Music Blog

The Official Blog of the Music Conservatory of Westchester

Veterans and Broadway Stars Perform to Raise Funds at Music Conservatory of Westchester Benefit

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Broadway stars joined with Conservatory stars at the stunning, successful 17th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic benefit event for the Music Conservatory of Westchester on June 25th. Pictured from left to right: Board President Joel Breitkopf, performer Kevin Chamberlin, emcee Christine Pedi, honoree Randy Graff, Executive Director Jean Newton, honoree Roger Bart, and performer Christopher Sieber.

Dreams do come true! The Music Conservatory of Westchester raised more than $313,000 in gross proceeds from the White Plains nonprofit’s 17th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic at the Brae Burn Country Club! Monday, June 25 was a beautiful day for golf and tennis, and an incredible evening to honor Tony Award winners Roger Bart and Randy Graff, and celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Conservatory’s Healing Our Heroes music therapy program for military veterans.

Conservatory Executive Director and Edgemont resident, Jean Newton said, “It was truly thrilling to see so many generous individuals, and Broadway stars, come out to support our mission of providing the extraordinary benefits of music to everyone in the community. Healing Our Heroes is just one example of how the power of music changes lives. These programs are the heart and soul of the Conservatory.”

 Healing Our Heroes veterans and music therapists rocked the ballroom at Brae Burn Country Club with incredible performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and original song “Pride of America.”

The dinner program began with a warm welcome by Executive Director Jean Newton and Board President, Joel Breitkopf of Scarsdale in the country club’s grand ballroom. During this address, all veterans, active duty soldiers, and veteran families were asked to stand as they were thanked for their service. Subsequently, the Healing Our Heroes veterans band was introduced for their soaring performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and an original song, “Pride of America.” Guests were moved by the veterans’ music and a standing ovation honored their performances.

Emcee and host of Sirius XM Radio’s On Broadway station Christine Pedi kept the evening moving seamlessly with hilarious and shockingly accurate-sounding celebrity voice impersonations. She introduced entertaining musical performances by Broadway stars Christopher Sieber and Kevin Chamberlin in the voices of Joan Rivers and Liza Minnelli, respectively. Chamberlin presented long-time friend Roger Bart with the Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, followed by a dynamic duet of “Henchmen Are Forgotten” from the musical Triumph of Love.

Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award honoree Roger Bart entertained nearly 300 guests with a dynamic duet of “Henchmen Are Forgotten” from Triumph of Love with friend and Broadway favorite Kevin Chamberlin.

“It was a magical evening,” said Ms. Randy Graff, who was honored with the award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre at the benefit event.

At the end of the evening, Conservatory Dean of Students and Faculty, Dr. Douglas Bish introduced honoree Ms. Graff with a sincere speech about the power of music education, and his love of Broadway music. With a true finale, Ms. Graff performed a brilliant rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables, which ended the evening perfectly.

 Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Award honoree Randy Graff ended the evening with to a standing ovation-worthy rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables.

Nearly 300 guests came together to support the Conservatory’s signature mission-based programs – Scholarships for financially deserving students, Music Therapy for children and adults with disabilities, and Healing Our Heroes.

Music Conservatory Reaches New Heights With Annual Golf & Tennis Classic

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Laurence Keiser, Board Vice President, of West Harrison accepting the “Distinguished Leadership Award” at the 16th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic benefiting the programs at the Music Conservatory of Westchester.

Event Shatters Record; Nets $245,000 to Benefit Its Signature Programs

Records are meant to be broken. Last week, the Music Conservatory of Westchester reached an all-time high with $245,000 raised in net proceeds at its 16th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic, shattering last year’s record ($127,000) by nearly double – and that number will expand as donations continue to come in.  The not-for-profit organization held the 16th incarnation of their premier fundraising event once again at Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase.

