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. (14 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.

I have degrees in music from Illinois Central College and our own Northern Illinois University. I am currently a graduate assistant at ISU and an adjunct professor at Knox College in Galesburg.

I have confidence that I can help any student get closer to their goals and aspirations as a musician.

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.

Nate Lin (Apprentice 1)

Nate Lin is an up and coming jazz bassist and drummer with over a dozen years of first hand experience with music education. Most recently he has been studying with renowned jazz bassist Marlene Rosenberg at Northern Illinois University where he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in jazz performance. Nate is currently playing with the NIU Jazz Orchestra, NIU Jazz Ensemble and an NIU Jazz Combo. He is also studying jazz drumming with Devin Drobka and working towards developing a unique style and a more complete conception of his voice in jazz music.

Nate's mission as a bass and drum educator is to enable his students to play in whatever styles or genres they want regardless of skill level. This begins with an assessment of the students tastes, needs, goals and, if necessary, building a foundation of general proficiency. Then they embark on an intensive study of all aspects of the targeted sound including technique, musical vocabulary and equipment. This individually tailored approach results in more interest and engagement from the student, faster progress and superior results.

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.

Frances Marshall (Apprentice 1)

Frances Marshall is currently pursuing her master's degree in cello performance at NIU and studies with Cheng-Hou Lee. In 2021, Frances graduated from Luther College with a Bachelor of Arts where she studied both cello and voice, and was principal cellist of the Luther College Symphony Orchestra. In 2020, she attended the Aria International Summer Academy at Mount Holyoke College. Frances also recently received her level one Suzuki certification from Beth Catrell at the Virginia Suzuki Institute and plans to advance her certification level over the next few years.

Frances' teaching philosophy emphasizes creating a beautiful tone and the belief that anyone can make beautiful music. She is sensitive to the fact that everybody learns differently and makes it a priority to find the unique teaching style that every student needs to succeed. Frances has enjoyed teaching private lessons since 2020.

Elizabeth Newquist (Associate)

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.

Brandon Rittenour (Apprentice 1)

Brandon Rittenour has performed as a cellist and conducted throughout the Northwest, at Carnegie Hall, in Austria, and the Czech Republic. He has coached cello, chamber performance, and conducted at various summer music programs in the Northwest. Through these experiences he discovered his passion for supporting the development of young musicians. Brandon graduated summa cum laude with his Bachelor of Music Education from Walla Walla University. While at WWU, he performed in the honors quartet, as principal cellist of the symphony orchestra, and as a cello sub for the Walla Walla Symphony. Brandon is currently pursuing his Master of Music in cello performance at Northern Illinois University, studying under the Avalon String Quartet cellist, Cheng-Hou Lee.

Brandon's experience in high school studying under Dr. John Marshall, student of Janos Starker, strongly shaped his cello education philosophy, creating an emphasis on coaching over teaching. The student must know the why so they do not simply imitate, but fully understand, and can thus apply beyond a specific example. Compelling tone, precise intonation, and overall clarity do not happen by accident. Our every action must be anticipated and intentional. Refining the mechanics of performance always serves to remove barriers to our ultimate goal, namely musicality or moving the heart of our audience.

Nelly Rocha (Associate)

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

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

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

Linc Smelser (Faculty)

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

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

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

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

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

Clarinet

Katelyn Ackland (Apprentice 1 )

Katelyn has a passion for sharing her love of music with others and is dedicated to educational success. While she completed her associate of science degree at Kishwaukee College, she was a part of the Performing Arts Club and studied keyboard, voice, and guitar. Currently, she is pursuing her bachelor's degree in music education at NIU and is studying clarinet with Gregory Barrett. She is a highly motivated individual, eager to contribute to team success through hard work.

Katelyn has performed in a large variety of settings including the NIU Wind Symphony, NIU Wind Ensemble, NIU Chamber Group, NIU Huskie Marching Band, and NIU Sinfonia. She also played clarinet with the Kishwaukee Concert Band, DeKalb and Rochelle Municipal Summer Bandshell, and was principal clarinetist and ringer of the Illinois Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra. She is currently hired as the Esmond United Methodist Church pianist, and has been a music provider for the Rochelle United Methodist Church in their handbell choir, singing choir, and played violin and clarinet in small ensembles during church services. She is a previous teacher’s assistant for band, choir, and strings classes in the Greater Rochelle Area Christian Education School and served as the camp counselor and clarinet sectional leader in the Maranatha Baptist College Band Camp.

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, 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.

