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.

Apprentice 1 Level

Teachers who are starting with the NIU Community School of the Arts and who have had some limited academic and teaching experience in the subject area. Most are NIU undergraduate or graduate students majoring in music, art, or theatre.

  • Undergraduate students majoring in the subject area with at least one year of teaching experience.
  • Graduate students specializing in the subject area with at least one year post high school teaching experience.
  • College graduates who majored in the subject area and have at least one year post high school teaching experience.
Apprentice 2 Level

Teachers who have had several years of academic and teaching experience in the subject area. Most are NIU graduate students specializing in music, art, or theatre.

  • Promoted from the apprentice 1 level after two years minimum for undergraduate students and one year minimum for graduate students.
  • Graduate students with at least two years post high school teaching experience.
  • College graduates who majored in the subject area with at least two years post high school teaching experience.
Apprentice 3 Level

Teachers who have taught at either the apprentice 1 level or at the apprentice 2 level and who have recently graduated from the university. Teachers remain at the apprentice 3 level for one or two years.

Associate Level

Teachers who have considerable academic background, are no longer students, and have taught for many years in the subject area. Most are community members with master's degrees, though for some, the bachelor's degree is the terminal degree.

  • Promoted from the apprentice 2 level after two years minimum.
  • Promoted from the apprentice 3 level after one-two years minimum, depending on circumstances.
  • Bachelor's degree and at least six years teaching experience.
  • Master's degree and at least four years teaching experience.
Faculty Level

Advanced degree in specialized field and extensive teaching experience.

  • On the faculty at NIU.

Note: Teachers with an asterisk 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

Teachers with a symbol are available to teach in-person lessons only. Teachers with a symbol are available to teach online lessons only. Teachers without a symbol can do both.

Accordion

Banjo

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.

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

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.

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.

Sean Rzewnicki (Apprentice 3)

Sean is a dedicated bass performer and educator. His 10 years of teaching have helped him to develop exciting and individualized based lesson plans. He understands that all students have diverse goals and will work diligently to help all of his students develop the skills to succeed in any situation. Sean teaches both Electric and Upright bass covering musical styles from Rock and pop music to Jazz and classical. Sean works to develop a well-rounded musician that is prepared for any situation from sight-reading and large ensemble playing to improvise or rocking out with a band. Whether you are preparing for college auditions, playing in a local band or just starting out on the bass Sean is here to help on your musical journey.

Sean grew up in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago and began his musical career on guitar at the age of 12 and switched to the bass in high school. In 2009 Sean moved to Los Angeles and studied at the Musicians Institute receiving his AA degree in Electric Bass Performance in 2011. At this time Sean began working full time as a gigging bassist in LA and began teaching privately. Sean Continued his formal education at Los Angeles City College earning an additional AA in Applied Music(2017) before transferring to California State University Northridge and completing his Bachelor of Music Degree in Jazz Studies(2020). Sean has been blessed to study with some of the best educators that Los Angles has to offer including Gary Pratt, Dr. David Young, Putter Smith, Lou Kabok, Nate Light and Michael Menelle. Sean is now working on his master's degree in jazz studies at NIU and is studying with the fantastic Marlene Rosenburg. Sean's performance career has been thrilling, encompassing a large variety of genres and continents. His early career primarily consisted of rock and blues music performing regularly at the famous Piano Bar in Hollywood and recording with Toy District, Elodie and the Free Notion, Stumpwaller, The Evening Guest and the Big Beautiful Band. Additionally, Sean has worked extensively in the Musical Theater performing many popular musicals including Footloose, Legally Blond, Avenue Q, Rocky Horror and more. Sean also has experience in Classical bass performance; playing with the Los Angeles Police Department Concert band and performing with Opera by the Glass (private opera company) in addition to playing with a variety of community orchestras.

Sean's career in jazz has truly been the most exciting musical experience thus far. Sean has toured California with the Battled of the Big Bands and New Zealand with the CSUN Jazz A Band. With Phat Cat Swinger Sean has toured California, performed major festivals at Disney California Adventure and record on their most recent studio album. He has extensive experience performing in jazz combos including a residency with his band The Frontline Quartet at the Beautiful Hotel Constance in Pasadena California. Sean has also been blessed to have performed with the world-renown Christian McBride Big Band. Most recently Sean has been working in South Korea performing at the Daegu International Jazz Festival as well as many jazz clubs in the capital city of Seoul. Sean is currently looking forward to returning this his home in Illinois and continuing his education at NIU. His passion for music is inspiring and he looks forward to applying his knowledge and experience to helping many upcoming musicians succeed in their dreams!

Cello

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.

Jennalynn Cisna (Apprentice 2)

Jennalynn Cisna is pursuing a master's degree at NIU, studying piano performance with William Goldenberg.

Jennalynn's teaching philosophy focuses on cultivating a love of music in her teaching, inspiring students to become lifelong musicians. Her main goal when teaching is to bring out the musician in every student, no matter their age, skill level or past experience. Jennalynn tailors lessons to each student and takes great pride in creating a personalized pedagogical approach. She believes in creating well-rounded musicians, and places emphasis on note-reading, sight-reading, and improvisation, in addition to supplementing lessons with music history and music theory.

In addition to piano, Jennalynn is also an accomplished cellist. She studied under Carolyn Suda and was a member of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony from 2017-2020. In 2020, she performed as the featured cello soloist for the Monmouth College Chorale on their tour of Austria and the Czech Republic.

Jennalynn has been mentoring students and teaching private lessons since 2019. She earned a bachelor's degree in music performance summa cum laude from Monmouth College in 2019.

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

Melissa Milford (Apprentice 2)

Melissa Milford began studying viola at age five and picked up cello at age eight. She holds a degree in Music Pedagogy (BM) from Wheaton College, IL and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Viola Performance at Northern Illinois University. She studied with Rose Armbrust Griffin at Wheaton and currently studies with Anthony Devroye of the Avalon String Quartet.

Melissa has been teaching private lessons since high school and substitute teaching both private and group classes for k-12th at her local music school. She spent three years as a teacher's assistant working with Community Outreach for Developing Artists (CODA), a program which offers free music lessons to children of low-income families. She is certified in Every Child Can and Suzuki book 1 and plans to complete more courses in the future.

Teaching music is something Melissa hopes to do for the rest of her life. She sees music as a combination of creativity and discipline, which are two vital attributes in any discipline outside the realm of music as well. In her lessons, Melissa loves connecting with her students and creating a safe learning environment where each student can learn at their own pace while being encouraged to challenge themselves. She offers creative practice strategies and sets her students up with a strong technical foundation that helps them towards success.

Elizabeth Newquist (Apprentice 3)

Elizabeth Newquist 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.

Nelly Rocha (Associate)

Nelly Rocha has performed in Europe, Asia, Mexico and the United States in venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Nelly participated in the Porgy and Bess 75th Anniversary National U.S. tour and the Verbier Festival Orchestra European tour. She has performed with the Distinguished Concerts International New York Orchestra, Miami Symphony, Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, National Lyric Opera, Reading Symphony, Rhode Island Philharmonic and Manhattan Camerata.

