Orchestra Musicians

Concertmaster Albanian-American violinist Brunilda Myftaraj has drawn enthusiastic accolades from audiences as well as critical acclaim for her masterful musicianship in Albania, Italy, Greece, France, Morocco, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Israel and in the United States. She has been praised by the New London Day critic as an “especially fine and beautiful player”. Myftaraj’s teachers are some of worlds finest which include 9 times Grammy winner Emerson String Quartet, She graduated with the Highest Honors from the Conservatory of Fine Arts in Tirana, Albania. She furthered her studies in Switzerland, Italy and United States. Her teachers have included Proletare Skenderi, Piero Faulli of the Quartetto Italiano, Alberto Lissy, Phil Setzer, Eugene Drucker,
Rafael Druian and Renato Bonacini, but her true inspiration comes from audiences and her artistic interactions with students and colleagues. Her recordings of “Naked Violin” and “The American Pie” received impeccable reviews from the Fanfare magazine.

  • Myftaraj’s Naked Violin may be – just shy of 38 minutes – but it more than makes up for it in sheer inspired music – making…Jerry Dubins – Fanfare magazine
  • Myftaraj gives a masterful and penetrating performance of Bach’s famous Chaconne…Jerry Dubins – Fanfare magazine
  • Many of my readers will want to own this interesting CD. The American Pie with Myftaraj and Parker …Maria Nockin – Fanfare magazine
  • This is a fascinating programmed disc, well realized…Colin Clarke – Fanfare magazine
  • The American Pie, a truly special and especially recommended album…Jerry Dubins – Fanfare magazine

Ms. Myftaraj participated and was recognized at several competitions such as first prize winner of the Van Roy competition and the Emerson Quartet competition at the Hartt school of music in Hartford, winner of Trinity auditions in New York, semifinalist in Young Artist Guild in New York, and Lipizer Competition in Gorizia, Italy, as well as Indianapolis International Violin Competition in Indiana. Ms. Myftaraj currently holds the position of Concertmaster for the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, the Connecticut Lyric Opera, and Greve Opera Festival and Chamber Music Academy in Greve-In-Chianti, Italy. She is the director of the Virtuosi Music Academy and the Summer Music Institute in Farmington, Connecticut, where she also teaches violin
and chamber music.


Assistant Concertmaster, Laurel Thurman received her Bachelor and Master’s degrees from the University of Memphis, and was awarded a Doctor of Musical Arts in violin performance from the University of Arizona. Her research in string pedagogy has taken her to England and Japan, where she studied with Sheila Nelson and Shinichi Suzuki. Active as a performing musician, Ms. Thurman has been a member of the Hartford, Memphis, Tucson, and Rockford, Illinois Symphony Orchestras, and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra in Chicago. She has taught in public schools in Arizona and Connecticut, and at Northern Illinois University and the University of Connecticut. Currently, Ms. Thurman performs with the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra.


Violinist Frank Bigenho, born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He attended Carnegie-Mellon- University where he received of BFA in music. Moved to Hartford, Connecticut and received his MM in performance from Hartt School of Music. During that time he became a member of the Hartford Chamber Orchestra and Hartford Symphony. In 1986 he left for Puerto Rico to play in the Sinfonica de Puerto Rico and Pablo Casal’s summer festivals for 6 seasons. After which he returned to Hartford and now is currently teaching in the New Britain school district, freelancing, and playing with the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra.


Principal Second Violinist, Katalin Viszmeg is from Hungary, earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Budapest at the Franz Liszt Music Academy and completed and Artist Diplima as a part of 20/20 Chamber Music Program at the Hartt School. Ms. Viszmeg received top prizes at the Hungarian National Violin Solo and Chamber Music Competitions, at the International Chamber Music Ensemble Competition in Boston, and she is the winner of the Paranov Concerto Competition at the Hartt School. As a soloist and active chamber musician, Ms. Viszmeg has performed with various ensembles in Europe and the United States. She is also the second principal violinist of the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, violin faculty of the Hartt School Community Division, director of strings at Northwest Catholic High School and faculty member of the Connecticut Virtuosi Summer Institute in Farmington, CT.