Kayla Bivin (Apprentice 1)

Kayla Bivin is a music composition student at NIU and will be in the graduating class of 2023. She currently studies clarinet with Gregory Barrett and has played in numerous NIU ensembles, including the Huskie Marching Band, the Wind Ensemble and the Philharmonic. She has studied classical piano for over ten years. She also loves to sing and is learning the flute.

Kayla believes in creating a supportive learning environment that emphasizes personal growth and will ask students to think about their own strengths and areas for improvement. She wishes to help her students have fun playing music and find joy in discovery.

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.

Drumset/Percussion

Nate Lin (Apprentice 1)

Nate Lin is an up and coming jazz bassist and drummer with over a dozen years of first hand experience with music education. Most recently he has been studying with renowned jazz bassist Marlene Rosenberg at Northern Illinois University where he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in jazz performance. Nate is currently playing with the NIU Jazz Orchestra, NIU Jazz Ensemble and an NIU Jazz Combo. He is also studying jazz drumming with Devin Drobka and working towards developing a unique style and a more complete conception of his voice in jazz music.

Nate's mission as a bass and drum educator is to enable his students to play in whatever styles or genres they want regardless of skill level. This begins with an assessment of the student's tastes, needs, goals and, if necessary, building a foundation of general proficiency. Then they embark on an intensive study of all aspects of the targeted sound including technique, musical vocabulary and equipment. This individually tailored approach results in more interest and engagement from the student, faster progress and superior results.

Karl Olsen (Apprentice 1)

Karl Olsen is a versatile percussionist and drummer. In high school, he played in the marching band, wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, and percussion ensemble at DeKalb. Karl currently plays in similar ensembles at NIU, drums on his church's worship team, and drums in a local cover band that plays music ranging from classic rock to pop!

Out of his passion for music and teaching, Karl is studying to teach music as a career at Northern Illinois University, working privately with Gregory Beyer, Ben Wahlund, and Devin Drobka. Karl has taught lessons for a few years, working with students on drum set, snare drum and keyboard percussion playing.

In teaching, Karl aims to help students grow both technically as drummers and generally as musicians. Enjoying music, goal setting, consistent practice, effort, and growing basic life skills are major themes in lessons.

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.

Julia Broome-Robinson (Associate)

Julia Broome-Robinson is a trombonist and teacher currently based in Northern Illinois. She has multiple degrees in music, including a doctorate in trombone performance from Arizona State University. Most recently, Julia taught MUHL 220: Introduction to Western Music Traditions at the Northern Illinois University School of Music, and is active in the region as a private lesson teacher for low brass and piano students of all ages and ability levels. Julia has also taught as a full-time sabbatical replacement at the University of Redlands, where she was the acting trombone studio Instructor. In this position, Julia taught both undergraduate and graduate trombonists, guided recital and audition preparation, and taught the weekly trombone studio class. As a graduate assistant at Arizona State University, she was the assistant director for the ASU Desert Bones trombone choir, taught the trombone portion of a brass methods course for music education majors and gave weekly lessons to undergraduate trombone students.

Julia began studying piano at the age of four and continued her formal piano studies for the next 15 years. While she ultimately focused her formal music education on the trombone, piano has remained a constant part of her career. As a collaborative pianist, Julia has performed on numerous recitals, and as a composer, has written and performed works for both solo piano and mixed chamber ensemble groups.

As a teacher, Julia prioritizes the needs and interests of her students, while maintaining a structured and rigorous learning environment. She encourages composition and creative problem solving, but also helps her students develop a detail-oriented approach to their musical study. Julia believes that natural body mechanics form an ideal foundation for technical mastery, and incorporates the teachings of the famed tubist and pedagogue Arnold Jacobs into her own teaching when helpful and appropriate. Overall, Julia believes that learning music should be fun, and aims to foster a positive, self-motivated attitude in all her students.

Dennis Meacham (Apprentice 3)

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

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

Omar Tlatelpa-Nieto (Apprentice 1)

Omar Tlatelpa Nieto is the current Graduate Assistant for the Brass Area at the NIU School of Music. A native of the Chicago area, Mr. Tlatelpa first picked up the trombone in fifth grade. From middle school through high school, he studied trombone under Tim Riordan at the Merit School of Music in Chicago. As a high school student, he was also a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. In 2018, he was featured on NPR’s “From the Top” with The Bone Rangers, Merit’s honors trombone quartet. He went on to receive his Bachelor of Music degree from Lawrence University, where he studied with Tim Albright and was a recipient of the Tom and Julie Hurvis Scholarship. Mr. Tlatelpa has experience in a wide range of musical styles, including symphonic, jazz, chamber, and new music.

