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Current Graduate Students

Brad Allen

Portrait of Brad Allen.
Brad Allen.

Brad Allen is a current graduate student working towards an M.M. in Choral Conducting at BCCM. Since earning his B.M. in Music Education from CSULB, Brad has taught high school choir in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District for the past 6 years, the last 4 of which have been spent at his alma mater, Murrieta Valley High School. The choirs at MVHS tour annually throughout the nation and pride themselves on their ability to perform diverse repertoire at a high level.

Before returning to his studies, Brad held the position of Music Director at Grace Presbyterian Church in Temecula for 3 years, directing the Chancel Choir and leading the praise team on vocals and guitar. As a vocalist, Brad performed with Riverside City College when they won the Mixed Choir Division at the Eisteddfod Choral Competition in Wales. While singing with the BCCM Chamber Choir, Brad sang at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Segerstrom Hall, Staples Center, and PETCO Park, with highly acclaimed artists such as Eric Whitacre, The Rolling Stones, Kronos Quartet, and the Mark Morris Dance Group.

Brad was born in Long Beach, raised in Murrieta, and currently resides in Seal Beach with his wife, Jeannine.

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Ethan Blankfeld

Portrait of Ethan Blankfeld.
Ethan Blankfeld.

Growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada his entire life, Ethan Blankfeld earned his bachelor’s degree in Music Education at The University of Nevada, Las Vegas. There he studied clarinet under Dr. Marina Sturm as well as performed with the Grammy nominated UNLV Wind Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Leslie. During that time Ethan recorded 2 albums playing in the Wind Orchestra including 24 Karat Gould and Quaternity.

In his final year as an undergrad, Ethan became Drum Major of the UNLV Star of Nevada Marching Band where he directed the band throughout the course of the football season. Ethan’s ensemble playing has brought him all over the country as well as the world. His senior year of high school, Ethan traveled to Barcelona and Zaragoza, Spain where he soloed in world-class concert halls.

Ethan is currently a first-year master’s student studying Wind Band Conducting under Dr. Jermie Arnold and Professor John Carnahan. He hopes to get his DMA in Wind Band Conducting before becoming the Director of Bands at a University.

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Martin Bui

Portrait of Martin Bui.
Martin Bui.

Martin Bui is a first-year Master of Music student in Percussion Studies at the BCCM and is originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance from the University of Alberta where he studied with Brian Jones from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. In 2019, he began subbing with the ESO, and has also shared the stage with ensembles such as the Edmonton Youth Orchestra, Royal Canadian Artillery Band, and Concordia University of Edmonton Orchestra. That same year, he also won runner-up in the University of Alberta Concerto Competition, competing with William Kraft’s Concerto No. 1 for Timpani and Orchestra.

Martin has also enjoyed a storied 4-year career with his country-rock band, Heartland, and has played rodeos, dancehalls, bars, and farms throughout central Alberta.

Martin’s main academic interest is timpani—his senior recital featured Werner Thärichen’s timpani concerto, so he hopes to focus his project report on a timpani piece that will be featured on his recital. He has also greatly enjoyed playing drum kit for various punk, rock, metal, jazz, and aforementioned country bands.

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Corey Highberg

Portrait of Corey Highberg.
Corey Highberg.

Corey Highberg is from Thousand Oaks, CA and is currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Music History at the BCCM. Corey’s research is devoted to exploring the sociological connections of music history, including oral, written, and digital transmission of culture through sound. His recent thesis topics include the "social use value" and tactile experience of recorded music, specifically the vinyl record and its impact on modern economic and social environments. He maintains an online blog and performs regularly throughout Southern California singing, playing upright and electric bass, guitar, and piano. He teaches at Guitar Center in Westlake Village and tutors in upright bass for the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony.

Corey earned his B.S. in Musicology from UCSB with a focus on Eastern Mediterranean Music and Um Kulthum, though he has additional study experience in the Early Music of the Soviet Union. His current areas of interest include early written music of the late Middle Ages and the connection between evolutions of music transmission innovations and its impact on societal development.

