Meet the Team
Artistic and Executive Director
Michelle Oesterle, conductor and career music educator, has been an inspirational teacher and mentor to adult and children’s choruses. She was immersed in the world of music at a very early age having been the stepdaughter of Metropolitan Opera star Eleanor Steber. Her early music education was in church music as a member of an 800-voice music program. This experience proved to be the foundation for her life-long passion. Using her life experiences, Michelle has founded several choruses and initiated numerous innovative projects.
Ms. Oesterle is the Artistic Director and Founder of the Manhattan Girls Chorus and empowers young women to find their voice by providing a community of trust and caring.
Ms. Oesterle has prepared choruses for major American and international orchestras and renowned performing artists including Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with Maestro Zubin Mehta, American Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Leon Botstein, Thomas Hampson, Eric Owens, Camille Zamora, Sting, Steven Tyler, Idina Menzel, Bruce Springsteen and Demi Lovato. Events have ranged from the nationally-televised CBS Christmas Special, the Opening Ceremony for the Statue of Liberty Museum live-streamed on ABC News, the United Nations Ambassador’s Ball, and the Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center, to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Ms. Oesterle has conducted numerous World Premieres.
Ms. Oesterle was co-producer of the world premiere recording of Le Dernier Sorcier by Pauline Viardot, with Eric Owens, Jamie Barton, Camille Zamora, Adriana Zabala, Michael Slattery, Myra Huang and Manhattan Girls Chorus, published by Bridge Records and selected for the “Critic’s Choice” award from Opera News.
In addition, Ms. Oesterle has performed under the baton of some of the world’s leading conductors, including Robert Shaw, Sir Simon Rattle (Grammy nomination – Walton: Symphony No. 1, Belshazzar’s Feast with Thomas Hampson, Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra Chorus), Pierre Boulez (Grammy Award – Berlioz: Tristia with Cleveland Orchestra & Cleveland Orchestra Chorus), Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Franz Welser-Most, and Valery Gergiev, among others, at prestigious venues including Verbier Festival, Salzburg Festival, Carnegie Hall, Caledonian Hall – Oxford, Symphony Hall – Birmingham, Severance Hall – Cleveland, and Lincoln Center among others around the world.
Assistant Director and Vocal Coach
French-Italian pianist Laetitia Ruccolo is a highly sought-after vocal and diction coach. She has served as an educator at many renowned institutions including Mannes School of Music, Manhattan School of Music and Wellesley College, serving on the faculty for numerous young artist programs, including the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Additionally, Laetitia is the co-founder of Bare Opera and répétiteur for opera companies all over the world.
Ms. Ruccolo has performed widely as a solo artist, collaborated with chamber ensembles, singers and orchestras in France, Italy, England, Germany, Austria, Portugal and Israel. New York performances in prestigious venues include Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the New York Historical Society, the Museum of the City of New York and Lincoln Center. Laetitia was also honored to perform in a concert hosted by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and violinist Joshua Bell.
Passionate about art song repertoire, Laetitia’s performances include SongFest – the United States’ premier art song festival in Los Angeles and the Schubert Institute in Austria, where she has been invited twice to work with pianists Julius Drake, Helmut Deutsch, Roger Vignoles, and Graham Johnson, as well as singers Christa Ludwig, Robert Holl and Elly Hameling.
Laetitia was a Young Artist at the National Opera Studio in London, in residence at the Royal Opera House, Welsh National Opera and Opera North. She graduated from the École Normale de Musique de Paris, University Mozarteum in Salzburg, and Mannes School of Music in New York. Fluent in five languages, Laetitia also earned a degree in foreign languages and literature from the University of Aix-Marseille.
Lauren Adja Tian
Pianist and Music Theory Instructor
Lauren Adja Tian has enjoyed an eclectic artistic career as a concert pianist, conductor and educator. Her diverse involvement includes international performing as a duo piano team, Duo Sartano, with Aquiles Morales, and directing renowned orchestras including the Eastman Opera Collective, RIT Orchestra, the University of Buffalo Symphony Orchestra and the University of Michigan Arts Chorale. Lauren has served as Music Director at the historic Knox School and Director of Community Outreach and Programming with Philadelphia’s award-winning Singing City Choir. She has also been involved with numerous other orchestras and choirs of international repute.
