EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBERS
Eric Vaughn Johnson (President) is a critically-acclaimed and award-winning director from Rochester, NY. Mr. Johnson has been involved with countless theatrical productions both on- and off-stage and has been described as having, “a rich history of theatrical and musical experience.” (West Side News) He serves as the Business Manager and Program Director of Rochester Association of the Performing Arts (RAPA), designing all educational programs for students from ages four to adults during the academic year. Additionally, he spearheads RAPA’s new intensive Summer Stock program. Mr. Johnson also designs the RAPA Family Theatre and Youth Theatre seasons and directs several of these productions during the year.
Apart from RAPA, Mr. Johnson is the Executive Director of OFC Creations, a group that features productions centered around LGBTQ issues and themes. These productions serve as fundraisers for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS which have raised over $6,000 for HIV/AIDS research over the last 3 years.
In 2016, Mr. Johnson became the President of the Greece Performing Arts Society (GPAS) and is now leading the organization into it’s “Next Chapter.” After one year as President, Mr. Johnson was recently described as leading, “the 300-person performing membership… [into] an artistic and financial renaissance.” (Monroe Post) In 2017, Mr. Johnson brought the re-opened Greece Theatre Company and Greece Choral Society together to produce the regional premiere of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Lyric Theatre.
Mr. Johnson also teaches theatre arts in several local schools including Seton Catholic School, Pittsford Middle School, and Penfield Harris Hill. Previously he served for four years in Greece as the Artistic Director of SNAP Musical Theatre, a new summer program working with up to 80-students in each production. Mr. Johnson teaches private acting lessons to a select few young artists throughout the year and mentors inspiring young directors.
Mr. Johnson is most well-known for the professional musical productions he directs at the Kodak Center. Most recently, he has directed West Side Story, Mary Poppins, Miracle on 34th Street, Spring Awakening, the first Rochester production of Sister Act, the Upstate New York premiere of It’s Only A Play, the regional tour of A Year with Frog and Toad to name a few.
Performing has always been a joy for Mr. Johnson. At the 2015 Rochester Fringe Festival, he starred as the musical narrator, Ladahlord, in James and the Giant Peach. Most recently, he was seen as the comical, gender-bending Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Show at the 2016 Rochester Fringe Festival. Mr. Johnson will be seen next performing in William Fichtner’s feature film Cold Brook.
Mr. Johnson believes strongly in community partnerships. In 2014 he partnered with Facing Race, Embracing Equity for a benefit production of The Wiz at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. In 2015, he brought RAPA and the Rochester Latino Theatre Company together to produce the Rochester premiere of In the Heights for seven sold-out performances. This year, Mr. Johnson and the Out Alliance will partner to bring the world-wide entertainer, Miss Richfield 1981, to make her Rochester debut at the Kodak Center.
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Jenessa Wheeler (Vice President) grew up in a musical family. Her grandparents enjoyed playing in small venues and her aunt and uncle performed professionally. Jenessa started singing and playing the trumpet in 4th grade, and then focused solely on singing starting in high school. She participated in Solo Fests, musicals, and area All-State competitions as a second alto. Jenessa started singing in the Greece Coral Society in 2005. She became secretary of GPAS and continued on the board for a few years, before leaving to attend graduate school. She rejoined the choir in 2014 and became the vice president of GPAS in 2016.
Hunter Ekberg (Secretary), a native Minnesotan transplanted to the great state of New York, is an RIT graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in American Sign Language Interpretation. In addition to his work as an ASL Interpreter, Ekberg maintains his enjoyment for performing in all capacities.
His entrance to performing arts began with piano – from then on, he was hooked and sought out every opportunity to express himself as physically possible. From piano, he took on mallet percussion, becoming proficient enough to earn himself a position in Minnesota Brass Indoor as a featured vibraphonist.
Though Ekberg has loved each of these modalities, the one closest to his heart remains to be theatre. Ekberg has been seen performing in both community and professional productions in both the Twin Cities and in Rochester.
Eileen Robillard (Treasurer) decided after a 20+ year hiatus to dust off her French Horn, take lessons and join the Greece Community Orchestra. That was in 2001, and Eileen has been performing with the Community Orchestra since. She enjoys the company of talented musicians performing in nursing homes and other venues in the Town of Greece and Greater Rochester area. She has had the honor of being the treasurer for GPAS since 2014. When she is not volunteering with GPAS, she is a Senior Underwriter with the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group; a nonprofit company providing insurance and services to non-profit businesses. She is also a voracious reader and an active member of Lakeshore Community Church.