A passionate advocate of music by women, Nelly has performed recitals featuring female composers at the International Congress of Women in Music, the Encuentro Internacional de Mujeres en el Arte and the Universal Forum of Cultures. Nelly has appeared on Mozart in the Jungle, the Late Night Show with David Letterman, WNYC's Soundcheck and can be heard in the GRAMMY award-winning album All the Ladies with Joanie Leeds, and the Sony recording Mi Alma Mexicana with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas. Nelly holds a bachelor of music from the University of Houston and a master of music degree from Arizona State University.

I love teaching because of the gift of giving my students the power to express themselves through music. In order for students to be able to do so freely, they must overcome a variety of technical challenges in their playing. To achieve this, I strive to give my students a strong basis in the fundamentals of cello playing through an emphasis on scales, arpeggios and etudes.

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.

Hui-Hsuan (Ariel) Su (Apprentice 3)

Hui-Hsuan (Ariel) Su is a cellist who was born in Taiwan. She has been teaching cello lessons for all ages privately for several years. She completed her bachelor's degree at Tainan National University of the Arts and received a master of music degree in cello performance from University of Hartford, the Hartt School. At the Hartt School, she studied with Prof. Mihai Tetel and also completed Suzuki cello method training to Book 3. In 2021 Ms. Su completed her performer's certificate at Northern Illinois University under Prof. Cheng-Hou Lee's mentoring.

Ms. Su has performed with the Center for New Music at the University of Iowa, playing in master classes and working with well-known cellists and ensembles such as Colin Carr, Amit Peled, Rhonda Rider, Chiara String Quartet, JACK Quartet and Parker Quartet.

As a cello teacher, Ms. Su looks forward to sharing her musical experiences and musical knowledge with students. She believes a music educator's role is to facilitate learning and discourse. She tailors each lesson based on the student's needs, level and personal interests.

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.

Erin Kirby (Apprentice 1)

Erin Kirby is currently studying instrumental music education at NIU under Gregory Barrett, Mary Lynn Doherty, and Christine D'Alexander. Before NIU, she played clarinet at Glenbrook South High School under the direction of Gregory Wojcik and Brian Boron. She has experience teaching a range of students from the elementary to the high school level.

Erin has teaching experience in one-on-one and group-based learning settings. She is currently hired to tutor and provide supplementary instruction of music theory and aural skills for the music department at NIU. Through tutoring, she has learned to adapt her teaching style to best fit the needs of each student. Each student learns differently whether it be at different paces or specific to different content areas, so it's important to cater lessons unique to each student and their learning needs.

Arman Sangalang (Apprentice 2)

Arman Sangalang is a jazz saxophonist, composer, woodwind doubler and educator based in the Chicagoland area. He completed his bachelor's degree in jazz studies at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in May 2020 where he studied with Greg Ward, Tom Walsh and Walter Smith III. While at IU, he also studied flute and clarinet with various woodwind faculty. In 2020, Arman played in IU Jazz Ensemble I which competed in the Jack Rudin Jazz Championship at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC. The ensemble earned 2nd place competing with nine of the best jazz colleges in the U.S. He has also played for the Grammy-nominated Singing Hoosiers, Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban, John Raymond and Supersax Ensembles. In the fall of 2020, he began a master's degree in Jazz at Northern Illinois University studying with Geof Bradfield.

Throughout his career, he's had the honor of playing with notable jazz artists such as John Raymond, Dave Stryker, Todd Coolman, Jeremy Allen and countless others. Arman has led a few projects like the Maté Trio and the Sangalang/Fain duo which regularly played at local venues around Indiana. He has also been a sideman on projects including the Zachary Finnegan Quintet, Albion West, Clark Hunt's Drive-By Big Band and the Good Fight Big Band. These opportunities have led him to perform at notable venues including The Jazz Kitchen, Taste of Bloomington, the B'Town Jazz Festival, The Bishop and many more.

In addition to being an active performer, Arman has a passion for education. He has taught at Stafford Music Academy in Bloomington, IN and other music studios in the Chicago area as the woodwind instructor for saxophone, clarinet and flute. Arman seeks to help students find a balance between what they enjoy in music while also challenging them to go outside their comfort zones. Many of his students have won awards in Solo and Ensemble competitions and participated in district ILMEA ensembles. Also, Arman is a graduate assistant at Northern Illinois University, where he helps coach jazz combos and ensembles.

Conducting

Tsai-Rung Li (Apprentice 2)

Tsai-Rung Li has five years of experience in conducting wind ensembles and chamber groups. In Taiwan, he conducted the trumpet choir and rehearsed the wind ensemble at National Tsing Hua University. He also taught and conducted the band and music courses, such as music theory, music history, music appreciation, brass techniques, and instrumental courses at NTHU's Elementary School, Rei Mei Elementary School, and Chu-Shi Philharmonic Orchestra. In Chiayi and Hsinchu city, he conducted multiple student pep bands on different occasions. In Northern Illinois University, he conducted and rehearsed the wind ensemble and multiple chamber ensembles with diverse concert band repertoires. In addition, as a trumpet performer, he has fourteen years of experience as a collaborative learner playing with orchestras, wind ensembles, and chamber groups. He performed many types of music with different ensembles in Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Chiayi, Taoyuan, and Tainan. When he served as a trumpeter in the professional marching band, he played in various ceremonies in Taiwan as well.

As an educator, he would like to help students succeed in today's professional environment, help them develop their abilities, and cultivate a positive attitude they can carry over to all aspects of their lives. He encourages his students to see things differently, to deliver the beauty of music, and to live a creative life because he believes that music has a positive impact on student achievement and motivation. In his lessons and classes, he helps students develop their skills, talents, and abilities so students can pursue meaningful careers.

His goal is to inspire students to go beyond the printed page by helping them first explore the beauty of a piece of music and then cultivating it in their playing. Rather than as an end in itself, he teaches music as a way to reach each student's own artistic goals, which empowers them to their education and become more confident.

Drumset/Percussion

Ruoxiao (Sabrina) Chen (Apprentice 2)

Sabrina grew up learning music at an early age and began to learn piano at the age of four. In the sixth grade, she started to learn percussion and joined the Shenzhen Children's Palace Orchestra and later joined the Shenzhen Middle/High School Symphony Orchestra, and served as head of the percussion department for two years. Sabrina was admitted to the Macao Polytechnic institute in 2015 where she received her bachelor's degree in percussion performance. In 2016, she participated in the 7th JianLi International Percussion Festival and won second prize. Currently, she is an NIU 2021 spring graduate with a master's degree in percussion performance.

Sabrina has been teaching private lessons since 2018, she has extensive experience working with beginners in both percussion and piano. In addition to classical percussion, she also taught drum set. She is a cheerful, attentive, honest, upright and studious person with excellent professional and collaborative skills. She is responsible, patient, and supportive with students. She believes each student is different and the lesson strategy should be based on his or her personality in order to maximize their potential.

Devin Drobka (Associate)

Devin Drobka, drummer, composer and educator has been playing drums for the past 20 years. Devin is currently one of the most in-demand performers and educators in the midwest.

Devin decided to further his education and applied to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Devin received his BMA in jazz drumming performance from Berklee College of Music in 2009 where he had the chance to study with Terri Lynn Carrington, Bob Tamigni, Skip Hadden, Jamey Haddad, Kenwood Dennard, Jon Hazilla, Ralph Peterson Jr., Ian Froman and the master drummer Bob Moses. While at Berklee Devin performed with legends of the jazz world such as Joe Lovano, Jerry Bergonzi, Greg Osby, Cecil McBee, Dave Santoro, Ed Tomassi and Phil Grenadier.