Marianne Vogel holds a Bachelor of Music degree in music theory from the University of Connecticut, and later continued with graduate study towards a performer’s certificate in violin at the Hartt School of Music. Major teachers have been Mickey Reisman and David Spicer. Marianne plays regularly with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Springfield and Waterbury Symphonies. Other interests include historical performance on strings, keyboard accompaniment, and organ playing.


Principal Violist Dorota Peglow received her Master of Music degrees from Academy of Music in Cracow, Poland in 2001 and from Yale School of Music in 2004, where she studied with Maestro Jesse Levine. She performed with various orchestras in Poland, Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain. More recently she performed with various Connecticut orchestras such as Bridgeport Symphony orchestra and Norwalk Symphony Orchestra. For last ten years she has been a viola principal of Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra.


Violist & Resident composer Jonathan Kane is a composer and violist from Newington, Connecticut. He began his musical studies at age seven with violin lessons at the Hartt School Community Division at the University of Hartford. He continued at the Hartt School until graduating high school, also taking lessons in composition, viola, and music theory, as well as playing in the Connecticut Youth Symphony. Jonathan attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, as well as Eastman’s “parent” institution, the University of Rochester, getting a Bachelor of Music in Composition and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. Since graduating, he has performed with the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and taught viola and music theory, as well as continuing to compose, arrange, and perform elsewhere. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in composition at the Boston Conservatory. Jonathan has written commissioned pieces for the Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet and for the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, which premiered his orchestral work Shesh in 2017. His musical style brings together diverse influences, including the music of past composers such as Bach, Debussy, Shostakovich, and Hindemith, but also living composers such as Sofia Gubaidulina. His works are also inspired by music outside of the classical tradition, particularly klezmer and jazz. Jonathan’s music is also very much influenced by his mathematical background. Many of his pieces are closely related to various mathematical concepts, which provide their harmonic structures or forms. In all of his pieces, Jonathan takes both the traditional and the new, and synthesizes them together to create his own style.


Violist Jessica Heller, a native of Connecticut, began studying the viola at the age of seven and went on to study at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, graduating with a degree in both Viola Performance and Recording Engineering. In her final year at Duquesne, Ms. Heller won a viola position with the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra and shortly after, won a substitute position with the Pittsburgh Ballet Orchestra. She has also performed alongside the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and with the Hartford Symphony, Classical Orchestra of Santiago, Chile. Ms. Heller is currently Assistant Principal Violist of the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and Connecticut Lyric Opera. Ms. Heller has been teaching private lessons in the greater West Hartford area for over 15 years and has helped nurture a love for music in students of all ages as well as helped them to gain positions in elite ensembles in the region.


Principal Cellist Kathleen Schiano, cellist, received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music for cello performance from the University of Kansas, and her Master’s Degree from Stony Brook, where she studied with the renowned Bernard Greenhouse, co-founder of the Beaux Arts Piano Trio. She also studied with Laszlo Varga, Peter Howard, John Ehrlich, Uziahu Wiesel (Tel-Aviv Quartet), David Geber and Daniel Avshalomov (American String Quartet). She has appeared as soloist with the Topeka Symphony, and performed with Andrea Bocelli, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Engelbert Humperdink, Liberace, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, and Bill Cosby. In addition to being principal cellist with the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, Kathleen regularly performs with the Hartford Symphony.


Cellist Andrew Rosen, is a rising force in New England and the Eastern US. Born in New Hampshire yet raised in Connecticut since the age of four, music called to him at the young age of nine.Andrew made his orchestral debut with the Sol Solis Consort at the age of 15. Since then he has attended numerous international festivals including Interharmony International Music Festival, Summit Music Festival, the Aria International Institute, and Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival. At such festivals, Andrew has studied with cellists such as Emanuel Gruber, Nathaniel Rosen, and Alan Rafferty. After beginning his work with Hartt Professor Terry King, Andrew attended DePaul University in which he received his BM in Cello Performance under the tutelage of Stephen Balderston. Andrew then went on to receive his Master of Music degree at The Hartt School under Mihai Tetel. Andrew has performed in masterclasses for renowned cellists, Matt Haimovitz and Steven Isserlis. He performs throughout the Connecticut area with the Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra of Connecticut, Connecticut Lyric Opera, and is also a member of Divina Strings. Andrew is currently on faculty at The Rectory School in Pomfret, CT and the Virtuosi Music School in Farmington, CT.


