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The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra
The Struggle To Forgive: Confronting Gun Violence in America

Music and Libretto by Gary S. Fagin

Featuring Soloists Mikaela Bennett, Sarah Hetzel, Jorell Williams 


Tackling the impact of gun violence in the United States, The Struggle To Forgive: Confronting Gun Violence in America is a new musical dramatic work that hauntingly gives voice to the victims of gun violence. The libretto is based on audio, video and written accounts of those living with the aftermath of gun violence or the loss of a loved one. 

A post-show discussion is held following the performance with Gary S. Fagin, Jorrell Williams, and Pace University student Sasha Winslow, BSN, RN.  Moderated by Dr. Emily Welty, Director of Peace and Justice Studies.


The evening also includes the following works: 

“The Unanswered Question” – Charles Ives

“Prayer for Mary” – Gary S. Fagin – Dedicated to the memory of a Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra violinist who lost her life to gun violence. 



Photo: Kevin Yatarola

About the Artists

Gary S. Fagin, Composer

Gary S. Fagin has conducted, composed, orchestrated and arranged music for symphony orchestras across the country, as well as for ballet, Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, public radio, regional and repertory theaters, opera companies, universities, and conservatory and youth orchestras. He is Founder and Music Director of New York City’s Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra; Music Director of the Bucks County Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania; and conducts the New Jersey Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. He served as Musical Director and Conductor for seven years at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven and for three seasons at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge. Mr. Fagin was the first person to receive a Doctorate Degree in Conducting from Yale University. He studied composition with George Crumb and George Rochberg at The University of Pennsylvania; participated in Conducting Master Classes with Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa at Tanglewood; conducted the American premieres of two of Frank Zappa’s orchestral compositions; and arranged music for four years for Garrison Keillor and The Prairie Home Companion. Mr. Fagin is Founder and Director of The New York Conducting Studio. The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra annually presents world premieres of his major compositions.


Mikaela Bennett, Soprano

A recent graduate of The Juilliard School, Mikaela Bennett made her professional stage debut starring as Penelope in The Golden Apple with City Center Encores! Mikaela made her solo debut with the New York Philharmonic singing excerpts from West Side Story for their Young Peoples Concert series, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and also made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin in a concert version of West Side Story. Ms Bennett performed as a featured soloist in a concert celebration of Bernstein’s centennial at the Kennedy Center called Bernstein on Broadway, directed by Kathleen Marshall and conducted by Rob Fisher. She has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony and New World Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, for the world premiere of his work, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind. At the Prototype Festival this season, Ms Bennett originated the title role of Acquanetta in a new Opera composed by Michael Gordon and directed by Daniel Fish. Mikaela has appeared in New York City’s prestigious cabaret venues including solo concerts at Feinstein’s 54 below and has appeared with MasterVoices conducted by Ted Sperling.  Mikaela is a native of Ottawa, Canada.


Sarah Heltzel, Mezzo-soprano

“Vocally striking and visually appealing” (New York Times), Sarah Heltzel  “sets the stage ablaze with her vocal and dramatic pyrotechnics” (Houston Chronicle) in roles such as Eboli in Don Carlo and Maddalena in Rigoletto (Wichita Grand Opera), Siegrune in Die Walküre (Seattle Opera), Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana (String Orchestra of Brooklyn), Azucena in Il Trovatore (Opera in the Heights), der Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos (Winter Opera St Louis), Jo in Little Women, Musetta in La Boheme and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Opera on the James), and Suzuki in Madama Butterfly (Indianapolis, Amarillo, Syracuse, Nevada Opera & Opera on the James). Recently, Heltzel joined New York City Opera for Angels in America, Seattle Opera for Flora in La Traviata and for Wagner’s Ring cycle, Tacoma Opera and Skagit Opera for Carmen, Opera in the Heights for Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Syracuse Opera and the Phoenicia Festival for Desirée and Charlotte in A Little Night Music, and Minnesota Concert Opera for Fricka in the Mini-Ring. Concert works include Verdi’s Requiem (Wichita Symphony, Symphony Syracuse, Back Bay Chorale, Carnegie Hall), Handel’s Messiah and Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass (Seattle Symphony), Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder (Gordon College Symphony Orchestra), and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (Boston Chamber Music Society). Upcoming roles include Carmen for Wichita Grand Opera, Saleswoman in Brokeback Mountain for New York City Opera, and Desirée in A Little Night Music for Opera Roanoke. (Photo: Tricia Leines Pine).


Jorell Williams, Baritone

Jorell Williams is an American operatic baritone with a wide variety of experience from standard repertoire to premiere pieces. In the 2017-2018 season, Mr. Williams returns to the Caramoor International Music Festival as Nardo in a remount of On-Site Opera’s production of Mozart’s La finta giardiniera, Dr. Falke in Finger Lakes Opera’s production of Die Fledermaus, the New York Premiere of Matt Aucoin’s Crossing at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, and will make his role and company debut as Le Genie Oroès in the American premiere of Rameau’s Sympathie (or Acante et Céphise) with Victory Hall Opera. Having completed his residency in the American Opera Projects Composers and the Voice Series from 2011 – 2014, Jorell is a much in demand interpreter of contemporary opera, and has created roles in several world premieres, notably,  Hilliard and Boresi’s Blue Viola with Urban Arias, Matt Aucoin’s Crossing with the American Repertory Theater, Anthony Davis’ Lear on the Second Floor at the University of San Diego, John Musto’s Bastianello with Rochester Lyric Opera, and workshops of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys and Michael Torke’s Senna with the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Festival. Jorell is a recipient of the 2016 Marc and Eva Stern Fellowship at Songfest, and garners top awards from the Gerda Lissner International Competition, Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges, Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, The American Prize, Serge Koussevitzky Foundation, David Adams Art Song Competition, The American Traditions Competition, Civic Morning Musicals Foundation, Harlem Opera Theater, the National Association of Negro Musicians, the Liberace Foundation, and was a finalist in the NAACP Act-So Competition in the Actor’s Division.


Dr. Emily Welty, Director of Peace and Justice Studies at Pace University (Moderator)

Dr. Emily Welty is an academic, ecumenist and artist living and working in New York City. She is the Director of Peace and Justice Studies at Pace University where she teaches classes focusing on nonviolence, humanitarianism and reconciliation and transitional justice. Her research focuses on the religious dimensions of peacebuilding with an emphasis on humanitarianism and nuclear disarmament as well as nonviolent social movements. She is the Vice Moderator of the World Council of Churches Commission on International Affairs and is the chair of the Nuclear Disarmament Working Group. Emily is part of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) where she works on faith-based engagement in nuclear disarmament. She is the co-author of Unity in Diversity: interfaith dialogue in the Middle East and Occupying Political Science. Emily is also a playwright and has worked with The Civilians, the Acting Studio at Chelsea Rep and the Einhorn School of Performing Arts.


Sasha Winslow, BSN, RN (Panelist)

“Be present in the moment.”—The American Holistic Nursing Association

Sasha Winslow, BSN, RN., is a native New Yorker, hailing from Spanish Harlem and now resides in The Bronx. She obtained her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from The College of New Rochelle and became a Professional Registered Nurse in New York State in 2011. Currently, she works on a maternity postpartum unit at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.  She attends Pace University College of Health Professions working towards her graduate degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

Mrs. Winslow is passionate about women’s health, family health, and health policy. As a feminist, she is committed to supporting policies and initiatives that promote women’s equality and reproductive justice, policies that provide access to healthcare, housing, jobs and parental leave. She is alarmed at the rates of maternal mortality and morbidity among African- American women and is working with others to improve the maternal health outcomes. She excels in supporting mother’s and families’ transition to parenthood and advocating for families in crisis. As a mother, putting new parents at ease comes naturally. Sasha knows being authentic in healthcare makes a world of difference.  During her free time, Winslow is a blogger, an avid reader of fantasy novels, and enjoys spending time with her family& friends.



Box Office Information

Address: 3 Spruce Street, New York


Closed except for day of performance. For tickets via phone, call Ovation Tix at 866-811-4111

Schimmel Center Seating ChartClick here

Explore, Watch, Read & Listen

9 Questions with Gary Fagin, Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra