Conductor and educator BENJAMIN KLEMME leads an active career dedicated to engaging audiences and performers of all ages with the transforming power of orchestral music. As Music Director of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association, he conducts the organization’s flagship ensemble—the Vermont Youth Orchestra—and provides artistic leadership and vision for orchestral and choral programs that serve over 300 students in grades 1-12 from across Vermont and neighboring states. Before coming to Vermont, Klemme served as Associate Conductor of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Music Director and Conductor of the Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles, Orchestra Conductor at Augsburg College (Minneapolis), and Concert Orchestra Conductor at the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies. Previously he has held conducting posts at the National Repertory and Cleveland Pops Orchestras, University of Minnesota, Santa Fe Youth Symphony Association, and MacPhail Center for Music. His guest conducting appearances include performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, Cleveland Pops Orchestra, Quad City Symphony Orchestra, National Repertory Orchestra, Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, and University of Minnesota Opera Theatre.
Klemme earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting from the University of Minnesota, where he was a James Sample Conducting Fellow. He holds a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Northern Iowa. His principal conducting teachers include Mark Russell Smith, Carl Topilow, Louis Lane, Rebecca Burkhardt and Ronald Johnson.
Klemme‘s passion for and commitment to music education is displayed through his work both on and off the podium. As Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, he connected community members throughout southeast Iowa and northwest Illinois with opportunities to hear, perform, and engage with orchestral music in traditional and innovative contexts. In New Mexico, he helped bring classical music to life for elementary and middle school students as Artistic Advisor and Outreach Concert Host for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival’s "Music In Our Schools" program, and chaired the music department at New Mexico School for the Arts, a statewide, public, boarding high school for the arts. In Ohio he co-founded the Scordatura Chamber Orchestra, a Cleveland-based ensemble designed to support classroom learning objectives in language arts, math, science, and social studies through interactive orchestral performances.
The Artistic Director of the Burlington Chamber Orchestra, Dr. YUTAKA KONO has quickly gained a high reputation as an effective leader of professional, higher education and selective youth orchestras. Dr. Kono also serves as the conductor of Vermont Youth Philharmonia and the Director of Orchestra/Associate Professor of Music at the University of Vermont. Prior to moving to Vermont, he was the Assistant Conductor of the Kingsville Symphony Orchestra (TX). Dr. Kono previously taught at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, The University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and The University of Texas at Austin. He has been recognized as a finalist for The American Prize for Orchestral Conducting College/University Division (2014), Professional Division with BCO (2015), and Youth Division with VYP (2016). He has studied conducting with Jerry Junkin, Mark Kelly, Eugene Dowdy, Peter Bay and Silas Huff. Dr. Kono was selected to attend the Summer Conductors Institute at the Eastman School of Music where he studied with Maestro Neil Varon and conducted the Rochester Philharmonic.
As a composer and arranger, Dr. Kono’s composition “Mamma at the Gate” for Dancers and Electronics earned Bronze Medal of the Global Music Award. His music and arrangements have been performed in multiple countries and are published by Tuba-Euphonium Press, Cimarron Press, SMP Press, and Linus Publications. He studied composition with Alex Lubet, Stephan Paulus, and Donald Grantham, and orchestration with the Pulitzer winner Dominic Argento, Judith Lang Zeimont, and Donald Wilson.
A highly active performer on tuba, Dr. Kono has been seen across the genre. As a soloist, he is the winner of the concerto competition held at the University of Minnesota and soloed with many orchestras and bands in Vermont, Ohio, Minnesota, Texas, and Tokyo. He was the principal tubist of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra (TX), and his orchestral credits include the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra, Kingsville Symphony Orchestra (TX), San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, Austin Symphony Orchestra, and many others. His diverse interest has led him to perform with non-classical ensembles ranging from Jazz, Dixieland to Rock and Klezmer. He studied the tuba with Ivan Hammond, Ross Tolbert, Steven Bryant, Robert Lindahl, Daniel Perantoni, Harvey Phillips, Donald Little, David Zerkel, David Saygers, Paul Hunt, and Eichi Inagawa. He currently performs with a local tuba-euphonium quartet, MetalWerx.
Internationally recognized as a pedagogue and a strong advocate of music education, Dr. Kono has taught hundreds of private students and provided countless clinics and masterclasses. His students have received awards in regional, national and international competitions. He received Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and Masters and Bachelors from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Bowling Green State University respectively.
