RitaBlackerRita Blacker, Composer in Residence
In 2012, as Vice President of the Artistic Committee, Rita Blacker located a piece of music which would work well for one of the NJCS concert programs. There were no written compositions for this piece as it was a traditional song, so she transcribed the piece for NJCS to perform. Later that same year, at the request of Artistic Director Eric Dale Knapp, Rita composed a piece of music for the NJCS Holiday Concert. It was a four part a cappella piece sung to the lyrics of a poem written by Robert Frost. 

Rita is fortunate to have grown up in a musical family, gathered around the piano on the weekends. Formal music training began at age 9 and continued through college, culminating in a degree in Music Performance from the University of Maryland. She has been a member of many choirs, including the Paramus High School Concert Choir and Small Ensemble, the University of Maryland Chapel Choir and she has sung with the New Jersey Choral Society for the past 14 years. Rita also had the privilege of singing with Sirene, a female a cappella group, and many other small groups, performing in various venues in the US and Mexico.

Rita is delighted that in December 2016 NJCS will be performing her most recent composition, Hannah Prays. When she is not composing, Rita is a piano teacher, works in a family-owned residential construction business and has her own interior design firm. She has just completed her latest renovation on a 150 year-old home, where her family is currently residing. Rita is married to Peter Milano, an engineer, and has a daughter, Rebecca, who is completing her graduate work in Structural Engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

WenWenWen Wen Van Der Wende, Scholar Composer in Residence
Wen Wen Van Der Wende is a fifteen-year-old homeschooled student from Jefferson, NJ, who loves to sing, play instruments, and compose and arrange music. She began studying music theory with the New Jersey Choral Society's Noelle Dachis when she was eleven. That year, on New Year's Day, her parents asked her what her resolutions were. Her answer: “Learn more music theory.” Within a year, she was happily composing music of her own. She also began arranging music for small ensembles at the homeschool fine arts co-op Faith Center for the Arts and for instrumental duets and the bell choir at the United Methodist Church at Newfoundland. In 2016, Wen Wen entered the Harmonium Choral Composition Contest with a three-minute SATB choir piece.

Wen Wen's experience in music is broad. She sang in her first choir at six and began playing clarinet at nine, violin at ten, bass clarinet at thirteen, and piano at fourteen. Her involvement with NJCS began in 2013 when, as part of the NJHSA Jr. High Chorus directed by Noelle Dachis, she sang in Mass of the Children at Carnegie Hall. She returned to Carnegie Hall the following year with the Children's Chorus of Sussex County (CCSC), singing To Be Certain of the Dawn. She has participated in two international tours with CCSC. Her choir won second place at the International Choral Kathaumixw in British Columbia in 2014. In 2015, they traveled to Syros, Greece to participate in the International Festival of the Aegean. Wen Wen currently sings with both CCSC and the NJCS Festival Youth Chorus. She also plays in a band, an orchestra, and a handbell choir at Faith Center for the Arts and directs the children's choir at the United Methodist Church at Newfoundland. She studies voice and music composition under the direction of Noelle Dachis, piano with Patti Hendrix, and clarinet with Betsy Tavit.