Music Blog

The Official Blog of the Music Conservatory of Westchester

Join us for an Immersive Suzuki Open House!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

On Saturday, June 2, the Conservatory will hold an immersive Open House for parents and their children to experience and understand the Suzuki philosophy of music education designed for young students ages 4 and up. The Open House will start at 9:30am with special musical performances from violin and cello Suzuki students on the front steps of the Conservatory, followed by open studio lessons at 11:00am, and a question and answer session at 1:00pm.

Students in the Conservatory’s Suzuki Program study music with the belief that “Every Child Can” encouraging every student’s innate musical talents at an early age. The Suzuki philosophy extends to all ages and abilities, and the Conservatory’s program welcomes students of violin, viola, cello, and piano.

Try the Suzuki Program during the regular school year or over the summer. This summer, the Conservatory is offering a Suzuki Beginner Special for introductory lessons for young beginner students starting at age 4 in sessions from August 6th-10th and/or August 13th-17th.

Come learn about the unique and proven Suzuki philosophy for learning to play a musical instrument on Saturday, June 2 at 9:30am. Give your children the best possible start with music at the Music Conservatory of Westchester, a musical community like no other. Visit for more information.

Student Spotlight - Elizabeth Jones

Thursday, May 17, 2018

After studying piano and cello at the Conservatory since 2011, 13 year old Elizabeth Jones found her love for the cello.  Elizabeth won Grand Prix in the esteemed international Concert Festival Concerto Competition this year, performing Tarantella Op. 33 by David Popper. 

As a winner, she will perform a solo with the Concert Festival Orchestra on May 6, 2018. Her Conservatory cello teacher David Krieger said, “She is so talented and takes everything to heart. She also appreciates the humor and fun that is in the music, which makes the whole learning experience very enjoyable.”

“My parents tell a story that when I was a little baby, I liked to sing myself to sleep in a low voice,” she said, explaining how her love of playing the cello was meant to be.

Alumni Spotlight - Mary Bianco

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Alumna, long time board member and composer Mary Bianco had her piece Trio con Brio premiered by the Manhattan Chamber Players on March 5th at Holy Trinity Church in NYC.  Lewis Smoley praised the piece in Classical Source as “a well-crafted, moderately dense contrapuntal display of interweaving lines.”

The group also premiered Allegre y Divertida in China, performing it in five cities: Beijing, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xiamen, Linyi, and Harbin.  Her cello trio was premiered on April 4th in Palos Verde, CA, and she is currently composing for summer festivals in Columbus, Ohio, New Orleans, San Luis Obispo and San Francisco.  Brava Mary!!

Celebrating 5 Years of Healing Our Heroes and Honoring Tony Award Winners at 17th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic

Monday, May 14, 2018


For its 17th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic, the Music Conservatory of Westchester will honor both Broadway and our nation’s heroes who have served to protect our freedoms.

On June 25 at the Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase, NY, the not-for-profit White Plains, NY community music school will follow up last year’s record-breaking fundraiser with a Broadway benefit event also celebrating the 5th anniversary of its Healing Our Heroes music therapy program for military veterans. After a day of golf and tennis, Tony Award winners Roger Bart and Randy Graff will represent Broadway’s best as special honorees for each of their 30 years of extensive and impressive work in the performing arts. Clearly, the Music Conservatory of Westchester knows how to organize a “Classic” event worthy of a standing ovation.

Conservatory Board President, founder of the Healing Our Heroes program, and Scarsdale resident Joel Breitkopf said, “We provide scholarships for youth and for military veterans who live and thrive in our community.”

The Music Conservatory of Westchester established the Healing Our Heroes program in 2013 to provide music therapy and related music instruction for U.S. military veterans who are dealing with combat-related injuries both physical and emotional. Veterans in the Healing Our Heroes program receive two years of individual music therapy services at no cost to them with scholarship aid, as well as participation in two weekly drop-in group sessions and Music Sharing Events, enabling veterans to share their music and experiences of life after their service and how music has helped them in the process.