Teaching philosophy: the goal of my teaching practice is to educate, train and develop students to excel in music as a career as well as a fun creative release. Developing the musicianship of all my students is the foundation of my curriculum. I believe that the lessons and qualities derived from that work—the self-discipline needed for excellence, the empathy required of music-making and the openness and inquisitiveness essential to creativity—are critical to achievement in any pursuit, musical or otherwise and that music is a powerful catalyst for personal growth, which is central to any experience.

For more information please visit Devin's personal website.

"Devin was a former student of mine at Berklee and one of my best. He was and remains, a serious, inquisitive, committed student, firmly grounded in the tradition, but open to what might be possible as the tradition evolves and changes with each generation… not only is Devin a catalyst of that change… he is 'the next generation'…" by Jon Hazilla, Drum Professor at the Berklee College of Music
Sid Smith IV (Apprentice 1)

Sid Smith IV, a musician, gentleman and most importantly, a man of God. From the Oakland Bay Area of northern California, he pursued a bachelor of music in Music in Worship at Chicago's North Park University and graduated December 2020. He is furthering his education in the graduate jazz studies program at Northern Illinois University. He started in January of 2021 and is on track to finish in 2023.

Drumming is his passion, but he has also studied tuba and trumpet. During his time at North Park, Sid has been involved in various ensembles such as the Gospel Choir and Touring Ensemble (Helen Hawkins and Stephen Kelly, directors), Jazz Band (Joe Lill, director) and the university worship teams. He toured with both the Gospel Choir and the University Choir on drum set. While at North Park Sid has been mentored by Stephen Kelly and has studied with Phil Gratteau and Darren Scorza. He has also studied with the late great Joel Smith from 2010-2012. He also had the chance to be coached by the legendary guitarist Bobby Broom from 2016-2019.

He played quarterback and receiver on the North Park football team for his first three years. Sid considers it his obligation and privilege to utilize his many gifts and talents to tangibly express God's great light and love to a dark and hurting world.

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.

Dennis Meacham (Apprentice 3)

Dennis Meacham is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a master's degree in tuba performance. Currently, he teaches in the Rockford Public School District and he also teaches privately throughout northern Illinois. He enjoys working with students of all ages and helping students grow as individuals in their music education. He has performed in various ensembles throughout northern Illinois including The Fox Valley Brass Band, The Pegasus Wind Ensemble, NIU Philharmonic and several chamber ensembles.

In his teaching, Dennis aims to provide each of his students with a unique approach to their learning. His goal is to create well-rounded and self-motivated learners. He does this by giving them the tools to be self-critical, goal-oriented and solution-minded.

Flute/Piccolo

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.

Crystal Bragg (Apprentice 1)

Raised in Villa Grove, Illinois, Crystal started playing the flute at the age of 10 and quickly fell in love. She graduated from Villa Grove High School in 2015. While there, she participated in Illinois Music Educators Association festivals, both at district and state levels. Crystal has studied with Maureen Moller, Dr. Rebecca Johnson, and Mr. Oliver Kraft. In May of 2019, Crystal received her bachelor's degree in Music Performance from Eastern Illinois University. While at EIU, Crystal was principal flute in the Eastern Illinois Wind Symphony and Eastern Symphony Orchestra. She also performed regularly with her flute trio, and Etcetera Trio. Crystal has performed in local pit orchestras in the musicals "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," "The Music Man," and most recently "The Secret Garden."

Also, while at EIU, Crystal spent a semester at Salzburg College in Salzburg, Austria. While there, she studied flute with Mr. Oliver Kraft. She also was able to collaborate with four other musicians who were in the Salzburg College program, to perform concerts and premiere new works written by her colleges. During the summer of 2018, Crystal was an office and convention intern for the National Flute Association in Chicago, IL. She helped plan and run the National Flute Convention in Orlando, FL that year.

As an educator, Crystal has studied private teaching pedagogy with Dr. Rebecca Johnson and Dr. Anna Cromwell, at Eastern Illinois University. She has one year of private teaching experience, with both online and in person flute lessons. Crystal believes it is her duty as a flute instructor, to provide each student with a positive learning environment that will ensure ample musical growth. She allows every student to grow and develop their musicianship at their own pace.

Currently, Crystal is a first-year graduate student in the Master of Music program at Northern Illinois University. Along with taking classes, Crystal will reside in downtown Chicago, IL, where she will teach private flute lessons online.

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.

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.

Arman Sangalang (Apprentice 2)

Arman Sangalang is a jazz saxophonist, composer, woodwind doubler and educator based in the Chicagoland area. He completed his bachelor's degree in jazz studies at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in May 2020 where he studied with Greg Ward, Tom Walsh and Walter Smith III. While at IU, he also studied flute and clarinet with various woodwind faculty. In 2020, Arman played in IU Jazz Ensemble I which competed in the Jack Rudin Jazz Championship at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC. The ensemble earned 2nd place competing with nine of the best jazz colleges in the U.S. He has also played for the Grammy-nominated Singing Hoosiers, Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban, John Raymond and Supersax Ensembles. In the fall of 2020, he began a master's degree in Jazz at Northern Illinois University studying with Geof Bradfield.

Throughout his career, he's had the honor of playing with notable jazz artists such as John Raymond, Dave Stryker, Todd Coolman, Jeremy Allen and countless others. Arman has led a few projects like the Maté Trio and the Sangalang/Fain duo which regularly played at local venues around Indiana. He has also been a sideman on projects including the Zachary Finnegan Quintet, Albion West, Clark Hunt's Drive-By Big Band and the Good Fight Big Band. These opportunities have led him to perform at notable venues including The Jazz Kitchen, Taste of Bloomington, the B'Town Jazz Festival, The Bishop and many more.

In addition to being an active performer, Arman has a passion for education. He has taught at Stafford Music Academy in Bloomington, IN and other music studios in the Chicago area as the woodwind instructor for saxophone, clarinet and flute. Arman seeks to help students find a balance between what they enjoy in music while also challenging them to go outside their comfort zones. Many of his students have won awards in Solo and Ensemble competitions and participated in district ILMEA ensembles. Also, Arman is a graduate assistant at Northern Illinois University, where he helps coach jazz combos and ensembles.

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.

Eric Schroeder (Associate)

Eric Schroeder enjoys teaching guitar and ukulele to students age 3 and older. He has taught guitarists as young as 2 and as old as 80. Eric finds teaching beginners exhilarating as they have not yet learned any bad habits. He has taught at the NIU CSA since 1996. In that time he has taught: guitar, including rock, jazz, classical, flamenco, country, finger style EDM covers and Suzuki guitar, ukulele in all kinds of styles, and music theory.

Eric graduated from NIU with a Masters in guitar performance, and he also teaches guitar, ukulele and world music at Rockford University and Kishwaukee College.

Jackson Wheeler (Apprentice 1)

Jackson Wheeler is currently pursuing his degree in jazz guitar performance at NIU, and is studying with guitar legend Professor Bobby Broom. Although his career is just beginning, Jackson has already clocked in hundreds of hours on the bandstand playing jazz, gospel and R&B music with various groups in and around Minnesota. Jackson has also made a significant effort to be well versed in many musical styles such blues, funk, rock, R&B, country, pop and more.

