CON BRIO WINNERS
Winning a national competition is no mean task and each of these musicians stood out amongst several participants in the year they won. It takes hard work and dedication to prepare oneself to the required level and it also takes nerves of steel to present those efforts to a sizeable audience, be it in a concert hall or online. Above all, it takes great skill — both technical and musical — to finally make the mark. Each has a different story to tell, but they all belong to the group of musicians that will shape the future of Western Classical Music in our country.
As is often the case with competitions, someone very worthy to win, may for one reason or another slip through the net. In those cases, it's really a loss for the Foundation to not have them on our roster and to rectify this we instituted an honorary award in 2018. This award is by invitation only and may not be applied for. To be considered, you need to be an active musician of a very high calibre, living and working in India, contributing regularly to the development of Western Classical Music in the country. Nadine Jo Crasto is the only recipient of this award so far.
2022 (OPEN PIANO)
Smit began his pianistic studies under the tutelage of Sudha Dhingra at the age of 12. A recipient of academic scholarships throughout his alma mater, he was honored by the former Education Minister Mrs Smriti Irani in 2015 for maintaining an exceptional academic record. Currently based in Mumbai, Smit studies with Young Steinway Artist and former ConBrio winner Nadine Crasto under whose guidance he cleared the ATCL diploma with distinction in 2019. Since then, he has extensively performed with Ballet schools, String and Choral Ensembles and Soloists in Mumbai, Goa, London and Prague. Smit has received mentorship through Mark Troop, Delia Varga, Marialena Fernandes, Parvesh Java, Samantha Ward and Maciej Ragina through various masterclasses. In addition to being a pianist and teacher, Smit is dedicated to contributing towards projects that foster the development of Western Classical music in the country. He works with Furtados, serving as a Brand Manager for Steinway and Sons and a Project Manager at the ConBrio Foundation. Smit holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and feels very fortunate to have the privilege of a 'Classical' life.
2022 (VIOLIN/VIOLA, JR.)
Martina Charles, a young musician from Thrissur, Kerala began taking violin lessons at the age of 7. She is now a recording artist for major music directors in Kerala and has been invited to perform with the South Asian Symphony Orchestra. The youngest violinist in India to score a distinction in the LTCL diploma examination, Martina also learns the Piano as her second instrument. She is fascinated by the ability of music to bring people together, and is thrilled at the opportunity of being a professional violinist.
2022 (PIANO, JR.)
Kashvi Aggarwal, a young pianist from Hyderabad, was introduced to the piano at the age of 3. She went on to achieve her ATCL Diploma in the instrument with distinction, at the age of 11. Kashvi has been a regular performer at the World Music Day for many years now. She is also a Jazz Pianist and has availed an impromptu performance opportunity with the International Jazz band 'MND FLO'. Kashvi currently prepares for her LTCL Piano Examination and looks forward to an illustrious musical career.
Jeremiah Christopher hails from the famous port town of Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu, which has, despite limited exposure to Western Classical Music, produced its fair share of fine musicians, notably the renowned conductor Padmashri Handel Manuel. Encouraged by his parents, Jeremiah developed an interest in music from a very young age and at the age of 8 started music lessons with Mr. James Mendelssohn followed by piano lessons with Mrs. Mira Ben Rodrigo under whose tutelage he received a distinction in his grade 8 piano examination from Trinity College London in 2012. In Thoothukudi, Jeremiah played in churches for several years. Moving to Chennai for his undergraduate studies in engineering, he completed his ATCL in piano and grade 8 in singing under the guidance of eminent conductor of Madras Musical Association (MMA) and voice trainer, Mr. Augustine Paul. Under his baton, Jeremiah has been a member of the MMA choir and the orchestra where he plays the viola. He has also been a part of the Madras String Ensemble since 2017. In addition to singing and playing the piano and viola, Jeremiah has a keen interest in conducting, encouraged and inspired by Mr. Paul. He is currently Associate Conductor of the Mellow Circle choir, conducted by Roshni Sharon, LTCL. He has accompanied various established choirs, exam students, performed in recitals and has also been an active part of various gospel groups in Chennai. Jeremiah currently runs his family construction business in Thoothukudi and still holds on tight to his passion by continuing piano lessons with Mr. John Pettigrew, LTCL, a dear friend and mentor. Apart from music, he enjoys watching and playing basketball.
