Berkshire Symphony

Berkshire Symphony Student Soloist Competition

The Williams College Department of Music will present the annual Berkshire Symphony Student Soloist Competition.

The 2009 Winners:

Alicia Choi ’09, violin with Korngold’s Concerto in D. opus 35

Alexander Taylor ’10, clarinet with Copland’s Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra


Tiffany Yu ’12, piano with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, KV448

The award for this competition is to appear as soloist with the Berkshire Symphony at the fourth and final regular season concert on Saturday, April 25.  This is always the most rewarding concert of the season as it showcases the remarkable talents of our Williams students.

The Berkshire Symphony will be conducted by guest conductor Julian Kuerti and includes nearly 70 members, half of whom are students and half of whom are professional musicians. The ensemble presents four major concerts each season; the programs balance orchestral standards with contemporary works.

The competition is open to Williams College students who have completed certain required instrumental or vocal studies and enrolled in qualifying courses.  The students must be recommended by their instrumental or vocal teachers. The works may be one movement from a concerto, a single-movement work, a concert or operatic aria, song cycle, etc. for soloist and orchestra. The students are accompanied by professionals for both the optional studios and the competition itself.

Winners of the competition are chosen by a distinguished panel of judges consisting of three or four professional musicians from outside the Williams community. The auditions will be overseen by David Kechley, Chairman of the Department and one other music department faculty member.

Michael Sussman, clarinet ; Jennifer Ashe, soprano; Dan Schulman, piano; Joel Pitchon, violin


Michael Sussman, Clarinetist
Clarinetist Michael Sussman has appeared as orchestra principal, soloist or recitalist throughout the U.S., and has concertized in 32 countries on four continents.  He is Principal Clarinetist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, and has served as Principal Clarinetist with the orchestras of the Bolshoi Ballet, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, D’Oyly Carte Opera, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Australian Opera, Australian Ballet, Teton Festival Orchestra, Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, Handel and Haydn Society (Boston), Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Goldman Band, the New Hampshire Symphony, and the Monadnock Music Festival.

As a chamber musician, his credits include Speculum Musicae, Ethos, the Philharmonia Quintet, the Casals Festival, New York Chamber Soloists, Monadnock Music Festival, Fine Arts Chamber Ensemble, Music in Avila (Curacao), Mohawk Trail Concerts, Walden Chamber Players, and solo appearances with major string quartets including the New Zealand, the Australian, the Lark, the St. Petersburg, the Lydian, and the Ciompi String Quartets.

Mr. Sussman is a Professor of Music at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, with former students performing in such professional ensembles as the Singapore Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, San Diego Symphony, New World Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Barenboim-Said Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Lukes, the U.S. Marine Band (“The President’s Own”), the U.S. Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”), Mississippi Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Alabama Symphony, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band. Mr. Sussman has recorded for 16 different labels, extensively with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on Deutsche Gramaphon, and most recently on the Koch, Gasparo and Naxos labels. He resides in Amherst, Massachusetts with his wife Lynn.  His four children live and/or attend schools in Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina.

Jennifer Ashe, soprano
Described as “the kind of vocal velvet you don’t often hear in contemporary music” displaying “rock solid technique” (Boston Phoenix), Jennifer Ashe, soprano, has been hailed by the Boston Globe as giving a performance that was “pure bravura…riveting the audience with a radiant and opulent voice” for her performance in Peter Maxwell Davies’ monodrama, Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot. A strong advocate for new music, Jennifer has participated in countless premieres and recordings for composers active in the Boston area and beyond. She has been a guest artist with Boston new music ensembles such as Firebird and White Rabbit, and frequently performs on series such as the New Gallery Concert Series, Harvard Group for New Music, New Music Brandeis, and the Fromm Festival at Harvard.

At New England Conservatory Jennifer studied with Mark St Laurent and Lucy Shelton, receiving the Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance in May 2006. She also holds the Master of Music in Vocal Pedagogy from NEC. She received the Bachelor of Music from the Hartt School of Music in Voice Performance and Music Education. A current lecturer at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, Jennifer has taught at NEC. She is also faculty at the Community Music Center in Boston.

A frequent performer of chamber music, she is a founding member of the flute and soprano duo Prana with Alicia DiDonato. Prana was honored to be chosen as semi-finalists at the 2007 Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition. She is a senior member of the Callithumpian Consort led by Steven Drury. Jennifer is also the soprano for the Boston Microtonal Society’s chamber ensemble Notariotous. Recent projects include a recital at the Goethe institute of Webern and Lachenmann.

Joel Pitchon,  violin
Joel Pitchon, violinist, is an Associate Professor of violin and chamber music at Smith College. A graduate of the Juilliard School, Mr. Pitchon studied with Oscar Shumsky and Joseph Fuchs. Mr. Pitchon is currently a member of the Boston based Walden Chamber Players, the Smith Chamber Ensemble, and the New Baroque Soloists. He has been the concertmaster of numerous orchestras, including the Orquestra Ciutat de Barcelona (Spain), the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, and the EOS Chamber Orchestra (NY). For his performance of Stravinsky’s L’histoire du Soldat with the EOS Orchestra, the New York Times wrote  “…superb playing by Joel Pitchon…” Mr. Pitchon has been a featured artist for the arts program “Cadencia” on TV3 Catalunya and profiled in STRAD magazine. He has performed in many concerts in the U.S. and abroad with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and has appeared in numerous radio and television broadcasts including WGBH, WYNC, and PBS television. Mr. Pitchon has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, Vox Cum Laude, CBS Masterworks, and the Musical Heritage Society. He has recently made two recordings of sonatas and solo works by Porter, Piston, Amy Beach and Clifton J. Noble for Gasparo Records. His most recent recording is of the chamber works of Augusta Read Thomas with the Walden Chamber Players.