Conductors

Christopher Hisey

Music Director/Principal Orchestra Conductor/Chamber Orchestra Conductor

Music Director and Alumnus of the Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras (GCTYO), Christopher James Hisey, has conducted concerts throughout the United States…

Full Bio

Music Director and Alumnus of the Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras (GCTYO), Christopher James Hisey, has conducted concerts throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico and China with such notable musicians as Sir James Galway, Tim Janis, Jackie Evancho, James Dunham, Chris Finckel and Deborah Wong.

In addition to his duties with GCTYO, Maestro Hisey serves as Music Director of the American Chamber Orchestra and is Co-founder and Music Director of the Connecticut Philharmonic. He has also served as Music Director of the Civic Orchestra of New Haven, Connecticut Valley Chamber Orchestra, Troupers Light Opera Company, and Perrysburg Symphony Chorale, and as Associate Conductor of the Perrysburg Symphony, Bowling Green Philharmonia and Opera Theater Orchestras.

Maestro Hisey has been a guest and cover conductor of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and has made appearances with the Ruse Philharmonic and Pleven Philharmonic in Bulgaria, and the St. Petersburg “Klassika” Symphony, formerly the Leningrad State Philharmonic, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

A champion of new music, Maestro Hisey frequently premieres new works. Emmy award-winning composer Rex Cadwallader recently said of Maestro Hisey’s work, “He is an advocate for new music, and a caring and careful medium through whom my music has been brought gracefully and powerfully to life.

A passionate and sought after music educator, Maestro Hisey frequently appears as guest adjudicator and clinician at schools and festivals throughout the region. His student orchestras have won top prizes in competition and have been invited to appear at Carnegie Hall, NAFME Eastern Music Festival and other festivals and concerts in the United States and abroad. He has served as Professor of Conducting, Orchestration and Music Director of the Orchestra at Manhattanville College and Professor of Conducting and Music Director of the Orchestra at Fairfield University. Maestro Hisey has been Director of Orchestras and Chamber Music at Greens Farms Academy in Westport, CT for 20 years.

Maestro Hisey holds a bachelor’s degree in Viola Performance from the Eastman School of Music and master’s degree in Conducting from Bowling Green State University. He has been fortunate to study conducting with Emily Freeman Brown, David Effron, Gustav Meier, Donald Portnoy, and Donald Hunsberger.

Gjorgj Kroqi

Bravura Orchestra Conductor

Gjorgj Kroqi started playing cello at the age of six. He attended the music school “Prenk Jakova” in his native town of Shkoder, Albania. Mr. Kroqi earned his degree in cello performance…

Full Bio

He attended the music school “Prenk Jakova” in his native town of Shkoder, Albania. Mr. Kroqi earned his degree in cello performance and teaching from the “Academy of Fine Arts” in Tirana (Albania). From 1994-1998, he studied in Graz (Austria). During that time he was an active performer with various groups in the region including the orchestra of the Cathedral of Graz. Since arriving in Connecticut, Mr. Kroqi has performed with many orchestras including Waterbury Symphony, Bridgeport Symphony, Wallingford Symphony, New Britain Symphony and many other groups. From 2001-2016, Mr. Kroqi was the Music Director, Chamber Orchestra Conductor and Cello Coach of the Greater Waterbury Youth Symphony. Currently Mr. Kroqi is the orchestra director at Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield. He is also the cello teacher at The Taft School in Watertown, CT. Mr. Kroqi also teaches cello privately in the Fairfield and Cheshire areas. He joined GCTYO in the 2018-19 season as a String Coach. This is his first year as Bravura Orchestra Conductor.

Lynda Smith

Symphony Orchestra Conductor

Lynda Smith joined GCTYO in 2018. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Montana State University and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Central Connecticut…

Full Bio
She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Montana State University and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Central Connecticut State University. She has been a member of the Fairfield Public Schools music faculty since 1986 where she has taught strings at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She is a member of the American String Teachers Association, Fairfield County String Teachers, the National Association for Music Education and the Connecticut Music Educators Association for which she has served as Western Region Orchestra Chair. She is currently the Orchestra Director at Fairfield Ludlowe High School with 130 students in the orchestra program.

