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Meet the 2023 Festival Fellows

April 1, 2023 | Noel Morris

Every year, as Chicagoans wrestle with snow shovels and relentless winds, dozens of gifted young-adult musicians come to compete for a chance to spend their summer with the Grant Park Music Festival.

The Festival String and Vocal Fellowship provides a range of opportunities to young artists, including master classes with Festival soloists, chamber and large-ensemble experience, audience development, and more.

Members of the 2023 class of Fellows hail from three continents and various backgrounds, but all share a common dream—to make music.


2023 Festival String Fellows

Violinist Matthew AdamsMatthew Adams began his violin studies at the age of five in Cincinnati, Ohio. He's currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Violin Performance at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance with Professor Aaron Berofsky.

As a youngster, he served as co-concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra in 2017. In 2016, he was a semifinalist in the Sphinx Competition, and in 2017 made his solo debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in their Young People’s Concerts. Matthew’s instrument was provided by a scholarship grant from the Virtu Foundation. 

Violinist Esther RoestanViolinist Esther Roestan made her solo debut at the age of 9 with the Surabaya Symphony Orchestra, and was the youngest-ever assistant concertmaster of the Indonesian Gita Bahana Nusantara Orchestra, the national Indonesian Orchestra. At age 14, she earned a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music to study in its pre-college program. She has also studied violin at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory, and The Orchestra Now.

Violist Rafael Gargate Santamaria.jpgAs a youngster, Rafael Pablo Gargate Santamaria played percussion and guitar in his native Peru. Later he began violin studies with Edgar Gargate Ostos, and at age 13, chose the viola as his principal instrument. At 16, he entered the National Conservatory of Music in Peru and later enrolled at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he earned a master's degree in 2022.

Cellist David CaplanMexican-American cellist David Caplan began his musical studies at the age of ten and has just concluded his master’s degree at the University of Michigan. As an avid chamber musician, David, along with Quartet Bellezza, won first prize at the 2017 Discover Chamber Music Competition, first prize in the junior division of WDAV's Young Musician's Chamber Competition, and the junior division gold medal at the 2017 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. David has been a guest clinician and lecturer at Midwest Young Artists’ Conservatory, ArtsAhimsa Chamber Music Festival, and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He has made appearances at the Chautauqua, Aspen, and Taos summer music festivals. 

2023 Festival Vocal Fellows

Soprano Taylor Mackenzie AdamsSoprano Taylor Mackenzie Adams is a graduate student at Bard College Conservatory of Music and is a proud member of the Detroit-housed Sphinx Organization’s vocal ensemble, EXIGENCE, which highlights Black and LatinX artists. In addition to her performance work, she serves as Education Manager for Hear Us, Hear Them, a vocal ensemble devoted to diversifying the canon of choral music. Taylor holds a B.M in voice performance and a B.A. in cognitive science from the University of Michigan. Active as a writer, her praised fiction piece “Five Chapters, in Black” can be found in the Michigan Quarterly Review. 

Mezzo-soprano Miya HigashiyamaMezzo-soprano Miya Higashiyama recently sang Moth in Des Moines Metro Opera’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She made her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in Lyric Unlimited’s The Scorpions’ Sting and sang the role of Rachel in the Midwest premiere of Jake Heggie’s new opera If I Were You with Northwestern Opera Theatre. A recent graduate from Northwestern, Miya has won Encouragement Awards in the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, and placed as one of thirteen national semifinalists in the NATS Classical Singing Competition in 2021. Miya currently resides in Chicago and sings regularly with Church of the Ascension under the direction of Benjamin Rivera. 

Tenor Eric BottoMexican-American tenor Eric Botto is best known for his vocal and dramatic versatility onstage. He has triumphed in roles as Rodolfo in La bohème, Alfredo in La traviata, the title role in Roméo et Juliette, and Nadir in Les pêcheurs de perles. 2023 holds multiple house and role debuts with New Amsterdam Opera, First Coast Opera, and Opera San Antonio. Eric experienced two summers as a young artist with Chautauqua Opera. He won 2nd place in Lyra New York’s International Vocal Competition, the Career Advancement Award from Pikes Peak Opera League, and he was a finalist in the 2022 Lotte Lenya Competition. Eric holds an Artist Diploma at the University of Colorado, and music degrees from Colorado State University and the University of Mobile.

Baritone Anthony PilcherBorn in Buffalo, New York, baritone Anthony Pilcher completed his Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance & Music Education at Ithaca College and recently completed his Master of Music in Voice Performance at Boston University under the tutelage of James Demler. He has performed with the BU Opera Institute, Odyssey Opera, Bay View Music Festival, and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and is thrilled to be a Vocal Fellow for the 2023 season.