The OPUS faculty are chamber musicians with high musicality, who have learned commitment, drive for perfection, awareness, dedication, focus, and collaboration, which have turned the students’ growth in leadership, confidence, maturity, problem-solving, and improved ability and skills.
Faculty Listed by Instrument
- Director: Mara Gallagher
- Ensemble-in-Residence: The Orion Ensemble: Kathryne Pirtle, Clarinet; Florentina Ramniceanu, Violin; Judy Stone, Cello; Diana Schmück, Piano – Visit the Orion Ensemble website.
- Violin & Viola: Dr. Kate Carter, Kuei-Mian Tina Chang, Amanda Fenton, Mara Gallagher, Dana Green, Carl Johnston, Kevan Kosobayashi, Drew Lecher, Michèle Lekas, Ray Ostwald, Florentina Ramniceanu, Nina Saito, Daryl Silberman, Thomas Wermuth, Janis Wittrig, Shawnita Tyus, Patrick Gallagher, Allessandra West
- Cello: William Cernota, Tom Culver, Michael Duggan, Ann Griffin, Cathy Kuna, Dr. Mark Liu, Judy Stone, Tavi Ungerleider
- String Bass: Dr. Phillip Serna
- Piano: Patricia Barnes, Dr. Susan Chou (also Assistant Coordinator), Dr. Diana Schmück, Dr. Stephanie Wu (Piano Coordinator), Ben Nadel
- Clarinet: Kathryne Pirtle
- Flute: Dr. Cate Hummel
- Harp: Nichole Young
- Handbells: Patricia Barnes
- Classical Guitar: Ron Stark
- Conductors: Michael Duggan – Senior Chamber Orchestra, Dana Green – Junior Chamber Orchestra
Violin and/or Viola
KUEI-MIAN TINA CHANG (Viola): Won several prizes in major, national viola competitions in Taiwan and has appeared as a soloist with many orchestras. Her recent performances include C.M. von Weber’s Andante e Rondo ungarese for viola and orchestra and Donbrika Tabakova’s The Court Jester Amareu: Suite in Old Style with orchestra. Tina has been active at chamber music festivals in Taiwan, America, Sweden, England, China, and the western Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea. She was principal violist in Commonwealth Cantata and London Firebird Orchestra. M.A. in viola performance, the Royal Academy of Music in London, and B.A. Music Performance at Soochow University in Taiwan.
AMANDA FENTON (Violin): Ms. Fenton maintains a large private studio of Suzuki and traditional students at PM Music Center in Aurora and Downers Grove. She performs with the Northbrook Symphony, as part of the Bach Cantata Vespers Series at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest as well as other various solo and chamber music settings. She has a B.A. from Augustana College and an M.M. in Performance from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
MARA GALLAGHER (Music Director, Violin, Viola, Music Librarian): Ms. Gallagher started her Suzuki violin studies at age five. She has played chamber music at the Blossom Music Festival and was the violinist of Trio Caprice. She performs with the New Philharmonic and the DuPage Opera Theatre while maintaining a private violin studio in Naperville. She is an accomplished educator, and has two adult children who are also wonderful musicians. Faculty: North Central College. B.B.A., University of Notre Dame. Ms. Gallagher is also the Librarian and Music Director for other OPUS music programs.
DANA GREEN (Violin, Viola, Conductor): Mr. Green is the orchestra director at Vernon Hills High School and the conductor of Chicago Youth Debut Orchestra. For 10 years, Mr. Green taught at Naperville North High School and was one of the directors at Western Suburban Youth Symphony Orchestra. Degrees: B.M. in Music Ed., DePaul University; M.M. with a specialization in Music Ed., NIU and is a Suzuki certified instructor.
CARL JOHNSTON (Violin, Viola): Mr. Johnston has been with OPUS for 19 years in 2021. He performs with Chicago Sinfonietta, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, and Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra. He teaches at The Music Connection in Orland Park and his home studio in Tinley Park. He soloed throughout Europe and Asia with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and taught at DePaul University and VanderCook College. B.M. and M.M., Roosevelt University.
KEVAN KOSOBAYASHI (Conductor, Violin, Viola) received his Bachelors of Music degree from Northwestern University and Masters of Arts degree from Teachers College-Columbia University. Prior to teaching at Neuqua Valley High School (2015 to the present) he most recently taught elementary, middle, and high school strings for seven years at The American School in Japan (Tokyo) and for ten years prior to that in the northwest Chicago suburbs at Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, and Buffalo Grove High Schools. Mr. Kosobayashi has also worked with the Schaumburg Youth Orchestras and District 214 Honors Orchestra. At Neuqua, he directs the Symphonic Orchestra period 1 and Chamber Strings, in addition to teaching technique classes for Symphonic Strings and Concert Orchestras.
