Our Faculty

Renata Falkner bio pic.JPG

KARIN BROWN, VIOLA, received critical acclaim for her “strikingly rich and warm tone” (The Strad) after making her solo recital debut at Carnegie Weill Hall. Ms. Brown is Assistant Principal Violist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and performs frequently as soloist and chamber musician in the Baltimore/Washington area. She made her Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerto debut performing the Britten Double Concerto, of which The Baltimore Sun noted “Karin Brown sculpted her phrases in a rich, subtly shaded tone.”  Her Chicago recital debut took place with live radio broadcast at the Dame Myra Hess series.  Ms. Brown was hailed “a notable soloist” by the Washington Post after her performance of Bach’s Sixth Brandenburg Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony. Recent performances include collaborations with the contemporary music group Alarm Will Sound, members of eighth blackbird and the Borromeo Quartet, as well as performances of Britten’s Lachrymae with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. 


Ms. Brown has served as juror, Laureate recitalist, and masterclass clinician at the William Primrose International Viola Competition, and returned as Laureate recitalist and masterclass clinician. She has been a guest artist at the Oberlin Conservatory for a teaching and performance residency and serves as faculty at the National Orchestral Institute (NOI). More recently, she has collaborated with her viola section colleagues at the Baltimore Symphony as part of an online performance series called “Lunch Bachs” during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Ms. Brown has been a prizewinner in numerous competitions, including the William Primrose International Viola Competition and the National Federation of Music Clubs Competition. She has been featured in Caramoor’s “Rising Stars” series, and gives masterclasses and recitals across the country. An advocate for new music, she has performed several premieres, and strives to program music by women composers, lesser known masterworks, and American music. She has been a frequent performer and clinician at American Viola Society Festivals, most recently performing the world premiere of violist/composer Christian Colberg’s work The Rant. In addition, with violist Renate Falkner, she has performed and lectured on pedagogue Roland Vamos’s celebrated double stop exercises. While still a student at Juilliard, Ms. Brown was a frequent substitute with the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera, joining each for several international tours. She has performed on numerous major motion picture soundtracks. 


She received her Bachelor’s degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and her Master’s degree from the Juilliard School, where she was a recipient of the Nathan Gordon Memorial Viola Award. Ms. Brown has studied with Cynthia Phelps, Roland and Almita Vamos, Lynne Ramsey, Samuel Rhodes, and Zoya Leybin. A committed teacher, she has been recognized as Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the American String Teachers Association, Maryland/DC chapter.  She serves as faculty at the Baltimore School for the Arts, and previously at NOI/Pacific Music Institute in Honolulu, Catholic University, Apple Hill, Foulger International Music Festival and the Killington Music Festival.  She maintains a private studio of violin and viola students, and her students have been accepted to the New World Symphony, the Juilliard School, Oberlin, Eastman, New England Conservatory, University of Michigan, Rice University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Peabody.

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Praised for her versatility and creativity, American violist Renate Falkner leads an active career as an educator, recitalist, and orchestral and chamber musician, performing across the U.S. and abroad. Equally at home on both modern and baroque viola, she performs regularly with groups such as the Baltimore Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, and Artis-Naples, and is a former member of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. As a baroque violist, she has performed with Boston Baroque, Tafelmusik, the Yale Collegium Players, and Baltimore’s Pro Musica Rara. 

A frequent chamber music collaborator, Dr. Falkner is Artistic Director of the Charm City Chamber Players, an ensemble designed to highlight original repertoire and transcriptions featuring the rich, dark sound of multiple violas and cellos. Having a keen interest in chamber music featuring the viola in more prominent roles, she has been a guest artist with the Fontenay Chamber Players and also frequently collaborates with colleagues in trios for flute, viola and harp or guitar. She has shared the stage alongside such artists as violinist Erick Friedman, violist Jesse Levine, harpists Rita Costanzi and Kayo Ishimaru, oboist Joe Robinson, flutists Sergio Pallottelli and Rhonda Cassano, and guitarist Jose Lezcano. She has been heard in venues as diverse as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Yale's Beinecke Rare Book Library, in orchestras at Carnegie Hall and Boston’s Jordan Hall, as well as forums such as the American Harp Society and the National Association of Composers, U.S.A. 

