Aurora); Caitlin Adamson, viola (17, Evanston); and Tara Safavi, cello (16, Naperville).

The Music Institute of Chicago offers one of the largest chamber music programs in the U.S. with nearly 200 Community Music School chamber music participants each year and more than 30 dedicated coaches. Ensembles in residence—Lincoln Trio, WarnerNuvoza, Quintet Attacca (2002 Fischoff Grand Prize Winner) and Axiom Brass (2010 Fischoff winner and 2011 Fischoff Educator Award)—enhance faculty instruction as well as expose Chicago-area students to chamber music through the Music Institute’s ArtsLink outreach program. The fall application deadline is July 15; late deadline is September 1. For more information visit

In addition to its robust program of chamber music instruction, the Music Institute of Chicago presents some of the best professional chamber groups working today in the historic Nichols Concert Hall. Celebrating its 10th anniversary during the 2012–13 season, Nichols will host the Lincoln Trio (September 23), winners from the 2012 Fischoff Competition (October 21), WarnerNuzova (November 17), Pacifica Quartet (February 16), the Lincoln String Quartet, and more. For more information visit

Founded in 1931, the Music Institute of Chicago is one of the three largest and most respected community music schools in the nation. The Music Institute is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Each year, the Music Institute’s world-class music teachers and arts therapists provide the highest quality arts education, reaching more than 10,000 students of all ability levels, from birth to 102 years of age, at campuses in Evanston, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Winnetka, and Downers Grove and through its longstanding partnership with the Chicago Public Schools.

The Academy
Founded in 2006, the Music Institute of Chicago Academy has established itself as one of the most respected pre-collegiate conservatory programs in the United States through its internationally recognized faculty, rigorous curriculum, and highly gifted students. Students have come from throughout the U.S. as well as from Central and South America, Europe, Japan, China, and Korea. Approximately 50 young musicians participate in private lessons with Academy artist faculty, a challenging chamber music component, a stimulating chamber orchestra, and accelerated music theory classes. A hallmark of the Academy is the Enrichment program offering regular master classes, discussion panels, lectures, and workshops with internationally recognized visiting artists, masterful pedagogues, and professional experts in the field. Academy students routinely attend the nation’s top college and university music conservatories, including The Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Eastman School of Music, and the New England Conservatory. For more information, visit

Nichols Concert Hall
The 2012–13 season marks the 10th anniversary of Nichols Concert Hall, originally designed by noted architect Solon S. Beman as the architecturally and acoustically magnificent First Church of Christ, Scientist, located at 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, in 1912. Restored in 2003, the building has become Nichols Concert Hall, a state-of-the-art, 550-seat performance space and music education destination, easily accessible to numerous restaurants, on-street and metered parking, and the Davis Street CTA and Metra stations. Each year Nichols Concert Hall reaches approximately 15,000 people and hosts a world-class chamber music series, workshops and master classes, student recitals, and special events.


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