Dr. Alison Bazala Kim served on faculties of Maryland institutions of higher education, including Anne Arundel Community College, Hood College, the Naval Academy and Washington Adventist University. She taught cello at the Holton-Arms School and the Bullis School and was the orchestra director at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Formerly, Dr. Bazala Kim taught at Michigan State University’s Community Music School and was the Director of the Chamber Music Program from 1998-2001, where her students won the MASTA competition and were semi-finalists in the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. Dr. Bazala Kim was Principal Cellist of the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra and played with the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra.

In the United States, Dr. Bazala Kim has given recitals in Houston, Miami Beach and Boston. Locally, she has given concerts at the Embassies of Bangladesh and Romania, the State Department and the Ambassador’s Club. As a concerto soloist she performed with the National Repertory Orchestra in Colorado, the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra and the Albanian String Orchestra. As a chamber musician, she performed in Miami Beach, New York City, Boston, and locally at the Washington Arts Club, Frederick Community College, Hood College and the University of Maryland. Internationally, Dr. Bazala Kim toured Macedonia, the Slovak Republic and Bulgaria. She was a featured guest artist in the 2005 Bach Festival in Kosovo and the first American soloist to appear in Sarajevo after the 1992-95 war in Bosnia, performing at the National Theater, the Dom Armije concert hall and NATO headquarters. In 1999 she returned to Bosnia, performing in Banja Luca and Sarajevo. She gave a masterclass at the Sarajevo Music Academy, and her concerts were broadcast on television and radio. Other recital tours include Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

As a member of the New World Symphony in Florida, she performed in Carnegie, Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and in Brazil, Argentina, Monaco, and Israel. She recorded with the NWS on the Argo-Decca label. Locally, she was Associate Principal Cellist of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra in Virginia. She currently plays with the Annapolis, Apollo and Alexandria Symphony Orchestras.

Dr. Bazala Kim holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, Master of Music degree from Rice University and a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of Maryland. She also studied at the Eastman School of Music. Her teachers include David Hardy, Peter Wiley, David Soyer, Paul Katz and Fritz Magg.

Her students have been prize-winners in numerous competitions, including the ASTA/MSMTA Solo Strings Festival, the Feder Memorial Competition, the Gaithersburg Youth Artists Award Competition and the American Protégé Competition at Carnegie Hall. Her students are members of prestigious youth orchestras and are leading members of their school orchestras. Dr. Bazala Kim coaches and adjudicates for both youth and professional orchestra. She lives in North Potomac, Maryland with her husband and two children.

Julianna Chitwood earned her MM in Violin Performance from the University of Maryland at College Park, where she participated in the Guarneri String Quartet Coaching Program, and her BM in Violin Performance from Florida State University. She has performed in master classes for Dorothy Delay, Samuel Applebaum and Seigsfeld Kuijkan, as well as studied with members of the Meliora, Lark and Guarneri String Quartets. Ms Chitwood is the Associate Principal Second Violinist for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and has performed with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, The Concert Artists of Baltimore, The Orchestra of the 17th Century, Stylus Luxurians, The Cathedral Choral Society, The Washington Concert Opera, The Washington Bach Consort, and The Bach Sinfonia, of which she is a founding member and former concertmaster. In addition to orchestra instruction at the Washington Waldorf School and the D.C. Youth Orchestra, Ms Chitwood has been a violin and/or Music Mind Games clinician at many workshops and Suzuki institutes, including the Greater Washington Suzuki Institute, and on the faculty of the Levine School of Music as a music theory and Music Mind Games instructor. She founded the Frederick (Maryland) Community College’s Suzuki Violin program. Ms Chitwood has also served on the Board of Directors of the Suzuki Association of the Greater Washington Area. Currently she teaches over forty Suzuki violin students at her private studio in Rockville, Maryland. In her spare time, Ms Chitwood is an avid reader, volunteers with groups addressing community food and clothing needs and enjoys hanging out with her dogs, Brubeck and BellaLuna.


