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.

Chano Cruz (Apprentice 1)

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

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

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

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.

Tetsuya Nishiyama (Apprentice 3)

Tetsuya Nishiyama is a guitarist based in Chicago. Born and raised in Nagoya, Japan, he has played professionally for over 15 years.

Since coming to the United States in 2010, Tetsuya has been fortunate to work at many of finest music venues in Chicago including The Jazz Showcase, Andy’s Jazz Club, Green Mill, Pete Miller's Steakhouse, Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S on Halsted, Buddy Guy's Legends, and Room 43. Currently, he leads his group every Thursday and every other Friday at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Naperville, Illinois.

As a sideman, he has performed with internationally known jazz musicians such as Marquis Hill, Rodney Whitaker, Reginald Thomas, Geoffrey Bradfield, Ari Brown, Robert Irving III, Tony Monaco, Bobby Floyd, Victor Garcia, and many others. He has also worked with many names on the blues R&B scene including Buddy Guy, Roy Ayers, The Emotions, Toronzo Cannon, Mike Wheeler, Linsey Alexander, Sam Cockrell, etc.

Tetsuya has made many festival and club appearances. Highlights include Chicago Jazz Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, and the Glen Ellyn Jazz Festival. Aside from performing, Tetsuya has been a guitar instructor for NIU summer jazz camp since 2017 and also enjoys working as an educator/clinician to younger musicians around the greater Chicago area.

Tetsuya received his Master of Music and Bachelor of Music in jazz studies from NIU, where he served as a member of a guitar professor search committee with faculty. While at NIU, Tetsuya also had the great fortune to learn directly from guitar masters Fareed Haque and Bobby Broom.

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.

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

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.

Linc Smelser (Faculty)

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

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

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

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

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

Clarinet

Aerie Bernard (Associate)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 1)

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

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

Michael Opitz (Apprentice 2)

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

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

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

Raelyn Erwin (Apprentice 1)

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

Chris Kenney (Apprentice 1)

Chris Kenney is a May 2020 graduate of NIU with a degree in Percussion Performance. In addition to being skilled classical percussionist, Chris is also a skilled drum set player, having over a decade of experience on that instrument.

In addition to percussion instruments, Chris plays the guitar, an instrument he has been playing since the age of 10. Chris also plays bass, having been the bassist for a couple of groups since high school.

Chris has been teaching private lessons since 2017. He first taught for Allegro Music Academy out of Lemont, IL, where he taught drum set and guitar lessons. Since 2019, Chris has been a teacher for the CSA.

Euphonium

Kurt Bonamer (Associate)

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

Flute/Piccolo

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.

Guitar

Scott Anderson (Apprentice 3)

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

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

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

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

Aerie Bernard (Associate)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quentin Dover (Associate)

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

Chris Kenney (Apprentice 1)

Chris Kenney is a May 2020 graduate of NIU with a degree in Percussion Performance. In addition to being skilled classical percussionist, Chris is also a skilled drum set player, having over a decade of experience on that instrument.

In addition to percussion instruments, Chris plays the guitar, an instrument he has been playing since the age of 10. Chris also plays bass, having been the bassist for a couple of groups since high school.

Chris has been teaching private lessons since 2017. He first taught for Allegro Music Academy out of Lemont, IL, where he taught drum set and guitar lessons. Since 2019, Chris has been a teacher for the CSA.

Tetsuya Nishiyama (Apprentice 3)

Tetsuya Nishiyama is a guitarist based in Chicago. Born and raised in Nagoya, Japan, he has played professionally for over 15 years.

Since coming to the United States in 2010, Tetsuya has been fortunate to work at many of finest music venues in Chicago including The Jazz Showcase, Andy’s Jazz Club, Green Mill, Pete Miller's Steakhouse, Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S on Halsted, Buddy Guy's Legends, and Room 43. Currently, he leads his group every Thursday and every other Friday at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Naperville, Illinois.

