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Team

Vasudevan Panicker, Director of Face the Music

Vasudevan Panicker (Vasu) is Director of Face the Music at Kaufman Music Center, the nation’s only youth orchestra program dedicated to performing works by living composers. As a born-and-raised New Yorker from Manhattan, Vasu attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia high school for piano performance, Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Division, and City University of New York (B.S., Contemporary Music Studies). After serving as Face the Music’s first intern and, later, as Managing Director, he lived in Germany and Argentina for eight months. While living abroad, he reached C.1-level in German from the Goethe-Institut; he also acquired conversational fluency in Spanish.

In 2016, he returned home to New York to lead Face the Music. Additionally, he teaches a course in artistic entrepreneurship at Special Music School High School (P.S. 859) at Kaufman Music Center. Now living in Brooklyn, Vasu loves coffee, fashion, technology, design and combining his interest in social sciences with his commitment to music education. He hopes to guide students in defining both their own
life-missions and the part that music will play in their lives, in service of building a better society through the arts.

hattie bestul, program coordinator

Clarinetist Hattie Bestul strives to inspire passion, kindness, and courage in others through music. Her desire to share music’s benefits has compelled Hattie to commission meaningful new pieces, give interactive performance presentations in public schools, and found her social and educational performing ensemble Duo–E: Engage, Express, and Empower. Now joining the Face the Music team, Hattie is thrilled to be supporting this innovative program and the Kaufman Music Center.

Since moving to New York City in August 2018, Hattie has engaged in a multifaceted career as a clarinetist, teaching artist, and arts administrator. During the 2018-19 season Hattie served as a Teaching Artist Apprentice with the New York Philharmonic’s education department and in January joined a team of Teaching Artists through Symphony Space developing lessons for NYC’s District 75. During the summer of 2019 Hattie traveled to Trujillo, Peru for a residency with Teaching Artists International and received second prize in the International Clarinet Association’s Young Artist Competition.

Though a Colorado native, Hattie grew up in Wisconsin where her time performing in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra set the stage for her pursuit of a musical career. As an undergraduate at the Glenn Korff School of Music, Hattie’s most treasured experiences include performing Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet as a guest artist with the Chiara String Quartet. Hattie continued her studies at the Eastman School of Music where she graduated in May 2018 with a Masters in Music in Performance and Literature as well as an Arts Leadership Certificate.

David Bloom

David Bloom is founding co-artistic director of Contemporaneous, a New York-based ensemble of 21 musicians dedicated to performing the most exciting music of the present moment. Noted for his "energy and passion" (I Care If You Listen) as well as his "skill and musicality" (New York Classical Review), David is a devoted advocate for new music, regularly working with composers and ensembles to bring new and recent works to life.

David has conducted over 150 world premieres for such presenters as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Walker Art Center, Merkin Concert Hall, and the Bang on a Can Marathon. He has worked with artists and ensembles as diverse as David Byrne, Donnacha Dennehy,  JACK Quartet, Courtney Love, Dylan Mattingly, Andrew Norman, Present Music, NOW Ensemble, Dawn Upshaw, and Julia Wolfe.

Especially active as a conductor of new opera throughout the U.S. and Canada, David serves as music director for developing and touring productions of works by Judd Greenstein, Matt Marks, Anthony Gatto, and Todd Almond. He has recorded for the Innova, New Amsterdam, Mexican Summer, Mona, and Starkland labels.

Also a passionate educator, David is orchestral and special projects conductor for Face the Music, the nation's only youth music program dedicated to the work of living composers. He also conducts the orchestra and opera programs at Special Music School High School. Along with Contemporaneous, he leads frequent educational programs for students of all ages in the area where the ensemble performs, including residencies at City University of New York, the University of New Orleans, Williams College, and his alma mater, Bard College.

Murat Çolak

Born and raised in Eskisehir, Murat Çolak is a composer and multimedia artist based in Manhattan. His work is immersive and luxe, it finds its home in the spirituality and poise of Turkish art music and in the hazy, hypnotic coils of dub techno and trance.

Murat has collaborated extensively with some of contemporary music's most prominent exponents, artists like Wet Ink, Ensemble Dal Niente, Distractfold, Ensemble Vertixe Sonora, Ensemble Surplus, Meitar Ensemble, and Scenatet. His work has been presented and supported by the BBC Radio 3, MATA Festival, New Music USA, the Yaddo Corporation, Esther B. Kahn Foundation, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Mise-en Festival, ISCM World New Music Days, Frequency Series Festival Chicago, Avaloch Farms Music Institute and Festival of New American Music among others. Current projects include a shadowplay installation with percussionist/electronic performer Christian Smith and violinist Linda Jankowska, an audiovisual club anthem for cellists Colin Stokes and Konstantin Manaev, and a warehouse runway show with the International Contemporary Ensemble.

