Grammy-nominated guitar star from Morristown High among judges for Morristown Onstage

Alex Wintz


Grammy-nominated guitarist Alex Wintz, Morristown High ’06, joins the judging panel for Thursday’s Morristown Onstage competition alongside Mayo Performing Arts Center CEO Allison Larena; former Def Jam Recordings CEO Bill Stephney; and Gabriela Jileva, owner of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Morristown.

Here is more, from the Morris Educational Foundation:

Feb. 29th Talent Show Will Feature the Best Amateur Talent
from the Greater Morristown Area


The Morris Educational Foundation (MEF) on Monday announced the exceptional panel of judges for the 17th anniversary of its annual talent fundraiser, Morristown ONSTAGE.

A community staple, Morristown ONSTAGE brings people of all ages together to celebrate and discover unique local talent to benefit the Morris School District and support public education.

This year’s sold-out showcase and premier fundraiser for the MEF will be held on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ. Doors will open at 6:30 pm and the show will begin at 7 pm.

The following four distinguished judges will judge the Feb. 29 competition:

Gabriela Jileva

GABRIELA JILEVA – Owner, Manager, and Dance Director of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Morristown, New Jersey, Gabriela Jileva is a captivating force. Hailing from Bulgaria, Jileva’s journey ignited at age 10, securing the National Open International Standard title and gracing the World Cup Championships in Vienna, Austria. In 1998, she moved to the United States, where she wove her story into the illustrious tapestry of the Fred Astaire family, specializing in International Standard and later expanded her repertoire to include the enchanting rhythms of American Smooth in 2010. A seven-time Fred Astaire Open International Ballroom Champion, Jileva earned accolades as a U.S. Classic Show Dance Runner-Up and World Cup Open International Ballroom Runner-Up. Her journey is a testament to her unwavering commitment, marked by triumphs such as being an undefeated Fred Astaire Open International Standard Champion and a two-time Fred Astaire Open American Smooth Runner-Up. As a luminary member of the Fred Astaire Dance Studios International Dance Council, Jileva shapes the future of dance instruction and passionately imparts her wisdom at competitions nationwide. Even as she crisscrosses the country, choreographing, adjudicating, and coaching, her vision extends to fostering a sense of community, where dance becomes a unifying force for individuals and families.

Allison Larena

ALLISON LARENA – President and CEO of the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), for more than two decades, Allison Larena has been instrumental in transforming the theatre into one of the top 40 mid-sized nonprofit performing arts centers in the world, as ranked by Pollstar Magazine. Larena’s leadership, vision and perseverance helped elevate MPAC into a world-class performing arts center and grow the theatre’s annual operating budget from $1.5 million to $14 million. Over the past 20 years, Larena spearheaded multiple fundraising campaigns and capital improvement projects to expand and upgrade the venue, built in 1937, into a state-of-the-art facility. Today, MPAC welcomes more than 200,000 patrons to 250 events annually, serves more than 40,000 children through education and outreach programs and has an economic impact of $18 million. With more than 30 years of theatre management experience, Larena also served in leadership positions at the Garden State Arts Center and Bergen Performing Arts Center. She is a graduate of Rutgers University where she studied Theatre Arts and received her Master of Arts Degree from Montclair State University. Under Larena’s leadership, MPAC has been a wonderful partner to the Morris Educational Foundation and has hosted Morristown ONSTAGE for 17 years.

Bill Stephney

BILL STEPHNEY – Principal executive for Broad Market Media, Bill Stephney previously served as the chief executive for Def Jam Recordings, SOUL Records and Stepsun Music. He helped launch the careers of LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and Slick Rick, produced albums for comedian Paul Mooney, produced music artists ranging from Rock-And-Roll Hall of Fame group Public Enemy to singer-actress Vanessa Williams, and has supervised music production for successful films such as Boomerang, Be Be’s Kids, CB4, Clockers and Shaft. Stephney was an executive committee member for the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap and recently produced two acclaimed documentaries: Kaepernick & America, and Philly On Fire. He is also an adjunct instructor at NYU/Tisch’s Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music. He sits on the advisory boards for Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of the Arts, and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey Foundation. Stephney currently serves as a producer, consultant and virtual conversations moderator for events at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). He has also served as the chair of the New Jersey State Advisory Committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and has overseen federal committee reports related to education reform, immigration reform, and state incarceration policy.

Alex Wintz

ALEX WINTZ – Grammy-nominated guitarist Alex Wintz quickly gained a name in the international jazz community as a performer, educator, and composer. His talent and embrace of contemporary influences molded with a deep gratitude for the traditions of the past has garnered him numerous accolades and acclaim from music lovers across the globe. Wintz is a frequent collaborator with Etienne Charles, Jeremy Pelt, Ben Williams and Sound Effect, Roxy Coss, Bryan Carter, and Nick Finzer, and has performed at the Newport, Monterey, Montreux, and Montreal jazz festivals, among other major venues in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Born in California and raised in Morristown, NJ, Wintz began playing guitar at an early age. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Berklee College of Music and completed a Master’s degree from the Juilliard School. Wintz is on faculty at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Jazz for Teens program and is also involved in NJPAC’s professional development instruction and in-school residency programs. Wintz released LifeCycle, his debut recording on Culture Shock Music in 2017, and his latest album, Live to Tape, was released in 2020 featuring Dave Baron and Jimmy MacBride. As a sideman, Wintz has appeared on more than 50 releases including the Grammy-nominated Terraza 7 Big Band recording, One Day Wonder. When not touring and teaching, he can be found performing at jazz clubs across New York City including, Smalls, Mezzrow, Smoke, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Birdland. Wintz is a graduate of Morristown High School.
“The MEF is so fortunate to have such accomplished professionals in their area of the Arts with ties to our greater Morristown community, serve as Judges for this year’s event,” said Katherine Vizzini, the Morris Educational Foundation’s board chair.

“We appreciate Alex, Allison, Bill, and Gabriela volunteering their time and expertise to judge the Morristown ONSTAGE talent finalists.  The performers are evaluated based on their poise, stage presence, creative interpretation, suitability and overall general performance.  We are looking forward to another incredible show this year at MPAC!”

The 14 finalists will compete for one of two 1st place $1,000 cash prizes – one for contestants ages 19 and over and one for contestants ages 18 and under. Additionally, $500 will be awarded to the “Audience Choice” Winner, which is a “text-to-vote” at the end of the show, and a $250 Rossoff Rising Star Award for talent training chosen by the Morristown ONSTAGE Steering Committee.

Atlantic Health System’s Morristown Medical Center has signed on as the event’s 17th consecutive Headline Sponsor. Emmy Award winner, Tara Bernie, a Morristown resident and owner/founder of TB Yoga House will return for her 10th year as host. Joining her as co-hosts this year will be students from Morristown High School’s Broadcasting Department.

Here is a sneak peek of this year’s showcase:

Tickets for Morristown ONSTAGE at the Mayo Performing Arts Center are currently sold out. Check with the Box Office at (973) 539-8008 a few days before the show for any last-minute ticket availability. For those interested in supporting the show, donations can be made here.

Morristown ONSTAGE was created to further the Morris Educational Foundation’s ability to distribute financial and other resources to and for the Morris School District for enrichment programs and other projects. Since the show’s inception, the event has raised over $1.5 million to benefit the Morris School District.

About Morris Educational Foundation

The Morris Educational Foundation, a 501(c)(3) corporation, enhances educational opportunities for more than 5,700 students in all 10 schools of the Morris School District. Established to raise private funds for public education, the Foundation works to enrich and inspire the academic pursuits of all our students, from preschool through high school. For more information, visit .


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