Artists in Residence

2017 Artists in Residence Coming Soon

2016 Artists in Residence

Carefully selected for their superb credentials and talent for working with young people, our Artists in Residence are professional artists at the top of their fields. They share their experience and enthusiasm in an intensive workshop structure, spending the week guiding and inspiring teens to express their own creativity.


Live from Stamford, Connecticut it’s JCC Maccabi ArtsFest! In the Acting/Improv specialty, professional artists work with you to form an ensemble that will explore theatrical performance technique, process, and staging at the professional level. You will learn various traditions of improvisation and theater from slapstick comedy to monologue and scene work. You will be challenged to master your improvisational and acting pieces and to perform for your peers at the Final ArtsFest Showcase.

Lisa Melinn

Thrilled to be returning to JCC Maccabi ArtsFest for a third year of fun, laughs, friends, and learning, Lisa Melinn began her life in the theatre at age five, when she played Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. After getting bitten by the acting bug, Lisa spent most of her childhood singing show tunes and performing in plays. She also spent three summers studying and performing at The Hampton Playhouse in Hampton, N.H. Lisa began acting professionally while still in high school, recording voiceovers for regional and national radio commercials.

Lisa earned a bachelor’s degree in drama from the Professional Actor Training School at Syracuse University. She has taught acting and improv to students of all ages for Farmington Hills Schools, The Second City/Detroit, Michigan Actors Studio, Water Works Theatre Company, Michigan Youth Theatre, and Oakland Community College’s Theatre Program. Favorite roles include Zillah in A Bright Room Called Day (The Ringwald), Jessie in ‘Night Mother (Breathe Art Theatre Project), and Tina in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding (Detroit Actor’s Guild).

Culinary Arts

Culinary Arts at JCC Maccabi ArtsFest offers you the opportunity to be hands-on in the kitchen with professional chefs who will engage you in every aspect of running a kitchen and preparing great food. From choosing the right ingredients, learning new cooking techniques, and to understand the history and culture of food; you will work alongside the Artist in Residence (and special guest chefs) to learn how to plan a menu and understand the process of transforming raw ingredients into delicious dishes. Your culinary creations will be showcased, served, and devoured at the Final ArtsFest Showcase.

Chef Brian Matola

Brian Malota has been a Culinary Arts instructor in the Connecticut Technical High School System for more than 16 years. He received his M.S. in Technology Education from Central Connecticut State University, and his A.S./B.S. in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales University. Chef Malota has taught children, teens and adults the techniques and skills necessary for working in and managing a professional kitchen. In addition to his extensive career as a teacher, Chef Malota has worked for Abel Caterers, a kosher catering company, for the past 16 years.


Working alongside the Artist in Residence, you will explore dance technique, enhancement, and stretch your skills as a dancer. At ArtsFest you will be on your feet with a professional choreographer as you expand your movement vocabulary, learn new pieces, grow your dramatic and technical range, and perfect pieces that showcase your talent as a dancer and challenge you to learn something new. You will perform these pieces at the Final ArtsFest Showcase.

Jimmy-Headshot Jimmy Locust

Jimmy Locust has shared his talents internationally, working with superstars Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Quincy Jones and Debbie Allen. He has appeared in music videos and films and has performed at the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, and MTV Video Music Awards. Locust was one of the head choreographers for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics and was nominated for an American Choreography Award in 2001 for his work on Warner Brothers’ television show Nikki. Locust worked on the Justin Bieber Tour in 2010 and as choreographer for the CW Television Network’s The Next with hosts John Rich, Joe Jonas, Nelly and Gloria Estefan. Locally, he has choreographed for the Stamford Symphony’s Gala and Curtain Call Theatre as well as numerous high school productions. He also designed and wrote dance education curricula for Domus, Chester-Addison Community Center, Stamford Family YMCA, REACH Prep and Horizons. Locust has been a studio owner, master teacher and choreographer in the Fairfield County area for over ten years. He is Founder and Director of Harmony Nation, an anti-bullying educational program that performs at area schools. He also directs Locust Contemporary Dance Works, a youth pre-professional company with performances throughout the year culminating in a New York City concert. Recently, Locust was appointed by the renowned Boca Ballet Theatre in Florida to teach jazz dance as part of their summer residency program and was selected to adjudicate and teach at JCC Maccabi.