As a sideman, he has performed with internationally known jazz musicians such as Marquis Hill, Rodney Whitaker, Reginald Thomas, Geoffrey Bradfield, Ari Brown, Robert Irving III, Tony Monaco, Bobby Floyd, Victor Garcia, and many others. He has also worked with many names on the blues R&B scene including Buddy Guy, Roy Ayers, The Emotions, Toronzo Cannon, Mike Wheeler, Linsey Alexander, Sam Cockrell, etc.

Tetsuya has made many festival and club appearances. Highlights include Chicago Jazz Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, and the Glen Ellyn Jazz Festival. Aside from performing, Tetsuya has been a guitar instructor for NIU summer jazz camp since 2017 and also enjoys working as an educator/clinician to younger musicians around the greater Chicago area.

Tetsuya received his Master of Music and Bachelor of Music in jazz studies from NIU, where he served as a member of a guitar professor search committee with faculty. While at NIU, Tetsuya also had the great fortune to learn directly from guitar masters Fareed Haque and Bobby Broom.

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.

Harp

Melissa Anderson (Faculty*)

Melissa Anderson is a harpist with 40 years of experience. She began playing the harp at the age of 8 under the instruction of Faye Seeman. Melissa went on to study with renowned harpist Lucile Lawrence for two summers at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts, after which, she went on to receive her Bachelor of Music in harp performance at Boston University School for the Arts. While in Boston, Melissa performed with numerous orchestras including the Boston Civic and Harvard Radcliffe orchestras. In 1991, she competed for, and won the title of Miss Massachusetts and went on to compete in the Miss America Pageant where she received additional scholarship awards for her talent.

Prior to moving to Chicago, Melissa performed with the Virginia Symphony, performed recitals at the Fringe Festival in Edinborough, Scotland; and recorded a CD of music by French composers. While in Chicago, Melissa enjoyed six years as the harpist at the Drake Hotel while teaching private students and freelancing as a soloist in the area.

In 2014, Melissa accepted the position of director of music at Naperville Christian Academy where she currently teaches kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition, she currently serves on the College of Visual and Performing Arts advisory council under Dean Paul Kassel.

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

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.

Piano

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 1)

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

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

Heewon Cha (Apprentice 2)

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

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

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

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

Soo-Yon Choi (Associate)

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

Jodeen Coulter (Associate)

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

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.

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.

Xiaomeng Lin (Apprentice 2)

Xiaomeng Lin is currently a piano major at NIU. She has over twenty years of experience playing the piano. She brings a professional attitude, a flexible and vivid style and many years of experience to her teaching. Her students have performed well in competitions and study abroad programs. She prides herself on developing close relationships with her students and their parents. She is also an experienced accompanist and has experience with other instruments and vocal teaching.

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.

Marilyn Montzka (Associate)

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

Tetsuya Nishiyama (Apprentice 3)

Tetsuya Nishiyama is a guitarist based in Chicago. Born and raised in Nagoya, Japan, he has played professionally for over 15 years.

Since coming to the United States in 2010, Tetsuya has been fortunate to work at many of finest music venues in Chicago including The Jazz Showcase, Andy’s Jazz Club, Green Mill, Pete Miller's Steakhouse, Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S on Halsted, Buddy Guy's Legends, and Room 43. Currently, he leads his group every Thursday and every other Friday at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Naperville, Illinois.

As a sideman, he has performed with internationally known jazz musicians such as Marquis Hill, Rodney Whitaker, Reginald Thomas, Geoffrey Bradfield, Ari Brown, Robert Irving III, Tony Monaco, Bobby Floyd, Victor Garcia, and many others. He has also worked with many names on the blues R&B scene including Buddy Guy, Roy Ayers, The Emotions, Toronzo Cannon, Mike Wheeler, Linsey Alexander, Sam Cockrell, etc.

Tetsuya has made many festival and club appearances. Highlights include Chicago Jazz Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, and the Glen Ellyn Jazz Festival. Aside from performing, Tetsuya has been a guitar instructor for NIU summer jazz camp since 2017 and also enjoys working as an educator/clinician to younger musicians around the greater Chicago area.

Tetsuya received his Master of Music and Bachelor of Music in jazz studies from NIU, where he served as a member of a guitar professor search committee with faculty. While at NIU, Tetsuya also had the great fortune to learn directly from guitar masters Fareed Haque and Bobby Broom.

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

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.

Adam DuVall (Apprentice 2)

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

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

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

Michael Opitz (Apprentice 2)

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

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

Steel Pan

Christian Melhado (Apprentice 2)

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

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

Dajhumbay Russell (Apprentice 1)

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

Trombone

Darren Figgins (Apprentice 1)

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

Trumpet

Derek Detzler (Apprentice 1)

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

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

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

Anya Gavin (Apprentice 1)

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

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.

Allyson Smith (Apprentice 1)

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

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

Michael Swope (Associate)

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

Tuba

Kurt Bonamer (Associate)

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

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

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

Tanner Longfellow (Apprentice 1)

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

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

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

Laurie Rodriguez (Associate)

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

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

Ann Montzka Smelser (Faculty)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Violin

Hanna Bingham (Apprentice 3)

Hanna Bingham is 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.

Chantel Davis (Apprentice 3)

Chantel Davis, local violinist, began at the age of 5 eventually taking lessons through the Community School of the Arts at NIU, beginning with Karen Weckerly and later Ann Montzka Smelser with whom they studied for about eight years. Chantel graduated from Northern Illinois University in the spring of 2020 with their bachelor’s in music, emphasis in violin performance and is pursuing their performer's certificate at NIU as a graduate student, studying with Mathias Tacke.

Throughout their high school and undergraduate college career, Chantel won many awards, scholarships, placed in competitions and was even invited two years consecutively to participate in the All-National's Orchestra for their playing. In college, Davis has been both associate concertmaster in the NIU Philharmonic, as well as concertmaster. They are certified in the Suzuki Method through Violin Book 4 and have taught privately through the CSA at NIU, assisting with the CSA Sinfonia youth orchestra and NIU Suzuki Violin Group program on the side and was additionally a Suzuki faculty member at Cambridge Studios in Pingree Grove, IL through 2019.

Currently, Chantel plays in the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra, the NIU Philharmonic, and the Esoteric Ensemble, as well as continuing their career of over nine years as a freelance violinist. 

Chantel has been featured as a soloist in the CSA Sinfonia, RYSO Chamber Orchestra, and the Rockford Youth Symphony Orchestra. Chantel has cultivated teaching experience by instructing swim lessons for over four years, both privately and in groups, including working with a wide variety of ages, needs, and learning abilities. 

Outside of the practice and teaching studio, Chantel enjoys reading, playing chess and writing their own folk/singer-songwriter music on various instruments such as the ukulele, piano, guitar and banjo, which they perform regularly at venues throughout the Midwest

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

Ann Montzka Smelser (Faculty)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurie Rodriguez (Associate)

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

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

Vibraphone

Chris Kenney (Apprentice 1)

Chris Kenney is a May 2020 graduate of NIU with a degree in Percussion Performance. In addition to being skilled classical percussionist, Chris is also a skilled drum set player, having over a decade of experience on that instrument.

In addition to percussion instruments, Chris plays the guitar, an instrument he has been playing since the age of 10. Chris also plays bass, having been the bassist for a couple of groups since high school.

Chris has been teaching private lessons since 2017. He first taught for Allegro Music Academy out of Lemont, IL, where he taught drum set and guitar lessons. Since 2019, Chris has been a teacher for the CSA.

Voice

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 1)

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

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

Jodeen Coulter (Associate)

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

Darren Figgins (Apprentice 1)

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

Brianne Duncan Fiore (Associate)

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

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

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

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.

Alex Rattana (Apprentice 1)

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

Sunhye Yoon (Apprentice 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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To protect the safety of our staff, students and families, we will operate remotely for the fall semester. Our staff will be available at their remote offices during normal NIU business hours and can be contacted via phone or email.

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