Meet the Composition Studio

Meet the Composition Studio

The UNCSA Composition Program is led by Composition faculty Lawrence Dillon and Jared Miller.

Peien Ai

Peien AiPeien Ai is a Taiwanese composer who enjoys exploring new and intriguing sounds in daily life and especially using percussion instruments. She grew up in a musical family and began studying piano and violin in childhood. Before she came to the U.S. to attend UNCSA, she and her family held a concert with 300 people in the audience featuring several of her compositions. As a Hakkanese, a minority in Taiwan with a well-known culture of singing in Taiwan, she feels she has a mission to promote Hakka music as a composer. In 2018, her piece “The way home,” which is a Hakkanese song inspired by her mom’s childhood story, got an award in the Public Mixing Category of New Choral Songs of Taiwan from Taiwan Choral Association which led to a performance at Soochow University. In addition, the way that Disney movies and Studio Gihibli have brought music from minorities or different cultures to the world inspired her to pursue training in advanced composition and film scoring. Peien is currently a first-year graduate student studying with Lawrence Dillon.


Quinn Albinus


Quinn Albinus is a sophomore Composition student in the studio of Jared Miller. After majoring in Voice in high school at UNCSA, Quinn got a full scholarship to Oberlin. A year there, though, showed him that his true passion lay with Composition, so he returned to UNCSA in the fall of 2022. Quinn’s music tends to favor complex rhythms in interweaving patterns. His "Arachnids and Insects" was premiered by the UNCSA Guitar Studio and “Nunc Dimittis” was premiered by tenor Glenn Siebert and pianist Allison Gagnon in the spring of 2022.


Barrett Bailey


If you had asked four-year-old Barrett Bailey what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer would have been a zoologist, astronaut or most commonly, a composer. He was intrigued by Ludwig van Beethoven when he was very young and began to teach himself piano. Since then, he has picked up many instruments, from the violin to the talharpa. Recently, voice became a primary part of his life and he took part in the Fletcher Opera Institute production of "Linda di Chamounix" in January 2022. His "Vast" was premiered in April 2022 by the UNCSA Saxophone Ensemble.  His music has also been recorded by pianist Dmitri Shteinberg and the Pacifica String Quartet. His "King Charle Trey" won a competition sponsored by Watson Brass for premiere in January 2023. Barrett is a college freshman studying with Lawrence Dillon.


Jacob Burnette


Originally from Rutherfordton, North Carolina, Jacob Burnette began his musical journey at twelve years old, when he started taking piano lessons and performing saxophone for middle school. He would develop his musical skills more deeply in high school, finding a keen interest in film, video games, and classical music. With his experience in piano, Jacob would create his first piece, “The Change of Season's” for solo piano at the beginning of his junior year of high school. After becoming more serious with his interest in the musical world, Jacob started taking lessons with composer Alan Theisen throughout his senior year of high school. Jacob’s musical comprehension expanded with Dr. Theisen’s teachings, ultimately making Jacob choose music composition as his college career path. Composers that most inspire him today are Tchaikovsky and John Williams. Jacob’s hobbies are films, musical theatre, tennis and escape rooms. Jacob is a second-year undergraduate student studying with Jared Miller.


Sam Darnell

Sam DarnellGrowing up in a musical family, Sam Darnell was from early childhood steeped in the beautiful brass ensembles and choral hymns of the Moravian tradition.  He began composing in the sixth grade when he found a website that allowed him to make simple harmonies, melodies and rhythms.  In the ensuing years, he expanded his musical horizons, developing proficiency on trombone and euphonium and studying piano and composition at UNCSA Community Music School with Deborah Suárez.  He especially loves composing for large ensembles.  Currently a high school junior in the studio of Lawrence Dillon, Sam is working on a piano fantasia for Dmitri Shteinberg and a reed trio to be premiered in the spring.


