Benjamin Hart began his musical studies on violin at age five, and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in violin performance at Indiana University where he studies with Alexander Kerr. Benjamin completed his undergraduate studies with honors at Vanderbilt University, studying with Christian Teal. As winner of several concerto competitions, he performed as soloist with orchestras at school and in the St. Louis area. He has also appeared in solo master classes with Gil Shaham, William Preucil, Donald Weilerstein, Robert Mann, Vadim Gluzman, Kathleen Winkler, and others. He frequently works with composers to promote new music, participating in the Midwest Composers Symposium in 2010 and 2011, and premiering many new works at IU and Vanderbilt. Benjamin’s passion extends beyond the stage, having received recognition for his original compositions, including chamber music and a trombone concerto. He is also known for his arrangements, having produced and sold over a thousand copies of a hymn album with his sibling band, Harts on Strings. He continues private composition lessons with P.Q. Phan at Indiana University, and is anticipating the premier of his newly composed string quartet.
As an orchestral player, Benjamin has recently performed professionally with the TransSiberian Orchestra, Huntsville Symphony, Terre Haute Symphony, and Evansville Symphony. He has played in educational programs with the Cleveland Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, and Nashville Symphony. As a member of the Ars Nova String Quartet, Benjamin has studied with members of the Emerson, Takács, Juilliard, Cleveland, Concord, American, Biava, Blair, and Arianna String Quartets.
Caroline Hart is a senior violin performance major at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. She currently studies with Connie Heard, and has previously studied with John McGrosso and Kent Perry. Caroline has also performed in master classes with William Preucil, Mvoses Pegossian, Robert Mann, Leila Jocefowicz, Andres Cardenes, Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Soh-Yhun Park Altino, David Halen, Isabel Trautwein, Aline Champion, Karen Gomyo, and Hyunsu Ko. Caroline has soloed with a number of orchestras, including the St. Louis Chamber Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony. She recently won the Music Teachers National Association Tenessee State Young Artist Competition and will advance to the regionals in January.
Caroline is an active performer and chamber musician, and is glad to be able to use music to serve the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities. Caroline participated in several student-organized orchestras, including a side-by-side benefit concert for the Shade Tree Clinic with the Nashville Symphony. She also just recently won a position on the substitute list for the Nashville Symphony, and has performed with them several times. This semester, Caroline was concertmaster of the Vanderbilt Orchestra, while also acting as orchestra librarian.
In addition to her performing and practicing, Caroline has been on the Dean’s List for the past five semesters, is a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honors Fraternity, won the Margaret Branscomb Prize for a high-achieving freshman, and enjoys studying German. When she is not studying or making music, Caroline enjoys reading, sewing, gardening, playing with her fabulous six brothers and two sisters, and spending time with her wonderful Mom.
Christopher Lowry, viola/composition: A 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist (viola, mandolin, drums/percussion, violin) and composer from Nashville, Tennessee, Christopher Lowry has already enjoyed much success both as a performer and a composer. A classical violist, Lowry began violin lessons at age four, switching to the viola in 2004. A student at Vanderbilt University’s prestigious Blair School of Music, Lowry is majoring in viola performance and composition. As a violist, Lowry has already achieved a number of awards and honors. Twice a Myra Jackson Blair Scholarship winner and thrice a Dean’s List scholar, Lowry also has received the Jean Keller Heard award for excellence in string performance. In 2006, he won the concerto competition at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC, where he played Bloch’s Suite Hebraïque with the festival orchestra, conducted by Gerard Schwarz. In 2007, Lowry was awarded first place in the Junior Viola Division of the American String Teacher’s Association (ASTA) National Solo Competition; he took second place for the whole competition. That same year, he won the Curb Youth Symphony concerto competition and soloed with the orchestra, conducted by Carol Nies, playing Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. In 2008, Lowry won the Blair School of Music Concerto Competition and subsequently soloed with the Vanderbilt University Orchestra, conducted by Robin Fountain, playing Walton’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra. In 2009, Lowry won the state level round of the Music Teacher’s National Association (MTNA) Solo Competition and received honorable mention in the Southern Division round. In 2010, Lowry was selected to participate in an international collaboration between composers and performers, which took place at the Royal Academy of Music in London. There, he participated in workshops, led by violinist Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, experimenting with tone colors and modern techniques, which resulted in sketches for a future piece, Apparition, for spatially distributed string quartet, prepared piano, and percussion. In April 2010, Lowry and his quartet, the Ars Nova String Quartet, collaborated with electric violinists Tracy Silverman and Daniel Bernard Roumain in a thrilling arrangement of Silvestre Revueltas’s Sensemaya, along with the Blair Percussion Vortex, directed by Michael Holland.
Over the summers, Lowry has attended such music festivals as the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, the Sewanee Summer Music Festival, Eastern Music Festival, and the National Symphony/Kennedy Center Trustee’s Summer Music Institute. In summer 2010, he attended the Innsbrook Institute in St. Louis, MO, with the Ars Nova String Quartet; the quartet received coachings from members of the Biava String Quartet and 2008 Naumberg Award-winning cellist David Requiro. The quartet then traveled to Vienna, Austria, and gave a benefit concert in which they performed Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet with Philip Tarlton, a former member of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In July 2010, Ars Nova attended the Vanderbilt Music Académie in Aix-en-Provence, France, where they studied with members of the London Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras and worked with composer Claudio Gabriele.