Douglas J Lemke currently serves as Principal Double Bass of The Virtuosi, Principal Double Bass of CT Lyric Opera, and Principal Double Bass of The Greve Opera Orchestra in Italy. He is the Double Bass teacher at The Connecticut Virtuosi Music Academy, and also at the CT Virtuosi Summer Music Institute. With three degrees in performance, two from The Hartt School and one from Penn State University, he has shared his passion by performing throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, the Balkans, and South America. Doug has had the privilege of premiering and recording for Emmy Award-winning composer Lanny Meyers in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Following the National Broadway Tours of “Cinderella”, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”, “The Sound of Music”, and a successful 2016/2017 season with The Virtuosi and CT Lyric Opera, his upcoming performances include Puccini’s “Tosca” and Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” with The Greve Opera Orchestra throughout the summer season in the Chianti region of Italy. Douglas maintains three private studios, teaching and sharing knowledge and experience to dedicated, emerging artists along the Eastern seaboard of the US.


Principal Flutist Jill Maurer-Davis, retired from the U. S. Coast Guard Band and U. S. Coast Guard Woodwind Quintet, currently performs as principal flutist with the Connecticut Virtuosi, CT Lyric Opera, Salt Marsh Opera and the Opera Theater of CT. As a flute and piccolo soloist, Ms. Maurer-Davis has been featured on National Public Radio and Australia Broadcasting Co. as well as on NHK in Japan. She has been featured on “Performance Today” broadcasts on NPR. On PBS, she has appeared on Exxon’s “Live at Wolf Trap” series and with Jean-Pierre Rampal on New York’s WNET. Ms. Maurer-Davis was invited by the Boston Symphony Orchestra to perform in recital at Symphony Hall for a special orchestral event. Other appearances have included flute and piccolo soloist at the National Flute Association convention, performances with the Boston Pops, Worcester and Hartford Symphonies, Connecticut Opera, New Haven Symphony, Orchestra New England, Northeast Pennsylvania Philharmonic, and a North American tour with tenor, Andrea Bocelli. Ms. Maurer-Davis joined the faculty of Central CT State University in 1998. Her past teaching affiliations include Brown University, Clark University, and the College of the Holy Cross. She holds B.M. and M.M. degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and a diploma from the Orff Institute-Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. Her principal teachers have included Louis Moyse, Thomas Nyfenger, James Galway, James Pappoutsakis, and Lois Schaefer. She is also certified to teach Suzuki Flute and the early childhood music system, Musikgarten.


Principal Oboist Johanna Lamb received her Bachelor’s of Arts degree Cum Laude from UCLA and her Masters of Music in Oboe Performance from The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. She performs as the principal oboist of the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. In addition she has performed around the state with the Nutmeg Symphony Orchestra, the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, The Blackledge Woodwind Quintet and the Con Brio Choral Society. As a teacher, Johanna enjoys taking the oboe, what many people consider to be a difficult instrument, and making it accessible to all her students. She also finds joy in watching them develop as performers. Her students regularly perform in regional honor ensembles and All-State.


Oboist Briana Tarby began as the Co-Principal Oboe of the United States Coast Guard Band in New London, CT in September 2012. She is also a frequent performer with the Symphony Orchestras of New Haven, Eastern Connecticut, Wallingford, and Cape Cod, and Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. Prior to moving to Connecticut, Briana was accepted as an Oboe Fellow with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida. She received her Master of Music from Mannes School of Music and Bachelor of Music from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and won concerto competitions at both schools on the Eugene Goossens and Richard Strauss Concertos. She has also performed the Kalliwoda Concertino with the Colts Neck Community Band (NJ) and will perform the Jennifer Higdon Concerto with the US Coast Guard Band in November 2016. Briana has spent summers studying at Interlochen, Brevard and Aspen. Her primary teachers are Elaine Douvas, Roger Roe, Linda Strommen, and Andrew Adelson. She has also studied extensively with Nathan Hughes, Jeannette Bittar, and Daniel Stolper.


Principal Clarinetist Jim Forgey has been an active performer and teacher in Connecticut since 1992. He holds degrees from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. His teachers include John McCaw and Kalmen Opperman. Jim is a member of the Connecticut Virtuosi , and The Waterbury Symphony and performs frequently as a freelance clarinetist with orchestras throughout Connecticut. Jim has also been a part of many Broadway National tour productions at Hartford’s Bushnell Theater including, “The Producers”, “Ragtime”, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”, “Wicked” and “If/Then”.


Clarinetist Julie Asuma Levene, clarinet, has played with The Virtuosi for 15 years. She came to Connecticut from her home state of Minnesota to attend the Yale School of Music, where she studied with David Shifrin, Charles Neidich, and Ayako Oshima, and earned a Master of Music degree. She is a member of the Wallingford Symphony Orchestra and plays regularly with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony. She has collaborated with singer/songwriter Sarah LeMieux in the Sarah LeMieux Quintet, a “chamber jazz” ensemble which has won Best Jazz Group at the Connecticut Music Awards, as well as Album of the Year for the CD Moments Musicaux. Other recordings include a CD of opera arias by Brian Cheney – Tenor, and a play-along CD for Stacy Phillips’ collection of Easy Klezmer Tunes. Julie is a clarinet instructor and chamber music coach at Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, and teaches clarinet lessons at Choate Rosemary Hall and Notre Dame High school, in addition to maintaining a private studio out of her home.


Principal Bassoonist Jennifer Bruening, principal bassoonist of the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra since 2005, is a native of South Windsor, CT. In addition to being an avid freelancer and frequently performing with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra, Jennifer is also a member of the Wallingford Symphony Orchestra and the New Britain Symphony Orchestra. Jennifer earned her Bachelor of Music degree in bassoon performance from The New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Richard Ranti; she subsequently attained a Master of Music degree in bassoon performance from The Hartt School, where she studied with Marc Goldberg and was accepted into the school’s Performance 20/20 honors chamber music program that provides members with full tuition scholarships. Jennifer also maintains a private studio of students and is the bassoon instructor at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, CT.


Roger Caruk has performed for over 20 years throughout New England with numerous groups, including the Thayer Symphony, New Philharmonia, Emmanuel Music, Hartford Symphony, Eastern CT Symphony, Waterbury Symphony, Nutmeg Symphony, and New Britain Symphony. He is currently Principal Horn with the CT Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, CT Lyric Opera Orchestra, and Hartford Pops Band.He graduated from the University of Connecticut.


French Horn Jamie Marci has been a freelance horn player and instructor in Connecticut since 1999. Born and raised in the Midwest, she moved to the east coast after completing her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. During her four years in Columbia, she attended the Aspen Music Festival for two summers and studied under John Cerminaro. The graduate program at the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School brought her to New England, and the freelancing and teaching opportunities have kept her here. She is the principal horn with the New Britain Symphony, principal horn with Wallingford Symphony, second horn with The Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, and has also played with the Hartford Symphony, the United States Coast Guard Band, the Bridgeport Symphony, the Waterbury Symphony, the Ridgefield Symphony, and for Josh Groban, LeAnn Rimes, and Idnea Menzel.


French Horn Cathryn Cummings is a dynamic musician who is passionate about bringing music and the arts to the public. She served for ten years in the United States Navy Music Program, during which she performed at hundreds of military ceremonies, including those for Presidents and international dignitaries. Public performances with the Navy Band include appearances with the Boston Pops, at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, and on The Today Show. A staunch advocate for new music, Cathryn is Principal Horn with the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra (HICO), an organization dedicated to presenting new and nonstandard repertoire for chamber orchestra and smaller ensembles. Some of HICO’s recent activities include commissions and performances of works by five Connecticut composers. Cathryn also serves as HICO’s Director of Development. Equally committed to standard orchestral repertoire, she has held the positions of Principal Horn and Second Horn with the Albany (GA) Symphony Orchestra, and has performed with numerous other regional orchestras including the Albany (NY), Greater Bridgeport, Hartford, Jacksonville, and New Bedford Symphonies. Cathryn has performed as a soloist in Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, and Connecticut. Her most recent solo appearances include performances of Lennox Berkeley’s Trio for Violin, Horn, and Piano with HICO, Rheinhold Glière’s Horn Concerto with the Brazosport Symphony Orchestra in Lake Jackson, Texas, and a lecture/recital focusing on transcriptions for the horn at The Hartt School.


