Matt Albert, violin

photo: Kim Leeson

Called “preposterously talented” by Time Out Chicago, violinist and violist Matt Albert is the Chair of Chamber Music at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance at the University of Michigan. He previously served as the Director of Chamber Music and SYZYGY at the Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, and he was a founding member of Eighth Blackbird, with whom he received numerous awards, including first prizes at the Naumburg, Concert Artists Guild, Coleman, and Fischoff Competitions, and three Grammy awards for their recordings on Cedille Records. He has collaborated with Alarm Will Sound, Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble, Seraphic Fire, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Wilco, and his orchestral playing has included work with the Shreveport Symphony (as Concertmaster), the Baltimore Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, and a tenured position as Principal Second Violin of the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra. Other leadership roles include three years as the Artistic Director of the M-Prize International Chamber Arts Competition and three years as the Artistic Director of the Music in the Mountains Conservatory in Durango, Colorado. Matt holds degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Northwestern University School of Music.

Molly Barth, flutes

Described as “ferociously talented” (The Oregonian) and “an exemplary performer” (Log Journal), flutist Molly Barth specializes in the music of today and has been involved with several ensembles. Formed with Dieter Hennings, Duo Damiana is focused on broadening the cutting-edge repertoire for flute and guitar. The Zohn Collective brings together a core ensemble with musical ties for projects throughout the world. Molly co-founded Eighth Blackbird, with whom she performed from 1996-2006, won a Grammy Award, Naumburg Award, Concert Artists Guild Prize and recorded with Cedille Records. As co-founder of Beta Collide, Molly collaborated with individuals from numerous disciplines and recorded with Innova Records. Molly is Asst. Professor of Flute at the Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University and previously taught at the University of Oregon, Willamette University, the University of Chicago and the University of Richmond. She is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, Cincinnati Conservatory, and Northwestern University. Molly is a Burkart Artist.

Dalia Chin, flutes

Chicago-based Costa Rican flutist Dalia Chin is a founding member of Fonema Consort and regular member for the Chicago Composers Orchestra, both of which are dedicated to performing music by living composers. She has been in residence and given performances at institutions including New England Conservatory, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Oberlin Conservatory, Harvard University, the Universidad de Costa Rica, Scripps College, UNAM (Mexico City), the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the 113 Composers Collective and North Central College. She has performed in festival and at venues including Visiones Sonoras (Morelia), the Florida Flute Convention, Festival Interfaz (Monterrey), Omaha Under the Radar, the Ear Taxi Festival, the Festival Internacional de Chihuahua, the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo ( Mexico City), the Teatro Sucre (Quito), the City of Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion, and National Sawdust.

Nick Photinos, cello

photo: Joe Mazza

Multi-Grammy Award-winning cellist Nick Photinos is one of the most innovative and multifaceted cellists of our time. An ardent advocate of new music, he has worked closely with many of the foremost composers of this era and has premiered hundreds of works throughout his career. Apart from four Grammy wins, he has received Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year Award, the Macarthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, the inaugural Chamber Music America Visionary Award, the Naumburg Award, and the Concert Artists Guild Grand Prize.

Described as a “commanding soloist” ( whose “virtuoso cello playing is scintillating” (Chicago Classical Review) and “outstanding for his exquisite precision” (, Photinos has collaborated and toured with an astounding array of artists including rock/pop artists Björk, Wilco, Bryce Dessner, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, film composer Gustavo Santaolalla, classical artists Dawn Upshaw, Philip Glass, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and jazz artists including Sheila Jordan, Laurence Hobgood, Zach Brock, and Matt Ulery. He has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras including the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Toronto, Utah, and Atlanta Symphonies, the last with whom he recorded Jennifer Higdon’s On a Wire. He has performed across the globe including the Sydney Opera House, the Barbican in London, KBC Hall in Seoul, Carnegie Hall in New York City, Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver.

In recent seasons Photinos debuted in Sweden, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, in a solo recital at the Winnipeg Gallery of Art, and at the inaugural Chosen Vale International Cello Seminar. He also performed across nine US states and returned as a soloist to the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival and the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, where he has taught since 2007. In 2019 he reached millions of listeners on “Live from Here” with Chris Thile and on Netflix’s original movie The Two Popes.

