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 private lessons in the summer.

Teachers with a symbol are only available to teach online lessons.

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

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.

Nat Lin (Apprentice 1)

Nat 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.

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.

Hannah Sheridan (Apprentice 1 )

Hannah Sheridan is a third-year music major at NIU with cello as her primary instrument, as well as guitar and violin secondary studies. Hannah graduated from Winona Senior High School in Winona, Minnesota, and in her time there she participated in Honors Orchestras and the Minnesota All-State Orchestra. At NIU, Hannah performs with the NIU Philharmonic, Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Mariachi NIU, Chinese Music Ensemble, as well as various string chamber ensembles.

As a teacher, Hannah would like to use her passion for all kinds of music to inspire a desire to learn and practice for her students.

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.

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 3)

Karli Bunn is a Chicago-based saxophonist, composer, and educator. As a Quad City native with degrees from Northern Illinois and DePaul University, Karli has performed a broad context of music with ensembles including the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, Calaveras LD, the Isaiah Spencer Quintet, the Birch Creek faculty band, and her own ensembles. Bunn is also proficient in woodwind doubling and music technology while focusing her efforts on incorporating the aural tradition into modern innovation.

Drumset/Percussion

Nat Lin (Apprentice 1)

Nat 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.

Michael "Mikey" Speziale (Apprentice 1)

Michael “Mikey” Speziale sees music as an opportunity for growth, expression and community for students of all backgrounds and identities. As an undergraduate student at NIU, he has taken opportunities to perform in a diverse group of ensembles including Percussion Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Marching Band and Steel Band. Mikey is currently the percussion director at Kaneland High School, managing their marching percussion in the fall and co-directing their competitive indoor percussion group in the winter.

Mikey continues to support the ever-growing music community in his hometown through a not-for-profit organization called The Crystal Lake Strikers. Through the Strikers, he helped kickstart both The Kingpins (a drumline for students with special needs) and The Pinstripes (a drumline for elementary students), in an attempt to further reach a wide range of students through music. Outside of music, Mikey enjoys watching movies, taking walks outside, tending to house plants and spending time with his puppy.

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 3)

Omar Tlatelpa-Nieto is a recent graduate of Northern Illinois University, where he received a Performer's Certificate in Trombone. During his time at NIU, he played in a variety of ensembles including the Philharmonic, Jazz Orchestra, Graduate Brass Quintet, and Trombone Ensemble. Prior to attending NIU, Omar received his Bachelor of Music in Trombone with a minor in Pedagogy from Lawrence University. During his high school years, Omar was a student at the Merit School of Music and member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. His primary teachers include Andrew Glendening, Tim Albright, and Tim Riordan.

As a performer, Omar has had the privilege to play as a regular member with the Wheaton Municipal Band, a substitute musician with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and as a freelance/chamber musician around the Chicago area. He has been featured on NPR's From The Top and WFMT's Introductions. He is also a recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, the Tom and Julie Hurvis Scholarship, and Rhoten A. Smith Award.

A passionate educator, Omar has served as a coach for the Fox Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra (Appleton, WI) and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Northern Illinois University. In his capacity as a Graduate Assistant, he taught MUHL 220: Introduction to Western Musical Traditions and MUED 171: Brass Techniques and Materials. He also assisted within the trombone studio as a chamber music coach and private instructor of secondary trombone lessons. As a teacher, Omar believes in fostering creative and thoughtful musicality with a sound technical foundation. He believes in meeting every student where they are, helping them grow into a person who has the tools and confidence to face any challenge head on.

Flute/Piccolo

Aerie Bernard (Associate)

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

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

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

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

She is grateful to her teacher, Professor Yung-Hsin Chen for helping to demystify Chinese musical practices and for her many hours of instruction; and to her mentor, 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 3)

Karli Bunn is a Chicago-based saxophonist, composer, and educator. As a Quad City native with degrees from Northern Illinois and DePaul University, Karli has performed a broad context of music with ensembles including the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, Calaveras LD, the Isaiah Spencer Quintet, the Birch Creek faculty band, and her own ensembles. Bunn is also proficient in woodwind doubling and music technology while focusing her efforts on incorporating the aural tradition into modern innovation.

