Meet the Musicians


Svend Rønning
Concertmaster sponsors:  Paul & Lita Luvera
Concertmaster of the Symphony since 2000, Svend Rønning previously served in that capacity for the Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra and the Spoleto USA Chamber Orchestra.  He is Chair of the String Division at Pacific Lutheran University where he is Associate Professor of Music and violinist in the Regency String Quartet.  Dr. Rønning is also Artistic Director of the Second City Chamber Series, Tacoma’s award winning producer of chamber music concerts and chamber music educational programs. Additional activities include period instrument performances with Puget Sound Consort.  A native of the Pacific Northwest, Dr. Rønning holds an undergraduate degree in violin performance from Pacific Lutheran University.  He earned both a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Yale University.


Gwendolyn Taylor
Associate Concertmaster  sponsors:  Paul & Lita Luvera
Gwendolyn Taylor is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory where she studied modern and baroque performance on violin and viola. She is also the assistant concertmaster of the Tacoma Opera Orchestra and a member of the Northwest Sinfonietta.  In addition to freelancing and teaching in the classical world, Gwen is active in the Celtic music scene, regularly playing for Scottish Country Dancing.  She has been a faculty member of the Irish Music Academy of Cleveland and the Ohio Scottish Arts School.  Her teachers have included Almita and Roland Vamos, Greg Fulkerson, Marilyn McDonald and Walter Schwede.   A native of the Pacific Northwest, she currently lives in Bremerton.


Evelyn Gottlieb
Assistant Concertmaster  sponsors:  James & Phyllis Shoemake

Evelyn Gottlieb remembers rifling through her parents’ old records as a kid and falling in love with two of them in particular: Paganini violin concerto No. 1 and Mozart No. 5. She believes that ideally, all children would have the opportunity to develop a love for music organically and spontaneously. Evelyn loves the violin not only for its beauty of tone, but also for its immediate emotional impact. She believes that as long as you have a good story to tell, you can be a great violinist.

In addition to her position as Assistant Concertmaster of the Symphony, she is a member of Northwest Sinfonietta and Tacoma Opera. Evelyn has performed with orchestras all over Washington State, as concertmaster for the Bellevue Ballet, and with artists such as KD Lang, Anne Murray, Kanye West, Chicago, and Haushka. She also plays in Duo Girasole with her husband, Symphony violinist Colin Todd. In the summer she co-concertmasters at the Lake Chelan Bachfest.

Evelyn has a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music in music performance. While at the University of Washington, she studied under scholarship with Ronald Patterson, and frequently served as co-concertmaster of the University Symphony. Alongside her musical career, she has been working in commercial real estate brokerage and investment for over 10 years. Born in Argentina but raised in Washington, she considers herself a foodie and a “crazy dog lady.” She would like patrons to know how impressive it is for a city of this size to have such cultural richness and support for the arts, as the support means a lot to those on stage.


Debra Akerlund
Second Assistant Concertmaster  sponsors:  Carroll Bryan & Laurie Sorensen
2nd Assistant Concertmaster Debra Akerlund also serves as Assistant Concertmaster of the Des Moines (Iowa) Opera, and plays in the Yakima Symphony and the Britt Festival in Southern Oregon. She has performed with symphonies in Tucson, Victoria, Shreveport, Pasadena, Fresno, Spokane and Marshall and Longview, Texas and participated in numerous chamber music groups  and summer festivals in Canada, Mexico, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. Debra studied music at Grays Harbor College, the University of Washington, the University of Victoria, Eastman School of Music and the University of Southern California.


Janis Upshall
Principal Second Violin  sponsors:  Fred & Paula Bevegni, Lester & Peggy Olson, Gary & Jennifer Smith
Principal Second Violin Janis Upshall holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in violin performance and pedagogy from Pacific Lutheran University. She studied for four years with the renowned pedagogue Kato Havas in Oxford, England. In addition to her work with the Symphony, Janis is a member of Northwest Sinfonietta, the Auburn Symphony, and concertmaster of the Tacoma Opera Orchestra. She is an active freelance performer in the Seattle-Tacoma area, including the Chamber Creek Trio (with cellist Margaret Thorndill and pianist Jeffrey Meeks), has guested with Tacoma’s Second City Chamber Series, and maintains a private violin studio of 30 students.