Jackson's attitude towards teaching is that learning by doing is best, and that music should never feel like a chore. During private lessons he will help students master the fundamentals of guitar by helping them learn their favorite music. The ultimate goal of lessons will be to get them making music as fast as possible, expand the students musical knowledge, and to inspire a love for the process of learning.

Harp

Fiona Hunt (Apprentice 1)

Fiona Hunt is a Music Performance major at NIU studying under Faye Seeman. Since starting to learn harp at age 10 she has become passionate about pursuing and sharing music. She enjoys performing in the community through recitals, competitions and ensembles. While at NIU she has played with the Wind Symphony, Harp Trio and CSA Sinfonia.

Fiona believes in learning through a variety of musical genres and creating a positive, constructive learning environment. She strives to help make the harp more accessible and spread knowledge of this unique instrument.

Mandolin

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.

Music Theory

Erin Kirby (Apprentice 1)

Erin Kirby is currently studying instrumental music education at NIU under Gregory Barrett, Mary Lynn Doherty, and Christine D'Alexander. Before NIU, she played clarinet at Glenbrook South High School under the direction of Gregory Wojcik and Brian Boron. She has experience teaching a range of students from the elementary to the high school level.

Erin has teaching experience in one-on-one and group-based learning settings. She is currently hired to tutor and provide supplementary instruction of music theory and aural skills for the music department at NIU. Through tutoring, she has learned to adapt her teaching style to best fit the needs of each student. Each student learns differently whether it be at different paces or specific to different content areas, so it's important to cater lessons unique to each student and their learning needs.

Austyn Menk (Apprentice 1 )

Austyn Menk is a keyboardist pursuing his master's degree through NIU's jazz studies program. While Austyn's primary instrument is piano, he has also been a church musician in his city of Le Center, MN for the last decade. His previous studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN granted him ample opportunities to perform, including two full classical organ recitals and engagements with Gustavus' touring wind ensemble, jazz band and jazz combo as well as with jazz director Dave Stamps' MODx ensemble.

Austyn's goal as a music educator is to aid his students in becoming well-versed in the many facets (theory, history, social context, etc.) of different kinds of music, to provide experiential learning opportunities to enhance students' understanding of music and to help them become effective communicators and members of the music community and society.

Eric Schroeder (Associate)

Eric Schroeder enjoys teaching guitar and ukulele to students age 3 and older. He has taught guitarists as young as 2 and as old as 80. Eric finds teaching beginners exhilarating as they have not yet learned any bad habits. He has taught at the NIU CSA since 1996. In that time he has taught: guitar, including rock, jazz, classical, flamenco, country, finger style EDM covers and Suzuki guitar, ukulele in all kinds of styles and music theory.

Eric graduated from NIU with a Masters in guitar performance, and he also teaches guitar, ukulele and world music at Rockford University and Kishwaukee College.

Organ

Austyn Menk (Apprentice 1 )

Austyn Menk is a keyboardist pursuing his master's degree through NIU's jazz studies program. While Austyn's primary instrument is piano, he has also been a church musician in his city of Le Center, MN for the last decade. His previous studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN granted him ample opportunities to perform, including two full classical organ recitals and engagements with Gustavus' touring wind ensemble, jazz band and jazz combo as well as with jazz director Dave Stamps' MODx ensemble.

Austyn's goal as a music educator is to aid his students in becoming well-versed in the many facets (theory, history, social context, etc.) of different kinds of music, to provide experiential learning opportunities to enhance students' understanding of music and to help them become effective communicators and members of the music community and society.

Piano

Jason Barrette (Apprentice 1)

Jason Barrette is a junior music education major at NIU. He has been playing piano for 15 years, with a specialty in jazz piano. Jason has experience on Alto and Baritone saxophones. He also studied jazz theory, arranging and composition with NIU Jazz Studies Professor Tom Garling. He has played professionally at the Angelina Ristorante and the Lakeview Festival of the Arts in Chicago. He also performed several of his own compositions with academic and professional ensembles. At NIU he studies classical piano with Jeongsoo Kim and jazz piano with Professor Reginald Thomas.

Jason believes that music should be a fun and fulfilling experience for each student. His teaching philosophy centers on the student's input to shape lesson repertoire and goals. Like the teachers who instructed him, he hopes to be a partner in learning, acting as a resource for students as they steadily progress along their musical journey.

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 seeks accurate interpretation and high-quality music. She has a warm and comfortable style and believes that lessons strategy should be different depending on each student's personality, to help maximize their potential with flexible lesson strategies.

Heewon has been teaching private lessons since 2015 and works with a wide range of age groups.

She created a music fairytale through the Dalcroze Eurhythmics classes in South Korea and encourages her students to create their own music. While in South Korea, she organized a piano ensemble named Mask, with a unique concept to wear a mask for the piano concert, featuring music ranging from classical and contemporary, to jazz and cinematic works. She graduated with the Honor of Hansei University in South Korea.

Heewon has an extensive musical repertoire from solo piano pieces to symphonies and opera works and is the winner of several competitions including the 2018 NIU Orchestra competition.

Currently, Heewon is studying for Master of Music in Piano Performance with Professor William Goldenberg, and orchestral conducting with Professor Benjamin Firer, in addition to working as an opera pianist with a full scholarship at Opera Theater in NIU.

Ruoxiao (Sabrina) Chen (Apprentice 2)

Sabrina grew up learning music at an early age and began to learn piano at the age of four. In the sixth grade, she started to learn percussion and joined the Shenzhen Children's Palace Orchestra and later joined the Shenzhen Middle/High School Symphony Orchestra, and served as head of the percussion department for two years. Sabrina was admitted to the Macao Polytechnic institute in 2015 where she received her bachelor's degree in percussion performance. In 2016, she participated in the 7th JianLi International Percussion Festival and won second prize. Currently, she is an NIU 2021 spring graduate with a master's degree in percussion performance.

Sabrina has been teaching private lessons since 2018, she has extensive experience working with beginners in both percussion and piano. In addition to classical percussion, she also taught drum set. She is a cheerful, attentive, honest, upright and studious person with excellent professional and collaborative skills. She is responsible, patient, and supportive with students. She believes each student is different and the lesson strategy should be based on his or her personality in order to maximize their potential.

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.

Jennalynn Cisna (Apprentice 2)

Jennalynn Cisna is pursuing a master's degree at NIU, studying piano performance with William Goldenberg.

Jennalynn's teaching philosophy focuses on cultivating a love of music in her teaching, inspiring students to become lifelong musicians. Her main goal when teaching is to bring out the musician in every student, no matter their age, skill level or past experience. Jennalynn tailors lessons to each student and takes great pride in creating a personalized pedagogical approach. She believes in creating well-rounded musicians, and places emphasis on note-reading, sight-reading, and improvisation, in addition to supplementing lessons with music history and music theory.

In addition to piano, Jennalynn is also an accomplished cellist. She studied under Carolyn Suda and was a member of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony from 2017-2020. In 2020, she performed as the featured cello soloist for the Monmouth College Chorale on their tour of Austria and the Czech Republic.

Jennalynn has been mentoring students and teaching private lessons since 2019. She earned a bachelor's degree in music performance summa cum laude from Monmouth College in 2019.

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.