Erica Messina

Concert Orchestra Conductor

Erica Messina earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College/CUNY.

Full Bio

Mrs. Messina began playing violin in elementary school, but in college discovered a new passion for viola. She had the opportunity to study viola with Patinka Kopec, Naoko Tanaka, and Katherine Greene. Mrs. Messina taught music in the New York City Public School system, and played violin and viola in various musical groups around the city. For three years she served as principal viola for the Brooklyn Camerata Chamber Orchestra, which performed in various venues around New York, such as Bargemusic and the Brooklyn Museum.

Mrs. Messina and her family moved to Connecticut in 1997 and she became a member of the Westport Public Schools music faculty in 1998. She taught elementary, middle, and high school level music, and was most recently Orchestra Director at Saugatuck Elementary School, where she regularly had between 120 and 140 fourth and fifth graders in her orchestra program each year. Mrs. Messina retired from Westport Schools in 2019.

Mrs. Messina is in her 10th season with the Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras where she conducts the Concert Orchestra and has travelled with GCTYO on its overseas trips. In addition to all her teaching responsibilities, she plays viola with the American Chamber Orchestra.

Bruce Sloat

String Orchestra Conductor

Bruce Sloat, a GCTYO alumnus, graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Music Degree in Viola Performance. There he was a recipient of the James Furman Memorial Chamber Music Award…

Full Bio

There he was a recipient of the James Furman Memorial Chamber Music Award. Mr. Sloat is a violinist in the Donn Trenner Orchestra and has performed at Mohegan Sun with Josh Groban, Celtic Woman, and Earth, Wind & Fire. He currently performs in the Danbury Symphony where he has served as Principal Violinist and Principal Violist. He is also a member of the Ives Festival Orchestra and American Chamber Orchestra. As the violist of the Barber String Quartet, he performed concerts throughout Poland on a U.S. Embassy endorsed tour. An active chamber musician, Mr. Sloat is a member of Trio Dolce and the Ives Chamber Players. He has performed regularly throughout New York and Connecticut, including venues such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Stamford’s Rich Forum, Danbury Music Centre and benefit performances for OXFAM and the Kosciusko Foundation. Mr. Sloat has taught in the Fairfield County area for nearly 20 years, and currently serves on the string faculties of Fairfield University, Greens Farms Academy, Westport School of Music, Enchanted Garden and Music & Arts. He has also served as a strings coach for the Western Connecticut State University Summer Strings Camp and conducted at the Monroe Music Enrichment Program.

Brian Miller

Wind Orchestra Conductor

Brian Miller is the Wind Orchestra Conductor for the Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras and also teaches at King School in Stamford, Connecticut. After earning his Master’s degree in Trumpet Performance…

Full Bio
After earning his Master’s degree in Trumpet Performance from the University of Michigan, Mr. Miller spent 8 years teaching and performing in Atlanta, where he was one of the most sought after trumpet and brass instructors in the area. Outside of his duties at King, Mr. Miller is on the marching band staff at Arlington High School and was the 2013 Honor Band of America Trumpet Judge and Band Manager. He has previously worked for: Kennesaw State University, Grand Valley State University, Goshen College, the Interlochen Arts Academy Michigan All State Program, the Debut Orchestra of Los Angeles Summer Program, the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra of Atlanta. Locally, Mr. Miller has performed with the East Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, Ridgefield Symphony, and Waterbury Symphony.

Dr. Rex Cadwallader

Jazz Program Director/Jazz Orchestra I Director

Currently Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at Greens Farms Academy in Westport, Connecticut, Dr. Cadwallader has served as Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Texas…

Full Bio

Currently Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at Greens Farms Academy in Westport, Connecticut, Dr. Cadwallader has served as Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Texas in Arlington and Associate Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Northern Colorado. He has taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, Marlborough College in Marlborough, England, Southern Connecticut State University, and the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven. He received his Doctor of Arts Degree in Composition and Music Theory from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and his Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music in Composition degrees from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Dr. Cadwallader has played with such jazz luminaries as Rufus Reid, Bob Mintzer, Eddie Daniels, Ed Shaunessey, Bill Watrous, Don Menza, Clark Terry, Ali Ryerson, Joe Beck, Giacomo Gates, and many others. He appears as performer or composer on over twenty-five albums including his most recent cds, “A Balm in Gilead,” featuring Tiffany Jackson.   Thate was preceded by “Sweet Perfume In An Alabaster Jar,” and “Quicker Than The Eye,” with bassist Mike Asetta and drummer Artie Dixson, “Broadway – West Side Story,” with flutist Ali Ryerson, bassist Mike Asetta and drummer Artie Dixson, and “The Art Of Trio,” with bassist David Chevan. The cd, “Repartee,” also with David Chevan was released in January 2000. A CD of original contemporary jazz with drummer Rich MacDonald entitled “The Cadwallader/MacDonald Project – YOUR SMILE” was released in 1998 on Jaybird Records. Two other recordings, “Christmas In The Neighborhood” with bassist Mike Asetta, and “In A Mellow Tone,” a tribute to the music of Duke Ellington with bassist David Chevan and drummer Jesse Hameen II, were released in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Dr. Cadwallader has also composed several works that have been debuted by the Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras under the baton of Christopher Hisey, including Citizen in March 2018.

Dr. Cadwallader’s compositions for jazz band have been performed and recorded worldwide. With more than 100 published in the U.S., Japan and England, he is the recipient of awards from downbeat magazine, the NEA and the NEH. The newly-formed Rex Cadwallader Jazz Orchestra is making its first appearance at the December 2019 GCTYO Jazz Orchestra concert, playing a set of compositions from an upcoming album entitled “A Hundred Wild Horses,” through which he hopes to call even greater attention to the plight of the environment.   

Geoffrey Brookes

Jazz Orchestra II Director

Mr. Brookes joined GCTYO in the 2017-18 season. He has been directing both middle school and high school level jazz ensembles since 2006. He is passionate about teaching young musicians…

Full Bio

He is passionate about teaching young musicians to develop their creativity through the jazz idiom.

Mr. Brookes completed his undergraduate studies in music education at the University of Connecticut in 2006, receiving a BA in Music and a BS in Education. At UConn, he studied jazz with Earl MacDonald and Kenny Davis, as well as trumpet with James Ackley. He earned an MA in conducting through the American Band College of Sam Houston State University in 2013. Mr. Brookes started his teaching career in the Litchfield Public Schools in 2006 and joined the Fairfield Woods Middle School faculty in 2010. Mr. Brookes and has composed many jazz audition etudes for the Western Region Music Festival. Mr. Brookes currently teaches music in New London, CT.

Brian Ente with Jim Royle

Percussion Orchestra Directors

The Jim Royle Drum Studio Faculty is made up entirely of former students from the Drum Studio with college degrees in music performance or education. They all share the same philosophies…

Full Bio
They all share the same philosophies and curriculum that have been passed down to them, continuing a 30-year tradition of excellence.

James L. Royle is a native of Connecticut and former president of the state chapter of the Percussive Arts Society’s for sixteen years, and 2000 Chapter President of the Year. Jim attended the University of Bridgeport as a percussion and education major under the direction of Howard Zwickler, Arthur Lipner, and Bill Finegan. Jim has also studied various aspects of percussion with world recognized masters such as Max Roach, Alan Dawson, Keith Copeland, Akira Tana, Norbert Goldberg, Vernal Fournier and Pan Master Professor Philmore.

Brian Ente, a GCTYO alumnus, is a musician and composer who studied at Ithaca College with Gordon Stout and Conrad Alexander. A Connecticut native, he is a former vice president of the state’s chapter of the Percussive Arts Society, and works to improve the performance standards and education of percussion both in his local area of Bridgeport/Fairfield, and across the state, taking part as a composer and judge for the Western Region Music Festival on both the middle school and high school levels. Mr. Ente coaches Percussion Ensemble at weekly rehearsals and conducts at concerts and teaches at the Jim Royle Drum Studio.

