Dr. Marvin V. Curtis makes history as the first African American to assume the role of Board President, leading the South Bend Symphony Orchestra into its 91st Season. Effective July 1, 2023, the Symphony is thrilled to announce this groundbreaking appointment, recognizing Dr. Curtis for his remarkable contributions as an administrator and influential figure within the South Bend community. With an impressive track record of leadership, Dr. Curtis is poised to propel the organization toward unprecedented success and growth.

“Dr. Curtis is a force. He gets things done and he brings people with him. He’s the perfect person to lead the Symphony into our next 90 years, and I can’t wait to continue working with him,” enthused Symphony Executive Director Justus Zimmerman. “Marvin likes to remark that we’re ‘partners-in-crime,’ and that’s exactly the relationship you want between a board president and the executive.”

Grammy-nominated Music Director Alastair Willis shares, “Marvin is the biggest catalyst for change I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He is admired and respected throughout our community. We are lucky to have him as Board Chair – his long list of impressive South Bend Symphony Orchestra accomplishments is already remarkable. I look forward to working with him.”

“I am proud to be elected President of the Board of the Symphony.” says Dr. Curtis. “I am doubly honored to be the first African American in 91 years to hold this position. I believe it speaks to the commitment to the increased purposeful diversity of the Board, staff, repertoire, and community involvement of our symphony.”

“As we continue our commitment to elevate our presence in our community, making orchestral music in all its forms available and accessible to everyone, I can think of no one better able to lead this charge. Marvin is a champion of orchestral music and this community, and I can’t wait to see where he takes us,” wrote outgoing Board President, Donna Lamberti.

Dr. Curtis has already made significant contributions as a Board Member, spearheading the establishment of the Symphony’s annual Día de los Muertos concert and festival, as well as the creation and reimagining of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day concerts. Dr. Curtis is the Emeritus Dean of the Raclin School of the Arts at Indiana University South Bend and famously composed The City on the Hill, a choral piece premiered during the President Clinton inauguration.

In addition, Susan Ohmer has been elevated to the position of Vice President. Ohmer retired as a distinguished faculty member at the University of Notre Dame where she taught in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre and has served on the Boards of Directors of the South Bend Museum of Art and WNIT, which she also chaired from 2015-2020. Her expertise and community involvement make her a valuable addition to the Symphony’s leadership.

Additionally, the Symphony Board elected three new directors to the board:

Sarah Brown, Litigation Associate, Barnes & Thornburg

Sarah Brown is a dedicated Litigation Associate who has been working at Barnes & Thornburg since November 2020. With expertise in drafting legal documents and effective communication, she excels at engaging with parties and potential class members to find tailored solutions for her clients. Sarah honed her research and writing abilities as a research assistant, specializing in constitutional law. She gained valuable experience as a judicial extern and legal intern, and she is actively involved in volunteer work with the Inmate Legal Assistance Project and the Tenant Assistance Project. Holding a JD from Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Sarah has achieved notable honors and actively participated in the Moot Court Board. Admitted to the bar in Indiana and various federal courts, she brings her expertise to the field of litigation, focusing on appeals and critical motions.

Cindy Gretschmann, Vice President, VantagePoint Financial Group

Cindy Gretschmann is a dedicated financial professional with a strong commitment to helping individuals and families achieve peace of mind in matters of sickness, death, and finances. With a deep understanding of her clients’ priorities, she advocates for their needs and protects what matters most to them. Cindy’s expertise lies in providing comprehensive financial services, including long-term care insurance, life insurance, disability income insurance, college funds, retirement strategies, and personal financial profiles. A graduate of Carleton College and California State University, Fullerton, Cindy brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, she grew up in Huntington Beach, CA, and currently resides in South Bend, IN, where she has been an integral part of the VantagePoint Financial Group since January 2007. Cindy cherishes her loving marriage to Benjamin and finds joy in her role as a mother to William, Margaret, and Katherine.

