Teacher Biographies

We are proud of our talented teachers, many of whom have several years of teaching experience. Our student teachers have received faculty recommendations and are mentored by faculty members.

We assign a level to each teacher depending on their teaching experience and training. The fee for lessons depends on the teacher's level. You will need to contact us for fee information for some teachers at the Faculty level.

  • Faculty: NIU faculty members who teach advanced students and require an audition.
  • Associate: Teachers with many years of experience. Most have a bachelor's or master's degree. Some are graduate students.
  • Apprentice 3: Recent NIU graduates with at least four years of teaching experience.
  • Apprentice 2: Graduate students with at least three years of teaching experience.
  • Apprentice 1: Undergraduate or graduate students with at least one year of teaching experience.

Note: Teachers with a astrick symbol (*) indicates their lesson fee is different from the faculty fee listed on the fee grid. Please contact the office to find out the lesson fees for these teachers.

Teachers by Instrument

Accordion

Art

Banjo

Aaron Lenz (Associate)

Aaron Lenz is a musician, songwriter and professional music instructor who has studied music performance at Colorado State University. He has more than 14 years of experience teaching private lessons to students of string instruments, and several of his students have completed recording projects. Mr. Lenz teaches banjo and mandolin at the CSA and he looks forward to working with others who share his life-long love of composing and playing music.

Bass

Scott Anderson (Apprentice 3)

I have a passion to educate through music. I find joy in helping to nourish and develop the gifts that are unique to each student and building a curriculum to best fit their goals and ambitions. I have inherited some of the greatest teaching materials that I know of through my education and I intend to perpetuate that tradition as well as build upon it for the future.

I have been playing the guitar since age 12 and teaching since age 15. (11 years teaching) My clientele has ranged from very young children who have shown interest in music to retirees that have always wanted to learn to play. I have worked with nearly all levels of skill and experience from absolute beginners to experienced musicians who are seeking deeper knowledge and building musical skills.

I teach nearly all styles of guitar playing including rock, blues, funk/soul, jazz, country, acoustic and classical/Spanish.

I have confidence that I can help any student get to where they want to be as a musician. Let's do this

Chano Cruz (Apprentice 1)

Chano Cruz, a St. Louis native, has been an active bassist on the scene for the last 4 years. He has played with many current jazz artists such as Terrell Stafford, Matt Wilson, Adam Larson, and countless others.

Chano is the bass instructor at the Jazz St. Louis summer camp every year and assists with multiple high schools in the city. He is currently studying with John Floeter, Marlene Rosenberg, Clark Sommers and Bob Deboo.

Chano currently plays in the NIU Jazztet, Jazz Ensemble, and Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra as an undergraduate.

John Floeter (Faculty*)

John Floeter is currently taking on new string bass students at all levels in both Classical and Jazz. He teaches in Cary and DeKalb, both of Illinois.

While he primarily teaches college-level classical bassists, he has taught every level, including the complete beginner. John has different approaches for different needs, but circles back to the same fundamentals and proper technique. He likes to coordinate instruction with the repertoire of the school ensemble and the guidelines of ILMEA competition. In all of this rigor, he believes the most important aspect of study is the enjoyment of music and the growth of the individual student.

John is currently Principal Bass of the Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Lake Forest Symphony, and a member of the Grant Park Orchestra and the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed with the Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Milwaukee Symphony, Fulcrum Point, and Chicago Opera Theater. He has had a decades-long association with the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra and the Chicago Philharmonic. John is the Instructor of Double Bass at Northern Illinois University, and also teaches at the University of Illinois-Chicago and Roosevelt University. He has been a guest lecturer and performer for area universities and the Chicago Bass Festival, as well as a coach for the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras and Midwest Young Artists. He has been an active bassist in the Chicago area since 1979, covering several genres of music, including classical, jazz, folk, and musical theater.

Cello

Elizabeth Eastman Becker (Apprentice 3)

Elizabeth Eastman Becker is a 2013 graduate from NIU with an undergraduate degree in music and political science. Her cello instructor at NIU was Avalon Quartet member Cheng-Hou Lee. She has taught private cello lessons for several years to students of all ages and abilities. She has also coached chamber groups as well as cello sectionals in the community and has been a member of the NIU Philharmonic and Kishwaukee Symphony.

In the past few years, Elizabeth has also studied the Korean martial art, Taekwondo. She has earned her 1st-degree black belt and is perusing her 2nd-degree in the summer of 2019.

Thomas Cappaert (Associate)

Thomas Cappaert recently received a performer's certificate in cello at NIU, where he studied with Professor Marc Johnson. He earned his bachelor's degree in elementary education from Eastern Michigan University and is certified to teach both Suzuki cello and Suzuki violin. He has been the orchestra director for the Indian Prairie School District and the Kalamazoo Public School District. He has a master's degree in Suzuki cello pedagogy and studied Suzuki pedagogy with Laurel Thurman at NIU. He has attended many Suzuki institutes and is a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas. He has been principal cello with the Kishwaukee Orchestra since 2006. He taught Suzuki cello in Elgin for two years.

Anya Gavin (Apprentice 1)

Anya is currently pursuing bachelor's degrees in performance, music education, and finance at Northern Illinois University. In addition to teaching private brass and strings lessons in multiple locations around the Chicagoland area, she also teaches strings and general music as part of the Fox Valley El Sistema program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making music universally accessible. Her past teaching experience includes volunteering at Huntley Middle School in DeKalb and interning at The People's Music School in Chicago. Anya also regularly plays recitals and actively performs in local groups, including the Fox Valley Orchestra, DuPage Symphony, DeKalb Municipal Band, Fox Valley Brass Band, and the Wheaton Municipal Band, with whom she has also been a featured soloist. Her goal is to pursue graduate research connecting the role of music education in students' lives to the acquisition of fundamental life skills and methods toward achieving happiness

Gerardo Sánchez Pastrana (Apprentice 2)

Colombian cellist Gerardo Sanchez Pastrana has won thesecond prize of the “Nicolas Finoli Award” during the VI Latin American Cello Festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the first place of the concerto competition in the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and the “Jóvenes Intépretes 2012” competition of the Banco de la República in Colombia. He received a public recognition given by the Mayor of Neiva, Colombia, for his contributions to the cultural development of the city. Recently, he got the “Dutton Fellowship” from Northern Illinois University, and also got an honorable mention in the NIU Chamber Music Competition with the Esoterica Ensemble.

As a soloist, he has performed recitals in Colombia, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Argentina and the United States of America. In addition, ha has performed as a soloist with the Collegium Musicum Orchestra, the Colombia National Conservatory Symphony, and the Bogotá Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.

He has participated in many festivals and competitions, such as the VI Latin American Cello Festival, FEMUSC, I Festival InternacioUNAL de Violonchelo, Festiqartetos, VII Cartagena Music Festival in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2013. He has participated in masterclasses with many cellists such as Anthony Elliot, Kyril Zlotnikov, Leonard Elschenbroich, Hans Jensen, Eduardo Vassallo, Natalie Clein, Andrés Díaz, Michael Hell, Marcy Rose, and many others. In addition, he has participated in chamber music masterclasses with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Celeste Trio, Marcos Machado, and members of the Miami String Quartet.

As a teacher, he has been invited to teach master classes and workshops in Colombia and Costa Rica. Additionally, he was a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Ball State University from 2016 to 2018.

As an orchestra player, he has worked with the Colombia National Symphony Orchestra, Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra, Ball State Symphony Orchestra, Muncie Symphony Orchestra, Colombian Youth Philharmonic, NIU Philharmonic, Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra and Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra. From 2014 to 2016, he has worked with the Bogotá Youth Philharmonic Orchestra as principal cellist.

Gerardo holds a bachelor’s degree in Cello Performance from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and an Artist Diploma from Ball State University. Currently, he is pursuing his master’s degree in cello performance at Northern Illinois University. In addition, Gerardo is a graduate teaching assistant at Northern Illinois University and teaches at NIU Community School of Arts and Sycamore High School. His principal teachers have been Julio Gutierrez, Magdalena Eichmeyer, Diego Garcia, Peter Opie and Cheng-Hou Lee.

Ben Rodriguez (Apprentice 1)

Ben Rodriguez is an alumnus of the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory and has studied with Linc Smelser and Amanda Nelson. In his time at the conservatory, he performed with the MYA Symphony Orchestra and his sextet Soare was selected to compete in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. He has been teaching private lessons for four years and received Suzuki teacher training from Andrea Yun at the Nashville Suzuki Institute. Ben has worked as a coach in the Advanced String Quartet and Junior Chamber Music Workshops as well as assisted in the Early Ed Music classes for preschoolers. In addition to local ensembles such as Stage Coach Players pit orchestra and Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Ben has performed and recorded in various jazz and pop ensembles in the Chicagoland area.

He has received numerous awards and opportunities both on cello and other instruments such as double bass and voice. In 2014, Ben performed in a masterclass with Yo-Yo Ma for the Chicago Cello Society in Symphony Hall. He also won the first prize for the senior division of the Mendelssohn Competition in 2017. That same year, he sang lead bass in Enharmonic Fusion and they performed in New York City, taking second place in the Varsity Vocals International Championship of High School A Capella. On double bass, he received the Outstanding Solo Award for "Essentially Ellington Jazz at Lincoln Center." Ben also enjoys languages, drawing and photography, acting and chess.