Murat holds a DMA in composition from Boston University and an MA from Istanbul Technical University's Centre for Advanced Studies in Music (MIAM). He teaches music technology and theory at Montclair State University along with private composition lessons at the Kaufman Music Center, and he is a teaching artist with the New York Philharmonic's VYC program.

Whitney George

Whitney George’s music traverses the affective terrain between tragedy and ecstasy, fragility and strength, bringing together romantically delicate intimacy and the spectacular darkness of the macabre. Her operas, staged multimedia works, and chamber music have had both international and domestic premieres. Most recently, George was commissioned by dell'Arte Opera to write Princess Maleine, an adaptation of a Grim fairytale. She received the 2017 Elebash Award for her orchestration of Miriam Gideon’s opera Fortunato, which premiered under George’s baton in May 2019.

George is the artistic director and conductor of The Curiosity Cabinet, a chamber orchestra formed in 2009. She holds an undergraduate degree from the California Institute of the Arts, a master’s degree from Brooklyn College, and is currently a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center. In addition to her composing and conducting, George teaches at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, lectures outside of the university with ThinkOlio, works at the Hitchcock Institute of American Studies, and is on the composition faculty for Face the Music.

Adrianna Mateo

Hailed as a "rising artist" by The New York Times and "triumphant" by TimeOut NY for her recent Bang On a Can Marathon debut, Adrianna Mateo has performed solo at the American Museum of Natural History, the Winter Garden Atrium, the TimesCenter, Waldorf-Astoria's Grand Ballroom, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and on tour internationally. Consistently praised for her lyrical, powerful, and emotionally raw performances, Ms. Mateo has naturally broadened her scope to perform as a contemporary violinist, singer, and songwriter throughout the East Coast, in South Africa, and in Southeast Asia.

Ms. Mateo is comfortable at the helm of large creative projects. Most recently, she produced, art-directed, and modeled in a 15-person crew photoshoot; successfully Kickstarted her debut album with the support of composers including David Lang, Nico Muhly, and Bora Yoon; violinists Tim Fain (Philip Glass), Sean Mackin (Yellowcard), and Chrysanthe Tan (Ariana Grande); and curated and performed a 3-hour show of her original music, classical standards and multiple contemporary classical commissions, music from the films Amélie and The Triplets of Belleville, and pop arrangements including Beyoncé and Bruno Mars at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ms. Mateo's 2015-2016 appearances include curating and performing her fourth run of shows at the Met Museum with her new quintet; singing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert; conducting orchestral premieres at Merkin Hall and the DiMenna Center; and making her acting debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Manon Lescaut.

Aakash Mittal

Hailed as “A fiery alto saxophonist and prolific composer” by the Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Aakash Mittal is sculpting a dynamic voice that mines the intersection of improvisation, composition, sonified movement, and noise. The colorful dissonances, meditative silences, and angular rhythms that emerge invite the listener to enter a sonic landscape. Mittal’s work explores universal designs while being rooted in both South Asian and American musical traditions. His latest project is a series of nocturnes written for his Awaz Trio that abstract and deconstruct five Hindustani evening and night ragas.

As a composer Aakash Mittal has written extensively for a variety of ensembles and mediums composing over one hundred new works. His recent commissions include, Samay Raga for Wind Ensemble for Lawrence University and a consortium of eleven international wind symphonies, the found sound piece Ghosts (2017) for BOMB Magazine, a work for solo percussion titled Meditation, Motion, and Melody for Indian-American percussionist David Abraham (2017). The Playground ensemble has commissioned a number of works including Urban Raga (2011), Transitions (2011), and Questions of Identity (2012). In 2009 Mittal wrote Octet on Raga Yaman for the Ethos West Chamber Orchestra. In 2012 Mittal wrote Meditation for Pictures on Silence saxophone and harp duo. American University Creative Ensemble commissioned the work Pooja, in 2013. As a leader, Mittal has self-released four recordings, Possible Beginnings, Videsh, Thumbs Up EP, and Ocean to rave reviews.

