Ryan Tani, Music Director
A driven and versatile conductor, Ryan Tani has been praised for his compelling musicianship in a wide range of symphonic and choral repertoire. He has recently been appointed Music Director of the Occasional Symphony in Baltimore. He also serves as Assistant Conductor of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra, Assistant Conductor of the COSMIC Orchestra, and Conducting Fellow for the Montgomery Philharmonic. In 2015, he was declared the winner of the ACDA Undergraduate Student Conducting Competition at their national conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.
During his tenure as Co-Founder and Music Director of the Concerto Chamber Orchestra from 2012-2015, Ryan helped positively shape the orchestral scene in the Los Angeles area by providing a medium for high-level performance opportunities to student musicians of all majors.
An advocate of new and early music, Ryan has stayed active as conductor and performer for new compositions by emerging composers. At both the University of Southern California and Peabody, he has regularly recorded and performed many new works for orchestral, chamber, and choral ensembles. He also performed as a tenor with new music ensembles Third Practice in Baltimore and Thornton Edge in Los Angeles, and remains in demand as a conductor for composition recitals.
Ryan recently completed his Master of Music degree in Conducting from the Peabody Institute, studying under Marin Alsop and Markand Thakar. In addition to his studies at Peabody, Ryan has also studied conducting under Gerard Schwarz, Larry Rachleff, Grant Cooper, and José-Luis Novo. Ryan actively sings as a tenor in the Baltimore area, and plays violin, jazz piano, viola da gamba, and Renaissance recorder for enjoyment. As an avid runner, he enjoys exploring new routes in the greater Maryland area.
Elisabet Pujadas, President & CEO
Elisabet grew up in Barcelona where she had the opportunity to participate in the vibrant cultural life of the city while building a career in science and medicine. After graduating with Honors in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago in 2009, Elisabet moved to Baltimore to join the MD-PhD program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She completed her PhD in Biomedical Engineering in the laboratory of Prof. Andrew Feinberg, Director of the Center for Epigenetics at Johns Hopkins, conducting research on cancer epigenetics. She is currently finishing medical school and applying to Pathology residency programs.
During her time in Baltimore, Elisabet has developed strong relationships to classical music organizations in the city. She created a series called "Hopkins Evenings at the Symphony" that brought thousands of students and faculty from Hopkins to the Off the Cuff series at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra over a period of six years. Elisabet was one of the founding members of the Occasional Symphony and in her current role as President of the Board, she is working to refine and strengthen the core mission of Occasional Symphony as the organization grows in both size and scope. For three summers (2011-2013), Elisabet worked as a Production Assistant at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music led by Marin Alsop. Her engagement and commitment to new audience development and to reinventing the concert-going experience in Baltimore has also earned her a position as the President of the Board of Directors at the Baltimore Concert Opera.
Samantha Buker, Board Vice-President
Samantha Buker is a Renaissance women-about-town and passionate arts advocate. She is Program Manager of the Visual Art Department at Baltimore School for the Arts. She runs 7 Veils Studio in Mt. Vernon -- a mixed-media studio for photography, portraiture, painting, upcycling and dollhouse miniatures.
Her published work ranges from classical music criticism to financial journalism. She is a regular presenter at New Music Gathering. She’s a graduate of the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University’s Journalism School and St. John’s College in Annapolis.
Joshua Bornfield, Board Secretary
Joshua Bornfield has been called “a completely new and original voice” (Phyllis Bryn-Julson) whose work has “a certain organic power” (Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun). His recent opera “Uncle Alex,” written for Washington National Opera, received universal praise in the press and the concert hall. He has won awards for his chamber work (“simplificulticity”, 2010 Virginia McCarty-deLillo Award), choral music (“Mi Chamocha”, 2010 Donald Sutherland Award), and orchestral music (“Vessel”, 2012 Macht Prize; Minnesota Orchestra Composer’s Institute, 2013). He has been commissioned to compose music for members of the United States Army Field Band, Washington National Opera, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, and Boston Handel & Haydn Society.
When not composing or performing with any of the myriad ensembles with which he regularly sings, he runs the War Memorial Arts Initiative, an arts education program and concert series based out of the Baltimore War Memorial under the historic properties division of Baltimore City’s Department of General Services. His mentors include Jake Heggie, Michael Hersch, Anthony Iannaccone, Kevin Puts, Jena Root, and Judith Lang Zaimont.
Melissa Wertheimer, Director of Development
Melissa Wertheimer leads a life immersed in the arts as a performer, researcher, and teacher. She is a diverse performer of solo, chamber, and orchestral music; a piccolo specialist; a new music enthusiast; and a dedicated scholar of music history and women composers.
Melissa loves to contribute to the artistic life of the Baltimore-DC area. She has performed with the Maryland Choral Society Orchestra, Occasional Symphony, Concert Artists of Baltimore, the Howard Community College Faculty Concert Series, SONAR New Music Ensemble, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, and at the Artscape and SoWeBo Music and Arts festivals. Melissa melds her many musical passions into a career as an archivist who works with historic, musical documents and shares their value with all lovers of music. She is the Archivist of the Music Library Association and attends the University of Maryland for a Master of Library and Information Science Degree (M.L.I.S.) in Archives and Digital Curation.
As an educator, Melissa is adjunct flute faculty at Howard Community College and adjunct music history and appreciation faculty at the Johns Hopkins University. Melissa has also been a guest instructor at Peabody’s Jr. Bach Program, adjudicated auditions for Maryland honors bands, and coached sectionals for Howard County school ensembles. She has received grants for lectures and recitals from Yamaha, the College Music Society, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, and the Peabody Institute. Melissa holds a M.M. in Piccolo from the Peabody Institute and B.M. in Flute from Ithaca College.
Sunny Cowell, Board Member
Sunny Cowell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Maryland, as well as a musician. Growing up in the household of her jazz composer and musician father, Stanley Cowell, Sunny began singing and writing music at an early age. She wrote her first song, “Hear Me One” at 5 years old which became the title tune on one of Stanley Cowell’s albums in 1997. At 8 years old, Sunny began classical training on the violin. By 12 years old, she had begun classical study of the viola. Sunny was featured as a jazz violist and vocalist at the Montreal International Jazz Fest in 2004. She was also featured on a week-long music tour in France which included Sunside Club in Paris, Festival La Seyne Sur Mer, and Jazz Festival Foix in 2005. During her high school years, Sunny served as Concert Master for the Burlington Township High School String Orchestra and played the viola as a member of the Philadelphia Sinfonia Orchestra. She also performed on viola as part of her father's Asian Art Suite at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
While attending Swarthmore College, Sunny was a vocalist and composer in Essence of Soul, Swarthmore’s R&B and Soul a cappella group, and she was a member of the Fetter Chamber Quartet. During her time in college, she began teaching herself to play the guitar, adding it to her arsenal of musical instruments. In 2010, Sunny was featured as a singer and violist on Stanley Cowell’s album “Prayer for Peace.” In 2014 she appeared on a Mezzo Live HD TV, France show on vocals and viola with her dad, Stanley Cowell. In 2010, upon graduation from Swarthmore College, Sunny attended the University of Maryland School of Law, and served as the Music Director for the school's a cappella group, Legally Sound. She continued to perform and write her own music for voice and guitar while obtaining her J.D. In 2015, Sunny released her first solo EP-CD "Insecure," a recording of original songs influenced by genres of popular music.
Sunny graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2013, and served as Co-President of the Maryland Intellectual Property Law Student Society (MIPSA). Currently, she works as a Staff Attorney at the MD Legal Aid Bureau in Baltimore City, MD. Sunny is also Vice President of the Piano Choir Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to promoting music education in schools. In addition, Sunny volunteers with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (MDVLA), providing legal advice to local artists and musicians.
Vicky Ritter, Board Member
Victoria Ritter is the Registration and Scheduling Coordinator at the Peabody Preparatory of the Johns Hopkins University, where she organizes annually over 300 concerts, recitals, and various other events for the Institute.
In addition to her administrative duties, Ritter is an oboe and English horn freelancer in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, and a core musician of Occasional Symphony. Prior to moving to Baltimore, Victoria has performed with such groups like the Illinois Symphony Orchestra in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Locally she’s performed with such groups as the Washington Chamber Orchestra, Great Noise Ensemble, and The Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra. She is the English horn player for the Liberty Wind Symphony and is a member of the Tiber Winds Quintet.
Victoria is an experienced private instructor and oboe faculty at the Peabody Preparatory, teaching students in Baltimore and throughout the surrounding counties. She has coached numerous sectionals for the Preparatory as well as for the University of Illinois’ Summer Youth Music program.
Prior to moving to Baltimore, Victoria Ritter earned her Bachelor of Music at the University of Illinois. She went on to attend the Peabody Conservatory, where she took numerous orchestral management and music business courses in addition to her performance studies. She graduated from Peabody with her master’s degree in oboe performance.