Joshua Hong, Music Director
Award-winning conductor and multi-instrumentalist Joshua Hong performs regularly throughout the United States and abroad. He is in high demand as a professional violinist throughout the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. region.
In the 2014-15 season, Joshua assisted Hajime Teri Murai and the Peabody Opera Theatre in fully-staged productions of Massenet’s Cendrillon and Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Peabody Institute and Baltimore’s legendary Lyric Opera House. He also conducted recording sessions and premieres of new works by rising young composers Sun-Young Park, Andrew Remley, and James Young with OS and the Peabody Symphony Orchestra.
Joshua has made concerto appearances on piano and violin with the New West Symphony, Thousand Oaks Philharmonic, Ventura College Community Orchestra, and Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra (CVYO). He has served as concertmaster of the CVYO, assistant concertmaster of the Juilliard Orchestra, and principal second violin of the American Youth Symphony.
Joshua is a founding member of the Atlas Quartet, winners of the Peabody Institute’s Yale Gordon Chamber Fellowship and semi-finalists in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.
Gonzalo Farias, Associate Conductor
Gonzalo Farias was born in Santiago de Chile. He began his piano studies at age five and earned his Bachelor’s degree at the P.C. University of Chile. Mr. Farias continued his graduate studies at the New England Conservatory, earning his Masters, Graduate Diploma, and Doctoral degrees as a full-scholarship student of Wha Kyung Byun and Russell Sherman. He has won first prize at the Claudio Arrau International Piano Competition and prizes at the Maria Canals and Luis Sigall International Piano Competitions. As a conductor, Mr. Farias attended the University of Illinois, working with Donald Schleicher as his Assistant Conductor. He is currently working with Marin Alsop at the Peabody Conservatory and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
An advocate for contemporary music, Mr. Farias served as an Assistant Conductor of Donald Schleicher in the recording project of “Astral Canticle” by Augusta Read Thomas, released by Nimbus Records. Mr. Farias also served as a Conducting Fellow at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music as the recipient of the Bruno Walter Conducting Scholarship. While Music Director of the Joliet Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Farias revitalized the city of Joliet by crafting tailor-made pre-concert lectures and sold-out events. The vis-à-vis Spanish and English narrated version of Bizet’s Carmen, intended to bring together all members of the community, was one of the highlights of recent seasons. Mr. Farias’ ambition is to establish music-making as a way of rethinking our place in society by cultivating respect, trust, and cooperation.
Besides having a fond love for piano, chamber, and contemporary music, Mr. Farias is an avid reader of second-order cybernetics from authors Heinz von Foerster, Humberto Maturana, and Francisco Varela. His Doctoral thesis “Logical Predictions and Cybernetics” explores the case of Cornelius Cardew’s “The Great Learning” to redefine our music activity as a social and “cybernetic” organization. In addition to that, he has a warm affection for Zen Buddhism, which he has practiced for many years.
Ryan Tani, Associate Conductor
A driven and versatile conductor, Ryan Tani has been praised for his compelling musicianship in a wide range of symphonic and choral repertoire. In 2015, he was declared the winner of the ACDA Undergraduate Student Conducting Competition at their national conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mr. Tani is passionate about providing meaningful experiences to musicians of all ages and backgrounds. An advocate of new and early music, Mr. Tani has stayed active as conductor and performer for new compositions by emerging composers. At Peabody, he has regularly worked to record and perform new works for orchestral, chamber, and choral ensembles. He programmed exciting concerts to showcase composers of all levels with the Concerto Chamber Orchestra in Los Angeles, of which he was a Co-Founder and Music Director. He also performed as a tenor with Thornton Edge, a contemporary music ensemble at the University of Southern California, and was in demand several times per year as a conductor for student composition recitals.
Prior to his conducting study, Mr. Tani worked as an active as a tenor in the Los Angeles area. He was in demand as a soloist in several professional early-music and new-music groups, including the USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia, Horizon Music Group, Tesserae LA, De Angelis, Flos Campi and Thornton Edge, among others. He was also a member of the USC Chamber Singers, which recently received the 2015 American Prize in Choral Music. Mr. Tani holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Southern California, where he studied with Gary Glaze.
