Our award winning faculty is eager to help our attendees grow as cellists and as musicians. Click on their name to learn more.

Avi Friedlander

Avi Friedlander portrait, black and white

Well-known as a Suzuki cello workshop and institute clinician, Avi Friedlander teaches a variety of methods from classical to jazz and rock. Mr. Friedlander is the director of the Barston Suzuki Center at the Music Institute of Chicago, a Suzuki teacher trainer, teaches Suzuki Pedagogy faculty at Roosevelt University/Music Institute of Chicago and teaches string pedagogy at the University of North Florida. He holds Masters and Bachelors degrees in cello performance from The University of Michigan, and pursued his professional studies degree from The Cleveland Institute of Music. Mr. Friedlander is the former Assistant Principal cellist of the Atlanta Opera, former member of The New World Symphony and former professor of Cello at Emory University in Atlanta. His primary teachers have included Anthony Elliott, Stephen Geber, Irene Sharp, Tanya Carey and David Premo and he has also worked with Richard Aaron, Hans Jensen, Janos Starker and Bernard Greenhouse. Mr. Friedlander has studied improvisation methods with Eugene Friesen from the Berkley College, Stephan Braun from Berlin and Tim Kliphuis from Amsterdam. In addition to his own compositions, Mr. Friedlander writes his own arrangements for solo cello of rock tunes from Jimi Hendrix to Pearl Jam and is the author of his method books, “chopping around” and “pizzing around”, which  introduce alternative styles to cellist.

Mary Beth Bryant

Mary Beth Bryant is a certified Suzuki Method cello instructor in books 1-10 and beyond. The Suzuki Method embraces daily practice to ensure progress, parental involvement to encourage the student, and listening to train the student’s aural imagination. In addition to Mary Beth’s Suzuki Method training, she has also studied with internationally acclaimed cello pedagogue Irene Sharp in San Francisco. As students learn that commitment to practice is the key to success, they develop feelings of so much joy and confidence in their cello playing. Their daily discipline results in many opportunities like full music scholarships, placing in All-State Orchestra and winning first place in concerto competitions. Seeing them beam with confidence after working so hard is one of the greatest joys for Mary Beth as a teacher.

Grace Bahng Gavin

Grace Bhang Photo

Grace Bahng Gavin was a scholarship student of Leonard Rose and Channing Robbins at the Juilliard School where she received her B.M. and M.M. degrees. She was a member of the Blair String Quartet and Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University from 1984-1999. Widely acclaimed in concert performances across the country, she has appeared in recital at the Library of Congress, Kennedy Center, 92nd St. Y in New York, Alice Tully Hall and on National Public Radio and Television. She has been in residence at the Aspen, Marlboro, Sunflower, Sewanee, Buzzard’s Bay and the Crested Butte Chamber Music Festivals, the El Paso Pro Musica International Chamber Music Festival, the Sedona Chamber Music Festival, the Highlands/Cashiers Chamber Music Festival, the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and the St. Barths Music Festival.

Ms. Bahng has performed with a wide array of musicians, including: Edgar Meyer, Robert McDuffie, Donald McInnes, Joseph Silverstein, Bela Fleck, Nigel Kennedy, Mark O’Connor, Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride and has played on numerous movie soundtracks. Grace lives in Orlando, Florida, where she lives with her husband, Kip, and enjoys competitive tennis and cooking.

Meredith Blecha-Wells

Dr. Meredith Blecha-Wells portrait

Praised for her “beautifully full and lyrically strong tone” by Gramophone Magazine, Meredith Blecha-Wells is a sought-after performer and instructor. She has played throughout much of the United States, as well as Europe, Australia, Central America, and South Korea. Currently based in Oklahoma City, Dr. Blecha-Wells performs regularly with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Brightmusic Chamber Ensemble, the Tulsa Camerata, and the Pangaea Chamber Players. As a recording artist, Dr. Blecha-Wells recently released her debut album, Small Storms: A Collection of Short Pieces for Cello and Piano by Bohuslav Martinu. Released on the Navona Records label, her playing is described as “technically dazzling” (the Whole Note) and is praised for her “lyrical warmth and her powerful athleticism” (Classical Music Discoveries). Additional recording endeavors include projects for the Lorenz Corporation, as well as performances on WMBR (Cambridge, MA), KALX (Berkley, CA), WRUV (Burlington, VT), WCNY (Syracuse, NY), and KUCO (Edmond, OK).Dr. Blecha-Wells is currently Professor of Cello at Oklahoma State University, where she was awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Junior Faculty Award for Scholarly Excellence. Her students have won a number of competitions, including prizes in Classics Alive Artists, Enkor International Competition, American Protégé Competition, Ad Astra String Competition, MTNA, Hyechka String Competition, among others. As a devoted teacher, Dr. Blecha-Wells has seen her students accepted to study at prestigious institutions such as the Eastman School of Music, Rice University, Indiana University, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.Dr. Blecha-Wells received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Cello Performance from Indiana University, studying under Janos Starker and Helga Winold. She also holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music, where she served as the teaching assistant to Distinguished Professor Alan Harris. Additional studies include festival participation at the Taos School of Music, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, the National Repertory Orchestra, and the Bowdoin International Music Festival.In addition to performing and teaching, Dr. Blecha-Wells is passionately invested in community engagement. Most recently, she formed the Global Pedagogy Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing teacher training to students and teachers living in developing countries.