Devin Drobka (Associate)

Devin Drobka, drummer, composer and educator has been playing drums for the past 20 years. Devin is currently one of the most in-demand performers and educators in the midwest.

Devin decided to further his education and applied to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Devin received his BMA in jazz drumming performance from Berklee College of Music in 2009 where he had the chance to study with Terri Lynn Carrington, Bob Tamigni, Skip Hadden, Jamey Haddad, Kenwood Dennard, Jon Hazilla, Ralph Peterson Jr., Ian Froman and the master drummer Bob Moses. While at Berklee Devin performed with legends of the jazz world such as Joe Lovano, Jerry Bergonzi, Greg Osby, Cecil McBee, Dave Santoro, Ed Tomassi and Phil Grenadier.

Teaching philosophy: the goal of my teaching practice is to educate, train and develop students to excel in music as a career as well as a fun creative release. Developing the musicianship of all my students is the foundation of my curriculum. I believe that the lessons and qualities derived from that work—the self-discipline needed for excellence, the empathy required of music-making and the openness and inquisitiveness essential to creativity—are critical to achievement in any pursuit, musical or otherwise and that music is a powerful catalyst for personal growth, which is central to any experience.

For more information please visit Devin's personal website.

"Devin was a former student of mine at Berklee and one of my best. He was and remains, a serious, inquisitive, committed student, firmly grounded in the tradition, but open to what might be possible as the tradition evolves and changes with each generation… not only is Devin a catalyst of that change… he is 'the next generation'…" by Jon Hazilla, Drum Professor at the Berklee College of 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.

Joy Hyounkyoung Kim (Apprentice 3)

Joy Hyounkyoung Kim, a native of South Korea, is a consummate accompanist and solo recitalist. Kim completed her B.M. in music education and her M.M. in piano performance at the University of Konkuk, Seoul, South Korea. She received a second M.M. degree in collaborative piano at Ewha Woman's University, Seoul, South Korea. She was awarded first place at both the Brahms Music Association of Korea Competition and the Seoul National Symphony Orchestra Competition, as well as distinctions from other competitions.

She has performed concertos with the Maldive National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Seoul National Symphony Orchestra. Kim was a winner at the Ewha Wamans University graduate music festival and has accompanied in vocal and instrumental recitals and chamber music concerts. She has worked as a piano teacher at the Konkuk University Young Musicians Academy and private institutes. Kim has taught a wide range of students from basic children's lessons to auditioning students and has accompanied at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights and attended the 2019 Opera Maya Festival in Mexico. She is currently studying at Northern Illinois University.

Laiji Li (Apprentice 2)

Laiji Li is a pianist from China, a piano instructor, and a piano pedagogy teaching assistant at the Northern Illinois University School of Music. He is a proud member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and the Golden Key International Honor Society.

Li studied the piano under associate professor Mr. Chenyang Dong at Zhejiang Conservatory of Music (ZJCM) in Hangzhou. After receiving the Excellent Freshman Scholarship, he continued studies under Mr. Dong and earned several awards and scholarships, including the First Prize of the Fifth "Simon" Cup (the Piano Competition of College Students in Zhejiang Province), and the first prize of Outstanding Student for excellent academic scholarship. In 2018, Li completed his bachelor's degree in piano performance.

The same year, Li was offered a full scholarship to pursue a master's degree and Performer's Certificate at NIU under William Goldenberg. He won the Donald L. Walker scholarship in 2018 and 2019 and has received instruction from famous pianists such as Shizhen Yao, Kirill Gerstein and Frederick Moyer.

Li is active in piano performing and teaching activities. He started as a private piano teacher for children and students in 2015 and served as a judge of the Chicago Chinese Music Festival Piano Competition and Piano Grade Test in 2018. During 2018-2020 Li worked as an accompanist at NIU, and in 2000 he began as an instructor of Piano Class for undergraduate NIU students. His teaching areas include piano performance, piano duet, accompanying, ear-training and sight-reading.

Li's performance style is vibrant and exciting, especially for lyrical sections of Liszt's music. As a piano teacher, he helps students to improve their piano skills through targeted training, and he likes to use vivid language and to demonstrate performance skills. He also includes some popular music and film music to increase the interest and ability of his students to express the music.

Tsai-Rung Li (Apprentice 2)

Tsai-Rung Li has five years of experience in conducting wind ensembles and chamber groups. In Taiwan, he conducted the trumpet choir and rehearsed the wind ensemble at National Tsing Hua University. He also taught and conducted the band and music courses, such as music theory, music history, music appreciation, brass techniques, and instrumental courses at NTHU's Elementary School, Rei Mei Elementary School, and Chu-Shi Philharmonic Orchestra. In Chiayi and Hsinchu city, he conducted multiple student pep bands on different occasions. In Northern Illinois University, he conducted and rehearsed the wind ensemble and multiple chamber ensembles with diverse concert band repertoires. In addition, as a trumpet performer, he has fourteen years of experience as a collaborative learner playing with orchestras, wind ensembles, and chamber groups. He performed many types of music with different ensembles in Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Chiayi, Taoyuan, and Tainan. When he served as a trumpeter in the professional marching band, he played in various ceremonies in Taiwan as well.

As an educator, he would like to help students succeed in today's professional environment, help them develop their abilities, and cultivate a positive attitude they can carry over to all aspects of their lives. He encourages his students to see things differently, to deliver the beauty of music, and to live a creative life because he believes that music has a positive impact on student achievement and motivation. In his lessons and classes, he helps students develop their skills, talents, and abilities so students can pursue meaningful careers.

His goal is to inspire students to go beyond the printed page by helping them first explore the beauty of a piece of music and then cultivating it in their playing. Rather than as an end in itself, he teaches music as a way to reach each student's own artistic goals, which empowers them to their education and become more confident.

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.

Austyn Menk (Apprentice 1 )

Austyn Menk is a keyboardist pursuing his master's degree through NIU's jazz studies program. While Austyn's primary instrument is piano, he has also been a church musician in his city of Le Center, MN for the last decade. His previous studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN granted him ample opportunities to perform, including two full classical organ recitals and engagements with Gustavus' touring wind ensemble, jazz band and jazz combo as well as with jazz director Dave Stamps' MODx ensemble.

Austyn's goal as a music educator is to aid his students in becoming well-versed in the many facets (theory, history, social context, etc.) of different kinds of music, to provide experiential learning opportunities to enhance students' understanding of music and to help them become effective communicators and members of the music community and society.

Megan Rault (Apprentice 1)

Megan Rault is currently attending NIU for jazz studies under saxophonist Geof Bradfield. She began playing saxophone in 7th grade in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and had many years of experience in both classical and jazz saxophones (Alto, Tenor, Bari and Soprano). She also had a few years of experience on piano as well as doubling on clarinet and flute for jazz bands.

Megan has played at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Cafe CODA, and many other places through her nine years of playing. At NIU, she has participated in Jazz Ensemble, University Jazz Band, Wind Symphony, Huskie Marching Band, Sam Dando's jazz combo, and Vermillion Saxophone Quartet as well as playing in several outside groups such as Live Wire Brass, BAJA and Shout Section Big Band. She has had the opportunity to play with several esteemed musicians such as Marquis Hill, Sharel Cassity, Tatum Greenblatt, Camille Thurman and Alexa Tarantino.