Linc Smelser (Faculty)

A native of Arizona, Linc Smelser received his bachelor’s degree in cello performance from the University of Arizona where he studied with Dr. Gordon Epperson, Ph.D. and received his master’s degree and performer’s certificate in cello performance and pedagogy at Northern Illinois University (NIU) having studied with renowned cellist and pedagogue Raya Garbousova. Advanced study included work with cellists Marc Johnson, Ron Leonard, Gabor and Peter Rejto, Heinrich Schiff, the Vermeer Quartet and pianists Richard Faith and Jerome Lowenthal.

In 2003, Mr. Smelser was appointed conductor/music director of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra in DeKalb, IL. In 2009 he was awarded Conductor of the Year by the Illinois Arts Council and in 2014 was appointed conductor/music director of the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra. He has guest conducted the Northern Illinois University Philharmonic, the Harper Symphony Orchestra, the Fox Valley Orchestra (Aurora) and the Skokie Valley Community Orchestra. He is also conductor of the NIU Sinfonia and Symphonette, two youth symphonies that attract students from the Northern Illinois area.

Mr. Smelser has appeared as a soloist with Camerata Chicago, Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra, the NIU Philharmonic and the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and has twice appeared in recital on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts Series in Chicago, which is broadcast live on over 44 stations across the United States. He has won several awards including first prize of the National Society of Arts and Letters Chapter Competition, top prize of the National Federation of Music Clubs Regional Competition and first prize of the International Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund Competition.

Mr. Smelser has been a member of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra Cello section since 1992 and has been an active substitute with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1997, having most recently embarked on his 12th international tour with the symphony. He continues to perform in The Three Celli, a chamber ensemble with cellists Stephen Balderston and Brant Taylor, throughout the Northern Illinois Area.

Mr. Smelser has most recently been appointed a faculty member of the Music Institute of Chicago in Winnetka. He is also a faculty member the NIU School of Music and has been teaching private cello lessons through the NIU Community School of the Arts since 1988. He served as guest lecturer of cello at the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music from 2006-2016 and is currently on the faculty of both the Chicago Suzuki Institute and the American Suzuki Institute and is pianist/accompanist of the NIU Suzuki program.

Clarinet

Aerie Bernard (Associate)

Aerie is excited by the fusion of musical ideas and the unique consciousness we experience when musiking together. She is an experienced teacher and has been teaching woodwind and plucked string lessons throughout Illinois' Fox Valley area since 2006.

Aerie offers private lessons in clarinet and guitar to players of all ages through NIU's Community School of the Arts. She also teaches a group guitar course for children ages 8-12.

Aerie encourages students to approach music as a personal journey and lifetime pursuit. She is proud of her students who have successfully nailed auditions, won awards, or formed bands; however, she finds particular satisfaction when she can help students who might have otherwise given up on their instruments find the spark that interests them and, as a result, find their own voice in music.

Aerie is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at NIU with a focus on Ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology bridges multiple disciplines to explore music as a universal phenomenon within which lies infinite variety of technique, aesthetics, and function. She is a graduate teaching assistant and is responsible for teaching MUHL 220, an undergraduate World Music Appreciation course. In 2014, she completed a bachelor of Arts contract major at NIU, "Trends in World Music: Performance, Technology, and Pedagogy" with a minor in Chinese studies. A cornerstone of her program was the study and playing of Chinese traditional and modern orchestral music. Her instrument of specialization is liǔqín, a Chinese lute the performance of which relies heavily on flatpicking techniques.

She is grateful to her teacher, Professor Yung-Hsin Chen for helping to demystify Chinese musical practices and for her many hours of instruction; and to her mentor, Dr. Jui-Ching Wang, for helping to transform a simple love of music into a challenging and rewarding mental and physical study. Aerie has studied with a number of remarkable teachers including clarinetists Katherine Betts and Beverly Anderson and has happily jammed with idols such as Nik Phelps of San Francisco's Club Foot Orchestra.

She learned guitar in the folk tradition, meaning many hours spent with friends, family, and pros learning, playing, and performing. While a student at NIU, Aerie played guitar in Zambian singer-songwriter Mathew Tembo's Afro-Pop Ensemble. Aerie is also an active bassist. In addition to her own projects, she has performed on bass with Malaysian world-pop singer-songwriter Amirah Ali and with renowned qanon player Ali Amr. A member of the hard-rock group Kadooge!, Aerie's playing is featured on the album "Nothing Is Almost Everything" released in 2014.

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 1)

Karli Bunn is attending Northern Illinois University for jazz studies, learning from saxophonist Geof Bradfield and pianist Reggie Thomas. She has played with Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, Marcus Printup, among others. Classically, Karli studies with Thomas Snydacker, and has worked with members of the Prism Quartet, as well as with Holmes, the principle saxophonist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Karli has played with the Josh Duffee Orchestra, the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, the Ken Paulsen Orchestra, the Quad Cities KIX Orchestra, and the Tony Hamilton Orchestra. Classically, she has also played with Maquoketa's community wind ensemble. At NIU, she has been in a variety of ensembles: Jazz Ensemble, Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble, the Huskie Marching Band, the Sandy Beaches jazz combo, University Chorus, and the Vermilion Saxophone Quartet. In addition to being a saxophonist, Karli is a pianist, vocalist, and a doubler, playing woodwinds including the clarinet, bass clarinet and flute.

Michael Opitz (Apprentice 2)

Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Michael Opitz is a saxophonist, woodwind doubler and educator. Over the course of the 12 years, he has been playing saxophone. Michael has had numerous performance opportunities, including appearances with Chantae Cann, Wycliffe Gordon, Joe Gransden, Tim Armacost and Kevin Bales. As a sideman, Michael has played with some of the top call groups in the South, the Joe Gransden Big Band (in which he played at the Blue Note in New York City in 2012), the Atlanta Latin Jazz Orchestra, the Rebel Big Band, as well as playing in the pit at the Alliance, Lyric and Serenbe Theaters. As a leader, Michael has fronted groups at venues such as Churchill Grounds, the Velvet Note and Ziba’s Bistro.

As an educator, Michael has given clinics at many high schools and middle schools throughout the Metro-Atlanta Area, as well as being on faculty at the Atlanta International School and Ponier Music as a woodwind instructor. Michael graduated from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA with a B.A. in jazz saxophone, and is currently working on his masters degree in jazz saxophone at NIU, under the instruction of Geof Bradfield.

Drumset/Percussion

Raelyn Erwin (Apprentice 1)

Raelyn Erwin is currently double majoring in Music Education and Percussion Performance at NIU under Greg Beyer and Ben Wahlund. She began playing percussion at Naperville Central High School under the direction of Brandon Estes and DJ Alstadt. She has teaching experience in a private and public setting. She also has experience teaching students ranging from an elementary to a high school level.

Chris Kenney (Apprentice 1)

Chris Kenney is a senior percussion performance major at NIU. While at NIU, he has participated in Percussion Ensemble, the NIU Latin Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Combos, and the NIU Steelband. In addition to percussion and drum set, Chris plays both guitar, an instrument he has been playing since the age of 10, and bass, which he has played in a couple of groups since high school.

Chris has plenty of teaching experience, being an instructor at Allegro Music Academy in Lemont, IL since 2017, as well as a teaching assistant for the NIU Percussion Camp in 2017 and 2018.

Christian Melhado (Apprentice 2)

Christian Melhado is currently a graduate student at NIU. Originally from New York Christian has played percussion from a young age. At the age of 6 Christian started learning the Djembe with his sister’s African Dance Class. This love for percussion soon took off after he picked up percussion in elementary school. There he began learning snare drum, timpani and other classical percussion. Christian began playing the Steel Pan with the Adlib Steel Orchestra around the same time (6 years of age). During the summer of 2008 Christian had the pleasure to go Trinidad and play with the top bands. Ever since, the steel pan and all percussion have been Christian’s passion. Christian has participated in the Brooklyn Panorama since the age of 8 and also arranges/composes music for the Adlib Steel Orchestra. Prior to NIU, Christian attended New York University (NYU) where he majored in percussion performance. He has participated in the Drum Boogie Festival, was the teacher’s assistant in Steel Ensemble at NYU, and has went on tour with the New York Theatre Ballet at Jacobs Pillow. Outside of playing percussion Christian produces for his music collective, "nxgn.cbnt", and has recorded with Grammy winning cowriter/ producer artist Melo-X.

As an educator Christian has taught children, as well as adults, how to play the steel pan, drumset and many other percussion instruments. In December of 2018 Christian had the opportunity to go to Guizhou, China where he taught five master classes on western percussion and steel pan.

Paul Perrilles (Apprentice 1)

Paul Perrilles (dubbed "the kid" by Ray Charles trumpeter David Hoffman) is a young professional musician who derives from the Peoria, IL area. Paul found his passion for the drums at a very young age. Drums have been in his family for 3 generations and he picked up the sticks just like his father and grandfather did before him.

Paul is not just a drummer, but also a musician. His musical versatility enables him to play across a wide spectrum of musical styles. He has played with bands representing several different genres: rock, fusion, jazz, and even folk. His most notable discography includes a year-long stint with The Way Down Wanderers, a fast-paced, soulful americana band from Peoria, IL. Paul can be heard on their album "Path to Follow."

