Six new members, including a principal horn, have joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as the 2023-24 season begins. They were appointed by Riccardo Muti, now Music Director Emeritus for Life, who participated in final auditions at the end of 2022-23.
The members are Mark Almond, principal horn; Danny Yehun Jin, assistant principal second violin; Justin Vibbard, principal librarian, and three bass players, Ian Hallas (who officially joined the CSO during its 2023 Ravinia residency), Alexander Horton and Andrew Sommer.
Mark Almond, principal horn
Dr. Mark Almond joins the Chicago Symphony Orchestra previously served as associate principal horn of the San Francisco Symphony, co-principal horn of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and third horn of the Philharmonia Orchestra, London.
A native of Bolton, England, Almond began his musical education at the age 9 while playing tenor horn in brass bands. He studied medicine at Cambridge and Oxford universities, and at 19 made his professional debut with the London Symphony Orchestra. He holds a doctorate in virology from Imperial College, London, and worked as a respiratory physician in teaching hospitals before becoming a full-time horn player.
He has appeared as a guest principal with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic orchestras, among others. An active chamber musician, he has performed at the Music@Menlo, Cleveland ChamberFest and Santa Fe Chamber music festivals.
He teaches horn at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts and is a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music, London.
Danny Yehun Jin, assistant principal second violin
Originally from South Korea, Danny Yehun Jin made his debut as a soloist with the Seoul Royal Symphony at age 9. Co-concertmaster of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and concertmaster of the Music Academy of the West Orchestra in 2023, Jin has also recently appeared as a soloist with the Seoul Philharmonic, Suwon Philharmonic and Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
An award-winning violinist, he received fifth prize at the Menuhin Competition Beijing in 2012 and won the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s second Young Artist Competition in 2016. After studying at Korean National University of Arts and the Korean National School for the Gifted in Arts, Jin received his bachelor’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2023 as a Sandra G. and David G. Marshall Fellow. At Curtis, he was a student of Ida Kavafian and Erin Keefe.
Justin Vibbard, principal librarian
Since his 2004 appointment as principal librarian of the Florida West Coast Symphony (now the Sarasota Orchestra), Justin Vibbard has built a distinguished career as an orchestra librarian. He also served as librarian for the Mostly Mozart Music Festival at Lincoln Center from 2007-2014, 2022 and 2023 and provided library services for the Britt Festival, Sarasota Music Festival, Joffrey Ballet, Grant Park Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, National Youth Orchestra, Columbia University and Santa Fe Opera. A respected voice in the field, Vibbard has been a member of the Major Orchestra Librarians Association since 2000; he has served on the MOLA Publications Committee for many years and as a speaker at several annual conferences.
Originally from Clovis, New Mexico, Vibbard pursued a bachelor’s degree in trombone performance at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he became interested in a career as a performance librarian. As an undergraduate, he was mentored by Tim Howe, formerly of the Omaha Symphony. In 2000-2003, he served as the first library fellow for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago under the mentorship of CSO librarians Peter Conover, Carole Keller and Mark Swanson. After the Civic, Vibbard continued his training under Robert Sutherland at the Metropolitan Opera and Robert O’Brien of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Ian Hallas, bass
Ian Hallas has maintained a career as an orchestral musician in the greater Chicago area after first joining the bass section of the Lyric Opera Orchestra in 2016; he was appointed its principal bass in 2019. He was also the principal bass for the 2022 season at Santa Fe Opera. Hallas has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Detroit, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee symphonies, and the Grant Park Orchestra. Hallas was an award-winning fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, recognized with Tanglewood’s prestigious Maurice Schwartz Prize in 2013, and was invited to be a guest chamber musician at Spoleto Festival USA, where he performed with the St. Lawrence Quartet and members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
He has participated in several other summer music programs, including the Aspen Music Festival, Music Academy of the West and the Domaine Forget Summer Music Academy. As an educator, Hallas is on the faculty at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music and maintains a private studio in Chicago’s north suburbs. He also teaches at the National Music Festival and was a teaching assistant at the Double Base Workshop at BUTI.
Hallas earned a bachelor’s degree with distinction in research and creativity from Rice University, where he studied with Paul Ellison, and a master’s degree from the University of Southern California, where he studied with David Moore. He has also been heavily influenced by bassists Chris Hanulik and Todd Seeber and has worked extensively with master luthier Mike Shank.
Alexander Horton, bass
Originally from Tallahassee, Florida, Alexander Horton began his career as an orchestral musician and music educator when he was appointed principal bass of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in 2017. He has also performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Grant Park Orchestra, and received fellowships to the Aspen Music Festival, Marrowstone Music Festival and National Music Festival.
Horton completed his bachelor’s degree at Florida State University, where he studied with Melanie Punter, and completed one year of graduate study at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music as a student of Bruce Bransby before joining the ASO. He has served on the faculties of Auburn University, Samford University, the University of North Alabama and Birmingham-Southern College.
Andrew Sommer, bass
Originally from Atlanta, Andrew Sommer served as principal bass for the Richmond Symphony Orchestra since 2019. He also performed as a substitute for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, including on its 2014 tour to Carnegie Hall, and with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. He spent three summers as a member of the Verbier Festival Orchestra in Verbier, Switzerland, and was a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival, where he performed with the Aspen Chamber Symphony. He also performs with the chamber orchestra Taiwan Connection.
In addition to his orchestral work, Sommer enjoys playing bass in other genres and performed at the 2013 Grammy Awards ceremony with the Grammy Jazz Combo alongside Latin superstar Juanes.
Sommer received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Albert Laszlo. He also studied with Leigh Mesh and Hal Robinson. His jazz mentors include Kevin Bales and John Patitucci. His father, the late Douglas Sommer, was his first mentor and teacher and was a renowned bassist and educator, who was a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for 25 years.