Piano | Executive Director and Co-Artistic Director
Winner of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts and of the McKnight sponsored Artist Grant, pianist Bethel Balge has performed in Germany, including at Frankfurt’s Alte Oper, in Russia as soloist with the Voronezh Philharmonic, as well as in various American venues. Balge's "concentrated, technically secure and captivating interpretation" of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit attracted notice from a reviewer at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung after a performance at the Alte Oper.
As a doctoral student of Lydia Artymiw, Balge performed in a Minnesota Public Radio live broadcast in the Bach Birthday concert organized by MPR host Michael Barone.
She is founding Artistic Director of the Summit Avenue Music Chamber Music Series and Co-Artistic Director of the ProMusica Chamber Music Festival. In 2014, she received a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Minnesota, under Lydia Artymiw. Prior to her doctoral studies, Balge spent six years in Germany, where she received a Diplom degree from the University of Frankfurt's Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik und darstellende Kunst. Previously she received her Master of Music M.M. from the University of Wisconsin under Howard Karp. She is a cum laude graduate (Bachelor of Music) of Michigan State University, where she studied under Van Cliburn gold prize winner Ralph Votapek. Balge has received numerous awards, including first place in the Grand Rapids Concerto Competition, in the Michigan State University Concerto Competition, in the Beethoven Competition in Madison, WI, and in the Ida Schroeder Foundation Scholarship Competition in Milwaukee, WI. She was finalist in the Chicago Civic Orchestra Concerto Competition and took third place in the Esther Wilburne Barnes National Competition in Georgia.
Balge teaches piano and music history courses at Bethany Lutheran College (Mankato, MN) and at Martin Luther College (New Ulm, MN).
Violin | Co-Artistic Director
Peter McGuire was appointed to the violin section of the Minnesota Orchestra in 2003 and acting associate concertmaster in 2011. Mr. McGuire joined the orchestra as principal second violin after serving as associate concertmaster with the Tonhalle Orchester-Zürich from 2013-2016.
Peter McGuire has performed as guest concertmaster with the Orchestre de la Suisse-Romande, Zürich Opera, Luzern Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Gürzenich Orchester-Cologne, and Richmond Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he has performed and recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic, SWR Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, All-Star Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
A frequent chamber musician and soloist, McGuire has performed with prestigious ensembles throughout the U.S., Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. In 2011, Mr. McGuire performed Mozart’s A Major Concerto for First Lady Michelle Obama at the University of Northern Iowa, Waterloo-Cedar Falls. He has given masterclasses throughout the U.S. and Switzerland and was a violin coach for the Swiss Youth Symphony Orchestra from 2013-2016.
A participant in many summer music festivals, he has frequently appeared at the Alexandria Festival of Lakes, Festival Brunnen (Switzerland), and New Hampshire Music Festival.
A native of Mankato, Minnesota, McGuire began studying violin at age 4 with Patti Tryhus at the Mankato Suzuki School. He continued studies with Charles Gray at St. Olaf College, Sylvia Rosenberg at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, and Fred Halgedahl at the University of Northern Iowa.
Born in Pernambuco, Brazilian cellist Leonardo Altino began his musical studies at the age of six, giving his debut with orchestra performing the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No.1 at age eleven. Altino’s career breakthrough in Brazil came when he became the youngest winner of the Jovens Concertistas Brasileiros, a prestigious competition in Rio de Janeiro, which led to performances with every major orchestra in the country. Praised in The Strad for “exceptional musical intelligence and an exceptionally cultivated sound" Altino was the First Prize winner at the International Cello Competition in Viña del Mar, and has since appeared as soloist and in recitals throughout Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela; Italy, Denmark and Greece; Korea and Taiwan and in the United States. In the summer months, he has taught in numerous festivals around the globe. Altino, who served as Professor of Cello at the University of Memphis from 2002 to 2015, studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Detmold Musikhochschule in Germany and University of Illinois. His main teachers include Francisco Pino, Aldo Parisot, Laurence Lesser, Marcio Carneiro and Suren Bagratuni. Altino currently serves on the faculty at the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music.
