Duke University String School Faculty and Staff

erica 057

Erica Shirts

Director of the Duke University String School. Teacher of Violin, Viola, Chamber Music, Beginner Violin, and Violin Choir III.

Erica, a native of Utah, is currently the Associate Concertmaster of the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra and regularly performs with the North Carolina Symphony, North Carolina Opera, and the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle.  She regularly plays chamber music on the viola as well as the violin.  Erica has served as Violin Director for Kidznotes, an after-school program for under-served students in Durham and Raleigh based on the model of El Sistema.

After receiving a Bachelors of Music from the University of Michigan, Erica Shirts earned a Masters of Music and a Performer Diploma at Indiana University.  She received her pedagogical training from Mimi Zweig as well as certification in the Suzuki method.  Erica taught private violin lessons, group classes and theory classes at the world-renowned Indiana University String Academy, part of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.  Erica has primarily studied violin with Ms. Zweig, Aaron Berofsky and Gerald Elias, as well as quartet studies with the Pacifica Quartet and orchestral studies with Jorja Fleezanis and Steven Shipps.

For her performing schedule and more information on her pedagogical philosophy, please visit www.ericashirts.com

Erica may be contacted by email at: erica.shirts@duke.edu

Dorothy Kitchen

Dorothy Kitchen

Founder of the Duke University String School in 1967 and currently Director Emeritus. 

Dorothy Kitchen began her studies at Eastman School of Music, finished Phi Beta Kappa at Case Western Reserve University and took her Master's Degree from Brandeis University. She also studied at the Longy School of Music and at the University of London on a Holden Prize Fund Fellowship.

Her teaching experience has spanned forty years, beginning as Director of Children's Chamber Music at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass., to twenty-three years of intensive summer chamber music camps. She has done many workshops throughout North Carolina, taught for fifteen summers in the Camp Musicale de Leogane, Haiti, and for eleven years at UNC-Greensboro. She was the Youth Chamber Music Professor in Lima, Peru for the IV International Festival. She has served as state chairman for North Carolina Music Teachers Association, as a judge for Allstate orchestra, has given master classes at UNC-Greensboro, Methodist College, Appalachian State University and Virginia State University.  She received the Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Music from the North Carolina School of the Arts and the North Carolina Symphony's Maxine Swalin Outstanding Music Educator Award.

Mrs. Ktichen was Associate Concertmaster of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra for fifteen years and is a member emeritus of the St. Stephen's Chambers Orchestra. She has soloed with the Dayton Philharmonic, the Greensboro Symphony and the St. Stephen's Chamber Orchestra. For six years Mrs. Kitchen was part of the Kitchen-Nicolson Baroque Duo.

Mrs. Kitchen as been a Board Member for the Durham Symphony, and currently she is the Co-Artistic Director of the St. Stephen's Concert Series and an associate board member of KidZNotes.

Mrs. Kitchen may be contacted by email at: djknjk@earthlink.net

Carlos Bardales

Carlos A. Bardales

Teacher of Cello, Conductor of the Cello Choir.

Carlos A. Bardales was born in Tela, Honduras.  At an early age, he began taking cello lessons from Jerry Withkowsky and Max First in the Victoriano Lopez conservatory in San Pedro Sula Honduras.  After playing cello for three years, he won his first audition to be part of the advanced chamber orchestra of the school which only two students cellist took part of it.

Being the youngest cello player at the San José Costa Rica Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 1986 has been one of his greater achievements.  In those years, while completing his high school in Costa Rica, he took cello lessons with Dianne Buchianeri and Dan Neal.  Also, he was a member of the San José Costa Rica Youth Symphony Orchestra.  When he finished high school, he was accepted at the Inter American Institute for Instrumental Studies where he studied theory with Miriam Accame and performance with Dan Neal and Elliot Cheney.  Apart from playing chamber music, he periodically took part in master classes; the one that stands out the most was his playing the cello for Maestro Adolfo Odnoposoff. 

When he graduated from the American Institute for Instrumental Studies he became a teacher at the youth program sponsored by the San José Costa Rica Symphony Orchestra.  In 1983 Mr. Bardales was invited, as a performer and student, to participate at the Pablo Casals Music Festival in San Juan Puerto Rico.

Mr. Bardales may be contacted at bardales.c@gmail.com

duke headshot

Andy Bonner

Teacher of Violin

Violin and viola teacher Andy Bonner is also a member of the music faculties of Duke and Elon universities and an active performer on both baroque and modern violin.

