About Us

Founders & Directors of BRAVO

Roman Mekinulov


Roman is a native of Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Russia, and is the principal cellist of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. After emigrating to the United States in 1989, Mr. Mekinulov studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, where he completed his bachelor and master degrees. While at Juilliard, he performed as a principal cellist with the Juilliard Symphony and Orchestra under the direction of Kurt Masur, Hugh Wolf, and Leonard Slatkin. Since 1995 Mr. Mekinulov has been repeatedly invited to substitute in the New York Philharmonic in concert, as well as in recordings for Teldec. He has been principal cellist of the North Carolina University Orchestra on their European tour, with the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra in Germany, and with Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de São Paulo. As an active recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist, Roman Mekinulov has performed extensively throughout the United States, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Germany, France, Greece, Denmark, and Switzerland, as well as his native Russia. He lives in Buffalo with his wife, Sebnem, a lyric soprano, and their two children, Talia and Benjamin.

Mary Handley


Mary is a respected pedagogue and pianist, and has appeared as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington DC, Buffalo Philharmonic, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, St. Catharines Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, Sacramento Symphony, Vallejo Symphony Orchestra, and San Francisco State Orchestra, and in numerous solo and chamber music recitals in United States and Canada.  Ms. Handley holds the ARCT degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, and a BM and MA in piano performance.  She was on the Piano Faculty of San Francisco State University for 20 years and while there developed a Graduate Piano Pedagogy Training Program and Piano Preparatory Department.  She also was producer of many concerts and music workshops in California. Ms. Handley is Executive Director of BRAVO WORKSHOP, an Examiner for the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, and produces several annual figure skating events for Chautauqua Ice of Jamestown, and U.S. Figure Skating. 

Andrea Cone


A member of the violin section of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Andrea Blanchard Cone frequently performs chamber music with her friends and colleagues from the BPO in series including Roycroft Festival, Buffalo Chamber Players and at Canisius College in their Informally Formal Chamber Music series. Andrea was an adjunct faculty member at University of Buffalo for many years where she was the second violinist with the Westwood String Quartet. She has been a soloist with the BPO, performing works of Sarasate, Mozart, Svendson and Saint-Saens. A member and frequent soloist with Ars Nova, Andrea had many opportunities to to perform with the group in their well known Viva Vivaldi Festival. Andrea is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where she studied with Sylvia Rosenberg. While she was still a student there, she was offered a part-time contract with the Rochester Philharmonic, then under the direction of David Zinman. Shortly after graduating, Andrea joined the BPO, where she met her husband, Doug Cone, also a violinist in the BPO. They live in Williamsville with their two children, Drew and Matt.

Derek Chazen


Derek Chazen is the Orchestra Director at Amherst Central High School. He graduated from the State University of New York at Fredonia in December 2013, and began teaching Strings in the Williamsville Central School District in January 2014. Mr. Chazen taught Strings at Smallwood Drive School and Windermere Boulevard School, where he was fortunate to be a member of such an outstandingly supportive and wonderfully diverse school community. In addition to his teaching in the Amherst Central School District, Derek also maintains a private studio of viola students. His private students have been accepted into the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra, ECMEA All-County Orchestras, and NYSSMA Area All-State and Conference All-State Orchestras. As a violist, Mr. Chazen frequently performs with many ensembles at various venues throughout Western New York. Aside from his devotion to teaching and performing music, Mr. Chazen is also deeply invested in international/multicultural interests throughout the area. Having spent significant time studying, performing, and tutoring abroad, Mr. Chazen enjoys working on local projects in many capacities with students and families from other countries. Such efforts include teaching English as a New Language classes during the summer, placing exchange students with local host families, and translating for students who speak Mandarin. In Mr. Chazen's spare time, he enjoys walking, traveling, attending concerts, and trying new kinds of food and tea.  

Xiaofan Liu


29 year old violinist Xiaofan Liu is establishing himself as one of young generation’s most sought-after and musicians. Praised by the Berlin Philharmonic String Quartet as a “very tasteful young musician”, Xiaofan is the recipient of the Jules C. Reiner Violin prize from the Tanglewood Music Center and Boston Symphony Orchestra, and he had performed under the baton of world-renowned conductors, including Maestro Andris Nelsons, Christoph Von Dohnanyi, and Hugh Wolff.