The June 26 event began with a round of golf and tennis followed by a celebratory awards dinner. This year's entertainment was emceed by Tony Award nominee Constantine Maroulis and featured performances by fellow Tony nominees Robert Cuccioli and Mary Bridget Davies. Awards were presented to longtime Conservatory trustee and well-known attorney Laurence Keiser, entertainers and charitable couple Chazz and Gianna Palminteri, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love.

"This was the most successful event the Conservatory has had in the 22 years I’ve been here,” Executive Director Jean Newton said. “From start to finish, it was a triumph, and everyone had a great time!”  She noted that it was the first time in its history that the Golf & Tennis Classic "sold out." There were 120 golf players on the greens that day, and a 300-seat capacity ballroom filled for the entertainment that followed.

Cheryl and Joel Breitkopf, Board President of the Music Conservatory of Westchester, of Scarsdale take in the beautiful day at the Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase, NY.

Newton said many factors contributed to this year's success. First and foremost, the dedicated board of trustees helped ensure success. "They invited all their friends and colleagues to share in the festivities.” she said. “They truly love this organization and want to spread the word to everyone they know."

The executive director, who resides in Edgemont, also noted that her staff worked "around the clock" to make sure every detail was taken care of and that everything would proceed without a hitch. "This event was seamless. I'm so grateful to our staff," she said.

Lastly, Newton thanked everyone who came out to support the event, the "beautiful" club, and the show-stopping performers and honorees. The weather, she joked, also deserves some credit. "It was a gorgeous day," she said.

Keiser received the first award of the night for his Distinguished Leadership. Keiser, a partner at the White Plains-based law firm of Stern Keiser & Panken, LLP, is currently the board's vice president and has served since 2000. Last year’s honoree Rodd Berro, a longtime board member and past president, presented the award to Keiser. Berro's speech emphasized his colleague’s dedication and hard work, which he does with modesty and humility, for love of the institution – not for the recognition. Following a poignant speech by Keiser, his son Ross, a former vocal student at the Conservatory, paid tribute to his dad with a special performance.

Former student of the Music Conservatory of Westchester Ross Keiser of Armonk singing an aria in honor of his father, Laurence, who was honored at the 16th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic benefit.

Chazz and Gianna Palminteri received the Conservatory's Arts Achievement and Community Leadership Award for their extensive charitable work, their arts advocacy, and of course, their film credits.  Chazz Palminteri in particular has over 50 film credits including Bullets Over Broadway (Oscar nomination), The Usual Suspects, and A Bronx Tale, for which he was the writer and co-star. In her acceptance speech Gianna stressed the importance of the arts, while Chazz drew on a line from his signature Tale (and a phrase from his own father) - “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent,” pointing out that the Conservatory ensures that no talent is left unfulfilled.

Chazz Palminteri, Gianna Palminteri, Jon Chattman of Mamaroneck, and Jean Newton, Executive Director, of Scarsdale presenting the “Arts Achievement & Community Leadership Award” to the Palminteri’s.

Music icon Darlene Love rounded out the evening by receiving the Conservatory’s Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Board member Nancy Goodman of Larchmont. Conservatory voice student Alice Cabral of Hawthorne was named the first recipient of the Darlene Love Vocal Scholarship. After many thank yous and before bidding adieu, Love ended her speech the same way that she did during her acceptance speech at the 2014 Academy Awards (she represented the forgotten voices featured in the winning documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom):  “I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free,” she sang. As they did at the Dolby Theatre, the audience gave her a standing "O."

Darlene Love singing as she accepts her “Lifetime Achievement Award,” an honor bestowed by the Music Conservatory of Westchester.

The whole event deserves a standing ovation, according to Board President Joel Breitkopf.  “The board is so grateful that we were able to get record-breaking support from families and the business community that will contribute mightily to our scholarships,” he said. “Our children, seniors and veterans are going to benefit by the tremendous success of our best golf and tennis outing ever.”

Proceeds of the event will support three programs that are the heart and soul of the Conservatory: its Music Education Program for students of all ages, its Music Therapy Program for students with disabilities, and its Healing Our Heroes Program for Military veterans. The Conservatory awards sliding-scale scholarships for low income students and full scholarship for military veterans to participate in these programs. Founded in 1929, the Conservatory has provided the extraordinary benefits of music to everyone in the community for nearly 90 years.

