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Guest Artists

Eliot Heaton, violin


Violinist Eliot Heaton “possesses a lofty level of technique...he’s a musician of sensitivity and courage” (Bloomington Herald Times). Currently in his second season as Concertmaster of the Michigan Opera Theatre orchestra, Eliot is also completing his first year as Concertmaster of the Saginaw Bay Symphony. He has also served as guest Concertmaster of the Lansing Symphony, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic.

Eliot earned degrees in history and violin performance from Oberlin College and Conservatory where he studied with Marilyn McDonald. He then completed a Master of Music degree at Indiana University under the tutelage of Kevork Mardirossian. Along with his orchestral playing, he has also appeared as a soloist with the Rochester Symphony, Ypsilanti Symphony, Terre Haute Symphony, Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, Obelin Sinfonietta, and Indiana Unversity’s New Music Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra.

Locally Eliot performs chamber music with the Cut Time Players, Chamber Soloists of Detroit, and Chamber Music at the Scarab Club. When not playing the violin, he enjoys playing tennis, reading, and baking bread. Eliot performs on an early 19th century Italian violin made by Pietro Cateni.

Ran Cheng, viola

Ran has been a laureate for several international violin competitions and

earned top prizes in the Stulberg International String Competition; China violin Competition Junior division and, Northern China Violin Competition. Beside Solo performances, Ran is also active in chamber music on both violin and viola. Her recent projects including CD recording of Amy Beach piano quintet with Centaur Records and served as Concertmaster in Detroit Institute of Arts concert series performing Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of light” in collaboration with Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings.


Ran began playing the violin at age three and was admitted to the renowned China Central Conservatory at age ten. She then earned her Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music studying with Professor Marilyn McDonald, where she also served as Concertmaster of the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra. Her graduate studies were with Professor Kevork Mardirossian on violin and Professor Edward Gazouleas on viola, both at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. 

In her free time, Ran enjoys sewing and gardening.

Caroline Coade, viola

Violist Caroline Coade enjoys a multi-faceted career in the world of music. Ms. Coade is a long-time member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. From 2013-2016, she served as the assistant principal violist, and presently sits in the 3rd chair. Concurrently, Caroline is an assistant professor of viola at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. As part of her advocacy of the next generation of violists, Ms. Coade will be a member of the prestigious Primrose International Viola Competition as a preliminary round judge in June, 2018.

Ms. Coade is the artistic director for WRCJ 90.9FM's Classical Brunch chamber music series at the Community House in Birmingham, MI. In this role, she is responsible for hiring the musical artists as well as coordinating event logistics and creating voice overs for WRCJ radio ads.

Ms. Coade continues her position as full-time artist faculty at Center Stage Strings for summer 2018. Caroline has also been artist faculty at the Chautauqua Institution Music Festival in New York (summers 2012-15), and at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine (summers 2012-15).

A San Diego native, Caroline began taking Suzuki violin lessons at age 6 and switched to the viola at age 14. She has a BM degree from the Oberlin Conservatory, an artist diploma from The Curtis Institute of Music, and a MM degree from The Juilliard School. Her principal teachers include Karen Tuttle, Joyce Robbins, and Jeffrey Irvine.

Ms. Coade plays on a Domenico Busan viola c. 1750 on loan from The Mandell Collection of Southern California.

Matthew Bengtson, pianoforte


Versatile pianist Matthew Bengtson has a unique combination of musical talents ranging from extraordinary pianist, fortepianist and harpsichordist, to composer, writer, and scholar of performance practice. An advocate of both contemporary and rarely performed music, he commands a diverse repertoire, ranging from Byrd to Ligeti and numerous contemporary composers. He has been presented in concerts across Europe and in the US including multiple recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. He has performed with violinist Joshua Bell on NPR’s “Performance Today” and XM Satellite Radio’s “Classical Confidential,” and appeared with the Reading, Pottstown, Ridgefield and Bay-Atlantic Symphony Orchestras. His recordings can be heard on the Romeo, Arabesque, Griffin Renaissance, Albany, Musica Omnia, and Navona record labels. Mr. Bengtson is best known as an authoritative interpreter of the music of Scriabin and Szymanowski. On his recordings of the complete Scriabin Piano Sonatas, the American Record Guide writes: “Big-boned pianism, rich tonal colors, and dazzling technique are on display here. Has Scriabin ever been played better?” Fanfare magazine calls him “a Scriabinist for the 21st century .. upon whom future generations can rely for definitive interpretations.” He is Assistant Professor of Piano Literature at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

James VanValkenburg, viola

Currently Assistant Principal Violist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, James VanValkenburg came to orchestral playing after a satisfying career in chamber music. As a founding member of the International String Quartet, he toured the world with concerts in Europe, the Far East, South America, as well as the U.S. The quartet won several notable prizes, including the Munich Competition, East & West Artists of New York, and was the first winner of the Premier Grand Prix at the International Chamber Music Competition of Evian, France.

Since joining the DSO in 1986 he has participated in several summer festivals including Lockenhaus, Newport, Strings in the Mountains as well as the American String Project in Seattle in 2011. He served as Principal Violist of the Bellingham, WA music festival in 2012 and 2013 and of the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra in 2014. In 2016 he was soloist with the University of Michigan Band, an ensemble his father played in over 60 years earlier.

A graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and Indiana University School of Music, he has enjoyed chamber music collaborations with many of his favorite musicians, among them Menahem Pressler, Gidon Kremer, Mischa Maisky, David Shifrin, and Isaac Stern. Recent recordings include a violin, viola duet of William Bolcom, Piano Quartets of Franz Waxman and the Stravinsky Septet, on Koch, and the Beethoven Septet on Philips.

He is in demand as a soloist and chamber musician, becoming the first violist to be a permanent member of Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings in 2004, and appeared as soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2005, 2013 and 2014. He performs on a rare viola by Antonio Ungarini of Fabriano, Italy, made in 1740.

Jim has been happily married to Farah since 1986. They have two sons. Noah is working as a manager for a large firm in Los Angeles and Eliot is a data analyst for a tech company in Boston. Jim spends much of his free time training for Ironman Triathlons and has started and completed five, including Ironman Hawaii in 2004.

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