As a teacher, Mr. Tlatelpa believes in fostering creative and thoughtful musicality with a sound technical foundation. As every student is different, he believes in meeting the student where they are, cultivating a well-rounded musician who has the tools and confidence to face any challenge head on. Overall, Mr. Tlatelpa’s goal is to help each student grow to be the best they can be as a musician and person.

Flute/Piccolo

Chanel Antoshin (Apprentice 1)

As an undergraduate student at NIU, Chanel Antoshin strives to surround herself with musicality. She is diverse in the idea of performing including performing in NIU’s Philharmonic, Marching Band, chamber settings as well as loads of solo repertoire to be a well-rounded musician. Chanel is an EYSO alumni and performed as the 2020 Young Artist’s Concerto Competition winner at EYSO. She has also participated in the District 9 ILMEA orchestra and band. Chanel currently studies with Scott Metlicka and previously with Ruth Cavanaugh for three years.

She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian to attend to any needs. Chanel believes that establishing a good sense of basics that include solidified tone quality, technique, routine, and musicality are crucial in building and benefiting ones musicianship. She hopes to share all she knows with her students to make music more than just notes through establishing basics and building from there. Music is fun and she hopes to share that fun with you!

To find videos of Chanel playing, you may visit her Instagram: @musicwithchanel

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, 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 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.

Gianna Capobianco (Apprentice 2)

With an encouraging and loving teaching style, Gianna Capobianco's students will establish a strong foundation in the fundamentals of music such as: rhythm, tone, technique, musicality, note-reading, posture, embouchure and practice techniques. She enjoys mentoring students of all ages and abilities through the technical, musical, and emotional aspects of music and getting to know them on a personal level.

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.

French Horn

Emma Hinkle (Apprentice 1 )

Emma Hinkle is currently a graduate student pursuing her master’s degree in horn performance at NIU. She earned her bachelor’s degree in horn performance at Kent State University. While at KSU she performed in many ensembles including the Brass quintet, Woodwind quintet, Wind ensemble, and Orchestra. During her undergrad, she also performed with the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra and the Tuscarawas Philharmonic. She is currently in the Symphony Orchestra, Wind ensemble, and Graduate Brass Quintet at NIU. During the summer, she works at the International Music Camp and has the opportunity to teach students from all over the world and get to work alongside and study with professional musicians. Some of her musical mentors include Kent Larmee, Jungho Kim, Wendy Matthews, Steve Stroup, Marshall Sealy, Larry Griffin, and Renee Vogen.

As a teacher, Emma hopes to inspire musicians pursuing their passion and provide an opportunity to continue their learning. Music is for everyone and should be a fun, fulfilling craft to learn. In her lessons, instruction will be individualized based on the students' needs and learning techniques. Students will continue to learn about the horn and how to improve their playing through different styles, basic music theory, and overall becoming a well-rounded musician.

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. (14 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.

I have degrees in music from Illinois Central College and our own Northern Illinois University. I am currently a graduate assistant at ISU and an adjunct professor at Knox College in Galesburg.

I have confidence that I can help any student get closer to their goals and aspirations as a musician.

Aerie Bernard (Associate)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quentin Dover (Associate)

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

Eric Schroeder (Associate)

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

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

Jackson Wheeler (Apprentice 1)

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

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

Harp

Fiona Hunt (Apprentice 1)

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

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

Mandolin

Quentin Dover (Associate)

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

Music Theory

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.

Oboe

Fernando Marroquin Mendoza (Apprentice 1 )

Fernando Marroquin is an oboe master student at NIU. He is interested in always finding new ways to teach and learn better. His teaching philosophies follow the premise that it is never too late or too early to learn something, if you have the interest, you can do it. He likes to teach his students how to love what they do and give them the tools to do it better. Always ready to learn something new, he understands that students and teachers need to have a relationship where they both learn from each other to be better.

Piano

Katelyn Ackland (Apprentice 1 )

Katelyn has a passion for sharing her love of music with others and is dedicated to educational success. While she completed her associate of science degree at Kishwaukee College, she was a part of the Performing Arts Club and studied keyboard, voice, and guitar. Currently, she is pursuing her bachelor's degree in music education at NIU and is studying clarinet with Gregory Barrett. She is a highly motivated individual, eager to contribute to team success through hard work.

