Meet the Rising Star International Competition Judges



Winner of the 2010 Nadia Reisenberg award for pianists in New York City; founding member of internationally renowned Duo Petrof, Fulbright Garcia-Robles grantee, and prizewinner at numerous international piano competitions, including second prize, jury prize, and audience prize at the Russian Music Competition in San Jose, CA; first prize at the Claudio Herrera Competition in Mexico, and second prizes at the Angelica Morales competition in Mexico and the International Competition for Young Pianists in Ukraine. She was the recipient of the 2007 fellowship for performers by the National Foundation for Culture and Arts in Mexico and an Artist in Residence at the International House of New York.

Fulbright Garcia-Robles grantee and scholarship recipient of the National Foundation for Culture and Arts in Mexico, she obtained a Master of Music degree at Mannes College for Music in New York City and Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Colima in Mexico.  Ms. Vassilieva is a faculty member at the Music Department of the University of Colima since 2006 and guest faculty at the National Music Conservatory in Mexico. Her students have won top prizes at national and international music competitions. Audience and critics alike appreciate her mature performances, impetuous character and stage presence.


A multi-instrumentalist, being one of the very few in the world who you can see performing as a soloist with two instruments on the same stage with an orchestra, internationally acclaimed harpist, pianist, composer, and professor Dr. Chaerin Kim is the winner of 12 national and international competitions in America, England, Russia, and Korea. She has been judging 65 times at 28 international competitions in US, UK, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Italy, Germany, Austria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, and Australia. 

She received her B.A. with Highest Honors from Ewha University in Seoul – then, while pursuing her master’s degree at Ewha, she was offered a scholarship for a PGD at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she graduated with “distinction”, and she got her M.M. from Yale University and doctorate at Boston University, where she was offered a full scholarship. She was the “quickest recipient of a Doctorate” in BU Music School’s history, completing it in three and a half years.  

Dr. Kim was a music faculty at Eastern Nazarene College, where she taught harp, piano, music theory and music history classes, and was also the former Head of the Harp Department at Adagio Music Academy, South Shore Conservatory, and an artistic director of UIMC.

Currently, she is an artist with the TTF Entertainment company in China, piano faculty at Shepherd’s Heart School of Music in Florida, and a music faculty at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Schloss Akademie in Germany, and harp and piano through the Office of Arts at Harvard University.



Anatoly Zatin graduated from the St Petersburg State Conservatory of Music as composer, conductor and pianist. He became member of the St Petersburg Union of Composers in 1979 and few years later made his conducting debut with the Leningrad Philharmonic. He continues the traditions of the Russian School, having studied and collaborated with musicians like Ilya Musin, Ravil Martynov, Evgeny Mravinsky, Sergei Slonimsky, Pavel Serebriakov, Yury Ananiev, Abraham Logovinsky, Alexandra Vavilina, Anatoly Nikitin, Timofei Dokshitzer, Vladimir Kafelnikov, Tamara Fidler and Yury Kramarov.

He served as artistic director of the Ekaterinburg Musical Theatre and the B-A-C-H Chamber Orchestra in Russia. He made recordings for the USSR Central Radio station, ‘Melodiya’, Azzurra Music, Aurora Classical and Columna Musica. In 1990 he was presented with the UNICEF Medal of Honour and in 2015 with the prestigious Mozart Medal in Mexico. Throughout his career he has toured over 20 countries participating at the most important music festivals as conductor and pianist. Since 1992 he resides and works in Mexico, currently teaching at the University of Colima and the National Conservatory of Music. With pianist Vlada Vassilieva he founded Duo Petrof in 2003, winning numerous awards, touring Europe, Asia and America, and being praised by audiences and critics alike.



Stevan Karanac, tenor, is a principal artist of the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad. He started his soloist career in 2014 at the Opera National theatre in Belgrade. He has a Master of Arts degree and is working on his education on DA studies with professor Mijailović. Stevan performed in more than 450 shows and concerts, performing over 30 opera roles, with the majority of them being principal tenor roles. He performed on the main stages in many countries including  Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Russia.

