Jessica Ryan is the Manager of Education and Community Programs at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO). She joined the PSO staff in August 2012 after graduating from the Master of Arts Management Program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. Before pursuing her Master’s degree, Jessica, a violinist, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys running. She recently ran her first marathon and is looking forward to her next race!
Penny Anderson Brill, a member of the PSO viola section since 1980, is perhaps best known for her innovative work with the use of music in health care. In addition to founding, helping to implement, and supporting the PSO Music and Wellness Program, she advises and provides resources, including music and instruments, for orchestras and orchestral musicians wishing to play in medical settings throughout the country. She has given a number of national conference presentations on how to start and fund programs in cities with extremely varied demographics, needs, and music preferences.
The PSO Music and Wellness website includes a handbook Penny helped develop for musicians who wish to play in the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. She has also worked with veterans at the H.J. Heinz Campus of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, refugees at the Whitehall Library, and campers with disabilities at the Woodlands Foundation, as well as cancer survivors and family members touched by cancer at Gilda’s Club.
Penny’s work with Music and Wellness receives a great deal of media attention. She has appeared on national, as well as many local, television programs. In addition to numerous articles in Pittsburgh newspapers and magazines, she has appeared in Health, BBC Music Magazine, the British Medical Association Newsletter, Symphony, The Strad (online), Harmony Magazine, and International Musician.
In May of 2002 Penny won the PSO’s Vince Calloway Customer Service Excellence Award for her work with Music and Wellness. She won the national American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) Advocacy Award in 2003 and Adagio Health’s Tempo Award in recognition of “generous and significant contributions to improve the health and wellbeing of women and families in western Pennsylvania” in 2006. In 2010 Penny won the AMTA Mid-Atlantic Region’s Advocacy Award, and in 2013 she won the PSO’s Paul J. Ross award for excellence in education and community engagement. Penny also serves on the board of UN-affiliated Creative Arts as a Global Resource.
Debbie Benkovitz, LSW, MSW, MT-BC, established the music therapy program at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC (CHP) in 2003, and, in addition to visiting hundreds of patients the past 11 years, she has supervised 45 music and art therapy interns. Debbie attended the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (Bachelor of Music Education), Duquesne University (Music Therapy), and the University of Pittsburgh (Master of Social Work). Debbie was President of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and currently serves on the AMTA Board of Directors as Regional Presidents Representative. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has worked with Debbie for the past 14 years on Music and Wellness endeavors, and they have collaborated to bring music to patients, families, and staff at CHP.
Virginia Dougherty, MT-BC MO TR/L, is a board-certified music therapist with Bachelor’s degrees in music education and music therapy. She holds a Master’s degree in occupational therapy. For 27 years, Virginia has worked at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System in extended psychiatric settings, skilled nursing, long-term care, dementia, hospice, and palliative care units. She also continues to hone her skills in massage therapy and myofascial release.
Kory Antonacci, M.S.Ed., MT-BC, is a board-certified music therapist in the Pittsburgh area. She holds a Master of Science in Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy, both from Duquesne University. Kory currently serves as the Music Program Coordinator at the Woodlands Foundation, an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses. She also serves as the Medical Music Therapist for the palliative care teams at four UPMC hospitals. In her time as a clinician in medical settings, Kory has specialized in working with individuals with chronic and terminal illnesses, physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, and various mental health diagnoses. Kory takes on each day with enthusiasm and excitement, and she feels so very privileged to serve others through music.
Laurie Sadowski, BMus, MA, is a Niagara-based student working toward a masters in Community Music. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Education from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Master of Arts in Musicology from York University. Attending the Arts in Healthcare Intensive at the University of Florida’s Arts in Medicine Program in 2013 led to a dedicated interest in improving wellness through music and the arts. Her research interests are primarily in stress and anxiety reduction for patients, visitors, and staff in hospitals.