Margaret Perry, Executive Director
Margaret Perry has been a music educator for 38 years. Trained originally as a harpsichordist, Ms. Perry performed with Baroque music groups around Texas, and served for several years as the pianist for the Houston Ballet. Ms. Perry has taught music in both public and private schools in the U.S. and Europe, and has maintained a private piano teaching practice in Austin for more than three decades. She has lectured extensively on the lives of composers and opera history for both children’s classes and adult opera audiences, and has created curricula for general musical studies for many ages. Ms. Perry also serves as a consultant for community arts education providers on issues of management and advocacy.
Ms. Perry has been a trustee for nine non-profit boards in the Austin area, and was elected chairman of three of these. She served for six years on the Board of Directors for the National Guild for Community Schools of the Arts based in Manhattan. She is currently a trustee for Austin Classical Guitar and La Follia, and she now serves in an advisory capacity for KMFA, Creative Action Project, Chamber Music in Public Schools (CHAMPS), and the Physics Advisory Board at the University of Texas.
In April of 2000, she became the founding director of the Armstrong Community Music School, the first music school in the world to be established by an opera company, after serving as the Director of Education of Austin Lyric Opera for eighteen years. In March of 2003, the city of Austin presented Ms. Perry a Community Service Award, and the same year the State of Texas declared a day in her honor for thirty years of arts advocacy and education. In 2010, Ms. Perry was given a “Profiles in Power: Women of Influence” award by the Austin Business Journal. In the summer of 2012, she was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame and received an award for service to the community arts field from the National Guild for Community Arts Education.
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|Faculty and Staff|
|Keith Allegretti, Piano, Composition
Keith Allegretti is a pianist and composer currently pursuing his DMA at the University of Texas at Austin. He has been an active educator in Ann Arbor, Santa Fe, Houston, and Austin, giving private lessons in piano, ear training, sight singing, music theory, and composition. A frequent performer, he regularly plays old and contemporary styles of music on the piano and accompanies vocalists and instrumentalists. Recently, he has been featured as a pianist by the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium, and as a conductor for UT Landmarks Sound in Sculpture. His piano teaching focuses on musical expression, interpretation, and clean technique, with an emphasis on collaborative playing.
|Dr. Risa Ando, Violin
A native of Tokyo, Japan, Dr. Risa Ando earned her Doctorate of Musical Arts in violin performance at UT and received highest honors at Tokyo Gakugei University in violin performance as an undergraduate student. During the time of graduate studies, she achieved a position as a member of the Austin Lyric Opera by way of selective auditions. Moreover, she won the “Chamber Music International Competition” while performing with the Clarke Piano Trio and was presented the “Student Award” for her accomplishments at UT. In order to sustain a diverse musical career, she gives recitals in Germany, Austria, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, USA, and enjoys playing music of different genres.
|Andrea Angelo, Director of Development
Andrea Angelo brings her nonprofit experience, entrepreneurial spirit, and years of hard work on arts and education boards to ACMS. Dedicated to community engagement, relationship building, and stewardship, Andrea Angelo is leading an outstanding Development team, implementing best practices and strategic initiatives. Previously a Director with the Nevada Museum of Art, she brings expertise in advancement, philanthropy and leadership management. Andrea has worked passionately for our school for many years as a volunteer, donor, and Chairman of our Education Committee and Advisory Board. Andrea holds a Masters Degree in Information Science from Drexel University and a BA in Art History from Pennsylvania State University.
|Kerri Atwood, Early Childhood
Kerri Atwood received her BFA in Theater from Southern Methodist University and then promptly moved to Austin to be part of the Live Music Capital of the World! In the past seventeen years, while being a public school teacher and also a nanny, Kerri has started a pop punk band that traveled the world, performed in the highly acclaimed musical by Austin's Rude Mechs "I've Never Been So Happy", sung 1930's music in a cabaret that toured throughout Texas,voiced the singing wildflower for the City of Austin's "Grow Green" water conservation commercial, and currently sings and writes music with Austin's space dance band, Pong.
|Sage Holli Bara, Early Childhood
Sage Holli Bara has been performing since the age of three, she has been in over 200 musical and theatrical productions across the country. She is an award winning playwright, a composer and a lyricist and some of her musical work continues to be performed by the folk band Gypsy Fire. For 32 years, Sage has been devoted to youth arts education. She continues to be inspired by the art of teaching and loves connecting with children and their families through music. She is thrilled to return home to Austin after running her own performing and visual arts school for the past ten years in Houston, TX.
|Anthony Basini, Guitar
Anthony Basini is a musician in an all-encompassing sense. He is a guitarist, singer, composer and educator. He has been professionally performing since 2009, has recently finished his first two film scores and began teaching in 2015 with specialized experience in special education music instruction. Anthony is an enthusiastic and dedicated instructor whose fun and personal approach to teaching the guitar keeps his students engaged, excited and encouraged.
