Mr. Babbitt graduated in 1985 from the UWM with an MM degree in double bass performance. He has worked extensively throughout the Midwest as a professional bassist and educator.
As a performer he has worked with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, Festival City Symphony, Kenosha Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Philharmonic, Bel Canto Chorus and Orchestra, Skylight Opera, Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Florentine Opera and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He is also active as a jazz performer, having worked with Chuck Hedges, David Hazeltine and Manty Ellis.
Mr. Babbitt served as Wisconsin Conservatory of Music faculty chair of the String Department from 1996 to 1999 and has also served as adjunct faculty at UWM, UW-Stevens Point, Concordia University, Cardinal Stitch University, Carroll College, Alverno College Community Arts Department, the String Academy of Wisconsin and the Oshkosh Summer String Program.
Mr. Babbitt has been an instructor with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music since 1994 in bass, theory and music history.
MYSO alumna Sonora Brusubardis has been a coach for MYSO’s String Orchestra North for the last five years. In addition to her role as a MYSO coach, she is a violin instructor for MYSO’s Progressions Program. In 2018, Miss Sonora became certified to teach Suzuki violin and viola, and in 2020, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in violin and viola performance. She currently has a studio in the Summit area teaching violin, viola, and beginner piano to students of all ages.
Incoming Progressions Director Tiffany Chang was most recently an orchestra teacher in the Wauwatosa School District, and prior to that, taught orchestra in the school district of Beloit, Wisconsin. Ms. Chang received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree at the UW-Madison and is certified to teach instrumental music. She has played in a variety of groups, including the Beloit-Janesville Symphony, Manitowoc Symphony, Dubuque Symphony, the Wisconsin Intergenerational Orchestra, and was a founding member of the Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra and has served as coordinator and violin coach for WSMA Honors Orchestra.
Prelude Wind Ensemble Director Connie Fellows has been sharing the joy and excitement of music education and performance with beginner and intermediate band students for more than 35 years. Most recently, she has developed a strong and enthusiastic instrumental music program in four area Catholic Schools, including Holy Apostles in New Berlin, St. Anthony on the Lake in Pewaukee, St. Charles in Hartland, and St. Jerome School in Oconomowoc.
Connie and her husband, Mike Krofta, met in MYSO when it was MFY, and her children, Ryan and Erin, played their string and brass instruments in many of the MYSO performing groups. Connie and Mike are excited to be back at MYSO, team teaching the Prelude Wind Ensemble. A highlight of Connie’s MFY/MYSO career was the tour to Aberdeen, Scotland, for the Aberdeen International Orchestra Festival. She was honored to be chosen to perform in the International Orchestra with students from all over the world. She was the only one in her trumpet section that spoke English, but it didn’t matter; the conductor didn’t speak English either. Music truly is the universal language!
Mrs. Fellows received her Bachelor of Music Performance and Education degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Music degree from the University of Akron. While at Akron, Connie performed with the University of Akron Faculty Brass Quintet and area professional orchestras. She was the adjunct trumpet teacher and faculty brass quintet member at Youngstown State University in Ohio. She has performed with the Akron Symphony, Canton Symphony, Manchester Symphony, Cleveland Ballet Orchestra, and Cleveland Women’s Orchestra. As a member of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra (GBSO) for 20+ years, she even played Star Spangled Banner at a Green Bay Packers Game with the GBSO Brass Section. Connie was honored to receive the 2019 Civic Music Association of Milwaukee’s Instrumental Music Education Award for teaching excellence. In addition to her work as a music educator and performer, Connie is very active in her small Presbyterian church as the choir director and mission council chair.
Mrs. Fellows is excited to have the opportunity, through MYSO and its many benefactors, to bring the joy and excitement of music education and performance to students who otherwise may not have the opportunity to learn to play a band instrument. Learning and understanding music is a life long skill that can bring joy and beauty to one’s life. What an honor it is to have this moment to work with each of these young, creative, and eager students.
Ravenna Helson is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and Yale University where she received an MM degree and the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Award for Excellence in Chamber Music.
She has performed with the Detroit Symphony, Michigan Opera Theater, New Jersey Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Chicago Baroque Ensemble, Her Majesty’s Clerks and Comic Intermezzo.
In Milwaukee she has played with the Milwaukee Symphony, Skylight Opera Orchestra, Ensemble Musical Offering, Bel Canto Chorus and Orchestra and is currently principal cello of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra. Theater work includes the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Twelfth Night and Anna Karenina.
