WHO WE ARE
Sharyn Pirtle, Founding Director
Sharyn’s “aha!” moment began in a fantastic public performing arts school in her native Houston, Texas where children from all over the city and from different socioeconomic backgrounds came to share a common interest. Sharyn went on to study voice and opera at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University and spent summers on the shores of Cape Cod doing musical theater. As a performer, Sharyn performed both opera and musical theater – roles such as Ado Annie, Ilona, Cherubino and Despina. Her experience as a director started off by traveling with soprano Renée Fleming and sitting in rehearsals learning the craft at the greatest opera houses around the world. She assisted directors such as Christopher Alden, James Robinson, Francesca Zambello, Bruce Beresford and Werner Herzog, across the US, Europe and the Middle East and then began directing her own productions. In 2005, Sharyn, with the help of The Reverend Michael A. Bird, Rector of Christ Church Bronxville, childhood pal and Founder of Sing for Hope, Camille Zamora and her husband lighting designer, Shawn Kaufman, founded Young at Arts, in response to the gaps in arts education in her community. Young at Arts began with twelve drama students, and now serves over 800 children between 3 different campuses in Westchester County. At Young at Arts, Sharyn has directed both opera and musical theater including: Cinderella, Brundibar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Honk!, Guys and Dolls, The Little Sweep, The Wizard of Oz, Martin’s Lie, One False Move, Oliver! and I Wish. Young at Arts gives thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to children living in areas where over fifty percent live at or below the poverty line. Sharyn has spoken on the importance of an arts education in her community and beyond has been honored by the Mount Vernon Public Library Foundation for her dedication to the youth of Mount Vernon.
Katty Rodríguez aka “Kat” is a multi-faceted, grammy nominated musician, singer, saxophonist, songwriter, clarinetist, flautist, producer, arranger, composer and teacher.
In 2001, Kat was awarded the international Women in Jazz award by legendary bassist Caroline Ray and Vocalist Lenora Helm. She received a fellowship to study music with Saxophonist/recording artist Antonio Hart.
In 2006, Beyoncé hand picked an all female band to tour with her. Kat was one of 1000 woman who auditioned. Since then Kat has recorded the Beyoncé Live DVDs; The Beyoncé Experience, the I…Am Tour, Live at Roseland, Live at Revel, Mrs Carter Tour, and the On The Run Tour. After traveling the world with the superstar, Kat became an ambassador/speaker for the BeyGood foundation, reaching young people through outreach programs in communities all across the globe.
Kat has also performed with Erykah Badu, Eric Bennett, Anthony Hamilton, Luke James, Nikki Minaj, Louis Bauso, Patato Valdes, JJ Hairston And Youthful Praise, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Slim Thug, Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius, Keri Hilson, Keischa Cole, VV Brown, Monica, Ledisi, Kelly Price, George Michael, Fantasia, Shirley Caesar, Mary Mary, Elle Varner, Mary J.Blige, Missy Elliot, Estelle and Ciara to name a few. With Beyoncé, Kat was invited by President Barack Obama to perform at the White House for Michelle Obama’s Birthday. Kat has recorded with Destiny’s Child, DJ Mark Ronson, Rap Artist Mobb Deep, Beyoncé, Michelle Williams, Gospel artist Kierra Sheard, Anthony Hamilton and 50 Cent.
Kat is a graduate of the prestigious Mannes Jazz Program at New School University in New York City, where she received a full scholarship and graduated with a BFA in Jazz Saxophone and Composition. In 2013 Kat recorded her debut album Mockery which she co-wrote and co-produced.
Dave Fabris is a dedicated professional who has been teaching music privately and at the college level for 30 years. Dave is the founder of the Fabulous School of Music in Beverly MA and has been an adjunct professor at Boston University, New England Conservatory, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Passaic County Community College. In addition to his teaching, Fabris has a very active performing career including performances at both of President Clinton’s Inaugurations, an appearance on Entertainment Tonight, and at festivals throughout the US and Europe. His guitar videos on Youtube have been viewed by thousands of people.