Bill Coons (Historian) was born in St Paul, MN; he attended Univ. of Minnesota and graduated in 1953 with degrees in Mechanical Engineering & Business Administration. Bill started working for Eastman Kodak as an Industrial Engineer until he was drafted into US Army in 1954 and stationed near Stuttgart, Germany. He returned to Kodak to the same job in 1956 and joined the third Presbyterian Church choir until he joined Greece Choral Society in 1975. Bill was elected to the GPAS Board in 1981, and immediately appointed GPAS Treasurer and served for 12 years. He also served as GPAS Program Coordinator for 9 years, 1986-95. Then, with Board approval, created the position of GPAS Historian and began writing a GPAS History, which continues in issues of the Newsletter. Bill retired from Kodak in 1986 and rejoined the Board in 2014 and Chaired a Committee to update the GPAS By-laws, which were approved by the members in December, 2016.
Janine Meier (Program Coordinator) has been Program Coordinator for the Greece Performing Arts Society since 2000. In her role she manages the day to day activities and programs for the groups. The biggest plus to helping promote this outstanding organization has been knowing and working with the board members, supporters and gifted musicians that make GPAS shine in the Rochester community. She has spent many years volunteering within the Greece Central School District and was sad to see it end when the youngest of three sons graduated from Athena High School in 2014. She currently works in the nano-technology field and is excited to see how GPAS will grow and change in 2017.
Karl-Erik Jansson (Board Member) has been part of 63 musical productions and has started a children’s summer theatre program in Greece called SNAP. He is proud to be a part of the Olympia community and is grateful for his associations with so many wonderful students, staff, faculty, and volunteers. He received his degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Nazareth College. Formerly, he taught in Fairport, directed the Hochstein Children’s Chorus, and directed the Rochester Mormon Choir. He has completed nineteen years of teaching (fourteen at Olympia). His family (KayLee, Erik, Morgan, Carter, and Kara) is his happiest dramatic venture!
JoAnn Kehrli-Merlau (Board Member) has a BS degree in Music from University of Wis./Platteville. She taught music in public school from 1970-2000. JoAnne is married and has two children, four step-children & fifteen grandchildren. She enjoys reading, crafting, travel, time with family, pool time & cooking in addition to many music activities. JoAnne is a native Wisconsinite and still a Badgers & Packers fan, but has lived in Greece for 47 years.
George Mathis (Board Member) George’s long experience with vocal music started when he was about 5 years old and singing solos as a boy soprano; he is now a bass. He has sung with several local Church Choirs as well as the Eastman Rochester Chorus. He currently sings with the Holy Cross Church Choir, where he is also a cantor, and with the Greece Choral Society. In the summer he performs with The Finger Lakes Choral Festival, of which he is also a Board Member. George is married, with 2 daughters and 5 grandchildren. Both daughters majored in music and are married to musicians. George has a degree in Computer Technology from RIT. He is retired from General Motors Acceptance Corporation and Hewlett Packard, and he is a Vietnam era Navy vet. In his retirement, George enjoys singing, woodworking, genealogy, leather-craft and visiting his grandchildren.
Tierney McLean (Ticketing and Box Office) has been in the Greece Community Orchestra since before she was born. Twenty-three years later, both she and her mother still play in the orchestra together. She has been an active member of the musical community her whole life, though it has been a geographically varied career. She graduated from both Spencerport High School and the Eastman Community Music School in 2011, and then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Trumpet Performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. While studying, she worked with incredibly talented students in both Ohio and Kentucky, teaching private lessons as well as larger sectionals for both jazz ensembles and wind ensembles. At the end of her sophomore year, she won an internship at the Wagon Wheel Theater in Warsaw, Indiana, and she returned the following two summers, totaling more than 132 performances of 12 separate musicals. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2015, having been the proud recipient of numerous merit scholarships. Currently, she works at the Eastman Community Music School as the student services associate handling billing questions, recital coordination and programs, overseeing registrations, and everything in between! Outside of work, she remains a devoted performing and teaching musician with a mind to give back to the organizations that gave her so much.
Marcia Najjar (Board Member) has been an active member of GPAS and a performer in the Greece Concert Band for 16 years. She has previously served on the GPAS board as secretary and has experience serving on other boards in the capacity of Vice President and treasurer. As a small business owner, Marcia brings valuable experience to the board.
