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Cello Ensemble

The TCU Cello Ensemble draws from solo, chamber music and orchestra performance techniques through a focus on intonation, coordination and balance between voices, communication and projection in settings with and without a conductor.

The ensemble features TCU undergraduate and graduate students from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, China, Korea, Taiwan and the Bahamas.

All cello majors must enroll in the ensemble, and non-cello majors may audition to join.



Since its debut in 2005, the TCU Cello Ensemble has developed a wide repertoire in a variety of styles and settings — with music ranging from Albinoni, Bach and Verdi to Samuel Barber, Dave Brubeck, Scott Joplin and Enrico Mainardi. The ensemble also plays music with soloists by Popper, Dvořák, Samuel Zyman and Vivaldi.

Expanding the repertoire is an important part of the advocacy for this medium. The ensemble presented Tan Dun’s Secret Land and Marlos Nobre’s Canto a Garcia Lorca (U.S. premiere performance), as well as music especially written for the ensemble by Martin Blessinger (Waltz), Blaise Ferrandino (Symphony for Cellos), Robert Garwell (Anxieties of the Heart and Broken Solitude) and Till Meyn (Urban Ragas).

Members get valuable performance experience in concerts on and off campus.



For more information contact
Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbli, director


McCaryn Bourgeois

Master of Music

A native Texan, McCaryn Bourgeois was raised in Austin and began her musical journey at The University of Texas String Project, studying with Mr. Ken Pruitt and Dr. Karla Hamelin. She continued her early training with the Austin Youth Orchestra as the principal cellist for five years, which included performances alongside the Austin Symphony Orchestra. In the spring of 2015, Ms. Bourgeois earned her Bachelor’s of Music Performance degree from Texas Christian University as a Chancellor’s Scholar of Music. She graduated from TCU and the John V. Roach Honors College with Departmental Honors in music and the distinction of Magna Cum Laude.

Ms. Bourgeois has received numerous awards and scholarships for her musicianship and academics across the US. She has had the privilege to play for artists such as Alban Gerhardt, Ralph Kirshbaum, Cynthia Roberts, Fred Sherry and David Ying, among others. During the summer, she has studied at the Summit Music Festival, the Clear Creek Music Festival, Music in the Mountains, the Lev Aronson Legacy Festival and most recently, the Round Top Festival Institute in Round Top, TX.

Ms. Bourgeois resides in Fort Worth and maintains a small private cello studio while also playing with local orchestras such as the San Angelo Symphony and the Dallas Pops Orchestra. She is a Master’s of Music student and Graduate Assistant at Texas Christian University, studying under the instruction of Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbi.


Ran Ke

Artist Diploma

Ran Ke was admitted with honors to the attached Middle School of Tianjin Conservatory of Music and was mentored by Professor Lin Depin. Graduating with distinction, Ke subsequently enrolled in the Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM), where he studied cello under Professor Yu Mingqing. During his college years, he participated in master classes given by Li-Wei Qin, Andres Diaz and Markus Stocker, among others. Ke was privileged to be mentored by the famous cellist Wang Jian in July of 2012, benefitting greatly from his instruction.

Ke joined the China Youth Symphony Orchestra while in college. In 2012, he played in the opening performances of the Menuhin International Violin Competition, an internationally renown competition. In the same year, Ke served as the principal cellist and performed George Handel’s opera, Semele along with the head of the Music Department at Hong Kong Baptist University. The performance was an enormous success and was highly praised by audiences everywhere. In early 2013, Ke continued to play with the China Youth Symphony Orchestra, touring throughout Germany and Austria. While he was in the Philharmonic Society, Ke shared the stage with conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Daniel Harding, Shui Lan, Hu Yongyan and Hu Kun.

Ke is currently an Artist Diploma student at Texas Christian University, studying under Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbi.


Tsun Kwok

Artist Dimploma

Tsun “Emmanuel” Kwok has received several awards for his musicianship including the 1st prize in the Hong Kong Music Festival and the 2nd prize in the National Competition of Asia. He has given solo performances with the Hong Kong Baptist University Orchestra, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Academy Symphony Orchestra and with the Collegium Musicum Hong Kong. As solo and chamber musician, he has played in most of the main concert halls in Hong Kong and has also given over 30 world premiere performances of contemporary music.

