Samantha George, Artistic Director/Oboe  Lawrence University
Image may contain: 1 person, smilingThe Washington Island Music Festival welcomes Samantha George, who is stepping into her new role as Artistic Director of the Music Festival in 2018. Samantha has been playing violin at the WIMF since 2000. While she is on the Island, she also hosts “Inside the Notes” music appreciation courses at the Red Barn and offers pre-concert talks before Music Festival concerts.

Currently Associate Professor of Violin at Lawrence University, Samantha served as Associate Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from 1999-2008. She received a high-school diploma from the Interlochen Arts Academy and Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Performer’s Certificate degrees from the Eastman School of Music. She also holds a doctorate in violin performance and music theory from the University of Connecticut.

As a soloist, Samantha has performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Raleigh Symphony, Idaho State Civic Symphony, Hartford Symphony, and the United States Coast Guard Band. She is a host of Lawrence University “Live from the Conservatory” intermission interviews and received the 2012 “Excellence in Teaching: Young Teacher Award” from Lawrence University.


Teresa Drews, Piano  Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Teresa Drews, chair of the piano department at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, is excited to spend her 5th summer as a festival musician in 2014. An active performer in the Milwaukee area, she often collaborates with WCM faculty and fellow Washington Island Ensemble members. Ms. Drews received a B.M. degree, with honors, from Northwestern University and an M.M. degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. She has studied with Sylvia Wang, Ann Schein, and Seth Knopp and performed in master classes by David Burge and Menahem Pressler. A committed music educator, Ms. Drews maintains a large piano studio and has taught general music and piano at several Milwaukee area schools.


Kari Gordon, DirectorChildren’s Music Camp

Kari Sena Gordon has been a music educator teaching choral music, general music, and musical theatre, for 34 years, in public school, church, and community settings. She has taught levels from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade at Southern Door Schools in Brussels, WI, Tippecanoe School Corporation, Lafayette, IN, and Kenosha Unified Schools, Kenosha, WI. She is also the director of Washington Island’s Scandinavian Festival and has done choreography for Island Players. In 1994, she led a group of dancers, representing Norway, in performance for the Opening Ceremonies of the World Cup Soccer Tournament in Chicago. A graduate of Luther College, she has also studied Scandinavian folk music and dance in both Norway and Sweden.


Nathan Hackett, Viola  Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Nathan Hackett is a long time member of the internationally acclaimed, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Previously he held the position of principal viola with the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra and the Woodstock Mozart Festival. He is a founding member of the Philomusica String Quartet, who will be entering their 9th season as a resident ensemble of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. In the 15/16 season, the group was invited by Wisconsin Lutheran College and UW Parkside to serve in a similar capacity. Philomusica’s list of performances includes a complete survey of the Beethoven quartet cycle and collaborations with such distinguished artists as, Mathieu Dufour, Winston Choi, Eli Kalman and Susan Babini. They have performed at Yale University, Roosevelt University, and the Chicago Cultural Center, where twice they were broadcast live on WFMT. Nathan teaches at home and is an adjunct faculty member at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Frequent coaching with the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra round out his teaching endeavors. 2016 marks the 14th year of Hackett’s involvement in the Washington Island Music Festival. He continues to enjoy every moment.


Julian Hagen Co-Director, Under the Big Top
wimf_bio_julian_hagenJulian Hagen, a fourth generation Islander, was raised in a musical family during a magical, musical time here on the Island. Songwriter, singer and all-around musician, this popular Island entertainer knows how to draw his audience in with his delightful, Island-flavored music and his warm sense of humor. Julian performs often with his multi-generational family and Door County friends in the area and elsewhere. He has his own recordings of originals mixed with covers and has been part of recording compilations with other artists.


Meaghan Heinrich, Lecturer  Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Meaghan Heinrich is on the faculty of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, where she teaches oboe, early childhood music, and general music classes in Milwaukee schools. Previously, she was Manager of Learning Programs and Community Engagement for The Cleveland Orchestra, where she continues to present guest workshops and pre-concert lectures.

Ms. Heinrich holds degrees in oboe performance from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (BM) and Rice University (MM). As an oboist and teaching artist, she spent four years (two as Co-Artistic Director) touring nationally with the multi-disciplinary ensemble Tales & Scales, including appearances on family concerts with the Dallas Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Oregon Symphony, and Louisville Orchestra. She performs regularly with orchestras in the greater Milwaukee area and is a frequent guest speaker for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s “Meet the Music” pre-concert talks.


Rudi Heinrich, Bassoon Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Rudi Heinrich is proud to be a member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, joining the orchestra in 2013. Previously, Rudi served as Principal Bassoon in the Des Moines Metro Opera Orchestra for 10 seasons, Assistant Principal Bassoon in the Alabama Symphony for 5 seasons, and 2nd Bassoon in the Louisiana Philharmonic for 2 seasons.

