Meet our Musicians
Lisa Alexander is a freelance bassoonist and chamber musician who has been in the Orchestra since 1991. She also holds positions with the Little Orchestra Society and has performed with the New York City Ballet Orchestra, the American Symphony, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and many others. She has recordings with the New York Chamber Symphony. Lisa is Adjunct Professor of Bassoon at Hofstra University and also teaches at the Thurnauer School of Music in Tenafly, NJ. Lisa is a great proponent of bassoon ensemble chamber music and in the summer of 2009 was invited to perform with the Glickman Ensemble at The International Double Reed Society Conference in Birmingham England. She received a Bachelor of Performance and Music Education from the prestigious Peabody Conservatory and a Master of Musical Arts from Queens College.Back to top
Dennis J. Arcano has been a percussionist with the RSO since 1996.
He has earned a Master of Music in Studio Composition from the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, a B.S. in Music Education/Percussion from Western Connecticut State University, and has been the General Music Teacher at Rockwell School since 1998.
A multi-instrumentalist, conductor, composer, singer/songwriter, arranger, and producer, Dennis has performed as a Broadway theater musician; with the New Haven and Bridgeport Symphony Orchestras; as an Award Winning Marching Drumline instructor; with many original Folk/Rock/Pop acts, as an Assistant Musical Director on the National tour of Jonathan Larson's tick, tick...BOOM!; with Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Shirelles, and in Grammy Award winning artist Luis Miguel's video for Por Debajo De La Mesa. He is also the creator of an original multi-media concept piece titled AMERICAN REQUIEM. Check out more here.Back to top
Constance Barrett has played cello with the Orchestra since 2003. She holds certificates in cello and chamber music from the Conservatoire Am�ricain in Fontainebleau, and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Ohio State University. Connie is a frequent contributor to American String Teacher and American Suzuki Journal. As a Yamaha Certified String Educator with expertise in Body Mapping for performance injury prevention, Connie is a frequent guest master teacher and artist throughout the US and Europe.
Connie, called "a musician of rare sensitivity" with a "haunting and beautiful sound" by the press here and abroad, has performed in chamber recitals with the Cavani String Quartet, Grammy winners David Darling and Glen Velez with vocalist Lori Cotler and served as principal cellist of the New York Chamber Sinfonia. She regularly performs with Music for the Planet. Connie can also be seen—and heard—in the Terry George movie Reservation Road.Back to top
Gary Boyd is currently the Elementary Instrumental music teacher for the Marlboro School District in Marlboro, NY. He is a member of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, since 1982, the Ridgefield Symphony, since 2007, and a former member of the United States Academy Band at West Point, NY. Gary is an active freelance musician in the Hudson Valley region and the Ridgefield area. He lives in Marlboro, NY with his wife and three children.Back to top
Kevin Callaghan has played in the Orchestra since 1989. He holds a Masters in bass performance from Manhattan School of Music.
He has taught at George Fischer Middle School in Carmel, NY since 1986 and directs the orchestra there; he also teaches bass privately.
Kevin has played in chamber and full orchestras, including the Bermuda Philharmonic and orchestras accompanying the rock group Yes and The Irish Tenors. His jazz ensembles include big bands, trios, and his own quartet since 1998; the latter's presence at Lasdon Park led to the RSO's summer concerts there. He has played at New Milford Playhouse, Yorktown Stage, and Westchester Broadway Theater. He was a member of the rock group Mondo Boffo in New York City with whom he recorded a single and an MTV video.
In October 1993 he met French horn player Marjorie Seymour at an Orchestra rehearsal, and they were married four years later. They live in Danbury with their children Rory and Braeden.Back to top
Marjorie Seymour Callaghan has played French horn in the Orchestra since 1992. She holds a Doctorate in horn performance from the Manhattan School of Music and also has a Masters in music history and a Bachelors in music and Spanish.
She is on the faculty of Western Connecticut State University and has taught music theory and history, horn, brass performance, and ear training; she also teaches French horn privately.
She has played with many quartets and quintets and orchestras, including the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. She played in the Concert Happenings in Ridgefield's Parks (CHIRP) program with the Orchestra's Brass Ensemble in August, 2004. In 2006 she published The Horn Guide: A Reference for Solving Technical Problems, dealing with performance issues of interest to students and teachers.
In October 1993 she met bass player Kevin Callaghan at an Orchestra rehearsal, and they were married four years later. They live in Danbury with their children Rory and Braeden.Back to top
Dénise Chividian has been a violinist in the Orchestra since 2000. She received her BA and MA degrees in violin performance at the Music Conservatory of Bucharest, Romania. She performs with the New Haven, Greater Bridgeport, Greenwich, and Norwalk Symphonies, among others, and has toured in Italy and Germany as well as with the Israel Pops under Columbia Artists Management. She was on the faculty at Fairfield University for seven years and maintains a private teaching studio in Southport, CT.
Dénise is a faculty member at Chamber Music Central, which runs programs to give intermediate to advanced pianists, string, and woodwind players an opportunity to study and perform chamber music.Back to top
Bethany Cook began playing the cello at age 9 through the Fairfield Public School system. Born into a musical family, she started piano at age 7 and began studying cello privately with Cheryl Labrecque. Bethany continued her cello studies with Chris Finckel, cellist of the Manhattan String Quartet, and performed with the Greater Bridgeport Youth Symphony for eight years. A memorable musical experience was attending a music festival in Vienna, Austria where she performed, traveled, and learned about Vienna's rich music history.
After high school, Bethany was accepted at the University of Maryland to pursue a bachelor's degree in music education. There she studied with Evelyn Elsing and Glenn Garlick. She is the recipient of several music scholarships, provided both by the University of Maryland and local music organizations. Ms. Cook currently teaches orchestra in the Greenwich, CT public schools, teaches cello privately, and performs with the Ridgefield and Greater Bridgeport Symphonies.Back to top
Suzanne Corey-Sahlin is Principal Violist of the Ridgefield Symphony and the Norwalk Symphony, where she has performed as soloist. Sue has studied with Albert Markov, Jesse Levine, and Robert Glazer (formerly with the Chicago Symphony) and two years with the Manhattan String Quartet at Music Mountain. For eight years she was a member of the Tourmaline String Quartet, which performed extensively throughout Fairfield County and New York. Sue has also played in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess and Phantom of the Opera throughout the United States, Japan, and South America.
Sue is music director of the Western Connecticut String Ensemble and violist with the Cypress Piano Quartet and Trio Delle Corde; she is a faculty member of the Waterville Valley Summer Music Festival. She teaches privately in Ridgefield, Greenwich, and Stamford and freelances extensively throughout Connecticut and New York.
