Guest Expert Bios

Cliff Colnot

In the past decade Cliff Colnot has emerged as a distinguished conductor and a musician of uncommon range.


One of few musicians to have studied orchestral repertoire with Daniel Barenboim, Colnot has served as assistant conductor for Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Workshops for young musicians from Israel, Egypt, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries. Colnot has also worked extensively with the late Pierre Boulez and served as assistant conductor to Boulez at the Lucerne Festival Academy. He regularly conducts the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), with whom he recorded Richard Wernick’s The Name of the Game for Bridge Records, and he collaborates with the internationally acclaimed contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird. Colnot has been principal conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s contemporary MusicNOW ensemble since its inception. Colnot was principal conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, an orchestra he conducted for more than twenty-two years and was principal conductor of the University of Chicago’s Contempo Ensemble for over fifteen years. Currently, Colnot conducts the DePaul University Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble. He has appeared as a guest conductor with the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Utah Symphony, and the Chicago Philharmonic.

Colnot is also a master arranger. His orchestration of Shulamit Ran’s Three Fantasy Pieces for Cello and Piano was recorded by the English Chamber Orchestra. For the chamber orchestra of the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, Colnot has arranged the Adagio from Mahler’s Symphony No. 10, Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande (both published by Universal) and Manuel De Falla’s Three Cornered Hat. For ICE, Colnot arranged Olivier Messiaen’s Chants de Terre et de Ciel for chamber orchestra and mezzo-soprano, also published by Universal. For members of the Yellow Barn Music Festival, Colnot arranged Shulamit Ran’s Soliloquy for Violin, Cello, and Piano, to be published by Theodore Presser. Colnot re-orchestrated the Bottesini Concerto No. 2 in B Minor for Double Bass, correcting many errors in existing editions and providing a more viable performance version. He has also been commissioned to write works for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Percussion Scholarship Group. His orchestration of Duke Ellington’s New World Coming was premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Barenboim as piano soloist in 2000, and Colnot also arranged, conducted, and co-produced the CD Tribute to Ellington featuring Barenboim at the piano. He has also written for rock-and-roll, pop, and jazz artists Richard Marx, Phil Ramone, Hugh Jackman, Leann Rimes, SheDaisy, Patricia Barber, Emerson Drive, and Brian Culbertson.

Colnot graduated with honors from Florida State University and in 1995 received the Ernst von Dohnányi Certificate of Excellence. He has also received the prestigious Alumni Merit Award from Northwestern University, where he earned his doctorate. In 2001 the Chicago Tribune named Cliff Colnot a “Chicagoan of the Year” in music, and in 2005 he received the William Hall Sherwood Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts. Most recently, Colnot has been awarded the 2016 Alice M. Ditson Conductor’s Award in recognition for his excellent commitment to the performance of works by American Composers. He has studied with master jazz teacher David Bloom, has taught jazz arranging at DePaul University, film scoring at Columbia College, and advanced orchestration at the University of Chicago. As a bassoonist, he was a member of the Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago, Music of the Baroque, and the Contemporary Chamber Players.

Daniel Dorff

Daniel Dorff’s music for flute and piccolo has entered the standard repertoire and is frequently performed and recorded worldwide. He has composed 7 commissioned works for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s education department, and the Minnesota Orchestra’s Kinder Konzert series has performed his music over 200 times. 

Dorff’s teachers included George Crumb, George Rochberg, Karel Husa, Henry Brant, Ralph Shapey, and Elie Siegmeister. He studied saxophone with Sigurd Rascher. Dorff served 1996 2015 as Composer-In-Residence for Symphony in C, in which he played bass clarinet from 1980 through 2002.

Daniel Dorff is VP of Publishing for Theodore Presser Company; a sought-after expert on music engraving and notation, he has lectured at many colleges as well as Carnegie Hall, and advises the leading notation software companies. He serves on the Boards of Directors for the Music Publishers’ Association of the USA, Charles Ives Society, Vincent Persichetti Society, Flute Society of Greater Philadelphia, and has served on the Board of the National Flute Association.

Dorff’s compositions are published by Presser, and recorded on Albany, Bridge, Crystal, Azica, and many other labels.

