Our History

The New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra was born in 1994.

Developed over a pot of coffee from an idea written on the back of a napkin, it has grown into one of New Jersey’s shining stars. With 3 orchestras and over 100 volunteer musicians from various New Jersey communities, the NJIO has successfully bridged the generations through music. Our members have ranged in age from 5 to 93 years old.

Since its founding, NJIO has consciously nurtured the belief that senior citizens can share their wisdom and become vital resources for children. By bringing youth and senior citizens together, it has promoted mutual growth and fostered understanding between generations. The genuine camaraderie prevalent at all its rehearsals and concerts emanates from the perfect union of the eagerness to learn and the ability to teach, as the young and the young at heart share music stands and experiences throughout the season. 

NJIO was founded in 1994 by Lorraine Marks, a string specialist in the Cranford Public Schools, who was looking for a new way to provide performance opportunities for her students. 

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At the same time, Ms. Marks was coping with the death of her mother and discovered that cello lessons helped her father deal with his grief. Ms. Marks placed advertisements in several community newspapers announcing an opportunity for musicians of all ages to come and play together. Over 60 people of all ages showed up for the first rehearsal.  NJIO’s founder was succeeded by Karen Pinoci in 2003 and then in 2004 Todd van Beveren took over. In January 2008, Joe Gluck succeeded Mr. Van Beveren and June 2013, Warren Cohen became the current Artistic Director and Conductor. Each of these individuals, all of whom are accomplished musicians and educators, made a positive impact on the organization and helped NJIO grow into a larger and more artistically accomplished musical group while holding fast to the ideals of an intergenerational experience.

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NJIO has had a wonderful history of performances. In addition to the regular community concerts, NJIO has performed at the United Nations, the Capital Building in Washington D.C., the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, NJ, the Turtle Back Zoo for the New Jersey Zoological Society, the YM/WHA of Union, NJ, the City of Summit’s Fourth of July Celebration, Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit, and in the Plaza Fountain Concert Series of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Special events have included a gala benefit concert at Kean University’s Wilkins Theatre, featuring internationally recognized composer, musician and musical satirist Peter Schickele and the music of P.D.Q. Bach, and a trip to Spain for an appearance and workshop at the International Day of Older Persons. In 2009 NJIO celebrated its 15th anniversary with a concert at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway featuring cello soloists Andre Emelianoff and Hyewon Kim. 

The orchestra traveled to Washington D.C. to perform to a standing-room only audience on the Millenium Stage of the Kennedy Center in 2013, followed shortly after by a visit from Michael and Jane Eisner in New Jersey, which resulted in being named one of the five nationwide finalists for the Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence. 

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NJIO is featured in the documentary “The Open Road: America Looks at Aging,” which aired in 2005 on public television stations across the U.S. NJIO has been recognized as a model intergenerational program at the Creativity Matters conference sponsored by The National Center for Creative Aging and was consulted for the publication “Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit”. NJIO is also featured in the “ArtsPlan NJ”, co-sponsored by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA), ArtPRIDE Foundation and New Jersey Network Foundation (NJN).

NJIO has a long history of working with prominent New Jersey musicians and has featured such artists as the renowned jazz violinist John Blake; oboe virtuoso Oscar Petty; saxophonist, composer and pianist Mario Lombardo; the Latin Jazz Connection with Vincent Calabrese; soprano Angela Intili; New Jersey Symphony Orchestra violinist Joseph Gluck; pianist Rio Clemente and his Jazz Trio; violinist Jim Gaskill; harpsichordist Paul Somers; the Rahway Valley Jersey-Aires Barbershop Quartet; harmonica virtuoso Robert Paparozzi; Reggie Workman, renowned jazz bass man from the John Coltrane Quartet; Kamron Saniee, violin prodigy; opera singer Jamie Baer Peterson, cello soloist Cynthia Longley, guitarist Anton Del Forno, composer and jazz keyboard artist Joe Kurasz and pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti.

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NJIO has presented special programs with Tony-Award nominated tenor Willy Falk, accompanied by Constantine Kitsopolous of the Chatham Opera and performed the concert of Les Miserable in a cooperative venture with  Hillsborough High School. NJIO has also presents educational programs for its members and the general public. These have included a presentation by Kerry Keane, musical instrument specialist from Christie’s Auction House in New York featuring the “Hammer” Stradivarius violin, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra principal bassoonist Robert Wagner, New Jersey luthier Richard Gagliardi, and New Jersey native Tracy Jacobson with the revolutionary wind quintet, WindSync,  among others.

Lincoln Center, New York City