The Ensemble

Gerald Rizzer, Piano

Gerald Rizzer is the founder and artistic director of The Chicago Ensemble. He holds degrees from the University of Chicago and Yale, and he also attended Juilliard. Mr. Rizzer teaches piano, theory and ensemble at Sherwood Community Music School. For many years, he taught music appreciation courses at DePaul. Mr. Rizzer composed the music for several shows performed at Theater Building Chicago. He recently recorded a third CD with his Songs Without Words for piano, which also holds his settings of A. E. Housman poems.

Michelle Areyzaga, Soprano

Michelle Areyzaga has performed with Chicago Opera Theater, Lyric Opera’s “In the Neighborhoods”, New York City Opera, Chicago Light Opera Works and Orquestra Sinfonica del Estado de México. Her Pamina, part of Chicago’s Silk Road Festival, was aired on public television. Additional roles include Cunegonde, Sophie (Werther), Mimi and Musetta, Adele and Belinda. She appears regularly with Chamber Music Society Lincoln Center as well as the New York Festival of Song. She performed Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music under John Rutter. Oratorio solos include the Brahms Requiem and the Poulenc Gloria. Ms. Areyzaga recorded CDs of music by Gwyneth Walker, Lita Grier, and William Ferris. She has been heard frequently in WFMT live broadcasts.

Ricardo Castañeda, Oboe

Ricardo Castañeda received his Bachelors and Masters from Northwestern University, where he received an award for excellence in performance and won the concerto competition. He studied with Ray Still, who was principal oboist of the Chicago Symphony. Mr. Castañeda has performed with the Chicago Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Grant Park Symphony, and Chicago Opera Theater. Principal oboe positions include Chicago Sinfonietta, Lake Forest Symphony, and Joffrey Ballet orchestras. He has made solo appearances in Latin America, Europe, and the United States. An active teacher in the Chicago area, he is on the faculty of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and he is program director of the Birch Creek Music Festival in Door County, Wisconsin.

Elizandro Garcia-Montoya, Clarinet

Elizandro Garcia-Montoya, born in Costa Rica, has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Charleston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, and the State of Mexico Orchestra. A prizewinner in the 1999 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, he has played with the Chicago Chamber Musicians, Fulcrim Point, Pilgrim Chamber Players, and Spektral Quartet. Mr. Garcia-Montoya has performed with several music Festivals including Tanglewood, National Repertory Orchestra, International Festival at Round Top, Spoleto/USA, and Yale’s Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. He holds a Bachelors degree from Baylor University and a Masters from Rice University. He also has a Professional Studies Diploma from the Cleveland Institute of Music and has pursued additional post-graduate studies at DePaul University. Mr. Garcia-Montoya is principal clarinetist of the New Hampshire Music Festival and the New Millennium Orchestra of Chicago. He teaches at DePaul Community Music School, People’s Music School, Elmhurst College, and the Arts Academy.

Jaime Gorgojo, Violin

Jaime Gorgojo frequently appears as a soloist and chamber musician. Recent appearances include recitals at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial concert series, Grand Teton Music Festival, Strathmore Hall in Washington DC, and Chicago Symphony Presents chamber music series. Mr. Gorgojo is a 2018 recipient of an Individual Artist grant from City of Chicago to produce the recording of an album entitled “Iberia,” featuring Spanish music for violin and piano. He appeared as concertmaster with Northbrook Symphony, Park Ridge Civic Orchestra, and other groups in Chicago. Formerly, he was concertmaster of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Mr. Gorgojo recently joined the orchestra of Haymarket Opera Company. He is the first violinist for Corky Siegel´s Chamber Blues. He teaches violin and chamber music at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and is Artistic Director of Chicago Chamber Music Festival, a summer program for young musicians.

