Live Music, Tailored to Your Event
Each musician has extensive education and experience in solo, chamber and orchestral performance. To suit your specific venue and budget, our ensemble has the flexibility to form a string quartet, trio or duo. And our large library includes classical, jazz, tangos, ragtime, pop and fiddle tunes-just to name a few. We've put together many programs over the last ten years and are here to help you. Read on to see what our past clients have had to say!
Lisa Rushton Smith
Founder, Violin & Viola
Lisa Rushton Smith is a versatile performer, creative administrator and dedicated teacher. A violinist with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra since 1998, additional roles with the organization have included Personnel Manager, player representative on the Music Director Search and Orchestra Committees and violin/viola for the Ensembles in the Schools educational outreach program. Adding to her administrative experience, she served on the Ellensburg Arts Commission, which supports public art installations, promotes First Friday Art Walk and creates opportunities for local artists and musicians and was President of Kittitas Valley Music Education Parents (KVMEP), a non-profit established to support local school orchestra programs.
As a member and manager of the Aardvark String Quartet, Lisa can be heard on the 2007 CD "Tranquillo: A Northwest Celebration." In 2011, she founded Zephyr String Ensemble and Violin Studio which provides live music for various events and string lessons to all ages. Lisa has also taught for Yakima Music en Acción (YAMA), coached viola for the Yakima Youth Symphony Orchestra, and has adjudicated regional Solo and Ensemble contests. In 2014 she was delighted to be the Central Washington University Preparatory Strings Summer Camp Director. Lisa has also freelanced for several Pacific Northwest orchestras, including Wenatchee, Mid-Columbia, Everett Philharmonic, Oregon East, Walla Walla, Synergia Northwest symphonies and recently toured China with the American Festival Orchestra.
Lisa was a Farrell Merit scholar graduating with a Bachelor of Music from Central Washington University. While there, she served as the Orchestra Manager/Librarian, Orchestra Festival Coordinator and taught in the Preparatory Strings Program. She studied with Carrie Rehkopf, then continued violin studies post-graduation with Ronald Patterson of the University of Washington and Denise Dillenbeck, concertmaster of YSO. In her commitment to lifelong learning, Lisa recently returned to CWU to complete a masters degree in Viola Performance and Pedagogy studying with Michelle Rahn.
Denise Dillenbeck has played for the Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Pennsylvania Ballet Theater, the Philly Pops, and many other orchestras across the U.S. She is currently the Associate Concertmaster of the Tacoma Symphony. As a member of the Oregon Symphony, she was a featured soloist for several concerts, and has served as concertmaster for orchestras across the country and in England. As a member of new music group Third Angle, she gave world premiere performances of works by many of today's leading composers. She was also the Lead Teaching Artist in the Philadelphia Orchestra's Community Partnership Program, where she led urban elementary school students in experiential music learning, and directed workshops on aesthetic education for classroom teachers and music educators.
Denise formed the Areté Trio with Oregon Symphony principal cello Nancy Ives and pianist John Pickett. She has performed and coached chamber music on concert series and at festivals around the country and abroad, such as the American Church of Paris, Westminster Choir College, Bravo Summer String Institute, Max Aronoff Viola Institute, the Quartet Program at Bucknell University, and Central Washington University. She has recorded solo and chamber works for the Albion and KOCH International labels. She holds a Bachelor of Music from New England Conservatory where she studied with James Buswell, and a Master of Music from the University of Minnesota where she was Sally O'Reilly's teaching assistant and worked with Minnesota Orchestra concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis. She was a fellow at Aspen, dean of Charles Castleman's Quartet Program, program coordinator at the Philadelphia Orchestra's Strings International Music Festival, and has played for the Oregon Bach Festival, Ernest Bloch Festival, Chautauqua Music Institute, Musicorda, and the International Congress of Strings. The San Francisco Chronicle hails her playing as "simply first-rate".
Bio coming soon...
Kara Hunnicutt, M.M., M.Ed., is the founder and director of Ellensburg School Orchestra program since 2007. Beginning with only 25 students, the program has grown to over 100 students in the district’s five schools in the past ten years, providing string education for students from second grade through twelfth grade. Conductor of the Icicle Creek Youth Symphony since 2011, Hunnicutt was the founder of the Icicle Creek Academy Orchestra in 2005, and founded the music camp in 1988 that is now Icicle Creek Summer Symphony. She conducts five Ellensburg school orchestras during the year, and conducts summer camp orchestras at Icicle and Central Washington University’s Prep Strings. She has been the principal cellist of the Yakima Symphony since 1990. Solo appearances with Mid-Columbia, Wenatchee, Yakima and Lake Chelan Bach Fest orchestras have featured concertos by Dvorak, Schumann, Lalo, Bloch, Respighi, Walker and Haydn. She taught orchestra classes in the Wenatchee school district 1999-2007, was on the faculty at Woods House Conservatory of Music in Wenatchee, and Icicle Creek Music Center in Leavenworth. She was awarded the Outstanding Performing Artist Award by NCW Allied Arts and has performed with the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra and the Spokane Symphony, and as principal cellist with the Wenatchee, Federal Way, Tacoma, Everett, Mid-Columbia and Orchestra Seattle symphonies. She attended Seattle Pacific University, Oberlin Conservatory, Music Academy of the West and the Aspen Music Festival. Ms. Hunnicutt earned Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Southern California with legendary cellists Gabor Rejto and Ronald Leonard, and a Master of Education from Central Washington University. In March 2007 Kara premiered a new cello concerto, In A Time Of Peace, Three Songs for Cello and Orchestra by Dr. Gwyneth Walker in Richland with the Mid-Columbia Symphony.
