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Vasudevan Panicker, Director of Face the Music

Vasudevan Panicker (Vasu) is Director of Face the Music at Kaufman Music Center, the nation’s only youth orchestra program dedicated to performing works by living composers. As a born-and-raised New Yorker from Manhattan, Vasu attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia high school for piano performance, Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Division, and City University of New York (B.S., Contemporary Music Studies). After serving as Face the Music’s first intern and, later, as Managing Director, he lived in Germany and Argentina for eight months. While living abroad, he reached C.1-level in German from the Goethe-Institut; he also acquired conversational fluency in Spanish.

In 2016, he returned home to New York to lead Face the Music. Additionally, he teaches a course in artistic entrepreneurship at Special Music School High School (P.S. 859) at Kaufman Music Center. Now living in Brooklyn, Vasu loves coffee, fashion, technology, design and combining his interest in social sciences with his commitment to music education. He hopes to guide students in defining both their own life-missions and the part that music will play in their lives, in service of building a better society through the arts.

Megan Belansky, Face the Music Program coordinator

Megan Belansky is a performer, music educator, and researcher born and raised in New Jersey. While studying with MET clarinetist Jessica Phillips at Rutgers University, her playing garnered enthusiastic reviews citing “maturity and subtlety beyond her years.” She also performed as a member of the Princeton Opera Orchestra, entertaining audiences with gender-bending adaptations of the standard repertoire. Megan has also taught privately throughout the Central Jersey region, and facilitated culturally-relevant children’s shows at the Union Y.

Following her graduation from Rutgers, Megan moved from the beaches of the Atlantic to the shores of Lake Michigan, earning her Master of Music degree from Northwestern University in 2017. There, she fell in love with the radical spirit of Chicago, using her graduate assistantship opportunity to write and implement a songwriting curriculum with incarcerated teen girls at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC). With support from her primary teachers Steve Cohen, J. Lawrie Bloom, and Leslie Grimm, she performed a recital of literature by women composers, including an original piece utilizing the electronic materials created by the JTDC girls.

Megan’s most recent work at the University of Chicago’s Political Science Department harmonized her music education philosophy with foreign policy, delineating the ways in which international relations theory applies to organizational leadership in the arts. Her musicianship also remains largely influenced by her formative years at Kinhaven Music School and the Mannes Preparatory Division. Megan is excited to cultivate wonderment, freedom, and pride through music-making with the Face the Music community at Kaufman Music Center. In leisure, she enjoys yoga, astrology, and nonfiction.

David Bloom

David Bloom is founding co-artistic director of Contemporaneous, a New York-based ensemble of 21 musicians dedicated to performing the most exciting music of the present moment. Noted for his "energy and passion" (I Care If You Listen) as well as his "skill and musicality" (New York Classical Review), David is a devoted advocate for new music, regularly working with composers and ensembles to bring new and recent works to life.

David has conducted over 150 world premieres for such presenters as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Walker Art Center, Merkin Concert Hall, and the Bang on a Can Marathon. He has worked with artists and ensembles as diverse as David Byrne, Donnacha Dennehy,  JACK Quartet, Courtney Love, Dylan Mattingly, Andrew Norman, Present Music, NOW Ensemble, Dawn Upshaw, and Julia Wolfe.

Especially active as a conductor of new opera throughout the U.S. and Canada, David serves as music director for developing and touring productions of works by Judd Greenstein, Matt Marks, Anthony Gatto, and Todd Almond. He has recorded for the Innova, New Amsterdam, Mexican Summer, Mona, and Starkland labels.

Also a passionate educator, David is orchestral and special projects conductor for Face the Music, the nation's only youth music program dedicated to the work of living composers. He also conducts the orchestra and opera programs at Special Music School High School. Along with Contemporaneous, he leads frequent educational programs for students of all ages in the area where the ensemble performs, including residencies at City University of New York, the University of New Orleans, Williams College, and his alma mater, Bard College.

