Music, Theater and Art Instructors
Studio Owner/Private Piano Instructor
Heather was four years old when her fingers first touched the piano. She started playing because her family had inherited her grandmother’s piano. She discovered she could play by ear as she began to play tunes that she heard at church and on the radio without music. The first tune she played was one that she had learned at church - "Blessed Assurance". Thus began her musical journey and from that point forward her parents saw to it that she received formal instruction in her piano studies. The piano became a huge part of her identity and she felt special when she sat at the piano. Heather began playing on a Wurlitzer console piano and a Hammond organ and at the age of 11 began playing for church, school, weddings and other special events. While in high school she competed in a regional competition and won the second-place trophy for original piano arrangement and piano performance. Her music instructors have included Bruce Greer, Stephen Neilsen, renowned pianist of the well known piano duo-Ovid and Young, Margaret Wells, and Alan Oldfield.
Heather most admires J.S. Bach and Frederic Chopin for their brilliant compositions, and Franz Liszt, Bruce Greer, and Dino Kartsonakis for their piano performances. Her favorite musical group is the Piano Guys.
Heather has performed in St. Petersburg, Russia and at numerous recitals and public events, solo piano concerts, accompanying choirs, and has performed Handel's Messiah on a harpsichord with the Creekwood Christian Choir. She was the lead church pianist and choir accompanist at Temple Baptist Church of Flower Mound, TX for 8 years, and was the lead pianist, choir accompanist, worship leader, and praise band leader at Creekwood Christian Church. She has accompanied numerous UIL events for LISD and Denton ISD schools.
Heather has produced the album "Sacred Passion", a collection of original piano solo material, which is available on iTunes. Her latest project is producing music videos that exhibit her solo piano works of art and they are currently being released on YouTube.
Heather started teaching piano lessons in high school by mentoring a few younger students, taught students while studying music in college, and then founded New Song School of the Arts (then known as New Song Piano Studio) in 1999. Heather’s award-winning students have consistently received one pluses (superior ratings) from festival and piano competition judges, received sonatina festival trophies and all star trophies, and have been awarded student scholarships,
Heather’s favorite pieces to play are her original arrangements and compositions, and she enjoys singing the songs that she has written. Her personal practice goal is 2 hours daily (10 hours weekly) and she plays the piano nearly every day of her life. Her practice routine is: sightreading - Bach, Chopin, Gershwin, Handel and many other composers; Jazz study (she regularly studies Jazz to keep her arrangements and compositions colorful); arranging/composition - spend time working on her own original material; songwriting - writing her own lyrics and tunes; and literature learning - regularly learning new works of literature.
Heather wants to be remembered as someone who worked daily to reach her fullest potential in every area of life; someone who took the musical talent that God blessed her with and multiplied it exponentially; someone who, through hard work, good character and discipline, inspired others to strive to reach their fullest potential; someone who passed on a passion and love for music to their students; someone who honored God and blessed others; and someone who built a legacy that touches lives for years to come. Her goal is to live a life full of purpose and make a difference in the world around her. She is most passionate about reaching her fullest potential, exposing her material so it can bless, ministering to and inspiring others, seeing her students succeed in their learning, and seeing them love music for a lifetime.
Violin (Suzuki and Traditional) Instructor
Described as “brilliant and quick, but also kind and patient; just the combination needed in the world of violin pedagogy…” by Todd Ehle, also known as professorV on Youtube, Adrienne leads an active career as a teacher and performer.
As a violin instructor, Adrienne enjoys cultivating her student’s love and curiosity for music. She passionately believes in the importance of a positive learning environment and is dedicated to creating a safe space that allows her students to learn without fear or judgment. She is a member of the Suzuki Association of America and is a trained Suzuki violin instructor, having received formal training in Suzuki Violin Unit 1 and Every Child Can. For Adrienne, teaching music goes beyond the music notes written on a page. As she inspires her students to play with conviction and heart, she values first and foremost cultivating whom to be in her students, challenging her students to be better people and musicians than they were the day before.
Adrienne’s personal experience with the violin first began at the age of six years old under the instruction of Achille DiRusso, a former violinist from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. As a young violinist, she was awarded the outstanding performer award twice at the Texas State Solo-Ensemble Contest. Later, she obtained her Bachelor of Music degree in Performance from the University of North Texas, under the tutelage of Julia Bushkova. While at UNT, she placed first with her string quartet in the Chamber Music Studies Competition.
After over fifteen years of experience playing the violin, Adrienne is sharing her love and passion for music through her teaching and performances in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area. Currently you can find her jamming out and playing pop covers with her students, accompanying her young four year old kiddos on piano as they begin their first concertos, and performing chamber music with other local musicians. Outside of music-making, Adrienne enjoys sipping on coffee while reading a good book and going on hikes wherever nature takes her.
Piano/Theory Instructor/Music Therapy – Adaptive Music Lesson
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Aimi started taking piano lessons at the age of three. She attended a performing arts magnet high school and began teaching the piano during that time. She then continued to pursue a degree in piano performance at a renowned conservatory in Tokyo. In 1992 she came to the U.S. to study music therapy because of her passion for helping children with special needs. Consequently she received a master’s degree in music therapy and then a doctorate in child development, both from Texas Woman’s University. While she was a music therapy student and an intern, she worked with individuals with various challenges, from young children to the elderly.
Since the completion of her doctoral degree, Aimi has been a faculty member at Texas Woman’s University and University of North Texas where she taught courses in human development, early childhood education, and family studies, as well as English and Japanese as a second language. Meanwhile, she never stopped being a music educator, teaching the piano to children as young as 3 to individuals who are in their 70s, some of them with a handicap or disability. Additionally, Aimi has extensive experiences as an accompanist for brass, woodwinds, and string instrumentalists and has played for numerous student and faculty recitals as well as seminars and master classes.
Her teaching philosophy stems from her strong advocacy for the individualized instruction – an approach that takes into each person’s strengths, needs, and interests to the maximum account and is based on a belief that everyone has potential to learn.
Until recently she served as the president of the Denton Music Teachers Association (DMTA), and her students frequently performed at DMTA sponsored recitals and Texas Music Teachers Association (TMTA) conventions and received various awards and scholarships from both DMTA and TMTA.
Texas Woman’s University, Child Development
Master of Arts
Texas Woman’s University, Music Therapy
Bachelor of Music
Musashino Academia Musicae, Piano Performance
Alex Hand graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011 with a degree in jazz guitar performance. While touring in 2014 with Los Angeles singer, Jessica Fichot, Alex performed at the Midwest Gypsy Swing festival and Montreal’s Francofolies festival. He studied traditional Balkan music in Bulgaria in 2015 and lived in the San Francisco area for six years, performing and teaching. Currently based in Dallas, TX, pursuing a master’s degree in jazz performance from the University of North Texas, Alex’s current project explores the common ground of influence between rock and jazz with folk music of Eastern Europe. The Alex Hand Band released a full length album in 2018 called Traders of the Lost Arts, and another in 2019 called The Fast Crusade, both available on iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, CD Baby and more.
Alli is a folk singer and multi-instrumentalist. She is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the award-winning Dallas-based Celtic group The Selkie Girls and also serves as the director for North Texas School of Irish Music Gaelic Youth Chorus. In addition, she teaches private vocal and guitar lessons and conducts Irish and Scottish Gaelic singing workshops throughout the year.
She comes from a family of musicians and was singing harmonies with her mother and siblings for as long as she can remember. A member of several performance choirs and ensembles throughout her youth, by the age of 16, Alli began performing professionally, singing and playing guitar in venues around the Dallas area. Since then, she’s worked as a demo singer and played in numerous bands, largely focusing on acoustic-driven music.
In 2013, she became the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the popular Celtic group The Selkie Girls. In 2015, the critically-acclaimed Selkies were honored to win a Celtic Radio Music Award for their version of “The Gaelic Song.” The Selkie Girls have been featured performers at premier festivals throughout the county, including the Austin Celtic Festival, Oklahoma ScotFest, Maryville, TN Highland Games, Texas Scottish Festival, and North Texas Irish Festival, among others. They have performed live on the Good Day Fox 4 morning show several times.
In addition to her work with the Selkies, her vocals have been featured on several instructional publications for Hal Leonard Corporation, including Guitar for Kids – Book 2, Ukulele for Kids, Bass for Kids, and How to Record at Home on a Budget.
April Seals was born in Dallas, TX, and grew up in Plano, TX. April began her undergraduate studies at Collin College in guitar performance under the guidance of Dr. Fernand Vera. April transferred to Oklahoma City University after being awarded the M. Petree Music Memorial Scholarship in 2015, where she earned her BM with an emphasis on guitar performance in 2017.
While at OCU, April studied under Dr. Lynn McGrath, Dr. Stephen Lochbaum, and Matthew Denman. She then went on to serve as the Graduate Teaching Assistant to Dr. Stephen Mattingly at the University of Louisville, where she received her Master’s of Music in the spring 2020.
April has received recognition from multiple festivals and competitions including first prize at the Brownsville Guitar Festival in 2016 and prize winner and honors from the Guitar Foundation of America Symposium, Mountain View Competition, Collin College Competition, Young Artist’s Showcase at Collin College, and the Hill County International Ensemble Contest. Currently, April is pursuing her Doctorate at the University of North Texas.
Ashley Traughber, Soprano, is a native of Houston, Texas. In 2019, she received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from McNeese State University. In 2012 she attended the University of Houston where she sang in multiple productions at the Moores School of Music. Credits include The Magic Flute,The Italian Straw Hat and Moscow, Cheryomushki. In 2012 she premiered the Houston Grand Opera song cycle, Pieces of 9/11 by Jake Heggie. While attending the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Ms. Traughber participated in productions such as Simply Grimm at Lone Star Lyric Music Festival and Sondheim’s A Little Night Music as Mrs. Nordstrom. In 2012 she was the first place winner of the On Your Way- Classical Voice Competition.
Ms. Traughber was also a part of the prestigious Houston Grand Opera High School Voice Studio in 2012. Ms. Traughber made her musical debut as Kate in Legally Blonde with Fort Bend Theatre. She then went on to take on the role of Irene in Footloose, Hattie in Kiss Me Kate, Waitress in Rock of Ages and Johanna in Sweeney Todd. In 2019, Ms. Traughber competed in the National Association of Teachers of Singing- Southern Region in 2019 where she won first place. Ms. Traughber is a recipient of the Juliet Hardtner Endowed Music Scholarship. She has also been featured as a soloist for Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Handel’s Messiah, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass.
Ms. Traughber has taught privately for over four years. She loves teaching voice and piano to children as well as adults of all ages and levels. Her teaching style can be best described as loving, caring, and passionate. Her success as an educator is largely due to her ability to communicate well with her students. Ms. Traughber is currently pursuing her Master of Music in Voice Performance at the University of North Texas. She hopes to continue to inspire young musicians as much as they inspire her.
Voice/Musical Theatre Instructor
Bette is a graduate of University of Texas Austin, with a degree in Music Education, Voice Principal. She also holds a Master of Arts Degree in Choral Conduction from University of Texas San Antonio. Bette has 35 years of experience in private vocal instruction, music teaching, and choir directing in Texas Public Schools from Pre-Kindergarten through High School ages.
With regard to private instruction in voice, Bette has taught private lessons to all levels and ages. In her private lessons, her teaching develops the student in areas such as vocal technique, solfege, sightsinging, audition preparation, stage presentation, commercial gig prep, musical theatre, etc. Bette’s goal is to develop the student’s vocal abilities with a balanced approach. She takes the student’s interests into consideration while also introducing them to repertoire styles that will broaden their capabilities. Bette desires for her students to be well rounded musicians, ready for any opportunity that may come their way. Over the years, her former students have gone on to become music teachers themselves and one recently went on to explore a New York Broadway role.
With regard to her school teaching she has prepared students for regional choir, all state choir, and solo competitions, musical theatre roles, etc.
Bette also has an extensive dance background that includes being an officer in the Kilgore College Rangerettes. She has directed, produced, and choreographed music programs and musical theatre shows for schools and churches in the Houston and San Antonio areas. She has served as choir director for churches in both cities as well.
During her career she has directed or co-directed productions such as: Calamity Jane, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma!, Brigadoon, Carnival, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Annie, Company, Mame, and Amahland the Night Visitors. Her choirs have won University Interscholastic League awards and she has had numerous students in region choirs and All-State choirs.
After retiring, Bette began to write children’s musicals with a friend from her UT Austin days. One of those shows Circus Train was performed at Artsview Children’s Theater in Longview, Texas.
Bette and her husband Luke reside in the Argyle area where she continues to work in the music industry. Bette and Luke have a son, Matthew, who lives in Dallas.