Anthony has spent his entire college career at a multitude of institutions studying music in many forms including music therapy, music composition/theory and music performance. He has spent the last few years in Boston, MA attending the world-renowned Berklee College of Music. At Berklee, Anthony studied under the likes of Walter Beasley, Don Lappin, Omar Thomas and Thaddeus Hogarth among others.
Anthony has performed all over the United States from the Carolinas to California and is well versed in many styles including jazz, funk, metal, pop, soul/R&B and rock. He has opened for notable international acts including The Bret Michaels Band, Apocalyptica and solo guitar sensation Angel Vivaldi.
|Lucy Bergin, Early Childhood
Lucy Bergin began formal music instruction at the age of seven, and moved on at the age of fourteen to study vocal and flute performance at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School in Boston. A double major of music performance and German literature at Wellesley College, she studied privately in the studios of Suzanne Stumpf and Gale Fuller, performed as a soloist with the Wellesley College Choir, Chamber Singers, and Chamber Music Ensemble, and directed the Tupelo's, Wellesley's original a cappella group. Lucy studied German at the Middlebury Summer Immersion German School and performed her premiere operatic role as Mrs. Peachum in Die Drei Groschenoper. She also spent a year living in Vienna, Austria, studying German literature and musicology, focusing on art song and music of 1840-1870 at the Universitaet Wien and performing sacred music. As a professional, Lucy has studied voice with teachers Phyllis Hoffman and Pamela Dellal and maintains an active teaching studio of voice, flute, and guitar students. Recent recordings include Clavieruebung III: The Chorales with Canto Armonico, and Still, Still Night with the Boston Choral Ensemble. Fluent in French and German, Lucy adores music from Europe and the Caribbean, but she will also look for opportunities to bring Gershwin and jazz into the classroom. She looks forward to welcoming students into her studio and classes, and is ecstatic about joining the Armstrong community.
|Jeane Burks, Curriculum and Program Consultant
Jeane is a fourth generation musician and sang in her first choir at the ripe old age of three. An early childhood and children’s music educator for over twenty years, Jeane is passionate about the power of music to, not only enrich, but transform lives. Having led and directed education and music programs for infants through high school students in both secular and religious settings, Jeane currently teaches for St. Francis School.
Jeane helped to establish the Early Childhood Music Program for ACMS and worked in a variety of roles including summer camps, opera education programs, and music classes for SafePlace and The Housing Authority of Austin.
Jeane holds a Bachelors of Music from Baylor University, a Masters of Music from the University of Texas, is a member of TMEA, TCDA, NACCP, NACED, The Chorister’s Guild and is a certified Music Together teacher. Jeane presents music education workshops for teachers and parents and has presented at conferences for private schools including the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools and the Texas Association of Baptist Schools.
|Liz Cass, Community Liaison & Voice
Liz Cass is a frequent soloist with Austin Lyric Opera, Chorus Austin and many other arts organizations in and around Austin. Ms. Cass’s upcoming schedule includes a tour to L.A. with Austin’s own Rude Mechanicals, a Messiah in Guatemala City and Antigua, Guatemala, Lucia di Lammermoor with Austin Lyric Opera, Bach Mass in b minor with Chorus Austin, and many recital engagements in Austin, TX and Greenville, SC. In addition to keeping up with her busy performance schedule, Liz maintains a large and diverse voice studio at the Armstrong Community Music School.
|Phil Davidson, Violin
Phil Davidson is a Suzuki violin teacher, with training registered through book 4. Phil’s teaching emphasizes development of functional instrumental abilities, including playing by ear, good practice habits, critical thinking, theory, history, observation and listening to a wide variety of music. Most of his new students have been adult beginners or kids ages 4-8. Phil received his B.A. in music from Drake University. Since moving to Austin in 2002, Phil has actively performed in several rock and Americana bands including the Invincible Czars, and he keeps one foot in the classical music world with the Chanterelle Duo.
|Julia Di Fiore, Registrar
Julia Di Fiore is an active singer from Denton, TX and holds degrees from Vanderbilt University and Florida State University in Voice Performance. She recently made her professional opera debut with Alamo City Opera as the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola. In Austin, Ms. Di Fiore has sung with the Austin Opera Chorus, Tinsel Singers, Panoramic Voices, One Ounce Opera, the Ars Longa Ensemble, Inversion Ensemble, and Cantorum. Other professional concert work includes performances with the Austin Baroque Orchestra, Music City Baroque (Nashville), and the Tallahassee Bach Parley. Lately, Ms. Di Fiore received first place for Best Rossini Performance in the Great Composers Competition. Her other accomplishments include winner for the Classical Singer Magazine’s Online Summer Competition, second place in The American Prize in Opera, a finalist for the National Opera Association’s Young Artist Competition, and scholarships from the Tallahassee Music Guild, the Young Singers Foundation, and Florida State University.