Chathavi Vupru, a young man from the state of Nagaland, grew up participating in several cultural music festivals and competitions along with his school mates, both within the state and at national platforms, and won on many occasions. He gave solo performances on various occasions as well. Like most budding musicians, he too grew up with big dreams to one day become one of the best and started his journey at a young age from a music school in his hometown. And as the saying “every flower blooms beautifully in the right garden” goes, he was very fortunate to have started his journey with very supportive tutors and his family to back him. Currently, Chathavi Vupru is preparing himself for greater future opportunities under the guidance of Tatyana Dichenko, a renowned pianist who is a faculty at the Furtados School of Music in Mumbai. In addition to winning Con Brio in 2019, Chathavi has won several other prizes including Inter DPS Western Vocal Music Festival India (2015 & 2016), Inter-School Music Fest Nagaland (2015 & 2016) and second runner-up and Audience Favourite Award at Con Brio 2017. He is the recipient of the Khonoma Rüffüno Nagaland Commendation Award 2019 and the B&K Memorial Award 2019. A little message he would like to impart to all the aspiring musicians and the readers is that it doesn't matter where or how you start as long as you have the zeal to give all of you to achieve your goals and make your dreams come true.
NADINE JO CRASTO
Young Steinway Artist, Nadine Jo Crasto began learning the piano at the age of 9, under the tutelage of Myrna Fernandez. In 2015 she graduated with a Master of Arts Degree in Piano Performance at the Royal Academy of Music, London, studying under Colin Stone. She studied harpsichord with Carole Cerasi and performed anachronistic chamber works on various historical instruments during her studies in London. Nadine was awarded the Nancy Dickinson Award and the Greta Parkinson Award for good work, conduct and general achievement at the Royal Academy. She completed the LTCL Examination in 2009 at the age of 17 and received two awards for the ATCL Examination the previous year, having achieved the highest marks in Mumbai. She has participated twice in the All-India MusicQuest Competition achieving gold seals and winning first place in the Jazz and Popular Music section in 2011. She has performed at solo and chamber music concerts in London, Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata, Mysore, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Pune and at several master classes and piano workshops conducted by Kathryn Stott, Tatiana Sarkissova, Colin Stone, Mark Troop, Paul Stewart, Christopher Norton, Peter Mack, Scott MacBride Smith, Nelita True, Stephen Kovacevich, Marialena Fernandes and many others. Nadine has trained, conducted and composed vocal arrangements for choirs, preparing them for competitions and performances since the age of 16. She was a part of the Discover Music Program of the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation and taught music in various schools. She also gives private piano lessons and prepares students for music exams, competitions and performances. A number of her students have achieved distinctions and won prizes. Nadine is part of In Good Form, a group consisting of pianists who meet to discuss technique, music analysis and interpretation, curated by Parvesh Java and Mark Troop. In her spare time she enjoys playing the French Horn, singing, doing yoga, jigsaw puzzles, cooking, and entertaining her three cats.
Rishabh hails from the capital city of New Delhi. Being a prodigious pianist, his odyssey started at the early age of five. During his high school years, the title of “Best Keyboardist” was bestowed on him by his school, DPS R. K. Puram on account of winning several major competitions. His training in western classical music for over six years helped him to be on the coveted high scorer list by getting a distinction in Grade 8 Piano Performance (ABRSM, UK). Along with that he won the ROLAND Piano Competition, New Delhi in 2016. He has performed for various international artists like Balázs Fülei (Head of Chamber Music, Franz Liszt Academy, Budapest) and Raphael A. Lustchevsky (Concert Pianist, Warsaw) in their masterclasses, where he was appreciated for his interpretation skills. The diverse nature of his repertoire helped him cultivate a holistic knowledge in music. He is admired for having erudite discussions with his students, guiding them to the path of excellency. Currently he is pursuing a Bachelor in Piano Performance at Tinity-Laban Conservatory in London.