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Bennett Imai

Portrait of Bennett Imai.
Bennett Imai.

Bennett Kai Imai (he/him), from Mission Viejo, is currently pursuing an M.M. in Oboe Performance. Bennett earned his B.M in Oboe from UCSC, studying with Kyle Bruckmann, with a Minor in Electronic Music. During his time, he served as Principal Oboist for UCSC’s University Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, as well as Chamber Ensembles. He has had the honor of performing Albinoni’s Concerto in D minor (Op. 2, No. 9) with the orchestra and is a winner of the Music Department’s Scholarship Competition.

His favorite type of music to play are 20th- and 21st-century works. He advocates for the creation and performance of contemporary pieces and especially for supporting living composers of classical music. He composed a piece for the University Woodwind Quintet and a Musical number which was performed by the student staff of the Cabrillo Contemporary Music Festival, under the direction of Octavio Más-Arocas. Bennett is interested in finding new ways to integrate modern genres and technology with classical instruments. As a fan of electronic music and production, he composed, filmed, and edited a piece for oboe and electronics for his Senior Recital.

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John Garo Lonergan

Portrait of John Garo Lonergan.
John Garo Lonergan.

John Garo Lonergan is a Canadian-American pianist raised near San Francisco, California. He began studying the piano at age 6 and completed his bachelor’s in Performance at the BCCM, where he is currently pursuing his master’s under the tutelage of Craig Richey.

John has participated in lessons and masterclasses with artists such as Yoheved Kaplinsky, Frederic Chiu, Suzanne Goyette, and Vitali Gavrouc. He has performed in Canada, Ireland, and extensively across the United States with renowned ensembles such as Santa Clara Vanguard. In early 2018, John composed a string quartet titled Nouveau Quatuor which was premiered by members of the San Francisco Symphony. More recently, John received 2nd Prize in the MTNA California Young Artist Performance Competition of October 2020. His musical influences include Vladimir Ashkenazy, Tigran Hamasyan, and Jacob Collier. In addition to music, John is passionate about fitness, food, travel, and languages; he speaks English, French, Spanish, and Armenian.

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Michael McKenzie

Portrait of Michael McKenzie.
Michael McKenzie.

Michael McKenzie is a national award-winning conductor, active social justice advocate, and music educator, whose work centers around the power that choral music has to affect social change. Michael, originally from Belchertown, Massachusetts, is pursuing their M.M. in Choral Conducting at the BCCM and is a teaching assistant for the University Choir.

Outside of school, he serves as Artistic Director for Voices for Social Justice, a nonprofit organization that combines social activism with artistic expression through performance, resources, and advocacy, and as Director of Music Ministries at North Hollywood First United Methodist Church.

Prior to coming to California, Michael was the founder and director of two social justice choirs at Gustavus Adolphus College. For their work as director of the Gustavus Social Justice Choir, Michael earned 2nd place in The American Prize for Choral Conducting’Community Division and an invitation to present a concert at the 2020 Nobel Conference. Michael graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College, summa cum laude, in 2019 with a B.A. in Music Education and certification in K-12 vocal, instrumental, and classroom music.

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Michael Neufeld

Portrait of Michael Neufeld.
Michael Neufeld.

Michael Neufeld is a master’s student at the BCCM studying jazz. He grew up in Fresno, California before moving to Southern California for music.

Michael graduated in Spring, 2021 from USC’s Thornton School of Music with a degree in Jazz Studies and a minor in Classics. His senior recital resulted in a blend of these two academic interests, as he wrote many of the songs he performed based on elements from ancient Athenian drama and mythology.

Michael has performed with the Bob Mintzer Big Band and has played lead trombone in the Thornton Jazz Orchestra while studying under teachers such as Andy Martin, Jason Goldman, and Michael Stever. He has also been a part of the Thornton Community Engagement Program, which seeks to bring music education access to Los Angeles public schools.

Outside of his jazz interests, Michael performs self-arranged trombone covers of songs from popular animes on YouTube. He also has achieved a level of success and popularity on TikTok.

