Matthew J. LaPine
Founder & Artistic Director
Adult Chorus 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 Kawarsky, Barton 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 had been the Director of Male Ensembles with the New Jersey Youth Chorus for eight seasons and Director of Early Childhood Music Camps at Westminster Conservatory of Music for nine years and taught on the faculty for 19 years. He 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 Orchestra, Barry Manilow, Colby Colliet, and Tori Kelly and singing the National Anthem at New York Jets, New 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 Education, New Jersey Music Educators Association, American Choral Directors Association, and the New Jersey chapter of ACDA.
Ms. Helen Kernizan is the Youth Chorus director with Rise Up 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 nine 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. In addition to her work with Rise Up Chorus and in a public school setting, Ms. Kernizan is the K-8 Chorus and Music Chair with the Central Jersey Music Educators Association (CJMEA). She is responsible for organizing Region II Intermediate and Elementary Honor and Region choirs. CJMEA consists of six counties: Hunterdon, Monmouth, Mercer, Somerset, Middlesex, and Union.
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 Megill, 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 Orchestra, 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, Denyce Graves, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Pauletta Washington, and Natalie Cole.
Adult Chorus Collaborative Musician
James Lubrano has served as pianist for many choral festivals and honor choirs, including All-State and Regions for NJACDA and NJMEA. He is also a collaborative pianist for Manhattan Concert Productions, the Celebration Singers, Princeton Girlchoir, Rise Up Chorus and the choirs at TCNJ, Edison, Hillsborough, Somerville and Woodbridge High Schools.
In addition to coaching Broadway performers and soloists of the Metropolitan Opera, he recently premiered Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo at Carnegie Hall, under the direction of Henry Leck. He has prepared and performed with various ensembles at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kimmel Center, and NJPAC. He has performed in the UNICEF/Steinway “Peace Piano” World Tour Showcase, the Colorado College Summer Chamber Music Festival, and Lied Austria International. Additional performances include the 69th Annual Midwest Clinic with the Eastern Wind Symphony, and the 2016 ACDA Eastern Division Conference with the NJ Youth Chorus. He has also served as Music Director/Accompanist for over 150 musical theater productions.
Mr. Lubrano holds a Master’s degree in Collaborative Piano Performance from Rutgers University, where he studied with Barbara Gonzalez-Palmer. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from The College of New Jersey. He is on faculty at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), and is the Music Director at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in New Providence, NJ.
Youth Chorus Collaborative Musician
Pianist Florence Simons enjoys a varied career as a piano teacher, accompanist, music director and performer. Her love of piano began at age 8 when she first started taking lessons and then later when she continued her musical studies on the trombone. She later discovered her love of accompanying while playing for her high school choir and select girls ensemble. She graduated from Westminster Choir College in 2005 earning a Bachelors Degree in piano performance and pedagogy. While Attending Westminster, she studied piano with Jose Ramos-Santana and Lillian Livingston and piano pedagogy with Ingrid Clarfield, Betty Stoloff, and Phyllis Lehrer. Florence also had the privilege of singing in the world-renown Westminster Symphonic Choir under Joseph Flummerfelt, performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the New York Philharmonic.
Florence has been a staff accompanist at Westminster Choir College, has accompanied for various elementary and middle school choirs and orchestras and has played for workshops, master classes, and recitals. In addition to teaching piano for various community music schools, Florence also maintains her own private piano studio in Princeton New Jersey where her students have participated in master classes, given Dr. James Goldsworthy, and prestigious competitions such as the Mid Atlantic Music Teacher’s Guild and Golden Key Festival.
Florence’s other great love is musical theater where she has accompanied/music directed over 20 productions for various musical theatre summer camps and community theaters in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Favorite shows include, 13 the musical, Urinetown, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and Avenue Q.
Currently Florence teaches piano and accompanies all musical productions, recitals, and musical theater classes at Music Nation Academy in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She also accompanies the middle school orchestra at Martin Middle School in Marlton, New Jersey and is the pianist/accompanist at Tuckerton United Methodist Church in Tuckerton New Jersey. She loves teaching and passing on the gift of music!
Adult Chorus Intern
Maddie Meier, a soprano from St. Louis, Missouri, received her Bachelor of Music from Montclair State University. During her time at Montclair, she received a full-ride scholarship to study at the Kunstuniversität Graz in Austria. She has done solo work with different Baroque Chamber Ensembles in and outside of the United States, and has sung roles such as Suor Genovieffa in Suor Angelica, Serpetta from from La finita giardiniera, Adele in Die Fledermaus, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and Apprentice in the world premiere of the opera Ransom!!, composed by Timothy Stephens. In addition to her roles, Ms. Meier performs concert works as well, her most recent performance as the soprano soloist for Haydn’s The Creation with the South Orange Symphony Orchestra in New Jersey. Maddie Meier was a finalist in The Kentucky Bach Choir’s Audrey Rooney Vocal Bach Competition in 2021, the NATS NJ competition in 2017, as well as a semi finalist in the 2020 Classical Singer Competition. She enjoys singing a variety of different musical genres, as she has experience in opera, oratorio, musical theater, and choral music. Maddie currently resides in Plainsboro, New Jersey, where she performs, runs her own private voice, violin, piano and language studio, teaches music at the German School in Union County in New Jersey, teaches music at Harmony Preschool in Princeton, New Jersey, and works as a Choral Assistant for Hopewell Valley Community Chorus, Highland Park Community Chorus, and Rise Up Chorus in New Jersey. In her spare time, Maddie is a voracious reader, who loves to paint and hike.
Youth Chorus Intern
Moriah Kam is a bachelor candidate for Music Education with a concentration of choral music as a pianist at Rutgers, Mason Gross School of the Arts. Under the tutilitiage of Karina Bruk since 2018, she hopes that she will be able to advance in her piano studies. She is involved in a variety of ensembles as a member or staff accompanist; Voorhees Choir, Symphony Band, Rutgers Children's Choir, Rutgers Scarlet Singers, St. Luke's Metuchen Choir, St. Luke’s Schola, Roosmoor Interfaith Church and Roosmoor Adult Choir). She has studied and performed in several festivals and facilities including Brevard Music Center (South Carolina), Summer Music In Tuscany (South Tuscany), and Carnegie Hall (New York). She discorevered her passion for teaching when teaching privately in 2018 in the New Brunswick and Bridgewater area. Moriah has a background in musical theater, wind ensemble, sewing and ultimate frisbee!