Artist Bio

Saturday, September 21, 2013
7:30 p.m. – Abilene Civic Center Auditorium

Featuring Sean Chen, Crystal Award Winner of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Van Cliburn Piano Competion 2013

Sean Chen, piano

Born in Florida and raised in Southern California, guest artist Sean Chen, is the first American to make the finals of the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition since 1997.  At 24 years of age, Sean already has an impressive resume – schooled at Julliard; Second-prize winner at the 2011 Seoul International Music Competition; and Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight Award.

At the press conference following the awards ceremony, Sean said: “If you had asked me when I was a freshman at Juilliard if I ever would have medaled in the Cliburn I would have laughed and left…  This experience [competing in the Van Cliburn Competition] has been really awesome but kind of the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life.  It’s just the nature of the beast. I would be happy to not have to go through it again.”

Performance Today host Fred Child said that in his final round performance Chen brought every bit of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 to life, commenting that “it was just above a whisper and gently moving at times, elsewhere a thrilling, over-the-top Romantic romp, played with glee and zeal and panache.”





Saturday, October 26, 2013
7:30 p.m. – Abilene Civic Center Auditorium


Maria Schleuning, violin

Maria Schleuning has been violinist for the Dallas-based contemporary music ensemble Voices of Change since 1996, and was appointed Artistic Director in 2009. An advocate of new music, she has worked with many of the leading composers of our day, and has premiered many new works, the most recent being “Dream Catcher”, a solo violin work written especially for her as a gift by Augusta Read Thomas. The world premiere performance was on May 3, 2009 in Dallas, TX.
An active chamber musician, Ms. Schleuning has performed in venues such as New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Weill Hall, Merkin Hall, and the Museum of Modern Art, as well as numerous festivals throughout the United States and Europe. Since 1993 she has been a faculty member at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine, and has served in the same capacity at Idyllwild Arts in California since 2007. She has recorded with Continuum in New York, as well as in Dallas with the Grammy-nominated Voices of Change, and the Walden Piano Quartet.
A member of the Dallas Symphony since 1994, she has been featured as soloist with the orchestra on many occasions. Other solo highlights include appearances with the Oregon Symphony, Seattle Symphony, and with the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra on a tour of Eastern Europe including concerts at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and the Rudolfinum in Prague. She studied with Josef Gingold at Indiana University, where she was awarded the prestigious Performer’s Certificate; with Yfrah Neaman at the Guildhall School in London, with a grant from the Myra Hess Foundation; and with Joel Smirnoff at the Juilliard School, where she received her Master’s Degree.



Jolyon Pegis, cello

Jolyon Pegis was born in Rochester, NY. He attended Indiana University and the University of Hartford studying with Gary Hoffman and David Wells. Mr. Pegis is a winner of the Artists International Awards in New York City. Jolyon has appeared as soloist with the Kingsport, Chautauqua, San Antonio, Virgir1ia, Maui, and Dallas Symphony orchestras. He made his official New York Recital Debut at Weill Recital Hall in 1990 and has also been a regular performer on the Federal Hall Concert Series, Saint Paul Festival of the Arts, and at Carnegie Hall. As a performer of new music, Mr. Pegis has commissioned and premiered several works and has worked with such composers as Gunther Schuller, Lukas Foss, and Don Freund.
He is an advocate of the music of the late Eric Heckard and has premiered a number of his works including his Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra. Mr. Pegis has served on the faculties of Atlantic Union College, the Hartt School of Music, and the D’Angelo School of Music at Mercyhurst College. He was a member of the Arcadia Trio in conjunction with being a resident artist at the Yellow Barn Music Festival. From 1993-1995 he was the Music Director of the Jamestown Youth Orchestra. Since 1993 he has served as Assistant Principal Cellist of the Chautauqua Symphony and in 1995 joined the San Antonio Symphony as Principal Cello. He was a resident artist at both the Roycroft Chamber Music Festival in Buffalo and the Anchorage Festival of the Arts. He is currently a member of the Dallas Symphony as well as being a member of the contemporary ensemble “Voices of Change” and an adjunct faculty member of SMU.


Saturday, Decem­ber 7, 2013

3:00 PM Family Matinee - Abilene Civic Center Auditorium
7:30 PM Evening Performance – Abilene Civic Center Auditorium

Ben Utecht 2

Ben Utecht

Benjamin Utecht spends every minute of every day making his dreams become a reality. The 31-year-old stud achieved football’s highest honor when he and the rest of his teammates on the 2006 Indianapolis Colts squad won Super Bowl XLI. But now, two seasons removed from his NFL career as a tight end, he is chasing after his original childhood dream: becoming a successful artist in the music industry.

While it’s been difficult for athletes to cross over into the music world, the truth is Utecht has been preparing for this transition for the past twenty years. Utecht’s vocal style brings a refreshing new voice and sound to a genre in need of a new male lead.

Now, Utecht is ready to share his inspired music and giant yet tender voice with the rest of the world. “I’ve been given an opportunity to greatly impact people’s lives and the only way you can do that is through vulnerability. Revealing yourself completely and sharing your heart with people. I want people to truly experience my heart, to connect with them on an emotional level and sing songs about hope, love, and inspiration, and write songs that encourage and lift people up.”



Saturday, January 25, 2014
7:30 PM – Abilene Civic Center Auditorium


Halle Puckett 2

Halle Puckett, piano

Halle Puckett, age 15, is the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2012 Young Artist Scholarship Competition first place winner.

