Agnieszka Rybska, cello
Agnieszka's multi-faceted performance background brings an air of worldliness and expertise to the Pennsylvania String Ensemble. Studying the cello from the age of eight, she began her musical career as a member of the Tarnow Youth Chamber Orchestra in Poland. For ten years Agnieszka gave frequent public concerts across Europe, culminating in the achievement of the coveted gold medal at the European Music Festival in Neerpelt. While studying at the Academy of Music in Krakow, Agnieszka went on to tour the European continent, performing and recording in conjunction with the Krakow Philharmonic in Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Spain.
In 1995 Agnieszka came to the United States and joined the cello-driven alternative rock band, Rasputina. Under contract with Columbia/Sony Music, she recorded two albums and toured with the band across the United States and Canada. While promoting the group, Agnieszka made frequent television appearances including Live with Regis and Kathy Lee, The Late Show with Conan O'Brien, and a music video on MTV. A well-rounded artist, her experiences with Rasputina enhanced her technical ability and expanded her understanding of the cello's range of sound.
Christopher Souza, violin and viola
Christopher began playing the violin at the age of nine, studying with private teachers in the Boston area through high school. He benefited most, however, from the refined instruction of violinist Mark Thielen at the Harrison Center in Lakeland, Florida. While attending this high school for the performing arts, Christopher joined the Imperial Symphony Orchestra and performed with renowned acts such as The Moody Blues and violinist Eugene Fodor. Christopher's playing was further enhanced by masterclasses with the Colorado String Quartet and members of the London Symphony Orchestra during the Florida International Festival. He was thrilled to perform with both ensembles during this formative two week experience.
After graduating from Lee University, he joined the Tammy Rochelle Band and gave concerts on stages across Europe on three international tours. In conjunction with the International YMCA, Christopher performed in The World's Fair and many other festivals throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Sweden as a part of this folk-inspired rock band. Touring proved to be a rewarding career path: Christopher soon won the only string seat on two tours with the Lawrence Welk Show Live, performing throughout Canada and the United States.
While working on a masters degree in Springfield, Missouri, Christopher was pleased to become a part of a flourishing arts community there. He joined the Springfield Symphony, performing with Manhattan Transfer, renowned Jazz artists. Springfield also offered a Regional Opera Company, an accomplished Chamber Orchestra, an active theater, and many recording opportunities.
Susan Arnold, violin and viola
Susan Arnold holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance from Temple University. She has studied violin and viola privately with Paul Windt in Allentown and Evelyn Jacobs Luise in Philadelphia.
Susan also has received chamber music coaching from Jeffrey Solow, Helen Kwalwasser, and Sidney Curtis and has performed in master classes for members of the Guarneri String Quartet.
Susan is a member of the Pennsylvania String Ensemble and Bella Musica String Quartet and performs freelance with other chamber groups, orchestras, and as a soloist.
Stephani Bell, violin
Stephani Bell earned her Bachelor and Master degrees from the Eastman School of Music, is an alumna of the Juilliard School, and attended Northwestern University where she held a graduate teaching fellowship under Gerardo Ribiero.
Ms. Bell has held positions with the Rochester Philharmonic, the Portland Symphony, the New Hampshire Symphony and the Vermont Symphony. While pursuing her career in the NY metropolitan area for several years she performed with and was a member of such groups as the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the American Composer's Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, the New Jersey Symphony, the New York Pops and several Broadway shows.
Ms. Bell most recently held a position for several years at Lafayette College as music director of the Lafayette Chamber orchestra, chamber ensembles and violin professor. As a chamber musician, she has performed with Classicopia of Dartmouth College, the Satori Ensemble, and is currently an active member of Penn Strings Ensemble. Ms. Bell has taught at Cannon Music Camp at Appalachian State University, the Luzerne Music Center with Elizabeth Pitcairn and participated in the Lake George Opera Festival.
Scott Besser, piano
Scott made his concert debut at the age of 17 as a piano concerto soloist with the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra. An active composer, arranger, teacher and performer, he divides his time performing as an acclaimed accompanist and soloist, and maintaining a full private piano studio in Stroudsburg, PA, in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania.
Scott holds a Bachelor of Music in piano with an emphasis in Music Industry from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, and has completed graduate course work from East Stroudsburg University. Teachers and coaches include Patricia Brady, Daniel Fletcher, Chuck Fisher, Barbara Nissman, Debra Ronning, and Rhoda Schademann. His work as a Musical Director includes operas, revues, and teaming up with Broadway's longest-running Phantom of the Opera Franc D'ambrosio. His has written commercial jingles for television and radio, acted a judge for student composer national finalists, and worked as a Suzuki Strings Institute collaborative pianist.