Andy grew up in Durham as a DUSS student himself, and studied with Dorothy Kitchen and Eric Pritchard. He now holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from UNC-Greensboro, as well as degrees from the Eastman School of Music and UNC-Chapel Hill. He has performed with five professional symphonies and with acclaimed smaller ensembles including Ossia, the Duke New Music Ensemble, the North Carolina Baroque Orchestra, and the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, and in venues including the Piccolo Spoleto Festival (with Chamber Music Charleston) and the Boston Early Music Fringe Festival (with the Duke Vespers Ensemble). His support for musics outside the classical canon has led to experiences as varied as playing with Edgar Meyer in a masterclass and providing solo improvisation in a Moth Mainstage show. Andy’s scholarly research focuses on early baroque organology, musical migration, and the early growth of the violin. His doctoral dissertation focused on the 1627 Capriccio Stravagante, which uses a violin ensemble to imitate trumpets, shawms, organs, cats, dogs, roosters, and more.

Mr. Bonner may be contacted by email at bonnerviolin@gmail.com.

Erica Leavell Duke headshot

Erica Leavell

Teacher of Cello, Conductor of Beginning Cello Class

Cellist, Erica Leavell, grew up in New Jersey where at an early age, she began her studies with former Philadelphia Orchestra principal cellist William Stokking.  She received her Bachelor’s of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory in the studio of Alan Stepansky.  She earned her Master’s of Music degree from New York University under the tutelage of Artist Faculty member Marion Feldman.  Following NYU, Erica attended the School for Strings in New York, where she completed a two year teacher training program and became registered in the Suzuki Method.

Erica Leavell enjoys performing in a wide variety of settings and genres.  She has performed as a member of the band Sillyheart, has been featured at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City, and has performed with conductors such as Marco Armiliato of the Met Opera.  Her numerous chamber music engagements include serving as principal cellist with the Inscape Chamber Orchestra, The Port Deposit Candlelight Tour, and St. Timothy’s Concert series.  Erica has also performed at a variety of venues including the Kimmel Center, Lowe Theater, and Carnegie Hall. 

Erica Leavell is also an avid teacher and has enjoyed sharing her love of music with students of all ages. In addition to teaching at the Duke University String School, she has served as an adjunct cello professor at New York University.  Currently she is also a cello instructor at Kidznotes, a program for under-served youth in the tradition of El Sistema, as well as a cello teacher at the Central Park School for Children in Durham.

Ms. Leavell may be contacted by email at erica.leavell@duke.edu

shelley 7

 Shelley Livingston


Conductor of the DUSS Youth Symphony Orchestra; Teacher of Violin, Viola and Chamber music

Shelley Livingston, Conductor of the Duke University String School Youth Symphony Orchestra, is recognized for her many contributions to the arts, both locally and internationally.

As guest artist at the Laredo Institute in Cochabamba, Bolivia, she conducted master classes for advanced violin students.  While there, her students performed with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Cochabamba in La Paz.  Her talents and expertise as conductor, ensemble coach, private violin teacher and performer have guided students to top honors in public, private and charter schools in Texas, North Carolina and Connecticut.

Ms. Livingston attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of North Texas, where she received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music in Performance.  As Director of Orchestras at Orange Charter School, she provided opportunities for performance and partnership in the world of string education for families and communities who have discovered the joy and beauty of music.

Ms. Livingston also performs with the  Durham Symphony, serving as principal second violin and she has been a violin teacher in a program for minority and disadvantaged students called “Young Strings of the Triangle”, sponsored by the North Carolina Symphony.

Ms. Livingston may be contacted at shelleyl@duke.edu.

nonoko headshot

Nonoko Okada

Teacher of Violin and Viola, Conductor of Violin Choir I

Nonoko started her violin training at the age of six in her native Japan. She grew up studying with teachers who were close pupils of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, the founder of Suzuki Violin Method. After meeting Lewis Kaplan, she moved to New York to pursue her violin study with him. She received Bachelor's degree in violin performance from the Mannes College of Music and later received her Master's degree from the Juilliard School.

Since winning a position with Hartford Symphony, Connecticut in 2001, she has appeared with numerous orchestras including Harrisburg Symphony, Allentown Symphony, Charleston Symphony and Savannah Philharmonic. Currently Nonoko plays with the Winston-Salem Symphony, Greensboro Symphony and regularly performs with both the North Carolina Symphony and Charlotte Symphony.