Megan has experience teaching one-on-one lessons as well as small masterclasses. Her mother is a teacher so she understands how much a great educator can change a student's life. She believes in an open approach to teaching by allowing the student to choose repertoire that excites them musically as well as helping the student to discover other pieces and artists that will challenge them

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.

Christian Yi (Apprentice 2)

Christian Yi is an up-and-coming Chicago-based musician. He is a performing musician, arranger, composer, pianist and keyboardist, educator, producer and music director.

No matter the context, Christian strives to grow and diversify his creative thought-process and life experiences. Taking classical piano lessons at the age of 5, he eventually ventured into the musical realms of jazz, pop, church, rock, and soul music. He also ventured into wind ensemble and orchestral music in his time at Cooper Middle School and Buffalo Grove High School as a tubist, trombonist and euphonium player.

Christian has had a chance to work with and be coached by phenomenal educators. These individuals include:

  • Marianne Kim (jazz piano, jazz and classical arranging/composition, music theory)
  • Chi Can To (piano/keyboards, performance
  • Ableton Live, music production, music theory, music directing)
  • Ed Jacobi (wind ensemble works, jazz theory)
  • Elizabeth Bennett (music theory, orchestral works)
  • Kyle Krause (aural skills, composition/arranging)
  • Clowdell Williams (Hammond organ)
  • Aimee Nolte (jazz piano)

Christian has had the wonderful opportunity to play at the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall (Northern Illinois University), Pick-Staiger Concert Hall (Northwestern University), The Jazz Showcase (Chicago, IL), the Chicago Symphony Center (Chicago, IL), the House Cafe (DeKalb, IL), Heritage Church (Lake Zurich, IL), the various campuses of Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, IL) and the United Center (Chicago, IL).

Currently, Christian is pursuing a bachelor's in jazz studies at Northern Illinois University. He has the amazing opportunity to study jazz piano with professor and Northern Illinois director of jazz studies, Reggie Thomas. He also currently studies with Tom Garling, professor of jazz trombone, in jazz arranging and composition.

Christian is currently working on building his portfolio as a performer, composer, arranger, and educator. He plays and teaches at various venues, jam sessions, and other performances around Chicago and the Chicagoland area.

Christian is excited to teach students of all ages, whether 5 or 70. He believes that every human being is a student for life and that anything can be learned at any age. He is excited to work with students and has experience working with people and musicians of all age groups.

Pipa

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.

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

Jason Barrette (Apprentice 1)

Jason Barrette is a junior music education major at NIU. He has been playing piano for 15 years, with a specialty in jazz piano. Jason has experience on Alto and Baritone saxophones. He also studied jazz theory, arranging and composition with NIU Jazz Studies Professor Tom Garling. He has played professionally at the Angelina Ristorante and the Lakeview Festival of the Arts in Chicago. He also performed several of his own compositions with academic and professional ensembles. At NIU he studies classical piano with Jeongsoo Kim and jazz piano with Professor Reginald Thomas.

Jason believes that music should be a fun and fulfilling experience for each student. His teaching philosophy centers on the student's input to shape lesson repertoire and goals. Like the teachers who instructed him, he hopes to be a partner in learning, acting as a resource for students as they steadily progress along their musical journey.

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.

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.

Megan Rault (Apprentice 1)

Megan Rault is currently attending NIU for jazz studies under saxophonist Geof Bradfield. She began playing saxophone in 7th grade in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and had many years of experience in both classical and jazz saxophones (Alto, Tenor, Bari and Soprano). She also had a few years of experience on piano as well as doubling on clarinet and flute for jazz bands.

Megan has played at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Cafe CODA, and many other places through her nine years of playing. At NIU, she has participated in Jazz Ensemble, University Jazz Band, Wind Symphony, Huskie Marching Band, Sam Dando's jazz combo, and Vermillion Saxophone Quartet as well as playing in several outside groups such as Live Wire Brass, BAJA and Shout Section Big Band. She has had the opportunity to play with several esteemed musicians such as Marquis Hill, Sharel Cassity, Tatum Greenblatt, Camille Thurman and Alexa Tarantino.

Megan has experience teaching one-on-one lessons as well as small masterclasses. Her mother is a teacher so she understands how much a great educator can change a student's life. She believes in an open approach to teaching by allowing the student to choose repertoire that excites them musically as well as helping the student to discover other pieces and artists that will challenge them

Arman Sangalang (Apprentice 2)

Arman Sangalang is a jazz saxophonist, composer, woodwind doubler and educator based in the Chicagoland area. He completed his bachelor's degree in jazz studies at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in May 2020 where he studied with Greg Ward, Tom Walsh and Walter Smith III. While at IU, he also studied flute and clarinet with various woodwind faculty. In 2020, Arman played in IU Jazz Ensemble I which competed in the Jack Rudin Jazz Championship at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC. The ensemble earned 2nd place competing with nine of the best jazz colleges in the U.S. He has also played for the Grammy-nominated Singing Hoosiers, Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban, John Raymond and Supersax Ensembles. In the fall of 2020, he began a master's degree in Jazz at Northern Illinois University studying with Geof Bradfield.

Throughout his career, he's had the honor of playing with notable jazz artists such as John Raymond, Dave Stryker, Todd Coolman, Jeremy Allen and countless others. Arman has led a few projects like the Maté Trio and the Sangalang/Fain duo which regularly played at local venues around Indiana. He has also been a sideman on projects including the Zachary Finnegan Quintet, Albion West, Clark Hunt's Drive-By Big Band and the Good Fight Big Band. These opportunities have led him to perform at notable venues including The Jazz Kitchen, Taste of Bloomington, the B'Town Jazz Festival, The Bishop and many more.

In addition to being an active performer, Arman has a passion for education. He has taught at Stafford Music Academy in Bloomington, IN and other music studios in the Chicago area as the woodwind instructor for saxophone, clarinet and flute. Arman seeks to help students find a balance between what they enjoy in music while also challenging them to go outside their comfort zones. Many of his students have won awards in Solo and Ensemble competitions and participated in district ILMEA ensembles. Also, Arman is a graduate assistant at Northern Illinois University, where he helps coach jazz combos and ensembles.

Song Writing

Erik Jarvis (Apprentice 2)

Erik Jarvis is songwriter, arranger and audio producer. He is a Recording Arts graduate student at NIU and helps manage the student workforce and various studios for recording services. Outside of school, he maintains an active career with a solo songwriting project, his band Pink Neighbor and work for hire as a producer and arranger. He believes in the power of song to inspire and communicate exciting ideas.

Trombone

Dennis Meacham (Apprentice 3)

Dennis Meacham is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a master's degree in tuba performance. Currently, he teaches in the Rockford Public School District and he also teaches privately throughout northern Illinois. He enjoys working with students of all ages and helping students grow as individuals in their music education. He has performed in various ensembles throughout northern Illinois including The Fox Valley Brass Band, The Pegasus Wind Ensemble, NIU Philharmonic and several chamber ensembles.

In his teaching, Dennis aims to provide each of his students with a unique approach to their learning. His goal is to create well-rounded and self-motivated learners. He does this by giving them the tools to be self-critical, goal-oriented and solution-minded.