Serena Cohen, violin
Serena Cohen, violin, graduated cum laude from Ithaca College in 1999 with a Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance where she studied with Margaret Cooper. She also completed post-baccalaureate studies at Temple University with Helen Kwalwasser.
The daughter of a piano teacher, she began her musical studies in violin and piano at the age of 4. She has performed with Symphony in C in Haddonfield, NJ, was assistant principal second violin for the La Jolla Symphony in San Diego, CA, and has toured with Camerata Philadelphia.
Dr. Cohen attended the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University and graduated with a Doctor of Optometry degree in 2004. She enjoys performing as a freelance musician and as a member of the Pennsylvania String Ensemble while pursuing her medical career.
Frank Michael Flandorffer Sr., guitar
Director of the Pennsylvania Guitar Quintet and a graduate of Greenwich Conservatory (a division of New York University), Frank received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Performance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Composition and Arranging.
Frank has studied with Watts Clarke, Dennis Sandole, Howard Roberts, and the eminent maestro Alberto Valdes Blain. Frank has toured with Sonny and Cher, Bobbie Vinton, Tom Jones, Bob Hope, Tony Orlando, and has done various recordings, commercials, and videos as a studio musician.
Takeshi Horochi, violin and viola
Takeshi Horochi, born in Japan, began studying piano at the age of six, then switched to violin. While studying with a violinist Masako Matsumi, Takeshi performed as a concertmaster, principle violinist, and concerto soloist with school orchestras and community orchestras. He also served as assistant principal at Jeunesses Musicales du Japon Symphony Orchestra.
After moving to the United States in 2000, he continued to study violin with private teachers including Paul Chou, and started playing viola as well. He has performed with Musica 2000 Symphony Orchestra, Musica Bella Orchestra of New York, Lehigh University Philharmonic Orchestra, Southeastern Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra, etc. He frequently travels abroad, and performs with local musicians too such as Kensington Philharmonic Orchestra of London.
Ellen Hospador, cello
Ellen's love of small ensemble music shines through at every performance. A native of the Lehigh Valley, Ellen studied with Janice Galassi and Nancy Bidlack, and continued her studies with Joel Moerschel of the Boston Symphony. By the time she graduated from high school, she had won a scholarship to the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts, performed at a wide variety of venues with her Touch of Class string quartet, and risen to principal cellist of both the Young People's Philharmonic and the PMEA District 10 Orchestra Festival. In college, she performed with the acclaimed MIT Symphony Orchestra and the orchestra of the University of Konstanz in Germany.
More recently, she has appeared regularly with the Allentown Symphony, Schuylkill Symphony, Muhlenberg College Summer Music Theatre, and the Lehigh University Philharmonic (with several of the other accomplished members of Penn Strings!). Performance tours of China, South Africa, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have broadened her already wide musical experience. She has also enjoyed arranging "chamber" music for her friends. Ellen says her most exciting and humbling privilege with her cello was performing on stage with Olivia Newton-John.
Ellen has been delighted to be a member of the Pennsylvania String Ensemble since 2011.
Sharon Diane Olsher, viola
Sharon Diane Olsher began her musical studies in violin at the age of two and a half through the Suzuki Method. She attended Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts where she switched to viola, studied with Lisa Suslowitz, and performed under the direction of Benjamin Zander. She also attended Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Karen Dreyfus and had the privilege to work with such conductors and coaches as Zednik Macall, Kurt Mazur, Daniel Avshalomov, and Pamela Frank.
After Conservatory, Sharon became a Suzuki teacher herself, and worked with the Community Music School LV for seven years. She performed with the Allentown Symphony for many years and her professional stage credits include two Muhlenburg College productions of "Fiddler on the Roof" where she played the "Fiddler."
Audrey Simons, cello
Audrey Simons is an active cellist and instructor in the Lehigh Valley and the Pocono Mountains. She is a highly sought after orchestral and chamber musician throughout the Northeast. Audrey graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Cello Performance from Susquehanna University. She earned her Master of Music degree in music history with Summa Cum Laude Honors at Temple University Esther Boyer College of Music, where she studied with cellist Jeffrey Solow. In 1996, she received the Faculty Award in Teaching Excellence from Montgomery County Community College where she taught music history.