We mourn the passing of our dear and beloved friend and supporter, Christianne Orto

We mourn the passing of our dear and beloved friend and supporter, Christianne Orto.

Christianne Orto, 54, of Manhattan, New York, died on February 22, 2020 after a long illness, surrounded by loving family and friends. She was born on August 21,1965 and was raised in Westfield, NJ, graduating from Westfield Senior High School in 1983. In 1987, she graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She went on to receive her Masters degree in Musicology from Columbia University.

Christianne was a classically trained pianist who studied with Sondra Tammam, Dorothy Taubman, Edna Golandsky, Nathan Brand and John Bloomfield. She enjoyed playing repertoire ranging from Jean Sibelius to Louis Moreau Gottschalk.

Early in her career, she worked as a producer in classical recording at BMG Classics, editing the music of Alicia de Larrocha and Evgeny Kissin, among others. She joined the Manhattan School of Music in 1996, then under the leadership of Marta Casals Istomin, to develop the school’s distance learning program, becoming Dean of Distance Learning and Recording Arts in 2004. The Distance Learning Program was one of the first of its kind at a music conservatory and is now regarded as the gold standard in music distance learning. Initially, she worked closely with early adopter Maestro Pinchas Zukerman to teach his students at a distance. Later, she worked with renowned baritone Thomas Hampson in an ongoing series of livestreamed voice master classes. She collaborated with musical institutions around the world, including partnerships with the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki; The Royal College of Music, London; the Vienna Conservatory and the Shanghai Conservatory, along with numerous American Institutions, to build a global arts community. Additionally, she developed programming that provides primary and secondary schools throughout the world classes in jazz, pop, African and Indian drumming, and opera. Christianne led the expansion of live-streamed concerts and master classes for the school as well as a major expansion in the Recording Arts program with her department recording more than 700 school performances annually, and producing dozens of commercial recordings. In 2016 she was awarded Manhattan School of Music’s President’s Medal for Distinguished Service. Her work in distance learning and recording arts has enabled thousands across the globe to connect and experience the power and beauty of music.

She is survived by her sisters Margaret Orto of Bethesda, MD, Luisa Orto-Symmans of Houston, TX, brothers-in-law Kevin Welber and W. Fraser Symmans, nieces Raffaella Symmans, Sophia Welber, and Natalie Welber, and nephew William Symmans and a devoted circle of remarkable friends.

Burial was on Thursday, February 27, 2020 at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. A memorial service in celebration of her life will be held on April 18, 2020 at 4 pm at the West End Collegiate Church, New York City. Memorial donations may be made in her name to ovarcome.org.

Adored sister, beloved Auntie, best friend of scores, talented musician and gentle yet radiant human being: she died too young and yet inspired and touched the hearts of so many.

Rest in peace, Christianne.