We welcome young cellists from around the world to Sitka for the 2017 Sitka Cello Seminar. Here are this year’s participants!


Isa AlNajem was born in Bahrain in 1994, and was initially taught by his father the oud – a traditional Middle-Eastern instrument – which was intended to be his primary instrument. With professional training on the oud, Isa has performed on stages all over the Middle East, and around the world. Over the years, he has been interviewed on a number of well-known television networks, participating in numerous competitions, both locally and internationally with the oud, winning first prize in the St. Christopher’s Young Musician of the Gulf 2011, touring the United Kingdom in Aberdeen’s International Youth Festival, and performing in Shanghai, China’s Expo 2010 representing Bahrain in its Pavilion, and reaching the semi-finals of the renown Arabs Got Talent.

Being a citizen of the Kingdom of Bahrain, a small Middle-Eastern country where music is not honored as much, Isa decided to pursue his studies in Western Classical music, which made him pick up the cello at the age of 18 (in 2012,) which was considered exceptionally late. Given that the classical music scene in his hometown is almost non-existent, the struggle to find a music teacher, let alone a cello teacher, was extremely difficult. After 7 months of self-taught cello playing, Isa got accepted, then later, graduating from Longy School of Music of Bard College and Emerson College, and is now continuing his Master Degree studies at Boston University to advance his studies in cello performance under the mentorship of Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Mihail Jojatu. Throughout his studies, Isa studied and participated in masterclasses with Zuill Bailey, Melissa Kraut, Robert deMaine, Terry King, Mike Reynolds, Nicholas Tzavaras, Rafael Popper-Keizer, Phoebe Carrai, Peter Zazofsky, Melinda Lee Masur, Bayla Keyes, and Steve Ansell. Isa also collaborated with notable artists like Zuill Bailey, Bayla Keyes, and Jennifer Koh.


Chris Beroes-Haigis, a 2016 graduate of Bard College, joined the Bard Conservatory Advanced Performance Studies Program this past year where he studies cello with Peter Wiley and Luis Garcia-Renart, composition with Joan Tower and George Tsontakis, and conducting with James Bagwell. He was a winner of the Bard College Orchestra Concerto Competition and has performed as a soloist with the Bard College Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey McDonald and The Orchestra Now conducted by Leon Botstein. He performs regularly with a self-formed piano trio and string quartet, the Bard Baroque Ensemble, the Bard Conservatory Orchestra and as part of Music Alive – an ongoing concert series curated by Joan Tower and dedicated to the music of living composers. His music has been premiered on three occasions by the Da Capo Chamber Players and was featured as part of Music Alive. He is fortunate to return to Sitka, Alaska this summer for a second year as part of the Sitka Cello Seminar.


Alexander Downs began his cello studies at the age of twelve. Downs was first introduced to the Music Opportunity Program where he played in various orchestras and had private lessons from Marilyn Pipkin. In 2011, Downs was accepted to the Alabama School of Fine Arts(ASFA) where he studied under Avi Friedlander. While at ASFA, Downs participated in many ensembles including ASFA’s orchestra, string orchestra, choir, and multiple chamber ensembles. Downs attended the Brevard Music Festival, the Green Mountain Music Festival, and multiple workshops in Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida. Downs currently attends the University of North Florida(UNF) as a cello performance major where he studies under Nick Curry. While at UNF, Downs was a soloist with the university orchestra in 2016.


Eliza Fath, 22, has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in numerous venues throughout the U.S, Korea and Europe. Eliza began her study of the cello when she was five and graduated from the pre-college division of The Juilliard School studying with Minhye Clara Kim in 2013 where she served as a Principal cellist of the Juilliard Pre-College Symphony. Eliza currently is a junior attending the Cleveland Institute of Music studying with Dr. Melissa Kraut.

Last summer Eliza attended Bowdoin Music Festival studying with Steven Doane.  She also gave a performance at Pequot Library raising money for an organization called “Music for Youth” and volunteered at a summer program sponsored by “Kids Empowered By Your Support” giving private and group cello lessons to children and assisting with their orchestral program. This summer Eliza will attend the Lev Aronston program in Dallas, Texas, ENCORE- achamber music program with Annie Fullard of the Cavani String Quartet and Paul Katz of the Cleveland String quartet, and finally the Sitka International Cello Seminar where Eliza will be under the tutelage of Dr. Melissa Kraut and the renowned Zuill Bailey.  Eliza enjoys eating ice cream, singing and playing soccer.


Kristiana Ignatjeva – 2017 Gloria Miner Fellow

Ms. Ignatjeva is a Latvian cellist and scholar studying at the Royal College of Music in London (England) with professor Melissa Phelps, supported by the Big Give Award. In 2010 Kristiana joined the Purcell School of Music where she studied with professor Robert Cohen and received full scholarship by the National Music and Dance Scheme. She has participated in many masterclasses with professors such as Jérôme Pernoo, Christoph Richter, Hans-Jørge Jensen, Raphael Wallfisch, Zuill Bailey, Hillel Zori, Natalie Clein, Johannes Goritzki and many others. Kristiana has won many international and national competitions, recently being awarded the Muriel Taylor Scholarship (2016) and the First prize and Unaccompanied Bach Prize at the Violoncello competition in RCM (2015). She has given recitals across Europe in the major concert halls such as Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, Buckingham Palace amongst many others.