Celia is originally from Fort Worth, TX. She began private piano lessons through TCU Music Prep at the age of 6 and was classically-trained from age 9 through high school graduation by Mr. José Antonio Cubela of Cubela Piano Studio. Her teaching lineage extends all the way back to Beethoven and includes many other notable pianists and composers, such as Franz Liszt. Throughout her years of study, she competed all over the metroplex and garnered a number of accolades, including 1st place in the UTA Fall Keyboard Contest Concerto Division and 2nd place in the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra’s Young Musicians’ Concerto Competition in 2017 and 2018, respectively. She also was selected as a finalist in the 2018 TASO Juanita Miller Concerto Competition and regularly received 1st-3rd place in the Fort Worth Music Teacher Association Piano Solo Contest. Aside from her classical studies, she has played the piano in church, at weddings/funerals, and in her high school’s Jazz/Rock Ensemble. Celia’s favorite composers include Chopin, Mendelssohn, Haydn, and Beethoven.
Throughout her middle and high school years, Celia’s love for music began to expand far past the piano. At the age of 10, she took up the guitar and started practicing singing and songwriting. She also began learning the ukulele in 9th grade and thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity, beauty, and innocence of the instrument. Along the way, Celia also discovered a passion for musical theater. She participated in the school musical every year in high school, and in 2018, she won a Betty Lynn Buckley Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical and a Dallas Summer Musical Honorable Mention for Best Leading Actress for her role as Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical. She was also actively involved as a section leader in her school’s choir and show choir, receiving gold medals at solo and ensemble and being named to the all-state choir. All of these experiences have instilled in her a deep and well-rounded appreciation for all styles and genres of music and the vast opportunities for healing and self-expression that it provides.
Celia is currently studying music therapy at Texas Woman’s University as the Chancellor’s Endowed Scholar for her class and hopes to apply her passion for music and wellbeing in a way that provides healing and creative expression for many different populations. She is an officer and a peer mentor in the Honors Program, a worship leader for Sigma Phi Lambda, a Christian sorority on campus, and a member of the TWU Concert Choir, with whom she recently performed at TMEA. Celia is very honored to be teaching at the New Song School of the Arts and hopes to instill in her students a love and appreciation for music that will last a lifetime!
Born in Kansas and raised in Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Anderson has been involved in music since the age of 8. Throughout her life, Elizabeth has sung, danced, and performed in various plays and musicals. At the age of 9, Elizabeth started learning the flute in her elementary band program and has never looked back. Over the years, she has been a soloist in many band concerts, a part of chamber ensembles, and a part of marching bands since her 8th grade. Elizabeth has performed not only on the stage as a cast member, but frequently in various pit orchestras for popular Broadway musicals such as the Music Man and Little Women. Elizabeth has taken private lessons in both voice and piano. Her senior year of high school, she was one of twelve students out of the state of Pennsylvania to attend the 2016 Future Music Educators Honors Symposium as a part of the Pennsylvania Music Education Association All-State Conference. She has always been an advocate for the arts and has loved every moment she has experienced and will experience as an active performer and teacher.
Elizabeth recently earned a Bachelor of Music in Instrumental Music with a Music Education concentration from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. During her four years at Liberty, Elizabeth performed in not only the marching band, but various other ensembles. She played piccolo with the Liberty University Symphony Orchestra in the spring of 2019 where they performed Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Additionally, Elizabeth was a veteran member of the University Band where she served as the flute section leader for two years and was selected to be the Student Conductor for the spring of 2019. Elizabeth is very thankful for her time at Liberty, where she received extensive training in the art of teaching as well as hands-on experience playing each of the different instrument families. Aside from her music education classes, Elizabeth took multiple classes studying theatre arts. She is trained in two acting methods: Stanislavski and Meisner. Outside of classes, Elizabeth was an active member in her school’s chapter of The National Association for Music Education (NAfME), where she volunteered on numerous occasions to help bring music to her community.
In this new season of post-graduate life, Elizabeth is looking forward to all God is going to do in her life and career. She hopes that in teaching privately at NSSOTA, she can show her students that music is so much more than the notes on the page, and impart the same love and passion for music to her students as her teachers did to her. Elizabeth is grateful for every single opportunity that God has orchestrated since day one and is excited for what is to come!
Violin (Suzuki and Traditional)/Viola Instructor
Emily began playing the viola when she was twelve years old when she joined the orchestra program at her middle school. She immediately grew a passion for music and knew she wanted to be a musician for the rest of her life. Ms. Emily currently attends the University of Texas at Arlington where she is studying Viola Performance with Catherine Forbes. Ms. Emily has also attended competitive music festivals in Canada, New York, and Oregon where she studied with various world-renowned instructors from prestigious schools like the New England Boston Conservatory and Eastman School of Music.
Fortunately for Ms. Emily, she shares her passion for music every week through her professional career as a performer and a teacher. She performs with every ounce of energy and elegance for every event and hopes to inspire her students to love and care for music as she does.
Erika Morgan is a singer/songwriter/musician who has been gigging around the Dallas Metroplex for the last few years, and she's so excited about teaching at NSSOTA! She's an alum of the Vocal Jazz Studies program at the University of North Texas, and she's currently residing in the Denton area. She has been teaching private lessons for about two years, and has been working as a professional musician for six years. Her artistic abilities and improvisation skills can be applied to teaching piano and voice, and she believes that every person and child has the ability to be a star!
Born and raised in a diverse and multicultural background, Esme Wong is a Malaysian classical pianist who marked her solo debut at Trinity College of London Awards and Concert at the age of 12. She has enjoyed a career in a wide range of repertoire, ranging from early music to contemporary music in Asia, Europe and the United States. Through her unique educational experience at United World College as a Davis Scholar, she is inspired by global social movements and has participated in community work in Southeast Asia and Balkans region. Please find a recent article highlighting Esme’s community engagement project on Asian culture awareness: dentonrc.com/entertainment/music/denton-pianist-records-duets-to-delight-listeners-and-showcase-asians-during-pandemic/article_31e3d543-c1b1-5f0b-9ed7-72127370d576.html
Esme began her musical adventure at the age of 4 under the guidance of her mother, Sabrina Tnay. She was awarded the Diploma Licentiate at Trinity College of London (LTCL) at the age of 14. She was the pianist of Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (MPYO) at the age of 16, where she began to develop her love for chamber music. In the following year, she was the only Malaysian to receive the Davis United World College Scholarship to study chamber music with one of the pioneer piano trios, Trio di Trieste, in Italy.
Esme recently joined the Nashville Opera in their 2020 Mary Ragland Emerging Artist Program as the music director of Opera ON TOUR! production and Opera Out Loud Scenes Program. Esme was the Assistant Conductor of the production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola as well as Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at the Red River Lyric Opera. Furthermore, she was invited to join the faculty of Druid City Opera Workshop at University of Alabama as the music director for opera scenes.
