Violinist Frank Almond held the Charles and Marie Caestecker Concertmaster Chair the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for 25 years. He has also held the Concertmaster position with the Rotterdam Philharmonic with Valery Gergiev and Guest Concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra with Kurt Masur.
Frank regularly performs as a soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and as soloist and chamber musician throughout the US and Europe. He is the founder of his own chamber music series in Milwaukee, Frankly Music, consistently recognized for innovative programming and its ability to attract leading performers from around the world, most recently including Lynn Harrel, Orion Weiss, and the Miró Quartet.
At 17, Frank Almond was one of the youngest prizewinners in the history of the Nicolo Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, and five years later was one of two American prizewinners at the Eighth International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, which was documented in an award-winning PBS film.
His extensive recording discography includes a wide range of repertoire on various labels that have garnered multiple Grammy nominations.
His most recent series of recordings, A Violin’s Life, chronicles the extraordinary history and lineage of his current violin, the 1715 Lipiński Stradivarius. This instrument has direct ties to Giuseppe Tartini, Edvard Grieg, Johannes Brahms, and Robert and Clara Schumann.
On January 27, 2014, the “ex-Lipiński” Stradivarius was stolen from Mr. Almond in an armed robbery after a concert. The violin was recovered nine days later, and the story continues to make headlines around the world. The robbery and recovery are the subject of a new documentary film, “Plucked,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April (2019). Frank was also featured at Lincoln Center on “The Moth Radio Hour,”the critically acclaimed story-telling program heard on Public Radio stations nationwide.
Community outreach and giving back to the Milwaukee community are also at the heart of Frank Almond’s artistic priorities. He mentors young musicians of all performing levels and backgrounds, and performs in nontraditional venues where classical music has a rare and unusual presence.
Frank holds two degrees from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Dorothy Delay, Michael Tseitlin, Felix Galimir, and Joseph Silverstein. He currently serves on the Faculty at Roosevelt University in Chicago and is the Johnston Family Artist-in-Residence at the Milwaukee Youth Symphony, one of the largest youth arts programs in the United States. Previous teaching positions include positions at Northwestern University and Texas Christian University.
Frank Almond writes an online column, as he admits, “instead of practicing.” Nondivisi offers his thoughts, hopes and expectations for the present and future of classical music and other topics.
More information about Frankly Music, A Violin’s Life and the Lipiński Stradivarius is available at frankalmond.com.
Prelude Wind Ensemble Bassoon Instructor Rosalie Avery is a freelance bassoonist and music educator located in the greater Milwaukee area. Recently, she received her Masters of Music degree in bassoon performance from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) under the tutelage of Rudi Heinrich. Additionally, Rosalie holds a
Bachelor of Arts degree from UWM where she studied with Beth Giacobassi.
Rosalie is currently an instructor in multiple woodwind instruments at White House of Music and Milwaukee Public Schools where she teaches bassoon, clarinet, alto saxophone, and flute to students aged 10-60. Additionally, she was a graduate teaching assistant at UWM, where she taught bassoon methods and undergraduate lessons. Previously, Rosalie served as an Americorps Artistyear Teaching Fellow in the Roaring Fork Valley. There she worked at Carbondale Middle School and Roaring Fork High School with their band programs. Rosalie also has volunteered in her community by coaching small groups at local high schools and youth programs including Nathan Hale High School, Girls Rock MKE, and UWM Youth Wind Ensemble.
In addition to her teaching background, Rosalie has a diverse performance background. She is a member of the Milwaukee Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cosmo Reed Quintet. Rosalie has performed with groups such as the Racine Symphony Orchestra, Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra, and Cardinal Stritch Orchestra. In the past, she has performed with the Waukesha Area Chamber Orchestra and Symphony in the Valley. During her
summers she has participated in summer music festivals Madeline Island Chamber Music Clinic and the Lousiana State University Collaborative Piano Institute’s Bassoon Intensive.
Rosalie has performed in masterclasses with prominent bassoonists Nanci Belmont, Darrel Hale, Timothy McGovern, Frank Morelli, Leonard Hindell, Catherine Chen, Ted Soluri, and Barrick Stees.
Born with a passion for percussion and Latin music, Tony Ayala started his professional career at an early age, as the conguero for Rafy Castro y Su Orquesta in the 1980s, which evolved into the award-winning Salsa Syndicate. Thereafter he joined Claudio y la Orquesta, making his directorial debut with Salsa Power.
In the 1990s, Tony got involved in a new genre of music, Pop Rock, with award winners Sister Moon with whom he made a music video, recorded and toured. Also during this time, he had the privilege of working with local and international sensations-LaChazz Jazz Ensemble, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Love Monkeys, Punto de Vista, and Bahia.
He has shared the stage with internationally-known artists such as Eddie Santiago, Anthony Cruz, Papo Rivera, Edwin Cepeda, Edwin Sanchez, and Kid Rock’s drummer Stephanie Wildenburg. His repertoire includes recordings with Del Bennet, the Bystanders, Alaria Taylor, Barbara Stephan, Johnny Padilla, and Keith Polvermucker.
Recently, Tony’s love for music and eclectic experiences have given rise to his first original salsa band and WAMI award winner Nabori with whom he also produced music and recorded.
At this time, he is eagerly working on his newest project with a unique twist in salsa called D’CalleSon.
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.
Guillermo Baena is MYSO’s Philanthropy Officer – Individuals. Legally blind since birth, Guillermo holds a degree in economics and a graduate certification as a life coach. He has found himself challenged to continuously adapt to the ever-changing environments and circumstances to fully achieve goals that would otherwise be thought of as nearly impossible for a visually impaired person. Guillermo loves to share his story, acting as a keynote and motivational speaker on different occasions.
He has lived his life with devotion to learning, music, and adventures. He is continually searching for new challenges to overcome. Guillermo lives an active lifestyle that has led him to engage in rock-climbing, downhill ski, martial arts, and cycling. He has even acquired his scuba diving license and completed a certification to become a professional skydiver, having jumped solo at 10,000 feet.
Repeatedly re-defining what it means to be handicapped, he loves when he can empower others and make them realize that “the only thing that could stop you, no matter your situation, is when you don’t believe in yourself.”
With a unique blend of professional experience mainly focused on business consulting and strategic planning in the corporate arena, and with a thirst for helping others, he successfully transitioned into the nonprofit world, where he found his passion and career back on track in fundraising.
As MYSO’s Philanthropy Coordinator, Joanna Beamon is responsible for database management, and assists the development department. Over the last 29 years she has dedicated herself to learning everything there is to know about the administrative/clerical industry, from entry level clerical to advanced administrative positions, while earning a bachelor’s degree in professional communications from Alverno College.
Previously, she worked for Extension Inc. as an Administrative Assistant with Children’s Wisconsin Foundation, and for Akorbi Workforce Solutions as an Administrative Assistant 3 in the Johnson Controls Public Affairs and Diversity Department.
During her down time, Joanna is a Certified Master Gardener for the SouthEastern Wisconsin Master Gardeners, volunteering at the MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary Community Gardens and staffing booths at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in the Southeastern Wisconsin Master Gardner Area, Milwaukee County Zoo Ala Carte, and at the Milwaukee Realtors Home and Garden Show. She also loves pour painting, crocheting, sewing, and scrapbooking.
Marna Bestul holds a Bachelors degree in English and Creative Writing and a minor in Music from Carthage College, Kenosha, WI.
