Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras


Christopher Hisey

Music Director/Principal Orchestra Conductor/Chamber Orchestra Conductor

Christopher Hisey is one of Connecticut’s leading young conductors. Formerly a GBYO member, String Coach and Symphony Orchestra Conductor, Mr. Hisey celebrates his 10th anniversary season as GBYO’s Music Director and Principal Orchestra Conductor in 2018-19. He has conducted throughout the United States, Europe and in Mexico. He made his international debut with the Philharmonic Orchestra in Ruse, Bulgaria. He has also made appearances with the Pleven Philharmonic in Bulgaria and the St. Petersburg “Klassika” Symphony, formerly the Leningrad State Philharmonic. Mr. Hisey stepped in for Gustav Meier, on very short   notice, to conduct the Greater Bridgeport Symphony. Since then, Mr. Hisey has conducted several performances with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony, including a Holiday Pops concert and a Side by Side performance with GBYO.

Mr. Hisey also serves as the Music Director/Conductor of the American Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble he co-founded in 2003, as well as Music Director of the Civic Orchestra of New Haven. Mr. Hisey has been the Music Director/Conductor of the Connecticut Valley Chamber Orchestra and Troupers Light Opera. He is a respected and sought after music educator who serves as the Director of Orchestras at Greens Farms Academy, and he has served on the Conducting and String faculties of Manhattanville College, Fairfield University and the Westport School of Music. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Christopher received a bachelor’s degree in viola performance, studying with James Dunham, violist of the Cleveland Quartet. He went on to receive a Master of Music from Bowling Green State University where he served as Associate Conductor of the Bowling Green Philharmonia and Opera Theatre Orchestra, studying with Dr. Emily Freeman Brown.

Lynda Smith

Symphony Orchestra Conductor

Lynda Smith joined GBYO in 2018. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Montana State University and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Central Connecticut State University.  She has been a member of the Fairfield Public Schools music faculty since 1986 where she has taught strings at the elementary, middle and high school levels.  She is a member of the American String Teachers Association, Fairfield County String Teachers, the National Association for Music Education and the Connecticut Music Educators Association for which she has served as Western Region Orchestra Chair. She is currently the Orchestra Director at Fairfield Ludlowe High School with 130 students in the orchestra program.

Erica Messina

Concert Orchestra Conductor

Erica Messina earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College/CUNY.

Mrs. Messina began playing violin in elementary school, but in college discovered a new passion for viola. She had the opportunity to study viola with Patinka Kopec, Naoko Tanaka, and Katherine Greene. Mrs. Messina taught music in the New York City Public School system, and played violin and viola in various musical groups around the city. For three years she served as principal viola for the Brooklyn Camerata Chamber Orchestra, which performed in various venues around New York, such as Bargemusic and the Brooklyn Museum.

Mrs. Messina and her family moved to Connecticut in 1997 and she has been a member of the Westport Public Schools music faculty since 1998.  She has taught on the elementary, middle, and high school levels, and is currently the Orchestra Director at Saugatuck Elementary School in Westport, where she regularly has between 120 and 140 fourth and fifth graders in her orchestra program each year.

From 2007-2009, Mrs. Messina served as conductor of the Prelude Orchestra for the Norwalk Youth Symphony. Currently, Mrs. Messina is in her 9thseason with the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras where she conducts the Concert Orchestra. Mrs. Messina has travelled with GBYO on all its overseas trips. In addition to all her teaching responsibilities, she plays viola with the American Chamber Orchestra.

Gjorgj Kroqi

String Orchestra Conductor

Gjorgj Kroqi started playing cello at the age of six. He attended the music school “Prenk Jakova” in his native town of Shkoder, Albania. Mr. Kroqi earned his degree in cello performance and teaching from the “Academy of Fine Arts” in Tirana (Albania). From 1994-1998, he studied in Graz (Austria). During that time he was an active performer with various groups in the region including the orchestra of the Cathedral of Graz. Since arriving in Connecticut, Mr. Kroqi has performed with many orchestras including Waterbury Symphony, Bridgeport Symphony, Wallingford Symphony, New Britain Symphony and many other groups. From 2001-2016, Mr. Kroqi was the Music Director, Chamber Orchestra Conductor and Cello Coach of the Greater Waterbury Youth Symphony. Currently Mr. Kroqi is the orchestra director at Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield. He is also the cello teacher at The Taft School in Watertown, CT. Mr. Kroqi also teaches cello privately in the Fairfield and Cheshire areas. He joined GBYO in the 2018-19 season as a String Coach. This is his first year as String Orchestra Conductor.