Although Jim enjoys his own performance career, his love of music and the pleasure of passing this love onto future musicians are equally important to him. His studio now in its 20th year, is well known for turning out remarkable performers and all of his students are exposed to many aspects of percussion.

Orchestras

Principal Orchestra

GCTYO’s Principal Orchestra is one of the most acclaimed youth ensembles in the region. The caliber of its 100 members is confirmed by GCTYO student selection for participation in Regional, All-State, All-New England, and National Music Festivals. The Principal Orchestra plays the world’s great symphonic literature at a high level of performance and musicianship. In addition to three or more concerts per year at The Klein in Bridgeport, Principal Orchestra has performed throughout Connecticut and in a number of other states. Principal Orchestra is conducted by GCTYO alumnus and Music Director Christopher Hisey.

Bravura Orchestra

Bravura….1 music: a musical passage requiring exceptional agility and technical skill in execution. 2: a florid brilliant style. 3: a show of daring or brilliance.

Bravura Orchestra was formed in 2019 to give advanced string musicians the unique experience of performing challenging chamber music in a small group setting. Bravura gives musicians the opportunity to hone their musical skills prior to entering Principal Orchestra. Bravura is conducted by Gjorgj Kroqi.

Symphony Orchestra

Symphony Orchestra made its debut in the 1997-98 season. It was created to provide an opportunity for advanced players to continue to grow musically prior to moving into the Principal Orchestra. Symphony is conducted by Lynda Smith.

Concert Orchestra

Concert Orchestra was formed in 1980 to accommodate younger musicians who demonstrate an interest in a youth symphony experience. Concert Orchestra provides its musicians with the opportunity to perform at an advanced level while gaining valuable experience and training prior to entering the Symphony Orchestra. Concert is conducted by Erica Messina.

String Orchestra

String Orchestra, formed in 1990, provides fundamental ensemble experience for GCTYO’s youngest string musicians. String Orchestra is conducted by GCTYO alumnus Bruce Sloat.

Wind Orchestra

Wind Orchestra offers young woodwind, brass and percussion players focused training for performing with an orchestral sound and in orchestral keys. Wind Orchestra accepts “non-orchestral” instruments such as saxophones, bass clarinet, and baritone. Often, students who join Wind Orchestra playing a non-orchestral instrument find they love GCTYO so much that they learn an orchestral instrument such as bassoon, French horn, trombone, or oboe, so that they can move into Concert Orchestra and beyond. GCTYO offers free lessons for one year to these students. Wind Orchestra is conducted by Brian Miller.

Jazz Orchestras

The GCTYO Jazz Orchestras play jazz classics with a “big band” sound. They explore and perform repertoire from past and present to keep this exciting musical medium alive. Both Jazz Orchestras meet after the other ensembles finish rehearsal. Students who wish to audition for Jazz must be enrolled in one of the other GCTYO ensembles. Jazz Orchestra 1 is conducted by renowned jazz pianist Dr. Rex Cadwallader and is for more experienced musicians. Because of the popularity of GCTYO’s Jazz program, a second Jazz Orchestra was added in the 2017-18 season. It is conducted by Geoffrey Brookes.

Percussion Orchestra

Percussion Orchestra was formed in 2017 to improve the experience of percussionists in the youth orchestra setting. Members of Percussion Orchestra are each assigned to another ensemble such as Principal, Symphony or Concert Orchestra so that they can rehearse and perform with the full orchestra. In addition, Percussion holds its own sectionals where students learn to play the full range of orchestral percussion instruments. At concerts, Percussion Orchestra performs its own set and plays with the other orchestras. Percussion Orchestra is managed by the staff of the acclaimed Jim Royle Drum Studio and is conducted by GCTYO alumnus Brian Ente.

Chamber Orchestra

Chamber Orchestra is GCTYO’s most advanced ensemble. It is comprised of Principal Orchestra musicians who audition for their seats and rehearse after Principal Orchestra ends. Chamber Orchestra performs challenging, baroque-style music at special concerts throughout the year. It is conducted by Music Director and Principal Orchestra conductor Christopher Hisey.