Rev. Thomas Pellaton, President
Fr. Thomas Pellaton is a double degree graduate of Oberlin Conservatory of Music having done work in Intellectual History and Voice Performance. He was a Metropolitan Opera District Audition winner during his time at Oberlin. He received an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in Opera Theater but was drafted into the Army and served both in Vietnam in Army Intelligence and then in Europe. He became a member of the Opera Studio at the Staatsoper Zürich Company and sang a number of roles there before he returned to New York. He was the maître d' at at the famed Carlyle Hotel and sang with a number of small opera companies in New York, including the Amato Opera. Fr. Tom then joined Shaw Concerts and was assistant to the president, Harold Shaw, European manager and head of the Vocal Roster. He helped manage such artists as Janet Baker, Nathan Milstein, Jessye Norman, Hermann Prey, John Williams, Robert Shaw, Garrick Ohlsson and many others.
He was active in homeless and feeding ministries at St. Thomas Church and St. Michale's but felt called to full time ministry and entered the Yale Divinity School Institute of Sacred Music where he was the Giles Scholar. He also held a fellowship in Urban Ministry. He was ordained both deacon and priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and served as Curate at St. Michael's in New York and then Rector of the Church of the Ascension in Munich, Germany. He returned to the USA as rector of the church of the Ascension in Rockville Centre, Long Island and then retired to Harlem in 2010 where he preached and celebrated in most of the Episcopal Churches in the Northern Deanery. In October 2012 he came out of retirement to become the Interim Pastor of St. Mary's Manhattanville, and he is currently the Interim Pastor at the Church of the Holy Nativity in the Bronx, NY.
Susan Macaluso, Secretary
Susan Macaluso is the Director of Community Arts Programs at Goddard Riverside Community Center and their recently renovated Bernie Wohl Center. Goddard Riverside presents free arts programs to enrich the Upper West Side community, to engage in meaningful discussions, and to give everyone an opportunity to see and experience performing and creative art. Goddard Riverside Community Center builds community and changes lives through services including early childhood and youth programs, college counseling, supportive housing, employment readiness, and assistance to homeless and older adults in Manhattan. Susan Macaluso joined the board of The Harlem Chamber Players in 2013.
William Hoch, Treasurer
William Hoch works as a Quality Assurance Engineer for the telecom company IDT in Piscataway, NJ. He has been in the Information Technology field for over 29 years now, previously working for AT&T and various consulting companies. His computer skills, aptitude in logic and basic accounting, and proficiency in Microsoft Excel, have aided him to take over and maintain the budget and basic bookkeeping for the group, as of September 2010.
Liz Player, Founder, Executive & Artistic Director
Clarinetist/bass clarinetist Liz Player has performed with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra, the Greenwich Village Orchestra, New York City Housing Authority Orchestra, One World Symphony, Ensemble du Monde, Harlem Symphony Orchestra, The Harlem Festival Orchestra, The Manchester Music Festival Orchestra, The Bronx Opera, and on Broadway's Finian's Rainbow. As an avid lover of chamber music, Ms. Player has organized recitals and chamber music concerts in New Jersey and New York since 1990. She founded West Harlem Winds in 2004 and in 2008 started the acclaimed Music at St. Mary's chamber music series with The Harlem Chamber Players. As artistic director of The Harlem Chamber Players, Liz has contracted chamber ensembles and orchestras for several other organizations, such as American Opera Projects, Opera Ebony, Columbia University, Harlem Opera Theater, the NYC Housing Symphony Orchestra and more.
She attended the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College as a Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellow and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor in Music. There she made her debut as soloist with the Queens College Orchestra in a performance of the Debussy Première Rhapsodie. She also appeared as a featured soloist with the Greenwich Village Orchestra in a performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and as a guest artist with Ensemble du Monde in a performance of Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and strings. She has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall, CAMI Hall, Merkin Concert Hall and Brooklyn’s Forecast Music. Former instructors and master class coaches include David Krakauer, David Glazer, William Blount, Ayako Neidich, Stanley Drucker and Ronald Roseman.
In addition to being a dedicated chamber musician, Liz is able to use skills she acquired from her diverse educational background and work experience to run The Harlem Chamber Players. She received her B.A. in Computer Science with a minor in English from Rutgers College, New Brunswick, N.J. and has worked in various industries from marketing and communications to foundations. In addition to her duties as executive and artistic director of The Harlem Chamber Players, Liz also uses her graphic design skills to create all marketing materials and concert programs. She designed this website www.harlemchamberplayers.org and is responsible for maintaining it.
James Davis, Jr., Advisor
One of the most recognized emerging music directors, James Davis Jr. has proven to be an artistic leader who captivates musicians, audiences, and communities with his deep passion for music. As a music director, producer, conductor, performer, arranger and teacher, James is actively involved in the modern effort to preserve live music performance and to present music as an essential part of our culture and education. James’ musicianship and artistic sensitivity both as a performer and a director has afforded him the opportunity to collaborate with a myriad of notable artists across genres including Ashford & Simpson, Alicia Keys, Jessye Norman, John Legend, Lyle Lovett, Richard Smallwood and Wynton Marsalis.
