Connie Rittenhouse Drexler is one of the four founding members of the New England Youth Ensemble. She studied piano with her aunt, Dr. Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, and performed as violinist, violist, and piano soloist with the orchestra for more than 10 years. Her mother and brother also played in the orchestra and they enjoyed traveling as a family with the orchestra, sometimes accompanied by her father as well. She was encouraged by The New England Piano Teacher's Association to pursue a degree in music when she won their competition in Boston as a high school senior and was awarded to play a solo piano recital for the organization. She completed a Bachelor of Music in piano performance and music education at Atlantic Union College, in South Lancaster, Massachusetts. She has always had a variety of interests and in addition, completed pre-med requirements during college. Connie went on to receive a master's degree in piano performance from Boston University before attending Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California and taking a residency in Internal Medicine. Through the years she has combined a love of medicine (working as an Internist and Hospitalist) with the love of music by performing with her brother, Jerry (a cellist), composing and arranging, conducting orchestra and choirs, playing chamber music, accompanying, teaching piano, violin, viola, and voice. In 2001 she started a second Youth Ensemble with her aunt and now is the director of the Youth Ensemble of New England. She is married to David Drexler, MD, Ph.D., with whom she shares a love of music and medicine. They have two children Robert and Katharine who grew up playing cello and violin in the orchestra. Robert also played trombone in the orchestra and Katharine sang as soprano soloist. Presently Connie is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and works in the outpatient department for UMass Community Physicians. She also enjoys working with the orchestra and teaching music on her "day off'. One of her greatest joys is sharing the love of music with young people.
Fun Fact: When she was 16, her adventurous father piloted Connie and her family in a single engine airplane to Alaska, following the Alaska Highway. They camped on airport tarmacs and even flew as far north as the Arctic Circle. Connie’s mother, Peggy Rittenhouse earned her pilot’s license so that she could be co-pilot for this trip.
Connie was also one of the four original members of the New England Youth Ensemble which started in 1968 and continues to today. The ensemble was sponsored by the Reader’s Digest Foundation as Friendship Ambassadors during the Cold War and she traveled several times behind the iron curtain to Poland, Latvia and Russia to promote good will between countries through music.
Since earning her BMued in 1986, Kathryn Kalmansson has taught private violin and viola lessons and ukulele classes, taught classroom music and school orchestras, conducted children’s choruses, assisted as section coach with the Youth Ensemble of New England, and directed the popular local group Rose, Thorn & Fiddle and Celtic Chorus, of which she was founder and sole music arranger. Many of her students have participated in the MMEA District and All-State orchestras and have earned substantial college orchestra scholarships. Kathryn is currently completing the thesis for her MA in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. She enjoys braiding rugs from thrifted wool and adding to her home library with frequent trips to the book sections of all the local Goodwill stores. Kathryn joined Thayer’s music faculty in 1992.
Lauren Rittenhouse grew up in Massachusetts and studied cello with Mark Churchill and Raya Garbousova. She received degrees in Music, Interior Design and Art from Atlantic Union College. She and her husband Jerry met in the New England Youth Ensemble, where they shared a stand in the cello section for many years. Together with their two children, Julie and David, they formed the Rittenhouse Cello Quartet. Lauren is currently a member of Symphony Pro Musica, a community based orchestra under the direction of Mark Churchill.
Lauren enjoys arranging music for cello quartets, cello trios and duets. She specializes in teaching the Suzuki method to children and adults of all ages. She has been a faculty member of Thayer Conservatory since 2006. Lauren lives in Lancaster, New Hampshire, where she has a private cello studio. She enjoys tending to her perennial gardens with a view of the White Mountains.
Ana-Maria LaPointe has musical roots that stretch back three generations in her family. Born in Romania, Ana-Maria started the violin when she was five years old. Her mother, a professional violinist, was her first teacher. Ana-Maria had a full music scholarship to the Longy School of Music where she completed her master’s degree in Violin Performance. She plays with several orchestras including the Lexington Symphony and Symphony New Hampshire and has been concertmaster of the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra since 2008. She is an experienced teacher who has taught many student violinists from beginner to the advanced level.
Ana-Maria enjoys spending time with her young daughter, playing tennis, and gardening.
Lira Cady has a Master of Music degree from Boston University and
is a graduate of Atlantic Union College, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a Minor in Music Performance. Carl Swanson has been her primary harp instructor since she first started playing the harp. Lira is a freelance musician, performing throughout Central Massachusetts. Her orchestral affiliations have included the Thayer Symphony Orchestra, the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra, Atlantic Wind Symphony, South Eastern Massachusetts Chamber Orchestra and the New England Youth Ensemble. Lira is also a member of the Romantic Harp and Violin Duo with Sheila Reid, violinist and Synergy, a trio for flute, harp and organ with flutist Debbie Frank and organist William Ness.
Lira teaches harp at the Thayer Performing Arts Center, directs the South Lancaster Academy Choir and VOCE, their touring choir, and teaches Musikgarten classes to preschoolers in South Lancaster. She began teaching harp at Joy of Music in February 2010.