Whitney George

Whitney George is a composer and conductor who specializes in the use of mixed media to blur the distinctions between concert performance, installation art, and theater. Utilizing a wide variety of material including literary texts, silent film, stock footage, and visual arts, George's compositions are characterized by an immersive theatricality that thrives on collaboration in all phases of the creative process. Her affinity for the macabre, the fantastic, and the bizarre frequently gives rise to musical programs that evoke the traditions of phantasmagoria and melodrama, challenging musicians to experiment liberally with their stage personae, and audiences to widen the scope of their attention.

George’s music, performance art, and installations have had both international and domestic premieres in England, Hong Kong, Austria, the Netherlands, and the east and west coasts of the US. Her works have been performed and premiered by The American Modern Ensemble, Contemporaneous, Shout House, Ensemble Mise-en, The Concrete Timbre Collective, Mivos String Quartet, New York Trombone Consort, Low Brass Connection, Cygnus Ensemble, Transit Ensemble, Fulcrum Point String Quartet, CME (Contemporary Music Ensemble), The Curiosity Cabinet, Cadillac Moon, and Vigil Ensemble.

She is the artistic director and conductor of The Curiosity Cabinet, a chamber orchestra formed in 2009 whose members were culled from a network of close collaborators within New York's diverse new music scene. The Cabinet's live performances often engage playfully with the prototype of the classical concert, imbuing even non-theatrical compositions with elements of drama. The ensemble has participated in the inaugural CUNY New Music Festival and was invited as the ensemble-in-residence at the Hartford Women Composers Festival in 2012, and has since performed regularly in New York city and Brooklyn including venues such as Dixon Place, National Sawdust, South Oxford Space, Elebash Hall, and more.

George holds an undergraduate degree from the California Institute of the Arts, a masters degree from Brooklyn College Conservatory, and is currently continuing her studies as a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she studied with David Del Tredici, David Olan, Bruce Saylor, and Tania Leon. In addition to her composing and conducting, George teaches at the Brooklyn College Conservatory, works at the Hitchcock Institute of American Studies and is the Managing Director for New York’s American Modern Ensemble (AME).

Adrianna Mateo

Hailed as a "rising artist" by The New York Times and "triumphant" by TimeOut NY for her recent Bang On a Can Marathon debut, Adrianna Mateo has performed solo at the American Museum of Natural History, the Winter Garden Atrium, the TimesCenter, Waldorf-Astoria's Grand Ballroom, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and on tour internationally. Consistently praised for her lyrical, powerful, and emotionally raw performances, Ms. Mateo has naturally broadened her scope to perform as a contemporary violinist, singer, and songwriter throughout the East Coast, in South Africa, and in Southeast Asia.

Ms. Mateo is comfortable at the helm of large creative projects. Most recently, she produced, art-directed, and modeled in a 15-person crew photoshoot; successfully Kickstarted her debut album with the support of composers including David Lang, Nico Muhly, and Bora Yoon; violinists Tim Fain (Philip Glass), Sean Mackin (Yellowcard), and Chrysanthe Tan (Ariana Grande); and curated and performed a 3-hour show of her original music, classical standards and multiple contemporary classical commissions, music from the films Amélie and The Triplets of Belleville, and pop arrangements including Beyoncé and Bruno Mars at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ms. Mateo's 2015-2016 appearances include curating and performing her fourth run of shows at the Met Museum with her new quintet; singing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert; conducting orchestral premieres at Merkin Hall and the DiMenna Center; and making her acting debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Manon Lescaut.

Aakash Mittal

Aakash Mittal

Hailed as “A fiery alto saxophonist and prolific composer” by the Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Aakash Mittal is emerging as an expressive artistic voice. His self-released album, Videsh, has been regarded as, "point[ing] toward new possibilities in improvised music" (The Denver Post). As a composer and improviser, Mittal employs colorful dissonances, meditative silences, and angular rhythms to express environments and spaces ranging from the American west to the dense streets of Kolkata.