Victoria King

Victoria KingVictoria King is a first-year undergraduate in Lawrence Dillon’s composition studio who has always had an appreciation for music as an exercise in empathy and communication. Although she wouldn’t have called herself a composer before high school, she has been creating melodies since she could reach the piano. Her music is deeply melodic, story-driven, and emotive. Victoria’s hope is to create music that all people can, in the very least, empathize with, if not enjoy.  She is currently working on a solo piano piece to be recorded by Dmitri Shteinberg, and a reed trio to be premiered in February.  One day she aspires to write an opera, a musical, and a ballet. 


Andrew McFarland

Andrew McFarlandFrom when he first began playing piano at age 5, Andrew McFarland knew music would always be a part of his life. He picked up the cello at age 9 and pursued it through college, attaining both cello performance and music education bachelor's degrees from the University of Kentucky. Throughout his life, Andrew always had a passion for making his own music, and often could be found improvising on the cello and writing ideas for his own songs and music. He wrote his first solo cello piece at age 12, and his first ensemble piece at age 18. By the time he began teaching elementary music, Andrew had taken an interest in composing music to teach students, eventually integrating composition as part of his pedagogy. His musical influences range from Bach and Debussy to Sondheim and Webern, and he aims to create music that inspires passion for music in both the young and old. Andrew is currently a first-year graduate student studying with Jared Miller.


Chris Mejia


Chris Mejia, local to North Carolina, started their musical journey at the age of ten with the violin and the alto saxophone. Quickly developing a deep passion and love for music, they dedicated their free time to learning all they could about the topic. Japanese-style compositions, however, sparked Chris’ interest the most. Having been inspired by Japanese music found in JRPGs, anime, and films from a young age, Chris is determined to bring the unique textures and colors found in Japanese writing into their own compositions. Composers such as Joe Hisaishi, Keiichi Okabe, Toby Fox, Kensuke Ushio, Kevin Penkin and Seycara all greatly influence Chris’ writing and visions for the future. Chris is currently a freshman undergraduate and a student of Jared Miller.


Jacob McCoy

jacob mccoy

Having studied piano, voice, and viola throughout his life, Jacob McCoy leans heavily on his classical roots to find new sounds and tell passionate stories with his music. Currently a second-year grad student, his artistic voice is distinctly rooted in textures and colors born out of his major influences, Ravel and Penderecki. But of all things he wants to pave a new way for film music, one with complex polyrhythms, textures, and strong melodic throughlines that fall easy on the ears.

Jacob has always loved challenges, writing for a variety of ensembles, genres, and mediums. While studying composition under Dr. Edward Knight at Oklahoma City University for his undergrad, he wrote music for the dance school, for the film school (including a feature-length film), for El Sistema’s local beginner band, for the OCU Symphony Orchestra, and has organized his own premiers. This past year, his “Night Suite” was premiered UNCSA Wind Ensemble; he is currently working on a piece for spring performance by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra and a collaboration with a UNCSA lighting designer for Photona.  Jacob is a student of Jared Miller.


Hannah Mufuka


Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Hannah Mufuka has always been musically inclined. At the age of seven, she began formally studying piano. However, for each piece she played, she felt the need to add alternative endings and contrasting sections. By the age of eight, she had officially transitioned from this habit to composing completely unique compositions. By eleven, Hannah had branched out and started studying flute privately in addition to her piano training. This led her to write a concert band piece within the same year, which was her first non-piano composition. Throughout high school, she performed and composed for various wind ensembles, jazz combos, orchestras and other groups for both piano and flute, which expanded her love for different types of music. Aspects of these diverse genres appear throughout her compositions. Hannah's "Writer's Block" was premiered by the UNCSA Saxophone Ensemble in April 2022. She has also had her music recorded by pianist Dmitri Shteinberg and the Pacifica String Quartet. In 2023, she participated in the summer program of the Film Scoring Academy of Europe, in Sofia, Bulgaria. Hannah Mufuka is currently a college junior studying with Lawrence Dillon.