DREW LECHER (Violin, Viola): Formerly Professor of Violin & Viola at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London and founder of The Guildhall Trio, Mr. Lecher studied with Ivan Galamian of The Juilliard School at the Meadowmount School, Yfrah Neaman at the GSM&D and with Pierre Nerini of the Paris Conservatoire and Yfrah Neaman at the Academie d’ete in Nice, France. Teaching since1970, Mr. Lecher has published two books—Violin Technique: the Manual, How to Master and Viola Technique: the Manual, How to Master, selling in over 32 countries. Two singular honors have been received by Drew. Firstly, that of his Stradivarius violin, c.1721, being named after him in the Doring book, “How Many Strads” (rev’d. ed.), and secondly, the honor of being awarded by Illinois ASTA, Studio Teacher of the Year, 2009. Drew maintains a studio in Naperville, IL.
RAY OSTWALD (Viola, Violin, Conductor): Has served as the Orchestra Director of York Community High School in Elmhurst, IL. Has been in Solisti Di Camera String Quartet. Taught Blue Lake Camp, U. of Wisconsin Summer Clinic, and ISYM (IL Summer Youth Music). B.M. in instrumental music education and violin performance; B.A in math, Lawrence University in Appleton, WI; and M.M. Ed. from University of Wisconsin-Madison. OPUS Camp Music Director 2013-14.
FLORENTINA RAMNICEANU (Violin): Founding member of Orion and former first violinist with the Consortium String Quartet. Chamber music, solo, and guest concertmaster performances from London to Tokyo to Moscow, Kennedy and Lincoln Centers, and throughout the US. Most recently concertmaster of the Chicago Philharmonic, the Strauss Symphony of America at Symphony Center and the Kalamazoo Symphony. Recordings of chamber music; the acclaimed Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album (for which she holds a gold record); and many TV and radio commercials. Performances with CSO and Lyric Opera. Winner of the National Romanian Music and the Franz Liszt Weimar Competitions. Graduation with honors from the Bucharest Conservatory.
DARYL SILBERMAN (Viola, Violin, Conductor): Daryl Silberman is currently one of the Orchestra Directors of Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, IL. She also conducts DuPage Youth Symphony Orchestra’s entry level orchestra and is a mentor for first year teachers in Illinois through the Illinois Education Association. While teaching at Salem High School in 2011, she was nominated “50 Directors who Make a Difference” by the School Band & Orchestra Magazine for the State of Oregon. She received a B.M. from University of Colorado and Master of Arts in Teaching from Western Oregon University.
MICHÈLE LEKAS (Violin): Ms. Lekas serves as Concertmaster for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, the Northwest Indiana Symphony, and New Philharmonic Orchestra, and is a substitute violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Lekas regularly performs chamber music with the Pilgrim Chamber Players, and the Lekas Trio. She obtained her B.M. and M.M. from the Conservatoire de Musique du Quebec; and was honored with the Graduate Performance Diploma from the St. Louis Conservatory.
NINA SAITO (Violin): Nina Saito performs with many orchestras and ensembles in the Chicago and Milwaukee regions, including the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra and the Northshore Chamber Arts Ensemble. She also is co-concertmaster of the Light Opera Works orchestra. She previously was a member of the New York City Opera National Company, the Sarasota Opera, and the Illinois Philharmonic. Nina trained with the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. She spent ten summers with the American Institute of American Studies orchestra in Graz, Austria, and participated with the Spoleto Festival orchestra in both Italy and Charleston, SC. Nina is an enthusiastic Suzuki violin teacher. She has taught at the Suzuki Music School of Lincoln Park for the past ten years and is registered through Book 7. She received her BM from Northwestern University and her MM from the University of Houston.
THOMAS WERMUTH (Violin, Viola): Tom Wermuth studied the violin at the Juilliard School in New York, where he was a student of Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay. He enjoys an international reputation as a guest clinician and registered teacher trainer for the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Mr. Wermuth was awarded the Presidential Scholars Teacher Recognition Award, and he was also named the 2010 ASTA Illinois Teacher of the Year. Mr. Wermuth is a graduate of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing.
JANIS K. WITTRIG (Violin, Viola): Janis K. Wittrig has taught using the Suzuki Method for more than 30 years. She has been a clinician at workshops throughout the continental United States, as well as in Hawaii, Canada and Singapore.
Janis has taught with the Pasadena and the Wheaton College Suzuki Programs and is currently a faculty member at the Western Springs School of Talent Education. Ms. Wittrig served as Concertmistress of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra from 2006 through 2013. In 2016, in recognition of her “pursuit of excellence in teaching” and that her “talent and skills as a fine violin teacher have produced a record five outstanding concertmasters. Janis Wittrig was Violin Coordinator for the Suzuki Association of the Americas Biennial Conference. Janis received a BA in Performance and an MS in Music Education from the University of Illinois. She did further advanced study at the University of Southern California, where she was first violinist of the Graduate String Quartet.
CATHLEEN CARTER (Violin): Dr. Kate Carter enjoys a varied career as a violinist, teacher, lecturer, and adjudicator. She is a founding member of Blue Violet Duo, whose critically acclaimed 2018 debut album, American Souvenirs, received a grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and was selected as WFMT’s “New Release of the Day.” The duo has been heard at Weill Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, the Dame Myra Hess series, and on radio stations across the US. Stringendo Magazine wrote that “[The duo] excels at both extremes, from the nuanced and restrained to the incandescent and extravagant.”
Kate has toured internationally with orchestras including Camerata Chicago (2013) and the Lucerne Festival Academy (2009). She has appeared with ensembles including the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Music of the Baroque, Chicago Philharmonic, Fulcrum Point New Music Ensemble, Access Contemporary Music, International Chamber Artists, the Grant Park Symphony, and the Elmhurst Symphony, where she is the Assistant Concertmaster. Kate holds a doctorate in violin performance from Northwestern University and a Master of Music from the Eastman School of Music, and she teaches at the Northwestern Music Academy and Lake Forest College. A California native, she resides in Evanston with her husband, who is also a violinist.
SHAWNITA TYUS (Violin): Shawnita Tyus is the orchestra director at Waubonsie Valley High School of IPSD District 204. Ms. Tyus earned her bachelor’s degree in violin performance from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and studied with Simin Ganatra from the Pacifica Quartet. She earned her Master’s degree in violin Performance from DePaul University and studied with Olga Kaler. During her master’s studies at DePaul University, Ms. Tyus also attained her music education teaching certification. Ms. Tyus currently free-lances as a professional violinist. She is a member of Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, Chicago Sinfionetta’s Project Inclusion Program, and she also has subbed as a violinist in the Chicago Sinfoinetta.
PATRICK GALLAGHER (Viola, Violin): This fall, violist and violinist, Patrick Gallagher will begin his second year teaching orchestra in the Naperville 203 school district at Beebe Elementary, Steeple Run Elementary, and Jefferson Jr. High. Mr. Gallagher holds an undergraduate degree in music education and a master’s degree in music performance from the University of Minnesota. Prior to returning to Naperville, he taught in the Minnetonka Public school district, freelanced in the Twin Cities area, and was the assistant principal viola for the Mankato Symphony orchestra. When not studying, teaching, or performing music, Mr. Gallagher enjoys baking, DIY projects, and bike riding. This will be his 4th year working with OPUS.
ALLESSANDRA WEST (Violin, Bass, Conductor): Allessandra West is an Orchestra Director at Metea Valley High School of IPSD 204. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Violin Performance and Music Education from Augustana College, where she studied with Dr. Susan Stone. Prior to teaching at Metea Valley High School, Allessandra taught elementary and high school orchestra in Davenport, Iowa. Allessandra was one of ILMEA’s Emerging Leaders of 2021. She is also an active performer on violin and is a member of the Fox Valley Orchestra.
OM CULVER (Cello) is the Orchestra Director in School District 102 in LaGrange Park. Throughout his 28-year tenure as orchestra director, the program has increased 5-fold to over 300 string students. Spending much of his formative years performing in orchestras, rock/blues bands and jazz ensembles, Culver incorporates and shares these elements with his students. Exposing students to multiple musical genres early in their orchestra experience has developed into an essential part of the program. He received his Bachelors of Music Education degree at Illinois State University where he studied cello with Ko Iwasaki and double bass with Bill Koehler, and a Masters of Music Education from VanderCook College of Music. Currently Tom is active as a cellist and bassist in the Chicagoland area playing in various groups and ensembles including the 1970’s tribute band ‘Strung Out’ featuring his unique 6-string electric cello.
MICHAEL DUGGAN (Cello, Conductor): Performed as soloist and chamber musician on WFMT and Dame Myra Hess. Served as principal cellist of Chicago Civic Orchestra and performed with Chicago Sinfonietta, Sarasota and Key West Orchestras. Taught at Lewis and Northeastern Illinois University and currently on the faculty at Trinity International University; Orchestra Director at Barrington Middle School-Station Campus in Barrington, IL. Board Member, Illinois chapter of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA). B.M. and M.M., Roosevelt University; B. Music Ed., DePaul University.