Mittal has performed nationally at such venues as The Dakota (Minneapolis), The Cultural Center of Chicago, The Blue Room, (Kansas City) and Dazzle Jazz Club (Denver). Internationally, Aakash Mittal has led a quartet at the Congo Square Jazz Festival in Kolkata, India. As a sideman, Mittal as performed in Kolkata with world- renowned percussionist Pandit Tanmoy Bose’s Taal Tantra, and with the creative music ensemble Kendraka. In 2012 Mittal toured Mexico with Ravish Momin’s Trio Tarana. Other collaborations include PI Recordings artist Amir Elsaffar, avant- garde poet Bhanu Kapil, Yells at Eels with Dennis Gonzalez, and Joining Hands with bharatnatyam dancer Anjal Chande.

As a composer, Aakash Mittal has written extensively for jazz quartet composing over fifty new works. Other commissions include, Urban Raga (2011), Transitions (2011), and Questions of Identity (2012) for the Playground Ensemble; Octet on Raga Yaman (2009) for the Ethos West Chamber Orchestra. In 2012 Mittal wrote Meditation for Pictures on Silence saxophone and harp duo. As a leader, Mittal has self-released four recordings, Possible Beginnings, Videsh, Thumbs Up EP, and Ocean to rave reviews.

Aakash Mittal’s awards and honors include the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music (2012) and the Herb Albert/ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award (2013). Aakash Mittal is a 2013 American Institute of Indian Studies Creative and Performing Arts Fellow.

Hajnal Pivnick

Hungarian-American violinist Hajnal Kármán Pivnick was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She advocates the performance and promotion of music written in the 20th and 21st century, and works extensively as an educator and arts administrator. She is co-founder of Tenth Intervention, a collective of musicians that presents new music in New York City.

Hajnal performs regularly with IRIS Orchestra, ensemble mise-en, and Quartet Metadata, and has played with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, and the Hungarian New Music Chamber Ensemble (UMZE). In New York, she performs in venues ranging in scope from The Park Avenue Armory to Joe’s Pub to Carnegie Hall.

As a soloist, she has performed with the Association for the Promotion of New Music, the New Music Gathering at Bowling Green State University, the Casa de las Américas in Havana, Cuba, and the Tribeca New Music Festival.

Hajnal is a member of the violin faculty at Interlochen Arts Camp, and maintains a violin studio at Greenwich House Music School, Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, and Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center. She is also a chamber music coach with the Face the Music/Kronos Quartet program. She holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary.

Mark Serkin

Mark Edward Serkin is a senior in cello performance at Mannes School of Music in New York City where he studies with Professor Barbara Stein Mallow.

Mark began studying piano at a young age.  Since he started playing the cello at the age of fourteen, he focused his efforts on it.  In 2013, Mark took second place in the Korean Radio Broadcasting New York International Music Competition and was the Gold Winner at the National Young Musicians Showcase Competition at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and the Merkin Concert Hall, New York.  Mark is the second-place winner of the 2014 Florence Reinauer Memorial Music Award and recipient of the 2014 Samuel T. Hutcheson Memorial Scholarship.

Mark’s passion and interest lies in chamber music as a player but also as a teacher.  He is strong believer in the importance of music education.
Every young person should be given the opportunity to experience music first hand. Mark enjoys the process of helping young musicians to grow from “Point A” to “Point B.”

Recent engagements include performances at Morgan Library, Lincoln Center with the Millennium Chamber Symphony NYC, Charlie Parker Jazz Festival - 25th Anniversary.  In 2017, Mark took part in INVISIBLE ATHLETE commercial for Everlast Sports Company.

Mark has participated in many festivals such as NY Phil Biennial, Luzerne Music Center, Kinhaven Music School, Manchester Music Festival, Taconic Music and the National Orchestra Institute and Festival, where he was recorded for the Naxos label in 2015 and 2016 albums.  In addition, Mark was substitute cellist in 2016 New York String Orchestra Seminar (chamber music section) in NYC, directed by Jaime Laredo.  In April 2017, Mark was a featured artist on the Classic FM Radio in London performing multi-screen arrangement of a Fauré fugue for four cellos.

Mark has performed in solo and chamber master classes for artists such as Julia Lichten, Gloria dePasquale, Robert DeMaine, Jonathan Spitz, Peter Stumpf, Vladimir Panteleyev, Kronos Quartet, and the Miró Quartet.