Rachel Nesvig
Assistant Principal Second Violin  sponsor:  Alexis Macdonald

Rachel Nesvig grew up singing a lot with her family and playing piano and violin with her sister, so music has always been a big part of her life. She really enjoys making music in the symphonic setting and notes that playing violin surrounded by other violinists creates a wonderful sense of community. At the moment, Rachel plays with the Symphony, the Yakima Symphony, Puget Sound Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Rock Orchestra and several other local groups. She also does recording gigs, such as recording music for video games, string tracks for pop albums, and Hardanger Fiddle for a wide variety of projects.

Rachel has her Masters in Violin and received Honors in Hardanger Fiddle from St. Olaf College. She also received her BA in Music and Norwegian from St. Olaf College in 2007, and her Masters in Violin Performance from Central Washington University in 2011, along with her K-12 Teaching Certificate.

Rachel went to Stadium High School and currently sits with her old violin teacher from her high school days, Janis Upshall. She is proud to make a “full circle” and play violin next to her former teacher!


Thane Lewis
Principal Viola  sponsors:  Don & Joan BrownIn addition to the Symphony,
Thane Lewis is Assistant Principal Violist of Northwest Sinfonietta and previously served in that capacity for the Boise Philharmonic.  He has played with the Oregon, Anchorage and Auburn symphonies, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and 5th Avenue Theater and as a soloist with the Symphony, Eastside Symphony, Octava Chamber Orchestra, and the Lake Union Civic Orchestra.  Chamber appearances include the Onyx Chamber Players, Second City Chamber Series, Cascadia Sounds of Summer, Jacobsen, Mostly Nordic, and Governer’s Mansion Chamber Series. He has also performed with the St. Helens String Quartet at the Cornish School of the Arts, with his own Trio Antonie, and as an Artist in Residence at Ascension Arts in Magnolia. He is a faculty member of both the Midsummer Music Retreat and the Puget Sound Chamber Music Workshop, and author of Fiddling With Life, a biography of violinist Steven Staryk, published by Mosaic Press.


Maria Bokor
Assistant Principal Viola sponsor: Mary Cooper
A member of the Symphony since 1996, Maria Bokor maintains a private music studio in University Place, works as a physical therapist, and directs a youth jazz/gospel orchestra at Tacoma’s Trinity Church. Previously, she taught strings and orchestra at Annie Wright School.  From 1985 to 1992, while a resident in Portland (OR), she directed a chamber music organization which featured contemporary composers and eclectic performances — from Balinese-influenced opera to jazz and classical string quartet. She holds a Masters in Performance from the University of Victoria, and engaged in postgraduate studies at the Utrecht Conservatory in The Netherlands with Russian virtuoso Misha Geller. Her viola is modeled on the Guarneri style, and was made by Tetsuo Matsuda, a Cambodian master artisan working in Chicago.

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Jake Saunders

Principal Cello  sponsors:  Gordon and Karla Epperson
A native of Boise, Idaho, our new Principal Cellist Jake Saunders holds a MM in music performance from Boise State University and a BM in cello performance from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance, where he studied with Richard Aaron. Until May 2014, Saunders performed with the Boise Philharmonic Orchestra and as an inaugural member of the Boise State Graduate String Quartet Fellowship (Ezra Quartet). He is the creator, manager, and cellist of 208 ensemble, a professional multi-instrumental ensemble in Boise, Idaho dedicated to the advocacy and performance of music written by living composers. Saunders has served as principal cellist of the Opera Idaho orchestra, Boise State University Symphony Orchestra, University of Michigan’s University Symphony Orchestra and Philhamornia Orchestra, Music Academy of the West’s Festival Orchestra, the All-Northwest Orchestra, the Idaho All-State Orchestra, and the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. He has been an active member in the University of Michigan’s Contemporary Directions Ensemble and Baroque Orchestra.


