Peter Reit, Principal
– Christopher and Joanne Stavrou Chair
Peter Reit also plays principal horn with the Westchester Philharmonic and Scandia Symphony Orchestras. He has performed with such illustrious ensembles as the New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Ensemble, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the American Ballet Theater, and the New York City Opera and Ballet Orchestras. Mr. Reit has also toured worldwide with the American Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestras. He performs frequently in a duo with his wife, harpist Alyssa Reit, and plays regularly with the Greenwich Chamber Players. Mr. Reit is featured on CDs of all musical genres, and has been heard on television, radio, and movie soundtracks. His jazz experience includes performing as a member of the Mel Lewis Big Band at the Village Vanguard, plus recordings and worldwide tours with the Bob Belden Ensemble. He has played in the orchestras for many Broadway shows, and is currently in his thirty-second year with the Broadway hit The Phantom of the Opera. Mr. Reit is on the horn faculty at SUNY Purchase College and Vassar College.
Shelagh Abate is one of New York’s most sought-after musicians, known for her warm and assertive sound, her versatility, and musical intuition. She has opened more than one dozen Broadway productions. Since arriving in New York in 2006, she has performed regularly with The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, The Mostly Mozart Festival, The American Ballet Theater, The American Symphony Orchestra, and The Opera Orchestra of New York. She has been conducted by some of the great musicians of our time: Seiji Ozawa, Simon Rattle, Andre Previn, James Conlon, Gunther Schuller, John Williams, Marin Alsop, Jaime Laredo, Keith Lockhart, and Placido Domingo, to name a few. Shelagh has established fluency in the commercial realm as well as the classical, having performed as part of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Michel Legrand, among others. A winner of the Coleman Competition (2000), and a founding member of the award-winning Triton Brass (Fischoff, Lyon & Concert Artist Guild, 2005), Shelagh’s early musical influences include extensive study with the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Richard Sebring, Toronto Symphony’s principal horn Neil Deland, and renowned pedagogue and performer Laura Klock. She has been a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and of The National Repertory Orchestra. Shelagh holds a B.A. from Boston College, an M.M. from The University of Massachusetts at Amherst where she was a recipient of the Howard W.Lebow Scholarship, and an Artist Diploma from The New England Conservatory of Music.
Kathleen Ditmer began playing horn at an early age in the church. She was awarded scholarship to the Hartford Conservatory and won the solo competition at age 14. She joined the musician’s union at 17 to play next to her teacher, Andy Spearman, with the Hartford and New Britain Symphonies. She attended Hartt College of Music studying with James Jacobs and Paul Ingraham then moved to Nashville, where she finished her BM while recording studios, playing extra with the Nashville Symphony and shows at Opryland, with the help of her teacher, Eberhard Ramm. She traveled to Europe and was accepted by Gerd Seifert to the Musikhochschule in Berlin. Her Graduate Assistant studies at Florida State University included jazz arranging and assistant horn and trumpet instructor before finishing her MA degree at Western Illinois University. Ms. Ditmer began a fruitful freelance career in New York City where she has played with such respected groups as American Ballet Theater, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. She can be heard on numerous TV and movie soundtracks, as well as Broadway shows. Ms. Ditmer loves to share her knowledge, inspiration and passion for the horn in all genres of music. She started teaching as a camp counselor and went on to create free music programs in her community. She has taught for the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Division and Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. She is presently on the faculty of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, New Jersey Youth Symphony, The Ridgewood Conservatory and is the Greenwich, CT Continuing Education French horn instructor.
Howard Heller, a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, has been a member of the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra horn section for over thirty years. During that time, he has also been an active free-lance musician in the tri-state area, playing with numerous local and regional ensembles. In addition to playing French Horn, Howard also plays the highland bagpipes, and has been a member of the New York University Pipes & Drums since 1992. In 2017 he was the solo bagpiper for an off-Broadway production of Brigadoon at New York's City Center. Howard has also had an extensive career in media and music programming for television, where he spent many years as a member of the directorial team for the "Live From Lincoln Center" series on PBS. He has worked on concerts from The White House, received an Emmy Award, and recently directed three live webcasts for Lincoln Center's American Songbook. Howard is married to Marilyn Nichols, a member of the administrative staff of The New York Philharmonic. They were married in 2005 and were honored to have David and Nonie Gilbert in attendance at their wedding. Howard looks forward to contributing toward the future success of The Greenwich Symphony Orchestra.
