Bios & Gallery

Dorothy Savitch, Music Director

Dorothy Savitch conducting

In 2002, Dorothy Savitch was named as the first Music Director of the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra. Since 1997, Ms. Savitch has also been Music Director of Long Island’s Sound Symphony Orchestra. Since her tenure began, both orchestras have grown and expanded into two of the finest community ensembles in the New York metropolitan area. They have received high praise for their vibrant performances and expansive repertoire.

In 1990, Ms. Savitch founded the Gotham Chamber Orchestra. From 1990 through 1998, the GCO established itself as one of New York City’s outstanding professional orchestras. During these years, Ms. Savitch gained her reputation as a champion of American composers, performing numerous premiers and revivals of American works. The Brooklyn Free Press hailed the GCO performances as "a tour de force".

Before her transition to the podium, Ms. Savitch studied the classical guitar with Christopher Parkening and Vincente Gomez, and toured throughout the West Coast. After receiving music degrees from Columbia University and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Ms. Savitch worked as a freelance conductor, directing the Bronx Opera chorus, the Musica Humana Chamber Choir and the Chautauqua Festival Orchestra. Her conducting teachers include Harold Farberman and Maurice Peress.

Ms. Savitch is also Director of the Music Partners Program, which provides hands-on musical training to 4000 New York City schoolchildren each year.

Victor Starsky, Tenor Soloist

Victor Starsky

Victor Starsky is a native of Queens, New York where he works as a teacher, carpenter, martial artist, and socially conscious musician. After two years of Philosophy at St. John's University, Mr. Starsky studied for three years at the Aaron Copland School of a Music under the guidance of Rose Marie Crouse. After singing the role of the Celebrant in Leonard Bernstein's "Mass" under the baton of Maestro Maurice Peress, Mr. Starsky went on to sing Don José in Bizet's Carmen with New York Opera Exchange in May 2015. Opera Today writes, "Victor Starsky's Don José is terrifying and compelling, with a voice that performs vocal acrobatics with strength and beauty that remains undiminished through his final line."
Mr. Starsky has recently sung the roles of Tony in Opera North's production of "West Side Story", Gustav Mahler's "Das Lied Von Der Erde" with M. Peress in October of 2015, and made his solo debut in Carnegie Hall in November of 2016. His future engagements include Alfredo in Verdi's La Traviata, Ferrando in Mozart's Così Fan Tutte, Lensky in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, an Italian Aria concert with the Yonkers Philharmonic Orchestra under Maestra Tong Chen, and a premier of "Song of Wandering Aengus" by Howard Lew, for tenor and orchestra, under Maestra Dorothy Savitch with Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra this spring.
Mr. Starsky studies with Andrea del Giudice, and is advised and mentored by Mr. Peter Randsman and Mr. William Thomas Smiddy.
Victor owes tremendous gratitude to his parents, teachers, friends, and loved ones, without whom none of this would be possible.

Howard Lew, Composer

Howard Lew

Howard Lew has been working in New York as a composer since the 1980's. He has written extensively for voice, and his songs have been performed by noted singers such as Rachel Rosales, Mary Kay McGarvey, and Christine Sperry.

Mr. Lew's First and Second Rhapsodies for String Orchestra and Soprano were premiered to acclaim by the Gotham Chamber Orchestra with soprano Christine Sperry and conducted by Dorothy Savitch. Tenor Karim Sulayman premiered his Third Rhapsody, "The Song of Wandering Aengus". On March 25, 2017, at Plymouth Church, tenor Victor Starsky and the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra present a newly revised version of Third Rhapsody.

From 2013 to 2014 Mr. Lew produced the "Haiku Song Project", an online gallery of new music written in collaboration with a collective of NY poets and singers. They produced 27 exhibits of music and writing at their tumblr site. Most recently Mr. Lew has been exploring the intersection of painting and music with a series of "music videos" inspired by legendary painters. The videos may be seen at the "Comparative Listening" YouTube page.

Educated at Columbia University, Mr. Lew studied composition with Max Lifchitz and Fred Lerdahl and piano with Niels Ostbye. In Brooklyn, Mr. Lew is well known as an educator and has been the teacher to numerous students at his studio in Park Slope. In the 1990's he was Curriculum Director and then dean of Students at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, and taught music for many years at New York City Technical College (CUNY). For more samples of his music click here.

