Orchestra/Strings/Double Reeds Faculty
Dr. Mario Chiarello
F. Mario Chiarello is the string bass instructor at Augustana College. He is also the orchestra director at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls and is principal bassist for the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. He is active in the Great Plains Bass Fest as a head clinician and the Sioux Falls Public Schools in-service workshop as a clinician. He holds memberships in the SDMEA and the International Society of Bassists. He received his bachelor of music degree at the Eastman School of Music in Performance, and his M.M.A. in performance and his D.M.A. in performance and pedagogy at the University of Iowa.
Geoff Gunderson teaches applied guitar. He was a founding member and singer/vocalist/songwriter of the band Wakefield, which achieved regional success in the 1980s and opened for ZZ Top, Head East, Gloria Estefan (with the Miami Sound Machine) and others. While in high school, Gunderson began his study of classical guitar at the University of South Dakota through a unique learning program and has continued since. He became an approved teacher of the Suzuki Guitar method, a classical guitar method emphasizing the young student. He currently plays guitar and sings with the Sioux Falls-based band Jukebox Zeroes, which was voted a local best Sioux Falls band in 2007. Geoff is also an active member of the worship team at Central Baptist Church and can be found playing solo classical and pop guitar at various venues.
Cello Instructor/Augustana String Quartet/Student String Quartet
Kathryn Hufnagle is cello instructor and second principal cellist with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestrat. Ms. Hufnagle has performed with the American Academy of Conducting Orchestra, Aspen, the Canton Symphony Orchestra, Mansfield Symphony, New Bedford Symphony, National Repertory Symphony and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. She most recently studied with Stephen Graber and Michael Reynolds. She received her master of music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and her undergraduate degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston.
Violin Instructor/Augustana String Quartet
Justyna Solida Lutow is a violin instructor. She is associate principal second violinist for the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. She performed as soloist with the Illinois Wesleyan Civic Orchestra and the Windy City String Ensemble, and twice with the York Symphony Orchestra. She served as second violinist for the Hunt Quartet and violinist in the Solidar Quintet, with whom she was a semi-finalist in the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. She has performed throughout the United States, Australia, and Europe and has played in master classes given by Rachel Barton Pine, Keith Conant, Sharon Polifrone, Mark Johnson of the Vermeer Quartet, the Pacifica Quartet and David Finkel of the Emerson Quartet. She is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Molendorf Scholarship and a P.A. position of the Graduate Quartet at UW-Madison. She received her master and bachelor of music degrees from University of Wisconsin-Madison as a student of David Perry.
Dr. Karren Melik-Stepanov
Cello Instructor/Chamber String Ensemble
Karren Melik-Stepanov is a cello instructor and directs the Chamber String Ensemble. He has appeared as a recitalist, a soloist and a chamber musician in America, Southern Europe, North Africa, the Baltic Republics and the Caucasian republics. In addition to playing with the leading chamber groups and being a principal of several orchestras in Russia, he was professor of music at the National Conservatory of Music in Baku (former USSR). Many of his former students are now pursuing musical careers in the USA, Spain, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Finland, the Baltic Republics, Israel and Armenia.
Dr. Melik-Stepanov earned his bachelor and master of music degrees with honors and also an Artist’s Diploma in cello performance. He later earned his DMA degrees in cello performance and chamber music from Yerevan National Conservatory of Music, and he counts one of the greatest cellists in cello performance history, Mstislav Rostropovich, as his principal cello teacher.
Dr. Christopher Stanichar
Director of Orchestral Activities/Music History/Conducting
Christopher Stanichar (b. 1969) resides in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and is an active conductor, composer, and educator. He is in his fifth year as Associate Professor and Director Orchestras at Augustana College (Sioux Falls, SD), one of the region’s top-ranked liberal arts colleges, where he conducts the Augustana Orchestra and Augustana College & Community Orchestra. Recognized for his excellence, he was awarded the Jane and Charles Zaloudek Faculty Research Fellowship in 2011. He also conducts the South Dakota Symphony Youth Orchestra (SDSYO), Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra (NISO), and Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra in Minnesota.
Christopher is a popular guest conductor, having conducted some of the finest professional orchestras in Europe, Russia, Mexico, and the United States, including the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra (Russia), Sochi Symphony Orchestra (Russia), Orquesta Sinfónico Juvenil del Estado de Veracruz (Mexico), Everett Symphony Orchestra, and many others.
Christopher earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts in conducting at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he was a student of Gerhard Samuel. He has been selectively chosen as a participant in conducting master classes with some of the finest teaching pedagogues, including Ilya Musin, Daniel Lewis, Ken Keisler, Gerard Schwartz, John Farrer, and Donald Thulean. In 1996 he was awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study conducting in Slovakia, appearing as a guest conductor with many of the greatest orchestras in that country. In 1997 Christopher was appointed Conducting Assistant for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, where was mentored by Maestros Jesús López-Cobos and Erich Kunzel.
Christopher is an active composer and his works have been commissioned and performed throughout the world. You may have heard his original work, Trisagion that was used in the Ric Burns’ PBS documentary, Andy Warhol. More recent projects include a full-length cantata, St. Mark Passion, written for the 150th anniversary of Augustana College as part of a Granskou grant. Another original composition, Variations on Theme by Handel for string orchestra is scheduled to be in the independent film, Dust of War, with a release date in late 2012. TrevCo-Varner Music publishes several of his works for English horn.
In his free time, Christopher’s interests outside of music include Russian icons, foreign languages, biking, and he is an avid pinball player. The most important thing to Christopher is his family. He enjoys making music with his wife, Kristi, and they are blessed four wonderful children, all of whom are active in music.
For more information about Christopher and a catalogue of his compositions, please visit
John Tomkins is bassoon instructor. He serves as principal bassoon of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and Dakota Wind Quintet. He has attended many summer music festivals, including the Conductor’s Retreat at Medowmak, Kent/Blossom Summer Music, the Festival-Institute at Round Top, the National Orchestral Institute, and the Tanglewood Music Center. Ensembles he has performed with include the Sioux Falls Municipal Band, the Cleveland Pops, and the Cleveland Orchestra. He has appeared as a soloist with the Sioux Falls Municipal Band, South Dakota Chamber Orchestra, and the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. He was the soloist for the world premiere of Jeffrey Paul’s Bassoon Concerto with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. He holds a bachelor of music degree summa cum laude from the Ohio State University, and his master of music degree is from the Cleveland Institute of Music. His primary teachers were Christopher Weait, Ronald Phillips and John Clouser.
Harp Instructor/Non-Western Music Instructor
Anna Vorhes teaches harp, non-western music and music appreciation. She has performed with civic symphonies of Aberdeen, Huron, Watertown, Rapid City, Brookings, Fargo and the Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra. She is the principal harpist with the Sioux City Symphony and is a member of the South Dakota Symphony, serving as interim principal and currently as second harpist. She has performed with numerous community, college and secondary school choirs throughout the region.
Ms. Vorhes spent more than a decade as a South Dakota Arts Council touring artist. She is a member of the American Harp Society, is a permanently nationally-certified teacher of music with the Music Teachers National Association, and has served various positions in the local, state and national organization. She organizes a harp ensemble concert every other year, with 25 to 40 harpists participating. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., with majors in music and psychology and a master of music degree in harp performance from the University of Arizona.