High school welcomes two music directors

With the retirement of Betsey de Groff and Marty Meade, Wilton High School’s music department will welcome two new educators this fall — Fairfield resident Kevin Cotellese and Ridgefield resident Malcolm Karlan.

Cotellese will be the school’s new choir director and Karlan will take over as orchestra director.

Wilton High School Band Director Nick Loafman said he is “very excited” to be working with Cotellese and Karlan and believes they will “do great work with our students.”

“They each care deeply about students, maintain high expectations for program excellence, and have inspiring new ideas,” said Loafman.

“They have very strong educational backgrounds and extensive performance experience, and they will each be a great asset to our music students and our school community.”

Kevin Cotellese

Cotellese said he plans to bring his “energy, enthusiasm and experience” to Wilton High School.

For the last 14 years, Cotellese served as choral activities director at Fairfield Ludlowe High School. He not only conducted several choirs and an a cappella group at the school, but also taught classes in music theory, piano and voice.

“I began [working] there when the [school] opened in 2003,” said Cotellese. “It was an exciting opportunity to build a program from scratch.”

Cotellese also served as concert choir conductor for the Fairfield County Children’s Chorus for 13 years, and has been the director of the Wilton Singers since 2015.

“I have had the wonderful opportunity to direct the Wilton Singers for the last two seasons,” he said. “Through them, I got to know the Wilton community and saw how much they love and support music.”

After seeing how “involved and supportive” the Wilton community is of its schools, Cotellese said, he decided to apply for a job in the district because he thought it could be “a wonderful fit” for him.

Originally from Philadelphia, Cotellese has a bachelor’s degree in music education from West Chester University in West Chester, Pa., and a master of music degree in choral conducting from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Before moving to Connecticut in 2003, Cotellese spent three years working for the Opera Company of Philadelphia at the Academy of Music, where he assisted the chorus master and managed the orchestra. He was also invited to fill in for a sabbatical at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., in 2002.

During his time at Fairfield Ludlowe, Cotellese said, he had the opportunity to build many music programs, as well as relationships with community members that allowed students to “share their talents in events like Relay for Life and at venues like the Fairfield Theater Company.”

“Though leaving a wonderful place I called home for so long in Fairfield is bittersweet,” Cotellese said, “I am very excited and humbled by the opportunity to work for the Wilton community.”

Malcolm Karlan

Karlan has spent the last 10 years as the orchestra director at Middlesex Middle School in Darien.

“During that time, I was also the debate coach and conducted the pit orchestra for the high school musicals the last two years,” said Karlan, who has also been a board member of the Fairfield County String Teachers Association for several years.

Karlan said he applied for the position at Wilton High School “because it offers the exciting opportunity to work with students in grades 6-12.”

“This long-term relationship will allow me to form close bonds with students and oversee a comprehensive and unified orchestra program,” he said.

“My predecessor, Marty Meade, built a vibrant program with a reputation for excellence.  I hope to continue in his footsteps, while also bringing along a few fresh ideas.”

Karlan said “one of the unique aspects” of his music program in Darien was the MMS ROCKestra — “an auditioned string ensemble dedicated to performing modern rock and pop music.”

“The group served as an ambassador and recruiting tool for the orchestra program — bridging the gap between what students listen to at home and what they play at school,” he said.

“I hope to incorporate similar ideas into the music program in Wilton.”

Over the summer, Karlan has been “working closely” with Meade, Loafman and string teachers Darilyn Manring, Ken Hayashi and Emily Franz-Orenstein, who have “all been very welcoming and accommodating in getting me up to speed,” he said.

“I'm looking forward to a great first year in Wilton.”

Karlan has a master’s degree in music education from the Teacher’s College at Columbia University in New York City, as well as bachelor’s degrees in music education and psychology from Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio.