Founding Board Members

An informal photo of the Montana Youth Symphony Board.

Inspired by and building upon the high level of music education in the State of Montana, our dream is to give outstanding young musicians the opportunity to perform in a youth orchestra of the highest caliber and to provide audiences across the treasure state the opportunity to hear great symphonic music.

Dr. Ilse-Mari Lee


My participation in youth orchestras in my native South Africa was the single most impactful experience of my formative years. It was a joy to be involved in music making at the highest level, surrounded by like-minded peers from diverse backgrounds. I aim to build the same experience for the youth of Montana.

Born in South Africa, Ilse-Mari joined the music department at Montana State University in 1989. Her principal teachers include Barbara van Wyk and Adolph Hallis, (piano); Betty Pack, Raya Garbousova, Gordon Epperson, and Irene Sharp (cello); and Robert Muczynski, Paul Steg, and Jan Bach (composition); Henk Temmingh and Stephanus Zondagh (organ). She holds a bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, master’s degrees in Cello Performance, and in Theory and Composition, from Northern Illinois University, and a Doctorate in Cello Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Arizona. Dr. Lee is active as a concerto soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician, and performs regularly at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Recent performances include performance at the Tippet Rise Arts Center and with the Montana Chamber Music Society, She was awarded the Montana Arts Council Individual Fellowship Award and was selected to perform at the American Cello Congress in Phoenix in 1991. Collaborative performances include performances with the Moscow, Muir and Fry Street string quartets. CD releases include The Duet Album with classical guitarist Stuart Weber, Song of the Cello with pianist Michele Levin, and In Performance at St. Timothy’s with the Muir Quartet. Dr. Lee founded the MSU Cello Ensemble in 1998. The ensemble toured throughout the Northwest, as well as to Italy and Central Europe and China. Active as a composer, Dr. Lee’s compositions have been performed in South Africa, the United States, Canada, Europe, Southeast Asia and in China. In 2002, Dr. Lee premiered her Cello Concerto Mandela with the Billings Symphony. Her film scores for Certain Green, and Forced into Comfort, Fighting for Apology were awarded gold medals at the Park City Film Music Festival. Dr. Lee served and the Director and founding Dean of the Honors College at Montana State.

Gordon J. Johnson

Vice President

During his thirty-five-year tenure as conductor of the Great Falls Symphony, Gordon Johnson has been known for his energetic performances and dynamic leadership. In addition to his responsibilities in Great Falls, Maestro Johnson continues to maintain a busy schedule having guest-conducting orchestras throughout the United States, Canada, England, Japan, Germany, Moldova, and France. Johnson served as the music director of the Glacier Symphony (MT) from 1982 to 1997 and later of the Mesa Symphony (AZ) from 1997 to 2005. He served as the director of orchestras at the Red Lodge Music Festival (MT) from 2006 to 2011. Gordon Johnson has been recognized by the League of American Orchestras. the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and the Carnegie Hall Foundation for his contribution to the musical arts. The State of Minnesota conferred a special commendation to Johnson, on behalf of its citizens, for recognition of his contributions. Johnson was awarded the Governor’s Award for the Arts by Montana Governor Steve Bullock at a ceremony at the State Capitol in Helena in 2016. In addition to the Great Falls Symphony, he was conductor of the Great Falls Youth Orchestra where he was directly involved in the training of future generations of orchestral musicians. During his many years of concertizing Johnson has served as an accompanist to many superb musicians including world-renowned artists Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Midori, Sir James Galway, Evelyn Glennie, and Joshua Bell. Maestro Johnson has been invited to serve on adjudication panels at Arizona State University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Montana, the University of Oregon, Northwestern University, and the Conservatoire Cesar Geoffray, Toulon, France. Gordon J. Johnson is the past president of the Conductors Guild International, an organization dedicated exclusively to the advancement of the art of conducting and to the artistic and professional needs of conductors.

Dr. Adam Collins


I joined the board of the Montana Youth Symphony to be a representative of the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras. Youth orchestra and summer festival experiences were a major reason that I became a professional musician and I'm excited to bring this opportunity to young musicians from Montana.

Adam Collins is a sought-after cellist and teacher who has performed around the world as soloist, chamber recitalist, and orchestral cellist. He has appeared in recitals throughout the United States and Canada, Italy, and South Korea. He has served as principal cellist of the Mobile, Columbus, Pensacola, and Albany Symphony Orchestras, Sinfonia Gulf Coast, and l’Orchestre de la Francophonie. As a chamber musician, Adam has performed on the Master Players Chamber Series and the Busan Maru International Music Festival and at the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy. He is currently the principal cellist of the Missoula Symphony Orchestra and the String Orchestra of the Rockies. Adam is also the president of the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras. Dr. Collins is currently lecturer of cello at the University of Montana in Missoula, MT. In addition to teaching cello students, he teaches courses in music theory and interdisciplinary courses in the University of Montana Davidson Honors College. Adam’s cello students have attended the Aspen Music Festival, the Round Top Festival and Institute, and the Brevard Music Center Festival. His students have also won prizes in statewide and regional competitions, including the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras Young Artist Competition and Music Teachers National Association chamber and solo competitions.

