Our Conductors

chris-sumner-14Dr. Christopher Sumner has joined the RVSB in 2014 as the Artistic Director and conductor of the band.

Dr. Sumner made his inaugural debut as Artistic Director and Conductor in June 2014, at the annual RVSB Pops concert ”Let Freedom Ring”. For 14 years, he has been the Instrumental Music Director at Piscataway High School in Piscataway, New Jersey. Prior to that appointment, he taught at Rutgers University, Seton Hall University and Union County College. He received his Master of Music from Mannes College of Music and his Doctor of Musical Arts from Rutgers University.

“Doc”, as he is affectionately known in school, is also an active professional musician—as a conductor and performer. In addition to his tenure at Piscataway H.S. as director of the Wind Ensemble and Orchestra, he has also been a guest conductor for the New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra, and Rutgers University Wind Ensemble, as well as assisting Maestro Mariusz Smojli with the Riverside Symphonia. He has conducted and played in dozens of musicals and is currently the reed substitute for the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse. Dr. Sumner is also the associate principal clarinetist of the Riverside Symphonia for which he is also the personnel manager and contractor. He has also performed with numerous other orchestras, concert bands and jazz bands across the country, including the Allentown Symphony, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, and Aspen Jazz Ensemble, as well as with Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville on their East Coast Tour in 2004.

Dr. Sumner has recorded on the Mark and Capstone record labels and has also been published by Grand Mesa Music Publishers for his string orchestra arrangement of “Flow  My Tears” by John Dowland. In 2005, he was awarded the “William D. Revelli Award” for Best Overall Concert Band in a competition with the Piscataway High School Wind Ensemble. His conducting teachers have included Dr. William Berz of Rutgers University (and past conductor of the RVSB) and Mr. Peter Rubardt, artistic director of the Pensacola Symphony.

Dr. Sumner’s most recent accomplishments include being accepted into the Julliard School Summer Conductor’s Symposium, and being nominated as a semi-finalist for the “GRAMMY Signature Schools Award” 2014, sponsored by the Grammy Foundation.

With so many musical experiences under his belt, the RVSB is excited to have Dr. Sumner as the newly appointed conductor and look forward to cultivating new ways to expand its membership, audience and performances. Since its founding, the band has provided musicians an opportunity to make music throughout their adult life. With approximately 100 members drawn from central New Jersey and the surrounding areas, the band is proud to be renowned as “the band that keeps the tradition of community band music alive in our state”.


tony-sDr. Anthony Isch – was the founding conductor of the RVSB and conducted the band from 1983-1998.
Dr. Anthony Isch is a retired College Professor of Music from The New Jersey College at Trenton where he served as Band and Wind Ensemble director for 20 years. He was Director of Student Teaching for all Music Education Majors. While at NJC, Dr. Isch organized the New Jersey High School Band Festival which is still going strong after 25 years.

He served as Adjudicator and Massed Band Conductor of the Atlantic City Press Band Festival at Convention Hall for seven years. He was guest conductor at numerous band festivals including The New Jersey Region III All State Band, The Eastern Pennsylvania Band, The New Jersey All Shore Band, and The Salem County Band. For the past ten years, Dr. Isch has been a lecturer and adjudicator for the annual Teen Arts Festival at Burlington County College. He was the conductor of The Moorestown Community Chorus for seven years, and Director of Music at The Lutheran Church in Haddonfield for 22 years.
While at the New Jersey College, he was a violinist and Associate Conductor of The Creative Arts Symphony Orchestra. His article in The Instrumentalist Magazine on Manual Aptitude Tests in Music resulted in his system being adopted in numerous public schools nationwide. He also has had articles in The Music Educators Journal. He has choral Music published by Schmidt, Hall & McCreary, and The Chelsea Collection of Hand Bell Music published by Harold Flammer. His Doctoral Dissertation was one of the first to demonstrate the value of teaching of music via videotape.
Tony began leading the Raritan Valley Symphonic Band in 1983 and led the band until his retirement in 1998, building the band into the successful group it is today.  His farewell concert on June 13, 1998 was widely publicized in the area newspapers. The members of the band thank Tony for his many years of inspirational leadership and dedication. He will be missed.

jerry-sDr. Jerry Rife – was the second conductor of the RVSB, from 1998-2001.

