The core members of the And Friends Ensemble consist of performers and teachers from Illinois.


Christine Cicha


Christine Cicha is a Kansas City native who has been transplanted to Central Illinois. She was the principal cellist in the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, is a substitute musician for the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and other regional orchestras, and has performed with the Midwest Institute of Opera. Before moving to Illinois she played with the Kansas City Civic Orchestra, the Mississippi Valley Orchestra (MN), Bloomington Civic Theater (MN), the Theater in the Park (KS), as well as pit orchestras for the operas at the University of Minnesota. Ms. Cicha has also been a member of the Oskaloosa (IA) Chamber Music Festival and has performed at the Kansas City Fringe Festival. Ms. Cicha is starting her seventh year teaching a private studio and she previously taught with the Illinois State University String Project. She received her Bachelor of Music in performance from the University of Minnesota and her Masters of Music in performance from Illinois State University. She has studied under Dr. Adriana Ransom (Illinois State University), Tanya Remenikova (University of Minnesota), and Lawrence Figg (of the Kansas City Symphony).


douglas temples


Douglas Temples is a South Carolina native currently living in Central Illinois. As a chamber musician, he has performed at the Spoletto Music Festival, the Madeline Island Chamber Music Festival, The American Viola Society Festival, and the Southeastern Composers Symposium. During the upcoming season he will be performing with Sinfonia Da Camera and the Illinois Symphony. As an avid champion of new music, Douglas has performed with the Durward Contemporary Music Ensemble, the University of Tennessee Contemporary Music Ensemble, and on the Illinois State University Music Factory and Red Note concert series. He has premiered works by Laura Schwendinger, Ellen Reid, and others. While working on his Master’s at Illinois State, Douglas along with two colleagues presented and performed at the American Viola Society Festival in Los Angeles.

Douglas began his musical studies on piano but later switched his focus to the viola. He completed a Master’s degree in viola performance with a secondary emphasis on orchestral conducting at Illinois State University where he was a graduate teaching assistant studying with Dr. Kate Lewis (viola) and Dr. Glenn Block (conducting). He graduated with honors from the University of Tennessee where he studied with Hillary Herndon. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Outstanding Graduate of the School of Music, an award based on academic excellence and career promise. He has served as principal viola for Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, The University of Tennessee Symphony, Opera, and Chamber orchestras as well as for the Marble City Opera Company and the Clarence Brown Theater Pit Orchestra. He has also performed with the Johnson City Symphony, Peoria Symphony, Champaign-Urbana Symphony, Champaign BACH Society, and the Midwest Opera Institute.


Aaron gomez

Composer in residence

Aaron Gomez, a San Antonio native, attended the University of Texas at San Antonio where he received his Bachelor's degree in Music Composition. Gomez studied under Dr. Ethan Wickman, Dr. James Balentine, and Professor James Syler. In Conjuction with his studies in composition, Gomez began to study conducting with Maestro Terence Frazor and was mentored by Dr. Eugene Dowdy, former Director of Orchestras at UTSA.

After graduating from UTSA, Gomez decided to continue his education at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. Gomez is currently enrolled at Illinois State University receiving a Master's degree in music composition, and a Master's degree in Orchestral Conducting. Under the tutelage of Dr. Martha Horst, Dr. Roger Zare, and Dr. Roy Magnuson, Gomez finished his composition degree in the spring of 2019 and will be finishing his conducting degree in the spring of 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Glenn Block.

As a composer, Gomez was awarded the Reed Holmes Composition Award in the spring of 2015 by the UTSA Department of Music. Additionally, Gomez was the winner of the Texas Orchestra Directors Association Composition Competition in the summer of 2017. Gomez has had readings and performances of his works by ensembles like the UTSA Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Dal Niente, the ISU Concert Choir, Opus '17 Quartet, ...and friends ensemble, among others.

As a conductor, Gomez has rehearsed and conducted both large and small orchestral ensembles performing works by composers including Tchaikovsky, Saint-Säens, Brahms, Stravisnky, Bizet, Gomez, Beethoven, Dvořák, and Mozart.