Renée E. Westlake

Board Member

I joined the board of the Montana Youth Symphony to connect music educators in the state with the Montana Youth Symphony. My passion is arts education, and I love the possibilities that MYS brings to this magnificent state.

Renée Westlake is a mentor, consultant, presenter, and author. A public school educator, Dr. Westlake taught all levels of music and retired in 2015 as the Fine Arts Supervisor in Bozeman. She currently mentors young educators, trains administrators and teachers in student leadership development, presents coursework on various aspects of rigor and curriculum, provides consultation, teaches private music lessons, and supervises student teachers. She played in the Bozeman Symphony for many years, was president of the organization, and continues to serve on the Advisory Board. Renée currently serves as president of the Montana Chamber Music Society and oversees one of the organization’s outreach educational programs. She is active as an officer in Delta Kappa Gamma, a teaching honorary dedicated to promoting meaningful and relevant instruction for children of all ages. Dr. Westlake has served on the Governor’s Montana Arts Council as a member of the executive committee, chair of the strategic planning committee, continues to serve as a member of the education committee, participated on numerous grant assessment panels, and assisted with the Poet Laureate and Governor’s Award for the Arts selection committees. She has served as the Northwest Division President of NAfME: The National Association for Music Education as well as the National Executive Board and State President of the Montana Music Educators Association. Renée has received numerous honors, including NAfME’s Lowell Mason Fellow, Global Forum for Education and Learning’s Excellence in Education Award, and the Montana State University Centennial Alumni Award.

Jenanne Solberg

Board Member

Jenanne Solberg, principal viola and keyboard, recently retired following a 34-year career teaching and conducting choirs and orchestras in Billings and Whitefish. She has Bachelor and Masters degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Montana, and has served as principal viola of the Casper, WY, Billings, Bozeman and Glacier Symphonies. Ms. Solberg was recognized by Yale University as 1 of 50 Distinguished Music Educators in America, and in 2021 was selected by the National High School Association as Montana's Outstanding Music Educator. Currently, she is the artistic and founding director of North Valley Music School's Camp Festival Amadeus, remains active on several community boards, serves as organist and music director at All Saints Episcopal Church and is a sought-after adjudicator and guest conductor.

Dr. Jayne Morrow

Board Member

Dr. Jayne Morrow is an accomplished professional with a broad portfolio of technical program and policy development expertise relevant to the priorities in the American and international science community. Jayne has an M.S. and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering, with a specialty in molecular and microbiology. Jayne's career has involved working across stakeholders to foster engagement, create a strategic vision, and build consensus on a range of technical program and public policy areas, including environmental health, public health and safety, and law enforcement. Her career journey has also taken her from leading national science and technology (S&T) strategic policy development as a civil servant in the Executive Office of the President during the Obama Administration to working remotely on science policy in Chinook, Montana! She considers herself fortunate to have had the opportunity to hone skills in fostering common vision, strategic roadmap development, facilitation, active collaboration, and communication across sectors, industries, and stakeholders on numerous critical national issues. Jayne is adept at assessing data needs, knowledge gaps to foster confident decision-making founded on scientific evidence. Her technical research portfolio has enabled measurement assurance in the fields of biological science, complex microbial systems and ecosystems, and natural and engineered environmental systems. Jayne is passionate about women in STEM and fostering a culture of inclusive innovation – creating environments and leadership opportunities to promote teams that thrive and make diversity of thought essential to all innovative efforts. She believes in the people of Montana- the grit, creativity, and perseverance of Montanans is a national asset and foundational to empowering our innovation potential in our home state and around the globe. Jayne is the President of (IBEC) The Integrated Bioscience and Built Environment Consortium) as well as a board member of the Greater Montana Foundation. She lives in Manhattan, Montana.

Ignacio Barrón Viela

Board Member

Ignacio Barrón Viela has been appointed as the new President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Reno Philharmonic in Reno, NV starting October 2022. Before that Barrón Viela worked with the Billings Symphony as Executive Director for almost four years. During his time in Montana, he shaped the future of the organization by developing a new strategic plan to address the Billings Symphony’s vision to become a premier orchestra of a community of its size. He helped to acquire the two largest single gifts in the organization’s 72-year history, a commercial building in Downtown Billings that houses the Billings Symphony office and brings additional revenue from retail tenants and a seven-figure donation to sponsor the Executive Director’s position. During his tenure in Billings, he helped the Billings Symphony to double its net assets to over five million dollars and double the annual operating budget to close to two million dollars.

