CHARLESTON, SC – The Charleston Symphony (CSO) announces the appointment of new musicians to the organization’s roster. After two highly competitive national auditions, the CSO will welcome Benjamin Mekinulov as Principal Cello and Sadie Nichols as Assistant Principal Viola in the 2023-2024 season.
In 2022, the CSO also welcomed three core players: Jordan Brokken, Principal Bassoon, Christian Hales as Principal Bass and Kelly Mozeik as Principal Oboe.
Artistic Director, Yuriy Bekker, commented “I am absolutely thrilled to welcome our new core musicians to the CSO family. They are skilled and versatile players who will become valuable members of the Charleston community. Orchestra auditions are very competitive, and we are excited that we found not only terrific musicians, but also stellar colleagues.”
Benjamin Mekinulov, Principal Cello
Benjamin Mekinulov started his cello studies at the age of 6 with Professor Feng Hew, continued his studies for a couple years with Professor David Ying, and is currently attending the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music, studying cello performance with the renowned professor, Dr. Melissa Kraut. In the summer of 2018 and 2019, Benjamin attended the Bowdoin Music festival in Maine; previous festivals attended were Buffalo Suzuki and Bravo Workshop. In December of 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, Ben placed first in the NYSSMA festival in Rochester NY where the best musicians of NY state meet for a 4-day festival. Ben has been a principal cellist of the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra since 2016 and, in 2019 he was a concerto competition winner with the Elgar Cello Concerto. Ben has won the first prize in the Erie County Music Scholarship Auditions, The Amherst Symphony Scholarship Competition, The Friends of BPO Scholarship Audition, and the Silverman Scholarship. For the summer of 2020 Benjamin was accepted into the National Youth Orchestra that takes place in July and performs at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Benjamin has attended the Colorado College festival, Sitka Music festival, Aspen Music Festival, and is planning to attend Sarasota Music Festival and Aims Graz Festival for the upcoming summer of 2023. He has also attended master classes with several artists including Mark Kosower, Bion Tsang, David Ying, Alan Rafferty. In the fall of 2021, Ben won a section spot in the Canton Symphony Orchestra. In April 2022, Benjamin won Gold Medal in Cleveland Cello Society Scholarship Audition. This past March, Ben won the first-place prize for the Tuesday Musical Competition. In April of 2023, Benjamin Mekinulov won the principal job in the Charleston Symphony and will be starting this coming fall.
Sadie Nichols, Assistant Principal Viola
Sadie Nichols completed her Viola Performance studies at Indiana University (bachelor’s degree) under Atar Arad and University of Maryland (master’s degree) under Katherine Murdock of the Mendelssohn String Quartet & Michael Tree of the Guarneri Quartet. She has been performing with the Charleston Symphony for over two decades. Sadie has played regularly with the New Jersey Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, American Symphony (NYC), Harrisburg Symphony and Hilton Head Symphony in addition to numerous shows on Broadway.
Mrs. Nichols has played in summer festivals such as the Wintergreen Music Festival, Breckenridge Music Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, Piccolo Spoleto, National Orchestra Institute, National Orchestral Institute and opera festivals in Graz, Austria. She is an avid chamber musician in addition to her orchestral jobs, playing with the Smithsonian Chamber Players, the St Petersburg Quartet and studying with the members of the Guarneri String Quartet.
When she is not playing music, Sadie can be found knitting sweaters and taking her daughter Autumn O’Connor to USA swim meets.
Jordan Brokken, Principal Bassoon
A native of Houston Texas, Jordan Brokken joined the Charleston Symphony as Principal Bassoon in July 2022. As an orchestral player, he has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Bernardino Symphony as guest principal bassoon, as well as with the Los Angeles Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Fort Worth Symphony, and has recorded various film and television scores. As a chamber musician, Mr. Brokken is a founding member of the Monarch Chamber Players, a group formed during the pandemic that has safely produced and performed over 150 socially distant concerts since October 2020. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Colburn Conservatory, where he studied with Richard Beene. While at Colburn, he was a featured soloist with the Colburn Zipper Orchestra and performed on Colburn Chamber Music Society concerts with members of the London Symphony Orchestra and pianist Orli Shaham. His other major teacher was Whitney Crockett. He has been a fellow at the Aspen and Tanglewood summer music festivals.