Brian Miller

Wind Ensemble Conductor

Brian Miller is the Wind Ensemble Conductor for the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras and also teaches at King School in Stamford, Connecticut. After earning his Master’s degree in Trumpet Performance from the University of Michigan, Mr. Miller spent 8 years teaching and performing in Atlanta, where he was one of the most sought after trumpet and brass instructors in the area. Outside of his duties at King, Mr. Miller is on the marching band staff at Arlington High School and was the 2013 Honor Band of America Trumpet Judge and Band Manager. He has previously worked for: Kennesaw State University, Grand Valley State University, Goshen College, the Interlochen Arts Academy Michigan All State Program, the Debut Orchestra of Los Angeles Summer Program, the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra of Atlanta. Locally, Mr. Miller has performed with the East Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, Ridgefield Symphony, and Waterbury Symphony.

Dr. Rex Cadwallader

Jazz Program Director/Jazz Ensemble I Director

Currently Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at Greens Farms Academy in Westport, Connecticut, Dr. Cadwallader has served as Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Texas in Arlington and Associate Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Northern Colorado. He has taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, Marlborough College in Marlborough, England, Southern Connecticut State University, and the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven. He received his Doctor of Arts Degree in Composition and Music Theory from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and his Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music in Composition degrees from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Dr. Cadwallader has played with such jazz luminaries as Rufus Reid, Bob Mintzer, Eddie Daniels, Ed Shaunessey, Bill Watrous, Don Menza, Clark Terry, Ali Ryerson, Joe Beck, Giacomo Gates, and many others. He appears as performer or composer on over twenty-five albums including his most recent cds, “Quicker Than The Eye,” with bassist Mike Asetta and drummer Artie Dixson, “Broadway – West Side Story,” with flutist Ali Ryerson, bassist Mike Asetta and drummer Artie Dixson, and “The Art Of Trio,” with bassist David Chevan. The cd, “Repartee,” also with David Chevan was released in January 2000. A CD of original contemporary jazz with drummer Rich MacDonald entitled “The Cadwallader/MacDonald Project – YOUR SMILE” was released in 1998 on Jaybird Records. Two other recordings, “Christmas In The Neighborhood” with bassist Mike Asetta, and “In A Mellow Tone,” a tribute to the music of Duke Ellington with bassist David Chevan and drummer Jesse Hameen II, were released in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Dr. Cadwallader has composed several works that have been debuted by Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras under the baton of Christopher Hisey, including Citizen in March 2018.

Geoffrey Brookes

Jazz Ensemble II Director

Mr. Brookes joined GBYO in the 2017-18 season. He has been directing both middle school and high school level jazz ensembles since 2006. He is passionate about teaching young musicians to develop their creativity through the jazz idiom.

Mr. Brookes completed his undergraduate studies in music education at the University of Connecticut in 2006, receiving a BA in Music and a BS in Education.  At UConn, he studied jazz with Earl MacDonald and Kenny Davis, as well as trumpet with James Ackley.  He earned an MA in conducting through the American Band College of Sam Houston State University in 2013.  Mr. Brookes started his teaching career in the Litchfield Public Schools in 2006 and joined the Fairfield Woods Middle School faculty in 2010.  Mr. Brookes teaches concert band and jazz ensemble at FWMS and has composed audition etudes for the Western Region Music Festival.

Brian Ente with Jim Royle

Percussion Ensemble Directors

The Jim Royle Drum Studio Faculty is made up entirely of former students from the Drum Studio with college degrees in music performance or education. They all share the same philosophies and curriculum that have been passed down to them, continuing a 30-year tradition of excellence.

James L. Royle is a native of Connecticut and former president of the state chapter of the Percussive Arts Society’s for sixteen years, and 2000 Chapter President of the Year. Jim attended the University of Bridgeport as a percussion and education major under the direction of Howard Zwickler, Arthur Lipner, and Bill Finegan. Jim has also studied various aspects of percussion with world recognized masters such as Max Roach, Alan Dawson, Keith Copeland, Akira Tana, Norbert Goldberg, Vernal Fournier and Pan Master Professor Philmore.

Brian Ente, a GBYO alumnus, is a musician and composer who studied at Ithaca College with Gordon Stout and Conrad Alexander. A Connecticut native, he is a former vice president of the state’s chapter of the Percussive Arts Society, and works to improve the performance standards and education of percussion both in his local area of Bridgeport/Fairfield, and across the state, taking part as a composer and judge for the Western Region Music Festival on both the middle school and high school levels. Mr. Ente coaches Percussion Ensemble at weekly rehearsals and conducts at concerts and teaches at the Jim Royle Drum Studio.

Although Jim enjoys his own performance career, his love of music and the pleasure of passing this love onto future musicians are equally important to him. His studio now in its 20th year, is well known for turning out remarkable performers and all of his students are exposed to many aspects of percussion.