The St. Augustine Music Festival engages professional musicians of the classical music genre to build their expertise and resumé to perform in a quality, world-class festival to a diverse audience in an accessible, welcoming community environment. SAMF also attracts internationally renowned performers and living legends – as well as rising stars of the craft – to share their expertise and appreciation for this genre of music among a new audience.
Jorge A. Peña
Viola; SAMF co-Founder and Artistic Director
A former member of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, Mr. Peña came to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in 1996. He was born in Honduras and educated in the U.S., attending Columbus State University and earning a degree in performance and chamber music from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Philadelphia Orchestra principal viola and president of the Curtis Institute Roberto Diaz, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra principal viola Richard Field, and Julliard Quartet member Earl Carlys. His chamber music experience includes the National Gallery of Art Chamber Orchestra, Virginia Chamber Orchestra, Atlanta Virtuosi, Tanglewood Music Center, Grand Teton Music Festival, University of North Florida, and the Ritz Chamber Players as well as solo and small ensemble recitals in North America, Central America, Europe, and Asia. He is a teacher and clinician for chamber music as well as solo master classes at LaVilla School of the Arts, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and the University of North Florida. Mr. Peña coaches violin and viola for the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra and coaches chamber music in the JSYO chamber music program and is on the faculty of Prelude Chamber Music Camp. Mr. Peña is a founder of the Sonora Ensemble, the Movado String Quartet; and founder and Artistic Director of the St. Augustine Music Festival. He is conductor and music director of the Coastal Youth Orchestra, and General Manager of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia in Brunswick, GA.
Cello; SAMF co-Founder
Mrs. Kim has appeared as a soloist with the Savannah Symphony Orchestra, Korean National Orchestra, In Chun Symphony Orchestra, and Korean youth Symphony. Her orchestral experience includes performances with the Columbus and Macon Symphony Orchestra, Maryland Symphony Orchestra, New York Festival Orchestra, Savannah Symphony, and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Jin has been heard in recitals over many states including Maryland, Georgia, Cleveland, and her native country Korea. Mrs. Kim studied Cello performance at the Columbus State University, and Hart School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. She coaches for the Jacksonville Youth Symphony and teaches a small studio of Cello students. She co-founded the St. Augustine Music Festival with her husband and violist Jorge Peña together they have three beautiful daughters, Ines, Gaby, and Elisa.
Nigel Armstrong is emerging as a dynamic and creative artist both within and beyond the realm of classical music. From his musical beginnings as a member of “The Little Fiddlers” in Sonoma, California to collaborations with tango musicians in Argentina, he’s enjoyed using the violin in a versatile manner throughout his life. As a soloist, Nigel has performed with orchestras such as Düsseldorf Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, YOA Orchestra of the Americas, and the Boston Pops, and with conductors including Sir Neville Marriner and Carlos Miguel Prieto. As a chamber musician, his concerts have taken him across the United States and abroad including opportunities to share the stage with the Tokyo String Quartet and pianist Jonathan Biss.
Kevin Ritenauer, currently finishing his first season as a percussion fellow at the New World Symphony in Miami, has obtained degrees from the Manhattan School of Music (BM) and the Cleveland Institute of Music (MM) where he studied with Christopher Lamb , Duncan Patton, and Marc Damoulakis. Kevin has been awarded fellowships at the Roundtop Festival Institute (2015), the Music Academy of the West (2016), and the Tanglewood Music Center (2018). He has performed with ensembles such as the Cleveland Orchestra, National Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and the Akron Symphony Orchestra. On top of his orchestral experience, Kevin has commissioned and performed works for a percussion trio with his older brothers, Sean and Kyle.
Kyle P. Walker is a critically-acclaimed pianist and the 2021 recipient of the Chamber Music America “Ensemble Forward” career grant. He recently made waves in the music industry when he performed at the 2023 SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX, marking the debut of classical piano music at the festival. Walker invites all to join him on his musical journey, “Where every note resonates with a purpose, and every listener finds their place in this harmonious world of music.”
