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"Journeys", by Dr. Gerald Custer

commissioned by Rise Up Chorus

on the event of their 5th anniversary

World Premiere Performance - June 12, 2022

Matthew J. LaPine, conductor

Leslie Godfrey, oboe

Masaaki Saito, double bass

James Lubrano, piano

Shauna Evans, soprano solo (movement 1)

Jeannine Burton, mezzo-soprano solo (movement 1)

Maddie Meier, soprano solo (movement 4)

Rise Up Chorus Youth Chorus (Helen Kernizan, director)

Rise Up Chorus Adult Chorus (Matthew J. LaPine, director)

Journeys Cover

Movements and Voicing

Movement I: I Believe In the Sun (for youth chorus, adult chorus, soprano solo, mezzo-soprano solo, oboe, and piano)

Movement II: Of Singing (for youth chorus, adult chorus, audience, and piano)

Movement IIA: Interlude (for oboe and piano)

Movement III: The Promise of Being Found (for treble chorus and piano)

Movement IV: Listen Louder (for adult chorus, soprano solo, and double bass)

Movement IVA: Interlude (for oboe and piano)

Movement V: Rise Up! (for youth chorus, adult chorus, audience, improvisation, double bass, and piano)

Movement VI: A Blessing (for youth chorus, adult chorus, and piano)

Original Concert Program (interactive)

Gerald Custer

Meet the Composer

Dr. Jerry Custer is a choral conductor, composer, clinician, author, and teacher. A native of Metuchen, he attended Westminster Choir College (B.Mus., choral music education), The George Washington University (M.Mus., orchestral conducting and historical musicology) and earned the DMA in choral conducting from Michigan State University. He is a Grammy-nominated, award winning composer and arranger with more than 150 works in print, and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2010 with Everything Indicates, a symphony for orchestra and choir on the poetry of Walt Whitman. In 2018, his work I Will Be the Light was premiered by the combined youth choirs of RTE Ireland and the Irish National Symphony in Dublin.

Dr. Custer’s teachers include Bruce Campbell, Dennis Shrock, Robert Carwithen, and Joseph
Flummerfelt. He has sung for Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, William Steinberg, and Antal Dorati, and pursued private study with Wilhelm Ehmann and Robert Shaw. He composition teacher was the late Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queen’s Music for HRH Elizabeth II. With his colleague Blake Henson, he is the co-author of The Composer’s Craft: A Practical Guide for Students and Teachers, From Words to Music: A User’s Guide to Text for Choral Musicians, and Arranging: A Beginner’s Guide and has served as the Choral Methods Masterclass columnist for the GIA Quarterly for the past 15 years.


Dr. Custer has led choral programs at Schoolcraft College and Oakland Community College in Michigan, and been visiting faculty or guest teaching artist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Westminster Choir College, the University of South Carolina, and Montclair State University. Dr. Custer teaches music theory, music composition, conducting, and choral literature at Wayne State University in Detroit. He has served churches in New Jersey, Maryland, and Michigan, and recently celebrated 50 years as a church musician by joining the staff of the First Presbyterian Church in Northville, Michigan. He lives most happily in Allen Park, Michigan with his fiancée Sharon York.

Custer Headshot

Matthew J. LaPine

Meet the Performers

LaPine - Headshot

Matthew J. LaPine is an active performer, educator, conductor, and composer in central New Jersey. He 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 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."

James Lubrano

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 the Celebration Singers, Manhattan Concert Productions, Princeton Girlchoir, Rise Up Chorus and the choirs at The College of New Jersey, Somerville, Ridge, 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 Music Festival, and Lied Austria International. Additional performances include the 2015 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.


Leslie Godfrey


A seasoned performer and enthusiastic educator, Leslie Godfrey holds both a bachelor's and master's degree in oboe performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University). She has performed in China, as well as several countries in Europe, and has given numerous American premieres of pieces by British composers. She is an active freelance musician in the tri-state area, has held the position of Principal Oboe with Boheme Opera NJ for over a decade, and can often be heard playing oboe in other opera orchestras, chamber ensembles, solo recitals, and local orchestras. In addition, she often provides cocktail piano music for Woodbridge Township events and gallery openings.

As an educator, Leslie is on faculty at New Jersey City University (NJCU), where she teaches oboe lessons, music history classes, and a capstone course on P.T. Barnum; and Essex County College, where she teaches music appreciation classes. Leslie is also the owner of Happy Bamboo Music Studio, where she teaches private oboe and piano lessons. In addition, she is a Barre Above Level 2 certified instructor, is the owner of Hey Sunshine Fitness, and enjoys teaching pop-up barre fitness clinics and workshops.

Masaaki Saito

Masaaki Saito started his musical journey at the age of thirteen initially as a guitarist when his friend showed him a few chords. From there he developed a love of classic rock and blues from legends like BB King, Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers Band. The enjoyment of improvisational music transitioned naturally into an interest in jazz. As a New Jersey born musician, he was fortunate to be involved in the local jam sessions where he was challenged, encouraged and guided by many skilled musicians starting as a teenager. He continued his education at Montclair State University as a Jazz Studies Major with a focus on guitar. There he studied with Dave Stryker. In his senior year of college, he picked up the upright bass and
studied with Bill Moring, initially out of curiosity but it developed into a love of both the instrument and the appreciation of the responsibility of the bassist to be the time keeper of the band. Since graduating from Montclair State University in 2017, he has been working as a freelance musician primarily as a bassist.


Maddie Meier


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.

Helen Kernizan

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. 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.

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