Violinist Cecilia Belcher joined the Minnesota Orchestra in fall 2014 and was named Assistant Principal Second Violin in January 2017. Previously, she performed regularly with the St. Louis Symphony and has also performed with the Pittsburgh and Houston Symphony Orchestras. She is principal second violin of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston. As concertmaster, she has led the Reno Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Aspen Music Festival Opera Orchestra and Missisippi Valley Orchestra, with whom she recently performed the Brahms Double Concerto with her husband Richard Belcher.
Music festivals in which she has participated include Aspen, Banff, Beijing International Music Festival, Tanglewood and Verbier. In addition, she has toured Germany and the U.S. with the New York City-based chamber orchestra The Knights.
In addition to recent Minnesota Orchestra recordings, Belcher performs on two albums of works by John Adams, recorded by the St. Louis Symphony under David Robertson. Her discography also includes a disc of Mozart violin concertos recorded on the Ancalagon Records with Lara and Scott St. John and the Knights.
A St. Louis native, Belcher began violin studies at the age of three. She earned a bachelor's degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Paul Kantor, and a master's degree from the Shepherd School of Music, working with Kathleen Winkler. She and her husband Richard, who is the cellist of the Enso String Quartet, love living in Minneapolis with their son Finn.
New Zealander Richard Belcher is the founding cellist of the Grammy-nominated Enso String Quartet. Based in New York City, the quartet tours regularly, both nationally and internationally. This season sees them perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, New York’s Lincoln Center, as well as many other venues from coast to coast. The quartet is also touring Colombia, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand, and will be featured at many summer festivals here in the United States.
Richard is also the Principal Cellist of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO), and has taught and performed at many festivals including St Bart’s, Festival d’Aix en Provence, Prussia Cove, Madeline Island, Campos do Jordao International Winter Festival, SummerFest La Jolla, and the San Miguel de Allende International Chamber Music Festival.
Active in period, standard and contemporary repertoire, Richard has taken part in many live and pre-recorded radio and internet broadcasts in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He has been a frequent guest on satellite radio SiriusXM. Richard enjoys teaching, and has served as Adjunct Faculty at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Currently he enjoys teaching and coaching each summer at the Adult Chamber Music Camp at the Interlochen Arts Academy, as well as many guest classes while on tour with the Enso Quartet.
Richard moved to the United States in 1998 to study with Aldo Parisot at Yale University, and it was there that he co-founded the Enso String Quartet. Richard’s other principal teachers include Norman Fischer, Marc Johnson, and Alexander Ivashkin. He plays an N.F.Vuillaume cello made in 1856, and is married to Cecilia Belcher, a violinist in the Minnesota Orchestra.
Born in Taiwan and raised in California, violist Sifei Cheng joined the Minnesota Orchestra in 1995. He has served as principal viola of the Charleston Symphony, New World Symphony and Pacific Music Festival Orchestra, and he has led sections under conductors Michael Tilson Thomas, Alexander Schneider, Eiji Oue and Christoph Eschenbach.
As a chamber musician, Cheng has performed at the Ravinia Festival, Caramoor Music Festival, Taos Chamber Music Festival, Pacific Music Festival and New York String Seminar. He has played in many of the Minnesota Orchestra’s chamber concerts, performing with artists such as Andrew Litton, Joshua Bell and Pamela Frank. He has also collaborated with Alicia de Larrocha and the Shanghai String Quartet. In addition to his duties here, he is also a member of The Isles Ensemble, a chamber group based in the Twin Cities.
Sifei holds a degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and has also studied at the Juilliard School in New York. His past teachers include William Kennedy, Karen Tuttle and Michael Tree, and he has worked with Samuel Rhodes, Miriam Fried, Paul Biss, Alan de Veritch as well as members of the Tokyo String Quartet and the American String Quartet.
Jenny Haugen is a Minnesota-based soprano and educator who received her Bachelor of Arts in Music from Bethany Lutheran College (magna cum laude) in December 2005 and her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from The Boston Conservatory in May 2010. Along with academic diplomas, Ms. Haugen has participated in summer programs such as Daniel Ferro Vocal Program, Inc. in Greve-in-Chianti, Italy (2006), The Wesley Balk Opera/Music-Theater Institute in Minneapolis, MN (2007), and The Boston Conservatory Vocal Pedagogy Professional Workshop (2013). In 2015, she was awarded second place in the Grieg Young Artists Competition.