Sue lives in Stamford with her husband Gunnar, who is assistant principal cellist in the Orchestra.Back to top
Josh Daniels first started playing violin in the Ridgefield Symphony in 1998. He began violin lessons at age 4½ starting with the Suzuki method while he was living in Montreal. He was in the pre-college programs at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music and spent two years at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
At age 20 he was one of the youngest to play in New York's long-standing National Orchestral Association. He subsequently earned Bachelors and Masters Degrees from SUNY Purchase. He played in the Greenwich Symphony from 1988 to 1996 and has been a member of the Bridgeport Symphony since 1990. He has also played in the Chappaqua Chamber Orchestra and the Rockland Symphony Orchestra. He has participated in famous summer festivals throughout the United States, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, the Aspen Music Festival (Colorado), and the Manchester Music Festival (Vermont).Back to top
It is often said that a Symphony Orchestra's three most important members are concertmaster, principal oboe, and principal French horn. Ridgefield has an outstanding trio, with Dorothy Darlington as oboist. Her beautiful solos in countless works have been applauded by audience and critics. Her December, 2008 playing of the R. Strauss Oboe Concerto produced rave reviews.
Dorothy holds a Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate of music from the Eastman School, Michigan State, and Catholic University of America, respectively. She is also a regular with the Greenwich Symphony and has been a substitute in the New York Philharmonic. She played with the U.S. Marine Band in the White House under President Reagan. She has appeared on television with John Williams and Jessie Norman and has also played on Broadway.
Dorothy has two teenage sons. She is an Adirondack Forty-Sixer, loves figure skating and gardening, and is a top producing real estate agent in CT and NY; she lives in Greenwich.Back to top
Many claim an orchestra's three most important members are concertmaster, principal oboe, and principal French horn. Ridgefield has an outstanding trio, with Sara Della Posta at the latter position. Her beautiful horn solos have been applauded by audience and critics.
Sara has played with many orchestras, including three years as co-principal of Jerusalem Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke's, and Jupiter Symphony. She has performed on Broadway in Wicked and Shrek. Sara has several recordings, including CDs with singers Natalie Cole, Dena DeRose, and guitarist Doug Monroe. She has toured with Indian film composer A.R. Rahman and the Aspen Woodwind quintet and has performed on WNYC's Soundcheck with John Schaefer. In 2007 she was a member of the 2007 Radio City Christmas Spectacular orchestra.
Sara received her Bachelors from the Hartt School of Music and holds a Masters from State University of New York at Purchase. She is married to bassist Michael Kuennen, and is Mom to Cole Adrian Kuennen, born in 2008.Back to top
Christine Doney originally joined the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra in 1975 as a violist under Beatrice Brown. After years away from the Orchestra, she rejoined in 2004, this time on her main instrument, violin, as part of the First Violin Section.
During high school, Christine attended Juilliard Preparatory School of Music as a violinist. At that time, there were no violists in the Preparatory division, so Christine offered to play viola in the orchestra and took on the challenge of learning to play and became section leader in a short period of time. Christine then attended SUNY Potsdam, with a double major in performance and music education.
Christine has played violin with the Greenwich Symphony since 1969. She also performs with other orchestras in the area, as well as being an active chamber music player on both violin and viola. She lives in Norwalk with her husband, Christopher, who is a trumpet player in the Greenwich and Bridgeport Symphonies.Back to top
Jessica Elkhatib has been a cellist in the Orchestra since 2009. She also performs with the Chappaqua Symphony and often plays with the Greenwich and Norwalk Symphonies. She has appeared in Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
Jessica has a Bachelors Degree in Cello Performance from the North Carolina School of the Arts, a Masters Degree in Cello Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, a Masters Degree in Music Education from Teachers College Columbia University, and an Artist Diploma from SUNY Purchase in Cello Performance. Her primary teachers include Peter Wiley and David Geber, and she has played under conductors such as Kurt Masur, David Gilbert, and Gunther Schuler.
Jessica is also a member of the Devonshire Players, a group that plays for any special occasion, providing a string quartet, trio, duo, or solo performers.
See also her web site.Back to top
T. D. Ellis is principal bassoonist and personnel manager of the Ridgefield Symphony and Bermuda Philharmonic. He is also principal bassoon with the Wallingford Symphony, and is personnel manager of the Waterbury Symphony. Mr. Ellis plays bassoon and contrabassoon with the Greenwich Symphony and Greater Bridgeport Symphony and may often be heard with many of the orchestras throughout New York and Connecticut. He is a founding member of Bassoonery, a bassoon quartet, and the RidgeWinds Quintet; has performed with the Quintet of the Americas; and was a guest-artist-in-residence at Sarah Lawrence College. He has played off-Broadway with the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players and the Jewish Repertory Theater.
Mr. Ellis is the artistic director of the Keeler Tavern Chamber Music Series in Ridgefield and the Ridgefield Symphony Summer Concert Series in Katonah, New York. He received his musical education at the Hartt School of Music and the State University of New York at Purchase.Back to top
Fong Fong was born into a musical family in Beijing, China. He began his piano and violin lessons at the age of seven. He later studied violin at the renowned Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he received his bachelor diploma with honors. In 1984 he traveled to Switzerland to continue his musical studies under the guidance of world-renowned violinist and conductor Rudolf Baumgartner at Conservatory Lucerne. He then received his master's degree and won First Place at the Concert Certificate Competition upon graduation. When he visited the Menuhin Music School in Gstaad, Switzerland in 1985, his violin playing impressed Maestro Yehudi Menuhin. Fong is now an active violinist playing solos, chamber music, and orchestral music in the U.S. He has played in many great concert venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.Back to top
Percussionist Barbara Ann Freedman has performed with the Orchestra for four years. She also plays timpani and percussion with the Greenwich, Bridgeport, and Norwalk symphonies and has worked with other tri-state orchestras, opera, and ballet companies. Barbara has performed on Broadway, in popular and folk bands and Renaissance ensembles. She received a Masters from Mannes College of Music and studied timpani with Richard Horowitz, one of the Metropolitan Opera’s principal timpanists. Her interest in music of other cultures finds her working in Sephardic (Spanish Jewish community) and Ladino (language derived from Spanish and Hebrew) music. Barbara is currently the director of electronic music and audio engineering and the conductor of the marching band at Greenwich High School. She is also music director of the Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Department Band, Greenwich’s community band, which has a fifty year history of performing on Memorial Day and July 4; it includes Orchestra players Ed Chansky, Dorothy Darlington, and T. D. Ellis.