While at Carthage, she held a position as a student assistant in the administrative offices of the music department and served a music librarian for the choral ensembles and a student coordinator during audition times through the school year.
She was a member of the Carthage Choir for all four years of study, during which time she studied under conductors Weston Noble and Eduardo Garcia-Novelli and participated in several domestic and one international tour.
A past violist and pianist, Marna currently focuses her musical talents in vocal performance and is an active member of the Master Singers of Milwaukee.
Besides singing and music in general, Marna loves to spend time reading, traveling, and working on her writing portfolio. She also loves to travel to her hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin, to visit family and spend some time outside in the countryside.
She and her husband, Paul, currently reside in Cudahy.
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.
Prelude Wind Ensemble Clarinet and Saxophone Instructor Mary Burczyk is recently retired after teaching music for 38 years in Wisconsin public schools. Mrs. Burczyk earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from UW-Madison, a Master of Music Education degree from UW-Milwaukee, a Masters in Computers in Education degree from Lesley College, and is a National Board Certified Teacher. She serves as the adjunct clarinet teacher for Concordia University and is an adjudicator for Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA). She worked with the WSMA State Honors Music Project at both middle and high school levels as clarinet coach, low woodwinds coach, band coordinator, and high school honors chair. She performs with the Lakeshore Symphonic Band and teaches private lessons.
James Burmeister recently retired as Assistant Dean of the UW-Milwaukee (UWM) Peck School of the Arts and Senior Lecturer in Music Theory. In addition to teaching in the Music Theory area, Jim taught organ and graduate score reading (playing choral and orchestral scores at the piano).
He served as coordinator of the UWM Music Department Tutoring Center providing peer tutoring in all of the required freshman and sophomore music theory and piano courses.
As advisor for the UWM Delta Eta Chapter of the Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity, Jim was instrumental in the chapter’s numerous awards for excellence and scholarship.
In 2010, he was one of five recipients of the UWM-SAC Award for “excellence in teaching students with special needs while maintaining high academic standards.”
Jim’s undergraduate and graduate degrees are from the University of Michigan School of Music.
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.
Neil Davis is an emerging talent.
He started playing jazz in Milwaukee in 2002. Also in that same year Neil began teaching private lessons to aspiring guitarists at all levels.
As time went on he reached a peak of 72 students per week. The grueling schedule led him to yearn for an environment where he could focus his methods on students who were interested in jazz.
Davis is honored and excited to be a part of the Jazz Studies Program at MYSO. Neil is sought after as a sideman and also leads his own quartet. He is also half of the Davis\Peplin Duo.
As well as playing jazz Neil uses his talent in the world of Modern Dance. He is has been an accompanist for the UWM dance dept. since 2005.
Margery Deutsch was Music Director of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Senior Symphony from 1987 to 2020 and led them on numerous international tours to critical acclaim. Under her leadership and direction, the Senior Symphony has performed in Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, China, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Canada (British Columbia and Quebec) and Scotland, where the orchestra performed as part of the Festival of British Youth Orchestras and the Edinburgh Festival. In the summer of 2015, she led them on a concert tour to Vienna and Budapest where they performed at MuTh Concert Hall, the Musikverein’s Golden Hall, Béla Bartók National Concert Hall and Gödöllő Palace. In 2012, she led the Senior Symphony on a ten-day tour of Vienna and Prague where they were chosen to perform on the Gala Winners’ Concert as part of the 2012 Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival. In 2000, the Senior Symphony was chosen as one of only five U.S. youth orchestras to participate in the National Youth Orchestra Festival in Sarasota, Florida. Deutsch has conducted the orchestra in performances at Carnegie Hall, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, the Wisconsin Music Educators Conference (North Central Division) and the Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Clinic.
Named Professor Emeritus in 2012, Ms. Deutsch was Director of Orchestras and Professor of Conducting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1984-2012. She serves as the Music Director of UWM’s University Community Orchestra, an ensemble of over 120 musicians ranging in age from 12 to 100. The orchestra is comprised of college, high school, and middle school students and community members. Ms. Deutsch is actively involved with high school-age musicians throughout the country and is in frequent demand as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator. She has served four terms on the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestra’s Youth Orchestra Division.
Prior to coming to Milwaukee, Ms. Deutsch served as Music Director of the Shreveport (LA) Symphony where she conducted classical, chamber orchestra, pops and children’s concerts, as well as operas. Versed in both orchestral and choral repertoire, she was Music Director of the Long Island Singers Society and, in Milwaukee, has guest conducted The Master Singers, Bel Canto Chorus, Milwaukee Choristers, Lawrence University Choir, Milwaukee Children’s Choir and the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus.
Deutsch has been a frequent guest conductor for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Youth, Children’s and Family concert series. In addition, she has worked with the Sewanee Music Festival (TN), Sheboygan Symphony, Aurora University’s Music by the Lake Opera Theater, Women’s Philharmonic (CA), Plymouth (MI) Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic, Charleston (SC) Symphony, Nebraska Sinfonia, Monroe (LA) Symphony, South Dakota Symphony, and the all-state orchestras of Massachusetts, Kansas, Missouri, Washington, Minnesota, Montana, Delaware, Maine and most recently, New York, as well as numerous district festivals throughout the country.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Ms. Deutsch received the 2001 Milwaukee Civic Music Association Award for Excellence in Contributions to Music and the 1990 UWM Undergraduate Teaching Award. She has been awarded conducting fellowships and scholarships from the Aspen Music Festival, the Academia Chigiana in Siena, Italy, and the Nebraska-based “Festival of a Thousand Oaks.” She was also invited to participate in the conducting seminar at Tanglewood where she took master classes with Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa and Colin Davis. Her other teachers include Thomas Briccetti, Franco Ferrarra, Bruno Bartoletti, Piero Bellugi, Sergiu Commisiona and Dennis Russell Davies; she has also studied flute with Samuel Baron and voice with Jan DeGaetani. A native New Yorker and Regents Scholar, she holds a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting, a Master of Arts degree in Musicology, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Flute and Vocal Performance.
Daniel Duffy has enjoyed serving as Music Director of MYSO’s Philharmonia since 2014, and joined the MYSO administrative team as Artistic Administrator in 2020.
Mr. Duffy recently retired as director of instrumental music at Waukesha West High School. His public school teaching career spanned 35 years and included successful music programs in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Prior to his appointment at Waukesha West, he served as Associate Director of Bands at Kansas State University.
His educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from The Ohio State University and a Master’s degree in Conducting from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he served as a Graduate Conducting Associate.
Passionate about the achievement of excellence through musical performance, Mr. Duffy served on the board of directors of the National Band Association Wisconsin Chapter, was the NBA Wisconsin All-State Band Coordinator, and served as percussion section coach of the Wisconsin School Music Association State Honors Band and Orchestra.
Mr. Duffy’s performance groups have received critical acclaim at regional and national events since 1985. Ensembles under his direction have performed at three WMEA State Music Conferences, eight National Band Association Wisconsin State Conventions, and four NFL half-time shows for the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. He also coordinated performance tours in Boston, Dallas, New Orleans, St. Louis, Orlando, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Thomas Dvorak is Professor Emeritus/Director of Bands at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he served as Professor and Director of Bands from 1979 until his retirement in 2007. He served as Music Director of Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Wind Ensemble from the ensemble’s inception in 1988 until 2018. He currently serves as the organization’s Conductor Laureate.
