Pianist Bios and Photos

 Anastasiya Naplekova

Ukrainian-born pianist Anastasiya Naplekova has a unique voice in the world of music, performing with “effortless virtuosity” (Cincinnati Enquirer) and delivering the most challenging works of the piano repertoire with “strongly personal performance” (The Miami Herald). Winner of the Rudolf Firkusny International Piano Competition in Prague, she has recently received her doctoral degree in piano performance and pedagogy from the University of Miami, Frost School of Music, studying under the distinguished tutorage of Professor Santiago Rodriguez.

Among Ms. Naplekova’s achievements include prizes at the 2014 Hilton Head International  Piano Competition, the 6th International Ignacy Paderewski Piano Competition in  Poland, the International Piano Competition in memory of Vladimir Horowitz in Ukraine, the Wideman Piano Competition in Louisiana, Second Prize at the International Piano Competition Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem in Morocco, and most recently the Third Prize at the Olga Kern International Piano Competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

An international performer, Ms. Naplekova has participated in music festivals such as the Paris International Summer Sessions organized by Foundation Bell’Arte, Beethoven Master Classes with Menahem Pressler in Boston, CCM Prague International Piano Institute, and appeared in solo recitals throughout Ukraine, Russia, Czech Republic, France, Portugal and the USA. She has been a soloist with multiple orchestras, including the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Crimea State Symphony Orchestra, and the Frost Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leon Fleisher as the opening performance for the 2012 Festival Miami concert series.

Ms. Naplekova received her BM and MM in piano performance from Kharkov State University of  Arts studying under Professor Nataliya Melnikova. She continued her study at the  University of Florida with Professor Kevin Sharpe, where she received her second MM in piano performance. Ms. Naplekova has played in master classes with Ian Hobson, Robert Roux, Steven Hough, Eugene and Elizabeth Pridonoff, and Phillip Entremont. Ms. Naplekova is also the recipient of special grants from the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine and the President of Ukraine.

Sara Daneshpour

Sara Daneshpour is the 3rd prizewinner of the 2017 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition, along with the 2014 prizewinner at the Seoul International Music Competition in Seoul, Korea and 2013 Laureate of the ProLiance Energy Classical Fellowship Awards of the American Pianists Association. She is the First Prize winner of the XII Concours International de Musique du Maroc (Morocco, 2012), 2nd prize of the 2007 William Kapell International Piano Competition, and 1st prize and Gold Medal winner of the 2007 International Russian Music Piano Competition. She has studied under the direction of Leon Fleisher at the Curtis Institute of Music, Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky at the Juilliard School, and Dr. Oleg Volkov. Her studies are continuing under Sergei Babayan at the Cleveland Institute of Music since 2015.

Ms. Daneshpour has performed not only in her native city of Washington DC, but also throughout the U.S., Russia, Canada, Germany, Finland, Estonia, Norway, Denmark, France, Sweden, Spain, and Japan She has been heard on stages of such prestigious venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Carnegie Hall in New York and at the Great Hall of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. In addition, she has been featured nationwide on 160 public radio stations, including the venerable WGBH in Boston.

Ms. Daneshpour’s performances have earned high accolades of audiences and critics alike. The Washington Post wrote of her performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra “…she created transfixing poetry. And she found delightful details in passagework and incidents that other pianists treat as routine.” The Baltimore Sun stated that Sara “delivered a powerhouse account of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No.1 producing enough tone for two pianists in the process”, while The Mercury News called her performance “…sensational. Strength, finesse, passion; it was all there.”

In addition, she has been featured as a soloist on prestigious music series including the Werner Richard Saal concert series in Munich, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Strathmore Hall in Washington, DC, Ventura Festival, The Frederic Chopin Society in St.Paul, Minnesota, The Gnessin School of Music in Moscow, and the International Keyboard Institute and Festival in New York, in which the New York Concert Review wrote,“ she lavished color on oft-nelected line, illuminated subtle beauties, and raged through the storms, always with stunning polish…she exhibits all the requisites for a high voltage career and more: blazing technique, power, expressivity, imagination, and a lovely stage presence.“ Sara Daneshpour has recently joined the Astral Artists roster as a winner of its 2010 National Auditions.

Highlights of past seasons included performances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Gerard Schwarz in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor, Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No.2 with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Maestro George Hanson, and with Maestro Peter Bay at the Britt Festival in Jaksonville, Oregon. Performances of Mozart’s Piano Concerto, No. 20 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in Maryland, and with Maestro Stephen Simon and the Sinfonietta both in Cape Cod and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 with the Buck’s County Symphony with Maestro Gary Fagin. Ms. Daneshpour recently also gave solo recitals at the Musee d’Orsay and returned to Paris for a recital at the Salle Cortot. Other engagements included recitals in Normandy, France, the Vancouver Chopin Society, the Steinway Series at Texas A&M International University, the Chopin Foundation of the United States, and in Cape Cod; Ms. Daneshpour has debuted on Astral’s series in the Philadelphia Brahms Festival and has also been featured as concerto soloist on its Rising Stars concerts.