Karen Schulz-Harmon
Assistant Principal Cello sponsors:  Pamela Boyles & Roger Johnson
One of Karen’s most memorable music experiences was walking into the St. Louis Conservatory and Schools for the Arts (CASA) for her first rehearsal with the youth symphony. To access the hall, one had to walk through a corridor filled with incredible artwork where one could also glimpse ballet classes in full swing. Later, she would also have her first opera performances there through the St. Louis Youth Opera Program. Karen says it was a magical place that left one of the biggest impressions on her as performing artist and teacher. The cello became her voice later in life than for most who play professionally: while she started on piano and violin, she did not play a cello until she was 15 years of age. It was a serendipitous union and she has felt that her path with the instrument has continued this way ever since. Karen loves that the cello tugs at her heartstrings, and describes it as an instrument which can resonate with pure joy or swallow you up in melancholic darkness.  Karen performs with an 1840 cello by Jacob Fendt and a ca. 1900 bow by André Vigneron.

In June of 2015, she moved across country from Chicago to Portland where she is starting afresh with her musical pursuits. She performs with the Portland Cello Project and Portland Concert Opera, as well as a substitute player with the Oregon Symphony and Portland Opera cello sections. She coaches chamber music and runs cello sectionals at Union High School, in addition to teaching cello and piano from her home studio in Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood. In the summertime she also coaches at the Chamber Music Camp of Portland.

Karen attended Northern Illinois University at the invitation of cellist Marc Johnson, and graduated in 2005 with a Masters of Music degree in Cello Performance. She spent two months in Europe from 2010 to 2011, during which she observed the teaching of Robert Nagy, a principal cellist of the Vienna Philharmonic. During this time she also had the opportunity to interact with the private teachers and chamber music coaches at the Südsteirische Musiktage Festival in Austria founded by Wolfgang Klos, violist in the Vienna String Trio. In the summer of 2012 she was selected to attend the National Summer Cello Institute. While there, she had the opportunity to work with cellists Richard Aaron, Timothy Eddy, Ralph Kirshbaum and Uri Vardi. Karen enjoys spending time with her husband, double bassist Andrew Harmon, her beautiful Haitian daughter, Estere, and my conures Henry and Zeus. She also loves cooking, honing her food photography skills, hiking, biking, practicing yoga and language studies. She is also a Health Coach, with a certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.


Chris Burns
Principal Double Bass  sponsors:  Kenton & Benita Lee
Originally from South Florida, Chris Burns has been principal bassist of the Symphony since 2009. The Tacoma News Tribune has described his playing as “effortlessly clear and lyrical…with calm virtuosity and thoughtful expression.”  In addition to soloing with the TSO, Chris has been a featured soloist on the Second City Chamber Series, University of Puget Sound’s Jacobsen series and on the Barry Lieberman and Friends recital series at the University of Washington.  Chris is an active freelance musician in the Northwest, having performed with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Northwest Sinfonietta. Prior to moving to Tacoma, Chris was solo bassist for the Houston Bach Society and Opera in the Heights, as well as a substitute bassist with the Houston Grand Opera. Chris received his Bachelors of Music from the New England Conservatory in Boston, and was a Fulbright Scholar at the Universität für Musik in Vienna, Austria.  In addition to his performing career, Chris is also a dedicated string educator, and is the orchestra teacher at Narrows View Intermediate School in the University Place School District.

