Matthew Sheens, Parish Musician

Listed as one of Fred Hersch’s “pianists you should know”, and described as “an outstanding pianist, stoked full of creative ideas and limitless technique….totally innovative and luminous” by The Australian (national newspaper), Matthew graduated from the Elder Conservatorium in 2008 having been awarded the prize for top Undergraduate for piano, most outstanding honours student, and having being awarded the Adelaide University Medal for excellence in the humanities.

In 2009 he became the first Australian to win a coveted Downbeat Magazine Student Award, and was offered a scholarship to complete a Masters Degree in Music Performance at Boston’s New England Conservatory, studying with 10-time grammy nominated pianist Fred Hersch, and Macarthur Fellow, Jason Moran.

Upon graduating in 2011, Matthew relocated to NYC where has been engaged as composer, bandleader and performer since. In 2014 he was the winner of the APRA/AMCOS Professional Development Award. The same year Matthew was a Freedman Fellowship finalist, performing a set of original music at the Sydney Opera House. Sheens has performed with many musical luminaries including Bob Mintzer, Chris McNulty, Paul Bollenback, Bob Moses, Cecil McBee, Jim Pugh, John Hoffman, Tom Patitucci, Jerry Bergonzi, Jon Gordon and performs regularly with bassist John Patitucci. He has performed across Australia, USA, New Zealand, Japan, The Netherlands, at the Jazz Hoeilaart International Jazz Festival in Belgium, Montreux International Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Europafest in Romania, Australia’s Wangaratta Jazz Festival, Melbourne International Jazz Festival, and at the International Panama Jazz festival in Panama City.

In 2012 Sheens released his debut album, ‘Every Eight Seconds’, to wide acclaim and won the 2013 APRA/AMCOS Professional Development Award. Sheens released his second album ‘Untranslatable’ (ABC Music) in 2014, and ‘Cloud Appreciation Day’ (QFTF) September 2016, which won the ‘Jazz Couleurs Hit Award’ in France. His fourth album,’American Counterpoint’ (QFTF) in 2018, was named Australian Jazz work of the year at the APRA Art Music Awards. In 2019 his first Symphony was premiered by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and orchestrated for the Czech National Symphony Orchestra the same year.

Barbara Gessler, Parish Administrator

Barbara grew up in Germany. She received a Master’s degree from the University of Cologne in German Literature, Philosophy and Communications.

During a year of studies in Vienna she met her husband Paul (who is from Michigan). Both relocated to Amsterdam, where they lived for almost 10 years. In Amsterdam Barbara worked as an editor and translator, specializing in subtitling, and also trained as a gold and silversmith.

In 1998 they moved to Larchmont/Mamaroneck and made this community their home. They have two adult children: son Leon is an actor, and daughter Lily is a dancer. Since 2006, Barbara has been the Parish Administrator for St. Thomas Church, and she has enjoyed every year.

Michele Richardson, Director of Finance

A Westchester native, Michele grew up in Hastings, now lives in Eastchester, and is a member of Christ Church Bronxville.

Michele has spent the bulk of her career as an investment banker and investment manager at firms such as DLJ, Lehman Brothers, Freddie Mac and MassMutual.  More recently she has shifted gears.  She was CFO and President of Xylo Corp., a music education software start-up, and now is focused exclusively on non-profit organizations. Since 2017, she has consulted and had interim positions with religious, arts, social justice, and educations organizations.

Her passion for non-profits comes from her longtime volunteer service at Christ Church, and her alma mater, Dickinson College. At CCB she served on the finance committee, taught Sunday School, volunteered with Young At Arts and Midnight Run, and served as the Church’s Treasurer.  At Dickinson, she has been on the Board of Trustees for nearly 20 years and has Chaired the Finance, and Investment Committees during that time.  She currently Chairs the Facilities Committee.

Michele and her husband Ken (a cradle Episcopalian) have a son Dylan, a senior at Irvington High School, and a daughter Caroline, a junior at Eastchester High School.   Michele grew up birdwatching and last month added 12 new birds to her life list.  As a family, they enjoy seeing musicals, traveling, hiking, snorkeling and scuba diving.

David Bilotti, Property Manager

David grew up in Mamaroneck and brings an incredible wealth of experience to his position as Property Manager.  Before coming to St. Thomas, David worked for the New York State Thruway for 37½ years.  He managed I-95 from Connecticut to just outside of New York City, supervising a large staff and dealing with all aspects of highway maintenance. He was also the superintendent of an eighteen-family apartment building in Harrison. When he’s not working, David enjoys boating, motorcycles, archery, and spending time with his fiancé, Patty.