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GMYS | Our team


Robert Blais

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 teacher of all violin-family instruments, 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.


Sean Brekke

Sean Brekke is thrilled to join the Green Mountain Youth Symphony as Executive Director.  Sean received his bachelor's degree in music performance on viola from the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College in 2016. Shortly after graduating, Sean took on an administrative position as assistant to the artistic director of The Chamber Music Center of New York (CMC). There he learned the ins and outs of running a successful non-profit music program in New York City. During his time at CMC, Sean helped oversee multiple international musical exchange trips, student performances at Carnegie Hall, and in 2020 created a collaborative concert video with the swiss youth orchestra il mosaico.  In 2021, Sean accepted the position of music teacher at the Orchard Valley Waldorf School in East Montpelier. Sean is thrilled to bring his skills in administration, education, and the arts to central Vermont.


In his spare time,  Sean enjoys hiking with his dog, Maple, cooking at home, and playing board games with friends (Catan and Carcassonne are two favorites).


Melissa Perley

Cellist Melissa Perley actively performs chamber music professionally throughout northern New England: classically with string trio, string quartet + vocal quartet, piano trio, and string quintet, but more commonly as a soloist with pianist Vladimir Odinokikh, a graduate of, and former teacher at the Moscow Conservatory in Russia. She has ventured into other genres, with a Gypsy/Romani band and with noted jazz wind & uke player and composer Tom Frink. As a teacher, her studio has included students of all levels, including conservatory graduates, and she is currently head adjudicator for the Vermont All-State Music Festival low strings. Melissa is also the author of the children’s book The Violin Family, which won a prestigious national award in 2021, and the author of an award-winning blog on cello playing and teaching.


Paul Perley

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.


Taija Warbelow

Taija Warbelow began studying violin, viola, and chamber music in Fairbanks, Alaska under the guidance of Dr. Gail Johansen and Dr. Kathleen Butler-Hopkins. Growing up, Taija spent summers at the Encore School for Strings studying with Robert Vernon, Jeffrey Irvine, and Mark Jacobs.

She eventually went on to study with Toby Appel at the Juilliard Pre-College, and Jodi Levitz at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Her chamber music education includes intensive workshops with Brentano String Quartet, Emerson String Quartet, St. Lawrence String Quartet, and Kronos Quartet.

In her final year at SFCM, Taija auditioned for and won a place in the Friction Quartet. In her 5 years with Friction, they performed twice at Carnegie Hall, worked with numerous composers including Andy Akiho and Nicole Lizée, performed and recorded internationally, and developed an educational curriculum with the San Francisco Symphony that was presented in all San Francisco School District elementary schools.​
After leaving Friction Quartet, Taija obtained a certificate in Backend Computer Programing and performed as fiddler in the acclaimed Broadway show “Come From Away” both in NYC and on the First National Tour.

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