Elizabeth Cunha is the director and founder of Silver Strings Suzuki Studio, and Orchestra director at Stone Ridge School in MD. Elizabeth also taught General Music for over 10 years. She has served on the board of directors for the Suzuki Association for the Greater Washington Area. Originally from NY, her Suzuki journey began at age 3 in the studio of Nicole Dicecco. Elizabeth’s studied violin, musical theater and music education at The Catholic University of America, with Jody Gatwood, Piotr Gajewski, Jane Pesci-Townsend and Dr. Robert Garofalo respectively. She received her Master’s in Suzuki Pedagogy from The University of Maryland, under the tutelage of Ronda Cole. Elizabeth has also trained with Ed Sprunger, Dr. Terry Durbin, and Ed Kreitman. Her students have performed in Germany & Austria with Washington Preludio Strings, Disneyworld, and in local festivals including the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Elizabeth has a wide range of theater credits as an actor/vocalist including: National Tour of Cabaret, Shakespeare Theater, Signature Theater, Ogunquit Playhouse, Toby’s and West End Dinner Theater. Additional music training includes Orff Schulwerk (GMU), Dalcroze with Dr. Jeremy Dittus, World Music Drumming, and Delfest Academy with Jason Carter on fiddle & Ronnie McCoury/Sierra Hull on Mandolin. Elizabeth earned her teacher trainer certification for Music Mind Games in 2009 and has led workshops across the U.S., and in Denmark and London. Currently, she is developing an theory program for string players drawing from her varied professional development experiences. As a Suzuki mom, her greatest joy comes from making music with her two amazing children.


Dr. Sachi Murasugi, violin, has performed extensively as a professional orchestral and chamber musician. She has been concertmaster of the Sorg Opera Orchestra in Ohio and Filarmonica del Bajio in Mexico, and a member of the West Virginia Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, and Springfield Symphony. As a chamber musician, she has performed throughout the United States, Mexico and Spain, performing in such venues as the Museo del Prado in Madrid. She received the National Endowment for the Arts Rural Residency Grant and was selected for the Nebraska Arts Council’s Touring Artist Program as a member of the Sandhill Trio. A dedicated teacher, she has taught violin, viola, and chamber music at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, and University of Dayton in Ohio. Sachi holds music performance degrees from Manhattan School of Music and CUNY Queens College, and earned her DMA at Ohio State University. Her teachers include Raphael Bronstein, Daniel Phillips, and Cathy Carroll. In addition, Sachiho holds an MBA from Tulane University, where she received the Business School’s highest award, the Freeman Fellowship. She is currently a full-time faculty member in the Salisbury University music department and is concertmaster of the Salisbury Symphony.

Membership Chair

Sarah York Lahan holds a Master of Music degree in violin performance and bachelor’s degrees in performance and music education from the University of Maryland, where she studied with Gerald Fischbach and James Stern. Ms. Lahan co-founded and directs the Lahan Music Studio in Catonsville with her husband, pianist Patrick Lahan. She also teaches elementary strings in Howard County Public Schools. Previously, she has taught middle and high school orchestra in Oklahoma public schools, Suzuki violin at Norman School for Strings, and lessons in private schools around the DC metro area with the Music Kids program. Ms. Lahan has completed Suzuki teacher training courses with Ronda Cole and Edmund Sprunger and holds a special place in her heart for early childhood teaching. She enjoys freelancing in the DC/Baltimore area and performing with her husband.

Newsletter Editor and Cellobration Co-Chair

Matthew Ivon Tifford is founder and owner of the Tifford Cello Studio in North Bethesda, Maryland. Over the years, his students have won acclaim in local and state-wide competitions, and have been a constant presence in both the Maryland All-State Orchestras and the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras for over a decade. An accomplished performer, Mr. Tifford has been featured as a soloist for Pope John Paul II in Vatican City, and has recorded and performed live on stage with rock musician Dave Matthews. Mr. Tifford’s most recent work can be heard on the soundtracks for National Geographic films “24 Hours after Hiroshima” and “Canyonlands,” a collaboration with Emmy award-winning composer Christopher Biondo. Matthew has also performed at The Birchmere, The Barns at Wolf Trap, New York City’s Irving Plaza, and on National Public Radio’s “Mountain Stage” radio program. Matthew Tifford has taught cello at the Salisbury University, the Selma M. Levine School of Music, and the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program. Mr. Tifford received his MM in Cello from the Peabody Conservatory and his BM at the Catholic University of America. In the course of his training Mr. Tifford has been fortunate to have studied with many great teachers including Stephen Kates, Robert Newkirk, Christopher Von Baeyer, and Jeffrey Solow. Matthew lives in the wonderful community of Randolph Hills with his wife and four children.


