Faculty and Staff for 2015-2016

Erica Shirts

Erica Shirts

Director of the Duke University String School. Teacher of Violin, Viola, Chamber Music, and the Beginning Violin Group Class.

Erica, a native of Utah, is currently the Associate Concertmaster of the Fayetteville North Carolina Symphony 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.

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.  Teacher of Violin, Viola and Chamber music.

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

Michael Ashton

Michael Ashton

Teacher of Double Bass

A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, Michael Ashton has studied with some of the premier double bassists of the world including principal bassist of the Cleveland Orchestra, Max Dimoff and renowned soloist and pedagogue, Jeff Bradetich. He has performed as a concert soloist in England at Ely Cathedral, Great Saint Mary’s, and Saint Ives as well as a handful of locations in the United States. Michael Ashton is a member of the Virginia Symphony under the baton of Maestro Joann Falletta and holds a position as assistant principal bass in the Greensboro Symphony. He performs frequently with, Charleston Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Winston-Salem Symphony, NC Opera, Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, and numerous other groups up and down the eastern seaboard.

Michael Ashton is the double bass instructor at Duke University. He has taught at several music festivals across the country and has given masterclasses at a number of institutions. He also spent several weeks teaching the double bass technique course at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Michael Ashton is a proud member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 125, Norfolk, VA as well as the American String Teachers' Association.

Mr. Ashton may be contacted by email at: mykl.ashton@gmail.com

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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.

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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

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 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.

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Jessica Long

Assistant Conductor of Concert String Orchestra, Teacher of violin

Jessica Long, an alumna of DUSS, studied both violin and pedagogy under Ms. Stephanie Swisher and Mrs. Dorothy Kitchen, founder of DUSS. She completed a 2 year internship at DUSS, gaining experience in applied pedagogy, chamber music, orchestra and ensemble direction, and teaching at summer music camps as well as performance experience in the Triangle area. Ms. Long joined the DUSS faculty in 2010 and is currently assistant conductor of the Concert String Orchestra. Also an experienced piano teacher, Ms. Long has taught piano locally for the past 8 years and continues her musical studies through Thomas Edison State College.

Ms. Long may be contacted at  jessica.long@duke.edu.

Robert Rempher

Rob Rempher

Conductor of Intermediate 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.

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Matt Stutzman

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, and Teacher of Music Mindfulness

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

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Stephanie Swisher

Director of the Violin Choir I and II, Conductor of the Concert String Orchestra, Teacher of Violin and Chamber music.

Stephanie Swisher attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina State University and graduated with a B.A., cum laude.  For many years she has performed as a violinist in the area.  She been a member of the Tar River Symphony, Durham Symphony Orchestra, Raleigh Symphony, and Raleigh Civic Symphony, as well as others.  

Ms. Swisher joined Duke University String School (DUSS) in October 1995.  She served as Assistant Director of DUSS with Dorothy Kitchen, Founder and Director from 1996 - 2013 and as Interim Director from 2014 to 2015. For the past 19 years, she has been the director of the Violin Choir 1 and 2 and conductor of the Concert String Orchestra. Ms. Swisher is a teacher of violin and chamber music. 

Ms. Swisher may be contacted by email at sswisher@duke.edu.

DUSS Staff

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Katharine Whitmore

Staff Assistant

Katharine grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and came to Durham to attend Duke University.  She received her Bachelors in History, Comparative Areas, and Religion and later her Masters in History, concentrating in US Social History.

Her past 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, her 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


 Hsiao-mei Ku, a Naxos Artist, is a violin professor in Duke University's Department of Music and a member of the Ciompi Quartet.  Besides concertizing with the Ciompi Quartet both in the States and abroad, Hsiao-mei pursues her passion for researching and performing works stemming from her Chinese heritage. A major project has been to unearth and introduce the violin works of the leading 20th century Chinese composer Ma Sicong. Her two CDs, “Violin and Piano Music by Ma Sicong (I) and (II)", were released by Naxos in 2007 and 2010 respectively. Professor Ku made her début at age seven in her native China. She began her professional training three years later at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, at which time its president was none other than composer Ma Sicong. Ku performed on many occasions for China's leaders and foreign dignitaries before coming to the U.S.. Ku is engaged widely as a soloist, concertmaster, and chamber musician. Concert tours take her around the world, from the United States to major cities in Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia.  Since 1999, Prof. Ku has held the post of Visiting Professor of Guangzhou Xinghai Conservatory, appointed by the Department of Culture in Guangdong Province, China. She has lead DukeEngage China/Zhuhai program since 2010. 


 Eric Pritchard is a native of Durham, New Hampshire, studied at the New England Conservatory, the Indiana University School of Music and The Juilliard School, where he received a Master of Music in 1985. His principal teachers were Joseph Gingold, Ivan Galamian, Eric Rosenblith and Giorgio Ciompi.

Mr. Pritchard has performed as concerto soloist with orchestras including the Boston Pops and the Orchestra of New England and has served as Concertmaster of the Columbus Symphony, the Opera Company of North Carolina and the Spoleto Festival. He was awarded First Prizes at the London International String Quartet Competition and at the Coleman and Fischoff national chamber music competitions. He was also the winner of the National Federation of Music Clubs Award in violin in 1981.

Since 1995 Mr. Pritchard has been first violinist of the Ciompi String Quartet and Professor of Violin at Duke University and he was previously first violinist of the Alexander and Oxford String Quartets. His solo and chamber music performances have been recorded on the Naxos, MSR Classics, Albany, Amplitude, Arabesque, Carlton, CRI, Gallo, Gasparo, Mastersound, Pro Organo, VAC, and Verdi labels. Mr. Pritchard resides in Durham, NC with his wife, Laura Lawton and sons, Shea and Aaron.