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Festival Artists

Chad Robinson

Composer in Residence


Houston native, Dr. Chad Robinson, is the Artistic Director and founder of Texas New Music Ensemble, a Houston-based, mixed chamber ensemble focused on the work of Texas composers. As a composer, he has worked with many prestigious ensembles and soloists, such as: Ethel, Lontano, The Jack Quartet, The Parker Quartet, Musiqa, George Vosburgh, Mary Dullea, and Emma Steele. His music has been performed throughout the globe and in February of 2020, his works received their Carnegie Hall debut. Dr. Robinson has received multiple awards and grants throughout his career, including: 1st Prize in the CMU Orchestral Composition Competition, 2nd Prize in the Louisa Stude Sarofim Composition Competition, KCL Music Research Grant, and the KCL Arts and Humanities Research Grant. An alumnus of University of Houston (BM), Carnegie Mellon University (MM) and King's College, London (PhD), Dr. Robinson currently serves on the faculty of Texas A&M University - Kingsville and his music is recorded by Navona Records.  

Rob Smith

Guest Composer


The innovative and highly energetic music of Rob Smith is frequently performed throughout the United States and abroad. His music has received numerous awards, including those from the Aaron Copland House (Residency Award), Minneapolis Pops Orchestra New Orchestral Repertoire Project, ASCAP, and the National Band Association. He has received commissions from the Texas Music Festival Orchestra, Soli Chamber Ensemble (San Antonio), the American Composers Forum (Continental

Harmony), the New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music Program, and several nationally renowned university wind ensembles, among many others.


Currently, Rob teaches at the University of Houston Moores School of Music where he is Professor of Music Composition and director of the AURA Contemporary Ensemble. During his tenure at UH he has been formally recognized for his teaching twice: in 2013 Outstanding Faculty Award (Moores School of Music) and 2014 UH Faculty Recognition Award (College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences). From 2003-2014 he served as one of the artistic directors of Musiqa, a Houston-based contemporary chamber ensemble. In addition to programming and presenting 6-8 concerts a season, Rob also created three children’s programs with his colleagues at Musiqa, two of which continue to be presented annually for hundreds of public-school students.

Felipe Tristán


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Award-winning Mexican conductor Felipe Tristán is known for bringing lively musical prowess to the podium. He has worked with orchestras around the world and currently serves as conductor with the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, Teatro Grattacielo, Manhattan School of Music, and the Kaufman Music Center's Special Music School in New York.

Felipe is committed to promoting an inclusive performing arts industry and has collaborated with artists and producers from the NY Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Met Opera, and the GRAMMY® Award-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, among others, to create engaging programs for diverse audiences.

Among the orchestras he has conducted are Südwestdeuche Philharmonie Konstanz, Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra, New Amsterdam Symphony, Gwinnett Symphony, North Shore Symphony, Zhengzhou Symphony, among others. In México, the Aguascalientes, Querétaro, Chihuahua, Oaxaca, Monterrey, Baja California, and Michoacán symphony orchestras.

Michelle Perrin Blair 

Guest Conductor

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American Prize-winning conductor Michelle Perrin Blair engages diverse ensembles and audiences across various genres and styles, including symphony orchestra, musical theatre, new music, and educational ensembles. Blair currently serves as Conductor and Music Director of the Coppell Community Orchestra in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, where she owns, operates, and teaches violin at MAKE Music Studio in Carrollton. Her tour schedule takes her across the country with Durward Contemporary Ensemble, Revival Theatre Company, American Festival for the Arts, and more. Blair’s 2022 tour highlights include recording Durward’s second album, Prophetic Revolutions, and directing Revival’s production of Titanic.

Timothy Hester

Guest Soloist, piano

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Native Houstonian Timothy Hester is Edythe Bates Old Professor of Piano at the Moores School of Music where he also enjoys instructing students in the skills of sight reading, collaborative techniques and also serves as Chair of the Keyboard Studies Division and Director of Keyboard Collaborative Arts. Named Outstanding Collegiate Teacher of the Year (2014) by the Texas Music Teacher’s Association, Mr. Hester has worked with internationally known vocalists and instrumentalists. He has also taught Opera Studies at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and served on the faculty of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. He has championed modern music all through his career; at UH, he has performed works by all of the composition
faculty members, including Robert Nelson, Michael Horvit, Carlisle Floyd, David Ashley White, Marcus Maroney, as well as many compositions by Rob Smith. Mr. Hester has appeared worldwide and has performed on major as well as performing with Da Camera, Musiqa and the KUHF chamber players. Mr. Hester graduated from
The Juilliard School as a student of the renowned pedagogue Adele Marcus. He was previously a pupil of the late Professor Emeritus of the University of Houston, Albert Hirsh.

