WHO WE ARE
We are a small team of dedicated Professional Musicians and Teaching Artists.
Artistic Director - Basically Beethoven Festival
Since his orchestral debut at age 11, pianist Alex McDonald has soloed with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de Mexico, the Louisiana Philharmonic, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, and the Utah Symphony Orchestra, among others. He has performed across the United States as well as in Israel, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and South Korea; additionally, he has been a featured performer on PBS, WRR, NPR, and WQXR. Awards and fellowships include second prize at the 2007 New Orleans International Piano Competition and second prize at the 2001 Gina Bachauer International Young Artist Piano Competition. In 2008, he was named a Harvey Fellow by the Mustard Seed Foundation. He was a participant in the 2013 Van Cliburn Competition.
Alex currently maintains a private studio, having previously taught at Texas Woman’s University and Richland College, as well as at the Juilliard School, where he also was a Teaching Fellow for both the Literature and Materials and Piano Minor departments. His private piano students have been admitted to Juilliard and Eastman, and have performed at Carnegie’s Weill Hall and on WRR. Deeply concerned about a healthy integration of life with music, he has actively pursued community formation both as an R.A. in the Juilliard residence hall and as president of Juilliard Christian Fellowship.
Alex received his pre-college training under Lois Nielson, his bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory with Academic Honors and Distinction in Performance under Russell Sherman, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Juilliard under Yoheved Kaplinsky and Julian Martin. He has also received significant coaching from Pamela Paul, Stephen Nielson, Sam Wong, John Owings, Tamas Ungar, and especially his mother Marcy McDonald. His doctoral document, a source study on manuscripts and editions for Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor, has been cited in the most recent edition of the sonata by Alfred Publishers, edited by Nancy Bricard.
Artistic Director - Hallam Family Concerts
Praised for her “communicative, emotionally intense expression” (Jerusalem Post) and for “playing exquisitely” (Dallas Morning News), Emily Levin is the Principal Harpist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Bronze Medal Winner of the 9th USA International Harp Competition.
Since joining the DSO at age 24, Emily has also performed as Guest Principal Harp with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Houston Symphony, and regularly appears with the New York Philharmonic. As a soloist, she has performed throughout North America and Europe, in venues including Carnegie Hall (New York), the Kimmel Center (Philadelphia) and Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Rugen, Germany). Working with conductors such as Jaap van Zweden, John Adams, and Gemma New, her concerto appearances include the Ojai Music Festival, the Dallas Symphony, the Jerusalem, Colorado and West Virginia Symphony Orchestras, the Louisiana Philharmonic, and the Lakes Area Music Festival, among others. She is a laureate of Astral Artists. For her debut album, Something Borrowed, the Classical Recording Foundation named her their 2017 Young Artist of the Year.
In 2022 Emily launched GroundWork(s), a project commissioning American composers from each state for harp-centric works. Each piece premieres in the composer’s hometown, celebrating the communities that first supported them. Current projects include a solo harp piece by Michael Ippolito, and chamber works by Reena Esmail, Aaron Holloway Nahum, Angélica Negrón, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate.
In Dallas, Emily is Artistic Director of the Hallam Family Concert series for Fine Arts Chamber Players, a music series that presents chamber concerts free of charge to the general public. She is on faculty at Southern Methodist University and the Young Artist’s Harp Seminar, and in summer 2022 she joined the harp faculty at the Aspen Music Festival.
Emily received her Master of Music degree in 2015 at the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Nancy Allen and she completed undergraduate degrees in Music and History at Indiana University with Susann McDonald. Her honors history thesis discussed the impact of war songs on the French Revolution. She lives in Dallas with her husband, composer Jon Cziner, and their two dogs Charlie and JoJo.
Producing Executive Director
Morgan Vaughan is a professional actress, singer, stage manager, arts administrator, and producer. She was Executive Director of a state-of-the-art local TV station and performance venue for 4 years, and co-founded her own classical theater company and academy with her husband on Long Island, adapting and producing several Equity Shakespeare productions. An accomplished actress, her favorite roles include Margie in Good People, Brooke in Other Desert Cities with Hampton Theatre Company, Lady Macbeth with Round Table Theatre in New York, and Side by Side by Sondheim with the Attic Theater in Los Angeles. For several years, she was an officially sanctioned “Patsy Cline” and performed as Patsy on tours and resident productions of Always, Patsy Cline and A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline. She was the voice for the Wii UDRAW tutorial.
Morgan is the granddaughter of American Art Song Composer John Duke ("Loveliest of Trees", "i carry your heart"), and manages his catalog of 265 arts songs in collaboration with Smith College. She has been deeply involved in Arts Education, either as a theater or musical theater teaching artist, or as an art administrator for more than 15 years. She is a staunch believer that quality arts education is necessary to create empathetic citizens, and that learning the classics (music, theater, or fine art) is the bedrock of most great contemporary art and artists. A native New Yorker, Morgan moved to her husband’s hometown of Dallas in 2021. She is learning to speak Welsh.
Education: M.A. Journalism, The University of Montana; Professional Training: M.F.A. Acting, The Shakespeare Theater Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University (STC Academy); Certificate, Acting Shakespeare, RADA, London. Unions: Actors' Equity Association (AEA); SAG-AFTRA.
Production & Education Manager
Jeff Tullis is a musician, teacher, and arts manager based in Dallas who is equally at home on-stage and backstage. Jeff specializes in booking solo or ensembles, in any genre, for private events and for public concerts.
As production manager for 501(c)(3) non-profit Fine Arts Chamber Players, Jeff produces free chamber music concerts around Dallas featuring other local musicians. A member of the International Society of Bassists and the American Federation of Musicians (Local 72-147), Jeff is an in-demand musician across genres. Jeff regularly records, performs, and tours with singer-songwriter Bomethius (Chicago). Jeff is also principal bass of the Lone Star Wind Orchestra, a Dallas area wind ensemble. Jeff is a Richardson ISD private lesson teacher at J. J. Pearce High School, Lake Highlands High School, and Parkhill Junior High.
Jeff's arrangements and transcriptions have been commissioned by the 4 Strings Attached string quartet, SMU Symphony Orchestra, musicians from the Dallas Opera Orchestra and Dallas Symphony, Flamenco Fever ensemble, and the Jamal Mohamed World Music Ensemble. As a bassist and guitarist, Jeff has performed across Texas, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Denton, Paris, Plano, and San Angelo, as well as internationally in France, Italy, Switzerland, and England. Jeff received a B.M. in music performance from SMU, where he minored in arts management and entrepreneurship.