Ronald Leonard

Honorary Chair

Renowned Cellist

Ronald Leonard has been known and admired as one of America’s leading cellists and pedagogues for many years. He was principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and has been Professor of Cello at the Eastman School of Music, Piatigorsky Professor of Cello at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, and cello and chamber music faculty member at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music. He has also taught and performed at many music festivals, including Aspen, Marlboro, Musicorda, Sarasota and the Perlman Music Program.

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Yao Zhao

President

Principal Cello, San Diego Symphony

Hailed in New York Concert Review as “… a superb cellist with intense and sensuous sound”, cellist Yao Zhao performs with a rare and captivating dynamism that has secured him a successful career as the tenured Principal Cello for San Diego Symphony Orchestra, and as a faculty member at San Diego State University. He is one of the founding members of the award-winning Great Wall String Quartet, and in 2013 he was honored as one of China’s Ten Extraordinary Cellists of the Generation. Mr. Zhao made his first concert appearance at age five, and his solo debut in the Beijing Concert Hall at age nine. He garnered further attention in 1988 upon winning second prize at the First Chinese National Cello Competition, and he went on to win more than 13 competitions, awards and honors. 

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Alisa Weilerstein

Artistic Advisor

Renowned Cellist

Alisa Weilerstein is one of the foremost cellists of our time. Since making her professional and Carnegie Hall debuts in her early teens, she has been in high demand as a solo recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist with leading orchestras worldwide. She was recognized with a MacArthur Fellowship in 2011.

An authority on Bach’s music for unaccompanied cello, Weilerstein recently released a best-selling recording of his solo suites on the Pentatone label, streamed them in her innovative #36DaysOfBach project, and deconstructed his beloved G-major prelude in a Vox.com video, viewed over 2 million times. Her discography also includes chart-topping albums and the winner of BBC Music’s “Recording of the Year” award. As Artistic Partner of the Trondheim Soloists, she regularly tours and records with the Norwegian orchestra. She is an ardent champion of contemporary music, and has premiered and championed important new works by composers including Joan Tower, Pascal Dusapin, Osvaldo Golijov and Matthias Pintscher. Other career milestones include a performance at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at nine years old, Weilerstein is a staunch advocate for the T1D community. She lives with her husband, Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare, and their two young children.

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Xian Zhuo

Artistic Director

Cellist, San Diego Symphony

Cellist Xian Zhuo is a professional musician whose artistry is recognized by awards and audiences. The winner of the 2011 Isidor Handler Award (1st Prize) at the 38th Dr. Luis Sigall International Cello Competition in Chile, Mr. Zhuo's recent exciting engagements included concertos and master classes in Chile, Brazil, China and the USA. In 2013 he was selected as one of the top ten young Chinese cellists and was featured on a CCTV Concert in Beijing with the China Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Zhuo first gained national recognition when he won 1st prize in the China National Competition. In addition to the Isidor Handler Award, he won 1st prizes in the Corpus Christi International Competition, Loeb/Louviere International Competition, Redlands Bowl Young Artist Competition, Parness Young Artists Concerto Competition, La Jolla Symphony and Chorus Young Artists Competition and Fé Bland Foundation Music Awards.

Dr. Anna Cho

Secretary

Born in Seoul, Korea, Dr. Anna Cho holds a Bachelor of Music from Korean National University of Arts, a Master of Music from Yale University, and Doctor of Musical Arts from University of Southern California.  A winner of music competitions and awards, Dr. Cho has performed as soloist with major Orchestras in Korea and Russia and was represented as a soloist at Yale Cellos concert.  As a chamber musician, she was the cellist of the string quartet with the world-renowned Violinist Midori for over a year.  She was selected as the principal cellist of the Moritzburg Festival Orchestra in 2007.   

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Andrew Hayhurst

Artist in Residence

Cellist, San Diego Symphony

Cellist Andrew Hayhurst holds Bachelor’s degrees in Cello Performance and Performing Arts Technology from the University of Michigan where he received a full merit scholarship and graduated with highest honors. He earned his Master of Music in 2013 from the Yale School of Music.

Mr. Hayhurst has performed over National Public Radio and on Los Angeles's KMozart. He has been awarded scholarships from the Colburn School of Performing Arts and the Santa Barbara Fé Bland Foundation. 

Nathan Walhout

Artist in Residence

Cellist, San Diego Symphony

Cellist Nathan Walhout joined the San Diego Symphony in 2020. Prior to starting with the Symphony, Mr. Walhout was pursuing his Master’s degree at Rice University studying with Brinton Smith. Mr. Walhout graduated in 2019 with his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan studying with Richard Aaron. Before college Mr. Walhout studied at the Music Institute of Chicago Academy with the late Gilda Barston. Growing up in the Chicagoland area, Mr. Walhout participated in numerous local competitions. He has been privileged to perform with the Oistrakh and Ars Viva Symphony Orchestras and competed in the finals for the Chicago Symphony Young Artists Competition.

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