Katelyn has performed in a large variety of settings including the NIU Wind Symphony, NIU Wind Ensemble, NIU Chamber Group, NIU Huskie Marching Band, and NIU Sinfonia. She also played clarinet with the Kishwaukee Concert Band, DeKalb and Rochelle Municipal Summer Bandshell, and was principal clarinetist and ringer of the Illinois Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra. She is currently hired as the Esmond United Methodist Church pianist, and has been a music provider for the Rochelle United Methodist Church in their handbell choir, singing choir, and played violin and clarinet in small ensembles during church services. She is a previous teacher’s assistant for band, choir, and strings classes in the Greater Rochelle Area Christian Education School and served as the camp counselor and clarinet sectional leader in the Maranatha Baptist College Band Camp.

Kayla Bivin (Apprentice 1)

Kayla Bivin is a music composition student at NIU and will be in the graduating class of 2023. She currently studies clarinet with Gregory Barrett and has played in numerous NIU ensembles, including the Huskie Marching Band, the Wind Ensemble and the Philharmonic. She has studied classical piano for over ten years. She also loves to sing and is learning the flute.

Kayla believes in creating a supportive learning environment that emphasizes personal growth and will ask students to think about their own strengths and areas for improvement. She wishes to help her students have fun playing music and find joy in discovery.

Julia Broome-Robinson (Associate)

Julia Broome-Robinson is a trombonist and teacher currently based in Northern Illinois. She has multiple degrees in music, including a doctorate in trombone performance from Arizona State University. Most recently, Julia taught MUHL 220: Introduction to Western Music Traditions at the Northern Illinois University School of Music, and is active in the region as a private lesson teacher for low brass and piano students of all ages and ability levels. Julia has also taught as a full-time sabbatical replacement at the University of Redlands, where she was the acting trombone studio Instructor. In this position, Julia taught both undergraduate and graduate trombonists, guided recital and audition preparation, and taught the weekly trombone studio class. As a graduate assistant at Arizona State University, she was the assistant director for the ASU Desert Bones trombone choir, taught the trombone portion of a brass methods course for music education majors and gave weekly lessons to undergraduate trombone students.

Julia began studying piano at the age of four and continued her formal piano studies for the next 15 years. While she ultimately focused her formal music education on the trombone, piano has remained a constant part of her career. As a collaborative pianist, Julia has performed on numerous recitals, and as a composer, has written and performed works for both solo piano and mixed chamber ensemble groups.

As a teacher, Julia prioritizes the needs and interests of her students, while maintaining a structured and rigorous learning environment. She encourages composition and creative problem solving, but also helps her students develop a detail-oriented approach to their musical study. Julia believes that natural body mechanics form an ideal foundation for technical mastery, and incorporates the teachings of the famed tubist and pedagogue Arnold Jacobs into her own teaching when helpful and appropriate. Overall, Julia believes that learning music should be fun, and aims to foster a positive, self-motivated attitude in all her students.

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.

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.

Joy Hyounkyoung Kim (Apprentice 3)

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

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

Wonseok Lee (Apprentice 1)

Wonseok Lee is studying for a master’s degree in piano performance at Northern Illinois University. He is interested in teaching music and thinking about the different ways to approach music education. He would like to teach students how to better themselves through music by looking at different musicians’ perspectives on life and how they approach music. He wants to teach students to identify what they lack and need in music, analyze music, and create music on their own. He teaches children not only the joy of music, but also the responsibility and the spirit of challenging themselves.

Fernando Marroquin Mendoza (Apprentice 1 )

Fernando Marroquin is an oboe master student at NIU. He is interested in always finding new ways to teach and learn better. His teaching philosophies follow the premise that it is never too late or too early to learn something, if you have the interest, you can do it. He likes to teach his students how to love what they do and give them the tools to do it better. Always ready to learn something new, he understands that students and teachers need to have a relationship where they both learn from each other to be better.

Natalia Sawicka (Apprentice 1)

Natalia Sawicka is a sophomore at NIU. She is majoring in music education with a primary in the piano. She has been playing the piano for 13 years. She studied music/piano at the Merit School of Music in Chicago, where she did a lot of piano trio work, took history and music theory classes, and was in their choir. She was accepted into their TFC program where her main focus was the piano. In all four years of high school, she played percussion in the band.

She is fluent in English and Polish. Her main goal as an educator is to teach students the proper piano techniques. It is important to start early so that they can improve when they get older. Playing an instrument is supposed to be fun and she will strive to make every lesson interesting, fun and educational!

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.

Gabriel Wade (Apprentice 2 )

Gabriel Wade is a graduate student who is currently pursuing his master's degree in jazz studies. He is a trumpeter and pianist from Little Rock, AR. He is also a recent 2022 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Monticello where he received a B.A. in Music with a Jazz Emphasis.