Trumpet

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

Tsai-Rung Li (Apprentice 2)

Tsai-Rung Li has five years of experience in conducting wind ensembles and chamber groups. In Taiwan, he conducted the trumpet choir and rehearsed the wind ensemble at National Tsing Hua University. He also taught and conducted the band and music courses, such as music theory, music history, music appreciation, brass techniques, and instrumental courses at NTHU's Elementary School, Rei Mei Elementary School, and Chu-Shi Philharmonic Orchestra. In Chiayi and Hsinchu city, he conducted multiple student pep bands on different occasions. In Northern Illinois University, he conducted and rehearsed the wind ensemble and multiple chamber ensembles with diverse concert band repertoires. In addition, as a trumpet performer, he has fourteen years of experience as a collaborative learner playing with orchestras, wind ensembles, and chamber groups. He performed many types of music with different ensembles in Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Chiayi, Taoyuan, and Tainan. When he served as a trumpeter in the professional marching band, he played in various ceremonies in Taiwan as well.

As an educator, he would like to help students succeed in today's professional environment, help them develop their abilities, and cultivate a positive attitude they can carry over to all aspects of their lives. He encourages his students to see things differently, to deliver the beauty of music, and to live a creative life because he believes that music has a positive impact on student achievement and motivation. In his lessons and classes, he helps students develop their skills, talents, and abilities so students can pursue meaningful careers.

His goal is to inspire students to go beyond the printed page by helping them first explore the beauty of a piece of music and then cultivating it in their playing. Rather than as an end in itself, he teaches music as a way to reach each student's own artistic goals, which empowers them to their education and become more confident.

Dennis Meacham (Apprentice 3)

Dennis Meacham is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a master's degree in tuba performance. Currently, he teaches in the Rockford Public School District and he also teaches privately throughout northern Illinois. He enjoys working with students of all ages and helping students grow as individuals in their music education. He has performed in various ensembles throughout northern Illinois including The Fox Valley Brass Band, The Pegasus Wind Ensemble, NIU Philharmonic and several chamber ensembles.

In his teaching, Dennis aims to provide each of his students with a unique approach to their learning. His goal is to create well-rounded and self-motivated learners. He does this by giving them the tools to be self-critical, goal-oriented and solution-minded.

Christopher Scanlon (Faculty)

Learn more about Christopher Scanlon on his NIU faculty profile.

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.

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.

Dennis Meacham (Apprentice 3)

Dennis Meacham is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a master's degree in tuba performance. Currently, he teaches in the Rockford Public School District and he also teaches privately throughout northern Illinois. He enjoys working with students of all ages and helping students grow as individuals in their music education. He has performed in various ensembles throughout northern Illinois including The Fox Valley Brass Band, The Pegasus Wind Ensemble, NIU Philharmonic and several chamber ensembles.

In his teaching, Dennis aims to provide each of his students with a unique approach to their learning. His goal is to create well-rounded and self-motivated learners. He does this by giving them the tools to be self-critical, goal-oriented and solution-minded.

Ukulele

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.

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.

Eric Schroeder (Associate)

Eric Schroeder enjoys teaching guitar and ukulele to students age 3 and older. He has taught guitarists as young as 2 and as old as 80. Eric finds teaching beginners exhilarating as they have not yet learned any bad habits. He has taught at the NIU CSA since 1996. In that time he has taught: guitar, including rock, jazz, classical, flamenco, country, finger style EDM covers and Suzuki guitar, ukulele in all kinds of styles, and music theory.

Eric graduated from NIU with a Masters in guitar performance, and he also teaches guitar, ukulele and world music at Rockford University and Kishwaukee College.

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

Austin Cruz (Apprentice 2)

Austin Cruz is a graduate student at the NIU School of Music where he is pursuing his master's degree in music performance and is the recipient of the Dutton Foundation graduate assistantship. He started playing the viola in third grade with the School District 105 Orchestra Program in La Grange, IL. In high school, he formed a quartet with fellow members of the orchestra and were hired to perform at several events. Austin toured Italy and France with the Lyons Township High School Orchestra both as a sophomore and then as the principal violist in his senior year.

Austin received the Music Apprentice Scholarship through Grace Lutheran Church in La Grange, IL to help further his music education. He was a member of Art Explosion United, a non-profit group of musicians that raised money for various organizations. Austin also performed in the Windy City String Ensemble and recitals with the Michael Hining Violin and Viola Studio. Through his association with the Studio, Austin began teaching students on the violin and viola which sparked his interest in music education.

After graduating high school, Austin decided to take a gap year to further develop his technique on the viola. He was awarded the Winston Cassler Scholarship to study Music Education at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. He rose to assistant principal in the St. Olaf Philharmonia under Martin Hodel and was promoted to the St. Olaf Orchestra under Steven Amundson. As a junior, he interned at Central High School in St. Paul, MN, where he assisted and taught both the school band and orchestra. Austin holds a Suzuki Violin Book 1 teacher certification from the Greater Pittsburgh Suzuki Institute and plans on advancing his Suzuki certification in the future. He has a passion for teaching and finds great value in one-on-one education. Austin is currently studying with Anthony Devroye. His former teachers include Michael Hining and Ray Shows.

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

Zachary Green (Apprentice 3)

Zachary Green has been a dedicated musician since 1998, however did not start the viola until his sophomore year in high-school. After graduating from Dundee-Crown, he took a gap year to study at the Northwestern Music Academy at Northwestern University, with Stacia Spencer. With her help and instruction, Zach was able to successfully audition for the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) at Roosevelt University.

He studied at the CCPA for two and a half years with his primary instructor Lawrence Neuman of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, he studied viola performance and chamber music. Along with Mr. Neuman, chamber coaches have included Deborah Sobol, Shmuel Ashkenasi, and Li-Kuo Chang. In his second year at the CCPA, Zach was invited to study for a summer, at the Cassalmaggiore music festival with Roger Chase, in northern Italy. After leaving the CCPA, Zach went on to study viola performance with Anthony DeVroye of the Avalon String Quartet at Northern Illinois University (NIU).

At NIU, he continued to study chamber music as well with the help of chamber coaches; Mathias Tacke, Blaise Magniere and Marie Wang. During this time at NIU he also performed in the Baroque Ensemble with Janet Hathaway. Additionally, he served as both section violist and vice-principal violist with the NIU Philharmonic in Dekalb, as well as with the LaSalle-Peru Symphony Orchestra, in LaSalle-Peru Illinois. Zach also had the chance to study with Ann Montzka-Smelser for Suzuki certification from Every Child Can to Book 6.

Graduating from NIU in 2014, Zach then continued his education in the field of luthiery and repairs. Acquiring a job at a small, local shop, he was given a chance to learn repairs. During his years working in repairs he went for formal training and studied with Hans Jurgen Nebel, a prodigy in repairs and a former pupil of Simon Sacconi at the Wurlitzer Foundation, in New York.

Currently, Zach is pursuing a masters in performance at NIU while studying with Mr. DeVroye.

Melissa Milford (Apprentice 2)

Melissa Milford began studying viola at age five and picked up cello at age eight. She holds a degree in Music Pedagogy (BM) from Wheaton College, IL and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Viola Performance at Northern Illinois University. She studied with Rose Armbrust Griffin at Wheaton and currently studies with Anthony Devroye of the Avalon String Quartet.

Melissa has been teaching private lessons since high school and substitute teaching both private and group classes for k-12th at her local music school. She spent three years as a teacher's assistant working with Community Outreach for Developing Artists (CODA), a program which offers free music lessons to children of low-income families. She is certified in Every Child Can and Suzuki book 1 and plans to complete more courses in the future.