Halle showed great interest and talent in piano and composition when she was three years old and began lessons with her mother shortly thereafter. She comes from a family of pianists, including both parents and her grandfather, a well-known jazz pianist in Cleveland, Ohio. As a young child, she spent many hours improvising, composing and practicing and developed a tremendous love for classical piano music. Her father began teaching her as she entered her teen years, and currently her primary teacher is Dr. Leslie Spotz of Tarleton State University. She performed at age 12 on National Public Radio’s “From the Top” which was recorded at First Baptist Church in Abilene. She has recently performed in piano master classes with Eduardo Montiero, Tali Morgulis, Timothy Hester, John Weems, Nancy Weems, Igor Resnianski and Cleveland International Piano Competition winner, Alexander Schimpf, and has been invited to perform for Cecil Licad in February. She has attended The University of Houston Piano Camp and Abilene Summer Piano Camp at Hardin-Simmons University and is planning to attend the Austrian International Piano Seminar and Festival in Wiener Neustadt this summer. She traveled throughout France in July as a participant in The French Piano Music Tour 2013, and performed in a musicale at Chateau des Faugs, the ancestral home of composer Vincent d’Indy. Halle is a frequent participant in the Texas Music Teachers Association’s Student Affiliate Contest and was an award winning state finalist last June. As a TMTA-Student Affiliate member, she has received gold medals in both Texas Whitlock Theory and Texas World of Music Tests for 9 years.

She has performed in Abilene at ArtWalk, Mesa Springs Retirement Village, Royal Estates Retirement Community, Abilene Woman’s Club, Hardin-Simmons University, and regularly participates in Abilene Music Teachers Association events. She is a member of the Abilene Philharmonic “Belles and Beaus”, Tri-High Y, and serves as an acolyte at Church of the Heavenly Rest, Episcopal. She enjoys playing tennis, traveling, creative writing and singing in Concert Choir at Abilene High School where she is a sophomore.




Saturday, Feb­ru­ary 22, 2014
7:30 PM – Abilene Civic Center Auditorium

Richard DeRosaRichard DeRosa has toured and recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, Susannah McCorkle, Jackie Cain & Roy Kral, Peter Nero, Chuck Wayne, and Marlene Ver Planck. Other performances with notable musicians include Marian McPartland, Gene Bertoncini, Warren Vache, Chris Connor, and Larry Elgart.  Mr. DeRosa has arranged and conducted music for Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra to feature Toots Thielemans, Annie Ross, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, Abbey Lincoln, and Roberta Gambarini among several other notable artists.

Mr. DeRosa’s compositions for television, film, and theater include background music cues for Another World, As the World Turns, The Guiding Light, commercials for Telex, Bristol-Meyers, and Kodak, various documentaries broadcast on PBS, orchestrations for independent films Gray Matters, East Broadway, and Standard Time, and original music scores for the national touring U.S. theater company ArtsPower as well as orchestrations for Frankenstein, the Musical.  Mr. DeRosa is an associate professor at the University of North Texas where he is serving as director of jazz composition/arranging studies. His former teaching posts were at William Paterson University, Manhattan School of Music, and The Juilliard School where he taught advanced jazz arranging for studio orchestra.


Friday, March 7, 2014
8:00 PM Per­for­mance – The His­toric Para­mount Theatre

Christine Hudman

Christine Hudman

Christine Hudman is originally from West Texas. After finishing college at McMurry University where she majored in Theatre and Music, she went on to continue her studies in New York City. She received a scholarship and attended The American Musical and Dramatic Academy and graduated a few years later. She spent the next several years doing shows in New York, regionally and on Broadway national tours. She did over 1,000 performances as Rizzo in the national tour of Grease. She also did the role of Vicki Nichols in the Broadway National tour of The Full Monty for Jack O’Brien and Jerry Mitchell. Ms. Hudman has performed all over the world from Japan to Alaska. She has done numerous recordings in Nashville, New York and Los Angeles. Christine has done voice-overs for Lexus and voices for children’s books. She also wrote and performed all of the original music for the Texas Department of Agriculture’s “Bring It” campaign to promote healthy living in children. In Las Vegas, she has done the U.S. premiere of Jerry Springer: The Opera at the MGM, The Parenting Project, Kooky Tunes, God Lives In Glass, and sang in the back-up choir for Jennifer Hudson at the gala premiere of The Smith Center featured on PBS. Ms. Hudman was most recently seen on the Fox channel singing back-up for Kristen Chenoweth on the American Country Music Awards.





Saturday, April 12, 2014
7:30 PM – Abilene Civic Center Auditorium

Schu­bert Sym­phony No. 5
Orff Carmina Burana

Fea­tur­ing soloists Jen­nifer Youngs, soprano, Sam Cook, tenor, and Jef­frey Snider, bari­tione along with the Abi­lene Chris­t­ian Uni­ver­sity, Hardin-Simmons Uni­ver­sity and McMurry Uni­ver­sity choirs


Saturday, May 3, 2014
7:30 PM – Abilene Civic Center Auditorium

Featuring Chorus Abilene and guest vocalists

Expe­ri­ence the magic of Dis­ney, fea­tur­ing music and visu­als from your favoirite Dis­ney movies like, Beauty and the Beast, The Lit­tle Mer­maid, The Lion King, Aladdin and more!

Pre­sen­ta­tion licensed by Dis­ney Con­cert Library  © Disney