City Strings United
Youth development through music
Welcome from the President and Founder
The cello and the people who allowed me to master this instrument changed my life forever. As an adult, I decided to provide these opportunities that meant so much to me personally to youth in Boston’s inner city. And so, City Strings United was born! Starting with a small group of 12 children in 2012, CSU has grown to 28 students in 2018.
During these years, CSU has enjoyed collaborative performances with such respected artists as Walter Beasley, Professor of Music, Berklee College of Music, the Grammy award-wining drummer Terri Lynn Carrington and the Guy Mendilow Band. It has twice been invited by the Museum of Fine Arts to perform at its Community Day Celebration during the Art in Bloom Weekend. Further, City Strings United has opened for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Community Chamber Concert Series and has participated in the Roxbury Stringfest sponsored by the Celebrity Series of Boston’s Arts for All program.
City Strings United has been recognized by both Boston media and local social and cultural institutions including: The Boston Globe, New England Cable News, Boston Neighborhood Network, Urban Update, Greater Boston Chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, Black Ministerial Alliance, Mothers for Justice and Equality, The Northeasterners and The New England Arts Group.
Now in its seventh year, City Strings United continues to provide access to musical opportunities for Boston’s youth, to foster their growth and development, and to teach the joy of music.
Founder and Executive Director
Bithyah Israel, President and Founder
Rhea Gibson, Assistant Program Director
Wanda Jones, Family Coordinator
Heidi Berman, Logistics Coordinator
Berklee College of Music Teaching Assistants
Cristobal Cruz Garcia
Li Yin Cheok
Our Junior Assistants
We believe in peer-assisted teaching. Some of our more senior students are currently assisting in teaching the classes to their younger peers. They receive weekly counseling and training to enable them to approach this in the dual way that CSU operates – teaching music and teaching respect and discipline. Not only do the students benefit, but these older students get a sense of their ability to lead – something that will benefit them and their communities.
Board of Directors
Josette C. Goldish - Chair
Josette Capriles Goldish was born and raised on the island of Curaçao. She is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Economics and the MIT Sloan School of Management. Prior to embarking on research about the Sephardim of the Caribbean about fifteen years ago, she was a management consultant, served as the Chief Financial Officer of an energy consulting firm, and worked in the banking industry. She has also been actively involved in several non-profit organizations, serving as a member of various boards, and as Vice President of Combined Jewish Philanthropies Young Women’s Division, President of MIT Hillel, and Vice President of Strategic Planning of Gateways – Access to Jewish Education.
Doug Rich - Treasurer
Doug Rich spends his weekdays as a long-time IT professional working in graphic arts for the venerable Xerox Corporation. He supports virtually every product that Xerox produces. An alumnus of Berklee College of Music, he is also a professional bassist and composer; leader of the band RPS, a student, grandfather, and a sports enthusiast. Doug has been on the board of CSU from its very beginning and occasionally accompanies the students at their performances.
Ellen Hallett - Secretary
Ellen Hallett is a retired Board Secretary and Assistant to the President at Wheaton College (2011-2016) and Director, Office of the Board of the Trustees at Rhode Island School of Design (1995-2010). As an active member of the Board Professionals Group of the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities (1997-2014), she served as Co-chair of its National Conference and presented on various topics at its annual meetings. She currently serves as Board Secretary of the League of Women Voters of Wellesley and is a volunteer instructor in the town English as a Second Language program. She holds a B.A. from Trinity Washington University and an M.S. in Information Science, from Simmons College.
Bithyah Israel - President
Bithyah Israel, founder and president of City Strings United, began the organization in 2012 to make high-quality creative youth development accessible to children growing up in economically-stressed areas. A Boston native raised in San Diego, she felt that music education made a world of difference in her life and has strived to give a similarly uplifting experience to children in Roxbury, Massachusetts. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Administration and has worked numerous years in the medical field, most recently as a Spanish medical interpreter in Boston-area hospitals and clinics. Recently, she has focused her musical attention on composing original music, which she hopes to place in film. A member of the Celebrity Series Community Engagement Committee and the Boston International Film Festival, she was awarded the "Women of Courage and Conviction" award by the Greater Boston Section of the National Council of Negro Women (2014) for her work with City Strings United.