|Denise Donahue, Piano & Guitar
Denise Donahue graduated cum laude from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music focusing on classical guitar and piano performance, music theory, composition as well as music business. After moving back to New York she earned her degree in audio recording and midi technology from the Audio Recording Technology Institute where she studied audio engineering and production. Denise has combined her talents, skills and experience to compose, arrange, produce, and record two original studio albums which she promotes online and through live performances.
Denise has been teaching since 1998, providing guidance to students of all ages, styles and abilities. Her teaching philosophy is to create an enthusiastic environment where students can progress while still having fun. She tailors her lesson plans to help students deal with frustration, patiently guiding them toward effective learning patterns that achieve progressive goals and bring feelings of accomplishment, joy and a love for music!
|Mathew Edwardsen, Voice
Mathew Edwardsen is excited to be in Austin! Mathew has been performing since Junior high and went on to complete a BFA in Musical Theatre at Millikin University in Illinois. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting, he discovered opera, which lead to being an Apprentice Artist with Santa Fe Opera and working on his Masters in Opera at Yale University. Since then he has enjoyed a career that has dabbled in many platforms of performance, from opera and musical theatre to plays and commercials. In lessons, he will focus on building a strong and consistent vocal technique. He has worked with students across a wide variety of vocal styles.
|Julie Fiore, Piano & Voice
Julie Fiore is the Executive Director and Founder of One Ounce Opera, and holds an MM from Lamont School of Music (University of Denver) and BM from University of North Texas. She is an active solo and chamber artist who has extensive choral and operatic experience. She grew up competing as a pianist and writing little songs with her guitar, but her love was almost always being on stage. She understands the needs of her students, regardless of genre or level of study. Her approach is personal and organic, confidence-building and foundational. Julie specializes in combating stage fright, performance coaching for Austin musicians, and audition prep, but she loves it ALL. She’s had a private studio for over 15 years, and is a master teacher for Kids in a New Groove, a local nonprofit providing no-cost music lessons to young people in the foster system.
|Elisa Garret, Early Childhood
Elisa Garrett has been with Armstrong since February 2016. She is a Texas certified bilingual educator with 6 years of experience teaching in some of AISD's most economically challenged schools. During her time in those schools she came to love the community she served, but wanted to help her students in ways that can't be measured on standardized tests. She left the classroom to create her own bilingual children's music and movement program called Bilingual Boogie. Her success with Bilingual Boogie led her to Armstrong where she has been lucky enough to wear many hats including the curriculum writer and teacher of the Bilingual Fun: Canta y Habla classes. Also thanks to Armstrong, once a week Elisa gets to teach music to an amazing group of children at Safe Place's Charter School, serving children in Kinder - 8th grade. She routinely participates in events with the DARS (TX Dept. of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services) families and is looking forward to expanding her ties within the Armstrong and Austin community. Whenever Elisa is not teaching, she enjoys jogging through the greenbelt with her husband, Ian and son, Myles.
|Sarah Beth Gooding, Director of Programs & Voice
Sarah Beth Gooding holds a Master of Music in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from Westminster Choir College and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance with a minor in Italian Studies from the University of Houston Moores School of Music. Sarah Beth enjoys working with students of all ages in a wide range of genres. As a private instructor, she provides a warm and supportive environment that focuses on developing a strong technical foundation and fostering creative expression. Sarah Beth is also one of the faculty members for the Music for Little Mozarts program. As the Director of Programs, Sarah Beth manages all ACMS programming at the Westlake location and in the community. She provides logistical support to ACMS faculty and builds strong relationships with partner organizations throughout Austin.
|Amy Hackerd, Early Childhood & Registrar
Amy Hackerd was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. After attending Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, she went west looking for the sun and ended up back in the practice rooms at Arizona State University where she double majored in Music Therapy and Music Theatre Performance. She then moved to NYC and lived abroad for ten years. Her eclectic vocal career has taken her from singing with the Detroit Met Opera to conducting music therapy at nursing homes. When not at ACMS, she sings as a 'sweet inspiration' at The Continental Club for the Elvis shows, and has her own jewelry line (Ole Licorice Designs).
|Elayne Harris, Piano
Elayne Harris is an active performer and music educator. She has performed with a variety of large ensembles and chamber groups, including: Ensemble X, Massanutten Brass Band, the Mid-Atlantic Wind Symphony, Finger Lakes Community Orchestra, Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Concert Band, University-Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra, and the Staunton Music Festival. She has also been active in commissioning and performing new works for percussion in both solo and chamber settings. Elayne holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from James Madison University, where she also received a Bachelor of Music, studying with Bill Rice, Michael Overman, and Marlon Foster. She received a Master of Music from Ithaca College, where she studied with Gordon Stout.