Summer appearances abroad have included the Verbier Festival, Switzerland, the Spoleto Festival, Italy, and a faculty appointment at the Carvalho Festival of Music in Fortaleza, Brazil. She also performs annually at the Bellingham Festival of Music in Washington. She has recorded for the Chandos, Nimbus, and Rezound music labels. 

An accomplished educator, Dr. Falkner received her undergraduate training at the Oberlin College and Conservatory, earning degrees in both viola and Ancient Greek, studying with Roland Vamos. She completed her graduate studies at the Yale School of Music as a scholarship student and assistant to the late violist Jesse Levine, and holds a doctorate from the Florida State University, under the direction of Pamela Ryan. Her treatise examining York Bowen’s viola music in the context of the English Musical Renaissance was the first to focus entirely on the composer’s compositions for viola. 

Dr. Falkner is an active board member of the American Viola Society, where she is currently Chair of the 2020 AVS Orchestral Audition Competition and Seminar. After nearly a decade at the University of North Florida’s School of Music, she and her husband, cellist Steven Thomas, recently relocated to Baltimore. She joined the faculty of the George Mason University School of Music as an Adjunct Professor of Viola in 2019 and is a now Viola, Violin and chamber music faculty at the Peabody Preparatory.

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Violinist and violist Nana Gaskins Vaughn has had a varied career as a performer and educator. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees at Indiana University, where she studied violin with Paul Biss, viola with Atar Arad, and chamber music with the late Rostislav Dubinsky. After college, she has had additional studies with Michael Strauss, former principal violist of the Indianapolis Symphony, and Choong-Jin Chang, principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

As a freelance musician, she is at home on all stages, large and small. She has performed frequently with the National Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra/Washington National Opera, Indianapolis Symphony, and many orchestras across the country. In Spring 2020, she will perform with the Tongyeong International Music Festival Orchestra. She has performed as principal viola with Postclassical Ensemble, and is currently assistant principal with Reading Symphony, and a violist with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. As a soloist, she has performed with the Carmel and Richmond Symphonies in Indiana, the latter where she served as principal viola for fourteen years.

As a chamber musician, she has appeared frequently on the Washington Musica Viva chamber recital series, at University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she was an affiliate artist faculty member, and on interesting projects such as a quintet concert at the Iraqi Embassy with Grammy-nominated musician Rahim Alhaj. She has also performed in concert in back up orchestras for the Moody Blues, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, and the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience at Capitol One Arena in Washington DC.

A passionate educator, Nana was a National Educator Grammy quarterfinalist. She currently teaches violin and viola, as well as String Methods at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Previously, she was an Adjunct Professor and Affiliate Artist at University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she has taught Arts in Education, String Methods, Instrumental Music Methods, and supervised student teachers. She has been a youth orchestra conductor in Indiana and Maryland for twelve years, and served as director for the UMBC Summer String Institute. She taught a string program for Howard County Public Schools, where she taught using an innovative combination of traditional school orchestra methodology with elements of teachings from the Suzuki, Paul Rolland, and Mimi Zweig philosophies and practices. During her time there, she was recognized as a distinguished educator, mentored student teachers from Peabody Conservatory, and received a Howard County Gifted and Talented Educator Award. As a member of the Howard County Music Educators Leadership Team, she helped plan professional development sessions for her teaching colleagues.

She is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator at the high school and college level. Baltimore County Public Schools has invited her to present a total of six professional development sessions for their music educators. A frequent adjudicator for high school music festivals in Maryland, she has been an adjudicator for county and state solo and ensembles, and All State. She has served as a violin and viola coach for the Georgetown University Orchestra in Washington D.C., for Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras, as well as many high schools across the region.

Her pre-college private violin and viola students have achieved great success, having been accepted into nationally prestigious programs such as the National Youth Orchestra 2, Interlochen Viola Institute, Boston University Tanglewood Institute Junior Strings Intensive, and All Eastern Orchestra, as well as local programs such as Maryland All-State, Howard County GT Orchestras, Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras, and Peabody Youth Orchestras. She also helps aspiring music majors in their college music audition preparation. Her students have received scholarships to attend top music conservatories and colleges in the country.


Nana performs on a beautiful 1980 d'amore style viola made by Hiroshi Iizuka.



Email: nana . vaughn @ gmail . com
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