As an avid chamber musician, Nonoko made her Carnegie Hall debut in May 2013 with Chamber Music Charleston where she played both violin and viola for seven years. She was also a second violinist with Degas Quartet from 2010-2012 performing throughout the Southeast.

She has taught privately in New York, Charleston and Greensboro for over fifteen years. During that time, she has traveled to study Suzuki Violin Method for three summers.

Nonoko enjoys cooking, knitting, running and spending time with her family. She lives in Greensboro with her husband Simon Ertz, who is a violist, and her two children Yuna (5) and Aki (3).

Ms. Okada may be contacted at nonoko.okada@duke.edu.

Robert Rempher

Rob Rempher

Conductor of the Concert String Orchestra, Chamber Music Coordinator, Teacher of Violin, Viola and Chamber 

Robert Rempher received his Bachelors Degree in Violin Performance as well as a Performers Certificate from Purchase College, State University of New York. He has been a member of the Chattanooga Symphony, Kalamazoo Symphony, Southwest Michigan Symphony, and Garden State Philharmonic as well as having played with the South Bend Symphony, Greater Lansing Symphony, Battle Creek Symphony, Greater Bridgeport Symphony, and New Rochelle Opera. Since moving to North Carolina in 2007, Mr. Rempher has been an active chamber musician as well as playing regularly with the NC Opera. 

Mr. Rempher may be contacted at remphgeige@gmail.com.

rex headshot

Cody Rex

Teacher of Double Bass

Dr Cody Rex is a double bassist and educator based in central North Carolina. He is Instructor of Double Bass at Duke University String School and at High Point University.  Previous teaching appointments include the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Methodist University, and the Music Academy of North Carolina.

As an orchestral musician, Dr Rex perfoms regularly with the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina Opera, and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.  Recent collaborations include performances with Yo-Yo Ma, Augustin Hadelich, Andre Watts, Jeremy Denk, Johnny Mathis, Vanessa Carlton, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and "Blue Lou" Marini.

A proponent of contemporary music, Dr Rex has premiered many new works and has collaborated with prominent composers such as Samuel Adler, Michael Daugherty, Frederic Rzewski, McGregor Boyle, and Bright Sheng.  Broadcasts of his performances have been aired on WQXR New York, WUNC North Carolina, WLTR South Carolina, and WUOM Michigan, and can be heard on the Albany, Dorian, and OASIS record labels.

He Holds a BM Education from Bowling Green State University, an MM from the University of Michigan, and a DMA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Dr. Rex can be contacted by email at cody.rex@duke.edu.

matt pic

Matt Stutzman

Conductor of the Intermediate String Orchestra, Teacher of Music Theory

Matthew Stutzman grew up in Indianapolis, IN and in 2004, received his Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music (Chicago, IL). Currently, he is the General Manager of High Strung Violins & Guitars and teaches music theory at the Duke University String School. Stutzman has 10 years of orchestral teaching experience in the North Carolina Public Schools. Though he specializes in string education, he also composes, arranges, and produces music professionally. He runs an independent recording studio where he engineers, mixes, and masters audio, as well as performs as a studio session musician.

Mr. Stutzman may be contacted at: matt.stutzman@highstrungdurham.com


Sangeeta Swamy

Teacher of Violin and Viola

Dr. Sangeeta Swamy is an award-winning musician and Board Certified Music Therapist. She has performed nationally and internationally as a violinist, violist and chamber musician, and currently performs with the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle. She received the Louis & Annette Kaufmann Award for Chamber Music, was a prize winner in the Fischoff and Coleman Chamber Music Competitions, and was awarded an Arts Corps Fellowship and Chamber Music America Rural Residency Grant, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Helen F. Whittaker Fund. She has performed as a baroque violinist with Apollo’s Fire, The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, was a founding member of the Chagall String Quartet, and has performed on All-India Radio, Vermont Public Radio, at the Banff Music Festival, the Madeline Island Music Festival, the Julliard School of Music, and at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Since 1987, she has taught violin students at Oberlin College, Naropa University, The Fairmont Fine Arts Center, and in her private violin and viola studio, to students ages 4-80. Sangeeta began studying the violin at age nine, with Marty Steiger and John Kendall in Edwardsville, Illinois, and began playing viola at age 15. She received her Bachelor of Music Performance degree from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, a Master of Music Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Kathleen Winkler and Donald Weilerstein, respectively. She also holds a PhD from Lesley University in music therapy.

