Guest Artists

The Upcoming 2017 Season will feature composer Jean Ahn and violinist Nicola Gruen.


Nicola headshotNicola Gruen (violin) performed for several years as a violinist in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and freelanced with the Halle Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony and English National Ballet. She has performed at chamber music festivals at Yellow Barn, Vermont, Salzkammergut International Music Festival and the Tennessee Valley Music Festival. She currently freelances with a number of Bay Area orchestras and string quartets.  Nicola earned a postgraduate violin performance diploma from the Royal Academy of Music, studying violin on scholarship with Erich Gruenberg, OBE, former concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra and chamber music with Siegmund Nissel of the Amadeus Quartet.  Sponsored by a Hertz Memorial fellowship from UC Berkeley, Nicola also studied privately for two years with Emanuel Hurwitz CBE, founder of the Aeolian Quartet and founding concertmaster of the English Chamber Orchestra.  Nicola earned her Bachelor’s degree in music at UC Berkeley with Virginia Baker, former assistant concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony. Nicola’s two daughters sing in the San Francisco Girls Chorus and play violin/piano. Nicola enjoys biking, hiking, yoga and cooking in her free time.



JesseBarretOboeJesse Barrett (oboe) is an East Bay native and currently plays as principal oboe for the Merced Symphony and Townsend Opera Players, as well as oboe and English horn for the Reno Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Napa Valley.  Mr. Barrett plays regularly with many Northern California and Central California area ensembles, including the Fresno, Reno, and Sacramento Philharmonics in addition to the Stockton, Monterey, and Santa Cruz Symphonies.

Mr. Barrett is an avid chamber music, new music enthusiast, and teacher.  He frequently finds himself involved in new ensembles and musical start-ups, teaching at music camps, making school visits, and collaborating on solo and chamber concerts.  Mr. Barrett studied with Thomas Nugent at University of the Pacific where he was a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and thereafter obtained a Master of Music from Boston University where he studied with Laura Ahlbeck and was inducted as a member of Pi Kappa Lamba.


IlanasmallerIlana Matfis (viola) holds a Master’s degree in viola performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a B.A. in music from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.  She is a member of the Sacramento Philharmonic, the assistant principal violist of the Berkeley Symphony and the West Bay Opera Orchestra, and the principal violist of the Merced Symphony.  She has served as guest principal violist for the Midsummer Mozart Festival for the past two summers.  Ilana performs with other Bay Area ensembles, including the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and the Oakland, Marin, California, Modesto, Santa Rosa, and Silicon Valley Symphonies.  An enthusiastic teacher, Ilana maintains a private studio of violin and viola students, and is the viola coach for the Berkeley Youth Orchestra.  She also leads sectionals for the Oakland Youth Orchestra and coaches chamber music for the Villa Sinfonia Foundation.  Ilana performs on a 15″ Bronek Cison viola, made in 2009.


Jean Ahn, composerKorean native composer Jean Ahn has been recognized, awarded, and honored by many.  Her compositions have been featured at Aspen New Music Festival, American Composers Orchestra’s Ear Shot (by Memphis Symphony), June in Buffalo, Oregon Bach Festival, Etchings Festival, Festival of Contemporary Music, IAWM, Berkeley Symphony Under Construction and Pacific Korean Music Festival, among others. Her music was played by Earplay,  UC Davis Orchestra, UC Berkeley Orchestra, Ensemble Surplus, Contemporaneous, Ong Dance Company, New Keys, East Coast Chamber Ensemble among others.

Commissions include works for the Leftcoast Chamber Ensemble, Volti Chamber Choir, Locrian Chamber Players, and the Pianissimo among others.

Jean’s music brings Asian traditional elements into western music. Her piano collection, “Folksong Revisit” and voice collection, “Folksong” are ongoing projects that show her vision to introduce Korean songs and techniques to professional performers in the US. She also uses electronics/computer music to extend the boundaries of traditional instruments.

Dr. Ahn holds A Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and M.A. and B.A. from Seoul National University. She is the director of Ensemble Ari and is the assistant conductor for UC Chamber Chorus.  She is also the Children Ministry Director at Richmond Korean Baptist Church and is passionate about sharing music with the community.



RebeccaD'AlessioRebecca Tout d’Alessio currently teaches instrumental music at Marin School of the Arts in Novato, California. After earning her degrees in music education and clarinet performance at Bradley University (BME) and Arizona State University (MM, DMA), d’Alessio served as Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay from 2002-2006. She has performed and presented master classes in China, Turkey, Wisconsin, Illinois, Arizona and California. A strong supporter of contemporary solo clarinet literature, d’Alessio was recognized by the Concert Artists Guild and the International Clarinet Association with semi-finalist and finalist rankings in both institutions’ international competitions. She currently resides in San Rafael with her husband and son.


StaceyPelinkaStacey Pelinka is a member of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and a founding member of the Eco Ensemble, CNMAT’s new ensemble-in-residence. She has also performed contemporary chamber music with the San Francisco Symphony’s Mavericks Festival, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Earplay, and the Silk Road Ensemble, among others. Stacey is principal flutist with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program productions, and plays second flute with the Santa Rosa Symphony and the Midsummer Mozart Festival. She is also certified Feldenkrais Method practicioner and teaches workshop for musicians, as well as flute lessons with a somatic focus. She attended Cornell University and the San Francisco Conservatory, where she studied with Timothy Day.


