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Meet the 2018-19 Luna Lab Fellows

Tiffany Cuaresma

Tiffany Cuaresma (age 17) has been composing music for two years and is a soprano, flutist and pianist from San Diego, CA. She is a Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Composition Program alumni, a 2019 YoungArts Winner for Classical Music Composition, and the Honorable Mention in the 2018 Emerging Young Composers Competition with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. Tiffany has also scored award-winning films, including a film for the All-American Film Festival, and has written music for her school’s wind ensemble and orchestra. In February, Tiffany will be conducting the music for her first opera production, which will be premiered by Canyon Crest Academy’s Instrumental and Vocal Conservatories. Tiffany is also a U.S. Figure Skating Association figure skater and loves to coach figure skating. She is involved in the fight against human trafficking, and hopes that she can use her music to raise awareness to crucial civil rights issues. Tiffany Cuaresma is the recipient of the James R. Rosenfield Fellowship.

Abby Harris

Abby Harris (age 13) is an eighth grader who lives in New York City and studies classical piano performance and music theory. She won first place in the junior division of the Piano Explorer Composition Competition and a bronze medal in the junior division of the Hal Leonard Composition Competition. This year she was awarded a MATA, Jr. commission. That commission, “Pachyderm,” a musical retelling of the fable of the blind men and the elephant, will be performed in concert in November. Abby also participates in the American Composers Orchestra composition programming.    

Yuri Lee

Yuri Lee (age 14), an eighth grader at Tuckahoe Middle School in NY, is entering her third year of studying violin, theory, and composition as a composition major student at The Juilliard School Music Advancement Program. Her pieces have won awards twice in a showcase concert hosted by Concordia Conservatory in 2017 and 2018. Her goal in life is to make people happy with music. So, she has founded the “Music Around Us Project” and organized concerts with a variety of young musicians for seniors in an assisted living facility. Her composition “Medusa Tango” is the fifth scene from her first opera “Perseus and Medusa,” based on Greek mythology. Yuri Lee is the recipient of the Patrina Foundation Fellowship.

Joanna McDonald

Joanna McDonald (age 17) is a composer, guitarist and pianist living in Tulsa, Oklahoma who loves her local music community. She first started writing lyrics at age six and by age twelve was writing full songs with melodies and chord progressions. She has won several awards at the University of Tulsa’s annual Bela Rozsa composition competition since entering her first piece at age 15, a solo guitar piece. She has presented on her music at The University of Oklahoma’s Collegiate Composer’s Workshop and has attended composition seminars like the Curtis Summerfest and The University of Tulsa Composition Seminar. Joanna currently studies composition with Noam Faingold and Dave Broome through the composition classes at the Barthelmes Conservatory program at The bART Center for Music in Tulsa. After graduating in 2019, her goal is to major in Composition. Joanna McDonald is the recipient of the Sydney Striker Fellowship.

Charlie Meenaghan

Charlie Meenaghan (age 17) is a senior at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. Charlie discovered composition as a sophomore. In the fall of 2017, Charlie began private study with Ian Krouse and was accepted into the LA Phil Composer Fellowship Program. Since then, Charlie has had works performed at Disney Concert Hall and has received top honors from competitions such as ASCAP Morton Gould (Charlotte Bergen Scholarship for top winner under 18) and NFMC Junior Composers Awards (1st nationally). Charlie also has interests in technology, dabbling in computer science and electronic music. Charlie is honored to be a 2018-19 Luna Composition Lab Fellow.


Olivia Bennett

Olivia Bennett (age 16) is an award-winning composer and musician from Southwest Missouri. She currently studies composition with Dr. Carlyle Sharpe. Over the past few years, she has participated in master classes with Dr. Stefan Freund, Dr. W. Thomas McKenney and Dr. Carolina Heredia. Her work has been performed by various ensembles, including the Columbia Civic Orchestra, Mizzou String Quartet and the Interlochen Philharmonic. Recent awards include 1st place in the 2016 COMP competition, 2nd place in the 2017 & 2018 COMP competitions at the University of Missouri, winner of the 2017 Missouri Composers Orchestra Project and named an Emerging Composer in the 2018 Tribeca New Music Young Composer Competition in New York.

Penina Biddle-Gottesman

Penina Biddle-Gottesman (age 16) is from Berkeley, California and attends Berkeley High School. She has been playing the cello since she was eight, and singing since she was born. At the age of eleven she started composing at the Crowden School of Music. She has studied composition with Arkadi Serper and Matthew Cmiel, and cello with Eugene Sor and Wanda Warkentin. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and watching The Office. Though her future is uncertain, she hopes to further study music composition in college.

Michelle Li

Michelle Li (age 18) is currently a double-degree student at Oberlin College/Conservatory studying composition under the tutelage of Elizabeth Ogonek. In high school, she studied composition with Daniel Temkin and piano with Betty Stoloff. She was an apprentice composer in the New York Youth Symphony’s Composition Program and has participated in the Brevard Music Festival as well as Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute. Her music is heavily influenced by visual arts, and she loves exploring different timbres and textures.

Karina Menchin

Karina Menchin (age 15) has studied piano since she was six. Karina is currently a student at Kaufman Music Center's Special Music School High School and Lucy Moses School, and at the Mannes School of Music. She is an Honor Student at Mannes, studying piano under Genya Paley. She studies composition with Max Grafe at SMS High School. Karina also spent four years studying composition at The Walden Music Summer School in Dublin NH. Karina has performed at the 92nd Street Y, Steinway Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Lucy Moses School, The Telavi Music School Festival in Georgia and The Mannes School of Music. Karina was selected along with one other student to be part of a composition workshop last year with Laura Kaminsky at SMS High School. She also participated in a Master class with Olga Kern in the Recanati-Kaplan Scholarship Program at the 92nd Street Y when she was ten years old. She loves Alfred Schnittke and Samuel Barber.

Jenny Yao

Jenny Yao (age 18) is a composer and pianist from Charleston, SC in her first year at Harvard University. Since starting composition at age fourteen, she has been recognized as a 2018 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award Honorable Mention Recipient, two-time MTNA National Finalist, and 2018 YoungArts Winner in Classical Music. She is also an alumna of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and Atlantic Music Festival. As an arts education advocate, she founded the Fine Arts Youth Outreach Collective dedicated to engaging K-12 students in the arts through performance to foster the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts.