Named winner of the 2017 Respighi Prize in Conducting by the Chamber Orchestra of New York, Geoffrey Robson has emerged as a force of artistic leadership throughout the United States and the state of Arkansas.
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra has named Maestro Robson as its sixth Music Director after a four-year nationwide search. Prior to his recent appointment, his tenure as the Arkansas Symphony’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor was a significant success. His dynamic leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in national and state-wide visibility for the organization. The orchestra’s Bedtime with Bach online concert series received nationwide acclaim and was featured by the Washington Post and the Kelly Clarkson Show. Over the past three years, he has played an integral role in the planning, development, and design of the new ASO Stella Boyle Smith Music Center, which is scheduled to open during his tenure as Music Director. His influential leadership helped secure funding and community support for the orchestra’s 11.7 million dollar project.
During his tenure with the ASO, Geoff has conducted critically acclaimed and sold-out masterworks, pops, chamber, and educational concerts throughout the state. His innovative programming has brought new audiences into the hall and made all feel welcome, and has inspired and energized the orchestra. Robson envisions his new role in the community as a connector, bringing the community closer together and making it more inclusive.
In 2021, he conducted and served as executive producer for the recording of Florence Price’s Concerto in One Movement with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, featuring pianist Karen Walwyn. This was the orchestra’s first commercial release in over 20 years. He has conducted numerous ballet and opera productions including The Nutcracker, La Bohème, and Madama Butterfly with the Plano (Texas) and Waterbury (Connecticut) symphonies and Opera in the Rock (Little Rock). As a founding member of The Chelsea Symphony (New York), he conducted numerous sold-out performances and served as artistic advisor, ensuring the growth and success of the organization. In addition to his rigorous Arkansas Symphony Orchestra schedule during the 2023-2024 season, Geoff will be guest conducting the Greenville (South Carolina) Symphony and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, with other guest appearances to be announced soon.
A champion of new music, he collaborates with and explores the music of renowned living composers. In 2016, he conducted the San Juan (Colorado) Symphony in the world-premiere of James Stephenson's Concerto for Hope with celebrated trumpeter Ryan Anthony. He served as arranger, conductor, and violinist for the world-premiere of Billy Blythe, a one-act opera based on the life of the young Bill Clinton, by Bonnie Montgomery. He conducted the premiere of Into the Beautiful North by Joe Brent, performed by the 9 Horses trio, as well as the premiere of Richard III, A Crown of Roses, A Crown of Thorns, an opera by Karen Griebling. In 2021 and 2022, he secured co-commissions of new works by Tania León and James Lee III, which were performed by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
An active violinist, Geoff is an avid chamber musician and regularly collaborates with musicians across the country. He also serves as Artistic Director of the Faulkner Chamber Music Festival. In this role, he curates a summer concert series and serves as director of the chamber music camp for students. He served as concertmaster of the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and as Assistant Concertmaster of the Waterbury Symphony. He is also recognized for his skill and versatility as a fiddle player and has established himself as a highly sought-after studio musician. He writes and performs string and orchestral arrangements for recording artists to assist them in achieving their goals in the studio. His arrangements have also been featured on numerous Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performances.
Geoff studied orchestral conducting at the Mannes College of Music in New York City under the tutelage of David Hayes and holds violin performance degrees from Yale University and the Michigan State University Honors College. Primary violin teachers include Erick Friedman, Dmitri Berlinsky, James Krehbiel, and I-fu Wang. He studied conducting at Yale University with Lawrence Leighton Smith, Edward Cumming, and Shinik Hahm. Other notable teachers include John Farrer, Neil Thomson, Joana Carneiro, Dirk Brossé, Salvatore Di Vittorio, and Larry Rachleff.
Amanda Curcio is the appointed executive director of the Chamber Music Society and the Faulkner Chamber Music Festival's coordinator. She is active in the musical community, as the principal first violinist in the Arkansas Symphony's community orchestra, a violinist in local chamber music ensembles, and a violinist in Little Rock's summertime adult strings camp. Amanda began studying the violin in New York, where she grew up, when she was 9.
Amanda is a U.S. Army engineer officer and served two tours to Iraq as an intelligence analyst. She is currently deployed to Germany as a key staffer in the mission to train Ukrainians. Before going active duty, Amanda worked for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as an investigative reporter, winning Journalist of the Year in 2018 from the Society of Professional Journalists, and reported for the USA Today Network - Tallahassee Democrat as an education and previously crime reporter. Amanda taught middle school English Language Arts with Teach For America in Nashville.
Will Preece joined the Grand Rapids Symphony in 2011. Originally from Urbana, Illinois, he studied at Michigan State University, where he earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in cello performance.