Watch News12 coverage of this event HERE.

 Emcee for the annual fundraiser and Tony nominee Constantine Maroulis singing “Don’t Stop Believing” from the Broadway musical Rock of Ages.

 Music Conservatory of Westchester student and Darlene Love Vocal Scholarship recipient Alice Cabral of Hawthorne, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Darlene Love pose together at the Music Conservatory of Westchester’s 16th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic

Gianna Palminteri, Laurence Keiser, and Chazz Palminteri, all Westchester County residents and honorees of the evening stand together in support of the Music Conservatory of Westchester music scholarships.

“Amazing Leader” Joel Breitkopf Named Conservatory Board President

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Joel Breitkopf, a Scarsdale resident with over 30 years of experience in the real estate industry, has been appointed president of the Music Conservatory of Westchester’s Board of Trustees. He succeeds Rodd Berro who held the post for five years.

Breitkopf, principal of Alchemy Properties in New York City, joined the board three years ago and served as its Vice President the last two, is the founding sponsor of the music therapy scholarship program for Veterans called Healing Our Heroes. The program, which launched in September 2013 and is an offshoot of the Conservatory’s Music Therapy Institute, provides music therapy and music instruction to military Veterans in the tristate area (NY, CT, NJ) who are returning home with a variety of psychological and physical injuries sustained while on active duty.

The Conservatory has worked with local Veterans centers and VA hospitals to continuously identify Veterans for this program, which has been a tremendous success and continues to grow helping more and more local Veterans from the Bronx to Northern Westchester. “I am honored and thrilled to become the President of the Board of Trustees for such a great community organization that dates back to 1929,” said Breitkopf. “The depth and breadth of the organization helps children, Veterans, adults and the elderly in connecting them to themselves, their peers and their communities through the universal language of music that we all share.”

Throughout his career, Breitkopf has been involved in numerous groups and charities including serving as past president of B'Nai Brith Real Estate. He joined Alchemy Properties in 1993. He is involved in all aspects of the company’s developments and investments from acquisition, finance, design, construction, marketing and strategic planning. He has financed well over $2 billion worth of real estate transactions and has acquired over 3,500,000 square feet of real estate during his career and is intimately involved with Alchemy’s current conversion of the national landmark Woolworth Building Tower to residences.

“Successful real estate development involves the orchestrated juggling of many constituencies and points of view that need to be addressed in a very positive and forthright manner,” said Breitkopf. “[This] is exactly what any established community organization, like the Conservatory strives for every day of the week.” He continued, “I look forward to working with a very experienced and sophisticated board as well as an amazing staff of music teachers and administrators as we continue to grow the organization.”

Jean Newton, the Conservatory’s Executive Director, said Breitkopf will be an amazing leader for the board and the school. “He really knows how to bring people together to get things done. He’s bringing all his passion and energy to his role as president, and he’s incredibly generous,” she said.



Michael Welling's Speech Honoring the Music Therapy Institute

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"It is truly an honor and privilege to be standing up here tonight. This is true for a number of reasons but at the top of that list is the fact that more than any other audience, all of you will fully understand and appreciate the impact and the role that music and more specifically the Music Therapy Institute has played in our lives. Full disclosure, neither myself nor my wife Susie have any musical talent. In fact, we rarely agree on the same music, Reggae being the one major exception. So this entire “Matthew experience” has been as surreal as you can imagine. After Matthew was discharged from his 143 day stay at Sloan Kettering, we knew we needed to do whatever we could to help Matthew catch up. Matthew was in preschool at the John A. Coleman school in White Plains and at that time our biggest concern was his inability to hold a spoon. We overheard another family talking about music therapy so we thought, “let’s let him play with some drum sticks and maracas to build up those fine motor skills.”  Well, little did we know that we were about to unleash the beast – and hopefully the source for funding Matthew’s college education.    

