GUEST ARTIST BIOS

Andrew Axelrad, Guest Artist

joined the Glenn Miller Orchestra Immediately after graduating from college. Known as a “ghost band,” performing under the original name of the deceased leader, it presents an average of 300 live shows a year.

After two years of traveling the world performing for thousands, Axelrad joined The Airmen of Note, the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force. It was formed in 1950 to continue the tradition of Major Glenn Miller’s Army Air Corps dance band. Their musical excellence has led to many collaborative performances and recordings with such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan and Doc Severinsen. In 1990, they established the Jazz Heritage Series, featuring the “Note” in concert with legendary icons of jazz. The Jazz Heritage Series is broadcast to millions over National Public Radio. One of the group's recent holiday recordings, "Cool Yule," reached #2 on the Jazz Week jazz chart.

SSG Jan Knutson, Guest Artist

the guitarist has been a member of The U.S. Army Band, Pershing's Own since August 2018. Prior to joining Pershing's Own at the age of 19, he attended the Manhattan School of Music as a student of Rodney Jones. At the age of 15, he recorded his solo CD album, "Out of Nowhere." At the age of 16 he was selected as a Strathmore Artist in Residence and presented several concerts throughout the year and recorded his second album, "Looking Both Ways," featuring guitarist Steve Abshire, bassist Tommy Cecil, and mandolinist Danny Knicely. Knutson has been a featured artist at several jazz festivals including Richmond Folk Festival, True Blue Jazz Festival, Syracuse JazzFest, and Savannah Folk Festival. Knutson is a native of Berwyn Heights, MD, and graduated from the Science and Technology Program at Eleanor Roosevelt High School.

Master Sgt. Laura Knutson, Guest Artist

is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Northern Illinois University. She joined the U.S. Army Strings in 1990 and serves as concertmaster of The U.S. Army Orchester.

She has also served as concertmaster of the Arlington Symphony and assistant concertmaster with the Fairfax Symphony and Annapolis Symphony. As the winner of its Young Artist Competition, Laura has performed solo with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Robert Oppelt, Guest Artist

is Principal Bassist, musician of the NSO. In 1982 he was chosen by Music Director Mstislav Rostropovich to join the NSO's bass section, becoming the orchestra’s youngest member at age 21. He was promoted to Assistant Principal in 1984 and Principal Bass in 1996 under Music Director Leonard Slatkin.

He has appeared as a soloist with the NSO in performances of Mozart’s Per queste bella mano, Paganini's Moses Fantasy, and Koussevitsky's Concerto for Double Bass. Most recently, Mr. Oppelt performed Bottesini’s Grand Duo with Irina Muresanu and the Arlington (VA) Philharmonic. Chamber music collaborations include Yo-Yo Ma, Hilary Hahn, Guarneri String Quartet, and Kennedy Center Chamber Players. He attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and enjoyed summers at Brevard and Tanglewood Music Centers.

In 2007, Mr. Oppelt released a CD entitled The Double Bass -Robert Oppelt and Friends through MSR Classics which features ensemble works with the double bass. The CD was praised by Fanfare Magazine as “superbly executed by a crew of fine musicians.” A follow-up CD (called “Encore!”) was issued in 2019.

Li-Ly Chang, Guest Artist

is a pianist, composer, teacher, and chamber musician. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the National Taiwan University and a Master of Music in Piano & Composition from the University of West Texas. Special graduate studies at The Peabody Conservatory of Music included piano, composition, and chamber music.  Ms. Chang has studied with Sacha Gorodnitzki and Leon Fleisher, among others. Li-Ly Chang has given recitals, lecture-recitals, workshops, and performed concertos in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Currently, she teaches piano, and Music Appreciation at Montgomery College and she has served as Director of the International Young Artist Piano Competition, Washington DC.