Over the past two years, Paul has made the 2015 and 2016 Honors All State Jazz Ensemble under direction of Brent Wallarab and Reginald Thomas. He has also attended several prestigious jazz camps, including Michigan State University, Northern Illinois University, Birch Creek Music Performance Center, and Simpson College. While at Birch Creek, Paul made the top jazz ensemble and the Jazz Ambassadors and toured Wisconsin with those groups for two weeks during the summer. In high school he was honored with several jazz awards from accredited colleges such as Illinois State University, Western Illinois University, and University of Missouri in St. Louis. In 2016, the YoungArts Foundation named Paul a finalist in their jazz competition. Paul has studied with some of the greatest set players in the business today: Kenny Washington, Rodney Green, Joel Spencer, Stockton Helbing, Kelton Norris, and Montez Coleman.

Paul loves teaching drum set. He started his private studio in high school and has continued to build upon it. He has taught students young and old, beginner and advanced and has proven to be a well-rounded performer and educator. One of the key lessons Paul tries to convey is this: anyone can be a drummer, but not all drummers know how to play musically. Lessons in his studio involve the technical aspects of drumming as well as the musical side of the playing. Paul believes that a student's success hinges not only on technical advancement, but also having fun along the way!

Tyler Shields (Associate)

Known for his fluid groove, musical ingenuity and inimitable expression, Chicago-based drummer and percussionist Tyler Shields is becoming a regular name in the Midwest music scene. As a pliable musician, he covers a wide range of genres including jazz, rock, country, gospel, Afro-Cuban, R&B, hip-hop, and show drumming both on stage and in the studio.

Originally from Indianapolis, Tyler's formal education in percussion began with Paul Berns, principal percussionist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and pupil of Vic Firth, Cloyd Duff and Joseph Adato. Throughout his studies with Berns, Tyler performed as principal timpanist with the New World Youth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Susan Kitterman, principal timpanist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Side-By-Side program, and lead drummer for the IMEA All-State Jazz Ensemble. Tyler continued studying with Berns, as well as jazz saxophonist Harry Miedema, and Hal-Leonard studio musician Art Reiner, while receiving his bachelor's degree from University of Indianapolis from 2010-2014. In 2015 Tyler began studying at the University of Illinois, where he completed his master's degree in jazz studies and studied under nationally recognized jazz drummer Joel Spencer, bassist Larry Gray, percussionist Ricardo Flores, trombonist Jim Pugh, saxophonist Chip McNeill, pianists Chip Stephens and Joan Hickey, and trumpeter Tito Carrillo. Tyler performed with Latin Jazz Ensemble, the Concert Jazz Band and the four-time international award winning UIUC Jazz Trombone Ensemble.

Tyler's most recent professional appearances have been in the world of musical theater, performing in a countless variety of shows and musicals with The Phoenix Theater, Indy Fringe, Sullivan Theater on The Square, Summer Stock Stage, Center Grove Choirs, Indianapolis Men's Chorus, and many other equity and professional theaters/groups throughout Indiana and Illinois. Other professional credits include performances at The Grand Ole Opry, The Duke Energy Center, Indianapolis Convention Center, Indianapolis Jazz Festival and The Blue Wisp Jazz Club as well as regular appearances at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, The Indianapolis Jazz Kitchen, The Chatterbox jazz club, The Indianapolis Arts Garden, The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Jazz Upfront, The Iron Post, and many more, sharing the stage with renowned artists including Grammy award-winner Kirk Franklin, Chip McNeill, Jim Pugh, Jamey Aebersold, Steve Davis, Steve Allee, Vaughn Wiester, Rich Perry, Larry Gray, Ron Bridgewater, Chip Stephens, Harry Miedema, Mark Buselli, Rob Dixon, Joan Hickey and many more.

Tyler is a progressive musician covering many different musical styles in both percussion and drum set performing in venues all around the Midwest. He maintains a tight schedule, performing and teaching students of all levels.

Learn more about Tyler Sheilds

Robert Ward (Apprentice 1)

Robert Ward is majoring in percussion performance at Northern Illinois University under the direction of Gregory Beyer and Ben Wahlund. He has been playing music for close to ten years, and in those years he has experience playing in multiple large ensembles and percussion ensembles as well as jazz bands and jazz combos. He also has two years of private teaching experience with percussion.

Euphonium

Kurt Bonamer (Associate)

Kurt Bonamer is a founding member of the Molten Brass Quintet at NIU; the group was invited to perform at the Honors Convocation in Spring 2012. He has played with the Protege Philharmonic in Chicago and has also performed with the Wheaton Municipal Band, as well as with the NIU Philharmonic, NIU Wind Ensemble, NIU Wind Symphony and the NIU New Music Ensemble. He has taught lessons for the past year.

Flute/Piccolo

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 1)

Karli Bunn is attending Northern Illinois University for jazz studies, learning from saxophonist Geof Bradfield and pianist Reggie Thomas. She has played with Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, Marcus Printup, among others. Classically, Karli studies with Thomas Snydacker, and has worked with members of the Prism Quartet, as well as with Dr. Holmes, the principle saxophonist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Karli has played with the Josh Duffee Orchestra, the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, the Ken Paulsen Orchestra, the Quad Cities KIX Orchestra, and the Tony Hamilton Orchestra. Classically, she has also played with Maquoketa's community wind ensemble. At NIU, she has been in a variety of ensembles: Jazz Ensemble, Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble, the Huskie Marching Band, the Sandy Beaches jazz combo, University Chorus, and the Vermilion Saxophone Quartet. In addition to being a saxophonist, Karli is a pianist, vocalist, and a doubler, playing woodwinds including the clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute.

Cheryl Haines (Associate)

Cheryl Haines has a master's degree in music performance from the University of Connecticut and a bachelor's degree in music education and performance from Ohio State University. She performs with a Chicago-area harp and flute duo and is a public music teacher in Illinois. She has performed as a soloist with several orchestras and has recorded three albums. She was the principal flutist for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra for 25 years. She has taught private and group lessons to children and adults for many years.

Lynn Hansen (Associate)

Lynn Hansen earned her degree in flute performance from DePaul University. She has taught private and group flute lessons for many years, has assisted the DeKalb band program and has taught for the community school for several years. She is principal flute with the DeKalb Municipal Band during the summer, plays piccolo and flute with the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, has played for numerous Stagecoach Theatre productions and plays in other area ensembles.

Jenny Maier (Apprentice 2)

Jenny Maier has taught private and small group lessons over the past seven years as well as five years of teaching music in public schools. She believes that music is innate in all people and that helping her students cultivate their love of music, musical skills, and their own musical ideas is her purpose. Jenny has experience teaching students with a wide range of experience and ability levels and she is excited to teach anyone who wants to learn.

Jenny is currently pursuing her master degree in music education and world music pedagogy and received her bachelor degree in music education in 2014 from the University of Kentucky. She has performed multiple times in Carnegie Hall as well as touring across the United States, China and Bali.

Alex Martinez (Apprentice 1)

Alex Martinez has been playing piano since she was 6 years old. She has has been in band and choir nearly all her life.

Alex went to Kaneland high school which was awarded the second best music program in the country. She was in Madrigals, and Bella Voce (auditioned female choir). She was also a marching band section leader for the percussion section for three years.

Alex was a member of the Big Red Marching Machine Drumline during her time at Illinois State University.

She is currently studying to become a music teacher. Alex is a big supporter of music and the arts in schools. Her biggest priority is to expose children to the power of music. Alex believes in a holistic teaching approach.

French Horn

Laura Fairfield (Associate)

Laura Fairfield is a member of the Illinois Philharmonic, the Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Lake Forest Symphony. She has a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Northern Colorado and has taught for the community school for a number of years.

Guitar

Scott Anderson (Apprentice 3)

I have a passion to educate through music. I find joy in helping to nourish and develop the gifts that are unique to each student and building a curriculum to best fit their goals and ambitions. I have inherited some of the greatest teaching materials that I know of through my education and I intend to perpetuate that tradition as well as build upon it for the future.

I have been playing the guitar since age 12 and teaching since age 15. (11 years teaching) My clientele has ranged from very young children who have shown interest in music to retirees that have always wanted to learn to play. I have worked with nearly all levels of skill and experience from absolute beginners to experienced musicians who are seeking deeper knowledge and building musical skills.

I teach nearly all styles of guitar playing including rock, blues, funk/soul, jazz, country, acoustic and classical/Spanish.

I have confidence that I can help any student get to where they want to be as a musician. Let's do this

Aerie Bernard (Associate)

Aerie is excited by the fusion of musical ideas and the unique consciousness we experience when musiking together. She is an experienced teacher and has been teaching woodwind and plucked string lessons throughout Illinois' Fox Valley area since 2006.

Aerie offers private lessons in clarinet and guitar to players of all ages through NIU's Community School of the Arts. She also teaches a group guitar course for children ages 8-12.

Aerie encourages students to approach music as a personal journey and lifetime pursuit. She is proud of her students who have successfully nailed auditions, won awards, or formed bands; however, she finds particular satisfaction when she can help students who might have otherwise given up on their instruments find the spark that interests them and, as a result, find their own voice in music.

Aerie is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at NIU with a focus on Ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology bridges multiple disciplines to explore music as a universal phenomenon within which lies infinite variety of technique, aesthetics, and function. She is a graduate teaching assistant and is responsible for teaching MUHL 220, an undergraduate World Music Appreciation course. In 2014, she completed a bachelor of Arts contract major at NIU, "Trends in World Music: Performance, Technology and Pedagogy" with a minor in Chinese studies. A cornerstone of her program was the study and playing of Chinese traditional and modern orchestral music. Her instrument of specialization is liǔqín, a Chinese lute the performance of which relies heavily on flatpicking techniques.