Esme has performed as soloist with Fort Dodge Symphony Orchestra and toured with Luther College Symphony Orchestra for a three week residency at Vienna and performed at Kulturzentrum Oberschützen, Stadtsaal Stockerau, and the prestigious Konzerthaus Vienna. Past appearances include performance of Augusta Holmes’ song cycles at Music by Women Festival, coaching and world premiere performance of Robert Beasers’ choral work and Vit Zuhar opera Coronide under UNT Czech Music Festival, vocal piano collaboration with Dallas Puccini Society, Voces Intimae, and SongFest. Furthermore, she enjoys vocal collaborative works and loves working with living composers. She was fortunate to work with internationally renowned coaches and living composers including Graham Johnson, Martin Katz, Margo Garrett, Susan Youens, Kayo Iwama, Alan Smith, Jake Heggie, Libby Larsen and Tom Cipullo during her fellowship at Colburn Conservatory and University of North Texas.
Esme is a staff pianist of Texas Woman’s University who holds a M.M. in Collaborative Piano from University of North Texas and a B.A. from Luther College.
Originally from Washington D.C., Ethan Ditthardt is currently living in the Dallas Fort Worth area where he teaches privately, is a freelancer, and plays in a notable pop-rock group, The Polarity. Prior to studying jazz, Ethan was an accomplished and promising prospect in the classical guitar community. He studied with Professor Robert Guthrie at Southern Methodist University while in high school and has received numerous accolades and awards including the grand prize in the Beatty Music Scholarship Competition in Washington D.C. While studying under Davy Mooney at The University of North Texas, Ethan was a member of the seven time Grammy nominated One O’clock lab band under the direction of Alan Baylock, where he’s had the opportunity to play with jazz greats such as Carmen Bradford (Count Basie), Kirk Whalum, Melissa Aldana, and Kenny Werner (with Johannes Weidemuller and Ari Hoenig).
Flute professor and former Dean of the College of Music at the University of North Texas Dr. James Scott noted “Hina’s artistry communicates warmth and genuine musicality within a framework of excellent style sense and a command of the flute that embraces beautiful tone and a consistently reliable technique. Her performances represent state-of-the-art professionalism alongside that extra dimension of refined creativity that make them engaging and memorable.” As a flute artist, she always aims for a variety of performances and colorful expressions from classical to contemporary music. In particular, she conveys the Eastern musical spirit and the spirit of traditional Vietnamese music through the classical Western flute. She emphasizes and promotes the integration of cultural elements in each musical work.
As an educator, Hina had taught private and chamber music lessons for over ten years as a member of the flute faculty at the Vietnam National Academy of Music, and a flute/beginner piano teacher at the United Nations International School of Hanoi and the British Vietnamese International School, as well as teaching “Music Appreciation” class for the Troy University inter-college sharing program with the Vietnam National University. She has been working with students of all ages, from elementary to university level. The former UNIS Music Academy’s leader – professor Elizabeth Druitt claimed Ms.Le as a “very patient, experienced teacher and have a great understanding with students, especially with the young ones”.
As a performer, Hina has been invited as a flute soloist to perform with the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra, the Hanoi Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vietnam Opera & Ballet Orchestra, the Hanoi String Orchestra, the American-Vietnamese Connection Music Festival Chamber Orchestra, and the Danish “Hafnia” Chamber Orchestra. She has taken part in several recording sessions premiering works by the American Grammy-award-winning composer Michael Daugherty with the University of North Texas Wind Symphony, conducted by the legendary conductor, Professor Eugene Migliaro Corporon. She also won second prize at the Maverick Flute Solo Competition in Texas in the U.S. that focuses on contemporary works. She was a member of the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in Japan while studying at the Hanoi Conservatory and was flute principal of the Hanoi Philharmonic Orchestra. She has performed hundreds of concerts in Vietnam and at international music festivals in Japan, France, Germany, the United States, England, Denmark and Sweden.
Hina believes that music makes one’s life becomes much more interesting and colourful, and she loves listening to beautiful melodies from her favourite composers, among them are J.S. Bach, Johannes Brahms, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy.
She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree (DMA) in Flute Performance at the University of North Texas (UNT) under the instruction of professors Terri Sundberg, James Scott and Elizabeth McNutt. Her previous principle professors were Sir William Bennett, Toke Lund Christiansen, Henrik Svitzer, Asger Svendsen and Nguyen Trung Thanh.
Guitar/Ukulele/Beginner Piano Instructor
Jack carries with him a love for music and a passion for learning. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Jack now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A student at the prestigious University of North Texas College of music, he has studied jazz guitar under Noel Johnston, Paul Metzger, and the renowned faculty in the division of jazz studies. He performs as a guitarist widely in the Texas music scene playing jazz, R&B, blues, pop, country, and worship music. Also an avid songwriter, Jack spends a lot of time writing, and recording original music from his home studio. Prior to moving to Texas, he was heavily involved in the Omaha music scene where he got his start. At 18, his band was chosen to represent the blues Society of Omaha in the international blues challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.
Piano/Voice/Beginner Drums Instructor/BandLife Director
Jack is a multifaceted musician who regularly performs repertoire across a variety of genres throughout both the Dallas-Fort Worth area and his native Seattle.
Heavily immersed in jazz, rock, pop, and folk styles, Jack has been sharing his talents in voice, piano, and saxophone with students for over 6 years. Beginning as a saxophonist turned vocalist, it was clear that his passion lay in voice after auditioning for his high school jazz choir in 2012. In 2015, he began furthering his study within the Jazz Voice program at the University of North Texas.
Since graduating with his degree from the University of North Texas, Jack has been invested in pedagogy and songwriting as his main pursuits in addition to the various groups he regularly plays with in the DFW area.