Stevan Karanac is a founder of the chamber trio Youkali as well as the Association of young opera artists Bell’Opera, and artistic organization ArtNet to promote opera and make opportunities for young singers. The first project performed was “La tragedie de Carmen”, by Georges Bizet, and performances of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and “Cosi fan tutte” in Belgrade and Novi Sad.

He is the artistic director of the international competition Angel Voice Classic as well as a faculty member at the music school “Dr. Miloje Milojevic” in Kragujevac, Department of Music in Belgrade, and Opera Studio at the Slobomir University, Bosnia & Herzegovina.


Irene Di Vilio is an Italian singer, vocal coach, and choir conductor. With over a decade of experience teaching popular and jazz voice in Italy and Switzerland, she is the founder and owner of Atelier Del Canto Studio, where she offers voice lessons to a diverse range of students from all over the world. In 2012 I opened the second office in Bregnano (CO). In 2022 Atelier Del Canto becomes the Registered Examination Center Trinity College London examination center.

Di Vilio has completed a wide range of artistic and professional training, including programs in jazz voice at the Milan Conservatory, in Lugano (Switzerland), in Munich (Germany), and in pop voice at the Centro Europeo di Toscolano, Italy. Her professional certification includes the Estill Figure Proficiency (EFP) certification and the Level Two Vocal Coach certificate, completed within the Modern Vocal Training Program. In addition, she is a certified Vocal Health First Aider with NCFE/CACHE. As a vocal coach for recording studios, vocal ensembles, and corporate clients, Di Vilio has worked with a diverse range of professionals in the music industry.

For over 10 years, Ms. Di Vilio served as a jury president and juror for singing competitions in Italy. In addition to her work in the music industry, she has organized international cultural and educational events for the European Youth Parliament. Di Vilio has released several recordings, including performances as a soloist and ensemble vocalist. She has also participated in various festivals and concerts, including the Bergamo Jazz Festival and the Giuditta Pasta Festival



Dr. Margarita Denenburg is Associate Professor of Practice in Piano Pedagogy at Butler School of Music, The University of Texas at Austin. A passionate musician and pedagogue, Dr. Denenburg was recognized for her teaching effectiveness through the “Innovative Teaching Award” and the “Excellence in Education Award” for the state of Ohio. Dr. Denenburg held several leadership positions on the board of the Ohio Federation Music Clubs, Ohio Music Teachers Association, and College Music Society. 

Dr. Denenburg has published multiple articles with the American Music Teacher journal, Clavier Companion magazine, and Piano Pedagogy Forum. She presented at several national music forums and conferences. She enjoys performing as much as teaching and publishing. Her most recent performances include several solo recitals in Ohio, and currently she is preparing for a concert series with her duo partner Gerald Evans, working on the complete cycle of the Planets by Gustav Holst. Past performance projects include music by Holocaust composers, the sentential research and performance of the Rite of Spring, and the music by Robert Schumann.  

Margarita Denenburg holds the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in piano performance from Arizona State University where she studied under the tutelage of Dr. Baruch Meir. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance from the University of Southern California where she studied with Professor Bernadene Blaha. 


Considered as one of the finest Spanish pianists of his generation, Gabriel Escudero Braquehais combines his performing activity with his teaching at an international level. Escudero has been invited to perform at important events and festivals in Spain, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Italy, Poland, USA, Sweden.

Graduated from Mannes College, Manhattan School of Music and Sibelius Academy, Escudero is a Doctor of Musical Arts since 2013. Gabriel has received numerous national and international awards such as the Steinway & Sons Special Prize, the First Prizes at the “Ciutat de Manresa”, “Infanta Cristina”, and “Ciutat de Xativa” Piano Competitions. In 2017, he was awarded the Extraordinary Award from the “Entre Cuerdas y Metales” Competition for his musical career. Throughout his artistic life he has worked with masters such as Ana Guijarro, Eldar Nebolsin, Ilmo Ranta, Yefim Bronfman and Arkady Aronov, who have positively influenced his pianism.

