School of Music

Viola Day

Jordan Bak
Guest artist, viola

Award-winning Jamaican-American violist Jordan Bak has achieved international acclaim as a trailblazing artist, praised for his radiant stage presence, dynamic interpretations, and fearless power. Critics have described him as “an exciting new voice in Classical performance” (I Care If You Listen), “a powerhouse musician, with a strong voice and compelling sound” (The Whole Note) and lauded his “haunting lyrical grace” (Gramophone). The recipient of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s ‘Alexandra Jupin’ Award and former Young Classical Artist Trust’s (YCAT) ‘Robey Artist,’ Bak was also a prizewinner in the Sphinx, Lionel Tertis, and Concert Artists Guild Competitions, and has received accolades from ClassicFM, MusicalAmerica, and WQXR.

Bak’s enthusiastically-received sophomore album, Cantabile: Anthems for Viola (Delphian Records), has garnered significant international attention, featuring works by Arnold Bax, Benjamin Britten, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, paired with contemporary compositions by Jonathan Harvey, Bright Sheng, and Augusta Read Thomas. A proud new music advocate, Bak gave the world premieres of Kaija Saariaho’s Du gick, flög for viola and mezzo-soprano, Jessica Meyer’s Excessive Use of Force for solo viola and On fire…no, after you for viola, mezzo-soprano and piano, and Augusta Read Thomas’ Upon Wings of Words for string quartet and soprano. He has additionally championed works by H. Leslie Adams, Esteban Zapata Blanco, Carlos Carillo, Caroline Shaw, and Alvin Singleton.

Bak has appeared as soloist with such orchestras as London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra, London Mozart Players, New York Classical Players, Juilliard Orchestra and Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra among others, and has performed under such esteemed conductors as Howard Griffiths, Stephen Mulligan, Keith Lockhart, Gerard Schwarz, and Ewa Strusińska. As a recitalist and chamber musician, he has been heard at some of the world’s greatest performance venues including Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall, Jordan Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Perelman Theater at The Kimmel Center, Elgar Concert Hall, and Helsinki Musiikkitalo. Bak’s recent performances include recitals at Kravis Center, Wiltshire Music Centre, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Harriman-Jewell Series, Lichfield Festival, and Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.

Lauren Burns Hodges

Lauren Burns Hodges, "a distinguished violist with a refined, mellow tone" (American Record Guide), is currently Associate Professor of Viola at the University of Florida where she also coordinates and teaches Music Appreciation classes.

For six years prior, she was Lecturer in Viola at Valdosta State University, Principal Viola of the Valdosta Symphony, violist of the Azalea String Quartet, and Director of the South Georgia String Project. She has performed and taught abroad in Italy, Austria, and France and recently presented recitals, masterclasses, and a body awareness workshop in Shanghai and WuHan, China. She has given masterclasses, clinics, and performances at universities and music schools throughout the country, including Illinois State University, Western Illinois University, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Georgia, the University of South Carolina and at Viola Day events in Morgantown (WV), Birmingham (AL), Valdosta (GA), Atlanta (GA) and Miami (FL). Dr. Hodges has twice been invited to teach masterclasses at the Primrose International Viola Competition and Festival held at the Colburn School, and she has presented at national AVS festivals in Oberlin (OH) and Knoxville (TN). Passionate about promoting the viola and engaging with the community, she hosts an annual viola day at UF and serves as a board member-at-large for the American Viola Society. Originally from South Carolina, Lauren studied at the University of South Carolina, Peabody Conservatory, and the University of Alabama.

Janna Lower

Janna Lower is Professor of Violin and Head of the String Area at the University of Florida.   Throughout 35 years of teaching, she has influenced and inspired hundreds of students of all ages; she has given masterclasses throughout the U.S as well as in Austria, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Canada. 

She has received accolades on three continents for her performances, with appearances throughout Europe and North and South America as recitalist, chamber musician, and concerto soloist.   Her broad and diverse performing career has included many world premieres, chamber music with internationally renowned musicians, concerto appearances from the far south of Chile to the far north of Canada, and tours with Andrea Bocelli in stadiums filled with 25,000 fans.  She was appointed concertmaster of the Charlotte (NC) Symphony Orchestra for a season, leading the orchestra in 68 performances and appearing as concerto soloist in their Mostly Mozart Series.  She holds two degrees from The Juilliard School and the DMA from the University of Michigan.

Peijun "June" Xu

Born in Shanghai, China, Peijun started her musical education at the age of four by taking violin lessons from Ms. Yao Shimei, a first violin member retired from Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

In 2018, Peijun earned a master’s degree of Music Education (M.M. Instrumental Emphasis) from Azusa Pacific University (APU) under the guidance of Dr. John Burdett.

With attending violin and viola classes from the studio of Dr. Alex Russell, Peijun received the first Artist Certificate in Combined Violin and Viola Performance in APU’s history and Artist Certificate in Viola Performance in 2022. She was also the principal viola of APU Symphony Orchestra.

Since Fall 2022, Peijun became the first DMA candidate in Viola Performance with a full scholarship and an appointed graduate assistantship position at the University of Florida.

In Summer 2020, Peijun was awarded the Apprenticeship position in viola for the MasterWorks Festival 2020 Program, which is regarded as “the most well-qualified and responsible applicants with significant education, performance and leadership experience.”

During the MasterWorks Festival 2020, under the tutelage of Ms. Lisa Boyko, a violist member of the Cleveland Orchestra, Peijun was selected to perform Dvorak Piano Quintet in A Major for a masterclass lectured by Ken-David Masur, the world-renowned conductor.

In Spring 2021, Peijun won the only one 1st Place of Viola, Group G (age 23 and up), at the King’s Peak International Music Competition, two 1st Prize at the Charleston International Music Competition (age 25 and up). In Spring 2022, Peijun received the Award as the 3rd Place Winner at the American Prize in Instrumental Performance, 2022 (college/university division)

As a co-founder of MAP (a non-profit organization named MARKER AND PIONEER International Culture Exchange Center), Peijun is the executive director of MAP International Music Competition, which received 1100 preliminary round applications and 692 selected finalists represented over 66 countries from the global area.

Michael Knowles
Alexander Pershounin

Dr. Alexander Pershounin has performed extensively throughout Europe and United States in both jazz and classical settings, and has been featured as a performer, arranger, and composer on such internationally recognized music events as Montreaux Jazz Festival in

Switzerland, Pori Jazz Festival in Finland, Europe’s Jazz Contest in Belgium, and New Orleans Jazz Fest, among many others. His performing credits include collaboration projects and appearances with world-class artists ranging from Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Bob Berg and Ray Charles to Itzhac Perlman and Yo Yo Ma.

He also has recorded several commercially released albums as a soloist and
ensemble musician. Dr. Pershounin holds music degrees from Russia’s most
prestigious music institution, Gnessins' State Academy of Music in Moscow, as well as
DMA and MFA degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Starting in the fall of 2024, Dr. Pershounin has joined the music faculty at
University of Florida School of Music, teaching classical, jazz, and commercial double
bass and bass guitar studio. Prior to UF he taught at the University of Northern Iowa,
Columbus State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Westfield State
College, and various music institutions in Russia. His students won national and
international competitions, were accepted to prestigious music institutions, and
successfully developed their own professional music careers.

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