Alice Ivy-Pemberton

Alice Ivy-Pemberton

Alice Ivy-Pemberton, eighteen, began playing violin at age four and studied with Nurit Pacht at the Lucy Moses School of the Kaufman Music Center in New York for ten years. Alice is now a first-year student under the tutelage of Itzhak Perlman and Catherine Cho at The Juilliard School where she has been awarded a Kovner Fellowship, the conservatory's comprehensive four-year merit-based scholarship. When she was ten, Alice played on NPR's "From the Top" and the PBS series "From the Top: Live from Carnegie Hall" in which she performed solo, as well as together with Gil Shaham playing the Bach Double Concerto. In 2010 Alice was chosen to compete in the Menuhin Competition in Oslo where she was selected as one of eight finalists. She has won first prize in the 2008 ISO Concerto Competition, the 2009-2010 Greenwich Village Orchestra Young Artists Concerto Competition, the 2011 New York Chamber Players Orchestra Annual Music Competition, and the 2007, 2012, and 2015 Lucy Moses School Concerto Competitions. In 2014, she performed in duet with the violinist Robert McDuffie at the Kaufman Music Center's Benefit Gala, was awarded the Grand Prize of the Young Artist Competition of the Ensemble 212 orchestra (performing solo with them in Merkin Concert Hall), and also garnered first prize in the Young Artist Competition of Long Island's Sound Symphony, performing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto with them in November of that year. She has performed solo (in recital and with orchestra) in many venues in New York City, including Zankel Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Symphony Space, Bargemusic, and the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage of Carnegie Hall.

Alice is an avid chamber musician and has been first violinist in various chamber ensembles selected by the New York Youth Symphony to perform in Weill Recital Hall for the past five years. Her chamber group, the Tempus Trio, was awarded the Kaufman Music Center's Roberta Rettner Prize for Chamber Ensemble (2013-2014) and the New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music Program's McCrindle Fellowship (2013-2014). In February 2015, Alice performed in Denver on NPR's "From the Top" as a member of the Eris Quartet (formed at the Perlman Music Program in the summer of 2014). She has performed in master classes with David Cerone, Miriam Fried, Ida Kavafian, Masao Kawasaki, Patinka Kopec, Mark Peskanov, and Arnold Steinhardt, among others, and she has received significant additional coaching from violinist Yuval Waldman for several years. Since 2012, Alice has been a member of the Perlman Music Program, attending the Program's Summer Music School on Shelter Island, as well as its Sarasota and Tel Aviv Residencies. She was the 2012 New York Youth Symphony's Roy and Shirley Durst Debut Artist, accompanied by the orchestra as she soloed together with Cho-Liang Lin, Michelle Kim, and Samuel Katz at the Symphony's 50th Anniversary Carnegie Hall Gala Concert in November of that year. Alice was praised in a review of that concert in the New York Times for her "sweet-toned playing" and a performance that was "most memorable."

Andy Sapora, Narrator

Andy Sapora

Andy Sapora performs regularly as one of The Flying Karamazov Brothers and is a clown and facility supervisor with Big Apple Circus Clown Care Hospital Clown Program. He recently originated an additional, non-singing principal role in The Metropolitan Opera's 2015 production of Pagliacci. He will reprise the role again in January of 2016. He is also a founding member of the comedy music troop, The Maestrosities and was co-host and co-founder of monthly variety cabaret tinyDANGEROUSfun. He has been performing on stage since he was 10, and street performing, juggling, and clowning since he was 15. He has studied at the Jacques Lecoq International School of Theater and at the Belgian National Circus School. He has taken workshops and master classes with Keith Johnstone, Bill Irwin, David Shiner, Steve Smith, Jeff Raz, Rick Davis, and Ami Hattab. In addition to teaching privately, he has taught theater, clown, improv and presentation at both The New York Circus Arts Academy and The Circus Warehouse. He has also taught general circus skills and clowning with the outreach programs of Big Apple Circus, Cirque du Soleil, and The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. He lives in an embroidery factory in New Jersey with his wife and his two sons.

