Volkan Orhon, Principal Bass
Joined Orchestra: 2002
Education: Hartt School of Music
Hobbies: Woodworking and taking flying lessons
Favorite piece of music: Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto
Home: Iowa City
Acclaimed for his musicality and virtuosity, Volkan Orhon has established himself as one of the top double bassists in the world today. He was a finalist and prizewinner in the Concert Artists Guild Solo Competition in New York City, and was the co-first place winner of the International Society of Bassists Solo Competition. Additionally, he distinguished himself as the first double bass player ever to win the grand prize overall and first prize for double bass at the American String Teacher’s Association Solo Competition.
Born and raised in Turkey, Mr. Orhon began playing the double bass at the age of 12, and spent much of his youth touring Europe with the Mediterranean Youth Soloists. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the Ankara State Conservatory under the tutelage of Tahir Sumer, he became a member of the Ankara Presidential Symphony Orchestra. In 1991, Mr. Orhon came to the United States to continue his studies with Gary Karr at The Hartt School of Music, where he earned an Artist Diploma and Master of Music.
Mr. Orhon has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and clinician around the world. He has served on the faculties of the University of Connecticut, Central Connecticut State University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, The Hartt School Community Division of the University of Hartford, Kinhaven Music School (VT) and Summer Strings Music Festival in Pocatello, Idaho. He is currently the associate professor of double bass at The University of Iowa and is a D’Addario Diamond Performing Artist.
Jane Walker, Principal Flute
Joined Orchestra: 1973
Education: University of Iowa
Hobbies: Knitting, gardening and kayaking
Favorite piece of music: Bach Goldberg Variations
Home: Iowa City
David Hempel, Principal Oboe
Joined Orchestra: 1975
Education: University of Iowa
Hobbies: Reading, listening to the radio (especially NPR), dog-walking and kayaking
Favorite piece of music: Mozart Symphony No.35 (Haffner) and Mahler's 9th Symphony
Home: Iowa City
Husband and wife musicians, Jane Walker and David Hempel have been performing side-by-side with the orchestra for the past 35 years. Jane and David first met at the Cedar Rapids Symphony principal oboe auditions in 1975. David won the job and the two immediately became friends and colleagues in the orchestra.
When not performing with the orchestra, Jane and David enjoy taking walks together in interesting neighborhoods and parks. Other favorite pastimes they share include kayaking and just sitting by the lake, reading and watching the eagles, herons and other wildlife.
Among the many accomplishments in her career, Jane was flutist in the Center for New Music, a reputable contemporary music group at the University of Iowa for 20 years. David has been the owner/manager of Eble Music Company since 1989. He truly enjoys his work, especially meeting new musicians, encountering new music and helping his customers find the music they’re looking for.
Gretchen Brumwell, Principal Harp
Joined Orchestra: 1995
Education: Grace University; Rice University
Hobbies: Reading, cooking, crocheting, brain-teasers
Favorite Piece of music: Mahler's Symphony #2
Home: Cedar Rapids
Gretchen Brumwell is principal harpist of Orchestra Iowa and an active performer throughout eastern Iowa. As a soloist, she has appeared with Orchestra Iowa, Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony, Ottumwa Symphony, Oskaloosa Symphony, Iowa City Community String Orchestra, and Blue Lake Festival Orchestra.
A passionate educator, Ms. Brumwell serves as harp instructor at the University of Northern Iowa, Grinnell College, Coe College, Wartburg College, and Cedar Rapids’ Symphony School, where she also directs the Advanced Harp Ensemble. She is the founder and director of the Northern Iowa Summer Harp Workshop and harp instructor at the Five Seasons Chamber Music Camp.
Ms. Brumwell followed an unusual path to the field of music, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies and humanities from Grace University while studying harp with Mary Bircher. During these years she spent her summers at the Salzedo Summer Harp Colony, studying under the legendary Alice Chalifoux. She subsequently received a master’s degree in harp performance from Rice University, studying with Paula Page. While at Rice, she was a regular substitute harpist with the Houston Symphony and the Houston Ballet Orchestra. She spent one summer at the Chautauqua Institution Music Festival and another touring Europe with the North Carolina School of the Arts Festival Orchestra.
Like so many others in Cedar Rapids, Gretchen and her family lost their home and many of their possessions in last summer's flood. Although her three harps were not destroyed by the water (they escaped the water by inches), two did sustain structural damage from the high heat and humidity.
Gretchen and her family are now settled in a beautiful new home and are deeply grateful for the many people whose kindness and generosity have helped them rebuild their lives.