Tad Gray

With a background in music, Tad Gray brings a diverse skill set to the practice of wealth management at Buckingham Strategic Wealth. He received a music degree from the University of Colorado and enjoyed further musical studies at Aspen, Banff, and Yale. After earning an MBA from the Wharton School, he served in leadership and business development roles in corporate banking, derivatives, and capital markets with Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

Tad transitioned to personal wealth management to more directly impact people’s lives. He enjoys seeing people experience “aha” moments when they become empowered to make changes that will truly impact their family’s future in a positive way. Tad is passionate about helping others create the future they want and fulfilling their most important promises. He holds the Certified Investment Management Analyst® designation. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Tad has held leadership positions with the Financial Planning Association of Illinois, including as president of the North Shore Council.

Tad is also a certified leadership coach and serves people by co-creating behaviors and habits to achieve a greater impact in their relationships, families, organizations, and communities. In particular, he helps arts leaders and musicians grow professionally and fully realize their artistic visions through workshops and seminars on leadership and personal financial management.

Matthew Koschak

Matthew Koschak is an acoustical engineer with an extensive background in telecom and professional audio applications. He has over 18 years of product development experience working on multi-disciplinary teams to design and test acoustical systems including microphones, loudspeakers, earphones and mobile devices. 

Utilizing industry standard software such as MatLab, NX Modeling, SoundCheck, Klippel Measurement System, EASE, Pro-Tools, Logic, and Maxwell, he has helped realize dozens of products from concept to production. His project work experience includes everything from transducer design, to specifying and qualifying OEM solutions for acoustic systems, to recording and editing audio.project is the animated feature “Vincent the Artist” for which he is currently writing the songs for the film.

Yuri Lysoivanov

Like many audio professionals, Yuri began his career as a musician and is very active in the Chicago music and media landscape. Since 2013, he has had the honor of teaching and mentoring the next generation of audio engineers as Chair of the Recording Arts Department at Flashpoint Chicago (a campus of Columbia College Hollywood). For over a decade, his emphasis on ear training, work ethic, dedication and personal integrity has created a legacy of reliable audio professionals in Chicago and beyond.

Yuri has been teaching full-time since 2011 and has been part of the Flashpoint academic family since 2009.  He has been a regular presenter at the Architectural Acoustics and Audio sessions at the meetings of the Acoustical Society of America and is an active member of the Educational Committee of the Audio Engineering Society.

Yuri specializes in recording acoustic ensembles, singer/songwriters and vocalists both in studio and on location. Outside of audio, you can find him teaching Hebrew to some of the best 7th graders in the Chicago suburbs, reading, sitting at a piano or somewhere by the food.

Yuri graduated with a Bachelor of Music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Loyola University Chicago.

Hummie Mann

Composer Hummie Mann has collaborated with some of Hollwood’s most celebrated directors.  His feature film scores have ranged from Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and “Dracula: Dead & Loving It” to Peter Yates’ “Year of the Comet.” He also scored the children’s film “Thomas and the Magic Railroad”, “Wooly Boys” starring Peter Fonda and Kris Kristofferson and the IMAX digital animated film “Cyberworld 3D”.

For television, he has scored projects for Simon Wincer (the miniseries “P.T. Barnum”), Jonathan Kaplan (the miniseries re-make of “In Cold Blood”), Norman Jewison (“Picture Windows – Soir Bleu”), Peter Bogdanovich (“The Rescuers: Tales of Courage – Two Women”), Joe Dante (“Masters of Horror: Homecoming” & “The Second Civil War”), Jim Abrahams (“First Do No Harm”) and Richard Friedenberg (“Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas”).
He was awarded his first Emmy for arranging Billy Crystal’s opening number for the 1992 Oscars and a second Emmy for his original score to an episode of Showtime’s Picture Windows series entitled “Language of the Heart.” He has also been honored with a Distinguished Alumnus Award from his under graduate alma mater Berklee College of Music.

He is the creator and lead instructor of the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program (currently the music department of the Seattle Film Institute) and has taught film composition courses in Scotland, Denmark and China. In 2010 he ran a film composition workshop at the Dakhla Film Festival in Morocco and Variety Magazine listed him as a “Leader in Learning” in its 2010 Education Impact Report.  Last year he received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Salford in Manchester, UK.  His thesis title was “The Temporal and Rhythmic Effect on Musical Composition and Form When Scoring Dramatic Moving Picture”.

His latest composing project is the animated feature “Vincent the Artist” for which he is currently writing the songs for the film.

Melissa Ngan

Melissa Ngan cultivates personal and organizational growth through creative acts and collaborative practices.

She currently serves as President and CEO of the American Composers Orchestra, dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers.

Melissa also serves on the board of Fifth House Ensemble, an organization she founded in 2005. In this role, she has designed projects that promote social justice through civic practice, develop mindfulness and creativity through K-12 and social service residencies, and cultivate emerging arts leaders.