Yan Shen

Guest Soloist, piano

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Dr. Shen is a prize winner in numerous international competitions.As a prize winner, Dr. Shen has performed solo and chamber recitals internationally, including at: Carnegie Hall, NYC; Xing Hai Concert Hall, Wu Han Concert Hall, Qing Dao Concert Hall, Changsha Concert Hall, Hunan Concert Hall, China; Hong Kong City Hall, among others. She has also given performances at numerous music festivals, including: the Texas Music Festival, USA; the Bellas Artes Music festival, Colombia; the “Polyphony” Music Festival, France; the Basel Music Festival, Switzerland; the Olympic Music Festival, Korea. As a complement to her performance appearances, Dr. Shen has been invited by international music schools and institutions to give master classes and recitals, including the Schumann Piano School and Grotrian Piano Company (Germany), and Bellas Artes University in Medellin, Colombia; Evansville University, Indiana USA; Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou, China.

Dr. Shen has collaborated with leading concert artists and ensembles, including: David Campbell; Eric Varner; Sydney Carlson, Marie Pallot, Lyda-Chen Argerich, Vagram Saradjian, Shuhan Ye, string musicians from Houston Symphony and Houston Opera/Ballet, etc.  She has also performed as a soloist with numerous orchestras, including: the Guang Zhou Symphony Orchestra and Choir; the Hong Kong Metropolitan Pop Orchestra; the Xing Hai Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, Hunan State Symphony Orchestra, China, among others.

Poppy Beddoe

Guest Soloist, clarinet

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In much demand as a soloist and a chamber musician, Poppy performs extensively throughout the UK and internationally. Poppy studied Music at King's College London, graduating in 2014, followed by a Masters at the Royal Academy of Music in 2016. In 2021 Poppy released her debut album, Soliloquy, with Ulysses Arts which features her own transcriptions of Bach and Hildegard of Bingen. The album was a huge success, with several tracks playlisted by both Spotify and Apple Music. In late 2022 she recorded a concerto written for her by Matthew Taylor with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. This will be broadcast on BBC Radio Three in 2023 and released on disc by Toccata Classics. In November 2022 she was a visiting artist at the University of Houston, Texas, where she gave several solo recitals, a masterclass, premièred music commissioned by the university and the Texas New Music Ensemble and gave lectures on her Bach transcriptions and building a freelance career. 


Poppy works regularly with MishMash Productions, a company which tours concerts targeted at younger audiences; she recently joined them at the Cheltenham Festival and the Nottingham Chamber Music Festival. Poppy teaches at the Junior Department of the Royal Academy of Music and also works extensively with the Academy’s Widening Participation team to make classical music more accessible to all. She is the Artistic Director of the Berkshire Chamber Music Festival and an annual concert series in the South of France.

Joe LoCascio

Guest Artist


Joe LoCascio has spent a lifetime creating and performing creative music. He is an award winning composer who has written for ensembles of all sizes and is prolific in both traditional and jazz genres. As a performer he has released 18 critically acclaimed jazz recordings.


A student of David Barnett, John Mehegan and Neil Slater at the University of Bridgeport, LoCascio went on to perform and record with major jazz figures such as Chet Baker, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Frank Rehak, Freddie Hubbard, Mel Lewis, Bob Brookmeyer, George Coleman, Pharoah Sanders, Marvin Stamm, Carl Fontana, Hank Crawford, Ernie Watts, Arnett Cobb, Conrad Herwig and Jon Faddis, among others.  


Among his works are a Concerto for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra commissioned by the Baytown Symphony Orchestra, Gently Criminal for the Cypress Philharmonic Orchestra, Saltwater Music for the Alkali String Ensemble, Crossings and Still Life (with Clarinets) for Richard Nunemaker, In the Wilderness, The Cities and Urban Mosaics for Trio Oriens, Crossroads for the NOVACANE Clarinet Quartet, Oblique Prayers and Widow’s Tales for the Texas New Music Ensemble and 4 Bagatelles and Northwest Passage for the PLAY Saxophone Quartet.

LoCascio and his wife Lucia currently reside in Houston, Texas where he is a full-time instructor of music at Houston Community College.

Woody Witt

Guest Artist

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Woody Witt is an active performer, composer and educator based in Houston, TX. In October 2014, Woody was the grand-prize winner of the Taichung International Jazz Saxophone Competition in Taichung, Taiwan. He has 9 CDs to his credit as a leader and has done over 30 recordings as a sideman. Most of his CDs feature original music and have received airplay around the US and abroad. His 8th recording, “Pots and Kettles,” made the CMJ (#3) and Jazzweek charts.


Woody has been an exclusive performing artist for MacSax Saxophones since 2013. Dr. Witt is a Professor of Music in Jazz Studies, Academic Music and Saxophone at Houston Community College and an Affiliate Artist at the University of Houston Moores School of Music. Woody holds a Masters degree in Jazz Studies from the prestigious University of North Texas, where he taught saxophone and jazz methods. Witt received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston in 2000. As a jazz artist, Woody has had the opportunity to perform and record with some of the best practitioners of the art form including Randy Brecker, Billy Hart, David Kikoski, and Tim Hagans among countless others. Woody has established himself as a notable musician in the area and has performed with the Houston Symphony since 1996, backing artists including Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers and Tony Bennett. 


Since 2013, Woody has returned to his classical training. He has premiered several new pieces for solo saxophone, as well as saxophone with electronics. Witt is collaborating with composers including Joe LoCascio, Dr. Kevin Patton and Chapman Welch for this project. Concerts took place at the University of Houston, Oregon State University, University of North Texas and the University of St. Thomas. Witt also leads a professional saxophone quartet (The Play Sax Quartet), which has premiered several new works by Dr. Robert Nelson, Hsin-Jung Tsai, Dr. James Bishop and others.

Jennifer Mabus

Guest Coreographer


Jennifer Mabus has rich performance background, dancing for choreographers and companies such as Robert Battle (founding dancer of Battleworks, NYC), Amy Marshall Dance Company (NYC), Heidi Latsky (NYC), Takehiro Ueyama (NYC), Bruce Wood Dance Project (TX), Noble Motion Dance (TX), and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (founding dancer, TX), among others. She has served on the dance faculties of Texas Christian University, Interlochen Arts Academy, Houston’s HSPVA, and Sam Houston State University. She founded the dance program at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, and has recently returned to Dallas to teach at Booker T Washington HSPVA and Texas Christian University. Jennifer has presented choreography at festivals and residencies, such as the Dance Gallery Festival, Dumbo Dance Festival, Cool/NY Festival, Interlochen Arts Academy, and UT/Dallas. She was a Rice University Dance Artist in Residence, a Noble Motion Dance “Next Step” artist, a Dance Source Houston Artist in Residence and has set work on companies, such as Avant Chamber Ballet, Houston Contemporary Dance, METdance, Contemporary Ballet Dallas, Muscle Memory Dance Theater, Elle Danceworks, and Pilot Dance Project. She has been commissioned to create work for the Miller Outdoor Theater and Zilka Hall at the Hobby Center by the Foundation for Modern Music and the Windsync ensemble. She has collaborated in multi-media evenings in venues such as the Rothko Chapel, CAMH, Rec Room, and the Blanton Museum. She is a current artist in residence at Arts Mission Oak Cliff in Dallas. Mabus received her BFA in Dance from Southern Methodist University and her MFA from Sam Houston State University. She also a yoga teacher, a cat lady, and an Argentine tango dancer, with a strong interest in Dance Movement Therapy.

Lindsay Cortner

Guest Coreographer

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Lindsay Cortner began her dance training with Carolyn and Beth Gulledge, dancing with Uptown Dance Company II as a teenager, where she received many performance opportunities locally, as well as in New York, Mexico, Costa Rica, China, Austria, and Germany. She moved to New York after high school to study at The Ailey School, training under Ana Marie Forsythe and Milton Myers, among others, and performing choreography by Sidra Bell. When Cortner moved back to Houston, she became a founding member of Uptown Dance Company and spent two seasons guesting with Sandra Organ Dance Company. After eight seasons with Uptown, she transitioned into freelance dance, and has since performed as a company member with Psophonia, Frame Dance Productions, and Pilot Dance Project, as a project-based artist with Dinolion, Opera in the Heights, and Transitory Sound and Movement Collective, and as a guest with Juxtapose Arts Collective, METdance, and Houston Contemporary Dance Company. She has also worked with several independent choreographers in projects presented in festivals such as Barnstorm and Fringe Festival. Cortner is also a seasoned dance teacher of multiple disciplines, including ballet, Horton, contemporary, and creative movement. Additionally, she is a certified Forrest Yoga teacher, and graduated with honors from the University of St. Thomas. Cortner debuted her first dance for camera piece in the Houston film Festival, Frame x Frame Film Fest 2019. She has choreographed for Uptown Dance Company II, Bayou City Ballet’s pre-professional company, and Opera in the Heights, and is currently most interested in exploring and expanding her creative process.