Gabriel's goal as an educator is to help students develop a greater sense of awareness and appreciation of the many facets of music. Also, he hopes to provide students with the tools to understand how to practice efficiently and to overcome challenges when they arise.

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.

Megan Rault (Apprentice 1)

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

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

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

Steelpan

Joshua Bedeau (Apprentice 2)

Joshua Bedeau's musical journey began at the age of five when he joined Golden Hands Steel Orchestra. At Golden Hands, he was introduced to the steelpan and other percussive instruments. Under the tutelage of Franka Hills-Headley and Vanessa Alexandra Headley, Bedeau grew to love and adore the steelpan. With Golden Hands, he has traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean and the United States ₋₋ performing in front of crowds small and large throughout his teenage years ₋₋ winning many awards and national competitions in the process.

In 2015, he was accepted into the Birch Creek Summer Music Programme held in Wisconsin. That experience changed the way he viewed music, as he was able to see and explore other cultures from around the world. In August 2021, Bedeau released his debut single entitled "Calcite" – a composition that pays tribute to the year he experienced up to that point. Bedeau has recently finished his bachelor's degree in music – with a specialization in steelpan and is now pursuing his masters of music degree at Northern Illinois University.

Matthew Kiser (Apprentice 3)

Matthew's interest in music began in fourth grade when he picked up the trumpet and joined the elementary school band. Although he played for two years, he wasn't into the idea of practicing and attending rehearsals multiple times a week. But that all changed when he joined the Old Mill High School Steelband, directed by Mike Miller. He fell in love with the steelpan and picked it up very quickly. That same year, his future professor Liam Teague performed with the Steelband as a guest artist. Matthew was captivated by his playing and was deeply inspired. Over the next couple of years, Matthew kept practicing and performed with the group all over the state of Maryland. He met legends of the steelpan world, such as Ken “Professor” Philmore, Ellie Mannette, Victor Provost and Gary Gibson. At the end of Matthew's junior year, he learned about the steelpan program at Northern Illinois University. NIU was the only university in the country where you could obtain a bachelors and masters degree with the steelpan as your primary instrument. Matthew graduated from Old Mill High School in 2017, ready to take on his new journey at NIU.

Over the course of four years, Matthew rose through the challenges given to him at NIU. Taking musical and life advice from Liam Teague, Clifford Alexis and Yuko Asada, he developed the critical skills necessary to make it as a performing musician. Being a member of the world-renown NIU Steelband and Steelpan Studio, Matthew was required to learn a large amount of diverse repertoire. Such as classical, jazz, calypso, reggae, funk, and various forms of world music. Studying at NIU gave Matthew incredible performance opportunities, such as playing with the Chicago Sinfonietta and steelpan virtuoso, Victor Provost. In addition to these group performances, Matthew often performed as a soloist. Performing pieces such as “A Visit To Hell”, “Raindrops” and “Trying Ah Ting”, all composed by Liam Teague. His senior year, he debuted his first Steelband arrangement of the Bee Gee's 1977 hit “How Deep Is Your Love”.

One of Matthew's main focuses during his undergraduate studies was improvisation, specifically within a Jazz context. Matthew learned a number of Jazz standards throughout his studies and performed with a Jazz combo on his senior recital, performing his own arrangements of Victor Young's “Beautiful Love”, Charlie Parker's “Confirmation” and Johnny Green's “Body and Soul”. Matthew graduated with a B.M in Music Performance in the spring of 2021 and is heading back to NIU to obtain a masters degree in jazz studies, with the steelpan as his primary instrument. He is the first official jazz steelpan major in NIU's illustrious history. Learn more about Matthew Kiser.

Trombone

Julia Broome-Robinson (Associate)

Julia Broome-Robinson is a trombonist and teacher currently based in Northern Illinois. She has multiple degrees in music, including a doctorate in trombone performance from Arizona State University. Most recently, Julia taught MUHL 220: Introduction to Western Music Traditions at the Northern Illinois University School of Music, and is active in the region as a private lesson teacher for low brass and piano students of all ages and ability levels. Julia has also taught as a full-time sabbatical replacement at the University of Redlands, where she was the acting trombone studio Instructor. In this position, Julia taught both undergraduate and graduate trombonists, guided recital and audition preparation, and taught the weekly trombone studio class. As a graduate assistant at Arizona State University, she was the assistant director for the ASU Desert Bones trombone choir, taught the trombone portion of a brass methods course for music education majors and gave weekly lessons to undergraduate trombone students.

