La Speranza is a group of string and wind players that bring chamber music performances on period instruments of repertoire spanning from the Baroque to early Romantic eras. Named after the Italian word for “hope”, La Speranza seeks to promote physical and emotional healing through their historically informed performances in Houston communities.
Each of our musicians have made historically informed performance practice (HIPP) a focus of their careers and are active performers in the United States and Europe. We present 3-4 formal concerts a year, as well as several free concerts in local hospitals and community centers.
Thomas Carroll, clarinet
With a sound described as “beautifully warm” (Herald Times) and “sweet and agile” (New York Times), period clarinetist and instrument builder Thomas Carroll performs extensively throughout North America and Europe on historical instruments. He holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory, Indiana University, and The Royal Conservatoire of The Hague, where his major teacher on early clarinets and chalumeaux was Eric Hoeprich.
Internationally, Thomas has performed under such directors as Christophe Coin, Richard Egarr, Philippe Herreweghe, Jos van Immerseel, Allessandro Moccia, and David Stern; and has performed at numerous festivals as an orchestral and chamber musician including Oude Muziek Utrecht, Muziekzomer Gelderland, Young Euro Classic, Festival de Saintes, and Musica Antiqua Brugge in venues ranging from the Kozerthaus in Berlin to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. He has been featured as a concerto soloist with Lyra Baroque, Ensemble ad Libitum, and Grand Harmonie to critical acclaim. In North America, Thomas is the principal clarinetist with Boston-based Grand Harmonie and Houston-based Mercury: The Orchestra Redefined, and frequently collaborates with other early music specialists on the east coast including the Clarion Music and Handel and Haydn Societies and Boston Baroque. He has given faculty chamber recitals and guest lectures and masterclasses on both coasts and at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival. Thomas is currently on the faculty of the Brookline Music School and maintains a private studio.
An interest in instrument mechanics and acoustics has led Thomas to a secondary career as an instrument builder and extensive research into 18th and 19th century wood treatment and seasoning. He studied woodworking and instrument construction with Linda Shortridge, Rob Turner, and Paul Beekhuizen, and builds chalumeaux, baroque, and classical clarinets, and basset instruments for use in historically-informed performance ensembles.
Joanna Becker, violin
Violinist Joanna Becker received her Bachelor’s Degree from Yale College and her Master’s Degree from the Shepherd School at Rice University, where her principle teachers were Sergiu Luca and Ken Goldsmith. She pursued additional studies in performance and musicology at the Mannes College of Music and Hunter College, in New York City. In Houston, she performs regularly with Mercury, the Orchestra Redefined, and the Texas New Music Ensemble, among other orchestral and chamber ensembles. Joanna had the honor of participating in the Da Camera Young Artist Program in 2012. She teaches violin students of all ages in her private studio and at the YES Preparatory School. Before moving to Houston, she played for five years in the New Haven Symphony and was faculty at the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven. She has performed around the United States as well as in Europe and South America.
Nayeon Kim, violin
Nayeon’s career focuses on music from the Renaissance through the early Romantic era with period instruments. She pursued her second Master of Music degree in the Historical Performance program at The Juilliard School studying under Monica Huggett and Cynthia Robert and graduated recently.
Originally from South Korea, Nayeon has received an Artist Diploma as well as a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music under the tutelage of Hyo Kang. While there, she was a graduate fellow for the Yale Baroque Ensemble, performing a wide variety of repertoire from early 17th century Baroque opera to contemporary chamber music in collaboration with New Music New Haven series.
Shortly after graduating with her bachelor’s degree with honors from Seoul National University in South Korea, Nayeon won a position with the Bucheon Philharmonic Orchestra in Korea, where she remained for five years before coming to the United States.
Nayeon has participated in many festivals including Dans les Jardins de William Christie, the Berkeley and Boston Early Music Festivals, the Oregon Bach Festival, Leipzig Bachfest, and the Norfork Chamber Music Festival. She has performed alongside such distinguished musicians as William Christie, Jordi Savall, Masaaki Suzuki, Robert Levin, Nicholas McGegan, Richard Egarr, Monica Huggett, Rachel Podger, and Robert Mealy.
Nadia Lesinska, violin
Bulgarian-born violinist Nadia Lesinska has garnered an exceptional career spanning continents and genres. As a specialist in baroque violin technique, Nadia performs throughout the country, and is a frequent guest with Ars Lyrica Houston, Austin Baroque, Bach Society Houston, Houston Baroque, Mercury Baroque, and Viols of Houston. She can be heard on five commercial recordings, including Handel’s Op.6 Concerti Grossi, Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico, and Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes with Mercury Baroque, Colonna’s Psalmi ad Vesperas with the Houston Chamber Choir, and Ars Lyrica’s GRAMMY-nominated recording of Hasse’s Marc Antonio e Cleopatra. As a modern violinist, Nadia’s credits include the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, Los Angeles Pops Orchestra, and San Juan Capistrano Symphony. An active recitalist and chamber musician, Nadia can be heard throughout the year in her own concert series and as a collaborator with many of Houston’s top musicians. In addition to classical music, Nadia is also a frequent jazz violinist and fiddler. A graduate of Chapman University, Nadia’s teachers included Paul Manaster and Todor Pelev. She received her period performance training from Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute and from studies with Jann Cosart, Marc Destrube, Marilyn McDonald, and Cynthia Roberts. Nadia resides in Houston with her husband, viola da gamba player Jordan Witherspoon.
Yvonne Smith, viola
Based in Houston, Texas, Yvonne Smith performs on modern and historical viola throughout the United States and Canada. She was the recipient of a Project Inclusion fellowship with the Grant Park Orchestra for the 2013 season and has received fellowships at the Aspen and Tanglewood Music Festivals. Yvonne has performed in chamber music ensembles throughout the United States and Canada, including a 2016 residency at the Cedar Valley Chamber Music Festival (Cedar Falls, IA). She was a semifinalist in the Sphinx Competition and she has been a soloist in residence with Dubuque Strings. Additionally, Yvonne has performed with the Berwick Academy and the American Bach Soloists Academy, working with historical performance experts such as Rachel Podger, Adam LaMotte, Eric Hoeprich, Robert Mealy, and Elizabeth Blumenstock. Born in Ames, Iowa, Yvonne began piano lessons with her mother at the age of three and began studying the viola at her elementary school in upstate New York at the age of 9. She earned her Master of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University under the tutelage of Joan DerHovsepian and James Dunham.
Yvonne regularly performs with several period and modern groups, including Bach Society Houston, Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Choral Society. She teaches viola through the Tallowood Academy of Fine Arts, Houston Youth Symphony’s Melody Program, and her own private studio. Yvonne’s 2016-2017 season includes a recital of solo Bach on historical viola, appearances on modern viola in solo performances through DiverseWorks Houston, and performances with La Follia (Austin, TX), Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio, and Mercury: the orchestra redefined (Houston, TX).
Fran Koiner, cello
Francis Koiner is an active performer, teacher, and clinician in the Houston area. Ms. Koiner regularly performs with Mercury, the Orchestra Redefined; Kingwood Chorale and Chamber Orchestra; and also serves as principal cellist with both Clear Lake Symphony and Pasadena Philharmonic. She has also performed with the Houston Gilbert and Sullivan Society and the Symphony of Southeast Texas, among others. Before moving with her husband to Houston, she performed in New York with the Cornell Contemporary Chamber Players, the Cornell Festival Orchestra, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, Tri-Cities Opera, Ithaca Opera, and the Binghamton Philharmonic.
As an instructor at San Jacinto College-Central and in her home studio, as well as teaching in clinics in the Houston area, teaching and sharing her love of the cello hold an important place in Ms. Koiner’s life. She has teacher trained at the Chicago Suzuki Institute, the DFW-WOW Suzuki Institute in Dallas, and the Central Pennsylvania Suzuki Institute. As a Masters student at Rice University, Ms. Koiner instructed non-major cello students. She attended the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine, as the performing and teaching assistant to Marc Johnson of the Vermeer Quartet. Ms. Koiner’s past teachers include Elizabeth Simkin, Desmond Hoebig, Christopher French, and Norman Fischer, and she earned a B.M.,summa cum laude, from Ithaca College in 1999 and an M.M. from Rice University in 2004. She studied at Bowdoin with Steven Doane and Rosemary Elliot of the Eastman School of Music and has performed in master classes for David Ying and the Ying Quartet.
Ms. Koiner splits her time as a musician with her role as a homeschooling mother to her two daughters, 9 and 6.
Andrew Schneider, keyboard
A Houston native, Andrew Schneider is a pianist, harpsichordist, organist, conductor, composer, music copyist, vocal and instrumental coach. He obtained his B.Mus. in composition at Rice University. In 2009, he was a finalist in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Competition. His compositions, including a growing body of music for educational-level ensembles, evince his complete faith in the relevance of traditional musical aesthetics and forms, in the conservative spirit of “reality being infinitely more interesting than fiction.” He thus considers it essential to be a well-informed musical citizen about all aspects of the concert music tradition. Throughout this, he is avidly interested in understanding music intrinsically, rendering it relevant to the present age.
To that end, Andrew considers being an active performer a key part of being an informed composer. Among his most formative influences in the realm of performance has been Thomas Jaber, whose effortless finesse in providing supportive accompaniment has rubbed off well, especially in the art of realizing continuo from figures. Since 2012, Andrew has been playing harpsichord continuo with period instrument ensemble Mercury Houston, including as part of the Texas Early Music Festival since 2014. He has also played Handel’s Messiah with the San Antonio Symphony and the Kingwood Chorale, and Haydn’s Creation with the Woodlands Chorale.
From 2012-16, Andrew served as organist at St. Michael Catholic Church in Houston, and since then has been an active church organist throughout the Houston area. Likewise, he has been a staff accompanist at LSCS-Kingwood since 2014. Recently, Andrew made his music directorial debut in Sweeney Todd and Rita, and his operatic coaching debut in Ariadne auf Naxos. He has also coached the leading role in Die schweigsame Frau for a 2016 Pittsburgh production. In his spare time, Andrew enjoys history, literature, linguistics, cartography, and murder mysteries.