Donnetta Bishop-Johnson, Allegra's Founder/Owner, is an avid lover of the arts. She has lived in Hillsborough for more than twenty years. Ms. Donnetta discovered the power and beauty of theater and the arts at an early age, starting as a reviewer for her school newspaper in her New York City high school. As a student journalist, she often had front row seats to shows such as A Chorus Line, Cats, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and many other Broadway and Off-Broadway classics, developing a life-long love of drama and musical theater.
While earning her degree at Pace University she continued her love of the arts, working at the American Craft Museum before turning her attention to the study of mathematics and computer science. In 1999, following a successful career as a programmer and senior project manager at AT&T, Donnetta decided to pursue her love of the arts and opened The Allegra School of Music and Arts. Since then she has presented over fifty dramatic and musical theater productions, serving as executive producer and senior drama coach, building Allegra into a respected and sought-after training showcase for young actors and musicians. Ms. Donnetta, along with the very talented Allegra staff and our committed families, has worked hard to provide a strong, thriving arts education center for students, teachers, and lovers of the arts in our community.
Jessica Kerler is a recent graduate of Westminster Choir College where she received her Bachelor's degree in Voice Performance, studying under the tutelage of Mark Moliterno. Most recently, Jessica was a Young Artist for the Ad Astra Music Festival where she was seen in performances of Handel's Jephtha and as a soloist in Duruflé's Requiem. She was a avid member of the Westminser Opera Theatre, with credits including Falstaff (Dame Quickly), Cendrillon (Armelinde), The Medium (Madame Flora), and Iolantha (Ensemble). Additionally, she was a member of the prestigious Westminster Choir. Through this ensemble, she performed at the Spoleto Festival USA in productions of Kát'a Kabanová, John Adam's El Niño, the American premiere of Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzchen, and as a soloist for Carissimi's Jephte and Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Jessica has a passion for teaching voice in the bel canto, musical theatre, and pop styles, as well as piano.
Lillian Graham was a music teacher for the East Brunswick Public School District. She taught general/vocal music at the elementary level for 30 years. As a classroom music teacher, she developed lessons that engaged her students in fun, creative, and challenging ways. Mrs. Graham directed and accompanied the school chorus and presented a variety of programs for school assemblies and concerts. She began playing the piano at the age of nine and soon discovered the joy of music making through many years of private piano lessons, recitals, and concert performances. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education from Rutgers University and a Master of Arts for Teachers from Rutgers Graduate School. During her college years, Mrs. Graham performed as a solo pianist, accompanist, and in chamber music ensembles. She studied piano performance with Maria Katona Valgoczy and Wanda Maximilien. Mrs. Graham sang in the Voorhees Chapel Choir at Douglass College under the directorship of Barbara Linglebach. For many years, Mrs. Graham taught private piano lessons and encouraged her students to do their best and to be proud of their accomplishments. Mrs. Graham is looking forward to teaching piano at the Allegra School of Music and Arts and hopes to share her love of music and inspire her students to develop their musical abilities.
Ashley DelVecchio has been singing since the age of 5 and at the age of 9, she began taking formal lessons. In middle school, Ashley auditioned for the musical The Wizard of Oz and was cast as Glinda, the Good Witch, which led her to pursue more musical theater experience. Ashley was also a previous student of Allegra Teen Premier Summer Camp, participating in Allegra’s production of Fame, as well as taking private voice instruction.
Ashley decided to continue her education in music performance because of her love for music and singing. At Monmouth University, she was given the opportunity to learn in small groups with people that held the same passion for music. Ashley participated in Monmouth University’s Concert Chorus and Chamber Choirs and was even a featured soloist in the 2016 winter concert. She was the recipient of the Outstanding Contributions in Vocal Music award from Monmouth University awarded by Dr. David Tripold. Ashley graduated Monmouth University with Music Honors in the spring of 2017 and holds a B.A. in Music and a minor in Public Relations.
Maria Palombo holds a Bachelor of Music (Voice) and a Bachelor of Art (Drama) with a minor in Speech & Hearing Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She completed her Master of Music (Voice) and Advanced Certificate in Vocal Pedagogy at New York University. During her time at NYU, she served as an Adjunct Instructor, teaching private voice lessons to undergraduate students. She has performed professionally at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, has sung with North Carolina Opera and she recently completed the Young Artist Program at Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. She enjoys singing both classical music and musical theater and equally enjoys teaching the same repertoire. She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. As a teacher, she makes singing easier and more fun by encouraging the proper use of air flow and resonance because she believes that singing should feel good!
BRASS-WOODWIND, PIANO, STRINGS
Karen Kacvinski-Tollin has played clarinet since 1999, and saxophone since 2001. She played woodwind instruments in many musicals such as West Side Story, Kiss Me Kate, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She played in various ensembles such as marching band, jazz band, Montclair State University wind symphony, orchestra, Harry Parch, saxophone quartet and saxophone ensemble.
Karen graduated from Montclair State University; magna cum laude. She studied under Dr. Paul Cohen, an accomplished saxophonist. During her time in Montclair State, she was taught various instruments, and instrumental methods. She performed several pieces in Montclair State University such as Husa's Music for Plague 1968, Milhaud's Scaramouche, and Holsinger's Scootin' On Hardrock.
