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Strings

Nick Curry, Associate Professor, Cello, Area Coordinator

Faculty - Nick Curry3

Dr. Nick Curry is the Associate Professor of Cello at the University of North Florida. At UNF, he also serves as the coordinator of scholarships and admissions for the music department and as the area coordinator for strings. He is a founding member of Trio Florida with violinist Simon Shiao and pianist Gary Smart, featuring new compositions as well as timeless classics. In early 2015, he joined fellow Jacksonville musicians Aurica Duca, violinist, and Clinton Dewing, violinist/violist, as founders of the Lawson Ensemble to play and promote chamber music in the region. From 2004-2007, he served as the assistant professor of cello and the cellist in the Rawlins Piano Trio at the University of South Dakota.


He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from The Westminster Schools, where his chamber music coaches included Martha Gerschefski and Allan Sandlin. Nick received his Bachelor of Music, cum laude, from Vanderbilt, where he studied with Grace Mihi Bahng. While at Vanderbilt, he served as Professor Bahng’s teaching assistant and was the recipient of the Jean Keller Heard Award for Excellence in string performance. Nick then served as Hans Jorgen Jensen’s teaching assistant for five years at Northwestern University, earning both his Master and Doctor of Music degrees. He also was the teaching assistant to Professor Jensen at the Meadowmount School of Music for four summers. At Northwestern, Nick performed as soloist with the Northwestern Philharmonic Orchestra and won the Northwestern Chamber Music Competition.

Nick’s chamber training includes master classes with the Emerson String Quartet, the Pacifica String Quartet, and the Blair String Quartet. Private studies also included summers in Canada and Italy studying with Harvey Shapiro of Julliard fame. Nick has played concerts in Austria, France, Italy, England, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Taiwan and Turkey, and throughout the United States. In April of 2006, he performed as a soloist on National Public Radio (USA) Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion on the King Amati (ca. 1538) cello. The performance was heard by over 4,000 people live and by approximately four million on radio and can be found on the Prairie Home Companion website archives.

In the summers of 2012 and 2013, Dr. Curry was visiting faculty at the Meadowmount School of Music and was full-time faculty at the Tennessee Valley Music Festival. In 2016, he joined the faculty of the ARIA International Summer Music Academy. He has presented at national conferences; is a sought after clinician and adjudicator; and active with the Florida Chapter of the American String Teachers Association. His research has been printed in the ASTA journal. In 2017 he founded the first annual Jacksonville Cello Workshop

Contact: (904) 620-3837 - nick.curry@unf.edu

Melissa Barrett, Adjunct Professor, Violin 

Melissa Barratt posing with violin

Melissa Barrett is the Associate Concertmaster of the Jacksonville Symphony. She holds degrees in violin performance from Michigan State University and the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Walter Verdehr and Sylvia Rosenberg. Her chamber music coaches include the Juilliard Quartet, Franco Gulli, Raphael Druian, Gyorgy Sebok, and Gunther Schuller. Prior to her tenure with the Jacksonville Symphony, Melissa spent one season performing in the Savannah Symphony. She was also on the full time faculty at Sam Houston State University for five years, where she performed in the faculty piano trio and the Houston Grand Opera orchestra. She has performed in numerous summer festivals, including Aspen, Boulder, Lake George Opera, Sandpoint, Banff, and Sarasota. Melissa was a member of Chamber music Hilton head for eight seasons, and founded the Lantana Piano trio. As an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Florida, she enjoys mentoring students on violin, chamber music, and orchestral repertoire.

Contact: (904) 620-2961 - m.barrett.119891@unf.edu

Grace Bahng Gavin, Adjunct Professor, Cello 

Grace Gavin posing with cello

Grace Bahng Gavin was a scholarship student of Leonard Rose and Channing Robbins at the Juilliard School where she received her B.M. and M.M. degrees. She was a member of the Blair String Quartet and Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University from 1984-1999. Widely acclaimed in concert performances across the country, she has appeared in recital at the Library of Congress, Kennedy Center, 92nd St. Y in New York, Alice Tully Hall and on National Public Radio and Television. She has been in residence at the Aspen, Marlboro, Sunflower, Sewanee, Buzzard's Bay and the Crested Butte Chamber Music Festivals, the El Paso Pro Musica International Chamber Music Festival, the Sedona Chamber Music Festival, the Highlands/Cashiers Chamber Music Festival, the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, and the St. Barths Music Festival. Ms. Bahng has performed with a wide array of musicians, including: Edgar Meyer, Robert McDuffie, Donald McInnes, Joseph Silverstein, Bela Fleck,Nigel Kennedy, Mark O'connor, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Andrea Bocelli and has played on numerous movie soundtracks.