It is difficult to see petite oboe player, Susan Goff, at Symphony concerts, but when she plays a solo, everybody listens. Sue has played oboe and English horn with the Orchestra since 1974.
She is perhaps better known as an educator by thousands of former Ridgefield students, having taught in the school system since 1974. Currently she is the resident music teacher at Veterans Park School. In 1981 she received a Fulbright grant and spent a year teaching in England.
Her own teachers include oboe soloist, Humbert Lucarelli; Art Krilov of the American Symphony; and Tom Stacy of the New York Philharmonic. In addition to performing in the tri-state area, she has performed in Hawaii, Great Britain, Bermuda, New Zealand and Australia.
Sue has two daughters: Kristin, studying English literature at Western Connecticut State University; and Lauren, majoring in Fire Science and Arson Investigation at the University of New Haven.Back to top
"Versatile" is the best way to describe pianist and percussionist Arnie Gross, who orchestrated and/or provided dance and vocal arrangements for innumerable Broadway shows and motion pictures including "Sugar Babies," Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along," and the Bob Fosse film, "All That Jazz," in which he also performed.
Arnie served as chief arranger for the United States Military Academy Band at West Point, orchestrated the Emmy Award-winning NBC-TV children's series, "Unicorn Tales," and was musical director of "Annie" (original Broadway cast) from 1978 to 1983.
Arnie joined the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra in 1984 and has served in capacities of stage manager and associate conductor. His instruments include oboe, English horn, percussion, and piano. He has taught arranging at Western Connecticut State University and currently teaches instrumental classes at the Canterbury School (New Milford).Back to top
Nicola Gruen has been a violinist with the Orchestra since 2006. She has a Bachelors from UC Berkeley, studying with Virginia Baker; and a Masters from Royal Academy of Music, studying violin on scholarship with Erich Gruenberg and chamber music with the Amadeus Quartet. Berkeley also awarded her a Hertz Memorial Traveling Fellowship, used to study violin with Emanuel Hurwitz in London. Later she studied with the NY Philharmonic's Yoko Takebe.
From 1997 to 2002 Nicola performed in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, participating in regular live radio broadcasts (including the 1998 Mahler cycle), commercial recordings, and tours. She also freelanced with the Halle Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, English National Ballet, Bilbao Opera, and others. She is recorded on numerous film soundtracks, including "Moulin Rouge," and she played regularly in the award winning musical "Martin Guerre." She has been a member of Huntsville Symphony (Alabama) since 2002.
Nicola lives in Ridgefield, CT with her two daughters, and she teaches several students privately.Back to top
Violinist Mila Gufeld brings the background of her native Russia to the Orchestra. She started taking private lessons at age five and received her Masters from Odessa State Conservatory in the former Soviet Union. She extensively toured the Ukraine, Georgia, Latvia, and Russia as a member of chamber and symphony orchestras and has performed in chamber music concerts on Russian television.
Since her immigration to the United States, Mila has regularly performed with Bronx Opera, Bronx Chamber Orchestra, Chappaqua Chamber Orchestra, Westchester Symphony, Hudson Opera, Hawthorne Orchestra, Norwalk Symphony, Greater Bridgeport Symphony, North Jersey Symphony, and Camerata New York and has performed in great concert venues such as Carnegie, Merkin, and Alice Tully Hall. Mila joined the RSO in 2004 and is an active freelance musician in Westchester, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.
Mila lives in Scarsdale, NY with her husband. Their daughter is an adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and their son is a computer engineer in Germany.Back to top
Sharon Gunderson was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona. She participated in the Suzuki violin program at the Northern Arizona University Preparatory School from an early age, was a longtime member of the Flagstaff Youth Orchestra, and soloed with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra twice. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from Boston's New England Conservatory in 1997.
Sharon has been a professional freelance violinist in New York City since 1998, studying with the great violin guru, Joey Corpus. She has performed with the New York Grand Opera at Carnegie Hall, Musica Viva at All Souls Church, and as concertmaster with the Orchestra of the Bronx. She has appeared with Andre Watts, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Johnny Mathis, Dianne Reeves and Bernadette Peters, as well as the Late Show with David Letterman. She frequently performs solo recitals and with her piano quartet Resonant Spectra.Back to top
Rachel Handman, Principal Second Violin of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, lives and works in the Hudson Valley. She is member of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the Tourmaline String Quartet, and, as part of the Botticelli Chamber Players, has experienced the powerful effects of music's healing nature, playing string trios in the Dyson Cancer Center.
During her career Ms. Handman has toured Europe with “My Fair Lady” and has worked as an actress, singer and musician in the Off-Broadway musical-comedy “Oil City Symphony.”
Her travels led her to South America, where she performed with the Simfonica Nacional de Bolivia and improvised with a Salsa band, Guapacha. She has three CDs made with her former group, “Barebones and Wildflowers,” specializing in acoustic folk and blue grass.
An extremely versatile musician, she freelances throughout New York and Connecticut, teaches privately, and coaches in summer programs in Port Milford, Canada and Poughkeepsie, NY.
Tod Hedrick is a versatile bassist who plays classical, jazz, and rock. He has played in the Orchestra since 2001 and also plays with the Greenwich Symphony, Gateway Classical Music Society (Connecticut), and the Bar Harbor (Maine) Music Festival and numerous small orchestras, opera companies, and chamber groups.
He played in "West Side Story" in China in 2005; in a musical revue in Iceland and Scotland with World Stage Concerts & Tours; and in many productions of musicals, such as "Guys and Dolls," "Hello Dolly," and "Cabaret."
Tod has played at many of New York City's most important venues, including Birdland, where he played for over four years. In 1999 his jazz septet performed in the Atrium at Madison Square Garden before the NBA playoffs. He also composes for his ensembles.
Tod is an Adjunct Professor of double bass at Fairfield University (Connecticut) and has his own web site.Back to top
Andrea Herr plays bassoon and contrabassoon with the Ridgefield Symphony. Other orchestral engagements include performances with the Little Orchestra Society, American Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony and the New York City Opera National Company. On Broadway Andrea has played for the New York productions of Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof, Beauty and the Beast, Nine and Into the Woods. She held Principal Bassoon positions in Spain with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia and the South Dakota Symphony. An invitee of the Taiwanese government, Andrea taught at the International Music Institute and was a featured soloist at the Tainan Cultural Center. Andrea holds degrees from New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School. She is an Adjunct Professor at Kean University, New Jersey City University and Drew University. Andrea also has a passion for historic resources and earned the Certificate in Historic Preservation from Drew University.Back to top
Meg Hill has played violin with the Orchestra since 1996. She began violin with her mother at age 5. Her parents, both musicians, surrounded her with music, ranging from festive chamber music parties to her mother's madrigal group.
