Meet the musicians performing on our 2019-2020 Season!
Astraios musicians have performed around the world and are ready to bring you great classical music.
Christopher Curtis is an actor, singer, and director currently based in Dallas, TX, and serves as the President of Astraios's Board of Directors. The son of Torrey Curtis and Joyce Adams Curtis, both of whom obtained Masters of Sacred Music degrees from SMU, Christopher grew up singing in choirs under the direction of his parents. After graduating from Oklahoma City University where he studied voice with George Massey, Christopher has gone on to work at more than a dozen theatres in the region including Shakespeare Dallas, Theatre Three, Circle Theatre, City Rep, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, Reduxion Theatre, Oklahoma City Theatre Company, Pegasus Theatre, and Lyric Stage. A few of his favorite roles include Ed Devery in Born Yesterday, John Dickinson in 1776, and the title role in Hamlet. He is also a veteran improviser, and has performed improv on stages throughout the region for over a dozen years and recently took his two-man improv show C-4 to perform in New York City.
Dr. Eka Gogichashvili is Associate Professor of Violin at Baylor University, where in addition to teaching a full violin studio, she coaches chamber music and orchestral excerpt classes. She performs with the Baylor Piano Trio and Eka and Kae Duo. Eka holds dual Bachelor of Music degrees from Balanchivadze College of Music and from Rowan University in NJ. and dual Master of Music degrees from Tbilisi State Conservatory and the Louisiana State University (LSU). She completed her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at LSU with a minor in orchestral conducting.
Throughout her career, she has appeared in numerous performances as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player both in Europe and the United States. Eka regularly appears at national conventions as a performer and as a clinician on various topics of violin performance practice, repertoire, and pedagogy. Her research focuses on composers active during the Holocaust, especially the creative output of Erwin Schulhoff. In the summer of 2015 she released a recording of Schulhoff’s violin compositions.
Robert Gruca is an exciting guitarist who performs a wide range of solo, chamber, and concerto repertoire. In recent seasons he has toured throughout the US and into Canada. He regularly performs as a solo artist and with flutist Linda White as part of the Gruca White Ensemble, Artists in Residence at The Music Settlement.
Robert Gruca has earned several first prizes in national guitar competitions including Columbus State Guitar Symposium & Competition, the Appalachian State Guitar Festival Competition, and the East Carolina University Guitar Festival Competition. He was a top prize winner in the Rantucci International Guitar Competition and a semifinalist in the Guitar Foundation of America Competition and the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition.
In addition to performing, Robert Gruca is a highly motivated and dedicated guitar instructor. Currently certified in Suzuki Books 1, 2, and 3, Robert started the first Suzuki Guitar program in Northeast Ohio at the The Music Settlement in Cleveland, Ohio in 2013, where he currently is growing the Suzuki community.
Dr. Jaymee Haefner teaches at the University of North Texas (UNT) and serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the College of Music. She obtained her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the University of Arizona and her Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University. She has also performed throughout the Dallas‐Fort Worth area, Los Angeles, Colorado, in Mexico, the Czech Republic and Russia.
An avid supporter of new compositions for harp, Jaymee has commissioned and premiered several new works. Her current projects include her “Better than One” duo with harpist Emily Mitchell and her “Crimson” duo with violinist Matt Milewski; both duos released CD recordings in 2015. When she isn’t on stage, Dr. Haefner trains in karate with her son, and earned her first degree black belt in 2015. Learn more about her on her website.
Patrick Herring began playing music at a very early age and hated it with a passion until they let him start hitting things. Since then he has received a Bachelor in Music Education from the University of North Texas and Masters in Percussion Performance from Southern Methodist University. Music has taken him all around the United States and he has proudly played shows in 40 out of 50 states. He’s looking forward to getting up to New England someday and knocking out a few more of them.
Patrick is the Operations Director for the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. He currently serves as the principal percussionist of the Allen Philharmonic Symphony and plays extra with many local and regional orchestras as well as theater companies and churches and anyone else that needs something hit musically.
Patrick lives in Little Elm with his wife, son, daughter, and two beagles and in his spare time creates instructional videos on how to play percussion on his website.
Dr. Kae Hosoda-Ayer is Associate Professor of Piano at Baylor University. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance with emphasis in chamber music and collaborative arts from the University of Texas at Austin; a Master of Music degree and Graduate Diploma in piano performance from New England Conservatory where she was a Piano Honors Competition winner; and a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from Toho Gakuen School of Music, Tokyo, Japan. Her principal teachers include Anton Nel, Gabriel Chodos, and Nobuko Amada.
Kae has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, and Korea, where she is in demand both as a soloist and collaborative pianist. With her husband, clarinetist Christopher Ayer, she performs as the Duo Karudan throughout the United States, Canada, and Japan, and performed at the International Clarinet Association World Conferences in Tokyo, Austin, and Atlanta. Among her other recent appearances as a collaborative artist include conferences of the North American Saxophone Alliance and International Double Reed Society.