Contact: (904) 620-2961 - cgavin@bellsouth.net


DJ Cheek, Adjunct Professor, Viola

DJ Cheek posing with a smile


DJ Cheek lives in Jacksonville, Florida, where holds the Principal Viola chair with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Prior to his current appointment, DJ held tutti positions in the Alabama and Harrisburg Symphony Orchestras, and was Principal in the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. In recent seasons, he appeared as guest Principal with the Indianapolis Symphony and as a substitute with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra. A passionate and enthusiastic educator, DJ teaches viola and chamber music at the University of North Florida, mentored young violists at the National Music Festival and will join the faculty of Interlochen this summer. He has appeared at festivals like Music@Menlo, the Perlman Music Program, Lucerne, Sarasota, Olympic and was a frequent participant at Yellow Barn. While studying in Boston, DJ performed as a guest artist with the Borromeo Quartet, with Donald Weilerstein and Kim Kashkashian as part of the Music for Food series, with Boston Symphony Musicians on WGBH radio, and in the prestigious First Monday series at Jordan Hall. DJ holds a master’s degree from New England Conservatory and a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College-Conservatory, where he received the Ernest Hatch Wilkins award for academic excellence. His primary mentors are Kim Kashkashian and Peter Slowik, and DJ has also worked closely with violinist Itzhak Perlman, violists Jessica Bodner and Julianne Lee, cellists Laurence Lesser and Merry Peckham, and pianists Robert Levin and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein.

Contact: (904) 620-2961 - n01440635@unf.edu



Simon Shiao, Associate Professor, Vioin/Viola 

Simon Shiao posing with violin

Dr. Simon Shiao is a versatile performer who holds the distinction of having performed at Carnegie Hall in three different capacities, as a recitalist and with both string quartet and orchestra.

Dr. Shiao has appeared around the world in concert, as well as on broadcasts of CNN's Science and Technology program and on Public Radio's Live on WGBH Radio. Highlights of his performances include concerts at the Museum of Oceanography in Monte Carlo, the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston, and as soloist with the New World Symphony in Miami. He has also appeared at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, A Winter Festival in Jerusalem, and the Heidelberg Schloss Festspiele in Germany. As co-concertmaster of the New World Symphony, Dr. Shiao led that orchestra at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas and John Adams.

Dr. Shiao currently performs with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and with the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra in Wyoming. At the University of North Florida he teaches violin and viola and is the Director of Orchestral Studies. He has adjudicated the Music Teachers' National Association Young Artist Competitions and the UNF String Competition, and has presented lecture-recitals and master classes at numerous universities and conservatories in the U.S., Belize, Taiwan, and China. He is currently the chair of the solo competition for the Florida Chapter of the American String Teachers Association.

Dr. Shiao holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music and Master and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Contact: (904) 620-3835 - sshiao@unf.edu

John Wieland, Adjunct Professor, Bass 

John Wieland posing with a bass

John Wieland has been principal bass for the Jacksonville Symphony since 1989. He is also an Assistant Conductor for the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Prior to joining the Jacksonville Symphony, Mr. Wieland was principal bass of the Virginia and Oklahoma Symphonies, as well as the Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria in Mexico City. For many summers, he was also a member of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra in Boulder Colorado as well as the National Repertory Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Eastern Music Festival.


His bachelor’s degree is from the New School of Music in Philadelphia (now part of Temple University) and included studies with Michael Shahan (Associate Principal Bass/Philadelphia Orchestra) and (the late) William Smith (Assistant Conductor/Keyboard/Philadelphia Orchestra). Additional teachers include Eugene Levinson (Principal/New York Philharmonic) and (the late) H. Stevens Brewster (Principal of the National Symphony).

An avid educator, he has taught students from age three up to the university level. He has held faculty positions at the University of Central Oklahoma, Langston University, Bethune-Cookman University, as well as teaching bass at Stetson University for over sixteen years. Many of Mr. Wieland’s former students now teach all over North and Central America and play professionally around the world. 

Contact: (904) 620-2961 - wielandjohn@gmail.com