As a faculty member of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Alverno College and Carroll University, she has taught cello and chamber music and performed concerts and educational workshops with the Carroll String Trio. As a student she was invited to participate in the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico with Alexander Schneider’s NY String Orchestra and additionally has been a fellow at the Oberlin Baroque Institute, the International Baroque Institute at Longy and the Bach Aria Festival in New York.
Studies in Baroque cello/viola da gamba have been with Anner Bylsma, Phoebe Carrai, Catharina Meints and Enid Sutherland.
MYSO Scholars Cello Instructor Aidan Hogan is currently studying cello performance in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Having graduated from high school in 2019, Aidan quickly went on to pursue the avenues available to him pertaining to his passion for the cello. Today he performs as assistant principal cellist of the Kettle Moraine Symphony and frequently performs with other regional ensembles such as the Wisconsin Philharmonic and Milwaukee Philharmonic. In addition, Aidan organizes and performs recitals, often playing at events within his community. He has a small and growing studio of bright young cellists he instructs.
Dr. Janet Jensen serves as Progressions Director, and Music Director of Prelude Orchestra and the combined String Orchestras North and Central.
She joined the MYSO staff following her 2016 retirement from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was Professor of String Pedagogy and Associate Director of the School of Music. Her teaching responsibilities included preparation for teaching strings in multiple settings, coursework in string literature and repertoire, and conducting the non-major All-University String Orchestras. She also directed the masters degree in String Development, a degree focused on string teaching, performance and administrative skills. As Associate Director, she oversaw undergraduate admissions, advising, and scholarship and award allocation.
Prior to her UW-Madison appointment, Dr. Jensen held interim and instructor positions in string pedagogy and string education at Oberlin Conservatory, Bowling Green (OH) State University, and the University of Texas at Austin, and she taught instrumental music in Rockford, IL and Watertown and Madison for 10 years.
Herself an alumna of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO), Dr. Jensen has served as a WYSO conductor, board member, and director of the chamber music program, and has also been a staff member and advisor of UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic for more than 30 years.
She is a strong supporter of outreach programs in the arts, lifelong learning and engagement in music, and advocacy for policy decisions in support of arts education. Her research interests have included arts education policy, pedagogy curricula, iconographic representations of historical bows, and the Swedish bowed/keyed instrument nyckelharpa.
Her MYSO association began with Progressions teaching in 2005, and has included chamber coaching in many of the years since.
Her proudest achievement is the cumulative enrollment of over 2800 students in the All-University String Orchestras, and she was named the 2016 String Teacher of the Year by the Wisconsin American String Teachers Association.
Dr. Jensen holds Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.
Carmen Kitts attended UW-Oshkosh as a Music Education/Performance Major. In Oshkosh, she had a private studio of 45 students; and performed in the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, Fox Valley Symphony, Fond du Lac Philharmonic and in professional chamber ensembles.
After teaching for eight years in Oshkosh, Carmen relocated to Florida where she played in the Treasure Coast Symphony and taught in Vero Beach. Later, she moved to Minnesota where she was Associate ConcertMaster of the Dakota Valley Symphony (DVS), played in the Rochester Orchestra and Choral (ROC), Kenwood Symphony, performed regularly with DVS chamber groups and was Principal Second Violinist in the Arious Chamber Music Society.
Carmen taught at Minnesota Valley Academy of Music (MVA), developing a Mentor Program between MVA and DVS, which allowed students to play side by side with Symphony members.
While in Germany she played in the Friedrichshafen Symphony Orchestra and took private lessons from Concertmaster Pawel Zalejski of the Symohoieorchester Vorarlberg in Austria.
Since August 2011, she has lived with her two children in Waukesha. In addition to continuing her private teaching studio, she is head teacher for the Greater Milwaukee El Sistema Chapter.
Prelude Wind Ensemble Director Michael R. Krofta recently retired as director of instrumental music at Oconomowoc High School. His 37 years teaching public and private schools included teaching in Wisconsin and Ohio. His past duties include conductor of the nationally-acclaimed Oconomowoc High School Wind Symphony, as well as director of the Concert Band, Jazz Ensembles, and Jazz Combo. Mr. Krofta is past Jazz Chairperson for the Wisconsin Music Educators Association and Director of Jazz Studies at Marquette University (2003 – 2006). He is currently the band director at St. Anthony in Pewaukee, St. Charles in Hartland, and Holy Apostles in New Berlin.