Gomez has been playing the cello since he was nine years old and has studied under cellists Ken Freudigman, Lachezar Kostov, Dan Zollars, Ryan Murphy and Adriana Ransom. Gomez has performed in various orchestras and ensembles in Texas and Illinois including The Orchestra of the Incarnate Word, Symphony Viva, Opus '17 , the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, the Illinois Valey Symphony Orchestra, the "...and friends" chamber ensemble, and the San Antonio Chinese Orchestra.


Katie Joy Heise

Katie Joy Heise began her study of the violin at age 6 at the Wheaton College Suzuki Program where she studied private lessons and chamber and orchestral music. She was invited to perform with Vivaldi Strings of Wheaton College, and Chicago Consort of Western Springs School of Talent Education, both invitation-only groups that toured nationally. During her high school and college years, Ms. Heise participated in several acclaimed music festivals and chamber music programs across the United States and Europe. She competed in the statewide ILMEA competition and was an awarded a position in the elite All State Honors Orchestra, distinguishing the very top high school aged musicians in the state of Illinois. She was also a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, reputable for being among the top four youth orchestras in the nation. This opportunity led her to work with several CSO musicians and perform in Carnegie Hall, New York, and Symphony Center, Chicago. Ms. Heise continued her studies at the Chicago College for Perming Arts, Roosevelt University (2009), where she earned her bachelors in Music Performance. Her studies there led her to work with Teresa Fream, Cyrus Forough, Robert Chen, and Dr. David Schrader. During her collegiate years, she also worked with Keng-Young Seng, Dr. Stephen Clapp. Dr. Lee Joiner, and Hagai Shaham. Ms. Heise went on to study with Blaise Mangiere at Northern Illinois University, where she earned her Masters degree in performance with an emphasis on violin pedagogy (2013), and a Performance Certificate (2015).

Ms. Heise has served as adjudicator for the ILMEA district competitions for the past 6 years, and appears as a guest artist for schools in DuPaige County. Her students have won principal and concertmaster positions in their school and youth orchestras, have been members of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, performed with ILMEA Allstate Honors Orchestras, and are recognized top tier performers in the school solo and ensemble competitions.

Ms. Heise has performed regularly with numerous orchestras across the Midwest, including the Illinois Symphony, Illinois Chamber Orchestra, Northwest Indiana, Midland Symphony, Peoria Symphony, Southern Illinois Symphony, and Southern Illinois Music Festival. Ms. Heise has taught privately for over 15 year, holds a studio of 50 violin and viola students out of both her own private studio and Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, IL.


Kelsey Klopfenstein

Expressed as having finesse and a lyrical tone, Kelsey Klopfenstein is an emerging soloist and chamber violinist, both in the classical and jazz traditions. Ms. Klopfenstein is a recent graduate of Illinois State University where she held the Graduate Violin Assistantship under Dr. Sarah Gentry. Awarded a Masters of Music in Performance from ISU, Ms. Klopfenstein also holds a Bachelor of Music in Performance degree from Bradley University (2012), where she was the Presser Scholar (2011-2012). She has studied with award winning violinists such as Dr. Scott Conklin (University of Iowa), Marcia Henry Liebenow (Bradley University), and Elizabeth Rust (formerly of the Western Illinois University). Conducting has always been a passion for Ms. Klopfenstein who began studying privately as an undergraduate with Brian Dollinger (Muscatine Symphony Orchestra) and furthered her skills at summer festivals with pedagogues such as Donald Portnoy (University of South Carolina) and Apo Hsu (Bard College). Ms. Klopfenstein, a dedicated teacher, volunteered for a year at L’ecole Musique Sainte Trinite in Port-au-Prince, Haiti as a violin teacher, orchestra conductor, and theory tutor. This marks her twelfth year of private violin teaching. Besides music, Ms. Klopfenstein enjoys biking, eating chocolate, Harry Potter, and hot summer days.


Mark wirbisky

Violist Mark Wirbisky is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and Illinois State University, and plays in many orchestras in central Illinois. While at Gustavus Adolphus College, he studied with Jonathan Magness and Kenneth Freed of the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as Dr. Warren Friesen. While a graduate student at Illinois State University, Mark studied the viola with Dr. Katherine J. Lewis. He can be found playing with orchestras such as Sinfonia Da Camera, Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra, Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. When he is not playing the viola, Mark can be found running the Constitution Trail in Bloomington-Normal.