Texas New Music Ensemble

Ensemble in Residence

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Texas New Music Ensemble presented their first concert in the summer of 2014 to a sold-out crowd at Studio 101 in Houston, TX. Since then, they have performed concerts throughout the state of Texas in cities such as Houston, Austin, Ft. Worth, and more. TNME has presented concerts and workshops at colleges and universities such as Lone Star College and Stephen F. Austin State University and was invited to the 2020 National Conference of the Society of Composers Incorporated as Ensemble in Residence. Led by composer, Chad Robinson, TNME has become one of the most recognized new music ensembles in region. 

Texas Festival Ensemble

Ensemble in Residence

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This newly formed 15-piece chamber ensemble will present their debut performance at the 2024 Texas New Music Festival.

Carya String Quartet

Guest Ensemble


Now in their sixth season, the Carya String Quartet strives to create community through performances of new and old chamber music from around the world. Drawn together by Houston’s international and inclusive arts culture, the members - Laura Cividino, Claire Gallagher, Rainey Weber, and Hannah Deplazes - hail from Italy, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and North Dakota. As the only all-women string quartet in the greater Houston area, Carya aims to bring attention to women composers in their musical and educational programs, and will continue to emphasize these works on each program of the upcoming season. 2023-2024 concerts will explore the idea “everything old is new again” through pairings of Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartets with the responses and reflections of composers today. Highlights will include the premiere of a new work written exclusively for Carya, as well as compositions by Gabriella Smith, Aaron Kernis, Anna Clyne, and Caroline Shaw. In addition to presenting traditional concerts, the Carya String Quartet has launched several projects including “Meditations on Bach,” which paired Bach chorales with works of visual art and gained international attention, as well as “Inspirations,” an interactive and educational series focused on exploring how and why music is created and what can inspire composers, performers, and audience members alike. Formed in 2018, the Carya String Quartet draws its name from the official state tree of Texas: the pecan tree, “Carya Illinoinensis”.

Festival Staff

Chad Robinson



Houston native, Dr. Chad Robinson, is the Artistic Director and founder of Texas New Music Ensemble, a Houston-based, mixed chamber ensemble focused on the work of Texas composers. As a composer, he has worked with many prestigious ensembles and soloists, such as: Ethel, Lontano, The Jack Quartet, The Parker Quartet, Musiqa, George Vosburgh, Mary Dullea, and Emma Steele. His music has been performed throughout the globe and in February of 2020, his works received their Carnegie Hall debut. Dr. Robinson has received multiple awards and grants throughout his career, including: 1st Prize in the CMU Orchestral Composition Competition, 2nd Prize in the Louisa Stude Sarofim Composition Competition, KCL Music Research Grant, and the KCL Arts and Humanities Research Grant. An alumnus of University of Houston (BM), Carnegie Mellon University (MM) and King's College, London (PhD), Dr. Robinson currently serves on the faculty of Texas A&M University - Kingsville and his music is recorded by Navona Records.  

Eric Estrada Valadez

Composer intern

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The music of Eric Estrada Valadez has been performed in México, Canada, USA, and Germany, and has received numerous awards, like the Arturo Márquez Composition Award (2019), the International Composers Competition New Symphony Vienna (2020), and the National Composition Competition for Percussion Quartet SAFA (2019). He has been the recipient of grants from the Young Creators Program of the Fine Arts Institute of Mexico (2021), and the Institute of Fine Arts-Conacyt (2022). In his works, Eric blends different music genres, such as rock, jazz and latino music, with contemporary composition, and explores the relationship between language, cultural identity, and music. Recently he was awarded Musiqa's Emergent Composers Fellowship (2022) and the Cynthia Woods Mitchel Center for the Arts Fellowship (2022), which include commissions of new pieces to be premiered in 2023 at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Baffler Gallery in Houston.

He holds a bachelor and master degree in the field of composition by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and is currently pursuing a fully funded Doctoral Degree in composition at the University of Houston Moores School of Music with Rob Smith.   

Trey Harris

Sound Engineer


Trey has been infatuated with live music since listening to his father's barbershop quartet rehearse in the living room as a boy. Since 1977 he has toured as a live sound mixer with various artists ranging from Steppenwolf to The B-52's to Asleep at the Wheel to Mickey Gilley and Riot. The picture is from soundcheck for the Mickey Gilley band circa 1985 at a Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn. Incidentally, Ninfa's was the catering service. In the past three decades, he has been a sound designer and board operator for over 80 musical theatre productions. Trey has been practicing live location recording of orchestral and ensemble performances for the last 15 years and has been honored to have been recording great works and performances by Texas New Music Ensemble for the last 10 years!

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