Elizabeth Vieyra (Apprentice 2 )

Elizabeth Vieyra completed her undergraduate studies in music education in December 2023 from Northern Illinois University (NIU). She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in world music pedagogy, also at NIU. Elizabeth is proficient in playing various musical instruments, with her primary instrument being the flute and her secondary instrument being the violin. Throughout her time at NIU, Elizabeth has been actively involved in various ensembles. She has played in the NIU Wind Ensemble and the Huskie Marching Band. In addition to these traditional ensembles, she has also participated in a variety of world music ensembles, including Korean Drumming, Thai Ensemble, Middle Eastern Ensemble and Chinese Ensemble. These diverse experiences have allowed her to develop a deep understanding and appreciation for different musical styles and traditions. Elizabeth is fluent in both English and Spanish. Her multilingual skills have enabled her to connect with a wider range of students and colleagues, promoting cultural understanding and inclusivity in the world of music education.

Kaelyn Witt (Apprentice 1)

Kaelyn is an enthusiastic undergraduate music education student at Northern Illinois University. Her extensive performance background includes participation in esteemed ensembles such as the university’s philharmonic, wind ensemble, flute choir and marching band.

Asides the standard C flute, she also has experience with other variations such as the alto flute, bass flute and piccolo. She has performed on both alto and C flute in the philharmonic, Bass flute and alto in the flute choir and is primarily a piccoloist for the marching band. Additionally, as both a piccolo and flute soloist for Chromium Winds, a marching winds WGI group (Winter Guard International), Kaelyn has showcased her versatility as a musician and potential as an instructor.

Kaelyn is proficient, organized and eager to teach! She demonstrates her commitment to education through various teaching roles, including serving as a visual technician at Batavia High School with their marching band. Additionally, she is approaching her second year as a section leader within her own marching band and has led flute sectionals for the wind ensemble. Previously, she worked as an ice-skating instructor, with experience in teaching children with special needs. Her diverse background makes her an adaptable educator.

As an educator, Kaelyn's goal is to encourage musical talent and character development. She believes learning music should be fun and also efficient and strives to cultivate skilled musicians but also compassionate people.

French Horn

Shae McCabe (Apprentice 1 )

Shae McCabe is a current undergraduate music education student at NIU. In the past, they have been seen conducting choirs at Oswego High School, leading the show choir, running a horn quartet and more. They participated in District 9 of ILMEA both on voice and horn and went to the 2022 All-State for Future Music Educators. Having studied music with Rachel Maxwell, Kevin Schoenbach, Susan Osvath, Mark Baglione, Michael Thoms and more, they are excited to pass down knowledge of all music. At NIU they can be seen performing with the Horn Ensemble, Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Choir and Huskie Marching Band.

As a music teacher, Shae aims to bring a love of all music by teaching basics, music theory and music styles to have a well-balanced knowledge of music; no matter the instrument.

Guitar

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, 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 Meuer (Associate)

Eric Meuer is a musician who studied classical and jazz guitar at the University of Evansville, where he received a bachelor of science degree in music. While at the University of Evansville, Eric performed in several small and large ensembles including choir, pep band, jazz band and the University of Evansville's Classical Guitar Trio, while also furthering a passion for composition, arranging, music history and literature. Eric has performed at Carnegie Hall, Victory Theater, and several places in and around the Chicagoland, Washington D.C., and Nashville areas. As a guitar instructor, Eric has been teaching consistently since 2017, providing personalized one-on-one and ensemble instruction for students ranging from five through adulthood. He shares his knowledge and passion of technique, theory and performance with his students while utilizing a motivational and flexible, yet structured teaching style.

Eric Schroeder (Associate)

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

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

Harp

Fiona Hunt (Apprentice 1)

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

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

Mandolin

Quentin Dover (Associate)

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

Music Theory

Eric Schroeder (Associate)

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

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

Piano

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.

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 3)

Karli Bunn is a Chicago-based saxophonist, composer, and educator. As a Quad City native with degrees from Northern Illinois and DePaul University, Karli has performed a broad context of music with ensembles including the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, Calaveras LD, the Isaiah Spencer Quintet, the Birch Creek faculty band, and her own ensembles. Bunn is also proficient in woodwind doubling and music technology while focusing her efforts on incorporating the aural tradition into modern innovation.

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.

