Melinda Beasi (Founder/Director) spent the first eighteen years of her life learning about music and theater from her parents, Act Too Studio’s Bob and Jan Klump, after which she studied vocal performance at Carnegie-Mellon University in the studio of Dr. Lee Cass. She has performed at Pittsburgh’s Civic Light Opera, Pittsburgh Opera Theater, the Goodspeed Opera House, the Papermill Playhouse, the Olney Theater Center, and New York’s City Center among many others.
Melinda toured as Sophie in the First National Tour of Terrence McNally’s Master Class starring Faye Dunaway and as Kathy in The Night Kitchen’s Really Rosie, designed and directed by author Maurice Sendak. Other credits include Sweeney Todd with George Hearn and Judy Kaye, Strike Up the Band with Emily Loesser, Jason Danieley, and Kristin Chenoweth, and One Touch of Venus with Melissa Errico, David Alan Grier, and Jane Krakowski. In 2002, Melinda released an album of her original songs, Dorrie’s True Story. She has also appeared on albums by singer-songwriter Meghan Cary and rocker Tommy Grasso, and was an original member of alternative rock band The Steve Friday Band. Melinda’s experience also extends to casting, most recently for local children’s touring theater company FoodPlay Productions, where she was Managing Director from 2007-2014. In the summer of 2014, Melinda directed Act Too Studio’s first formal production, Goblin Market. She is also the founder of Act Too Studio’s teen Opera Workshop, for which she has directed Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium, the workshop’s own adaptation of the works of Claudio Monteverdi, Il sogno d’Arianna, and 2017’s whacky Mozart adaptation Cosi fan “tutti”. Melinda is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
Lemuel Gurtowsky (musical director) is a collaborative pianist and piano teacher residing in Hadley, MA. Prior to moving to the Pioneer Valley, Lemuel was music director/organist at The Church of Christ, Congregational in Stoney Creek, CT as well as St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bristol, CT. Lemuel has also toured extensively as a composer and songwriter, recently performing at the The Music Hall of Williamsburg (NYC), Reading and Leeds Festivals (UK), and SXSW (Austin, TX). His songs have also appeared on NBC’s Parenthood and MTV’s Fantasy Factory. Lemuel recently received his master’s degree in collaborative piano from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he studied under Nadine Shank. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in music theory and piano from The Hartt School in West Hartford, CT. Lemuel has provided musical direction for Act Too Studio’s productions of Goblin Market, The Medium, Il sogno d’Arianna, and Così fan “tutti”.
Connie Flachs (choreographer) is a professional ballet dancer. She began her ballet training at the age of thirteen after an injury forced her to take a break from competitive gymnastics. The bulk of her training occurred at the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet under her parents Rose Marie Wurzer and Charles Flachs. Connie received an honorable mention in the 2010 Young Arts competition, won the Grand Prix Award at the 2011 regional Youth American Grand Prix competition, and was chosen to perform in the last round of the New York City finals. She performed on live television for the 2012 ArtPrize Finale. She has returned to perform as a guest artist with the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet and the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet and has also danced in Seattle and St. Louis. Her participation in high school musicals, theater, community choirs, and voice training has helped her develop a passion for all performing arts. She has choreographed Act Too Studio’s productions of Goblin Market, The Medium, and Il sogno d’Arianna.
James David Jacobs (dramaturg/early music specialist) A couple of years ago James David Jacobs suggested to his friend Melinda Beasi (whom he met in 1995 when they were on tour together performing Really Rosie directed by its author Maurice Sendak) that Act Too should try doing Monteverdi. This resulted in the workshop’s beautiful production of Il sogno d’Arianna, for which James served as editor, arranger, dramaturge, and cellist.
Since then, James has taught cello at the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music and Art House Astoria, hosted a weekly classical music program on WETA in Washington, DC, written an article about music for Thanksgiving for the Washington Post, delivered a lecture called “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Raineth Every Day—Shakespeare, Dylan, Guthrie and the Apocalyptic Bardic Tradition” as the keynote speaker for Montgomery College’s Shakespeare Festival, designed the sound for a dance/theater piece produced at Cornell University called When I Heard My Child’s Cry in Babel’s Rubble, written an article called “The Jewish Roots of Opera” for Moment Magazine, helped edit three books that will be published in the next few months (a memoir, an introduction to opera, and a commemorative book about Elie Wiesel), and served as a guest conductor for the Kindler Cello Society.
His more ancient credits include performing at the Oregon and California Shakespeare Festivals and New York’s Melting Pot Theater, composing scores for HBO, PBS and the Living Theatre, appearing on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, APM’s Prairie Home Companion, and BBC Radio 4’s Soul Music, hosting the morning show on WNYE and the overnight show on WNYC, five years as a full-time host and producer for WGBH in Boston, and eight years teaching at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.
