Press Releases

Helen Cha-Pyo Appointed Artistic Director Designate


BERKELEY HEIGHTS—The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) has named Helen Cha-Pyo the new Artistic Director of the Wharton Institute, encompassing all 14 ensembles in the New Jersey Youth Symphony, and Conductor of the Youth Symphony effective July 1, 2018. Until that time, she will hold the title of Artistic Director Designate.

Ms. Cha-Pyo is an accomplished conductor and educator and is currently the Music Director of the Empire State Youth Orchestras (ESYO) in New York’s Capital District. She will continue in this position during the 2017-18 season. She will serve as Interim Conductor of NJYS’s Youth Orchestra during this period while its conductor, Simon Lipskar, serves as Interim Conductor of Youth Symphony. Both Youth Orchestra and Youth Symphony are advanced, full orchestras in the NJYS family of ensembles. Youth Symphony has appeared at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, the Musikverein in Vienna, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Youth Orchestra recently performed at the 2017 NAfME Eastern Division Conference in Atlantic City.

Ms. Cha-Pyo will fill the position vacated by Jeffrey Grogan who left after six years to become the Director of Orchestras at Oklahoma City University.

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Helen Cha-Pyo said, "I am thrilled to be joining The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts as its Artistic Director and New Jersey Youth Symphony Conductor. I look forward to working with talented young musicians and dedicated and accomplished colleagues at the Wharton Institute.  It is a great honor for me to work with NJYS, which has long been a leader among youth orchestras nationally and with the Paterson Music Project, an exemplary El Sistema-inspired program, which has contributed to the growth of such programs all over the country.  There is always more work to be done to provide the highest performing arts education to more young people in our region and I am fully committed to bringing my deepest passion for teaching, performing, and for bringing communities together to fulfill the mission of changing lives through music.  Being a Morristown resident, my sons both began their violin lessons at Wharton Performing Arts Center (formerly Suburban Community Music Center), so it feels like I am coming back home.  I am grateful for this upcoming season to get to know the community by working with Youth Orchestra.  I hope to do lots of watching, listening, and learning about the Wharton community during this transition year and meeting as many people as possible.  It will be a great year! I can already feel the excitement building up in me!"

WIPA Board President, Bob Hamburger, said, “I am very excited to share the news of our selection of an Artistic Director Designee, Helen Cha-Pyo. We are fortunate to have such an accomplished and highly praised professional take the helm as our Artistic Director. I feel confident that she will continue to grow and build on the outstanding reputation for excellence that WIPA and the New Jersey Youth Symphony has established here in the Garden State and beyond.”

For the past 15 years, Helen Cha-Pyo has inspired hundreds of young musicians to perform at the highest levels, resulting in Empire State Youth Orchestras being recognized as one of the nation’s premier music organizations for youth. As Music Director and conductor of the ESYO Youth Orchestra, Ms. Cha-Pyo regularly programs a wide range of music embracing many different cultures. Her vision resulted in a $100,000 grant to partially fund a music festival that commissioned nine works (one for each ESYO ensemble), and winning three prestigious ASCAP awards. She has conducted the orchestra in outstanding concert halls including Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the Massry Center for the Arts, EMPAC, Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, and Carnegie Hall.  She has led the orchestra on three international tours: to Europe in 2008, China and South Korea in 2012, and Portugal in 2016. Her vision was instrumental in the founding of ESYO CHIME in 2015, a music education program dedicated to serving underprivileged youth.

From 1996 to 2002, Helen served as artistic director and conductor of the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir and associate director of music at The Riverside Church in New York City. A committed music educator, she pioneered the Riverside Music Educational Program, which served thousands of New York City public school children. As artistic director for the Kenya Jirani Choir and Harlem Jirani Ensemble of the Jirani Cultural Organization from 2009 - 2012, Helen traveled regularly to Kenya and Korea to oversee artistic activities. In 2011, she toured Korea with Kenya Jirani Choir.

Born in Seoul, Helen immigrated to the US when she was 12. She studied piano and organ in the Pre-College Program at The Juilliard School. She holds a Bachelor of Music in organ performance from Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music in conducting and organ performance from the Eastman School of Music.  She is a frequent guest conductor for All State and Regional Festival Orchestras as well as summer festivals including Kinhaven School (VT) and Arco Youth Orchestra Festival (NJ). She resides in New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

As part of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, the New Jersey Youth Symphony has a rich history of fostering musical talent for over 35 years. Each of its 14 ensembles offers participants a different, yet fully rounded experience. The family of orchestras serves students from 3rd to 12th grades. NJYS is committed to providing the finest ensemble musical training led by our staff of experienced and renowned conductors, and is known for its high standard of excellence throughout the United States and internationally.

The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts’ mission is to provide the highest quality performing arts education to a wide range of students in a supportive and inclusive environment, where striving for personal excellence inspires and connects those we teach to the communities we serve.

Wharton is New Jersey’s largest independent non-profit community performing arts education center serving over 1,400 students through a range of classes and ensembles including the 14 ensembles of the New Jersey Youth Symphony which serve 500 students in grades 3 - 12. Beginning with Early Childhood music classes for infants and toddlers, WIPA offers private lessons, group classes and ensembles for all ages and all abilities. We believe in the positive and unifying influence of music and the performing arts and believe that arts education should be accessible to all people regardless of their ability to pay. We teach all instruments and voice and have a robust musical theatre program.

The Paterson Music Project is Wharton’s El Sistema-inspired program held at the Community Charter School of Paterson and Paterson Public School 1/26. Students receive 6 hours of intensive music instruction each week with the goal of creating social change through the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence.

Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts is located in Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Paterson, NJ and reaches students from 13 counties. All of WIPA’s extraordinary faculty members and conductors hold degrees in their teaching specialty and have been vetted and trained to enable our students to achieve their personal best.

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