ANN GRIFFIN (Cello): Ann Griffin is a founding member of the Chicago Sinfonietta and in 1992 was appointed to the position of Principal Cello by Maestro Paul Freeman. She has also served as Principal Cello of Joffrey Ballet Chicago , Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and touring companies of The Royal Ballet of London, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theater and Ballet West. After winning the Farwell Scholarship of 1982 and at the invitation of Aarond Rosand, she studied at the Academie Internationale in France with Maurice Gendron and earned the Certificate du Stage. Further studies included coaching with Frank Miller, former principal cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ann completed her B.M. and M.M. in Cello Performance at Roosevelt University as a student of Karl Fruh.
MARK LIU (Cello, Conductor): Dr. Liu has been teaching orchestra at Metea Valley (and Waubonsie Valley) High School for over a decade. He performs on the cello regularly with New Philharmonic Orchestra and Fox Valley Orchestra. He has served as the ILMEA District IX Orchestra Chair, and is currently serving as the ILMEA Division President. He has earned a Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in Music Ed., and Master of Music (M.M.) in Music Ed. from Wheaton College; M.M., Northwestern University, and Aurora University; and Doctor of Music Ed., Boston University. Dr. Mark Liu is also the conductor of Youth Symphony of DuPage.
CATHY KUNA (Cello): Active as a creative and versatile musician and teacher: Improviser, composer, arranger for innovative theatre, film, and educational projects. Ms. Kuna has been with OPUS for 17 years in 2021. She also works as a solo, chamber, orchestral, and recording artist in classical, global, American roots, folk, rock, and cross-style music. She is a faculty member at College of DuPage and received a B.M., Wheaton College; M.M., Northwestern University.
JUDY STONE (Cello): In additional to performing and touring with the Orion Ensemble, she performs with such groups as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Music of the Baroque. She has appeared as soloist both in the U.S. and abroad in addition to chamber music and orchestral collaborations. Judy Stone received her musical education at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and earned Bachelor of Music (B.M.) and M.M. degrees at Roosevelt University under the tutelage of Karl Fruh.
Born to a musical family, TAVI UNGERLEIDER (Cello) began cello studies at the age of five in Sudbury, Massachusetts. He studied with Ronald Feldman in Boston; at Juilliard with Joel Krosnick in the Columbia-Juilliard joint program (Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Statistics, Columbia; Master of Music, Juilliard); and with Frans Helmerson as a Young Soloist at the Kronberg Academy (Professional Studies) and at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin (Artist Diploma). He has been mentored by many of the leading musicians of our time, including Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, András Schiff, Steven Isserlis, David Geringas, Gary Hoffman, Laurence Lesser, and Paul Katz.
Ungerleider has been the recipient of top prizes from the Koussevitzky Young Artist Awards and the National Federation of Music Clubs. In 2015 he was awarded the Frank Huntington Beebe Grant. He is also a previous winner of the International Crescendo Music Awards, and from competitions hosted by the Harvard Musical Association, and the International Chamber Music Ensemble Competition of the Chamber Music Foundation of New England. He also will perform as the First Assistant Principal in Montreal Symphony in 2019.
WILLIAM CERNOTA (Cello): William H. Cernota has been a cellist in Chicago’s Lyric Opera since 1982. He played his first Ring Cycle under Zubin Mehta which he felt incredible. Over a period of 14 years, he performed as a substitute with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir Georg Solti. Earlier, he performed the solo cello part to Strauss’s Don Quixote with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and two of Witold Lutoslawski’s works for cello and piano on stage at Orchestra Hall in the presence of the composer. Bill and Violinist Nina Saito collaborate in a string quartet named Fermi Quartet. He holds BA Biology, BA Ideas & Methods (Philosophy with an outside discipline); University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Master of Engineering (Bioinformatics).
PHILLIP SERNA (Contrabass, Viol da Gamba): Dr. Serna is double bassist with the Illinois Philharmonic, S.W. Michigan Symphony, et al. On viols, Dr. Serna performs with period-instrument Early Music ensembles including Black Tulip, New Comma Baroque, The Spirit of Gambo, et al. He is the founder and music director of Viols in Our Schools, an award-winning Early Music program. Dr. Serna has a B.M. San Francisco Conservatory, and M.M. and DM, Northwestern University.
