Distinguished GWYOA Alumni

2020 GWYOA Distinguished Alumni Award

Honoree: Robert Plotkin

Bob Plotkin first encountered the Lionti’s when he was a twelve year old violinist at the Westchester Music and Arts Camp in the early 70’s, when Victor conducted and Vincent headed up the viola section. Bob also played violin in GWYOA’s Junior Strings (as Concertmaster in his senior year) during Dale Lewis' tenure as conductor. After Junior Strings, Bob played in Youth Symphony where he had the honor again to play under the baton of Victor Lionti.

Bob attended Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and received a BS in Electrical Engineering. During this time he played violin with the university orchestra. After graduation, he went on to earn an MS in Computer Science from NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.

Bob was an engineer at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center for ten years, then moved into the financial sector as a director of technology and Chief Technology Officer for an Internet startup. Bob continued to play and perform music with various chamber groups as well as the 92Y School of Music Orchestra, Bloomingdale Chamber Orchestra, Riverside Orchestra, Group Opera of New York, and currently Yonkers Philharmonic Orchestra.

Bob is married to Lisa Olsson, a cellist who teaches and performs in various chamber ensembles. Bob and Lisa have both played in the Yonkers Philharmonic Orchestra for the last fifteen years. Their daughter, Emily Plotkin is a 2017 graduate of the GWYOA program, having played in Elementary Strings, Junior Strings and Youth Symphony.

When not playing violin, Bob can be found on a golf course or behind the lens of his camera. He has had the pleasure of photographing many GWYOA concerts at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Westchester Community College.

Photo credits: baltimore.broadway.com/buzz (top), David Wentworth (2nd, 3rd)

2018-19 GWYOA Distinguished Alumni Award

Honoree: James Sampliner

James Sampliner is a graduate of Indiana University’s prestigious School of Music with a degree in Percussion Performance. While at Indiana, he had the privlege to be able to study jazz piano with David Baker, and also learned his skills in orchestrating, conducting and arranging there as well. Mr. Sampliner is a highly regarded music director, orchestrator, arranger and composer in the New York theatrical community and beyond. His first high profile job was as the music director of the prestigious Williamstown Theater Festival’s late night cabaret series. He then became the music director of the festival, during which time he conducted productions of Tonight at 8:30, Where’s Charley? and The Threepenny Opera. His major theatrical debut in New York was as a keyboardist for Radiant Baby at the Public Theater, where he met his now collaborator and writing partner, Tony and Grammy award-winning actor Billy Porter. Soon afterwards, he became the arranger and associate conductor of his first Broadway show, Never Gonna Dance, where he also made his Broadway conducting debut. He has since worked as music director or associate music director for six Broadway shows: BKLYN: The Musical, The Wedding Singer, Legally Blonde (which he also was an arranger) Honeymoon In Vegas and Prince Of Broadway. Most recently, Mr. Sampliner had the honor of conducting and playing piano for the very first official revival of Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For A New World. The recording of this new cast was released in late January 2019, on Sh-K-Boom records. In 2008/2009, Mr. Sampliner was privleged to have supervised the West End production of Legally Blonde in London as well as the 1st National Tour in the United States and the Australian production in 2010. Other NYC work includes a one-night only presentation of the music from Bombshell, the “fake” musical about Marilyn Monroe featured in the TV show “SMASH” (music by Marc Shaiman, Lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) where James served as primary pianist and Associate Music Director. Off-Broadway, he music directed a new musical entitled Himself And Nora about the love affair between James Joyce and his wife. Other Off-Broadway shows he has worked on include The Mistress Cycle and Ghetto Superstar. Mr. Sampliner also has worked on new musicals at the following Regional Theaters over the last 20 years: Williamstown, LaJolla Playhouse, McCarter Theater, Westport Country Playhouse, Philadelphia Theatre Group, Long Wharf Theater, American Conservatory Theater, TheatreWorks Palo Alto, Alliance Theater, Two River Theater, Barrington Stage, Papermill Playhouse, Lyric Theater of Oklahoma and the Sundance festival.

His collaborations with Billy Porter are numerous including an African-American revue of Stephen Sondheim’s music entitled Being Alive that has had two productions in Westport and Philadelphia. The two then worked on an all African-American revue of Richard Rodgers’ material entitled The Soul Of Rodgers for the Reprise Theater Company in Los Angeles. Other collaborations include Billy’s solo Off-Broadway hit Ghetto Superstar, their two CD’s (At The Corner Of Broadway And Soul and Billy’s Back On Broadway), a production of George Wolfe’s The Colored Museum at the Huntington Theater in Boston, and music written for Billy’s first play as an author, entitled While I Yet Live for Primary Stages. They also premiered many of their arrangements at The Boston Pops in the Spring of 2014. The two have also taped a special for PBS entitled Billy Porter: Broadway + Soul that was aired in the US in April of 2015. The new album they collaborated on, Billy Porter Presents The Soul Of Richard Rodgers (which contains collaborations with Deborah Cox, Ledisi, India.Arie, Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo, Patina Miller, Brandon Victor Dixon, Josh Henry, Chris Jackson, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Todrick Hall and Pentatonix) was released by Sony Masterworks on April 14, 2017.