Tina Brescia and James Maxson joined "Team Matthew" 7 years ago when he was just 3 years old. Donald Stevens joined the team shortly thereafter. Collectively they have not only helped to shape Matthew the musician, but they helped shape Matthew the person.  Musical talent is one of the greatest forms of human expression, but being able to use music to help others learn to express themselves is one of the greatest forms of gift giving. The therapists from MTI give this gift every day. I have seen their impact on Matthew and on many, many of the other students at MTI, big and small, young and old, musically inclined and not. Through his years at MTI, Matthew has learned more than music. He has learned about cooperation, teamwork, adversity, anxiety, hard work, satisfaction and success. He has grown up, developed, matured – to a point – in their care. Without them, he would not be who he is today. But more significant than being his therapists, more significant than being his music teachers, they have become important and valuable members of Matthew’s life  - as his friends… and his band.  

"Through his years at MTI, Matthew has learned more than music. He has learned about cooperation, teamwork, adversity, anxiety, hard work, satisfaction and success."

Thanks to them, during his time in Music Therapy Matthew has achieved more then we could have ever imagined. In fact, just last year Matthew achieved more then we could have ever imagined. In February of 2015 Matthew debuted his first album in an 1 ½ hr concert in front of 150 people at the Conservatory. Susie and I thought “Wow, 9 years old and his own album debut concert.” We did not think it could get better than that. But we were wrong. In June Matthew performed his original hit “Sunshine” in front of a packed house at Radio City Music Hall during the Garden of Dreams talent show.   Susie and I thought “Wow! 9 years old, performing at Radio City.” We did not think it could get better than that. But we were wrong. In November Matthew again performed "Sunshine" to open the Premiere of the Radio City Christmas spectacular in November. We did not think it could get better than that. But we were wrong. Two weeks later in December Matthew performed during half time of a NY Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. We did not think it could get better than that. But we were wrong.  

Having Matthew here with us today. Healthy. Happy. Well adjusted. A quality human being who already understands giving back and bringing joy to others. That is better than all of that. And all of this is made possible, thanks to the support, love and tireless work by Tina, Lisa, Donald, James, Peter and all of the music therapists at MTI. Matthew is just one example, and I am not even sure he is the best example, of the impact of music therapy, the difference that can be made through music therapy, and the life changing and life long benefits of music therapy. And about that, we are not wrong.   We are trying to raise money for MTI scholarships to bring this type of support to other children and for the Veteran’s scholarship to help expand the “Healing Our Heroes” program. Every dollar helps. Every dollar makes a difference."


(above) Michael Welling cheering on his son Matthew at the Music Conservatory of Westchester's recent Golf & Tennis Classic honoring the Music Therapy Institute

(top) (L to R)  Susie, Matthew and Michael Welling are all smiles at the MCW's Golf & Tennis Classic, June 20th, 2016


Music Conservatory’s Annual Golf “Classic” to Feature Three Honorees and Broadway Revue

Monday, April 11, 2016

 Celebrating major milestones within their organization along with a major star of the stage and screen, the Music Conservatory of Westchester has announced its three honorees for its upcoming:

15th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic 
Monday, June 20th 
Brae Burn Country Club
Purchase, NY

The nonprofit community music school will honor its Music Therapy Institute, its Board President Rodd Berro, and Tony Award winner Laura Benanti. Tony nominee Tony Yazbeck (On the Town) will perform as will Benanti. The awards will be handed out at a celebratory dinner following a day on the greens and courts. Funds raised from the event will help support the Conservatory’s Scholarship Program, enabling deserving students to make their musical dreams come true and for special needs students and military veterans to take music therapy or adapted instruction.

Eventbrite - Music Conservatory of Westchester's 15th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic


Celebrating major milestones within their organization along with a major star of the stage and screen, the Music Conservatory of Westchester has announced three honorees for its upcoming 15th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic on Monday, June 20 at Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase. The nonprofit community music school will honor its Music Therapy Institute, its Board President Rodd Berro, and Tony Award winner Laura Benanti. The awards will be handed out at a celebratory dinner following a day on the greens and courts.

