Meet the Faculty
Dr. Nabaz Abubakir (Violin & Viola)
Now accepting names for Mondays OR Thursdays
“Through music, students are able to paint a beautiful picture of the human experience. I hope to be able to teach my students to achieve this goal through effective teaching methods, practice, and developing an intimate knowledge of music.
My essential teaching style as a violin and viola teacher is based on the Galamian’s Principles of Violin Playing & Teaching. I believe that starting with fundamentals of violin techniques – both left hand and right hand – is essential. After mastering the fundamentals, students are able to grow into their own musicality and find a connection between the techniques and interpretation, and this is when I begin to teach the importance of musical phrasing and understanding the structure of a piece of music.”
Dr. Nabaz Abubakir is a violinist, violist, and conductor who studied at both the University of Kansas and Northern Illinois University. He has earned his D.M.A in violin performance and his Master’s degree in orchestral conducting. Outside of his academic achievements, Dr. Nabaz is the founder of a Kurdish string orchestra which won 2nd place in the Summa Cum Laude international youth competition in Vienna, Austria (2007). He has taught many summer classes and has participated in several other national and international festivals as well. In addition to teaching classic repertoire and technique for beginners through advanced students, Dr. Nabaz can help students prepare for school orchestra assignments or auditions and work on repertoire for Chamber Music or other ensembles.
With a wide range of teaching experience in both violin and viola – up to and including collegiate-level instruction – Dr. Nabaz is comfortable teaching students of all ages and experience levels. He can use several methods including Suzuki method in teaching his students, and he always focuses on finding the right methods for each student to them succeed and grow.
Hope Arthur (Piano, Voice & Accordion)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays
Hope Arthur is a classical and ragtime musician who holds a B.M. in piano performance as well as a B.A. in German studies. She graduated with the Outstanding Senior award for Music and an Outside Field. A composer, performer, and instructor with a special interest in ethnomusicology, Hope has more than ten years of teaching experience with students of all ages and musical interests. In 2012 Hope was the winner of the IPFW Concerto Aria Competition and was a soloist with the university orchestra. Also in 2012 Hope traveled to Saarburg, Germany, to perform at the Saarburg Seranaden, a festival featuring chamber music. In 2014 she was a featured artist at Schloss Stubenberg (Castle Stubenberg) in Stubenberg, Austria. She is the founder of the Hope Arthur Orchestra, a musical ensemble that focuses on performing original bodies of work and collaborating with arts organizations such as Fort Wayne Ballet, Mikautadze Dance Theatre, Fort Wayne Cinema Center, Pyroscope Entertainment and many more. Her ensemble won an Artie Award in 2013 for Outstanding Collaboration with Fort Wayne Ballet, Too. Since graduating, Hope has been focusing on expanding her audience through touring nationally and she also continues to collaborate with filmmakers, musicians, artists and dancers locally and across the world. Hope is very excited to join the team at Music Makers and to explore music and art making in Illinois.
Alex Bahaveolos (MMT Vocal Director, Voice & Piano)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays, Tuesdays, & Thursdays
"Music is a verb, not a noun. Music is not a product we create but rather the entire act of performing, practicing, and living through the art form."
Alex recently graduated from Millikin University with a B.A. in Music Education. His primary emphasis while attending Millikin was voice. While at Millikin, Alex sang in the University Choir under the Direction of Dr. Brad Holmes. His experiences in this Choir took him all throughout the country and on a European tour through the Baltic Region where he performed, taught, and truly fostered a love for choral music and the vocal art form. During his last year of Undergrad, Alex student taught at Lyons Township High School and worked under John Musick and throughout the choral program.
Alex has been working with Music Makers Theatre as their Vocal Director for five years and is excited to come on board as a teacher. His experiences with directing theatre make him a great choice for students looking in audition preparation as well as contemporary vocal styles with strong pedagogical foundation. Alex also believes in teaching theory to every student as a means of better understanding the art form.
Adrienne Benson (Office Manager)
Adrienne is a life-long resident of DuPage County and comes to Music Makers with a background of employment at College of DuPage and The Container Store. She recently graduated from Concordia University in River Forest, IL with a B.A. in Organizational Management. As the daughter of a music teacher (see Jan Benson's profile below!), a 10-year recipient of private violin lessons, and a former member of various local choirs, she carries a deep appreciation of music and the arts and loves having the opportunity to help new musicians get started on their journey. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and church-family; keeping up with her crazy dog, Eloise; attending cultural & artistic events around Chicagoland; and helping friends and family with a variety of household and organizational projects. Feel free to stop by the office and say hello - you’re always welcome!