She is grateful to her teacher, Professor Yung-Hsin Chen for helping to demystify Chinese musical practices and for her many hours of instruction; and to her mentor, Dr. Jui-Ching Wang, Ph.D., for helping to transform a simple love of music into a challenging and rewarding mental and physical study. Aerie has studied with a number of remarkable teachers including clarinetists Katherine Betts and Beverly Anderson and has happily jammed with idols such as Nik Phelps of San Francisco's Club Foot Orchestra.

She learned guitar in the folk tradition, meaning many hours spent with friends, family, and pros learning, playing, and performing. While a student at NIU, Aerie played guitar in Zambian singer-songwriter Mathew Tembo's Afro-Pop Ensemble. Aerie is also an active bassist. In addition to her own projects, she has performed on bass with Malaysian world-pop singer-songwriter Amirah Ali and with renowned qanon player Ali Amr. A member of the hard-rock group Kadooge!, Aerie's playing is featured on the album "Nothing Is Almost Everything" released in 2014.

Quentin Dover (Associate)

Quentin Dover has an undergraduate degree from NIU, where he majored in music and studied guitar with Fareed Haque. He has been a private and group guitar instructor since 2001 and enjoys teaching students of all ages. He specializes in classical guitar. In addition to his teaching, he is currently working on a graduate degree at NIU in world music. He teaches a general education music class at NIU.

Chris Kenney (Apprentice 1)

Chris Kenney is a senior percussion performance major at NIU. While at NIU, he has participated in Percussion Ensemble, the NIU Latin Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Combos, and the NIU Steelband. In addition to percussion and drum set, Chris plays both guitar, an instrument he has been playing since the age of 10, and bass, which he has played in a couple of groups since high school.

Chris has plenty of teaching experience, being an instructor at Allegro Music Academy in Lemont, IL since 2017, as well as a teaching assistant for the NIU Percussion Camp in 2017 and 2018.

Eric Schroeder (Associate)

Eric Schroeder is the director of the community school's Suzuki guitar program. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in guitar performance from NIU. A veteran soloist who specializes in flamenco, he performs with many ensembles. He has taught lessons in the community school for many years and has training in Suzuki guitar through Book 5. Eric has presented several sessions at the Suzuki Association of the Americas conferences. He is on the music faculty at Rockford College. He started the NIUkulele Ensemble in fall 2012.

Mandolin

Aaron Lenz (Associate)

Aaron Lenz is a musician, songwriter and professional music instructor who has studied music performance at Colorado State University. He has more than 14 years of experience teaching private lessons to students of string instruments, and several of his students have completed recording projects. Mr. Lenz teaches banjo and mandolin at the CSA and he looks forward to working with others who share his life-long love of composing and playing music.

Oboe

Ben Crosby (Associate)

Ben Crosby is an active oboe player in the region and holds a bachelor degree in oboe performance from Northern Illinois University. He has been an oboist with the Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra since 2002 and has played with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra. Ben also enjoys playing with the Lyric Winds Woodwind Quintet based in Peru. In addition to teaching oboe and guitar from his home town of Oregon, he is the oboe instructor at Music Suite 408 in Peru as well as the Community School of the Arts at Northern Illinois University.

Victoria Pho (Apprentice 1)

Victoria Pho received her degree in Music and Biochemistry at Northern Illinois University, where she studied oboe with J. Ricardo Castañeda. During her time at NIU, she was a member of the NIU Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble, Philharmonic, Chinese Music Ensemble, Middle Eastern Ensemble, Gamelan, and has subbed for the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Dekalb Municipal Band.

Victoria has been involved in music most of her life, taking lessons since a very young age. Aside from having private lessons, she has participated in the Granquist Music Competition for piano and performed at American Grands annually for five years. She was also involved in the Achievement in Music (AIM) Program, a comprehensive theory and performance curriculum comprised of 14 levels of achievement for piano students, which is sponsored by the Illinois State Music Teachers Association. In addition, she has participated annually in Solo and Ensemble Festivals, obtaining district and state Class A Gold Medals for both oboe and piano.

Victoria enjoys working with children and has taught private oboe lessons at Marmion Academy. She looks forward to working with the CSA to continue teaching lessons and instilling her love of music to other students.

Piano

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 1)

Karli Bunn is attending Northern Illinois University for jazz studies, learning from saxophonist Geof Bradfield and pianist Reggie Thomas. She has played with Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, Marcus Printup, among others. Classically, Karli studies with Thomas Snydacker, and has worked with members of the Prism Quartet, as well as with Dr. Holmes, the principle saxophonist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Karli has played with the Josh Duffee Orchestra, the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, the Ken Paulsen Orchestra, the Quad Cities KIX Orchestra, and the Tony Hamilton Orchestra. Classically, she has also played with Maquoketa's community wind ensemble. At NIU, she has been in a variety of ensembles: Jazz Ensemble, Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble, the Huskie Marching Band, the Sandy Beaches jazz combo, University Chorus, and the Vermilion Saxophone Quartet. In addition to being a saxophonist, Karli is a pianist, vocalist, and a doubler, playing woodwinds including the clarinet, bass clarinet and flute.

Heewon Cha (Apprentice 2)

Heewon Cha, who seeks accurate interpretation and high-quality music in addition to a warm and comfortable style, believes that the lesson strategy should be different depending on the personality of each student and tries to maximize their potential with flexible lesson strategies.

She began teaching in 2015 and works with a wide range of age groups from five years old to people in their sixties. She also created a music fairytale called 'A Day of Doong' through a Dalcroze Eurhythmics class in South Korea and encourages her students to create their own music.

She has extensive repertoire, has been the winner of several competitions. She was the winner of the 2019 NIU Orchestra competition, was a street performer in South Korea, and planned and participated in a piano ensemble concert in Korea, which ranged from classical to cinematic music under the name of the Mask.

She attended Hansei University in South Korea and graduated at the head of her class. She recently entered NIU with a full scholarship. She is currently studying for her M.M. with Professor Goldenberg and working as an opera graduate assistant.

Ann (Yi-Chu) Chen (Apprentice 3)

Ann (Yi-Chu) Chen holds a master of music degree in piano performance from Northern Illinois University under Professor William Goldenberg. She is currently pursuing her Performer's Certificate in piano performance. She has experience teaching students of all ages and has assisted students with their entrance examinations for music schools focusing on ear training and aural skills. When she was in Taiwan, Ann also taught music history and music theory classes at middle school. In addition, Ann is a piano accompanist for competitions, juries, music festivals, and recitals.

Soo-Yon Choi (Associate)

Soo-Yon Choi was an instructor at the School of Performing Arts at the University of Maine and at Illinois Wesleyan University. Her bachelor's degree in music is from Seoul National University and her master's degrees (both in music) are from University of Illinois and Florida State University. She has a doctoral degree in piano performance from Florida State University. She is an accomplished accompanist and performer. She has taught piano since 1999.

Jodeen Coulter (Associate)

Jodeen Coulter received her bachelor's degree in music education (with a vocal emphasis) from NIU. She currently teaches general music in DeKalb. She has taught strings to children in the DeKalb schools and has directed school choirs and musicals. Ms. Coulter has had 12 years of singing experience with a traveling musical group that has performed with pre-recorded soundtracks.

Izabella Gieron (Apprentice 1)

Izabella Gieron is currently an undergraduate Music Education and Music Performance Major at Northern Illinois University, where she studies with Blaise Magniere. She is a member of the NIU Philharmonic and is also involved in chamber music.

Izabella was born and raised in the Chicagoland area. As a child, Izabella displayed advanced skills on both violin and piano. Izabella's early involvement in the music field has provided her with the necessary skills to succeed. She has been studying piano since age 4 with Katarzyna Nowak until high school. Moreover, she was a member of the Protégé Philharmonic in Chicago under the direction of Joseph Glypmph. Joseph Glymph continued as her mentor until college. Izabella has continued to be an avid learner and role-model in Argo High School's Honors Orchestra where she maintained the role as concertmaster.

Throughout her music career, she has been chosen to play in both District and All-State Orchestra throughout high school. Izabella has also been chosen to perform in the All-Conference Jazz band for three years. She had an opportunity to perform alongside various artists. It is her talent and dedication in the music industry that has allowed her to perform with artists such as Marek Balata, Wici Song and Dance Theatre. Not only has she performed at venues within the states, but she also performed internationally. In 2016, Izabella performed at the Folklore Music Festival in Paso Fundo, Brazil. In 2018, she has performed at the CIOFF International Festival in Arequpia, Peru.

Not only does this music aficionado hope to become a music educator, but she hopes to become a conductor and travel the world "to share her undying passion for music".

Ke-Yin Kilburn (Associate)

Ke-Yin Kilburn is an active singer, pianist, conductor, and music therapist. She is the dean of Asian Studies at the American Conservatory of Music School of Music Therapy and has taught at Waubonsee College and Kishwaukee College. She recently made a presentation about Chinese musical therapy at the University of Hawaii. She has taught for the community school for many years.