A “gifted performer with formidable technical skill” (Theater Jones Journal), American pianist Jacob Nydegger’s “smooth, elegant power brings memories of that great pianist [Van Cliburn]” (Fanfare Magazine). Nydegger’s debut album with Toccata Classics record label received widespread acclaim and was placed on the Classical New Releases: Spotify Picks Playlist in 2018. In addition to commercial recording success, Nydegger has been a top prizewinner in multiple competitions including the 2019 Weatherford International Piano Competition, the 2018 Kuleshov International Piano Competition, the 2018 Scionti Piano Scholarship Competition, the 17th annual Petroff Piano Competition, and the ‘Art of Piano’ and ‘Artist of the Year’ categories of the 2018 International Great Composers Competition. In 2017 he performed the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Colorado College Festival Orchestra, and in 2019 he performed and presented in Malaysia as Lecturer-in-Residence of International Music House Kuching and guest artist at University Malaysia Sarawak. Nydegger is currently staff pianist at Texas Woman’s University and has established himself as a highly sought after chamber musician, having performed with David Ying of the Grammy-award winning Ying Quartet and having worked with internationally renowned vocal coaches Margaret Singer, Alan Smith, Darryl Cooper (San Francisco Conservatory), and Margo Garrett (Juilliard). Jacob is studying with Joseph Banowetz at the University of North Texas and also has worked with pianists Roy Howat, William Wolfram, and Van Cliburn gold-medalist Jon Nakamatsu. Upcoming engagements include a second recording with the Toccata Classics record label, featuring the piano music of eminent Dutch composer, Leo Samama.
Jamila began playing the piano at the age of 5. Her oldest sister was pursuing her dream of becoming a professional pianist and she inspired Jamila and guided her first steps in piano playing. The first tune she learned to play was “The Sick Doll” from the Children’s Album by P. I. Tchaikovsky. She also plays the pipe organ and the harpsichord. Both of her parents played musical instruments as well.
Jamila holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas, majoring in Organ Performance with a minor in Music Theory under the supervision of Dr. Lenora McCroskey. She received her Bachelors and Masters degree in Music Theory and Organ Performance from Azerbaijan State Conservatory under Dr. Tahira Yagubova. Jamila has a Performing Organist Licentiate Diploma from the Associated Royal Schools of Music, and a Diploma from the Conservatory of Amsterdam where she was a student of renowned Professor Jacques van Oortmerssen. She also studied with world-recognized musicians including Andrea Marcon of Italy; Jean Boyer, Naji Hakim and Michel Bouvard of France; and Hans Ola Ericsson of Sweden.
Jamila loves classical music and regularly attends Dallas Symphony Orchestra concerts. She enjoys playing music from the Baroque Era. Jamila majored in organ performance and most admires J.S. Bach because his music is considered the best for organists for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual strength.
Jamila has taught music lessons for over 30 years and is passionate about public performance and the learning process. Visit her website for more information and videos of a few of her organ performances -www.jjavadovaspitzberg.com.
Justin Labosco is a multi-instrumentalist and actor who started his creative journey at 10 years old. Starting on drums Justin played in marching and jazz band through his school (Liberty Christian) and played live shows in multiple rock bands as a drummer. At 16 Justin joined the band at Fellowship Church and played with them until his mid 20’s. During this time Justin also learned to play guitar, piano, bass and sing. Justin than began to pursue a music career as a lead singer/ songwriter of a pop rock band which he continues to tour with and release albums. To date Justin has played hundreds of live shows, has been featured on 10 albums and has written and recorded hundreds of songs.
On top of his music career Justin also has a degree in Acting Performance from KD College and has been a professional actor on the stage and in front of the camera since 2010. Doing everything from lead roles in musicals at Dallas Theater Center to feature films to national commercials.
Piano/Voice/Beginner Guitar Instructor
Kamila Swerdloff is a musician, teacher, and singer-songwriter from Northwest Oregon. She received her B.M. in Piano Performance from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, and is currently getting her M.M. in Music Therapy from Texas Woman’s University. She has worked as a pianist for Ballet Austin, the University of Texas at Austin, American Ballet Theater, and Texas Woman’s University. As a composer and performer, she has been involved in productions with Ventana Ballet, an Austin based contemporary ballet performance company, the festival “Revolve: A Movement Display”, the Astoria Music Festival, the Austin Chamber Music Festival, and A Room with a Few duet series.
While living in Austin, she taught music and songwriting at Armstrong Community Music School, Westlake Lessons, and ODO Sound Creative Music Summer Sessions. She believes in creating an inspiring and motivating learning environment for her students, where providing them with a solid musical foundation plays just as important of a role as being encouraged to play music they are passionate about.
Piano/Early Childhood Music Instructor
A transplanted Chicagoan, LaNell recently celebrated 30 years as a music educator. She has taught private piano lessons since 1988, coaching numerous competition and festival winners. In addition, she served as youth director at the American Community Church in London, England, leading the student music department. She has also been a faculty member and curriculum specialist at Chicago’s acclaimed Old Town School of Folk Music.
LaNell is a former editor at Clavier magazine, and wrote all the content for Piano Explorer, its companion student magazine. In this role, she enjoyed interviewing numerous artists…from Van Cliburn medalists to award-winning composers and educators. Additionally, LaNell is a seasoned arts administrator, previously holding positions with the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois; the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and Dallas Chamber Music Society.
LaNell studied piano at the University of Evansville and University of Tennessee. She performed at Illinois Music Teachers Association (IMTA) and Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) conferences, as well as participated in numerous masterclasses. She is a certified Harmony Road instructor, receiving her training under the program’s founder, Jan Keyser. Although she instructs students of all ages, LaNell has extensive experience teaching very young children, and champions discovering the world of music in early childhood.
In addition to teaching, LaNell is a church musician, and is a soprano in the Prestonwood Choir (Plano). She also consults for a music education software application company in Dallas. When not working, practicing, or performing, you can find LaNell watching sports (especially college football and basketball), and spending time with her dogs Kramer and Farley.
Ms. Lara Ruzevic is an international concert pianist and pedagogue. Her career has taken her to Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Slovakia and the US.
Active as a chamber musician and a collaborative artist, Ms. Ruzevic has been on faculty of numerous music festivals, such as: The Upbeat Summer Music Festival, Croatian String Teachers Association Music Festival, Texas Cello Academy, UNT Summer String Institute, etc. She collaborated with such artist as Dora Schwarzberg, David Grigorian, Gustavo Tavares, Eleonore Schoenfeld.
Ms. Ruzevic holds her degree in Piano Performance from University of Zagreb Academy of Music, and Master of Arts Piano Performance degree from California State University Fresno. She was mentored by many distinguished pianists such as Leon Bates, Jean-Philippe Collard, Rudolf Kehrer, Arbo Valdma, Elena Richter, Pavica Gvozdic, Melita Lorkovic, Dorde Stanetti, Andreas Werz.
During 29 years of teaching, Ms. Ruzevic has taught in Music schools in Europe and US, teaching students of different ages and levels. She has found that each student has his/her unique strengths and weaknesses, requiring a unique approach for each individual. Most students need, more than anything, to be taught how to play their instrument in a natural, relaxed and balanced way. Further, one of the most important goals in teaching is to challenge students to understand not only the creative process of playing/practicing their instruments, but also the art of communication through musical expression. Realizing that music is a language, is the key to the artistic growth.
