NDSO 2015-16 Season Soloists

Marka Young

Concertmaster and Renee O. Jacobus Chair


Marka Young, an exciting, communicative performer, is an accomplished violinist with a beautiful tone and strong musical line. After her New York solo recital debut at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, The New York Concert Review wrote that Ms. Young played “…with a broad, majestic interpretation and a full-bodied sound.” Ms. Young performs a wide variety of programs and is experienced as solo performer on modern, classical and baroque violin. She has been heard in the United States, Canada and in Belgium, Germany and the U.K.


Ms. Young was an Artist in Residence at Banff and has performed as a soloist for the Bach Aria Festival, Blossom Festival, Connecticut Early Music Festival and the Storm King New Music Festival. Ms. Young is currently the Assistant Concertmaster of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, violinist with the Rebel Baroque Orchestra and The American Classical Orchestra and Concertmaster of the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra. She has recently branched out into playing popular music, as the violinist for the folk roots band The Trapps, and as the Concertmaster of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic for Natalie Merchant’s concert at Bethel Woods in July 2013.


As a member of the Rebel Baroque Orchestra, Ms. Young has played for NPR’s “Performance Today” and for a multi-year series of acclaimed performances broadcast on WQXR. The Rebel Baroque Orchestra has recorded numerous works with the Trinity Wall Street Choir, including Handel’s Messiah and all of the Haydn Masses in an 8-CD box set, released September 2009.


Ms. Young holds the DMA and MM of music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the BA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her violin teachers were Joyce Robbins, Dorothy Delay and Camilla Wicks and she has performed in master classes for Joseph Gingold, Sergiu Luca and Enrico Gatti.


She currently teaches at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY.


Susan Rafkind



Susan F. Rafkind, of Kingston, NY, is a third generation violinist but the first to follow a professional track. She earned her Bachelor of Music Degree in Violin Performance Summa Cum Laude from Hartt College of Music in 1972. She has played in the Hartford Symphony and also the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra in Halifax, NS. Since 1977 she has been a regular member of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. In addition, Susan currently plays in the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, the Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra. She serves on the Board of the Ulster Chamber Music Series in Kingston and maintains a busy teaching studio.


Ryan Hall

Principal Viola


Ryan Hall, Principal Viola with the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra, is a classically trained freelance violinist and violist (Oberlin Conservatory) who performs regularly with various orchestras and chamber ensembles, including Woodstock Chamber Orchesta (Principal Viola), Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra, Amante Strings and Woodstock Quartet. Mr. Hall has recorded extensively and was seen in the 1994 film “The Road to Wellville”. He teaches violin and viola privately in the Hudson Valley area.


Jeanne Fox

Principal Cello


Jeanne Fox is an active performer throughout the Tri-State region.  Currently she is principal cello of the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra as well as the Hudson Opera Theater, and has previously played with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and the Waterloo Festival Orchestra.   An avid Chamber Music performer, Jeanne founded the Hudson Valley String Quartet and previously performed with the Arioso Piano Trio.  

An extension of her passion for music is teaching and preparing young musicians to perform.  Jeanne maintains a private class of cello students and has previously taught at New York University, Third Street Music School Settlement and United Nations International School.  Jeanne enjoys playing different styles of music and was for many years cellist/bassist for the folk rock band Project Mercury (named Best New Band by Hudson Valley Magazine), and still plays in a folk rock cello/guitar duo called The Foxes.  She has also performed and/or recorded with bands such as ABC and Smokey Robinson, as well as with several local Hudson Valley artists including Elissa Jones.


She is originally from Ohio, where she studied with Ralph Curry of the Cleveland Orchestra.  She holds degrees from Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School, where she studied with Ardyth Alton.  She also holds an Arts Administration certificate from New York University and a teaching certificate from School for Strings. She studied chamber music with the Juilliard String Quartet, Joseph and Lillian Fuchs, Arianna Bronne and Rafael Bronstein, as well as André Emelianoff.  


Jeanne is also a film music consultant by day, working on productions for various cable networks and PBS, most recently on the PBS documentary “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings The Band”.


Connie Kessel

Principal Flute


Connie Kessel serves as principal flutist of the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra and has enjoyed this opportunity since the orchestra’s inception in 2006.  She is an active free-lance performer in the mid-Hudson region and also serves as principal flute with the Vassar College & Community Wind Ensemble, & the Rhinebeck Legion Band.  Ms. Kessel has enjoyed an extensive and varied music career performing with various groups in many music genres that include orchestral, wind band, opera, woodwind quintet, flute & harp, choral, Dixieland, circus and musical theater.  A noteworthy set of performances occurred in May of 1995 when Connie performed with Lee Pritchard and the Camerata Chorale in the New York premiere of Richard Einhorn’s oratorio Voices of Light, accompanying three showings of Dreyer’s classic film “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie.