Musical Theater

Learning from professionals with Broadway experience, you will be challenged to master a variety of the best musical theater pieces ever created. Working with the Musical Theater Artist in Residence you will build an ensemble over the course of the week, developing your stage vocal technique, dance, and movement skills as well as song interpretation. These choreographed musical numbers will then be performed at the Final ArtsFest Showcase.

egutman Eric Gutman

Eric currently lives in Huntington Woods, Michigan with his wife and two daughters. He is a regular at such theatres as Tipping Point Theatre in Northville, Meadowbrook Theatre in Rochester and the Gem/Century Theatres in Detroit—where he has performed in countless shows including the Michigan premier of the Pulitzer Prize winning musical, Next to Normal.

Before his move back home, his claim to fame was performing for almost three years in the Tony and Grammy Award-winning sensation Jersey Boys. In his run with this extraordinary show, Eric performed over 1,000 shows in six different roles (including three of the Four Seasons) and was one of the few actors to play live instruments on stage. Eric has also been a company member for over ten years with the Off-Broadway and touring companies of Forbidden Broadway and Forbidden Hollywood where he has played in over 100 different theatres across the country as well as a featured performer with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

Eric made his feature film debut in the highly acclaimed motion picture Real Steel opposite Hugh Jackman. Other on-camera credits include the films North of South, West of East and The Giant Mechanical Man; and Musical Guest spots for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC). Other broadcast appearances include regional commercials, singing the National Anthem for the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bears, as well as the last MLB All-Star Game held at the old Yankee Stadium.

Currently, Eric is busy promoting and performing in his one-man biopic musical aptly titled, “Eric Gutman: From Broadway to Obscurity”, which is touring to many theatres across the country.

Eric holds a BFA in Music Theatre Performance from Western Michigan University. He is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association since 1999 and The American Federation of Musicians.

Rock Band

Discover what really makes a band rock! Under the guidance of a professional musician you will experience the art of songwriting, performance techniques, and the changing world of music. Working with your Artist in Residence, you will form a band and learn what it takes to make it successful. Finish off your week by rocking out and performing live at the Final ArtsFest Showcase.

Josh Nelson

Joining us for his ninth summer is Artist in Residence Josh Nelson. Josh is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and songwriter whose work is celebrated and integrated into the repertoire of congregations, camps, and communities around the world. Whether appearing solo or with an elite ensemble of world-class musicians, Josh’s presence and performance style is high-energy and captivating. His music builds community, lifting up congregations and concert audiences alike through experiences that are at once energizing and deeply moving. Classically trained and equally versed in rock, jazz and world music, Josh combines his broad range of influences into a breathtaking musical style that is accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Josh previously served as director of jazz programs and an adjunct professor at Boston University. He performs professionally on as many as 13 different instruments (though not at the same time) he is most widely considered an extraordinary guitarist, pianist, and vocalist.

Recently hailed by Time Magazine as a “star of the New Jewish Music,” Josh is the music director for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial Convention and faculty for the Hava Nashira Music. He also serves as a member of the URJ faculty of expert practitioners, is the recipient of a PresenTense NYC Fellowship, and is an active member of the Schusterman ROI Community. Josh leads High Holiday services at New York’s historic 92nd St. Y, and is the founder and creative director of THEWAREHOUSE, an alternative Shabbat experience for unaffiliated young Jews in major metropolitan areas.

Performance highlights include: International Symphony of Peace Prayers, Mt. Fuji, Japan; March of the Living, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland; South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin, Texas; Limmud Conferences, Warwick, U.K. and Istanbul, Turkey; international conventions for each of the major youth movements in the USA (NFTY, USY, BBYO, etc.); URJ Biennial Conventions; the USCJ Centennial Convention; JCCs of North America Biennial; CAJE conferences; and JCC Maccabi ArtsFest, Jewish music festivals, synagogues, concert halls, and JCCs across the country. Most recently, Josh entered into an artistic collaboration with Neshama Carlebach, daughter of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (z’’l). Their unprecedented partnership merges two very different Jewish journeys and traditions into a singularly meaningful and uplifting musical experience that brings newfound unity to the Jewish people, both in the Diaspora and Israel. Josh lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. with his two young sons.

Star Reporter

Star Reporters are the official news outlet of JCC Maccabi. As a Star Reporter you will work with professionals to interview artists, athletes, coaches, Artists in Residence, host families, and everyone involved with the Games and ArtsFest. You will share the stories of JCC Maccabi 2016 via blogs, Twitter, newsletters, photography, and video production. Star Reporters will work onscreen and/or behind the scenes to report the exciting news of each day, including the opportunity to be a narrator at the Final ArtsFest Showcase.