His work behind the scenes is as equally intriguing as his stage presence as a conductor and instrumentalist. Known for his masterful productions and entertainment business acumen, James is on the short list of music directors who ￼ are sought out by industry professionals for music-related events and projects. James is the founder and President of JDJ Music, Inc. and has made an imprint both culturally and globally on the music scene. Most recently serving as the Associate Music Director for Arena Stage’s 2014 production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe, James has supervised musical productions at Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Apollo Theater, to name a few. Additionally, James was appointed Artistic Director/Curator of the August 2014 Lagos Jazz Festival in Lagos, Nigeria. James also serves as the Director of Music Ministries & Fine Arts at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City and is currently the Associate Music Director for Opera Ebony. He has produced and arranged music for both film and television, including Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer” and State Farm’s commemorative commercial for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, which aired nationwide.
A native of Winstonville, Mississippi, James’ musical skills were evident from a very young age, as he started playing the piano on his own at age three. His first formal musical training commenced at age when he began studying piano and music theory with H.E. Marshall. James graduated from Morehouse College in 2004, where he studied piano with W. Floyd Ruffin and Joyce Johnson of Spelman College. He also studied organ performance and literature with David Oliver and choral and orchestral conducting with David Morrow. Additionally, James participated in piano master classes with Awadagin Pratt, Stewart Goodyear and Joseph Joubert and conducting master classes with Robert Spano and Donald Runnicles. Also, while attending Morehouse, James became accompanist for the renowned Morehouse College Glee Club and by his senior year was named Student Conductor, a position that had not been attained by a non-music major in 25 years. In the summer of 2003, in the absence of the director David Morrow, he led the Morehouse Glee Club on a week-long tour of California cities. James is master of instruments in the keyboard family, including piano, pipe organ, Hammond B3 organ and synthesizer. His solid music education and natural born talent fuels his intrinsic drive to perform and produce music of all styles. Currently James resides in New York City.
Terrance McKnight, Advisor
Terrance McKnight is the weekday evening host on WQXR. He also hosted the former Saturday evening program, All Ears with Terrance McKnight, a show about musical discovery, which was honored with an ASCAP Deems Taylor Radio Broadcast Award in 2010.
McKnight’s musical experiences — from glee club soloist and accomplished pianist, to professor at Morehouse College, and finally as producer and host of several music programs for public radio — have consistently juxtaposed the European Classical tradition alongside American classic traditions, such as jazz, gospel, African American spirituals and other musical genres. McKnight has hosted and produced several specials for WQXR including "I, Too, Sing America: Music in the Life of Langston Hughes;" "A Musical Journey in the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.;" "A Musical Biography of Pioneering Pianist Hazel Scott" and "A Musical Biography of Florence Beatrice Price." Other activities for McKnight include appearances as a panelist or speaker with Chamber Music America, the Mellon Foundation, American Opera Projects and the Metropolitan Museum of Art's concert and lecture series, among other outlets.
Carl Jackson, Associate Director, Stage Manager
(Please go to the Musicians page for bio.)
Deryck Clarke, Educational Program Director
(Please go to the Musicians page for bio.)
Eric K. Washington, Advisor & Host
Eric K. Washington is an independent historian and the author of the book, Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem, which drew the half-forgotten neighborhood back into a well-earned spotlight. His research produced the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s report for its 1998 designation of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Manhattanville—The Harlem Chamber Players’ home base—as an official New York City landmark. His permanently displayed interpretive signage in West Harlem Piers Park, on the Hudson River at the foot of 125th Street, earned him the Municipal Art Society’s coveted 2010 MASterworks Award. He is a key narrator of the documentary short, “Manhattanville: A New York Nexus,” that is part of Columbia University’s permanent exhibition about the area’s historic dairy industry. Eric is a current fellow of Columbia’s Community Scholars Program 2014 – 2017. He was a recipient of the CUNY Graduate Center’s Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellowship 2015 – 2016, to research the life of of James H. Williams (1878 – 1948), a Harlem community hero who was chief for nearly half a century of the iconic African American workforce known as Red Caps at Grand Central Terminal. His resulting biography, Boss of the Grips, was recently acquired by Liveright, an imprint of W.W. Norton, is to be published in fall of 2018. Learn more about Eric K. Washington on his website http://www.erickwashington.com/.
Lee Koonce, Advisor
Lee Koonce was appointed Executive Director of Third Street Music School Settlement in June 2006. Founded in 1894, Third Street is the oldest community music school in the nation. Each year the school provides music, dance and visual arts instruction of the finest quality to more than 3,500 children, regardless of their artistic ability or financial circumstances. Instruction takes place both at the School and through partnerships with local public schools and community organizations across Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A hallmark of Third Street’s programs for youth is its extensive chamber music and ensemble program for students from beginners through advanced. Third Street also provides music instruction to adults of all ages and levels, and presents more than 250 public concerts and performances by students, faculty and guest artists throughout the year.
