Music Blog

The Official Blog of the Music Conservatory of Westchester

Checkmate! Conservatory Students Achieve On and Off the Stage

Thursday, January 07, 2016

There have been countless studies indicating that music education is linked to brain development, academic achievement, as well as improved math and reading skills. We are seeing these studies come to life among our own students. The Casenas brothers are both Suzuki students at the Music Conservatory. Luis-Jaime, age 11, takes cello while his brother, Luis-Joshua, age 8, takes violin. In addition to being musical these two boys are also competitive chess players. Their home is filled with trophies from various chess competitions they have won (below).

Luis-Jaime Casenas (left) and Luis-Joshua Casenas (right) stand in their trophy room with their instruments. Photo by Janine Casenas 

The boys will be competing this Saturday, Jan 9th in the Kasparov Chess Foundation Championship in New York City, Jaime in the primary division, and Joshua in the elementary division.  Congratulations to the Casenas family and Luis-Jaime and Luis-Joshua for all your hard-work and dedication. We’re proud of you!

Music Therapy Institute Recieves a Generous Gift from the ASCAP Foundation

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lisa Sandagata, the Music Therapy Institute’s Director of the Outreach will receive the ASCAP Foundation Award on December 9th in New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center. Our partnership with The ASCAP Foundation began 6 years ago. Since that time, they have provided a generous grant to support music therapy programs in Eastchester UFSD. This program enables over 100 students with special learning needs to receive quality music education annually.  Former ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento along with his wife Barbara provide funding for the program.  We are grateful to The ASCAP Foundation for their continued support and encouragement .  If you would like more information on The ASCAP Foundation please go to:

Mary Lynn Marx Bianco Honors Irena Portenko

Friday, November 13, 2015

A generous gift from Mary Bianco, Music Conservatory Trustee, has enabled faculty member Irena Portenko’s students to participate in a series of harpsichord master classes taught by Executive Director Jean Newton, giving them the opportunity to experience the music of Bach and his contemporaries on the original instrument.  “The students are very excited. They are working on touch, technique, understanding the style and preparing assignments that teach them critical listening and creativity,” said Ms. Portenko. 

Irena and her students are extremely grateful that Mary’s generosity and Jean’s skills and methods allow the students to expand their horizons in their general knowledge and performance practice. The students will perform their pieces on the harpsichord in Ms. Portenko’s class recital this winter.  Thank you so much Mary Bianco!

Cindi Hsu Wins International Call for Scores Contest

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Congratulations to Cindi Hsu whose original composition “Impulse” for clarinet and piano recently won the International Call for Scores contest for clarinetist Thomas Piercy, sponsored by Vox Novus.  The work will be premiered as part of Vox Novus Festival: Composer's Voice Evening Concert at Symphony Space, NYC on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 at 8pm.  Click here for more info

Music Conservatory Holds Annual Jazz Brunch and Honors Late Beloved Faculty Member

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Music Conservatory of Westchester, a not-for-profit community music school in White Plains, honored a beloved faculty member who passed away earlier this year at its annual Jazz Brunch on Sunday, Oct. 4 at the Larchmont Shore Club.


Harold Jones passed away in January 2015, and left behind a rich legacy at not just the White Plains not-for-profit music school but the world of classical music.  A ground-breaker as a minority artist in the field, Jones was an accomplished performer who joined the Conservatory’s faculty in 1966. Funds from the event will honor Jones’ memory via flute scholarships in his name.  Jones’ widow Wanda and son Antar were on hand to accept an honorarium.

Along with the special presentation to the Jones family, the event featured a performance of Latin Jazz by Conservatory Jazz Artists Adam Ramsay (saxophone), Michael Pallas (trombone), Joshua Bruneau (trumpet), John Lang (bass), Hiroshi Yamazaki (keyboard), Jake Robinson (drums), and Phyllis Bethel (Latin percussion). Photos Nina Kruse/Pinsky Studio


Music Conservatory of Westchester Executive Director Jean Newton of Edgemont presents the late Harold Jones’ family (son Antar and widow Wanda) with a special honorarium at the organization’s annual Jazz Brunch held at the Larchmont Shore Club.


