Judith G. Wharton Music Center


60 Locust Avenue
Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922
County: Union


Ms. Karen Deschere

Grant Amount


Program Area



Grant Details

To support the work of the El Sistema New Jersey Alliance in connecting and strengthening El Sistema-inspired programs statewide.

Organization Background

Wharton Music Center (WMC), founded in 1985 at the Madison YMCA, provides instrumental and vocal instruction through private and group classes to students of all ages and abilities. WMC's mission is to advance excellence and education in the performing arts. In 2008, coinciding with a move to its current facility in Berkeley Heights, WMC added early childhood music, camps, musical theatre, and dance. Students may participate in the Achievement Program and the Royal Conservatory of Music's Music Development Program.

New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS), the orchestral and ensemble affiliate of WMC, offers ensemble education for grades 3 through 12. In 2012, NJYS, founded in 1979, merged with WMC. NJYS has grown from one orchestra of 65 students to over 440 students in 14 different orchestras and ensembles. Performances are held throughout the state. Guest musicians are invited to give master classes, and students may participate in a concerto competition and chamber music. In July 2014, the Youth Symphony won first place at the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Festival and Competition in Vienna, Austria. All 14 NJYS ensembles will perform this November at NJPAC in celebration of its 35th Anniversary.

WMC/NJYS reaches 1,300 students and supports a robust community engagement program. A community concert series features faculty members from WMC/NJYS and PMP in free and low cost performances at Wharton's Black Box Theater, libraries, and other public spaces. Its primary engagement program is the Paterson Music Project.

In fall of 2013 the Board of Directors conducted a national search for a seasoned executive director who could lead WMC/NJYS through this massive expansion. Karen Deshere was appointed Executive Director in January of 2014. She brings experience in both community arts education and orchestral management and education to the organization. In July of 2014 the Board of Directors started a strategic planning process that will conclude in the spring on 2015.

Key personnel include Karen Deschere: Executive Director, Jeffrey Grogan: Artistic Director of New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) and PMP, Tricia Tunstall: Advisor, Susan Oldroyd: Director of Development and Marketing, Andrew Nitkin: Director of Student Services, Susan Peterson: Director of Operations, and Elizabeth Moulthrop: Program Director of PMP.

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