Omid-2492-2Award-winning composer Omid Zoufonoun hails from the acclaimed Zoufounoun family, one of four sons trained under master Persian musician Ostad Mahmoud Zoufonoun. Born in Tehran and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Omid is also a conductor, guitarist, and educator.  Among recent commissions, Omid has composed a setting of four Rumi poems for the Grammy Award-winning Pacific Mozart Ensemble, with traditional Persian instruments played by members of the Shams Ensemble. In 2010, Omid led the Oakland Youth Orchestra in the premier of his orchestral work Manteq at-Tayr (Language of the Birds). In the following year, Music Director Michael Morgan conducted Manteq at-Tayr during the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s Notes from Persia concert at the Paramount Theater. His Cello Sonata was commissioned and premiered by martha&monica at the San Francisco Conservatory. He composed his most recent work, Cascade for Guitar Octet, at the request of the Guitar Foundation of America to celebrate the life’s work of three major figures in guitar education in the US.  As a guitarist-composer, Omid’s etude Crispin’s Spin was published in Scott Tennant’s best-selling technique handbook, Pumping Nylon, and his duet for guitar and clarinet, By Shadow by Light (Berben), was a prize-winner at the 2008 Boston Guitarfest.  Additionally, Omid is currently recording his arrangements of nine Persian songs for classical guitar and voice. The arrangements, created for his duet with brother Amir Zoufonoun, blend the poetic meter and vocal inflections of iconic Persian melodies with classical guitar techniques and evocative new harmonies.   In addition to his Persian musical training, Omid earned a Bachelor of Music in classical guitar performance from the USC School of Music, graduating magna cum laude, and postgraduate studies took him to Austria, where he studied orchestral conducting under the guidance of Georg Mark at the Vienna Conservatory.



celloDawn Foster-Dodson (cellist) is currently the Director of the Lafayette Cello Academy and received a B.M. from the S.F. Conservatory of Music in 1982. As a Faculty member of the Performing Arts Dept. at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, she coaches chamber music ensembles and is the cello instructor. Dawn has been a member of the California Symphony and the MidSummer Mozart Festival for more than 20 years. She also served as the L.P.I.E. coach for all 4 Lafayette Elementary schools string classes from 2008 to 2012. She was first call extra for six years with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra and performed as soloist on most of the concert series in the Bay Area such as the First Congregational Church in Berkeley series, Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral Noontime Concerts (San Francisco), Santa Rosa Symphony’s “Early Romantic Festival” with Mack McCray and many others. She has also acted as principal cellist with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Reno Philharmonic Orchestra and California Symphony. She has performed with many of the world’s favorite artists including Pavarotti, Marion Anderson, YoYo Ma, Mercedes Ellington, Ray Charles, Liza Minelli, Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Ben Vereen, Rod Stewart and Smoky Robinson. Also she was the principal cellist of the Best of Broadway theatrical productions at the Orpheum, Curran and Golden Gate theaters, being heard from the pit in such musicals as “The Color Purple” “Wicked” “The Lion King” and many other favorites.

marty rokeach 8x10The music of composer Martin Rokeach has been performed by the Berkeley Symphony, Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, United States Army Orchestra, Pacific/Mozart Ensemble, Ensemble Variant (Geneva), Chameleon Arts Ensemble (Boston), Dunsmuir Piano Quartet (San Francisco), League of Composers (NY), the Chicago Ensemble, Musica Nova (Macedonia), Duo Sforzando (Geneva), Wyck Trio (U.K.), Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, the St. Petersburg (Russia) Chamber Players, the Sheridan Players (Chicago), the Webster Trio (Houston), Guitarinet (Poland), New Dischord (Chattanooga), Tempo (Los Angeles) and many other outstanding ensembles and soloists throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia. His works have earned honors in twelve national or international composition competitions, most recently those sponsored by the International Horn Society, Audio Inversions of Austin, International Clarinet Association, and the Chicago Ensemble, and he has been commissioned to write music for the Ellsworth Smith International Trumpet Competition, New York’s Cygnus Ensemble, Switzerland’s Dobrzelewski/Marrs Duo, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Music Teachers Association of California, California Association of Professional Music Teachers, New York’s Eight Strings and a Whistle and numerous soloists. His music has been published by Hickman Music Editions, Kagarice Brass Editions, Northeastern Music, Fallen Leaf, Go Fish Percussion Publications, and ALRY and recorded on the Furious Artisans, Albany, Arizona, Emeritus, North/South, Capstone, and Amie labels. He has been a featured composer and speaker at the Sion Conservatory of Switzerland, Hartt Conservatory of Music, New York University and Wichita State University, and concerts devoted exclusively to his music have been held at Washington State University and Western Carolina University.

Mr. Rokeach earned his Ph.D. in music composition and theory from Michigan State University, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from San Francisco State University. Active in the Bay Area music community, he is one of the founders and artistic directors of San Francisco’s contemporary music concert series, Composers, Inc. He teaches at Saint Mary’s College of California, where in 1999 he was named Professor of the Year.