BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Karen Deschere, the executive director of Wharton Music Center (WMC), recently spoke of her passion and vision for music education and community outreach during an interview with TAP into Berkeley Heights.
Deschere joined WMC last January, bringing a solid background with community music education and directing symphony orchestras.
Deschere served as president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, a community music school based in Milwaukee, and previously served as the executive director for both the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Prior to joining WMC, she ran the Hudson Valley Philharmonic.
Her passion is evident as she speaks of education and the performing arts. "I know for me, that was what kept me going to school everyday," said Deschere. "I really excelled in music and that is where I felt valued in high school."
With programs getting cut in many schools, she added, "It is important to have alternatives in education. The community music school can step in and fill the needs."
Deschere is carving out plans to create her personal stamp at WMC. She envisions a musical and performing arts program to provide the foundation from early childhood, offering a comprehensive program that will keep the students at WMC.
"I want to have a music continuum," said Deschere. "We will be expanding the early childhood program -- start younger with the babies. Get them in early and it builds your base."
WMC will find the right fit at any entrance point. "Enter at anytime, there is always a place to go. If you are an adult beginner, we can help you with that." Her vision includes engaging the seniors -- offering lessons and ensembles.
The fall schedule will be expanded to include more early childhood [Musik Garten] and beginner class initiatives including a ukelele class as well as new tracks to the music theater group.
At WMC, the focus is on the individual student. "We do not have a formula, we teach to the student with their individual goals," said Deschere. "We can teach to the casual track, for their own enjoyment. But if you want to learn more, we have the Achievement Program. You take the lesson and then music theory or join an ensemble. The level of play and the degree of what they are doing ramps up each year."
The merger between WMC and the New Jersey Youth Orchestra is two years old. Deschere credits former director Derek Mithaug for getting the organization to stable ground from the unsteady economic times resulting from the financial crisis. "I give him a lot of credit for rebuilding. Now, I can run and maintain the financial stability," said Deschere.
The New Jersey Youth Symphony is an outstanding program, said Deschere, taking first place in the orchestra division of the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival and competition held in early July in Vienna, Austria.
To learn more about WMC and the New Jersey Youth Symphony visit their website.
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