Kevin Cooper is an entrepreneur; he started Cooper Financial Services in 1993 and bought into the Liberty Tax Franchise to expand the individual tax preparation side of his business in 2012. Under Cooper Financial, he handles small business returns, non-profits, accounting, bookkeeping and credit repair services year-round. He presents free customized tax, personal finance and small business seminars. In addition, he has worked over 30 years in the corporate world with experience in all aspects of U.S. tax, international tax, and in Fortune 100 environments. His mission is to educate his clients, so they are empowered as they make financial decisions that will impact their lives. Kevin’s undergraduate degree is in Management and Accounting and he has an MBA in Finance, both earned at Suffolk University. Outside of his business, he was on the Hyde Park Main Streets board, served as vice-president of the National Association of Black Accountants, and participated in various community initiatives, including VITA Tax, volunteering at Pine Street Inn and Rosie’s Place, and the New England Food Bank. He created a financial literacy curriculum as part of his volunteer work in Boston Public Schools. Kevin enjoys photography, appreciates the arts and is a football fanatic. He unwinds by golfing and traveling.
For over 20 years, Herman Hampton has taught in the Ensemble Department at Berklee College of Music. His musical interests encompass a wide variety of genres including: American jazz, the blues, Latin and classical traditions. As a bassist, he has performed with the University of Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra, the Lowell Philharmonic Orchestra as well as local jazz ensembles. He has presented workshops in colleges and public schools on the culture, history and aesthetics of African American music. He was a founding member of the Berklee College City Music Program, which offered free music instruction to inner city youth from local schools that lacked a music program. Through a grant provided by the City of Boston’s Resilience Initiative and led by Shaw Pong Liu, he worked with in concert with the police department to develop and enhance communication between youth offenders and the police. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts and Master of Music Degree in Jazz Pedagogy from Berklee College of Music.
Paul Hubbard is founder and owner of Roxbury Renaissance, a real estate development company in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was born in Oklahoma City and traveled the world with his six siblings and parents who were in the US Army. He graduated from Morgan State College in 1970 with a B.S. degree in Business Administration. He worked for Sears for 23 years until 1994 when he left to concentrate on his business which he had started in 1978 after moving to Roxbury. He was a Board member of “I CAN I WILL”, a kid’s garden program in Chester, Pennsylvania. His other interests include learning to play saxophone, golf and gardening. He is a member of Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, where he is a member of the security team and teaches Junior Church on 3rd Sundays.
My son, Elijah, has been a part of City Strings since the fall of 2014 when he was just four years old. In addition to serving as the parent liaison for City Strings, I work as a teacher in early childhood education. I have a passion for education of young minds and I am happy to share my passion for children as a member of the board.
City Strings United Advisors
CSU Advisors provide the Board with guidance and advice in their respective areas of expertise. They are called upon as needed and enhance the Board’s capabilities.
Heidi Berman – Assists with class and event logistics
Michele Brown – Former BSO board member
Sarah Clark – Non-profit financial expert
Richard Ward – Former Director of Boston Foundation
Ingrid Wolfson – Executive coach
City Strings United welcomes you!
City Strings United (CSU) was founded in response to a need that I perceived in urban Boston. The circumstances of the youth in those areas reflected my own experiences growing up, first in Massachusetts, then in California and Texas. Serendipitously, I was able to take cello lessons at an early age while living in San Diego.
There I performed with the JCC of San Diego when I was 11 years old. The ability to demonstrate my musical skills in a larger setting, coupled with the wonderful guidance from my teacher and mentor, gave me a sense of self-worth. At a summer music camp that I attended, I met Glen Campbell, a cellist in the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Campbell taught me to play the cello free of charge for six years..