Barrón Viela is passionate about expanding orchestras’ musical offerings and community engagement programs that focus on the issues and ideas of human relevance across all economic and social groups. He has been very actively building valuable relationships with other businesses and non-profits both locally and across the states of Montana and Wyoming as well as leading joint activities with the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras (MASO).

While living and working in Dusseldorf, Germany, Barrón Viela was involved in managing orchestra tours in Europe with the Heinrich Heine Orchestra. Prior to his career in arts management, he worked seven years as a senior management consultant and project manager for two of the largest private investor owned energy companies in the world. With projects in conventional power plants and renewable energy assets spanning across Europe, Asia, South America, and the U.S., Barrón Viela specialized in operational excellence and performance management, skills that he is eagerly brings to the orchestra field.

Originally from Zaragoza, Spain, Barrón Viela holds a Master of Industrial Engineering degree from the University of Zaragoza and an MBA from USC Marshall School of Business, with an emphasis in arts leadership through the USC Thornton School of Music. In 2019, he was accepted to be one of only twelve orchestra professionals nationwide participating in the League of American Orchestras’ Emerging Leaders Program. In 2020, Barrón Viela was nominated as one of the 40 under forty most successful leaders in Montana and in 2022 he was recognized with the Community Builder award of the year by Downtown Billings Association. When he isn’t playing cello, Barrón Viela enjoys exploring Montana’s great outdoors, running road races, and learning from and engaging with people from all walks of life.

Amelia Sears

Board Member

Amelia R. T. Sears, M.A., M.M.,B.M. is a multi-genre violin and viola instructor, freelance performer, and recording artist. Amelia founded Artwork Music Studio in Missoula in 2015and provides music lessons alongside her husband, Adam Sears. Sheis passionate about supporting others as they define and enact their life goals, which also drew her to the realm of real estate. She is proud to serve her Western Montana community as a Realtor® with Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty.

An active member of the western Montana arts community, Amelia performs with String Orchestra of the Rockies and is frequently featured as a guest artist with the John Floridis band and other incredible local talent. She has performed with Glacier Symphony, Missoula Symphony, Bozeman Symphony, Helena Symphony, River Cities Symphony, Ohio Valley Symphony, and the Festival Amadeus Orchestra where she served as the viola instructor for Camp Festival Amadeus. She has been an adjudicator for the Missoula County Public Schools' District and State Music Festival, and is a current member of MTNA, NAfME, and HFAA. From 2007 to 2018 she was the Production Manager for the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival.

In 2023, Amelia completed a Master of Arts in Music Psychology in Education, Performance and Wellbeing from University of Sheffield, UK. Shealso holds a Master of Music in Violin Performance from Ohio University on a fully funded graduate fellowship and is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda National Honors Society. She earned her Bachelor of Music Business degree at University of Puget Sound. Her longstanding interest in Scandinavian culture led her to apply for the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America adult student instrument loan program in 2018 and was awarded a two-year loan of a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. Amelia and Adam traveled to Norway on honeymoon and enjoyed seeing a piano recital at the home of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg!

Working with artistic teens has been a priority for much of Amelia's life. She has been a counselor for the San Francisco Ballet School and Center Stage Strings Music Camp, now based at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor MI. In 2015 and 2016 she worked as the Workshop Manager for Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival in Bigfork MT, orchestrating the workshop classes and events that showcased Festival Fellowship and Scholarship students. The festival found her sharing the stage with Grammy artist Dweezil Zappa, Kirk Covington, Adam Nitti, Tim Miller, and Kurt Morgan.

In their non-musical time, Amelia and Adam like to garden, work on house projects, and forage for culinary mushrooms. Their dog Bowie prefers frisbee to all other forms of entertainment, although he has been known to curl up in an armchair and drift off to sleep listening to Chopin ballades.

Mario Lopez

Board Member

Born in Caracas, Venezuela and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, Mario Lopez is currently the Executive Director of the Billings Symphony.

He attended the A.W. Dreyfoos High School of the Arts, igniting his passion for music performance on the horn. Mario earned his bachelor’s in music performance at Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music and completed two years of graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. During his studies, Mario attended prestigious summer festivals, including Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute, Eastern Music Festival, American Wind Symphony Orchestra, and Brevard Music Center Summer Institute. One recital away from obtaining his master’s degree, Mario suffered a lip injury that ended his performance career.

After years of soul searching in the corporate world, he knew that the arts had more to offer him and was fortunate to find a new love in Arts Administration.

Prior to his appointment at the Billings Symphony, Mario held positions in the Education and Community Partnerships realm with the Knoxville Symphony and the Sarasota Orchestra.