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Douglas Ahlstedt

Professor of Voice, tenor

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Douglas Ahlstedt has sung professionally in the world's greatest opera houses and concert halls, from the renowned stages of Europe, South America, the Far East, and Africa, to the Metropolitan Opera, where he has sung 189 performances to date. He is the only American tenor featured in leading roles, including Fenton in Verdi's Falstaff and Pelleas in Dubussy's Pelleas et Melisande on the James Levine 25th Anniversary Collection of notable scenes from Metropolitan Opera broadcasts.

Leading roles of Ahlstedt's career have included Lindoro in Rossini's Lâ Italiana in Algeri, Almaviva in Barbiere di Siviglia, Narciso in Turco in Italia, Idreno in Semiramide, Pilade in Ermione and Ramiro in La Cenerentola; Fenton in Verdi's Falstaff; Pelleas in Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande; Ferrando in Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Sifare in Mitridate, Belmonte in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, Tamino in The Magic Flute, and Alessandro in Il Re Pastore; Rinuccio in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi; Ernesto in Donizetti's Don Pasquale; Lorenzo in Auber's Fra Diavolo; Junge Graf in Zimmermann's Die Soldaten; Flammand in Strauss's Capriccio; and Eisenstein in Strauss's Die Fledermaus.

Douglas Ahlstedt's singing career began with the American Boys' Choir, with whom he toured the United States and Canada. During that period, he sang the role of Miles in the American premiere of Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw.

Ahlstedt earned a bachelor of science in music education from the State University of New York at Fredonia, and completed his master's degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

In addition to his notoriety as a worldwide performer, Ahlstedt is known to be a formidable educator both in his studio and throughout the nation. Active in the promotion of arts, cultural, and education partnerships, Douglas Ahlstedt is well known as a national advocate for the advancement of the Arts in Education and as an authority on vocal health.

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Alberto Almarza

Associate Professor of Flute

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Described as a virtuoso flutist by the Boston Globe, Alberto Almarza brings a unique and passionate approach to music. His versatility and musicianship have led him to perform and record some of the most adventurous and challenging pieces from the music of today as well as works from the standard repertoire and Baroque literature on period instruments.

A native of Chile, Mr. Almarza previously held the position of Principal Flute of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Santiago. He later came to the United States to study with Jeanne Baxtresser in New York and with Julius Baker at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he obtained his master's degree. He currently serves on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon as Associate Teaching Professor of Flute. 

His skills as a pedagogue, lecturer and recitalist have led to invitations from international festivals in the U.S., Mexico, Germany, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Peru. He is a resident artist and member of the faculty at The Jeanne Baxtresser International Master Class and has been recently appointed to the National Flute Association Advisory Board for New Music.

Mr. Almarza has appeared as soloist with Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Memphis Symphony, BachFest Chamber Orchestra, and the Symphonic Orchestra of Chile and has collaborated with such artists as Julius Baker, Andrés Cárdenes, Lionel Party and the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, among others. As a leading proponent of new music for the flute, Mr. Almarza has been instrumental in expanding the repertoire with numerous commissions and premieres of works by composers from around the world. Pieces written for him include five flute concertos and dozens of solo and chamber works. 

He can be heard on radio broadcasts of International Music from Carnegie Mellon throughout North and South America, on compact discs from New Albion, Albany Records and Centaur Recordings as well as on a recently released Naxos Records compact disc of the Flute Concerto by Reza Vali with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

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Donna Amato

Artist Lecturer in Piano, Staff Pianist

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Donna Amato was born in Pittsburgh, where she also received her earliest musical training. She later studied with Ozan Marsh, Louis Kentner, Gaby Casadesus, Guido Agosti and Angelica Morales von Sauer. She has made concert appearances in Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Austria, Norway, Mexico, Canada, Russia and the United States, and radio broadcasts on the BBC as well as the inaugural live broadcast on Classic FM. Her concerto performances have included the Mozart Concerto, K.488, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, Daniel Dorff's Piano Concerto, Nancy Galbraith's 2nd Piano Concerto and the 4th Piano Concerto ʻAurora Borealisʼ by Geirr Tveitt (which can be seen in its entirety on YouTube). She performed works of Giacinto Scelsi in Rome at the invitation of the Scelsi Foundation, and toured with Pittsburghʼs River City Brass Band in a series of performances of the Jazz Concerto in D by Dana Suesse. Other performances with orchestra have included the Skryabin Piano Concerto, the 2nd Piano Concerto of Edward MacDowell, the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 4, Leonardo Baladaʼs Concerto for Piano, Winds and Percussion, and the world première of Sorabjiʼs 5th Piano Concerto. In 2005 she performed Michael Daughertyʼs Le tombeau de Liberace in Arizona, and Messiaenʼs Couleurs de la cité célèste with the Carnegie Mellon University Wind Ensemble, conducted by George Vosburgh. A number of leading composers have written works especially for her, which she has performed, broadcast and recorded.


Her recordings include the two concertos of MacDowell with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on the Alto label, the sonatas of Dutilleux and Balakirev, a recital disc entitled ʻA Piano Portraitʼ, a Scriabin disc, two collections of works by Sorabji, a disc of music by Ethelbert and Arthur Nevin, MacDowellʼs complete piano sonatas, Nancy Galbraithʼs Piano Concerto No. 2, and a disc of the early piano works of Scelsi. Other releases include piano music of Carson Cooman (Naxos), Arnold Rosner (Albany), and Thomas L. Read (Zimbel), a second volume of Coomanʼs piano works (Altarus), and Sorabjiʼs ʻSymphonia brevisʼ (Piano Symphony No.5) (Altarus).

She has a long-standing association with Sorabjiʼs music. She produced performing editions of his Passeggiata Arlecchinesca and Toccatinetta sopra C.G.F., and corrected editions of Fantaisie espagnole and Valse-fantaisie, all of which she has also performed in concert. She has also acted as consulting editor on other works, and gave world premières of two of his compositions in an all-Sorabji concert in the Vienna Festival in 1993. In 1992 she presented a lecture-recital in Montréal, Canada, on Sorabji's life and music. In March, 2003, she gave the world première of Sorabjiʼs published piano concerto, now regarded as his 5th (it was published in the 1920s as Concerto II). The concert, which also featured works written around the same time by Busoni and Grainger, was given in Vredenburg Music Center, Utrecht as part of a series of events ʻAround Kaikhosru Sorabjiʼ organised by Netherlands Public Radio, which broadcast the performance (now available on YouTube). The orchestra was the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ed Spanjaard. In 2004 she gave the world première of Symphonia brevis (Piano Symphony No.5) at New Yorkʼs Merkin Hall.

Donna Amato currently teaches piano at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, and works at Carnegie Mellon as an Assisting Artist, while maintaining a busy schedule of solo and chamber-music concert appearances.
Click Here, for more information on the artist.

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Jennifer Aylmer

Assistant Professor of Voice, soprano

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American soprano Jennifer Aylmer has developed a sterling reputation for her beautiful voice, compelling stage portrayals and impeccable musicianship. The New York Times has hailed her for her, “awesome accuracy,” while The Chicago Sun-Times has recommended that listeners, “bask in the aural delight of Aylmer’s dazzling shifts from regal command to cool insouciance and fatally attractive seduction”

This season, Ms. Aylmer performs with Lyric Fest! in their La Dolce Vita  program, in a duet recital at The Trust in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with baritone Thomas Meglioranza and pianist Timothy Long, and as soprano soloist with Brevard Symphony in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. She also appears in concert with the Utah Symphony in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, conducted by Thierry Fischer.  At Carnegie Mellon University, she will sing on a new chamber music series in Schubert’s Auf dem Strom  with French hornist William Cabellero and later this season, she joins baritone Daniel Teadt, singing Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles, both accompanied by pianist Mark Carver.