In order to achieve this goal, students need to learn the foundation of the piano artistry, and how to practice in an effective and a productive way. Recognized as a dedicated and a successful teacher, Ms. Ruzevic has judged numerous events for the Denton Music Teacher Association, and has given workshops in Piano Performance at the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
Presently, Ms. Ruzevic resides in Denton, TX with her husband Nikola Ruzevic and their three children. She maintains an active private studio, is accompanist at St. Mark Catholic Church, teaches at New Song School of the Arts, accompanies for Denton ISD students and ensembles, and frequently performs with UNT music faculty and students.
Lea believes that nurturing a positive relationship with playing music is essential in music lessons. One of her main goals as a music teacher is to inspire students to become life-long musicians and music lovers. In service of this philosophy, Lea always asks which styles and aspects of music interest each student. From there, they will choose pieces and assignments that support the student’s growth towards their specific goals or interests. Lea uses humor to keep the energy in music lessons light, fun and engaging. Students will learn to sing/play piano, read music, develop a “good ear,” sight-read, and learn the fundamentals of music theory while studying with me. Interested students can also learn how to write a great song- and how to write it down!
Lea has over ten years experience in teaching both piano and voice. She is currently a Teaching Fellow at University of North Texas giving jazz vocal lessons. As a Harmony Road certified piano teacher, Lea has taught Harmony Road piano preparatory classes for over 8 years.
Lea earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California, Santa Cruz, studying with Patrice Maginnis and Nicole Paiemont. Lea also has an earned Masters Degree in Jazz Studies/Vocal Performance from the University of North Texas. At UNT, she studied with Rosana Eckert, Jennifer Barnes, and many other wonderful jazz faculty members. She is also Level 1 certified in Somatic Voicework(tm), which she studied with Jeannie Lovetri.
Lea has performed with several small opera companies including San Francisco Lyric Opera and numerous choirs, including IOCSF and Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. For seven years, she gigged extensively throughout the San Francisco Bay Area with my band, an indie-folk-jazz piano trio, performing in a wide variety of venues including the bar at Yoshi’s Lounge, one of San Francisco’s premier jazz venues, and PLACE for Sustainable Living, an educational collective in Oakland, CA. She has written, recorded and released two albums on which she plays piano and sings. In addition to her work as a jazz vocalist and a singer/songwriter, she has sung backgrounds for various indie artists, including Derek Sup, Anita Stryker and Andy Mason. Over the years, she has also lent her voice to a few commercial and t.v. spots with companies such as Disney, Pepsi and Barbie.
Piano/Harp/Early Childhood Music Instructor
Monika is from Estonia and she started playing recorder and piano at the age of 7. Her mother inspired her to play music, because she loved to listen to classical music and play piano herself.
Monika is a professional and experienced pianist, harpist, and woodwind instrumentalist. She was awarded first price twice in The National Competition for young wind players in Estonia and the special award for the most creative young artist in Estonia.
She has performed at the Boston, Utrecht, Valencia and Barcelona Early Music festivals with the consort The Royal Wind Music and toured with various chamber music groups all over the Europe and Asia. She has performed on TV in Europe and Asia. She has also played in the Dutch National Opera and the Estonian National Theatre.
She holds a Bachelor and Master degree with teaching certificate from The Royal Conservatory of The Hague in Early Music and is currently working on her postgraduate degree in harp with Dr. Jaymee Haefner at UNT with the related field in music education.
Monika has a passion for Italian 16-17’th century repertoire and French 18th century music. She also admires the composers like, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Chopin.
She practices approximately 5 hours per day. She begins with exercises to warm up, progresses to sight-reading new repertoire and then working on memorizing pieces, technique and musical lines.
Monika would like to be remembered as a caring, kind and inspiring person who is passionate about music.
Drums/Guitar/Beginning Piano Instructor
Nate has been teaching drums, guitar, and trombone for over 15 years, first starting on drum set 24 years ago, learning both drum set and trombone from teachers at the University of Connecticut while in elementary school. He graduated with honors from Wesleyan University in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in music. Nate is currently in his third year of doctoral studies pursuing a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University of North Texas, with research focused on African traditional and contemporary music.
Nate offers a balanced mixture of teaching styles, stressing the importance of reading music notation while valuing the development of a musical ear. Nate tailors lesson plans to the interests and abilities of the individual student, challenging the student to make noticeable progress while maintaining a fun and positive environment.
Originally from Northeast Tennessee, Peyton fell in love with music at a very early age and started playing piano at the age of ten. Her love for music only grew as she got older. She began singing and playing piano for her church. In high school, she was a substitute piano, voice, and guitar teacher at her local arts center. She continued teaching a few young students throughout college as well.
Peyton recently graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Music and Culture. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Music Therapy at Texas Woman’s University.
For the past four summers, Peyton has had the opportunity and privilege to be a counselor at the Fresh Air Home, a camp for underprivileged children in Tybee Island, GA. At the Fresh Air Home, she led music with all campers and worked primarily with six to eight year-old girls. She has always loved kids and is grateful to be able to continue to share her passion for music through teaching
Musical Theater/Voice/Acting/Beginner Piano Instructor
Rita Powers is a long time, well known Dallas area professional singer and performer, who has been the opening act for some of the world’s greatest entertainers, such as “B.B. King”, “Lily Tomlin”, “The Platters”, “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band”, “Rosemary Clooney”, and “The Four Tops”, among others. Rita presently sings with several bands, leading her own band, “Rita Powers and Standing Ovation, The New Fab Duo, plus, RP & Harmony. She has been a guest vocalist with several big band orchestras and other bands including: The Les Elgart Orchestra, Moondance Orchestra, The Upswing Orchestra, The Cal Lewiston Orchestra, The Richland College Jazz Band and (Excursion), the UTD Jazz BandRita Powers is a long time, well known Dallas area professional singer and performer, who has been the opening act for some of the world’s greatest entertainers, such as “B.B. King”, “Lily Tomlin”, “The Platters”, “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band”, “Rosemary Clooney”, and “The Four Tops”, among others. Rita presently sings with several bands, leading her own band, “Rita Powers and Standing Ovation, The New Fab Duo, plus, RP & Harmony. She has been a guest vocalist with several big band orchestras and other bands including: The Les Elgart Orchestra, Moondance Orchestra, The Upswing Orchestra, The Cal Lewiston Orchestra, The Richland College Jazz Band and (Excursion), the UTD Jazz Band.