Professor Dvorak has had a very distinguished career, appearing as a conductor/guest lecturer in 29 states as well as Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. In November 2007, he served as the headliner/lecturer for the Manitoba Canada Province Music Educators Conference. He became the first American conductor to serve at the University of Lauceston’s Summer Music School in Tasmania, Australia, where he also performed as Principal Trumpet in the faculty brass quintet in 1994.
He has received numerous awards, including an “Outstanding Secondary Educator of America” award in 1974 for his distinguished work with the McFarland, WI, band program, and he has received the “Citation of Excellence” by the National Band Association six times for his achievements and contributions to bands. He has twice been honored by the prestigious American School Band Directors Association for lectures he has presented at two of their national conventions, in Duluth, MN, and in Brookfield, WI. His former conducting students now hold prominent positions in our nation’s middle and high schools, college and professional conducting positions, with youth orchestras and with the United States Service Bands.
Professor Dvorak is the author of many articles concerning repertoire, composers and conducting. He is the senior author of a repertoire series for school bands entitled “Best Music for Beginning, for Middle School, and for High School Band.”
He has held offices as President and Vice-President in both the College Band Directors National Association and the National Band Association. His leadership and commitment to the profession have involved him in changing, promoting and elevating music education and performances for students and bands/wind ensembles of all ages, and at all levels of performance.
In September 2004, Professor Dvorak was honored by the Instrumentalist Magazine, with a cover photo and interview discussing his music making and philosophy of teaching. This past year, Professor Dvorak was honored by having a doctoral dissertation written on his life as a conductor and educator.
Researched and written by Dr. Scott Corley of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, the dissertation is housed in the library collection at the University of Iowa.
In July 2014, he was honored with the Austin Harding outstanding achievement award for his contributions in the development of American school bands at the 60th annual convention of the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA).
At UW-Milwaukee, a scholarship for music students bears his name, and each year a deserving freshman is awarded with this prestigious scholarship.
Serving as the Chief Executive Officer of Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Inc., Linda Edelstein takes the leadership role in strategic planning, donor cultivation and fundraising, financial and managerial controls, and serves as vice president of the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (MYAC). Ms. Edelstein leads a team of more than fifty full- and part-time administrative and artistic staff and oversees more than 40 program offerings serving nearly 1,000 students from up to 14 counties, 60 cities and more than 200 schools in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. She manages a budget of approximately $3 million, with endowment and reserves of more than $7.5 million.
Together with the Managing Director of First Stage, she provides administrative leadership for MYAC, including but not limited to budget, fundraising, personnel, security, scheduling, and public relations, and serves on the MYAC Board of Directors.
Previously, Ms. Edelstein held numerous positions at the United Performing Arts Fund from 2005-2012, culminating in Chief Operating Officer. In that role, she oversaw an annual budget of more than $10 million, fund allocations of over $8.3 million, and worked with the UPAF President and community leaders to frame the annual campaign process and engage the community for the benefit of the arts. Prior to her work at UPAF, Ms. Edelstein was the Executive Director of the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra (now Wisconsin Philharmonic) for seven years, at which she created the organization’s “Success Through Music” program engaging children from diverse backgrounds to discover their potential through music education.
Ms. Edelstein holds an Executive MBA from Marquette University, a Master of Music from Yale University and a Bachelor of Music Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an Irving S. Gilmore Fellow at Yale and regularly performed professionally throughout southeastern Wisconsin as an oboist and English hornist with Milwaukee’s finest organizations, including the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Edelstein has also worked as a music faculty member at UW-Whitewater, UW-Oshkosh, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Hartland Music Center, Yale University, and in a private studio. She volunteers her time on the boards for the Elmbrook Rotary Club (President 2017-18), Youth Orchestra Division of the League of American Orchestras (Secretary), Frankly Music (Governance Chair), and the Association of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestras.
Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra Music Director John Emanuelson was honored as “Music Teacher of the Year” by the Civic Music Association of Milwaukee. He also received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Mequon-Thiensville School District, the MT Education Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award, and is a Herb Kohl Foundation Excellence in Teaching Kohl Fellowship recipient. He is presently serving in his twentieth year as Director of Orchestras at Homestead High School in Mequon, where he has also taught AP Music Theory.
Active as an orchestral violinist and violist, Mr. Emanuelson has performed with the Milwaukee Symphony and is a frequent member of the Kenosha and Festival City Symphony Orchestras. He has served as the First Violin Section Coach for the WSMA All-State Honors Orchestra. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Lawrence University. He studied violin with Oswald Lehnert, Pasquale Laurino, and Patricia Anders. At CU, Mr. Emanuelson was a Suzuki Pedagogy student of William Starr and studied Baroque performance practices with Elizabeth Farr, performing in the CU Early Music Ensemble. He has studied conducting with Richard Hynson.
Growing up in the Milwaukee area in the 1980s, Mr. Emanuelson participated in the MYSO program (then MFY), starting in sixth grade as a violinist and string bassist. He also studied music theory with Dr. John Downey.
He is thrilled and honored to join the conducting faculty of MYSO this season and is excited to share his knowledge of and passion for orchestra music with the talented student musicians of the Metropolitan Symphony
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.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a registered Suzuki cello teacher and has worked internationally with students, schools, and ensembles as a clinician. As an active member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, he has completed training with Pam Devenport, Carey Beth Hockett, Barbara Wampner, Dr. Tanya Carey, Dr. Beth Cantrell, Dr. Shu-Yi Scott, Laura Shaw, and Avi Friedlander. He currently maintains an active Suzuki cello studio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Prior to living in Milwaukee, Mr. Fitzpatrick was an Assistant Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he taught cello and Music Education courses preparing students for careers in Music Education. He also taught at the Fairbanks Suzuki School of Talent Education, the Anchorage Suzuki Institute, the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, the Alaska Cello Intensive, and founded the Fairbanks Cello Festival. He has served as President of the Alaska chapter of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) and was a conductor for Fairbanks Youth Symphony Orchestra. He has been an active member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), served on the board for the Alaska Music Educators Association (AMEA), and been a regular presenter at various state Music Education conferences.
In addition to his teaching, Mr. Fitzpatrick has an active musical career across the United States as a soloist and chamber musician. He has given several regular solo recitals and performed in numerous orchestras, including serving as the assistant principal in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and participating in the Aspen Music Festival. Most recently, he was the principal cellist of the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Alaska Trio, which performed with pianists at the 2017 Yamaha International E-Piano Competition.
Mr. Fitzpatrick earned his degrees from Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His primary cello teachers have included Dr. Carol Semmes, Dr. Emilio Colón, and Daniel McDonough of the Jupiter String Quartet, with additional long-term studies with Richard Aaron, Dr. Helga Winold, and Marc Coppey.
Mr. Fitzpatrick currently performs on a 2017 William Whedbee cello.
Michael Gauger is MYSO’s Philanthropy Officer – Foundations and Institutional Giving. Michael’s job is to tell MYSO’s story — a story of nurturing, challenging, and inspiring young musicians, a story of lifelong impact on students, audiences, and our community – to raise grant funding for our programs.
Michael has been honored to work in the public interest, first in daily journalism and then in philanthropy. He joined MYSO in October 2021 after 11 years as a grant writer for community health and hospital programs for Ascension Wisconsin Foundations. Earlier, he worked for 20 years as a copy editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Milwaukee Journal.