Michael Lieberman, Viola

Michael Lieberman pursues a busy and varied career as a chamber musician, orchestral player and teacher. During the 2000-2001 season, he performed in the world premiere production of Philip Glass's opera, "In the Penal Colony", written for a single string quintet that was on stage and in costume. More than one hundred performances of the opera took place in New York, Chicago and Seattle. In 2007, Mr. Lieberman was the violist and music director for “Tempo of Recollection”, an innovative collaboration between chamber music, dance, drama, projected Images and sound, set in a 1920s Prague dance-hall ro music of Czech composer and holocaust victim, Erwin Schulhoff. From 2011-2013, he was the assistant music director and violist for Cirque Du Soleil's "IRIS in Hollywood. With the musical score written by Danny Elfman, Mr. Lieberman is featured as the solo violist on the soundtrack recording. The production ran for over 500 performances. Since 2013, Mr. Lieberman has been composing, arranging, writing and performing as an original member of Wet the Hippo, nominated for best comedy in the 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Throughout 2016, Mr. Lieberman composed for and performed with “The Simple Simples” with performances in Los Angeles and Chicago. He was also the music director, composer and violist for “The Captain and the Squid” which had a sold-out run in Los Angeles. From 2016-2018, Michael toured with the Chicago-based chamber music group, Fifth-House Ensemble. Mr. Lieberman has performed with Lyric Opera orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Joffrey Ballet, Chicago Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Oregon Symphony and has played principal viola with the Santa Barbara Symphony, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and Opera Santa Barbara. For 10 years he was violist in the Saint Helen's String Quartet with performances throughout the Pacific Northwest. The quartet released a recording in 2015. Mr. Lieberman has taught at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and Westmont College in Santa Barbara. He studied at Peabody Conservatory.



Oleksander Mycyk, Cello

Oleksander Mycyk, a native of Canada, enjoys a multi-faceted career as a solo, chamber, and orchestral performer and teacher. He is completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Northwestern University and is a teaching assistant to Hans Jørgen Jensen. Mr. Mycyk recently completed the Certificate in Performance program at Northwestern while a full-time member of the Chicago Civic Orchestra and currently performs as a substitute cellist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. Previously, Mr. Mycyk received a Bachelor of Music performance degree at the University of Toronto, and a Masters in Solo Performance at McGill University studying with Matt Haimovitz. He has also performed in the masterclasses of Janos Starker, Lynn Harrell, Laurence Lesser and Aldo Parisot. Mr. Mycyk is the recipient the Felix Galimir Award for excellence in chamber music, and the Gregor Piatigorsky Memorial Award. He was a National Finalist in the Canadian Music Festival and a top prizewinner in the Canadian Music Competition. Recent performance highlights include the world premiere of Elizabeth Ogonek’s chamber work Water Cantos, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen during the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW concert series, and featured soloist with the Canadian Chamber Choir on their 2017 US tour. International appearances have included performances with the Grammy nominated Uccello ensemble at the International Cello Congress in Israel.

Matthew Oliphant, French Horn

Matthew Oliphant is a new music and chamber music specialist who is fast becoming known as an adventurous player. As solo hornist with the new music Ensemble Dal Niente, he performs the music of our time by established and emerging composers. In demand as a freelance chamber musician, he has performed with Fulcrum Point New Music Project, Access Contemporary Music, Present Music, the New Millennium Woodwind Quintet, and on the Rush Hour concert series. As an orchestral player, Mr. Oliphant regularly plays with Lyric Opera orchestra, Grant Park Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, and he has served as guest principal horn of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Florida Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, and Orchestra Prometheus. As a member of Axiom Brass from 2007-2014, he traveled the country performing for and engaging with audiences through music. Not constrained by the classical tradition, he regularly performs with the experimental ensemble, and he has performed as a member of the free jazz/classical/improv hybrid ensemble, the Tomorrow Music Orchestra.

Ben Roidl-Ward, Bassoon

Ben Roidl-Ward is a bassoonist and improviser based in Chicago. His dedication to working with and advocating for composers of his generation has led him to commission and premiere numerous solo and chamber works featuring the bassoon with the goal of broadening the repertoire and expanding the possibilities of the instrument. Mr. Roidl-Ward has appeared as a soloist with the Seattle Symphony and the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, along with several regional orchestras throughout the United States. He has performed with the International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, the Chicago Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic, and has appeared at the Mostly Mozart, Ravinia, Lucerne, Tanglewood, Spoleto, and Banff Festivals. A 2018 Luminarts Fellow in Classical Music, Mr. Roidl-Ward is a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and a student of David McGill at Northwestern University where he is pursuing a doctorate. He also studied with Ben Kamins at Rice University, George Sakakeeny at the Oberlin Conservatory, and Francine Peterson in the Seattle Area.

