GMYS is very fortunate to have a dedicated staff - artistic and administrative - who all work with GMYS in addition to their individual professional careers outside of our programs.

Robert Blais

GMYS Artistic Director

Conductor, Concert and Senior Orchestras

Robert (aka Bob) embarked on his current conducting path after a successful freelance career as a concert cellist in New York City and Boston, where he soloed with numerous orchestras and performed in chamber groups and orchestras such as the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony. Upon arriving in Montpelier in 2001, he founded GMYS. Under Blais’ leadership, the Green Mountain Youth Symphony has performed at the Vermont Statehouse for Farmer's Night and the Independence Day Celebration, for the Paine Mountain Arts Council, at First Night celebrations in Montpelier and St. Johnsbury, in joint concerts with the Vermont Philharmonic, at the Barre Opera House in Vermont and the Lebanon Opera House in New Hampshire, and they represented the United States in the Eurochestries Festival in Quebec City, where he and GMYS’ musicians joined five other young ensembles from Europe and Asia.


In addition to his conducting work with GMYS, Bob has conducted for the Monteverdi Music Camp, the Vermont-based School for Strings Camp, the Montpelier Capitol Orchestra, the Vermont Philharmonic, and the cello ensemble Blazin' Cellos. He has conducted at All State and District music festivals throughout northern New England and in New York. He receives rave reviews for his educational outreach concerts from seasoned performers, teachers, and students alike.


As a cello and bass teacher, Bob has served on the faculty of the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, NY, the Hollis Woods Music School in Queens, NY, the Chamber Music Institute at the University of New Hampshire, and the Westford Suzuki School in Westford, MA. He has been interviewed for National Public Radio's 50 Great Teachers series, and his students have been very successful in a wide variety of performing situations. His young students have been members of the Greater Boston, Northeast, Green Mountain, and Vermont Youth Orchestras, have won auditions to participate in New Hampshire and Vermont All-State Festivals and All New England Orchestras, and have received top ratings in the New York State Music Association Competition. Mr. Blais' adult students have become members of the Vermont and New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestras, the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra, and other professional orchestras. Robert has had students featured as soloists with regional orchestras and at Lincoln Center, and they participate in national and international festivals.

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Paul Perley

Conductor, Repertory Orchestra

Paul Perley, conductor, cellist, composer, teacher, and luthier, began his musical education at age eight. His teachers have included, among others, Elizabeth Endress, Albert Bellson (brother of Louis Bellson) and Helene Gagne. Locally he has performed with the Vermont Philharmonic, the Bartholdy Ensemble, the Gabriel Piano Trio, the cello duo Soavita (with his wife Melissa), and is a founding member of the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra.


As a composer Paul has written music for theater productions, chamber music ensembles, and string orchestras. His works have been performed by several youth orchestras in New England, the Eleva Chamber Players, The Five Corners String Quintet, and the Dillon, Perley, Odinokikh trio.


In 1999, Paul created the Green Mountain Waldorf Orchestra, several members of which are pursuing professional music careers. He conducted the orchestra until the closing of the school. From 2011-2014, Paul and his wife created, conducted, and arranged music for, an orchestra consisting of three cello sections, and a violin and bass section. Since 2002 he has conducted the GMYS Repertory Orchestra. Paul and Melissa own and operate Paul Perley Cellos on Berlin Pond.


Leah Wilhjelm

GMYS Executive Director

Leah Wilhjelm joined the GMYS staff in 2011, after serving on our Board for several years while her daughter was in the Senior Orchestra. She has spent most of her career working and volunteering in the non-profit arena including social services and community development organizations, and holds a Masters in Public Administration. Leah has been an active member of the musical community everywhere she's lived, playing flute and piccolo in community wind ensembles and in pit orchestras for schools and community theaters. When she's not working or making music, Leah is most likely reading, knitting, or solving a puzzle.


GMYS is also relies on many others others who work with our staff to ensure the ongoing success of our programs including:

  • a volunteer Board;

  • parent volunteers at concerts and other events;

  • community musicians who serve as mentors and round out certain sections in the orchestras; and

  • local, professional musicians who join us as coaches and instructors during the Creative Arts & Music Program (CAMP) each summer or as sectional coaches for the orchestras during the concert season.