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Wharton Arts' Artistic Director Receives Eastman School of Music Centennial Award

originally published: 10/05/2022

Wharton Arts

(BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ) -- Wharton Arts, New Jersey’s largest non-profit community performing arts education organization, announced that Artistic Director Helen H. Cha-Pyo is one of 100 select individuals chosen to receive the prestigious Eastman School of Music Centennial Award. The award is granted to those who exemplify the school’s mission and legacy through their commitment to artistry, scholarship, leadership, community engagement, and philanthropy. Cha-Pyo joins Renée Fleming, Ron Carter, Chuck Mangione, and Maria Schneider, among other notable artists, as a Centennial Awardee. For a complete list of awardees, click here.

Said Cha-Pyo, “This award was a complete surprise to me, and needless to say, I’m deeply humbled by it. One thing I still carry in my heart from my studies at the Eastman School of Music is the phrase engraved on the facade of the Eastman Theater, ‘for the enrichment of community life.’ I am grateful to be able to work at Wharton Arts which shares the same mission of enriching life through music.”

Helen H. Cha-Pyo is currently in her fifth season as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, New Jersey’s largest independent performing arts education organization, comprising four programs. Under her leadership, Wharton Arts serves close to 2,000 students from 10 different New Jersey counties through a range of private lessons and group classes at the Wharton Performing Arts School, 15 performing ensembles at the New Jersey Youth Symphony, five performing ensembles at the New Jersey Youth Chorus, and the Paterson Music Project, an El Sistema-inspired program that provides free after-school instrumental music instruction to over 450 children in Paterson, NJ. 

For 16 years as Music Director and Conductor of the Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO), Cha-Pyo inspired hundreds of young musicians to perform at the highest levels, resulting in ESYO being recognized as one of the nation’s premier music organizations for youth musicians. She led the orchestra on three international tours: Europe in 2008, China and South Korea in 2012, and Portugal in 2016, and won the ASCAP’s Adventurous Programming Awards for championing music by American composers. Cha-Pyo’s vision was instrumental in the founding of ESYO CHIME in 2015, a music education program dedicated to serving underprivileged youth of Schenectady and Troy, NY. In 2018, ESYO established the Helen Cha-Pyo Golden Baton Award and Scholarships for students who embody her passionate commitment to music as a means to uplift and enrich communities.

For her stature as an accomplished musician who inspires young people around the world, Cha-Pyo received The Dove Leadership Award from the David & Dovetta Wilson Scholarship Fund in 2019. She is also the recipient of the 2022 Angelos Artist Award from the Angelos Mission Ensemble, where she was honored for her passionate leadership and commitment to using music as a vehicle for social change. In 2022, Cha-Pyo also received the Eastman Centennial Award from Eastman School of Music, which is given to those who exemplify the school’s mission and legacy through their commitment to artistry, scholarship, leadership, community engagement, and/or philanthropy.

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From 1996 to 2002, Cha-Pyo served as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, as well as Associate Director of Music at The Riverside Church in New York City. She released three recordings with the Riverside Choir. (JAV Recordings)

Born in Seoul, Cha-Pyo immigrated to the US when she was 12. She studied piano and organ at the Pre-College Program at The Juilliard School. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and a Master of Music in Conducting and Organ Performance from the Eastman School of Music. Cha-Pyo is a frequent guest conductor and clinician for All-State and Regional Festival Orchestras throughout the country. She served as Visiting Associate Professor of Conducting at the John J. Cali School of Music, Montclair State University (NJ) from 2017 to 2019. She currently serves as a board member for the Youth Orchestra Division and is also a committee member of the Conductors Constituency Leadership of the League of American Orchestras. Cha-Pyo is a life partner of Dr. Daniel Pyo and a proud parent of their two sons.  

Wharton Arts’ mission is to offer accessible, high quality performing arts education that sparks personal growth and builds inclusive communities.

Wharton Arts’ vision is for a transformative performing arts education in an inclusive community to be accessible for everyone.

Wharton Arts is New Jersey’s largest independent non-profit community performing arts education center serving nearly 2,000 students through a range of classes and ensembles. The 5 ensembles of the New Jersey Youth Chorus, an auditioned choral ensemble program for students in grades 3–12, encourage a love and appreciation of choral music while nurturing personal growth and creative development. The 15 ensembles of the New Jersey Youth Symphony, which serve over 500 students in grades 3–12 by audition, inspire young people to achieve musical excellence through high-level ensemble training and performance opportunities. Based in Paterson, the Paterson Music Project is an El Sistema-inspired program of Wharton Arts that uses music education as a vehicle for social action by empowering and inspiring young people to achieve their full potential through the community experience of ensemble learning and playing. From Pathways classes for young children to Lifelong Learning programs for adults, the Wharton Performing Arts School has a robust musical theater and drama program and offers both private and group classes for instruments and voice for all ages and all abilities. With the belief in the positive and unifying influence of music and that performing arts education should be accessible to all people regardless of their ability to pay, Wharton Arts offers need-based scholarships. 

Wharton Arts is located in Berkeley Heights, New Providence, and Paterson, NJ and reaches students from 12 counties. All of Wharton Arts’ extraordinary teaching artists, 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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