Monarch Chamber Players consists of a core wind quintet, as well as a full roster of strings, brass, and percussion to present concerts with diverse instrumentation!
Founder, Director, Clarinetist
Rebecca Tobin enjoys an active career as an orchestral clarinetist and educator, currently based in Houston. She most recently served as Acting Associate Principal and E-flat Clarinet with the Kansas City Symphony from 2017-2019. Previously she was Acting Second Clarinet with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. for the 2016-2017 season and joined the orchestra on their tour to Russia. In the 2019-2020 season, Rebecca performed with those ensembles as well as numerous other orchestras including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, Houston Ballet, and Opera in the Heights, and was invited to perform on the National Symphony Orchestra Asia Tour. Originally from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, she completed her master’s degree at Rice University in 2016, and her bachelor’s degree in 2014 at the Eastman School of Music. Her primary teachers include Richie Hawley, Kenneth Grant, Jon Manasse, and Gregory Smith. As an educator, Rebecca has taught extensively in the Houston area.
Production Manager, Flutist
Douglas is Solo Flutist of the contemporary music collective Loop38 and a guest performer with the Houston Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony, the Louisiana Philharmonic, Musiqa Houston, and the Texas New Music Ensemble. He is an Adjunct Flute Professor at Houston Community College, a Young Artist for DaCamera of Houston, and is Principal Flute of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra in Los Angeles. Performance highlights from past seasons include guest solo appearances for Mozart’s D Major Flute Concerto, Bach’s Complete Brandenburg Concerti, and Ibert’s Flute Concerto, in addition to guest performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Florida Grand Opera, and the New World Symphony, and concert tours to Carnegie Hall, the Grand Ole Opry, and Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms. Originally from Los Angeles, Mr. DeVries received his Bachelor of Music degree from The Juilliard School and his Master of Music degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.
Originally from Albany, NY, Katie Hart began playing the oboe at age 9 under the tutelage of Randall Ellis. She earned her Bachelor’s of Music in 2014 at the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Richard Killmer, and her Master’s of Music in 2016 at Rice University, studying with Robert Atherholt. Katie has attended acclaimed music festivals such as the National Orchestral Institute, the Banff Centre’s Masterclass and Orchestral programs, the Sarasota Music Festival, and the National Repertory Orchestra. She has also played with ensembles including the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Florida Orchestra, the Louisiana Philharmonic, the Houston Ballet Orchestra, and the San Antonio Symphony. She is a core member of the Houston-based new music ensemble Loop 38. Currently residing in Houston, Katie maintains both a freelancing career and a sizable oboe studio.
Russell Rybicki is currently acting Fourth/Utility horn in the San Antonio Symphony. Previously, he held positions in the Vancouver Symphony and the New World Symphony. He has played with the Rochester Philharmonic, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He has won several competitions including the Brighton Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and the National Music Festival Concerto Competition. Russell was selected to perform Esa-Pekka Salonen's Concert Étude during Salonen's residency at Northwestern. He has also performed in the jazz idiom, and was a member with the Grammy Award Winning Gil Evans Centennial Jazz Ensemble at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy. Russell completed his graduate studies at Northwestern University and his undergraduate degree at the Eastman School of Music studying horn and instrumental Music Education. His primary teachers include Gail Williams, Jonathan Boen, W. Peter Kurau and Derek Conrod. He is currently based in Leander, TX.
Jordan Brokken is a freelance bassoonist originally from and currently residing in Houston, Texas. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he lived in Los Angeles. Some highlights from his time there include performing as guest principal bassoon with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Bernardino Symphony, performances with the Los Angeles Ballet, and recording on various film and television scores. Jordan is also a founding member of the conductorless chamber orchestra Kaleidoscope. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at the Colburn Conservatory where he studied with Richard Beene. While at Colburn, he was a featured soloist with the Colburn Zipper Orchestra and performed on Colburn Chamber Music Society concerts with members of the London Symphony Orchestra and pianist Orli Shaham. In the summer, he has been a fellow at the Aspen and Tanglewood Music Festivals.
Claire Kostic, oboe
Originally from Long Island, New York, oboist Claire Kostic is an active performer in the Houston area and beyond. In the summers she serves as principal oboe in the Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria in Mexico City. She has also been frequently heard with The Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, and Richmond Symphony. Claire has participated in numerous summer festivals including Kent/Blossom, Sarasota, Chautauqua, and the Texas Music Festivals. Additionally, Claire has a passion for teaching and has large studio in the greater Houston area. Claire completed her Masters of Music and Artist’s Diploma at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music with Robert Atherholt. She is also a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music under the tutelage of Frank Rosenwein, principal oboe of the Cleveland Orchestra.
David Olson, cello
David Olson, from Storrs, Connecticut, is a performer and teacher in the Greater Houston area. Mr. Olson received his Master’s degree from Rice University Shepherd School of Music as a cello student of Desmond Hoebig. While at Rice he was a recipient of the Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program Scholarship and as Brown Scholar taught in the Preparatory Chamber Program. Before moving to Houston he earned his Bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Stephen Geber. Mr. Olson is an avid chamber musician and has performed extensively as the cellist of the Kamila, Thesiger, and Zeitlin String Quartets. He also performs regularly as a cellist in the Kinetic Ensemble, an artist-led chamber ensemble that is committed to showcasing diverse, under represented, and newly composed classical music through flexible chamber and orchestral ensemble formats. In his free time he enjoys cooking and spending time outside.