Website Director and ASTACAP Co-Chair

Mark Pfannschmidt began studying violin at age seven, piano at ten and viola at thirteen. Along the way he also studied voice, harp and harpsichord. In the end, he settled on the viola, because of its rich tone and unusual, interesting repertoire (and the employment prospects were better). He received his high school diploma from the Interlochen Arts Academy with a major in viola and minors in harp and voice. His viola performance degrees include a BM from Peabody and an MM from Catholic University. His principal teachers are David Holland, Karen Tuttle and Jody Gatwood. Mr. Pfannschmidt has been teaching since 1986 and has taught ages four to adult. Courses in pedagogy have been completed with Ronda Cole and Rebecca Henry. His viola and violin students have played in MCYO, AYP, PVYO, RRYO, ASCYO, Montgomery County Honors Orchestra and Maryland All-State Orchestra. Currently a violist in the National Philharmonic, his varied career has included seven years in the US Marine Chamber Orchestra, where he was a frequent performer for White House functions. Mr. Pfannschmidt is also a piano accompanist for studio recitals, local competitions and festivals. His thirst for interesting and unusual repertoire has led him to edit and publish an ever-expanding catalog of pieces in the public domain. He and his wife, Laura, make their home in Gaithersburg, with their two children, Jason and Emily.

Communications Chair and Strings Plus Festival Representative

Kelly Hsu began her violin studies at age six in Taiwan. Throughout her music career she has studied with many great teachers including Sylvia Shu-Tee Lee, Judy Silverman, Jody Gatwood, Eugene Phillips, and Burton Kaplan. Ms. Hsu earned her bachelor’s degree in violin performance from the Sun Yat-Sen National University and was a member of the Kaohsiung City Symphony for many years. In 2000, she started her violin studio in Rockville, where her students are active participants of MCYO, PVYO, Maryland All-State Orchestra and Montgomery County All-County Orchestra. Ms. Hsu enjoys teaching and is active in the local music community. She has been the chairman for the MSMTA/ASTA strings plus competition since 2010, sectional coach for PVYO, board member of ASTA, and manager of Washington Asian Philharmonic Orchestra. Through music, Ms. Hsu has travelled to countries in Europe and Asia. She also freelances with numerous ensembles in D.C, Virginia and Maryland.


Sophie Chang holds a BM in Cello Performance from Ithaca College and a MM in Performance from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, where she was a graduate teaching assistant. She teaches Suzuki cello lessons in her home studio in Silver Spring and at the International School of Music. She has taught in various group and private settings in the United States and Tanzania as part of the Daraja Music Initiative. As a performer she attended the Brevard Music Institute and the Bowdoin International Music Festivals and was the principal cellist of the University of Tennessee Symphony Orchestra and the Ithaca College Chamber Orchestra.

Leslie Smile Hoyle
received her BM in Violin Performance with Michael Davis and Charlies Wetherbee at the Ohio State University in 2005. She received her MM in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy with Ronda Cole at the University of Maryland in 2007, also serving as the University of Maryland Suzuki Violin Program Administrator in 2007 and 2008. Ms. Smile served as Suzuki Instructor and Co-Administrator of the Animato Suzuki Violin Program, LLC from 2008-2012. She has also served as Private and Group Violin Instructor at Henson Valley Montessori School, Highland Park Christian Academy, and St. Mary’s of Piscataway Catholic School. Ms. Smile has served as a professional sectionals coach for Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Orchestra and as a volunteer sectionals coach for the College Park Youth Symphony. In addition to Suzuki training, Ms. Smile has also had training in Every Child Can and Music Mind Games. Ms. Smile currently serves as Music Mind Games Instructor and Suzuki Violin Instructor/Program Administrator for the Academy of Fine Arts Suzuki Violin Program in Gaithersburg, MD.

