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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Rebecca Albers wins Minnesota Orchestra Principal Viola position

Natsuki Kumagai and Ben Odhner join the Orchestra after winning positions in the second violin section


Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra announced today that violist Rebecca Albers has won the position of principal viola, and violinists Natsuki Kumagai and Ben Odhner have won positions in the second violin section, all following extensive auditions. These three individuals will begin their new

Rebecca Albers originally joined the Minnesota Orchestra as assistant principal viola in 2010. With her appointment to the principal viola position, she takes on a role which has been held by Thomas Turner for 23 years. Turner will not be leaving the Orchestra, but has made a decision to move from his titled chair into the core of the viola section, offering an opportunity for new leadership of the section.

“I’d like to offer my great thanks to our outstanding colleague Tom Turner for his strong and dedicated leadership of the violas over the last two decades,” said Music Director Osmo Vänskä. “I am happy that lineage of leadership will now continue seamlessly with Becca Albers in the principal’s role and this close-knit section can remain as cohesive as ever.”

Violinists Natsuki Kumagai and Ben Odhner will join the Minnesota Orchestra in September filling two seats in the second violin section. Kumagai comes to Minnesota following her second year as a fellow in the New World Symphony and Odhner joins the Orchestra after three seasons with the Colorado Symphony.   

Profile: Rebecca Albers
“I feel extremely fortunate to have spent the past seven years performing with and learning from my incredible colleagues in the Minnesota Orchestra. When I moved to Minnesota in 2009, I could not have anticipated loving life in the Twin Cities as much as I do today,” said Albers, who is well-known in the Twin Cities for her performances with both the Minnesota Orchestra and the chamber ensemble Accordo. “As I take on this new role in the viola section, I'm grateful to my colleagues and Osmo for their trust in granting me this opportunity, and to the community for its never-ending support of this great Orchestra.”

Albers has performed throughout the United States, Asia and Europe, making her New York debut at Lincoln Center, performing the New York premiere of Samuel Adler’s Viola Concerto with the Juilliard Orchestra. An avid chamber musician, she performs often at such festivals as the Marlboro Music Festival, Seattle Chamber Music Society Summer and Winter Festivals, and Rome Chamber Music Festival. She is a member of Accordo, a Twin Cities-based chamber ensemble whose members are present and former principal players from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra. She has toured extensively with Musicians from Marlboro and with the Albers Trio, an ensemble formed with her sisters Laura and Julie Albers. She has been featured on many of the Orchestra’s chamber concerts, performing music by Schumann, Beethoven, Dvořák and Schubert.

Albers is currently a studio instructor at Macalester College in Saint Paul and a Distinguished Artist faculty member at Mercer University’s Robert McDuffie Center for Strings in Macon, Georgia. She has also recently served on the faculty of the Bowdoin International Music Festival.  

Originally from Longmont, Colorado, Albers grew up playing violin and harp, picking up the viola at nine for an ensemble her mother, a Suzuki teacher, was putting together. Her sister Julie Albers and wife Maiya Papach are, respectively, the principal cellist and principal violist of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Albers received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School, where she studied with Heidi Castleman and Hsin-Yun Huang. Her childhood teachers were James Maurer and Ellie Albers LeRoux.

Profile: Natsuki Kumagai
Born and raised in Chicago, Natsuki Kumagai has served in numerous concertmaster positions at orchestras including the New World Symphony, New York String Orchestra Seminar, and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, where she was awarded the Jules C. Reiner Violin Prize. She was also a member of the Verbier Festival Orchestra. She is an active chamber musician, winning prizes at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Saint Paul Chamber Music Competition and Society of American Musicians Competition. She was a member of the New Fromm Players, the quartet-in-residence for contemporary music at the Tanglewood Institute, performing world and U.S. premieres of works by world-renowned composers Marc Neikrug and Joseph Phibbs.

Kumagai attended the New England Conservatory in Boston, where she studied with Boston Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster Malcolm Lowe. Her previous teachers include Almita and Roland Vamos and Marko Dreher at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy program. She received her master's degree at the Juilliard School studying with Ida Kavafian and was the recipient of the H. & E. Kivekas Scholarship and the Irene Diamond Graduate Fellowship.

Profile: Ben Odhner
Ben Odhner won a section violin position with the Colorado Symphony in 2014 and has held the position of fixed 4th chair in the first violin section since 2015. He has appeared as a soloist with the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, Ashland Symphony, Warminster Symphony Orchestra and other ensembles. In 2008 and 2009, he was selected to participate in the New York String Orchestra Seminar at Carnegie Hall. A fellowship recipient at the Aspen Music Festival and School, he has been concertmaster of the Aspen Sinfonia and the Aspen Concert Orchestra. He was also a member of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, which performed at Carnegie Hall in April 2009 as a part of the first international classical music summit brought together through the internet.

Odhner started his violin studies at age five in Michigan. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and his master’s degree at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, studying with Paul Kantor. He has been featured on NPR’s From the Top as part of the Gray Charitable Trust Piano Trio and appears frequently in concert at the Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. Throughout his studies, he received generous scholarship funding from the D.R. Starling Foundation.


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