'Ellie' Hyun Ah Lee (Associate)

'Ellie' Hyun Ah Lee received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from the Catholic University of Korea. She completed a performance certificate program at Judson University and graduated with a master's degree from Northern Illinois University. As a graduate accompanying assistant, she served the university choirs at Judson University and Northern Illinois University. She has developed a pleasant and effective teaching style over twenty years of private teaching experience and consistent professional development. She currently teaches undergraduates as a teaching assistant at Northern Illinois University

Minjung "Hailie" Kim (Apprentice 2)

Minjung "Hailie" Kim graduated with a bachelor's degree with top honors from Mokwon University and received a master's degree in music from Kookmin University in Republic of Korea.

As an accompaniment assistant at Northern Illinois University, she served as an accompanist for the Chamber Choir and now serves for the Concert Choir.

She values maintaining musical enjoyment and finding academic balance in teaching based on her years of personal teaching, accompaniment experience, and elementary school after-school instruction.

She graduated from the performer's certificate course at NIU and is continuing her second master's degree. She aims to study more academically and teach each student in a thoughtful way through her second master's course.

Kasey Pennington (Apprentice 2)

Kasey Pennington has earned a bachelor's degree in music education from NIU. Kasey studied voice with Orna Arania, took secondary piano lessons with JeongSoo Kim, and participated in Concert Choir, Chamber Choir and Opera Theatre throughout their time as an undergraduate student. Kasey has played piano since kindergarten and has enjoyed performing in many musicals throughout the years, most recently in productions with Stagecoach Players.

Kasey grew up in DeKalb County and recently completed student teaching at DeKalb High School and Sycamore Middle School where they worked with the choirs, assisted with concert preparation and led daily rehearsals. Kasey's approach to teaching is student-centered, and students are given the opportunity to learn the tools to practice and perform music in a way that can be sustainable for them as an individual.

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 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.

Andrew Stover (Apprentice 1)

Andrew Stover is a music education major and saxophonist at NIU. His ensemble experiences include the Huskie Marching Band, NIU Wind Symphony and NIU Wind Ensemble. He is currently taking classical saxophone lessons from Dr. Thomas Snydacker. Andrew has gained teaching experience through three semesters of clinical observations, being a section leader in the Huskie Marching Band, and working as a marching band technician for Kaneland High School.

Andrew also has 14 years of piano experience and is employed as a pianist and organist at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church and Christ the Teacher University Parish. He also previously played piano for three years in the Kaneland High School Jazz Band and has been in pit orchestras for four musical theater productions.

Andrew believes that all students are capable of learning and appreciating music. His goal is for students to feel connected to their music and grow into well-rounded musicians by experiencing and performing a variety of styles. He aims to help students develop musical literacy beyond reading note-by-note through skills such as improvisation, ear training, chord building and composition.

Elizabeth Vieyra (Apprentice 2 )

Elizabeth Vieyra completed her undergraduate studies in music education in December 2023 from Northern Illinois University (NIU). She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in world music pedagogy, also at NIU. Elizabeth is proficient in playing various musical instruments, with her primary instrument being the flute and her secondary instrument being the violin. Throughout her time at NIU, Elizabeth has been actively involved in various ensembles. She has played in the NIU Wind Ensemble and the Huskie Marching Band. In addition to these traditional ensembles, she has also participated in a variety of world music ensembles, including Korean Drumming, Thai Ensemble, Middle Eastern Ensemble and Chinese Ensemble. These diverse experiences have allowed her to develop a deep understanding and appreciation for different musical styles and traditions. Elizabeth is fluent in both English and Spanish. Her multilingual skills have enabled her to connect with a wider range of students and colleagues, promoting cultural understanding and inclusivity in the world of music education.

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.

Saxophone

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 3)

Karli Bunn is a Chicago-based saxophonist, composer, and educator. As a Quad City native with degrees from Northern Illinois and DePaul University, Karli has performed a broad context of music with ensembles including the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, Calaveras LD, the Isaiah Spencer Quintet, the Birch Creek faculty band, and her own ensembles. Bunn is also proficient in woodwind doubling and music technology while focusing her efforts on incorporating the aural tradition into modern innovation.

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.

Andrew Stover (Apprentice 1)

Andrew Stover is a music education major and saxophonist at NIU. His ensemble experiences include the Huskie Marching Band, NIU Wind Symphony and NIU Wind Ensemble. He is currently taking classical saxophone lessons from Dr. Thomas Snydacker. Andrew has gained teaching experience through three semesters of clinical observations, being a section leader in the Huskie Marching Band, and working as a marching band technician for Kaneland High School.