Christian Hales, Principal Bass
Christian joined the Charleston Symphony in 2022 as Principal Bass. When he began studying the bass at age 9 he wanted to be different from his other musical siblings by playing jazz. His teacher David Yavornitzky, principal bassist of the Utah Symphony, convinced him to start with some classical fundamentals—years later Christian still hasn’t gotten around to doing much jazz. As a teenager, Christian made his big debut as a winner of the Utah Symphony’s Salute to Youth concerto competition. Years later, in college at BYU, Christian won the school’s concerto competition, and then, while attending the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for a master’s degree, he won that school’s concerto competition. After completing a master’s degree with Scott Pingel (Former Charleston Symphony Principal), Christian extended his studies one year to earn a Professional Studies Certificate. In 2021 he attended the National Orchestral Institute and Festival in Maryland and in 2022 he played in the Music in the Vineyards festival in Napa Valley. In California he was a regular substitute with the SF Ballet Orchestra and the SF Symphony. He has also played with various regional orchestras including the Santa Cruz Symphony, the California Symphony and One Found Sound. He has worked with a host of premier conductors including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Christoph Eschenbach, Klaus Mäkelä and Maren Alsop. In performance he has worked with artists such as Lea Salonga, Lynn Harrell and Víkingur Ólafsson. He has performed in masterclasses around the US and Europe for artists such as Joseph Silverstein, Daxun Zhang, Bogulsaw Furtok, Artem Chirkov, Claus Trumpf, Ed Barker, and Peter Lloyd. A born native of North Carolina, Christian is excited to be returning to such a beautiful part of the country.
Kelly Mozeik, Principal Oboe
Kelly Mozeik joined the Charleston Symphony as principal oboe in 2022. Prior to this appointment, Kelly served as second oboe in the Greenville Symphony and performed as principal oboe with the Augusta Symphony for the 2021-2022 season before winning the title in 2022. Kelly is currently working on a Doctorate of Music degree at the University of Georgia under Dr. Reid Messich. She was advanced to candidacy in January of 2022 and anticipates completing her degree in May of 2023. In 2019, Kelly won the concerto competition on Richard Strauss’ Oboe Concerto and performed it with the UGA Symphony Orchestra. Kelly has been invited as a guest musician with notable ensembles across the country, including the Houston Grand Opera, Louisiana Philharmonic, and the New World Symphony.
Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Kelly started her musical journey with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony in 2006. She then went on to receive her Bachelor of Music degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music under the guidance of Frank Rosenwein. Here, she performed in Severance Hall, twice, with the University Circle Wind ensemble. The performances include Eric Ewazen’s Down a River of Time and Tomaso Albinoni’s Concerto for Two Oboes. She followed this with a Master of Music degree from Rice University where she studied with Robert Atherholt. At Rice, Ms. Mozeik was selected to perform Gunther Schuller’s Five Impromptus, written for English horn and string quartet, for the composer himself. In 2016, Kelly was appointed an oboist with The Orchestra Now, where she made her Carnegie Hall debut.
Kelly has held fellowships with the Texas Music Festival, the Masterworks festival and attended the John Mack Oboe Camp. She also spent the summer of 2018 in Graffenegg, Austria with The Orchestra Now, where we performed with musicians across the world.
About the Charleston Symphony
The Charleston Symphony (CSO) serves the greater Charleston community by presenting over 150 events annually featuring Masterworks and Pops series at the Charleston Gaillard Center, outreach events, a range of education and family experiences, and free performances. Founded in 1936, the artistic vision of the CSO is to perform and present the highest quality music, and to engage and enrich people of all ages, race, or economic status by exploring, experiencing, and creating classical music.
The Charleston Symphony has grown into one of the largest full-time performing arts organizations in South Carolina and serves close to 50,000 adults and children every year. Charleston Symphony musicians are uniquely accessible and engage with audience members after performances, host gatherings, and participate as active members of the greater community. The CSO offers enriching educational programs for students and teachers that inspire, challenge, and educate students through musical experiences. These programs range from introductory performances for children that are experiencing music for the first time, to mentoring the region’s top student instrumentalists of the Youth Orchestras.
The Charleston Symphony is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts. Even before the CSO was officially founded in 1936, the volunteer orchestra came together to serve our community. CSO members partnered with the Avery Normal School (the first secondary school for African American students) to perform a concert of unity in response to the 1919 Charleston Race Riots. In June 2020, the CSO presented “Call and Response: A Concert for Equality” to leverage the power of music and spoken word to promote unity, love, and understanding. This was the first conversation of an ever-growing and expanding discussion about racial prejudice in Charleston that is filled with meaningful reflection and empathy for others.
With an annual budget exceeding $4 million, the CSO relies on philanthropic support to cover 55% of annual operating expenses. The Charleston Symphony employs 24 full-time salaried musicians and supplements the core with a robust roster of the highest caliber professional musicians from around the country.
For more information, please visit www.charlestonsymphony.org
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