Handbells & Piano
PATRICIA BARNES (Handbell Choir Conductor, Piano): Currently completing her twenty second year as organist and handbell director at the First United Methodist Church in Downers Grove, Illinois, previously having served at the First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton, Illinois. She is full-time staff collaborative pianist at Downers Grove North High School and additionally maintains a private piano studio. B.M., Wheaton College; M.M. and doctoral study, Indiana University, all in piano performance.
DIANA SCHMÜCK (Piano): Founding member of Orion Ensemble, and proclaimed by the Chicago Sun-Times as “one of the finest chamber pianists on the scene,” Dr. Schmück has also founded the Debriana Duo; the Daedalus Duo and the Vermillion Trio. She has collaborated with instrumental musicians from many of the foremost American orchestras, and worked for 14 summers with world-class singers at Ravinia’s Steans Institute. Dr. Schmück earned a doctoral degree from Northwestern University and also holds degrees from DePaul University and Wheaton College. She maintains a studio in Evanston, IL.
STEPHANIE WU (Piano, Violin, Piano Coordinator): Dr. Wu has been with OPUS for 13 years in 2021. She performed as a soloist with Chicago Symphony, DuPage and Wheaton Symphonies, among others. She is a highly awarded chamber musician with performances on NPR’s “From the Top,” WFMT, and WQXR. Faculty positions include Geneva Conservatory of NYC and Teaching Assistant at Juilliard. She received a B.M., an M.M., and a DMA; Juilliard.
SUSAN CHOU (Piano, Violin, Assistant Piano Coordinator): Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Susan Chou immigrated to the U.S. and completed her bachelor’s degree in computer engineering at Northwestern University. After that, she went to study piano performance with Menahem Pressler at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where she completed her master’s and doctorate degrees. Dr. Chou has given numerous solo recitals and appeared as a soloist with orchestras such as Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, Symphony of the Mountains, and Taipei Symphony Orchestra. She also enjoys playing chamber music recitals. Between 2010 and 2019, she traveled extensively as an American cultural ambassador to teach and perform with Trio Chicago and Friends. Dr. Chou is a devoted teacher. She currently serves as Assistant Professor in Music and Coordinator of Piano Studies at North Central College, while maintaining a private piano studio.
BEN NADEL (Conductor, Piano, Violin): Benjamin Nadel is a classically trained conductor, pianist, and violinist. Based in Chicago, he is the Associate Conductor and Orchestra Librarian for the New Philharmonic and Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. He is also the Orchestra Director at North Central College. In the past, Nadel served as Assistant Conductor at the Midwest Institute of Opera under Maestro Joshua Green of the Metropolitan Opera. He has also worked with several youth groups and high school ensembles including New Trier, Metea Valley, Glenbard West, Stevenson High School, and the Northwest Indiana Youth Symphony. Nadel holds a B.M.E. from Illinois State University and an M.A. in Orchestral Conducting from The University of Iowa.
KATHRYNE PIRTLE (Clarinet): Is Executive Director of the Orion Ensemble. Principal clarinetist of the Lake Forest Symphony since 1990. Private teacher for over 30 years. Master classes on clarinet and chamber music literature, pedagogy and artist development. Author, journalist and lecturer. University of Illinois, B.S. Music Ed.; Bradley University, M.M., Clarinet Performance: Indiana University, Doctoral Studies.
CATE HUMMEL (Flute): Dr. Hummel is one of the most sought after flute instructors in Chicagoland. As winner of the Artists International Young Artists Competition, she was presented in a debut in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Dr. Hummel is an Adjunct Flute Professor, the University of St. Francis. She received her Doctor of Musical Arts and M.M., Manhattan School of Music, and B.M., the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts.
RON STARK (Classical Guitar): Has taught private classical guitar for over 18 years, and currently performs with the Caribbean-fusion group Callaloo. Executive Director of the Fox River Academy of Music and Art (Oswego, IL) and an executive board member for the Chicago Classical Guitar Society. Studied under Brian Torosian (Northeaster University), Mark Maxwell (DePaul University), and Robert Guthrie (Southern Methodist University), and received his formal education at DePaul School of Music, where he focused on guitar performance and was the DePaul Guitar Ensemble’s Concertmaster.
NICHOLE YOUNG (Harp): Has taught privately in Naperville, and currently teaches at North Central College and Fox River Academy of Music and Art (Oswego, IL). Has been performing as principal harpist for Peoria Symphony, DuPage Symphony, and Illinois Valley Symphony and is a chamber musician. Ms. Young recorded Liam Teague’s A Christmas Gift on a Sack label, and Dexter Morrille’s Three Concertos on a Centaur CD with Northern Illinois Philharmonic. B.M. Northern Illinois University; M.M. Harp Performance, Northwestern University.