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Our Guest Artists are our featured soloists and chamber ensembles.  Our soloists have a special relationship with the Taneycomo community because they are talented young musicians who grew up in the area (most of them graduated from Branson High School).  Our Guest Artist Chamber Ensembles are made of talented orchestra members who have traveled to the festival with a previously established chamber ensemble.

Music Director

Peters, who has long been committed to teaching, was the oboe and conducting instructor at the SoBe Institute of the Arts, and he conducted side-by-side concerts for New World Symphony’s MusicLab program. An advocate of contemporary music, he premiered Aaron Jay Kernis’ On Distant Shores with New York’s RIOULT Dance Company, and he has played in numerous other premieres by composers including Jocelyn Hagen, Polina Nazaykinskaya and Samuel Carl Adams.


Peters received a bachelor of music degree from the University of Minnesota and a master of music from Yale University. His teachers include John Snow, Stephen Taylor, Julie Madura and Marilyn Zupnik.

TFO conductor Joseph Peters is currently Associate Principal Oboe and English horn with the North Carolina Symphony, and has previously held Principal Oboe chairs with the Minnesota Orchestra and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He has performed as guest principal with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Florida Orchestra, and he has also played with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Marlboro Music Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, Lakes Area Music Festival, National Repertory Orchestra and the National Orchestral Institute. For three seasons he was a member of the New World Symphony in Florida.


A Minnesota native, Peters first appeared with the Minnesota Orchestra at age 18 as a finalist in the Minnesota Idol competition, performing Mozart’s Oboe Concerto. As a soloist, he has also appeared with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Saint Paul Civic Symphony and the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, of which he is an alumnus.


In addition to TFO, Peters has been music director of the SUNY Buffalo State Philharmonia Orchestra and the Saybrook College Orchestra of Yale. He frequently conducts the North Carolina Symphony, leading many of their education and Holiday Pops concerts, and he has conducted a variety of programs at the New World Symphony, including a collaboration with the Miami City Ballet. His conducting mentors include Michael Tilson Thomas, James Patrick Miller and Toshiyuki Shimada

Kansas City's Sam Copeland is an upright and electric bassist whose performing career spans jazz and classical music. He works with jazz performers all over Missouri, including his own quartet. As a classical musician, he performs with Missouri Symphony Orchestra, Midwest Chamber Ensemble, Springfield Symphony, and others.  As a composer and arranger, he writes for the Jim Lower Big Band as well as several college bands.  Sam holds a Bachelor of Music degree in double bass performance from the University of Missouri and a Master of Music degree from UMKC.  Mentors include John Clayton, Sue Stubbs, Kevin Hennessey, Dan Thomas, James Albright, Forest Stewart, and Jeff Kail.


Taneycomo Jazz Orchestra Director


Brass Coordinator

Dr. Stephen James currently serves as Instructor of Trumpet at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas where he teaches applied lessons and coaches brass ensembles. In addition to his work at Hendrix, Dr. James also performs with Pinnacle Brass, the faculty brass quintet at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). Having previously earned Bachelor of Arts (Virginia Tech), Master of Music (Western Michigan University), and Doctor of Music (Michigan State University) degrees all in Trumpet Performance, Dr. James is now pursuing a Bachelor of Music Education degree at UCA to increase his versatility as a teacher.
As a performer, Dr. James is active as an orchestral musician. He is proud to be a founding member of the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra. Currently, he is a contracted trumpeter with the Jackson (TN) Symphony Orchestra and a regular substitute with the

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he plays cornet with the award-winning Natural State Brass Band in Little Rock, AR. As a soloist, Dr. James has recently performed with the Hendrix College Wind Ensemble, competed in the North American Brass Band Association Solo Competition, and given recitals both in Arkansas and at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan.

As a teacher, Dr. James serves on the faculty of the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, where he leads trumpet technique classes for middle and high school students and performs with the Festival Band and Orchestra and Faculty Brass Quintet. In addition to his work at Blue Lake and Hendrix College, Dr. James also serves as a freelance teacher throughout the central Arkansas region, giving master classes at area schools and teaching private lessons to both high school and collegiate students.


String Coordinator

Texan cellist and composer Daron Kirsch is active around the country as a performer and educator.  Daron is founder and cellist of the Houston-based Westheimer String Quartet. He spends his summers as a cellist with the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra in Branson, MO, where WSQ serves as quartet-in-residence. He studied with Dr. Daniel Saenz at Sam Houston State University (BM Cello Performance) and Greg Sauer at Florida State University (MM Cello Performance). During his time at SHSU, he performed on tour in China and Puerto Rico. While in Florida, he was a member of the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Gulf Coast, and Tallahassee Composers' Orchestra.

Driven by a strong passion for collaboration and new music, Daron has premiered of a number of works, including Brian Herrington's 'When Ev'ning Shades Appear' and Jamie Whitmarsh's 'In the Absence of Rational Discourse'. He was invited to perform at Kenosha College in 2015, featuring works of Saariaho, Logan Castro and Harry Stafylakis. In 2016, he commissioned six composers to write pieces utilizing electronics in response to Telemann's Canonic Sonatas, which will be premiering in 2017.

Daron lives with his dog Zoe in Northwest Houston, where he maintains a private studio of approximately 35 students. In his free time, he's a member of a local billiards league, and enjoys going to the gym. He once held his breath for like two minutes, and doesn't really like olives.



