Claremont Opera House 125th Anniversary Concert

WCCMA is please to be collaborating on this special program in celebration of the Claremont Opera House’s history in Claremont. This program includes a wonderful mix of talented performers and composers.

Date: June 25, 2022; 7pm-9:20pm

Find Tickets at Claremont Opera House

Press about the show: from the Valley News


Pianist Virginia Eskin has performed as a soloist with many orchestras, including the Annapolis, Buffalo, Louisville, New Hampshire, Rochester, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Utah Symphony Orchestras, the Boston Classical, the Israel Sinfonietta, and the Boston Pops. She has also performed as a soloist with the New York City and Boston Ballet Companies, at Morgan Library in New York and Jordan Hall in Boston, and in concert halls and museums throughout the United States and Europe.

Among the highlights of her recent seasons were: a recital tour of Croatia (June 2014), a presentation of works by African American women composers at Boston University (March 2014), a recital at the U.S. embassy in Madrid (January 2014), performances of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, K. 466, with the Augusta (Maine) Symphony (April 2013). In 2009 she premiered Vítezslava Kaprálová ‘s “Partita” with the Chamber Orchestra of Boston at Jordan Hall and performed Beethoven’s Piano Concertos No. 3 and No. 5 with the Boston Civic Symphony.

In 2007, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Edward MacDowell’s death, Ms. Eskin performed his Piano Concerto No. 2 with the New Hampshire Philharmonic and with Boston’s Civic Symphony at Jordon Hall. She has continued her lengthy collaboration with the Portland String Quartet, with whom she performed the Amy Beach Quintet to open their 2008-09 season. 

A native of San Diego, California, she studied in London with Gina Bachauer and Dame Myra Hess. She developed a strong interest in Spanish music during a four-year appointment at the International Institute in Madrid, 1983-1987.

Melissa Richmond (Flute, Piccolo, Saxophone, Music Director)

Recognized as an innovative leader and arts professional, Melissa Richmond (She/Her/Hers) is an experienced and award-winning non-profit executive, music educator, and performer. In 2015, She was awarded the Governor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Arts Leadership for her work with the West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts and the City of Claremont’s 250th Celebration. Melissa founded the Summer Concert Series at Union Church, which has now expanded into the West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts (WCCMA). For 14 years, she has served as WCCMA’s Founding Executive and Artistic Director, increasing programming, growing impact, and now leading the charge for the Homecoming Campaign for the new downtown Claremont Creative Center. Through her work with WCCMA and Saint-Gaudens Memorial, Melissa maintains a performing arts program hosting local, national, and internationally recognized musicians. Through WCCMA, she founded the Youth Arts Enrichment Initiative which gives students access to musical instruments, lessons, workshops, and artist residencies. Melissa is also a founding member – with Dinuk Wijeratne and Nick Halley – of the Bach Tree, a program for cultivating creative and collaborative musicians.

In performance Melissa is regarded as a sensitive collaborator and engaging soloist. A passionate flutist, Melissa gave the world premiere performance of Kinan Azmeh’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in 2014. She has also performed as a soloist in the Kennedy Center’s Arts Across America Series, the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College’s Classical Salon Series, WCCMA’s Concert Series, and at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park – where she serves as Music Director for Saint-Gaudens Memorial. Her role at SGM includes curating programming and venue coordination with the National Park Service to present 10 concerts per year. Melissa has shared the stage with Sally Pinkas, Jose Lezcano, Dinuk Wijeratne, Nick Halley, Virginia Eskin, Lisa Ferrigno, and Angela Biggs. Melissa recently received a grant from New England Foundation for the Arts from the Public Art Learning Fund to enhance her professional development and creative output during the pandemic, and a grant from the NH State Council on the Arts for her Artist-Led project ‘Why Music?’

Melissa graduated from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Music Degree as a flute/piccolo major, and from New England College with an MS Management Degree in Non-Profit Leadership.

Dr. José Manuel Lezcano (Guitar, Composer)

As Professor Emeritus of Music at Keene State College, Dr. José Lezcano teaches and coordinates auditions & inventory in the guitar program, and teaches courses in Latin American music.  He recently retired from his full-time tenured position of Professor of Music after 30 years in the department, but continues to teach classes as a lecturer.  During Spring ’22, served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Morris, Minnesota.