Before joining the Grand Rapids Symphony, he was a member of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and most recently was principal cellist of the Lansing Symphony Orchestra.
Will is also one of the founders of the Faulkner Chamber Music Festival. He and his wife, violinist Jo Preece, live in Heritage Hill, Grand Rapids, with their two children and dogs.
Pianist Andrius Žlabys has received international acclaim for his appearances with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including The New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Rotterdam Symphony, and Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires.
Andrius, born in Lithuania and trained at the Curtis Institute of Music, was 18 years old when the Chicago Tribune wrote: “Pianist-composer Andrius Žlabys is one of the most gifted young keyboard artists to emerge in years.” Žlabys was also heralded by The New York Sun in a review titled “A Shining Hope of Pianists” after his recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Andrius' artistry has received many other accolades from the press for his performances of “easy virtuosity” (The Strad), “generous and all encompassing“ sound (The Philadelphia Inquirer),“spell-binding interpretation” (The Plain Dealer) and his “wealth of musical perception” (The Greenville News). This international acclaim has followed his uniquely honest approach to music, as described by The Philadelphia Inquirer: “The beloved C-major chord... rippled off Žlabys' hands with such open-hearted rightness that you couldn't escape the notion that the pianist was acting as Bach's ventriloquist...”
A multifaceted musician of wide-ranging repertoire, Andrius holds a special reverence for J. S. Bach, while remaining a strong advocate for the contemporary stage with numerous works commissioned by and written for him. Andrius continued his studies in the U.S. with Victoria Mushkatkol (Interlochen Arts Academy), Seymour Lipkin (Curtis Institute of Music), Sergei Babayan (Cleveland Institute of Music), and Claude Frank (Yale School of Music).
Katherine Williamson joined the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in 2013 and assumed the Assistant Concertmaster post in the fall of 2019. Williamson started her tenure with the Orchestra as an Arts Partner with the Rockefeller String Quartet. With the quartet, she was able to work throughout the state, performing classical music for countless school children, playing in the oncology ward of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and presenting numerous recitals to a variety of audiences across the state of Arkansas. In addition to her work with the Arkansas Symphony, she also frequently serves as Principal Second Violin of the Conway Symphony Orchestra.
Katherine has played as a semifinalist with the New World Symphony, been an associate member of the Chicago Civic Orchestra, and an extra with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. A native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, she still maintains musical connections to her home state as a freelance violinist with the Minnesota Orchestra and, until 2019, as a section violinist for the Mill City Summer Opera. Director of the ASO’s String Academy since the summer of 2019, Williamson is deeply passionate about music education and public service. She studied violin pedagogy with Dr. Brenda Brenner at Indiana University and with Ms. Christie Felsing at the Suzuki Institute at Ithaca College.
In addition to instructing violin lessons, Ms. Williamson is very dedicated to bringing chamber music to the young musicians of Central Arkansas. Since 2017, she has been on the violin faculty for the Faulkner Chamber Music Festival and, since 2018, has served on the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock Board. Williamson also served on the ASO’s Player’s Committee as President for two years from 2016 - 2018 and was named “Classical Innovator” by the Arkansas Times in 2018.
Williamson earned a Bachelor of Music with Distinction from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in 2012. She currently resides in downtown Little Rock with her rescue dog, Bernie the beagle.
Joo Yun Preece has been a member of the Grand Rapids Symphony since the 2017-18 season. Originally from Busan, South Korea, Jo began her musical studies at age 4, beginning with piano and adding violin a year later. After immigrating to Dansville, Michigan, at age 10, she continued studying the violin, attending the Meadowmount School of Music, Interlochen Arts Academy, Chautauqua Music Festival, and National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Jo earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in violin performance from Michigan State University, studying violin with I-Fu Wang and Dmitri Berlinsky, and chamber music with Natalia Khoma. It was during her chamber music studies that Jo met her future husband, Will, who was assigned to be the cellist in her quartet. After earning their graduate degrees at MSU, Jo and Will moved south, first to Memphis and then Little Rock, where Jo was a violinist for the Arkansas Symphony. She then founded the Faulkner Chamber Music Festival. For a decade, Jo worked with more than 100 students and performed chamber music with renowned artists from around the world.
During her time in Chicago, Jo started a chamber music program at the Civic Orchestra, taught at the Merit School of Music, and served as the coordinator of the Music Institute of Chicago’s prestigious Academy program. Since moving to Grand Rapids, Jo has enjoyed experimenting with gardening, renovating a historic home in Heritage Hill with Will, and seeing the world anew through the eyes of her two children.
During the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2018-19 season, continuing into the beginning of its 2019-20 season, Jo was part of the GRS staff as interim Director of Education. One of her current projects is the Heritage Hausmusik concert series, presenting intimate concerts in her neighborhood’s beautiful homes.