Walker discovered his love for music at the age of three, sitting at church with his parents. As he watched the church pianist play hymns each week, his lifelong passion for understanding the magic of music and its profound impact was born. His college experiences with broadcast journalism and local news reporting unveiled a disheartening lack of awareness about global and community issues, making him realize how crucial communication is in bridging gaps and fostering understanding. Walker now has a passion for addressing social issues through music. He is on a mission to unite traditional Western repertoire and the work of neglected composers from around the world.
As an advocate of social justice Walker is a founding member and chamber musician of The Dream Unfinished, an activism-centered orchestra which uses concerts and presentations to support NYC-based civil rights and community organizations. As a teaching artist and educator, Walker has co-presented at the Human Rights Center, the New York Society for Ethical Culture, and the Brooklyn Public Library. Walker is also one half of Dara + Kyle, an innovative piano/cello duo committed to bringing excellence and respect to all under-represented composers in the canon. He also performs with The Harlem Chamber Players, a diverse collective of professional musicians dedicated to bringing high-caliber, affordable and accessible, live classical music to the people of Harlem and beyond.
Walker has been featured on broadcasts including The Greene Space at WNYC, WQXR’s McGraw-Hill Financial Young Artists Showcase, NPR, CNN, and PBS. He has performed in prestigious New York theaters and museums, such as Carnegie Hall, Apollo Theater, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as several concert halls and museums across the country; many of which he performed as a featured soloist with various orchestras. He has also performed overseas at international festivals and landmarks, such as Switzerland’s Tibor Varga Music Festival and Australia’s Tantanoola Caves.
Walker serves on the piano faculty at New York University (NYU), the faculty of the Lucy Moses School at the Kaufman Music Center, and the chamber music faculty of The Artist Program at Suzuki on the Island. He has performed recitals, worked in residencies, and conducted masterclasses at many institutions. He has also co-presented extensive workshops alongside The Dream Unfinished including the Carnegie Hall Music Educator Workshop, speaking about arts activism and building diverse curricula that include composers who reflect the communities in which they serve. Walker holds degrees from Mannes College, The New School for Music, East Carolina University, and from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Walker resides in a suburb of New York City with his wife, violinist Katherine Dennis, and their daughter Khloe. He is currently touring with a solo performance project entitled Bach to BlackNotes, which features the works of J.S. Bach juxtaposed with the music of neglected composers who speak to issues of oppression and inequality. See and hear more of Kyle Walker’s musicianship on Instagram @klassicalkyle and at www.kylewalkerpiano.com.
Joseph Becker has been Principal Percussionist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra since 2012. Prior to his appointment in Detroit, he was a member of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. He has performed with the Boston Symphony, National Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony, among others. Joseph is currently a member of New Music Detroit and frequently performs chamber music with a variety of ensembles. A native of Rhode Island, Joseph began playing percussion at the age of 11. He was a Tanglewood Music Center fellow from 2008-2009 and received his Bachelor of Music from New England Conservatory, where he studied with Frank Epstein and Will Hudgins, and his Master of Music at the Boston University, studying under Tim Genis..
Scott Watkins is a graduate of The University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music with a degree in piano performance where he held the Van Cliburn Scholarship and studied with Bela Siki. He was also a student of the late Canadian pianist Raymond Dudley at The University of South Carolina where he earned the Master of Music degree. He holds a Doctor of Music degree in piano performance from The Florida State University where he studied with the late Edward Kilenyi. Watkins is currently Associate Professor of Piano at Jacksonville University. Since 2011, he has held the position of Visiting Foreign Scholar at Beifang University Conservatory of Music and Dance in Yin Chuan, China where he performs, teaches, and lectures during the Spring. In 2016, Watkins discovered the unpublished manuscript of American composer Howard Hanson’s “Symphonic Rhapsody.” Carl Fischer published Watkins’ edition of the work in December 2017.