Wesley Baldwin

Wesley Baldwin playing his cello in a white suit

Cellist Wesley Baldwin performs throughout the United States and Europe as soloist and chamber musician. As a soloist he has appeared with the Laredo Philharmonic, the Oregon Mozart Players, the Symphony of the Mountains, and the Aberdeen, Bemidji, Bryan, Chattanooga, Florence, Hot Springs, Knoxville, Oak Ridge, Manchester, New River Valley, Salisbury, Wintergreen, and Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestras, among others. His passionate and charismatic performances have garnered much critical acclaim. Wesley was the founder of the Plymouth String Quartet, with whom he was a top prize-winner in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and a finalist in the Paolo Borciani International String Quartet Competition. Other performing honors Baldwin has received include the Prix Mercure, Homer Ulrich Awards, and a Tennessee Arts Commission Individual Performing Artist Fellowship. He is currently the cellist of the Edison Piano Trio. As a member and principal cellist of the New World Symphony, Baldwin performed with many of the world’s great conductors and toured Japan, Scotland, England, Argentina, and Brazil. His orchestral colleagues there selected him as the recipient of the New World Symphony’s Community Board Award for artistic integrity and leadership.  Dr. Baldwin has performed chamber music at the Aspen, Cazenovia, Hot Springs, Ojai, Sandpoint, Mainly Mozart, May in Miami, Skaneateles, and Sub-tropics Music Festivals, and internationally in Italy, France, Monte Carlo, Spain, Austria, Brazil, Argentina, the United Kingdom and Costa Rica.  In the summer he performs and teaches at the Michigan City Chamber Music Festival, the ARIA International Academy, and at the Wintergreen Festival, where he serves on the faculty of the Wintergreen Academy and is principal cellist of the Wintergreen Festival Orchestra.  A passionate teacher, Dr. Baldwin serves as Professor of Cello at the University of Tennessee, where he received the Chancellor’s Award for Professional Promise. His former students play and teach throughout the United States and abroad. Wesley lives in Knoxville with his wife (soprano Melisa Barrick), and four great children.

Melissa Kraut

Melissa Kraut playing cello with another cellist

Co-head of the cello department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Dr. Melissa Kraut is recognized as one of the leading pedagogues of her generation. Having developed and trained some of the outstanding young musicians of today, she has demonstrated a unique ability to teach all ages and stages of dedicated students, helping them reach their highest potential both at and away from the cello. Also an active performer, Kraut has led a diverse career on stage, with solo and chamber performances throughout the United States and Europe. At CIM, Kraut teaches cello for the conservatory and preparatory divisions. She also teaches students in the Young Artist Program (YAP).

Nick Curry

Dr. Nick Curry is the Associate Professor of Cello and the Assistant Director of the School of Music at the University of North Florida where he also serves as the Director of Music Scholarships. In early 2015, he joined fellow Jacksonville musicians Aurica Duca and Clinton Dewing as founders of the Lawson Ensemble. The Lawson Ensemble collaborated with the San Marco Chamber Music Society and recorded works of Amy Beach and Bill Douglas for Albany Records in 2018, and went on concert tours of England and Germany. Nick received his BM, cum laude, from Vanderbilt and then served as Hans Jørgen Jensen’s teaching assistant for five years at Northwestern University, earning both his Master and Doctor of Music degrees. He also was the teaching assistant to Professor Jensen at the Meadowmount School of Music for four summers. Nick has performed in Austria, England, France, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Taiwan, Germany and Turkey, and throughout the United States. In April of 2006, he was a soloist on National Public Radio (USA) Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion on the King Amati (ca. 1538) cello. Dr. Curry is on the faculty at the Aria International Summer Music Academy and was previously visiting faculty at the Meadowmount School of Music for two summers. He is a sought after clinician and adjudicator and has presented at national, regional and state conferences. His research has been published in the ASTA journal many times. At UNF, he was named the Gerson Yessin professor and was awarded an Eisen Experiential Grant. In 2016, he founded the annual Jacksonville Cello Workshop, an educational workshop for cellists of all ages and levels. In 2018, the UNF President honored him with a Presidential Faculty Leader Award.