Emily Madonia, violin
Emily Madonia began studying violin at age 3 in Anchorage, Alaska. She continued her childhood education in Cedar Falls, Iowa until she moved to Rochester, New York to get a B.M. in Violin Performance from the Eastman School of Music, under the tutelage of Mikhail Kopelman and Zvi Zeitlin. Emily now resides in Houston, where she performs regularly with the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Ballet, Richard Brown Orchestra, and several other local ensembles. Emily also runs her own studio at the Sugar Land Art Center & Gallery and stays busy pursuing a professional certification in Film Scoring from Berklee Online, studying film acting, and being a devoted wife and mother of two.
Jamie Leff, horn
Jamie Leff is the 2nd horn of the Houston Ballet Orchestra and is an active freelancer and teacher in the area. Previously, Jamie spent 3 seasons as 2nd horn with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. She has also performed with the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, the San Antonio Symphony, and the North Carolina Symphony. Jamie received her Bachelor's degree from Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, where she studied with Dale Clevenger and Jeff Nelsen. While there, Jamie had the opportunity to study abroad in Vienna, Austria, where she worked with Wolfgang Vladar of the Vienna Philharmonic. She received her Master's degree from DePaul University, under the tutelage of Jim Smelser and Oto Carrillo of the Chicago Symphony. During her time in Houston, she studied with Robert Johnson, the Associate Principal Horn of the Houston Symphony. Throughout her professional life, Jamie's been afforded opportunities to work alongside Yo Yo Ma, Jaap van Sweden, Gerard Schwarz, Alastair Willis, Carlos Miguel Prieto, and Gustavo Dudamel.
John Belk, cello
John Belk is a performing cellist currently based in the Houston area. Recent concert highlights include a performance of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet with David Shifrin, a recital in Peter Serkin’s Haydn Project series playing with Peter Serkin and Todd Philips, and a solo performance of the Walton Cello Concerto with Leon Botstein and The Orchestra Now. John received his Master’s degree at Rice University studying with Desmond Hoebig and his Bachelor’s degree studying with Peter Wiley at the Bard College Conservatory. While at Bard, he also completed a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. When he's not practicing, John can usually be found spending time with his extremely lazy and extremely lovable golden retriever Hobbes.
Masha Popova, flute
Masha Popova recently moved to Waco, TX where she is adjunct faculty in chamber music at Baylor University. Prior to that, she was an active freelance musician in Houston and Florida, and completed a fellowship with the New World Symphony. She has 18 years of flute performance experience, including soloing with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and performing as guest principal flute with Auckland (NZ) Philharmonia and Seattle Symphony. In most recent seasons, Masha performed with Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, and Boise Philharmonic. During the summers, she plays principal flute with Central City Opera in Colorado. She received her Master of Music degree in flute performance from the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, studying with Leone Buyse. She attended the Curtis Institute of Music for her Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance, where she studied with Jeffrey Khaner.
Nicole Haywood, bassoon
Nicole Haywood has held numerous positions in professional orchestras and opera companies on both United States coasts. She is currently Acting Assistant Principal Bassoon of the Oregon Symphony in Portland and Assistant Principal Bassoon of the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago. Her previous appointments include Acting Second Bassoon of the Kansas City Symphony and Acting Principal Bassoon of the Charlottesville Opera. After years of working as a nanny for multiple families while she attended college, Nicole discovered a passion for working with young children. She combines this passion with her music through multiple outreach initiatives, including as part of the Grant Park Orchestra’s “Classical Campers” arts immersion program, where she serves hundreds of children each summer through interactive workshops and engaged musical storytelling. A native of San Antonio, Texas, Nicole Haywood holds degrees from the University of Texas at Austin (B.M.) and from Rice University (M.M.). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she is currently based in San Antonio.
Pedro Fernandez, percussion
Pedro Fernandez holds positions as a percussionist with the Indianapolis and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestras. Additionally, he has held similar titles with the Cincinnati Symphony and the Houston Ballet Orchestra. Pedro has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Detroit, Houston, and Columbus symphonies among others; and internationally with the National Symphonies of Costa Rica and his native Panama. In chamber settings, Pedro has performed in the Perspective Series of the Texas Music Festival, Resident chamber series at the Chautauqua Music Festival, the Frost Chamber Players at Festival Miami, with Aperio-Music of the Americas in Houston and in the Alfredo de Saint-Malo festival in Panama City, Panama. As a soloist, Pedro has played recitals for National Broadcast in Panama and concerti with the National Symphony of Panama. Equally comfortable in popular music settings, Pedro performs regularly as a vibraphonist, percussionist and drummer on music theater shows, latin bands, rock bands, and jazz groups.