Julia began studying piano at the age of four and continued her formal piano studies for the next 15 years. While she ultimately focused her formal music education on the trombone, piano has remained a constant part of her career. As a collaborative pianist, Julia has performed on numerous recitals, and as a composer, has written and performed works for both solo piano and mixed chamber ensemble groups.

As a teacher, Julia prioritizes the needs and interests of her students, while maintaining a structured and rigorous learning environment. She encourages composition and creative problem solving, but also helps her students develop a detail-oriented approach to their musical study. Julia believes that natural body mechanics form an ideal foundation for technical mastery, and incorporates the teachings of the famed tubist and pedagogue Arnold Jacobs into her own teaching when helpful and appropriate. Overall, Julia believes that learning music should be fun, and aims to foster a positive, self-motivated attitude in all her students.

Dennis Meacham (Apprentice 3)

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

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

Omar Tlatelpa-Nieto (Apprentice 1)

Omar Tlatelpa Nieto is the current Graduate Assistant for the Brass Area at the NIU School of Music. A native of the Chicago area, Mr. Tlatelpa first picked up the trombone in fifth grade. From middle school through high school, he studied trombone under Tim Riordan at the Merit School of Music in Chicago. As a high school student, he was also a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. In 2018, he was featured on NPR’s “From the Top” with The Bone Rangers, Merit’s honors trombone quartet. He went on to receive his Bachelor of Music degree from Lawrence University, where he studied with Tim Albright and was a recipient of the Tom and Julie Hurvis Scholarship. Mr. Tlatelpa has experience in a wide range of musical styles, including symphonic, jazz, chamber, and new music.

As a teacher, Mr. Tlatelpa believes in fostering creative and thoughtful musicality with a sound technical foundation. As every student is different, he believes in meeting the student where they are, cultivating a well-rounded musician who has the tools and confidence to face any challenge head on. Overall, Mr. Tlatelpa’s goal is to help each student grow to be the best they can be as a musician and person.

Trumpet

Amos Egleston (Apprentice 1)

Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Amos fell in love with the trumpet in high school by listening to recordings of Miles Davis. While earning a bachelor’s degree in performance at Lawrence University he was exposed to a wide variety of musical styles and developed his musicianship by studying with many of the great teachers there, including John Daniel, Jose Encarnacion, Matt Turner, and Mark Urness. In 2019, Amos was admitted into the exchange program at the Conservatory of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and was able to submerse himself in the Dutch jazz scene for a semester. Currently, Amos is pursuing a master’s degree in performance at NIU, studying with Christopher Scanlon, D.M.A. and performing with many of NIU’s student ensembles including the Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Graduate Brass Quintet, and Banda.

As a music teacher, Amos aims to inspire his students to a continued love of playing the trumpet by teaching them the basics of technique, music theory, and musical styles so that they are well prepared for a life of music making.

Dennis Meacham (Apprentice 3)

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

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

Christopher Scanlon (Faculty)

Learn more about Christopher Scanlon on his NIU faculty profile.

Gabriel Wade (Apprentice 2 )

Gabriel Wade is a graduate student who is currently pursuing his master's degree in jazz studies. He is a trumpeter and pianist from Little Rock, AR. He is also a recent 2022 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Monticello where he received a B.A. in Music with a Jazz Emphasis.

Gabriel's goal as an educator is to help students develop a greater sense of awareness and appreciation of the many facets of music. Also, he hopes to provide students with the tools to understand how to practice efficiently and to overcome challenges when they arise.

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.

Julia Broome-Robinson (Associate)

Julia Broome-Robinson is a trombonist and teacher currently based in Northern Illinois. She has multiple degrees in music, including a doctorate in trombone performance from Arizona State University. Most recently, Julia taught MUHL 220: Introduction to Western Music Traditions at the Northern Illinois University School of Music, and is active in the region as a private lesson teacher for low brass and piano students of all ages and ability levels. Julia has also taught as a full-time sabbatical replacement at the University of Redlands, where she was the acting trombone studio Instructor. In this position, Julia taught both undergraduate and graduate trombonists, guided recital and audition preparation, and taught the weekly trombone studio class. As a graduate assistant at Arizona State University, she was the assistant director for the ASU Desert Bones trombone choir, taught the trombone portion of a brass methods course for music education majors and gave weekly lessons to undergraduate trombone students.