Deeply interested in piano pedagogy, Gabriel Escudero has worked at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, the International School of Music Finland in Helsinki, and the FaceArt Institute of Music in Shanghai. He has also given master classes in the US, Spain, Finland, China and Hong-Kong. Most of his students have entered the most prestigious music schools and won national and international competitions. Presently, he works as a Piano Chair at the Superior Music Conservatory in Murcia and the international school Musical Arts Madrid, Spain.


Born in Bulgaria, Avguste Antonov studied piano in Bulgaria (Dobrich), France (Ecole Normale de Paris, Conservatoire de Bordeaux Jacques Thibaud) and the United States (2000: University of Missouri-Kansas City; 2001-2004: University of Kansas; 2006-2008: Texas Christian University).

Currently, Avguste Antonov resides in France and holds a position as a professor of piano and accompaniment at the Conservatoire de Châteaubriant. Pianist Avguste Antonov is at home in all repertoire, with a special interest for the 20th and 21st century music. Avguste Antonov has performed recitals and has been featured as soloist with various Symphony orchestras; he has performed World and USA premieres at venues across North America and over the years he has worked with composers Carter Pann, Gregory Hutter, Michael Colgrass, Raina Murnak, Matthew Lewis, Till Meyn, Matthew Saunders, Robert Rollin, William Vollinger and others.

In addition to performing, Avguste Antonov has presented lectures for the Carrollton Music Teachers Association, Frisco Music Teachers Association, Kansas Music Teachers Association, Oklahoma Music Teachers Association and Wisconsin Music Teachers Association. He is an adjudicator for various competitions including the ENKOR Piano Competition, the Sound Espressivo Global Competition and the Music International Grand Prix. In 2021, Avguste Antonov was named on the advisory board of the Sound Espressivo Global Competition.

Avguste Antonov


Dr. Rebecca Sorley holds the position of Professor of Music at the University of Indianapolis where she is Director of Student Support and Coordinator of the Music Business Concentration. She teaches piano to all levels from Pre-College through Piano Majors.

Dr. Sorley holds degrees in piano from Butler, Indiana and Ball State Universities and an MBA from the University of Indianapolis. Recent performances include participation in the National Association of Music Merchants “Roomful of Pianos” in Anaheim, California, lecture-recital entitled “Musical Immigrants” for the College Music Society International Conference in Sydney, Australia and “Women Make Music” with daughter, Allegra, for the Mu Phi Epsilon International Convention in Denver, Colorado. In November, 2019, Rebecca taught as a masterclass clinician for the National Collegiate Honors Conference in New Orleans.

Sorley serves on the International Board for Mu Phi Epsilon music fraternity as 4th-International Vice-President, Music Advisor. She has worked as an orchestral keyboardist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, and the Evansville Philharmonic.



Ukrainian-born mezzo soprano Yana Weinstein grew up in a family of musicians and began studying voice and piano at the age of five. She was a main soloist of the award-winning Shkolniye Gody children’s choir, with which she toured all over Europe and the former USSR and won international choral competitions in Bulgaria and Spain. Shortly following her graduation with her first degrees in voice and choral conducting, her family immigrated to the United States, where she has been living for over twenty years.

Ms. Weinstein earned a B.M. degree magna cum laude in Vocal Performance from Northern Kentucky University, and a M.M. degree from the Ohio State. She is pursuing her doctorate at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. While at OSU and IU, she appeared as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Gherardino in Gianni Schicchi, Suora Zelatrice in Suor Angelica, and gave a performance of Lee Hoiby’s mono-opera Bon Appetit! At Indiana State University, Ms. Weinstein teaches piano, voice, music theory and conducts the Women’s Choir. She has given a number of programs with special emphasis on Russian repertoire. Her research topics include music and poetic text, vocal pedagogy for the pre-teens, vocal pedagogy and music theory, and the songs of Nikolai Medtner.