ASTACAP Co-Chair, Nominating Committee

Lya Stern, MM cum laude in violin performance from the University of Southern California. One year post-graduate work in the master class of Jascha Heifetz at USC. BM from Manhattan School of Music. Twenty-five year career in the recording industry performing with Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli and many others. Played on the sound track of over 150 motion pictures and TV films. Performed with the American Ballet Theatre, the National Symphony Pops, the National Gallery Orchestra, and others. Lya was awarded the ASTA National Citation for Exceptional Leadership and Merit in 2000 and again in 2008 for initiating and developing the Certificate Program for Strings (later renamed the ASTA Certificate Advancement Program, or ASTACAP). She led its establishment in the MD/DC Chapter in 1998 and subsequently helped introduce the program in several other states. She continued as an advocate for the program and continued to organize efforts to establish it as a national program; her mission was successfully accomplished in 2004. She is a recipient of the Outstanding String Teacher Award and the Outstanding Service to Strings Award. She is a Past President of ASTA MD/DC Chapter. She frequently acts as chair or judge for student competitions. For the past 16 years Lya has been teaching accelerated and award-winning violin students in her Bethesda studio.

Cellobration Co-Chair

Vasily Popov is a cellist, conductor, teacher, composer and arranger. Mr. Popov’s active concert schedule includes appearances as a soloist, recitalist and member of chamber ensembles in the great concert halls of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, Finland, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Russia and U.S.A. His CD’s are produced by Arte Nova Records, BMR, Excelsior, Intercount Music, Madacy Records, and Melodia labels. Mr. Popov is a faculty member at the Levine School of Music where he serves as an associate chair of the Chamber Music Program and conductor of the Levine Chamber Orchestra. Mr. Popov is also member of the music faculty at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. In 2006 Vasily Popov started a small student chamber orchestra at the Maryland (Strathmore) campus of the Levine School of Music. The successful growth of this program inspired him to create more chamber music programs, and in 2009 he and pianist Ralitza Patcheva launched the Young Artist String Quartet Program and the Sonata Project at the Levine School of Music. These programs have been very successful in offering an inspiring musical environment to young musicians of all levels. Vasily Popov can be heard performing every first Thursday of the month at the free noontime Brown Bag Concert Series at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library in Washington D.C., which he founded in 2002. A versatile soloist and chamber musician, Vasily Popov participates in a number of projects playing jazz and rock music collaborating with some of the D.C. area’s great musicians—guitarists Eric Ulreich and Josh Walker, bassist Pepe Gonzalez, pianist Bob Sykes, percussionists Leon Koja-Eynatyan and Andrew Hare. Vasily Popov has studied with Natalia Gutman, Walter Nothas, Anatoly Nikitin and Daniil Shafran. His musical style has been shaped through chamber music collaborations and studies with flutist Andras Adorjan and pianists Elisso Virsaladze and Tamara Fidler. Mr. Popov has been a member of the leading orchestras and ensembles including the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and Soloists of St. Petersburg in Russia, Ensemble Del Arte and Concerto-Munchen Chamber Ensemble in Germany. Mr. Popov resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife, pianist Ralitza Patcheva, and two children, Yuri and Vladislav.


Lenelle Morse discovered her love of the violin in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. She graduated with a degree in violin performance and mathematics from Indiana University’s Jacob School of Music, Bloomington. For thirteen years she served as the Assistant Concertmaster of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic as well as a founding member of the Freimann String Quartet. During the summers, she plays in the 1st violin section of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in New York State. She became the orchestra director at Canterbury School and grew the program from twelve students in 1997 to 147 in 2011. Additionally, she served as the chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Canterbury School. Currently she is teaching with the Peabody Conservatory Preparatory in Baltimore, Maryland, and is free-lancing in the Washington, D.C. area.


Aron Rider received her MM in Cello Performance from Louisiana State University where she studied principally with Dennis Parker, and received her BM in Cello Performance from Indiana University where she studied with Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Janos Starker, Helga Winold and Ede Banda. She has also completed Suzuki Teacher Training through Book 10 in cello. Notable master classe performances include: Yo-Yo Ma, Lynn Harrell and Norman Fischer. Currently a cellist with Signature Theatre, Aron has also performed at Arena Stage, National Theatre and Wolf Trap, along with the following orchestras: National Philharmonic, Alexandria Symphony, Amadeus Orchestra, Concert Artists of Baltimore, and National Gallery. She has been on the Levine faculty since 2010, where she teaches Suzuki Cello and is the current Chair of the Strings Department. She also maintains a private studio. Prior to Levine, Aron was Cello Instructor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Georgetown University.