Former Board President and Armonk resident Rodd Berro saw an opportunity to share the amazing proven success of Healing Our Heroes with a wider audience in the form of a documentary film. The Conservatory partnered with Ming Media and its principals, El Sawyer and Jon Kaufman to create feature-length cinematic experience about the program. As Executive Producer of “Healing Our Heroes: The Documentary,” Mr. Berro will present teaser footage from the documentary film to guests at the benefit event. This year, a portion of the proceeds to the Healing Our Heroes program will be dedicated to the documentary project.

“It is especially meaningful to me,” Mr. Berro said of being able to showcase the powerful footage from this film, “that is very close to my heart.”

In addition to celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Healing Our Heroes program, the Conservatory’s 17th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic will honor some Broadway luminaries for their impressive accomplishments in the performing arts, another important cause for the community music school.

Roger Bart will be honored with the Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award at the benefit event. He won the Tony award for his notable portrayal of Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Also known for his performances in The Producers as Carmen Ghia, for which he earned Tony and Drama Desk nominations, and played that role in both the stage and film productions. In his successful career on Broadway, he originated the roles of Harlequin in Triumph of Love, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Tony in Disaster!. He can currently be seen on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, opposite fellow Tony Award winner Neil Patrick Harris, and on the new Epix series Graves, starring opposite Nick Nolte and Sela Ward.

Randy Graff, Tony and Drama Desk Award winner for her performance in City of Angels, will receive the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Award from the Music Conservatory of Westchester. She received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for her role in A Class Act. Ms. Graff created the role of Fantine in Les Misérables with the original Broadway cast, a distinction of her extensive career. Her other Broadway credits include Fiddler On The Roof, Neil Simon’s Laughter On The 23rd Floor, Moon Over Buffalo with Carol Burnett, Falsettos, High Society, and Grease. She has performed roles at Lincoln Center Theatre and in the renowned Sondheim Festival at The Kennedy Center. Currently on the Musical Theatre faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, she teaches vocal performance to the next generation of Broadway stars.

Unforgettable cabaret performances from three-time Tony Award nominee Kevin Chamberlin and two-time Tony Award nominee Christopher Sieber will entertain guests throughout the evening award ceremony and dinner. Host of Sirius XM Radio’s On Broadway channel, Christine Pedi, will emcee the event.

At the Annual Golf and Tennis Classic, guests will be serenaded not only by Tony Award-celebrated artists but also by special musical performances from veteran participants in the Healing Our Heroes program.

“Our event is truly a win-win for our guests,” Conservatory Executive Director Jean Newton said of this year’s benefit. “They get a day of golf or tennis at a gorgeous club and a fabulous star-studded dinner, all to support a great cause.”

Mr. Breitkopf added, “It is an honor to support the Music Conservatory of Westchester as it touches the lives of thousands of folks in Westchester County every year.”

Proceeds from the Music Conservatory of Westchester’s 17th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic will support its Healing Our Heroes music therapy program benefiting military veterans with combat-related injuries, as well as the school’s Music Therapy Program improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities, and Scholarship Program providing students from financially-deserving families with access to quality music training. To purchase tickets, visit

Final Chance to Enter the "Colors of Music” Student Mural Contest

Monday, May 07, 2018


Art Experts and Prominent Westchester Community Leaders Judge Public Art Opportunity for Teen Students

It’s the final chance for Westchester County teen artists to enter the Music Conservatory of Westchester’s “Colors of Music” Student Mural Contest! The contest gives talented local students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate with a professional mural artist to create a mural on a public canvas representing the theme of “Multi-Cultural Music.” Students also have the rare chance to have their artwork evaluated by an impressive group of art experts and community leaders from Westchester County and New York City. The “Colors of Music” Student Mural Contest is open now for submissions from students in grades 7-12 residing in Westchester County, NY through Friday, May 11, 2018.

The “Colors of Music” Student Mural Contest is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Conservatory is honored to be a recipient in this nationally competitive award program.

