Berks Sinfonietta was established in 2014 as a group made up of local musicians, dedicated to exploring the vast repertoire of all periods. One of its distinguishing characteristics is the intergenerational approach, where young professionals, advanced students and gifted amateurs come together to learn from one another and to create performances of unqualified excellence. We also intend to explore various aspects of performance practice, and to build a new audience for classical music through education and outreach.

484-509-1290

710 N. 5th St.

Reading, PA 19601

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Website by Brandon Buterbaugh

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Meet Our Team

Vice-President &

Assistant Artistic Director

 

DAVID MCCONNELL

President and Artistic Director

Dr. David A. McConnell founded Vox Philia in 2012 as an intergenerational chamber choir made up of professional and gifted amateur singers.  The choir’s first three seasons focused almost exclusively on music by living composers, featuring over a dozen local and world premieres, as well as a newly-commissioned Christmas carol in December 2014. The choir’s performances have garnered considerable acclaim for thematic programming and musical excellence.  

 

In the summer of 2014, Dr. McConnell co-founded Berks Sinfonietta, a chamber orchestra that also utilizes an intergenerational approach, bringing professional Reading players together with gifted students in both high school and college. Highlights of the first season include well-regarded performances of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, both conducted by McConnell.

Dr. McConnell teaches Introduction to Western and World Music classes at Pennsylvania State University, Berks Campus. He also teaches group and private piano and organ lessons at Alvernia University in Reading. David currently serves as Director of Music at Grace Lutheran Church in Lancaster, where he plays for weekly liturgies and conducts the Senior Choir.  

 

Dr. McConnell received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in December 2002. His teachers at Cincinnati included Earl Rivers, John Leman, Richard Westenberg and Vance George. A native of Philadelphia, Dr. McConnell also holds degrees from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey and Temple University in Philadelphia. He has attended the prestigious Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestral Musicians in Hancock, Maine, the South Carolina Conductor's Institute in Columbia, South Carolina, and The Conductors Institute at Bard College.

 

Dr. McConnell's has presented papers at the national American Choral Directors Association in San Antonio, Texas and the College Music Society Northeast Chapter Conference in Lewiston, Maine. Articles by Dr. McConnell have appeared in journals of the International Federation of Choral Music, the American Choral Director’s Association, the Conductors’ Guild and the American Beethoven Society.  He has written a chapter on Beethoven’s early Piano Concerto in E-flat for inclusion in a book being published about Beethoven’s time in Bonn. 

 

In recent years, Dr. McConnell has conducted choirs in Portugal, The Netherlands, and Latvia, as well as throughout the northeastern United States.

 

JAMES GILMER

Vice-President and Assistant Artistic Director

From Shillington, PA, James first picked up the violin at 7 years old, after visiting an "instrument petting zoo" at Cumru Elementary School. Throughout middle and high school, James consistently made County- and District- level ensembles, reaching PMEA All-Region Orchestra in his senior year.

 

He continued his musical studies at Franklin & Marshall College, playing first violin in the Orchestra and Philharmonia, the school's elite chamber ensemble. At F&M, James was a Business, Organizations, and Society major, with a minor in the German language.

 

By day, James works in Lancaster at Harbor Compliance, a local small business. By night (and weekend), he is an active community musician. After college, James has played violin with Allegro: the Chamber Orchestra of Lancaster, the Reading Pops Orchestra, Genesius Theatre, and American Music Theatre, and in numerous freelance settings. He has played alongside such notable artists as Keiko Matsui and Jackie Evancho. He continues private studies with John Hamilton, a Lancaster Symphony Orchestra violist and violinist.

James's passion lies in conducting, both from his studies under Brian Norcross at F&M, and from his countless hours of watching videos of von Karajan, Carlos Kleiber, and Toscanini. Having conducted works by Dvorak and Beethoven, James is excited to develop the art alongside Dr. McConnell in a collaborative, mentoring environment.

 

Sensing a great need for a chamber orchestra in Berks County, James is thrilled to apply his business acumen, organizational skills, and musical talent to Berks Sinfonietta. He hopes the ensemble will prove a rewarding opportunity for students, college grads, and professionals alike to play challenging music together.

KATHLEEN BAHENA

Secretary

 

From Reading, Pennsylvania, Kathleen became interested in playing the violin at age 5 after she heard an NPR story about the instruments of the orchestra.  Her mother purchased a cheap student instrument at a local music shop and Kathleen started private lessons soon after.

 

Kathleen was a homeschooled student throughout highschool. After switching to viola from violin her sophomore year, Kathleen started competing in festival orchestras, making it to PMEA's All-State Orchestra her senior year.  That same year she was accepted to the Ithaca College School of Music where she graduated four years later with a BM in Viola Performance. At IC, she studied with Debra Moree. During the summer months, she studied with and participated in masterclasses of Karen Ritscher, Wing Ho, Ning Mu, Lawrence Dutton, and Jodi Levitz.

 

An avid chamber musician, Kathleen has attended the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, the PA Academy of Music’s Summer Festival, Soundfest with the Colorado String Quartet, and the Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival in Courmayeur, Italy.  In these festivals she has played some of the most important string quartet literature of the western classical tradition.

Kathleen also regularly plays in orchestras.  During her time at IC she was a member of the Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra, all the while performing in student formed groups for composition and conducting recitals.  She has also played in some of the regions professional orchestras including the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes, the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, the Chesapeake Orchestra, and the Reading Symphony Orchestra. Additional musical experiences include her studies in early music/baroque viola, contemporary music performances, and opera/musical pit work.

 

Kathleen enjoys sharing these experiences with her peers and students and has been doing so for 10 years as a string teacher. Currently she is a studio violin and viola teacher at the Kimberton Waldorf School in Phoenixville, PA where she also conducts the Bell Choir, and runs a private studio from her home in West Reading.  She is also a member of several music ensembles in the area and can be seen performing at the Genesius Theater, with the Reading Pops Orchestra, for the Berks Opera Company, as a soloist at Immanuel UCC in Shillington, and for many weddings and events. In November of this year, Kathleen accepted the position of principal violist for the Northern Tier Symphony Orchestra.

 
 

ANDREW CUSANO

Co-Founder

 

Andrew Cusano is originally from Shillington, Pennsylvania. He began playing music at the age of 3 when he studied violin. At the age of 8 he began playing percussion and has never looked back. Andrew is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he studied principally with John H. Beck. He also had the great pleasure of studying with Dr. Willis Rapp, Michael Burritt, Leigh Howard Stevens, and Anthony Orlando. 

 

As a performer, Andrew has appeared with the Pottstown Symphony, Philadelphia Wind Symphony, Reading Symphony, Reading Pops Orchestra, Northern Stage Theater, Delaware Theater Company, New London Barn Playhouse, Dutch Apple Dinner Theater, Dartmouth College Theater, Reading Civic Theater, Ephrata Performing Arts Center, and Genesius Theater. He has played with numerous stars of Broadway, jazz, opera, and classical music. 

 

In addition to performing, Andrew is an active educator. He is the band director at Governor Mifflin High School and maintains a busy private studio. Mr Cusano was formerly a teacher at Holy Name High School and the Wyomissing Institute of Fine Arts. He received a PA music education certification from West Chester University.