Eastern Shore Representative

Jeffrey Schoyen graduated with distinction from the New England Conservatory of Music, where he was a student of Lawrence Lesser. He completed an MFA at Carnegie Mellon University as a student of Anne Williams, and a DMA at Stony Brook as a student of Timothy Eddy. Awards he has received include a National Endowment for the Arts Chamber Music Rural Residency Grant, Tanglewood Festival’s Gustav Golden Award, and a Frank Huntington Beebe Grant to study with William Pleeth in London. He has studied Baroque Cello with Myron Lutske, Phoebe Carrai, and Anthony Pleeth. Dr. Schoyen has extensive orchestral experience and has been a member of the Opera Orchestra of New York, Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra, and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and Principal Cellist of the Filarmonica del Bajio in Mexico. An active chamber musician and recitalist, he has given concerts throughout the United States, Germany, Mexico and Spain. His most recent recital tour included the Mexican cities of Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Morelia. Dr. Schoyen has taught at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and at the University of Dayton. He has presented conference lectures on topics ranging from Performance Practice to Kinesiology in String Playing and has been conductor of the Kearney Area Symphony Orchestra and the Slidell Community Orchestra. He is an Assistant Professor at Salisbury University, where he teaches cello and bass and conducts the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra. During the summer he serves on the faculty of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan. His cello is a beautiful Eugenio Degani made in Venice in 1887.


Born in New York, Dr. Jeffrey Howard has appeared as soloist with many orchestras including the Boston Virtuosi, and the Yonkers, Indiana University, Concord, UT Arlington, and WPI Symphony Orchestras. A frequent soloist and guest artist, he has performed at Jordan Hall in Boston, Federal Hall in New York, the Bastille Opera House in Paris, Khachaturian Hall in Montreal; and at Syracuse University, the University of Texas at Arlington, the Longy School of Music, and Oberlin College. Dr. Howard has appeared internationally in Canada and in Central and Western Europe, including the countries of Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary and Italy. A devoted performer of chamber music, he has performed at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Winter Institute for String Quartets, and the Lydian String Quartet Seminar. He has studied with members of the Tokyo, Mendelssohn, Juilliard, and Cleveland String Quartets. He has performed as a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Metamorphosen Chamber Ensemble. He received degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University where he completed the DMA in Violin. His teachers included Stephen Clapp, Franco Gulli, Paul Biss, and Distinguished Professor Josef Gingold. He has served on the faculties of the Interlochen Center for the Arts, the University of Texas at Arlington, Bridgewater State College, and Westfield State College. He performs regularly with his wife, pianist Anna Soukiassian, in the Kassian-Howard Duo. He currently teaches at Towson University where he also coaches chamber music and performs regularly in the Baltimore Trio. He has also given master classes at numerous high schools and preparatory programs, including the Peabody Conservatory Preparatory School and the New England Conservatory Preparatory Division. He lives in the Baltimore area with his wife and their two daughters Michelle and Ani.

Liaison to Charles County Public Schools

Anne Marie Patterson has been teaching and performing professionally since 1989. She received a BM from Washington and Lee University, and MM and MME from Florida State University. She has been a member of the York Symphony, Roanoke Symphony, Tallahassee Symphony, Maryland Symphony, Arlington Symphony, and Alexandria Symphony, and performed with many others. She was a finalist in the Carmel Competition with the Camellia String Quartet, and performed as soloist with the Pan American Orchestra. She has been a freelance violinist in the D.C. area for 17 years, and has had private studios in Greenbelt, Springfield and Waldorf. She served as President of ASTA MD/DC Chapter, and was a presenter at the National ASTA Convention. Locally, she has been a guest conductor for All County Orchestra and adjudicated for All State auditions. She taught elementary strings from 2002–2005, took time off to have kids of her own, and now teaches at five elementary schools, and is the Musical Director of Charles County Youth Orchestra and Encore Strings.