Cheron Merten, CTFA, Vice President, Director of Compliance, Indiana Trust Wealth Management

Cheron Merten joined Indiana Trust Wealth Management in February of 2022 as Director of Compliance, where she is responsible for overseeing the general compliance efforts for client accounts and providing support in an advisory role to Wealth Advisors, Investment Advisors, and Operations staff regarding day-to-day compliance issues. She also provides support for the company’s Board of Directors and senior management in this regard. Prior to joining Indiana Trust, Cheron worked as the Personal Trust Compliance Officer for a local bank. Cheron received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame in 2007 and 2012, respectively, and holds a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor ™ certification through the American Bankers Association. In her community, Cheron is an active member of the Junior League of South Bend and is a graduate of Leadership South Bend/Mishawaka Class 46, a development program based on the servant leadership model.

On top of all the new Board activity, the Symphony announced the addition of five exceptional musicians, including two new principles, who will contribute to the ensemble’s already storied musical prowess and artistic output.

Nicholas Jeffery, principal viola, is an accomplished violist and dedicated teacher. He holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including a Doctor of Musical Arts. Dr. Jeffery has held notable positions in the Madison Symphony Orchestra and served as Principal Viola of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. His passion for chamber music led him to co-found the Ursa Ensemble in Chicago and collaborate with esteemed groups like the Willy Street Chamber Players and the Heart Strings Ensemble. Committed to education, Dr. Jeffery maintains a studio of private students and has engaged with elementary schools during his time with the Hunt String Quartet. Currently the Assistant Principal of the Kalamazoo Symphony, he eagerly awaits his role as Principal Violist with the South Bend Symphony starting in the 2023-24 Season.

Katherine Deneris, viola, resides in Bloomington, Indiana, where she recently completed her Master of Music in Viola Performance at Indiana University. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, she pursued her undergraduate studies at the University of Utah, majoring in viola performance with a minor in physics. With 16 years of playing experience, Katherine began learning the viola through Utah’s public school music program.

Beyond music, Deneris dedicated 15 years to competitive figure skating and even coached the sport before moving from Utah. Currently, she performs with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra, and she is thrilled to be joining the South Bend Symphony Orchestra this season.

Aviva Hakanoglu, principal second violin, is a dedicated advocate for music and excels as a performer, educator, and community engagement enthusiast. As a member of the Euclid Quartet and a faculty member at Indiana University South Bend, she showcases her exceptional talent. Hakanoglu has collaborated with renowned artists and performed with esteemed ensembles across the country. Her passion for music extends beyond the stage, as she actively organizes events in South Bend, bringing music to the community. Her educational background includes a Doctor of Musical Arts from Stony Brook University, a Master of Music from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Music from Harvard University. Guided by influential mentors, including Jennifer Frautschi, Philip Setzer, Simin Ganatra, the Pacifica Quartet, and the Emerson Quartet, Hakanoglu continues to make a profound impact on the world of music.


Vladimir Gebe, second violin, is based in Chicago and enjoys a remarkable career in performance. With roots in Romania, he began as a full-time member of the Transylvania State Philharmonic, collaborating with renowned orchestras, including the Sibiu, Oradea, and Satu Mare State Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as the Romanian National Youth Orchestra. In the United States, he held a tenured position with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and performed as an associate musician with notable symphonies such as the Phoenix Symphony, Toledo Symphony, Arizona Opera, and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. Vladimir holds degrees from Bowling Green and Arizona State Universities, having been part of prestigious string quartets. In his leisure time, he explores Chicago’s diverse restaurant scene, enjoys hockey, and plays the electric guitar.

Baltimore native Matthew Musachio, second violin, now based in Chicago, is an accomplished violinist and teacher. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, and obtained his Master of Music degree in violin performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts. Musachio’s festival experience includes Interlochen, Green Mountain, National Music, and Red Rocks Winter Institute. As a member of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra, he also performs with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and has played with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. Musachio maintains a private studio for young violinists and teaches at the British International School of South Loop, Chicago.


About the South Bend Symphony Orchestra 

The South Bend Symphony Orchestra lives its mission by engaging the community in exploring orchestral music in all its forms, producing more than 20 mainstage programs serving more than 17,000 attendees annually. As the region’s only professional orchestra, the Symphony is committed to a diversity of sound and a robust arts community in Michiana.