Teaching music is something Melissa hopes to do for the rest of her life. She sees music as a combination of creativity and discipline, which are two vital attributes in any discipline outside the realm of music as well. In her lessons, Melissa loves connecting with her students and creating a safe learning environment where each student can learn at their own pace while being encouraged to challenge themselves. She offers creative practice strategies and sets her students up with a strong technical foundation that helps them towards success.

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 currently earning her master of violin performance degree at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music under Desiree Ruhstrat. Raised in DeKalb, Hanna has a bachelor of music performance from Northern Illinois University under Blaise Magniere in addition to studying with soloist, Yang Liu.

In the past, Hanna has won the NIU CSA Sinfonia Concerto Competition, Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition, The Birch Creek Concerto Competition, and the DePaul University Concerto Festival. Additionally, she has placed first in the elementary, junior, senior and college divisions of the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center's Chandler Starr-Miller competition.

Hanna has also soloed with a number of orchestras including the NIU CSA Sinfonia, Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra, The Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago and the NIU Philharmonic as well as being featured on the WFMT broadcast of From the Top.

Hanna is Suzuki registered from books one to three and is continuing her Suzuki training each year. Hanna has over ten years' experience as a soloist, chamber musician, and private violin instructor. She is active in many northern Illinois area orchestras including the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Austin Cruz (Apprentice 2)

Austin Cruz is a graduate student at the NIU School of Music where he is pursuing his master's degree in music performance and is the recipient of the Dutton Foundation graduate assistantship. He started playing the viola in third grade with the School District 105 Orchestra Program in La Grange, IL. In high school, he formed a quartet with fellow members of the orchestra and were hired to perform at several events. Austin toured Italy and France with the Lyons Township High School Orchestra both as a sophomore and then as the principal violist in his senior year.

Austin received the Music Apprentice Scholarship through Grace Lutheran Church in La Grange, IL to help further his music education. He was a member of Art Explosion United, a non-profit group of musicians that raised money for various organizations. Austin also performed in the Windy City String Ensemble and recitals with the Michael Hining Violin and Viola Studio. Through his association with the Studio, Austin began teaching students on the violin and viola which sparked his interest in music education.

After graduating high school, Austin decided to take a gap year to further develop his technique on the viola. He was awarded the Winston Cassler Scholarship to study Music Education at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. He rose to assistant principal in the St. Olaf Philharmonia under Martin Hodel and was promoted to the St. Olaf Orchestra under Steven Amundson. As a junior, he interned at Central High School in St. Paul, MN, where he assisted and taught both the school band and orchestra. Austin holds a Suzuki Violin Book 1 teacher certification from the Greater Pittsburgh Suzuki Institute and plans on advancing his Suzuki certification in the future. He has a passion for teaching and finds great value in one-on-one education. Austin is currently studying with Anthony Devroye. His former teachers include Michael Hining and Ray Shows.

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

Zachary Green (Apprentice 3)

Zachary Green has been a dedicated musician since 1998, however did not start the viola until his sophomore year in high-school. After graduating from Dundee-Crown, he took a gap year to study at the Northwestern Music Academy at Northwestern University, with Stacia Spencer. With her help and instruction, Zach was able to successfully audition for the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) at Roosevelt University.

He studied at the CCPA for two and a half years with his primary instructor Lawrence Neuman of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, he studied viola performance and chamber music. Along with Mr. Neuman, chamber coaches have included Deborah Sobol, Shmuel Ashkenasi, and Li-Kuo Chang. In his second year at the CCPA, Zach was invited to study for a summer, at the Cassalmaggiore music festival with Roger Chase, in northern Italy. After leaving the CCPA, Zach went on to study viola performance with Anthony DeVroye of the Avalon String Quartet at Northern Illinois University (NIU).

At NIU, he continued to study chamber music as well with the help of chamber coaches; Mathias Tacke, Blaise Magniere and Marie Wang. During this time at NIU he also performed in the Baroque Ensemble with Janet Hathaway. Additionally, he served as both section violist and vice-principal violist with the NIU Philharmonic in Dekalb, as well as with the LaSalle-Peru Symphony Orchestra, in LaSalle-Peru Illinois. Zach also had the chance to study with Ann Montzka-Smelser for Suzuki certification from Every Child Can to Book 6.

Graduating from NIU in 2014, Zach then continued his education in the field of luthiery and repairs. Acquiring a job at a small, local shop, he was given a chance to learn repairs. During his years working in repairs he went for formal training and studied with Hans Jurgen Nebel, a prodigy in repairs and a former pupil of Simon Sacconi at the Wurlitzer Foundation, in New York.

Currently, Zach is pursuing a masters in performance at NIU while studying with Mr. DeVroye.

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.

Melissa Milford (Apprentice 2)

Melissa Milford began studying viola at age five and picked up cello at age eight. She holds a degree in Music Pedagogy (BM) from Wheaton College, IL and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Viola Performance at Northern Illinois University. She studied with Rose Armbrust Griffin at Wheaton and currently studies with Anthony Devroye of the Avalon String Quartet.

Melissa has been teaching private lessons since high school and substitute teaching both private and group classes for k-12th at her local music school. She spent three years as a teacher's assistant working with Community Outreach for Developing Artists (CODA), a program which offers free music lessons to children of low-income families. She is certified in Every Child Can and Suzuki book 1 and plans to complete more courses in the future.

Teaching music is something Melissa hopes to do for the rest of her life. She sees music as a combination of creativity and discipline, which are two vital attributes in any discipline outside the realm of music as well. In her lessons, Melissa loves connecting with her students and creating a safe learning environment where each student can learn at their own pace while being encouraged to challenge themselves. She offers creative practice strategies and sets her students up with a strong technical foundation that helps them towards success.

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.

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.

Britney Kieselhorst (Apprentice 2)

Britney Kieselhorst is a post-traditional transfer student at NIU studying music education. She graduated from Eastland High School in 2010 and earned an Associate of Arts degree from Highland Community College with an emphasis in music. Britney has over 20 years of experience studying and performing music in a variety of styles.

Britney was the recipient of the National Choral Award, as well as making the Illinois All-State Honors Choir multiple times. While earning her associate degree, she performed lead roles in many theater productions; as well as earning solos in both classic and modern repertoire performing with the Highland Chamber Singers and Highland Chorale.

Britney was a drum major in high school, which provided her with an opportunity to work with students to be better musicians. As the soprano section leader in high school and college, Britney was able to mentor fellow students and had teaching opportunities to further their musicianship. She has helped prepare students for Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA), musical productions and Illinois High School Association (IHSA) solo and ensemble contest. She enjoys connecting with students, building them into better musicians and seeing them connect with 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.

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.

Sunhye Yoon (Apprentice 3)

Sunhye Yoon holds a performer's certificate in voice performance at Northern Illinois University under Professors Orna Arania and Robert Sims. She earned a bachelor's and master's degree in voice performance from Kyungwon University in South Korea.

Sunhye 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, adults and also served as a voice coach for opera youth choir. She also has experience teaching piano and previously worked at a piano studio. She enjoys teaching students and is an experienced instructor.

Contact Us

College of Visual and Performing Arts
Office of External Programs

Music Building 132

Kristin Sherman
815-753-1450
ksherman2@niu.edu

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