Meet the judges for the 2021 Russian Chamber Music Competition!

Dr. Christos Tsitsaros

Christos Tsitsaros is Professor and Chairman of Piano Pedagogy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A native of Cyprus, he received his first formal instruction at the Greek Academy of Music of Nicosia. At age 13, he won first prize at the Keti Papaioannou National Piano Competition of the Conservatory of Athens. He continued his musical studies at the Frédéric Chopin Academy of Warsaw and later at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University, and the University of Illinois (Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance, 1993).  Some of his legendary teachers include Jan Ekier, Aldo Ciccolini, and György Sebök.  

A winner of the 1992 composition competition of the National Conference of Piano Pedagogy, he established a long-standing relationship with Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation. His works have been performed in recitals and competitions in the U.S. and internationally. He served as clinician and lecturer for NCKP, the Music Teachers National Association Conference, the International Conference on European Music Education (St. Petersburg, Russia), and was featured artist for the 2013 Symposium on Piano Pedagogy in Seoul, South Korea. He was also artist-in-residence at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico (2001), and the 2014 Piano Competition of the University of Texas in El Paso. He has appeared as recitalist and chamber musician in Europe and the United States.  

Dr. Tsitsaros was honored as the “2014 Distinguished Composer of the Year” by the Music Teachers National Association for his Three Preludes for Piano Solo: A Mythical Triptych. In 2017, he was commissioned composer for the 2017 MTNA National Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, where his Fantasy for oboe, B-flat clarinet, and piano was performed (From the Pen to the Premiere). Five individual albums of his piano works appear under the Centaur Records label, (1998, 2008, two in 2011, and a double CD album in 2021).

George Lopez

Pianist George Lopez, Bowdoin College’s Robert Beckwith Artist in Residence, has been a dedicated and dynamic performer, educator, and lecturer for 30 years. Known in Europe, South America and the US for his “…kaleidoscopic colors and clarity of conception…” (LA Times) in the standard repertoire as well as being a champion of newly written works, Mr. Lopez  is also comfortable in styles of music ranging from jazz, ragtime to more contemporary styles of improvisation. His concert seasons have included tours of New England and New York, the Bay Area, Seattle, New Orleans, Boulder, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, Mexico, with concerts in France, Holland, Switzerland and Italy. He was invited to Cuba just before the embargo was lifted to give masterclasses and concerts as a member of the Aries Trio. Mr. Lopez initiated his “Music in the Museum” series at Bowdoin College that consistently sells out to audiences who enjoy his creative and engaging lecture recitals on the relationship of music to art and ideas. 
He has taken up the baton and built up the all-student Bowdoin College Orchestra which performs full symphonic programs each semester. He resides in Brunswick, Maine.

Maestro Kevin Hekmatpanah


A native of Chicago, cellist Kevin Hekmatpanah has presented hundreds of solo and chamber performances throughout the country, including concerts at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Society of the Cincinnati Artist Series in Washington D.C., the Sitka Music Festival, the Lower Makefield Performing Arts Society in Pennsylvania, the Camerata Musica Concert Series in Salem, Oregon, the Russian Chamber Music Foundation and the Kirkland Performance Center in Seattle. Additional recitals include appearances at the Princeton Music Club, the Cheekwood Museum of Art in Nashville, the Hornby Island Recital Series in Victoria, B.C., the Bing Performing Arts Center in Spokane, the John Addison Cultural Arts Recital Series in Washington D.C., Daniels Recital Hall in Seattle, the Duck Creek Cello Festival in Utah, the Lake Chelan Bach Feste, the Cutter Theatre, the Battelle Auditorium as well as the Merc Playhouse Theatre.  He has also presented concerts of the complete works for Cello and Piano by Beethoven and over twenty-five cycles performing all Six Bach Suites.  He has made over one hundred and twenty solo concerto appearances with various ensembles, including the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, the Richmond Philharmonic, the Pueblo Symphony, the Kingsport Symphony Orchestra, the Middle Tennessee Symphony, the Oregon East Symphony, the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs in Colorado, the Southern Arizona Symphony, Gulf Coast Symphony, and the Vashon Chamber Orchestra.  Additional concerto engagements have been with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Coeur d’Alene Symphony, the Grande Ronde Symphony, the Timberline Symphony, the Berrien Springs Symphony, the Cascadia Summer Festival Orchestra, the Mc Call Chamber Orchestra, Spokane Falls Orchestra, the Woodlands Orchestra and the Okanogan Valley Orchestra.  Outside North America, he has performed concertos in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, in Stockholm, Sweden, and at the home of Edvard Grieg in Bergen, Norway.  He also appeared as soloist with the Vidin Philharmonic Orchestra in Bulgaria.  He presented recitals in Costa Rica, Norway, and the Para XXV International Music Festival in Brazil.  He also performed at the Classical Music Festival in Vienna and Eisenstadt, Austria. This past summer, he performed multiple solo cello concerts in Florence, Italy, including a performance at a Human Rights Conference in Santa Croce.

Mr. Hekmatpanah has released a compact disc recording containing cello sonatas by Franck, Debussy, and Chopin.  He has won several competitions and awards, including prizes in the Beethoven Club Young Artists’ Competition, the Virginia Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters Competition, the Brentwood-Westwood Concerto Competition, the Fort Collins Concerto Competition, and the Montpelier Cultural Arts Solo Competition. Deeply committed to teaching, Mr. Hekmatpanah is a Professor of Music at Gonzaga University, where he has taught since 1994. He recently received an Exemplary Faculty Award for his Academic Citizenship. He is currently a member of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.  He has previously served on the faculty of Middle Tennessee State University and has taught cello at the Governor’s School for the Arts. He has served on competition juries, and he has presented master classes and clinics throughout the country.  In addition to being the first cellist to earn a DMA from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, he also holds a MM from Indiana University and a BM from the University of Southern California.  His teachers have included such nationally renowned pedagogues as Stephen Kates, Fritz Magg, and Gabor Rejto, and he has received coachings from such internationally celebrated artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Lynn Harrell, and Janos Starker.

As a conductor Kevin Hekmatpanah begins his twenty-eighth year as Music Director of the Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra.  In this capacity he has performed a large portion of the standard repertoire for orchestra, as well as premieres of new music.  He has conducted concertos with such world-renowned artists as violinists Midori, Shlomo Mintz, Cho-Liang Lin, and Itamar Zorman; pianists Pascal Rogé, Alon Goldstein, Awadagin Pratt and Simone Dinnerstein; violist Paul Coletti; cellists Lynn Harrell, Matt Haimovitz and Brannon Cho; double bassist Gary Karr; soprano Arianna Zukerman; and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman.  He has also organized and presided over the Young Artists’ Concerto/Aria Competition, which gives the opportunity for young musicians to present a concerto with the ensemble. 

Mr. Hekmatpanah was also the Music Director of the Okanogan Valley Orchestra and Chorus in Omak, Washington for five seasons.  The orchestra received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to commission a world premiere for the new century.  He has also appeared as guest conductor of the Coeur d’Alene Symphony, the Continental Orchestra League in Denver, the Oregon East Symphony, the Festival of the Arts; and he is actively sought after to direct workshops and adjudications for various ensembles.  This is his twenty-second season as the Music Director for the Project Joy Orchestra in Spokane.  He studied conducting with David Itkin while a Masters Student at Indiana University, and he attended the Conductors Institute of South Carolina, where he received coaching from Kirk Muspratt, Gisele Ben-Dor and Paul Vermel among others.