SoHo Notes #7 • Winter 2018

Announcement of our December 18, 2018 Winter Concert


She Hath Wings

Sounds and Spaces

at Merkin Hall, 129 West 67th Street, 8:00-9:15pm.
Tickets can be bought online at:


  • Be Like the Bird
  • Gdye Ti, zvyozdochka?
    (Where are you little Star?)
  • Cedit, Hyems
  • Magnificat
  • O Give Thanks
  • Here On the Branches
  • Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy
    From The Nutcracker Suite
  • I Want to Stare at My Phone With You
  • We are Lights, When You Believe
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Abbie Betinis
  • Modest Mussorgsky
    arr. Jonathan Sokasits
  • Abbie Betinis
  • R. Vaughan Williams
  • Wayland Rogers
  • Sarah Quartel
  • Peter Tchaikovsky
    arr. Jeff Funk
  • Nathan Howe
    new voicing Sophia Papoulis
  • Stephen Schwartz
    arr. Gia Gan
  • Traditional
    arr. Ruth Watson Henderson

Meet Maria Peña

Maria Pena

Maria Peña, Soprano 1, was born in Bogota, Columbia which she, her parents, grandma and 3 brothers left in 2002 when she was 16. Even though her American-born grandma and her father routinely conversed in English, Maria entered her junior year in a Florida high school with scant English of her own. “It took me almost 7 months before I was asking questions. It was a very tough time but my new school did have a music theory class for me, something I had always wanted to take.”

After graduation, she moved back to Bogota for one year to attend its music academy returning to graduate University of North Florida summa cum laude in vocal performance as well as doing a Post-Bacc study in choral conducting. “It was there I met Steve in 2009, and eight years later we married in 2017.” One of her teachers told her she must go to New York City and that she HAD to work at YPC (Young People’s Chorus of New York City). Happily for us she did both in 2012, making her Carnegie Hall conducting debut four years later. “I couldn’t really see the Hall, but I was watching all the children’s faces. You know the Hall really sings with you - all your senses are heightened.”

Maria is now the Principal Conductor of YPC’s Intermezzo division, 135 boys and girls, ages 10-15 and she also oversees two after-school Community Choruses with 150 children, ages 8-14. In their spare time, she and Steve (who is a professional drummer) love to go to Broadway and Comedy shows. She assiduously keeps up with her friends and family both here and in Florida as well as in Bogota, which she visits every two years.

How would you describe your growing up years?

Happy! Lots of family singing around the table. Someone always had a guitar.

What is your life like now? 

Full with connections and extended family.

What would you like your life to become?

I’d like to be able to continue to help, to bring joy to people for a long time.

What is your favorite word? There are three! Love, connections, kindness.

What is your least favorite word? No.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? 

Music and authentic relationships.

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? 

Fake relationships. I am very aware of hypocrisy.

What is your most favorite sound or noise? 

The sound of people singing together — the more the merrier!

What is your least favorite sound or noise? 

People fighting.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

A helper of some kind, maybe a social worker.

What profession would you not like to attempt? 


What achievement are you most proud of?

Little moments that go especially well in difficult concerts, but for now, it is conducting the children 
at Carnegie Hall.

If heaven exists and what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Well Done!

As most of you already know, these two organizations — both with extraordinary conductors with the last name of Núñez! — are somewhat intertwined. A large handful of our SoHo singers have often been, like Maria Peña, either YPC grads or staffers. 

So imagine my delight when reading Jamie Bernstein’s autobiography, Famous Father Girl, that there was a passage that seemed to describe YPC ethos and by extension, that of our women’s choir when talking about Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. Founder Jose Antonio Abreu “saw that a youth orchestra provided far more than safety; it was, in fact, a template for a successful community. This nurturing daily environment was providing these kids with patience, empathy, self-confidence, focus-the crucial inner resources that would help them pursue whatever they wanted to do with their lives later on.” And of course always, always, there is JOY!

Where Are They Now

Emma Brondolo, former SH singer and YPC satellite conductor at Thurnauer, located in Tenafly, New Jersey, and her husband, Patrick Karnik who is, among other things, SoHarmoniums’ audio engineer, have announced the arrival of their first child, Lily May, pictured here. Voice part as yet unknown, but we will wait.


Susie Askinazy

Susie writes that she misses all of her beloved SoHarmoniums terribly, and is so excited to be featured in this edition of the newsletter. She is currently living in Roslyn, NY, and is loving teaching chemistry at North Babylon High School, where she spends her days unpacking the inner workings of the universe with her incredible students. Though she doesn’t find much time to sing herself anymore, music is never far from her heart, as she serves as the faculty advisor for the Tri-M Music Honor Society at her school. In her free time you can find her cooking, baking, painting, volunteering, and traveling — most recently to Paris, Burgundy, and Champagne. 

Megan Malloy Davolos and her husband James are expecting a baby girl around Christmas time.
A priceless gift!


Ashley Hagler Izzo
Nick and I were married August 29, 2015 at a
little inn in Georgia (I’m from there), and it was lovely!! I became pregnant with Denver Luck Izzo who was born on March 10, 2018 and life with him is such a joy! We’re looking forward to his first Thanksgiving and Christmas... his first flight
is Wednesday!

And a little Promo for all of us to consider when shopping...


The holidays are approaching and we’ll all be busy shopping for gifts, decorations, and more.
Here’s a reminder that if you shop at,
Soharmoniums Incorporated can increase its AmazonSmile donations. 

Use the message and link below in email, social media, and on your website to
spread the word to your donors, staff, and volunteers.

Did you know your purchases can make a difference? AmazonSmile donates to Soharmoniums Incorporated when you do your holiday shopping at

Music Cryptology


Music cryptography, the art of messages hidden in music, is a method in which the musical notes
A through G are used to spell out words, abbreviations, or codes, tucked away in what turns into an oddly disjointed little ditty. This secret writing appears as a plot point in some recent TV shows (Outlander, based in Scotland, and mystery novels like the Secret of the White Rose, which features characters who employ music ciphers as undetectable modes of espionage or communication).

Dutch music copyist Pierre Alamire was a spy for the court of Henry VIII of England. And you could even think of the troubadour Blondel as a spy, as he travelled across Europe, singing a song that only he and King Richard (as in LionHeart) knew, until one day from a tower came the second verse and he had located the captive King. This is just a legend — the location of the king was known, but it makes a nice musical spy story. Other unlikely (non-musical) spies: Julia Child, Raold Dahl, Noel Coward and Boy Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell. In the seventeenth century, master painter Peter Paul Rubens whose artistic genius, bolstered by a modest disposition and a reputation as a man of tact and discretion, made him a favorite among monarchs and political leaders across Europe — and gave him the perfect cover for the clandestine activities that shaped the landscape of seventeenth-century politics. Can you find and play your name using this chart? 


All the best everyone. See you at our December 18th concert at Merkin Hall.Cheers,