During the 2014-2015 season, Ms. Aylmer was guest soloist in Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato with the Mark Morris Dance Group and the White Light Festival, appeared with the Skaneateles Chamber Music Festival on a series of programs, sang as soprano soloist in Vivaldi’s Gloria with Manhattan Concert Productions, and joined Lyric Fest! for concerts in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  She recently made her debut with Dallas Opera as Bertha in Il barbiere di Siviglia and returned to Opera Theater of St. Louis for her now acclaimed performance of Despina in Così fan tutte, and to Portland Opera singing the title role in Handel’s Rodelinda.   Stony Brook University recently premiered her new English translation of Hansel and Gretel and also saw her directing Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years at both Stony Brook University’s Staller Center and at the National Opera Center in New York City.  

Ms. Aylmer is particularly noted for her work in newly composed American music, including her 2005 Metropolitan Opera debut as Bella in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy.  Other premieres in the operatic arena include Martha in Kirke Meachem’s John Brown with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Rowena in Augusta Read Thomas’ Ligeia  and as Cynthia Reid in Bernard Rands’ Belladonna both with the Aspen Music Festival, and at Houston Grand Opera, and she created the role of Amy in Mark Adamo’s  Little Women.  She may also be heard on the 2012 release “The Opera America Songbook” on Kevin Puts’ new composition: You need song. Other roles at the Metropolitan Opera include Papagena in the first world-wide HD broadcast of The Magic Flute, Bertha in Il barbiere di Siviglia and she has also covered roles in Hansel and Gretel, Cenerentola, and in Shostakovich’s The Nose.  Other highlights in the operatic arena include leading roles In Handel’s Orlando, Flavio, Semele, and Acis and Galathea, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Don Pasquale, Die Zauberflöte, Le nozze di Figaro, The Grapes of Wrath, Der Rosenkavalier, The Medium, The Merry Widow, Filthy Habit, The Bartered Bride, Street Scene, Falstaff, The Turn of the Screw, Il Matriomonio Segreto, L’occasione fa il ladro, Rigoletto and A Streetcar Named Desire with such companies as New York City Opera, Minnesota Opera, Florentine Opera, Opera Boston, Atlanta Opera, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Orlando Opera, Utah Opera, the Aspen Festival, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Kentucky Opera, Berkshire Opera. Austin Lyric Opera, and Wolf Trap Opera.

Equally accomplished in oratorio, concert, and an especially sought-after recitalist, Ms. Aylmer has been a featured soloist with many distinguished orchestras including the Haydn Orchestra in Bolzano, Italy, Cincinnati Symphony, Orchestra, the Alabama Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony, San Diego Symphony, the Grand Teton Festival Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Aspen Festival Orchestra, and at the Beijing Music Festival.  She sang Eurydice in Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice with the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall opposite Ewa Podles, and made her San Francisco debut singing Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles with Michael Tilson Thomas.  Ms. Aylmer is a recipient of the Alice Tully Hall Vocal Arts Debut Recital from the Juilliard School, has appeared regularly with the New York Festival of Song, at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with baritone Randall Scarlata and pianist Laura Ward in their “The Music of Tin Pan Alley” programs, and has been presented across the country as a solo recitalist by the Marilyn Horne Foundation.

A native of Long Island, Ms. Aylmer holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Westminster Choir College, and was a member of both the Juilliard Opera Center and the Houston Grand Opera Studio Programs.  Her many honors and awards include a Career Grant from the Sullivan Foundation, the Richard F. Gold Career Grant, the National Society of Arts and Letters, and the Catherina Filene Shouse Career Grant from the Wolf Trap Opera Company.  She currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Voice at Carnegie Mellon University.

 

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Leonardo Balada

University Professor of Composition

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A native of Spain, Leonardo Balada graduated from Barcelona's Conservatorio del Liceu and the Juilliard School. Balada's works have been performed by the world's leading orchestras, including the philharmonics of New York, Los Angeles, Israel, Philadelphia Orchestra, the symphony orchestras of Dallas, Detroit, Washington DC, Prague, Dusseldorf, Barcelona, Jerusalem, the national orchestras of Ireland, Peru, Colombia, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, the radio orchestras of Berne, Leipzig, Moscow, BBC, Luxembourg etc. conducted and performed by artists like Rostropovitch, Fruhbeck de Burgos, Mariss Jansons, Nevill Marriner, Lopez-Cobos, Lukas Foss, Alicia de Larrocha, Yepes, Segovia, American Brass Quintet etc. Balada has been a faculty member of Carnegie Mellon School of Music since 1970 where he is University Professor of Composition. 

He has been commissioned by the Aspen Festival, San Diego Opera, the orchestras of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Lausanne, National of Spain, Radio Berlin, and others, and has received several NEA awards. He has collaborated with Salvador Dali and Nobel Prize Laureate C.J. Cela. A large number of his compositions are recorded including Steel Symphony and Music for Oboe and Orchestra with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Lorin Maazel. Naxos Records has released 16 CDs of his music including the operas “Christopher Columbus” and “The Death of Columbus”. “Christopher Columbus” was commissioned by the Spanish government for the 5th centennial of the Americas. It was premiered with Jose Carreras and Montserrat Caballe and received international acclaim. The Washington Times described the opera as “a masterpiece…a landmark score in the lyric theater of our time”. Balada has received several international awards, such as the B. Martinu, City of Zaragoza, and City of Barcelona. 

Recent world premieres of Balada's works includes: “A Little Night Music in Harlem” by the Hungarian Chamber Symphony Orchestra; “Concerto for Three Cellos and Orchestra” by the Berlin Radio Sym. Orch.; “Caprichos No.4-Quasi Jazz” by the Pittsburgh Symphony Cham. Orch.; the chamber operas “Hangman, Hangman!’ & “The Town of Greed” at Teatro de la Zarzuela-Madrid- and Teatre del Liceu-Barcelona; the grand opera “Faust-bal” at the Teatro Real in Madrid.

His principal publisher is G. Schirmer.
Click here, to visit his personal website.

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Jeanne Baxtresser

Vira I. Heinz University Professor of Flute

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Jeanne Baxtresser has held principal positions with three major orchestras, culminating in her 15-year tenure as Solo Flutist of the New York Philharmonic. Making her heralded debut with the Minnesota Orchestra at age 14, Ms. Baxtresser began her professional career as Principal Flutist of the Montreal Symphony immediately following her graduation from The Juilliard School, where she studied with Julius Baker. She was subsequently appointed Principal Flute of the Toronto Symphony before being invited by Music Director Zubin Mehta to join the New York Philharmonic. Ms. Baxtresser appeared as soloist with the New York Philharmonic on more than fifty occasions, and has been featured as a soloist across North America and Europe. 

Ms. Baxtresser was named a recipient of the National Flute Association's Lifetime Achievement Award for significant, lasting contributions to the flute world, and she was also awarded the National Medal of Arts from the Interlochen Center for the Arts. She is recognized internationally as a leading recording artist, author and lecturer. 

In great demand as a teacher, many of Ms. Baxtresser's students occupy principal and section positions in major orchestras throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. While in New York, Ms. Baxtresser served on the faculties of The Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music. In 1998, she was appointed the Vira I. Heinz Professor of Flute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where she has attracted many outstanding flute students from around the world. Ms. Baxtresser was also named University Professor, Carnegie Mellon University's most distinguished professorial position awarded to those individuals who have achieved exceptional international recognition.

Ms. Baxtresser's exceptional career as a recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician has produced numerous recordings, including New York Legends—Jeanne Baxtresser (Cala), Jeanne Baxtresser—A Collection of My Favorites (MSR Classics), and Chamber Music for Flute (Cala), featuring her performances with principal players of the New York Philharmonic. She has recorded many of the major symphonic works with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta and Kurt Masur. 

Ms. Baxtresser's acclaimed first book, Orchestral Excerpts for Flute with Piano Accompaniment (Theodore Presser), has been re-released in a new revised edition. This book and a companion CD, Orchestral Excerpts for Flute with Spoken Commentary (Summit), have become a vital part of flute pedagogy. Her subsequent book, Great Flute Duos from the Orchestral Repertoire, was named the 2004 winner of the National Flute Association's Newly Published Music Competition.