Er-Gene Kahng is a violinist, researcher, and educator whose work cameto the fore through her advocacy of black composer Florence Price. Herrecording of Florence Price’s Violin Concertos (Albany Records, 2018) hasbeen cited and praised as an important contribution to American classicalmusic, and has aired on programs like NPR’s Songs We Love, and APM’sPerformance Today. Er-Gene serves as concertmaster with the Fort Smith Symphony. Er-Gene is also a member of Chineke!, the first majority BAME (Black, Asianand Minority Ethnic) orchestra in Europe, whose motto is “championingchange and celebrating diversity in classical music.”
Previously, Er-Gene held title positions with the North MississippiSymphony Orchestra, SoNA, Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, the CivicOrchestra of Chicago, and section positions with the Lancaster Symphony, and New Haven Symphony. Other collaborations include co-curating anew music series “Fuse” (at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art),Texas Ballet Theater, the Hong Kong Arts Academy, performances withNorfolk Symphony (UK), Portland-Columbia Symphony, and CamelliaSymphony.
Er-Gene is the Professor of Violin, and the Director of Graduate Studies at the UA-Fayetteville. She was a Visiting Wolfson Fellow at the Universityof Cambridge in Cambridge, UK, and received degrees from UCLA, Yale,and Northwestern.
A Central Arkansas native, Jeremy Crosmer is a remarkable young artist — both as a cellist and a composer. Between 2012 and 2017, he served as the Assistant Principal cellist in the Grand Rapids Symphony and joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2017. Jeremy is a founding member of the modern music ensemble Latitude 49. He is also a current member of the band ESME, a duo that broadens the education of classical music by bringing crossovers and mashups of pop and classical music to schools throughout Michigan. ESME released its first CD in 2016.
Jeremy completed graduate degrees from the University of Michigan in cello, composition and theory pedagogy, and received his D.M.A. in 2012 at age 24. While still in school, Jeremy was awarded the prestigious Theodore Presser Graduate Music Award to publish, record and perform his Crosmer-Popper duets. He recorded the duets with Julie Albers; both sheet music and CD recordings are available online.
Jeremy has taught music theory, pre-calculus and cello at universities across Michigan. He draws mazes, writes science fiction and plays good old country fiddle in his spare time. www.jeremycrosmer.com
Tim MacDuff joined the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and its flagship string quartet, the Quapaw Quartet, in 2019. Originally from upstate New York, Tim began his musical studies with support from his public school teachers. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Crane School of Music and a Master of Music degree from Rice University studying with James Dunham. Tim completed a Doctorate in Musical Arts at the University of Maryland.
Tim performed with the National Repertory Orchestra, National Orchestral Institute, Round Top and Lake George festival orchestras. In 2017, MacDuff was awarded top prize in the University of Maryland's Concerto Competition and performed Ernest Bloch's Suite 1919 with the orchestra. He has also appeared as soloist with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante. As a chamber musician, Tim has performed across the D.C. area. He regularly appears on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's River Rhapsodies chamber series at the Clinton Library in Little Rock. MacDuff has coached student chamber groups at Manitou Springs Chamber Music Festival, Faulkner Chamber Music Festival, Crane Youth Music Camp and the University of Maryland. In addition to joining the U of A faculty, MacDuff teaches students of the Arkansas Symphony's Sturgis Academy and Youth Orchestras.
Ryan Mooney started the violin at the age of four with his aunt, Margaret Pressley. He then switched to viola at age 15 and went on to study with Ian Swenson and Jodi Levitz at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has attended such music festivals as Roundtop and Tanglewood where he had the pleasure of performing with the Mark Morris Dance Troup at Jacob’s Pillow. Ryan was also a fellow of the Carnegie Hall exchange program where he performed with his quartet in Carnegie Hall and on a Central Asian tour.
He has a large studio of violin and viola students, and teaches at the Community School of the Arts at University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Ryan has also served as FCMF faculty for more than a decade. He is married to Cathi Whaley and has two children.
Laura Williamson is a string player in the Boston area. She holds a BA in Music Performance and Sociology from Vanderbilt University, where she graduated summa cum laude, and a MM from New England Conservatory. Laura is passionate about 20th and 21st century music. In 2022, she recorded John Alyward’s opera, Oblivion, with viola, cello, bass, guitar and electronics. Laura can be heard performing around Boston with the Boston Festival Orchestra, Eureka Ensemble, and the Cape Ann Symphony, to name a few.
She is an active member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and is a certified Suzuki instructor through book 10. She is currently on the faculty of the New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School where she teaches violin and viola.