After earning her Bachelors from Oberlin in violin, she played in the Kalamazoo Symphony and Honors String Quartet at Western Michigan University. Moving to New York, she established herself as a skilled teacher, teaching at three community musical schools and creating her own studio. At 25 she became director of the Suzuki String Department at Westchester Conservatory of Music, where she stayed for ten years.
One of Meg's proudest achievements is her creation of the chamber music festival, Music at Port Milford in Ontario, Canada. She has directed it since 1986, and the festival has become a tremendous success, attracting students throughout the world and winning the Heidi Castleman/Gruber award for excellence in Chamber Music Teaching in 1995.Back to top
Melinda Hirsch-Robinson received her Bachelor's degree in music performance from Boston University where she studied viola with Michelle LaCourse and chamber music with Leslie Parnas, Raphael Hillyer, Lucille Lawrence, Peter Zazofksy, and Lucia Lin. Melinda went on to receive her Master's from Florida State University where she studied viola with Pamela Ryan and chamber music with Pamela Ryan, Carolyn Bridger, and Karen Clarke. There she was awarded a tuition waiver, stipend, and teaching assistantship.
An active freelance violist in the Tri-state area, Melinda can be seen performing with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Long Island Choral Masterworks, and various chamber orchestras in the NYC area. She has enjoyed performing with ensembles on radio and television including: WNYC's New Sounds, WFUV's City Folk Sunday Breakfast, and NBC's Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting.
In addition to performing, teaching remains an important aspect of Melinda's musical life. She currently teaches private lessons in Westchester and Northern NJ.Back to top
Jennifer Hobbs has played violin in the Orchestra since 1999. She received a Bachelors in music and history from Bowdoin and a Masters in music from the University of Connecticut. She has taught violin, from Suzuki to advanced, and has been a soloist and chamber musician since 1985. She has taught at the Kent School in Kent, CT since 1994, where she is director and conductor of the string Orchestra and full Orchestra and teaches many courses, including violin, viola, music history, and music theory. She also spent a season as the assistant manager for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, coordinating school programs and working with guest artists, including Joshua Bell, Judy Collins, Emanuel Ax, and Tony Bennett.
Jennifer lives in Kent with her husband, a physics teacher and coach at the Kent School, and two children.Back to top
Jacqueline Sifford Joyner holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of South Carolina. Her teachers have included Dan Welcher, Harold Goltzer, and Ryohei Nakagawa. An active free-lance musician, Jackie has performed with a number of ensembles throughout the New York metropolitan area and more recently in Fairfield County, CT. She has extensive experience playing opera, having appeared with the Sarasota Opera, the Austin Lyric Opera, and the Columbia (S.C.) Lyric Opera. Jackie has also participated in the Bowdoin Music Festival in Maine, the Music at Gretna Festival in Pennsylvania, and the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. She is a member of Bassoonery, a popular bassoonist quartet noted for its versatility and innovative arrangements.Back to top
Darlene Kaukoranta has played French horn with the Orchestra since 1997. She grew up in a musical Finnish family and plays horn, piano, and accordion. She was trained at Boston University. All of her major instructors are former members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She has received competition awards from Monterey, CA to Westport, CT.
Darlene's orchestral credits include the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Greenwich Symphony, Taconic Opera, Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the New York Virtuosi, among others. She has performed on Broadway for the productions of Cats, Les Misérables, Fiddler on the Roof, The Producers, and The Phantom of the Opera, as well as several National Tours. She especially enjoys playing opera.
Darlene currently teaches in Dobbs Ferry, NY. She remarks, "One of the biggest benefits of my career is the opportunity to travel nationally and internationally with my husband (percussionist David Nyberg, who has played with the Orchestra)." They live in Yonkers, NY.Back to top
Clarinetist Mary Jane Kubeck-Rodgers has been in the Orchestra since 1979, and she also plays in the Waterbury Symphony and the Con Brio Woodwind Quintet. She has a doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music and has received several music performance fellowships from Bowdoin, the Hartt School, and Yale. She has played with several orchestras in the area, including Chappaqua and the Dance Theater of Harlem. She has many years of teaching experience, from college to elementary school; she currently teaches at Redding, where she won the teacher of the year award for 2003–2004. She is also teaching clarinet privately under a grant at the Magnet School in Waterbury. In April, 2010 she presented a clinic on clarinet pedagogy at the Connecticut Music Educators Association Conference. One of her most memorable musical experiences was escorting Wynton Marsalis to an audition at the Manhattan School!
Mary Jane met Andrew Rodgers when they both started playing in the Orchestra, and they were married four years later. They live in New Fairfield with their two daughters.Back to top
Michael Kuennen is a versatile Double Bass player. He has performed in more than twenty orchestras throughout the United States, including Riverside Symphony, Harmonie Ensemble/NY, S.E.M. Ensemble, Cantori/NY, New Haven Symphony, Tulsa Philharmonic (assistant principal), Cedar Rapids Symphony (principal), Ohio Light Opera Orchestra (principal), Connecticut Grand Opera, and several orchestras in Boston.
Michael has appeared in Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops, and has performed on Broadway in Promises, Promises, The Drowsy Chaperone, West Side Story, A Little Night Music, The Producers, A Chorus Line, Beauty and the Beast, and many others.
Mike has an active recording career, ranging from Dvorák's Greatest Hits to Chocolate Soldier and the soundtrack recordings for The Drowsy Chaperone, Promises, Promises, Jolson & Company, and Roadside. He also played on the soundtrack recording for the movie The Producers.
Mike holds a Masters from Boston University. He is married to Sara Della Posta, principal French horn with the Orchestra, and is Dad to Cole, born in 2008.Back to top
Violinist Mark Kushnir joined the Orchestra in 1997. He started violin at age ten, and a turning point was an encouraging hotel room audition at age 15 with the famous Korean soloist Young Uck Kim. He received his Bachelors from the Cleveland Institute of Music, his Masters from Sarah Lawrence, and training in Suzuki Pedagogy from the School for Strings in New York City. When he played with the Laurentian String Quartet, the ensemble won the Artists International Young musicians Competition in 1981. In 1983 he joined the faculty at the prestigious Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale and has been teaching there ever since. Playing violin or viola, he also performs with esteemed musicians Eriko Sato, David Oei, and Michael Finckel in Hoff-Barthelson faculty chamber ensembles. Other orchestras he has performed with include the Westchester Symphony, Bronx Chamber Orchestra, Chappaqua Chamber Orchestra, Staten Island Symphony, Lyndhurst Festival Orchestra, and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic.Back to top
Walter Lasley has been second trombone with the RSO since 1984. He is also Principal Trombone of the Wallingford Symphony and a member of the Constitution Brass Quintet. Walter is active as a freelance trombonist throughout Connecticut.