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Neal Berntsen

Artist Lecturer in Trumpet

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Neal Berntsen joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra trumpet section in March 1997, having been appointed at the invitation of Music Director Lorin Maazel in 1996. He is a native of Tacoma, Washington. He began his musical studies at age five playing the violin under the tutelage of his mother. By age eight he advanced to the trumpet and ultimately received a B.M. from the University of Puget Sound and a M.M. from Northwestern University. A former member of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra and the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, Neal has also performed as principal trumpet for the Ravinia Festival Orchestra and the Bamberg Sinfoniker in Germany. Other orchestral performances have included the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Active as a chamber musician, Neal is a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass whose recordings: “BACH: THE ART OF FUGUE” (1998),“A CHRISTMAS CONCERT” (2000), “THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS” (2003) and “A SONG OF CHRISTMAS” (2008) were described as “...Awhirl with color and rhythmic vitality - quite irresistible on every count.” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Mr. Berntsen is also a founding member of the award-winning Asbury Brass Quintet of Chicago, about which Fanfare magazine stated, “Not only expert but musical...undeniable virtuosity.” The Asbury Brass Quintet recording with Adolph Herseth, “INTRODUCING THE ASBURY BRASS QUINTET” has become legendary. In June 2005 Mr. Berntsen toured Japan with members of the Chicago Symphony brass section with the Chicago Brass Soloists. As a soloist he recently performed the Arutunian Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra and the Proto, Carmen Fantasy with The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Other solo engagements have included the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 at the Sedona Chamber Music Festival in Arizona. Mr. Berntsen’s performance of Copeland’s “Quiet City” was called a highlight of the 2005 season by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Mr. Berntsen’s solo recording TRUMPET VOICES was released in Nov. 2005. Andrew Druckenbrod, music critic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette called the recording, “Electric”. While Mark Kanny of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review stated, “Trumpet Voices is an indispensable recording for anyone who appreciates great trumpet playing.”

Neal Berntsen was a finalist and prizewinner in multiple International Trumpet Competitions. His wide ranging dicography includes: The Orchestras of Pittsburgh and Chicago, Manheim Steamroller, The American Girl Doll Christmas album and Michael Jackson. 

As an educator, Mr. Berntsen is Chair of the Brass Division and Artist Lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University. He has previously served on the faculty of Duquesne University and Valparaiso University in Indiana. He has been published in The Instrumentalist magazine, and the International Trumpet Guild Journal. Mr. Berntsen has presented master classes and recitals around the world - most recently in China.

Mr. Berntsen is an active studio musician and was featured on a national series of commercials during the broadcast of the Olympic games in Atlanta. His performance on “America” sung by Diana Ross opened the women’s final tennis match of the 2001 US OPEN in Flushing Meadows New York. 

Neal Berntsen has studied with Adolph Herseth, Vincent Cichowicz and Manuel Laureano. He resides in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsyvlania with his wife Karen and three children Molly, Jacob, and Charlie.

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Raymond Blackwell

Vocal Coach, Staff Pianist, & Opera Workshop Coordinator

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Raymond Blackwell, baritone, coach, accompanist, and voice teacher is originally from Wilmington, Delaware. He has a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Delaware and a Master of Music in Opera from Binghamton University. As a resident artist with Tri Cities Opera Mr. Blackwell sang many roles ranging from Marcello and Schaunard in La Boheme to John Proctor in Robert Ward's The Crucible. He has also sung with Opera Delaware, Ithaca Opera, Opera at Florham, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Opera. He came to Pittsburgh in 1996 and served six seasons as coach and accompanist for the Pittsburgh Opera. He is now on the voice faculty at Carnegie Mellon University as an artist lecturer, accompanist and voice coach. Other appointments include the voice faculty at Binghamton University and Mercyhurst College. 

Blackwell also works as a rehearsal accompanist for the Pittsburgh Symphony and Johnstown Symphony where he has had the opportunity to play for such great singers as Jessye Norman, Kallen Esperian, Thomas Quasthoff, Sherrill Milnes, and Suzanne Menzer, to name a few. In the summer of 2006, he played and sang a concert at the Singer Laren Museum in Holland in the presence of Queen Beatrix and made his Pittsburgh conducting debut with Undercroft Opera's production of Mozart's Così fan tutte.