Board member Tony Smith of New Rochelle and Board President Rodd Berro of Armonk at the Music Conservatory’s annual Jazz Brunch held at the Larchmont Shore Club. 

Music Conservatory of Westchester faculty members Juliet Gopoian and James Ranti of Hartsdale share a moment at the Conservatory’s annual  Jazz Brunch held at Larchmont Shore Club.


 Board member John Bottomley and wife Patty of Rye at the Music Conservatory of Westchester’s Annual Jazz Brunch held at the Larchmont Shore Club.  


(R-to-L) Antar Jones, Music Conservatory of Westchester Chairman Robert Heath of Armonk, and Trustee Tony Smith at the organization’s Annual Jazz Brunch held at the Larchmont Shore Club.


The Music Conservatory of Westchester’s Jazz Band performs classic Latin tunes at the organization’s Annual Jazz Brunch held at the Larchmont Shore Club. 


Saraswati and Guillaume Vadnais receive Gold at NYSMTA auditions

Friday, May 01, 2015


Saraswati and Guillaume Vadnais, piano students of Juliet Gopoian, both received gold certificates for participating in the New York State Music Teachers Association annual auditions which took place here at the Conservatory on May 3rd, 2015. Saraswati and Guillaume also performed in the winners’ concert on May 17th in the Conservatory’s Recital Hall.

Conservatory Students Perform at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and More!

Sunday, March 01, 2015


Congratulations to Stewart Smith, piano student of Dr. Irena Portenko, for placing 3rd in the American Protege International Music Competition. He will be performing at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on December 20, 2015. Congratulations to Alexandra Abaeva, Elizabeth Jones, Katherine Rex, and Alex Tiratsuyan, students of Svetlana Gorokhovich, for their achievements in the Concert Festival International Competition. Alexandra, a Gran Prix winner, performed at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall on March 15.  Katherine, a First Prize winner, will perform at Lincoln Center’s Bruno Walter Auditorium on April 25th.  Alex, a First Prize winner of the Solo Recital Competition, Alex will perform a solo recital in April at Baruch Performing Arts Center’s Engelman Recital Hall. Elizabeth, a Second Prize winner, will perform at Symphony Space on April 18. Melody Hsu, also a piano student of Svetlana Gorokhovich, appeared as a soloist with the Rye Country Day School Festival Orchestra and Chorus in their performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy on January 25th at the Purchase College Performing Arts Center.

Congratulations to clarinetist Catherine Stanton of White Plains and violinists Joanna and Joning Wang of Scarsdale for being selected to perform at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall on Sunday, March 1, 2015. Catherine, Joanna and Joning were among 30 performers on March 1 who were honored with the Music Development Program’s 2014 Tri State Certificate of Excellence. These students earned this honor in recognition of achieving the highest marks on the Music Development Program’s spring assessments. Joanna and Joning study with Dr. Sarah Wetherbee, the Conservatory’s Dean of Students & Faculty. Catherine studies with Dr. Justin Stanley, Associate Dean of Students & Faculty. We are so proud of these fine young musicians!

Conservatory Students Recieve Prestigious Awards

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Music Conservatory students Elizabeth Slattery and Emalisa Stangarone, are the recipients of the 2013 Tri-State Certificate of Excellence for Level 1 and Level 4 respectively in Voice in New York, sponsored by the Music Development Program! They are voice students of Mary Elizabeth Poore. The State Certificate of Excellence Award recognizes students each academic year, September 1 to August 31, by state, who have obtained the highest marks for practical assessments in each discipline, Level 1 through to the Associate Diploma level. They were invited to the 2013 Tri-State Certificate of Excellence Recital and Awards Ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Sunday, March 16, 2014 to receive certificates in recognition of this outstanding achievement. 

In addition, Nivi Ravi, voice student of Dr. Celeste Jamerson and a freshman at Scarsdale High School, was awarded a renewable scholarship from Viterbo University in the national auditions of the Classical Singer Vocal Competition in San Antonio in May.  She was selected to go on to the national auditions after singing in the preliminary round of the competition in New York City earlier this year.