Violinist and violist, Michael Barta, studied at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary and received his degree with highest honors. In 1973 he won the 2nd prize at the Joseph Szigeti International Competition and the Gold Medal of the Ysaye Society in Brussels, Belgium. In 1974 he received a Diploma as Finalist of the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, Russia. From 1975-1980, he held the title Soloist of the National Philharmony in Hungary and was first violinist of the Kodály String Quartet. He came to the United States in 1980 and became professor of violin at Central Michigan University. He currently serves as Professor of Violin and Chamber Music at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, a position he has held since 1985. Mr. Barta has performed in 25 countries, including many European countries, China and Japan. He performed such venues as Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall in the United States, in Wigmore Hall in London, at Radio France in Paris, and many others. He served on the summer faculty of the Central Catalonia Music Festival and Academy in Spain and regularly teaches master classes in Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta, Latvia and Austria. He is co-founder of the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society, and also performs as the Assistant Concertmaster of the Illinois Symphony and Chamber Orchestra and as Acting Concertmaster of Sinfonia da Camera in Urbana, Illinois.
Pianist, Kara Benyas has served on the faculties of Southern Illinois University and McKendree University. She holds degrees from Northwestern University and SIU, and has also studied at the Aspen Music School. She has been an accompanist for the voice studio of the late William Warfield and with the Des Moines Metro Opera. Ms. Benyas has appeared several times as a soloist with the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra, on subscription concerts in downtown Chicago and on tour throughout the Midwest. She has appeared as soloist with the Southern Illinois Symphony and soloist and chamber music artist with the Southern Illinois Music Festival on numerous occasions. Ms. Benyas appeared on the Dame Myra Hess Recital Series at the Chicago Cultural Center, a performance broadcast on local television, on WFMT-FM in Chicago and syndicated nationally over the internet. In 2011 and 2013 she performed a series of concerts in Northern Italy, including Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. In Southern Illinois, Ms. Benyas helped establishKlassics for Kids, a highly acclaimed concert series that exposes preschool and school age children to a variety of live classical music and jazz. She and her husband live in Southern Illinois with their two children, Gabriela and Maya, and their dogs, Carmen and Rosina.
Dr. Eric Lenz is Interim Director of the School of Music and Associate Professor of Cello at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
In addition to his studio cello duties, Lenz also teaches courses in chamber music, harmony, and counterpoint. A member of the Illinois Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, Lenz was recently appointed principal cello of the Paducah Symphony. He has performed with the Alabama, Charleston, and Missouri Symphonies, and with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra. Recent chamber performances include a recital at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall and a new-music residency at the Banff Centre for Music and Sound. Lenz has performed at Spoleto Festival USA and at Brevard Music Center, where he served as orchestral fellow. Chamber music coaches include the Juilliard, Emmerson, Guarnari, Cleveland, and Cavani quartets. This summer Lenz joins the faculty of Lutheran Summer Music, where he will teach and perform as a member of the Omega String Quartet.
Lenz majored in music and mathematics at St. Olaf College, where he graduated with distinction for his work in both fields and was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He holds graduate degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music—where he studied with Stephen Geber, principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra—and the University of Alabama where he was awarded the Moody String Fellowship. Further studies include residencies in France at the Conservatoire National d’Angers and in the Czech Republic at the Institut Franco-Tchèque.
In the field of early music, he has performed on baroque cello with the Cleveland Camerata and on viola da gamba with the Case Western Reserve Viol Consort. He is a founding member of Neoteric, an exciting new music ensemble at SIUC which has premiered several new works since its inception in 2004. Lenz performs frequently with the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society, an exciting local organization which sponsors visiting artists and offers scholarships to SIUC students who play string instruments.
A native of Paducah, KY, Michelle Skinner is a sought-after violinist across the United States and around the world. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and earned both a Master of Music and Graduate Performance Diploma in Violin Performance from the Peabody Institute where she studied with renowned violinist Herbert Greenberg. Additionally, she serves as teaching assistant to Mr. Greenberg at the Peabody Institute.
Michelle is the Principal Second Violinist and Guest Concertmaster of the Amarillo Symphony (Amarillo, TX) and member of the Nu Deco Ensemble (Miami, FL). She is a violinist in the Florida Grand Opera, Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival, and regular guest musician with the Charleston Symphony, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, and Annapolis Symphony. She serves as Concertmaster for such conductors as Leon Fleisher, Gustav Meier and Marin Alsop. A fellow at the Aspen Music Festival for four years, she served as Principal Second Violin and Assistant Concertmaster. Michelle is a founding member of the Janós Quartet, a featured ensemble in the Spring International Chamber Music Festival in Shanghai, China. She has performed with members of the Brentano Quartet, Meliora String Quartet and has worked with the Takács Quartet, Ying Quartet, Ariana String Quartet, and Eighth Blackbird. An advocate of new music, Michelle regularly collaborates with such acclaimed composers as Kevin Puts, Andy Akiho, Adam Schoenberg, and Chris Rogerson.
Abigail Simoneau, a New Hampshire native, is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This past fall, she became part of the adjunct music faculty at Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina and is Flute Instructor at the Music Academy of North Carolina. Ms. Simoneau earned her Master of Music degree in Flute Performance from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Hampshire. Her teachers include Linda True, Peggy Vagts, Douglas Worthen, Carla Copeland-Burns, and Erika Boysen. Ms. Simoneau has performed with numerous ensembles throughout her college career, and with the Southern Illinois Music Festival.
David Tuttle is an active freelance musician who has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Honolulu Symphony, Ars Viva Chicago, and the Lake Forest Symphony. He has been performing as an extra player with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1974. He can be heard on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recordings of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Wagner’s Prelude and Love Death, and Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite. In addition to his extensive freelancing, David currently serves as principal clarinetist in the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Light Opera Works, and the Southern Illinois Music Festival, for which he is also personnel manager. He is the founder and director of Chicago Winds, Inc., which has presented more than 2,000 program in Chicago Public Schools. Tuttle has been on the roster of Vandoren Performing Artists since 2011.