Her work with arts organizations result in bold new directions in arts integration and civic practice. With The Cleveland Orchestra, Melissa guided the creation of the Prometheus Project, which connected teaching artists, classroom teachers, and students at the Cleveland Institute of the Arts to explore Beethoven and Prometheus through the lens of the Hero’s Journey. Through co-created, cross-disciplinary curriculum in multiple classrooms, the project culminated in a curated performance at Severance Hall featuring student work illuminating stories of their personal heroes and the ways in which they envision using their own gifts to shape their future world. At San Francisco Opera, Melissa led a design team that launched Earn Your Wings, a long-term initiative spanning advocacy, learning experiences, performances, and community-building that connected the company to two organizations serving individuals and families transitioning from homelessness in the Bay Area.

A dynamic educator and coach, Melissa currently teaches a music entrepreneurship courses at DePaul University, DePauw University, and the Eastman School of Music. She has presented at TEDx Michigan Ave, the Colburn School, New England Conservatory, Chamber Music America, College Music Society, and Opera America, and led long-term projects with the Cleveland Institute of Music and DePauw University.

Melissa’s performance career has included collaborations with GRAMMY-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux, Mediterranean folk band Baladino, GRAMMY-nominated composer Austin Wintory, and masters of Tuvan throat singing Alash. She has performed at National Sawdust, MAGFest, the FORMA Festival (Moscow), Suntory Hall (Tokyo), the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall. Melissa is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Northwestern University, with principal teachers including Bonita Boyd and Walfrid Kujala. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys cooking her favorite dishes from her Brazilian/Cambodian heritage.

Brian Pertl

Brian Pertl is an improviser, ethnomusicologist, and is currently the Dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. He is passionate about reframing the conventions of a classical music education, and classical music performance. He has staged musical events inside racquetball courts, stairwells, sandstone canyons, and cedar forests. His piece, Land of Snows, for Tibetan horn, didjeridu, conch shell trumpet, and harmonic singing, was recorded in the Dan Harpole Cistern in Port Townsend Washington which boasts a 45 second reverb. Pauline Oliveros requested that Brian perform the piece with her on her 80 birthday concert at Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Renssalaer. Trained as a trombonist, Brian also plays the didjeridu, Tibetan horns, and many other instruments from around the world. Brian and his wife Leila co-teach the Deep Listening Lab at Lawrence University lead creativity workshops and retreats in a wide variety of settings from hallway houses to corporate board rooms.

Leila Ramagopal Pertl

Leila Ramagopal Pertl is a creator, collaborator, innovator, and improviser who firmly believes that music is a human birthright. Everything she does stems from that profound belief. Her collaborative compositions are designed to help all participants rediscover their inner musicianship through shared musical creation. All participants leave knowing that their voices were absolutely critical in creating a transformational work that never existed before. Leila is one of 6 International Deep Listening certification instructors, teaches in the Music Education Department at Lawrence University, and has created and led two innovative music programs in elementary schools where every student drums, sings, dances, composes and improvises. As the Music Education Curator for the Mile of Music Festival in Appleton Wisconsin. Leila and her team lead 60 hands-on music-making events for the 75,000 visitors. She is the Wisconsin Music Education Association Chair for Composition and Improvisation and was recently appointed to the Smithsonian Folkways International Music Education Committee.

Michael Rohd

Michael Rohd is founding artistic director of 17 year-old ensemble-based Sojourn Theatre. He recently accepted a Professorship at Arizona State University’s Herberger Insititute for Design & Art, where he, Liz Lerman and Daniel Bernard Romain are launching a think tank/action space called the The Ensemble Lab. He is author of the widely translated book Theatre for Community, Conflict, and Dialogue.  

He leads the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, where current projects include The Catalyst Initiative, a national program supported by The Andrew Mellon Foundation, and Local Landscapes, through which he is currently collaborating with Arts Councils at the State and Local level around the US.

In 2015, he received an Otto Rene Castillo award for Political Theater and The Robert Gard Foundation Award for Excellence. He was the 2013-2016 Doris Duke Artist-in-Residence at Lookingglass Theater Company in Chicago. Recent/Current projects include leading a two year Sojourn Artist-in-Residence collaboration with Catholic Charities USA poverty reduction sites around the US; a Sojourn partnership with Planning Commissions around the country utilizing civic practice in public engagement settings to help communities deal with difficult conversations and resource allotment; and, collaborating with theaters and universities around the country to mount locally specific projects based on Sojourn’s model performance/engagement process/production How To End Poverty in 90 Minutes.