On Sunday, July 30, PCM presented its annual Alumni Concert.
The event celebrated musical talent, dedication, a bit of nostalgia, and deep musical connections as former PCM students returned to the stage to perform, reconnect with peers, and reunite with the teachers who played a pivotal role in shaping their musical journeys.
The roots of the Alumni Concert trace back to 2019 when PCM alumna Erica Lee proposed and coordinated the event as a means to foster the strong sense of community and camaraderie among those whose lives were touched by PCM.
“I missed having the regular student recitals and showcases that PCM presented throughout the school year,” Erica said. “They were events where you could hear a variety of students playing different instruments and have a chance to socialize afterwards, so I wanted to organize something that would bring that nostalgia back for the alums.”
A temporary casualty of the pandemic, this was the first year back for the Alumni Concert. For former students, the concert provides the opportunity to revisit memories and showcase their artistic growth. It also serves as a platform for them to connect with each other, rekindle old friendships, and forge new ones.
“I was very excited to come back to perform at PCM, as this was the place that launched the beginning of my operatic journey,” 2010 graduate Meleeah Abkarian said. “It was nice to come back after so many years. I had a fun time performing alongside fellow young alumni.”
Read about these alums and watch their performances below.
Lauren Hoffman, ‘19
Lauren Hoffman studied at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music from eighteen months until the age of nineteen, participating in Young Musicians, recorder ensembles, private flute lessons, flute ensemble, and theory. Her instructors included Rachael Denny, Barbara Mullens-Geier, and Kathryn Eames. She was principal flutist in The Master’s University Orchestra from 2020-2023 where playing film music to picture was a highlight. She recently graduated from The Master’s University with a B.M. in Flute Performance and is currently pursuing a M.M. in Flute Performance from Azusa Pacific University, under the direction of Gary Woodward. In the near future, she hopes to have a private flute studio and play in a professional orchestra.
Frank Watnick, ‘18
Frank Watnick is a second year master’s student in vocal performance at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). He graduated with his B.M. in Vocal Performance from Chapman University, where he performed numerous roles, including Jaquino in Beethoven’s Fidelio, Don Curzio in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Javier in Torroba’s Luisa Fernanda, and Arcadio in Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas. Frank was a finalist in Chapman’s annual Instrumental & Vocal Competition and, upon graduation, performed as Mercury in Buck Ross’s adaptation of Orpheus in the Underworld at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival. At CSUF, he has prepared scene work as Ferrando in Così fan tutte and Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata, performed the role of Sam Kaplan in Kurt Weill’s Street Scene with CSUF’s Opera Theater, and won 3rd place in CSUF’s Music Associates Solo Competition, Vocal Division. Frank recently sang with the Lyric Opera of Orange County’s “L’Opéra Petit: Mostly Mozart” summer scenes program, and with the International Lyric Academy. In September, he begins his first season as a staff singer in the Pacific Chorale. Frank studied voice at PCM with Mariné Ter-Kazaryan.
Katelyn Vahala, ‘14
Praised as a “highly accomplished pianist….with wonderfully rhythmic and robust playing” (New York Concert Review), Katelyn Vahala is a passionate soloist, chamber musician, educator, and arts advocate in the Los Angeles area. She completed her B.M. and M.M. degrees in Piano Performance at USC and is pursuing a DMA in Piano Performance at USC’s Thornton School of Music with Dr. Lucinda Carver and Jeffrey Kahane. Katelyn was named a 2018 Outstanding Graduate at USC, won the 2021 USC Thornton Concert Competition, and won the 2019 Rosalyn Tureck International Bach Competition, where she also won the contemporary music award. As pianist of the Callisto Piano Trio, Katelyn was a prize winner at the 2016 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, where the trio was the youngest ensemble to ever compete in the senior division finals. Since then, the Callisto Trio has toured throughout Holland and Slovakia and has served as Artist-in-Residence at the Da Camera Society in Los Angeles. Katelyn studied piano with Andrew Norman and Dr. Susan Svrcek, as well as chamber music with Andrew Cook. She joined the PCM faculty in 2022.
Meleeah Abkarian, ‘10
Meleeah Abkarian is a Los Angeles-based Soprano. She began training operatically at PCM, and now holds her M.M. in Vocal Performance from California State University, Northridge. In 2019, Meleeah became an honorary member of the Pi Kappa Lamda National Music Honor Society. Meleeah’s performance experience has spanned internationally with the FAVA Opera Program in France, Summer Arts in Germany, and VISI in Vancouver. Meleeah’s inclusion of Armenian songs in her performance repertory has gained her recognition by the Armenian Chronicles, where writer Lara Injeyan expresses that “the clear yet ever present voice of the young Meleeah Abkarian reminds her of what and amazing thing it is to be moved by music.” Meleeah continues her training with PCM faculty member Mariné Ter-Kazaryan as she continues to advance her career as a young artist.
Erica Lee, ‘17
Erica is pursuing a DMA in Piano Performance at USC’s Thornton School of Music where she also earned her B.M. and M.M. under the guidance of Dr. Lucinda Carver and Jeffrey Kahane. She currently serves as a graduate teaching assistant for the Keyboard Studies Department. In tandem with her musical studies, Erica also earned a B.S. in business administration and was honored as a Renaissance Scholar upon graduation. At PCM, Erica studied piano with Dr. Susan Svrcek, was awarded the inaugural Estelle Broussard Schlueter Piano Scholarship, and took top honors at various regional competitions. In 2022, Erica joined PCM’s piano faculty and enjoys a career as a music instructor.
Eddie Zhou, ‘22
Eddie Zhou is currently pursuing a dual degree in Violin Performance and Biological Sciences at Northwestern University, where he studies with Desiree Ruhstrat. He is a member of the Lago Quartet, which was recently awarded an honorable mention in the Dover Quartet Competition. Eddie began his musical studies in the Young Musicians program at PCM, before studying violin with Mary Kelly and Aimeé Kreston. He was a Spotlight semifinalist in 2022 and a prize winner in the state VOCE competition. He has competed in the PCM Chamber Music Competition, the St. Paul String Quartet Competition, and at Fischoff, and attended the Verbier Festival as a member of the junior orchestra.