Thank you Lisa and Bret for the wonderful surprise on April 17, 2021 in celebration of my 80th Birthday. Your music, performed live on my patio on a perfectly beautiful windless day brought so much joy and pleasure after a very difficult year for all of us. Your choice of music was perfect. Hopefully we can soon say goodbye to Zoom and get back to more live performances such as yours.
Best wishes to you both.
You both did a wonderful job and added such a note of elegance to the event. People are still talking about what a lovely evening it was!
I wish you great success and happiness as you continue to spread joy and beauty throughout our area
Zephyr String Ensemble...were fabulous! They were punctual and very professional, all in black. They played on cue, each song requested and sounded better than I've heard before. Each guest could hear the music as they arrived and walked to their seats. They played prior to our ceremony, during and after. I would definitely recommend them for every wedding! Thank you Lisa!
Stephanie Lin Hsu is the Founding Director of Yakima Music en Acción (YAMA), a tuition-free social program based in Yakima, WA that is modeled after Venezuela's El Sistema. Based at Yakima’s Garfield Elementary School, YAMA uses daily, intensive orchestral training for at-risk children as a vehicle for healthy community-building and positive social development. Stephanie was trained through the New England Conservatory of Music's Sistema Fellows Program, an executive training program in non-profit strategy and in El Sistema pedagogy and philosophy. She trained at Sistema sites across Venezuela and throughout the U.S. before launching the YAMA program in January 2013. Prior to this, Stephanie worked as an educator and organizer in New York, serving as a member of the faculty at CITYterm at The Masters School, a lab school in Dobbs Ferry, New York and as a community organizer with Chinatown Youth Initiatives in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Arts with High Honors in Educational Studies, Sociology, and Anthropology from Swarthmore College. Her formal music education includes violin studies with William DePasquale, late Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Peggy Klinger of Hoff-Barthelson Music School, as well as chamber music studies with cellist David Geber and pianist Gerald Robbins of the Manhattan School of Music. Stephanie served as Concertmaster of the New York Youth Symphony in its 41st Carnegie Hall Season, and has received awards for her work as an artist and activist, including the Rosengarten String Scholarship through the New York Youth Symphony, Garrigues Music Scholarship at Swarthmore College, and the Edward Said / Audre Lorde Scholar-Activism Award. Stephanie currently performs as a violist of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra; as a member of La Cantina, an eclectic Latin music group; with Yakima’s Son Jarocho group Cazador; and, of course, with Garfield Elementary’s very own YAMA Orchestra.
Jessica Jasper has been a member of Spokane Symphony since the 2012-2013 season. She has also played with Northwest Sinfonietta, a chamber orchestra based in the Seattle area, since 2013. She is proud to have recently earned her Master’s degree in viola performance from the University of Minnesota under the tutelage of Korey Konkol. During her time there, she performed Benjamin Britten's Lachrymae with the University of Minnesota orchestra and studied chamber music with the Parker Quartet and Käthe Jarke – the former cellist of the Shanghai String Quartet. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in viola performance from Central Washington University. During her time there she won the College of Arts and Humanities Award for Live Music Performance, the Tom Gause Award for Music Performance and first place in the Helen Crowe Snelling music scholarship competition. In the summer of 2010 she studied abroad in Vienna, Austria and performed solo recitals as part of the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program.
A native of Washington State, Vanessa is establishing herself in the Pacific Northwest as a versatile orchestral musician, chamber player, soloist, and educator. She collaborates with orchestras across states, serving as Assistant Concertmaster of the Salem Symphony, first violinist with the Yakima Symphony, and regularly performing with groups including the Spokane Symphony, Auburn Symphony, Newport Symphony, and Vancouver Symphony. In 2014, Vanessa was invited to tour with the Fairbanks Symphony to South Korea for the Gumi International Music Festival. As a soloist and chamber musician, Vanessa has been seen performing with Cascadia Music’s Pipestone Orchestra and is a frequent guest artist to Twisp Work’s Spartan Project (Twisp, WA) and the Washington Allegro Vivaci Ensemble (Bellingham, WA). She was featured soloist with Central Chamber Orchestra, as well as the recipient of the 2013 Achievement in Live Performance award for her performance of Vaughn William’s Lark Ascending. As violinist of the Mundana Trio, Vanessa toured to New York City, placing second at the National level of the Music Teachers National Association Competition. As an educator, Vanessa is committed to sharing her passion and the discipline of musical practice through both her private studio and El Sistema inspired programs, working with both Portland’s BRAVO Orchestras and Yakima’s Yakima Music En Accion (YAMA). She is thrilled to be joining YAMA’s incredible team next year as a teaching artist. Vanessa is a graduate of Central Washington University, her primary teachers have included Carrie Rehkopf-Michel and Denise Dillenbeck.
Lisa and Barb performed for our International Women's Day celebration at Heritage University. Delightful to work with, on-time, and beautiful music -- setting the tone for the rest of the program. thank you!
Lisa, Valerie and Laura, with Zephyr String Ensemble, played beautifully for our Monson Fruit Christmas party this past weekend. They fulfilled my dream of having a string ensemble at one of our parties, and added an ambiance to Pioneer Hall that put us all in a happy and festive mood for the whole evening! I HIGHLY recommend them to play at your next function to add that special touch of elegance! Thank you ladies for sharing your amazing talents with us! Merry Christmas!
I have already had “oohs and ahhhs” about “that wonderful string quartet” that played for the ceremony. Sarah and Jacob were so pleased! Thank you for coming from afar and for performing so beautifully
Jennifer Moultine is a teacher and performer living in Ellensburg, WA. Taking a rather winding path away from and back to Central Washington, Jen has studied music, performed throughout the Pacific Northwest, been a baker, lived in the jungles of Ecuador, managed a crisis hotline in Olympia, WA, studied public health and writing at The Evergreen State College, worked as a music librarian, and been a stay-at-home mom, among other things. Jen has been a member of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra since 1999, teaches privately in Ellensburg and Yakima, and joined Yakima Music en Accion, an El Sistema inspired music and social change program in Yakima, WA, as a Teaching Artist in January of 2014. Jen also plays baroque cello, performing regularly with the faculty of Central Washington University and other early music performers in CWU’s Musica Antiqua series.
Barb Riley lives in Ellensburg, Washington and plays violin and viola in the Yakima Symphony Orchestra and the Zephyr String Ensemble as well as with her Celtic trio, Prairie Spring. She free-lanced for many years in Seattle, playing regularly at the Fifth Avenue and Paramount Theatres in musical productions and in pick-up orchestras for touring artists. Barbara also maintains a private studio of violin and viola students and directs the Early Beginners classes through the Preparatory Strings Department at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
Cello & Guitar
Dr. Bret Smith is Associate Professor in the Central Washington University Music Department. A graduate of the University of Washington and the University of Michigan, he is a member of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra and faculty advisor of the CWU Preparatory Program. With wide experience in chamber music, orchestral and studio playing, he is also an avid multi-instrumentalist and may be seen in a variety of places with his electric bass, guitar, and banjo. As conductor and arranger, he has collaborated on the Synergia Northwest benefit concert series, collaborating with some of the Northwest's most acclaimed contemporary rock and popular artists.
Violin & Piano
Rebecca Stamm is a versatile musician with twenty years as a freelance artist. Rebecca began traditional piano studies at the age of four and Suzuki violin studies at the age of eight. In 2004 she became a member of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. As an accompanist, she began accompanying students and student groups in 2001. Rebecca received her Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance at Central Washington University. During her studies there, she accompanied in the department and also received vocal training to the extent she sang in an opera. Rebecca has had a total of three years of vocal training, and continued her own piano studies all throughout her college education. She went on to earn her Master of Arts from Washington State University where she taught piano courses to music majors and non-music majors, and accompanied for the music department. During her college education she performed as concertmaster of the university orchestras and occasionally as a featured soloist. In 2010 she was a guest soloist with the Oregon East Symphony Orchestra, playing the not often heard Concert Fantasy for Solo Violin and Orchestra by Nikolai-Rimsky Korsakov. Rebecca has played as a section member or titled chair of Oregon East Symphony Orchestra, Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra, Washington-Idaho Symphony Orchestra, and Yakima Symphony Orchestra. She is also in high demand as an auxiliary violinist for the Spokane Symphony Orchestra and has been performing with them since 2013. She is frequently sought after as a coach and adjudicator locally and around the state. Rebecca has held private studios in Toppenish, WA and in Pullman, WA since 2011, and utilizes various teaching methods to accommodate wherever any student is at in their musical journey. She has completed certification in Suzuki training through book 2, although she was born and raised as a Suzuki student, teaching her first student at the age of 13 under the mentorship of her private teacher. Rebecca’s other interests include theatre/singing, visual art creation, cooking, hiking, Zumba, comedy, and embracing the quest for learning as a student of life. She gives much thanks to all her former private teachers from piano to violin to voice for giving her an incredible depth of knowledge and passion for music making and helping nurture other young musicians.
Lisa and Brett were amazing as they played themes from Animal Crossing and Star Wars for my daughter's wedding. The couple could not have been more thrilled!