Claudette McGraw Wire is a homegrown Roman who had the benefits of being raised in and around music. Rome Free Academy brought her to Concert Band and Marching Band throughout high school.  While in marching band, teacher/director John Wise instilled in her the love of marching music.
    Although Claudette never marched with a drum and bugle corps, all four of Claudette’s children were talented musically and marched in the drum and bugle corps actively. To support their interest, she also dedicated herself to drum corps.  And, it was during the time of her children’s participation that she became the founder and show director of “Drums Along the Mohawk.”  The show began in 1979 as a fundraiser for the Avant Garde Drum and Bugle Corps, in which her children marched, and has continued for over 35 years.
    After her children grew up, Claudette returned to college and graduated from Herkimer County Community College obtaining her AAS degree in Travel and Tourism.  While working for bus companies, she found opportunities to continue her work with marching music performers by assisting several drum and bugle corps with their tours and travel emergencies.
    Throughout motherhood and her professional career, Claudette continued to direct Drums Along the Mohawk. Even after her new job took her to South Carolina, she returned every summer to direct the committee for the show, and continues in this capacity today.  
    Ms. Wire has been the recipient of many awards for her work in organizing Drums Along the Mohawk annually, including the inaugural Drum Corps International Tour Event of the Year Award in 2005, and certificates from New York State governors in celebration of the 25
th and 35th anniversaries of the show.
    Claudette Wire also received recognition from the City of Rome with their Erie Canaller Award presented by former Mayor Carl Eilenberg.  

Pat Besl was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1947.  When she was two years old her family moved upstate to Florence.  She loved to draw the flora and fauna on her parents’ dairy farm.  She attended school in Camden where she was encouraged to pursue her love of art.  Ms. Besl received a BS in Art Education from SUNY College at Buffalo in 1969.  She completed her graduate work in Buffalo and SUNY Oswego with a concentration in sculpture, then taught art for 34 years in the Canastota Schools, retiring in 2003.  In 2005 Pat Besl finished a series of graphite drawings working from real life subjects.  Drawing at least thirty minutes a day for a year, she developed twelve monthly images with 2 ½ inch squares for each day.  Her plant and animal subjects reflect the months of the year and the passage of time.  Realistic and abstract at the same time, her drawings play with space, proportion, value, and line.  She exhibited “Day by Day, a Year of Drawing” at the Canastota Public Library. In 2007, Pat Besl was selected to create an ornament for the National Christmas Tree at the White House in Washington, DC.  The theme was our National Parks and she designed the Fort Stanwix Ornament.  Ms. Besl maintains a studio space at her residence near Cleveland, NY on the north shore of Oneida Lake.  Her award winning drawings, pastels and mixed media work have been exhibited in many solo, juried, and group shows in Central New York.  Her work is in private collections throughout the United States as well.

Thomas Besl was born in Cheektowaga, NY, in the winter of 1947.  He pursued his BS in Art Education at the SUNY College at Buffalo.  He was a founding member of the Fine Arts Board, the group’s first president and was instrumental in establishing the first student gallery on campus.  Mr. Besl graduated in 1969 and continued graduate work at Buffalo State, and later at SUNY Oswego.  He was hired by the Canastota School District in 1969 and taught grades four through twelve during his 30-year career as an art instructor. Tom Besl’s work reveals a strong core foundation as a sculptor. Through a variety of media including, but not limited to welded steel, cast bronze, and most recently an exploration of photography/assemblage. An emphasis on form prevails in both realistic and abstracted imagery.  The use of photography in his later work is not surprising, for in his undergraduate course work he had concentrations in both sculpture and photography.  Two of Tom Besl’s sculptures are on loan to the Rome Art and Community Center.  An untitled cast aluminum piece graces the garden and a towering mixed media sculpture entitled “Sprout” stands on the upstairs landing.

Native Roman Roberta Guaspari received a Bachelor of Music degree from SUNY Fredonia, and a Master of Music degree from Boston University School for the Arts.  Among the many awards and honors she has received are honorary doctorates from the New England Conservatory of Music, S.U.N.Y. Fredonia, and Mount Holyoke College.  She began her remarkable teaching career in three East Harlem public schools in 1980.
    In 1990, when funding for her teaching was eliminated, she joined with parents, teachers, and other volunteers to continue the program.  They created a non-profit organization, “Opus 118 Harlem School of Music,” which has expanded to support a community music school serving thousands of low-income children both in and after school.  In 1996 the documentary film 
Small Wonders, featuring Roberta and her students, was nominated for an Academy Award, and her story was the inspiration for the film Music of the Heart, in which she was portrayed by Meryl Streep.  Roberta is co-author of an autobiographical book of the same title. 
    Roberta has received a cultural leadership citation from Yale University and the Barnard College Medal of Distinction; the American String Teachers Marvin J. Rabin Award, the Arison Award from the National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts, 
CBS This Morning’s “Woman of the Year,” and the Reader’s Digest Foundation’s “Hero for Today” award.  
    A longtime resident of the East Harlem community in which she teaches, Ms. Guaspari believes that violin instruction changes her students’ lives, and that music education remains the most noble of professions.  She has traveled internationally to advocate for the vital role of music in every child’s education. 