Michelle (Hiu Tung) Lo (Apprentice 1)

Michelle (Hiu Tung) Lo is currently an undergraduate music education major at NIU, where she studies piano with Professor JeongSoo Kim. She has been playing piano for eighteen years. Michelle has seven years of experience teaching private piano lessons to students of different ages and backgrounds. When she was in Hong Kong, Michelle also taught private music theory and general music classes at the children's choral and performing arts center. In addition, she is also an active member (flutist) of the NIU Wind Symphony. Michelle enjoys working with children and believes that early childhood music education is important to every child. She is very excited to share her music by teaching at CSA.

Jenny Maier (Apprentice 2)

Jenny Maier has taught private and small group lessons over the past seven years as well as five years of teaching music in public schools. She believes that music is innate in all people and that helping her students cultivate their love of music, musical skills, and their own musical ideas is her purpose. Jenny has experience teaching students with a wide range of experience and ability levels and she is excited to teach anyone who wants to learn.

Jenny is currently pursuing her master degree in music education and world music pedagogy and received her bachelor degree in music education in 2014 from the University of Kentucky. She has performed multiple times in Carnegie Hall as well as touring across the United States, China and Bali.

Alex Martinez (Apprentice 1)

Alex Martinez has been playing piano since she was 6 years old. She has has been in band and choir nearly all her life.

Alex went to Kaneland high school which was awarded the second best music program in the country. She was in Madrigals, and Bella Voce (auditioned female choir). She was also a marching band section leader for the percussion section for three years.

Alex was a member of the Big Red Marching Machine Drumline during her time at Illinois State University.

She is currently studying to become a music teacher. Alex is a big supporter of music and the arts in schools. Her biggest priority is to expose children to the power of music. Alex believes in a holistic teaching approach.

Agape Montero (Apprentice 1)

Agape Montero is currently a Junior at Northern Illinois University, working to complete a bachelor of Science in Nursing as well as the Creative Writing Certificate. Although her major isn't related to music, it's always been a part of her life ever since she was young.

Agape has played piano starting from a very young age until now, picking up various other instruments along the way. In addition to piano, Agape's main instruments include flute and baritone/euphonium which have aided her in getting a little taste of the other instrumental groups.

Beginning with classical music, Agape has also branched out into learning show/movie music, video game music, anime music, as well as pop and band music in which she has helped numerous students prepare for various sorts of concerts and recitals with a variety of music genres. A bit unlike traditional classical teachers, Agape is all about learning whatever one is interested in!

After graduating from NCC's Piano Academy, Agape became a piano instructor at Hix Bros Music Store in Batavia, Illinois, where she has taught for two years from 2016-2018. It was there that Agape discovered a love for teaching piano and helping students find their own passion for different types of music through the instrument. Agape has taught a variety of ages, starting from young children eager to learn, to elderly people who are interested in getting into the passion. Agape understands that every student works and learns differently and with that, she wants to help each person find their special connection with the piano!

Agape is currently a nursing tutor at NIU as well as an occasional mentor pianist/organist at her church back in Plainfield, Illinois. Both experiences have aided her in teaching, giving her insight into how to correctly guide a student through whatever may seem intimidating and daunting. She's eager to begin teaching once more here at the Community School of Arts and to help her students discover an amazing new world of music through piano!

Marilyn Montzka (Associate)

Marilyn Montzka is the director of the community school's Suzuki piano program. She has a bachelor's degree from Oberlin Conservatory. Her Suzuki teacher training was with Yasuko Joichi. She has been a teacher, accompanist and photographer at Suzuki Institutes in Colorado, Utah, New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. She plays viola in the Kishwaukee Symphony and directs the handbell choir at Federated Church in Sycamore.

Victoria Pho (Apprentice 1)

Victoria Pho received her degree in Music and Biochemistry at Northern Illinois University, where she studied oboe with J. Ricardo Castañeda. During her time at NIU, she was a member of the NIU Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble, Philharmonic, Chinese Music Ensemble, Middle Eastern Ensemble, Gamelan, and has subbed for the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Dekalb Municipal Band.

Victoria has been involved in music most of her life, taking lessons since a very young age. Aside from having private lessons, she has participated in the Granquist Music Competition for piano and performed at American Grands annually for five years. She was also involved in the Achievement in Music (AIM) Program, a comprehensive theory and performance curriculum comprised of 14 levels of achievement for piano students, which is sponsored by the Illinois State Music Teachers Association. In addition, she has participated annually in Solo and Ensemble Festivals, obtaining district and state Class A Gold Medals for both oboe and piano.

Victoria enjoys working with children and has taught private oboe lessons at Marmion Academy. She looks forward to working with the CSA to continue teaching lessons and instilling her love of music to other students.

Georgia Price (Associate)

Georgia Price received her bachelor's degree in music education with a piano emphasis from NIU in 1992. She studied piano with Professor Bill Koehler. She accompanies groups and soloists and has been a piano judge for the Illinois State Solo and Ensemble contest. She is currently a church organist and has directed church choirs. She taught privately before joining the NIU Community School of the Arts in 1995.

Franchesca Romero (Apprentice 2)

A native of Miami, Florida, Franchesca Romero began her piano studies at the age of five. She began her piano studies in the classical realm until she entered New World School of the Arts High School where she began her jazz studies. She is a Young Arts winner and held the piano chair in the Florida All-State Jazz Ensemble. Additionally, she was a member of the Thelonious Monk National Performing Arts High School All-Star Sextet in which she toured San Francisco with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. She has participated in competitions such as the Essentially Ellington Big Band Competition, where she received an outstanding soloist award.

Franchesca is a Michigan State University graduate with a bachelor's degree in Jazz Studies. She was a part of the prestigious Jazz Orchestra 1 under the direction of Rodney Whitaker. She studied privately with Xavier Davis, as well as other professors such as Michael Dease, Etienne Charles, Diego Rivera, Randy Napoleon, and Randy Gelispie. During her time at MSU, she performed alongside the likes of Christian McBride, Jimmy Cobb, Tim Warfield, Rufus Reid, Anat Cohen, Michael Philip Mossman, Roy Haynes, Steve Wilson, and Ron Carter to name a few.

Franchesca is pursuing a master's degree at Northern Illinois University with a teaching assistantship under the tutelage of Reggie Thomas.

Tyler Shields (Associate)

Known for his fluid groove, musical ingenuity and inimitable expression, Chicago-based drummer and percussionist Tyler Shields is becoming a regular name in the Midwest music scene. As a pliable musician, he covers a wide range of genres including jazz, rock, country, gospel, Afro-Cuban, RandB, hip-hop, and show drumming both on stage and in the studio.

Originally from Indianapolis, Tyler's formal education in percussion began with Paul Berns, principal percussionist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and pupil of Vic Firth, Cloyd Duff and Joseph Adato. Throughout his studies with Berns, Tyler performed as principal timpanist with the New World Youth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Susan Kitterman, principal timpanist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Side-By-Side program, and lead drummer for the IMEA All-State Jazz Ensemble. Tyler continued studying with Berns, as well as jazz saxophonist Harry Miedema, and Hal-Leonard studio musician Art Reiner, while receiving his bachelor's degree from University of Indianapolis from 2010-2014. In 2015 Tyler began studying at the University of Illinois, where he completed his master's degree in jazz studies and studied under nationally recognized jazz drummer Joel Spencer, bassist Larry Gray, percussionist Ricardo Flores, trombonist Jim Pugh, saxophonist Chip McNeill, pianists Chip Stephens and Joan Hickey, and trumpeter Tito Carrillo. Tyler performed with Latin Jazz Ensemble, the Concert Jazz Band and the four-time international award-winning UIUC Jazz Trombone Ensemble.

Tyler's most recent professional appearances have been in the world of musical theater, performing in a countless variety of shows and musicals with The Phoenix Theater, Indy Fringe, Sullivan Theater on The Square, Summer Stock Stage, Center Grove Choirs, Indianapolis Men's Chorus, and many other equity and professional theaters/groups throughout Indiana and Illinois. Other professional credits include performances at The Grand Ole Opry, The Duke Energy Center, Indianapolis Convention Center, Indianapolis Jazz Festival and The Blue Wisp Jazz Club as well as regular appearances at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, The Indianapolis Jazz Kitchen, The Chatterbox jazz club, The Indianapolis Arts Garden, The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Jazz Upfront, The Iron Post, and many more, sharing the stage with renowned artists including Grammy Award-winner Kirk Franklin, Chip McNeill, Jim Pugh, Jamey Aebersold, Steve Davis, Steve Allee, Vaughn Wiester, Rich Perry, Larry Gray, Ron Bridgewater, Chip Stephens, Harry Miedema, Mark Buselli, Rob Dixon, Joan Hickey, and many more.

Tyler is a progressive musician covering many different musical styles in both percussion and drum set performing in venues all around the Midwest. He maintains a tight schedule, performing and teaching students of all levels.

Get more about Tyler on his personal website.

Ahhae Song (Apprentice 2)

Ahhae Song is pursuing a master's degree in music from NIU with Dr. William Goldenberg after earning her bachelor's degree in South Korea and a piano performance certification from Judson University.

She has experience teaching all levels of students and also teaches group piano classes at NIU. She worked at many piano studios in South Korea and now, she is teaching students in the Dekalb area. She believes a flexible teaching style leads to the best outcomes with her students and also believes that learning music can help students express their thoughts and feelings freely. This leads to greater wellness and healing for all involved.

Ahhae is also an experienced accompanist. She has accompanied for many summer camps, recitals, juries, and competitions. She also has accompanied vocalists, choirs and instrumentalists at NIU and Judson University as a graduate assistant. She has also performed on concert tours throughout Europe and Jamaica with the Judson University Choir.

