Young Artists

Starla Blair, Presentations Chairman
902 Gaslight Dr
Springfield, MO 65810

NFMC is proud to list the outstanding winners of Young Artist Awards selected in Dayton, Ohio. For more information on booking these winners please contact Starla Blair listed above.

(Click on picture to obtain further information)

Andre Chiang, Baritone

Touted by the Oregonian as “vocally commanding” baritone André Chiang brings his lyrical voice to repertoire spanning from Handel to Glass. Mr. Chiang’s recent engagements include returns to Virginia Opera as Fiorello/Ofiicer in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Opera Birmingham as Belcore in L’elisir d’amore. Past season highlights include Falke in Die Fledermaus, Ford in Falstaff, Yamadori/Registrar in Madama Butterfly, Maximillian/Captain in Candide, Young Galileo/Salviate in Galileo Galilei, and Argante in Rinaldo, all with Portland Opera; Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly and King Melchior in Amahl and the Night Visitors with Ash Lawn Opera; Masetto in Don Giovanni, El Gallo in The Fantasticks, Morales/Le Dancaïre in Carmen and Motorcycle Cop/Guard 1 in Dead Man Walking with Shreveport Opera; Marchese d’Obigny in La Traviata with Opera Birmingham; Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd, Barone Douphol
in La traviata, and Le Dancaïre in Carmen with Virginia Opera; Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with The Washington Idaho Symphony; Dottore Grenvil in La traviata and Marco in Gianni Schicchi with Mobile Opera; and Ctésippe in Pénélope, Il Conte in Le nozze di Figaro, and Falke with the Manhattan School of Music. Mr. Chiang is also a graduate of
several prestigious apprenticeships, having spent summers as a Gerdine Young Artist at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and with the Glimmerglass Festival, covering Nathan Gunn as Lancelot in Camelot, as well as performing the role in their Young Artist Matinee. Along with his stage work, he is equally comfortable in recital and concert. These credits include “A Romantic Evening” with La Grange Symphony Orchestra, an orchestrated concert of Vaughan-Williams’ The Songs of Travel under the baton of George Manahan, baritone soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Richmond Symphony, baritone soloist in Carmina Burana with the New Orleans Symphony Chorus who performed in the French Quarter Festival, and bass soloist in Haydn’s Mass in D minor with the Eastern Shore Choral Society and the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Chiang was a Regional Finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, fifth place winner in the Opera Birmingham 39th annual competition, the La Grange Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition Winner, finalist in the Liederkranz Art Song/Lieder competition, winner of the Grand
Concours de Chant for French song, winner of the
Eisenberg – Fried Concerto Competition for Voice at the Manhattan School of Music, and winner of the NFMC Young Artist Competition. Upcoming engagements include baritone soloist in Carmina Burana with the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul in Mendelssohn’s Paulus with the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra, Schaunard in La bohème with Mobile Opera, and Charlie in Three Decembers with Painted Sky Opera.


Kevin Ahfat, Piano

As an artist that “leaves no question about his riveting presentation and technical finesse” (Seattle Times), Canadian-born pianist Kevin Ahfat is acclaimed to be “poised to become one of the young heirs of the classical piano realm, with a bold, boundary-pushing, millennial style matched by refined execution” (Vanguard Seattle). He has appeared as a multi-faceted artist at venues and festivals nationally and internationally, most notably at Boettcher Hall in Denver, Benaroya Hall in Seattle, Fumin Hall in Kyoto, Japan, and Troldhaugen in Bergen, Norway. He has performed with a wide range of artists and orchestras including Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Joshua Roman, Paul Katz, and Ani Kavafian, and the Colorado, Seattle, Juilliard, and Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestras. In addition to being a two-time winner of the Juilliard Concerto Competition, he has won top prizes at numerous competitions worldwide, including the Schimmel International Piano Competition, Steinway & Sons Concerto Competition, and the inaugural Seattle Symphony International Piano Competition. Currently, Mr. Ahfat continues his studies with Joseph Kalichstein and Stephen Hough at the Juilliard School. He also works as part of the Juilliard Global Ventures team, helping to develop new digital learning environments to reach musicians across the globe.