As a guitar teacher, he places great importance on crafting an individual plan for each student so they are not only enjoying the experience of learning the guitar, but also absorbing the technical aspects of music in a fun way. Dave also enjoys teaching ensembles and rock bands, putting together kids on different instruments where they learn how to communicate, listen, and support each other, all while having a great time!
The hope is that, when a student experiences success in music, they will be able to apply the same discipline and focus to other parts of their life. The benefits of a good work habit and the self-confidence that comes from seeing the rewards of their efforts can last a lifetime.
Composer and pianist, Jonathan Faiman received his Doctorate of Musical Arts from Manhattan School of Music where he studied piano with Leon Fleisher and Yoheved Kaplinsky, and composition with Ludmila Ulehla and Nils Vigeland. Dr. Faiman is a member of the Locrian Chamber Players and an adjunct company member of The Actors Company Theatre (TACT). He has received ASCAP awards for his work as composer, arranger, and educator. His CDs are available on Amazon and CDBaby. Dr. Faiman has musically directed productions at The Bronxville School, Kol Ami, and Horace Mann and currently holds staff accompanist positions at Larchmont Temple and Concordia College. He also teaches ear-training at Hoff-Barthelson Music Conservatory and is Adjunct Professor of Music at Concordia.
Richard Grasso is a 2012 graduate of the University of Michigan with a BFA in Theatre Directing from the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. He is currently the 4th and 5th grade band director at Cottle Elementary School in Tuckahoe UFSD. Richard has directed the plays and musicals at Brewster HS in Brewster, NY and was also a marching instructor with the Brewster HS Marching band. Richard also asst. directed the Pittsburgh CLO Summer theatre season in 2012. Richard is very active in the NYC theatre scene, having recently served as the assistant director of the off-broadway musical THE MEMORY SHOW under the direction of Joe Calarco with Transport Group Theatre Co. Along with wearing the hats of teacher, director and musical director in this field, Richard is also an active pianist and vocalist, having performed at many local church services and weddings. Richard is a strong supporter of all musical and dramatic arts and is so grateful to have the opportunity to be working with the YAA students and sharing the gift of the arts with them!
Whitney Webster is a professional actor/singer/dancer and a lifelong believer in the transformative power of the arts … with good reason. As a child, she had flat feet, twisted legs, and a crooked spine. After the introduction of dance, music, and theatre into her life, she grew up to perform on Broadway and all over the world … wonky skeleton and all!
Whitney made her professional debut at the age of eleven as Young Estella in a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ GREAT EXPECTATIONS at the Pennsylvania Stage Co. She embarked on her first formal theatre-arts education at the Summer Conservatory of the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, attended the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, and later toured Europe with the Teen Choir and Orchestra of American Music Abroad.
She earned her BFA cum laude in Musical Theatre from Syracuse University, under the tutelage of Arthur Storch and Edward Greer. While at SU, she spent a semester abroad in London, where she studied acting and dialects with teachers from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), and music and dance with coaches from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
New York City audiences have seen her as an original cast member of the Alan Menken/Lynn Ahrens Musical A CHRISTMAS CAROL (directed by Mike Ockrent and choreographed by Susan Stroman) at Madison Square Garden, in the role of Mrs. Cratchit during the 1998–2003 seasons. Other NYC credits include Stephen Sondheim’s ANYONE CAN WHISTLE with Angela Lansbury, Madeline Kahn, Scott Bakula, and Bernadette Peters at Carnegie Hall, a benefit for GMHC; and IDIOT’S DELIGHT and THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON with TACT at the New York Historical Society. In addition, it has been her great privilege to be a pit singer for New York City Ballet for the past 21 years, whenever and wherever they perform Jerome Robbins’ WEST SIDE STORY SUITE.
She has toured North America as Kim Ravenal in SHOW BOAT, directed by Hal Prince and choreographed by Susan Stroman; as Young Jenny in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ASPECTS OF LOVE; and in MY FAIR LADY.
Whitney has already witnessed the life-altering benefits YOUNG AT ARTS has given to her sons, and she is honored to have the opportunity to pass her torch in mentoring this next generation of artists.