Dain Yoon (Associate)

Dain Yoon has earned a bachelor's degree in music from NIU. She is pursuing master performance major at NIU where she studies piano with Professor William Goldenberg. She attended Ye-Won Art Middle School and Seoul Art High School in South Korea. She has performed on concert tours that have taken her throughout Europe. She has won several solo competitions and is very active in chamber music. She is an engaged, patient and experienced private lesson instructor. She has taught piano since 2012.

Recorder

Cheryl Haines (Associate)

Cheryl Haines has a master's degree in music performance from the University of Connecticut and a bachelor's degree in music education and performance from Ohio State University. She performs with a Chicago-area harp and flute duo and is a public music teacher in Illinois. She has performed as a soloist with several orchestras and has recorded three albums. She was the principal flutist for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra for 25 years. She has taught private and group lessons to children and adults for many years.

Saxophone

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 1)

Karli Bunn is attending Northern Illinois University for jazz studies, learning from saxophonist Geof Bradfield and pianist Reggie Thomas. She has played with Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, Marcus Printup, among others. Classically, Karli studies with Thomas Snydacker, and has worked with members of the Prism Quartet, as well as with Holmes (Ph.D.), the principle saxophonist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Karli has played with the Josh Duffee Orchestra, the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, the Ken Paulsen Orchestra, the Quad Cities KIX Orchestra, and the Tony Hamilton Orchestra. Classically, she has also played with Maquoketa's community wind ensemble. At NIU, she has been in a variety of ensembles: Jazz Ensemble, Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble, the Huskie Marching Band, the Sandy Beaches jazz combo, University Chorus, and the Vermilion Saxophone Quartet. In addition to being a saxophonist, Karli is a pianist, vocalist, and a doubler, playing woodwinds including the clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute.

Adam DuVall (Apprentice 2)

Adam Du Vall is a jazz and classical saxophone player in the Northern Illinois area. Hailing from Green Bay, WI, Adam has been playing professionally since high school. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2015 studying Music Recording and Technology.

His studies have been with Marty Robinson Ph.D., Sarah Kind and Dr. Drew Whiting. During his time in Northeastern Wisconsin, Adam has played with Big Band Reunion, Water City Jazz Orchestra, the UWO Jazz Ensemble and Combos, and the New Orleans-style band Brass Differential.

After graduation, Adam moved to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to pursue an internship at RiverRock Studios in Northeast Minneapolis. While in Minnesota, Adam found work playing in numerous groups such as Good Foot Express and the Jason Price Infinity Group. He also performed frequently with a number of big bands such as the Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra, Bill Simenson Orchestra, and the Cedar Ave Big Band. Adam, while maintaining a small private studio at his home in St. Paul, also worked for Schmitt Music Company as their saxophone pro shop manager, specializing in fitting advancing students to the proper gear for their future endeavors. He was a guest artist at several area high schools, and gave numerous masterclasses regarding technique, improvisation, and saxophone equipment, while with the company. Currently, Adam resides in DeKalb, Il and is pursuing a master's degree in Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University.

Michael Opitz (Apprentice 2)

Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Michael Opitz is a saxophonist, woodwind doubler and educator. Over the course of the 12 years, he has been playing saxophone. Michael has had numerous performance opportunities, including appearances with Chantae Cann, Wycliffe Gordon, Joe Gransden, Tim Armacost and Kevin Bales. As a sideman, Michael has played with some of the top call groups in the South, the Joe Gransden Big Band (in which he played at the Blue Note in New York City in 2012), the Atlanta Latin Jazz Orchestra, the Rebel Big Band, as well as playing in the pit at the Alliance, Lyric and Serenbe Theaters. As a leader, Michael has fronted groups at venues such as Churchill Grounds, the Velvet Note and Ziba’s Bistro.

As an educator, Michael has given clinics at many high schools and middle schools throughout the Metro-Atlanta Area, as well as being on faculty at the Atlanta International School and Ponier Music as a woodwind instructor. Michael graduated from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA with a B.A. in jazz saxophone, and is currently working on his masters degree in jazz saxophone at NIU, under the instruction of Geof Bradfield.

Alex Pontious (Apprentice 1)

Alex Pontious is an undergraduate Jazz Studies major, with an emphasis in Saxophone Performance at NIU and currently studies with saxophone professors Rich Moore and Geof Bradfield. Alex has had experience performing various genres of music on the saxophone for the past 11 years, including and not limited to jazz, blues, Latin, and classical. He has been a member of the NIU Jazz Ensemble, touring to multiple locations, and has also performed with the NIU Latin Jazz Ensemble, Wind Symphony, and various other small groups. Alex has led others by example and provided assistance at school music camps. He was also a member of the Honors All-State Jazz Ensemble in 2014.

Alex is working to become a virtuoso saxophonist and he enjoys helping others reach their potential. He is engaged, positive, and strives to meet the needs of all students.

Steel Pan

Christian Melhado (Apprentice 2)

Christian Melhado is currently a graduate student at NIU. Originally from New York Christian has played percussion from a young age. At the age of 6 Christian started learning the Djembe with his sister’s African Dance Class. This love for percussion soon took off after he picked up percussion in elementary school. There he began learning snare drum, timpani and other classical percussion. Christian began playing the Steel Pan with the Adlib Steel Orchestra around the same time (6 years of age). During the summer of 2008 Christian had the pleasure to go Trinidad and play with the top bands. Ever since, the steel pan and all percussion have been Christian’s passion. Christian has participated in the Brooklyn Panorama since the age of 8 and also arranges/composes music for the Adlib Steel Orchestra. Prior to NIU, Christian attended New York University (NYU) where he majored in percussion performance. He has participated in the Drum Boogie Festival, was the teacher’s assistant in Steel Ensemble at NYU, and has went on tour with the New York Theatre Ballet at Jacobs Pillow. Outside of playing percussion Christian produces for his music collective, "nxgn.cbnt", and has recorded with Grammy winning cowriter/ producer artist Melo-X.

As an educator Christian has taught children, as well as adults, how to play the steel pan, drumset and many other percussion instruments. In December of 2018 Christian had the opportunity to go to Guizhou, China where he taught five master classes on western percussion and steel pan.

Dajhumbay Russell (Apprentice 1)

Dajhumbay Russell is a full time steelpan player who specializes in playing a variety of genres on the instrument. He was born into a very musical family that has functioned as a professional steel band since 1988. Dajhumbay Russell personally has been playing steel pan for over 16 years. He aims to have a positive impact on people by producing and performing music that uplifts people and allows them to enjoy life. He has recently performed with the likes of steelpan legends Liam Teague and Andy Narell. He has also performed with the Chicago Sinfonietta at the Chicago symphony center

Trombone

Derek Detzler (Apprentice 1)

Derek Detzler is currently an undergraduate jazz studies major at NIU. In high school, Derek was an active member in school ensembles, performing in the jazz ensemble, wind symphony and marching band as well as ILMEA Honor bands and orchestras. In addition to school ensembles, Derek regularly performed in salsa bands and his ska band.

After graduating, Derek enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a trumpet instrumentalist. During his four years in the service, Derek performed in four countries and performed everything from symphonic works to marches, from jazz standards to bugle calls. The military is also where Derek picked up his second instrument, the trombone. Upon leaving the military, Derek decided to pursue a formal education at NIU, where he currently resides.

At NIU, Derek plays principal trumpet for the Philharmonic Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, as well as lead trumpet with the Jazz Orchestra. Derek actively performs in Chicago with his jazz fusion group, Warped Wonder, his Brass Quintet and is an active lead trumpet player on call for big bands.

Darren Figgins (Apprentice 1)

Darren Figgins is a Sophomore Vocal Performance and Instrumental Music Education major at Northern Illinois University. A former Missouri All-State singer, he has been actively involved with academic, community, church, and pre-professional ensembles across the country for the last 8 years. At Northern Illinois University he has held the Principal Chair as a trombonist with the NIU Wind Symphony and is actively involved within both the voice and brass areas. He is currently studying under Professor Jeremy Moeller (Principal Trombonist of the Chicago Lyric Opera) and Professor Myron Myers (Acclaimed Basso Cantante and former member of the Music of the Baroque).

Trumpet

Derek Detzler (Apprentice 1)

Derek Detzler is currently an undergraduate jazz studies major at NIU. In high school, Derek was an active member in school ensembles, performing in the jazz ensemble, wind symphony and marching band as well as ILMEA Honor bands and orchestras. In addition to school ensembles, Derek regularly performed in salsa bands and his ska band.

After graduating, Derek enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a trumpet instrumentalist. During his four years in the service, Derek performed in four countries and performed everything from symphonic works to marches, from jazz standards to bugle calls. The military is also where Derek picked up his second instrument, the trombone. Upon leaving the military, Derek decided to pursue a formal education at NIU, where he currently resides.

At NIU, Derek plays principal trumpet for the Philharmonic Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, as well as lead trumpet with the Jazz Orchestra. Derek actively performs in Chicago with his jazz fusion group, Warped Wonder, his Brass Quintet and is an active lead trumpet player on call for big bands.

Anya Gavin (Apprentice 1)

Anya is currently pursuing bachelor's degrees in performance, music education, and finance at Northern Illinois University. In addition to teaching private brass and strings lessons in multiple locations around the Chicagoland area, she also teaches strings and general music as part of the Fox Valley El Sistema program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making music universally accessible. Her past teaching experience includes volunteering at Huntley Middle School in DeKalb and interning at The People's Music School in Chicago. Anya also regularly plays recitals and actively performs in local groups, including the Fox Valley Orchestra, DuPage Symphony, DeKalb Municipal Band, Fox Valley Brass Band, and the Wheaton Municipal Band, with whom she has also been a featured soloist. Her goal is to pursue graduate research connecting the role of music education in students' lives to the acquisition of fundamental life skills and methods toward achieving happiness

Allyson Smith (Apprentice 1)

Allyson is currently pursuing two degrees in trumpet performance and music education and will be graduating in fall 2021. She has been playing trumpet since age 9 and ukulele since she was 15. Allyson has experience playing in a variety of churches around the chicagoland area since 2015 and participating in many NIU ensembles such as the Philharmonic Orchestra as principal this year and last, a variety of chamber ensembles and more.

Allyson grew up in a musical family and absolutely loved brass instruments from a young age. She took lessons from Carlo Isabelli in Joliet, and is now studying under Mark Ponzo, Ph.D. She wants to share her love of learning instruments and looks forward to offering lessons for both trumpet and ukulele.

Michael Swope (Associate)

Michael Swope, an accomplished freelance trumpeter, currently resides in Dekalb, IL where he is a member of the Rockford Brass Quintet and a substitute member of the Rockford Symphony, Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra in Decatur, and the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra of Dekalb. Michael is a former member of the Indiana Wind Symphony, Indianapolis Brass Choir, Reunion Brass Quintet and performed as Auxiliary Trumpet with the Louisville Orchestra. He holds degrees from the Jordan College of Fine Arts at Butler University in Indianapolis (B.A.) and the University of Louisville (M.M.). Michael has been teaching trumpet since 2001 and has had a number of students place highly in All State Band and go on to pursue music at the university level.

Tuba

Kurt Bonamer (Associate)

Kurt Bonamer is a founding member of the Molten Brass Quintet at NIU; the group was invited to perform at the Honors Convocation in Spring 2012. He has played with the Protege Philharmonic in Chicago and has also performed with the Wheaton Municipal Band, as well as with the NIU Philharmonic, NIU Wind Ensemble, NIU Wind Symphony and the NIU New Music Ensemble. He has taught lessons for the past year.

Ukelele

Aaron Lenz (Associate)

Aaron Lenz is a musician, songwriter and professional music instructor who has studied music performance at Colorado State University. He has more than 14 years of experience teaching private lessons to students of string instruments, and several of his students have completed recording projects. Mr. Lenz teaches banjo and mandolin at the CSA and he looks forward to working with others who share his life-long love of composing and playing music

Allyson Smith (Apprentice 1)

Allyson is currently pursuing two degrees in trumpet performance and music education and will be graduating in fall 2021. She has been playing trumpet since age 9 and ukulele since she was 15. Allyson has experience playing in a variety of churches around the chicagoland area since 2015 and participating in many NIU ensembles such as the Philharmonic Orchestra as principal this year and last, a variety of chamber ensembles and more.

Allyson grew up in a musical family and absolutely loved brass instruments from a young age. She took lessons from Carlo Isabelli in Joliet, and is now studying under Mark Ponzo, Ph.D. She wants to share her love of learning instruments and looks forward to offering lessons for both trumpet and ukulele.

Viola

Anya Gavin (Apprentice 1)

Anya is currently pursuing bachelor's degrees in performance, music education, and finance at Northern Illinois University. In addition to teaching private brass and strings lessons in multiple locations around the Chicagoland area, she also teaches strings and general music as part of the Fox Valley El Sistema program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making music universally accessible. Her past teaching experience includes volunteering at Huntley Middle School in DeKalb and interning at The People's Music School in Chicago. Anya also regularly plays recitals and actively performs in local groups, including the Fox Valley Orchestra, DuPage Symphony, DeKalb Municipal Band, Fox Valley Brass Band, and the Wheaton Municipal Band, with whom she has also been a featured soloist. Her goal is to pursue graduate research connecting the role of music education in students' lives to the acquisition of fundamental life skills and methods toward achieving happiness

Izabella Gieron (Apprentice 1)

Izabella Gieron is currently an undergraduate Music Education and Music Performance Major at Northern Illinois University, where she studies with Blaise Magniere. She is a member of the NIU Philharmonic and is involved in chamber music.

Izabella was born and raised in the Chicagoland area. As a child, Izabella displayed advanced skills on both violin and piano. Izabella's early involvement in the music field has provided her with the necessary skills to succeed. She has been studying piano since age 4 with Katarzyna Nowak until high school. Moreover, she was a member of the Protégé Philharmonic in Chicago under the direction of Joseph Glypmph. Joseph Glymph continued as her mentor until college. Izabella has continued to be an avid learner and role-model in Argo High School's Honors Orchestra where she maintained the role as concertmaster.

Throughout her music career, she has been chosen to play in both District and All-State Orchestra throughout high school. Izabella has also been chosen to perform in the All-Conference Jazz band for three years. She had an opportunity to perform alongside various artists. It is her talent and dedication in the music industry that has allowed her to perform with artists such as Marek Balata, Wici Song and Dance Theatre. Not only has she performed at venues within the states, but she also performed internationally. In 2016, Izabella performed at the Folklore Music Festival in Paso Fundo, Brazil. In 2018, she has performed at the CIOFF International Festival in Arequipa, Peru.

Not only does this music aficionado hope to become a music educator, but she hopes to become a conductor and travel the world "to share her undying passion for music".

Tanner Longfellow (Apprentice 1)

Tanner Longfellow is currently an undergraduate music education major, French minor, and receiving an endorsement in Physics at Northern Illinois University where he studies viola with Anthony Devroye. Furthermore, Tanner participates in the NIU Philharmonic and Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Starting on violin, Tanner has shown advanced skills with performing and continuously grew. Eventually changing instruments to viola, he has continuously grown and shown strength in music. Exponentially rising from his peers, Tanner was selected to partake in groups such as his local Chamber Orchestra and the McHenry County Youth Orchestra as the principal violist. He continuously shows his passion for music by pursuing the best outcome for him and his peers.

However, Tanner's largest passion lies in teaching others. He believes that every person deserves education to some degree. He wants to open the world to each of his students to allow them to experience everything that occurs around them. Planning to incorporate this passion into his teaching, Tanner wishes to educate each of his students on what is occurring around them and to inspire each of them to take a step towards making a change in the world with music.

Laurie Rodriguez (Associate)

Laurie Illions Rodriguez has a bachelor's degree in violin performance and pedagogy from Brigham Young University. She has been teaching violin lessons since 1991, in Utah, Ohio, and now Illinois, and has been directing and coaching chamber music workshops since 1997. She was the founder and director of the Utah County Youth Chamber Music Workshop and is the director and coach of the String Chamber Music Summer Camp for the community school at NIU.

She has been teaching early childhood musicianship classes since 2002, first at the Suzuki Music Center of Central Ohio and now at the community school. She has participated in Suzuki teacher training workshops since 2002 and teaches both traditional and Suzuki violin lessons. She performs with the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and with a local chamber music group. She lives in DeKalb and enjoys playing music with her husband and children.

Ann Montzka Smelser (Faculty)

In between receiving her bachelors of Music Education and masters in Performance and Pedagogy at Northern Illinois University, Ann studied with Shinichi Suzuki, Ph.D. at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan.

In 2003, Ann was the recipient of the Byron Hester Memorial Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2013 was Inducted into the Sycamore Music Boosters Hall of Fame with the Legacy Award.

Ann has performed in many orchestras and chamber ensembles and is currently principal second violinist with Camerata Chicago and concertmaster of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Ann became a Registered Suzuki Teacher Trainer in 2005 and has since taught courses in Singapore, Lima, Peru, Mexico City, Mexico and San Jose, Costa Rica. Ann enjoys working with Suzuki families at Suzuki Institutes and workshops throughout the United States.

Ann is the director of the NIU Community School of the Arts Suzuki Strings Program. Ann is a lifetime member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas has written several articles for the SAA Journal and currently serves as the Violin Coordinator for the 2016 biannual Suzuki Teachers Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Ann lives in DeKalb, Illinois with her husband, Linc, and their two children, Genevieve and Benjamin.

Violin

Hanna Bingham (Apprentice 3)

Hanna Bingham is an undergraduate performance major at NIU, where she studies violin with Blaise Magniere. She has assisted with both Huntley Middle School and DeKalb High School orchestras. She has won several solo competitions and is very active in chamber music. She is the current first violin of the Risata String Quartet, principal second violin of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and is a member of the NIU Philharmonic. She has taught private lessons.

Chantel Davis (Apprentice 1)

Chantel Davis, local violinist, started taking lessons at the age of 5 with Dave Nelson from Rock Valley College, and later, through the Community School of the Arts began under the instruction of Karen Weckerly, then Ann Montzka-Smelser with whom she studied her entire high school career. Chantel is beginning her freshman year at Northern Illinois University as a Music Performance major and will be studying with Mathias Tacke as her private instructor.

