About the 2016-2017 Artists

    The Amenda Quartet was founded in Rochester, NY in 2010 by four friends who share a consuming passion for the extraordinary body of music composed for two violins, a viola and a cello.  This perfect combination of instruments has inspired nearly every great composer since Haydn to reach their highest achievements.  And so it was with Ludwig van Beethoven, perhaps best known for his symphonies and his piano works, such as the “Moonlight Sonata” and the ever-popular “Für Elise”.  Beethoven wrote sixteen string quartets over his lifespan. Within them one finds expressed the spectrum of human experience: joy and anger, jocularity and gravity, despair and exaltation.

            Many string players dream of performing all of the Beethoven quartets; Patricia Sunwoo, David Brickman, Melissa Matson and Mimi Hwang are living the dream! Each brings to the ensemble vast experience as a performer and teacher.  Unlike an orchestra, a string quartet has no maestro on the podium controlling the parameters of the performance.  The Amenda Quartet is a true democracy.  It is through the process of rehearsing that an interpretation is honed and details of tempo, volume, articulation and musical color decided. A fine string quartet engages in a musical “conversation”, where changes in expression require split-second responsiveness and give new, subtle shades of meaning to the music.  This spontaneity infuses a performance with vitality and is immensely rewarding to the musicians and audiences alike.


Since the Argos Trio (February 26, 2017) was formed in 2007, its members’ youthful passion has won audiences all over the country.  Their superb interpretations of baroque to contemporary music are charismatic, fiery, and unabashed.  The trio’s Liana Koteva Kirvan (violin,) Lars Kirvan (cello), and Chiao-Wen Cheng (piano) combine the strict yet artistic training of the Eastern European School with the refined freedom of the American conservatory tradition.   
    The Argos Trio won high praise in 2009 after performing Shostakovich’s Trio No. 2 on the opening night of Strathmore Hall’s Music in the Mansion series.  Stephen Neal Dennis,
allartsreview4u.com, described the trio as giving, “a defining performance of what must have been one of the greatest piano trios of the twentieth century.”  Most recently, the Argos Trio was heard live on the WXXI radio station in greater Rochester, NY, where it presented, in the words of the station’s Chris Van Hof, an “exciting and passionate performance--a dynamic duo of strings.”  Argos is excited to return for First Muse Chamber Music in the 2016-17 concert series.

A versatile, engaging percussion artist and musical polymath, Christopher G. Jones (October 9, 2016) brings his unique blend of energy, artistry, and fun to his multi-faceted career. Equally comfortable in solo, chamber, or large ensemble settings, he continues his endless pursuit of blending various aspects of modern percussion techniques into unified, captivating, and unparalleled performances. He is a founding member of the innovative flute and percussion group, A/B Duo and in fall of 2016 he will join the percussion quartet, Clocks In Motion. In addition to his work with A/B Duo and Clocks, he has had the pleasure to collaborate and perform with many talented musicians and people, such as Ensemble Dal Niente, Third Coast Percussion, and Chamber Cartel. His recent performances have brought him to the Skaneateles Festival, Fringe Festival of Rochester, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Talesin, and Heartland Marimba Festival - Utah. He has performed with the Rochester Philharmonic, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Finger Lakes Opera, International Beethoven Project Orchestra, and the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. Chris is currently a doctoral student at the Eastman School of Music. He holds percussion degrees from Eastman School of Music (MM) and Florida State University (BM). His teachers include Michael J. Burritt, Dr. John W. Parks IV, James Ross, Bill Cahn, Charles Ross, Rich Thompson, and John Evans.

W. Peter Kurau
(October 9, 2016) was appointed Principal Horn of the RPO in 2004. He had previously served as Assistant Principal Horn (1983-1995) and Acting Assistant Principal Horn (2002-2004).   He also serves as Professor of Horn at the Eastman School of Music.  A prizewinner in the Heldenleben International Horn Competition (1977) and a recipient of an I.T.T. International Fellowship for study in the United Kingdom (1974-75), he also served as an Artistic Ambassador for the United States Information Agency, presenting concerts and classes with esteemed colleague Joseph Werner in Serbia-Montenegro, Kazakstan, Syria, and Macedonia (1997). Active also as a soloist, chamber musician, and clinician, he has appeared at numerous professional symposia, as well as at leading universities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.  His festival activities include appearances at the Chautauqua Music Festival, Bravo! Colorado, Grand Teton Festival, Skaneateles Festival, Texas Music Festival, and the International Festival Institute at Round Top (TX), among others.

Among the most distinguished classical artists of his generation, clarinetist Jon Manasse (April 9, 2017) is internationally recognized for his inspiring artistry, uniquely glorious sound and charismatic performing style.

Jon Manasse's solo appearances include New York City performances at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts' Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall, fourteen tours of Japan and Southeast Asia (all with the New York Symphonic Ensemble), debuts in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Osaka and acclaimed concerto performances with Gerard Schwarz and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. With orchestra, he has been guest soloist with countless orchestras, and has presented the world premieres of James Cohn's Concerto for Clarinet & String Orchestra and  Steven R. Gerber’s Clarinet Concerto. Of special distinction was Manasse’s 2002 London debut in a Barbican Centre performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with Gerard Schwarz and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

An avid chamber musician, Jon Manasse has been featured in New York City programs with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Walter Reade Theatre (on Lincoln Center's "Great Performers Series"), The Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse and Merkin Concert Hall; at summer festivals including Aspen, Caramoor, Newport, and France’s Festival International des Arts. He has also been the guest soloist with many of the leading chamber ensembles of the day, including The Amadeus Trio and Germany’s Trio Parnassus and the American, Borromeo, Colorado, Lark, Manhattan, Moscow, Orion, Rossetti Shanghai and Ying String Quartets, and has collaborated with violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jon Nakamatsu.

