Founder and Artistic Director

Matthew J. LaPine is an active performer, educator, conductor, and composer in central New Jersey. He received the designation Master of Music in Choral Conducting and Music Education from Westminster Choir College of Rider University, where he studied voice and graduated with distinction. He also received his Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Westminster, studying voice and piano, graduating summa cum laude, and winning the Sophomore Piano Competition. As a conductor, Mr. LaPine has been the graduate assistant with Westminster Williamson Voices and Westminster Schola Cantorum (under the supervision and direction of the acclaimed James Jordan), rehearsal assistant for the Westminster Jubilee Singers (under the direction of J. Donald Dumpson), and he has led rehearsals and soloed with the Westminster Symphonic Choir. He has studied piano with Lillian Livingston, Francis McGuigan, and Ann Marie Nowak; voice with Marvin Keenze and Sonia Funk-Olin; and music theory and composition with Jay KawarskyBarton Bartle, and Anthony Kosar.


Mr. LaPine is the Founder and Artistic Director of Rise Up Chorus, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to enrich lives through human interaction using music as our commonality.  He is Choral Director at Bernards High School, where his choral ensembles have received national acclaim and have performed in various locations along the East Coast.  He is the Director of Camerata, an ensemble for young men in grades 7-12 with changing or changed voices, with the New Jersey Youth Chorus. He is Co-Director of Early Childhood Music Camps at Westminster Conservatory of Music, and sings professionally for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen (NJ) where he is a soloist, section leader, and guest conductor with the Festival and Chamber Choirs.  Mr. LaPine’s ensembles have performed in such prestigious locations as The White House (Washington, D.C.), Carnegie Hall (NYC), St. Louis Cathedral (New Orleans, LA), Dom zu Salzburg (Salzburg, Austria), Melk Abby (Melk, Austria), Minoritenkirche (Vienna, Austria), the Roper Performing Arts Center (Norfolk, VA), the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (Washington, D.C)., in Nashville, TN, the Prairie Center for the Arts (Chicago, IL), and with such ensembles as the Canadian Brass, the Celtic Tenors, the New Jersey Symphony OrchestraBarry Manilow, Colby Colliet, and Tori Kelly and singing the National Anthem at New York JetsNew York Mets, and Somerset Patriots games. In February, 2020, the Bernards High School Madrigals, under Mr. LaPine's direction, was heard on National Public Radio's show "From the Top."


Mr. LaPine has been published as a contributing author in multiple works, most recently the journal article “Fitting It All In” (in the national publication, Teaching Music Magazine), and he is a member of the National Association for Music EducationNew Jersey Music Educators AssociationAmerican Choral Directors Association, and the New Jersey chapter of ACDA.

Helen Kernizan

Youth Chorus Director

 Ms. Helen Kernizan is so excited to join the Rise Up Chorus as the director of the Youth Chorus. Her biggest passion is educating young people to become the best musicians possible. Her educational philosophy is guided by three tenets: all children have a right to an education in the Arts, have the ability to be musical and improve musicality regardless of musical aptitude, and have the capacity for music literacy. 


Since 2017, Ms. Kernizan has worked as the Choral Director at the Township of Ocean Intermediate School (TOIS), where she directs both its Choir and Select Choir. At TOIS, she collaborates with colleagues to organize the District’s Annual Music in Our Schools Month Concert series and the Intermediate School’s Annual Arts Cafe. Before coming to Ocean Township, Ms. Kernizan worked for Perth Amboy Public Schools for eight years, where she had the unique pleasure of teaching at each grade level. At the Wilentz Elementary School, she taught general music and choir, and started the Gifted and Talented Music Theater and Bucket Drumming Ensembles with over 75 members each. At Shull Middle School, she taught General Music, started a Bucket Drumming Ensemble, the Annual Teacher Talent Show, and the Annual Student Talent Show. While at Perth Amboy High School, she built the choral program from 20 to 75 singers in one school year, and directed the superior-rated Show Choir and Gospel Choir. Additionally, she revamped and organized the choral library; acquired new uniforms, risers, and chairs for the music department; and started a Tri-M Music Honor Society chapter and acted as its advisor. Ms. Kernizan also has innovated and integrated new curricula for over seven courses, and she has designed at every level, K - 12. 


She holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Westminster Choir College of Rider University, where she studied voice and techniques for leading choral ensembles of varying styles, ranging from the classical European tradition to jazz, gospel, Negro spirituals, R&B, pop, and Broadway. She received a Master of the Arts in Teaching, also from Westminster, where she focused on choral conducting and community music in diverse contexts.


As a performer Ms. Kernizan has had the great opportunity to perform in such renowned concert halls as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall, the Apollo Theater, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Princeton University Chapel, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, Philadelphia Cathedral, and Catherine's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia. She performed in these concert halls with internationally known choral ensembles, such as Westminster Symphonic Choir, under the direction of Joseph Flummerfelt, Andrew Migill, and Sun Min Lee; with the Williamson Voices under the direction of James Jordan; with Westminster Jubilee Singers as a soloist and graduate assistant under the direction of J. Donald Dumpson; and with world-renowned orchestras New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and the Dresden Philharmonic. As a back-up singer and soloist, Ms. Kernizan has had the honor of performing with Cece Winans, Denyse Graves, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Pauletta Washington, and Natalie Cole.



Collaborative Pianist

Thomas DeLessio is Director of Liturgical Music for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen and the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. Under his direction are the Cathedral Choir, three Parish choirs for children in grades K-12, the Diocesan Festival Choir and the Diocesan Chamber Choir, of which he is the founding director. He coordinates and directs combined choirs for major Diocesan Liturgies, and has conducted choirs on pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome and the Basilica of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC.

Mr. DeLessio is organist and pianist for nearly 400 liturgies each year. He is an organ recitalist, has given two organ dedication recitals, and has performed “Symphony No. 3” (Organ) by Camille Saint-Saëns on three occasions with the Tim Keyes Consort and the Young Players Philharmonic.

Mr. DeLessio received his undergraduate degree in Music Education and Organ from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and his graduate degree in Liturgical Studies from LaSalle University. He maintains a private piano and organ studio in Whitehouse and is also accompanist for the Somerset Hills School District and for the male ensembles (Coro Vivo and Camerata) with the New Jersey Youth Chorus.

Rise Up Chorus Logo

(732) 662-4469

P.O. Box 4335

Metuchen, NJ  08840
Rise Up Chorus is a recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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©2021 by Rise Up Chorus Inc.