Helen Cha-Pyo

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Helen Cha-Pyo is a Korean-born American conductor and organist. The Mail Tribune of Oregon describes her as being "on the front edge of a lustrous career as a conductor."

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Cha-Pyo won numerous competitions and awards as a young pianist, including Grand Prize in the Young Musicians Competition in Los Angeles. At age 13, her family immigrated from South Korea to the United States and settled near Poughkeepsie, New York. Before graduating from Poughkeepsie High School in 1986, Cha-Pyo had already studied both piano and organ at The Juilliard School (pre-college division) in New York City. She is a frequent guest conductor for All State and Regional Festival Orchestras throughout the country and spends her summer at Kinhaven School (VT) and works with Arco Youth Festival Orchestras (NJ) as artistic advisor and conductor. She resides in Morristown, New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

After graduating from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, Cha-Pyo relocated to Rochester, New York, where she earned a Master of Music degree in both conducting and organ performance from Eastman School of Music. While at Eastman, Cha-Pyo served as the Assistant Conductor of the Eastman Philharmonia and the Eastman Chorale, as well as studied with the organist David Higgs. Cha-Pyo was the recipient of the Charles Nicholls Memorial Award at Eastman.

From 1996 through June 2003, Helen served as the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir in New York City. She has also held the role of Associate Director of Music at Riverside Church in New York City. Cha-Pyo also pioneered the Riverside Music Educational Program, which currently aids thousands of inner-city students in New York City. Since 1995 she has been the Assistant Conductor of the Britt Festival Orchestra in Jacksonville, Oregon and has guest conducted several orchestras and choruses throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States. Cha-Pyo has conducted orchestras such as the Altenberg Festival Orchestra, Beethoven Chamber Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Eastman Philharmonia, Aspen Music Festival Chamber Orchestra, New Washington Symphony Orchestra, and the Washington Korean Orchestra. She has also served as the Musical Advisor at the Rachmaninoff International Music Festival in Russia. As winner of the 1992 John Rodland Memorial Organ Competition sponsored by the American Guild of Organists, she performed in numerous organ recitals throughout the Northeastern United States and Asia, including appearances with symphony orchestras as an organ soloist.

In 1999, Cha-Pyo worked with the Asian Youth Orchestra in Hong Kong, as the rehearsal conductor and assistant to Sergiu Comissiona. That same year, she conducted the U.S. premiere of "A Garland for Linda," a musical tribute to Linda McCartney. In the fall of 2000, Cha-Pyo conducted the world premiere performance of "No Easy Walk to Freedom," an opera based on the life of Nelson Mandela, at the New Opera Festival at Hofstra University.

Cha-Pyo has been the Music Director and Conductor of the Empire State Youth Orchestra in Albany, New York since September 2002 - June 2018. [1] In her 16th and the last season as Music Director and Conductor of Empire State Youth Orchestra, Helen has 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. Helen regularly programs a wide range of music embracing many different cultures. Her vision resulted in a $100,000 grant to partially fund a music festival that commissioned nine works (one for each ESYO ensemble), and winning three prestigious ASCAP awards. She has conducted the orchestra in outstanding concert halls including Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Zankel Hall, EMPAC, Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, and Carnegie Hall. She has led the orchestra on three international tours: to Europe in 2008, and to China and South Korea in 2012, and to Portugal in 2016. Helen’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.

Helen has been named Artistic Director Designate of Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts and Conductor of New Jersey Youth Symphony starting July of 2018. Wharton Arts is New Jersey’s largest independent non-profit community performing arts education center serving 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 children everyday at 5 different sites in the city of Paterson, NJ. She is currently the Adjunct Professor of Orchestral Studies and Conductor of Montclair University Symphony Orchestra (NJ).


  1. ^ "ESYO: Artistic Staff". esyo.org. Archived from the original on 2010-02-21. Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
Preceded by
Jin Kim
Music Director/Conductor, Empire State Youth Orchestra
Succeeded by