Kako Miura, Soloist

Kako Miura

Seventeen-year-old Kako Miura currently studies at the Pre-College Division of the Juilliard School with Masao Kawasaki. She started playing the violin at the age of 4, at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music in Illinois. In the past she has also studied with Professors Goetz Richter and Peter Zhang at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and with Angela Eto at Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo. She has taken classes and master classes from masters such as Robert Masters, Gerard Poulet, Vera Tsu, Koichiro Harada, Krzysztof Wegrzyn, Kimiko Nakazawa, Régis Pasquier, and Simon Fischer. Kako has attended a number of summer music festivals and schools, including the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Nagano International Music Festival in 2012, the Australian String Academy in 2009 and 2006, and the Summer String Academy at Indiana University in 2008.

Ever since Kako gave her first public concert in 2001 at age 5, she has enjoyed performing. She performs solo several times a year, and has performed at numerous venues, including Lincoln Center, the Sydney Opera House, and Pick-Staiger Concert Hall at Northwestern University. She has appeared on young performer programs for FM radio stations across Australia and the Disney Channel TV program "Hidden Talents". Kako has performed concerti with a number of orchestras since 2008, including the Zhejiang Symphony Orchestra in China, and the Queensland Youth Symphony and Kuringai Philharmonic Orchestra in Australia.

This summer, Kako was given first prize in the Violin Competition at the Nagano International Music Festival in Japan, and, earlier this year, was also named winner of the Bergen Philharmonic Young Artist Competition in New Jersey. She has also won major competition titles in Australia over the years, at competitions such as the National Youth Concerto Competition and Sydney Eisteddfod. In Australia she was awarded her Associate of Music at age 12, and Licentiate of Music at age 13, both with Distinction, which is the highest mark presented by the Australian Music Examination Board.

Kako is also an avid chamber musician, and is currently part of a Piano Trio and String Quartet at Juilliard Pre-College, as well as the contemporary alt-classical music ensemble Face the Music, a group of young musicians in and around New York City under age 18. When not immersed in classical music, Kako also has a taste for other genres such as rock and jazz.

Peter Daniel Straus, Narrator

Peter Daniel Straus

Peter Daniel Straus has acted and performed comedy around the world. He's been a featured comedian and fire juggler at the Metropolitan Opera, acted in regional theatres like the Denver Center Theatre Company, and was featured as the White Rabbit in "Alice i Eventyrland" at the National Theatre of Norway, and recently played Feste the Fool in Mile Square Theatre's production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. He has toured America as a clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and loves being a clown "doctor" with the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit. Peter has had many appearances on TV, including numerous featured spots on The Late Show with David Letterman and in the award winning The Half Brother (Halvbroren) for NRK (Norway). Wearing another hat, Peter directs and consults for theatre productions and variety performers.

Katherine Wessinger, Soloist

Sarah Hadley Yakir

Praised by The New York Times as a soprano with a "genuinely angelic voice," Katherine Wessinger brings freshness and uncommon musicality to a wide repertoire on the concert, opera, and recital stage. Highlights of the 2013-14 season include Barber Knoxville, Summer 1915 with Brooklyn Conservatory Chorale and Orchestra, Carmina Burana with the Mansfield University Festival Chorus, and Bach Cantatas 147 and 156 with the St. Andrew Chorale and Orchestra.

Ms. Wessinger made three important debuts in New York City to start the 2012-13 season. She began the season as soprano soloist in Mozart's Solemn Vespers and Bach's Magnificat in D Major at the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space series conducted by K. Scott Warren. The New York Times said that she "sang her aria, 'Quia respexit humilitatem,' with stricken dignity." Ms. Wessinger was soprano soloist in Bach's Christmas Oratorio with Canticum Novum led by Harold Rosenbaum, and, most dramatically, made her Carnegie Hall debut stepping in on one day's notice to sing Gabriel in Haydn's Creation with the New York Virtuoso Singers and the Orchestra of St. Luke's, also conducted by Harold Rosenbaum. The New York Times wrote that she "sang with charm and grace" and that her "clear voice was beautifully suited to Gabriel's music."