As an orchestral cellist, Emmanuel has served as principal cellist with various orchestras such as the Collegium Musicum Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of Lee University (USA), Lee University Chamber Strings, Hong Kong Youth Chinese Orchestra. Most recently, he was the associate principal in the Texas Christian University Symphony Orchestra.

Emmanuel began studying cello at the Hong Kong Music Office at the age of 6. His earliest teachers include Mr. Hung Lap, Ms. Tung Hui Loo, Mr. Artem Konstantinov and Mr. Cheung Ming Yuen. Emmanuel finished his Master of Cello Performance in Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts under Professor Ray Wang before moving to America. In the United States, he has studied under Ms. Annie Camp, Professor Eugene Osadchy and Mr. Ignacy Gaydamovich. Emmanuel is currently an Artist Diploma student at Texas Christian University under the teaching of Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbi.


Nini Liao

Artist Diploma

Shengni Liao is currently an Artist Diploma student at Texas Christian University under the instruction of Dr. Castro-Balbi. Prior to Texas Christian university, she received her Master’s degree in performance from Carnegie Mellon University (School of Music), where she studied with David Premo, Associate Principal cellist Pittsburgh Symphony, as a full scholarship recipient. During her tenure at Carnegie Mellon University she was also awarded the Mary and George Wilkins scholarship for graduate cellist. After completion of her studies at Carnegie Mellon University she was offered a full scholarship to study further at Duquesne University under Adam Liu, Assistant Cellist Pittsburgh Symphony, for an Artist Diploma in cello performance.

Shengni Liao frequently gives recitals and also performs in Orchestras, Baroque ensembles, and chamber groups. In 2014, she won the concerto competition performing Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme” with the Duquesne Symphony Orchestra. She held the position of principal cellist at the Duquesne Symphony orchestra. Ms. Liao, also held the position of principal cellist with the Asian Youth Orchestra in 2012, where she was awarded a scholarship by the Bright Future Charitable Foundation, and performed with world famous British cellist Steven Isserlis. Ms. Liao has played with numerous orchestras such as the Canton symphony orchestra, Erie philharmonic, and Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra. She has participated in many international tours including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, and the United States.


Kathleen Long

Artist Diploma

Kathleen Long is an Artist Diploma student at Texas Christian University under the instruction of Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbi. She holds a Master of Music, Cello Performance, University of Toronto, 2010, studying under Roman Borys of the Gryphon Trio, and a Bachelor of Music with Distinction, Cello Performance, University of Alberta, 2008, studying under Tanya Prochazka.

Kathleen placed First, National Level of the Canadian Music Competition, Strings, 2009 and has been a recipient of numerous scholarships throughout her university years, consistently excelling in both academics and musicianship. She is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. Kathleen was awarded the Yo-Yo Ma Fellowship for Strings and the Harold Carter Memorial Scholarship during her Master of Music studies. As well, she was awarded grants from the Winspear Fund and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. As winner of the Alberta Baroque Concerto Competition and Scholarship, Kathleen was featured as Soloist with the Alberta Baroque Ensemble, 2008, and the University of Alberta Academy Strings, 2007.


Fan Nie

Artist Diploma

Fan was admitted to the Middle School in association with the China Conservatory, studying with Professor Hequn Shen from 2005-2011. During her time there, she served as principal cellist in the Chamber and Symphony Orchestras. After graduating from the Middle School, she was admitted to the Central Conservatory of Music under the instruction of Professor Mingqing Yu. While enrolled at the conservatory, Fan performed with the China Youth Orchestra in many countries, including Austria, Bulgaria and Slovakia. In 2014, Fan went to St. Petersburg to participate in youth cultural performances as a student representative of the Central Conservatory of Music. In the same year, she participated in the European Youth Classical Music Festival in Germany and Switzerland. In addition, she also took part in the Beijing International Baroque Music Festival, Beijing Youth Arts Festival and Beijing International Cello Festival.

In the spring of 2015, Fan received a full scholarship from TCU, allowing her to begin her Artist Diploma in the fall of 2015. She is currently an Artist Dploma student at Texas Christian University, studying with Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbi.