Ms. Swamy may be contacted by email at sangeeta.swamy@duke.edu

mv pic

Maria Valencia

Teacher of Viola, Violin, and Conductor of Violin Choir II

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, violist Maria Valencia began her music studies at the Carabobo Music Conservatory. She then transcended her studies to the Simon Bolivar Music Conservatory and into the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela. From a young age she has performed internationally with many different orchestras and ensembles such as Venezuela Youth National Orchestra, New Jersey Youth Orchestra, Peru National Orchestra, Gustav Mahler Symphony Orchestra, and Latin-American Symphony Orchestra, Orford-Canada, Musica en Compostela-Spain, Parma Conservatory in Italy, and many more.

Ms Valencia holds a BM Performance degree from University of Kentucky, and a MM Performance degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro where she worked as a Teacher Assistant. She has held orchestra principal Viola positions and currently performs with the Winston Salem Symphony Orchestra. Back at home in Venezuela she is considered founder of el Sistema’s Carabobo Music Conservatory. Her Major teachers include Santiago Garmendia, Margaret Karp, John Graham, and Scott Rawls. She has worked with distinguished conductors including Eduardo Salazar, Joshua Dos Santos, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir Simon Rattle, and Claudio Abbado.

Currently Ms Valencia is the orchestra director at Lucas Middle School and Northern High School in Durham, NC. Her ensembles have achieved Excellent and Superior ratings. Her students hold principal and assistant principal positions at District, State, and National level orchestras, and participate in major performances at Carnegie Hall in NYC, Oberlin Music Conservatory in Ohio, UNCG, and many more.

Ms Valencia enjoys performing contemporary works. She incorporates contemporary repertoire within her teaching curriculum for  young students and ensembles. She directs Violin Choir II group class, and teaches violin and viola at Duke University String School.

Ms. Valencia may be contacted at maria@valenciamaria.com

DUSS Staff

katharine pic

Katharine Whitmore

Staff Assistant

Katharine grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and is a Duke graduate.  She received her Bachelors in History, Comparative Areas, and Religion and later her Masters in History, concentrating in US Social History.

Her musical experiences are limited to childhood piano lessons and listening to the beautiful music composed and performed by her college housemates who played in the Duke Wind Symphony and Duke Orchestra.  More recently, Katharine's daughters participated in the Duo Projects organized by Mrs Kitchen and Susie Greenberg.

Katharine does the registration and billing for DUSS and thoroughly enjoys helping parents and teachers and wherever she is needed.

Ms. Whitmore may be contacted at: katharine.whitmore@duke.edu

 Associated Duke Artists

ciompi quartet

 The Ciompi Quartet

The Ciompi Quartet was founded at Duke University in 1965 by the renowned Italian violinist Giorgio Ciompi. All its members are professors at Duke and play a leading role in its cultural life, in addition to traveling widely throughout the year for performances. In a career that includes many hundreds of concerts and spans five continents, the Ciompi Quartet has developed a reputation for performances of real intelligence and musical sophistication, and for a warm, unified sound that is enhanced by each player’s strong individual voice. With a maturity and insight born of wide experience, the Ciompi Quartet projects the heart and soul of the music, in a repertoire that ranges from well-known masterpieces to works by today’s most communicative composers.

Recent concerts have ranged across the country from Washington State to California, Texas, New York and New England, and abroad from China to France, Italy, Germany, Prague, Serbia and Albania. In the summer the Quartet has performed at Monadnock Music in New Hampshire, at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Michigan, North Carolina’s Eastern Music Festival and Highlands Chamber Music Festival. Collaborations have included the distinguished talents of pianists Bella Davidovich, Menahem Pressler and James Tocco, the Borromeo Quartet, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, soprano Tony Arnold, and jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon, among many others. The Quartet’s commitment to creative programming often mixes the old and the brand new in exciting ways. It’s extensive record of commissions includes many strong works that it continues to play on tour. Close ties to composers such as Paul Schoenfield, Stephen Jaffe, Scott Lindroth, and Melinda Wagner have produced important contributions to the repertoire; the quartet recently premiered Stephen Jaffe’s Third String Quartet and Lindroth’s Cello Quintet, written for the Ciompi and cellist Ashley Bathgate. The group’s latest recordings are on Toccata Classics (a string quartet by 19th century violin virtuoso Heinrich Ernst), and Naxos, which released “Journey to the West” by Chiayu Hsu in 2015; also on Naxos online is a recording of the quartets of Paul Schoenfield including the popular “Tales from Chelm.” Numerous other discs are on the CRI, Arabesque, Albany, Gasparo, and Sheffield Lab labels, with music from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, up through the present.