Walter received his bachelors and masters degrees in trombone performance from the Universities of Connecticut and Akron, respectively. He also performed trombone doctoral studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is a student of H. Dennis Smith, John Swallow, Edward Zadrozny, George Sanders, and Robert Fanning. Walter also studied with Frank Crisafulli (Chicago Symphony), and Ron Barron (Boston Symphony).
Besides being a professional trombonist, Walter has worked as a Commercial Insurance professional since 1988. He lives in Farmington CT and likes to spend his free time with his wife and three children. His hobbies include drawing, photography, cinema, music history, American Civil War history, science, running, biking, golfing and tennis.Back to top
Violinist Loretta Lazaris has been with the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra since 1998 and regularly performs with the Wallingford and Norwalk Symphony Orchestras, as well as instructing string classes in the Fairfield Public Schools.
She received her Bachelors degree from Indiana University, under the tutelage of Daniel Guilet of the Beaux Arts Trio and Tadeusz Wronski, and her Masters from Central Connecticut University.
She freelanced with Symphonies in Connecticut and Long Island before moving to the Philadelphia area, where she performed with the Delaware, Princeton, and Reading Symphony Orchestras as well as "Peter Nero and the Philly Pops."
A two year hiatus from Philadelphia was spent in Cali, Colombia, serving as principal second violin and associate concertmistress of the Orquesta Sinfónica del Valle.
When time permits, Loretta composes works for violin, string quartet, and orchestra and has written pieces for the Western Connecticut Junior Orchestra. In Weston she is also a Reiki healer and presents workshops in psychic development.Back to top
Heather Levanti has played flute and piccolo with the Orchestra since 2002. She graduated from Western Connecticut State University in 2001 with a Bachelors Degree in Flute Performance. She studied there with Dr. Kerry Walker, Professor of Flute and the Orchestra's principal flutist. Heather also studied with the renowned Susan Rotholz, principal flutist of the Greenwich Symphony. Heather has also performed for many flute master classes including Julius Baker, Gary Shocker, and Katherine Hoover.
Heather has been teaching flute privately in Litchfield and Fairfield Counties since 1997 and has been the flute teacher at Greenwich Academy since 2003.
She is the leader of three groups which perform for weddings, private parties, and other events throughout Fairfield County: Duo Dolce (flute and violin or flute and cello), Trio Dolce (flute, violin, and cello), and Quartet Dolce (flute, violin, viola, and cello). More information is available here.Back to top
Wendy Kerner Lucas and the harp are synonymous in music circles. Born in Westport and educated at Juilliard, she started playing the instrument at age seven. Now she is principal harpist for the Ridgefield, Bridgeport, and Norwalk Symphonies, and a member of several chamber groups, including The Fontenay Chamber Players, The Glorian Duo, and Themselves, which is dedicated to Irish music. The winner of numerous awards, she is a prolific educator and passionate champion of her instrument.
Wendy enjoys playing for special occasions. One of her more interesting experiences was playing for Hillary Clinton, a harp lover, when she was First Lady. When the secret service man approached Wendy, she feared a search, but he only wanted to make a request-"Moon River."
Wendy, who lives in New Canaan with her supportive husband, joined the RSO in 1984.
She has enjoyed watching the Orchestra grow and flourish. Audiences have delighted in the angelic sounds produced by her grand instrument.Back to top
The Orchestra may not have "76 Trombones," but it does have Jim Marbury, who creates a beautiful sound on that instrument.
Jim started playing the trombone in sixth grade. He received his Bachelor's degree in music from the University of Bridgeport in 1984, the same year that he joined the Orchestra. He later earned his Master's from SUNY Stony Brook.
Jim loves all types of music. Not only does he play classical with the Ridgefield and Norwalk Symphonies and the Connecticut Symphony Band, but jazz with the New Haven Jazz Orchestra, and rock with the Atwood Express. An appearance with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra introduced him to Sinatra impersonators, Rob Zupulla and Walt Andrus, which led to performances with their bands. On Broadway, he played a season with the musical, "A Spinning Tale."
He lives in Stratford and currently has private students in several Fairfield and New Haven county school systems.Back to top
Violinist Corinne Metter has been performing and teaching all over lower Fairfield County since 1983. Corinne first joined the Ridgefield Symphony in 1986. She also performs with the Bridgeport Symphony, Norwalk Symphony, Connecticut Grand Opera and Orchestra, and the Connecticut Chamber Orchestra, as well as playing with several smaller ensembles.
Corinne teaches private violin lessons at her home in Norwalk, CT. She is also on the faculty as a violin instructor at the Westport School of Music (http://wsmusic.org/general/home.htm). She has taught privately at the Center Music School in Stamford and in the Bridgeport Public Schools. Her work with the Bridgeport Symphony includes participating in the "Music in Schools Initiative," a collaboration between the New Haven public schools and the Yale School of Music. She has received certification in Kindermusik and has worked with preschoolers in the Wilton Public Schools.
Corinne studied with Raphael Druian at the Hartt College of Music and did several years of post graduate violin studies with Frances Magnes.Back to top
Margarita Nuller has been with the Ridgefield Symphony since 2001. Margarita is a graduate of St. Petersburg Conservatory, Russia. She studied with Kasimir Grinasuk, Edward Bazanov, and Luiz DeMoura Castro. Since her arrival to the United States in 1990, she has performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician in the New York metropolitan area and New England. Ms. Nuller presented her debut recital at Weill Hall at Carnegie hall, New York City as a winner of Artist International Auditions. Her CD of Russian music was released on l'Art label in 2003. Her most recent performances include solo recitals in Cambridge MA and St. Petersburg, Russia. Ms. Nuller was on the faculty of the University of Hartford (CT), the Mussorgsky College of Music (Russia), and the Connecticut Conservatory in New Milford. Presently she is on the faculty of the Kent School and maintains a private piano studio in New Fairfield, CT.Back to top
Silvia Padegs Grendze has been a violinist in the Orchestra since 1996. Her parents were astounded to hear her singing in perfect tune at six months of age, and two years later she began violin with Japanese disciples of Suzuki. She received her BM from Manhattan School of Music. She then began freelancing up and down the east coast, playing with orchestras from Boston, MA to Charleston, SC. She has played in major halls such as Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center. She has also played internationally, including Austria, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Venezuela, and Australia. Silvia currently resides in Irvington, NY, with her husband and two boys.
