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August 19, 2012

Serio Divertimenti
Lisa Arkis, flute
Monte Morgenstern, clarinet
Peter Prosser, cello
Mary Jo Pagano, piano

Serio Divertimenti, roughly translated, means “serious fun.” This chamber music ensemble “promotes new music as well as the more traditional classics.” Its members have impressive careers of performance in the concert hall, in the theater and in the recording studio, and as educators on campus and in the media. Broadway and pop music fans will also find many recognizable names in the list of talented artists these musicians have worked with.

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Photo of Serio Divertimenti

Serio Divertimenti (l to r): Mary Jo Pagano, piano; Monte Morgenstern, clarinet; Peter Prosser, cello and Lisa Arkis, flute.  Photo by Martin D. Toub.


Flutist Lisa Arkis enjoys a varied career encompassing orchestral playing, chamber music, solo performances, and teaching. Orchestras she has performed with include the New Jersey Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Princeton Camerata, Greenwich Symphony, Fairfield Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Berkshire Bach Society at Tanglewood and Hudson Valley Philharmonic. She has participated in numerous summer festivals including Tanglewood, Colorado Music Festival, Loon Lake Live!, Washington Square Park Festival and as a featured soloist with the New York Bach Ensemble. Lisa has also recorded with the Bright Leaf Trio on the Sonic Muse label, twice toured Japan, was guest principal flutist with the Bermuda Bach Festival, and performs regularly on the Music at St. Mary’s chamber music series in New York.

Ms. Arkis’ Broadway credits include Peter Pan, Secret Garden, Miss Saigon, Flower Drum Song and Dance of the Vampires and she has also played with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular both in New York and on tour. A graduate of the Aaron Copland School of Music, Lisa was a student of the late Thomas Nyfenger. Other teachers include Harold Bennett, Trudy Kane, Keith Underwood and Bernard Goldberg. An adjunct faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music Precollege division from 2001-2004, Lisa has also taught at Brooklyn College and the Dalton School, and maintains private teaching studios in New York and Connecticut.

Monte Morgenstern, clarinet, has been a freelance musician in the New York City area for many years. He has performed with a variety of musical ensembles including the Orchestra of St. Lukes, New York City Ballet, Royal Ballet, Broadway musicals, the Bronx Arts Ensemble, Columbia Festival Orchestra, Greenwich Symphony, Springfield Symphony, the Washington Square Music Festival and many others. He has been principal clarinetist of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, Julius Grossman Orchestra and, since the early 1970s, the Bronx Opera. His concerto performances have been with The Bronx Symphony, Bronx Chamber Orchestra and the Julius Grossman Orchestra. Performances with well known solo artists range from Leonard Rose, Jean Pierre Rampal, and Leontyne Price to James Taylor and Benny Goodman.

Monte’s activities as a composer and arranger include works for wind instruments and other combinations, including many trios for clarinet, cello and piano. The premiere of his New Orleans Trio (for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon), took place in October 2005 at a benefit concert in Teaneck, NJ for the victims of the Gulf Coast Hurricanes of 2005. In the fall of 2008 Mr. Morgenstern received a commission from the Teaneck Creek Conservancy with support from the Bergen County Division of Cultural Affairs for The Flight of the Monarch Butterfly which was premiered by Englewinds in its tenth anniversary concert in Teaneck and later at Trinity Church in New York City.

Monte has recorded for the Angel/EMI, Music Masters, Elektra/Nonesuch, and Deutsche Grammophon labels with many notable musicians including André Previn, Julius Rudel, John Adams, Robert Craft, John Browning, Kathleen Battle and Dawn Upshaw. Included among these recordings is the Stravinsky series with the Orchestra of St. Lukes conducted by Robert Craft. Mr. Morgenstern is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music.

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Formerly the cellist of the Royale Trio and winner of the Manogue International and National Arts Club competitions, Peter Prosser has had a multifaceted career that has taken him throughout North America as well as South America and Europe. A graduate of the University of Alabama and the Manhattan School of Music he has worked as a soloist, chamber musician, teacher, record producer and conductor. Highlights include recording the Saint-Saëns, Lalo and Dvorak concerti for Alabama Public Television, the Haydn D major Concerto for Kentucky Educational Television, producing CDs for the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, making his Broadway conducting debut in 2003 with the production of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters, and conducting the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra at the Centennial Gala for the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has also conducted on the American Mosaic series at Concordia College, at the Alabama Summer Music Center, and served as the associate conductor for the National Tour of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods starring Cleo Laine, as assistant conductor for the Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles and the 2008 revival of Gypsy with Patti Lupone and was most recently an assistant conductor and principal cellist for the 2009 revival of West Side Story and principal cello for Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway.

Other forays into pop culture have found him working with Willie Nelson, Chris Botti, with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, appearing as solo cellist with Shirley Bassey at Carnegie Hall, at Town Hall with the late Nancy LaMott, and with Bernadette Peters at Avery Fisher Hall. Other recordings include contemporary solo cello works by Robert Dix and Joseph Levin, blues with Eric Clapton and B.B.King,, and a Christmas album, Animal’s Christmas with Art Garfunkel and Amy Grant. Radio and television appearances include The Listening Room and Young Artist Showcase on WQXR (New York), Around New York on WNYC, West Coast Weekend on KQED (San Francisco), the Today show with Bernadette Peters, The View and Good Morning America with Patti LuPone, the Today show (weekend edition) with Eartha Kitt, Saturday Night Live, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Having joined the faculty of the Mannes College of Music in 1991, he has also been a performance associate at Hunter College, has served as adjunct faculty at City College and has taught at the Aspen Music Festival and the Meadowmount School of Music. His teachers include David Cowley, Bernard Greenhouse, Alan Harris and William Pleeth. Peter is also inordinately fond of eating breakfast out.

Mary Jo Pagano received her Bachelor of Music degree from Arizona State University as a student of James Ruccolo and Eugene Pridonoff. She earned the Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music as a student of Constance Keene. In 1996, she completed her Doctorate of Musical Arts at Manhattan School of Music as a scholarship student of Leon Fleisher. She has performed in master classes for such great artists as John Browning, Menachem Pressler, William Pleeth, and Andre Watts.

Mary Jo is on the piano faculty of Third Street Music School Settlement in New York’s Lower East Side. She is also the Director of the Chamber Music Program. She conducts master classes and leads a seminar on practicing called “Those Six Days Between.” Because she believes strongly in what Third Street stands for, she wrote her doctoral dissertation on The History of the Third Street Music School Settlement - 1894-1984.

Ms. Pagano is an enthusiastic chamber musician. She has been a member of the Esterhazy Trio, Polaris Ensemble and LES Chamber Ensemble. She toured the U.S. under the auspices of Columbia Artists Management with the Royale Trio. She mostly enjoys playing chamber music in concert with a variety of musicians. She has studied chamber music with Artur Balsam, William Pleeth, Leslie Parnas, and Roman Totenberg.

Dr. Pagano has played concerts throughout the United States, including concerts at Weill Recital Hall, The Frick Collection, the Ravinia Festival, and The Beethoven Festival at Oyster Bay. Mary Jo has appeared as soloist with the Manhattan Symphony, the Nutley Symphony, the Butler Symphony, the Princeton Youth Orchestra, Albany Chamber Players, and the Musicians Band. Dr. Pagano can be seen as a performer and scholar on the PBS Educational Series Exploring a World of Music. This twelve-part educational world music series features her as the spokesperson for Western Classical music.


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