Rainey Weber, viola
An active and versatile performer, violist Rainey Weber is based in Houston, Texas, where she is currently the violist of the Carya String Quartet and St. Andrew’s Strings. Highlights from recent seasons include the premiere of Suite Terra Nostra with the Terra Nostra Ensemble at the 14th Annual Latin American Cultural Week in New York City and performing five of Beethoven’s String Quartets as part of the 2017-2018 Beethoven For All Series with Da Camera Chamber Music and Jazz. Committed to chamber music and community engagement, Ms. Weber spent two years as a Da Camera Young Artist and has collaborated extensively on the development of educational outreach programs. She also serves as President of the Houston Viola Society, is a teaching artist for the Houston Youth Symphony, and maintains a private studio of viola and violin students. Ms. Weber plays on a modern viola by Minneapolis based luthier William Bartruff.
Sean Krissman, clarinet
Los Angeles native Sean Krissman currently serves as Principal Clarinet of the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and 2nd/Eb Clarinet of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. During his tenure at HGO, Sean completed his Master of Music degree at Rice University under the tutelage of Richie Hawley. He received his Bachelor of Music degree with Highest Honors from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and has studied extensively with Dan Gilbert, Chad Burrow, Helen Goode-Castro, and Yehuda Gilad. Other orchestral appearances include the New York Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Houston Ballet, Kansas City Symphony, Sarasota Orchestra, and guest Principal Clarinet with Pacific Symphony. Beyond performance, Sean maintains a private clarinet studio and is on faculty at the American Festival of the Arts and Lone Star College-University Park.
Sergein Yap, viola
A native of Miami, Florida, violist Sergein Yap studied with Ivo van der Werff at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, with Martha Katz at the New England Conservatory, and with Jeffrey Irvine and Lynne Ramsey at the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 2016, Mr. Yap was selected as a Zarin Mehta Fellow with the New York Philharmonic’s Global Academy Fellowship Program. Committed to new music and collaborating with living composers, Mr. Yap is a core member of the KINETIC Ensemble and Loop38. Additionally, Mr. Yap performs as a substitute with the Houston Ballet and Sarasota Orchestra. Highlights for the 2019-2020 Season include performances with KINETIC, Loop38, MUSIQA, the Melos Sinfonia of London, England, and Da Camera of Houston. Passionate about arts education and community impact, Mr. Yap is a founding executive officer of the Houston Viola Society and was a Da Camera Young Artist Fellow from 2017-2019.
Spencer Park, horn
Spencer Park currently plays horn with the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet Orchestras. Beginning in the Fall of 2021 he will start a position with the St Louis Symphony. He has played guest principal horn with the Houston Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, and Oregon Symphony, and is a frequent substitute with many orchestras around
the country. Spencer enjoys a successful private studio of talented horn students, and has had high school students admitted into the nations top music schools including Juilliard, Rice University, and Northwestern University among others. Spencer received his horn training from William VerMeulen at Rice University.
Yelena Dyachek, soprano
Ukrainian-born soprano Yelena Dyachek was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2016, receiving praise from The New York Times for her performance of Mozart’s Come Scoglio as well as Tchaikovsky’s Letter Scene. She is a graduate from Houston Grand Opera’s prestigious studio program where she appeared in several productions, including as Musetta in La bohème, Dominique de Menil in Some Light Emerges, Flora in La traviata, and Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Further productions included Norma and Nixon in China.
In the summer of 2019, she made her debut as Marie Antoinette in Ghosts of Versailles at the Glimmerglass Festival. Other engagements in the 2019-20 season comprised of her collaboration with Lyric Opera of Chicago for their productions of Il barbiere di Siviglia and Dead Man Walking, professional role debut as Susan B. Anthony in Rochester Philharmonic’s The Mother of Us All, and cancelled debuts due to a global pandemic of Tatiana in Eugene Onegin with Palm Beach Opera and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the Houston Symphony.
A multi-year member of the Aspen Opera Theatre Center, Ms. Dyachek is also an alumnus of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program as well as Wolf Trap Opera. She holds a bachelor’s degree from University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music and a master’s degree from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.
Zubaida Azezi, violin
Violinist Zubaida Azezi’s professional music career began at the age of fifteen, when she made her solo debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She recently moved to Houston from Florida, where she was a tenured member of The Florida Orchestra under music director Michael Francis. Prior to joining The Florida Orchestra, Ms. Azezi was a member of the New World Symphony under the baton of music director Michael Tilson Thomas. She has also performed with orchestras such as Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, Classical Tahoe, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Azezi’s passion for music has led her to perform on internationally acclaimed stages such as Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center for the Arts, Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, Usher Hall in Edinburgh and the Royal Albert Hall London, where she performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as part of BBC Proms. Ms. Azezi is deeply devoted to promoting music education. In the summer of 2004, she traveled to Urumqi, China, where she partnered with YOA Orchestra of the Americas and founded the region’s first youth orchestra. She has been invited as guest instructor to work with young musicians from Academia Filharmonica de Medellin. In addition to teaching privately, she has coached students in Colombia, Jamaica, Canada, China, and the Dominican Republic.