2019 season guest artists

Pianist, host, and author Zsolt Bognár holds a meteoric, multi-dimensional career that re-defines what it means to be a musician in the 21st century.

Known to many around the globe in musical and cultural circles, Mr. Bognár is host of the award-winning film series Living the Classical Life. As concert pianist, he frequently gives inspiring performances in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Zsolt Bognár’s acclaimed work for Living the Classical Life seeks to highlight the inner world, artistic output, and vigorous process of famous performers and musical personalities including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Joyce DiDonato, Yuja Wang, Yefim Bronfman, Daniil Trifonov, Joshua Bell, John Corigliano, Susan Graham, and many more. With over 60 episodes, the show continues to grow and feature more outstanding artists discussing the rarely heard stories of how they became who they are today.

A protégé of Deutsche Grammophon recording artist and distinguished teacher Sergei Babayan, Mr. Bognár has toured as recitalist, chamber musician, and concerto soloist throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. He has appeared at New York’s Lincoln Center and 92nd Street Y, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. With notable performances in Berlin, Vienna, Munich, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Chicago, and Los Angeles, he has appeared on many NPR programs including full-length recital programs, interviews, poetry readings, and discussions of historical recordings and performers.

Zsolt Bognár’s debut album Franz & Franz was recorded in Berlin with Grammy-winning producer Philipp Nedel. It has been heralded by international press for the benchmark status in solo works by Schubert and Liszt.

Especially praised for his concert work in Germanic, Russian, and Romantic repertoire, he often chooses to highlight lesser-known masterpieces by the great composers with themed programs exploring links between composers and aesthetic trends, often giving his own pre-concert lectures.

Mr. Bognár’s speaking engagements exploring music and the lives of the composers seek to reach new audiences. His two-time TEDMED presentations in San Francisco were broadcast live in 164 countries to 172,000 people.

Zsolt Bognár won the prestigious Artist Presentation Society Auditions (2009) and was later featured in two appearances at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts in Chicago. In 2012, he made his Berlin sold-out debut at Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt for the Young Euro Classic festival. The recipient of an International Festival Society Grant, his work as performer and author have been featured in International Piano, The Examiner, The Washington Post, and on his blog where he wrote a multi-part, behind-the-scenes portrait of Martha Argerich and Sergei Babayan.


David Brooks enjoys a busy musical life as a pianist, violinist, violist, composer, and teacher.  He has performed across the United States and Europe, and was recently a featured artist at IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) in Paris.  A winner of several national and international competitions, he now performs a repertoire spanning the avant-garde and the neglected romantics, as well as the established greats.

Especially committed to the performance of new music, David has taken part in the first performances of works by more than 100 composers.  A composer himself, his song cycle First Steps (2013) was premiered in Bucharest, Romania, and his ‘Metamorphosis’ Variations premiered in New York.  More recently, his first full-scale opera, Urban Legend, was premiered at Wingate University.  Also an enthusiastic proponent of the art of transcription, he has transcribed a wide array of works for solo piano by composers ranging from Bach to Penderecki.

In 2014, David joined the faculty of Wingate University in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he is an Assistant Professor of Piano and Music Theory.  At Wingate, he founded the new music group ensemble243, which performs extended-techniques-works for “bowed piano.”  Wingate’s music department is on the verge of becoming one of the first “All-Steinway” schools in the region. In addition to his teaching at Wingate, he serves on the collaborative piano faculty of the National Music Festival in Chestertown, Maryland. David previously taught at Adelphi University, and at the Pre-College Academy of Stony Brook University in New York.

David graduated from Western Washington University in 2008 with double performance degrees in piano and viola, where he studied with Jeffrey Gilliam and Eric Kean.  He studied with Robin McCabe at the University of Washington before completing his doctorate at Stony Brook University with Christina Dahl.

In his spare time, David enjoys studying graphology, statistics, architecture, and interior design, as well as reading about conspiracy theories and drinking excellent coffee.  In 2019, he will continue his lecture-recital series What Makes It So Damn Good?!, perform brand new chamber and solo works at the Charlotte New Music Festival, and learn how to build timber frame houses by hand at the Shelter Institute in Woolwich, Maine.


Christin Danchi is a collaborative violinist and violist with a passion for exploring connections between music and visual arts, politics, sports, and other disciplines. Her performance interests include solo, chamber and orchestral collaborations. She has performed at a variety of locations including the North Carolina House of Representatives, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Saint Patrick’s National Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, the Antiguo Convento de la Trinidad in Alcalá la Real, Spain, and Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh. She has worked with conductors Manfred Honeck, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Joseph Silverstein, Gerard Schwarz, Paul Polivnick, Barry Douglas, David Effron and Andrés Cárdenes. Christin played baroque violin as part of the UNC Baroque Ensemble and has experience in chamber music from the Baroque to the contemporary.  