Silvia observes, "Many RSO musicians have played together for many years and have developed close personal and professional ties. We trust each other, and this unites the Orchestra and enhances the quality of its music making."Back to top
Cellist Zakhary Paranyuk has played with the Orchestra since 1999. He frequently appears with the Hartford Symphony, Brooklyn Chamber Orchestra, and Westchester Philharmonic. He and his wife, violinist Natalya Shamis, are in the Harmony String Quartet and frequently perform in piano trios with pianists Margarita Nuller and Max Vladimiroff.
He received his Masters from Kiev State Conservatory in the former Soviet Union. He performed as a soloist and a member of full orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout the Soviet Union and in numerous tours to Asia, Latin America, and several countries in Europe.
Zakhary emigrated to the United States in 1992. He lived in New York City for several years and played with many orchestras and chamber groups in the tri-state area. He moved to Danbury in 1998, where he maintains a private studio for teaching cello. He also teaches cello as part of the Visiting Artists Program in Newtown High School and has performed in musicals there.Back to top
Barbara is a free lance horn player in the Westchester, Putnam, and Fairfield County areas. Her introduction to the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra was to perform in the celebrated concert on February 3, 2001, the finale of which was Stravinsky's Rite of Spring with eight French horns. She has played regularly with the Orchestra since fall, 2001.
Barbara is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Verne Reynolds. She has played with the Norwalk, Chappaqua, and Waterbury Symphony Orchestras. She has also performed with the Fair Winds Brass Quartet and other chamber and vocal ensembles in the area.
Referring to her experience with the horn section in the Orchestra, Barbara remarks, "There is a camaraderie that exists among horn players in general, particularly with Sara, Marjie, and Darlene, and that has been important to me."Back to top
Andrew Rodgers received a Bachelors from WestConn (1981) and Masters from Juilliard (1984). He is a member of Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, Opera Orchestra of New York, and Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra.
He has performed with the Hartford, New Haven, Springfield and American Symphony Orchestras, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Long Island Philharmonic, Philharmonia Virtuosi, American Ballet Theatre Orchestra, and New York Pops Orchestra.
Mr. Rodgers toured Europe and the U.S. with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, Royal Shakespeare Company, Andrea Bocelli, and Luciano Pavarotti. He was a featured performer at the Vermont Mozart and Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors Festivals. In 1996 he premiered PDQ Bach's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Crocodile" at Alice Tully Hall.
He has recorded for Verve, BMG, Sony, and Nonesuch, with J.J. Johnson, Eos Orchestra, Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, Opera Orchestra of New York, and Phillip Glass. He plays on soundtracks to The Stepford Wives, Secret Window, Fargo, Kundun, and What Planet Are You From? His Broadway credits include Ragtime, Candide, State Fair, Cyrano, and South Pacific.Back to top
David Romano, a native of New Haven, Connecticut, received his Bachelor's in Performance from the University of Connecticut. After earning a Master's in Performance from Cleveland Institute of Music, he was appointed principal bass of the Orquestra Symphónica de Galicia in La Coruña, Spain. After playing with Gothenburg Symphony in Sweden, he returned to New York, where he currently plays with the New York Pops orchestra, Little Orchestra Society, American Ballet Theatre Orchestra and Eos Chamber Orchestra and substitutes in the NYC Ballet and NYC Opera. David is a substitute on the Lion King, The Drowsy Chaperone, Mary Poppins, Anything Goes and Shrek on Broadway and was the bass player for the first two years of the first national tour of the Lion King. David has also recorded and played with such artists as Barbra Streisand, Dave Brubeck, Quincy Jones, Clark Terry, Wynton Marsalis, Elton John, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, John Pizzarelli, Kenny G, and Metallica.Back to top
Jody Rowitsch has played viola in the Orchestra since 1997. She is a member of the Greater Bridgeport, Waterbury, and Wallingford Symphony Orchestras and substitutes regularly with the Hartford Symphony. She received her Bachelor and Masters of Music in viola performance from Oberlin and Temple University, respectively. She studied at the Cleveland Quartet Chamber Music Seminars and Institut de Hautes Études Musicales in Switzerland and participated in music festivals in Germany and France. She received Suzuki pedagogical training at Oberlin, American Suzuki, and Guelph, Ontario Institutes. She was on the faculty at the University of Bridgeport and has been teaching at Choate Rosemary Hall since 1980.
Jody also enjoys spending time volunteering with her basset hound, a therapy dog, and her talkative cockatiel.Back to top
Joe Russo has played bass with the Orchestra since 2001. He also performs with the Greenwich, Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport Symphonies. He is the manager and Principal Bass of Orchestra New England (ONE). Past activities include performing Principal Bass with the Opera Orchestra of Mexico, New York City Opera Touring Orchestra, and various Broadway shows. Joe has a busy private teaching schedule and freelances in the tri-state area.
Joe studied composition at Juilliard and Yale. He has composed numerous chamber and orchestra works. His Chamber Symphony (2004) was premiered by ONE in New Haven on May 1, 2004. Joe has held a number of orchestra administration positions. He was Executive Director of the Norwalk Youth Symphony in 2003, and he has been Development Director of several NY and CT orchestras, including ONE. He has extensive experience with boards of directors and in nonprofit fundraising. He is a board member of the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra. His website is www.JosephMRusso.com.
Joe lives in Weston, Connecticut.Back to top
Gunnar Sahlin became assistant principal cellist of Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra in 2009 and has been principal cellist of the Norwalk Symphony since 2002. He studied cello at the Academy of Music in Prague for three years and had a sabbatical for studies at Juilliard in 1979-1980.
During 1975-1988 he was a permanent member of Sweden's Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, touring throughout Europe and the United States and playing with world famous soloists and conductors. The Orchestra also appears at the annual Nobel Prize Ceremonies at the Stockholm Concert Hall. In 1987 Gunnar had the opportunity to perform for and learn from Yo-Yo Ma in a Master Class at the Stockholm Concert Hall, and he has had lessons with Leslie Parnas.
Gunnar freelances in Connecticut and New York and teaches cello privately. Favorite chamber music activities include performing with Trio Delle Corde and the Cypress Piano Quartet with his wife, Suzanne Corey-Sahlin, RSO principal violist.Back to top
Bassist Dave Saphra has been with the Orchestra since 1992 and also plays with St. Thomas Orchestra under Dave's RSO colleague, Bernie Tamosaitis. Although now retired from 26 years work as music teacher in New York City public schools, David continues to promote the many children's songs he has penned and posted at kidmid.com.
