James WaldoOriginally from Minnesota, cellist James Waldo now lives in New York City. When not touring and performing with the A.W.Duo, he works in and around the city as a freelance chamber and orchestral musician. He is founder and artistic director of the Listen Closely Inwood Chamber Music Initiative, a growing collective of musicians in uptown Manhattan who seek to engage locally and deeply with their community through regular series concerts and unconventional pop-ups in gardens and parks, local businesses, and other community hubs.
This summer, Listen Closely has received its first grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for a community concert series. Keep up with this project at ListenCloselyNYC.com. This spring, James will appear in a cello quartet with the Music Talks series, and he will serve as principal cellist in an all-Beethoven program with Cecilia Chorus and Orchestra in Stearn Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. Recent noteworthy projects include appearing as solo cellist with the Atlanta Boy Choir on a tour to Poland and the Czech Republic, participating in the inaugural recording project of newly formed consort LeStrange Viols, touring the west coast with orchestral folk ensemble Spirits of the Red City, appearing as a guest cellist at Gramercy Theater with The Brilliance, performing in the dramatic production of “More Between Heaven And Earth” with the Salon and Sanctuary Concerts Period Orchestra at the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, and joining the North Carolina Baroque Orchestra and Trinity Cathedral Choir in Columbia, SC for a performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”
James is a merit scholarship graduate of the Master's of Music and Professional Studies Diploma programs at Mannes College in New York City, where he studied with Timothy Eddy, and served all four years as principal cellist for Mannes' Orchestra and Opera programs. James also received a Bachelor of Music with Academic Distinction at the University of Madison-Wisconsin under the tutelage of cellist and Feldenkrais practicioner Uri Vardi. As a child, he studied at the MacPhail Center for Music Suzuki Program with Brenda Villard in Minneapolis, MN.
James' first and perhaps most formational award experience was auditioning for and winning a spot in a masterclass with Yo Yo Ma at age 11. This incredibly positive and inspiring experience was hugely important in directing James towards a life as a performing musician. Other awards and recognitions include the prestigious Gregory Award for Excellence in Performance, The Dale Gilbert Award for Outstanding String Players, first prizes in the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Menomonee Falls Concerto Competitions, and the rank of finalist in the Mannes Concerto Competition.
In addition to the concert performances associated with the above awards, James has also performed as a concert soloist with the late Vartan Manoogian's Philomusica, and with the Music at Trinity Series in Excelsior, MN. In 2007, James arranged a benefit concert in Madison, Wisconsin for FACE AIDS, in which he performed as a soloist and oversaw the premiere of Requiem, a new work for Soprano and Orchestra by composer Alex Nohai-Seaman.
When not performing, James loves teaching. He has taught cello privately since the age of 16, and continues to work with cello lovers of all ages and levels. James enjoys exploring city parks, cooking, sight-reading with his friends, spending time with his wife, dog, and cat, and exaggerating his abilities as a neophyte chessman.
Alyona AksyonovaA native of Voronezh, Russia, pianist Alyona Aksyonova (previously spelled as Elena Aksenova) lives and works as a chamber musician and collaborative pianist in New York City. In addition to maintaining an active freelance career, she is a staff pianist for Mannes College prep division, and organist at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Inwood. She is a recent graduate of Mannes College, where as a full merit scholarship recipient she received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees under the tutelage of Pavlina Dokovksa and Vladimir Feltsman.
After several years of intensive training on the domra, a traditional Russian folk instrument, Alyona began piano studies at the age of 10. A year later she was accepted into the Music College in Voronezh, a special music school for young gifted musicians, where she studied with Irina Ovchinnikova and Anatoly Pogorelov.
At 16, she won the Premiere Open Young Pianists Competition in Voronezh, and performed with the Voronezh State Symphony Orchestra. This performance resulted in an invitation for two additional appearances with this orchestra under the baton of British guest conductor Alexander Walker as a part of the orchestra's Scandinavian Music Festival. The orchestra also invited Alyona to participate as a soloist in The Young Talents of the 21st Century Concert.
Ms. Aksyonova's recognitions include rank of Finalist in the Third International Gnessin Piano Competition in Moscow and top prize in the Second Gavrilin Governor's International Competition for Young Musicians in Vologda, Russia. While in Vologda, Alyona received an invitation from pianist and competition judge Tamara Poddubnaya to participate in the First International Piano Festival in Portland, Maine. Her attendance in 2004 marked her first trip to the United States, and also resulted in consequent invitations for the two summers following. Ms. Poddubnaya also invited Alyona to participate in the Fifth Peter de Grote Festival in Groningen, Holland. Other summer programs include the Piano Summer at New Paltz and the LISMA International Music Festival. In the United States, Ms. Aksyonova's achievements include Top Prizes in solo and piano duo categories in the Long Island Conservatory/SUNY Old Westbury Music Competition. These awards resulted in a special performance on WQXR public radio. She also was awarded Top prize at the Morgan Park Talent Competition. Upon receiving her Bachelor of Music degree from Mannes College, Alyona was presented with the Newton Swift Piano Award for solo pianists who have also distinguished themselves as talented collaborative artists.
Ms. Aksyonova performs in the Documentary Manuel De Falla: A Musical and Spiritual Journey, released under the SMH Music LLC label. She has performed in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Hall, Steinway Hall, The Russian, French and Polish Consulates in New York, The Jewish Historical Society in the West Village, The Harvard Club, the New York Ethical Culture Society, the Nassau County Museum of Art, at the Young Musicians' Forum in Schenectady, Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church's Music on Madison Series, Cathedral Artists Series in Columbia, SC; and Downtown Music At Grace in White Plains, NY; and the prestigious David G Whitcomb Foundation Summer Recital Series in Germantown, NY.
Ms. Aksyonova has performed in master classes presented by Richard Goode, Eteri Andjaparidze, Alexander Slobodyanik, Robert Hamilton, Philip Kawin, Alexander Korsantia, Frank Glazier, Paul Komen, Vladimir Tropp.
Alyona's love for chamber music and collaborative playing have lead to numerous performances with the Listen Closely Inwood Chamber Music Initiative, as well as notable projects and performances with violinist Todd Phillips and Mezzo-Soprano Denyce Graves. She served as collaborative pianist in such festival environments as La Lingua Della Lirica vocal festival in Novafeltria, Italy; and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive in Middlebury, Connecticut.
Alyona enjoys spending time with her husband and pets and going on spontaneous adventures. Her passions include traveling, eating, the ocean, and salsa dancing.