Musician Spotlight

Liyuan Xie, Concertmaster and Featured Soloist

Since his solo orchestral debut at age 11, Liyuan Xie has established a successful career as a violin soloist and has collaborated regularly with the Shanghai Philharmonic, Shanghai Opera Symphony, Nanjing Philharmonic, Qingdao Symphony, Shanghai Chamber Orchestra and Novus Classica Camerata. Recent engagements include performances of the Beethoven and Mendelssohn violin concertos with the Nanjing Philharmonic Orchestra, a marathon concert with the NCC Orchestra on which he performed all five Mozart violin concertos, and a performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” The recipient of the 2022 Young Soloist grand prize, Liyuan will perform throughout the Northeast this fall, including playing the Bruch Violin Concerto with the Brookline Symphony Orchestra and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Apollo Ensemble of Boston as well as playing recitals in Providence, Randolph, New Britain, and Boston.

Liyuan has participated in numerous prestigious festivals including the Verbier Festival, Tanglewood Music Festival, Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, Sarasota Music Festival, and the New York String Orchestra 50th Anniversary, and he has worked with the Juilliard, Mendelssohn, and Borromeo quartets among many others. He has served as concertmaster with the Verbier Festival Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Nanjing Philharmonic Orchestra, and NEC’s Symphony and Philharmonia orchestras. He has performed as a guest violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Festival, and he will serve as guest concertmaster with the Flagstaff Symphony in Arizona during spring 2023.

Born in 2000, Liyuan is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree with Miriam Fried at the New England Conservatory. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from NEC, and he previously studied with renowned violin educators Binyou Zhou and Lei Fang at the Shanghai Conservatory’s Music Middle School.

Yhasmin Valenzuela, Clarinet

Yhasmin Valenzuela-Blanchard’s musicality is communicated through her warm and heartfelt sound both in her orchestral and chamber music performances. She is a vibrant performer and educator throughout all of New England. In addition to the Apollo Ensemble, she also collaborates frequently with Symphony New Hampshire, New England Philharmonic, and Cape Ann Symphony among others.

An advocate for contemporary music, Yhasmin has performed in the premieres of many new works as a core member of The Boston New Music Initiative. Yhasmin holds a Bachelor’s degree in performance and education from Conservatorio de Lima “Josafat Roel Pineda”, a Master’s Degree in clarinet performance from Texas Christian University and a Graduate Performance Diploma in clarinet performance from the Longy School of Music.

Jessica Appolinario, French Horn

Boston-based musician Jessica Appolinario started playing the french horn when she was 8 years old. By the age of 12, she was a member of the Sao Paulo State Youth Orchestra, and a student at the Centre for Music Studies Tom Jobim, in Brazil. Jessica was awarded a full scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Horn Performance. There she won several competitions, and was invited to perform at the Berlin Philharmonic Academy auditions in Germany.

After graduating college in North Carolina, Jessica moved to Massachusetts, where she obtained her Master’s degree in Horn performance at the New England Conservatory. Jessica has attended prestigious music festivals like the Brevard Music Center, Vianden International Music Festival in Luxembourg, Aspen Music Festival (where she was awarded a fellowship for two years in a row) among others. She has appeared in some of the world’s most famous music halls including Carnegie Hall, Jordan Hall, Symphony Hall, and the Berliner Philharmonie. Today, in addition to being a soloist and performing with orchestras, Jessica enjoys teaching the horn and playing chamber music.

Joel Bard, Oboe

Joel Bard received his Bachelor of Music in oboe at the Cleveland Institute and went on to get his Master of Music degree, studying oboe and orchestral conducting at The Julliard School. Joel has worked as a freelance oboist and conductor in the Philadelphia and Boston areas and served on the faculty of the Longy School of Music in Cambridge. He was the director of the Repertory Orchestra at the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras from 1989 until 2011. After getting his Ph.D in biochemistry, working on muscarinic signalling at Harvard, he did his postdoctoral fellowship in x-ray crystallography at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute. He currently leads a bioinformatics group supporting biotherapeutic drug discovery at Pfizer.

Thomas Collum, Violin

Thomas Collum is a freelance violinist in the Boston area, performing as both an orchestral and chamber musician. After graduating from Cornell University in 2014, Thomas briefly explored a career in hospitality investment consulting until 2018, when he decided to instead pursue a career as a performing violinist, teacher, and collector of antique violins. 

Thomas’ past performance experiences include concertmaster positions in the Bruckner Festival Orchestra, International Mayfest Orchestra, Cornell Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, and Symphony in the Valley (Aspen, NY), as well as concerto performances with the Grassroots Festival Orchestra (Lansing, NY) and the IHS Orchestra. He has received instruction from Markus Placci, Marc Rovetti, Ariana Kim, Joseph Lin, and Roberta Crawford, and is currently studying with Dan Stepner, a modern and baroque violinist formerly of Brandeis University and the Lydian String Quartet.

William Prince,
French Horn

William Prince started to play the french horn at the age of 11. He became principal horn and soloist with the London Schools Symphony Orchestra and continued to study the horn at Cambridge University while studying medicine. During this time he became principal horn in the University Symphony and Chamber Orchestra as well as giving multiple performances as a soloist. He studied with Alan Civil, Ifor James and Tony Halstead. He started playing professionally in 1977 as the principal horn in the Academy of Ancient Music playing the natural horn and as co-principal horn in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (a regional full-time professional orchestra in the UK). He continued to freelance in parallel to his work as a medical doctor playing with orchestras in London such as the English Chamber Orchestra, London Mozart Players, the Hanover Band, London Classical Players and English Baroque soloists. He moved to the US in 2000 and started playing in Boston in 2015 where he has played with number of symphony orchestras and chamber groups while continuing at his job in Novartis. He is married to an amazing artist and has a son at Harvard.

Ken Allen, Viola

An avid reader, Ken Allen completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in English at UNC-Chapel Hill and at Harvard before earning a Master of Music degree in Viola Performance at the Boston Conservatory. He enjoys early music as much as new music and has performed with a variety of ensembles in the Boston area and beyond, including the Apollo Ensemble of Boston, Boston New Music Initiative, Cape Symphony, Commonwealth Lyric Theater, Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra, Lexington Symphony, MassOpera, New England Philharmonic, Newton Baroque, Oriana Consort, and Plymouth Philharmonic, among others. Ken has attended the Baroque Academy at the Amherst Early Music Festival, as well as the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin College, and the International Baroque Institute at Longy. He currently studies with Dana Maiben and Sarah Darling at the Longy School of Music. His other primaryteachers include David Rubinstein, Jane Starkman, Lenny Matczynksi, Lila Brown, Gillian Rogell, and Anne Hooper Webb.

Yizhen Wang,
Double Bass

Double bassist Yizhen Wang began her studies with Jian Cao at the age of 16 in Shanghai, China. An active performer, Yizhen plays regularly with ensembles throughout the Greater Boston Area. She has also served as a faculty member of New England Conservatory Preparatory School, introducing double bass to students of all ages. Since last year, she has held a vacation camp with friends in Lexington, MA, aiming to combine music with visual art in a holistic way and to help children develop their own artistic senses.

Yizhen pursued studies at the New England Conservatory and Boston University. She was also a fellow at the Round Top Festival in 2015. Yizhen’s many wonderful teachers include Todd Seeber, Lawrence Wolfe, and Derek Weller.