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Colorado Symphony Blog

Musician Spotlight: All Together Now

April 15, 2017

Musician Spotlight: All Together Now

Colorado’s one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S., and Denver’s proven itself as a migration destination — and not just for businesses and outdoors enthusiasts. The Colorado Symphony’s roster boasts musicians from all over the world: Ukraine, China, South Korea, and Bulgaria are just a few countries from which our musicians hail.  

Two of our musicians, Assistant Concertmaster Yi Zhou and Violinist Myroslava Ivanchenko-Bartels, took the time to reflect on the life events that brought them to Colorado, and what they enjoy about life here — as performers, parents, partners, and Coloradans. 


Yi Zhao, Assistant Concertmaster: I was born in the city of Zhengzhou, Henan province in China. I always wanted to learn a musical instrument, and I remember I saw Itzhak Perlman playing on TV. Later that night, I used chopsticks to imitate playing the violin on my shoulder. My parents asked me if I wanted to learn the violin, and I said ‘YES!’ without a moment’s hesitation!  

“I started studying the violin when I was 7, and the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing selected me when I was 12.  Afterwards, I got my Bachelor’s at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore. There, I met Professor Cho-Liang Lin, who would become my mentor at Rice University for my graduate degree.

Myroslava Ivanchenko-Bartels, Violin: I was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, to parents who are both professional musicians (a violist and a bassoonist). When I was 6, I asked them to teach me music, so they bought me a piano. I was accepted to Lysenko Music School — but the piano studios were full and they suggested I try violin. I am so glad I did! I studied violin from the age of 7 at the Kyiv Specialized Music School and later the National Music Academy of Ukraine.


Yi: This is my sixth year in the United States. Before I moved to the U.S. for my graduate studies, I had been here a few times for chamber music performances in New York and Baltimore. Knowing there were many talented players, teachers, and opportunities (competitions, prestigious music festivals, master-class series) in the States for musicians, I decided to get my Master of Music at Rice with Mr. Lin, who has inspired me since childhood and even now. I auditioned for the Assistant Concertmaster position in the Colorado Symphony, and, thankfully, was chosen for the job.

Myroslava: I came to the U.S. on an exchange visitor visa in 1998 when I was almost 20 years old to attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas. When I finished my graduate degree, I earned a fellowship spot with Miami’s New World Symphony, where I met my future husband Justin Bartels — Colorado Symphony’s Principal Trumpet. 

We got married and went on to perform in Birmingham, where Justin grew up, and Ohio before coming to Denver in 2008, just before our first daughter was born. I auditioned in 2010 for a section violin spot with Colorado Symphony and was very happy to have gotten in! 

When I came to the U.S., I wasn’t planning on immigrating here, though I always admired America and its people. But one never knows what is in store for them. After a few visa statuses, piles of paperwork, several interviews, and a substantial amount of money I have become a proud U.S. citizen in September 2016.

Everyday Life 

Yi: I have been Assistant Concertmaster with the Symphony for almost three years, and I am still discovering new perspectives on music and even of myself every season. I also find opportunities to perform smaller-scale chamber music and concertos in our community. 

Denver is beautiful. I love the weather, the mountains, and the dynamic nature of the city. I live in the Capitol Hill area and love exploring new restaurants — especially for dim sum and Japanese food.

Myroslava: I really enjoy living in Denver. Outdoors is my favorite place to be and Colorado is the perfect state for that. In fall of 2015, [Justin and I] welcomed our second daughter to the family. Since then, my main hobby is trying to not drop any balls in terms of getting to places on time; preparing for concerts; and keeping the children fed, healthy, and happy.  

Besides my coworkers, I enjoy socializing people in my church, Holy Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral in Globeville. It’s a welcoming group of people and I feel fortunate to have found them.

So many different purposes attract and keep our musicians stateside: better job opportunities, promising higher education, even marriage and family. No matter the reason, the Colorado Symphony is beyond fortunate to have an orchestra of talented, dedicated musicians playing together to make a beautiful, unified sound.