Mr. Tani is in his final year of study at the Peabody Institute, working towards a Masters degree in conducting, studying under Marin Alsop and Markand Thakar. In addition to his studies at Peabody, Mr. Tani was invited to the Eastern Music Festival in 2016 as a Conducting Fellow where he studied under Gerard Schwarz, Grant Cooper and José-Luis Novo. Mr. Tani also plays violin, jazz piano, viola da gamba, and Renaissance recorder for enjoyment. As an avid runner, he enjoys exploring new routes in the greater Maryland area.
Cynthia Sutton, Executive Director
Cynthia Sutton spent seventeen years in the classroom as a public school choral director, and is currently teaching Music Bibliography at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. As a music educator, she created and led a vocal jazz ensemble as well as a rock band ensemble, and conducted choirs for elementary, middle, and high school singers. Her choirs were recognized for their versatility and expressiveness, and consistently earned superior ratings at local and national festivals.
Cynthia was also a member of several Treasure Valley rock bands, performing on vocals, keys, bass, and guitar, and was a studio vocalist for J.D. Stefan at Catwerk studios. She also led and performed in the early music group Tempus Perfectum. In 2013, she was selected as a National Artist Teacher Fellow, and with that grant pursued self-directed study in Early Music, Folk Music, and Songwriting in England and Scotland. As part of that grant, she also created and facilitated a workshop for high-school age singer/songwriters, which culminated in a well-attended concert involving an intersection of local professional musicians in roles as instructors and adjudicators.
She holds a BA in Music Education from Berea College, and recently earned her MM in Musicology from Peabody. At Berea, she was immersed in traditional Appalachian music in addition to her studies in classical voice, piano and composition. She was a member of, and conducted pieces for, the college’s Chamber Singers and Concert Choir, as well as the Black Music Ensemble and Recorder Ensemble. She conducted her own composition at her Baccalaureate service, and earned awards for composition, academic excellence, and music education. At Peabody, she enjoyed working as a graduate assistant in music history and bibliography classes, and was a member of both the Peabody Renaissance Ensemble and the Peabody Recorder Consort. She currently performs with the early music group Consort Anon.
Elisabet Pujadas, Board President
Elisabet grew up in Barcelona, where she had the opportunity to participate in the vibrant cultural life of the city while building a career in science. After graduating with Honors in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago, Elisabet moved to Baltimore to join the MD-PhD program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2009. She is currently working in the laboratory of Prof. Andrew Feinberg performing research on cancer epigenetics.
During her time in Baltimore, Elisabet has created strong partnerships between Johns Hopkins and several music organizations in Baltimore. She started and expanded a series called "Hopkins Evenings at the Symphony" that brings hundreds of students and faculty from Hopkins to the Off the Cuff series at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra every year. For three summers, Elisabet worked as a Production Assistant at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music led by Marin Alsop. Her engagement and commitment to new audience development and to reinventing the concert-going experience in Baltimore has earned her a position as the Vice-President of the Board of Directors at the Baltimore Concert Opera, as well as a position at the board of the Johns Hopkins Office of Cultural Affairs.
Elisabet was one of the founding members of the Occasional Symphony and in her current role as President of the Board, she is working to refine and strengthen the core mission of Occasional Symphony as the organization grows in both size and scope. Elisabet takes piano lessons from Chad Bowles at the Peabody Preparatory and also enjoys rock climbing, photography and gastronomy.
Samantha Buker, Board Vice-President
Samantha Buker (Vice-President, Occasional Symphony) is a Renaissance women-about-town, cultural critic, passionate arts advocate, and runs 7 Veils Studio in Mt. Vernon. Her published work ranges from classical music criticism to financial journalism and has appeared in The Daily Reckoning, City Paper, The Washington Post, Music at Yale, The Peabody Magazine, and What Weekly.
She’s a graduate of the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University’s Journalism School and St. John’s College in Annapolis. Her first book, co-authored with Addison Wiggin, is Little Book of the Shrinking Dollar. She also serves on the board of directors of PostClassical Ensemble and has presented twice at New Music Gathering.