A frequent soloist with the St. Andrew Music Society and Orchestra led by Andrew Henderson, Ms. Wessinger sang Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer in spring 2012 and was soprano soloist in Bach's St. Matthew Passion in spring 2013. With the St. Andrew Music Society, Ms. Wessinger sang the New York City premiere of the recently discovered Handel Gloria. She has sung internationally with the Italy and USA Alba Music Festival, performing Mahler Symphony No. 4, Del Tredici Dracula, and Bach Cantata No. 51 under the direction of Jeffrey Silberschlag, and at the River Concert Series under the direction of Larry Vote. Other solo performances include the Rutter Requiem with director Tom Hall, and Handel's Messiah and part V of Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the renowned Handel Choir of Baltimore. Katherine has also performed Handel's Messiah with J. Reilly Lewis at Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington, VA, and with Henry Lowe at The Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore, MD.

In addition to her work as a concert soloist, Katherine performs opera from the Baroque through the 21st century. Her operatic performances have included Rhomilda in Handel's Xerxes, Bystrouska in Janaceck's The Cunning Little Vixen, sung in Czech, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Karolina in Smetana's Two Widows, and Birdsong in Mozart's The Impressario.

Sarah Hadley Yakir, Soloist

Sarah Hadley Yakir

“Sarah-Hadley Yakir is a unique and original voice on the violin” -- Zakhar Bron.
“Yakir is wise beyond her years” -- String Magazine.

19 year old violinist Sarah-Hadley Yakir took her first formal music classes and her first violin lessons at the Brooklyn Conservatory when she was 3 years old. She attended New York’s Special Music School for musically gifted children and did her pre-college studies at the Manhattan School of Music before moving to Europe when she was 12, after an invitation by world renowned pedagogue, Zakar Bron. This year Yakir returns to the United States to join the studio of Eastman’s long time pedagogue, Charles Castleman, a Harvard and Curtis Institute graduate, himself heralded as the “child prodigy” of his generation. Her teachers have also included Grigory Kalinovsky and Curtis’s Aaron Rosand. “The varied schools of violin technique from my professors have enabled me to understand and utilize so much of this beautiful brilliant instrument and its repertoire” says Yakir.

Sarah-Hadley’s music has been broadcast on U.S., Canadian, Swedish, Swiss, Polish, German and Belgian television and radio. She has performed in more than 20 countries and continues a busy music festival schedule. This past year she premiered new music at Birdland, New York's famed jazz club with The O’Farrill Brothers’ Band. Yakir is a founding member of New York’s Source to Sound, a collaboration of composers and musicians committed to performing new chamber works.

Yakir has won numerous first prizes, most recently, first prize in her age category for strings nationwide in the Canadian Music Competition where she was also the recipient of the Canimex Scholarship.

Sarah-Hadley currently performs on a 1722 Italian Alessandro Mezzadri violin.

Gannon McHale, Narrator

Gannon McHale

Gannon McHale has appeared on Broadway in James Joyce"s the Dead and The Sound of Music, and Off-Broadway in Fame on 42nd Street, The God Committee, and The Fantasticks. His thirty-year career also includes five National and two International Tours, numerous Regional Theatres, twenty musicals and a dozen productions of plays by Shakespeare. He is also the author of STEALTH BOAT: Fighting the Cold War in a Fast Attack Submarine (Naval Institute Press, 2008)

Brian Snow, Soloist

Brian Snow

Cellist Brian Snow pursues an active performing career in New York City, where he is a member of Newspeak Ensemble, the Omni Ensemble, and the Praxis String Quartet. Praised by the Boston Globe for his "...pugnacious, eloquent, self-assurance...", Brian has appeared as a soloist with the Riverside Orchestra (New York City), the Longy Chamber Orchestra, and Crescent City Symphony (New Orleans). He has performed with Mark Morris Dance Group, Alarm Will Sound, ACME, Fireworks Ensemble, the Emerson String Quartet, and Meredith Monk, and appears on recordings with a variety of artists, including the Yale Cellos, Sonya Kitchell, Ratatat, My Brightest Diamond, and Jonsi of Sigur Ros. Brian has won top prizes at the Paranov, Emerson String Quartet, and Longy concerto soloists competitions. A strong advocate for new music, Brian has worked closely with composers including Nico Muhly, Caleb Burhans, and David T. Little, premiering dozens of new works. Brian holds degrees from Yale, SUNY Stony Brook, and the Hartt School of Music. His cello teachers include David Finckel, Aldo Parisot, and Colin Carr. A dedicated teacher, Brian is a faculty member at Brooklyn Conservatory.