His guitar students have been frequent winners of the College’s highest awards and scholarships.  He has been a frequent guest artist at numerous chamber music series in New England, including Apple Hill, Electric Earth, Wisteria, Portland Chamber Music Festival, and Athaneum concerts in Portsmouth, NH.   As a twice Grammy-nominated guitarist / composer (in two categories: “Best Contemporary Composition”  and “Best soloist with orchestra) Dr. José Lezcano has captivated audiences on four continents. In programs of Spanish, South American and original works, he has appeared in major venues and festivals, including Carnegie Recital Hall, the NYC North-South Consonance Series, Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago, Spain, Portugal, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, China, Germany, Crete, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic as recitalist, collaborative artist, and concerto soloist.  Described  by Fanfare Magazine as “an excellent guitarist as well as an imaginative composer,” Jose has earned numerous professional recognitions, including first prize in the MTNA National Guitar Competition, the NHSAC Individual Artist Fellowship, NHMTA Composer of the Year (twice), KSC Distinguished Research Award, and a Fulbright Award to Ecuador.    In 2016 he received an Ewing Arts Award from the Keene Sentinel, in recognition of his international performing and teaching career, and contributions to the arts in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire.   Dr. Lezcano earned degrees from Peabody Conservatory (BM), University of South Carolina (MM), and Florida State University (Ph.D., Music Theory).

Ed Evensen (Director, Claremont American Band)

An important educator and performer in the Claremont, NH area, Ed has taught public school music in NH and VT, directed the Claremont American Band, directed and performed in community theater, adjudicated for state and New England music festivals judging flutes, oboes, bassoons, clarinets, saxophones and vocals, directed festivals bands and choruses, and has been active as festival coordinator and host for several years. Ed has performed with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vermont Jazz Ensemble, Big Band 1996-1999, The Moonlighters, Newport Opera House Band, Cook’s Show Band, Hill’s Band, the Bob Cunniff Orchestra, and the East Bay Jazz Ensemble.

Ed has a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Boston University, and a Master of Science in Music Education from UNH.

Gerry Grimo (Director of East Bay Jazz, Keyboardist/Bassist)

Gerry lives in Windsor with wife, Agnes and Family (Zach, and Matthew) with oldest daughter Audrey now on her own and works as Risk Management officer at Connecticut River Bank, in Charlestown, NH.

His musical career began in Rhode Island at the age of 7 with 10 years of accordion lessons and includes 7 years of performing with a 40 member accordion orchestra and over 30 years as leader, bassist, pianist, vocalist for several small bands in southern New England and 24 years as leader of the East Bay Jazz Ensemble. 

Current musical assignments include Director/Keyboardist/Bassist for the East Bay Jazz Ensemble (a 5-10 piece swing band founded in RI in 1976); Organist/Pianist/Vocalist and music minister for St. Francis Church in Windsor, Vt. (since 1991); Bassist for the Grimo Dance Band; and as accordionist for Firehouse 7.

He has performed as bassist, pianist and/or accordionist with the Marble City Swing Orchestra/Jazz Quintet; Vermont Jazz Ensemble; Big Band 2008; The Moonlighters; and as part of local musical theatre performances for Northern Stage of White River Jct (Oliver; Tintypes; Big River); The Footlighters of Hanover High School (Fiddler on the Roof; Crazy For You; West Side Story; Cinderella; The Boy Friend); The Off Broad Street Players in Claremont (Oklahoma; Best Little Whore House in Texas; Mame); the Newport Opera House Players in Newport, NH (Man of La Mancha; Music Man; Oliver; Annie Get Your Gun; State Fair; Pajama Game; Guys & Dolls; Bye Bye Birdie); Covered Bridge Players in Windsor (City of Angels; 1776; Music of the Night; Jesus Christ Superstar; Working); North Country Community Theatre (Nunsense; Fiddler on the Roof; Singin’ in the Rain; High School Musical; How To Succeed in Business; Grease; Footloose); the Upper Valley Rotary Follies (’90, ’92, ’95, ’98); Colby Sawyer College (City of Angels); Providence College (1776); Windsor High School (Once Upon A Mattress; You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown); Proctor Academy (Oliver; Guys & Dolls); Kimball Union Academy (Jesus Christ Superstar): Stephens High School (Little Shop of Horrors) and the music programs at Bethel, Woodstock, and South Royalton High Schools; Holy Family School of Springfield, Vt. and Mt Royal Academy in Sunapee, NH. 

Frank Valente (Tenor Saxophone Soloist) retired from Physical Therapy in 2019 from New London Hospital. He has been a resident of NH since 1988, living in Grantham. 
He feels fortunate to have participated extensively in the musical opportunities in NH performing in a variety of venues as a woodwind specialist.  This includes performing in pit orchestras for many high school and community theater productions, participating in multiple community bands, and performing with a number of big bands and musical combos.He feels particularly fortunate to have been affiliated with the East Bay Jazz Ensemble since 1991 performing in NH, VT, MA, and RI  and interacting with dozens of talented musicians.

Claremont American Band

The Claremont American Band is a community band with a long history. Begun in 1888, it has performed every summer, with rare exceptions for occurrences like the 2020 cancellation of the season due to the COVID19 pandemic. In 1906 and 1911, it was led for a couple of performances by American composer John Philip Sousa. 