Andres Diaz was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1964, and began studying the cello at the age of five. Three years later he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and studied at the Georgia Academy of Music with Martha Gerchefski. Mr. Diaz graduated from the New England Conservatory where he worked with Laurence Lesser and Colin Carr and currently plays an active role in chamber music performances with the Conservatory’s faculty. He served for five years as Associate Professor of Cello at the Boston University and Co-Director of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Quartet Program, resigning in September 2001. He, along with violinist Andres Cardenes and viola player Roberto Diaz, is a member of the celebrated Diaz Trio. Mr. Diaz now lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Julie, and sons Peter Manuel and Gabriel Andres. Presently he is Associate Professor at Southern Methodist University. He plays a 1698 Matteo Goffriller cello and a bow made by his father, Manuel Diaz
Ileana Fernandez began her study of piano at age 11, after coming to the United States from her native Cuba. She holds a Bachelor of Music Education and a Bachelor of Arts from Jacksonville University, and a Master of Music in piano performance from Florida State University. She also earned a Master of Arts in Spanish from Middlebury College in Vermont. Ms. Fernandez is retired from Florida State College at Jacksonville, where she was Director of Piano Studies and taught Music Theory, Class Piano, Applied and Ensemble piano to music majors and music lovers alike. However, she continues to perform with the Jacksonville Symphony where she is Principal Keyboard and also accompanies the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus. Ms. Fernandez has been a soloist on various occasions with the JSO and has performed for many fine arts series in the north Florida area both as recitalist and collaborator with talented JSO colleagues.
Canon for Music, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Jacksonville, Florida.
Tim is a native of Elmira, NY, where he began piano and organ lessons at the age of 8 and gave his first performance by the age of 14. He graduated summa cum laude from Ithaca College and went on to earn his Master of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he received the valedictory prize. Upon graduation, he served as the Assistant University Organist at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He subsequently served as the Music Associate at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, in Birmingham, AL.
Since 2007, he has served as the Canon for Music at St. John’s Cathedral. In this position, he leads the Cathedral Choir, a 38-voice ensemble, through a broad range of special services and festivals throughout the year. The Choir has toured England twice, singing residencies at Ely Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey. This coming summer they will sing residence at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.
In his spare time, Tim supports various ensembles and musical efforts in Jacksonville, including the Civic Orchestra of Jacksonville, the St. Augustine Music Festival, and others. He also performs various recitals during the year and serves as the president of the Stanly and Claudia Music Endowment. He is also the classical music reviewer for the Jacksonville Times-Union.
Tim’s principal organ teachers include Richard L. Shaw, J. William Greene, Allison Evans-Henry, and Todd Wilson.
Born in California, Wendy Chen debuted with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the age of 15 under conductor André Previn. She won First Prize in the National Chopin Competition, the Young Concert Artists auditions was the inaugural recipient of the Gilmore Young Artists Award, and was named a Presidential Scholar by the National Foundation for the Arts. Ms. Chen is one of the most sought-after pianists and chamber musicians, performing on many of the world’s most prestigious concert stages. She has appeared in unique programs that also featured musical legends Art Garfunkel and James Taylor, and in a private concert for The Justices at the US Supreme Court presented by The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Highlights have included appearances at the Kennedy Center and Zankel Hall, an all Chopin recital at the National Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw, recording with The London Philharmonic, duo recitals with cellists Carter Brey, Andrés Diaz, violinists James Ehnes, Anne Akiko Meyers and Elina Vahala, appearances throughout Finland, South America, in The Forbidden City in Beijing, China, and at Festival Week in Tokyo, presented by CHANEL. Ms. Chen’s performances are regularly heard on NPR’s Performance Today. She gives masterclasses and lectures throughout the US and serves as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Elissa Lee Koljonen
Recognized as one of the most celebrated violinists of her generation, Elissa Lee Koljonen has thrilled audiences and critics in over one hundred cities throughout the world. Ms. Koljonen initially received international acclaim when she became the first recipient of the prestigious Henryk Szeryng Foundation Award and silver medalist of the Carl Flesch International Violin Competition. Ms. Koljonen returned to the Philadelphia Orchestra in July 2007 performing the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1. Her performances include her debut in Spain with James Judd and the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, performances with José-Luis Novo and the orchestras in Annapolis and Binghamton, the Delaware Symphony, Reading Symphony, the Kimmel Center’s Summer Solstice, and the Philadelphia premiere of Behzad Ranjbaran’s Violin Concerto with JoAnn Falletta. Other engagements include the Boston Pops, Minnesota Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, and the symphonies of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Helsinki, and Seoul. Her engagements have taken her to some of the world’s most important venues, among them the Vienna Musikverein, Salzburg Mozarteum, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, London’s Barbican Centre, Seoul Arts Center, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. As a recitalist, Ms. Koljonen has performed in many musical capitals including London, Amsterdam, Salzburg, Seoul, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York. A 2004 performance in Carnegie Hall was hailed with excellent critical review. Also an avid chamber musician, Ms. Koljonen appears regularly at festivals throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. She garnered critical acclaim for her debut at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and her appearances with the London Mozart Players and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo in a special concert celebrating the 700th anniversary of the Grimaldi Dynasty. Ms. Koljonen is a protégé of the great Aaron Rosand at the Curtis Institute of Music. Through his influence, she continues the legacy and tradition of Leopold Auer and his legendary school of violin playing.