Andrew also has 14 years of piano experience and is employed as a pianist and organist at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church and Christ the Teacher University Parish. He also previously played piano for three years in the Kaneland High School Jazz Band and has been in pit orchestras for four musical theater productions.

Andrew believes that all students are capable of learning and appreciating music. His goal is for students to feel connected to their music and grow into well-rounded musicians by experiencing and performing a variety of styles. He aims to help students develop musical literacy beyond reading note-by-note through skills such as improvisation, ear training, chord building and composition.

Nate Wray (Apprentice 1)

Nate Wray is attending NIU as a jazz performance major, studying primarily with saxophonist Professor Geof Bradfield. Within his first year he has played lead alto saxophone in NIU's jazz ensemble, played in the Zimmer/Menk jazz combo, and performed Capoeira and Samba Batucada with Professor Gregory Beyer's Afro-Brazilian percussion class.

Nate began playing the saxophone at the age of 11 in Washington state, inspired by his older brother who also played the saxophone. With experience both in classical and jazz music, he has played at state level Solo and Ensemble competitions with Mount Si High School's saxophone quartet and as a classical saxophone soloist. He has been a part of the Essentially Ellington Festival and Competition in 2019, 2020, and 2022, being awarded “Outstanding Alto Saxophone” during the 2022 festival. His high school jazz combo has been on the radio playing his original composition entitled “Resistance”. The radio station, KNKX, has also featured him as a School of Jazz Guest DJ. While playing saxophone primarily, Nate also has rudimentary playing experience on the flute, piano, and several Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments.

Nate's teaching experience begins during his time in middle school when he led saxophone sectionals for concert band and jazz band. Going into his freshman year of high school, he began teaching private lessons to a student who had just started out on the saxophone. Fast forward to Nate's senior year of high school and the two can be seen performing together in Mount Si High School's top jazz band in the 2022 Essentially Ellington Festival and Competition. Nate has a passion for mentoring students who appreciate music as much as he does, and he loves providing students the tools they need to elevate their musicianship one lesson at a time. He believes in a flexible approach towards teaching in which he centers his instruction towards the students' individual musical aspirations.

Steelpan

Matthew Kiser (Apprentice 3)

Throughout his studies and the beginnings of his career, Matthew has also been a dedicated educator. Teaching steel pan lessons for the Community School of the Arts at NIU, as well as his own private lessons. Matthew has worked with several high, middle and elementary school steelband’s as a guest artist and looks forward to doing more workshops in the future. He also served as the music director of the Newman Catholic Student Center for two years, where he directed the choir and other musicians. Matthew currently serves as the co-director of the fourth grade steelband at Hatch Elementary School in Oak Park, Illinois, teaching the beautiful sounds of pan to our youth. In spring of 2023, Matthew graduated from Northern Illinois University with a masters degree in jazz studies, becoming the first ever jazz steelpan major in NIU’s history. Post graduation, he is continuing his work as a freelance musician and composer.

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 3)

Omar Tlatelpa-Nieto is a recent graduate of Northern Illinois University, where he received a Performer's Certificate in Trombone. During his time at NIU, he played in a variety of ensembles including the Philharmonic, Jazz Orchestra, Graduate Brass Quintet, and Trombone Ensemble. Prior to attending NIU, Omar received his Bachelor of Music in Trombone with a minor in Pedagogy from Lawrence University. During his high school years, Omar was a student at the Merit School of Music and member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. His primary teachers include Andrew Glendening, Tim Albright, and Tim Riordan.

As a performer, Omar has had the privilege to play as a regular member with the Wheaton Municipal Band, a substitute musician with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and as a freelance/chamber musician around the Chicago area. He has been featured on NPR's From The Top and WFMT's Introductions. He is also a recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, the Tom and Julie Hurvis Scholarship, and Rhoten A. Smith Award.

A passionate educator, Omar has served as a coach for the Fox Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra (Appleton, WI) and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Northern Illinois University. In his capacity as a Graduate Assistant, he taught MUHL 220: Introduction to Western Musical Traditions and MUED 171: Brass Techniques and Materials. He also assisted within the trombone studio as a chamber music coach and private instructor of secondary trombone lessons. As a teacher, Omar believes in fostering creative and thoughtful musicality with a sound technical foundation. He believes in meeting every student where they are, helping them grow into a person who has the tools and confidence to face any challenge head on.