Eric Jones got his start in music at an early age, studying voice with his father, Robert Jones, and singing in many children’s roles, including Amahl and the Night Visitors. He began studying the violin and viola at age 10, and received a Bachelors and Masters of Music in Viola Performance and a Masters in Musicology from the University of North Texas, and is a PhD candidate in Musicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Eric studied Bolivian folk music as a Fulbright Scholar in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and is a specialist in the folk music traditions of Latin America and the Andes. He is a regular performer of both solo works and chamber music, and has performed with orchestras in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.
Michael Jones, bassoonist, serves as Astraios's Programming Director and Treasurer of the Board of Directors. As Astraios's Programming Director, he coordinates ensembles, arranges music for our versatile ensembles, and manages our elementary school programs.
Michael received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Indiana University, where he held an Associate Instructorship. Michael subsequently received a Fulbright Grant to study bassoon performance and pedagogy at the Sydney Conservatorium, where he received a Graduate Diploma in 2006. During this time, he also toured with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. In 2016, he was the Acting Principal Bassoonist of the Texarkana Symphony, and has performed regularly with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra since 2013. His teachers have included Carl Rath, Andrew Barnes, Arthur Weisberg, and Kim Walker.
Matthew Milewski joined the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in 2010. He has been a featured soloist with the Manhattan Chamber Sinfonia, Ocean City Pops in New Jersey, South Carolina Philharmonic, and California Music Festival Orchestra. He has also performed with the Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis, Nashville, St. Louis, Louisville, Grand Rapids, and Charleston symphony orchestras, among others.
In addition to pursuing his orchestral career, he is also an active chamber musician. He has collaborated on performances at the Kent Blossom Music Festival, Indiana University Music Festival, and Music Masters Course in Kazusa, Japan, as well as the Claremont and Tactus ensembles while he was a student at the Manhattan School of Music. He studied with Julia Bushkova at the Interlochen Arts Academy and attended Indiana University for undergraduate studies in performance, where he earned a performer diploma under Yuval Yaron. He holds a master of music in orchestral performance from the Manhattan School of Music.
Ruth Ann Ritchie
Founder & Director | Flute
Flutist Ruth Ann Ritchie is the founder and Executive Director of Astraios. Since 2007 she has established concert series in Texas and Colorado and led Astraios ensembles in performances across the U.S. She is the founding flutist of both The August Winds quintet and the Cirrus Quartet.
Inspired to play flute at the age of two, Ruth Ann studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Cleveland Music School Settlement before receiving a Bachelor of Music with Distinction in Flute Performance from Indiana University. She continued her studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, receiving a Graduate Diploma in 2006. Her primary teachers have been Tom Robertello, Alexa Still, Linda White, and Joseph Juhos.
Ruth Ann also serves as Business Manager of the Dallas-based Orpheus Chamber Singers. As an administrator, she has worked with Floot Fire Dallas and Hall Ensemble, and served on the Board of the Lewisville Lake Symphony from 2012-2015. Ruth Ann has been a guest panelist at the National Flute Association's annual convention, speaking on the topic of "Creative Careers for Musicians."
Yumiko Endo Schlaffer has been steadily gaining a reputation as a masterful artist ever since her impressive American debut recital in May 2000 at the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York, shortly after completing her Masters degree from the Juilliard School. She has been a recipient of numerous awards, including First Prizes in the Japan International Harp Competition in both Young and Advanced divisions. Ms. Endo Schlaffer is one of the most distinguished harpists in her native Japan, and she was honored with the opportunity to perform at the Imperial Palace for Her Majesty the Empress and Her Royal Highnesses.
Ms. Endo Schlaffer began her musical training at the age of three and learned musical theory and Piano. While taking lessons with Ayako Shinozaki, she received her Bachelors degree from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. She also studied extensively throughout Europe with Marie-Claire Jamet and Isabelle Moretti of France, and Marisa Robles of England. Ms. Endo Schlaffer earned her Masters degree from The Juilliard School where she studied with Nancy Allen, principal harpist of the New York Philharmonic. She then pursued her further studies with Sarah Bullen, principal harpist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Endo Schlaffer has been serving as a board member of American Harp Society in Dallas since 2007.
Linda White leads an active musical life as both a performer and a teacher. She is a founding member of the BlueWater Chamber Orchestra, and has also performed with The Cleveland Pops, The Cleveland Opera Orchestra, The Akron Symphony, The Canton Symphony, Erie Philharmonic, and The New World Symphony.
She regularly performs with classical guitarist Robert Gruca as part of the Gruca White Ensemble. As Artists in Residence at The Music Settlement, Robert and Linda entertain audiences throughout Greater Cleveland with their fresh approach which combines classical, latin, popular, and improvised music.
An avid chamber musician and champion of contemporary music, she regularly works with the composers of The Cleveland Composers Guild and performs their pieces at venues throughout the Great Lakes region. Though classically trained, Linda enjoys improvising and nurtures her love of jazz through collaboration with pianist-composer Marshall Griffith.
An engaging teacher, Linda teaches at The Music Settlement, where she has students of all ages and abilities. At The Music Settlement, in addition to her teaching and work with The Gruca White Ensemble, Linda leads the Flautrageous Flute Choir and coordinates a program for adult amateur musicians to gather and play chamber music.
Linda received a Master of Music degree from The Cleveland Institute of Music as a student of Jeffrey Khaner and a Bachelor of the Arts from the University of Wyoming, where she studied with Dr. Katherine Kemler.