Joshua Bornfield, Board Secretary
Joshua Bornfield has been called “a completely new and original voice” (Phyllis Bryn-Julson) whose work has “a certain organic power” (Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun). His recent opera “Uncle Alex,” written for Washington National Opera, received universal praise in the press and the concert hall. He has won awards for his chamber work (“simplificulticity”, 2010 Virginia McCarty-deLillo Award), choral music (“Mi Chamocha”, 2010 Donald Sutherland Award), and orchestral music (“Vessel”, 2012 Macht Prize; Minnesota Orchestra Composer’s Institute, 2013). He has been commissioned to compose music for members of the United States Army Field Band, Washington National Opera, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, and Boston Handel & Haydn Society.
When not composing or performing with any of the myriad ensembles with which he regularly sings, he runs the War Memorial Arts Initiative, an arts education program and concert series based out of the Baltimore War Memorial under the historic properties division of Baltimore City’s Department of General Services. His mentors include Jake Heggie, Michael Hersch, Anthony Iannaccone, Kevin Puts, Jena Root, and Judith Lang Zaimont.
Melissa Wertheimer, Director of Development
Melissa Wertheimer leads a life immersed in the arts as a performer, researcher, and teacher. She is a diverse performer of solo, chamber, and orchestral music; a piccolo specialist; a new music enthusiast; and a dedicated scholar of music history and women composers.
Melissa loves to contribute to the artistic life of the Baltimore-DC area. She has performed with the Maryland Choral Society Orchestra, Occasional Symphony, Concert Artists of Baltimore, the Howard Community College Faculty Concert Series, SONAR New Music Ensemble, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, and at the Artscape and SoWeBo Music and Arts festivals. Melissa melds her many musical passions into a career as an archivist who works with historic, musical documents and shares their value with all lovers of music. She is the Archivist of the Music Library Association and attends the University of Maryland for a Master of Library and Information Science Degree (M.L.I.S.) in Archives and Digital Curation.
As an educator, Melissa is adjunct flute faculty at Howard Community College and adjunct music history and appreciation faculty at the Johns Hopkins University. Melissa has also been a guest instructor at Peabody’s Jr. Bach Program, adjudicated auditions for Maryland honors bands, and coached sectionals for Howard County school ensembles. She has received grants for lectures and recitals from Yamaha, the College Music Society, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, and the Peabody Institute. Melissa holds a M.M. in Piccolo from the Peabody Institute and B.M. in Flute from Ithaca College.
Sunny Cowell, Board Member
Sunny Cowell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Maryland, as well as a musician. Growing up in the household of her jazz composer and musician father, Stanley Cowell, Sunny began singing and writing music at an early age. She wrote her first song, “Hear Me One” at 5 years old which became the title tune on one of Stanley Cowell’s albums in 1997. At 8 years old, Sunny began classical training on the violin. By 12 years old, she had begun classical study of the viola. Sunny was featured as a jazz violist and vocalist at the Montreal International Jazz Fest in 2004. She was also featured on a week-long music tour in France which included Sunside Club in Paris, Festival La Seyne Sur Mer, and Jazz Festival Foix in 2005. During her high school years, Sunny served as Concert Master for the Burlington Township High School String Orchestra and played the viola as a member of the Philadelphia Sinfonia Orchestra. She also performed on viola as part of her father's Asian Art Suite at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
While attending Swarthmore College, Sunny was a vocalist and composer in Essence of Soul, Swarthmore’s R&B and Soul a cappella group, and she was a member of the Fetter Chamber Quartet. During her time in college, she began teaching herself to play the guitar, adding it to her arsenal of musical instruments. In 2010, Sunny was featured as a singer and violist on Stanley Cowell’s album “Prayer for Peace.” In 2014 she appeared on a Mezzo Live HD TV, France show on vocals and viola with her dad, Stanley Cowell. In 2010, upon graduation from Swarthmore College, Sunny attended the University of Maryland School of Law, and served as the Music Director for the school's a cappella group, Legally Sound. She continued to perform and write her own music for voice and guitar while obtaining her J.D. In 2015, Sunny released her first solo EP-CD "Insecure," a recording of original songs influenced by genres of popular music.
Sunny graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2013, and served as Co-President of the Maryland Intellectual Property Law Student Society (MIPSA). Currently, she works as a Staff Attorney at the MD Legal Aid Bureau in Baltimore City, MD. Sunny is also Vice President of the Piano Choir Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to promoting music education in schools. In addition, Sunny volunteers with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (MDVLA), providing legal advice to local artists and musicians.