Artistic Staff

Julien Benichou, Artistic Director and Conductor

Hailed as “one of the most interesting and accomplished conductors of his generation,” Julien Benichou is noted for his blend of flexibility and control, inspiring musicality and incredibly infectious energy. Benichou currently serves as Music Director for the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO), and was recently appointed Principal Conductor of the Washington Opera Society. He is also the Music Director of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra (CYSO) and the Southern Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra (SMYOC).

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Alicia Sampson, Conductor of the Preparatory String Orchestra

Alicia Sampson, violinist, comes to SMYOC with a strong background in performance and instruction and a particularly interesting personal history tied up in youth orchestras. A Maryland native, she grew up playing with the Montgomery County Youth Orchestra (now the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra affiliated with Strathmore Music Center), which she credits with guiding her toward a professional career in music.

More recently, she founded and directed a youth orchestra program in Calvert County through the Garrett Music Academy. She studied violin performance on full scholarship at Towson University under Zoltan Szabo and pursued further instruction at Catholic University with Jody Gatwood. She was the strings teacher at the Calverton School from 2008-2013, and has served as a Calvert County solo and ensemble adjudicator.

As a private instructor, she runs a large and thriving strings studio out of her home in Lusby, where she’s also busy raising three children.


Liesl Schiavone, Conductor of Prince Frederick Choirs (Fermata and Allegro)

Raised in north-central Pennsylvania, Liesl Schiavone moved to Calvert County in 2010 after receiving her Bachelor of Music from Grove City College and subsequently accepting the position Director of Choral Activities at Patuxent High School in Lusby, MD. While at Patuxent High School, she increased enrollment in the choral program by more than 100%, created and directed the Patuxent High School Glee Club, took an active role in the school’s Musical and Theatrical productions and qualified for two State Festivals with her Chamber Choir.

After the birth of her first daughter in 2013, she decided to leave the classroom to stay home and focus her musical instruction within the community. In addition to directing SMYOC choral groups, she keeps busy as a featured soloist, private lesson instructor, and Music and Drama Tutor for Anchor Christian Collaborative. She also serves as the director of Music Ministry at St Anthony Catholic Church in North Beach.

Liesl and her husband, Matthew, reside in Chesapeake Beach with their four young children, Cecilia, Oliver, Penelope, and Teddy.

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Simon Charette, Conductor of Solomons Choirs (Capella and TrebleMakers) and Assistant Orchestra Conductor

Simon recently served as assistant conductor, chorus master and pianist for the Washington Opera Society's productions of Verdi's Aida, presented at the Egyptian Embassy, Bizet’s Carmen, presented at the Embassy of France in Washington, DC and Kalman’s The Gypsy Princess presented at the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Washington, DC.

He also conducts the Rochambeau Choir and the Choir of the Embassy of France in Washington and is active as a pianist and vocal coach. Simon teaches music at Rochambeau, the French International School in Bethesda, MD.

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Ayrin Torgesen, Piano Accompanist; Rehearsal Conductor