The Claremont American Band is led by Director Ed Evensen, and is a Claremont Parks and Recreation program. Summer Concert performances are weekly at the 7pm at Broad St Park on the Bandstand (weather permitting) during the summer starting the last Thursday of June. Music includes Sousa and R.B.Hall Marches, Military Marches, and favorite classic tunes. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy this free family friendly concert! Joining the American Band is open to anyone with an instrument who has completed 8th grade and would like to play.

The group is made up of students, amateurs, and professional musicians. New members are welcome

East Bay Jazz Ensemble

The East Bay Jazz Ensemble (EBJE) began as part of the East Bay Association For the Arts founded in Bristol, Rhode Island in the summer of 1976 by Steve Grimo. As Steve’s younger brother, current director and leader, Gerry Grimo, was the original Cordovox (electronic accordion)/bass player for the band.

Early performances included “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on Martha’s Vineyard (Carly Simon’s Place); The Gardner Museum in Boston; The Stone House Club in Little Compton, RI; University of RI; RI College; Providence College; The RI State House; RI Department of Parks and Recreation; Sheraton Islander, Newport, RI.; Roger Williams University, and the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, RI. 

In 1986 Steve accepted a position as a band officer in the US Air Force serving for 21 years before retiring as Lieutenant Colonel/Commander of the Air Academy Band at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs.

Gerry took over as director of the EBJE, continuing performances in RI and Massachusetts until permanently relocating to Vermont in 1988. In 1990, Gerry completely re-staffed the EBJE focusing on local Vermont and NH musicians while performing primarily in the Twin State area with some performances in Massachusetts and Connecticut.


Dr. Kinan Azmeh (composer, Concerto for Flute and String Orchestra. Commissioned in honor of the Claremont 250th Celebration in 2014)

Hailed as “intensely soulful” and a “virtuoso” by The New York Times and “spellbinding” by The New Yorker, Winner of Opus Klassik award in 2019 clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh has gained international recognition for what the CBC has called his “incredibly rich sound” and his distinctive compositional voice across diverse musical genres. Originally from Damascus, Syria, Kinan Azmeh brings his music to all corners of the world as a soloist, composer and improviser. In addition to his own Arab-Jazz Quartet CityBand and his Hewar trio, he has also been playing with the Silkroad Ensemble since 2012, whose 2017 Grammy Award-winning album “Sing Me Home” features Kinan as a clarinetist and composer.

Kinan Azmeh is a graduate of New York’s Juilliard School as a student of Charles Neidich, and of both the Damascus High institute of Music where he studied with Shukry Sahwki, Nicolay Viovanof and Anatoly Moratof, and Damascus University’s School of Electrical Engineering. Kinan earned his doctorate degree in music from the City University of New York in 2013.

He has recently completed work on his first opera which premiered in Osnabruck, Germany in June 2022

Dr. Mark Harvey is a composer and founder/music director of the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra now celebrating its 50th season.  In 2014, he was commissioned to write The Claremont Suite for the 250th Anniversary of the City of Claremont, premiered by Aardvark and WCCMA’s Claremont Jazz Ensemble at the Opera House.  Other commissions have included those from the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, Meet the Composer, the John Coltrane Memorial Concert, and the MIT Festival Jazz and Wind Ensembles featuring luminaries such as Ran Blake, Herb Pomeroy, Joe Lovano, and Steve Turre.   As a trumpeter, he has appeared with artists such as Gil Evans, Vinny Golia, Howard McGhee, Sam Rivers, and Claudio Roditi, recorded with George Russell (Blue Note) and Baird Hersey’s Year of the Ear (Arista/Novus), and performed in venues such as Fenway Park, the Hatch Shell, and Symphony Hall (Boston), the National Gallery of Art (DC), the Village Gate (NYC), and the Berlin Jazz Festival (Germany).  For many years, he taught jazz studies at MIT.

Dr. Erika Svanoe (composer Claremont Triumphant, clarinetist) is a conductor, composer, and educator, currently serving as the Conductor of the Augsburg Concert Band at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dr. Svanoe earned a D.M.A. in conducting from the Ohio State University, an M.M. in Wind Conducting from Oklahoma State University, and a B.M.E. from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Her first major work, “The Haunted Carousel,” won the 2014 NBA Young Band Composition Contest. Her other works have been featured at the Midwest Clinic, the American Bandmasters Association National Conference, the Boston New Music Festival, Wisconsin Public Radio, and performed by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. She currently lives in Menomonie, WI with her husband, designer and graphic novelist Erik Evensen.

Addison P. Wyman (1832-1872) was an American teacher, author of various popular pieces for the piano. He was born at Cornish, New Hampshire, showed a fondness for music, made special study of the violin and became teacher of this instrument, taught for awhile at Wheeling, West Virginia. In 1869 he founded a music school at Claremont, New Hampshire. He died at Washington, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1872. (Bio courtesy of