Elayne has taught private percussion and piano students of all ages in the Harrisonburg and Fredericksburg areas of Virginia, and Ithaca, New York. At JMU, she taught private percussion lessons to percussion majors, directed beginning steel band, and taught Percussion Techniques to future music educators. As a lecturer in music at Washington and Lee University, she taught private drum set lessons to non-music majors. Elayne currently teaches private piano, drum set, and percussion students in the Austin area. She free-lances in the community, works as an accompanist for kidsActing, and performs regularly with the Inside Out Steelband.
|Alex Hartley, Piano
Alex Hartley is a freelance pianist and music teacher. After moving to Austin, TX, Alex quickly gained respect in the community leading to a spot on the Top 10 Keyboardist List at the 2014 Austin Music Awards. A graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Alex spent his collegiate years touring the Northeast before landing a gig with Carnival Cruise Lines performing nightly throughout the Caribbean. Currently, Alex regularly performs solo jazz piano at vineyards, country clubs and retirement communities throughout Austin and Texas Hill Country and can be seen performing with local indie-rock trio, Yuma.
|Scott Horton, Lute & Guitar
Scott Horton studied lute with Nigel North at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He studied classical guitar with Wolfgang Justen at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Further studies were with Pepe Romero, Paul O’Dette and Anthony Bailes. Mr. Horton has taught at the University of Texas, University of North Texas, University of St. Thomas and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He has performed in productions of "Orfeo" and "Poppea" for Houston Grand Opera and "Ariodante" for the Dallas Opera. He is a member of the Austin groups La Follia and Texas Early Music Project.
|Larissa Irizarry, Violin & Viola
Larissa Irizarry is a recent transplant to Austin from DC, Maryland, and Virginia area where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music at Washington Adventist University and where she was an active teacher and performer. She studied violin under the tutelage of Dr. Preston Hawes, Carla Trynchuk and David DeRoest and viola under Dr. Victor Yuzefovich. She has been a regular performer at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble and has been an active performer in diverse chamber ensembles, including the New England Youth Ensemble,, the WAU Baroque Consort, the Andrews University Symphony Orchestra, The Sinfonietta, the Delicata String Quartet, the Oklahoma Baptist University Opera Theatre Orchestra, the OBU-Shawnee Community Orchestra, as well as a guest performer for more than a dozen chamber ensembles in the DMV area.
Larissa came to the realization that she loved teaching the violin when in 2009 she received a violin teaching assistantship at the Conservatorio de Música de la Universidad de Montemorelos in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Since then, she has taught from her private studio and has worked in creating a string program at a multiple grade school, Spencerville Adventist Academy. Her teaching philosophy is based on the idea that optimal progress with the instrument is achieved only as a student learns to love the instrument and the pieces played. She adjust to the needs of the students in providing different genres of music and aids in orchestral playing. She passionately believes in the necessity of art and artistic expression through performance. She strives to instill in her students a growth-mindset, discipline through practice, and passion for music.
|Sasha Klare-Ayvazian, Piano
Sasha Klare-Ayvazian is an educator, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. Sasha is from Northampton, MA where he worked for over two years as the music teacher, band director, and chorus director at the New Hingham Elementary School. Sasha is a professionally licensed K-12 teacher in MA. Sasha received a BA in Music Theory from Oberlin College in 2010. Sasha has lived in Austin for the last three years. He recently completed his MM in Music and Human Learning at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to working at Armstrong, Sasha teaches piano privately and leads the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Jazz Ensemble. Sasha leads his own band American Dreamer and performs as a sideman in Kyloe Blue.
|Leigh Mahoney, Violin
Leigh Mahoney is a founding member and first violinist of the Tosca String Quartet. She has toured the world twice with David Byrne and the Tosca Strings. She has performed and recorded with David Byrne, Ray Benson, Bob Schneider, Dixie Chicks, Kip Winger, Blondie Chaplin, Heather Greene and Susanna Baca, and has played on the soundtracks for Waking Life (2001) Ladron, Borderland, and El Cantante and the PBS documentary Last Best Hope. She is also a member of Glovertango, BARBWIRE, American Repertory Ensemble, Golden Hornet Project, Erik and the She-Wolves, Austin Lyric Opera, and the Austin Chamber Music Center. An avid tango violinist, she has participated in master classes in Buenos Aires by renowned tango violinists Mauricio Marcelli and Raul Gallo. She was nominated for the Austin Critic’s Table Award for her performance of Augusta Read Thomas’ Spirit Musings. Leigh received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon Institute and her Masters Degree in Music from the University of Texas at Austin.