As an avid chamber musician and soloist, Xiaofan has appeared at numerous venues, such as Seiji Ozawa Hall and Koussevitzky Music Shed in Lenox, Carnegie Hall Stern auditorium in New York, National Concert Hall and Opera House in Taiwan, Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Jordan Hall in Boston, and Kennedy Center in Washington DC where Xiaofan was invited by the White House in 2015 to perform with cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, in celebration of Maestro Seiji Ozawa’s lifetime achievements. At the Tanglewood Music Center, Xiaofan received the Seiji Ozawa Fellowship in 2016 and was appointed as the concertmaster in The Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert. In the following year, He was appointed by the Boston mphony orchestra members and the Fromm Foundation as the leading violinist of the New Fromm players, an ensemble dedicated to New Music. He had also performed before great mentors, including Maxim Vengerov, Midori Goto, Martha Katz, Mihaela Martin, Nobuko Imai, Pamela Frank and Norman Fischer. Recently, Xiaofan was invited by choreographer Mark Morris to join the Silk Road Ensemble and Mark Morris Dance Company in their national tour of the production, Layla and Majnun. Performances took places at Lincoln Stage in New York City, Harris Theater in Chicago, and Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  A native of China, Xiaofan is a prize winner at the China National Violin Competition. He began his violin studies at the Central Conservatory in Beijing before moving to California to attend Idyllwild Arts Academy when he was 14. He then received his Bachelor's degree at New England Conservatory, Xiaofan also studied at the Yale School of Music under the guidance of Hyo Kang, and he is currently acting second concertmaster with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, appointed by Maestro JoAnn Falletta.  

Sandy Paddock


Sandra holds Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Fine Arts and Humanities degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She has been a music educator for 30 years and has been an Orchestra Director in the Kenmore-Tonawanda, Orchard Park, and West Seneca School Districts. Sandra currently teaches group violin classes part-time at Mill Middle School in Williamsville, as well as private violin and viola lessons from her home studio. Sandra is a member of the Amherst, Cheektowaga, and Southern Tier Symphonies. For eight years she served on the Amherst Symphony Orchestra Association Board as Coordinator of their Outreach School Program. Since 2019 Sandra has been an Assistant Faculty Member of the BRAVO Workshop. Ms. Paddock also performs in various chamber ensembles throughout Western New York. When not playing her violin or teaching, Sandra likes to read, bike-ride and attend concerts. She lives in Williamsville with her husband Darren, her puggle Dolly and Siamese cat Brad.

Lynne Ruda


Lynne Ruda is a lifelong Lancaster resident and is proud to serve her community as the Mayor of the Village of Lancaster and the Director of Economic Development.  Lynne shows her love of her community and her willingness to protect it as a Volunteer Firefighter for the Village of Lancaster. It is through the Lancaster Fire Department that she has learned so much about what it means to give back. Lynne is a music teacher at Lancaster High School where she has the privilege of working with young people from her community.  She has served as the Director of Orchestras at Lancaster High School since 2008 and is a proud member of the Lancaster Central Teachers Association. Additionally, Mrs. Ruda is the conductor of the Greater Buffalo Youth String Orchestra.  She is also an Assistant Faculty Member of the Bravo Workshop.At Lancaster High School, Lynne serves as the advisor of the First Responders Club, which is devoted to bringing First Responder experiences to high school students.  She also runs the String Chamber Ensembles.  Mrs. Ruda encourages her orchestra students to give back to their community through their music, and in a typical year her students can be found performing in shops in the Central Business District, GreenFields, and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Lynne received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and her Master’s Degree in Music Education with a Performance Certificate from the State University College at Fredonia. As an active cellist in the area and a member of the Buffalo Musicians Association – Local 92, Mrs. Ruda has performed throughout Western New York, including with the Western New York Chamber Orchestra and the Clarence Summer Orchestra.  She has also performed with The Who and Weird Al Yankovic in concert.

Lynne was a finalists for the GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year 2020 and 2021.  Mrs. Ruda was named a 2020 NYS Woman of Distinction and received the 2020 Agent of Change Award from the Lancaster Area Chamber of Commerce.  She was the 2019 recipient of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/Erie County Music Educators Association Award for Excellence in Music Education.  In 2018, she was named Citizen of the Year by the Lancaster Area Chamber of Commerce.

Donna Lorenzo


Donna Lorenzo is widely-known as a violist and teacher. She is a versatile performer and has played extensively as a soloist and chamber musician on five continents. She was a member, principal viola, and viola d’amore soloist with the well-known Italian chamber group, I Solisti Veneti and with the Orchestra da Camera di Veneto. With these groups she toured extensively and internationally as a chamber musician and soloist and made recordings for Musical Heritage, Erato, Sony and Fone labels. She has also played as guest principal violist with the Orchestra della Fenice in Venice and the Orchestra di Bologna, Italy. In the US she has performed solo and chamber music concerts in the Western New York area and was the violist in various string quartets including the Litton Quartet in Pittsburgh. She performs annually at the Roycroft Chamber Music Festival and with the Ars Nova Musicians. She also plays as a substitute violist in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. She is a former member of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. In addition to performing and teaching, Donna is also the music director of the Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra, Buffalo. Donna has a Doctorate from the Eastman School of Music, a Masters degree and Professional Studies Certificate from the Juilliard School of Music where she was a student of Lillian Fuchs and the Juilliard Quartet, and a Music Education degree from Houghton University. At the Eastman School she was the teaching assistant for violist John Graham and was awarded the prestigious Eastman Prize for excellence in studio teaching. As a Juilliard student she spent many summers at the Aspen Music Festival where she was awarded a fellowship contract. Donna is also a New York State certified teacher. She has taught for the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, and was a faculty member of Houghton College. She has taught in public schools, various workshops, and has an extensive private studio. When not performing and teaching, Donna enjoys outside activities of any type and organic gardening and cooking.