Gayle Pyke (Board Member) formerly from Long Island, NY has participated in Dance and Singing in various choirs. She has acted in musicals for scholarships benefiting High School Seniors. Gayle has been involved in the production of musical theatre, pre-school age programs, Girl Scouts, and Children with Disabilities. Some of these children performed in New York City at the National Dance Institute under the direction of its founder D’ Amboise.
Jennifer Oremus (Board Member) has been singing since she was 5 years old. She has developed her passion for music from her family and can often be found singing duets with her talented Papa. A vocal student of Karl – Erik Jansson, she has been part of the Greece Choral Society as a Soprano for 5 years. She is a graduate of Roberts Wesleyan with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration and a minor in Accounting. As an alumna, she serves as a Board Member of the Roberts Wesleyan College Community Theatre (RWCCT). A long time employee of Wegmans, Jennifer enjoys her profession as a Pharmacy Technician.
Jonathan Allentoff (Community Orchestra Director) is an honors graduate of The College at Brockport and is a nationally acclaimed conductor, composer, performer, and educator. In addition to serving as music director of the Greece Community Orchestra, he holds positions as the founding music director of the Brockport Symphony Orchestra, founding conductor of the Temple Beth El Orchestra, and associate conductor and principal arranger for the Brighton Symphony Orchestra. He recently presented his film score research and manuscript restorations at the CODA & APME National Conferences and performed as principal viola in the NYSSMA/NYASTA Director’s Orchestra, NAfME Conference Orchestra, and the ASTA National Reading Orchestra. He was also invited to appear as violin soloist with the NYACDA Honor Choir. His works and licensed arrangements have been performed by ensembles across the globe, and he manages his own music publishing business, Allentoff Music, www.allentoffmusic. He is currently pursuing graduate studies at Stony Brook University’s School of Professional Development and is an active member of APME, ASCAP, ASMAC, ASTA, CODA, NAfME, and NYSSMA.
BJ Comer (Concert Band Director) is a Rochester area musician and was chosen as the Director of the Greece Concert Band in May, 2014. BJ continues as the Conductor of the Pittsford Fire Department Band where he plays trumpet and was chosen as Conductor in 2007. The Pittsford Fire Department Band has enjoyed outstanding success under BJ’s musical leadership and performs frequently during the summer music season in the Upstate NY area.
In addition to conducting, BJ is in demand as a trumpeter throughout the Rochester area. Since moving to Rochester in 2005, BJ has performed with numerous ensembles, including the Off-Monroe Players, the Greater Rochester Jazz Orchestra, Music Maker’s Big Band, local salsa band Grupo Calle Uno, and the Greater Finger Lakes Jazz Orchestra. He is a current member and performer in the Rochester Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra and Nik and the Nice Guys. In 2006, BJ founded Upbeat Music with the purpose of providing quality musical instruction and unique musical performances to the greater Rochester area. BJ currently maintains a studio of over 40 students. Upbeat Music also provides custom arrangements and compositions for local performers and bandleaders that are tailored to their specific needs. BJ was born and raised in Texas. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2005 with a Bachelor of Music. During his college years BJ performed with many local bands, orchestras and student groups. BJ met his wife, Jessamy, when they played in the Texas All-State Band. Jessamy is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at RIT. She enjoys playing soprano, alto, and bass clarinet. They have two young children and reside in the Rochester area.
Dr. David Fetler (Symphony Orchestra Director) is the Founder and Music Director of the Greece Symphony Orchestra. He is also the Founder and Conductor Laureate of the professional Rochester Chamber Orchestra with players from the Rochester Philharmonic. He was born in Riga, Latvia, and came to the United States at the age of 12 with his family. He studied at Juilliard, Westminster Choir College, Eastman School of Music (DMA), as well as with the French conductor Pierre Monteux and Leopold Stokowski. Eastman School Director Howard Hanson invited Fetler to join the Eastman Conducting Faculty where he presented a wide variety of instrumental and choral music with the Eastman Collegium Chamber Orchestra & Singers. He was also for many years Choral Director at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Rochester.
Dr. Rollo Fisher (Choral Society Director) is Assistant Professor of Vocal and Choral Music at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York. Dr. Fisher received his PhD in Choral Music Education from Florida State University, MME from the University of Central Florida, and BME from Indiana University. His choirs have performed for local and national events, including the Masterworks Series at Carnegie Hall, in which the Greece Choral Society participated in June 2016.