Magnus Myers

Magnus MyersMagnus (Max) Myers, originally from Asheville, North Carolina, is an Undergraduate Freshman Composition student in Dr. Lawrence Dillon’s studio. He started his musical career playing piano at age 7, then started with trumpet at age 11. He is fascinated with the music creation process, ranging from classical composition, to songwriting, to recording and producing. Interning at Drop of Sun Recording studio his senior year of high school, Max has been exposed to many different styles and workflows of music and wants to continue his education further in a wide array of areas. His work “Latin Dance for Flute and Piano” and “Disturbance” were performed at the UNCSA Composition Summer intensive, as well as his public debut, with his piece “Impromptu in G” was premiered by the Asheville High School Wind Symphony last Spring of 2023.


Jasil Olabode

Jasil OlabodeIn junior high, Jasil heard the Transformers soundtrack for the first time and decided he wanted to write music that emotionally resonated with people. His first composition was marked by a deeply personal experience as he wrote a piece in honor of his great-grandfather's passing. Initially drawn to the violin, he soon found himself interested in the versatility of musical instruments and began learning the double bass, trombone, piano, acoustic guitar, and electric bass guitar. He began actively playing and writing music for his church and performing at various events. He pursued a bachelor's degree in Composition at Illinois Wesleyan University, which was a transformative period as he discovered his passion for interdisciplinary collaboration, forging partnerships with dancers, poets, and visual artists with the goal of creating spaces where artists could thrive, push boundaries, and grow. His work draws on various genres, including film music, jazz, hip-hop, and indie, seeking to explore the emotions and perspectives we experience as people. Jasil is a first-year graduate student, from Bloomington, IL, and is currently studying with Dr. Jared Miller.


Sterling D. Tilley, III

sterling tilleySterling D. Tilley, III, a native of Springfield, Virginia, began his musical journey as a preschooler, quickly playing tunes by ear. At seven years old he began formally studying the piano. Within the initial few weeks of lessons, he composed his first piece, "Bats in the Graveyard." From that moment on, Sterling knew that he wanted to be a composer. Sterling is an accomplished pianist who has performed in numerous competitions, theater productions and religious services. His most recognized composition, "The Rise of Black Diamond," was featured during the awards ceremony for the 2020 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) national Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) Competition. Sterling's "Afterdark" won a competition sponsored by Watson Brass, which premiered the piece in April 2022. He has also had his music performed by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra. In the summer of 2023, Sterling attended the Film Composition program at NYU. He is currently a college senior studying with Lawrence Dillon.


Recent Alumni

Caleb Adams


Caleb Adams, class of '19, got into music at a young age through playing guitar and songwriting. As his writing became more sophisticated, he became interested in more complex chord structures. In the summer of 2017, Adams attended the Young Composers Program of the Cleveland Institute of Music, after which he enrolled at UNCSA. The following summer he participated in the High School Composition Intensive at the Boston Conservatory.  He is currently enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music in London after studying for two years at UNCSA with Dr. Lawrence Dillon.

Kyrie Antoinette

Kyrie Antoinette

Originally from Boston, Kyrie Antoinette, class of '18, began arranging and composing for recreation, but decided at the age of 16 to devote her future to composition completely. She enrolled at UNCSA and studied composition for four years with Dr. Lawrence Dillon. At UNCSA, she had several pieces performed, including music for orchestra, a number of chamber works as well as collaborations with the university’s Schools of Design and Production, Drama and Dance.  In 2019 she completed her Master's degree at Berklee Valencia in Spain.

