Benjamin Firer, Music Director and Conductor CPYO Full Orchestra
A native of Long Island, New York, Benjamin Firer is currently the Music Director and Conductor of the Central Pennsylvania Youth Orchestra Full Orchestra in State College, PA. He also directs the Penn State Campus Orchestra and serves as Assistant Conductor of the Penn State Philharmonic and Chamber Orchestras under the direction of Maestro Gerardo Edelstein.
Benjamin holds a master’s degree from the Yale University School of Music where he was Conductor of the Yale Saybrook College Orchestra and served as Teaching Assistant for graduate music theory courses. As a trombonist, Benjamin was the winner of the 2012 Woolsey Concerto Competition, the 2011 Yale Chamber Music Competition and a fellow at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. He was a featured performer in Yale in New York series "De Profundis" at Carnegie Hall. As founder of the Aries Chamber Ensemble, he was awarded the 2010 SUNY Thayer Fellowship in the Arts.
Other conducting experiences include the National Music Festival, New Music New Haven and New York Youth Symphony. He has attended workshops at The Juilliard School, the University of Michigan, Waterville Valley Music Center and Beyond the Baton Seminar studying with Otto-Werner Mueller, Kenneth Kiesler and David Effron.
Melissa Becker, Music Director and Conductor CPYO Chamber Orchestra
Melissa Becker is a professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, where her responsibilities include teaching music education courses, supervising student teachers, and teaching string lessons. She will complete her Ph.D. in Music and Human Learning from the University of Texas at Austin this year.
Melissa received her bachelor’s degree in violin performance and master’s degree in viola performance from the Pennsylvania State University, where she studied with James Lyon and Tim Deighton. She is the principal violist of the Williamsport Symphony and has performed as section violist and violinist with the Altoona Symphony, the Nittany Valley Symphony, Pennsylvania Centre Chamber Orchestra, the Penn’s Woods Festival Orchestra, and others. She was the violist for Serendipity String Quartet, the graduate string Quartet at the Pennsylvania State University, as well as for the Sphynx String Quartet, based in Williamsport.
In addition to her classical endeavors, Melissa is also an active fiddler, winning over one hundred fiddle contests in the Northeast, including the Pennsylvania State Championship. She has played with Black Bear Crossing, a Celtic band, and The Trey Stapleton Band, a country band. Melissa has also toured and recorded with country artists such as Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis.
Melissa spent four years teaching elementary and middle school orchestra in the public schools Pennsylvania, specifically in the Williamsport Area and North Allegheny school districts. During her public school teaching career, she taught in both large- and small- group settings, as well as homogenous and heterogeneous contexts. She has taught fiddling and chamber music at string camps in Pennsylvania, Texas, and California, and presented research on imitation learning and fiddling and conducted clinics on fiddling and string teaching at state, national, and intenational conferences, including The National American String Teachers Conference, the International Conference for the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and the Texas Music Educators State Conference.
Melissa lives in Lock Haven with her husband and daughter. Melissa currently teaches and conducts the younger string group, our Chamber Orchestra.