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.

WenWen2018Wen Wen Van Der Wende, Composition Scholar in Residence
Wen Wen Van Der Wende is a sixteen-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. Over the years, she grew as a composer, and in 2018, she won third place in the Harmonium Choral Composition Contest, open to all NJ high school students, with her SATB piece, My River Runs to Thee, based on a poem by Emily Dickinson. Wen Wen will receive a $100 prize, along with recognition at the Harmonium Choral Society's concerts in June.

Wen Wen's work has been performed in concert numerous times. Initially, she arranged music for ensembles at the United Methodist Church at Newfoundland and at the homeschool co-op Faith Center for the Arts. Her first original composition to be publicly performed, Daughter of Eve, was part of the end-of-the-year concert of the Children's Chorus of Sussex County in June 2017. This SSAA composition is based on a poem by Christina Rossetti. The following summer, she adapted this piece to be sung by a quartet at the student recital of the University of Southern Maine Choral Music and Opera Workshop Academy. In May 2018, the NJCS Festival Youth Chorus sang Wen Wen's arrangement of the popular Chinese lullaby Northeastern Cradle Song at its first solo concert, Global Rhythms.