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Apostolia Nikouli

Portrait of Apostolia Nikouli.
Apostolia Nikouli.

Apostolia Nikouli earned her diploma in choral conducting in her native Greece, receiving high honors. She completed her master’s in Musicology from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where she conducted the Athens City Symphony Orchestra and the Thessaloniki City Symphony Orchestra premiering contemporary pieces in cooperation with Aristotle University’s contemporary music lab. In 2017 she was Principal Conductor of the children’s choir at the Catholic Church of Thessaloniki and from 2019-2020 she was assistant conductor for the Thessaloniki City Symphony Orchestra and North College Choir under the guidance of Athanasia Kyriakidou.

Apostolia’s great interest in research led her to complete her final master’s thesis, I. Stravinsky, Symphony in C, Analytical and aesthetic approach in the context of Neoclassicism, under the supervision of Dr. Konstantinos Chardas. She also contributed to a paper on behalf of the Hellenic Musicology Society, entitled Rephrase the tradition: The multifaceted role of symmetry in Symphony in C (1938-1940) of Igor Stravinsky.

Currently she conducts the Bob Cole Conservatory Symphony Orchestra while working toward her master’s in orchestral conducting at the BCCM under the guidance of Dr. Johannes Müller Stosch.

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Tanner Olivas

Portrait of Tanner Olivas.
Tanner Olivas.

Tanner Olivas is a saxophonist, arranger, composer, and multi-instrumentalist originally from the small city of Hanford in California’s Central Valley. He received his Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from CSULB in 2018 where he studied saxophone with Sal Lozano and James Barrera, and was mentored by Dr. Raymond Torres-Santos. During his undergraduate studies, he performed in the Concert Jazz Orchestra, Wind Symphony, Saxophone Ensemble, Clarinet Choir, and Jazz Combos.

Before beginning his graduate studies, Tanner was freelancing and teaching woodwinds in the greater Los Angeles area with a studio of over 35 students. In early 2020 he was hired to play alto saxophone and tour the US with The Glenn Miller Orchestra. After performing in just nine of the States the tour was cut short by the pandemic.

Tanner is currently the lead alto saxophonist in the Concert Jazz Orchestra, a member of the Vanguard Jazz Combo, University Saxophone Quartet, Saxophone Octet, and Saxophone Ensemble. He is the Graduate Assistant for the Jazz Studies Department, a KJZZ Scholarship recipient, and Beau and Jo France Graduate Jazz Studies Scholarship recipient pursuing his Master of Music degree with a concentration in Jazz Studies.

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Josh Olson

Portrait of Josh Olson.
Josh Olson.

Josh Olson is a Master of Music student in Horn Performance at the BCCM. Currently he is the graduate student assistant for Dr. Shannon Zusman, the BCCM graduate advisor, as well as a member of the University Wind Quintet. He studies with Jenny Kim, Associate Principal Horn of the Los Angeles Opera.

Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Josh holds a Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance from Missouri State University where he studied with Dr. Lisa Casey. During his time, he also studied virtually with Andrew Bain, Principal Horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, while participating in the Invested Musician Master Courses.

During his time at Missouri State University, Josh performed at CBDNA, MMEA, Kauffman Hall, and the Fanfare at a Dallas Winds concert. Outside of his university ensembles, Josh became a rehearsal substitute for the Missouri Philharmonic and performed as Assistant Horn with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. Josh was also a member of the mellophone section for the 2018 Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps.

Outside of music, Josh enjoys scuba diving, riding his bike, and spending time with his fiancée.

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Maria Peñaloza

Portrait of Maria Peñaloza.
Maria Peñaloza.

Maria Peñaloza is a master’s student pursuing her degree in violin performance. Maria completed her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance in 2020 at the BCCM where she studied with Andrea Byers, a student of Ivan Galamian. She performed with the BCCM Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Johannes Müller Stosch, and the New Music Ensemble, directed by Alan Shockley.