Kristiana recently gave performances of Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Saint-Saëns concertos in United Kingdom. This year she has also been playing in London Symphony Orchestra as part of their string experience scheme and English National Opera as part of their scheme. In her free time Kristiana enjoys dancing and playing board games. As a teenager she even entered the national championship in “The Settlers of Catan”. Kristiana is the proud recipient of the Gloria Miner Fellowship, which has allowed her to attend this year’s seminar.


Christine Lamprea – 2017 Gloria Miner Artist Apprentice: Hailed a “firebrand” (Incident Light.com) and noted for her “supreme panache” (The Boston Musical Intelligencer), Colombian-American cellist Christine Lamprea was the First Prize winner of the 2013 Sphinx Competition. She joined the roster of the Sphinx Soloists Program, and as such is presented as soloist with major orchestras worldwide. She has also received awards from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, the Young Texas Artists’ Competition, and captured First Prize at the 2013 Schadt National String Competition. A winner of Astral’s 2013 National Auditions, Ms. Lamprea has appeared as soloist with the Costa Rica National Symphony, Houston Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, and toured with the Sphinx Virtuosi across the U.S., in such venues as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

Engagements in the 2016-2017 season include appearances as soloist with the Bucks County Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble 212, Mid-Texas Symphony, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, in repertoire of Dvorák, Elgar, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, and a concerto written for Ms. Lamprea by acclaimed composer Jeffrey Mumford.

As a recitalist, Ms. Lamprea has appeared on prestigious series at Illinois’ Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Florida’s Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Pepperdine University, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Washington Performing Arts Society. In demand as a chamber musician, she performs regularly with the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, and has performed with such musicians as Shmuel Ashkenasi, Itzhak Perlman, Roger Tapping, and Carol Wincenc.

Ms. Lamprea strives to expand her musical boundaries by exploring many genres of music and non-traditional venues for performance and teaching. She has worked with members of Baroque ensemble Les Arts Florissants, and studied sonatas with fortepiano with Audrey Axinn. She has premiered several works by composers at The Juilliard School and the New England Conservatory, and was a member of a small ensemble that worked with jazz musician Anthony Coleman on avant-garde composer John Zorn’s game piece Cobra, for musical improvisers and prompter. A passionate teacher, Ms. Lamprea worked with Ecuadorian youth in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil, as part of a residency between The Juilliard School and “Sinfonia Por La Vida,” a social inclusion program modeled after Venezuela’s El Sistema program. She continued to pursue musical outreach as a Gluck Community Service Fellow at Juilliard, performing in hospitals and nursing homes in and around New York City as part of a mixed ensemble of dancers, actors, and musicians.

Ms. Lamprea is the recipient of a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, which supported her studies at the New England Conservatory, and a Sphinx MPower Artist Grant, which supports her study with acclaimed cellist Matt Haimovitz. She studied with Bonnie Hampton at The Juilliard School and holds a Master’s degree from the New England Conservatory, where she studied with Natasha Brofsky. Previous teachers include Ken Freudigman and Ken Ishii. Presently, Ms. Lamprea is attending the Sitka International Cello Seminar as the Gloria Miner Artist Apprentice to Dr. Melissa Kraut.


Rachael Lemna, from Wheaton, Illinois, just received her Bachelor of Music Dual Degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music as a Music Theory Major and a Cello Performance student of Dr. Melissa Kraut. In addition, she earned minors in Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Suzuki Pedagogy. Rachael will be starting her Master of Music Degree this Fall at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY under the tutelage of Mr. Steven Doane. This is Rachael’s second year back in Sitka (she was one of the participants of the inaugural season!) and is so excited to continue her studies with Mr. Bailey and Dr. Kraut as well as take in Alaska’s beauty once more!


Robyn Neidhold has performed professionally since age thirteen. In eighth grade, Robyn auditioned for and won a contract with the Reno Philharmonic and in the same year won the Reno Philharmonic Youth Symphony Concerto Competition with the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations. In the following years Robyn performed concertos again with the Youth Symphony and twice with the Reno Pops Orchestra. Robyn’s other accomplishments include earning principal cello positions with the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of America, Tanglewood (BUTI) Symphony Orchestra and Nevada All-State Orchestra. Robyn is the only cellist to have won Command Performance at the NMEA All-State Conference as the top low string student in Nevada four years in a row. Robyn has attended nationally known summer programs including Meadowmount, Tanglewood, Marrowstone, Philadelphia International and Music at Menlo.  Many eminent teachers have influence Robyn’s life as a cellist. Robyn has performed on masterclasses for distinguished cellist such as, Hans Jørgen Jensen , Lynn Harrell, Wendy Warner, Alisa Weilerstein and Joan Jenrenaud. Her past teachers include Dmitri Atapine, UNR professor and member of the Argent Trio, and noted Suzuki cello educator, Emily Ullman. In Robyn’s spare time she runs half marathons, raises money for the Nevada Humane Society by selling rubber ducks, and appreciates a good cup of coffee. Robyn is studying cello performance at Indiana University Jacob’s School of Music with Eric Kim as a Premier Young Artist.