Joanna Forbes L’Estrange is a British singer, composer and choir director who receives engagements throughout the world. Having graduated from Oxford University with an MA (Hons) music degree, she began her career touring internationally as Soprano/Musical Director of the five-time Grammy® award-winning vocal group The Swingles. Specialising in the performance of contemporary music and jazz, Joanna has sung with the world’s leading orchestras and at The Proms, Edinburgh International Festival and Glastonbury Festival.  She records soundtracks for Hollywood films (over 200, to date) and TV. Joanna writes choral music, songs and music for television; credits include Fleabag and Glee. A regular adjudicator of music competitions, she appeared as a judge for the Sky One series SING! Ultimate A Cappella.

Through her choral coaching, Joanna shares her experience and expertise with amateur and professional choirs, particularly with her popular “You can sing…but can you swing?!” choral jazz workshop. In 2018 she made history by organizing and conducting the first all-female recording session ever to have happened at Abbey Road Studios. Her song Twenty-first-century Woman was released as a charity single on International Women’s Day 2019. Joanna is the founder and artistic director of the all-female vocal group AQUILA and is a conductor for Choir of the Earth. She and her husband, the composer/arranger Alexander L’Estrange, run their own professional recording studio (Old Stable Studios), making recordings of their music as well as remotely for composers across the globe.


Soprano Dana Zenobi’s work as an interpreter of Art Song by women composers has garnered both regional and national attention. Equally at home on the opera stage, she appeared in the American Premiere of Philip Glass’s Waiting for the Barbarians with Austin Opera, and performed with Lyric Opera Cleveland in the first production of Mark Adamo’s Little Women directed by the composer.

Dr. Zenobi joined the Butler University voice faculty in 2018 after a decade at Southwestern University (Georgetown, Texas). At Butler, she teaches Studio Voice, Diction, Vocal Pedagogy, and Song and Opera Literature courses. She also directs the Butler University Vocal Competition for high school students. Her studio teaching was nationally recognized in 2014, when The American Prize competition issued her an “Inspiration in Teaching” award. Winner of the 2020 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Vocal Pedagogy Award, Dr. Zenobi has presented lectures and lecture recitals at numerous conferences and festivals including the NATS Texoma Regional Conference, the Music by Women Festival, and the Associated Colleges of the South Gender Studies Conference.

She holds a BA in Music and Women’s Studies from Duke University, and both MM and DMA from The University of Texas at Austin.


Chris Lewis is Executive Director of the Great American Songbook Foundation, founded in 2007 by five-time GRAMMY Award nominee Michael Feinstein. One of the goals of the foundation is to inspire and educate students by celebrating the timeless songs of pop, jazz, Broadway and Hollywood.

Lewis is an accomplished musician with experience as a professional vocalist, choral director and voice teacher, and was a member of the vocal jazz octet, Pieces of 8, along with his wife, Kelly. He oversees all the organization’s activities, including management of the Songbook Archives & Library, the Songbook Exhibit Gallery, the Songbook Hall of Fame and all educational and outreach programming.

During his tenure, Lewis has spearheaded the national expansion of the Foundation’s most prominent education program, the annual Songbook Academy® summer intensive, which gathers top high school vocalists from coast to coast for a rigorous week of mentoring from performing arts and entertainment professionals. Many of the Academy graduates have performed at Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, on television shows and many other venues.

Lewis holds a master’s degree in education from Mercy College as well as a graduate certificate in nonprofit executive leadership through the IUPUI School of Philanthropy and is a graduate of the Hamilton County Leadership Academy. Lewis is a member of the Indianapolis Consortium of Arts Administrators, the National Association of Music Educators, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the Jazz Education Network and the Recording Academy.