Dr. Anna Jensen, education director for Symphony Tacoma

Anna Jensen
Assistant Principal Double Bass  sponsors:  Dr. William & Celia Shields

Dr. Anna Jensen grew up in a musical family. Most of her siblings play or have played the flute. At the peak, her mom had 60 private flute students, and always said that Anna picked the bass as an “act of rebellion from all of the flutes.” She also grew up attending music festivals and sitting in the back of orchestra rehearsals before she could even read. Anna loved being around the music and thought that musicians were super cool. Specifically, she likes the supportive role of the double bass and the low sounds. Bass players are notoriously hilarious, and the visual aspect of playing the bass is really engaging to her.

Anna plays with the Tacoma Opera and sub with a variety of groups across the region. She teaches double bass at Pacific Lutheran University, Central Washington University and maintains a large private studio. She is a conductor for the Tacoma Youth Symphony Association where she conducts the two youngest orchestras, and the education specialist for Symphony Tacoma and TYSA. Anna Jensen has performed with the Icicle Creek Chamber Music Festival, Kairos Music Festival, Second City Chamber Music Series and as a concerto soloist with the Tacoma Young Artist Orchestra, the Wenatchee Symphony, and the Lake Chelan Bach Fest Orchestra. While living in Ann Arbor (MI), she was the co-principal double bassist on William Bolcom’s Grammy winning recording, Songs of Innocence and Experience, conducted by Leonard Slatkin. She won the Music Northwest Concerto Competition in college and was a national finalist for the American String Teachers’ Competition. She holds degrees from the University of Michigan (Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music) and Central Washington University (Bachelor of Music).

Anna grew up in Wenatchee, Washington and has four kids: a 6 year old girl, a 4 year old boy and 1 year old twins. She loves being outdoors and being with her family.



Mary Jensen
Principal Flute  sponsors:  Clark & Eileen D’Elia
In addition to her performances with the Symphony, Mary Jensen has recently been named Principal Flute of the Olympia Symphony and Artist in Residence of the Lake Chelan Bach Festival. She has also served as Principal Flute with the Tacoma Opera Orchestra, Yakima Symphony, and South Shore Chamber Orchestra. Additionally, Mary has performed with the Second City Chamber Series, Icicle Creek Music Center, International Chamber Music Festival, and Seattle Happy Hour Concerts. A faculty member of the Evergreen Music Festival and Lake Samish Music Camp, she maintains a private studio and is a music coach for the Tacoma Youth Symphony Association. A sought-after adjudicator and  clinician, Mary has recently presented Masterclasses at PLU and TYSA as well as flute clinics and sectionals for school programs in the Puget Sound region.  She holds a Performance Diploma from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where as a student of Michel Debost she was a recipient of the Dean’s Talent and Merit scholarships. Additional studies were with Hal Ott at Central Washington University, and baroque flute studies with Kathie Lynn, also at Oberlin.


Selina Greso
Principal Oboe  sponsors:  Erick and Ruth Camp
Principal Oboe of the Symphony since the 2005-2006 season, Selina Greso maintains an active teaching studio and is a frequent performer with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.  She previously taught at Western Washington University.  Recently, she performed in the Courtyard Concerts of the Lake Chelan Bach Fest, along with TSO Principal Flute Mary Jensen. Prior to her studies at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, she attended the Interlochen Arts Academy, as well as the Interlochen summer arts camp in Michigan as the Governor’s Scholarship Award winner for the State of Washington.  At age 16, during her fourth summer at Interlochen, she was principle oboe for the prestigious World Youth Symphony.


Craig Rine
Principal Clarinet  sponsors:  Andy & Beth Buelow
Craig Rine has been principal clarinet of the Symphony since 1991. He has performed frequently with the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera, and served as principal clarinet of the Northwest Sinfonietta. Since 2000, he has been the Professor of Clarinet at Pacific Lutheran University and clarinetist with the Camas Quintet at PLU.  He also serves as Director of Bands at George R. Curtis Junior High School in University Place, Washington.  He was in “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band for six years and was the principal clarinet of the Fairfax Symphony for eight years. A native of Washington, D.C., Mr. Rine has performed with the National Symphony, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, the National Gallery of Art Orchestra, and made chamber music appearances at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