Cicely Parnas – 2017 Gloria Miner Artist Apprentice: Ms. Parnas, praised for her “velvety sound, articulate passagework and keen imagination” (The New York Times), performs recitals, concertos, and chamber music throughout the country. Her 2016-2017 season includes appearances as soloist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, the Westmoreland Symphony, the Brevard Symphony Orchestra, and the Charlottesville Symphony. She is presently attending the Sitka International Cello Seminar as Artist Apprentice to Zuill Bailey.

Ms. Parnas has performed at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, the Morgan Library and Museum, University of Florida Performing Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, Vanguard Concerts, and the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, and has also appeared with the Brevard Sinfonia under Keith Lockhart, the Long Bay Symphony, the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, the Owensboro Symphony, the Southwest Michigan Symphony, the Vermont Symphony, the Rochester Chamber Orchestra, and the Montreal Chamber Orchestra, where she gave the world premiere of Jim McGrath’s Concertino for Cello.

In 2012, Ms. Parnas made her Carnegie Hall concerto debut, performing the Saint-Saëns Concerto with the New York String Orchestra under the baton of Jaime Laredo. The New York Times raved: “Cicely Parnas, a fast-rising young cellist, was the impressive soloist in a rhapsodic performance.” She toured France performing the Saint-Saëns Concerto with L’Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire. Other international appearances include her participation in the 2013 Young Concert Artists Festivals in Tokyo and Beijing.

No stranger to the limelight, Ms. Parnas was named an inaugural Young Artist in Residence on NPR’s Performance Today in 2011, where she was featured in five broadcasts and an American Public Media video spotlight. Winner of the 2012 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, she was presented last season in debuts at Merkin Concert Hall and the Kennedy Center to rave reviews. She was the recipient of YCA’s Mortimer Levitt Career Development Award for Women Artists in 2012. She also captured First Prize in the 2011 Cello Concerto Competition at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

She also performs in Duo Parnas with her sister, violinist Madalyn Parnas. Duo Parnas has performed as soloists with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic under Randall Fleisher, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra under Lawrence Loh, and the Albany Symphony Orchestra under David Alan Miller, as well as in many recitals with pianist Peter Serkin. Duo Parnas has recorded three albums on the Sheffield Lab label, including their most recent CD, entitled Duo Parnas NOW, which includes 21st century works by Lera Auerbach, William Bolcom, Paul Moravec, and Charles Wuorinen. In 2012, they recorded Brian Fennelly’s Fantasia Concertante on Albany Records, a piece written for Duo Parnas and the digital-instrument Fauxharmonic Orchestra.

Granddaughter of the distinguished cellist Leslie Parnas, Cicely Parnas started playing the cello at the age of four and made her concerto debut at eleven with the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra. She has studied with cellists Peter Wiley and Ronald Feldman, and earned an Artist Diploma from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where she worked with Sharon Robinson. Ms. Parnas performs on a 1712 Giovanni Grancino cello.


Lindsey Sharpe is going into her junior year at the University of Michigan, where she is majoring in cello performance with a minor in performing arts management while studying with Anthony Elliott. In the past summers, Lindsey has attended the Chautauqua Music Festival, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Meadowmount School of Music, Brevard Music Center, and Interlochen Arts Camp. Her teachers during the summer have included Astrid Schween, Benjamin Karp, Melissa Kraut, Alan Rafferty, Jeffrey Solow, Hyun-Min Lee, and Clive Greensmith.

Over the past few years Lindsey has been the recipient of various awards and honors including 2nd place at the Georgia College and State University Strings Competition in Milledgeville, GA, first place in the Buckhead Youth Orchestra concerto competition where she performed the Haydn Cello Concerto in C Major with the orchestra, 2nd place in the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition, and 2nd place in the Georgia Philharmonic Young Artists Competition. In 2007, Lindsey was accepted into the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program and began studying with Martha Gerschefski. She was a member of the Georgia All-State Orchestra for seven years and also sat principal three times. Additionally, Lindsey played in the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2012-2015, and she served as principal for her last two seasons. She has appeared in master classes with Phoebe Carrai, Benjamin Karp, Melissa Kraut, Tahirah Whittington, Owen Young, Steve Honinberg, and Alisa Weilerstein. In her free time, Lindsey enjoys spending time with friends, eating pizza, and watching Netflix.