Alicia Armstrong

Alicia Bachorik

Alicia Bachorik Armstrong, class of '18, is a composer whose choral and chamber works have been performed both in the U.S. and in her second home of the Philippines. Her song Remember the Ladies was recently featured on mezzo Audrey Johnson’s US tour celebrating the centennial of the passing of the 19th amendment, including an event hosted by the San Francisco Opera. Her love of reading has grown into a desire to connect language and storytelling to her compositions, as demonstrated in various vocal and choral works. While at UNCSA, Alicia had works premiered by the UNCSA string orchestra, wind ensemble and flute ensemble, as well as the Attacca String Quartet. After graduating, her "Tango" was performed by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Alicia's principal teacher at UNCSA was Lawrence Dillon.

Drew Banzhoff


Drew Banzhoff (class of ’23) from Black Mountain, North Carolina, began studying music at the age of seven with piano lessons and crept his way up through the band and orchestra worlds on instruments such as trombone, tuba, percussion and French horn.   Drew has had recording sessions with yMusic, the Borromeo String Quartet and the Pacifica String Quartet, and his "Nursery Songs" was chosen to be premiered by Low and Lower with mezzo Phyllis Pancella in January 2022. Drew has also had music premiered by the UNCSA Brass Ensemble and the UNCSA Horn Ensemble, and he conducted the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of his "Terran Wars." Drew studied composition at UNCSA with Jared Miller and Lawrence Dillon.

Jessica Buford

Jessica Buford

Jessica Buford, class of '18, studied composition for four years with Kenneth Frazelle. Originally from Bluefield, West Virginia, She navigated her way to North Carolina through a large family of musicians. Seeking to incorporate as many influences as possible, she takes inspiration from elements such as gospel, jazz, contemporary classical, and rock. While at UNCSA, she sang with the Winston-Salem Symphony Chorale. She has studied with Hummie Mann at the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Intensive and has received grants to participate in both this intensive and the Siena Summer Music Festival. She enjoys books (writing/editing), the shadows clouds cast on mountains, hats, and professional wrestling. She is currently in the master's degree program at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Peyton Clifford

Peyton Clifford

Peyton Clifford’s, class of '19, interest in blending genres comes from his upbringing in Charlotte, N.C., where he was exposed from an early age to everything from classical opera to The Rolling Stones to punk rock. Throughout high school he developed a serious interest in folk, jazz, and classical music. He is a firm believer in music as both a political/social tool and a basic human necessity. What excites him most about being a 21st-century composer is the ability to constantly explore new sounds, new interactions between acoustic and electronic music, and new ways to collaborate with other artists. Peyton studied composition for four years with Lawrence Dillon.  His music has been recorded by the Attacca String Quartet.  He recently completed a commissioned installation for Old Salem's exploration of racial relationships in its past, "Hidden Town."

Tyson Davis


Tyson Davis, class of '19, began composing for piano at the age of eight.  His "Delicate Tension" was commissioned to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and premiered in Berlin in August 2019 by the NYO-USA. He is a winner of the MATA Jr. Composition Prize, which led to the NYC premiere of a new work for chamber orchestra in November 2018.  He attended Curtis Summerfest and Interlochen Summer Music Camp, where he had works for chorus and percussion ensemble premiered and earned the Fine Arts Award. Currently, Tyson is enrolled as a Composition major at The Juilliard School.

Tyson studied for four years with Lawrence Dillon. His "String Quartet No. 1" was recorded and premiered in February 2018 by the Attacca String Quartet, going on to win an award from American Composers Forum. His "Another Sky" was performed by UNCSA Cantata Singers two months later, just before the UNCSA Orchestra premiered his "Symphony No. 1."


Allison Deanhardt

allison deanhardt

North Carolina native Allison Deanhardt (class of '22) has always had a passion for music. Beginning with the piano privately, but then taking on the clarinet principally, she's learned to love the myriad of distinct voices and textures that different instruments bring. She began composing early, creating full band orchestrations at the age of 13. At the same time, her love for the range of voices led her to learn multiple instruments — adding the flute, oboe, saxophone, vocals, guitar and more to her repertoire. More recently she has focused on combining different voices in diverse chamber ensembles, enjoying to the challenge that composing for smaller, multilayered group provides. Whether for a concert hall, film, stage or recording studio, Allison likes to bring a depth and breadth to her compositions as she blends each unique voice into a powerful chorus of emotion and sensation. She earned her bachelors degree in Composition at UNCSA in the studio of Michael S. Rothkopf. Her music has been recorded by the Akropolis Reed Quintet and the Borromeo String Quartet and premiered by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra.