Outside philanthropy, Michael writes and edits for scholarly publications in American history and political science. He has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications-journalism and a master’s degree in history, both from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He also attended graduate school in history and political science at UW-Madison and the University of Michigan.
Jason Goldsmith is a fourth generation musician who started playing piano at age three. By age eight, he could play guitar, banjo, and mandolin. In fourth grade, Jason wanted to play trumpet in the school band, but his braces cut his lips when he played, so he switched to saxophone as a compromise. He didn’t take the instrument very seriously until, at the age of 15, he encountered a Charlie Parker recording. That record lit a spark and inspired him to practice with renewed interest. Since that time, he has pursued the art of improvisation.
Jason attended UW-Whitewater, where he received his bachelor’s degree in saxophone performance under the tutelage of Maynard Ferguson alum Steve Wiest, who is currently professor of jazz at North Texas University. He played in the UWW Jazz Symposium, which provided opportunities to play in European jazz festivals, as well as alongside some of our country’s finest jazz musicians, including Ernie Watts, Ed Shaughnessy, Vinnie Calioutta, Bob Mintzer, James Moody, Slide Hampton, Brad Lehli, Dave Pietro, Tim Reis, and Rick Margitza. He also served as a jazz clinician at UWW’s jazz camp for five years.
Jason moved to Milwaukee in 2003 and has performed with local bands including The Booze Brothers, Cold Sweat, Paradise String Band, The Paul Silbergleit Quintet, The Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra, Rockin’ Robins, The Pipe Circus, and The Acid Sextet. He’s also performed with The Temptations and The Dorsey Brothers Band.
Currently, Jason can be heard playing his sax locally with The North Coast Orchestra, with polka icon Steve Meisner, and of course, with the All-Star SUPERband. Watch for Jason’s new jazz quintet to make a splash on the local scene in the near future.
Office Manager Sydney Goodman joined the MYSO team in October 2021. Originally from Texas, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies with a focus on women and gender. After college, she moved to the Bay Area, and worked for a few non-profits, working primarily with homeless women and children. From there, she has spent the last eight years working with the metal sculpture community, ranging from restorative bronze sculpture work, to learning the ins and outs of chemical patina application.
From the age of 9 to 20, Sydney played the clarinet with her school’s wind ensemble, both in grade school and university. Being a part of a creative community is a very integral part of her life and is the community she hopes to cultivate at MYSO.
In her spare time, Sydney spends time with her rescue Cattle Dog, Foley. Hiking, biking, swimming, running and eating, are all things they both enjoy.
Andrew Hacker is Director of Instrumental Music and Music Department Manager at Menomonee Falls High School. As a community music advocate, he is the music director and conductor of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra Wind Ensemble. His previous teaching assignments were with Hartford Union High School, the Waukesha School District, and Waukesha Catholic School System.
Mr. Hacker is an active musician in the state of Wisconsin and frequently performs on tuba, bass trombone, and euphonium with a wide range of ensembles. He Is assistant conductor and principal tubist with the Milwaukee Philharmonic. In 2009, he was invited to lecture on the topic of “Improvisation Through Folk Wind Music” for the international convention of Gauverband Nordamerika and repeated this clinic at the 2011 and 2013 conferences. Mr. Hacker plays an active role in folk wind music in the Midwest and is the founder and music director of Blaskapelle Milwaukee, an 18-piece European-style wind ensemble. In 2007 and 2017, the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame inducted him into the organization for the Youth Achievement Award and Youth Mentor Award, respectively. In 2015, the Civic Music Association of Milwaukee named Mr. Hacker as Music Teacher of the Year and the University of Chicago recognized Mr. Hacker in 2020 through a student nomination for an “Outstanding Educator Award.”
Having studied at Carroll University and Cardinal Stritch University, Mr. Hacker holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership respectively. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree in Music Education from Boston University. Mr. Hacker is a member of the National Association for Music Education, Phi Beta Mu – Wisconsin, and the Association of American Educators.
Prior to moving to Milwaukee, Equipment Manager/Community Artists Coordinator Ben Haimann recently completed his Master’s degree in music performance at the University of South Carolina. He received degrees in music education and music performance from The Ohio State University in 2016 and 2017, respectively. A native of Lombard, Illinois, Ben began his musical studies at age nine playing drum set and taking private percussion lessons. During the summers of 2014 and 2015, he served as the teaching assistant and counselor for the instrumental music program at The North Carolina Governor’s School East where he coached the percussion ensemble and spent time conducting the wind ensemble. In 2016 and 2017, Ben was the front ensemble instructor with the Grove City High School Marching Band, which included a trip to the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. While studying at Ohio State, he was awarded the prestigious Presser Foundation Scholarship. Ben served as a graduate assistant for the University of South Carolina percussion studio and was the percussionist for the Spark Collective, a graduate quintet focusing on community engagement through music. Ben was fortunate enough to win the concerto competition at the University of South Carolina in 2018 and performed Kevin Puts’ Marimba Concerto No. 1 with the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra in 2019. In his free time, Ben enjoys practicing marimba, making coffee, and hanging out with his dog, Lila.
Ijoister Harris is MYSO’s String Orchestra Central Music Director and Prelude Orchestra Coach. He is a multi-disciplined artist with an emphasis in string orchestra. He has been active with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (Band Buddies), the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Arts in Community Education (ACE) Program, Summerfest Band Camps, Wisconsin School Music Association as a Solo & Ensemble Festival adjudicator, and the Rochester Symphony and Cardinal Stritch Orchestra as a violinist. In addition Ijoister has served as a string clinician and private violin instructor. He is an alumnus of MYSO/MFY (Music For Youth) and Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Ijoister is proudly in his fourth year as a Music Teacher Leader for Milwaukee Public schools. Prior to his current position, he spent 28 years in MPS as an orchestra director leading students in grades 3-12 to excellence in string performance. Ijoister received a Bachelor of Music Education degree with a string emphasis from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is IB MYP music certified, and has a bronze level ballroom dance certification. Ijoister was a co-pilot teacher that helped develop the World Drumming Curriculum being used around the world in conjunction with Dr. Will Schmidt, Remo, and UW-Milwaukee.
He received teacher of the year in 2013 from Milwaukee Public Schools, MMABSE, Civic Music Association, and the Milwaukee Symphony. In 2022, Golda Meir School began an annual Harris Music Legacy Award in his honor. Ijoister currently performs with the Ricky Price Ensemble and the West Allis Players. When he’s not mentoring music teachers, he enjoys ballroom dancing and learning to play the accordion.
Senior Symphony String Advisor Paul Hauer joined the violin section of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in the fall of 2016. Solo concerts have brought Mr. Hauer to the countries of Germany, Greece, France, the Czech Republic, and the Philippines. Chamber music and orchestral concerts have brought him to Italy, San Marino, Singapore, Mexico, and China. Before moving to Milwaukee, Mr. Hauer was Principal Second Violin of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra and performed regularly with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Louisville Orchestra.
Mr. Hauer traveled to Athens in May of 2015 to participate in the 4th Leonidas Kavakos International Masterclass. One month earlier, he performed the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. Other honors include winning the Indianapolis Matinée Musicale Collegiate Competition in 2013, which resulted in a performance at the Indiana Landmarks Center with pianist David Keep. In the summer of 2011, he toured Europe with the Denver Young Artists Orchestra as the soloist for the Barber Violin Concerto. While serving as teaching assistant to Addison Teng, he performed and taught lessons with the Teng Studio on their international tours.