Connie grew up in a household filled with classical music.  Her father was a classical pianist in his youth and later took up the clarinet at college, eventually performing with various regional orchestras.  Her mother was a singer and pianist.  “Our family moved around the country a great deal (my father was a research engineer in ceramics).  We often lived in or near major cultural centers.  As a result we were able to frequently attend some amazing concerts in San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Buffalo, & Philadelphia.”


Connie started playing piano at age 6 and added the flute at age 9.  “I remember my father sitting me down to listen to a large multi-record album he had purchased that contained a sampling of all the various instruments in the orchestra (I still have that album!).  He really wanted me to take up either the oboe or violin, but I fell in love with the sound of the flute and would not be swayed.  It has been a joyous love affair ever since!”


Ms. Kessel’s formal education includes earning a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from SUNY at Fredonia, and a Master of Music degree in Flute Performance with concentrations is Music Education & Conducting from Western Michigan University.  Connie’s most influential teachers include: Catherine Brown-Warner, Claire Durand-Racamato, Cleon Chapen, James Smith, & Richard Suddendorf.


Ms. Kessel is also an active area teacher and educator.  She runs a private flute studio where she teaches flute lessons year round to students of all ages and abilities.  Ms. Kessel is a certified woodwind adjudicator for NYSSMA and has judged at state NYSSMA Solo & Ensemble Festivals since 1992.  She also served as president of the Dutchess County Music Educators Association (DCMEA) from 2003-2012.  Ms. Kessel is currently employed by the Pine Plains Central School District where she has been teaching music since 1987.  


Melissa Brown



Melissa was a scholarship student at the Crane School of Music where she studied bassoon with Frank Wangler and conducting with Timothy Topoloskwi. While at the Yale University School of Music, studies included chamber music with David Shifrin, Ransom Wilson, and William Purvis and private lessons with Frank Morelli.  She also worked at the Oral History American Music archive, a collection of interviews with twentieth century composers and musician, with Vivian Perlis and Libby VanCleve. While there, she developed a fascination with and appreciation of contemporary music. Her most recent academic foray has been a doctorate of musical arts from SUNY Stony Brook, where she continued her studies with Frank Morelli.  While there she wrote her doctoral essay under the guidance of Judith Lochead, analyzing the Zwilich Concerto for Bassoon as a narrative drama, suggesting a method for the performer and audience to connect intrinsically with the music and performed under various visiting conductors including Jeffrey Milarsky, George Manahan, Timothy Mount, and Kenneth Slowik. She has also performed in the New Haven Buxtehude Project under the direction of Paul Jordan.

Melissa attended the Crane School of Music (B.M), Yale University (M.M.), and SUNY Stonybrok (D.M.A.), studying bassoon with Frank Wangler and Frank Morelli.  She  wrote her doctoral essay under the guidance of Judith Lochead, analyzing the Zwilich Concerto for Bassoon as a narrative drama, suggesting a method for the performer and audience to connect intrinsically with the music. 

Melissa performs regularly with the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra, Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra, Northern Dutchess Orchestra, and Woodstock Chamber Orchestra as well as freelancing around the tri-state area. She maintains a private studio in upstate New York and is currently exploring the musical literature for bassoon and guitar duet.    


Valentina Shatalova



Valentina Shatalova holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam and a Master of Arts Degree from SUNY New Paltz with a major in piano pedagogy. Her former teachers include Maria Rakovskaya, Dr. Robert Mumper, Frank Iogha, Vladimir Feltsman and Eteri Andjaparidze.

Valentina has been a frequent performer as a soloist and accompanist in the NY Metropolitan and Mid-Hudson areas.  Some performance highlights include:  accompanist for Russian Lyric Soprano Lydia Nikolskaya in concerts throughout New York and New Jersey, featured soloist with the Hudson Valley Youth Symphony, concerts at the Mohonk Mountain House, Rachmaninoff Hall, Synod of Bishops Hall, St. Mary’s Church of the Highlands, Brooklyn Public Library, and the International Paper Plaza in NYC. Valentina frequently performs along with Carol Losee in the “Two For You” Piano Duo.  The duo has played concerts at numerous venues throughout the Hudson Valley including the Old Dutch Church, Maverick Concert Hall, SUNY New Paltz, Vassar College, Kleinart-James Art Gallery, New Paltz New Years Eve, New Paltz Christian Gala, and the Lyric Gallery.  The duo was  also heard on NPR’s “Performance Today”.  Their love of ensemble playing has resulted in the annual “New Paltz Piano Fest”, a multi-keyboard festival for all ages.  More information about this festival can be found at their website:  www.newpaltzpianofest.com.

As a teacher Valentina maintains a full piano studio in her home some of her award winning students have continued their piano studies at Eastman, The Crane School of Music SUNY Potsdam, Hartt School of Music, Ithaca and Oberlin College.  Valentina is on the teaching roster at Dutchess Community Music School, Ulster County Community College and has also taught chorus and general music.