In addition to collaborating professional mural artist Jonathan Villoch, the contest adjudication panel includes:

  • Margaret Adasko, Curator of Education, Katonah Museum of Art
  • Samantha De Tillio, Assistant Curator, Museum of Arts and Design
  • Michael Dweck, Treasurer and Board Trustee, Museum of Arts and Design
  • Jimmy Fink, Radio Personality and Producer at 107.1 The Peak
  • Lynn Honeysett, Former Executive Director of the Pelham Art Center
  • Janet Langsam, CEO of Arts Westchester
  • Amy R. Paulin, Assemblymember for the 88th District

"I am happy to participate in the ‘Colors of Music’ Student Mural Contest to give aspiring artists in Westchester County the opportunity to showcase their talents," said Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale). "All great cultures have at their core a reverence for art in public spaces and the duty to foster the next generation as they explore their talents and means of expression. Westchester County will hopefully be enriched by these artists for a long time to come."

The winner and three runners up will collaborate with Mr. Villoch to create the final mural design. All four original designs will be incorporated into the mural to be painted on the south-facing exterior wall of the Music Conservatory of Westchester’s building on Central Avenue in White Plains. Reflecting the welcoming, inclusive, and vibrant essence of the community music school, the “Colors of Music” Student Mural Contest gives visual presence to the sounds of music, and encourages students of all backgrounds to share their creativity with the community.

“The contest will hopefully encourage young artists to consider ways that art can facilitate dialogues, and lend a voice to those not always at the center of dominant cultural conversations,” Samantha De Tillio, contest judge and Assistant Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design said of the greater messages that student contestants can share with their artwork in the “Colors of Music” Student Mural Contest.

This opportunity is open to all eligible residents of Westchester County, and current students of the Music Conservatory of Westchester. Entrants must currently be in grades 7-12. Contest entries will be accepted until Friday, May 11, 2018. Original art submissions will show the student’s interpretation of “Multi-Cultural Music” using a variety of mixed media of the student’s choice. Copyrighted material or images of celebrities will not be allowed. The Conservatory asks that students limit artwork to images of family friendly subject matter.

Winners will be selected in two rounds of judging: Round 1 will be a digital submission round accepted via email. If chosen for Round 2, the original artwork must be mailed or dropped off at the Music Conservatory of Westchester to be considered for winning the contest.

Student entrants must complete and send a submission form signed by their parents and a digital copy of their artwork to

For more information about the contest guidelines and to complete the submission form, visit:

Winners will be announced Friday, June 15, 2018. The finished mural will be unveiled at an outdoor community event on Sunday, September 30, 2018. All are invited to join the Conservatory for live music, food trucks, family fun, and celebrating a public exhibit of youth art reflecting the vibrant diversity of our community.

The Dean's Desk - Spring 2018

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

While grounded in time-honored musical values, the Music Conservatory is equally committed to innovative programming for today’s students, including our very youngest. This fall we will embark on a new elementary group guitar curriculum for students as young as age 4, imparting the musical foundations to pursue more advanced studies in classical, rock, Latin, or jazz guitar, and preparing them to join a variety of bands and ensembles. 

A new sequential First Notes curriculum will start at age 3 months, and will be offered on Sundays for the first time. Parents will see their children engaged in fun learning activities, gaining new skills at each level. The curriculum will seamlessly progress to our Music Skills and Theory classes. 

We are redesigning our group piano classes as we prepare to create a Digital Piano Classroom with a separate work station for each student. We anticipate a robust demand for these classes, from children age 4 right through adult learners of all ability levels.

The Conservatory’s unique blend of innovation and tradition has built our reputation for almost 90 years. Every day, we work hard to prove that we are, and will continue to be, the “Best of Westchester.”

Dr. Douglas Bish
Dean of Students and Faculty

Music Conservatory of Westchester Students Play (Music) to Win

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018 is already a winning year for the Music Conservatory of Westchester community! The Conservatory is proud of its students who have been recognized by the greater music community for their talents and hard work. Several students in our musical community received honors for their musical accomplishments and have had incredible performance opportunities so far this year. Congratulations to all of our students who have proved that practice does pay off!

Aniketh Arvind, 12 year old piano student since 2016 of Dr. Mikhail Zeiger at the Conservatory, won first place in the J.Y. Park Piano Competition in April 2018 at Western Connecticut State University, and performed at the Winner’s Recital and Award Ceremony. His teacher, Dr. Zeiger won the Teacher’s Award at the award ceremony.

Sarah Ashley Baldeon, 13 year old voice student of Christine Free-Rhodebeck since 2016, won second prize at the New York Concert Festival International Competition and performed at Engelman Recital Hall at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York City in April 2018.

