Spotlight (previously known as Side-by-Side) is a mentoring program designed to give professional symphonic performance opportunities to exceptional young musicians. The program provides these students an opportunity to perform with orchestra mentors in rehearsal sessions, followed by a professional performance of a major classical work. Past participants have been drawn from throughout the Chicago metropolitan area and have included students from New Trier High School, Protégé Philharmonic, Music Institute of Chicago, Midwest Young Artists, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, and Birch Creek Symphony Program.

Spotlight participants performing in Paths of Passion, April 2017


Past Spotlight participants include:

Robert Sanders, violin
A senior at Niles North High School, Robert currently studies violin with Robert Hanford, concertmaster of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Philharmonic. He has won and recieved honorable mentions at multiple competitions, including the 2015 Birch Creek Concerto Competition, leading to his solo debut with orchestra in July of 2016. He participates in the Symphony Orchestra and is a member of Quartet Belleza at Midwest Young Artists Conservatory in Highland Park.


Benjamin Srajer, violin
Benjamin is a senior at Oak Park River Forest High School where he serves as a concertmaster and won their concerto competition in 2016. He has also been principal violin 2 and a first violin with Chicago-based Protege Philharmonic and is an alumnus of Birch Creek Music Festival. He is currently a student of Desiree Ruhstrat and formerly of Jenny Cappelli.


Maxwell Moore, viola
Max is a senior at Merrillville High School. He began playing viola in the 6th grade with my school’s orchestra program and is principal violist in both the Merrillville High School Advanced Orchestra and the Northwest Indiana Youth Symphony Orchestra (NIYSO). In addition, he is a part of NIYSO’s advanced Prima String Quartet. Max won NIYSO’s Concerto Competition my junior year with Cecil Forsyth’s Viola Concerto in G minor. Furthermore, he is  an apprentice violist with the South Shore Community Orchestra. After high school, he plans attending the University of Michigan  pursuing a degree in Viola Performance.


David Caplan, cello
David is a senior at Niles North High School and is the principal cellist of the Midwest Young Artists Symphony Orchestra. He is a student of Jonathan Pegis, cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. David was the winner of the 2016 Birch Creek Concert Competition, and looks forward to soloing with the orchestra in 2017.


JJ Butler, bass
JJ is currently principal bass with Midwest Young Artists Symphony Orchestra, Maine South’s Symphonic and Chamber Orchestras and Jazz Band. He is an alumnus of the highly respected Birch Creek Music Festival. He was principal bass at the 2016 ILMEA District 7 and 4th chair at All State Honors Orchestra. JJ has played double bass since 3rd grade and also plays piano, bass guitar, baritone horn, and sings.


Anna Stenzel, violin
Anna is a student of Mark Zinger. She is home-schooled and has participated in the Midwest Young Artists (MYA) Youth Orchestra program in Highwood, IL for the past five years, where she is currently serving as co-concertmaster. As a winner of the DePaul Concerto Festival, she performed with the Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra in February 2015. Along with all of her musical activities, Anna enjoys working with young children and youth, reading, playing violin at church, and spending time with her friends.


Rebecca Moy, violin
Rebecca attends Classical Consortium Academy and studies with Drew Lecher in Naperville, IL. Rebecca recently performed at the Steinway Young Artists Concert Series in Skokie and participated in the 2015 Chicago Youth Music Festival under Maestro Riccardo Muti. She has received awards at several competitions, including Sejong, Granquist, DuPage, and Walgreens National Competitions. In her free time, Rebecca loves practicing piano, learning new languages, and photography.


Andrew French, double bass
Andrew is currently a junior at York High School in Elmhurst, where he is first chair in their top Symphonic Orchestra. He has just begun his fourth year in Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and his second year with their top Symphonic ensemble under Maestro Allen Tinkham. Orchestral highlights include an open rehearsal under Riccardo Muti as a selected Chicago Youth in Music Festival participant.


Ezra Escobar, cello
Ezra is a home-schooled sophomore from Evanston, Illinois. He was a finalist in the 2015 West Suburban Symphony Youth Solo Competition. In February 2015, he was chosen to participate with the Youth in Music Festival Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Riccardo Muti at Symphony Center. During the summer of 2015, he played in the Interlochen Center for the Arts World Youth Symphony Orchestra. His other interests include composing classical music, electronic music and experimental music, as well as performing in a local teen theater troupe.


Peter Dudek, viola
Peter’s musical journey began with the piano and violin. In 2015, he started to study the viola with Lisa Chodorowski and now studies with Charles Pikler. Peter has been awarded 2nd place in the Chandler Starr Miller Scholarship Competition (senior division) and an Honorable Mention in the 12th annual DePaul University Concerto Festival. Peter is a junior at Lake Zurich High School and a member of the Midwest Young Artist Symphony Orchestra.
Benjamin Alston, Bass
Rebecca Benjamin, Violin
David Berghoff, Viola
Christopher Gao, Cello
Annie Hu, Viola
Carrie Jones, Viola
Jacob Nagler, Double Bass
Rebecca O’Brien, Violin
Aidan Perrault, Violin
Steven Song, Violin
Rachel Stenzel, Violin
Lucie Ticho, Cello
Michaela Wellems, Violin
Nathan Walhout, Cello
Harrison Waldon, Bass

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Banner photo by Elliot Mandel