In celebration of its 30th year, the Music Therapy Institute (MTI) will receive with its very first “Power of Healing” Award. Establish in 1986 through a $5,000 seed grant from the Westchester Community Foundation, the Institute was the first community-based music therapy program in Westchester County. Since then, it has become the largest provider of community-based music therapy, adapted instruction and professional development in the greater Westchester region providing private and group sessions to individuals with special needs. In 2014, the program expanded to serve military veterans with combat-related injuries through the “Healing Our Heroes” program. MTI students will perform following the award ceremony.

Longtime Conservatory trustee and current Board President Rodd Berro of Armonk will also be honored at the event, receiving the Distinguished Leadership Award. Berro is president of Pegasus Asset Management Inc. in Suffern.

As has been the case for the last two “Classics,” the evening will culminate with Broadway-centric performances by talents from the Great White Way. Tony Yazbeck, who received a Tony nomination for his role in On the Town will perform, along with four-time Tony nominee Laura Benanti, who won a Tony for her portrayal of Gypsy Rose Lee in the Patti Lupone revival of Gypsy. She will also be honored with the Conservatory’s Achievement in the Arts Award for her distinguished career, which includes Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Nine and Into the Woods on Broadway, and The Good Wife and Nashville on television. The actress may currently be seen in the hit CBS series Supergirl and on Broadway in She Loves Me.

Proceeds from this event will help us to continue to provide music therapy to enhance the lives of children, adults, and U.S. military veterans with disabilities throughout the community.

For more information, please contact us at


Healing our Heroes Holiday Music Sharing Event

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Save the date for a special Holiday performance from the military veterans of our Healing our Heroes Music Therapy program. It will be held Saturday, Dec 5th from 3:30-4:30pm at the Music Conservatory of Westchester in room 200 (upstairs from lobby). Make the holidays memorable and support our veterans with this festive event!

Music Conservatory Continues to Honor Our Heroes

Monday, November 09, 2015


Photo by Nina Kruse/Pinsky Photo

 82-year-old US Army veteran, Samuel Wansley performed at the Music Conservatory of Westchester’s recent Jazz Brunch at Larchmont Shore Club. Samuel, who served as a combat engineer in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, is one of the recipients of the Conservatory’s “Healing Our Heroes” Scholarships for veterans. The program was instituted in 2013, by Board Member Joel Breitkopf, to provide US veterans with a full scholarship for two years to receive music therapy at the not-for-profit White Plains music school.

Samuel also participates in a weekly group session where he plays music with other veterans in the program.  Since its inception, the “Healing Our Heroes” program has served 22 veterans in total providing 860 music therapy sessions to four women and 18 men who served in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq or Afghanistan, receiving support for traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain from physical injuries and stress related anxiety.

The program currently has a waiting list of veterans who would like to participate in the program. Last summer, the program was honored by Deputy County Executive Kevin J. Plunkett and the Director of Veteran’s Services for Westchester County, Ron Tocci, who proclaimed July 11, 2015 as “Healing Our Heroes” Day. 

For more information on the program, please contact or (914) 761-3900. You may also visit

“Healing Our Heroes” Music Therapy for Veteran’s at the Music Conservatory of Westchester

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


On July 11, Deputy County Executive Kevin J. Plunket and Ron Tocci, Westchester’s Director of the Veterans Service Agency presented the Music Conservatory of Westchester with a Proclamation recognizing its “Healing Our Heroes” Music Therapy for Veteran’s program.  The proclamation preceded a Healing Our Heroes “music sharing” concert. (Pictured left to right: Dr. Tina Brescia, program coordinator, Kevin Plunket, Ron Tocci, Edgmont’s Jean Newton, Conservatory Executive Director and Scarsdale’s Joel  Brietkopf, Conservatory trustee and founder of the Healing Our Heroes program.)