Christin also enjoys southern and Irish fiddle music, as well as sacred collaborations in her church. She is an active freelance performer in and around her home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Some of her recent appearances include May 2018 solo performances during Masterclass Al-Andalus in Alcalá la Real, Spain, and collaborative work with pianist Jonathan Levin and tenor Curtis Bannister for the Clayton Piano Festival's 2018 Valentines Day Gala Concert in Clayton, North Carolina.During her undergraduate studies, Christin collaborated in a performance of Hanns Eisler’s film composition 14 Arten den Regen zu beschreiben, (14 Ways to Describe Rain) with its original 1929 art film "Rain," by Joris Ivens, as part of the Talking Music Series at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This experience provided inspiration for Fiddling with Film, Christin's project dedicated to commissioning solo violin film scores for silent films. The first premiere in May of 2014 featured a solo violin score entitled "Launch Sequence" by composer Ash Stemke for Georges Méliès’ 1902 film, Le Voyage dans la lune. In May of 2016, "Launch Sequence" was selected to be part

of the Carnegie Mellon University Moon Arts project and will be included in the collaborative MoonArk "museum" that will accompany an Astrobotic rover on its 238,900-mile journey to the moon in 2020. Fiddling with Film's second project culminated in the April 2015 premiere of composer Dayton Kinney's solo violin film score for the 1938 short film, "An Optical Poem," by German avant-garde artist Oskar Fischinger. 


Growing up in Raleigh, Christin started playing violin at age four under the instruction of Wilinda Atchley in the Meredith College Suzuki Program. With three siblings who also play violin, there was always something musical happening in the Danchi home. Christin went on to study with Dr. Richard Luby at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she was concertmaster of the UNC Symphony Orchestra for two years and received a bachelor’s degree in music with highest distinction. She also received highest honors for her undergraduate thesis entitled Hanns Eisler’s Deutsche Sinfonie and Adrian Leverkühn’s Lamentation of Doctor Faustus: Taking Back Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which explored issues of music and politics surrounding Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Christin received her master's degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2015 and completed post-graduate studies at CMU with Andrés Cárdenes in May of 2016.  She currently works as a Philanthropy Assistant for the North Carolina Symphony.


Christin has a variety of interests outside of music. Her work from 2007 to 2016 as a Legislative and Research Assistant at the North Carolina General Assembly has given her a unique perspective on the relationship between state government and the arts, as well as an inside view of the processes of state government. Christin is also an amateur astronomer and enjoys a clear evening out in the country observing the planets and the stars with her Intelliscope. Having grown up in Tobacco Road, ACC Basketball continues to be an important part of her life from October through April (Go Duke!), while her multiple hybrid tea rose bushes keep her busy the rest of the year. She can also frequently be found baking something to satisfy her insatiable sweet tooth or romping with Riley (her five-year-old Westie).


Pianist/Improviser Joey Chang, obtained his B.M. and M.M. from the Juilliard School, graduating in 2018.

Following his residency as an improviser at the Banff Centre in the summer of 2017, Joey works extensively in collaborative, cross-discipline, freeform improvisation. He has performed free improvisation around NYC in contexts ranging from free jazz to classical piano including The Stone at the New School,  Cornelia St. Cafe Underground, The Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Spectrum NYC, and Juilliard’s Paul Hall. He has performed with musicians such as Peter Evans, Michael Formanek, Jim Black, Weasel Walter, Luke Stewart, Immanuel Wilkins, Jasmine Wilson, and Jack Mcguire. As an improvising soloist, he performed improvisation in a classical solo piano concert featuring his mentor, Jerome Lowenthal and Vassily Primakov at the Sparkhill concert series and Bronxville women’s club. He has composed structured improvisation for art installations as well as dance choreography performed at student choreography showcases at Marymount Manhattan College. At Juilliard, he was the organizer and leader of the “Improv You Are Enough!” sessions, a series of informal jam sessions between musicians, dancers, and actors, and continues to network and workshop collaborative improvisation in these settings.

            Joey gave his first formal recital at age 10 with a solo concert during the WPPI international piano festival. He garnered awards and recognition from local competitions as well as international competitions, including International Russian Music Piano Competition, New Orleans International Young artist and Schimmel International Junior. Joey was the youngest top-prize winner of the Jacob Flier International Piano Competition in 2009 and made a debut concerto performance under the baton of maestro Vladimir Feltsman. The performance brought a review from the Time-Herald Record for playing “…accompaniments

and cadenzas with precocious agility and focus, letting the bell-like arpeggios ring at his fingertips with precision and ease…” 

At Juilliard, Joey was the 2nd-place winner in the 2015 piano concerto competition, 3rd place winner of the 2016 Munz scholarship, and a finalist of the 2016 and 2017 Gina Bachauer scholarship competitions. He was a participant of the Hamamatsu International Piano competition 2015 in Japan and was awarded honorary medals for participation in the USASU Bosendorfer 2017 in Arizona and Maria Canals 2017 in Barcelona. He was a fellow of the Music Academy of the West under the Lee Luria Scholarship as well as a fellow of Pianofest in the Hamptons.