Percussion Coordinator

Jamie Wind Whitmarsh is an award-winning American composer, percussionist, and conductor presently living in Oklahoma City, OK. He regularly performs with Duo Rodinia, is Music Director for the Oklahoma Composer's Orchestra, and is a faculty member at Oklahoma City University. Jamie holds a Master's degree in Music Composition from Florida State University and Bachelor's degrees in Percussion Performance and Music Composition from Oklahoma City University.

Among major competitions, Jamie has placed first in the 2012 PAS Composition Contest, second in the 2013 PAS Composition Contest, and first in the 2013 MTNA National Composition Contest. His music has been performed at

several national and international conventions/conferences, including PASIC, SCI Regional Conferences, the ITG Convention, MTNA National and State Conventions, the FFA Convention, multiple times at the Oklahoma Day of Percussion, and the 16th Biennial Festival of New Music at Florida State University, as well as by such groups as the Tallahassee Composer's Orchestra, Northern Illinois University Philharmonic, Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, Broadway Community Chorus, National Broadway Chorus, Florida State University Percussion Ensemble, soprano Rachelle Fleming, principal trumpet of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra Ryan Beach, steel pan virtuoso Liam Teague, and many more.

As a member of Duo Rodinia, Jamie has performed as guest artist at many universities, as well as the 2015 CMS Southern Regional Conference, the Society of Composer's, Inc. 50th National Convention, as the featured guest artists for the 2016 SCI Region VI Conference, and guest artist ensemble for the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra. Jamie is a multiple-time soloist at the Oklahoma Day of Percussion, and has performed for the 2012, 2015 and 2016 College Music Society Southern Regional Conferences. He can be heard on the compact discs Firefish, the Music of Blake Tyson, Florida State University Percussion Ensemble, Volume II: Not Far From Here and Florida State University Percussion Ensemble, Volume III: Ten Windows, the last of which contains his work NAILS!!!

In addition to leading the Oklahoma Composer's Orchestra, Jamie has premiered over 25 works as conductor, and has conducted at several high-profile events, including at both the 16th and 17th Biennial Festival of New Music at Florida State University, the Florida Flute Association 2015 Convention, Oklahoma Day of Percussion, the world premiere of Ben Harrell's opera Plight, and more.


He is on staff with Yukon High School and is also highly sought after as a wind/percussion arranger with A103 Productions. Jamie has studied composition with Edward Knight, Ladislav Kubik, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich; percussion with David Steffens, Steve Craft, Ben Fraley and Tommy Dobbs; conducting with Matthew Mailman; and steel pan with Mia Gormandy. His music is published by Jamie Wind Whitmarsh Music, C. Alan Publications, and Engine Room Publications. He is a member of SCI, ASCAP, and PAS and serves on the Composition Contest Committee for PAS as well as chair of the Composition Education Subcommittee.



Current NFMC Young Artist, pianist Nicholas Susi has performed extensively as recitalist, soloist, and accompanist across the United States and Europe. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, he continued his piano studies at the University of Kansas (B.M. Piano, minor in German), the University of Michigan (M.M. Piano), and at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln as a two-time DAAD grantee. Primary teachers include Zena Ilyashov, Jack Winerock, Zitta Zohar, Arthur Greene, and Nina Tichman.

Recent performance highlights include two concerts for the Princess von Hohenzollern at her castle in Namedy, Germany, his performance at the TivoliVrendenburg in Utrecht, The Netherlands during the semifinals of the 2014 International Franz Liszt Piano Competition, and 2nd place at the 2014 Mu Phi Epsilon International Competition. Past recognitions also include 1st prize at the international 2013 Klavierfestival Rösrath competition, 2nd prize at the 2009 King Award

for Young Artists Competition, 1st prize in the 2008 Spire Piano Competition, 1st prize in the University of Kansas’s Mary O. Fearing Competition, and numerous scholarships and grants for musical study. Nicholas was the 2009 winner of the Eleanor B. Weiler & Mildred B. Frame grant from the Mu Phi Epsilon Foundation, which funded his travel, study, and performance of Debussy’s piano music at the Cité Universitaire de Paris. Other noteworthy appearances include Klavierfestival Ruhr, a concert tour of the Niederrhein region of Germany, concerto solos with the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra, Orchester der Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln, Omaha Symphony, Wiener Residenz Orchester, St. Louis Chamber Orchestra, and the Philharmonia of Greater Kansas City, as well as masterclasses with Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, and Vladimir Feltsman. Summer music festivals have enabled him to study and perform in Canada, France, Italy, and Austria.


Nicholas is based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he is studying with Arthur Greene as he completes work on his doctorate at the University of Michigan. He is currently managed by NFMC. For details on upcoming performances, booking information, and further listening, please visit


The Westheimer String Quartet is a Houston-based ensemble that has thrilled audiences with historical masterpieces and exciting new works alike. Founded in 2016, WSQ has performed around the Houston area, presented outreach concerts to underprivileged students, and has established itself as an important presence in Houston's classical music scene.


In January of 2017, WSQ had the pleasure of performing a guest artist recital at Oklahoma City University, where they collaborated with clarinetist Lisa Kachouee and gave the world premiere of a quartet written by composer Jamie Whitmarsh. WSQ also serves as quartet-in-residence at the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra in Branson, MO. With a strong focus on new music, the quartet aims to connect the past and present as a single thread of human and musical experiences shared by a multitude of voices.


Westheimer String Quartet is comprised of violinists Sean O’Neal and Zachary Montasser, violist Ilana Rose Mercer, and cellist Daron Kirsch.

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