Rachel Kudo

First prize winner of the 2018 Leipzig International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition, American pianist RACHEL KUDO has been captivating audiences around the globe with her “stunning virtuosity” and “miracle of flawless technique and expressive versatility” as recitalist, soloist, and chamber musician.

Ms. Kudo made her orchestral debut performing Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain. She has appeared as a soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic in Poland and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra in Ireland, among others.

Ms. Kudo made her recital debut at the International Chopin Festival in Duszniki-Zdroj, Poland. Further performances include Chopin’s birth house “Zelazowa Wola,” Lazienki Park, the Royal Castle in Poland, Salle Cortot in Paris, Musikverein in Vienna, Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel, Stradivarius Museum in Cremona, Aspen Music Festival, Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and Strathmore Mansion in Washington D.C., Peter Jay Sharp Theater, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in New York. Ms. Kudo has also made appearances at the Fazioli Concert Hall in Italy, Tivoli International Festival in Denmark, Bergen International Festival in Norway, Nagoya International Youth Music Festival in Japan, Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, and the Joye in Aiken Festival in the United States.

Ms. Kudo is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where she received the Chopin Prize, Arthur Rubinstein Prize, Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship, Juilliard/Sanders/Tel Aviv Museum Recital Prize, and was a two-time winner of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition. She is also the winner of a Gilmore Young Artist Award, was named a Davidson Fellow Laureate by the Davidson Institute of Talent Development and was a three-time recipient of the Rohm Music Foundation Scholarship in Japan. She has been invited to Carnegie Hall’s Professional Training Workshops, working with pianists Emanuel Ax and Sir Andras Schiff.

Born in Washington D.C. to Japanese-Korean parents, Ms. Kudo began studying piano at the age of four with the late Emilio del Rosario at the Music Institute of Chicago. She has studied with Richard Goode, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Joseph Kalichstein, Gilbert Kalish, Kum-Sing Lee, and currently works with Leon Fleisher. She currently divides her time between New York City and Venice, Italy.

Aleksandra Kasman

Praised by Italian press for her “rock solid technique” and “singing every sentence with an expressive logic of extraordinary maturity”, Russian-American pianist Aleksandra (Sasha) Kasman has performed in recitals and as a soloist with orchestras in the USA, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, France, and Japan. She is a prizewinner of national and international competitions, including the first prize and audience award of the III Premio Roberto Melini (Italy), first prizes at the NFMC National Collegiate Piano Competition, High Point University Inaugural Piano Competition and IKIF MacKenzie International Competition in New York, and top prizes at the VIII International Competition for Young Pianists in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz (Ukraine) and Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition.

Sasha began studying piano at age six with her mother Tatiana and later continued studies with her father, 1997 Van Cliburn Competition silver medalist Yakov Kasman. In 2017, she received her undergraduate degree summa cum laude from the University of Alabama at Birmingham under the guidance of Yakov Kasman. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in piano performance at the Juilliard School under the guidance of Robert McDonald.

Sasha made her concerto debut at age thirteen with the Symphonic Orchestra of the National Philharmonic of Ukraine, and has since soloed with the Alabama Symphony, LaGrange Symphony, Southern Adventist University Symphony Orchestra, and played six concertos with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. With her father, Sasha played Saint-Saens’s “Carnival of Animals” with the Brevard Symphony (FL), the New York Chamber Players, and the Hendersonville Symphony (NC). Among her recent engagements are a four-city solo recital tour in Northern Italy, performances in New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Juilliard’s Paul Hall, Roncegno and Riva del Garda (Italy), and St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, as well as duo-piano performances with Yakov Kasman across the USA, Russia, and South Korea.

Highlights of Sasha’s 2018 calendar include appearances in Boca Raton, FL, Columbia, SC (as a guest artist at the Southeastern Piano Festival), composition premieres and chamber music performances at Juilliard, and three more returns to Italy for solo, chamber, and concerto performances.

Sasha is passionate about classical music outreach; she served as Vice-President for UAB’s Music Notes for the Soul and has lectured and performed at numerous national honors conferences. She has taught masterclasses at Lee University in Tennessee and at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. A winner of the prestigious Edmund Assaly Memorial Fund scholarship and PianoArts Artist-in-Residence Fellowship, Sasha has completed three consecutive teaching and performing tours for the organization, focusing on working with children in schools and community establishments. In her March 2018 PianoArts tour, Sasha appeared in sixteen engagements over the span of eight days. Apart from music, Sasha enjoys studying French and ballet.