Prior to his work in Oconomowoc, Mr. Krofta was the Marching Band Director at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as Director of Bands at River Valley High School in Spring Green. Under his direction, Mr. Krofta’s ensembles have consistently earned superior ratings in many music festivals throughout the United States.
Under Mr. Krofta’s direction, the Oconomowoc Wind Symphony has performed numerous times at the Bands of America/Music For All National Concert Band Festival. The Wind Symphony was also selected to perform numerous times at the Wisconsin State Music Convention and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and Administrators. Mr. Krofta was selected for the 2016 Symphonic Bands & Orchestras (SBO) National Magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make A Difference,” the 2017 Phi Beta Mu- Wisconsin Band Master of the Year Award, and received the “Citation of Excellence” from the National Band Association three times for his teaching excellence, and achievements and contributions to concert bands.
Michael R. Krofta completed his Masters Degree in Music Education at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio with a conducting emphasis, studying with Craig Kirchhoff. Mr. Krofta’s undergraduate work was completed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also studied at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He was a trumpet soloist with both the Indiana Hoosier Marching Band (Ray Cramer, director) and the Wisconsin Marching Band (Michael Leckrone, director).
As a professional trumpeter since high school, Mike has had many amazing musical trumpet performance experiences–in orchestras, big bands, backing up rock bands, in parades, and at Brewers and Packers Games. He has performed professionally with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, the Temptations, the Manhattan Transfer, Ice Capades Show, the Rodeo Circus Show, and toured with the Lawrence Welk All Stars and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.
Mr. Krofta is a member of The National Band Association (NBA), The American School Band Directors National Association (ASBDNA), The National Association for Music Education (NAfME), The Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA), and the Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity.
Mike and his wife Connie first met in MFY/MYSO in the Senior Symphony trumpet section. Returning to MYSO as co-directors of the Prelude Wind Ensemble is coming full circle. They couldn’t be more excited to join the MYSO staff to direct the Prelude Wind Ensemble program to share the gift of music with the students of today. Mike’s goal is to give every child the opportunity to excel in music–and experience the joy of music as a form of expression as he has.
Manuel Landin Lopez was born in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Violin Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee studying under Dr. Bernard Zinck. At the age of 6, Manuel began his musical studies at the Latino Arts Strings Program based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There he received private instruction with the program’s director, Dinorah Marquez, learning both mariachi and classical music. Manuel continued his education at Marquette University High School studying violin with Jerome Franke, former Concertmaster Emeritus of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
A MYSO alum, he performed in Vienna and Budapest with the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra in 2015; and toured California with the Latino Arts Strings Program in 2016. As a high school musician, he participated in Sphinx Performance Academy in the summers of 2012 to 2015, and in the WSMA High School Honors Orchestra from 2013-2016.
As a soloist, Manuel was awarded First Place in the Menomonee Falls 2017 Young Artist Competition, performing the final movement of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto in A minor.
An active performer, Manuel is a member of a student-led mariachi group called Mariachi Monarcas de Milwaukee. He was featured on “Buenaventura,” a Grammy-nominated album by La Santa Cecilia. Manuel’s musical tastes are diverse, and he is passionate about continuing to explore various genres of Latin music, including Mariachi, Latin Jazz, Tango, and classical music written by Latin American composers as part of his future professional career. He takes pride in having developed over the years a distinctive and personal identity shaped by his musical and artistic exploration.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Progressions Viola Instructor Evan Lane began viola in the fourth grade. His introduction to music was singing with his school choir at age six at a Starbucks for the holidays and learning about folk and bluegrass music from his family. He attended Milwaukee High School of the Arts, where he was a music major and had his first paid gig playing in a string quartet for the Milwaukee County Zoo. He reports he “couldn’t get enough of music, so I also joined MYSO in high school, and it changed everything.” He attended both Lawrence and Roosevelt University as a music major and learned what it took to be a true chamber musician. He is Music Director of Milwaukee Montessori School, and has sung for dozens of private and public organizations. He now has his first EP produced and streaming everywhere. “I’m excited about the opportunity to teach and work with MYSO. It truly was the best experience, and I can’t wait to impart the gift of music to others.”