Dr. Jerry Rife directed the Raritan Valley Symphonic Band from September 1998 to June 2001. Dr Rife is Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Area at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where he teaches music history classes and conducts instrumental ensembles. In 1990 he received the Lindback Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Dr. Rife was associate producer and director of musical research for “If you knew Sousa,” a 1992 documentary film on Sousa filmed for The American Experience and shown world-wide on the PBS television network. He is extremely active as a performer of solo, recital, orchestral, and jazz music on the East Coast on clarinet and saxophone. He has guest conducted and adjudicated at band festivals, published numerous articles on band music and on the works of French Composer Florent Schmitt, is a respected lecturer in the community, and is New Jersey state chairman of the College Band Directors’ National Conference. In addition to his leadership of the Raritan Valley Symphonic Band, he also conducts the Rider University Concert Band and the Blawenburg (NJ) Band.

Dr. Rife received the Bachelor of Science in Music Education and Master of Music in Applied Clarinet Performance from Kansas State University, where he studied Clarinet with Frank Sidorfsky. He also studied with Fred Ormand of Michigan State University, George Silfies of the Saint Louis Symphony, and Clark Brodie of the Chicago Symphony. He received he Ph. D. degree in Musicology from Michigan State University, where he studied Musicology with Dale Bonge, Hans Nathan, and Rosalie Schellhous. His research areas included the life and music of Florent Schmitt, Igor Stravinsky, John Philip Sousa, and Carl Nielsen. He also studied improvisation as creative expression and single reed instrumental acoustics.

berz-sDr. William Berz – was the third conductor of the RVSB, from 2001-2005.

Dr. William Berz is Professor of Music at the Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He teaches classes in music education, and has conducted a wide variety of performance ensembles including bands, orchestras, contemporary music groups, and opera. In 1993, Dr. Berz was given an Outstanding Teacher Award by the Rutgers College Parents Association. In 1994-1995, he was a Lilly Endowment Fellow.

Dr. Berz has served as Chair of the Department of Music at Rutgers and has conducted both the Rutgers Wind Ensemble and Rutgers Symphony Band. With these ensembles, he has premiered many new works for winds, and he has won the praise of many distinguished composers including Charles Wuorinen, Roger Nixon, Eric Whitacre, Martin Ellerby, David Holsinger, Roger Cichy, Timothy Mahr, Jack Stamp, Steven Bryant, Eric Moe, Timothy Broege, Jan Van der Roost, and Ralph Hultgren.

Dr. Berz has considerable experience as an orchestral conductor. He was the Music Director and Conductor of the New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra from 1988 until 1994. From 1984 to 1989, he was Assistant Conductor of The Jupiter Symphony and Naumburg Orchestra, both of New York City. He conducted the New Jersey State Youth Orchestra from 1984 until 1988. In 2000, he conducted the New Jersey All-State Orchestra.

In addition to his work as a conductor, he is active as a researcher and writer. He has published a number of articles and presented many sessions in instructional technology, music education, and conducting. He is co-author of the book Applications of Research in Music Technology, published by the Music Educators National Conference. He has articles published in Psychology of Music, Music Perception, The Bulletin of the Council of Research in Music Education, Tempo, The WASBE Journal, and The New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia. He has been a regular consultant to the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey. He is editor of the WASBE Journal and was founding editor of Visions of Research in Music Education.

A native of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, Dr. Berz began his teaching career in Leslie, Michigan. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Michigan State University with major study in music education and conducting. His conducting teachers include Stanley DeRusha, Kenneth G. Bloomquist, David Catron, Robert Erbes, and Jens Nygaard.


Lawrence C. Markiewicz was the artistic director and conductor of the Raritan Valley Symphonic Band from 2005-2013. In January 2012 he was appointed Music Director of the critically acclaimed Imperial Brass and since 2011 has been the artistic director and conductor of the Somerset Valley Orchestra. As a conductor/educator Mr. Markiewicz strives to share his enthusiastic vision for growth and increased musicality.  Throughout his career every organization he has come in contact with has experienced unprecedented prosperity and success.  In particular the S.V.O. has been transformed from an ensemble that performed arrangments/pop literature to a full symphony orchestra that now plays staples of the orchestral repertory.

For the past 20 years he has been a NJ Public School Educator. He is also an adjunct music education professor at Montclair State University.  Since the mid-1990’s Mr. Markiewicz has been in demand as a guest conductor/clinician and brass pedagogy specialist across the United States, Japan and England.  In 1998 he was appointed to be the first American and only Honorary member of the British Youth Band Association.  In 1996 he led the brass ensemble that performed the famous John Williams Fanfares for the closing ceremonies of the Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2011 Mr. Markiewicz retired from a twenty- five year career leading some of the best drum and bugle corps brass sections in the history of DCI.  Mr. Markiewicz is most proud of the twelve years he spent instructing the reining world champion “Cadets” (Previously Garfield Cadets). Always active in education, Mr. Markiewicz is a founding board member of the NJ Band Association, and is excited to be one of the co-chairs of the Inaugural NJMEA Wind Band Academy.