Other collaborations as either Music Director, Arranger, Orchestrator or Producer include Tony Award-winning actors Audra McDonald, Leslie Odom Jr., Patina Miller (Patina Miller: Live at Lincoln Center for PBS - 2014) Chuck Cooper, Annaleigh Ashford, Norm Lewis, Sara Ramirez and Lilias White, Grammy-award nominated artist Ledisi, pop artist Jojo, Rumer Willis, as well as theater luminaries Rob McClure, Tracie Thoms, Shoshana Bean, Eden Espinosa, Laura Benanti, Will Swenson, James Naughton, Karen Ziemba, Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, Carol Woods, David Garrison, Len Cariou, Lea DeLaria, Debra Monk, Laurie Beechman, Adriane Lenox, Shayna Steele, and many many more.

His most recent collaborations are with Emmy-nominated actor Tituss Burgess. The two are working on a new musical (as music supervisor and orchestrator), a new album (as producer/co-writer/programmer) and a live concert act (as MD/keyboardist).

He has also been busy re-arranging and editing the entire score of Rodgers & Hart’s Pal Joey with veteran writer/director Richard LaGravenese and actor/director Tony Goldwyn. A lab presentation happened in the fall of 2016 with great reaction and an anticipated production sometime in the future.

You can hear his work on the cast albums of BKLYN, The Wedding Singer, Legally Blonde and Honeymoon In Vegas, Prince Of Broadway, Billy Porter’s At The Corner Of Broadway & Soul, Billy’s Back On Broadway and Billy Porter presents The Soul Of Richard Rodgers; “Julie Reiber – Love Travels”, and “The Broadway Boys – Hark!

2017-18 GWYOA Distinguished Alumni Award

Honoree: Margaret Bond

GWYOA honors

Meg Bond

Former concertmaster, parent of current musicians,

outstanding board member and always a friend

of the orchestra.

Thank You for all of it.

Photo credit: Richard Bowditch

2016-2017 GWYOA Distinguished Alumni Award

Honoree: Derek Bermel

Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity, and his engagement with other musical cultures, has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language. Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, he is also Director of Copland House's Cultivate! emerging composers institute, and Curator of the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music (Bowdoin I International Music Festival) . Bermel is recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator of concert series spotlighting the composer as performer and has received commissions including Pittsburgh, National, Saint Louis, New Jersey and Pacific Symphonies, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Saint Paul and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestras, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, eighth blackbird, the Guarneri and JACK String Quartets, Music from Copland House and Music from China, De Ereprijs, and SKO/Schoenberg Ensemble and Veenfabriek (Netherlands), and violinist Midori. As a clarinetist, Bermel's acclaimed performances have taken him to major stages across the globe as orchestral soloist, chamber musician, and collaborations with a dizzyingly eclectic array of artists. His many honors include the Alpert Award in the Arts, Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships and Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, and Meet the Composer; and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri, and he served as Artist in Residence at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study for four years.

Artist Notes:

In August 2001, I traveled to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to study the Thracian folk style with clarinetist Nikola Iliev. Thracia is a region in Bulgaria which stretches over the Rodopi mountains and extends into Modern Greece. I spent several hours each day transcribing and memorizing the songs, Nikola’s nephews Emil and Misha assisting by translating from Bulgarian to French or English. I used this material as the basis for an orchestra piece for the Westchester Philharmonic, “Thracian Echoes”. In this piece, I bent the original Bulgarian modes into a whole tone melodic context while retaining much of the original rhythm and contour, especially the tendency to sustain tied mordents over the barline in odd meters.

In 2003, I was asked to perform a recital as part of a residency during the Seminarios of the Universidade Federal da Bahia in Salvador, Brazil. I revisited the material upon which I based the orchestra piece, and began experimenting with phrases from several faster, instrumental songs –Paydushko Xhoro (5/8), Mizhka Richenitza (7/8), Daychovo Xhoro (9/8), and Krivo Pazardshishko Xhoro (11/16) – once again, altering the modes. The piece begins in the lower register of the clarinet, and moves through the songs, increasing in velocity, range and the complexity of rhythmic groupings as it progresses. I thought of “Thracian Sketches” as a minimalist form, and I dedicated it to John Adams, who had conducted my clarinet concerto the previous year in Los Angeles.” – Derek Bermel

2015-2016 GWYOA Distinguished Alumni Award

Honoree: Dale Lewis

Dale Lewis recently became Director of the Arts Reach Fund following 32 years as Executive Director of Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, a 1,500-student summer arts school and concert festival on Long Island. During these years Mr. Lewis introduced more than 30 new programs of study, guided 5 successful capital campaigns, and presented more than 200 of the world’s great artists at the Center’s Festival Concerts.

Mr. Lewis is especially proud of his decades-long association with GWYOA. As a student cellist he was a member of both the Junior Strings and the Youth Symphony. As a professional musician he was appointed conductor of the Junior Strings in 1976, a position he held for 18 years. He became a close friend and colleague of the Youth Symphony’s great conductors, Victor Lionti and Vincent Lionti, and of Bernard Klinger and Jacqueline Stern as well. In recent years he and Vincent Lionti have again worked together as colleagues at the Usdan Center.

In addition to his work at Arts Reach, Mr. Lewis is a founding Trustee of Long Island Arts Alliance, and is a member of the New York State Education Department’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Arts. He holds service awards from The Kennedy Center’s National Education Committee, the Art Supervisors Association, and now, with great pride, from GWYOA.

GWYOA Alumni Rosters

This section is currently under construction.