Tyler Michael James, born in Chesapeake, Virginia, got his musical start attending the Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts while working on his teacher’s farm to pay for lessons. He is currently a guest artist with the Hornby Island Festival and toured as principal cellist of the National Tour of Miss Saigon.
Tyler has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and an orchestral player in major venues across the United States and Europe including Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, 92nd Street Y, the Academy of Music, the Boston Opera House, Shalin Liu Performance Center, the Mirabell Palace, and Cagnes Sur Mer. He has performed as soloist with Orchestra Flex as well as the New York University Symphony Orchestra and Percussion Ensemble. He has performed chamber music with the Horzowski Trio, Castle of Our Skins, Peter Zazofsky, Andres Cardenes, and Doris Stevenson. He has held residencies with both the Zodiac Trio and the Ēnso String Quartet and performs regularly with Lyrica Boston and the Fermata Chamber Soloists.
As a strong advocate of performing new works, Tyler has premiered a myriad of original music by contemporary composers across several genres. He has had the honor of collaborating with Jessie Montgomery, Eve Beglarian, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Andrew Kozar, Amanda Berlind, and George Katehis on their music. Tyler and singer Nina Kasper are producing the first commercial recording of Jessie Montgomery’s “Loisaida, I Love You” for cello and piano. Tyler recently performed Dina Pruzhansky’s Piano Trio Sound of the Land on her 92nd Street Y faculty concert and gave the world premiere of Anthony R. Green’s Catto’s Courage for String Quartet and String Ensemble.
Tyler is currently cello faculty at the Arts Ahimsa Chamber Music Festival and the Boston String Academy. He has previously taught at the ArtsAhimsa Chamber Music Festival, the Longy School of Music‘s El Sistema Summer Academy, the Montecito International Music Festival, the Kaufman Center‘s Summer Strings Festival, Project STEP, and the Conservatory Lab Charter School. Tyler is both a member of the 2022 Cohort of the Teaching Artist Training Institute and a Music Educator and Teaching Artist Fellow with the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Tyler was awarded a full scholarship to New York University where he studied cello with esteemed pedagogue Marion Feldman and minored in Political Science. His chamber music influences have included members of the Juilliard String Quartet, the Tokyo String Quartet, the Cassat String Quartet, the Muir Quartet, the Emerson String Quartet, and the Mirecourt Trio. He has performed in masterclasses for cellists Alisa Weilerstein, Mark Kosower, Marcy Rosen, Hans Jensen, Paul Watkins, Colin Carr, Bonnie Hampton, Natasha Brofsky, and Julian Schwarz. Currently, Tyler is pursuing his Master’s Degree and Artist Diploma with Terry King, protégé of the legendary cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, on full scholarship at the Longy School of Music. Additionally, Tyler is a fully-funded M.B.A. Candidate at the College of William & Mary and spends most of his free time enjoying America’s State and National Parks.
Dr. Ian Saunders enjoys an exciting career as a sought-after bassist whose performed with major ensembles that include: The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and The Sphinx Symphony. The Virginia native began his studies with Christopher White, principal bassist of the Virginia Symphony, in his hometown of Norfolk. Within a year he received his first major scholarship from R&B legend Ben E. King. Dr. Saunders completed his bachelor’s degree under the tutelage of renowned bassist Robert Nairn at the Pennsylvania State University. He continued his graduate studies under Nairn while fulfilling numerous professional engagements with the Williamsport Symphony, Penn’s Woods Festival Orchestra, Ballet Theatre of Central Pa, and Manassas Ballet Theatre. In addition, he served as Principal Bassist of the Penn Centre Orchestra, Nittany Valley Symphony, and Altoona Symphony.
In 2016 he received his doctorate from the University of Maryland while studying with Robert Oppelt, principal bassist of the National Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Saunders was in high demand within the competitive Baltimore and DC freelance community, most notably as the bassist for the critically acclaimed Post-Classical Ensemble. In March of 2016, he was featured on WBJC 91.5 Baltimore performing Guillaume Connesson’s Sextuor. The following year, Dr. Saunders won a prestigious diversity fellowship position with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he studied with his mentor Owen Lee, the CSO’s principal bassist. Furthermore, he has appeared at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington D.C), Heinz Hall (Pittsburgh, PA), and New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as abroad in Canada, Mexico, and the Bahamas.
Outside of the classical world, he has been invited to participate in orchestras backing Bootsy Collins, Kansas, and hip-hop artist Thee Phantom. He can also be seen in the nationally televised special Cherish the Ladies: An Irish Homecoming, with the Irish supergroup Cherish the Ladies, which was nationally syndicated on PBS in 2013.
As an educator, Dr. Saunders served as the Interim Double Bass Professor at Penn State. In addition, he’s taught classes at The University of Maryland, The University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Dr. Saunders also spent several summers as the Associate Dean of Students at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC.
Pianist Mana Tokuno has received wide-spread acclaim for her sensitive and insightful interpretations and her brilliant virtuosity. First Prize winner of the prestigious Competition Internationale, she also received the Leo Sirota Award for Piano Solo Performance at the Corpus Christi International Competition as well as the Special Award for Schubert Interpretation at the International Competition Valsesia Musica in Varallo, Italy. Other prizes include the Dosei-Kai Prize for Distinction in Performance, and the Silver Medal in the Chubu Chopin Competition in Nagoya, Japan.
Among other honors, Tokuno was selected in two consecutive seasons from a worldwide pool of applicants to perform in Professional Training Workshops by Daniel Barenboim (on Beethoven Sonatas) and Leon Fleisher (on late Schubert Sonatas) at Carnegie Hall.
Known for her ability to bring a vast array of styles to life, Tokuno has performed at Carnegie (Weill) Hall and CAMI Hall in New York as well as at Symphony Hall and Jordan Hall in Boston. She was also invited to give a solo recital as part of a Chopin Festival at the Polish Consulate in New York. In addition to solo performances in Romania, Italy, France, Germany, and Austria, she has appeared at many venues in Japan and in numerous recitals, chamber concerts, and concerto performances in the United States.
Tokuno’s principal teachers were Midori Tanabe at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where she was an honors graduate, and Victor Rosenbaum at the New England Conservatory in Boston where she received the Master of Music degree with academic honors and was selected to perform with the NEC Orchestra at the Commencement Concert.
Now a highly regarded teacher herself, Tokuno was formerly on the faculty of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. She is on the faculty of the New England Conservatory Preparatory School in Boston since 2008.
Her debut solo CD “Beethoven Sonatas & Bagatelles” was released on GiNOTE RECORDS® in October, 2009 and is available worldwide at iTunes, Amazon.com, and CD Baby. You can also listen on iTunes to Mana playing “Tokuno Toccata,” the piece written for her Carnegie Hall Recital in April 2010 by a Boston composer, Thomas Oboe Lee, as well as the masterclass with Leon Fleisher on Schubert’s Sonata in A major, D. 959 at Carnegie Hall Weil Institute.