Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey Board of Trustees & Staff

  • Meghna Patel, President
  • Aloka Bagchi, Vice President
  • Umakanth Belahal, Treasurer
  • Saima Shabab, Secretary
  • Phillip Pugh, Artistic Director
  • Larisa A. Epps, Executive Director
  • Terri Evans, Bookkeeper
  • Dr. Bing-bing Chang, Fundraising & Grants
  • Kamesh Chikka, Volunteer Committee
  • Vikram Jindal, Volunteer Committee
  • Radha Mahakali, Volunteer Committee
  • Chirag Shah, Fundraising & Grants

    Advisory Board

  • Melanie Clarke
  • John Enz
  • Dr. Richard Hodges
  • Michael Meduski

    Staff & Advisory Board Biographies

    Melanie Clarke, has a long and distinguished career in non-profit and arts management. A conservatory-trained violinist, she worked for the Princeton Symphony Orchestra for 25 years, serving as its Executive Director for nine seasons before retiring in 2015.  In her many roles at the Princeton Symphony, she led its transformation and raised the funds for it to become a diverse and successful orchestra enterprise which won national recognition for artistic excellence, significant community engagement, collaborations with a wide range of civic and cultural partners, commitment to new music, and extensive and innovative music education programs. Melanie recently stepped down as chairman of the board of the Highland Center for the Arts (HCA) a new performing arts center serving rural northeastern Vermont. At HCA she led the startup of operations and oversaw a much-admired inaugural season of theatrical, musical and educational performances.  She is a trustee of the League of American Orchestras and chairs its development committee. She holds degrees from Harvard University and Wellesley College. Melanie and her husband, John Clarke, reside in Princeton, New Jersey, and Greensboro, Vermont.

    John Enz holds a master’s degree in cello performance and music education from Temple University. After completing his undergraduate studies at Goshen College with further studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Mr. Enz spent two years working with the music students of Ecole St. Trinité and the Haitian Orchestra in Port-au- Prince, Haiti. He toured with this group on the East Coast and to Tanglewood Music Camp. Mr. Enz began his long association with the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District in 1977 when he took over and nurtured a fledgling string program at Dutch Neck School, continued at Community Middle School and moved to High School North where he taught orchestra and strings before retiring in June 2018. Mr. Enz was also a cellist with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra for over 30 years and taught at Albemarle Music Camp. Mr. Enz began his association with the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey in 1985, when it was known as the String Preparatory Orchestra. He worked closely with founder Portia Sonnenfeld and took over the helm of the growing youth orchestra, upon her passing in 1987. During his 35 years as artistic director and Symphonic Orchestra conductor, he has been the driving force behind the extensive offerings of YOCJ. The program now includes 12 performing ensembles, led by 9 conductors. YOCJ has toured and performed in Boston, Toronto, Vienna, Prague, Austria’s Esterhazy Palace, Leipzig, and Berlin. Mr. Enz has conducted the Symphonic Orchestra, featuring concerto performances by prominent musicians such as the Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim, principal hornist Jennifer Montone, assistant principal cellist Yumi Kendall, assistant principal timpanist Angela Zator Nelson, and the New York Philharmonic former principal clarinetist Stanley Drucker.

    Larisa Epps, Executive Director for the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Montclair State University, as a Governor’s Teaching Scholar, with a degree in Music Education. She was a string specialist in the public schools from 1993 to 1999, working in Summit, NJ as well as the Manalapan-Englishtown District. Additionally, Ms. Epps runs a private violin and viola studio in Hamilton Square since 2000. She was the site coordinator for the NJ American String Teacher Association (ASTA) Certificate Advancement Program Exams held at Rider University from 2008 to 2016. Ms. Epps is honored to be sharing her life long passion for music and her love of organizing events, with this unique youth orchestra, that has made such a noteworthy impact on generations of young musicians!

    Terri Evans is a Bookkeeper with TCG Solutions LLC. Terri is a results oriented professional with 20+ years of progressive management experience with entrepreneurial companies. Her emphasis is on increasing the value of companies by providing them with the information needed to make informed, proactive business decisions.

    Richard Hodges, saxophonist and YOCJ Advisory Board member, has appeared as a soloist in Europe, Canada, and throughout the United States including his debut recital in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City.  While specializing in the music of contemporary French composers, he has also premiered works by composers from the United States and Japan. A graduate of Wichita State University, Dr. Hodges received his doctorate in education from the College of William & Mary.  Dr. Hodges holds master’s degrees from Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi. He has served on the faculties of Indiana University, Columbia University, and the University of Mississippi. Former teachers include Eugene Rousseau and Lawrence Teal. Dr. Hodges currently teaches saxophone and clarinet at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia where he serves as the Director of Learning Resources. Dr. Hodges served as assistant conductor at the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey from 1996 to 2010.

    Michael Meduski is a retired Lt. Colonel, US Army, active and reserve.  He is a graduate of College of the Holy Cross, Suffolk University Law School, The US Army Judge Advocate General’s School at University of Virginia, is a member of the Massachusetts Bar, and has worked in defense contracting for RCA, GE and American Overseas Marine Corporation, a General Dynamics subsidiary. During 20 years in West Windsor Mike has been active in Little League, Babe Ruth Baseball, Pop Warner Wildcats Youth Football and WWP North High School Football.  Mike has gigged locally and in greater Philadelphia with Princeton School of Rock band Random Clarity.  At First Presbyterian Church of Hamilton Square he is a session Elder, commissioner to Presbytery, and member of praise band and choir. Mike recently sang at Carnegie Hall in the “9th Annual Christmas in New York” with the American Festival Choir. Mike values the opportunity to volunteer in support of YOCJ.