|Toshio Mana, Bass & Early Chilhdood
Toshio Mana received his Bachelor of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2000 before moving on to cut his teeth in the music scenes of Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia. As a bassist and sideman, he has performed across the country playing “a little bit o’ everything” - rock, pop, jazz, and classical.
|Paul Matthews, Piano
Born and raised in New York metropolitan area. Undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. Upon finishing school, relocated to Chicago in 1994 and worked as blues/rock sideman for several years. Returned to New York in 1998 to study jazz and Latin jazz with Bruce Barth and Delfin Perez, and to study classical piano with Martin Soderberg. Formed a trio. Recorded an album. Scored two films. Moved to Austin in 2001. Did his graduate work in Composition with a Jazz Emphasis at The University of Texas. Has played with every major Latin jazz and Salsa ensemble in Texas. Winner of Univision’s Premios de Texas 2006 award for Best New Artist and 2007 award for Best Salsa/Merengue. Has played with some of the biggest names in Salsa, including legendary Puerto Rican singer Tony Vega who said of Paul to a crowd one evening in San Antonio, TX (in Spanish), “This guy may not understand a word I am saying, but he gets the soul of the music…” Leader of Latin orchestra Timberos Del Norte and producer/composer of their debut recording (Austin American-Statesman Top Ten Releases of 2014). Continues to compose/produce across many genres. Member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Enjoys teaching all ages and skill levels.
|Dr. Rachel McInturff, Director of Finance and Administration, Piano and Composition Faculty
Dr. McInturff holds degrees from the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City (bachelors and masters in composition) and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition from the University of Texas at Austin. She taught university level courses in electroacoustic composition at UMKC, as well as UT, from 1988-1999. She has been on the faculty of the Armstrong Community Music School since its opening in 2000, teaching composition, piano, music theory and sight singing. She currently also serves as the school’s Associate Director (since 2008), assisting in strategic planning, financial tracking and all logistical matters for daily operations.
|Roseminna McLeod Watson, Violin
Roseminna McLeod Watson is the former first violinist of the Aiana String Quartet, among other things.At the age of three she began work on the violin and one year later finally acknowledged her need for some help with the endeavor. Her mother, Clyde Watson, taught her for the following six years until she went on to study at the New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School with Melba Sandberg and Magdalena Richter. After earning a B.A. in Graphic Design from Yale University in 2005, Roseminna continued her musical studies at Stony Brook University where she completed a Masters in Violin Performance while studying with Ani Kavafian, Pamela Frank, Phillip Setzer, Phillipe Graffin, and Soovin Kim. In 2009, Roseminna performed the Berg Violin Concerto with the Stony Brook Symphony orchestra as a winner of the 2008/2009 Concerto Competition. In 2010, she completed an Artist’s Diploma in Chamber Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she studied violin with two-time Naumberg winner, Ian Swenson, and had the opportunity to collaborate in performance with numerous faculty members and guest artists including Jean-Michel Fonteneau, Axel Strauss, Paul Hersh, David Tanenbaum, Jennifer Culp, Jodi Levitz and Menahem Pressler. Roseminna joined the Aiana String Quartet in 2010, as first violinist. The quartet won the String Prize at the Coleman International Chamber Music Competition in 2011 and was awarded the position of Scholarship Quartet in Residence at San Diego State University. The Quartet went on to become the Young Professional String Quartet in Residence at the Butler School of Music at UT Austin under the mentorship of the Miró Quartet. Since the Aiana String Quartet’s amicable dissolution in 2013, Roseminna has been rebalancing her energy, reconnecting with her deep calling as a musician, artist, and writer, and allowing new channels to be opened in all realms of her being. She is ecstatic to have recently launched the performance entity, MOHINYA, that will continue developing as an integration of all aspects of her creative self.
|Dr. Larisa Montanaro, Early Childhood Music
Larisa Montanaro is from northern New York but after freezing in the cold snowy winters for 21 years, she moved to Austin for sunnier skies and greater opportunities. She specialized in avant garde music and vocal pedagogy at UT, and completed her Doctorate in Voice in 2004. Upon graduating, she branched-out into the world of early childhood music. It was a bit of a fluke. When she observed her first Music Together® class, she had no idea the impact it would have. She became certified as a teacher in 2004 and now she is the Director of our Music Together® program. Larisa can also be seen singing around Austin, whether in a jazz duo with David Webb, a roots rock band called the Rust Tones, or Walter Tragert and the Rated G's. She released her debut jazz album in 2014.
