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 has recorded two CDs of his short piano pieces "Songs Without Words," one in 2012 and the other in 2016.

Michelle Areyzaga, Soprano

Michelle Areyzaga 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.

Eleanor Bartsch, violin

Eleanor Bartsch is the concertmaster of the Dubuque Symphony and Associate Concertmaster of the Elgin Symphony. She is a founding member of Madison, Wisconsin’s Willy Street Chamber Players.


Alin Cernaianu, Violin

Alin Cernaianu came to the US in 2007 from his native Romania where he played in the National Opera House of Timisoara and the Timisoara Symphony Orchestra. He received a masters from Northern Illinois University in 2009. From 2008 to 2010 he was a member of Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Mr. Cernaianu currently plays with Camerata Chicago and teaches at DePaul University's community music school and the International Music School of Chicago.

Ricardo Castañeda, Oboe

Ricardo Castañeda 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 DeKalb and he is program director of the Birch Creek Music Festival in Door County, Wisconsin.

Stacy Eckert, Mezzo-Soprano

Stacy Eckert 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 its 21st season.

Elizandro Garcia-Montoya, Clarinet

Elizandro Garcia-Montoya 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, DePaul Community Music School, and the British School of Chicago.

Rose Armbrust Griffin, Viola

Rose Armbrust Griffin received her Bachelor of Music from Juilliard, an Artist Diploma from Curtis Institute, and a Master of Music from Indiana University. Curtis honored her in “recognition of her outstanding musical performance.”  Her teachers included Heidi Castleman, Hsin-Yung Huang, Roberto Diaz, Michael Tree, and Atar Arad.  Ms. Griffin has performed as soloist with the Bogota Symphony Orchestra, Woodstock’s Mozart Festival Orchestra, Curtis Chamber Orchestra, and Indiana University’s Chamber Orchestra. Composer Johnathan Graybill’s viola concerto was written for and premiered by her with the Ball State University Orchestra. She was awarded first prize in the Chicago Viola Society and Rembrandt Chamber Players Competitions and was a prizewinner at Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. As a chamber musician, Ms. Griffin collaborated with renowned artists: Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank, Vadim Gluzman, Peter Wiley, and the Amernet String Quartet.  Her chamber music performances include concerts at Kennedy Center and Avery Fischer Hall. She has been a guest artist at the North Shore Music, Chatauqua, and Kingston chamber music festivals. Chicago-area chamber performances have been with Jupiter Chamber Players, Pilgrim Chamber Players, Chicago Chamber Musicians, Rembrandt Chamber Players, International Chamber Artists, and the MusicNOW series. Ms. Griffin is the principal violist of Camerata Chicago and assistant principal of Lake Forest Symphony. A committed educator, Ms. Griffin teaches at Wheaton College, where she is coordinator of the chamber music program. She has been guest lecturer at Fort Hays University (KS), Northern Illinois University, Washington and Lee University (VA), and Florida International University (FL). She coaches chamber music ensembles for Midwest Young Artists. Ms. Griffin has recorded for Albany Records.

Olga Dubossarskaya Kaler, Violin

Olga Dubossarskaya Kaler 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

Susan Levitin 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.

Andrew Snow, Cello

Andrew Snow 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 Tacke, Violin

Mathias Tacke 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.