His early violin training came from Gloria Schroeder and Ferenc Fenyő. Hauer also studied with Stéphane Tran Ngoc, Carol Leybourn, and Catherine Walby through the Lawrence Academy of Music. He has attended the Montecito International Music Festival, Oberlin in Italy, and International Academie de Courchevel. Hauer received his degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. His principal teachers include David Bowlin, Alex Kerr, and Addison Teng. As a teacher, Mr. Hauer is on faculty at the Fulton Summer Music Academy and coaches strings at MYSO and Maranatha Baptist University. As a founding member of the 414 Quartet, he performs with his MSO colleagues in venues across southeast Wisconsin. Mr. Hauer is a native of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and performs with the Peninsula Music Festival each summer.
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’s Communications Director, Michelle Hoffman, held the position of Program Coordinator for MYSO from 1991 to 2000, and returned to the organization in 2008.
Looking back, she considers some of her fondest memories to be related to MYSO, especially those involving the 1997 MYSO tour of Spain and Italy.
As a musician, Michelle performs with the Concord Chamber Orchestra on flute and piccolo. She is a previous member of the Milwaukee Concert Band and South Shore Chamber Orchestra and has performed at Milwaukee’s Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
Michelle holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) where she performed in several musical ensembles and studied flute with Robert Cole. From 1994 to 1999 she held the position of general manager of the Concord Chamber Orchestra.
Michelle has designed publications for several non-profit organizations since 2001, and has completed coursework in digital media at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
Prelude Wind Ensemble French horn instructor Kelly Hofman has been teaching professionally since 2001. Her students have ranged from beginning to advanced college levels, ages 7 through adult. Kelly earned a Bachelor of Music degree from New England Conservatory and an Master of Music degree from Northwestern University, and is an alum of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Her primary teachers were Ted Thayer, Dick Mackey, and Gail Williams. She hopes to carry down the legacy of these great teachers to her own students.
In addition to working with the MYSO students, Kelly currently teaches private lessons at her home studio in Whitefish Bay, WI, and at Falls Baptist Academy and College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, WI. During the summers, she performs and teaches at Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC.
Kelly also maintains an active performing career. She is currently Principal horn of the Wisconsin Philharmonic, and a member of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, Festival City Symphony, and Lake County Symphony Orchestra. She is also a substitute musician with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. As a soloist, Ms. Hofman has performed Mozart’s First Horn Concerto, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Four Winds, Strauss’ First Horn Concerto, and Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings.
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.
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.
Connie Kling currently serves as MYSO’s HR Director in partnership with Lauber Business Partners.
She is a trusted Human Resources senior leader with over 15 years of broad-based HR experience, as well as several years of operational experience. Prior to working with the MYSO family, Connie worked in the financial services and health insurance industries. In 2019, she retired from Northwestern Mutual.
Connie is passionate about helping organizations make sure they have the right people in the right roles, at the right time, and at the right cost to effectively deliver business results. She attributes much of her success to the fact that she isn’t a traditional HR professional. Her success is based on the guiding principle to first understand the business strategy and goals; and then use this information to work with leaders to develop and implement a people strategy that will help ensure they have the talent needed to be successful.
Connie is thrilled to help MYSO realize its vision to nurture, challenge, and inspire young people through music.
Sinfonia Coach and violist Amanda Grettie Koch received her education at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, with a Bachelor of Music degree, and The Juilliard School with a Master of Music degree. She has been a member of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra since 2001 and performs as a substitute musician with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. Ms. Koch teaches all levels of viola and beginner to intermediate violin at her private teaching studio in her Cedarburg home. She is also on the faculty at Concordia University-Wisconsin where she is the viola instructor and teaches a string pedagogy class. A student of Karen Tuttle, Lynne Ramsey, and Jeff Irvine, Ms. Koch’s teaching philosophy and curriculum focuses on a relaxed and confident approach to playing string instruments. Ms. Koch is regularly brought into Milwaukee area public schools and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and a string instructor and coach.
Ms. Koch has recently earned a degree in music therapy at Alverno College and is a Board-Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) on the Wisconsin registry of Music Therapists. She has experience working with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, mental health, and dementia.
Prior to relocating to the Milwaukee area, Ms. Koch performed as full-time member of the Virginia Symphony and taught on the faculties of the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC, and The Academy of Music in Norfolk, VA.
Tara Kozik joined MYSO in September 2021 as Chief Financial Officer. Tara brings an in-depth background of finance, accounting, and process improvement expertise to MYSO. She has held many global finance leadership roles for GE and Honeywell and founded her own consulting business focusing on interim and project-based finance. Her career has focused on financial management, budgeting, analytics, and process streamlining for businesses and clients around the world. She has lived and worked overseas and has managed teams across many cultures.
Tara obtained her MBA in Finance and Management & Strategy from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago and graduated from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a B.S. in Accounting. She is a CPA (inactive) and a Six Sigma certified black belt of process improvement.
Tara lives in the greater Milwaukee area with her family and enjoys an active lifestyle of running, biking, skiing, kayaking, hiking and other outdoor sports. She is an avid world traveler and enjoys exploring new cultures, food, and experiences. She has volunteered extensively for her local school, her children’s sports teams, and for the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum here in Milwaukee. She brings with her a love of music and a passion for children.
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.
Philanthropy Operations Manager Emma Kunz joined the MYSO team in January 2021. Originally from Minnesota, she moved to Wisconsin following her graduation from St. Olaf College. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in dance and participated heavily in the school’s two dance companies, Veselica and Companydance, as well as the Ballroom Performance and Competition Team. Most recently, she worked as the Front Office Receptionist and Administrative Assistant at a private school in Pewaukee for 3 years before finding her way to MYSO.
Throughout middle and high school, she played flute with her school band and continues to play regularly at her church. Being involved in choir, band, and dance her entire life, she has a passion for the arts and making them accessible to young people. She believes it was the performing arts that shaped her into the person she is today, and she can’t wait to share that with the staff and students at MYSO!
She currently lives in Oconomowoc with her husband and two beautiful rescue dogs, a greyhound and a Bernese mountain dog mix. In her free time, Emma enjoys dancing, reading, cooking, and crewing her husband’s sailboat in the summer.
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.”
Cait Manning joined MYSO in August 2019. Originally from New Orleans, she was a theatre major at Loyola University, specializing in theatre management, in addition to lighting design. After college, she moved to Chicago where she worked in the local storefront theatre community, most notably serving as production/company manager for the inaugural season of the Chicago Theatre Marathon. Most recently, she spent almost three years as a patron services supervisor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
While she is not a musician, the performing arts have always been an integral part of her life and growing up she studied ballet, traditional Irish dance, and theatre. She firmly believes in the power of arts education to shape young people into better and more compassionate human beings, and she is thrilled to be a part of an organization committed to bringing these opportunities to children of all communities.
Chris Mell has been part of MYSO since 2008, starting as a drum set technique instructor and in 2012, he became the Jazz Studies Director. Chris has been performing and teaching drums for more than three decades and has taught students ranging in age from 3 to 70 in a wide variety of percussion and drum set styles. He has taught bucket drumming and West African drumming classes for the Boys and Girls Clubs, and for many years taught drum line for Cudahy Middle/High School and Franklin High School. Chris most recently started working for the Milwaukee Public Schools as a traveling music teacher. He teaches private lessons and drum line for six MPS schools including Bradley Tech, Humboldt Park, MacDowell Montessori, Milwaukee School of Languages, Obama, and Washington High School.
Chris graduated from UW-Whitewater with a Bachelor’s degree in music with a jazz emphasis. Over his career he has studied and toured with John Becker, Steve Wiest, Ed Shaughnessy, Brad Leahi, Dave Pietro, Michael Spiro, Billy Cobham, the Maynard Ferguson Big Band, Joan Rivers among many more. Chris was also a founding member of the UW-Whitewater Jazz Symposium that did two tours of Europe playing the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival and several club dates in Germany, London, and Paris. The Jazz Symposium was so successful that it became part of the UW-W Jazz curriculum. Chris Mell currently lives in Milwaukee and is a freelance artist for various groups throughout the greater Milwaukee area and Wisconsin.
Marketing Manager Erica Mendoza is a proud first-generation Latina raised in Framingham, Massachusetts. She graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 2018 with a double major in Anthropology and Italian. Immediately following graduation, Erica served as a college counselor for two years under the Full-Time Volunteer Program at Cristo Rey New York High School (CRNYHS). CRNYHS is a Catholic, co-ed, college-prep school that serves underrepresented and marginalized students from all of the boroughs of New York City. After completing her two-years in full-time volunteer service, she worked in the Office of Alumni Relations at Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. As a first-generation student and child of immigrants, she values the importance of creating, fostering, and maintaining equitable spaces for people, particularly students, to not only succeed but excel. Erica is currently a part of the Trinity Fellows program at Marquette University pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Service.
Mary Pat Michels is MYSO’s String Orchestra West Music Director.
Since 1997, she has taught in the School District of West Allis-West Milwaukee (WAWM) and is currently the Orchestra Director at Frank Lloyd Wright and Lane Intermediate Schools, Director of the WAWM Shining Strings and is the Music Coordinator for the district where she oversees the music programs of 24 teachers in 17 schools. She maintains a private violin and viola studio and was previously an instructor in the Waukesha Symphony’s “Success Through Music” Program.
Mrs. Michels is also an active free-lance musician and teacher in Southeastern Wisconsin. She earned degrees in Violin and Viola Performance and her Music Education Certification at UW-Milwaukee (UWM). While at UWM, Mrs. Michels was the Orchestra Music Librarian/Project Assistant, the Assistant to the Director of Bands, managed the UWM Brass Choir, and was the UWM Youth Wind Ensemble Program Coordinator. She recently completed the Masters of Educational Leadership Program at Cardinal Stritch University.
Mrs. Michels was Principal Violist (2010-2018), music librarian and personnel manager of the Wisconsin Philharmonic, of which she has been a member since 2000. She also served as Principal Viola of the Racine Symphony Orchestra (RSO) from 2000-2007, and has soloed twice with the RSO. An active free-lancer, she plays viola and violin for the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Bel Canto, Kenosha Symphony Orchestra, Bach Chamber Choir and Orchestra, the Festival City Symphony, Gabriel’s Horns, and Les Artistes. Mrs. Michels is also the manager and founder of the Lakeside Strings, which performs chamber music at special events throughout Wisconsin and Illinois.
Mary Pat Michels (née Subjak) is an MYSO/MFY alumna—and played violin and viola in all of the orchestras from 1982-1991. A highlight was the MYSO tour to Scotland and the Aberdeen, Scotland Festival orchestra, as principal viola of MYSO’s Senior Symphony.
From 1991-2000, Mrs. Michels coached various MYSO orchestras and chamber ensembles and served as an administrative assistant. In 2008, she returned to the MYSO staff as the Orchestra Director for the Progressions Program. After twelve years with Progressions, she is excited to be the next music director for String Orchestra West, which is the first orchestra she played in at MYSO/MFY!
Progressions Cello Instructor Rayden Vaughan Montes is currently studying cello performance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with Dr. Stefan Kartman. He was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, where he began studying cello at age 10. He had a patent love for performing at a young age; it was not uncommon to find him playing for the class when the curriculum allowed it during his primary and secondary education years.
After moving to Milwaukee in 2015, Rayden attended Milwaukee High School of the Arts as a music major. Soon after, he began arranging, composing, recording, and producing his own music. His first composition was performed at a statewide conference in front of hundreds of students and teachers, receiving high praise by vote and standing ovation. He then was asked to write original music for theatrical productions and films and has plans to continue arranging and composing after completing his cello studies.
Rayden graduated from Milwaukee High School of the Arts and The Cello Institute of Milwaukee in 2018. After graduation, he has enjoyed studying and performing at UW-Milwaukee with peers and colleagues in various chamber and large ensembles. He has also played in symphony and pit orchestras across the state and has been hired for private events throughout Wisconsin as a soloist and as a member of various groups.
Rayden is very excited to begin his first year of teaching as Progressions Cello Instructor. He hopes to share the gift of music with his students as the teachers in his life have so generously shared with him.
Ron joined the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra as Marketing Director, a newly created position.
Prior to coming to MSYO, he spent over 20 years in consumer marketing in retail banking, at both large and small institutions. In pivoting from retail banking to MSYO, he finds the marketing issues are not that dissimilar. In both, you need a message, something you really want to say that tells why you exist, what you do and how you do it differently. And in both, you need to make it easy for the customer to do business with you – whether it’s in communications, website navigation, customer service, etc. Then you have to create processes for saying and doing these things.
He enjoys being part of an organization that uses music as a bridge to inspire confident, creative and collaborative young people. He finds it moving and powerful to hear many voices come together as one, and create beautiful sounds together.
Ron worked in consumer marketing and product management at: Guaranty Bank, M&I Bank/BMO Harris, Nationwide Bank, National City (now PNC), Bank One (now Chase), Bank of America and Chiquita Brands. He received his MBA from the University of Chicago, and his bachelor’s degree from Whitman College. He also serves on the board of directors of Jewish Family Services Housing.
His wife, Kari Gunderson, is currently teaching Suzuki violin. She has taught violin and viola performance at Ohio State University and Florida State University while performing and organizing various groups. She is his muse in the uplifting world of music.
Lyda received National Board Certification as a Teacher in Early Adolescent/Young Adults with an orchestra emphasis in 2010. She currently teaches orchestra to grades 3-8 for the Oshkosh School District and maintains a private studio as a registered Suzuki teacher. Previously, Lyda was the director of the community music schools for the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the University of Memphis (TN) where she provided teacher training, lessons for students of all ages, and other music classes in theory, appreciation, and history. She has also taught in several public and private schools districts in the Greater Milwaukee area.
Lyda began playing the violin at the age of four, learning the Suzuki method which had just arrived in the United States. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance from West Virginia University and received a Master of Music with honors from the University of Colorado in performance and pedagogy. Lyda had the privilege of studying in Japan with Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the international Suzuki method of music education. As a performer, she has been a member of the Kettle Moraine Symphony, Wisconsin Philharmonic, Concord Chamber Orchestra, Madison Symphony, and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. She plays violin and viola and enjoys experimenting on her electric violin and string bass in various impromptu groups.