For more than 30 years David has been actively involved with research and mastery of the lyra viol and maintains the web site lyraviol.org. The viol is a family of 16th-18th century string instruments different from the violin family, with six or seven strings instead of four. The special category of lyra viol employs many tuning systems in order to achieve different sonorities and qualities of resonance.
Dave lives in Irvington, NY with his wife, son, and two daughters. His son Raphael is a cellist and composer who has already had one of his works performed at the Kennedy Center.Back to top
Born in Nashville, TN, Brooke Quiggins Saulnier began her violin studies at age 5. She has performed in recitals and concerts throughout the United States and Europe and has won top honors in numerous solo and chamber music competitions. Brooke has performed in many exceptional venues, such as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Madison Square Garden, Alice Tully Hall, Koch Theater, the 92nd Street Y, and TriBeCa, to name a few.
Brooke received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the Manhattan School of Music under the private direction of Sylvia Rosenberg and Lucie Robert, and studied chamber music with Isodore Cohen, Michael Tree, David Soyer, and Lawrence Dutton. She held the Principal Second Violin chair in both the Miami Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas for several years and currently holds the Principal Second Violin position in the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra and Reading Symphony Orchestra. Brooke can be heard on the Sony Classical, Naxos, Columbia Records, and Universal record labels and has been featured in several movies and television spots, including a commercial for MetLife Insurance Co., which originally aired during Super Bowl XLVI. In addition to her classical career, Brooke has performed and recorded with Gloria Estefan, John Legend, Keri Hilson, My Brightest Diamond, Young the Giant, Aretha Franklin, and Peter Cetera. Brooke also enjoys playing with her crossover string quartet,Osso.
She resides in New York City with her husband.Back to top
Nancy F. Sudik has played horn in the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra since 1983 and is principal horn in the Danbury Symphony Orchestra. She is the Executive Director of the Danbury Music Centre, which encourages people with a wide variety of musical backgrounds to study and perform classic and modern compositions.
Nancy graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a major in piano performance and music education. She received a state award from former Governor John Rowland naming her "Distinguished Arts Advocate for the State of Connecticut." In 2007-2009, she collaborated with Michael Tilson Thomas, the San Francisco Orchestra, and PBS in the production of a documentary about Charles E. Ives as part of PBS' ongoing series Keeping Score. She is on the board of the Housatonic Valley Cultural Alliance and has served as Secretary-Treasurer of Local 87, American Federation of Musicians, since 1998.Back to top
Cellist Bernard Tamosaitis brought a rich and varied background with him when he joined the Orchestra in 2000. A Brooklyn native, he graduated from Juilliard with a B.A. in cello and became a principal of the Bellas Artes Orchestra of Mexico City and later a member of the Quinteto de Xalapa chamber ensemble at the University of Vera Cruz. He performed extensively throughout Mexico and Latin America.
As cello soloist he performed on tour with the New York Symphonic Ensemble and with the Sinfonica de El Salvador, the Sound Shore and St. Thomas orchestras.
Bernie is Music Director of the St. Thomas Orchestra (White Plains, NY), which he founded in 2002. In 2005 the Orchestra was awarded an Arts Alive grant from the Westchester Council of the Arts and the Exxon-Mobil Corp. He is also a member of the Canta Libre ensemble.
Bernie lives in Rye Neck with his wife, pianist Sayuri Ida, and children Alexis and Lori.Back to top
Kathy Taylor has played clarinet and bass clarinet in the Orchestra since 2005. An alumna of Juilliard, she studied with the legendary Leon Russianoff. She is a member of the Connecticut Grand Opera, Stamford Chamber Orchestra, and Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra and is on the latter's Board of Trustees. She performs regularly with the New Haven, Hartford, and Stamford Symphonies.
Kathy has been a featured artist at the Newport Music Festival and Windham, NY Festival. She teaches and gives master classes throughout the country at high schools, colleges, and universities. She was principal clarinetist in the American Sinfonietta 2001 European tour and substituted in the orchestra of the Disney production "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway for nine years. She plays in the Fontenay Chamber Players with harpist Wendy Kerner Lucas and the Borealis Wind Quintet. The quintet's CD "A La Carte" was a 2006 Grammy Nominee for Best Classical Chamber Music Performance.Back to top
The performance of John Charles Thomas, principal trumpet with the RSO, was described in a Ridgefield Press review of Copland's Quiet City as "impressive both musically and dramatically." Another Press review, this of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, read "...Particular high points were the lovely waltz, featuring on this occasion a seldom-heard cornet obbligato, beautifully played by John Charles Thomas."
Originally from Springfield, Ohio, and educated at the world-renowned Indiana University, John has performed in the premieres of works in both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and appeared in Europe, Asia, Canada and the U.S. as soloist and chamber musician. He has played under many great conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, Charles Dutoit, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, and Riccardo Muti.
John is a member of the Grammy-Award winning Chestnut Brass Company, and his solo appearances have included performances of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 and Haydn's Trumpet Concerto, among others.Back to top
Kathleen Thomson has been a violinist with the Orchestra since 2005. She is a native of Minneapolis, where, as a three-time competition winner, she soloed with the orchestras of Chicago, Green Bay, and Minneapolis.
Kathleen earned a Masters from the Manhattan School of Music as a scholarship student of Raphael Bronstein and Ariana Bronne. She performs at Carnegie, Alice Tully, and Avery Fisher Halls and has appeared at Royal Albert Hall in London and the Spoleto Festival in Italy. She has performed at The Kitchen and other venues which present current composers.
An avid chamber music lover, she was founding member of the Palisades Chamber Players and the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra. She is concertmaster of the Westchester Camerata, first violinist with the Camerata Quartet, and performs regularly with the Saint Georges Quartet and the Golubov Piano Trio. She is also a member of the Stamford Symphony.
Kathleen lives in Irvington, New York, with her husband and two young children.Back to top
Violist Lakshmi Thorne has been a member of the Orchestra since 2002. She also performs with the Westchester Chamber Orchestra, Norwalk Symphony, Greater Bridgeport Symphony, and Hudson Valley Philharmonic. She holds a Masters from State University of New York at Purchase and a Bachelors from the Hartt School. She is a Suzuki registered teacher and maintains an active studio at the Riverside Music School in Greenwich, CT and through the Rivertown Arts Council in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Lakshmi has played with the Greenwich Symphony, New Britain Symphony, Garden State Philharmonic, Bristol Symphony, and the Camerata Ensemble. She has also received chamber coaching from the Emerson String Quartet, the Adaskin String Trio, and the Lions Gate Trio. Ms. Thorne has also studied with Lawrence Dutton, Steve Larson, Ira Weller, and Joey Corpus.