Leon Fleisher and Katherine Jacobson
Duo performances of legendary pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher with internationally renowned pianist Katherine Jacobson have received accolades from music’s most respected critics. The duo performs in recital and with orchestras around the world. Their performances of the Mozart Concerto for Two Pianos in F Major (K. 242) have been hailed in appearances in New York at Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia, Naples, Toronto, Dublin, and Tokyo.
As a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, pianist Leon Fleisher was recognized as a “consummate musician whose career is a testament to the life-affirming power of art.”
The child prodigy began to study the piano at the age of four and by the age of nine, the legendary Artur Schnabel invited him to be his student, first in Lake Como, Italy, and then in New York, where he nurtured and inspired the young Mr. Fleisher for the next ten years as he evolved into one of the great music masters of our time. Leon Fleisher made his debut with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Pierre Monteux when he was sixteen years old. Maître Monteux called him “the pianistic find of the century.”
Mr. Fleisher went on to international renown, becoming the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition in Brussels in 1952. He subsequently enjoyed a prolific recording career, most notably with George Szell and The Cleveland Orchestra, recordings recognized as among the great collaborations in the concerto repertoire. In 1965, before a scheduled tour of Russia with The Cleveland Orchestra, Leon Fleisher began to suffer symptoms of a debilitating condition of his right hand, later diagnosed as focal dystonia, a neurological condition that causes the fingers to curl into the palm of the hand.
After a period of great despair, Mr. Fleisher channeled his creativity in new directions, mastering the piano repertoire for the left hand and initiating a career in conducting. He renewed his dedication to teaching at Peabody, where he has been the inspiration to hundreds of students since 1959. Leon Fleisher holds the Andrew W. Mellon Chair at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. As a teacher, he has carried on a tradition that descends directly from Beethoven himself, handed down generationally through Carl Czerny, Theodor Leschetizky, Artur Schnabel, and Leon Fleisher himself.
In the mid-90s, with the combined therapies of Botox injections and Rolfing, he regained sufficient use of his right hand, leading to an extraordinary career renaissance. In 2003, Mr. Fleisher joined forces with his wife, pianist Katherine Jacobson, to form the Fleisher-Jacobson Piano Duo, giving concerts worldwide and recording for Sony Classical. Leon Fleisher released the album Two Hands in 2004, which went on to hold a Top 5 Billboard Chart position and was hailed by critics as one of the best recordings of the year. Two Hands is also the title of the Oscar-nominated documentary film about his amazing life story. In 2013, Sony Classical issued a 23-CD box set of his entire recorded output, and in 2014, Mr. Fleisher released his first solo CD in a decade, the Grammy-nominated All The Things You Are.
In 2006, in Paris, Leon Fleisher received the honor of Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters by the Minister of Culture of the French government.
At age 88, in addition to his teaching at Peabody, Mr. Fleisher continues with an international schedule of masterclasses, performances, and orchestral guest conducting.
A Minnesota native, pianist Katherine Jacobson’s career as a soloist, duo pianist, and chamber musician has received international acclaim. She has performed at the Tanglewood Music Festival, Marlboro Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Summer Festival, and Miyazaki Summer Festival.
Orchestras with which she has appeared include the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia, Philadelphia Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Shanghai Symphony, and the Orchestre National de Paris. Ms. Jacobson was recently featured on NPR’s “Performance Today.”
Together with Leon Fleisher, she recorded the Mozart “Concerto for Two Pianos”, K. 242 with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra (Sony Classical). In 2015, the CD Four Hands was released featuring Ms. Jacobson and Mr. Fleisher (Sony Classical). They have recently commissioned a two-piano concerto by composer Nicholas Jacobson-Larson.
Ms. Jacobson studied with Vitya Vronsky at the Cleveland Institute of Music and was introduced to the piano duo repertoire by the duo-piano team of Vronsky and Babin. Her main musical influence was Leon Fleisher, with whom she worked at the Peabody Conservatory.
Today the Fleisher-Jacobson Duo concertizes worldwide performing piano duo repertoire. She serves on the chamber music faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University.
A violist of international reputation, Roberto Díaz is president and CEO of the Curtis Institute of Music. As a teacher of viola at Curtis and former principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Mr. Díaz has already had a significant impact on American musical life. As a soloist, Mr. Díaz collaborates with leading conductors of our time on stages throughout North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Mr. Díaz received an honorary doctorate from Bowdoin College and was awarded an honorary membership by the National Board of the American Viola Society. In 2013 Mr. Díaz became a member of the prestigious American Philosophical Society founded by Benjamin Franklin. In addition to his decade-long tenure as principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he performed the entire standard viola concerto repertoire and gave a number of Philadelphia Orchestra premieres, Mr. Díaz was principal viola of the National Symphony under Mstislav Rostropovich, a member of the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa, and a member of the Minnesota Orchestra under Sir Neville Marriner.
Recognized worldwide as a musical phenomenon, Grammy-nominated Andrés Cárdenes parlays his myriad talents into one of classical music’s most versatile careers. Cuban-born Cárdenes has garnered international acclaim from critics and audiences alike for his compelling performances as a violinist, conductor, violist, chamber musician, concertmaster, and recording artist. Since capturing Second Prize in the 1982 Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition in Moscow, Mr. Cárdenes has appeared as a soloist on four continents with over 100 orchestras including The Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, Moscow Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic, and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. He has collaborated with many of the world’s greatest conductors, including Lorin Maazel, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Sir André Previn, and Leonard Slatkin. Cárdenes has performed with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Pinchas Zukerman and Christof Eschenbach. Ensembles include Lincoln Center Chamber Players, Miami String Quartet, Gryphon Trio, Miro Quartet, Fry Street Quartet, Amernet Quartet, Ying Quartet, Shanghai Quartet, and the Cuarteto Latinoamericano. He has been the violinist of the Diaz Trio since 1995 and has been a member of the Carnegie Mellon Piano Trio since 1991. From 2008-14, Cárdenes was Music Director of Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where Cárdenes also served as conductor of the Strings Festival Orchestra.
The Diaz Trio
String Trio Andrés Cárdenes, Roberto Diaz, and Andrés Diaz
One of the few professional string trios in existence today, the Diaz Trio has become one of the finest chamber ensembles in the United States. Composed of three internationally acclaimed artists, Andrés Cárdenes, Roberto Diaz, and Andrés Diaz, the trio performs regularly in recital and at festivals around the world. In 1993 at the invitation of Isaac Stern, the trio performed at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall to celebrate the next one hundred years of music-making at Carnegie Hall. Other appearances include performances in Los Angeles, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Boston, Austin, and Lincoln Center in New York, as well as the Mostly Mozart Festival at Kennedy Center, Newport Festival, Cape and Islands Chamber Music Festival, Festival de San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, St. Cyprien International Festival of the Arts in Cyprien, France, the Kuhmo Festival in Finland, and an extensive tour of Chile. Their debut tours of Canada, in collaboration with Canadian pianist Angela Cheng and guitarist Norbert Kraft, were a resounding success. For several years, the Diaz Trio was the trio in residence at the Brevard Music Center.
Acclaimed by The New York Times for his “effortless virtuosity,” Stephen Robinson performs and conducts master classes at leading musical institutions and festivals worldwide. He has appeared as a guest soloist with orchestras including the Cincinnati Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras. In addition to serving as Professor of Guitar at Stetson University, Deland, Fla., since 1983, Dr. Robinson is an award-winning recording artist. The late renowned guitarist Andrés Segovia described him as “a magnificent guitarist, one of the most brilliant guitarists of our times.” New York-born Robinson began his guitar studies with Bruce Holzman at Florida State University, and also worked closely with Andrés Segovia. After graduate studies at the Yale School of Music, Florida State University awarded Robinson its first Doctor of Music in Guitar Performance.