Juilliard-trained Janet Lantz, French Horn, is a successful freelance artist in the New York area, appearing with ensembles such as the NJ Festival Orchestra, Greenwich Symphony, and Solid Brass. She has played in 62 Broadway productions and currently subs at The Lion King, and The Phantom of the Opera. She excels in an array of musical genres, including symphonic, jazz, Broadway, chamber music, and period instrument ensembles. Her playing for her Carnegie recital hall appearance was described by the New York Times as “nimble and secure on the horn.” Ms. Lantz’s first major teacher, Charles McDonald, was a student of James Chambers of the NY Philharmonic. The circle was completed when Ms. Lantz studied with Mr. Chambers at Juilliard. Some of Ms. Lantz’s memorable performances were playing with Frank Sinatra at Madison Square Garden, playing Brahms at the Musikverein in Vienna and La Scala in Milan, and playing with big bands at the Village Vanguard and Blue Note. During the COVID lockdown, Ms. Lantz turned her attention to music for small ensembles and participated in remote video collaborations. Ms. Lantz loves cooking with organic produce, reading mysteries, and doing NYT crosswords.
James Hamlin did not always play trumpet. His first experience was in a drum and bugle corps when he was in fifth grade. The next time he played the trumpet seriously was after getting a B.A. in American History from the University of Pennsylvania. While living in England for a year James began taking trumpet lessons again. From there it was five more years at the Manhattan School of Music. James is now a freelance player in the New York City area. He has played with many groups, including the New York Philharmonic, the American Symphony Orchestra, and The New York City Opera. He has been a member of the Greenwich Symphony for 37 years. One of his interests is the natural trumpet and he has played with groups such as The Grande Bande, Concert Royale, the Fairfield Old Academy, and New York Collegium. James has recorded on the natural trumpet on Sony Classical and other labels. Teaching is also a big part of his musical life. For twelve years he taught at the Eastern Music Festival and for thirteen years at the Juilliard pre-college. He currently teaches at the Hoff-Bartelson Music School. James received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his B.M. and M.M. from the Manhattan School of music.
Gerald Kocher received his Master's Degree from the Manhattan School of Music. He has played third Trumpet for the GSO since 1983. He formerly played with the Met Opera and has been a Goldman Band Member for 30 years. Gerald is a husband of 46 years, father, grandfather, handyman, scubadiver, and antique car buff.
Internationally, Thomas Verchot was Principal Trumpet of the Czech avant-garde ensemble, Ostravska Banda for 10 years. With Ostravska Banda, resident ensemble for Ostrava Days and New Opera Days Ostrava festivals, he appeared at the Prague Spring Festival, performed on numerous tours of Europe and gave master classes in Czechia. He was co-principal trumpet of the Festival dei Due Mondi In Spoleto, IT, for six seasons, and was a founding member of the Orquesta Filarmonica del Bajio in Guanajuato, MX. Closer to home, Mr. Verchot was Principal Trumpet with Amor Artis Orchestra for more than a decade and was Principal Trumpet with the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Orchestra for three seasons. A frequent soloist for Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto, he can be heard on the recording, Early, released by the American Festival of Microtonal Music.
Steve Shulman has played with the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra since 1983. As an active musician in the NYC area, Steve has performed in a variety of settings, including symphonic, chamber music, Broadway shows, Radio City Music Hall, opera, and big bands. During the summer Steve is principal trombonist for the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre. In addition to his musical career, Steve has been a tai chi instructor for over 35 years with the NY School of Tai Chi Chuan.
Jeffrey Caswell is enjoying his first full season as bass trombonist with the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra. Since 1992 he has also been a member of the American Symphony Orchestra with whom he performs regularly at Carnegie Hall and at the Bard Music Festival. He has toured extensively throughout Asia and South America with that ensemble and can be heard performing on their many recordings of operatic and symphonic repertoire. Jeff enjoys a diverse career in his home of New York City, playing with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the orchestras of the New York City Ballet and City Opera as well as the Orchestra of St. Luke's, The New York City Chamber Orchestra, The Little Orchestra Society, the Center for Contemporary Opera and the orchestra at Radio City Music Hall. Jeff has played in many, many Broadway shows both as a substitute and as a member of the orchestras at The King and I, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, An American in Paris and Bandstand. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory in Boston and his Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music.
Richard Schneider joined the GSO as principal tuba during the 1976-77 Season. A graduate of Northwestern University, Richard’s initial professional experience had been with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and the Louisville Orchestra followed by five years with the Israel Philharmonic. Upon his arrival in New York City in 1969, Richard embarked on a free-lance career which included performances with the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, New York and U.S. tours with the Royal, Stuttgart, and Bolshoi ballets along with numerous other ballet and dance companies, as well as orchestras and choral societies in the tristate region. In addition, Richard has served as program annotator for the GSO since 2019.