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Alison Gaines

Bass | Principal Bass Back Story: Alison Gaines has been an RSO member since 2005. Her musical studies began at the age of seven and she has attended the St. Louis Conservatory, University of Southern California, and the University of Kansas at Lawrence. When asked who her favorite composer was, she readily responded, “Stravinsky.” Alison is the conductor for the Chamber Orchestra at the College of DuPage and Assistant Conductor to Dr. Stephen Alltop for Elmhurst Symphony. Read More
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Michael Zielinski

Bass Trombone | Bass Trombone Read More
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Karl Rzasa

Bassoon | Principal Bassoon, RSO Education Outreach Back Story: Karl has played the bassoon for over 15 years and has studied with Janet Polk in New Hampshire, George Sakakeeny at Oberlin, Stephen Walt at the University of Massachusetts, and Bill Buchman in Chicago (where he currently resides). Read More
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Michael Beert

Cello | Principal Cello Back Story: Mike has performed with the RSO since 1974. He began his musical studies at age 11 and was a member of the Rockford Area Youth Symphony (now Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra) in high school. He is also Dean of Arts and Humanities at Rock Valley College. Read More
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Darleen Carl-Beck

Clarinet | Principal Clarinet, RSO Education Outreach Back Story: In 1988 Darleen graduated with the honor of a Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music while studying with Stan Hasty and Charles Neidich. In 1990, She received her Masters Degree from Northwestern University while studying with Russ Dagon. She joined the RSO in the fall of 1990 and has participated in the RSO’s Symphony Goes Schools program as well as the RSO Woodwind Quintet. Darleen taught clarinet at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois and North Park University in Chicago. She has an active private studio of middle school and high school students. As co-founder/director of “Clarinet Camp” for eight years, she worked with students grades 6-12 for an intensive week of study during the summer. She has also taught at the Northwestern summer band camp. As a chamber musician, Darleen has presented concerts with the Mendelsohnn Club of Rockford, the Performing Arts Series at Trinity, and the Woodwind Quintet Residency at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Read More
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Scott Metlicka

Flute | Principal Flute Back Story: Scott Metlicka became a member of the RSO in 1991. Scott started piano at age six and began flute when he was 10. He was an undergraduate at Northern Illinois University and received his Masters degree in flute performance from Northwestern University. He is also the principal flute with the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra and the Wisconsin Philharmonic. Scott performs with the Elgin Symphony and plays the piccolo with the South Bend Symphony. Read More
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Nanette Felix

Harp | Principal Harp Back Story: Nanette Felix began performing with the RSO while she was finishing her Masters degree in music at Northern Illinois University. Prior to NIU, she earned her bachelors degree in music at Indiana University in Bloomington. Outside of RSO, Nanette performs with various regional orchestras and choirs, along with many harp ensembles. Read More
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Rebecca Asher

Horn | Principal French Horn, RSO Music Librarian, RSO Education Outreach Back Story: Becky joined the RSO in 1985 after having performed with orchestras in Mexico and around the U.S. She plays a Steven Lewis horn that was made for her in 1983. Her teachers included James Jones, Philip Farkas from Indiana University, and Paul Ingraham from Hartt College of Music. In addition to serving as the RSO Librarian, Becky actively participates is several of the RSO Education Outreach programs including Symphony Goes to Schools, Fine Arts Fridays, and the RSO Brass Quintet. Read More
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Debra Freedland

Oboe | Principal Oboe, RSO Education Outreach Back Story: Debra began studying music at age nine. She has studied with Rhadames Angelucci and Carl Berglund in Minneapolis, and Jerry Sirucek in Bloomington, IN. She joined the RSO as principal in 1990. Debra is also Principal oboe with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. Read More
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Simon Gomez Gallego

Percussion | Principal Percussionist Back Story: Simon was born in Medellin, Colombia and received his Bachelor in Music Performance and Master in Music Performance from Miami University and a Post-Master's Certificate in Performance from DePaul University. Read More
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Jon Mortensen

Timpani | Principal Timpani Back Story: Jon Mortensen has been a member of the RSO in 1986. His first piano teacher at age five was his mother and he began learning percussion when he was 11 years old. He completed his undergraduate work at Northern Illinois University and proceeded with his graduate work at National Louis University. Jon is the principal timpanist for the Woodstock Mozart Festival Orchestra and Assistant Conductor/Percussionist for the American Grand Piano Festival. Read More
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Rick Seybold

Trombone | Principal Trombone Back Story: Rick Seybold joined the RSO in 1993. His grandfather was a band director in Chicago and he started playing his grandpa’s baritone horn when he was in 3rd grade. The following year he received his first trombone. Rick has an undergraduate degree from UW-Madison and graduate degrees from Northwestern University. Read More
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Mark Baldin

Trumpet | Principal Trumpet, RSO Education Outreach Back Story: Mark joined the RSO in 1980 and has served as principal trumpet for over 25 years. He performs with the RSO Brass Quintet and has active studios both in DeKalb and Rockford. Mark credits his former teachers Bette Eilers, Don DeRoche (both in high school), Ron Modell at Northern Illinois University, and Arnold Jacobs in Chicago as inspirational and influential. Read More
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Matthew Gaunt

Tuba | Principal Tuba Back Story: Matthew joined the RSO in 2013 and holds a Bachelor of Music in Performance from Boston University. Read More
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Benjamin Weber

Viola | Principal Viola, RSO Education Outreach Back Story: Benjamin Weber has been a member of the RSO since the Fall of 2009. He began his studies in music at the age of three. In 2000, Ben graduated from Illinois Wesleyan with a Bachelors degree in Music Education. He continued his education at Eastman School of Music, graduating with a Masters degree in Music in 2008. Outside of RSO he performs with the Illinois Philharmonic, Northwest Indiana Symphony, the Chicago Composers Orchestra, and the Grant Street Quartet. Read More
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Azusa Tashiro

Violin | Principal Violin 2 Back Story: Azusa holds a B.M. from Toho Gakuen School of Music and a M.M. from DePaul University. Read More
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Michèle Lekas

Violin | Concertmaster, RSO Education Outreach Back Story: Concertmaster of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra since 1994, Michèle Lekas received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the Quebec conservatory of Music, where she studied with Claude Letourneau. She also studied with David Cerone of the Meadowmount School of Music and with Jamie Laredo at the St. Louis Conservatory, where she completed a graduate performance diploma. Read More
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Rachel Handlin

Violin | Violin / Assistant Concertmaster Back Story: Rachel has performed with the RSO since 1992 and began her violin studies at the age of four. She lists her three most influential teachers as Pierre Menard of the Vermeer Quartet, Andrezej Grabiec, and David Lowe. Rachel received both her B.M. and M.M. in violin performance at NIU. In addition to performing with the RSO, Rachel is the string program director with the Music Academy of Rockford College and performs in the Woodstock Mozart Festival each August. Read More