Artists’ Bios



Gabriel Bolkosky has performed and taught across the United States and abroad. He performs a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary works with different collaborative artists from many genres of music making.  Over the last decade, Gabe has founded and directed the music festival, PhoenixPhest.  He founded the festival with the intent of creating an environment open to all levels and ages of musicians, creating a more holistic musical experience without sacrificing quality.

Gabe’s performances have focused in the areas of contemporary music, jazz and tango as well as traditional classical music.  In 2008 he performed in the premiere of Fredric Rzewski’s “Natural Things” for Carnegie Hall’s Making Music Series. He has also collaborated with other composers, among them Fredric Rzewski, William Bolcom, John Harbison, Thomas Ades, Bright Sheng, William Albright, Andrew Kirshner, Lars Holmer, Carter Pann, Michael Daugherty, George Tsontakis, Derek Bermel, and Bernard Rands.

As a jazz and tango musician, Gabe has worked with great artists such as John Lindberg, Peter Soave, Tad Weed, Ed Sarath, Chris Howes, Andy Bishop, and was a founding member of The Oblivion Project.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Gabe began his violin studies at age three. His primary teachers were Michael Avsharian of Ann Arbor, Paul Kantor at the University of Michigan, and Donald Weilerstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Gabe earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance and a master’s degree in chamber music, as well as studying improvisation at the master’s level, at the University of Michigan. At the Cleveland Institute he earned a Professional Studies degree, served a year as Weilerstein’s teaching assistant and won the school’s prestigious Darius Milhaud prize. He attended the Aspen Music Festival from 1991-98 on fellowship, first playing with the Aspen Chamber Symphony and then the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble for four years. During those four years he premiered hundreds of new works, and with his group, Non Sequitur, conducted workshops and concerts for thousands of students in the Aspen valley as well as at schools such as Harvard, Dartmouth, Brandeis and Princeton.

Gabe has released seven CDs that show his breadth as a musician. His debut solo album, This and That, features classical and jazz music. Other albums include The Shape of Klez to Come with the klezmer group Into the Freylakh; The Orchestra Is Here to Play, a live recording teaming the Gemini children’s-music group with a full orchestra; The Oblivion Project Live, showcasing the music of Astor Piazzolla; Non Sequitur, contemporary and experimental music, including one of his own compositions; Home from Work, an eclectic mix of jazz, folk and blues in collaboration with San Slomovits, and as sideman on John Lindberg’s recording Two by Five.

His most recent CD is Bonne Nuit, which includes the Debussy Sonata and other small works for violin and piano with Michele Cooker, and can be found here.

Gabe was guest artist at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor teaching violin and chamber music for six years.  He has worked with all ages of young musicians in most of the 50 states and parts of Asia.  He is the executive director of The Phoenix Ensemble, a nonprofit organization dedicated to being a musical resource for artists and educational institutions. Gabe also directs PhoenixPhest! and PhoenixPhest! Grande, two amateur chamber music festivals held each May and August, and maintains a private violin studio.



Adam DeGraff is an American violinist, composer, teacher, and farmer that spent the first part of his career as a professional orchestral musician. Since then, Adam has been experimenting with rock violin, song writing, alternative music education, and traditional organic farming practices. Though he regularly hangs with chickens, pigs, and cows, Adam has only been bitten once: by a human violin student. Adam attended Northwestern University as an undergraduate where he studied with famed Portuguese violinist, Gerardo Ribeiro. His graduate work at Rice University included study with the world’s most beloved concertmaster, Raphael Fliegel. Currently Adam performs worldwide as a soloist and with his groups, The Weight, Pianafiddle, and The Dueling Fiddlers. He teaches internationally via skype and he lives, farms, and teaches in what is officially “America’s Coolest Small Town,” Lewisburg, WV.



Chiara Kingsley Dieguez holds a Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance from Arizona State University and a Master’s Degree in Viola Performance from the UMD, College Park. She has studied with Daniel Foster, William Magers, and Michael Tree. An active chamber and orchestral musician, Ms. Dieguez has been a member of the Sonore String Quartet, the Downtown Chamber Series of Phoenix, and has performed at the Mainly Mozart Festival of San Diego since 2002. She also performs each summer at the Grand Teton Music Festival, playing both in the orchestra and performing regularly on the Spotlight Series chamber concerts. As a soloist, Ms. Dieguez has performed with the Maryland Chamber Symphony, the UMD Symphony Orchestra, and the Arizona State University Chamber Orchestra. Chiara has also appeared as an alumni soloist with the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony of AZ, and served as Associate Principal Viola of the Phoenix Symphony for 7 years. She moved to the DC area in 2008, where she performs regularly with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, and the Fessenden Ensemble of DC.