In 2011, Chantel won the Olympic solo in the Illinois Guitar League, placed third in the RYSO Concerto Competition in 2014, third at Rockford's Mendelssohn Club Chandler Starr Miller Scholarship Competition in 2014, and first in 2015. She was awarded the Talent Scholarship from the CSA in 2012 and 2014. Davis has been chosen to play in both District and AllState Orchestras for three years and was invited to participate in the NAFME AllNationals Honors Orchestra two years consecutively. Chantel has also been awarded Musician of the Year by the Rockford Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Currently, Chantel plays in the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, is Concertmaster of CSA Sinfonia and was Co-concertmaster of the Rockford Youth Symphony Orchestra. This past year, she has been selected to play in the Sterling String Quartet and the RYSO Chamber Orchestra, where she alternates positions as Concertmaster and Principal Second Violin.

Chantel has been featured as a soloist in the CSA Sinfonia, RYSO Chamber Orchestra, and the Rockford Youth Symphony Orchestra. Chantel has cultivated teaching experience by instructing swim lessons over the past four years, including working with a wide variety of ages, needs, and learning abilities. She has also actively worked with children in the CSA as a practice partner over the last five years.

Anya Gavin (Apprentice 1)

Anya is currently pursuing bachelor's degrees in performance, music education, and finance at Northern Illinois University. In addition to teaching private brass and strings lessons in multiple locations around the Chicagoland area, she also teaches strings and general music as part of the Fox Valley El Sistema program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making music universally accessible. Her past teaching experience includes volunteering at Huntley Middle School in DeKalb and interning at The People's Music School in Chicago. Anya also regularly plays recitals and actively performs in local groups, including the Fox Valley Orchestra, DuPage Symphony, DeKalb Municipal Band, Fox Valley Brass Band, and the Wheaton Municipal Band, with whom she has also been a featured soloist. Her goal is to pursue graduate research connecting the role of music education in students' lives to the acquisition of fundamental life skills and methods toward achieving happiness

Izabella Gieron (Apprentice 1)

Izabella Gieron is currently an undergraduate Music Education and Music Performance Major at Northern Illinois University, where she studies with Blaise Magniere. She is a member of the NIU Philharmonic and is involved in chamber music.

Izabella was born and raised in the Chicagoland area. As a child, Izabella displayed advanced skills on both violin and piano. Izabella's early involvement in the music field has provided her with the necessary skills to succeed. She has been studying piano since age 4 with Katarzyna Nowak until high school. Moreover, she was a member of the Protégé Philharmonic in Chicago under the direction of Joseph Glypmph. Joseph Glymph continued as her mentor until college. Izabella has continued to be an avid learner and role model in Argo High School's Honors Orchestra where she maintained the role as concertmaster.

Throughout her music career, she was chosen to play in both District and All-State Orchestra throughout high school. Izabella also was chosen to perform in the All-Conference Jazz band for three years. She had an opportunity to perform alongside various artists. It is her talent and dedication in the music industry that has allowed her to perform with artists such as Marek Balata, Wici Song and Dance Theatre. Not only has she performed at venues within the states, but she also performed internationally. In 2016, Izabella performed at the Folklore Music Festival in Paso Fundo, Brazil. In 2018, she has performed at the CIOFF International Festival in Arequipa, Peru.

Not only does this music aficionado hope to become a music educator, but she hopes to become a conductor and travel the world "to share her undying passion for music".

Ann Montzka Smelser (Faculty)

In between receiving her bachelors of music education and masters in performance and pedagogy at Northern Illinois University, Ann studied with Shinichi Suzuki, Ph.D., at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan.

In 2003, Ann was the recipient of the Byron Hester Memorial Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2013 was Inducted into the Sycamore Music Boosters Hall of Fame with the Legacy Award.

Ann has performed in many orchestras and chamber ensembles and is currently principal second violinist with Camerata Chicago and concertmaster of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Ann became a Registered Suzuki Teacher Trainer in 2005 and has since taught courses in Singapore, Lima, Peru, Mexico City, Mexico and San Jose, Costa Rica. Ann enjoys working with Suzuki families at Suzuki Institutes and workshops throughout the United States.

Ann is the director of the NIU Community School of the Arts Suzuki Strings Program. Ann is a lifetime member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas has written several articles for the SAA Journal and currently serves as the Violin Coordinator for the 2016 biannual Suzuki Teachers Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Ann lives in DeKalb, Illinois with her husband, Linc, and their two children, Genevieve and Benjamin.

Laurie Rodriguez (Associate)

Laurie Illions Rodriguez has a bachelor's degree in violin performance and pedagogy from Brigham Young University. She has been teaching violin lessons since 1991, in Utah, Ohio, and now Illinois, and has been directing and coaching chamber music workshops since 1997. She was the founder and director of the Utah County Youth Chamber Music Workshop and is the director and coach of the String Chamber Music Summer Camp for the community school at NIU.

She has been teaching early childhood musicianship classes since 2002, first at the Suzuki Music Center of Central Ohio and now at the community school. She has participated in Suzuki teacher training workshops since 2002 and teaches both traditional and Suzuki violin lessons. She performs with the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and with a local chamber music group. She lives in DeKalb and enjoys playing music with her husband and children.

Voice

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 1)

Karli Bunn is attending Northern Illinois University for jazz studies, learning from saxophonist Geof Bradfield and pianist Reggie Thomas. She has played with Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, Marcus Printup, among others. Classically, Karli studies with Thomas Snydacker, and has worked with members of the Prism Quartet, as well as with Dr. Holmes, the principle saxophonist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Karli has played with the Josh Duffee Orchestra, the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, the Ken Paulsen Orchestra, the Quad Cities KIX Orchestra, and the Tony Hamilton Orchestra. Classically, she has also played with Maquoketa's community wind ensemble. At NIU, she has been in a variety of ensembles: Jazz Ensemble, Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble, the Huskie Marching Band, the Sandy Beaches jazz combo, University Chorus, and the Vermilion Saxophone Quartet. In addition to being a saxophonist, Karli is a pianist, vocalist, and a doubler, playing woodwinds including the clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute.

Jodeen Coulter (Associate)

Jodeen Coulter received her bachelor's degree in music education (with a vocal emphasis) from NIU. She currently teaches general music in DeKalb. She has taught strings to children in the DeKalb schools and has directed school choirs and musicals. Coulter has had 12 years singing experience with a traveling musical group that has performed with pre-recorded soundtracks.

Darren Figgins (Apprentice 1)

Darren Figgins is a sophomore vocal performance and instrumental music Education major at Northern Illinois University. A former Missouri All-State singer, he has been actively involved with academic, community, church and pre-professional ensembles across the country for the last eight years. At Northern Illinois University he has held the Principal Chair as a trombonist with the NIU Wind Symphony and is actively involved within both the voice and brass areas. He is currently studying under Professor Jeremy Moeller (Principal Trombonist of the Chicago Lyric Opera) and Professor Myron Myers (Acclaimed Basso Cantante and former member of the Music of the Baroque).

Brianne Duncan Fiore (Associate)

Brianne Duncan Fiore is a Chicago based actor, vocalist and voiceover artist, and instructor. She has acted, directed and/or coached with Arc Theatre, Chicago Commercial Collective, Commedia Beauregard, Muse of Fire Theatre Company, Profiles Theatre, Spartan Theatre, Steep Theatre, as well as many independent producers in service of industrials, voiceover, musicals, theatre, film and television.

Having received her Bachelor's degree in Music Business, Spanish and Vocal Performance from Elmhurst College, she privately instructs voice lessons, and since earning a Masters in Acting from Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts, she directs dialects and accents as well as vocal coaches productions.

Brianne enjoys the challenge of vocal instruction, understanding that each student's goals may be different, however, she maintains focus on healthy production and technique.

Ke-Yin Kilburn (Associate)

Ke-Yin Kilburn is an active singer, pianist, conductor, and music therapist. She is the dean of Asian Studies at the American Conservatory of Music School of Music Therapy and has taught at Waubonsee College and Kishwaukee College. She recently made a presentation about Chinese musical therapy at the University of Hawaii. She has taught for the community school for many years.

Sara Lemen (Associate)

Sara Lemen is a local singer and piano player with vast performance experience. With a versatile voice, she specializes in singing for weddings, funerals, fundraisers and special events. Some of her credits include performances with the Downers Grove Oratorio Society, Alan Stone's Young Artists of Chicago Opera Theater. She has also performed at the Kaz Bar at the House of Blues in Chicago and Rockford's Coronado Theater for The Mayor's Fine Arts Awards Concert. She has been a member of several singing organizations. Currently, she sings with the Rockford Bach Chamber Choir and The Rockford Operetta Party. She is a private voice teacher in Rockton, IL. as well as the Music Director at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Rockton, IL.

Alex Rattana (Apprentice 1)

Bass Alex Rattana hails from Elgin, Illinois, and will graduate with his bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance in 2019. Alex has performed with the NIU Philharmonic as Osmin in Die Entfürung aus dem Serail and other opera companies in Chicago and Elgin. An accomplished conductor, he has taken the positions of a conductor/music director for organizations in Lombard, Rockford, and Oswego. He currently is the Bass Section Leader of professional choirs in Elgin and Schaumburg.

Sunhye Yoon (Apprentice 2)

Sunhye Yoon is currently pursuing her Performer's Certificate in voice performance at Northern Illinois University under Professors Orna Arania and Robert Sims. She earned a Bachelor's degree in voice performance from Kyungwon University and a Master's degree in voice performance also from Kyungwon University in South Korea. She has extensive performance experience in choirs and opera, and she has won several competitions. She has also attended international music camps in Spain and Vienna. She has extensive experience teaching children, teenagers and adults, also served as a voice coach for opera youth choir.