Roberta Guaspari received a Bachelor of Music degree from SUNY Fredonia, and a Master of Music degree from Boston University School for the Arts. Among the many awards and honors she has received are honorary doctorates from the New England Conservatory of Music, SUNY Fredonia, and Mount Holyoke College. She began her remarkable teaching career in three East Harlem public school in 1980. In 1990, when funding for her music program was eliminated, she joined with parents, teachers, and other volunteers to continue the program. They created a non-profit organization, Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, which has expanded to support a community music school serving thousands of low income children both in and after school.
In 1996 the documentary film Small Wonders, featuring Roberta and her students, was nominated for an Academy Award, and her story was the inspiration for the film Music of the Heart, in which she was portrayed by Meryl Streep. Roberta is co-author of an autobiographical book of the same title. Roberta has received a cultural leadership citation from Yale University and the Barnard College Medal of Distinction; the American String Teachers Marvin J. Rabin Award, the Arison Award from the National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts, CBS This Morning’s “Woman of the Year,” and the Reader’s Digest Foundation’s “Hero for Today” award. A longtime resident of the East Harlem community in which she teaches, Roberta believes that violin instruction changes her students’ lives, and that music education remains the most noble of professions. She has travelled internationally to advocate for the vital role of music in every child’s education
Pat Besl was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1947. When she was two years old her family moved upstate to Florence. She loved to draw the flora and fauna on her parents’ dairy farm. She attended school in Camden where she was encouraged to pursue her love of art. Pat received a BS in Art Education from SUNY College at Buffalo in 1969. She completed her graduate work in Buffalo and SUNY Oswego with a concentration in sculpture. She taught art for 34 years in the Canastota Schools, retiring in 2003.
Thomas Besl was born in Cheektowaga, NY, in the winter of 1947. He pursued his BS in Art Education at the SUNY College at Buffalo. He was a founding member of the Fine Arts Board, the group’s first president and was instrumental in establishing the first student gallery on campus. He graduated in 1969 and continued graduate work at Buffalo State, and later at SUNY Oswego. He was hired by the Canastota School District in 1969 and taught grades four through twelve during his 30 year career as an art instructor.
In 2005 Pat finished a series of graphite drawings working from real life subjects. Drawing at least thirty minutes a day for a year, she developed twelve monthly images with 2 ½ inch squares for each day. Her plant and animal subjects reflect the months of the year and the passage of time. Realistic and abstract at the same time, her drawings play with space, proportion, value, and line. She exhibited “Day by Day, a Year of Drawing” at the Canastota Public Library. In 2007, Pat was selected to create an ornament for the National Christmas Tree at the White House in Washington, DC. The theme was our National Parks and she designed the Fort Stanwix Ornament. Pat maintains a studio space at her residence near Cleveland, NY on the north shore of Oneida Lake. Her award winning drawings, pastels and mixed media work have been exhibited in many solo, juried, and group shows in Central New York. Her work is in private collections throughout the United States as well.
Tom’s work reveals a strong core foundation as a sculptor. Through a variety of media including, but not limited to welded steel, cast bronze, and most recently an exploration of photography/assemblage, an emphasis on form prevails in both realistic and abstracted imagery. The use of photography in his later work is not surprising, for in his undergraduate course work he had concentrations in both sculpture and photography. Two of Tom’s sculptures are on loan to the Rome Art and Community Center. An untitled cast aluminum piece graces the garden and a towering mixed media sculpture titled “Sprout” stands on the upstairs landing.
Claudette McGraw Wire is a native Roman who was raised in and around music. She played clarinet and bass clarinet in elementary school and while at Rome Free Academy was a member of the Concert Band and Marching Band. She credits teacher/director John Wise with instilling in her the love of marching music. She became the Founder and Show Director of Drums Along the Mohawk in 1979 to support her four children’s interest in the drum and bugle corps. Ater her children grew up, she obtained an AAS degree in Travel and Tourism from Herkimer County Community College. Working for Birnie Bus Service, Magellan Travel in Rome, Coach USA in Clinton and Sales Manager for Champion Coach, Inc, Greenville, SC, she combines her love of drum corps with her travel expertise.
Claudette returns to Rome every summer to direct the committee for Drums Along the Mohawk. Each year the event consistently draws audiences of several thousand to RFA Stadium and features more than one thousand young musicians, including international corps and corps from throughout the U.S. She was elected to multiple consecutive terms on Drums Corps International’s Tour Event Partner Advisory Committee, serving as a mentor to many first-time show directors. In 2005 she was the recipient of the inaugural Drum Corps International Tour Event of the Year Award that was voted on and presented by the directors of the drum corps of Drum Corps International. New York State has recognized Claudette’s dedication to the activity with certificates to celebrate the 25th and 35th years of the show. She also received the City of Rome’s Erie Canaller Award presented by former Mayor Carl Eilenberg. Her committee states that she is the glue that holds all the pieces of the puzzle together, directing every aspect of the show.
Matthew Pitcher was born on November 1, 1978 in Rome, N.Y. As a youngster and later as a teenager he was in many productions in the Capitol Theatre Rising Stars Program, SummerStage productions, and The Nutcracker. At ages 16-18 Matthew attended the School of American Ballet affiliated with the New York City Ballet. At age 17 he began his professional career in New
York City dancing in productions of the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Metropolitan Opera, and a Broadway Shakespearian production. Matt was known professionally as a very graceful, physically strong dancer who excelled at partnering. He became a resident of California ater dancing for Celebrity Cruise Lines. His career at that time included professional dance, choreography, teaching dance, acting in several movies most notably Center Stage and Pearl Harbor, modeling for Vogue and stage and movie productions including Production Manager for the Moscow Ballet “Great Russian Nutcracker” National tour. Matthew received two Platinum choreographic awards in National competition.
When injured and not able to continue his professional dance performance career, Mathew returned to Rome in 2002 where he taught dance and created choreography at the John Hayes O’Neill School of Dance. Beginning in 2005 he also worked as Production Manager for Entertainment Services. Whereas Mathew loved to perform, always describing himself as a dancer, he found great satisfaction as a teacher and in providing dance opportunities for his students in the community. Matthew married Kimberly Finster in 2009 and they became parents to two beloved children Miles and Lilah. Matthew’s proudest moments in life were as a husband and father. Matthew became ill with brain cancer and died in March of 2013 at age 34, five months following his diagnosis. His epitaph reads "As you danced in the light with joy, loved lifted you. As you brushed against this world so gently, you lifted us".
Anthony Elliott, a native of Rome, New York, is the son of long time Rome residents, Anthony and Charlie Mae Elliott. He has had a multi-faceted career as a conductor, cellist, and teacher. He has conducted for symphony, opera, and ballet. His performances include an acclaimed concert of the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. He has conducted the San Antonio Symphony, the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra, the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, the CAMMAC Orchestra, Vancouver Chamber Players, the Prince George’s Philharmonic, the Plymouth Symphony, the All Northwest Orchestra, numerous All State Orchestras, in Holland, Germany, and Austria, and at the Marrowstone and Guelph Spring Festivals. The first Grand Prize winner of the Emmanuel Feuermann Memorial International Cello Solo Competition, Anthony Elliott has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Vancouver Symphony, and the CBC Toronto Orchestra. Cello students of Anthony Elliott have held prominent positions in major symphony orchestras. Many have won important competitions and awards, including the Avery Fisher Career Grant. He has given master classes at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Eastman School of Music, The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, Indiana University, Oberlin Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory, Meadowmount School, and Interlochen Arts Academy. Anthony Elliott is a member of the faculty at the University Of Michigan School of Music.