B i o g r a p h y



Helen H. Cha-Pyo is currently in her fourth season as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA).  Under her artistic leadership, WIPA serves over 1,400 students from 13 different counties of New Jersey through a range of classes at Wharton Performing Arts School, 15 performing ensembles at New Jersey Youth Symphony and Paterson Music Project, an El Sistema-inspired program serving over 400 children in the city of Paterson, NJ.  As principal conductor of NJYS Youth Symphony, she has led the orchestra in prestigious concert halls including Richardson Auditorium, NJ State Theatre, Union County Performing Arts Center, Kasser Theater and New Jersey Performing Arts Center, including the 40th anniversary performance of Carmina Burana with six local high school choruses. 


For 16 years as Music Director and Conductor of the Empire State Youth Orchestra (NY), Ms. Cha-Pyo inspired hundreds of young musicians to perform at the highest levels, resulting in Empire State Youth Orchestras being recognized as one of the nation’s premier music organizations for youth. Ms. Cha-Pyo regularly programmed a wide range of music embracing many different cultures. Her vision resulted in three prestigious ASCAP awards and a $100,000 grant to partially fund a music festival that commissioned nine works, one for each ESYO ensemble. She conducted the orchestra in outstanding concert halls including Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Zankel Hall, EMPAC, Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, and Carnegie Hall.  She led the orchestra on three international tours: to Europe in 2008, China and South Korea in 2012, and Portugal in 2016. Ms. Cha-Pyo’s vision was instrumental in the founding of ESYO CHIME in 2015, a music education program dedicated to serving underprivileged youth in Schenectady and Troy, NY. In 2018, ESYO established the Helen Cha-Pyo Golden Baton Award and Scholarships for students who embody her passionate commitment to music as a means to uplift and enrich communities. 


From 1996 to 2002, Ms. Cha-Pyo served as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir and Associate Director of Music at The Riverside Church in New York City. She has released 3 recordings with the Riverside Choir (JAV Recordings). A committed music educator, she pioneered the Riverside Music Educational Program, which served thousands of New York City public school children. 


Born in Seoul, Ms. Cha-Pyo immigrated to the US when she was 12. She studied piano and organ in the Pre-College Division at The Juilliard School. She holds a Bachelor of Music in organ performance from Oberlin Conservatory and Masters of Music in conducting and organ performance from the Eastman School of Music. She served as assistant conductor to the Eastman Philharmonia and the Britt Festival Orchestra (OR). She also won conducting fellowships at the Aspen Festival and Yale School of Music. Her conducting mentors include David Effron, Donald Neuen, Murry Sidlin, Benjamin Zander and Kurt Masur. 


Ms. Cha-Pyo is a frequent guest conductor and clinician for All State and Regional Festival Orchestras throughout the country and conducts at Kinhaven School (VT) in the summer. She has appeared as guest conductor and clinician for the ASTA National Orchestra festival (NM), the Newport Youth Orchestra Festival (OR), Ithaca College Summer Music Academy (NY) and All-State Festival Orchestra in NY, NJ, TX, NE. This season she will guest conduct All-State orchestras in Colorado and Alabama and Regional festivals in Texas and New York.  She served as Visiting Associate Professor of Conducting at the John J. Cali School of Music from 2017 – 2019 (NJ). She currently serves as a board member for the Youth Orchestra Division and a committee member of the Conductors Constituency Leadership of the League of American Orchestras. 


Photo: © Kimberly M. Wang | @eardogfoto | eardog.com