Community Program Manager and Chamber Flute Ensemble and Flute Chorale Music Director Sabrina Raber is a performer, educator, and entrepreneur based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In 2019, Sabrina was a fellow for the Global Leaders Program, where she earned an executive graduate certificate in social entrepreneurship, teaching artistry, and organizational management. Sabrina was the first to receive the Masters in Music and Community Partnership degree at the University of South Carolina. She did her undergraduate work at the Ohio State University. Her teachers include Jennifer Parker-Harley and Katherine Borst-Jones.
As a student at the University of South Carolina, Sabrina developed a program entitled, Find Your Beat, a recycled instrumental music education program for underserved children. She has performed with the Long Bay Symphony, Aiken Symphony, Columbia Choral Society, the Spark Chamber Ensemble, and the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra where she performed as soloist. Additionally, Sabrina was a top finalist for the National Flute Association’s C.R.E.A.T.E. Entrepreneurship competition, a two-time Masterclass winner of the South Carolina Flute Society Competition, and a winner of the University of South Carolina Concerto Competition. Sabrina has led masterclasses in both the United States and in Chile, where she was a guest artist for the international Peñalolén Flute Festival. She has also presented research on the impact of music education on under-resourced children through the use of alternative music education techniques.
Outside of the music world, Sabrina is an avid photographer, a self-identified foodie, sports fan, and lover of all things wonderful.
While in high school, Sabrina was a flute player in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. She was part of a Senior Symphony Tour to Vienna and Prague, composed for several ensembles as part of the John Downey Creation Project, played in an interdisciplinary performance of Peter and the Wolf with First Stage and the Milwaukee Ballet, and performed with the Chamber Orchestra for the National Governors Association Annual Convention. She is thrilled to have returned to MYSO!
Lauren Roznowski Hayden was named MYSO’s Music Director of Sinfonia in July 2021. She is currently the Director of Orchestras at Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa, WI. Prior to this, she served as Director of Orchestras at Kettle Moraine High School and Lake Geneva Middle School. She has been directing orchestras and teaching music in the greater Milwaukee area since 2007. She sums up her educational philosophy as “passionately pursuing teaching music as a vehicle to teaching the whole child,” an approach embraced wholeheartedly at MYSO. Ms. Roznowski is a proud MYSO alum.
Ms. Roznowski received her Master of Music degree from Northwestern University and is a graduate of Lawrence University where she received her Bachelor of Music degree, graduating summa cum laude, majoring in music education and viola performance. She studied viola and orchestral conducting with Matthew Michelic, Dr. David Becker, and Dr. Robert Hasty. She is a National Board-Certified Teacher in Instrumental Music. Ms. Roznowski resides in Wauwatosa with her husband and two daughters.
Tim Rush has been active in the steel pan world since 1995, after joining the renowned Northern Illinois University Steel Band.
Under directors Al O’Connor and Cliff Alexis, his time with NIU included a two-week tour of Taiwan in 1998. After receiving his BM degree in Percussion, he went on to receive his MM from Arizona State University, where he served as Director of the ASU Pan Devils Steel Band.
Since then, Tim has shared the stage with such calypso stars as Liam Teague, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Andy Narell and David Rudder, and serves yearly on the faculty of the Percussion and Steel Band session of Birch Creek Music Performance Center, Door County.
Tim also teaches percussion at Merton Intermediate School, Waukesha County Conservatory of Music, and Gman Music. He leads his own band, Caribbean Eclipse, and continues to freelance on steel pan and percussion.
Progressions Bass Instructor Lillian Rutowski is a second year student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She loves playing upright bass, and sharing her love of music with other students. In her free time Lillian loves reading, Sci-Fi movies, hiking, and walking her dog, Oscar.
Paul Sekulski graduated in 2017 from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where he studied with Dr. Bernard Zinck, with a BFA in violin performance. In addition to being the music librarian at MYSO, Paul also works at Hal Leonard as an assistant classical music editor.
Paul performs in various groups around the Milwaukee area. He is currently the concertmaster of both the Milwaukee Philharmonic, and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Community Orchestra. He also plays with Camerata Milwaukee, and with the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra as principal second violin.
In 2015, Paul took first place in the UW-Milwaukee Concerto Competition, playing Tzigane by Ravel.
Artistic Director and Music Director Carter Simmons has worked with the musicians and families of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) since 1992. In addition to leading the artistic and program staff, he is Music Director of MYSO’s Senior Symphony and Chamber Orchestra. During his tenure, the organization has grown to serve 7,000 students and received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Mr. Simmons is Music Director of Milwaukee’s Festival City Symphony and has been invited to conduct for the Milwaukee Ballet, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Starry Nights Orchestra featuring artists of the Florentine Opera, and the Wisconsin Philharmonic. He has conducted MYSO in Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall and in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, and has accompanied the orchestra for its performances in: New York’s Carnegie Hall, Valencia’s Palau de la Música, Prague’s Dvořák Hall, Budapest’s Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, Argentina and Uruguay, Ireland, and the Musikverein, home of the Vienna Philharmonic. Mr. Simmons had been appointed Music Director of MYSO’s Senior Symphony starting in the 2020-2021 season.
A MYSO alumnus, Isaiah Simons has been playing the double bass for the past 15 years. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a Master of Music degree from Michigan State University, where he studied on a full graduate fellowship.
Isaiah performs throughout the Milwaukee area as a sideman with a wide variety of local musicians, and also holds a contract as a section bassist in the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. He has also toured throughout Canada for the past three summers with the Orchestre de la Francophonie, where he performed as principal bass.
In addition to his work as a musician, Isaiah enjoys cooking, and is an avid Milwaukee Bucks fan.
John Simons has been playing music professionally since his late teens. His formal training began on the trombone while in middle school and he picked up the guitar and bass shortly thereafter.
Since then, he has studied at UW-Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and privately with musicians from the symphony and the jazz community. He continues to play out mostly on upright and electric bass, and is privileged to share the stage with many of Milwaukee’s finest musicians.
His current projects include playing with the North Coast Orchestra, the Stomata Trio, and the Carlos Adames trio.
John has taught in MYSO’s Jazz Studies program since 2011 and teaches math during the day at a local K-8 school on Milwaukee’s South Side.
MYSO’s Director of Brass Studies Don Sipe is the principal trumpet of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, a member of the new music group Present Music and the large brass ensemble Isthmus Brass.
He performs across many genres, including classical, jazz, rock and Broadway. Sipe has performed with the Milwaukee, Syracuse, Omaha, Green Bay, and Elgin Symphony Orchestras, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicagoland Pops, and the Brass Band of Battle Creek.
Chamber music credits include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Ensemble, the Chicago Brass Quintet, Fulcrum Point New Music Ensemble, the UW-Milwaukee Faculty Brass Quintet, and the Summit Brass. His arrangements for brass quintet have been played by many brass quintets including Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet.
He performed on Peter Gabriel’s New Blood Orchestra Tour and has been heard in the pit with several Broadway national touring companies, including West Side Story, HAIR, Book of Mormon, The Sound of Music and Wicked.
Other performances include working with a wide range of luminaries including Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Doc Severisen, Ray Charles, Marvin Hamlisch, Bill Conti, Jerry Goldsmith, Jewel, Il Divo, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, the Moody Blues, Manheim Steamroller, Jerry Lewis, and Bob Newhart.
Recordings include several CDs with Present Music, but also projects with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Summit Brass, Sones de Mexico and new age artist Peter Buffett. Recent highlights include performing The Music of Prince with Symphony in concert and recording the Isthmus Brass’ latest CD We Need a Little Christmas, Summit Records (December 2018).