Jon Manasse is also principal clarinetist of the American Ballet Theater Orchestra and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. He has been a guest clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic and, during the 2003-04 season, he served as the principal clarinetist of The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Jon Manasse's six critically acclaimed CDS on the XLNT label include the complete clarinet concerti of Weber; the complete works for clarinet and piano of Weber; and recording premieres of 20th Century clarinet works. His debut CD with pianist Jon Nakamatsu, a harmonia mundi usa album of the Brahms Clarinet Sonatas, was released early in 2008.

Jon Manasse is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where he studied with David Weber. Manasse was a top prize winner in the Thirty-Sixth International Competition for Clarinet in Munich and the youngest winner of the International Clarinet Society Competition. Currently, he is an official "Performing Artist" of both the Buffet Crampon Company and Vandoren, the Parisian firms that are the world's oldest and most distinguished clarinet maker and reed maker, respectively. Since 1995, he has been Associate Professor of Clarinet at the Eastman School of Music; in the fall of 2007 Manasse joined the faculty of his alma mater, The Juilliard School.

Jon Manasse and his duo-partner, the acclaimed pianist Jon Nakamatsu, serve as Artistic Directors of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, an appointment announced during summer 2006.

Wesley Nance (October 9, 2016) holds the position of Second Trumpet with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and is in his 30th season, having won a position with the orchestra in 1986 at the age of 17.  In addition to his section duties in the orchestra, he is frequently called on to play Principal Trumpet, and has been featured as a soloist with the orchestra on several occasions. Nance holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Barbara Butler and Charles Geyer. For over twenty years he has been on the faculty of the Eastman Community Music School, where his trumpet studio is highly regarded, and he directs a trumpet ensemble made up of the finest pre-college players in the area.

            An active chamber musician, Nance is a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Brass Quintet, and a frequent musical collaborator in the Rochester area. He has performed with the Society for Chamber Music in Rochester, the Skaneateles Festival, and the Canandaigua Lake Chamber Music Festival, among others.

Outside of music, Wesley Nance enjoys espresso, tennis, sailing, salsa dancing with his lovely wife (RPO Assistant Concertmaster Shannon Nance), and a good movie downstairs in the home theater, where he’s likely to be joined by Shannon and their four children.

Daniel Pesca
(February 26, 2017) leads an active career as both pianist and composer.  He is the recipient of many commissions: his work for wind ensemble, Forking Paths, was commissioned and premiered by Michael Haithcock and the University of Michigan Symphony Band.  His piano piece What Remains is Memory was an Elizabeth C. Rogers Commission from the Eastman School of Music.  He was the composer of the first commissioned work for the Myrna Brown International Flute Competition in May 2013; the resulting piece, A Memory of Mélisande, has been performed by flutists around the country.  Some of his other pieces have been performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Huntsville (Alabama) Symphony Orchestra, the Boston New Music Initiative, Eastman’s Musica Nova, and Ossia New Music; and at the Cluster Festival (Winnipeg) and the Tutti New Music Festival (Denison University).

Described as a “lively young pianist” by The New York Times, Daniel has been a guest performer at many university venues across the Midwest, as well as at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Columbia University’s Miller Theater, and the Chicago Cultural Center.  Past collaborative partners include members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, members of the JACK and Spektral Quartets, and faculty at the Universities of Michigan, Iowa, Texas, and Kansas.  He has performed as the featured soloist with the Orchestra of the League of Composers, the Eastman BroadBand, the Slee Sinfonietta, the University of Michigan Symphony Band, and the Eastman Wind Ensemble.  He has been an avid proponent of new chamber music and an enthusiastic ensemble pianist since 2004, performing with groups such as Chicago’s Dal Niente, Michigan Chamber Players, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble.  He is currently a board member of Ossia, Eastman’s student-run new music organization.  Daniel's work as a pianist is featured on recordings from Block M Records and Urtext Classics, including a performance of Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez's piano concerto, Diaries, written for Daniel. His latest recording with flutist Sarah Frisof will be released by Albany Records in the coming year. 

Daniel holds double degrees from Eastman (’05) and University of Michigan (’07) in piano performance and composition.  In 2016 he received a DMA in composition at Eastman, where his varied catalogue of duties include teaching a course on twentieth-century piano music and accompanying for the opera department.  He is a native of Huntsville, Alabama.

Drew Worden
(October 9, 2016) is an arts organizer, drummer, percussionist, composer, and teacher. He has served as session producer for recording projects at the University of Notre Dame and Eastman School of Music with Third Coast Percussion and Michael Burritt, traveled to Ireland as a drumset artist for the 2015 Recording Festival with his rock band Stegall, and presented workshops and masterclasses on Musicians’ Health. Drew has performed at the Darmstadt Internationales Musikinstitut in Germany, and studied at the So Percussion Summer Institute at Princeton University.

You can learn more about Drew's projects at www.drewworden.com and www.thehealthymusicianproject.com