|Sonia Nizny, Voice
Sonia Nizny teaches voice with an emphasis on breath, quality of tone, and emotional connection to the music. She holds a B.M. in Vocal Performance in Opera from New World School of the Arts College Conservatory and an M.M. from the Chicago College of Performing Arts. Ms. Nizny has taught privately in Chicago, Jerusalem, and New York City, and is a current member of N.A.T.S. (The National Association of Teachers of Singing). An experienced singer herself, she has performed internationally singing opera and musical theater, and has experience in recording studios as well as voiceover work. She has previously taught youth choirs, directed local musicals, and taught basic musicianship classes in New York City in addition to offering private lessons.
|Terri Olsen, Early Childhood Music Assistant
Born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas, Terri Olsen has been singing since she was four years old and began songwriting at age 13. She is the proud mother of five children and made music-making a central part of their daily life - guitars, drums, and piano were the instruments of choice! Terri’s love of people and devotion to service has led her to serve as a music director and worship leader for more than twenty years in addition to her work with the Early Childhood Music program at ACMS. She is currently publishing several sing-along children’s books and can be seen throughout the community at our off-site Free Family Music events. Terri believes that music quiets the soul and directs the heart for purpose and meaning, and is thrilled to be working with families to help them discover the joy of making music together.
|Lucas Quintana, Piano
Lucas Quintana has played multiple instruments since the age of 11 years old (Trumpet, Clarinet, Alto Sax, Latin Percussion, and Piano). His main instrument is piano. Lucas directed two musical groups called 'Buena Onda' and 'Tradicion', in Los Angeles in 2014-2015. During his collaborations with these bands, he played piano and vocals with Tradicion and was lead vocalist for Buena Onda. The groups focused on Cuban music and Latin Jazz. Lucas also has vast experience playing professionally in Puerto Rico and teaching piano performance and music theory independently.
As part of his formation, Lucas studied Jazz piano under two Berklee College of Music Alumni. Quintana also studied piano at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico in the Department of Jazz and Caribbean music. He recently finished composing his first album that is in the process of being recorded. The album is set to be launched at the end of 2017.
|Louis Ontko, Piano
Louis Ontko loves to teach music. He studied at Florida State University where he graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor's Degree in Music. Everyday he is grateful to serve people by sharing the magic of music with them.
|Tom Ray, Guitar
Tom Ray first picked up the guitar at young age after hearing the band Deep Purple- in his shining career, he has never looked back. His early studies consisted of the jazz, rock, and blues styles: his musical range has been growing by the day.
Tom’s talent on the guitar, spurred by his intense passion, developed at an immense rate. A few years after starting with the guitar, Tom began teaching students of his own and even founded a small studio. His musical interest brought him to the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory (Ohio) where he increased his repertoire under the instruction of Loris Chobanion, attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Classical Guitar Performance.
Tom proceeded to teach guitar at the Aurora School of Music (Ohio) where as a leading professor for four years, he taught over 50 students of various ages and levels in classical, rock, and jazz guitar. After the tenure at the Aurora School of Music, Tom moved to New York to pursue a career in music. He has performed in several solo recitals in addition to gigs and recordings with many local bands, recording artists, and pit orchestras.
Tom always explores the boundaries of the guitar’s capabilities. To date, Tom has maintained the drive to learn as many styles and techniques as possible. An approachable and energetic virtuoso, Tom cares to inspire a passion for music and the guitar into the hearts of people.
|Sara Hailu Sheerin, Piano & Early Childhood
Sara Hailu Sheerin has 15 years of piano teaching experience and holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from Wheaton College. “Playing the piano has been a great source of happiness for me since childhood. I love to share this passion with others and am thrilled to equip students with the skills to make the music their own.”
She recently moved to Austin from the Chicago area, and spent her childhood in Northern Virginia and Ethiopia. While teaching in Chicago, Ms. Sara’s students had opportunities to play annually at MTNA events such as the Jazz Festival and the Sonatina Festival where her students placed as gold medalists for three consecutive years. As a piano teacher, Ms. Sara maintains a high standard with all students. Group piano parties, recitals, festivals and competitions are an important part of student enrichment. Inspired by the curiosity and energy of very young children, and a desire to offer quality programs for even the littlest musicians, Ms. Sara attended teacher training in Musikgarten and Music Together.