Drew Harris


Drew Harris (M.M. ‘21) came up through the world of wind band. Inspired by the various voicings of the instruments, he learned woodwind and brass instruments throughout high school, including trumpet, horn, flute, clarinet, oboe, and saxophone. He continued his love of music into college, where he pursued a Bachelor of Music in Film Scoring from Liberty University, in the studio of Dr. David K. Schmal, then earned a Master of Music at UNCSA studying with Lawrence Dillon

Drew's "October Nights" was chosen for a premiere by Watson Brass in January 2020; his "The Stars Above" was premiered by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra a month later. The following year he had recording sessions with the Borromeo String Quartet and yMusic, as well as premieres with nu ensemble and the UNCSA String Orchestra. Drew is currently a member of ArtistCorps. The Fayetteville Symphony will give the professional premiere of “The Stars Above” in February 2022.  

Jacob Hinson

Jacob Hinson

Jacob Hinson, from Wingate, N.C., began the formal study of music at at the age of eleven and started composing works for a myriad of ensembles shortly after. 

Hinson holds the Bachelor of Music in Music Education from UNCG where he graduated with honors. There, he was a Trombone student of Dr. Randy Kohlenberg, and studied conducting with Dr. Kevin Geraldi and Dr. John R. Locke. During this time, Hinson composed numerous works including pieces for the UNCG University Band, UNCG Trombone Choir and Charlotte Pride Band.

Notable recent works include a string quartet, "Strung Out," recorded by the Attacca String Quartet, a piece for wind ensemble, "The Fuchsia Dragon," premiered by the UNCSA Wind Ensemble and "Enigma," premiered by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra. Hinson graduated from UNCSA in May 2020 and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Oregon.  While at UNCSA, he studied with Dr. Lawrence Dillon

Sarah Jin


Sarah Jin (H.S. ’21) has been involved with music for most of her life. She started piano lessons at five years of age and joined her school's orchestra at 12. In eighth grade, she began to teach herself to play guitar, and in tenth grade she began composing. That summer, she attended the UNCSA summer music composition program. She went on to study composition at UNCSA School of Music with Dr. Michael S. Rothkopf, devoting most of her time to a full-length musical, "Death Wears a High School Uniform."


Connor May Kelly

Connor May Kelly

A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Connor May Kelly (class of '22) has studied and performed as a harpist for over 10 years. In middle school she discovered popular music arrangements for the harp and was fascinated by the instrument’s capabilities to produce a distinct and yet broad range of colors and textures. She began to write her own arrangements, and in high school turned to original solo, chamber, and collaborative compositions. Her "West by Northwest" has been premiered by the new music ensemble Après Moi and she has had recording sessions with the Akropolis Reed Quintet, the Borromeo String Quartet and the Sphinx Virtuosi. The UNCSA Symphony Orchestra premiered her "Poe by Northlight" in April 2022. While at UNCSA, she studied with Kenneth Frazelle.


Gustav Knudson

Gustav Knudson

Gustav Edward Knudson (B.M. ’21) is a composer from Chicago, Illinois. He earned his Bachelor of Music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts studying with Mr. Kenneth Frazelle. His interest in music burgeoned at an early age when listening to bands like "Wilco" and "They Might Be Giants." He began playing music at the age of ten in sixth grade band in Gainesville, Florida, but had attempted playing both the guitar and drums beforehand. He mastered every discipline of high school band percussion and took an interest in composition in his freshman year. He now plays guitar, clarinet, and piano in addition to percussion.