Lakshmi is also the founder of The Devonshire Players, a group that plays for any special occasion, providing a string quartet, trio, duo, or solo performers.Back to top
Violist Mercy Vaillancourt has been with the Orchestra since 2000. She received her Bachelors and Masters from the Hartt School of Music and Western CT State University, respectively. Mercy has been teaching strings in the Greenwich Public Schools since 1999 and maintains a busy private studio in Greenwich. She is in the process of attaining her Suzuki certification from the Suzuki Association of the Americas.
Mercy is a member of The Grazioso Quartet and she freelances in the tri-state area. In her personal time, Mercy enjoys dabbling in alternative styles of performance and devotes her musical talents to her church. She enjoys playing and recording the Christian pop music by composer Michael Tellier of Woonsocket, RI.
Mercy currently resides in Stamford, CT and Woonsocket, RI. She loves traveling worldwide to visit with family and friends, attending New Kids on the Block concerts, and enjoying the sun and beach.Back to top
The RSO has its own "magic flutist" in the person of vivacious Kerry Walker.
Kerry, who received her PhD from Texas Tech University, attributes her undergraduate success to her mentor, Judith Bentley, at the University of Michigan. In New York, she came to the attention of Julius Baker, with whom she studied and later performed dual recitals.
Beatrice Brown, former conductor of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, was looking for a flutist and contacted Mr. Baker. Upon his recommendation, Kerry joined the RSO in 1993, eventually becoming Principal Flutist. She is also principal flutist in the Ives Festival Orchestra. She performs with several chamber groups, including the Manhattan String Quartet, Ridgewinds, Prometheus, and Dual Excursions, with whom she recently produced a CD.
She is a full professor at WestConn, where she teaches Flute Performance and Music History, and directs the Julius Baker Master Classes and the National High School Flute Institute, both held annually at the mid-town campus.Back to top
Violinist Larry Watson began his musical studies at age 8 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He received a Masters degree from Yale University studying with Szymon Goldberg and has also studied with Dorothy DeLay and chamber music with Rostislav Dubinsky and Raphael Hillyer.
Larry has served on the faculty of the Music Conservatory of Westchester since 1990 and is a string teacher in the Clarkstown Public Schools in New City, NY. He has also taught at Sarah Lawrence College and Nyack College.
Larry has been a member of the Laurentian String Quartet since 1983. He has toured the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa, and Asia with the Laurentians. He has also taught and performed at many festivals in New England and North Carolina, as well as the Laurentian's summer music festival at the Music Conservatory of Westchester.
Larry is also currently principal second violin with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra and resides in Westchester, NY with his wife, Maria Alicia Valenzuela.Back to top
Melissa Westgate has been Principal Cellist with the Orchestra since 2000. In April 2010 she performed Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in e minor with the Orchestra.
Melissa received her Bachelors Degree from the Hartt School of Music, where she studied with David Wells. While in attendance there, she received a full scholarship towards an Artist Diploma and performed with the Emerson String Quartet as a winner of their student competition. She also performed with Jaime Laredo and Isaac Stern as a member of the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Melissa's achievements at the Hartt School were rewarded with a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Alan Stepansky. After completing her Masters Degree, she began performing professionally in many orchestras and chamber groups throughout northeastern America and Russia including the New Haven and Springfield Symphonies.
Melissa resides in Redding, CT with her husband and two daughters.Back to top
Edward Wojtowicz has been Principal Clarinetist with the RSO since 1987. He is active as a performer on clarinet and saxophone around CT and has played in many of the orchestras and ensembles at one time or another. Ed is a versatile performer, playing in a variety of settings and styles and has backed up a variety of artists in both classical and popular music. He has toured Japan, playing with the New Sousa Band. He received his degrees from The Hartt School of Music and The Juilliard School. His major teachers included Robert Marcellus, David Weber, William Blount and Henry Larsen. In addition to his activities as a performer, Ed is active as an educator, both in schools and privately and as an adjudicator.Back to top
Dave has been with RSO since 1996, and is currently the Orchestra's timpanist and principal percussionist. His past orchestral performances include North Carolina Symphony, the Brooklyn Opera, and the New England Consort, and venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to Ale Mary's Pub. He started playing snare drum at age seven, drum set at age eight, became a world champion Scottish Style Snare Drummer at sixteen, and has taught, composed for, performed with, and produced records for Bagpipe bands throughout the east coast. He plays with rock bands, jazz bands, African drumming ensembles, and facilitates Drum Circles throughout the tri-state area.
Dave was the soloist in Russell Peck's "Harmonic Rhythm Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra" in 2003. Music critic Courtenay Caublé said, "The long standing ovation, the bravos, and the whistles were all for David Wonsey. He was terrific."
Formerly an assistant professor at Marymount College and Fordham University, Dave is currently an adjunct Professor at Norwalk Community College, Kent and Wooster Schools, teaches privately, and runs seminars nationwide; also see his web page.Back to top
Andy has found ways to bring his cello into the non-classical musical world. He has studied various music styles with teachers such as fiddler Jay Ungar and saxophonist Peter Davis. Andy cofounded Café Musette and played 75 performances. He currently plays cello in monthly restaurant performances of the Danbury area's Fiddlers' Brawl.
Andy pursues dual careers in music and engineering. He has a graduate degree in electrical engineering, and he consults regarding design of medical devices. His typical day involves both music and engineering. He says, "I appreciate the freedom of consulting, as I can mix up my day. When I tire of either music or engineering, I take a break and do the other."Back to top
Laura Wright has been a violinist in the Orchestra since 1991. Along with a liberal arts education at Lawrence University, she has Masters degrees in violin performance and Suzuki pedagogy from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She studied at the Interlochen and Tanglewood summer music festivals and took private lessons for many years from Joyce Robbins, in New York.
She has played throughout the United States, in summer music festivals, orchestras, and as a chamber and strolling musician. She currently freelances throughout Connecticut.
Ms. Wright has a studio in New Haven and is the violin instructor at the Wintergreen Interdistrict Arts Magnet School in Hamden, CT. She has taught at the International Suzuki Institute in Melbourne, Australia (in 1994), other Suzuki Institutes in the United States, and is an active member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas.
Laura resides with her husband Michael Pierce and son Matthew in the greater New Haven area.Back to top