Trumpet

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.

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

Ella Barribeau (Apprentice 1)

Ella Barribeau is an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University where she is pursuing her bachelor's degree in instrumental music education as well as a certificate in Asian American studies. As an educator, Ella recognizes every student is unique and utilizes a specialized approach when teaching. She holds an emphasis on student-centered learning, goal making and inclusivity at her core. She also believes that developing great techniques and habits can also be fun.

Ella has over 10 years of violin experience in addition to six years of viola experience. In regard to music instruction, she has been teaching students ages 7-16 for over five years in private and public-school settings. Ella currently studies under Professor Mathias Tacke but also works closely with other string faculty members at NIU. During her time at NIU, she is an active member of the NIU Philharmonic, NIU's National Association for Music Education executive board and NIU's American String Teachers' Association executive board.

Every ounce of progress should be celebrated no matter how big or small which is key in her lessons.

Emily Bychowski (Apprentice 1)

Emily Bychowski is an undergraduate at NIU studying music education. Emily started playing the viola at age ten and has loved it since. She began her music teaching career in high school at her local middle school where she worked as a teacher's assistant. Besides being a teacher's assistant, Emily was also a part of the pit orchestra at her high school as a violinist and a violist, along with her school's orchestra and chamber orchestra ensembles. She was also apart of many outside ensembles such as CSA Sinfonia and Sycamore Jazz Strings.

Today Emily shares her love of music by playing in the NIU Philharmonic Orchestra along with the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra. When teaching she wants her students to learn in a positive environment where they can grow as a musician while learning to love music and the music community too.

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

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.

Ella Barribeau (Apprentice 1)

Ella Barribeau is an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University where she is pursuing her bachelor's degree in instrumental music education as well as a certificate in Asian American studies. As an educator, Ella recognizes every student is unique and utilizes a specialized approach when teaching. She holds an emphasis on student-centered learning, goal making and inclusivity at her core. She also believes that developing great techniques and habits can also be fun.

Ella has over 10 years of violin experience in addition to six years of viola experience. In regard to music instruction, she has been teaching students ages 7-16 for over five years in private and public-school settings. Ella currently studies under Professor Mathias Tacke but also works closely with other string faculty members at NIU. During her time at NIU, she is an active member of the NIU Philharmonic, NIU's National Association for Music Education executive board and NIU's American String Teachers' Association executive board.

Every ounce of progress should be celebrated no matter how big or small which is key in her lessons.

Emily Bychowski (Apprentice 1)

Emily Bychowski is an undergraduate at NIU studying music education. Emily started playing the viola at age ten and has loved it since. She began her music teaching career in high school at her local middle school where she worked as a teacher's assistant. Besides being a teacher's assistant, Emily was also a part of the pit orchestra at her high school as a violinist and a violist, along with her school's orchestra and chamber orchestra ensembles. She was also apart of many outside ensembles such as CSA Sinfonia and Sycamore Jazz Strings.

Today Emily shares her love of music by playing in the NIU Philharmonic Orchestra along with the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra. When teaching she wants her students to learn in a positive environment where they can grow as a musician while learning to love music and the music community too.

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.

Jacob Kukielka (Apprentice 1)

Jacob Kukielka is an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University currently studying to obtain a bachelor's degree in music education. Jacob has been playing the violin for 14 years and has performed in dozens of concerts. He has been awarded the Nicholson Music scholarship and the Ronald Dourlet Memorial Endowed scholarship. Jacob currently performs with the NIU Philharmonic. Jacob’s teaching is student-centered and prioritizes the student’s needs. He currently studies under the direction of Professor Mathias Tacke.

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.

Elizabeth Vieyra (Apprentice 2 )

Elizabeth Vieyra completed her undergraduate studies in music education in December 2023 from Northern Illinois University (NIU). She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in world music pedagogy, also at NIU. Elizabeth is proficient in playing various musical instruments, with her primary instrument being the flute and her secondary instrument being the violin. Throughout her time at NIU, Elizabeth has been actively involved in various ensembles. She has played in the NIU Wind Ensemble and the Huskie Marching Band. In addition to these traditional ensembles, she has also participated in a variety of world music ensembles, including Korean Drumming, Thai Ensemble, Middle Eastern Ensemble and Chinese Ensemble. These diverse experiences have allowed her to develop a deep understanding and appreciation for different musical styles and traditions. Elizabeth is fluent in both English and Spanish. Her multilingual skills have enabled her to connect with a wider range of students and colleagues, promoting cultural understanding and inclusivity in the world of music education.