Russell Fallstad has been hailed for his “glorious strength” and “elegance” by New York Concert Review, and has blazed an impressive trail as a violinist, DJ, songwriter, and music producer.  He began violin/viola lessons at age 5 in Minnesota, and went on to receive two classical performance degrees from Northwestern University. Russell has mentored with classical legends Isaac Stern, The Juilliard Quartet, and The Emerson Quartet. He subsequently founded, toured and recorded with the Fry Street Quartet for 12 years before taking a hiatus from the classical world to develop a new method for teaching music to students of all ages called the HeartStrings Method and found a school, HeartStrings Academy, in Lewisburg, WV. He is currently working on an international release of that program. Russell has taught young children in the Chicago area, Utah, West Virginia, and the DC region. In addition to teaching, Russell worked as a musical coach for the film “A Late Quartet,” and appears in an episode of the PBS children’s program, “Abracadabra.” Russell also tours internationally and records with the renowned rock-pop-hiphop-violin duo, The Dueling Fiddlers.


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Stephanie Sims Flack began Suzuki violin lessons at the age of 8, received her music degree in violin performance from LSU, and a Master of Arts from Indiana University. She has studied with Sally O’Reilly, Kevork Mardirossian and Henryk Kowalski and is currently continuing her pedagogical training with Suzuki teacher trainer, Ronda Cole. Stephanie attended the Starling-Delay Symposium on Violin Studies at The Juilliard School in New York in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and teaches at the Greater Washington Suzuki Institute in Falls Church, Virginia and Phoenix Phest in Michigan. As an orchestral musician, she has performed with orchestras in England and the US including the Cambridge Philharmonic, Ely Sinfonia, Pan American Symphony, Arizona Opera and Baton Rouge Symphony. Stephanie is also founder and violinist of String Quartet of Northern Virginia and performs as a soloist, orchestral and chamber musician throughout the metropolitan Washington DC area. She is currently Assistant Concertmaster of the McLean Orchestra. Stephanie’s latest endeavor is the creation of inNOVAtion String Quartet and producer of Envisioned Strings.


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Diana Flesner, cello, is an active chamber musician and teacher in the DC area.  She received her DMA from the University of Illinois, her MM from San Francisco Conservatory, and her BA magna cum laude from Middlebury College with a double major in Music and Russian Language/Literature. In addition to the String Quartet of Northern Virginia, Diana is also the cellist of the West Shore Piano Trio, which concertizes regularly across the mid-Atlantic region including performances at Smithsonian American Art Museum, Sydney Harmon Hall, Goucher College, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, and Chautauqua Institution.  Prior to moving to the DC area, she was a member of the Cervantes Quartet, which performed live for WILL-FM, gave the American premier of a quartet by Edward Top, and served as Quartet in Residence for Strings in the Mountains summer music festival. She has also performed with Annapolis Symphony, Inscape Chamber Orchestra, Fairfax Symphony, Champaign-Urbana Symphony, Opera Illinois, Peoria Symphony, and Illinois Symphony.  Diana maintains a full teaching studio at the International School of Music in Bethesda, MD.



Avi Friedlander, Cello, is the founder and director of STEP Birmingham and Birmingham Young Artist Workshop.  Mr. Friedlander currently teaches at both STEP Birmingham and the Alabama School of Fine Arts and formerly taught at Emory University, Birmingham Southern College and Andrews University in Michigan.  He received his Master’s and Bachelor’s of Music performance degrees from The University of Michigan, and pursued his professional studies degree from The Cleveland Institute of Music. Mr. Friedlander is the former Assistant Principal cellist of the Atlanta Opera and member of The New World Symphony. He has been trained in the Suzuki methods with Dr. Tanya Carey, Pam Devenport, Rick Mooney, Nancy Hair and Gilda Barston. Mr. Friedlander has also studied Early Child Development with Ed Sprunger, teaching group classes with Carey Beth Hockett and Terry Durbin, Music Mind Games by Elizabeth Cunha and cello pedagogy with Irene Sharp. Mr. Friedlander has also studied improvisation with Ellen Rowe at the University of Michigan and Eugene Friesen from the Berkely College of Music in Boston. His primary teachers have included Anthony Elliott, Stephen Geber, Tanya Carey and David Premo. He has also studied with Richard Aaron, Eric Kim, Yehuda Hanani and Hans Jensen. Mr. Friedlander has taught at workshops and festivals around the country and has performed and recorded music from classical to rock. Mr. Friedlander currently performs with String Theory Birmingham and writes his own arrangements for solo cello and ensembles from Jimi Hendrix to Pearl Jam.