Aakash Mittal has performed with such notable ensembles as the Milford Graves Trio, Du Yun’s Ok Miss, Amir Elsaffar’s Rivers of Sound, and the Brooklyn Raga Massive. As a leader Mittal has performed nationally at such venues as Lincoln Center (New York City), The Dakota (Minneapolis), The Cultural Center of Chicago, The American Jazz Museum (Kansas City) and Dazzle Jazz Club (Denver). Internationally, Aakash Mittal led a quartet at the Congo Square Jazz Festival in Kolkata, India. As a sideman, Mittal has performed in Kolkata with world renowned percussionist Pandit Tanmoy Bose’s Taal Tantra, and with the creative music ensemble Kendraka. In 2012 Mittal toured Mexico with Ravish Momin’s Trio Tarana. Other collaborations include poet Bhanu Kapil, Yells at Eels with Dennis Gonzalez, and Joining Hands with bharatnatyam dancer Anjal Chande.

Music education is a core element of Mittal’s creative activities. He began teaching private students at home and clarinet classes at Lucille Erwin Middle School in Loveland, Colorado at the age of sixteen. He has maintained a private studio since 2002. After moving to New York City Mittal taught music classes at the Salvation Army in Harlem. Aakash Mittal is currently on the music faculty for Special Music High School, The Lucy Moses School, and The Brooklyn Waldorf School. As a conductor Mittal leads three ensembles for Face the Music. Face the music is a NYC youth organization where students play the music of living composers. Mittal has conducted workshops at a number of universities including Metro State Denver, University of Denver, University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Northern Colorado.

As a writer Mittal has published essays, interviews and performance reviews in NewMusicBox, BOMB Magazine, and New York Music Daily. Writing is an integral part of his compositional practice. Mittal shares personal essays through his website and email newsletters.

Aakash Mittal’s awards and honors include the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music (2012), the Herb Albert/ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award (2013) and the American Institute of Indian Studies Creative and Performing Arts Fellowship (2013). Aakash Mittal has received a Bachelor of Music from the University of Colorado at Boulder (2007) and has been a participant of the “Workshop for Jazz and Creative Music” and “(R)evolution: Resonant Bodies” at the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada. Mittal has been studying Hindustani raga music with Prattyush Banerjee and Tanmoy Bose since 2009 and with Samarth Nagakar since 2016. Aakash Mittal currently studies music and creativity with the legendary drummer/healer Milford Graves.

Luke scales, production coordinator

Luke Scales began his position as Production Coordinator at Face the Music after graduating from the Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College Music Conservatory in 2017 with a BA in Music Performance. His primary instrument of study was Alto Saxophone, as well as privately studying Jazz Guitar since the age of 13. Outside of Face the Music, Luke has enjoyed collaborating with many NYC and Westchester music acts in varying styles, including Jazz, Indie Rock, Punk, Folk and Afro-Latin music. He is a free-lance arranger as well as guitar teacher and dog walker! A New York native, Luke was born in the Bronx but grew up in sleepy Mt. Pleasant, Westchester, a lover of everything outdoors and a frequent “weekend New Yorker”, his thumb on the pulse of the Tristate DIY music scene since a young age.
Luke is a coffee lover, Professional Football (Soccer) fan, Cinephile and NYC pizza and Ramen aficionado. Feel free to ask him about his favorite square slice and what films he’s recently seen!

Mark Serkin

American cellist Mark Edward Serkin is a Master of Music candidate and President’s scholarship recipient at Mannes School of Music in New York City where he studies with the internationally renowned cellist Jeffrey Zeigler.  Mark is principal cellist of the Mannes Orchestra and has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and various other venues.  He received his bachelor’s degree with honors in cello performance at Mannes School of Music, The New School, class of Barbara Stein Mallow.

His earlier achievements include the second place in the Korean Radio Broadcasting New York International Music Competition and the Gold Winner place at the National Young Musicians Showcase Competition (2013).  Mark was awarded with the opportunity to play at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and the Merkin Concert Hall, New York.

Mark has participated in many festivals such as NY Phil Biennial, Kinhaven Music School, Meadowmount School of Music, Manchester Music Festival, Taconic Music, Luzerne Music Center, and the National Orchestra Institute and Festival, where he was recorded for the Naxos label in 2015 and 2016 albums.  In April 2017, Mark was a featured artist on the Classic FM Radio in London performing multi-screen arrangement of a Fauré fugue for four cellos.

Mark is a cello and chamber music coach for the Face the Music program and cello faculty for Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, both affiliated with Kaufman Music Center in New York City.

Mark has performed in solo and chamber master classes for artists such as Steven Isserlis, Sharon Robinson, Timothy Eddy, Robert DeMaine, Jonathan Spitz, Peter Stumpf, Julia Lichten, Gloria dePasquale, Stefan Milenkovich, Kronos Quartet, Horszowski Trio, and the Miró Quartet.  His main mentors include Hans Jørgen Jensen and Vladimir Panteleyev (cello performance), Todd Phillips (chamber), Nancy Wilson (baroque chamber).