Voice

Timothy Bostwick (Associate)

Timothy Bostwick (he/him) recently received his Doctor of Musical Arts in performance and literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In previous performances, Bostwick has been applauded as an “impressive and impactful voice” in Hansel und Gretel and described in his role as Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia as “pure comic joy.” Previously, he returned to his alma mater, Drake University, to perform the title role in Verdi's Falstaff and the titular role in Gianni Schicchi at Eastern Illinois University. Having lived in New York City, he performed roles including Belcore in L'Elisir d'Amore and Schaunard in La Boheme with Amore Opera and Germont in La Traviata. Once back in the midwest, he has continued to perform including Chucho in Lucrezia (Bolcom), Father in Hansel and Gretel and recently debuted the role of Saul in the new opera, The Psalm of Silence. Recently, he assisted in debuting Chicago Fringe Opera's La Jetée.

As a recitalist, Bostwick recently performed a recital capturing Clara Schumann's life at Drake University and Illinois State University. Previously, he has performed Wolf's Italienishes Liederbuch and his American Art Song recital, Songs of Democracy. Other roles include: Alfio in Cavallerìa Rusticana, Barone di Trombonok in Il Viaggio a Reims, Top in The Tender Land, Marullo in Rigoletto, and the title roles in Gianni Schicchi and Le Nozze di Figaro. He returned to Des Moines as Escamillo in Carmen to the Opera Project Des Moines and as Fiorello in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Sugar Creek Opera.

My teaching philosophy centers around cultivating the thought processes and sensory awareness essential for vocal development. Guiding students through the production of sound, vocal exercises and reflective questioning, I collaboratively identify strengths and weaknesses in their vocal journey, addressing areas for improvement while emphasizing existing skills. Recognizing singing as an athletic activity, I consistently challenge students to enhance their bodily awareness for optimal vocal performance. As a teacher, my primary goal is to instill confidence in students, empowering them to be musicians, whether pursuing a professional career or not and ensuring that their voices are always heard.

Karli Bunn (Apprentice 3)

Karli Bunn is a Chicago-based saxophonist, composer, and educator. As a Quad City native with degrees from Northern Illinois and DePaul University, Karli has performed a broad context of music with ensembles including the Manny Lopez Big Band, Ten of Soul, Calaveras LD, the Isaiah Spencer Quintet, the Birch Creek faculty band, and her own ensembles. Bunn is also proficient in woodwind doubling and music technology while focusing her efforts on incorporating the aural tradition into modern innovation.

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.

Shae McCabe (Apprentice 1 )

Shae McCabe is a current undergraduate music education student at NIU. In the past, they have been seen conducting choirs at Oswego High School, leading the show choir, running a horn quartet and more. They participated in District 9 of ILMEA both on voice and horn and went to the 2022 All-State for Future Music Educators. Having studied music with Rachel Maxwell, Kevin Schoenbach, Susan Osvath, Mark Baglione, Michael Thoms and more, they are excited to pass down knowledge of all music. At NIU they can be seen performing with the Horn Ensemble, Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Choir and Huskie Marching Band.

As a music teacher, Shae aims to bring a love of all music by teaching basics, music theory and music styles to have a well-balanced knowledge of music; no matter the instrument.

Kasey Pennington (Apprentice 2)

Kasey Pennington has earned a bachelor's degree in music education from NIU. Kasey studied voice with Orna Arania, took secondary piano lessons with JeongSoo Kim, and participated in Concert Choir, Chamber Choir and Opera Theatre throughout their time as an undergraduate student. Kasey has played piano since kindergarten and has enjoyed performing in many musicals throughout the years, most recently in productions with Stagecoach Players.

Kasey grew up in DeKalb County and recently completed student teaching at DeKalb High School and Sycamore Middle School where they worked with the choirs, assisted with concert preparation and led daily rehearsals. Kasey's approach to teaching is student-centered, and students are given the opportunity to learn the tools to practice and perform music in a way that can be sustainable for them as an individual.