French Horn Jaime Thorne earned an a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education, a Master’s degree, and a Performer’s Certificate during a fellowship with Lisa Bontrager at The Pennsylvania State University followed by an Artist Diploma from the Cleveland Institute of Music with Richard King, Principal Horn of the Cleveland Orchestra and DMA studies at Rutgers University under Douglas Lundeen. She is an active performer leaving her DMA studies to perform with the Canton Symphony as well as the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, City Music Cleveland, and The Akron Symphony. Her performance career shifted to New England after winning the third horn position in the United States Coast Guard Band (2006-2010), followed by performances with many nearby orchestras including The Hartford Symphony, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Connecticut Virtuosi Orchestra, The New Haven Symphony, Bridgeport Symphony, and Waterbury Symphony.


Principal Trumpet Julia Caruk started disappointing her family as a teenager, when she decided to forgo more lucrative careers in pursuit of a music degree at UConn. She continued this folly by obtaining a Master’s of Music at the Univ. of Michigan in Ann Arbor, living on a shoestring budget supported by delivering pizzas. Fresh out of school, Julia married her trumpet-playing high school sweetheart, and they both joined the U.S. Air Force Band of the West in San Antonio, TX. She has continued her musical pursuits as co-principal trumpet of the CT Virtuosi (along with her husband), principal trumpet of the Eastern CT Symphony, freelancing around the state, and attempting to impart some wisdom to youth through private trumpet lessons.


Trumpet Jessie Wills is native to Connecticut and currently resides in New Britain. In preparation for her career as a music teacher in one of Hartford’s public schools, Jessie attended the University of Connecticut where she earned a B.S. in music education and B.A. in music. After completing these degrees she continued her education at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where she earned a Master of Music in trumpet performance. Jessie maintains a professional performing career playing with many groups around the state of Connecticut and Massachusetts including Bridgeport and Wallingford Symphony Orchestras She is also equally comfortable performing on trumpet, cornet and the corno da caccia. Her private students continue to receive top ratings at regional and state festivals. Her trumpet teachers include Dan Patrylak, Gene Young, James Ackely and Phil Collins.


Topher Logan, principal trombone B.M., University of Connecticut; M.M., Baylor University, Texas, serves as the Director for the Community School of the Arts. A former member of the Waco Symphony, Mr. Logan is principal trombone of the Thayer Symphony and the Connecticut Virtuosi. He is also a member of the New Britain Symphony and Nutmeg Symphony. Mr. Logan is active as a freelance jazz and classical musician throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts and has performed with Goodspeed Opera, Connecticut Lyric Opera, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Connecticut Opera, and Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Logan also directs the Screamin’ Eagles Jazz Band from East Hartford.


Principal Percussion Kuljit Rehncy was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and began his music career in 1986 upon winning The Percussive Arts Society’s Solo Timpani Competition. He went on to receive Bachelors Degrees in both Percussion Performance and Recording Arts and Sciences from The Peabody Institute of Music. After a stint at Nickelodeon Studios, Orlando, Florida, he moved to Connecticut for the first time to manage the Charles Ives Center for the Arts. He received a Masters Degree in Timpani Performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and toured for a year with the critically acclaimed, but short-lived chamber music group, Standish Drive, before returning to Connecticut to joining the Coast Guard Band in 1996. He has been a lecturer at various colleges in audio, acoustics, and percussion, and has performed with groups such as The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra, and others, under many inspirational conductors. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Stevi, working on their house, and playing in New England area orchestras.