Sonam Lodhi passed her LTCL Diploma with Distinction in 2013 under Ferieda Havewala and has completed her Bachelors in Computer Engineering from Pune University. Apart from winning Con Brio in 2017, Sonam was also the runner up in Musiquest organised by the Academy of Music, Pune in 2013. Dr. Sacheen Khirid and Sonam were declared to have the highest marks in India in the Advanced Certificate category for their duet performance as the Allegri Duo and were given the Exhibition Award in 2015. Sonam has performed in various masterclasses, most notably and frequently with Canadian pianist Paul Stewart, British pianist Mark Troop and Indian-born Austrian pianist Marialena Fernandes. She frequently performs in Pune, Mumbai and Goa, collaborating with choirs, vocalists and instrumentalists in addition to performing solo works and chamber music. Studio Meraki — an institute for learning music — was established by Sonam in Pune. Meraki is the Greek word for the soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work. This word drives the philosophy with which Sonam Lodhi founded Studio Meraki in 2017 in Pune. Although it was founded as an institute to learn piano, today it has expanded to different instruments like keyboards, recorder, violin and offers online lessons as well. Beginners to diploma level students from all over Maharashtra learn classical music, rock, pop and music theory. The Studio believes in performance oriented learning & students are encouraged to participate in recitals, masterclasses, competitions, workshops & recitals held at the Studio and nationally. In the future, the Studio hopes to expand to different instruments & art forms — to provide a platform where different artists can collaborate & learn together.
Rajat Chowdhury began his musical studies at the age of 5 in Belgium, learning piano at the British International School of Brussels. He continued his piano studies in Singapore completing several junior grades of ABRSM. After moving to Bahrain, he studied at the Bahrain Music Institute with Glorina Victa. He also won the All Bahrain Music Competition in 2012. From 2013 to 2016 he was enrolled at The International School Bangalore where his piano studies carried on under the guidance of James Roriston. In 2016, in addition to winning Con Brio, he also won a composition award at the Vienna Music Festival, Vienna and performed in Ebhrar Hall, Vienna. In 2017, he was offered admission for undergraduate studies in music at Berklee College of Music, Boston & Bard Music School, New York. Since 2018, Rajat lives in Canada where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Music with a major in composition at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver where he is guided by Dorothy Chang, Stefan Chatman and mentored by Patricia Hoy.
Nakul Jogdeo received preliminary training in Indian music from his father. While studying in Jnana Prabodhini Prashala, Nakul learnt Indian Classical vocals with Ms. Keskar. He got introduced to western classical music at the age of 16 when he attended a music appreciation workshop presented by Prof. Awati at the Film and Television Institute of India. Thereafter Nakul took piano lessons with Roxana Anklesaria Doctor and completed his LTCL under her tutelage in 2010. Nakul has received guidance from many eminent pianists, musicians and teachers including Mark Troop, Paul Stewart, Marialena Fernandes, Parvesh Java, Karl Lutchmayer, Lynda Metelsky etc. In addition to his Con Brio win, Nakul has won several other prizes including two more national level piano competitions: Musiquest and Mehli Mehta Music Foundation's All India Piano competition in 2007. He also received sixth place in Kawai Asia Piano competition in 2010 in the amateur category. Nakul started teaching piano in 2006 and has had a successful record as a teacher. Many of his students have received distinctions in piano examinations and won awards at competitions. He is the founder and director of Gunjarav School of Music in Pune. Nakul has worked as a music director and composer for more than 50 projects including documentaries, short films, theater, advertising commercials and a Marathi feature film. He has also worked as a songwriter / producer and has released 30 songs through his own studio project. He also plays flute and loves singing.
Music has been an important part of Shirley Manuel's life since a very young age. She started training in voice at the age of four, and the piano at the age of five. At the age of nine, she trained in Indian Classical singing for three years. Shirley was inspired by her father to play the guitar as she saw him strum the six strings growing up. She received an ATCL Diploma in Piano performance from Trinity College London. Following her win at Con Brio in 2014, she was selected to be a part of an advanced mentorship programme for Indian pianists initiated by Parvesh Java and Mark Troop. She was given the opportunity to learn and attend masterclasses with reputed members of the music fraternity. Shirley has performed with musicians from different parts of the world, at events and concerts in Pune, Mumbai, and Goa, and has also accompanied singers and other musicians. She has been an alto singer in the Poona Musicale and the Bel Canto choirs. She started teaching at a young age at Rebecca Music Academy which is run by her father. In 2016, she started her own academy, Ssams School of Music, after ample years of experience training students in Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Guitar, and Voice. She has completed her graduation in Commerce and has a diploma in Interior Designing.