He has taught trumpet at Carroll University and Carthage College, and led masterclasses at the University of DePaul, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and the Eastman School of Music. Founder and president of Omicron Artist Management, Inc. he advises and manages the careers of other professional musicians, including the internationally-known conductor William Eddins.
Sipe earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he studied trumpet with Barbara Butler.
Jeno Somlai is a jazz and Latin jazz musician. Since first playing professionally at the age of 13, Jeno has worked with a variety of musicians and now spearheads his own projects.
His latest is the Jeno Somlai Sextet, a Latin jazz group heavily influenced by a variety of styles in the Afro-Cuban/Latin genres. The group’s first CD was released in 2004.
Jeno can been seen currently playing with D’Calle Son, The Donna Woodall Group, Eric Jacobson, Isla Adentro and Luis Diaz.
Lynn Trinkl is a cum laude graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BM degree in Applied Viola. She also holds an MM in Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music.
She received her music education certification from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has also studied at the Aspen Music Festival. She has been a string sectional coach for the Wisconsin State High School Honors Music Project and has taught for the Waukesha, West Allis, and South Milwaukee School Districts, as well as maintaining a private studio.
During summers, Lynn served as Assistant Director and Counselor Coordinator for the Wisconsin String Teachers Elementary Orchestra Camp. Lynn has also performed with several local groups, including the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, the Wisconsin Philharmonic and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.
A Madison resident, Lynn enjoys spending time with her husband and three children.
Jonathan Walls is a graduate of Northern Illinois University where he joined the renowned Northern Illinois University Steel Band, and gained his BM in Percussion Performance.
Under the direction of Liam Teague and Cliff Alexis, he spent four years performing at various venues around the Chicago area, and performed with many steel pan stars such as Andy Narell, and Leon “Foster” Thomas.
As a percussionist he was involved in NIU’s Latin Jazz Band, where he played various percussion instruments, and arranged for the band.
He currently freelances as a percussionist and instructor in the southeast Wisconsin area.
Senior Symphony Orchestra Manager Lisa Werner is a trombonist who also performs publicly on flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, horn, baritone, tuba, and percussion in various community groups. She runs her own private teaching studio for band instruments, is the Associate Camp Director and Sectionals Teacher at the UW-Whitewater Summer Band and Jazz Camps, and has served as an Executive Board Member and Performer with the Burlington Kiwanis Civic Band since 1993.
Lisa has worked as a music educator, orchestra and band instructor at Whitewater Schools, North Lake School, Aldrich Middle School and Mukwonago High School.
Tobie L. Wilkinson has been Senior Lecturer of Music/Percussion at UW-Whitewater since 2002. Mr. Wilkinson teaches applied percussion lessons, is assistant director of the UW-Whitewater Warhawk Marching Band, directs the UW-Whitewater Percussion Ensemble, and teaches percussion methods courses for future music educators.
He is a frequent adjudicator/clinician and performs as a free-lance percussionist. Currently, he holds the position of Principal Timpanist with the Racine Symphony Orchestra and serves as the President for the Wisconsin Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society.
He received his Bachelor of Music Performance and Bachelor of Music Education degree at Central Michigan University, and his Master of Music degree in Percussion Performance at Rice University in Houston, TX.
Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra Music Director Jonathan Winkle is an accomplished educator, performer, and arts administrator. Mr. Winkle is currently Director of the Jazz Ensemble at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was formerly Music Director and Conductor for the Carthage College Orchestra and has taught conducting, music education courses, and applied brass at UW-Milwaukee, UW-Parkside, Carroll University, and Carthage College. He was the Music Director and Conductor of the Brass and Percussion Ensemble at the University of North Texas during his doctoral studies. He has proudly served as a coach, adjudicator, and guest conductor for the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra ensembles for more than 30 years.
In addition to having performed regularly as a substitute/extra musician with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, he performed with Present Music for 20 years, and has held tenor trombone and bass trombone positions with the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Breckenridge Chamber Orchestra, Waco Symphony Orchestra, Los Colinas-Garland Symphony Orchestra, East Texas Symphony Orchestra, Waukesha Symphony Orchestra, Music Under the Stars, Kenosha Symphony Orchestra, Racine Symphony Orchestra, and Manitowoc Symphony Orchestra. He was a member of the East Side Jazz Orchestra in Dallas-Fort Worth, Director of the Starliner Big Band, and performed regularly with the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra. In addition, he has performed for many of the touring Broadway productions as part of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts’ Broadway Across America series.
As an arts administrator, Mr. Winkle served as Executive & Artistic Director of Performance Santa Fe, President & CEO of the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, and Executive Director for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he has served as Vice President of Community Engagement for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Winkle currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestras and the Civic Music Association of Milwaukee. Previously, he has served on the Boards of the International Trombone Association, Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation, Arts Wisconsin, and Kenosha Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Winkle is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts and Carthage College.
Ann Wood is a violinist and registered Suzuki teacher who enjoys working with students of all ages. She recently moved to Milwaukee from Anchorage, Alaska, where she taught violin for over 20 years. While in Alaska, Ms. Wood was a member of the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, with whom she traveled internationally, as well as the Anchorage Civic Orchestra and other local ensembles. She also served as a violin and viola coach for Super Strings, a Suzuki-based preparatory string orchestra. Ms. Wood is an active board member for the Suzuki Association of South Central Alaska, and is a current member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and the Suzuki Association of Wisconsin.
String Orchestra West Coach Alexa Zakutansky is an orchestra director in the Mukwonago Area School District, teaching at three elementary schools and Mukwonago High School. In addition to her teaching in the Mukwonago schools, Ms. Zakutansky teaches cello lessons to a variety of students ranging in age and ability and currently serves as treasurer for the Wisconsin chapter of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA).
Ms. Zakutansky has served as a clinician for several string festivals including the Wisconsin Young Artists Honors Orchestra and the UW-Whitewater Symphony Orchestra High School Honors concert and taught lessons for the Lake Geneva Symphony and the UW-Whitewater String Academy.
She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2018 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree with an instrumental emphasis. While at UW-Whitewater, she served as the president of the collegiate chapter of ASTA for three years. In 2018, Ms. Zakutansky was awarded the Student Exemplary Service Award, the highest award given to a student, at the National ASTA convention.
In her teaching, Ms. Zakutansky focuses on building strong relationships with her students. She believes that by being empathetic and compassionate, she can not only build strong, well-rounded musicians, but kind humans too.
Prelude Wind Ensemble Trumpet Instructor Michael Zens has served the young people of Wisconsin as a music educator since 2004, and has had the chance to teach students at every level from elementary school through university. Ensembles under his direction have been invited to perform at the Wisconsin State Music Conference four times, and have presented world or Wisconsin premieres of new music by composers including Steve Danyew, James Mobberley, Mark J. Connor, and John Mackey.
In addition to his work teaching music in public schools, Mr. Zens has previously served as the Music Director and Conductor of the Lakeshore Symphonic Band in Cedarburg, WI, and the Associate Conductor of the Waukesha Area Symphonic Band. He has also served on the faculty of the Wind and Percussion Institute at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. He studied music education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with additional work at Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota.
Mr. Zens resides in Hales Corners, WI with his wife, a four-year-old kindergarten teacher, his daughter, who plays violin in MYSO’s String Orchestra South, and his son, who loves trucks.