Photinos’ numerous recordings span the Cedille, Nonesuch, New Amsterdam, Greenleaf, and Naxos labels. He recorded for Wilco on their Grammy-nominated album The Whole Love, and with Autumn Defense on their album Once Around. His debut solo album, Petits Artéfacts, deemed “a bold solo debut from one of the most notable artists in contemporary music today” by PopMatters, was released on the New Amsterdam label in August 2017 and features first recordings of the most acclaimed names in new music (David Lang, Bryce Dessner, David T. Little, Andrew Norman) as well as a younger generation of groundbreaking composers (Pascal Le Boeuf, Molly Joyce, Florent Ghys, Angelica Negrón).

During Photinos’ 24-year tenure as the founding cellist and co-Artistic Director of Eighth Blackbird, he performed over 1000 concerts and premiered hundreds of new works, including Steve Reich’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet and works by Andy Akiho, Michael Gordon, Amy Beth Kirsten, David Lang, David T. Little, Nico Muhly, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, Julia Wolfe, and Pamela Z. Eighth Blackbird held multi-year residency positions at the Curtis Institute of Music, the University of Chicago, and at the University of Richmond.

Photinos is a graduate of Northwestern University, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He lives in the Chicago area with his daughter and wife, with whom he is co-Artistic Director of Chamber Music at Bethany, a concert series bringing world-class instrumental and vocal chamber music to Chicago’s north side. For more information, go to

Elly Toyoda, violin

Elly Toyoda, an alumna of the 2018 Blackbird Creative Lab, hails from Osaka, Japan, has performed in various festivals in Asia, Europe, and North America. She holds her Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory, where she was elected membership to Pi Kappa Lambda of the National Music Honor Society, and studied for a semester in Vienna, Austria upon receiving the Thomastik-Infeld City of Music Scholarship and Fine Arts Scholarship. She earned her Master’s degree from the Yale School of Music where she served as concertmistress of the orchestra, was a finalist of their concerto competition, and received the school’s Alumni Prize. Outside of school, she has been a semi-finalist of the 2017 Gershwin International Music Competition, and a finalist of the 2018 Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. An avid supporter of contemporary music, she was awarded the Prix de Musique Contemporaine by the Fontainebleau Schools Association, appeared on programs at the National Sawdust and Le Poisson Rouge in New York, and has premiered numerous works through Eighth Blackbird’s Creative Lab, Lucerne Festival, Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and Talis Festival. Toyoda is currently a full-scholarship Doctoral student at Rutgers University studying with Yura Lee, serving as concertmistress of the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, and is on the violin faculty at SpeakMusic Conservatory and Lindeblad School of Music.

Xuan, new media artist, filmmaker

Photo by: Nadine Sherman

Xuan is a new media artist, filmmaker, and pianist working at the intersection of music, art, and technology. Her work encompasses projection design, experimental animation, abstract scenography and interactive installations, and has been shown at the Metropolitan Museum, MCA Chicago, and Smithsonian Institution, as well as concert venues across the US and internationally. Her training and experience as a performer provides an insightful depth into music interpretation and the nuances of interdisciplinary collaboration. This actively guides her in the development of innovative projects that help diversify audiences and broaden the immersive scope of new music. 

An alumna of the Eighth Blackbird Creative Lab, Xuan has been commissioned by Eighth Blackbird for a major project to be announced in February 2020, and launched in conjunction with its release of its upcoming album, singing in the dead of night later in the season.

Pamela Z, composer, vocalist and interdisciplinary artist

photo: rubra

Bay Area artist Pamela Z is a composer/performer and media artist who works primarily with voice, live electronic processing, sampled sound, and video. A pioneer of live digital looping techniques, she processes her voice in real time to create dense, complex sonic layers. Her solo works combine experimental extended vocal techniques, operatic bel canto, found objects, text, digital processing, and wireless MIDI controllers that allow her to manipulate sound with physical gestures. In addition to her solo work, she has been commissioned to compose scores for dance, theatre, film, and chamber ensembles including Kronos Quartet, the Bang on a Can All Stars, Ethel, and San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Her interdisciplinary performance works have been presented at venues including The Kitchen (NY), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF), REDCAT (LA), and MCA (Chicago), and her installations have been presented at such exhibition spaces as the Whitney (NY), the Diözesanmuseum (Cologne), and the Krannert (IL). Pamela Z has toured extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Japan. She has performed in numerous festivals including Bang on a Can at Lincoln Center (New York), Interlink (Japan), Other Minds (San Francisco), La Biennale di Venezia (Italy), Dak’Art (Sénégal) and Pina Bausch Tanztheater Festival (Wuppertal, Germany). She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Rome Prize, a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation residency, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Doris Duke Artist Impact Award, Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, an Ars Electronica honorable mention, and the NEA Japan/US Friendship Commission Fellowship. She holds a music degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder.