New Class of Ensemble Connect Fellows Launches its 2020–2021 Season Online With Up Close: United Through Separation

Carnegie Hall Press Release

Group’s First-Ever Virtual Performance —Available for Free On-Demand— Features Music by Bartók, Valerie Coleman, Reena Esmail, Poulenc, and Alec Wilder

Nine New Musicians from Around the World Join Ensemble Connect This Season Embarking on Two-Year Fellowship Program Combining Performance, Education, Advocacy, and Leadership

Ensemble Connect 2020-2022 Fellows

(New York, NY, December 2, 2020)–Ensemble Connect has embarked on its 14th season with a new group of young professional classical musicians joining the two-year fellowship program designed to further prepare them for careers that combine musical excellence with teaching, community engagement and advocacy.

With the COVID-19 pandemic requiring them to start their fellowship experience working together in the digital space, nine new Ensemble Connect musicians—hailing from the United States, Australia, Switzerland, and Venezuela—came together earlier this fall to plan performance projects, take part in professional development sessions, and to begin partnerships online with New York City public schools.

Launching their first performance season together, the musicians recently debuted Up Close: United Through Separation, Ensemble Connect’s first-ever virtual performance. Planned collaboratively with Artistic Partner Reena Esmail and Director Nathaniel Stevens, the immersive program—with music by Bartók, Valerie Coleman, Reena Esmail, Poulenc, and Alec Wilder—featured these accomplished instrumentalists each performing remotely from their own spaces. It is currently available for free on-demand viewing here on Carnegie Hall’s YouTube channel.

Continuing Ensemble Connect’s ongoing partnership with New York City public schools, the nine Ensemble Connect fellows and six program alumni have each been paired with a New York City public school instrumental music teacher. Over the next two years, Ensemble Connect fellows and alumni will bring their expert musicianship, a professional performer’s perspective, and creative approaches to musical skill building to band, keyboard, and string programs in 15 schools across four New York City boroughs. Due to COVID-19, the fellows are currently supporting classroom teachers through remote learning. As part of their work, the musicians have created a Digital Resource Library accessible to all of Ensemble Connect’s partner schools, which includes mini-instrumental lessons, videos focusing on musical concepts, and interactive musical listening challenges.

In October, Ensemble Connect also continued its biannual residency at Skidmore College by connecting with the students and Saratoga Springs community online. During this online residency, the fellows engaged with Skidmore College students as well as students in local elementary schools, offering master classes, lessons, class demonstrations, and interactive performances. Composer Reena Esmail joined the fellows as Artistic Partner for Up Close: United Through Separation, which was co-presented by Carnegie Hall and Skidmore College and included performances of three Esmail works. Ensemble Connect will return to Skidmore College for a second online residency this season from February 22-26.

With Carnegie Hall’s three concert halls currently closed through at least April 5, 2021 due to COVID-19, Ensemble Connect is developing plans to produce several additional virtual performances for release later this season. The musicians look forward to returning to live performances at Carnegie Hall, following the venue’s reopening.

Introducing the 2020–2022 Ensemble Connect Fellows

Ensemble Connect is excited to welcome the following musicians who join the group for the next two seasons:

Laura Andrade, Cello (Austin, Texas)
Education: Eastman School of Music / The Juilliard School
Partnered with NYC Public School: City College Academy of the Arts, Manhattan

Amir Farsi, Flute (Fremont, California)
Education: Peabody Conservatory / Yale School of Music
Partnered with NYC Public School: Ebbets Field Middle School, Brooklyn

Nik Hooks, Bassoon (Merritt Island, Florida)
Education: Walnut Hill School for the Arts / New England Conservatory / The Colburn School
Partnered with NYC Public School: Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Manhattan

Joanne Kang, Piano (Sydney, Australia)
Education: Manhattan School of Music
Partnered with NYC Public School: Edward R. Murrow High School, Brooklyn

Halam Kim, Viola (Port Washington, New York)
Education: New England Conservatory / The Juilliard School / Eastman School of Music / University of Rochester
Partnered with NYC Public School: PS/IS 226 Alfred De B. Mason, Brooklyn

Rubén Rengel, Violin (Caracas, Venezuela)
Education: Cleveland Institute of Music / Rice University / Manhattan School of Music
Partnered with NYC Public School: Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music, The Bronx

Cort Roberts, Horn (Loveland, Colorado)
Education: University of Colorado Boulder / The Juilliard School / Stony Brook University
Partnered with NYC Public School: PS 200 Benson School, Brooklyn

Yasmina Spiegelberg, Clarinet (Bavois, Switzerland)
Education: University of Southern California / Norwegian State Music Academy / Conservatory of Amsterdam / Music Academy of Lausanne
Partnered with NYC Public School: Wagner Middle School, Manhattan

Stephanie Zyzak, Violin (New York, NY)
Education: New England Conservatory, CUNY The Graduate Center
Partnered with NYC Public School: Brooklyn High School of the Arts, Brooklyn

About Ensemble Connect

Ensemble Connect is made up of extraordinary professional classical musicians residing in the US who take part in a two-year fellowship program created in 2007 by Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education. The program prepares fellows for careers that combine musical excellence with teaching, community engagement, advocacy, entrepreneurship, and leadership by offering top-quality performance opportunities, intensive professional development, and partnerships throughout the fellowship with New York City public schools.

On the concert stage and in schools and communities, Ensemble Connect has earned accolades from critics and audiences alike for the quality of the concerts, the fresh and open-minded approach to programming, and the ability to actively engage any audience.

Exemplary performers, dedicated teachers, and passionate advocates of music throughout the community, the forward-looking musicians of Ensemble Connect are redefining what it means to be a musician in the 21st century.

Ensemble Connect Alumni Activities

Throughout the 13 years since Ensemble Connect was established, Carnegie Hall has maintained close relationships with the program’s alumni. As the reputation of this group has grown, demand for work by the 135 alumni has developed as well. In 2011, Decoda—an ensemble exclusively made up of Ensemble Connect alumni—was formed and later named an affiliate ensemble of Carnegie Hall.

Additionally, alumni perform with current fellows in Ensemble Connect, lead professional development sessions, serve as advisors for current fellows, and perform as part of the Weill Music Institute’s education and social impact programs to bring live music to people throughout New York City. Ensemble Connect’s alumni currently participate in more than 100 performing ensembles in the US and around the world. They have created non-profit organizations including Notes with a Purpose in Las Vegas, Musicambia in New York, New Docta International Music Festival in Argentina, Scrag Mountain Music in Vermont, and VotesART. Many alumni also hold faculty and guest artist teaching positions at US universities and colleges. Alumni have gone on to perform, teach, and engage with communities in 53 countries around the world.


Ensemble Connect is a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education.

Posted in