November 11, 2021

Two CIM Alums Win Positions in The Cleveland Orchestra & a CIM Faculty Member is Promoted

William Bender, Gareth Zehngut and Derek Zadinsky
William Bender (left), Gareth Zehngut (top right) and Derek Zadinsky (bottom right)

Exemplifying CIM’s tradition of artistic achievement in orchestral viola playing, Conservatory alumnus William Bender (MM ’17, Vernon) and Preparatory alumnus Gareth Zehngut (Irvine) both won section viola positions in The Cleveland Orchestra; Bender joins the orchestra this week and Zehngut in January.

Bender and Zehngut join eight other CIM alumni (all of whom studied with the legendary Robert Vernon) in the Orchestra’s viola section – Wesley Collins (BM ’07), Stanley Konopka (1987-90), Mark Jackobs (1988-90), Richard Waugh (1990-93), Lisa Boyko (BM ’85), Lembi Veskimets (BM ’95, MM ’87), Eliesha Nelson (MM ’99) and Joanne Patterson Zakany (BM ’06, PS ’08) – as well as CIM faculty members Lynne Ramsey. Although the concentration of CIM-connected violists may be higher in Cleveland than anywhere else in the world, you’ll find dozens of alumni sitting in the viola sections of premier orchestras from coast to coast. In 2017, Collins attributed this phenomenon to “[Vernon demanding] a very high level of precision in intonation, rhythm, musical line and beauty of sound, which I believe is the reason why so many of his students are performing in top orchestras all over the country.” Read more about CIM co-head of viola (and Principal Viola Emeritus of The Cleveland Orchestra) Robert Vernon’s incredible influence in this 2017 story.

CIM Faculty member Derek Zadinsky was also promoted to Assistant Principal Bass at the beginning of the season. He joined the Orchestra’s bass section in 2012, and the CIM faculty the next year.  

Prior to the CIM Orchestra’s performance at Severance Music Center in October, CIM President & CEO Paul W. Hogle said: “CIM’s relationship with The Cleveland Orchestra goes further and deeper than any other orchestra-conservatory tandem in America. Not only did a third of the orchestra graduate from CIM and half either attended or teach at CIM, but since 2015, more CIM graduates have won Cleveland Orchestra auditions than the graduates of any other school in the country.” These appointments by The Cleveland Orchestra amplify those numbers even further.


William Bender studied at The Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music with Heidi Castleman and Robert Vernon. He was principal viola of the orchestras at both schools and studied chamber music with Sylvia Rosenberg, Joseph Lin, Michael Tree, Earl Carlyss, Toby Appel and Natasha Brofsky, among others. Summers were spent attending the Heifetz International Music Institute, Aspen Music School and Perlman Music Program. As a teacher, William has coached the students of Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, Trinity-Laban Conservatoire, the Australian Youth Orchestra, and the Columbian Youth Philharmonic. Bender has a deep love for reading and ice hockey. He is originally from Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to moving to London where he was assistant principal viola of the Philharmonia, Bender played regularly with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in addition to frequently performing chamber music (both old and new) around the US.

Violist Gareth Zehngut joins The Cleveland Orchestra after previously serving as a member of the Minnesota Orchestra and San Diego Symphony viola sections. In the Twin Cities, Zehngut was principal violist of the Minnesota Bach Ensemble, with whom he also appeared as soloist. He was a member of The Musical Offering, performed regularly on the Minnesota Orchestra chamber music series as well as with The Isles Ensemble and Music on the Hill. Zehngut has served as guest principal violist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and during summers, acts as principal viola for the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra. Other festival appearances include the Sun Valley Music Festival, Mainly Mozart, Festival Mozaic, La Jolla SummerFest and the Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival. He has also performed and taught at the Campanile Music Festival and Luzerne Music Center. A native of Pennsylvania, Zehngut earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School. Prior to college, he studied with Jeffrey Irvine for three years in CIM’s Preparatory Division.

Derek Zadinsky joined The Cleveland Orchestra’s bass section in February of 2012, and joined the CIM faculty in 2013. He has also performed as a substitute musician with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the New World Symphony, and as a soloist with the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen Orchestra and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. He has taught and led master classes at the Colburn School and Peabody Conservatory, among others. In 2011, Zadinsky won first place in the International Society of Bassists Orchestral Competition in San Francisco. In 2014, he published an edition of J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5. A native of Issaquah, Washington, Zadinsky holds a bachelor of music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music and  attended the Aspen Music Festival and School during the summers of 2007-09. Zadinsky has performed in many masterclasses, for artists including bassists Gary Karr and Paul Ellison, and Maximilian Dimoff (principal bass of The Cleveland Orchestra).

Photo of William Bender by Marina Vidor; photo of Derek Zadinsky by Roger Mastroianni.