Four Bienen School of Music students have been awarded 2016 Luminarts Fellowships in Classical Music, along with $5,000 each, from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation.

One of the Luminarts Cultural Foundation’s oldest and most generous programs, the Classical Music Fellowship Competition supports emerging classical virtuoso musicians in voice, piano, strings and winds.

Bienen School winners are cellist Brannon Cho, pianist Chen Shen-Fan, and vocalists Madison Leonard and Alexander York. More information about each student, along with links to their competition recordings, can be found below.

Brannon Cho is a junior cello performance student of Hans Jørgen Jensen. He received second prize at the 2015 Naumburg International Competition, first prize at the Minnesota Orchestra’s WAMSO competition, bronze at the 2013 Cassadó International Cello Competition, gold at the 2012 Johansen International Cello Competition, silver medal at the 2012 Stulberg International Competition and the National YoungArts Foundation in 2013, and the grand prize at the 2010 ASTA National Solo Competition. Cho was the highest ranked American cellist in the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition. He was selected by the National YoungArts Foundation to be featured in an episode of HBO: Masterclass with Joshua Bell. Listen to Brannon Cho

Chen-Shen Fan is a second-year master’s piano student of James Giles. An active pianist, he is also the co-founder of Two Islands Duo. Fan has performed in some of the world's most prestigious venues, including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall in New York City, Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Chicago's Millennium Park and Shanghai Opera House. His recordings include the CD Angelo Gilardino: A Salute from New York, produced in New York for the Italian label Bérben. In 2014, he was one of the ten pianists selected by renown Bach interpreter Angela Hewitt to perform in Trasimeno Music Festival in Italy. Listen to Chen-Shen Fan

Madison Leonard, soprano, is a second-year master’s student of Karen Brunssen. On stage, Leonard appeared as Susanna/Le nozze di Figaro, Geraldine/Hand of Bridge, Ginevra/Ariodante, Kitty Hart/Dead Man Walking, and Madame Herz/The Impresario. Recently, Madison won first place at Houston Grand Opera’s 28th annual Eleanor McCollum competition for young singers. At the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco, Leonard performed Monica/The Medium, covered Norina/Don Pasquale and portrayed Gretel/Hänsel und Gretel for the Grand Finale Concert, which was praised as “the best vocal performance of the entire evening” (Mark Rudio, A Beast in a Jungle). Listen to Madison Leonard

Alexander York, baritone, is a second-year master’s student of W. Stephen Smith. York recently made his professional debut, going on in a last-minute cover situation, as Don Quixote/Cervantes in Man of La Mancha with Central City Opera in Colorado, where he appeared as a Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Apprentice Artist. Last winter, York made the Chicago-area fully-staged premiere of Joseph DeRocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking at Northwestern University. A 2014 graduate of Lawrence University and the studio of Steven Paul Spears, York was featured there as Sid in Britten’s Albert Herring, Harry Easter in Weill’s Street Scene, and Cinderella’s Prince in Sondheim’s Into the Woods, among other things. Listen to Alexander York

Senior jazz piano major Julius Tucker also received a 2016 Luminarts Fellowship, in the jazz improvisation category. Learn more.


  • Hans Jensen
  • James Giles
  • Karen Brunssen
  • W. Stephen Smith