Julia began studying piano at the age of four and continued her formal piano studies for the next 15 years. While she ultimately focused her formal music education on the trombone, piano has remained a constant part of her career. As a collaborative pianist, Julia has performed on numerous recitals, and as a composer, has written and performed works for both solo piano and mixed chamber ensemble groups.

As a teacher, Julia prioritizes the needs and interests of her students, while maintaining a structured and rigorous learning environment. She encourages composition and creative problem solving, but also helps her students develop a detail-oriented approach to their musical study. Julia believes that natural body mechanics form an ideal foundation for technical mastery, and incorporates the teachings of the famed tubist and pedagogue Arnold Jacobs into her own teaching when helpful and appropriate. Overall, Julia believes that learning music should be fun, and aims to foster a positive, self-motivated attitude in all her students.

Dennis Meacham (Apprentice 3)

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

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

Ukulele

Aerie Bernard (Associate)

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

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

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

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

She is grateful to her teacher, Professor Yung-Hsin Chen for helping to demystify Chinese musical practices and for her many hours of instruction; and to her mentor, 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.

Viola

Austin Cruz (Apprentice 2)

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

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

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

Daniela Escobar Oyola (Apprentice 3)

Daniela began studying violin at the age of 7 in Colombia. She moved to the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, to study violin performance at the National University of Colombia Conservatory of Music where she took lessons with Liz García, a violinist who is a member of the Q-Arte String Quartet of Colombia. During her time in Colombia, she received Suzuki certification from Early Musical Stimulation to Book 2 with Flor Canelo, Marylin O'Boyle, Eduardo Ludueña, and Cristina Perez. Additionally, she works as a violin and viola teacher for the orchestral centers of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bogota. She has also served as the conductor of the string ensemble for the Batuta National Foundation. She is part of IDUN DUO, winners of the 2020 “Filarmónica al Barrio”. Daniela has belonged to the Ensemble Continuo Chamber Orchestra, Capital Symphony Orchestra, National University of Colombia Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra, National University of Colombia Conservatory of Music Choir, Javeriana University Chamber Orchestra, Andes University Symphony Orchestra, Colombian Music Ensemble, and FOSBO Women Orchestra.

She has also received masterclasses from teachers Richard Robert, Ole Bohn, Javier Pinell, Ingrid Zur, and Ala Voronkova. After graduating she continued studying with Luisa Barroso, Venezuelan violinist, member of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bogota.

Now, Daniela is doing a master's degree in Performance at the Northern Illinois University with Blaise Magniere, violinist and member of the Avalon String Quartet. She served as principal of the second violins section with the NIU Philharmonic and she is a member of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, in DeKalb, Illinois.

Amanda Perez (Apprentice 1)

Amanda Perez is an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University where she is pursuing a bachelor's degree in music performance. She has been the recipient of many scholarships including the NIU merit scholarship, School of Music Undergraduate Scholarship, and CVPA Deans scholarship. In 2019 she was named an inaugural member of the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative, in 2020 she was a winner of the Luminarts Scholarship Competition and in 2021 placed 3rd in the American String Teacher's Association Competition. Currently she is a member of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the NIU Philharmonic. Her primary teachers include Helen Callus and Anthony Devroye.

Amanda began teaching in 2018 as an orchestra intern for William Fremd Highschool. At that time she also began to develop a private studio that still exists today. Amanda is excited to continue teaching with the CSA and work with new students. She believes in developing young talent and working with each student as an individual to fit their specific goals .
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

Austin Cruz (Apprentice 2)

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

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

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

Cheyanne Fleming (Apprentice 1)

Cheyanne Fleming is an undergraduate student pursuing her bachelor's in music education. Cheyanne believes music is a personal experience and uses a student-centered approach. She encourages her students to share their own musical ideas, interests, and goals to shape and customize their lesson experience. Her goal is to provide her students with a safe, encouraging learning environment where they can explore and experiment without judgment.

All progress is worth celebrating and she aims to leave her students feeling accomplished and proud of their work after every lesson.

Cheyanne has nine years of violin experience and is currently assistant principal 2nd violin in the NIU Philharmonic. She studies under Blaise Magniere, but regularly works with other strings faculty through chamber music and the Philharmonic. Outside of the school of music, she works one-on-one with performers as the music director for the NIU Penguin Players, a musical theater program for adults with disabilities.

Courtney Hanna-McNamara (Associate)

Courtney Hanna-McNamara began her Suzuki violin studies at age 5 and her traditional piano studies at age 6. Courtney studied violin performance at Lawrence University, along with English and education. Since 2003, she has worked as a classroom teacher and interventionist for grades K through 12 in both the DeKalb and Sycamore school districts as well as schools in Wisconsin and Colorado. She has also served as an instructional coach for educators across a variety of disciplines and grade levels.