Rudi Heinrich grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he first started playing music in the public school music program. Rudi completed his senior year of high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy and then earned his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan where he studied with Richard Beene. He went on to work with William Winstead at the University of Cincinnati, where he received his Master’s degree.


William Helmers, Clarinet Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

William Helmers is a member of the Milwaukee Symphony and the contemporary ensemble, Present Music. He has worked with many other orchestras, including Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cleveland, Ravinia Festival, Santa Fe Opera, and Rochester. Mr. Helmers is active in the performance and recording of new music; he gave the North American premiere of John Adams’ clarinet concerto, Gnarly Buttons, with the composer conducting, and the world premiere of James Grant’s Concerto for Bass Clarinet.Mr. Helmers has made numerous premiere recordings of solo and chamber music, including compositions by Roberto Sierra, James Grant, Kamran Ince, Jerome Kitzke, and others.

Recent activities include planning and playing concerts with Milwaukee’s new chamber group Musaik, appearing at the 2017 International Double Reed Society convention, and performances with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival and in Severance Hall. Mr. Helmers holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Juilliard.


Cindra Hokkannen Co-Director, Under the Big Top

An enthusiastic supporter and choral participant of the Music Festival since its first year, Cindra has been MC and Co-Director of the popular “Under The Big Top” Concert since 1999.

A Washington Island native, she brings her own special charm and is a favorite performer, whether it be at the Red Barn, in an Island Players production, singing at Trinity Lutheran Church as cantor or in choir, or teaming up with friend and fellow Islander Dan Hansen at the TPAC. Cindra is an active community member and has served on numerous local boards and committees, in addition to working full-time at the Sievers School of Fiber Arts.


Stefanie Jacob, Piano  Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Stefanie Jacob, pianist, made her solo debut with the Boston Pops at age 17 and her Carnegie Recital Hall debut in 1984. An avid chamber musician, she was twice awarded second prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and was awarded Indiana University’s Leo Weiner Prize for Chamber Music. Ms. Jacob has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, and the Waukesha Symphony. She has twice appeared as a collaborating artist on Milwaukee’s nationally recognized Artist Series at the Pabst and has performed on WFMT-Chicago’s nationally broadcast Dame Myra Hess Series. She has recorded for the Arundax, CRI, Fleur de Son, and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music labels. A graduate of Harvard and Indiana Universities, Ms. Jacob taught at the University of Tampa and is currently a member of the faculty of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, where she is a member of the resident Prometheus Trio with Scott Tisdel and Tim Klabunde. She also performs as the Duo Coriolan with husband Scott, and as the Duo Cosi with violinist Susan Waterbury.


Kathi O’Connor Director, Festival Chorus

Since moving to Washington Island in 1999, Kathi O’Connor has participated in the Washington Island Music Festival as rehearsal choral director and accompanist. After earning a Bachelors Degree in Organ Performance, she served as Organist for St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay and was Diocesan Choir Director and Liturgist for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. She currently assists in providing music for Stella Maris Catholic parish, Northern Door County and St. Norbert Abbey, DePere, Wisconsin. A part-time resident on the Island (she also lives in Green Bay half of each week), she is a Brown County (Green Bay) Deputy Clerk of Circuit Courts.


Marlee Sabo, Soprano  Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Soprano Marlee Sabo is an Artist Faculty member of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music where she received the first Faculty Honors Award in May of 2002. She is also the first faculty member to have a scholarship permanently endowed in her name. A recent honor for Marlee has been her induction into the Stark County Citizens Wall of Fame in the McKinley Museum and National Memorial in her hometown of Canton, Ohio. Marlee received a B.M. degree from Oberlin Conservatory and an M.M. degree, with honors, from Indiana University School of Music. She also was awarded a certificate from the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg and was a Fulbright Scholar in Stuttgart, Germany, receiving further grants from that country. Ms. Sabo has performed in Europe as soloist at the Salzburg Festival, the Stuttgart Staatstheater, and on German television. In the U.S. she has soloed with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (with whom she has also recorded), the Atlanta Lyric Opera, and at Chicago’s Grant Park. In Milwaukee she has appeared as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Florentine Opera, and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, as well as performing solo Art Song recitals, premiering newly composed music, and singing in oratorios and chamber music. Along with Stephen Colburn, Marlee is the co-founder of the Washington Island Music Festival.