          An avid composer, Joey began to compose at 6 and performed his first original work in the Yamaha USA national “Junior Original Composer” concert at age 7. He has since composed music for solo piano, chamber groups, and piano and chamber orchestra premiered at Juilliard’s Double Vision concert series.

                A passionate believer in musical advocacy and outreach, Joey is a member of and has participated in educational programs run by organizations like ASTEP and Sing-For-Hope based in New York. In the summer of 2015, Joey spent 6-weeks in Taiwan, including two weeks of living and teaching in the mountains of Taidong in a community of Taiwanese Bunun aboriginal descendants. The project culminated in a concert held in Hsing-Kang, Chiayi in which Joey performed original compositions and improvisations based on his experiences in Taiwan in a collaboration with the Hsing-Kang elementary school orchestra.

          Joey began private piano lessons with Dr. Tehling Chiang and studied under Professor Robert Hamilton at Arizona State University at age 13. At Juilliard, Joey was under the mentorship of Jerome Lowenthal, as well as workshopping improvisation with Noam Sivan.


Nia Franklin was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and lived in the state through graduate school. She earned an undergraduate degree in music composition from East Carolina University, and a master’s in music composition from The University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts. Shortly after, Nia was awarded a Kenan Fellowship at New York’s Lincoln Center Education and made the move to New York City. 

During Nia’s college freshman year, her father was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma, and she became his stem cell donor. This turn of events led Nia to the Miss America Organization. “I had to find a way to pay for myself to go to school and so I entered this competition and this organization, and it became much more than just the scholarship money for me, it was also about the mentorship, leadership and sisterhood you find in this program.”

Nia was crowned Miss Five Boroughs at the age of 24, and then went on to win Miss New York 2018. And was awarded the job of Miss America 2019 on September 9, 2018.

A gifted singer/songwriter, Nia has been a teacher and music mentor, and has written over 100 songs, including one she began performing at age five. (The lyrics begin: “Love, love, love, love, love is the only thing that matters to me…”).  For the Miss America 2019 competition, Franklin sang “Quando m’en Vo'” from Puccini’s La Boheme and wowed audiences and judges alike.


Throughout her year as Miss America, Nia has been promoting her social impact initiative ADVOCATING FOR THE ARTS through appearances at colleges and universities, performing with orchestras and operas across the country, at arts schools and holding master classes.

At the invitation of the New York Philharmonic, she hosted their “Phil the Hall” and was named by the New York Times as the perfect host for the program which opens up classical music to all through free programming. Among other events, she has been a part of the NY Metropolitan Opera and LA Opera's opening nights, was keynote speaker for the Center for Education Reform and the Lincoln Center’s most recent board meeting and has worked with Sing for Hope to promote the arts among disadvantaged students.  As Miss America, Nia has also brought joy to hundreds of children being treated at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as the National Goodwill Ambassador for CMN. In keeping with the Miss America Organization’s longstanding relationship with the military, Nia has also spent time supporting our men and women in uniform through her many appearances with the USO. 


Praised by the New York Concert Review as “much more than a pianist, but a musician with a fine mind and enormously promising creative energy”, Jonathan Levin is quickly establishing a reputation as an enthusiastic and compelling advocate for classical music, creating integrated programs that garner closer connections with audiences through illuminating discussion and example.


Born in North Carolina, Jonathan made his debut with the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra when he was fifteen.  Since then, he has become a sought after recitalist and soloist, performing throughout the country in concert halls, museums, universities, schools, libraries and private salons.  Jonathan was recently chosen to present a special performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia as a part of the 4th Melody of Generations Festival with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra of the Russian Federation.  He has been a laureate of many competitions and prizes including the National Stillman-Kelley Award, 2nd Prize at the 2012 Los Angeles International Liszt Competition and recipient of the Alan Walker Award from the American Liszt Society.  Jonathan recently made his solo recital debut at Carnegie’s Weill Hall, presenting his new program entitled "American Portraits."


Jonathan is Artistic Director and Founder of Clayton Piano Festival in Clayton, NC which seeks to create accessible, educational, world-class concerts and music presentations that uniquely enrich the cultural life of the area. The festival, which presented its 5th anniversary season of concerts, public classes, school outreach and other community events in the fall of 2016, aims to bridge the gap between performer and audience, bringing classical piano music to people of all ages and levels of exposure to the arts.