Courtney performs with the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and also serves as the KSO general manager. She and her husband live in DeKalb where they are raising their two children, both of whom study music with the CSA.

Daniela Escobar Oyola (Apprentice 3)

Daniela began studying violin at the age of 7 in Colombia. She moved to the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, to study violin performance at the National University of Colombia Conservatory of Music where she took lessons with Liz García, a violinist who is a member of the Q-Arte String Quartet of Colombia. During her time in Colombia, she received Suzuki certification from Early Musical Stimulation to Book 2 with Flor Canelo, Marylin O'Boyle, Eduardo Ludueña, and Cristina Perez. Additionally, she works as a violin and viola teacher for the orchestral centers of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bogota. She has also served as the conductor of the string ensemble for the Batuta National Foundation. She is part of IDUN DUO, winners of the 2020 “Filarmónica al Barrio”. Daniela has belonged to the Ensemble Continuo Chamber Orchestra, Capital Symphony Orchestra, National University of Colombia Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra, National University of Colombia Conservatory of Music Choir, Javeriana University Chamber Orchestra, Andes University Symphony Orchestra, Colombian Music Ensemble, and FOSBO Women Orchestra.

She has also received masterclasses from teachers Richard Robert, Ole Bohn, Javier Pinell, Ingrid Zur, and Ala Voronkova. After graduating she continued studying with Luisa Barroso, Venezuelan violinist, member of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bogota.

Now, Daniela is doing a master's degree in Performance at the Northern Illinois University with Blaise Magniere, violinist and member of the Avalon String Quartet. She served as principal of the second violins section with the NIU Philharmonic and she is a member of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, in DeKalb, Illinois.

Amanda Perez (Apprentice 1)

Amanda Perez is an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University where she is pursuing a bachelor's degree in music performance. She has been the recipient of many scholarships including the NIU merit scholarship, School of Music Undergraduate Scholarship, and CVPA Deans scholarship. In 2019 she was named an inaugural member of the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative, in 2020 she was a winner of the Luminarts Scholarship Competition and in 2021 placed 3rd in the American String Teacher's Association Competition. Currently she is a member of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the NIU Philharmonic. Her primary teachers include Helen Callus and Anthony Devroye.

Amanda began teaching in 2018 as an orchestra intern for William Fremd Highschool. At that time she also began to develop a private studio that still exists today. Amanda is excited to continue teaching with the CSA and work with new students. She believes in developing young talent and working with each student as an individual to fit their specific goals .
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.

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.

Evangelina Combs (Apprentice 1)

Evangelina Combs is a current undergraduate student at the NIU School of Music studying Vocal/Choral Music Education. She has studied with many faculty including Professor AJ Wester, Orna Arania, Eric Johnson and Mary-Lynn Doherty. Evangelina has various teaching experiences ranging from children's church choir and elementary school general music to serving as the music director of her collegiate a cappella group, The Harmelodics. At NIU, she's performed with the NIU Concert Choir, NIU Chamber Choir, NIU Opera Theatre and Harmelodics A Cappella.

Evangelina has received the National Choral Award as well as multiple Division 1 Superior Titles at IHSA Solo/Ensemble Contest. While her studies primarily focus on classical singing, she also brings a heavy theatrical and vocal jazz background.

Her philosophy of teaching is that practice is key. She brings a fun but professional environment into her lessons and strives to bring out the best in each student. She wants each student to leave her studio with a new love for music and growing confidence in their musicianship.

Jodeen Coulter (Associate)

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

Brianne Duncan Fiore (Associate)

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

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

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

Savannah-Lee Mumford (Apprentice 2)

Savannah-Lee is a third-year MFA Acting student here at NIU SOTD. She recently was awarded BroadwayWorld's 2021 Best Performance in an Off-Broadway Musical for her work as Barb Holland in the original cast of Stranger Sings: The Musical. Savannah-Lee and the cast recorded an original cast recording that is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Savannah-Lee began her vocal training in classical music and quickly made her way into the world of musical theatre. She has coached students from theatre professionals, collegiate level, to high school students for the past 4 years. She believes that without a strong foundation a student's voice can not grow and thrive. With that in mind, Savannah-Lee will take you through the musical theatre canon, starting with the golden age and ending the semester with a piece that will, not only, showcase all the elements of your craft we worked on together, but also is a piece you can use in the world outside of school for things like auditions and more. Savannah-Lee is so excited to work with you!

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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