Brandon Harris is a freelance musician and teacher in the Washington Metropolitan area. He is a graduate of The Catholic University of America (MM, 2012) and George Mason University (BM, 2008) and is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. His past teachers include Glenn Dewey of the “President’s Own” Marine Band and Ira Gold of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Brandon is currently the principal bass of the McLean Orchestra and has performed with Bel Cantanti Opera, the American Festival Pops Orchestra, the Todi Music Festival, the Aida String Ensemble, and the Beethoven Found Philharmonic.



Amanda Kerr was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, where she grew up in a musical family. She began her fiddling career at the age of 3, and after winning the Alaska State Fair Grand Champion title four times, Amanda went on to win many more fiddle competitions across the country including the Junior Division at the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho. Amanda began teaching private music lessons in 2003. She has done Suzuki Violin training in Alaska, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and continues with training at various Suzuki Institutes across the country. In 2009, Amanda spent 2 years teaching violin, viola, cello and bass at the Aurora Waldorf School in Anchorage. She has also taught fiddle, guitar and even banjo at many music camps around the country. She now teaches lessons out of her home in Alexandria, VA.  Amanda also enjoys performing. In Anchorage, she was a member of the well-known Bluegrass and Old-Timey dance band, High Lonesome Sound. She also played in the Anna Lynch Band, Hot Dish, Red Elk, and the Emeralds. You can hear Amanda on Anna Lynch’s newly released self-titled album and on two albums released by the Emeralds in 2003 & 2004 (‘The Emerald Edge’ and ‘Off the Edge’). Amanda and her music partner Dan Booth hope to release a duo album in the near future.



Violist Stephanie Knutsen performs with many of the most prestigious ensembles in the Washington DC metro area including the National Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Washington National Opera and Fairfax Symphony.  Stephanie graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Music from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She resides in Sterling, Virginia with husband, Aren and their two adorable daughters.



Violinist Erynn Spencer performs as a soloist and collaborative musician in the metro-DC area. Her repertoire ranges from masterpieces of the classical music tradition to celebrated works from the 20th century to edgy new-century compositions. Recently, she has performed on the Fairfax Spotlight on the Arts series, and has appeared as a soloist in several recitals given at the Peabody Conservatory’s Griswold Hall in Baltimore. She has performed in quartets in and around Baltimore, and has received instruction from Michael Kannen and Alison Wells, as well as coachings from the Kuss Quartet, the Skampa Quartet, the St. Lawrence Quartet, and the Ying Quartet, as well as Will Fedkenheuer of the Miró Quartet. She has also performed in masterclasses for Emanuel Borok and David Kim.

Her orchestral experience includes performing with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, the McLean Orchestra, the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, the National Orchestral Institute Festival Orchestra, the Utah Philharmonia, and the National Symphony Orchestra Festival Orchestra. She has performed in numerous venues, including Washington’s Kennedy Center, Baltimore’s Friedberg Hall, Griswold Hall, Cohen-Davison Hall, and Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, Abravanel Hall, Dumke Recital Hall, Thomson Recital Hall, and Kingsbury Hall, as well as the Church of St. Mary the Great in Cambridge, England.

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Nathan Wisniewski violinist

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Cellist Sean Neidlinger enjoys an active career as a recitalist, chamber musician, orchestral musician, and teacher. After receiving a Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music under the tutelage of Richard Aaron, he pursued further studies at New England Conservatory with Paul Katz. Described as “fiery” and “impassioned” by the Washington Post, Sean has been featured as a soloist and chamber musician at the Korean, German, French, and Austrian embassies, the Phillips Collection, the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and Terrace Theatre, the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic and the Friday Morning Music Club orchestras. He also has performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra,  the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, and has served as principal cellist of the Amadeus, Winchester, McLean Orchestras. He is currently the principal cellist of the American Pops Orchestra. Sean has toured Europe as a chamber musician and as a soloist. This past Spring, Sean also embarked on a four nation tour throughout the Caribbean on a program of cultural outreach sponsored by the United States Department of State. As an artist always intrigued by mixed art forms, Sean won a grant to create a performance installation alongside the Warhol exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. He currently serves as the cellist for the Chamber Dance Project, an organization focused on new interpretations of chamber music repertoire combined with dance.

Photo Credit to Britt Olsen-Ecker, SPF Productions, and Irene Abdou Photography

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