Asiat "Ace" Ali
ASIAT ALI, a 1988 graduate of the VYO, is the String Instructor for the Essex Junction Public Schools where he teaches beginning through middle school strings and conducts the Essex High School Orchestra. A member of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Assocation’s artistic staff, he currently directs the Vermont Youth Strings, and he is the former director of the beginning string ensemble Presto. He also served as interim conductor of the Vermont Youth Sinfonia. He has guest conducted district string orchestras in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. In addition he teaches a private studio of violin and viola students. As a violinist, Asiat is a member of the Burlington Chamber Orchestra and has performed with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra, the University of Vermont Orchestra and the Burlington Choral Society. Asiat began his violin instruction in the third grade with Melissa Brown in the same school system where he now teaches. At the University of Vermont, he earned his Violin Performance Degree as a student of Thomas and Evelyn Read. He then continued his violin studies for two years with Phillipe Quesnel at the Conservatoire National de Region in Rouen, France.
KATHLEEN KONO is a music educator both in private violin and violas lessons and group orchestra classes. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Kathleen attended Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music receiving her Bachelor of Music degree then attending The University of Texas at Austin graduating with a Masters of Music degree. She has been the Director of Orchestras at Deerpark Middle School in Round Rock, Texas where she was named Teacher of the Year. Kathleen also taught at Hamlin Middle School and Ray High School in Corpus Christi, Texas where she was also named Teacher of the Year for the Ray High School Campus and was a Semi-Finalist for Teacher of the Year in the Corpus Christi School District.
In 2011, Kathleen and her family relocated to Burlington, Vermont where Kathleen conducts the Presto and Prelude! Orchestras at the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association. She also teaches strings to all 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington, holds a private Suzuki violin and viola studio and was just named Orchestra Director at Burlington High School. Besides teaching, Kathleen performs with the Burlington Chamber Orchestra where she served on the Musician’s Committee. She also is an active parent in the Vermont Suzuki Violin Program and a parent of two VYOA musicians.
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PATRICIA JANCOVA received a Master of Music degree in violin performance from Syracuse University’s Setnor School of Music where she studied with renowned violinist/violist and pedagogue, Laura Bossert. During her graduate studies, she played both violin and viola at Setnor as well as for chamber music festivals LyricaFest and Festival Baltimore. While completing her undergraduate degree at the Frost School of Music, Miss Jancova studied abroad at the prestigious Sydney Conservatorium, where she was a student of Alice Waten. Miss Jancova has played in numerous ensembles including the Binghamton Philharmonic, Miami Lyric Opera, the New England Symphonic Ensemble, Philadelphia Sinfonia, the Sydney Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra, the Lyrica-Boston Chamber Orchestra, and the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra. Versed in a wide range of musical styles, she has also had the privilege of performing with artists including Mark O’Connor, Bobby McFerrin, George Benson, Chick Corea, Gloria Estefan, and Dawn Upshaw.
As an educator, Miss Jancova has worked with students from the onset of their musical training to the pre-professional level at the Florida Youth Orchestra, the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, the Syracuse Youth Orchestra, and as a Teaching Assistant for the music outreach program at the University of Miami. Her teaching style is a conglomerate influenced by several different pedagogues and schools including the O’Connor and Suzuki methods. Miss Jancova hopes to help VYOA musicians find their unique musical voice, to develop proper technique on their instruments, to hone personal skills such as responsibility and self-motivation, and to foster a general love of music and music-making in their lives.
SUZANNE SMITH has performed and taught for over 30 years. During that time she has developed a philosophy of teaching that includes the whole person in ways that help ignite the creative process and instill confidence in her students. The pursuit of excellence takes place in this context.
Ms. Smith has a bachelors in performance from Oberlin Conservatory under the late Richard Kapuscinski, formerly a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She went on to complete a Masters in Music under Bernard Greenhouse of the Beaux Arts Trio. After doing two more years of post graduate study with Mr. Greenhouse, she later worked with Janos Starker over a 2 year period from 2010-2012. At the Tanglewood Music Festival she performed under Colin Davis, Michael Tillson Thomas, Seji Ozawa, and Gunther Schuller. In master class Suzanne has worked with Lynn Harell at the Scotia Festival, Jules Eskin at the Sarasota Festival, Rya Garbasova at the Cleveland Institute, and more. Suzanne studied the Suzuki method in the 1980s with Evon Tate, Gilda Barston, and was honored to have a meeting with Dr. Suzuki himself in 1970. She has preformed as chamber musician, soloist, and orchestral performer throughout her life. Suzanne is the Director and Founder of the CelloChanWoods cello retreat which takes place in Fayston, VT. The retreat is in it‘s ninth year overall, and had it’s Vermont debut in the summer of 2017. She presently is principal cellist of the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra and performs throughout Vermont.