Jay Parte is a concert pianist from Mumbai. Born into a musical family, Jay began taking piano lessons at three with late Ms. Evelyn Acharya. Jay holds a Master's degree in music from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, where he specialised in piano performance after being awarded the ‘Great Scholarship’ by the British Council in 2016. Jay studied primarily with Ms. Roshan Chowna (from 2009 to 2016) and has had the chance to seek advice from many inspiring artists such as Pascal Rogé, Gabriele Baldocci, Martha Fingerhut, Martino Turimo and Karl Lutchmayer just to name a few. Jay has performed in classical, contemporary classical, pop & jazz styles for private, corporate, weddings and fundraising events. Jay's music career along with piano performance also focuses on music education. Jay has a fun and thorough approach to teaching that incorporates a broad range of musical styles such as classical, pop, rock, improvisation, blues, and jazz in the piano lessons and designs lessons around his student's needs, learning styles, and musical interests. Jay has a wide experience as an accompanist. He has accompanied violin, vocal, bassoon and flute candidates for practical exams up to grade 8 and has often accompanied the Bow Church Choir (South East London) on the Organ and Piano. Jay is currently settled in Hyderabad and teaching music (piano and western vocal) full-time.
PRIYA ANN SEQUIERA
Pianist Priya Ann Sequeira (nee Fernandes) started learning the piano at the age of four, under the guidance of Cecil Johnson in Dubai, later moving on to Barbara Thomas in Bangalore. She has completed her Diploma in Piano Performance from ABRSM, UK under the tutelage of Gita Chacko. Priya has several accolades to her name, both at a local and national level. In addition to winning Con Brio, her notable successes include winning the MusiQuest All-India Piano Festival in 2015, and being a finalist in the Mehli Mehta All-India Piano Competition in 2007. Priya has participated in various concerts held in Mumbai and Bangalore both as a solo performer and also with string ensembles and orchestras. A piano teacher and a full-time Chartered Accountant, she is well known for accompanying choirs, musicals and other instrumentalists.
CHLOE DE SOUZA
India-born Chloe de Souza is an accomplished musician with the unique gift of connecting with audiences as both a pianist and singer. She completed her Bachelor's degree in music in 2018 at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, USA, majoring in Piano and Vocal Performance under the tutelage of Cliburn gold medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch and voice professor Marlene Rosen. She is currently pursuing her graduate studies in Piano Performance as the recipient of the Cecile Staub Genhart Scholarship at the Eastman School of Music, studying with Boris Slutsky and Marina Lomazov. De Souza is a versatile performer, with numerous appearances in India, Paris, Oberlin, Cleveland and Florida in solo recitals and charity events to her credit. Her most recent performance was at the Columbia Museum of Art at the 2019 Southeastern Piano Festival, where she also served on the young jury for the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition. She gave a piano and voice recital at the Kendal Retirement Community for Make Music Cleveland in 2017, and has been a frequent soloist at the “M.U.S.i.C — Stars in the Classics” concert series held in Cleveland for the past few years. Other notable performances in the US include being a featured soloist in Oberlin Conservatory's Kurt Weill-style Cabaret as a singer, and in Schnittke's Concerto Grosso with Oberlin's Contemporary Music Ensemble as a pianist. De Souza has toured India, giving recitals and masterclasses, including a performance at the Mrs. World Beauty Pageant and a recital of sacred vocal music at the 2015 Monte Music Festival in Goa. Her earlier accomplishments include having completed her L.T.C.L. (Licentiate of the Trinity College of Music, London) diploma at the age of 17. She was a winner at the 2011 MusiQuest All-India Piano Competition, and won Con Brio the following year. De Souza has had the privilege of working with renowned musicians including Peter Frankl, Stephen Kovacevich, Tamas Vasary, and Marc Neikrug. A musician with extensive collaborative pursuits as well, de Souza has conducted and accompanied choirs and performers for competitions and events both in India and abroad, and holds an accompanying and chamber music assistantship at the Eastman School of Music. She has also developed an interest in educating young musicians, most notably as the piano teacher for Oberlin Conservatory's Autistic Scholarship Program since its inception. Inspired by the diversity of audiences she has connected with through her performances, De Souza continues to take her musical endeavours beyond the concert hall, through salon concerts and outreach in retirement homes, churches, and schools.
