Music Blog

The Official Blog of the Music Conservatory of Westchester


Alumni Spotlight - Regina Brady

Friday, November 09, 2018


Conservatory alumna Regina “Gigi” Brady began piano lessons with us at age 5, discovered the oboe at age 9, and continued her Conservatory studies for 10 years. She gained acceptance to Juilliard Pre-College, graduated from Oberlin College and Conservatory with a double degree in Oboe Performance and Neuroscience, and then earned a M.M. in Oboe Performance from the Colburn School in Los Angeles.

“I think having a well-rounded background is an amazing thing,” she said. “It informs everything I do.”

Now 26 years old and a professional oboist, Gigi is currently a member of Orchestra Now at Bard College, a group of musicians who are innovating the 21st century audience experience. Coming from an academic family, a career in music was not her original plan. Gigi found her balance between academics and music.

“I realized that music is something I couldn’t live without. It was the obvious choice.”

Orchestra Now, Photos by: Matt Dine


Golden Williams Duo to Present Concert of “Contrasts” for Viola and Cello

Tuesday, November 06, 2018


The Music Conservatory of Westchester will ring in the new year with a concert by the Golden Williams Duo on Thursday, January 3rd at 7:30pm in the community music school’s Recital Hall. Cellist and Conservatory faculty member Diana Golden, and Assistant Principal Violist of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic Gregory K. Williams, will perform a program of duos for cello and viola.

This program will include works by composers Rebecca Clarke, Günter Raphael, Caroline Shaw, Paul Wiancko, Jessica Meyer, David Wolfson, and Michael Kosch. Because the twentieth century compositions by Clarke and Raphael are in two contrasting movements, the program was built around the concept of “contrasts.” Within this theme, Wolfson composed his Mood Swings for the Golden Williams Duo and Kosch dedicated two contrasting movements of his Sassetta to the Duo. In all, the concert will highlight compositions by five living composers.  

The Golden Williams Duo first performed together in 2017 at the Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold, NY, as members of the Red Door Chamber Players. Most recently, the Golden Williams Duo has performed at the Mountain Springs Music Festival in Orem, Utah, and at the Bi-Annual Conference of the American Viola Society, held at The Colburn School in Los Angeles, California. Additional performances of this program will be held in Manhattan at the concert series of Metropolitan Playhouse and Castle Village, and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College.

About the Music:

Composer Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979) was one of the finest violists and composers of her time. Holding both British and American citizenship, Clarke toured internationally with cellist May Mukle and other chamber musicians. Clarke would have won first prize in the 1919 Berkshire Festival of Chamber Music’s annual composition competition, but was awarded second prize instead when the judges discovered she was a woman. The Lullaby and Grotesque for Viola and Cello (published 1930) shows Clarke’s English musical influences and her Romantic and early twentieth century style. 


Günter Raphael (1903–1960) was a skillful German-Jewish musician whose career was forever altered by the rise of the Nazi Party; he was removed from his posts in 1934, his works banned from public performance. Raphael was ultimately saved by tuberculosis: hidden from the authorities in morgues and sanitariums, Raphael was able to continue to compose in secret, but his music never received the recognition of similarly talented composers who were able to escape Germany or those who were born after World War II. The Duo for Viola and Violoncello, op. 47, no. 4 (1941) is dark in texture and mood, reflecting the turmoil that Raphael faced during this time.

According to New York-based composer Caroline Shaw (b. 1982), her limestone and felt “presents two kinds of surfaces - essentially hard and soft.” The sounds of pizzicato and canons are imagined to be alternately inside the eaves of a gothic chapel or a woolen hat. For Shaw, felt and limestone represents “two opposing ways we experience history and design our own present.” 

American Haiku by Paul Wiancko (b. 1983) was commissioned by Ayane Kozasa and premiered in 2014. A richly-textured duo that incorporates Appalachian fiddling, percussive patterns and Japanese folk-inspired melodies, the piece explores Ayane's background as a Japanese artist growing up in the United States as well as Paul's Japanese-American heritage.

