The Chicago Ensemble



RizzerGerald Rizzer, Piano, 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 CD of his Songs Without Words for piano.

AreyzagaMichelle Areyzaga, soprano, has performed with Chicago Opera Theater, Lyric Opera's "In the Neighborhoods", Opera Theater North, 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 has appeared several times in the New York Festival of Song and "Bernstein on Broadway", as well in New York City Opera's composer showcase. 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.


BoeStephen Boe, violin, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University School of Music, where he served as assistant to Henryk Kowalski, Josef Gingold and Franco Gulli. He became assistant professor of Indiana University School of Music, was a faculty member at DePauw University and Ohio University, and is currently a faculty member at the Music Institute of Chicago. As a chamber musician, Mr. Boe has performed at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, and throughout Europe, China, South America and the US. He was a founding member of the New Artists String Quartet and first violinist with the Brooks Unstrung Quartet, and he has collaborated with the Ying and Lark Quartets. Mr. Boe served as concert- master for several regional orchestras and appeared as soloist with several of them. He has given master classes at Beijing Central Conservatory and elsewhere. Mr. Boe performed at the Brevard Music Festival and festivals in Germany and South America. He has performed on NPR’s “Performance Today”, KUNI and WFMT.  


Castaneda Ricardo Castañeda, oboe, received his BA and MA degrees 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 if 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 Northeastern Illinois University in De Kalb and he is program director of the Birch Creek Music Festival in Door County, Wisconsin.


Rose Armbrust GriffinRyan Cox, baritone, has been a professional member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus and Grant Park Choruses since 2003. In 2010 Mr. Cox was the baritone soloist in William Schuman’s A Free Song for Grant Park Music Festival’s “Pulitzer Project,” which was recorded by the Cedille label. He recently was the bass soloist cover for Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass and Britten’s War Requiem with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 2013 Mr. Cox sang Schubert lieder on the CSO Chamber Music Series: “Rivers.” He has also been featured on the Music Now series, singing the Chicago premiere of Mason Bates’ Sirens. Additional solo appearances on the concert stage include Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Handel’s Messiah, the Fauré, Brahms and Mozart Requiems, Schubert’s Mass in G, Dubois’ Seven Last Words, Mozart's Grabmusik, Pontifex in Bach's St. Matthew Passion, and several Bach cantatas. Operatic roles include Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte, the Count in La Nozze di Figaro and the title role in Gianni Schicchi as well as numerous short operas and scenes. He is the music director at First Congregational Church in LaGrange, Illinois where he directs all of the vocal and instrumental ensembles and is also the Director and Voice Instructor of the First Conservatory of Music. Mr. Cox is a graduate of Millikin University with degrees in Vocal Performance and Business Management.


Rose Armbrust GriffinStacy Eckert, mezzo-soprano, sings a vast repertoire . In opera, her portrayals include Dorabella, Waltraute, Regina and Carmen. As a concert soloist, Ms. Eckert’s numerous performances include Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony. A member of the Chicago Symphony Chamber Chorus, Ms. Eckert has worked with Boulez, Solti, Barenboim, Mehta, Eschenbach and other conductors. She first performed with The Chicago Ensemble in the 21st season.





Elizandro Garcia-MontoyaElizandro Garcia-Montoya, clarinet, a native of Costa Rica, moved to the United States in 1993 to study clarinet at Baylor University with Dr. Richard Shanley. He attended the Cleveland Institute of Music and received a master of music degree from Rice University. As a chamber musician, Mr. Garcia-Montoya has performed with Chicago Chamber Musicians and is a member of the Barossa Quintet, featured in the Ravinia Festival's outreach and education program. As an orchestral musician, he is principal clarinet in the New Hampshire Music Festival and has played with the Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera, Tanglewood Music Center, Spoleto Festival USA, State of Mexico Orchestra, Joffrey Ballet orchestra and Chicago Sinfonietta. He is on the faculty of Elmhurst College, De Paul Community Music School and the British School of Chicago.


Rose Armbrust GriffinRenée-Paule Gauthier, violin, was mentioned as one of the "best upcoming violinists of the new generation" in the book Violin Virtuosos, from Paganini to the 21st Century. Ms Gauthier was Concertm aster of the New World Symphony, in the first violin section of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Assistant Concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. She has won awards in several competitions, including the exclusive three-year loan of the Taft Stradivari violin through the Canada Council for the Arts’ Musical Instrument Bank Competition. She joined the faculties of North Park University and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra in the fall of 2013, and she made her Kennedy Center solo debut in April 2014. She is the artistic director of the Rendez-vous musical de Laterrière, a chamber music festival in the province of Québec. In addition to her teaching activities, she is an active member of the Chicago area chamber music and orchestral scene, performing with several ensembles and for various concert series. A graduate of the University of Montreal and the Eastman School of Music, she is currently completing a Doctorate of Music Degree at Northwestern University.

Rose Armbrust GriffinRose Armbrust Griffin, viola, holds degrees from Juilliard, Curtis and Indiana University. She teaches viola at Wheaton College where she also serves as Chamber Music Coordinator and teaches an introductory music history course. Ms. Griffin is a member of the International Chamber Artists and the Jupiter Chamber Players. As a chamber musician, she has appeared at the Kennedy Center and Avery Fischer Hall. She has appeared as soloist with Woodstock's Mozart Festival Orchestra and the Bogota Symphony Orchestra, as well as with the chamber orchestras of Indiana University and Curtis. Ms. Griffin is a member of the Ars Viva orchestra and the Lake Forest Symphony. On weekends, she coaches chamber music at Midwest Young Artists.