Neville started piano lessons with his father when he was four and was soon composing short pieces. He began performing across India at the age of ten, with the support of Bangalore School of Music. He is the recipient of numerous music awards: Capt. Alvares Trophy for Excellence, Peter Coelho Memorial Award for Music, Fewkes Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Musician, to name a few. At 16, he earned his Associate Diploma from The Trinity College, London with distinction. In December 2010, Neville performed in Houston with the World Zoroastrian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Farobag Cooper. Neville continued his piano studies in Bangalore with Russian concert pianist Natallia Kapylova and also obtained his Licentiate Diploma from The Trinity College, London (LTCL) in 2011, the same year he won Con Brio. In November 2014, Neville earned his Master's Degree in Music Performance with Distinction, from The University of Southampton, England, where he studied under renowned pianist and composer, David Owen Norris. In December 2014, Neville gave solo recitals in the United States for The Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York. He completed his US tour with a performance of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, with the World Zoroastrian Symphony Orchestra, under conductor Adil Mehta. In February and June 2015, he performed Saint-Saëns' Second Piano Concerto with the Southampton Sinfonietta Orchestra. He is the winner of the 24th Ennio Porrino International Piano Competition held in Caglairi, Italy in Nov 2015. In February 2016, he was awarded the Kerr Memorial Prize for Outstanding Musicianship at the Royal Overseas League Competition London. Steinway and Sons have endorsed him as a “Young Steinway Artist”. Neville has successfully completed a second Master's Degree in Composition for Moving Images at City University, London while continuing his piano studies with world-renowned pianist Leslie Howard in London. He recently completed his Meisterklassen or “Concert Diploma” degree at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” in Leipzig, Germany.
CHELSEA DE SOUZA
Chelsea de Souza is a Young Steinway Artist from Mumbai, India. She has won four All-India piano competitions, the 2010 IIYM International Piano Competition, the 2013 Ohio Tuesday Musical Scholarship Organization Competition, second prizes at the 2020 Young Texas Artists Music Competition and the 2019 Cranbrook Music Guild Emerging Artist Competition, and the Global Scholar-Education World Young Achievers Award in Music and Arts. Chelsea has been interviewed on NBC TV, performed live on public radio in Kansas and Florida, and appeared in concerts across the US, Belgium, Germany, France and India. A musician of varied interests, both solo and collaborative, Chelsea performed with the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, and was part of Oberlin's Performance and Improvisation Series for two years, including a Young Artist residency with the Detroit String and Wind Society in 2015. She was a regular pianist with Peabody's contemporary ensembles ‘Now Hear This’ and the Peabody Modern Orchestra, and performed with the award-winning chamber ensemble “Alarm Will Sound” during their 2018 residency at the Peabody Institute. She now performs regularly with the Contemporary Ensemble of the Shepherd School of Music. Chelsea is a committed performer of music by living composers, and has premiered numerous works for solo piano and small ensemble by composers at the Oberlin Conservatory, Peabody Institute and Shepherd School. As a singer, she was co-director of Oberlin's longest-running all-female a cappella group ‘Nothing But Treble’. Chelsea holds Bachelor's degrees in Politics and in Piano Performance and Vocal Accompanying from Oberlin College and Conservatory, where she studied with Peter Takács. She was awarded a teaching assistantship in the Keyboard Studies department for her graduate studies at the Peabody Institute with Boris Slutsky. She graduated from Peabody with a Master's degree and the Lynn Taylor Hebden Performance Prize in 2018, and was awarded a Performance Diploma and the Graduate Prize in Accompanying in 2019. She is now pursuing her doctorate at the Shepherd School of Rice University with Jon Kimura Parker, and is a Young Artist with the DACAMERA Chamber Music and Jazz Series in Houston.