Prior to joining Third Street Music School Settlement, Lee was Executive Director (2004-2006) of Opus 118 Harlem School of Music in New York City. Opus 118 uses music education and string playing to promote the love of music, improve academic performance, provide positive alternatives to drugs and violence, build confidence and self-esteem and help children explore the world. Opus 118’s work was documented in the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Small Wonders and in the feature film Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep in her Academy Award-nominated performance as Roberta Guaspari, Opus 118’s co-founder and Artistic Director.
Other past positions include Executive Director of the Sherwood Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois, Director of Community Relations for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for five years, Communications Manager at Andersen Consulting, now Accenture, and an instructor of music and Spanish Literature at The Elgin Academy. Mr. Koonce received a bachelor’s of music degree in Piano Performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, a bachelor’s of arts degree in Spanish Literature from Oberlin College, and a master’s of music degree in Piano Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music.
John Bender, Esq., Advisor (1940 – 2016)
John Bender was a practicing Attorney in New York City for 40 years. He received an engineering degree from Northeastern University and law degrees from New York University School of Law. During the course of his career he served as General Counsel of the Emergency Financial Control Board of the City of New York from 1975 to 1980, as Chairman of the Trust for Cultural Resources of the City of New York from 1982 to 1995 and was Senior Vice-President and General Counsel of Simon & Schuster and thereafter of Macmillan Publishing Company. For 15 years he was a director of the Mary McDowell Center for Learning and is currently a director of The Housing Symphony Orchestra and Oakwood Friends School. John C. Bender passed away in New York City on April 3, 2016, after a brief illness. He was a generous and loving husband and father, an avid traveler to destinations such as Antarctica, the Galapagos, and Africa, and an overall lover of life. He was born on May 17, 1940 in Queens, New York.
Janet Wolfe, Advisor, Founder of New York City Housing Symphony Orchestra (1914 – 2015)
A long-time patron of minority musicians in New York City, Janet Wolfe was the inspiration behind the creation of The Harlem Chamber Players. She founded New York City Housing Symphony Orchestra (also known as the NYC Housing Authority Symphony Orchestra or NYCHA Symphony Orchestra), and she hosted a yearly gala benefit concert featuring many of New York City's finest minority chamber musicians every February in honor of Black History Month. Many of the musians who perform now with The Harlem Chamber Players have also played in the NYC Housing Symphony Orchestra and in the yearly gala benefit concerts Ms. Wolfe hosted at Weill Recital Hall and Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall.
In February of 2010, Ms. Wolfe was featured in the The Daily News article "Janet Wolfe, 95, keeps NYCHA orchestra humming along." Ms. Wolfe was also featured in 1996 in The New York Times article "Sowing the Classics, Reaping New Listeners."
Click here for more info about Janet Wolfe.
Charles Dalton (1948 – 2013)
"Mr. Dalton makes makes rich sounds on his melodious instrument."
The New Yorker
"lovely" and "breathtaking"
New York Amsterdam News
"a remedy long overdue, musical ensemble brought about by his performance."
These are just a few raves associated with Charles Dalton's viola playing and musicianship. Charles was principal violist of the Orquesta Sinfónica Municipal de Caracas, Venezuela for 20 years. In 2001 he returned to New York City where he was very active as a teacher and performer. Charles Dalton, along with Liz Player, founded the original "Music at St. Mary's" chamber music series in 2008. Mr. Dalton is survived by his partner of 20 years, Joel Gomez.
Raoul Abdul (1929 – 2010)
Raoul Abdul, honorary board member and dear friend of Music at St. Mary’s, died in Manhattan on Friday, January 15, 2010. He attended nearly all of our concerts and wrote favorable reviews in The New York Amsterdam News’ column “Reading the Score.”
In addition to being a music critic, Mr. Abdul published several books, including Blacks in Classical Music, Famous Black Entertainers of Today and The Magic of Black Poetry. He was a concert baritone and German lieder expert who was a White House guest of President Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan. He sang with such renowned figures as William Warfield and Marian Anderson. Mr. Abdul was a founding director of Coffeehouse Concerts in Harlem. Most notably, he was an assistant to and friend of the legendary poet Langston Hughes until Hughes’ death in 1967.
Mr. Abdul was an only child, orphaned at an early age. His father was from Calcutta, India and his mother from Cleveland, Ohio. While Mr. Abdul has no immediate living relatives, he is survived by cousins Artis Lane (renowned sculptor), Blake Shreve, and Bryce Shreve, whose mother Ada Shreve raised Mr. Abdul. Other cousins include the late pianist Buster Harding and the late composer and pianist Hale Smith. Mr. Abdul will be missed by all of us, especially here in the Harlem community.