Joshua Simonds brings Youth Orchestra to Chicago Bulls

Alumnus Joshua Simonds, Executive Director of the Chicago Youth Symphony, worked with the Chicago Bulls to bring their two art forms together for the Bulls’ Holiday Card. The youth symphony members surrounded the basketball court as the players scrimmaged. You can see a behind-the-scenes video here:

After nine seasons as General Manager of CYSO (2003-2012), Mr. Simonds became Executive Director of the DC Youth Orchestra Program only to return to Chicago in June 2013 as Executive Director of CYSO.

During his tenure, CYSO has expanded its programs, built strong relationships with world-class composers resulting in numerous world and local premieres, and initiated groundbreaking artistic collaborations, including performances with Ben Folds, My Morning Jacket, Blue Man Group, My Brightest Diamond, and multiple performances at the legendary rock festival Lollapalooza. In addition to artistic achievements, Mr. Simonds has been instrumental in overseeing CYSO’s rebranding efforts, growth of the Board of Directors, re-establishing an international touring program, and increased support on a national and local level.

Mr. Simonds currently sits on the Youth Orchestra Division Board of the League of American Orchestras, is a member of Ingenuity’s Advocacy Advisory Panel, and teaches a course at DePaul University on Performing Arts Management. (courtesy of

Alumni work with the Street Symphony

Alex Ross, critic for the New Yorker, named The Street Symphony’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah” as one of the 10 “notable” concerts of 2015 in the US.

Alumna Zanaida Robles conducted the performance, and alumnus Leeav Sofer prepared the choir. Alex Ross wrote, “About a hundred homeless people listened intently, and burst into applause at the end. The experience left me with a clash of emotions: joy, shame, sorrow, wonder. I do not know what it meant to those who mattered.”

The performance was on Skid Row, at The Midnight Mission.  Residents of the Skid Row community in our audience will be invited to sing alongside the newly formed Street Symphony Chamber Singers, comprised of members of the LA Master Chorale. They also partnered with the Urban Voices Project, a Skid Row singing project, as well as the City of Angels Community Choirs.

View a short preview video of a rehearsal which shows Zanaida Robles conducting and Leeav Sofer on keyboard.

Jaclyn Johnson on Choral Net

Alumna Jaclyn Johnson (MM Choral Conducting) was featured on Choral Net, the American Choral Director’s Website. She spoke about her trip trip to China as an  International Choral Exchange Conductor. She said, “Without any hesitation, I can honestly say that I have everything I want, and I know what brings me absolute joy and purpose: Teaching.”

Dolfo Picanço Featured in Paper

Alumnus Dolfo Picanço was featured in Millikan High’s school paper in an article. The drum major, Kai Bauer said, “Mr. P actually exceed my expectations…” He has “the competitive edge that lights a fire in us, something that hasn’t happened here in the past three years, What we’re doing here is the start of something great.” We have a three-alumni team at Milikan with Renee Batia, Drake York, and Dolfo Picanço teaching music there.

Seth Shafer’s piece at ICMC

Alumnus Seth Shafer’s piece Pulsar [Variant II] was performed at the International Computer Music Society at the University of North Texas where Seth is pursuing his doctorate. The piece for solo trumpet and live electronics explores two competing models of time: an unrelentingly fixed metrical time, and a type of static, or frozen time. Using echo and repetition as a point of departure, time is treated as a malleable material looking forward to the past and remembering the future.

Leeav Sofer Gets Raves Reviews

Alumnus Leeav Sofer wrote the music for and is starring in the play, Man Covets Bird.  The reviews are coming in and they are terrific. From a radio review on KCRW: ”24th Street’s production is as sophisticated as the script. When you walk into the theater it’s an empty stage: no set, no props – just a couple of small boxes, a guitar, a keyboard, and a clarinet on the margins. But once the play starts the world transforms. First, through the two remarkable and lovable actors Andrew Huber and Leeav Sofer who play the man and the bird – and those instruments. They enchant us with their wonderful, open presence and their gorgeous singing voices. Once their journey begins, the blank walls of the theater come to life with simple line-drawn animations that turn a stack of blocks into a loving mother and an empty wall into a glowing cityscape. It’s theater magic.”

Musicals in LA wrote, “Written by leading children’s playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer, Devine has taken the one-man play with music and staged it for two men (Andrew Huber as Man and Leeav Sofer as Bird) incorporating an original score by Sofer using his clarinet as the voice of the bird. That decision alone adds a profound sensitivity to the piece… With Sofer taking on double duty as both composer and actor, there is always a sense of the space being filled with possibility, even in the deliberate silences. The two actors connect intimately and deeply, and because of their open-hearted commitment, we go along with them not quite knowing what to expect but realizing that by the end of the 75-minute journey we will have been part of something extraordinary.


Raymond Torres-Santos “Jubilum” Premiered

Organist Andrés Mojica gave the world premiere of Dr. Raymond Torres-Santos’s organ concert piece, Jubilum, in a sold out concert at the University Theater of the Puerto Rico University in San Juan. The concert included works from the standard organ repertoire by Bach, Mendelssohn and Widor. Dr. Torres-Santoaddressed the public in a pre-concert talk about the work. Subsequent concerts of the work include those at the University of Kansas in December 2, 2015 and the Methuen Memorial Hall in Massachusetts in June 15, 2016.

Jason Fabus on KJAZZ blog

Helen Borges features alumnus Jason Fabus on the KJAZZ blog. In the article he speaks about the Bob Cole Conservatory, “What I loved about Long Beach, and still do, is the feeling of community amongst the teachers and students. CSULB has an amazing energy that flows through everyone there, and this creates more than just classes and ensembles–it creates new musical projects and friendships that will last long past the degree.”

Cuatro Puntos Receives Grants

Alumna Holly Bishop and Cuatro Puntos were among the 3% of applicants selected to be funded by New Music USA. Their project is a tri-national recording collaboration between Cuatro Puntos, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, and UK composer Sadie Harrison. Thanks to New Music USA, all album proceeds will go back to the Afghan children.

Cuatro Puntos also secured a grant from the Mattina R. Proctor Foundation, to design a Spring 2016 residency with the public school district in Boston.

They were featured on wnpr


Tim Buchholz in Adventure Race National Championship

Alumnus Tim Buchholz and team finished 9th in the nation in the grueling Adventure Race National Championship. They completed the race in just under 23 hours using, according to the USARA website, “only a map and compass to guide them while transitioning between several disciplines such as: Trail Running / Trekking, Mountain Biking, Paddling and Orienteering.” Dr. Buchholz is Assistant Professor of Music at University of Wisconsin-Marathon County  where he directs the vocal jazz ensembles, and teaches voice and aural skills.