Shayne Lebron-Acevedo (Cello/Orchestra Coach) was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and is a NYC-based cellist and teaching artist. After partnering with the Department of Education for his Carnegie Hall Solo Debut in 2016, he has gone on to become a teaching artist at various public schools throughout the five boroughs. He is currently the cello teacher and co-conductor of the orchestras at P.S. 160 in Brooklyn, where he has taught for the past two years. He began playing the cello at age 14 under the tutelage of Mr. James David Jacobs. It is with Mr. Jacobs that Shayne developed a strong interest in Baroque music, and had his first lessons in teaching.
Lessons with Mr. Jacobs were more akin to joining a dedicated music camp for the entire day, where there was food, desserts, instrument lessons, theory, chamber music, and sight reading. This was part of a musical tradition passed down to him from none other than the legendary Mildred Rosner, whose philosophy could be reduced to a single quote, “My performance is teaching. My product is my student.” This would lead to some problems later on, as the typical modern music lesson ends at 59 minutes and 59 seconds, and the student is subsequently unceremoniously ushered out of the room as the next anxious student rushes in to begin a lesson for which he is now late.
Despite struggling as an outsider against an insular music community, Shayne went on to earn a Bachelor of Music from CUNY Brooklyn (2012) where he studied with Dr. Frederick Zlotkin. He was then awarded a Graduate Assistantship for his Master of Music at Ball State University (2015) in Muncie, Indiana, where he studied with Dr. Peter Opie. Part of his assistantship duties were to perform with the Muncie Symphony Orchestra, Ball State Symphony Orchestra, and Graduate Conducting Seminar, as well as give individual cello lessons and group coaching sessions to undergraduate music students. After graduating, Shayne revisited some of his earlier lessons with Mr. Jacobs, and decided to renew his focus on teaching and ensuring that students would get to experience this older and more inclusive style of music education–one filled with students’ interests, a reverence for musical character building, and a respect for one’s musical lineage.
Although teaching appears to be Shayne’s primary focus, he also maintains a performance schedule with two ensembles of varying style. One ensemble is a group named Spellbound Strings which focuses on anime and video game music performances and has performed as guest artists at several university conventions throughout the U.S., and the other is a competition-winning electronic music group named Yut and the Hot Four, of which Shayne is a founder and serves as Cellist, DJ, Rapper, and Composer/Arranger. He also freelances with several orchestras in NYC, such as the Asian Cultural Symphony Orchestra, and the Manhattan Symphonie.
Wallie Evyon Lewis (Viola/Orchestra Coach) was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. She started playing violin in the 6th grade (2006) and went on to start viola the next year. Wallie started a young musicians’ program called IMA/Indianapolis Music Academy and studied under Laura Wooten-Khan for three and a half years. After her teacher moved to Washington D.C., Wallie joined three orchestra programs, which included the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, New World Youth Orchestra, and North Central Symphony. Her new teacher, Sheldon Peyson, encouraged her to audition to play side by side with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Her audition was successful her freshman, junior, and senior year (when she also placed first chair).
By her sophomore year, she earned the Dick Dennis Scholarship, which granted free lessons to students. By senior year, with a new teacher, Terry Langdon, Wallie won the North Central Symphony Concerto Competition, placing first with other awards including the Avion Award and Most Outstanding Sophomore and Junior.
Wallie went on to graduate from Ball State University, where she studied with Katrin Meidell for her Bachelors Degree in viola performance. Wallie has played in the pit orchestras of many stage musicals, including Shrek, Parade, Beauty and the Beast, Hairspray, and Into the Woods. Other credits include freelance gigs with the Kokomo Symphony, Marion Philharmonic, and Asian Cultural Symphony. Wallie is 23 years old and plans to pursue her Masters in music as well.
Jeff Lord (fight choreographer) has been practicing and teaching various martial arts disciplines for over 30 years. His experience includes over 20 years as a Head Fencing Coach at Amherst, Hampshire, and Smith Colleges. He has provided instruction in stage combat at numerous theaters and schools throughout New England, and has been a certified member of the Society of American Fight Directors.
Jeff spent two years in Japan studying Japanese sword arts, and there earned the shodan (first degree) rank in both Kendo and Iaido. He has taught Meyer’s German longsword technique at the Higgins Armory museum in Worcester, MA, and was a co-founder of the museum’s Sword Guild. He also holds a master’s degree in Medieval History from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is an Associate Curator at the Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies.
Jeff has been a member of the Association for Renaissance and Medieval Swordsmanship at UMASS since its founding in 2001. In his capacity as Director of Interpretive Studies, he has overseen both the physical and academic aspects of the Association’s work.