Bridget Skaggs, Mezzo-Soprano

Bridget Skaggs has swiftly gained the attention of Chicago audiences for her "warm and plaintive" singing (Chicago Classical Review) across a broad range of genres, including classical, contemporary, avant-garde, jazz, and musical theater. Critics have noted the way she “lights up the scene” (Chicago Reader) in her performances. She has appeared with Chicago Fringe Opera, Chicago Folks Operetta, Haymarket Opera, Lake Forest Civic Orchestra, Baroque on Beaver Festival, Opera Steamboat, and Pittsburgh Festival Opera. A passionate advocate for art song, Ms. Skaggs is a founding member and executive director of vocal quartet, Fourth Coast Ensemble, and was recently named Vocal Arts Associate for Chicago Fringe Opera. She has twice been awarded the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago's vocal chamber Fellowship. She has performed in masterclasses of Martin Katz, Michelle DeYoung, and Craig Terry. Ms. Skaggs loves collaborating with composers to promote and perform new repertoire. She co-hosted the Chicago premiere of the Sparks & Wiry Cries songSLAM competition for new art song in 2019, and sang for the 2016 national convention of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, performing music of Gwyneth Walker. Ms. Skaggs debuted the role of Austin in the world-premiere production of Rossa Crean’sThe Great God Pan in 2018, which received the American Prize in Opera Performance. This year she will record music by composer Lori Laitman on the Naxos label, and she has recorded the American premiere of Paul Abraham's jazz operetta Ball at the Savoy for future release. A native of Texas, Ms. Skaggs attended Oklahoma City University's Wanda L. Bass School of Music.

Alan Snow, Violin

Alan Snow is in his second season as concertmaster of the Evansville (IN) Symphony and violinist in the resident string quartet. He was appointed concertmaster of the Columbus, Indiana Philharmonic in 2017, shortly after receiving his Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University, where he studied with Sibbi Bernhardsson of the Pacifica Quartet and Alexander Kerr, concertmaster of the DallasSymphony Orchestra. Mr. Snowhas also served as concertmaster of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra and was concertmaster of the Music Academy of the West and of the Indiana University Sinfonietta, which performs without a conductor. As a member of The Chicago Panamerican Ensemble, he recorded an album, “Voices of Mexico Past and Present”, subsequently touring the US and Mexico. Along with pianist Joanne Chang, Mr. Snow won the 2016 Latin American Music Center recording competition and will be releasing another album of Mexican music, Dialogos”. As soloist he won grand prize in the Walgreens National Concerto Competition.

Andrew Snow, Cello

Andrew Snow is active as a recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestral musician. He has been with The Chicago Ensemble for more than a decade. Mr. Snow holds degrees from Northern Illinois University and Southern Methodist University. Mr. Snow has performed several recitals in Mexico with his wife, pianist Beatriz Helguera-Snow, and they have recently recorded a CD, “Voices of Mexico, Past and Present”, made possible by a grant from the Mexican National Foundation of Arts and Culture. Mr. Snow was formerly the cellist of the Lyra Quartet. Currently, he is a member of Chicago Sinfonietta, Lake Forest Symphony, and the Chicago Philharmonic. He was principal cellist of the Kenosha Symphony and Chicago Symphonic Pops, with whom he toured the Far East. He has played with of the Milwaukee Symphony, Grant Park Symphony, Lyric Opera, Joffrey Ballet, and Ars Viva, as well as with Fulcrum Point and Contemporary Chamber Players. He teaches privately and adjudicates student competitions.

Gabriela Vargas, Flute

Gabriela Vargas performed her concerto debut as winner of the Young Artist Competition with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica, her native country. Since then, she has won multiple awards and competitions that have led her to performances in Central, South and North America. Ms. Vargas holds Bachelors and Licenciatura degrees from the Universidad de Costa Rica, a Master degree from Western Illinois University and a Performance Diploma and Orchestral Studies Certificate from the CCPA of Roosevelt University where she studied with Donald Peck and later with Dionne Jackson. Ms. Vargas is equally at home as a orchestral, chamber or solo performer. She frequently performs with Lyric Opera orchestra, Chicago Philharmonic, and Quad Cities, Milwukee and South Bend Symphonies. Besides traditional classical repertoire, her love for Latin American and contemporary music has brought her to collaborations with Venezuelan and Brazilian musicians, Access Contemporary Music, ICE, and Third Coast Percussion. Her performances have been broadcast live on WFMT Fine Arts radio and have been recorded on Albany Records.

Benton Wedge, Viola

Benton Wedge is a member of the Music of the Baroque, Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. He performs frequently with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Grant Symphony. Mr. Wedge was a member of the Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa and the Fidelio String Quartet, based in Lisbon, Portugal, where he also performed numerous solo recitals and served as a viola and chamber music instructor. He has been principal violist for the Sarasota and Spoleto Opera Festivals, as well as the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. As a composer, his music has been performed by the William Ferris Chorale, the choir of Old St. Patricks Church, 4spiel, the Covington String Quartet, and members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Mr. Wedge has composed, transcribed and arranged for many recording projects. He received both his Bachelors and Master of Music degrees from Northwestern University studying with Peter Slowik.