Alice Cabral, 12 year old student of Mary Elizabeth Poore, voice, and Francesco Barone, guitar, since 2013, and recipient of the Darlene Love Vocal Scholarship, presented at the Conservatory’s 2017 Golf and Tennis Classic, is now a contestant of the Celebration of Music Talent Search where she will perform at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford, CT live on PBS in a talent showcase on April 27, 2018.

Amanda Crewey, 13 year old cello student of Adriana Pera at the Conservatory since 2009, was offered admission to Special Music School (instrumental) and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (instrumental and vocal). She accepted a spot in the instrumental program at LaGuardia.

Benjamin Gotian, 17 year old saxophone student of Nicholas Brust since 2017, received a talent scholarship to Muhlenburg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth Jones, 13 year old cello student of David Krieger, was awarded the esteemed Grand Prix at the Concert Festival Concerto Competition. A student of both David Krieger, cello, and Svetlana Gorokhovich, piano, since 2011, Elizabeth will perform with the Concert Festival Orchestra on May 6, 2018.

Audrey Yusi Li, 10 year old piano student of Jaejin Lee since, 2013 performed at the New York Celebration of Excellence Award recital in February 2018 at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and was recognized as a Center Certificate of Excellence Winner.

Patrick Stanton, 12 year old clarinet student of Dr. Doug Bish since 2010, performed at the New York Celebration of Excellence Award recital in February 2018 at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and was a National Gold Medal Winner.

Mariana Varriano, 13 year old piano student of Laetitia Ruccolo at the Music Conservatory of Westchester since 2014, won at the Golden Key Music Festival and will perform at Carnegie Hall on April 29, 2018.

Matthew Welling, 12 year old MTI student of music therapists James Maxson and Donald Stevens since 2010, performed in March at the Beacon Theater in New York City and with the Band O.A.R., and at Radio City Music Hall with the Garden of Dreams Alumni Choir. Both events were fundraisers for the Garden of Dreams Foundation.

Ruimin Zhang, 12 year old piano student of Marina Rozozhina since 2012, won second place in the 2018 New York Competition for Young Artists, and will perform at the award recital at Carnegie Hall on May 10, 2018.

MCW Unites with Music in the Alps

Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Music Conservatory of Westchester and Music in the Alps Unite for International Music Experience

This summer, the Music Conservatory of Westchester, known for its esteemed faculty with global performance credentials, and international music festival Music in the Alps, are uniting to make “Sound of Music” dreams come true – playing music in the heart of the Austrian Alps.

Established in 2013, by Ukranian-born concert pianist and Conservatory faculty member Dr. Irena Portenko, Music in the Alps has grown as a unique training experience bringing together internationally renowned musicians as well as students from around the world. This year, Music in the Alps will take place from July 31 through August 19, 2018.

Dr. Portenko says that the motto of the festival, "Share your passion, share your story,” resembles the Music Conservatory of Westchester's mission to provide the extraordinary benefits of music to all in our community. This summer, the Conservatory’s mission will extend far beyond Westchester County. Dr. Portenko will bring to her summer festival three additional faculty members of the nonprofit White Plains, New York community music school that was established in 1929: Conductor and clarinetist Dr. Douglas Bish, pianist Svetlana Gorokhovich, and jazz guitarist Dario Chiazzolino.The combination of world-class music and a majestic backdrop such as the Austrian Alps in Bad Gastein, Austria is unbeatable.

“Austria is the geographic heart of classical music,” Dean of the Music Conservatory of Westchester, Dr. Douglas Bish explains. “The Music in the Alps festival is located just an hour from Mozart’s home in Salzburg, Austria. Along with Vienna to the east, it helps to make up a country that is “music itself” to many musicians. Just being there, with the musical history that comprises the very fabric of that country, will be an inspiration and it must have an effect on the music.”

Music in the Alps is an opportunity for students of all ages to receive a well-rounded experience in music exploration. In instrumental and vocal masterclasses and chamber music groups, students study the works of composers such as Bach, Handel, Schumann, Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms. Frequent performances enhance students’ skills as they learn in such an inspirational environment. “One minute you are looking at this wonderful world around you; and in the very next minute you are illustrating it using your imagination, your skills, and your instrument,” Dr. Portenko says.