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John Ruze
Principal Bassoon  sponsors:  Anderson Family
A native of Massachusetts, John Ruze received his Bachelor of Music Degree from Juilliard in 1986.  He has held Graduate Teaching Assistantships at the Institute of Chamber Music of the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee and at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. He became a faculty member at Atlantic Union College in Lancaster, Massachusetts, while juggling guest appearances with the New World Symphony, the New York Kammermusiker and the Quintet of Americas.  He performs as Second Bassoonist with Northwest Sinfonietta, and previously performed with the Naples (FL) Philharmonic and the Des Moines (IA) Metro Opera.  John owns and manages Truaire Apartments in Lakewood.  He has been an avid triathlete and a tournament chess player, and enjoys living simply, saving money, living without television, and reducing junk mail.

Gina Gillie
Assistant Principal Horn  sponsors:  Gordon and Karla Epperson

Gina Gillie is an Associate Professor of Music at Pacific Lutheran University where she teaches horn and aural skills, conducts a horn choir, and performs frequently in solo and chamber recitals. As an orchestral player, she is Assistant Principal with the Tacoma Symphony, Principal Horn with the Vashon Opera and actively freelances with several other regional professional orchestras. She is a member of two faculty chamber ensembles at PLU, the Camas Wind Quintet and the Lyric Brass Quintet. In 2006, she attended the Tanglewood Music Festival as an orchestral fellow where she worked with several world-class musicians such as James Levine, Elliot Carter, Bernhard Haitink, Stefan Asbury, Herbert Blomstedt, Charles Rosen, Barry Tuckwell and John Williams. Gillie studied Horn Performance with Douglas Hill at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she received her Masters degree in 2006 and her Doctorate of Musical Arts in 2009. She completed her Bachelors degree in Horn Performance at Pacific Lutheran University in 2004 where she studied with Kathleen Vaught Farner. As a composer, Gillie enjoys writing chamber music for horn and other instruments. Her music is published by RM Williams, and Veritas Musica and several of her compositions have received performances in the United States, Canada, England, Portugal and Australia.
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Charles Butler
Principal Trumpet  sponsor:  Kathryn Ammerman James Memorial Chair, Wayne Timmerman Memorial Endowment Fund
Butler is principal trumpet with the orchestras of the Symphony and the Portland Opera, and also performs as substitute principal trumpet with the Pacific Northwest Ballet (Seattle), Oregon Ballet Theater (Portland), Village Theater (Issaquah, WA) and as a frequent guest of the Grammy nominated Oregon Symphony (Portland).  Butler has spent over twelve years as acting principal trumpet of the Bellingham Festival of Music working with members of the Atlanta Symphony, Boston Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Detroit Symphony and many other major orchestras from the continent. Butler’s career as an orchestral musician began with his first appointment in 1977 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, later moving on to the Israel Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, Malaysian Philharmonic, Orquesta de Tenerife (Spain) and Houston Symphony.



Keith Winkle Principal Trombone  sponsors:  Wendell & Pauline Stroud
Keith Winkle has been the trombonist with the Mosaic Brass Quintet since its inception in 2004 and recently returned to perform at the Olympic Music Festival.  Other recent engagements include Seattle Opera’s productions ofMadame Butterfly and Turandot.  In addition to the TSO, Keith is a regular member of the Tacoma Opera Orchestra, Lyric Brass Quintet, Bellevue Philharmonic, Northwest Sinfonietta, Washington Brass Ensemble, Seattle Choral Company Orchestra and the Mosaic Brass Quintet.  He performs frequently with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, 5th Avenue Theatre, Paramount Theatre and the Pacific Northwest Ballet orchestra. On the faculty of both Pacific Lutheran and Western Washington universities, Keith resides outside of Snohomish with his family on their mini-farm.