Gary J. Samulski (Jazz Band Director) is formerly the Director of Bands and Curriculum Co-Ordinator at Greece Athena High School, Rochester, NY. Mr. Samulski retired in June 2011 after 34 years as a Music Educator. Mr. Samulski is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician. He has guest conducted the Lexington (Ky) Pops Orchestra and has performed with the likes of Johnny Mathis, Paul Anka, The Four Seasons, Glen Campbel, Tom Jones and many more! His high school jazz ensembles had a run of 22 consecutive years Of Gold Medal Awards at National Music Festivals as well as opening for Maynard Ferguson, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Count Basie & Tommy Dorsey Orchestras, and Spyro Gyra.
Ali Cacia (AMC Photography Partner) is a notable photographer who uses her lens to capture memorable events with her unique style. A native of Greece NY, each year she photographs the annual musical at Greece Athena middle school. She uses her creative eye to capture sweetly romantic moments at weddings, adorable newborn babies and incredible senior portraits. Ali’s passions include photographing families, nature, architecture and anything Disney. She developed a “ten minute shoot” strategy for individual and family photos around holiday themes such as Halloween and Christmas. When she is not taking pictures, she’s planning her next amazing shoot.
Charyll Monk (Community Volunteer/Retired Non-profit Development) is not a musician but “an audience” for the performing arts. Because she believed our community benefits from all forms of art, in 1996 she joined the GPAS as a board member. With a background in special events and marketing, she created the first-ever garden tour in Greece in 1997, the GPAS Notable Garden Tour, in order to raise money needed for a long list of items. For 20 years she was involved with this fundraiser, acting as chair, co-chair, and as a committee member. Although no longer a board member, over the years she has remained close to GPAS leadership to support various efforts. She is an active volunteer in other community organizations as well and in 2013 she received the Greece Chamber of Commerce Girlie Goodwin Citizen of the Year award. She and her husband David are both retired and have three adult children and five grandchildren…some of whom are, or have been, musicians in school programs and some, like Charyll, are “audiences.”
Karen Pearson (Choral Society President) holds a B.S. and M.S. in English. She retired in 2004 after teaching middle school and high school English/Language Arts for 32 years. She has been included in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities as well as in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.
During high school and college, Karen was an active member in a variety of choirs; she currently sings in her church choir, joined Greece Choral Society in 1978, and has served as President since 2014. Karen also plays in two hand bell choirs. In the summer of 2016, she participated in the Masterworks Series in NYC as part of a 240-voice choir, performing Mozart’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall.
In addition to her love of music, Karen enjoys volunteering at Atria once a week and doing read-alouds as an elementary school “reading buddy.” She is also very active in her church, leading the Outreach Ministry team. Finally, in her spare time, she enjoys doing calligraphy and walking or biking every day.
Dale Vanocker (Program and Poster Designer) was born in Rochester, NY and quickly gained an appreciation for fine music from his father, who always made Sunday afternoon a rest and music listening experience. At that time he bought every volume of the “Star Supermarket Special Classic LP set” and then took a music course with Professor Crawford at MCC. Since 1963 Dale has been collecting a very large music library of his own. In the mid 1980’s he took over recording GPAS musical events on a huge Akai 11″ reel-to reel tape recorder (@60 lbs) and producing high quality Cassette Tapes. Today, Dale uses handheld digital audio recorders (0.5 lbs) and a music adaptation and correction computer program to produce excellent CD reproductions of concerts for the performers. Dale sees all of this as a contribution in support of the area’s best Performing Arts Society.
Brian Oyer (Webmaster) is a retired science teacher, having taught high school earth science and astronomy for 32 years at Greece Athena High School. Playing the French horn has been an important part of his life since grade school. He joined the GPAS Community Orchestra back in the 1970s, and switched to the Concert Band on its inception in 1994. In the spring of 2014, Brian volunteered to work on designing a new website for the Concert Band. While he has a fair amount of experience with computers, he has had no formal training in website design; he has managed to learn the basics by researching on-line. Brian and his wife, Marjorie, have taken many photos and videos of the band, which can be seen on his website. As a result of his work on the band site, Brian was asked by the GPAS president to also be the webmaster of this main GPAS website. Brian’s other hobbies include astronomy, photography, video editing, computers, HO model trains, gardening, travel, and, of course family. He and Margie spend many happy hours attending their eight grandchildren’s school, sports and musical activities.