Rita was a Theatre Arts teacher for 19 years at Marcus High School (16 of which she was department head). She taught all levels of Drama, Musical Theatre, Production, Costumes & Makeup and Tech Theatre. In addition to directing hundreds of musicals and plays at Marcus, she has recently directed musicals such as Mary Poppins at the famed Rockwall Summer Musicals and The Fantasticks at Lewisville Community Theatre, to name a few. Rita’s extensive experience on stage includes starring musical roles in numerous professional and community theatre productions, including Gypsy, Mame, Hello Dolly, Annie, Man of La Mancha, and many more.
Ms. Powers possesses a Masters Degree in Theatre Arts from the University of North Texas, where she graduated #1 in her class with a 4.0 GPA, a Bachelor of Arts. in Music Education from The University of Texas at Dallas (cum laude) and an Associates Degree in Arts and Sciences from Richland College.
She formerly served on the board of the Dallas Summer Musicals Guild and judges for the DSM High School Musical Awards and University Interscholastic League (UIL). Rita is also a published author of “Directing The Fantasticks” and several articles and minor publications.
Although Rita loves singing and performing, she is dedicated to teaching and mentoring students in the Arts. Rita Powers, has worked for the past five years as a University Professor of Education and University Supervisor for student teachers in Theatre Arts.at TWU (Texas Woman’s University) She has also taught private voice/music/piano and theatre and musical theatre students from her home studio for many years.
Rita lives in Argyle with her husband George White, three-time EMMY Award winning director/editor, NBC Network News (retired).
Ruusamari grew up in Finland and began playing the piano at the age of four with her mother and continued at a formal school of music a year later. Her entire family has a love for and a very close connection to music. Her great, great grandfather on her mother´s side was the great composer Jean Sibelius and she has a lineage of folk musicians from her fathers side. In Ruusamari’s mother´s family basically everybody plays an instrument. On her father´s side there are fiddle and guitar players. Ruusamari plays the piano, fortepiano, harpshichord, and organ. The piano is her first instrument, the big love of her life. She later chose other keyboard instruments of which the fortepiano she has the closest relationship.
Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schuberts, Schumann, Sibelius, and Tschaikovsky are the composers that Ruusamari most admires. Of the great performers she loves Emil Gilels, Pinhas Zukerman, Gil Shaham and Yefim Bronfman to mention a few. Her mentors Vladimir Viardo, Christoph Hammer, and Elvia Puccinelli have been the greatest influence. Beyond classical musicians she loves Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Freddie Mercury, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Bill Evans. The first tunes that really awoke her love to music were Mozart’s Andante and pieces by J.S. Bach.
Ruusamari has received two second-place prizes in the Bradshaw and Buono piano competition in NY, NY and the Petroff piano competition in San Antonio, TX. She regularly tours with fellow musicians. She played 40 concerts with Finnish cellist, Jussi Makkonen all aroung the US in 2015. The engagements for the summer 2016 include concerts in Germany, Italy and Finland. Ruusamari has performed and interviewed on radio and television in the US and Finland. She received a NOVA scholarship from the UNT College of Music and Finlandia Foundation Scholarship as a highest ranking applicant.
Ruusamari has artist certificates from the Prague Concervatory, Czech Republic and the Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest, Hungary. Her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music in piano performance is from UNT, class of Vladimir Viardo. She is currently working on her DMA in Collaborative piano performance at UNT with Elvia Puccinelli and Steven Harlos. She also has related field fortepiano studies with Christoph Hammer and Paul Leenhouts. Ruusamari has participated in master classes with Dmitry Bashkirov, Yefim Bronfman, Matti Raekallio, Natalya Antonova, and others.
Ruusamari practices from 2-4 hours every day. She uses warm ups, scales and finger exercises as a part of a daily practice routine. She regularly adds new repertoire and technically challenging spots that require extra time, repetition and new creative way of practice. She has been teaching music since she was 20 years old.
Ruusamari wants to be remembered as an honest, sensitive and passionate musician and a happy and friendly human being. The quote from Goethe – “Music starts where the words end” sums up her passion in regard to her work as a musician and teacher. Her great, great grandfather, Jean Sibelius’ words inspire her to be the best she can be – “Music is for me like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.”
Musical Theatre/Acting/Voice Instructor
Shelby started her training in the arts at age 4 in dance class. She soon found her true passion after participating in her first musical in the second grade. That interest grew exponentially and led Shelby to pursue a degree in Musical Theatre. In May 2020, she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theater (plus a minor in Marketing) from Baldwin Wallace University. Her program, BWMT, is ranked in the top 10 Collegiate Musical Theatre programs in the country according to Playbill.com, OnStage Blog, and many other reputable sources. Favorite past roles in school include Sally in Cabaret, and Bridget in Bring it On. While earning her degree Shelby spent her summers as a working actor at high level regional theatres across the country. She recently portrayed Julius Caesar in Julius Caesar and Ethel Toffelmier in The Music Man at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and Great Lakes Theatre.
Prior to college Shelby grew up in Orlando, Florida where she took private piano and voice lessons, constant dance training, and above and beyond involvement in school theatre and choir. She was chosen for FMEA All-State choir five times and received top scores at Solo and Ensemble throughout the years. Beyond school she was part of the elite youth performance troupe “Powerchords” through Orlando Repertory Theatre(2014-15), and starred in her first professional musical at 16 yrs old at The Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, FL. Her family moved to Texas her senior year where she attended JJ Pearce High School in Richardson, TX. She won the Dallas Summer High School Musical award for Best Featured Actress in 2016.
Throughout all of her training Shelby has had a passion for teaching. During high school she was a student choreographer and director for mainstage musicals. In 2016, she was a Camp Counselor for the youth summer camps at Casa Manana. Throughout college she was a Keyboard and Music Theory tutor for fellow conservatory students, and her most recent work with children was as the dance captain for The Music Man. She assisted the choreographer in teaching the show to the child cast of elementary aged kids and maintaining their performance throughout the sixth month run. All of Shelby’s success she attributes to her stellar private coaches, drama teachers, choir directors, and collegiate mentors. Shelby hopes to do the same for promising youth interested in the art of storytelling. Teaching is more than just sharing
Piano/Voice/Musical Theatre Instructor
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Sydney has always been an advocate for the arts. While in Austin, he was awarded “Outstanding Musician” from the Kealing Magnet School (2007), “Outstanding Musician” from the McCallum Fine Arts Academy (2011) and “Outstanding Musician” from the Austin Chamber Music Center (2011). He’s performed in various venues around Austin including: The Paramount Theatre, State Theatre, The Frank Erwin Center, the Long Center, The Glimmer of Hope Foundation, weddings, receptions, restaurants, etc. It was during this time that he discovered his passion for teaching. At the age of 15 he started teaching students from his former private instructor’s studio run by Daphne McDole. It was through her studio, the “Keys of Life” program, that allowed him to have various performing opportunities and early experience in teaching children.