Karen composed a concert band piece “Fantasy Suite” and arranged numerous video game songs. Currently, she is the principal saxophonist in Whitehouse Wind Symphony and performs in Three Bridges Reformed Church and Saint Magdalene Di Pazzi Church. She teaches various instruments to students in different walks of life. As a teacher, her goal is to help students develop musicianship through their personal skills and interest; and to encourage music appreciation through the enjoyment of playing music.
MUSICAL THEATER, DRAMA
Eric Craft is an actor, director, and writer from Bernardsville, NJ. He graduated summa cum laude from Montclair State University with a BA in Theatre Studies. He has had his original plays performed in college as well as wrote the book and lyrics for his original musical, The Blank Page, which was performed at Luna Stage Company in West Orange, NJ. He played the lead role of Barry, and has also acted in musicals and plays such as Urinetown, Rent, The Persians, Legally Blonde, and Spring Awakening. Eric has directed multiple productions and staged readings of both plays and musicals, including Stop Kiss, Circle Mirror Transformation, and Into the Woods. He is very interested in plays both classical and contemporary, and loves immersive and experimental theatre.
Ryan McCann is a recent graduate of Westminster Choir College where he obtained a Bachelors Degree in Music Education with a focus on piano for his main instrument. Ryan studied under Phyllis Lehrer at Westminster Choir College and has been playing piano since he was 7 years old. Through learning to be a teacher and performing piano on his own and as part of different musical groups, Ryan has learned how to make learning piano an enjoyable experience for anyone looking to learn. Ryan has had experience playing both classical and jazz piano before college and focused on the classical performance side while attending college. He believes that anyone has the potential to become a great musician if they have the desire and the determination!
PIANO, GUITAR, MANDOLIN
John Peccarelli grew up in Nutley, New Jersey and began to sing and study piano at a young age. He attended Montclair State University where he received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education. He began his career as a music teacher for Abundant Life Academy. John has spent the past twenty three years teaching in the Edison Township school district, where he has taught both vocal and instrumental music as well as composition.
John is also a member of the NJ Music Educator's Association and serves as a judge for their annual Young Composer’s Competition. His secular and sacred compositions have been performed by elementary, high school and adult vocal and instrumental groups.
John has a passion for instructing children and adults, and in helping them to derive joy from the performance and composition of music.
GUITAR, BASS, PIANO, UKELELE
Adam Shaber has been playing music since he was six years old, playing a range of instruments from piano and guitar, to vocals, bass, clarinet, and saxophone. He has performed in concert, jazz, and rock bands, choirs, pit orchestras, and as a soloist, performing in the South Jersey area where he was born. Adam is a recent graduate of Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in May 2015 where he earned his B.A. in Music Education and Jazz Guitar Performance. In addition to teaching, Adam is an active professional musician, he plays guitar and sings a wide variety of musical styles and genres as a soloist, sideman, and bandleader. Adam performs at restaurants, clubs, pit orchestras, church choirs, and at community, charity, and private events. He teaches guitar, electric bass, ukulele, piano, and voice. With his students, Adam focuses on the abilities of the individual student in technique, music theory, reading, and repertoire.
PIANO, JAZZ PIANO, WOODWIND, BRASS
A native son of New Brunswick, NJ, Jonathan Ware began playing Piano and Tuba at the early age of 7, he started playing for his church in middle school and soon after joined the Jazz Institute of New Jersey where he Studied under Radam Swartz.
In Undergraduate studies he was the principle Pianist for Montclaire State University’s premier Jazz ensemble. He holds a B. M. in Music Education. He has performed at NJPAC, Crossroads Theater, George Street Playhouse, Delta’s, Makeda’s, Cecil’s Jazz Club, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in NYC, Feinstein's at Loews Regency, Metropolitan room, 12 grapes in Peekskill, NY, Kean University, Rutgers University, William Paterson University, University of Southern Alabama, Franklin Township Library, Nyak College, Fuze Poetry Slam, Verses Open mic in Newark, High schools and Churches all through out the Tri-State Area. Currently he is a member of Mass Transit a new Jazz quartet that plays at Van Gogh's Ear Cafe in Union, NJ, Bounce Back Quartet which plays at Highland Place in Maplewood, NJ, and Free Thought a trio specializing in Jazz, gospel, funk and neo soul based out of Newark. He is also a founding member of a super group of poets, musicans, and artists called IMPROMPTU based in Somerset, NJ. Along with Impromptu he helps run "THE REACTIVATION SERIES" which is an open mic series featuring a wide range of performers including world renowned artists like HBO Def poet Gemineye.
Neil Mitchell is a baritone vocalist and collaborative pianist located in Princeton, NJ with a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree from Westminster Choir College. As a voice primary at Westminster, Neil starred as Lord Mountararat in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera Iolanthe under the baton of Rachelle Jonck. He has also been featured in scenes from Die Zauberflote as Papageno, Cosi fan tutte as Guglielmo, and La Boheme as Marcello with Westminster's Opera Workshop under the direction of Nova Thomas and William Hobbs. With the Westminster Symphonic Choir, he has performed iconic works with orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra at venues such as Carnegie Hall and Verizon Hall.
Also a pianist, Neil studied solo piano and accompanying with Akiko Hosaki and JJ Penna. During his senior year, Neil worked as a student accompanist for the voice department of WCC. For the summer of 2017, he was the accompanist for a voice class and the women's choir of the Westminster Vocal Institute. This year, he is continuing as a staff pianist for the voice department of Westminster.