Manuel Papale

Bachelor of Music – Performance

Manuel Papale is currently a freshman at the Texas Christian University School of Music majoring in Cello Performance. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, his family moved to Miami, Florida where he was to receive his music education at Miami Arts Charter School. Under the tutelage of cellist Jason Calloway of the Amernet Quartet, Manuel was featured in leadership positions at a number of youth orchestras and chamber ensembles in South Florida. Additionally, Manuel is a Teaching Artist for the Cello section of El-Systema-inspired Miami Music Project and is an adamant believer of the social power of music, always looking for a place to contribute.

Having graduated from high school in 2016, Manuel now continues his studies under TCU Cello Professor Jesús Castro- Balbi.


Yankai Peng

Artist Diploma

Yankai Peng has been studying the cello for 10 years. In 2011, he was accepted as into the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music and studied under Professor Mingqing Yu. After spending four years at the conservatory, Yankai was accepted into the Artist Diploma program at Texas Christian University. He currently studies with Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbi.


Lutie Rodriguez

Bachelor of Arts – Music

Lutie Rodriguez, originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, is currently a freshman at TCU. She is pursuing a BA in Music and a BA in Writing, and is a member of the John V. Roach Honors College. Lutie began studying cello at the age of 10. Throughout high school, she was the principal cellist of her high school orchestra, a member of the Tulsa Youth Symphony, and a member of the University of Tulsa Symphony her senior year. She was also a two year member of the OkMEA All-State Orchestra and attended the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute for two summers. At TCU, Lutie is a member of the TCU Symphony and the TCU Cello Ensemble. She currently studies under the instruction of Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbi.


Amelia Stroud

Bachelor of Music – Performance

Amelia has studied cello since the age of 5. For the past 4 years she has studied with Amy Levine-Tsang. Amelia has also studied in various capacities with John Walz of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, Blaise Dejardin of the Boston Symphony, Milan Milisavljevic of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Dr. Pasha Sabouri, (Doctoral Graduate from Butler School of Music and Texas Strings Camp Artistic Director), Dr. Michelle Kesler, director of cello at Brigham Young University, and Vincent Frittelli, retired Associate Professor at Butler School of Music.

Amelia has received the highest ratings at both Region UIL Solo-Ensemble competitions and TX State (TSSEC) competitions all four years. As a junior, performing Bach Suite III BWV 1009 Prelude and Sarabande, she earned a special recognition at Texas State Solo/Ensemble competition called the “Outstanding Performance” award. Summer of 2015, at Texas Strings Camp, Amelia received the “Rising Star” award as a top 5 solo finalist competing amongst high school and college aged students from around the country. This past fall, Amelia auditioned and was accepted into Austin Youth Music Ambassadors –ADMTA, judged by Dr. David A Karp of Southern Methodist University.

Amelia is currently a Cello Performance Major at TCU under the instruction of Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbi.


Liqian Zhao

Artist Dploma

Liqian Zhao is currently an Artist Diploma student at Texas Christian University, studying with Dr. Jesús Castro-Balbi. In 2003, she was admitted to the Middle School of the China Conservatory of Music. While, there she studied with Professor Shen Hequn, Principal Cellist of the China National Symphony Orchestra. Liqian took part in the Beijing International Music Camp in 2004 where she won the Best Performance Award. She also attended the American Pennsylvania Conservatory of Music in “the song of music” summer camp in 2005.

Liqian was an orchestra student in the Central Conservatory of Music from 2009-2013. She participated in the Great Wall International Music Summer Camp in 2010 where she performed the Haydn C Major Cello Concerto with string orchestra, winning second place in the Concerto Competition and first place in the String Quartet Competition. In 2011, Liqian became the Principal Cellist of the China Youth Symphony Orchestra. She was accepted and toured with the Asian Youth Orchestra in 2012. That same year, Liqian won a bonus from the Central Conservatory of Music for a research project and held her solo recital “Beethoven Cello Sonata.”

In 2013, Liqian was recommended with full scholarship to the Master’s program at the Central Conservatory of Music. That same year, she represented Central Conservatory of Music at the 9th Gold Bell National Chamber Music Competition, winning third place. By the end of her first graduate year at Central Conservatory of Music, Liqian had received an offer from Texas Christian University to attend with a full scholarship and stipend in 2014, studying under Jesús Castro-Balbi. That’s when she decided to come to the United States to follow her dream of becoming a professional musician. In her first year at TCU, Liqian won the concerto competition and performed the Elgar Cello Concerto with Maestro Germán Gutiérrez and TCU Symphony Orchestra.