Emmy Tisdel, Violin Shepard School at Rice University

Emmy Tisdel received a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance at Oberlin Conservatory and is currently pursuing a Masters of Music from the Shepherd School at Rice University as a student of Kenneth Goldsmith. In Houston, Emmy is a member of the Transitory Sound and Movement Collective, a contemporary improvisation ensemble. She is an original member of Austin Camerata, Austin’s newest chamber music festival, and will be on the administrative team for the coming year. Emmy was the winner of the 2017 Walter A. and Dorothy J. Oestreich Concerto Competition and performed with the Concord Chamber Orchestra this March. in summer of 2017, Emmy received fellowships to the Music Masters Course in Yokohama, Japan, and the Vermont Mozart Festival. While at Oberlin, Emmy studied with David Bowlin, Michael Strauss (viola), and with Marilyn McDonald (baroque violin).


Scott Tisdel, Cello  Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Scott Tisdel, Associate Principal Cellist of the Milwaukee Symphony, has also served as Principal Cellist of the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra since his arrival in Milwaukee in 1987 and has appeared as soloist with both ensembles, as well as with the Waukesha and Manitowoc Symphonies and the Wisconsin Wind Orchestra. Prior to his arrival in Milwaukee, Mr. Tisdel served as Principal Cello of the Florida Orchestra in Tampa and was a member of both the Oakland and San Jose Symphony Orchestras in California. In addition to being the founding cellist of the Prometheus Trio, he was a founding member of the Conservatory’s Paganini Trio and the Strings in the Mountains Chamber Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Mr. Tisdel has recorded for Arundax, CRI, Fleur de Son, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and Oris Records.



Julie Thornton, Flute  Colorado Symphony Orchestra

Julie Duncan Thornton plays Flute and Piccolo with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and is the Flute Professor at the Lamont School of Music (University of Denver). She has also performed extensively with the New York Philharmonic, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Houston Symphony. Julie has performed in North America, South America, and Europe. A native of Mercer Island, Washington, Ms. Thornton holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University and has completed DMA coursework at Rice University. Her primary teachers include Walfrid Kujala, Bonita Boyd, Leone Buyse and Carol Wincenc. As a high school student, Julie was a finalist of the Seventeen Magazine and General Motors National Concerto Competition. In college, Julie performed with the Solti Orchestral Project at Carnegie Hall. Julie and Michael enjoy playing chamber music together and raising their two daughters.


Michael Thornton, Horn  Colorado Symphony Orchestra

Michael Thornton is recognized for his noble tone and his “sureness of technique that is truly amazing” (Fanfare Magazine). He enjoys a distinguished and varied career as an orchestral performer, chamber musician, soloist, and pedagogue, and has performed on six continents. Michael Thornton currently holds the position of Principal Horn with both the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Colorado Symphony. He has performed, toured and recorded as a guest with the Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, KBS Symphony (South Korea), Toronto Symphony, and many others. Michael has been a featured performer at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Mainly Mozart, Spoleto, Moab Music Festival, Campos do Jordao (Brazil), Medellin Festicamara (Colombia), Reno Chamber Music Festival, and more. As a soloist, he has performed with the National Arts Center Orchestra (Canada), Cape Town Philharmonic (South Africa), Melbourne Chamber Orchestra (Australia), the New Symphony Orchestra (Bulgaria), and many US orchestras. Michael Thornton is currently Associate Professor of Horn at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His students hold positions in orchestras throughout the United States and abroad, and have won numerous awards and competitions.


Guest Artists

Douglas Anderson, Baritone Chicago Music of the Baroque

Douglas Anderson has been a soloist for the Grace Lutheran Church Bach Cantata series in River Forest, IL since 1978. He has performed solo roles with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, including the title role in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneus, Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s B Minor Mass, St. Matthew Passion, and Cantata 82. Dr. Anderson has performed as baritone soloist with the Grant Park Festival, and the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. Additional solo appearances include Mahler, Symphony No. 8, Vaughan Williams, Five Mystical Songs, and Sea Symphony, and Brahms Requiem. In 2012, he was bass soloist for a presentation of Bach, Cantata 94 during the year-long 800th-anniversary celebration of St. Thomas Kirche in Leipzig. Dr. Anderson is Professor of Neurological Surgery at Loyola University Medical Center and Stritch School of Medicine and the 2010 winner of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Synthes Skull Base Surgery Award. He is an avid cross-country skier and completed the three day, 100 mile, 2013 Arctic Circle Ski Marathon in Greenland.

Alison Vernon, Soprano  Countryside Church, Palatine, IL

Soprano Alison Vernon is delighted to be participating in this year’s Washington Island Music Festival. She has sung opera, concerts, recitals, and oratorios in Europe and the United States. In addition to singing professionally, Alison teaches as well. Most recently, she taught at Northeastern Illinois University and before that at Central Methodist University. She has collaborated with Eric Ewazen and premiered his song cycle Summer Journey right here on Washington Island several years ago with her husband Charles on trombone and the composer at the keyboard. She and her husband own a million dollar view with a sweet little cottage on Wickman here on the island. When they can’t be here, they can usually be found in Glenview, IL. Alison is also Director of Music at Countryside Church in Palatine, IL.