Matthew Cameron, Principal Trombone
Joined Orchestra: 2006
Education: BA Music – Iowa State University; MM – University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Hobbies: Baseball, Playing Cards, Reading, Roasting Coffee, Cooking
Favorite piece of music: Bruckner Symphony No. 8
Home: Currently live in Aurora, Illinois; grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa
Matthew Cameron is an active orchestral musician, chamber musician and teaching artist who performs for and educates people world-wide. Currently Principal Trombone in Orchestra Iowa, Matthew is also Second Trombone in the Dubuque Symphony, Trombonist/Teaching Artist in the Archipelago Project and the Adjunct Trombone Instructor at Grinnell and Coe Colleges. Along with these positions, Matthew has performed with several other Midwest orchestras including the Des Moines Symphony, Quad Cities Symphony, Ohio Light Opera and Sinfonia da Camera, and additionally has played with numerous big bands, chamber groups and new music ensembles.
Matthew also keeps busy aggressively promoting music education on the local, national and international level. Locally, as part of his symphony duties Matthew is a member of the Orchestra Iowa Brass Quintet which performs over 40 educational concerts annually; he also gives weekly masterclasses to low-brass students at Cedar Rapids Washington High School and has arranged to give clinics and solo with high school bands around Iowa. Nationally and internationally, Matthew spends 8-10 weeks each year on tour with the Archipelago Project performing and teaching at schools around the United States, Austria and Germany.
Matthew's best musical experience came with the Archipelago Project on their June, 2009, tour to Acarigua, Venezuela. On this tour Archipelago spent two weeks working with Acarigua's youth orchestra from Venezuela's renowned music program El Sistema. Near tour's end Archipelago donated several thousand dollars in musical supplies, sheet music and instruments to students who were so unbelievably grateful it is difficult to put into words. What truly made the day special came later; the students gathered Archipelago's members in front of the stage and gave a performance of Marquez's “Danzon” that was both inspirational and filled with unbridled enthusiasm. To round out this incredible day of musical giving, this day that transcended language barriers and political barriers, Archipelago members reciprocated the Venezuelans' performance and poured everything they had into a concert for the students and their families. For Matthew, that day was the manifestation of the power of music.
Matthew is a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and currently resides with his violinist wife, Courtney, in Aurora, Illinois. When they are not doing something musical they can often be found cooking, hiking or running together. Matthew earned his Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois and completed his undergraduate studies at Iowa State University.
Miko Kominami, Principal Keyboard
Joined Orchestra: 2002
Education: The Juilliard School
Hobbies: Backpacking in National Parks in the Southwest
Favorite piece of music: Brahms Violin Concerto
Pianist Miko Kominami’s solo career was launched by her New York Solo Debut Recital at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall in 1996, as a result of winning the Artists International Award. New York Concert Review described her as “both a virtuosic and a musicianly performer.” As a concerto soloist, Ms. Kominami has performed concerti with Orchestra Iowa, as well as orchestras in Connecticut, Illinois, and Indiana. Highlights from this season’s engagements include performing Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with Luther College Symphony, chamber music concerts in Malibu, California, and a tour of Iowa with soprano Ann Cravero.
In addition to her solo engagements, Ms. Kominami is a member of the Murasaki Duo, an internationally recognized cello/piano ensemble. The Duo has toured Scandinavia, and released a CD on the Centaur Records label.
Ms. Kominami was born in Japan, but has spent most of her life and musical training in Canada and the United States. She holds degrees from The Juilliard School, and is the recipient of numerous awards including a Canada Council Arts Grant, and First Prize at the 1996 Concerto Soloists’ Competition in Philadelphia. She currently is on the piano faculty at Luther College.
Lisa Ponton, Principal Viola
Joined Orchestra: 2008
Education: The Curtis Institute of Music, The Juilliard School, Hochschule für Musik Cologne
Hobbies: Reading, gardening
Favorite Piece of Music: "Erbarme Dich" from the St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach
Home: Cedar Rapids
Praised by critics for her “warm tone,” “superior bow control,” and “beautiful phrasing,” Lisa Ponton has appeared as a viola soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe and the United States. Her solo performances with orchestra include Hindemith’s Kammermusik No. 5, Mozart’s Sinfonie Concertante, and Telemann’s Viola Concerto in G Major. She has performed in such venues as Bonn, Germany’s Beethovenhaus, the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Music Academy in Leipzig, the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, and the White House.
Lisa received her Bachelor of Music degree from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. As a full merit scholarship recipient, she earned her Master of Music Degree at The Juilliard School in New York. She then concluded her studies by earning two degrees – the Künstlerlische Reifeprüfung and the Konzertexamen – with the highest distinction at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne.
Lisa has held the positions of Associate Principal Viola of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Principal Viola of Sweden’s Malmö Symphony Orchestra and has also performed with the Royal Opera Orchestra of Denmark and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC. She is an active viola teacher and clinician.
Charles “Andy” Harris, Principal Horn
Joined Orchestra: 1995
Education: B.M. French horn Performance, University of Missouri-Columbia; M.M. French horn Performance, Auburn University, Auburn, AL
Hobbies: Golf, building and repairing computers, computer games, reading.