Matthew Pitcher was born on November 1, 1978 in Rome, N.Y.  As a student he was in many productions in the Capitol Theatre Rising Stars program, SummerStage, and O’Neill Dance Studio productions of The Nutcracker.  At ages 16-18 Matthew attended the School of American Ballet affiliated with the New York City Ballet. 
    At age 17 he began his professional career in New York City dancing in productions of the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Metropolitan Opera, and a Broadway Shakespearian production.  Matt was known professionally as a very graceful, physically strong dancer who excelled at partnering.  He became a resident of California after dancing for Celebrity Cruise Lines.  His career at that time included professional dance, choreography, teaching dance, acting in several movies most notably 
Center Stage and Pearl Harbor, modeling for Vogue and stage and movie productions including Production Manager for the Moscow Ballet “Great Russian Nutcracker” National tour.  Matthew received two Platinum choreographic awards in National competition.     
    When injured and not able to continue his professional dance performance career, Mr. Pitcher returned to Rome in 2002, where he taught dance and created choreography at the John Hayes O’Neill School of Dance.  Starting in 2005 he also worked as Production Manager for Entertainment Services.  Whereas Matthew loved to perform, always describing himself as a dancer, he found great satisfaction as a teacher and in providing dance opportunities for his students in the community. 
    Matthew married Kimberly Finster in 2009 and they became parents to two beloved children Miles and Lilah.  Matthew’s proudest moments in life were as a husband and father.  Matthew became ill with brain cancer and died in March of 2013 at age 34, five months following his diagnosis.  His epitaph reads “As you danced in the light with joy, love lifted you.  As you brushed against this world so gently, you lifted us”.

Anthony Elliott, a native of Rome, New York, is the son of long time Rome residents, Anthony and Charlie Mae Elliott.  He has had a multi-faceted career as a conductor, cellist, and teacher.  He has conducted for symphony, opera, and ballet.  He has conducted the San Antonio Symphony, the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra, the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, the CAMMAC Orchestra, Vancouver Chamber Players, the Prince George’s Philharmonic, the Plymouth Symphony, the All Northwest Orchestra, numerous All State Orchestras, in Holland, Germany, and Austria, and at the Marrowstone and Guelph Spring Festivals.
    The first Grand Prize winner of the Emmanuel Feuermann Memorial International Cello Solo Competition, Anthony Elliott has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Vancouver Symphony, and the CBC Toronto Orchestra.  
    Cello students of Anthony Elliott have held prominent positions in major symphony orchestras.  Many have won important competitions and awards, including the Avery Fisher Career Grant.  He has given master classes at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Eastman School of Music, The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, Indiana University, Oberlin Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory, Meadowmount School, and Interlochen Arts Academy.  Anthony Elliott is currently a member of the faculty at the University Of Michigan School Of Music.
 

Billie Worth

Billie Worth was born Wilhelmina “Billie” Rothmund in Rome, NY (at Rome Hospital) on October 20, 1916. 

She began her performing career at the age of six, making her initial appearance at a local talent show at the Strand Theatre in Rome on March 26, 1923, with brother Coley and sister Grace.  She began her performance career in earnest that summer, touring with her siblings (billed as “Grace, Coley, and Billie Worth”).  An expert tennis player, the 14-year-old Rome Free Academy student became City Wide Woman’s Tennis Champion in 1931 and repeated her triumph in 1932.  

After contemplating a career as tennis pro, Miss Worth chose the stage, and made her Broadway debut in the last performance of the Gershwins’ Let ‘em Eat Cake in 1934, before embarking on the show’s national tour.  Her subsequent Broadway appearances include 1934’s Thumbs Up!, Higher and Higher in 1940, Bright Lights of 1944 and Cole Porter’s Seven Lively Arts in 1944, and Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific in 1949, where she understudied Mary Martin.  (She performed the lead role in South Pacific 24 times on Broadway in Martin’s absence.)  Billie had been taught to dance by her brother, Coley, and often earned critical raves for her dancing.  In 1935 she married fellow actor Donald Burr, and two weeks later began her international career when the couple began appearances at the Grosvenor House in London. 
Billie Worth made her network television debut in 1951 in General Electric Guest House. She later guest starred in two episodes of The United States Steel Hour. In 1953 she starred in Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam in London.  She retired from the professional stage in the late 1950s, but directed several productions with the community theater group the Chester (NJ) Players in the 1970s.  She presently resides in Florida and Connecticut and remains an avid tennis player.

Billie Worth

Billie Worth was born Wilhelmina “Billie” Rothmund in Rome, NY (at Rome Hospital) on October 20, 1916. 

She began her performing career at the age of six, making her initial appearance at a local talent show at the Strand Theatre in Rome on March 26, 1923, with brother Coley and sister Grace.  She began her performance career in earnest that summer, touring with her siblings (billed as “Grace, Coley, and Billie Worth”).  An expert tennis player, the 14-year-old Rome Free Academy student became City Wide Woman’s Tennis Champion in 1931 and repeated her triumph in 1932.  

After contemplating a career as tennis pro, Miss Worth chose the stage, and made her Broadway debut in the last performance of the Gershwins’ Let ‘em Eat Cake in 1934, before embarking on the show’s national tour.  Her subsequent Broadway appearances include 1934’s Thumbs Up!, Higher and Higher in 1940, Bright Lights of 1944 and Cole Porter’s Seven Lively Arts in 1944, and Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific in 1949, where she understudied Mary Martin.  (She performed the lead role in South Pacific 24 times on Broadway in Martin’s absence.)  Billie had been taught to dance by her brother, Coley, and often earned critical raves for her dancing.  In 1935 she married fellow actor Donald Burr, and two weeks later began her international career when the couple began appearances at the Grosvenor House in London. 
Billie Worth made her network television debut in 1951 in General Electric Guest House. She later guest starred in two episodes of The United States Steel Hour. In 1953 she starred in Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam in London.  She retired from the professional stage in the late 1950s, but directed several productions with the community theater group the Chester (NJ) Players in the 1970s.  She presently resides in Florida and Connecticut and remains an avid tennis player.