Welcome to the Class of 2023 Kenan Music Scholars! Hailing from across the country, each playing a different instrument, this class of scholars brings an exciting array of talent to the department! We look forward to their studies and performances in their career here at UNC.

Esil Empig, piano
Esil Empig, piano

Esil Empig (piano) is a first-year student from Irvine, California. She was born in San Francisco and started her piano training at 5 years of age. When she was 9 years old, she moved to Southern California where she continued her piano training with Dr. Valentina Gottlieb. Esil has been a winner at numerous competitions including the Music Teachers Association of California Baroque and Contemporary Festivals, the Southern California Junior Bach Festival, as well as the Southwestern Youth Music Festival, where she garnered 1st place in the Classical Complete Works, Open Classical, and Open Baroque Categories from 2015 through 2018. In 2016, she was invited to the prestigious AVANTI International Youth Festival in Riga, Latvia, where she performed throughout Latvia as part of the International Young Talents. That same year, she placed 2nd in the Thirteenth Annual Sejong Music Competition in Chicago. Esil was accepted to the prestigious Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) Pianist Program in 2015. At OCSA, Esil was selected to be a part of the Chamber Music program, Vocal Collaboration program, and was honored to be the pianist for the prestigious Frederick Fennell Wind Studies Program. She was also awarded the Great Promise and Motivation Award by the OCSA piano program faculty. Esil is a student of Clara Yang.

Julia Holoman, soprano
Julia Holoman, soprano

Julia Holoman (voice) is a first-year student from Raleigh, North Carolina. Julia has studied classical voice privately for 5 years; 3 years under Kimberley Bentley. In 2018, Julia placed first in her room at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) State and Regional Conferences. Julia went on to place second among all-female high school classical singers at the National level of the NATS Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Julia has performed with multiple ensembles chosen by audition including being a member and soloist for the NC Governors School West Choir in the summer of 2017, being a member of the NC Music Educators Association’s (NCMEA) High School Honors Chorus for all four years of high school (2015-2018), soloing at the NCMEA Annual Conference in November of 2017, and being a member of the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME) All-National Honors Chorus in Grapevine, TX, in 2016. She is looking forward to performing her first opera role as Publio in UNC Opera’s production of Il Sogno Di Scipione this fall under the direction of Dr. Mark Callahan and will be studying in Dr. Jeanne Fischer’s voice studio.

Matthew Svec, clarinet
Matthew Svec, clarinet

Matthew Svec (clarinet) is a first-year student from Roanoke, Virginia. He has studied under Teresa Hedrick and Dr. Cassandra Hibbard and was engaged in several groups in and around the Roanoke area. Matthew was an active member in the Roanoke Youth Symphony, Winds of the Blue Ridge, the Roanoke Valley Community Band, and Blasmusik Aschheim, e.V. In addition, he has soloed with his youth symphony and community band, performed in the Blue Ridge Music Festival, and substituted as principal clarinet for the Rockbridge Symphony Orchestra. Outside of clarinet, Matthew has played the piano since he was 5, enjoys learning new languages, and has a soft spot for Schubert, Shostakovich, and Messiaen. Matthew is a student of Donald Oehler.

Alex Upton, saxophone
Alex Upton, saxophone

Alex Upton (saxophone) is an alto and soprano saxophonist with a deep interest in jazz performance, history, and pedagogy. Alex has performed with many ensembles in the Piedmont area including the North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra and Greensboro Youth Jazz Ensemble. As a soloist, he has been a featured on multiple occasions at the John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival and at events for the North Carolina State Board of Education. When not performing, Alex enjoys teaching and volunteering his time to help other musicians find their voice. Alex is on faculty at the John Coltrane Jazz Workshop serving as the saxophone masterclass instructor and for the past two years has served as the co-founder and musical director for the Davidson County Chamber Winds.

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