Dave Ruden

Dave Ruden is the CEO of DRL Media and the editor of the Ruden Report, Fairfield County’s only all-sports website. Prior to founding The Ruden Report in 2013, Dave was a sportswriter at the Stamford Advocate for 20 years. In addition to working at ESPN and CBS Sports, he has worked as a freelance reporter for the New York Times and has written for several college basketball publications. Dave is currently a journalism adviser at Westhill High School in Stamford, and has worked in the same role at various Connecticut high schools for the past 15 years.

Dave is excited to join the JCC Maccabi ArtsFest Artist in Residence team in Stamford this summer, and looks forward to working with creative teens to cover all aspects of JCC Maccabi.

Visual Arts

Learn to express your inner voice with professional artists who will guide your creation of a series of projects for your personal portfolio. Collaborate and explore new mediums with your fellow artists using a variety of art materials to create original artworks. Your work will be prominently displayed throughout the week and in an exhibit at the Final ArtsFest Showcase.

Ellen-Alt-Headshot Ellen Alt

Ellen Alt is a mixed media artist. She has exhibited her work in the U.S, Israel, Germany, Russia, China, and England. One of her pieces was presented to Hillary Clinton on the occasion of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan and is in the collection of the White House. Ms. Alt holds an MA in studio art from New York University and a BFA in art education from the Massachusetts College of Art. Her current series is about our melting planetary ice.

She is on faculty in the Education Department at Brandeis University, the Artist-in-Residence at the Park Avenue Synagogue and the art coordinator at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan. Her community art projects focus on social change.

Vocal Music/Glee

Be part of the hottest vocal ensemble around! Vocal Music/Glee is an opportunity to hone your pitch, harmony, and vocalization along with performance techniques. Led by professional artists, you will explore your vocal instrument, and enhance your onstage skills both as an individual and as a member of the ArtsFest 2016 ensemble. Under the guidance of your Artist in Residence, you will be challenged to learn a variety of songs for the Final ArtsFest Showcase.

Beth_Styles_vocal Beth Styles

Beth Styles is a versatile producer/composer/arranger/vocalist/performer whose work has become well known for creating community projects that bring people together in the name of love and unity. Since founding the New World Chorus in 2011, Beth has collaborated with diverse houses of worship, clergy and leadership of many spiritual paths to produce compelling annual multifaith events including the Thanksgiving service “A Time to be Grateful,” and “Season of Miracles,” a joyful celebration of Spring. Beth is also the creator of “The Shabbat Experience”—A journey of peace, music and meditation and the “Living Voice Project”, which sources inspiring programs for people living with a form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s through the power of music.

As a composer, Beth has written an extensive catalogue of original music ranging from Contemporary Spiritual, Jewish Liturgical, Gospel, Jazz, R & B, Theater, Folk and Funk to Film Scoring and Children’s Music. She has also worked with clients including Diana Ross and Shlomo Carlebach z”l, as well as a myriad of cantors and talented local artists. She has performed on grand stages including Radio City Music Hall as well as venues across CT and NY. Beth’s multi-media production studio is located in Stamford, CT and is the source of a wide range of original work, including music and video for corporate commercials, TV, film, musical theater and projects for children with special needs.

Beth grew up in a modern orthodox Jewish family. She studied in Yeshiva and lived in Israel for several years. With passionate spiritual roots as well as a long time education in transformational studies, Beth is devoted to bringing the NWC vision to fruition “One World, One Voice, United in Love”.

Continental Director, JCC Maccabi ArtsFest

reluttermanRandy Ellen Lutterman

As vice president, arts and culture for JCCs of North America, Randy Ellen Lutterman provides leadership and support, communicating with JCCs across the continent about arts and culture programming. As director of JCC Maccabi ArtsFest, Randy is responsible for the ongoing development of the mission, vision and content for ArtsFest. She is innovating and growing this amazing summer arts immersion program for creative teens so that it can be experienced by more young people across the continent.

Randy has a 20-year background in arts consulting, producing and developing new artists and new work. She is the founding director of SpringboardNYC at the American Theatre Wing, an award-winning college-to-career transition program for students starting their arts careers in New York City. She created and developed the program for Musical Theatre Works, a NYC not-for-profit theater, where she was executive director for five years. At MTW, she co-created and launched the MTW Resident Writers/New Works Program, which commissioned and developed dozens of new musical theater pieces that went on to have future lives in regional, not-for-profit and commercial houses around the country. Randy also developed and produced MTW’s “A Class Act,” which received an off-Broadway co-production with Manhattan Theatre Club, and then a Broadway run where it earned five Tony nominations including best new musical. As an actor, Randy has appeared on television, in film and in theatre in both the U.S. and Canada. She has been coaching actors professionally for years, specializing in audition technique and preparation. Her students have been accepted at many of the best MFA programs in the country.