When not teaching in the studio or practicing piano, Ms. Sara enjoys exploring the beauty and variety of the natural spaces around Austin, reading 20th Century fiction and loves to make crafts with her children. She is a member of MTNA (Music Teachers National Association), TMTA (Texas Music Teachers Association) and ADMTA (Austin District Music Teachers Association).
|Ruby Jane Smith, Violin
Ruby Jane, an Artist in Residence at ACMS, is an eighteen year old fiddle prodigy turned national touring artist. She has been addicted to the fiddle since she was 2 years old. She was the youngest ever invited fiddler on the Grand Ole Opry. She has toured and performed with Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Big and Rich, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Blues Traveler, Mark O'Connor, Asleep at the Wheel, and many more. Born in Texas, raised in Mississippi, and now in Austin, Ruby Jane has fronted her own band and toured for years. Recent performances include Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Festival, and SXSW. She writes and sings her songs in a voice that resonates with compelling emotion. Her debut, self-released studio album, "Celebrity (Empire of Emptiness)," was released in June 2012. Her new single "Ticket Out", recorded in Los Angeles with producer Mario Marchetti (Black Eyed Peas, Jennifer Lopez, JoJo, and more), will hit the worldwide web in November, 2013.
|Dr. Gordon Sparber, Piano
After earning a doctorate in piano performance from the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Ellen Mack, Gordon Sparber began teaching piano for Peabody’s Preparatory School and working as a freelance pianist in Baltimore. While in Baltimore, he performed on such series as Res Musica Baltimore and Music at Loyola and was the pianist in the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. At the same time, he began writing on musical subjects, eventually becoming a music critic for the Washington Post and other newspapers and a fellow of the National Arts Journalism Program. Mr. Sparber's career took an unexpected turn when he became a bread baker and business owner, creating Ollie's Bakery in Winston-Salem, N.C. He recently moved to Austin from northern Michigan, where he was working as the pianist
|Mike Stavitz, Piano
Mike Stavitz has been teaching music for over 10 years. He has a degree in Music Education from Berklee College of Music and has taught in the public school system as well as both private and group lessons. He is avid performer with national touring experience, and is now happy to join the Austin music scene from the northeast.
|Bryan Sunderman, Guitar
Bryan Sunderman began his enthusiastic pursuit of guitar at the age of 13. By 15, he was coordinating a band, collaborating with other musicians, and performing in church. As a young adult, he began his classical study at the Austin Orpheus School of Music under the instruction of Robert Gibson. During that time, Bryan was awarded first place in the Eastfield Collegiate Guitar Competition. He was then admitted to the prestigious Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied with the highly acclaimed “University Distinguished Teaching Professor” and world-wide performer, Adam Holzman. He has performed his classical repertory in and around Austin and abroad in Cervo, Italy and Morelia, Mexico. Bryan also is a member of the Austin soul/funk band KP and the Boom Boom.
World renowned guitarists that he has studied under through private lessons and master classes include Andrew Zohn, Richard Todd, Jeffery McFadden, Lorenzo Micheli, Matteo Mela, Ana Vidovic and Elliot Fisk. In 2012, Bryan received his Master’s Degree in Classical Guitar Performance, and continues to perform and teach in Austin.
|Kamila Swerdloff, Piano
Kamila Swerdloff, a native of Northwest Oregon, is a pianist, teacher, singer-songwriter, and composer. She holds a Bachelors of Music degree in Piano Performance from Ithaca College, where she studied with Phiroze Mehta. Kamila has been an active teacher since 2010. She believes in creating an inspiring and motivating learning environment for her students by providing them with a solid musical foundation as well as encouraging them to play music that they are passionate about. She has served as an instructor and counselor at the Summer Piano Institute in Ithaca, NY, a well as an adjudicator and presenter for the New York State Music Teachers Association. She was recently a part of the Astoria Music Festival and the Austin Chamber Music Festival, and is involved in several both classical and nonclassical collaborative projects in Austin.
|X'ene Sky Taylor, Piano
X’ene Sky Taylor was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She began ballet lessons at two, but her parents quickly realized that her real interest was in the piano and began lessons at the age of four. As X’ene continued to progress in piano, she also began studying harp and later voice. At thirteen years old, X’ene and her family moved from Los Angeles, California to Houston, Texas. There, X’ene was accepted into the High School of Performing and Visual Arts as a Piano Major. X’ene also divided her time between several choirs, performing in Carmina Burana, La Boheme, Madame Butterfly and Porgy and Bess.
X’ene is a Piano Performance Major in The Butler School of Music at The University of Texas. There she has studied with Dr. Betty Mallard until her retirement and her current professor Nancy Garrett. X’ene is also currently studying Piano Pedagogy with Sophia Gilmson and has found that teaching and affecting young lives has been her greatest accomplishment. In her down time X’ene loves to read, play with her pug Pompey and exercise. X’ene is extremely grateful to her parents who made her musical education a priority and would one day like to give back and start her own music and arts school in Harlem, New York.
|Courtney Tellman, Development Coordinator
Courtney Tellman studied vocal performance at Wichita State University with Dr. Vernon Yenne. While there, she was a soloist and member of the Madrigal Singers, Acapella Choir, and Concert Chorale. Since moving to Austin in 2008, she has sung with the chorus of Austin Opera as well as Spotlight on Opera. She was a student at Armstrong Community Music School before joining the staff in 2012 and continues her studies with Liz Cass.
|Emily Thomas, Voice & Registrar
Dallas native Emily Thomas, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Voice Performance and History from Texas State University. There she studied with renowned mezzo-soprano Dr. Soon Cho, and tenor Cary Michaels. In 2012, she graduated with an Associates of Arts from Tyler Junior College, where she studied with soprano Jeanie Oxler. Emily has served as a professional soloist in church choirs throughout the Austin area and has been a part of many university ensembles and productions. During her time in university, Emily had the distinct honor of working under world class conductors and performers such as Cheryl Parrish, Karl Dent, Craig Hella Johnson and Dr. Anton Armstrong. Most recently, Emily was featured in Opera San Anotnio's production of Carmen, and worked in collaboration with local composer Dr.Karol Ann Badgett to premier the song cycle entitled, Homestead. As a voice teacher, Emily strives to help her students find their own unique voice through a mix of the Alexander Technique and Bel Canto school of teaching. She resides in the Austin area where she works as a Registrar for Armstrong Community Music School, teaches voice privately at Akins High School, and continues her studies in voice with One Ounce Opera director Julie Fiore.
|Walter Tragert, Early Childhood
If Walter Tragert wasn’t born to be a singer-songwriter, it became his obvious destiny not long afterward. His obvious gift for words and music – plus delivering them with passion, sincerity and emotional impact – has taken him to some interesting and varied places. A beloved local favorite in the very musical city of Austin, Texas for some 20 years now, he also has devoted followings in such far-flung locales as Japan and Italy. And most important of all, his musical journey has brought Tragert to a place of creative and personal satisfaction and fulfillment.
|June Turner, Flute
June was one of the first Suzuki flute teachers in the U.S. Even before there was training in the flute method in this country, she became a founding member of the Heart of America Suzuki Teachers because she believed so whole-heartedly in the principles of music learning that Shinichi Suzuki espoused. Moreover, once training was available in the U.S., she felt that she learned to be a much better flutist than she had in her previous formal training. In more than 30 years as a Suzuki teacher, June has seen several students go on to musical careers, but most of them go into other fields, armed with great self-confidence, mental acuity, and memorization skills that the method inculcates, along with wonderful memories of the fun of music-making with friends and family. (June can also give lessons to flutists who are already playing in school band, bringing effective Suzuki methods into a traditional lesson format.)
|Karen White, Piano
Karen White brings thirty years of varied teaching experience and collaborative music-making to the school. She received her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Piano Performance from Texas Christian University under the tutelage of Lili Kraus. She went on to continue her studies in New York City where studied with Nina Svetlanova and taught at the Community Music Center under Dr. Robert Pace at Teachers College, Columbia University. She then moved to Madrid, Spain for three years where she taught in a private music academy and performed. She has spent several years exploring specialized work in the area of performance-related injuries including Alexander Technique and the work of Dorothy Taubman.
|Cynthia Wilson, Piano
Cynthia Wilson is a native of Warner Robins, Georgia and relocated to Austin in 2005 to complete a Master’s Degree in Piano Performance from the University of Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. Cynthia has been active as a teacher and accompanist for the past ten years, and has served on the piano faculty at the Armstrong Community Music School since 2007. She regularly participates in opera outreach performances for school children through ALO. For the past three seasons, Cynthia has been an opera pianist for Spotlight on Opera and has performed in concerts of opera scenes, art songs, and fully staged operas.
|Erin Ferguson Young, Piano
Erin Ferguson Young received her Artist Diploma from the nationally renowned High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas, where she studied under Elizabeth Stern and Sylvia Strong. After completing a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a Master of Music in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from Baylor University, Ms. Young joined the faculty of the Armstrong Community Music School in January 2001. She is the Youth Piano Program Coordinator for the Music for Little Mozarts program and maintains a private studio with students of all ages. Ms. Young performs in Austin and is a member of the Austin District Music Teachers Association.