Being a violin student at the Bob Cole Conservatory is an exhilarating and empowering experience. She loves the rigorous academic culture, musicianship, and fellowship that is cultivated here through the leadership of Dr. Stosch and violin studies director, Moni Simeonov.

She co-founded the Viva Learning Center in Lakewood, CA, where she teaches music classes. She also teaches privately and freelances in the Los Angeles and Orange county areas. Maria’s ultimate goal is to establish music studios for families in disadvantaged areas.

Maria knows the road to violin mastery continues to help her overcome limiting perspectives, to acquire higher thinking, and to obtain freedom, leading to a more enriching life for her and everyone she teaches.

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Darita Seth

Portrait of Darita Seth.
Darita Seth.

Master of Music in Choral Conducting candidate, Darita Seth, was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. Darita is founder, president, and director of Choral Audacity, Director of Music at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Associate Director of the Danville Girls Chorus, an Associate Director of the Cantabella Children’s Chorus, and a former Interim Director of the Grammy Award-winning Pacific Boychoir Academy. He concluded his tenure with Chanticleer, the Grammy Award-winning, San Francisco-based men’s vocal ensemble in 2016.

As a Sigma Alpha Iota distinguished member, he periodically appears as a guest soloist with the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony, sounding Light Chamber Choir, RSVP, and the Saringhimig Singers. Darita attended Capital University, where he received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. He is also a proud alumnus of the Interlochen Arts Academy and Camp, where he participated in the composition, opera, and choral programs.

Praised for his "technical deliciousness, power and precision of the connection between the colors of the voice, and beauty of delivery" (Aspen Music Festival), Darita has been featured in performances of masterworks including Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Durufle’s Requiem, and Handel’s Messiah. Additionally, he has recorded with AireBorn Studios, featuring his voice on premiere perusal recordings. He has performed in many notable international concert venues including Musikverein in Vienna, Endler Hall in South Africa, The National Concert Hall in Taipei, and The Esplanade in Singapore

He has been a guest speaker at conferences presenting topics such as: Nurturing and Embracing Ethnic Diversity Within the Choral Ensemble, Mysteries of the Countertenor Voice, and How to Change Your Church’s Singing Culture. Outside music and teaching, Darita enjoys cooking meals from his proud Cambodian American heritage, weightlifting, and being a dog-dad to his rescue, Remy Martin.

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Cameron Westmoreland

Portrait of Cameron Westmoreland.
Cameron Westmoreland.

Cameron Westmoreland, a native of Southern California, is a composer and musician whose main instrument is saxophone. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Music with a concentration in Composition, with honors, from the University of California, Riverside. He is currently is pursuing a Master of Music degree in Composition at the BCCM.

While at UCR, Cameron studied composition with Dr. Ian Dicke and Dr. Dana Kaufman and has written many works that have been professionally performed, ranging from a Micro Opera, to a Flute Duet, a Sax Quartet, and a multi-movement work for Pierrot Ensemble, to name a few. He recently had a World Premiere of his wind ensemble composition The Jester’js Palace performed by the UCR Concert Band in June of 2021. Cameron is a four-time recipient of the Marius de Brabant Music Scholarship and has performed in many groups and ensembles, as well as being a founding member of a jazz quartet. He has also attended masterclasses at UCR by celebrated television/film composer and jazz instrumentalist, Jeff Beal, accomplished jazz trumpeter and current director of the Count Basie Orchestra, Scotty Barnhart, and renowned jazz saxophonist, Matt Otto, with whom Cameron has also performed in concert.

Currently, Cameron performs with the BCCM Studio Jazz Band under the direction of Jeff Jarvis and works in the music department as an Instructional Student Assistant for Dr. Roger Hickman. He is currently studying Composition with Dr. Raymond Torres-Santos.

Cameron’s works are influenced by his studies of jazz music, while also putting a twist on common classical techniques. When writing, he tends towards pushing tonal music to its limits, while also keeping the music enjoyable to listen to and perform. Being both a composer and a performer has greatly influenced his personal compositional voice.

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