Lowry’s orchestral experience includes seven years with the Curb (Nashville) Youth Symphony, serving as principal second violin for two years and co-concertmaster for one year. In addition, he has also participated in Side-by-Side concerts with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Lowry played in the Tennessee All-State orchestra from 2004-2006, sitting principal viola in 2006. At Vanderbilt, Lowry has been principal violist of the Vanderbilt University Orchestra for five semesters. In February 2010, he played in a chamber orchestra led by conductor and pianist Maestro Leon Fleisher. Lowry has held the principal viola position in orchestras at many of the summer festivals. In the summer of 2010, Lowry played in the viola section for L’Orchestre des Jeunes de la Mediterranée, in Aix-en-Provence, France, led by Maestro Kristjan Järvi. Lowry has played under the baton of many prodigious conductors, including Carol Nies, Robin Fountain, Joseph Lee, Thomas Verrier, Emelyne Bingham, James Fellenbaum, Dan Alcott, Byung-Hyun Rhee, John Dodson, Bruce Dinkins, Victor Yampolsky, Colonel Arnold Gabriel, Dean Angeles, Gary Lewis, Kay George Roberts, Scott Sandmeier, José-Luis Novo, Robert Moody, Christian Knapp, James Gaffigan, David Lockington, David Childs, Jamie Kirsch, Douglas Droste, Pu-Qi Jiang, Elizabeth Schulze, Dean Whiteside, John Concklin, and Gerard Schwarz.
In addition to viola, Lowry is also an avid percussionist, specializing in drum set and world percussion. He has received percussion instruction from Todd London, Carl Albrecht, and Christopher Norton. Lowry can be seen quite often playing viola, drums, percussion, mandolin, or 5-string electric violin on the praise band at Belmont Church. He has also played on live recordings and in studio sessions in Nashville (recording in studios such as the Oceanway Studios, The Orchard Studio, “Welcome to 1979,” the Dark Horse Recording Studio, and many other home studios). Lowry regularly collaborates with other classical musicians as well as singer/songwriters; some of these artists include Travis Cottrell, Órla Fallon, Mark Wills, David Archuleta, and the LoveSpies.
As a composer, Lowry has already developed a unique style and voice. His orchestral work Celebration Overture was premiered in December of 2006 by the Curb Youth Symphony. Since its premiere, it has been performed nine additional times, the most noteworthy of which was by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Other orchestras to perform the piece have been the Middle Tennessee State University Orchestra, the Quad City Youth Symphony (Davenport, Iowa), and the Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra; it has received performances in such venues as Ingram Hall, Ryman Auditorium, Adler Theater, and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Celebration Overture also received recognition in the ASCAP Morton Gould Competition. Lowry recently transcribed the work for wind ensemble, and this version will receive its premiere performance in spring 2011 by the Vanderbilt Wind Symphony, directed by Thomas Verrier. Lowry received a commission from Nashville Symphony Principal Hornist Leslie Norton and renowned percussion clinician and teacher Christopher Norton to compose Duo for Horn and Percussion. This piece was premiered in April, 2010, as part of Blair’s “Living Sounds” Series. Other works include a Suite for Viola and Piano, which received Honorable Mention in the New York Art Ensemble Competition as well as first place in the TN State level of the 2010 MTNA Composer’s Competition, a Concert Fantasy for trombone and piano, Fanfare and Ballade for horn and piano, among several others.
Christopher Lowry currently studies viola with Kathryn Plummer; other primary teachers include Daniel Reinker, John Kochanowski, and Mary Helen Law. He has participated in masterclasses and other studies with Laurent Camatte (of the Ensemble InterContemporain), Nancy Thomas, Anton Jivaev, Mary Persin, Leonard Schranze, Edward Klorman, Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, James Dunham, Randolph Kelly, Robert Vernon, Jennifer Stumm, Roberto Diaz, Sheila Browne, Idalynn Besser, and Charles Pikler. His primary composition instructors include Michael Kurek, Michael Slayton, Michael Alec Rose, Stan Link, and Carl Smith; additional studies have been with Richard Danielpour, Miguel del Aguila, Philip Sawyers, Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, David Gorton, and Joseph Schwantner. Lowry studies chamber music with John Kochanowski, of the Blair String Quartet, and has also worked with Astrid Schween of the Lark Quartet, Robert Mann of the Juilliard String Quartet, Andrew Jennings of the Concord String Quartet, Kurt Baldwin of the Arianna String Quartet, the Biava String Quartet, Blair String Quartet, members of the Air Force String Quartet, David Alberman of the London Symphony and the Arditti String Quartet, Aline Champion and Fergus McWilliam of the Berlin Philharmonic, and members of the Nashville Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, and National Symphony Orchestras. His former violin instructors include Erin Hall, Gerald Greer, Mary Helen Law, and Carol Dallinger.
Emily Nelson, cello, began her musical journey at the age of 5 in her hometown of Moscow, Idaho and moved to Nashville in 2006 to study performance with Felix Wang at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. As a senior at Blair she was awarded the prestigious Jean Keller Heard Prize for Excellence in String Playing. Since her graduation Nelson has remained in Nashville to work as a freelance cellist and develop her ability to play a number of genres and styles of music. During her time in Nashville she has served as principal cellist of the Murfreesboro Symphony, toured with the band Jars of Clay, performed at the historic Ryman Auditorium and recorded with many independent artists.
Nelson has performed as a soloist with the Oregon East Symphony and the Idaho Falls Symphony. She has also appeared on Nashville Public Radio’s Live in Studio C show and has participated in masterclasses by Yo-Yo Ma, Andres Diaz and Brandon Vamos, among others.