Monmouth Conservatory, The Basie Start Season on High Note

October 3, 2018
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Violinist Laura Petillo will be performing with her father, classical guitarist Patrick Appello, at Monmouth Conservatory of Music Oct. 13. Courtesy Count Basie Theater

By Mary Ann Bourbeau |

RED BANK – The Monmouth Conservatory of Music (MCM) is kicking off its 2018-19 season with father and daughter faculty members performing Italian works of the 19th century.

On Saturday, Oct. 13 at 2 p.m., violinist Laura Petillo and classical guitarist Patrick Appello will perform solo and collaborative works by Niccolo Paganini and Filippo Gragnani.

On Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m., the conservatory presents a world premiere of “The Music of Andrew Kosinski,” featuring his solo piano works, string quartet and a sonata for violin and piano. Kosinski is an MCM alumnus who is currently a faculty member. Both of these programs are presented free of charge.

“We want to start the concert season with something exciting and interesting, and provide exposure to people in the community who really value classical music,” said Petillo. “These concerts are also for our students. Listening to music is a big part of the learning process.”

Petillo was raised in a musical family in Loch Arbour. Her father was a member of the music faculty at Georgian Court University for 10 years and was the original solo classical guitarist for the famed Cellar in the Sky restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Other family members included a concert pianist and a classical violinist.

“My father was one of my first music teachers,” she said. “It was fun. We used to play for friends and relatives on the porch or in the living room. We also did a lot of his faculty concerts together. Playing with him again has opened quite a few doors.”

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While a student at MCM, Petillo studied extensively with violinist Irina Kovalsky, who for nearly 20 years headed MCM with her husband Vladislav, a world-class concert pianist and music educator.

“Irina taught me how to play and interpret music,” said Petillo, whose husband David is luthier/engineer at Petillo Masterpiece Guitars in Ocean. “She taught me to go the distance. She was my Jedi master.”

In 2004, Petillo performed the original works of John Phillip Sousa with the New Jersey State Youth Orchestra and TCNJ Band while touring Germany, Czech Republic and Hungary. She also performed at the Boston Early Music Festival and with the New York Continuo Collective. These days, when she’s not teaching her preschool class in Asbury Park, she is giving private violin lessons, overseeing ensembles and rehearsing for concerts.

Andrew Kosinski, of Wall Township, studied piano at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts and also with Vladislav Kovalsky for many years. Kosinski has made the transition from student to faculty member at MCM. He has performed solo recitals of music by Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, as well as his own music.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play solo piano music and perform with symphony orchestras and pit orchestras,” he said. “But this is a really phenomenal opportunity, as a faculty member, to show my students how I’ve grown. It’s wonderful to come full circle.”

The Kovalskys retired in 2017 and the nonprofit music school was gifted to the Count Basie Center for the Arts to be operated by the organization’s education department. MCM and the Basie have similar missions: to make music accessible to students and community residents of all ages and financial means through scholarship, outreach programs and free public concerts.

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“The partnership with the Basie is very powerful,” said Petillo. “There are so many possibilities. We want to be a beacon of classical music in Monmouth County and the Basie will help us do that. It’s a daunting task but an exciting new adventure. Our relationship is like the movie “Casablanca.” It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

The Monmouth Conservatory of Music is located at 50 White St. in Red Bank. For more information, call 732-741-8880 or visit

Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at





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