An alumna of the Eastman School of Music, Ms. Tian holds advanced degrees in instrumental and choral conducting from California State University at Fullerton and The University of Michigan. Lauren has been the recipient of many awards and scholarships along her artistic journey. Of note, she recently earned third place in the London Classical Soloists International Conducting Competition.
After seven years of extensive international travel, Ms. Tian, a mother of four, desired to settle down in one location so she could spend more time with her family. Her transition from an active international performer to educator has been a natural progression as her parents were music teachers and she learned of her true passion for music while in high school.
Although she continues to travel with her concert duo during school vacations she is now afforded an opportunity to pursue other passions including reading, dancing, and meeting new people from diverse backgrounds.
Dr. Geoffrey Gordon
Acting Executive Director
Dr. Geoffrey Gordon recently completed his 25th year as a Superintendent. During his tenure in New Providence, New Jersey, the district soared to the top 10 of 309 districts in student achievement. In 1994 he became the first K-12 educator elected to the NJ Board of Governors of The National Conference for Community and Justice, an organization founded as The National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1927 to fight racism and discrimination. Dr. Gordon served with distinction for 8 years.
Furthering his dedication to quality education, Dr. Gordon was selected as New Jersey Superintendent Liaison for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. This allowed him to increase awareness and exposure of classical music in New Jersey school districts.
Recruited to become Superintendent of Port Washington, a large pre K-12 district on Long Island, Dr. Gordon led Port Washington for a decade. Under his leadership they were named to the top 5 districts in the United States for semifinalists in one of the country’s most prestigious science competitions, The Intel Science Talent Search. Additionally, he was selected Long Island Educator of the Year, and was the first and only educator elected to the Board of Directors of the Long Island Red Cross for his philanthropic work during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Dr. Gordon received a unanimous citation for his exemplary public service from the New York State Senate in 2012.
Returning to New Jersey in 2014, Dr. Gordon has served as an Interim Superintendent during the last 5 years and is honored to serve pro bono as the Acting Executive Director of Manhattan Girls Chorus.
Erica Furgiuele is an NYC-based singer/songwriter, composer, and writer. She graduated summa cum laude from Middlebury College in 2015 with a degree in theatre and film. She has appeared off-Broadway in the Potomac Theater Project’s Pentecost as Marina, in the Middlebury Actor’s Workshop production of The Christians, and in the Stowe Theater Guild’s production of Bridges of Madison County. Her work has been published in the New World Theatre anthology entitled A Solitary Voice, and she is the 2013 Recipient of the 2013 KCACTF Classical Acting Award. She has a weakness for Italian opera, etymology, and anything chocolate.
Dr. Malynn Utzinger-Wheeler is currently the Director of Integrative Practices at Promega Corporation and the founder of Dr. Malynn, where she consults with patients and organizations on the use of Integral Medicine, teaching mind-body skills for health, self-esteem, management of anxiety and stress, and development of leadership skills. Read More
Shyamli Milam is a co-founder and Partner of Perennial Advisors, LLC, a wealth advisory and investment management firm, where she is responsible for overseeing all activities related to portfolio research and analysis. Read More
A versatile musician and conductor, Colin Fowler works in many arenas of the music scene in New York City. He is currently the music director for Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG). He is also a veteran of numerous Broadway shows, most recently performing in the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys. Read More
“A singer blessed with intense communicative ability who blazes with passion” (Opera Magazine, UK), Camille Zamora balances a vibrant career of opera, recital and concert performances. In repertoire ranging from Mozart to tango, and in collaboration with artists ranging from Plácido Domingo to Sting, Camille has garnered a passionate following for her “magnificent voice and impeccable technique” (Diario Dan Luis). Read More
Alistair Reid, MA FRCO, studied music at the University of Oxford and, during this time, was Organ Scholar at Hertford College, Assistant Organist of the University Church, and Conductor of the Oxford Chamber Choir. He is currently Director of Music at St. Joseph’s Church Yorkville in Manhattan. Read More
Susan McMane is a world-renowned choral conductor specializing in treble choral music and is the Artistic and Executive Director of the Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco (YWCP). In 2012, she became the founding director of YWCP, where she conducts the auditioned chorus of young women from grades 7-12 and oversees a training chorus program for younger girls. Read More