Sydney has an earned Bachelor of Arts degree in music education from University of North Texas an artist diploma from Macullum Fine Arts Academy. He is a trained pianist and vocal pedagogue. In addition to being a full time teacher at New Song School of the Arts, other job titles include: Pianist/Accompanist, Conductor, Music Director, Judicator, and Guest Artist. That being said, Sydney has worked with a number of organizations including: University of North Texas (pianist), various High/Middle School (teacher/pianist), Music Theatre of Denton (director/pianist), various theatre companies around DFW (pianist), Booker T Washington (judge), Mansfield Symphony Orchestra (pianist), various churches around DFW (pianist), etc. Since 2016, the bulk of his performing has been Musical Theatre Productions all over DFW including: Mary Poppins, Shrek, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Sister Act, Evita, Patsy Cline, Big Fish, 9 to 5, The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors, Cabaret, Will Rogers’s Follies, and many more.
Vocal experience includes: Singing in top vocal ensembles at UNT both classical and jazz; performing at Dallas Winspear Opera House; performing at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival; teaching at various schools and churches around DFW; Performing in various theatre productions around DFW.
Spyros is a Greek American concert pianist and started to play the piano when he was 9 years old, performing his first solo recital a year later with works of Bach, Mozart and Chopin. Early musical training includes the violin, french horn, music harmony & counterpoint and conducting. Spyros is the recipient of many scholarships, prizes and awards around the world. He has performed recitals in Austria, Germany, Italy, France, England, Czech Republic and Spain. Recent American performances in Texas, Kentucky and Antigua, Guatemala.
He is equally at home with standard repertoire and new music. He enjoys composing, accompanying singers and instrumentalists. Spyros is also a dedicated piano teacher and believes in a healthy and balanced approach between technique and music interpretation. He has taught piano and theory lessons for many years with successful results. Many of his students get the highest ratings in festivals and competitions around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Spyros has taken lessons and participated in masterclasses and piano festivals around the world with famous pianists and renowned pedagogues such as Misha Dichter, Eliso Virsaladze, Leonid Margarius, Pavel Gililov, Andrej Jasinski, Peter Lang, Rolf Plagge, Daniel Pollack, and Alan Feinberg among others.
He earned his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Piano Performance & Pedagogy (both summa cum laude) at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Austria studying with Prof. George Kern, distinguished pianist and student of the legendary Rosina Lhevinne. Currently he pursues a Doctoral degree in Piano Performance at the University of North Texas with Dr. Steven Harlos.
Spyros Karavias is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society, Alpha Chi National College Honor Society, Golden Key International Honour Society, and Music Teachers National Association.
Voice/Piano/Musical Theatre/Early Childhood Music Instructor
Tara is an educator and vocalist. Her training and experience have spanned the genres of opera, musical theatre, folk and jazz. A few of her favorite roles she’s played are Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, Clarice in A Servant of Two Masters, and Jeanette in Barbara’s Blue Kitchen.
Finding her love for classical singing at the age of 14 in West Point, New York, she began training under the guidance of soprano Catherine Flynn. There she sang with NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) Area All State Choir and in the Boston Music Festival. Both her voice teacher and her choir director, Chris Reynolds had a profound effect on her life as they encouraged her to pursue singing and demonstrated a pedagogy rooted in the joy of music. Tara remembers her voice teacher taking her to see the St. Olaf Choir sing at Carnegie Hall and how it felt to have an educator truly invest in the growth and enrichment of their students.
In college, Tara first studied with Gerald Dolter at Texas Tech University. During her time in Lubbock, she appeared in productions with the Texas Tech Opera, Texas Tech Theatre and Lubbock Moonlight Musicals. She was a soloist for the Texas Tech Jazz Combo, Choral Scholar at First Christian Church and a soprano in the Lubbock Chorale. Under the baton of John Dixon, she toured England with the Summer Choral Institute of St. John’s College, Cambridge University premiering pieces by Eric Whitacre. One of her fondest musical memories is singing beneath the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and hearing the long echoes up and down the aisles.
Tara went on to study voice at the University of North Texas with Jeffrey Snider and Inci Bashar, who was named 2009’s Teacher of the Year’ by Classical Singer Journal. While in Denton she was the music director for ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with Denton Community Theatre’s Summer Camp and has appeared in productions with Denton Music Theatre and Denton Black Box Theatre. She is currently the Artistic Director for ‘Cirque du Horror’ composed by local musician David Pierce.
After college, Tara taught voice, piano, aural skills, theory and early childhood music at the Julio D. Perfecto School of Music, a non-profit aiming to make quality music instruction accessible to lower-income students. This project of love furthered her determination to hone her pedagogical skills. She realized she enjoyed teaching as much as performing and loved passing on the excellent technique and the joy of music that had been instilled in her by her teachers.
Tara has also taught English in both Japan and Mexico and is grateful for the musical exchanges and experiences these stints abroad have brought. She was a soloist at the Jozenji Jazz Festival in Sendai, Japan and the first American to play taiko drums in the Mito, Ibaraki Summer Matsuri, a traditional Japanese festival.
Tara now lives with her husband in Denton, Texas. Her current projects include creating life-size puppets for a vaudeville style musical circus, performing with local literary and artist collective ‘Spiderweb Salon’, and writing songs for use in early childhood education.
Piano/Beginning Voice Instructor
Wes is a pianist and vocalist with experience in both the jazz and classical fields. Born and raised in the Chicago area, he has since relocated to Denton to study Jazz Piano Performance at the University of North Texas.
He began to study piano at the age of five, while also singing in (and accompanying for) his elementary school choir. As Wes continued his studies into middle and high school, band director and trombonist Brian Jacobi introduced him to jazz, and he fell in love. He began to take jazz lessons concurrently with classical starting in high school, where he continued to excel in musical endeavors such as chamber choir, jazz band and musical theatre. He took part multiple times in the All-State chorus at the Illinois Music Education Conference, also taking first place in the Composition Contest for his solo piano works.
Currently, you can find Wes performing in groups such as the Three O’Clock Lab Band and the UNT Jazz Singers, along with his own small jazz projects. He has a profound passion for music, which he hopes to impart on his students at NSSOTA.