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Paul Evans
Principal Tuba  sponsors:  Cindy & Jay Peterson

Paul Evans began to play brass instruments the way most kids do: trumpet in the elementary school band.  As he got bigger so did the brass instruments.  Paul was finally big enough to play the tuba when he reached the ninth grade and he has yet to find a larger or more enjoyable instrument.   His love for the symphony orchestra began in 1985 when he joined the Tacoma Youth Symphony Association where he studied and performed until 1987.  He played in the orchestras at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah before his professional career began.  Paul has won auditions with the Boise Philharmonic Orchestra and the Utah Symphony Orchestra before winning his position as Principal Tubist of the Symphony in 2000.  As a soloist, Paul has performed Torbjorn Lundquist’s Landscape for Tuba and Strings with the Boise Philharmonic, and the Gregson Tuba Concerto with the Symphony.  A finalist in the NEAA’s Arts Recognition and Talent Search, he toured the western U.S. and Canada with the BYU Wind Symphony.


Matthew Drumm
Principal Timpani  

Matthew’s mother was a piano teacher, and he grew up with music in the house every day and sometimes almost all day, and notes that his older sister played piano and viola. He began drum lessons in 3rd grade, starting on snare drum and drumset, but eventually gravitating towards timpani and other orchestral percussion in high school. His dad loved classical music and had a fairly large record collection, with Matthew’s favorite being “Mars” from Holst’s “The Planets.” He loves the versatility of Timpani – one can play so soft that it’s almost imperceptible, or so loud that it dominates the orchestra, Matthew says, noting that in music like Beethoven, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky it can really drive the orchestra, while in music like Mahler and Sibelius it can provide different colors and textures to the music. 

Matt has been Principal Timpanist for the Symphony Tacoma since 1999, as well as the Bellevue Philharmonic since 2001 and Cascade Festival of Music since 2006.  As a freelance musician, Matt is in demand as a timpanist and percussionist, frequently playing for Seattle Symphony and Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Northwest Sinfonietta and more. He has been freelancing for over two decades and has played with countless other orchestras, theaters, choirs, churches, bands, etc. Just recently, he made his international debut, playing with the Vancouver Symphony. For many years he played drumset in a Big Band that played music from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Now he plays drum set and percussion for the worship team at his church. He can also be heard on numerous movie and video game soundtracks and has been teaching percussion lessons for 20 years. Matt is a graduate of University of Washington, where he studied with Michael Crusoe.
Matthew grew up in Issaquah and has lived in the Puget Sound area his whole life. His other passions in my life are his family, including his three young daughters.



Amy Putnam
Principal Percussion  sponsor:  Patricia Mail

Amy Putnam has performed as a marimba and multi-percussion soloist with the Symphony, Bellevue Philharmonic, Tacoma Concert Band, L’Orchestre des Professeurs du Luxembourg, and Luxembourg Percussion, among others.  As a timpanist and percussionist, she has appeared with the Seattle and Oregon symphonies, Pacific Northwest and Cincinnati ballets, Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre in NYC, and many more.  She is active recording film and TV scores and is the founder of her own business, A. PUTNAM MALLETS.  APM mallets can be heard in every leading American orchestra, including The New York Philharmonic, the MET, and the orchestras of Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Seattle, and more.  She holds a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School, a Bachelor of Music in Education and Performance from Miami University (OH), and a Prix Superieur Diploma ifrom Le Conservatoire de Musique de la Ville du Luxembourg.


Calista Kovin

Principal Harp  Lynne Wainwright-Palmer Principal Harp Endowed Chair

Calista Kovin is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in harp performance as a student of Yolanda Kondonassis.  Hailed by the Boston Globe as an “expert harpist”, Calista has performed as assistant principal harpist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New World Symphony Orchestra.  She was a two-time winner of the Alice Chalifouz prize in Harp at the Cleveland Institute of Music and was winner of the Institute’s Concerto Competition.  Calista was twice awarded the fellowship in harp to the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts and was also principal harpist at the National Orchestral Institute in Maryland.  In addition to performing with the Symphony, she is an active professional musician and teacher.

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