Christoph Denoth, Soloist

Christoph Denoth Christoph Denoth was born in Basel, Switzerland, and spent an important part of his early life in the Grisons. His extraordinary musical talent became apparent early on; from the very first, he preferred the guitar. He began his concert career at 15. His studies of the classical guitar led him to the conservatories of Lucerne, Basel, and Zurich. He attended countless international master classes and continued his studies, above all with Oscar Ghiglia, Konrad Ragossnig, Alvaro Pierri, Pepe Romero, and others. He trained as a soloist with Professor Oscar Ghiglia at the Basel Academy of Music. Sergiu Celibidache, with whom he studied the Phenomenology of Music and Conducting, proved to be one of the most important influences on him.

In addition to his long list of accomplishments, Denoth has conducted several orchestras. Denoth dedicates himself to expanding the tonal and dynamic range of the concert guitar. His repertoire focuses on music ranging from the Renaissance to the present. He follows a long tradition in the European history of guitar music and, moreover, shows how today's concert guitar can open new musical vistas to a larger concert audience.

Christoph Denoth has received several international awards for his playing; among them, at the 35th Concours International de Guitare de Paris by Radio France in 1993, and in Stresa and Tokyo in 1995. As an acknowledgment of his musical work, he was awarded several important grants such as the one awarded by the Louise Silverberg Foundation in St. Moritz, the Werner und Helga Degen Foundation, as well as the Swiss pro arte grant. In 2008 he received the UBS Culture Award for Music.

Christoph Denoth made his debut at the Carnegie Hall in New York in 2001 and has played regularly at the Berliner Philharmonie. He performs solo concerts or as a soloist with orchestras and chamber music ensembles in Europe and overseas, and participates in international festivals such as Schleswig-Holstein and the Salzburg Mozarteum. CD recordings (Philips/Universal), radio recordings, and first performances round off his artistic activities.

He was the first Swiss musician to be nominated at Balliol College, Oxford University, as "Musician in Residence", 2006-2008. He also participated in joint lectures with the physiologist Denis Noble. He is frequently invited as a guest lecturer by universities and music academies.

Mary Jo Stilp, Concertmaster

Mary Jo Stilp Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Mary Jo Stilp currently resides in New York City, where she is active as a freelance violinist, performing with such groups as the Manhattan Pops Orchestra, Lincoln Center's Family MusiK series, and the new music collective Anti-Social Music. In addition to being concertmaster of the BCCO, Mary Jo has also held that post with the Wichita Grand Opera, and has held positions with the Knoxville, Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence Chamber, St. Joseph, Kansas City Chamber Chorale, and La Crosse Symphony Orchestras. Other performing credits include the Spoleto Fesitval USA Orchestra, Sarasota Opera Orchestra, Heidelberg SchlossSpiele Orchestra, and the Opera in the Ozarks Orchestra. She has performed as soloist with orchestras in Missouri and Wisconsin, gives regular solo and chamber music recitals, and has held titled positions with many of the ensembles listed above.

In addition to performing, Mary Jo is passionately committed to sharing her gifts with tomorrow's generation of musicians. Mary Jo is on the faculty of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, and has taught violin at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS. She also maintains an extensive private violin studio. In 2002, Mary Jo founded the Southwestern String Festival, an annual summer chamber music festival for middle and high school students, the curriculum of which was expanded in 2004 to include a chamber orchestra. In the spring of 2005, she organized Strings con Stravaganza, a seminar for students ages twelve to twenty-six, offering instruction in a wide variety of musical techniques, including improvisation and the exploration of electronic instruments. For Mary Jo, these experiences are exceptionally rewarding, and also illuminating for her own creative process.

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