New aspects to the festival are introduced this year, inspired by its participants’ musical interests and the faculty’s expertise. Dr. Bish says, “All of the Conservatory’s faculty who will be participating in Music in the Alps already have received international recognition for their work in music, as concert performers, conductors, and recording artists. This opportunity does, however, remind people around the world of the strength of the Conservatory’s faculty and that we offer a world-class instructional program here in Westchester County.”

Led by Dr. Bish, a new Concerto-Aria Competition will bring advanced students together to compete for a chance to perform with the festival orchestra, make a special appearance in a music series in the legendary Marble Room of Mirabell Palace in Salzburg, and an invitation for the most impressive contestant to perform at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall during the 2018-2019 season. Blue Griffin Recording Inc. will live-broadcast the Concerto-Aria Competition and all performances from Music in the Alps to share the experience with music lovers around the world.

This summer, renowned jazz guitarist and Conservatory faculty member Dario Chiazzolino and former Conservatory jazz faculty member Bob Arthurs will expand the Music in the Alps offerings beyond classical music to the jazz and popular music genres. Conservatory piano faculty member since 1997 and internationally recognized piano recording artist with Blue Griffin Recording Inc., Svetlana Gorokhovich will return to Music in the Alps teaching Piano Solo and Piano Ensemble during the summer program.In addition to faculty members from the Music Conservatory of Westchester, other masterclass instructors and program directors at Music in the Alps also come with extraordinary credentials.

Grammy-nominated conductor and recipient of the American Prize for Conducting, Kenneth Kiesler will hold a highly anticipated intensive masterclass. Over 25 conductors from around the world have applied to participate. A selective program, only 6 applicants will be accepted to this particular masterclass. Classical vocalist, Tammy Hensrud, whose international performance appearances span from the Vienna State Opera to the Metropolitan Opera, is slated to lead the vocal program at Music in the Alps.

Dr. Portenko says of bringing a little bit of home influences from the Music Conservatory of Westchester to Austria, “I think the spirit of New York prevails in our festival and serves as a main drive and subject for astonishment. ‘Where do you get so much energy?’ We usually say: ‘From the city that never sleeps.’”

Several Conservatory students also traveling to Austria this summer to participate in Music in the Alps need not worry about language barriers. Dr. Bish explains, “Saying that ‘Music is the Universal Language’ isn’t just a phrase. It is reality.”

Visit for more info.

Jazz Sessions: Take Ten at Jacob Burns

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jazz Sessions: Take Ten

May 2-30 at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY

Come celebrate a decade of Jazz Sessions as we revisit films from past years, including The House of Tom, Chasing Trane, 1959: The Year That Changed Jazz, and Jazz on a Summer’s Day, and bring you two new films on Django Reinhardt and Bill Evans. John Pizzarelli kicks off opening night with a musical tribute to Antônio Carlos Jobim, followed by four more live performances that introduce us to some of the exciting young innovators who carry on the jazz legacy and continue to reinvent the form today.

Buy tickets here:

An Evening Concert for Flute, Cello, and Harpsichord

Monday, April 16, 2018

Experience the rich music of Baroque and Classical repertoire from such composers as J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Telemann, and Haydn on Friday, April 27 at 8pm at the Church of Immaculate Conception in Sleepy Hollow.

In this free evening concert, flutists David Markowitz and Holly Saks, cellist Adriana Maria Pera, and harpsichordist Jean Newton, will celebrate the great Baroque and Classical music and composers of the 1600s and 1700s, who continue to influence modern music, in a traditional format performance for today’s audience.

Jean Newton and Adriana Maria Pera are both members of the faculty at the Music Conservatory of Westchester, with Newton serving as the Executive Director of the community music school in White Plains. David Markowitz is an accomplished flutist and alumnus of the Music Conservatory of Westchester, having studied at the school with the late Harold Jones, then going on to study at Oberlin and Yale. Flutist Holly Saks brings her experience and expertise as a music educator and a multi-instrumentalist to the performance.

Friday, April 27 at 8pm, Free Admission
Church of Immaculate Conception
199 North Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591