Olga Dubossarskaya KalerOlga Dubossarskaya Kaler, violin, attended the Moscow State Conservatory and New England Conservatory and holds a doctorate from Northwestern University.. She was awarded the Speciial Prize at the Rodolfo Lipitzer International Competition and was a finalist at the Concert Artist Guild International Competition. Ms. Kaler was assistant concertmaster of the Rochester Philharmonic and principal second violin of the Syracuse Symphony. Ms. Kaler currently plays with Ars Viva and the Chautauqua Festival orchestra. She has also performed with the Chicago, Boston, and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras and in two tours of the World Orchestra for Peace, under Valery Gergiev. Ms. Kaler has participated in the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, Steamboat Springs (Colorado) Chamber Festival and Athens Music Festival. She has coached students in master classes and worked with youth orchestras. She recently published a study on violin technique. Ms. Kaler is on the faculty of DePaul University.

Susan Levitin, flute, has played with The Chicago Ensemble since its inception. She is a graduate of Eastman. She was soloist with the Eastman Philharmonia Orchestra on its 27-country tour. For many years, Ms. Levitin played with Lyric Opera. She has performed several Dame Myra Hess solo recitals. With Gerald Rizzer, piano, Ms. Levitin recorded two CDs, one of French repertoire, the other of American works. She teaches at Sherwood community Music School, where she founded the Summer Flute Institute and the Festival of Flutes, with participation by students from all over Chicago. She is co-founder of the Santa Fe Intensive summer flute program. Ms. Levitin has given workshops for the National Flute Association and contributes articles to Flute Talk magazine. Among her students are several who are now in major orchestras.

Steven SigurdsonSteven Sigurdson, cello, attended Juilliard School of Music. He was awarded two fellowships to Tanglewood, received first prize in the National Society of Arts and Letters cello competition and was a finalist in the General Motors National Concert Competition. Mr. Sigurdson was co-principal cellist of the New World Symphony and the Florida Philharmonic, also appearing as a concerto soloist .As a chamber musician, he was a member of the Atlas String Quartet (DC area) and Arcangelo Piano Quartet (Durham, NC, touring internationally with the latter group. He was a founding member of twoNew York based ensembles: the Graff Piano Trio, finalists in the Osako (Japan) International Chamber Music Competition, and the Guinness String Quartet, which performed at Alice Tully Hall in New York. Mr. Sigurdson was the music director of the Haydn Society of Florida, appearing frequently as both soloist and conductor.  As a studio musician, he can be heard on recordings of Extreme, Collective Soul and Gloria Estefan.

Andrew SnowAndrew Snow, cello, has been with The Chicago Ensemble for more than a decade. He 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. He is on the faculty at Trinity International University. Mr. Snow was formerly the cellist of the Lyra Quartet, based at Carthage College. He was principal cellist of the Kenosha Symphony. Currently, he is a member of Chicago Sinfonietta, Lake Forest Symphony and the Chicago Philharmonic. He has participated in concerts of the Milwaukee Symphony, Grant Park Symphony and Ars Viva, as well as with Fulcrum Point and Contemporary Chamber Players. He teaches privately and adjudicates student competitions.


Mathias TackeMathias Tacke, violin, a native of Germany, graduated from the Musikakademie Detmold and joined the faculty. He was a member of the Ensemble Modern Frankfurt and was the second violinist of the Vermeer Quartet, performing at Ravinia, Tanglewood, Taos, Lucerne, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and Edinburgh. Mr. Tacke performed on three Grammy-nominated recordings with the Vermeer Quartet. He is professor of violin and chamber music at Northern Illinois University and guest lecturer for string chamber music at Northwestern University.

VanderwerfPaul Vanderwerf, viola, is an active chamber and orchestral musician. He holds a doctorate in music from Northwestern University, studying with Myron Kartman. Previously, he studied with Serban Rusu, Lawrence Sonderling, Paul Statsky and Martha Hovlik, and attended master classes of Josef Gingold, Michael Tree and Alexander Treger. Mr. Vanderwerf performs regularly with Ars Viva Orchestra, Lake Forest Symphony and Symphony II, and is a member of the Ars Viva String Quartet. He has played with Music of the Baroque, Fulcrum Point, Ravinia Festival Orchestra, Broadway in Chicago, Lyric Opera and Chicago Sinfonietta. Mr. Vanderwerf is guest lecturer in violin at Wheaton College and teaches privately.


Our NEW Highlights: 2009-2012 CD set is now available!


Vaughan Williams: Merciless Beauty


To hear the Chicago Ensemble perform more music like this, come to our next concert!

The Ensemble

Gerald Rizzer, Pianist
and Artistic Director

Michelle Areyzaga, soprano


Stephen Boe, violin


Hoss Brock, tenor


Ricardo Castaneda, oboe


Ryan Cox, baritone


Stacy Eckert, mezzo-soprano

Elizandro Garcia-Montoya, clarinet


Renée-Paule Gauthier, violin


Rose Armbrust Griffin, viola


Olga Kaler, violin

Susan Levitin, flute


Steven Sigurdson, cello

Andrew Snow, cello

Mathia Tacke, violin


Paul Vanderwerf, viola


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