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Musician Spotlights


Shelby Nugent

French Horn

Meet Second Horn, Shelby Nugent.

Shelby started playing horn when she was 10 after being inspired by the music of the then new Lord of the Rings movies. She was quickly introduced to etudes and Mozart  by her first horn teacher in St. Louis…and the rest is history! 

After spending five years in the frigid tundra of Chicago, attending Northwestern University and playing in the Civic Orchestra, moving to balmy Phoenix has been a welcome change. She and her dog, Jovie, enjoy exploring new trails all over the gorgeous state of Arizona.

When she’s not playing horn, she’s either backpacking off-the-grid, drinking way too much @presscoffee, or listening to the newest true-crime podcast. She can’t wait to be back on stage in Phoenix with her beloved colleagues!!



Fred Chao


Frederick Chao, currently a member of the cello section of The Phoenix Symphony, was previously the associate principal cellist of the Honolulu Symphony. An avid chamber music enthusiast, he has been a member of the Delmar Trio, Stonybrook Trio and the Philharmonic String Quartet. Currently Fred is the

cellist of Quartet Sabaku.

Chao received his bachelor's degree from Indiana University, where he was awarded the coveted Performers Certificate, and his master's degree from The State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he was chosen to be a member of the Stony Brook Graduate Trio. He has studied cello performance with Janos Starker, Bernard Greenhouse, Gary Hoffman, Ronald Leonard, Frank Miller and Dudley Powers.

Chao and his wife, flutist Barbara Chao, enjoy performing flute and cello chamber works together. They spend their summers at the Masterworks Festival where Fred teaches cello and performs orchestral and chamber music.



Fred Marderness


Fred Marderness received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music performance from the University of Michigan. Beyond having the honor of performing side by side a number of times with his teacher, Charles Owen, he also had the privilege of performing with the U of M Marching Band in the halftime shows for the Rose Bowl and also the Super Bowl. 

Fred joined the percussion section of the Phoenix Symphony in January of 1980. He has also been the Resident Percussionist for the Bay View Summer Music Festival since 1979. Both of those achievements were only possible due to the encouragement from his wife, Jill, a bassoonist with the Arizona Opera Orchestra as well as resident Artist at the Bay View Music Festival. 

Their daughter Emily plays piano, violin, and percussion but teaches English as a second language. Emily has played percussion alongside her Dad on several occasions. They have collaborated at the Bay View Music Festival for performances of Evita, Pippin, and West Side Story. 

Since 2009 Fred has been working closely with the students at the Salt River schools through the “One Nation” program. The collaboration included teaching private lessons and coaching the drum line.

Beyond life as a musician, he loves outdoor activities which include hiking, biking, sailing, and golf. ️


Karen Sinclair


Karen Sinclair has been a member of the Phoenix Symphony’s first violin section since 2008. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, she is the only child of Tom, a high school English teacher, and Yoko, a college professor of Theatre Arts. An avid chamber musician, she is the co-artistic administrator of @urbannocturnes, a chamber ensemble made up of six Phoenix-based musicians, which she founded with Symphony colleague Christopher McKay.

Karen began violin lessons at age three and made her solo debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at eleven years old. She subsequently returned to perform as a soloist with the same orchestra on two other occasions. Her major awards include top prizes at the Tibor Varga International Violin Competition in Switzerland and the International Competition of Padua, Italy, where she performed as soloist with orchestra in the final round. Karen’s professional orchestral experience includes performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Philharmonia Orchestra (London), Houston Symphony, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Formerly Associate Concertmaster of the Canton Symphony in Ohio, she was featured several times as soloist with the orchestra

during her tenure there.

Karen holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music, Royal Academy of Music in London, and Rice University. Karen enjoys cooking, hiking, and traveling and is married to The Phoenix Symphony’s Acting Principal Violist, Mark Deatherage. They reside in a townhouse downtown with cat, Ebi, and dog, Marble.




Gabriel Kovach

Principal Horn

Principal Horn Gabriel Kovach reflects on his experience performing Krzysztof Penderecki’s Sextet on tour with fellow Curtis Institute alumni this past November. Penderecki recently passed away on March 29, 2020. 

“Often times when you're in the moment of working and problem solving you can become fixated on the "work" itself and lose sight of the big picture.  This sextet was an enormous undertaking, made more so with only three days of rehearsals before engaging on an east coast tour in 5 cities and 6 concerts.  But once the concerts started the hard work was forgotten and the joy of performing this piece was ignited.  I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity to work with such amazing artists and colleagues.  The piece becomes a galvanizing force for all the performers as you have to key into each person with precision to accomplish the intricate rhythms demanded.  However, as you step back the rhythm disappears and the tonality and force of the piece washes over you as it fights for balance.  Two competing forces meld into simplicity.  I am honored that I was able to perform this piece during Penderecki's lifetime.  His passing only makes the hard work and joy of performing this sextet all the more special.  It's a triumphal tour de force where good always wins out over anarchy and chaos.“ 


Cassie Lynne Walck

Associate Principal Horn

Our wonderful Associate Principal/Third Horn Player Cassie Walck!


Originally from Houston, Texas, Cassie  joined The Phoenix Symphony in 2013. She lives in Tempe with her husband (and fellow horn player!) Lee and their two year old son, Harrison. ‍‍

Cassie realized her love for sewing when she started making clothes for her son! She has recently started making clothes for herself and friends. You can check out her work at @dorseylanesewing.



Shaun Tilburg

Principal Percussion

Shaun joined the Phoenix Symphony as Principal Percussion in November of 2013. He began his studies at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, with additional work at DePaul University, Northwestern University and the Lynn Conservatory. 

Mr. Tilburg’s previous position was as the Principal Percussionist of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, where he played from 2007 until 2011. Shaun met his future wife, Madoka Suzuki, in Hong Kong and the pair moved back to the United States in the summer of 2011.

Riding the success of his snare drum method book ‘The Regimen’, Shaun founded a music publication company called Pocket Publications in 2016.  With 20 publications and growing, Pocket Publications has quickly established itself as an innovator in the industry.  Shaun’s compositions have premiered all over the world, including the USA, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Norway.

Shaun is pictured here rehearsing for the performances of Andrew Norman's percussion concerto, Switch, with the Phoenix Symphony in September of 2019.



Dimitri Lazarescu

Associate Principal Second Violin

Associate Principal Second violinist, Dimitri Lazarescu, has two really unique and interesting hobbies!

First, he collects cameras from all over the world! Pictured here are cameras from five different countries, with the oldest being from 1917! His collection includes over 70 cameras.

Second, Dimitri hand paints traditional Romanian icons. He started painting them as an 18 year old in Romania as a sign of rebellion against the communist regime. He began painting them again after defecting to the United States. The one he is holding, of St. Dimitri, was painted about 6 weeks ago!


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