But Not Until by Bronx-based composer Jessica Meyer (b. 1974) is a duo based on a series of ironic interpersonal experiences that reminded the composer of the David Foster Wallace quote, “The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” It was written in 2014 for either viola and cello duo or viola duo.

David Wolfson (b. 1964) wrote Mood Swings for the Golden Williams Duo to premiere in December 2018. In addition to being inspired by a theme of contrasts, the title was also inspired by the idea of a musical dialogue that moves through different moods over time. Perhaps the composer was imagining the working relationship exhibited during rehearsals of duo partners who also happen to be married.

Dedicated to the Golden Williams Duo, Sassetta III and IV, by Michael Kosch (b. 1959), are musical responses to the work of the artist (known as Sassetta) Stefano di Giovanni’s “earthly eternity”: his astonishing portrayals of humans encountering the divine, experiences spanning the misery of despair to the ecstasy of revelation. The fifteenth century Sienese painter vividly captured the reality of mystery.


Golden Williams Duo Concert
Thursday, January 3rd at 7:30pm
Free Admission
Music Conservatory of Westchester
216 Central Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606
914-761-3900

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!!

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 musicinthealps.com for more info.



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

MCW Faculty Perform Downtown at Grace

Friday, April 06, 2018



Music Conservatory faculty members Elizabeth Farnum, soprano, Thomas Jamerson, baritone, and Christine Free Rhodebeck, mezzo soprano, are joined by pianist Laetitia Ruccolo for a special performance Wednesday, April 18th at 12:10pm. The concert will be held at Grace Church in White Plains as part of Downtown Music at Grace's award-winning concert series.

It is the second of two concerts of Germanic repertoire which illustrate the developing role of the piano as a musical partner in the classical and romantic periods. This concert is made possible, in part, with the generous support of Ridgeway Garden Center, White Plains, and Lago Ristorante, West Harrison. Click here for more info, admission is free.



Celebrate the Piano with this Free Concert Series

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Celebrate the Piano with the talented young students of the Music Conservatory of Westchester! Learn how the piano was invented, and how it became the most popular instrument of all time. Take a peek into the lives of the great piano composers and how they influenced piano builders to make it bigger and better.

These concerts are supported by the Westchester Community Foundation, The Rudyard and Emanuella Reimss Fund.

Sunday, March 4, 2:00 pm North Castle Library
Saturday, March 24, 3:00 pm White Plains Library
Sunday, April 15, 2:00 pm Ossining Library


Join Us for a Livestream Masterclass with PubliQuartet

Monday, January 22, 2018


On Saturday, February 10, Associated Chamber Music Players will be holding a Live Stream Chamber Music Masterclass featuring PUBLIQuartet, recipient of the 2015 CMA/ASCAP award for Adventurous Programming. The free two-hour masterclass will be held at the National Opera Center in NYC with a multi-camera crew where award-winning, PUBLIQuartet, will be conducting sessions on Astor Piazzola's Oblivion and Prokofiev's Quartet No. 2 (2nd movt). Attendance for the live event in NYC is free, click here to register!

Join your fellow students and musicians at the Music Conservatory of Westchester and experience this unique event together! The Conservatory is inviting anyone interested to view the live stream on Feb 10th from 2:30 - 4:30pm in Rm 203. Participants will be able to submit questions or comments through a live chat feed. Those unable to make it Saturday can still tune into the live stream at home. To find out more information about PUBLIQuartet, how to view and downloading scores go to: prod.acmp.net/acmp.net/live.

Livestream Masterclass Facebook Event

Faculty Member Dorothy Jonas Releases New CD

Saturday, November 25, 2017
Jonas CD

The Piano Duo of Joshua Pierce and long-time Conservatory faculty member, Dorothy Jonas, have just released a new CD of 20th Century Masterpieces for 2 pianos and orchestra.

The two CD set includes world premiere recordings of Poulenc, Starer, Creston, Berezovsky, Lopatnikoff, Malipiero and Tansman. Distributed by MSR Classics the album can be purchased HERE.

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