Healing Our Heroes program was established in 2013 with the mission of providing music therapy and music instruction to local veterans facing physical and emotional combat related issues. This service is provided at no cost to the veterans for up to two years. To date we have provided individual music therapy to 20 local veterans who have received a combined total of 891 sessions.

Veteran’s Share their Music with Friends and Family at the Music Conservatory of Westchester Photo/Dallas Woolard

Music Conservatory Hits Home Run with its Golf & Tennis Classic

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

“Most Successful” Event Honored Mariano and Clara Rivera and Conservatory Veterans

Music Conservatory of Westchester, a not-for-profit community music school in White Plains, raised $150,000 with its 14th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic held Monday, June 29 at Whippoorwill Club in Armonk. Overall, nearly 230 people attended at least one part of the event, which included a day of golf and tennis, and a celebratory awards dinner. Honored were future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera and his wife Clara Rivera, longtime Conservatory trustee Robert Heath of Armonk, and Conservatory faculty member Dorothy Jonas of White Plains.

“On so many levels, it was a once in a lifetime event,” said Rodd Berro, president of the board of trustees. Berro, a longtime Armonk resident added, “This was our most successful Golf and Tennis Classic ever.”

The Riveras received the Conservatory’s Community Vision Award for their outstanding philanthropic work - specifically for their rehabilitation and restoration of a New Rochelle church, which now houses a vibrant congregation where music plays an important role. Former teammate and previous Community Vision recipient Bernie Williams presented the award. The evening also introduced the first two children to receive the Clara and Mariano Rivera Music Scholarship: Refuge of Hope parishioners Dayna Taylor Garcia and Mia Sarai Suarez.  

“Helping people makes us happy, and we realize the importance of music. We’re thankful for this honor,” Mariano Rivera explained.  


View more photos from the event here

Robert Heath received the Distinguished Leadership Award. A successful entrepreneur, he is also a serious pianist who studies at the Conservatory with Svetlana Gorokovich of White Plains.

Dorothy Jonas was honored with the Conservatory’s Lifetime Achievement Award in celebration of her 50 years of teaching piano at the school. She joined the faculty in 1965 and additionally had a major international concert career.

Following the presentations, Broadway stars Lena Hall (2014 Tony Award Winner - Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Nick Cordero (2014 Tony Award Nominee – Bullets Over Broadway), and Constantine Maroulis (2009 Tony Award Nominee - Rock of Ages) paid tribute to the honorees with a musical revue.

Proceeds from the 2015 Classic raised funds for the Conservatory’s Scholarship Program, enabling deserving students to make their musical dreams come true. Your support will help provide need-based tuition  assistance for aspiring young students to enroll in the school’s comprehensive program of music instruction, and for special needs students to take music therapy or adapted instruction. Full scholarships are also provided for U.S. military veterans through our Healing Our Heroes program.

Attendee Portal: Meet and Greet Photos

Photos by Nina Kruse/Pinsky Studio


Stanley Jordan Performs with "Healing our Heroes" Veterans

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The healing power of music was on display at the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, NY on June 25 when four-time Grammy nominee Stanley Jordan performed for and jammed with military veterans currently enrolled in the not-for-profit community music school’s Healing Our Heroes program.  The program, which launched in September, provides music therapy and music instruction for veterans in the Tri-state area who have a variety of physical and psychological injuries sustained while on active duty. Scarsdale resident Joel Breitkopf, who was in attendance at the event, is a founding sponsor of the program and was recently elected Vice President of the Conservatory’s Board of Trustees.

Jordan, who for over a decade has studied and been involved with the practice of music therapy, joined the Conservatory’s Music Therapy Institute faculty by improvising music and playing songs selected by the veterans enrolled in the program. The jam session took place one day prior to a benefit performance Jordan gave at the Iridium Club in Manhattan alongside Charnett Moffett and Kenwood Dennard who make up the Stanley Jordan Trio. The June 25 event, which took place in the Conservatory’s recital hall, was a private event attended by the veterans and their families. To donate to Healing Our Heroes or for more information, contact us.