Favorite piece of music: Impossible to choose! I listen to a bit of everything from Metal to Mozart, but do have a particular fondness for the Brahms Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano, Op. 40, all of the Mozart and Strauss Horn Concerti, Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, and anything that makes me laugh!
Home: Cedar Rapids, IA
Charles (Andy) Harris joined the orchestra in 1995 as second horn. In 1996, he auditioned and won the third horn position, which is a promotion since much of the classical repertoire uses the third horn as a secondary solo horn. He has served as principal horn since 1998.
Andy has performed as a soloist throughout his career, including appearances with the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra, the Liberty Symphony, the University of Missouri Symphony Orchestra, and the Monterrey (Mexico) Symphony. He has also held positions in the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra (including their tour of Europe in 1983), the Savannah Symphony Orchestra, the Albany (GA) Symphony Orchestra, the Fort Smith Symphony, and the Missouri Symphony (formerly MOSSPAC). He feels incredibly blessed to have had opportunities to perform with some of the most distinguished and interesting artists in recent memory, including Ray Charles, Marilyn Horne, Roberto Clemente, Montserrat Caballé, Paul Robeson, Simon Estes, Yo Yo Ma, Izhak Perlman, and Manheim Steamroller.
Mr. Harris performs with the Orchestra Iowa brass and woodwind quintets, as well as the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, the Des Moines Symphony, and the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band. He also plays with the Coe College Faculty Brass.
Originally from Fulton, Missouri, Andy has spent the majority of his career here in the Midwest. Music has subsequently allowed him to travel, live, and perform many places around the country and world, even living in Mexico for a year as a performer/teacher. He teaches horn at Coe, Wartburg, and Kirkwood Colleges, and the Orchestra Iowa Symphony School. Filling out his “free time” he also works for a local Target store. He says, “I have a hard time answering people when they ask me what I do for my ‘Real Job’. I have such fun doing all of it, that I sometimes don’t believe that I have a typical ‘Real Job’. I like my work, and I love my music!”
Alan Lawrence, Principal Timpani
Joined Orchestra: 1988
Education: Bachelor of Music Education, Texas Tech University; Master of Music, University of New Mexico
Hobbies: Record collecting and listening, reading history
Favorite piece(s) of music: Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta; Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass; Mahler symphonies No. 5, 6 and 7
Anita Tucker, Associate Concertmaster
Joined Orchestra: 1998
Education: Bachelor of Music, Indiana University at Bloomington
Hobbies: Reading and walking the family dogs
Favorite piece of music: Anything by J. S. Bach, and the piece I am currently studying
Home: Cedar Rapids
Alan Lawrence began his musical journey at the age of eleven in Midland, Texas. He discovered classical music through the radio and through recordings from the public library. After making the All-State Band his junior and senior years, Alan was offered a scholarship to attend Texas Tech University, where he had opportunities to perform with the Lubbock and Roswell (NM) Symphony Orchestras. After several years of public school teaching, he accepted a graduate assistantship at the University of New Mexico, where he was able to perform with the New Mexico and Santa Fe Symphony Orchestras, and with the Santa Fe Opera. Since coming to Cedar Rapids, Alan has become Principal Timpanist of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra, as well as substituting as timpanist with the Dubuque and Quad Cities orchestras. He also performs as Principal Percussionist with the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band and directs the New Horizons Band of Cedar Rapids, which he founded in 1998. Since 1991, Alan has been Instructor of Percussion at Coe and Cornell Colleges, and also teaches privately. In 1998, Alan met Anita Tucker; they married in May of 2001. Together, they enjoy listening to music, spending time with their dogs, travel and reconnecting with faraway family and friends.
Anita Tucker began playing violin at age four when Doris Preucil brought the Suzuki Method of violin study to Iowa City. While growing up in Iowa City, Anita was a fortunate participant in the town’s rich cultural life, including All-City Orchestra, the Preucil School Orchestra and the Bach Festival Orchestra as well as attending concerts at the newly-built Hancher Auditorium. A graduate of Iowa City West High School, Anita went on to study with Franco Gulli at Indiana University. She continued her violin studies at the Lucerne Conservatory (Switzerland) where she earned a Soloist Diploma while performing as a member of The Festival Strings of Lucerne, Winterthur Symphony Orchestra and Lucerne Symphony Orchestra. After returning to the U.S., Anita joined the Louisville Orchestra. While living in Louisville, she also developed a love for tennis and earned a paralegal degree through the University of Louisville. Anita returned to Iowa in 1997 where her parents, Norval and Joan Tucker, still resided. She soon joined Orchestra Iowa as well as the Quad City Symphony and met her husband, Alan. Anita also began a career as a litigation paralegal and currently works for Lederer Weston Craig, P.L.C. Along with her duties as Associate Concertmaster of Orchestra Iowa, Anita also serves as Concertmaster of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra. In her free time, she enjoys walking her dogs, reading and listening to her husband’s extensive collection of recordings.
Andy Classen, Principal Trumpet
Joined Orchestra: First hired as Second Trumpet in 1993 after auditioning for Christian Tiemeyer in the lobby of the Paramount. “Chris told me I ‘sing beautifully,’ which I later learned was a huge compliment from him.”
Education: Bachelor of Music Education, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; Master of Music in Trumpet Performance, University of Tennessee
Favorite Piece of Music: The one I’m playing this week
Home: St. Paul, Minnesota
Andy Classen was first inspired to pick up the trumpet in 5th grade after listening to his father’s Doc Severinsen albums. He and his father, a carpenter and WWII veteran, loved the music of the big band era including Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. He started college in Wisconsin as a computer science major but was practicing trumpet four hours a day, so he faced the facts and switched to music during his sophomore year. After graduation, he ended up on the road with a national touring Broadway show followed by a big band. He settled in Minneapolis to freelance before his first college teaching job at Southeast Missouri State. He then received an assistantship at the University of Tennessee and an orchestral position with the Knoxville Symphony in 1990. Two years later, he became Professor of Trumpet at Drake University in Des Moines.
As a traveling musician, Andy makes the journey from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids on a regular basis. “It is a long drive from Des Moines: 135 miles, usually just under two hours. I have done it in less than 90 minutes by averaging 100 mph, but that was when I was younger. During blizzards, it has taken over 4 hours to get home. I have never (knock on a string instrument), been in an accident or ended up in a ditch for Orchestra Iowa. I also have never received a speeding ticket on I-80. Why do I drive so far to play with Orchestra Iowa? Because I love it! Tim Hankewich is the best conductor I have played for. He respects the players. We each bring our unique talent and role to Orchestra Iowa. When Tim asks me to play softer, I immediately do as he asks, because I know there is a bigger picture or reason for it. I also know, when the music calls for it, he will let go of the reigns and let me do what I love, roar! Most of the time, Tim looks like a kid in a candy shop when he is conducting us. I share that passion. I am also surrounded by great musicians; although I am the leader of the brass section, I also want to know when I am wrong. We respect each other enough to have a constant interplay of feedback that makes the section better. We also get along and hang out when possible. I do not trust any brass player that will not go to Hacienda after a show.”
After performing Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet and Strings in January, Andy was asked by a fellow musician how he sounds so confident all the time. “My mindset to all performances is never fearful or nervous. I say to myself, ‘you get to play this piece with these great musicians.’ There are so many people who never get the opportunity to play the wonderful music I do with the awesome musicians in our group. This year started with me getting to play Holst's Planets, and ends with me getting to play Mahler's Fifth Symphony. I had so much fun playing Planets; I can't imagine how much fun Mahler is going to be. Well, as much fun as you can have playing funeral music . . .”
Tom Mackey, Principal Percussion
Joined Orchestra Iowa: 1992
Education: Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance from Illinois Wesleyan University, Master of Music in Percussion Performance from New England Conservatory of Music
Hobbies: Golf, biking, jogging and reading
Favorite Piece of Music: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection" by Gustav Mahler
Home: Cedar Rapids
Born in Washington D.C. and raised in Maryland and Illinois, Tom is currently in his 20th season as Principal Percussionist of Orchestra Iowa. Tom began playing percussion in 1976 at the age of 9 to the delight of his mom, who was an elementary school music teacher and dad, who was a Major in the U.S. Army and worked for the National Security Agency. Tom earned a B.M. from Illinois Wesleyan University and an M.M. from the New England Conservatory of Music where he studied with Frank Epstein of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. While in graduate school, Tom was a member of the Boston Philharmonic and spent summers at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado where he studied with Tom Stubbs of the St. Louis Symphony. After living in the cold Northeast for a few years, Tom was lucky enough to get a job as a cruise ship drummer based out of Miami just before moving back to the Midwest. Since moving to Iowa, he has performed with the Omaha, Quad City and Peoria Symphonies in addition to his duties with Orchestra Iowa. Tom is also a member of the Des Moines Symphony where he is a section percussionist. As a soloist, Tom has been featured on Masterworks, Discovery, Pops and Chamber series concerts and was featured in 1997, along with Alan Lawrence and Michael Geary, in a live IPTV performance of Russell Peck's "The Glory and the Grandeur" with the Cedar Rapids Symphony.
Tom makes his home on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids with his wife, Miriam, who works for Toyota Financial Services, and daughters Lydia (8) and Helen (3). In his spare time, Tom enjoys golfing, jogging, bicycling, reading, traveling, watching movies, volunteering at Pierce Elementary and Neighborhood Meals Enrichment program at St. Paul's United Methodist Church and being a dad.