Compositionally, Knudson is highly influenced by the sounds of big-band jazz (composers such as Nestico and Gershwin) and 20th-century classical music, taking melodic and harmonic ideas from composers like Stravinsky and Grainger. He is often inspired by the sounds of nature, such as the arrhythmic sounds of birds chirping, water dripping, or small stones tumbling down a mountain-face.  Gustav's "Guards and Ghosts" was premiered by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra in February 2020; he has also had works recorded by the Verona String Quartet, Akropolis Winds and yMusic. His second string quartet was commissioned by the Forsyth Audubon Society for their fiftieth anniversary premiered at UNCSA in in March 2021.


Julien Marcellin-Little


Julien Marcelin-Little has played piano from the age of eight and saxophone from the age of 11 and became interested in piano composition in the 9th grade. Through piano theory and composition lessons at Music Academy South (MAS), Julien was inspired to apply to the UNCSA Summer Composition Intensive, and subsequently attended UNCSA for his senior year of high school. Alongside UNCSA and MAS student performances of his pieces, he has had his work recorded by the Akropolis Reed Quintet, yMusic and the Reynolda String Quartet. He enjoys learning new ways to craft haunting and memorable melodies. At UNCSA he was a member of the studio of Michael Rothkopf.


Thomas Little

Thomas Little

Thomas Little, class of '19, was identified as a musical prodigy at the age of six and studied piano with Dr. George Kiorpes for twelve years. His improvisations led him to the world of composition, which he studied with Dr. Michael Rothkopf starting in the summer of 2012. Highlights of his prolific and eclectic output include an electronic piece played for multiple years at the Tanglewood Festival of Lights, annually attended by a quarter million people, as well as the humorous musical-theater chamber piece "Overdrive," which has been performed across the country by UNCSA’s own “Low and Lower” cello-bass duo of Brooks Whitehouse and Paul Sharpe.

Mr. Little's music is characterized by the fusion of old and new concepts and techniques, combined with both an affinity for Haydnesque humor and a thorough fascination with music’s unique ability to directly convey the emotions of lived experiences. He performed as pianist and organist at St. Michael Lutheran Church in High Point and as a part of Wake Forest’s Gamelan Giri Murti. He runs the music education series “Classical Nerd” on YouTube, and can passably imitate a kazoo with his mouth. In his spare time, he enjoys going on exorbitantly long road trips. He is currently enrolled in the Master's program at Brandeis University.

Jasmine Marshall


Jasmine Marshall, a Winston-Salem native, has had a deep connection to the arts and especially music for practically her entire life. Jasmine has a long-standing history with UNCSA; she took ballet classes in the UNCSA Preparatory Dance Program for five years, and her parents, who both studied music at UNCSA, began to share with her the joy of music from an early age. Her mother has been teaching her piano lessons ever since she was big enough to reach the keys, and her father directs the choir at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church where she sings every Sunday. Not long after starting piano lessons, she began to toy around with creating various melodic and rhythmic ideas, but she did not yet know that this was called “composing.” Most of her early compositions were for solo piano, but in eighth grade she wrote "Serendipity" for string orchestra, and her middle school orchestra performed it at the spring concert. She attended the Young Composers Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music as a rising junior. The following summer she attended the intensive at UNCSA, then enrolled as a high school senior studying composition with Dr. Michael Rothkopf. She graduated from UNCSA in May 2020 and is currently a student at Wake Forest University.


Peter Noll

peter noll

Peter Noll is a composer whose music explores the combination of minimalism, modernism and impressionism. His music is immersed in the ideas of philosophy and the natural world. Noll follows the concept of “what?” and “how?” in search of “why?” What is the sound that needs to be explored, and how can that sound be achieved? These questions give Noll the challenge of the “why?” in his music. Noll writes for all combinations of instruments and voices, from acoustic to electric, and solo to large symphonic settings. Noll began his music journey as a saxophonist. He completed his undergraduate degree in music performance from Florida Gulf Coast University in Southwest Florida with his primary instrument being saxophone. His "Desert Glass" won a competition sponsored by violinist Kevin Lawrence and pianist Dmitri Shteinberg, and was premiered by their duo in January 2022.  Noll's "Sunset Avenue" was premiered by nu ensemble in February 2022.  His music has been recorded by yMusic and the Reynolda String Quartet. Noll graduated with a masters in 2023 and studied composition with Lawrence Dillon.


Ash Paris-Carter

Sasha Paris Carter

Hailing from NYC's East Village, Ash Paris-Carter is a composer-performer and songwriter studying composition at UNCSA's high school program. Inspired by contemporary opera, the riot grrrrl movement, indie graphic novels, the queer rights movement, choral music, and punk, Ash has devoted themself to writing music that is mostly performance based and has a theatrical aspect to it. Ash has written music since they arrived at The Walden School in 2014; at an age when they still firmly believed they were a changeling. To this day, Walden is where Ash is their most authentic self and inspires them to collaborate with teen musicians at their high school and around the country. Ash's music has been performed by Apres Moi, ICE, The Walden School Players, PUBLIQuartet, and other performers at UNCSA and Walden.

Ash was a member of the Manhattan Girls' Chorus from 2013-2016 and had the opportunity to sing at the UN Ambassador's Ball honoring Ban Kee Moon behind Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. They also performed alongside Sting, Idina Menzel, Vittorio Grigolo, James Taylor, and Bruce Springsteen through MGC at Carnegie Hall as well as recording the world premiere of Kim Andre Arnesen's "Love's Onward Journey" among other performances and recordings. Ash was a student of voice at Mannes Prep from 2016-2018 and participated in the vocal chamber ensemble and senior choruses. Through Mannes, Ash sang for Hillary Clinton, Justin Trudeau, and Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon at the Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center. In 2020, Ash participated in Curtis Summerfest and Berklee Summer Songwriting Sessions online as a result of the coronavirus.

Ash has produced alternative rock music and released their first EP of demos, "The Ballad," on all streaming platforms. Ash has been the opening act for Left at London on two virtual concerts and their song, "Rose Red," is featured on /@/'s fan album "Tales From Transgender Street." They are studying composition with Dr. Lawrence Dillon.

K. Christopher Pyle


Kollen Christopher Pyle has been playing various instruments since age eleven when he began learning guitar by ear, later doing the same with piano, banjo, and several other instruments.  Last year, Christopher's "In Northern Hues" was recorded by the Verona String Quartet and his "Dances With Incandescence" was premiered by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra.  He has also had recording sessions with Eighth Blackbird and Akropolis Winds.  Christopher is currently a college senior studying with Lawrence Dillon. He recently completed "Journey of the Wood Thrush," a piano trio commissioned by the Forsyth Audubon Society.

Algernon Robinson

Algernon Robinson

Algernon “AJ” Robinson, class of '19, born in Hartford, Conn., began studying piano at an early age, and picked up the violin and singing in middle school. In high school, AJ played violin with the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra (WSO) and the Wilmington Symphony Youth Orchestra (WYSO) under the direction of Dr. Steven Errante in addition to singing with the concert and chamber choirs at UNCW.  

AJ transferred to UNCSA from the Mannes School of Music in NYC, where he studied with Lowell Liebermann. At UNCSA, his composition teacher was Dr. Lawrence Dillon.  He is currently in the graduate program of the University of Michigan.

AJ deeply appreciates the music of 20th century French composers such as Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, and Jean Françaix. While still developing his artistic voice, he enjoys experimenting with tonal ambiguity as a means to musical expression. His "Spring" was recorded by soprano Lindsay Kesselman and Eighth Blackbird in the spring of 2018.  His music was also recorded by the Attacca String Quartet.  In the spring of 2019, he composed and produced the music video "Parapo," commissioned by Old Salem as part of its exploration of racial relationships in its past, "Hidden Town."  

Luis Sanz

Luis Sanz

In demand as a composer and cuatro virtuoso, Luis Sanz, class of '19, recently collaborated with Lin Manuel Miranda on a documentary about Puerto Rican culture. Luis was featured in the opening act of the 2018 Latin Grammy Awards.

Born in 1994 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Luis Sanz began playing the Puerto Rican cuatro at the age of four. As a young boy, Luis displayed a great interest in the folkloric music of Puerto Rico and a talent for performing this music on the cuatro. Throughout his formative years he garnered much recognition, recording his first album, "Un legado para la historia," at the age of nine. That same year, Luis was selected by audition to participate as a soloist in the Concerts of the Symphony Orchestra of Puerto Rico by Maestro Roselin Pabon. In addition, in 2005, the Puerto Rican House of Representatives gave him special recognition for his dedication to conserving Puerto Rican folkloric music, and for his talent and success.

Luis’ creative development and talent in improvisation brought him to arranging and composing works for symphony, bands and other groups. He entered the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, where he earned a Bachelor of Music Degree in Composition under the tutelage of Professor Alfonso Fuentes. He won first place in a competition, sponsored by Glade for young composers at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, for his composition, “Vuela con Glade.” In April 2015, his composition "Fantasia para Cuatro y Orquestra," was performed by the Symphony Orchestra of the Conservatory of Music, directed by Roselín Pabon. He received his first commission from APAOS, for a symphonic band work, "Emociones del Caribe." It was premiered in May 2015 at El Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferre. At the same time, with a granted scholarship, he also completed a Bachelor Degree at Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico with an emphasis in the area of Popular Music and a minor in Education.

While at UNCSA, Luis studied with Dr. Lawrence Dillon. He had works recorded by the Attacca String Quartet and Eighth Blackbird, and performed by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble.  He is currently a professor at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.

Scott Shea

Scott Shea

Scott Shea, class of '19, is a budding composer with a performance background in French horn and guitar. He began composing his sophomore year of high school, and in Spring 2015 his first orchestral work, "A Pilgrimage," was premiered and recorded by the Greensboro Youth Symphony Orchestra after winning the ensemble’s Young Composers Competition. His style of writing is influenced by the Romantic period, with borrowed elements of jazz and other contemporary styles. He attended the 2014 UNCSA Summer Session for composition, and then enrolled at UNCSA to study composition with Dr. Michael Rothkopf. As a jazz guitarist, he has performed in a variety of big band and chamber settings, as well as participating in the Summer Jazz Workshop at UNC-Wilmington. When he isn’t playing or writing music, Scott likes to read, watch movies and play ping-pong.

August Smith


August Smith began his deep delve into the music world at seven years old with lessons in the piano but didn’t begin to understand the joy of composition until the age of 13 when encountering a DAW for the first time. Although he had been tutored in piano for six years, he was a self-taught composer until about 15 when he started private study under Luke Bramlett. In his music, August most often enjoys working with clearly defined motifs. As a first year undergraduate student studying under Lawrence Dillon at UNCSA, he had music premiered by the UNCSA Saxophone Ensemble.  

Christian Wray

Christian Wray

Christian Wray (class of '22) earned his undergraduate degree in Composition studying with Kenneth Frazelle. He first got into music as a singer-songwriter, studying recording engineering in high school and performing and writing throughout his teenage years. He set out to formally study composition at age 19. Christian has a deep appreciation for the musical tradition that precedes him, but also fully embraces the contemporary world. In his music, he loves to twist familiarity and tradition into unexpected shapes. His music has been recorded by the Verona String Quartet, yMusic and Sphinx Virtuosi; his "Shattered Motions" won a competition sponsored by saxophonist Robert Young, who premiered it in November 2020. The UNCSA Symphony Orchestra premiered his "Return to Dust" in April 2022.  Christian is currently a graduate student at Mannes.