Violist and Violinist, Nicole Kootz, started playing violin at age 15 and quickly found herself on the fast track to a career in music. Having won a concerto competition after only a year and a half of formal study, she received a scholarship to pursue a B.M at the University of South Florida. Starting her viola studies as a freshman, she then spent three of her four years at USF as principal violist for the Symphony Orchestra. She continued on to complete her M.M in String Performance at Boston University in 2016.
Before pursing her masters, Nicole was a faculty member at Patel Conservatory in Tampa, Florida, teaching group violin classes in an outreach program, and building a private Suzuki Violin studio. As a committed music educator, she has registered Suzuki training in Violin Books 1-3, with the intention of completing Book 4 in 2017. Nicole also has a great interest in body wellness, and has attended Alexander Technique and Karen Tuttle Workshops to learn more about the best way to approach playing musical instruments physically and mentally.
Her principal teachers include Karen Ritscher, Sarah Darling, J.T Posadas, and Kathie Aagaard. So far, she has traveled around the US, Canada, and Italy attending festivals for chamber music, and alternative approaches to music through the use of electric instruments and computer controlled sound installations. She has a mixed classical and contemporary performance background, working with artists such as Carol Rodland and Judith Gordon for chamber music, and performing with The Florida Orchestra, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and studio recording work.
Nicole plans to continue dedicating time towards music education, while also developing ways to engage new audiences with classical instruments and music. She is currently teaching at various studios in Boston, Lexington, and Newtonville.
Violinist Shadwa Mussad Originally from Egypt, has distinguished herself as a versatile chamber musician, orchestral player and educator. As a member of the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, an orchestra for Arab and Israeli musicians founded by Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said, she has performed for three consecutive seasons in the world’s most celebrated venues including Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Waldbuhne, La Scala, Tchaikovsky Conservatory Hall and the Salzburg Festspielhaus. Additionally Ms. Mussad has played in the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the Cape Ann, Springfield and Augusta Symphonies, the Lyra Vivace and ARCO chamber orchestras and the Orchestra of Indian Hill under notable conductors: Gustavo Dudamel, Pierre Boulez, Leon Botstein, and Levon Ambartsumian. She has performed at the BBC Proms, Salzburg, Lucerne, Ravello, Piccolo Spoleto, Masterworks, and Monadnock music festivals.
Along with her orchestral pursuits, Shadwa is an active chamber musician and is a founding member of the Zabriskie Quartet and Duo Harmonía. She is equally adept as a teacher and educator and is passionate about enriching the lives of others through music. Ms. Mussad has taught as a Lecturer at the Ohio State University and as a resident artist at the Conservatory Lab Charter School. She currently teaches violin at the North End Performing Arts Center (NEMPAC) and the Boston String Academy, a non-profit “El Sistema” program for young musicians.
Ms. Mussad holds a dual Masters Degree (MM/MA) in Violin Performance and String Pedagogy from the Ohio State University, a Graduate Performance Diploma from the Longy School of Music of Bard College, and a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Georgia. Her principal violin teachers have included Yura Lee, Jesse Mills, Kia-Hui Tan, Levon Ambartsumian, Shakhida Azhimkhodjaeva, and Robert Gillespie (string pedagogy).
Alan is active as both a soloist and a chamber musician. He has performed with Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble, the Borromeo Quartet, the Parker Quartet, the Boston Trio, and has appeared twice as a soloist with the North Carolina Symphony. Recent appearances include performances at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Taos Music Festival, the Diller Quaile School of Music in New York, Harvard University’s Paine Hall, the Halcyon Festival, and the New England Conservatory, where his ensemble – The Frost Piano Quartet – made its Jordan Hall debut in May 2014. He has been featured on French television and in several European documentaries due to his participation in the Rostropovich Competition; he has also been heard on NPR’s From The Top program and New York’s WKCR Classical station.
Alan is an avid proponent of new music. He is the dedicatee of two pieces for solo cello by Trevor Bača (“Huitzl” 2014) and Lydia Brindamour (“Silver, Flutter” 2015). In the spring of 2017, he will premiere the Tekton Concerto, a commission from Stephanie Boyd, with the Eureka Ensemble (eurekaensemble.org).
Alan has participated in master classes and taken lessons with many of the world’s foremost artists, including Luis Claret, Philippe Muller, Ralph Kirshbaum, Gary Hoffman, David Geringas (at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, in Siena, Italy), Jens Peter Maintz, Frans Helmerson, Anner Bylsma (all three at the Kronberg Academy in Germany), Janos Starker, and Joel Krosnick. At Harvard, he enjoyed studying the evolving significance of human gesture and physicality in modern and postmodern painting. Alan has a B.A. in History of Art and Architecture from Harvard and an M.M. from the New England Conservatory, where he studied with Laurence Lesser.
Alan’s performances have gained enthusiastic reviews. In Paris, he “touched the public and the jury” (musique.france2.fr). The Washington Post noted that Alan “has the poise of a seasoned performer” and “showed off his strengths convincingly in the demanding repertoire.” And another critic declared that Alan’s playing “proved remarkable by any standard. . . . Toda-Ambaras is worth seeking out and hearing.”
Alan is passionate about engaging with communities through performances and discussions about the arts and humanities in modern society. He is the co-founder of the interdisciplinary music organization Project LENS (experiencelens.com), and is currently in the process of co-founding the Eureka Ensemble, an organization intent on using performance as a vehicle for social service and community engagement. Through his involvement with both organizations, he has performed at various venues in Boston and New York City. Alan served for three years as Music Scholar-in-Residence in Harvard’s Cabot House, and is now serving his fourth year as director and chamber coach for the Harvard’s Quad Chamber Program.