Announcing the 2020/2021 Season!

The Rice Brothers - November 13, 2020 at 7PM

It can be a bit disarming to see Johnny and Chris, The Rice Brothers, in concert. Performances that feature classical music are expected to have a certain formality, aren’t they? But when The Rice Brothers walk out onto the stage, you meet two delightful fellows who are casual and friendly! They seem more like they were the kids you grew up with just down the block. You might expect that they would be out on the baseball diamond manning second base and shortstop.

And then the music begins. Audiences are drawn in with the force of a magnet. They are beginning a musical journey with two consummate artists who reach deep into the hearts and souls of their listeners.

Where did it all start? When did their parents, neither of whom claims to have a whit of musical skill, first realize that Johnny and Chris had a love for music? It was during a trip from their hometown of Phoenix, Arizona to Disneyland that three-year-old Johnny was mesmerized by a pianist who was playing Ragtime and BoogieWoogie on Main Street. When asked by his Dad if he wanted to learn to play the piano, Johnny responded with a heartfelt “YES!” Lessons started at age four and soon it was apparent that this young boy had a real gift for music. Little brother Chris, not wanting to be left out, started piano lessons at the age of two! Before long, they both began learning cello. Soon, the young Rice brothers were being invited to play music at family gatherings, church events, schools and retirement communities. They loved learning the music of the masters—Beethoven, Bach, Liszt— and because of their pride in their Polish heritage, especially Chopin. But that Ragtime from the hands of their very first mentor, Disneyland’s Johnny Hodges, stuck with them. Because of that early encounter, The Rice Brothers have always loved sharing the full spectrum of great music with their audiences, knowing its power to communicate with and transform a listener.

So just how did The Rice Brothers manage to develop from local child prodigies into international stars on the rise? It began with years of training from world-class teachers. On piano they were both accepted into the studio of internationally renowned pianist and Arizona State University Professor Robert Hamilton. Studies with Johannes Kropfitsch, Director of Piano at the Vienna Conservatory, contributed to their deep exploration into the nuances that allow the highest levels of musicality to blossom. On cello they received more than a decade of rigorous training from Taki Atsumi, long-time President of the American Cello Congress and Professor at Arizona State University. The Rice Brothers also received coaching from international icons such as Mstislav Rostropovich (who said to their father: “You need to understand ... your sons are massively talented!”) and Eugene Friesen, Grammy Award- winning jazz cellist.

Full of energy and commitment, armed with the finest training imaginable, and winners each of gold medals in an international Chopin competition, The Rice Brothers emerged onto the world stage as inspiring artists. They were invited to perform their debut concert in New York City’s Carnegie Hall, where their performance thrilled the audience and elicited multiple standing ovations. They have been enthusiastically received by audiences of all ages and walks of life in venues throughout America and in Europe. They have offered their music in large performing arts centers and churches, as well as in house concerts and in classrooms settings.

And yet through all of their successes The Rice Brothers, Johnny and Chris, are still the same sweet and friendly guys from Phoenix, devoted to sharing the beauty of music, knowing that great music, regardless of the genre, has a unique way of reaching deeply into the human heart. What more could you ever ask from two “kids from down the block”?

Russell Ryan, piano
with Nancy Buck, Viola - Stephanie Weiss, Mezzo Soprano
Carole FitzPatrick, Mezzo Soprano
January 8, 2021 at 7PM

Russell Ryan was born in North Dakota, USA, and received his first piano lessons at the age of six. He performed as a soloist at the San Francisco Junior Bach Festival for four consecutive years. After his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with Paul Hersh, he participated in masterclasses at the Juilliard School in New York, and subsequently moved to Austria, where he studied piano chamber music under Professor Georg Ebert at Vienna’s University for Music and the Performing Arts, graduating with honors. During his piano studies, he has worked with Irwin Freundlich,  Adele Marcus, Thomas Schumacher, and Ingrid Haebler.

In 1985, he became a member of staff of the vocal department at Vienna’s University for Music and Performing Arts, where, as of 1991, he worked as assistant in the lied-class of Edith Mathis. For several years he was also accompanist of the Wiener Singverein and frequently gave master classes for opera and musical theatre at international festivals, such as the Jugendfestival Bayreuth, the Wiener Meisterkurse, the Gino Bechi Festival in Florence and the Oslo Music Academy. In 2008, he received a professorship of practice for collaborative piano at Arizona State University and is guest instructor at the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) in Vienna, where he is in charge of the Vocal Performance Class. He also has been a guest artist at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival and Middlebury Summer program.

He performs regularly as a soloist and collaborative artist throughout Europe, the USA, Israel, Japan, and China. He has appeared in many radio and television broadcasts and has recorded several CDs, including the most recent recording of Schulhoff’s Concerto Doppio with Ulrike Anton and David Parry with the English Chamber Orchestra. Through the years, he has concertized extensively with the Austrian baritone,Wolfgang Holzmair, with whom he has recorded the Mahler Lieder cycles, Hugo Wolf, Schubert and Krenek, Music from Theresianstadt, and many live radio broadcasts. Chamber Music CDs include the Complete Flute Trios of J. Haydn, Austrian Flute Music through the Centuries (Zeitsprünge), and  works by Hans Gal with the Austrian Flutist, Ulrike Anton.  Mr. Ryan has concertized at the Wiener Festwochen, Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw, the Menuhin Festival Gstaad, the Grieg Festival Oslo, Bergenser Festspillene, the Wiener Musikverein, Wiener Konzerthaus,  the Lincoln and Kennedy Center Series, the Berlin Konzerthaus and the Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival in Germany, to mention only but a few venues. In addition, he performed in the Weill Recital Hall at New York's Carnegie Hall, accompanying Hugo Wolf’s major song-cycles on several evenings.

Patrick Sheridan with Charles Szczepanek - February 12, 2021 at 7PM

Patrick Sheridan is one of the most celebrated tuba soloists in his instrument’s history. He has performed more than 3,000 concerts in over 50 countries in venues ranging from the White House to NBA half-time shows to the Hollywood Bowl.

At 20 years of age, Patrick became a member of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. Since then, Patrick has gone on to become an incredibly diverse artist with concert performances transcending stylistic genres and building fans around the world for his instrument, the tuba. He has been featured in television and radio broadcasts on 4 continents including appearances most recently on NBC’s Today Show and NPR’s All Things Considered and Performance Today.

Beyond his busy performing life, Mr. Sheridan’s commitment to education is extensive. His wind students occupy principal positions in major international ensembles including orchestras in Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and many others. Mr. Sheridan has served on the music faculties at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, The Rotterdam Conservatory, The Royal Northern College of Music and The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Most recently, Patrick served on the music faculty at the Univeristy of California - Los Angeles where he was the Director of the UCLA Wind Ensemble, the UCLA Brass Ensemble and taught tuba and euphonium. In the Phoenix community, Patrick is the Music Director of The Salt River Brass. Patrick also frequently works across the United States as a guest conductor with university bands and orchestras as well as high school and middle school all-state and regional honor bands and orchestras.

Along with Sam Pilafian, Patrick is the co-author of the world’s best selling breathing method for instrumental improvement, The Breathing Gym which was awarded the 2009 EMMY® Award for Instructional/Informational Video Production.
As a composer and arranger, Mr. Sheridan's music and arrangements have been performed internationally by symphony orchestras, concert bands, marching bands, jazz bands and drum corps. Patrick’s music, arrangements, CDs, DVDs, and books are published by Focus on Music, GIA Publications, De Haske Music, Carl Fischer, Mythen Hollanda and Dillon Music Publishing.

Mr. Sheridan has over 20 years experience in the music industry as a design consultant. Instruments influenced by Patrick’s designs are played in hundreds of professional orchestras, military bands and chamber ensembles around the world. Thousands of university, high school, middle school and elementary school students play on instruments in which Patrick has been involved in the design process. He currently works as the Chief Design Consultant for XO Brass, Jupiter Band Instruments, and Hercules Stands.

Patrick is a member of ASCAP, an Honorary Member of Kappa Kappa Psi, and the Founder of The Band Director Academy, a continuing education program for music educators. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in finance and marketing from the University of Michigan and spends his free time with his family hiking and camping in beautiful Arizona.

Charles Szczepanek & Stephen Schermitzler - March 12, 2021 at 7PM

Hailed by American Record Guide as “an accomplished interpreter of romantic piano” whose “playing is bold, powerful, and agile,” Charles Szczepanek enjoys a multifaceted musical career.  He is a prizewinner in the Jacob Flier International Piano Competition, the Bösendorfer International Piano Competition, the Steinway Society of Chicago’s Most Promising Young Artist Competition, and of Arizona State University’s Concert of Soloists Competition.  He additionally has performed and been interviewed on National Public Radio around the United States.


A Mason & Hamlin Artist, Szczepanek is a pioneer, writing and arranging new virtuosic piano music.  Much of that music can be found on his last three albums: The Ivory Muse, Keys to the Cinema, and Winter Day Dreaming.  Szczepanek is also active in the online music community, with YouTube and Spotify streams of his original music totaling over 1 million plays in the last three years, and streams of work he has been featured on totaling over 10 million plays.  He is a Signature Artist where sheet music for all of his originals and arrangements is available for pianists around the world to purchase.


Currently residing in Queen Creek, Arizona, Szczepanek is the full-time music director at Church of the Ascension in Fountain Hills.  He is also the Founder and Artistic Director of Arts at Ascension, a concert series that benefits fine arts education for underprivileged students in inner-city schools.  He has toured as the collaborative pianist for one of the most celebrated tuba performers in history of the instrument, Patrick Sheridan.  Notably, Szczepanek has been featured in concert under the baton of Charles Bruffy with the Phoenix Chorale, a 3-time Grammy Award winning choral ensemble.  He arranges music for musicians around the world; including prolific artists such as Paul Harvey Jr. (creator of The Rest of the Story radio show), Anna Graceman (finalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent), Salonnieres, the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, and Vocelliano.


Szczepanek is the owner of Winding Road Studios, an audio and video production company specializing in classical music and film scoring.  Through Winding Road Studios, Szczepanek has collaborated with, engineered, and/or produced many of the nation’s top classical performers and ensembles including The Guarneri String Quartet, Antonio Pompa-Baldi, The Millennial Choral Organization, and The Arizona and Phoenix Opera Companies.


Szczepanek was a precollege student of Dr. Daniel Paul Horn (Wheaton College Conservatory of Music), and an undergraduate and graduate student of Professor Robert Hamilton (Arizona State University).  He also studied with such notables as Vladimir Feltsman, Alexander Korsantia, Susan Starr, Phillip Kawin, and Paul Ostrovski.

Stephen's info coming soon!

is the official piano of Arts at Ascension

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