Natalie Conte, Soprano

Natalie Conte has studied vocal performance and immersed herself in the world of opera since childhood. Her devotion to the art shines through in her passionate performances. Currently based in Virginia, Natalie is in high demand as a soloist throughout the Mid-Atlantic. She most frequently appears as a soloist for the Lyric Opera Baltimore, performing both main stage roles and outreach programs. Other memorable local performances include singing the soprano solo in Verdi’s Requiem in Lancaster, PA, Barber’s masterpiece Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Two Rivers Chamber
Orchestra, Britten’s War Requiem in Lancaster, PA, and a salon recital of all Richard Strauss music, including his Vier Letzte Lieder. Natalie has brought her talents to operatic productions in such roles as Anna in Nabucco with Lyric Opera Baltimore, the title role in Aida with Center Stage Opera, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with Opera Lancaster and Baltimore Concert Opera, La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi with Baltimore Concert Opera, Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus with Opera Anne Arundel Community College, Alice Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff, among others.

Natalie debuted internationally in 2005, playing the Countess in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro with the Operafestival di Roma. She was also a participant in the 2005 St. Petersburg Conservatory’s Convention of Conservatories. While in Russia, she performed programs of Russian romances and American art songs throughout St. Petersburg and Moscow. Natalie is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music of Johns Hopkins University where she earned a Master and Bachelor of Music. While there, she won awards for excellence in both performance and academics. In April of 2011 she won second prize in the Russell C. Wonderlic Memorial Competition. In 2013, Natalie was a finalist in the Washington International Competition; she also won the grand prize for the Vocal Arts DC Young Artist Competition. As part of the award, the Vocal Arts Society presented her in recitals at the Kennedy Center and Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. In 2014, Natalie performed in master class with Marilyn Horne at Carnegie Hall, during the Weill Institute of Music’s program The Song Continues, and with Montserrat Caballé in Zaragoza, Spain. Natalie’s most recent credits include winning first prize in the Maryland Lyric Opera competition, singing with the Washington Concert Opera under the baton of Maestro Antony Walker, performing in the chorus at
the Metropolitan Opera, and winning first prize in the National Federation of Music’s competition for young artists.

Sujin Lee, Cello

Cellist Sujin Lee has established herself as a mature young artist in the United States and Europe, having performed at world-renowned venues such as the Louvre Museum, Kennedy Center, Zankel Hall at Carnegie, the Rose Studio at Lincoln Center, and Mechanics Hall. In demand as a soloist and chamber musician, she has been a frequent artist at the Caramoor, Lake Champlain, Marlboro, Music@Menlo, Perlman, Ravinia, Yellow Barn, and Verbier festivals. Prizewinner of the Schadt, Hudson Valley, Klein, and Johansen International competitions, she has performed concertos with numerous orchestras in Massachusetts, New York, and Florida. Sujin has also had the privilege of performing chamber music with world-renowned artists including Leon Fleisher, Pamela Frank, Miriam Fried, Itzhak Perlman, Donald Weilerstein, and Arnold Steinardt.

From Newton, Massachusetts, Ms. Lee recently finished her graduate studies (M.M.) as a Presidential Scholar at the New England Conservatory, where she was also on faculty at the Preparatory School. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Columbia University and completed her undergraduate music studies at the Juilliard School and Paris Conservatoire, where she was a recipient of the Carla-Bruni Sarkozy Foundation Scholarship. Her principal cello teachers have been Laurence Lesser, Paul Katz, Timothy Eddy, and Laura Blustein. Sujin is featured in the documentary, “Talent Has Hunger,” and plays on a 1790 William Forster II cello. She currently resides in New York City.


Happy Dog Duo, Duo Pianists

For over a decade, ERIC TRAN and NATHAN CHEUNG have performed four-hands originals, transcriptions, and classics alike with a focus on bringing humor and joy to the classical music world. Happy Dog Duo has been performing four-hands and two-piano repertoire together since they were in  middle school.  They won both the 1st Prize and the Abild American Music Award at the 2017 Ellis Duo-Piano Competition, hosted by the National Federation of Music Clubs. They have also won a record-setting 13 gold medals in piano duo events at the United States Open Music Competition, and have performed with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Diablo Symphony Orchestra, and the Vallejo Symphony.

As part of the internationally-acclaimed, award-winning Pawn: The Musical, they toured in Korea, China, Canada, and New York. Happy Dog has also made multiple appearances at the Aspen Music Festival. They perform extensively in the San Francisco Bay Area – their hometown – and they were the first piano duo ever to perform in Bing Concert Hall.

The name Happy Dog comes from their eponymously-titled 30-second compositional “masterpiece,” Happy Dog. Neither Nathan nor Eric owns any dogs.

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