Jan Benson (Piano)
Teaches private lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays
“If one can learn something as complex as a spoken language, one can learn the language of music regardless of innate musical ability, especially if it is taught in a similar fashion. The fine arts are an expression of the soul. Our art both shapes and is influenced by our culture. The importance of engaging with the arts in some form for emotional and physical health as well as life enrichment cannot be overemphasized.”
Mrs. Benson has always known she wanted to be a musician and a music teacher. She loved playing school, performing on the piano for family, and organizing neighborhood talent shows as a child, and her first experience teaching music was actually during her high school years when she offered piano lessons to neighborhood children. She brings to Music Makers over 20 years of experience teaching general and choral music to DuPage County K-8 children in the public school system, and she currently teaches in Naperville School Dist. 203.
Mrs. Benson earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree at the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction degree from Concordia University in River Forest, IL. While also a bassoonist, having played for 10 years with the Fox Valley Symphony, Mrs. Benson draws heavily on her 12 years of piano training on a daily basis for all of her music instruction. She is delighted to be part of the Music Makers team and guide others on their musical journeys!
Ann Bourjaily Maney (K-8th Summer MMT Music Director)
Ann received her bachelor's and master's degrees in piano performance/pedagogy from Saint Mary's College and Northwestern University, respectively. She has been involved in musical theater as a musical director and accompanist at Music Makers since 2000. In addition to Music Makers, Ann also works at St. John of the Cross as director of the Cherub and 5 Alive Teen choirs, St. Francis Xavier as an accompanist, and Nazareth Academy as a choir director. When she's not tickling the ivories, she's tending to her 4 wonderful children.
Paul Carey (Piano, Harp, Music Theory & Composition, Conducting, Harp Vibes Instructor)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays - Thursdays
My approach to teaching music varies from student to student. I try to discover each student’s particular interests and learning style, and then customize a plan which will allow them to progress toward discovering the joy of creating music, including the challenges it presents. I thoroughly enjoy watching students gain confidence in their achievements as they progress from beginner to more advanced player, and I firmly believe that success in music study carries over into other learning areas.
Paul’s musical career has taken him from college studies at the University of Illinois and Yale, to composing for and conducting some of the great choirs of the United States and overseas. As a pianist, he has enjoyed teaching silly six year olds, working as a choral accompanist, as well as accompanying the likes of New York Metropolitan Opera superstar Sherrill Milnes, a fellow Downers Grove native.
He has taught beginning through advanced piano, harp, choir, music theory & composition, and conducting in private studios as well as his during his stint as head of the music program at the famed North Carolina Governor’s School in Raleigh, NC.
His approximately 200 sacred and secular choral compositions range from the serious to the silly (note the Mashed Potato Love Poem, or Peace on Earth and Lots of Little Crickets, two of his biggest hits) and these works have been performed on six out of seven of the Earth’s continents (can you guess the “hold-out” continent?). His compositions are published by Oxford University Press and other fine publishers. As a conductor he has led festival and All-State choirs in various states as well as in Asia. He currently resides in Oak Park, the birthplace of author Ernest Hemingway and the Hostess Twinkie.
Rose Cloud (Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute)
Teaches private lessons on Thursdays
Rose Cloud is thrilled to be joining the Music Makers team this year. As a saxophonist and educator she is passionate about supporting students in a positive environment to discover their place in music and believes everyone has the ability to do so. She received her bachelors in Music Education from Eastern Illinois University, where she graduated with University Honors and Departmental Honors in Music. Her thesis project, ¡Salsa! Synthesis: The History and Development of Afro-Cuban Music, founded a salsa band at EIU, taught dance instruction, educated about Afro-Cuban history, and provided live music for the Charleston and University communities. This project was also inspired by her love of Spanish, which she has studied for many years, both in the US and abroad. During her junior year she was honored to receive the university’s most prestigious award, the Livingston C. Lord Scholarship in Education, and she continues to strive for excellence as a lifelong learner and teacher.
Rose grew up on a small farm in central Illinois and spent the majority of her childhood caring for chickens and horses and helping her parents grow organic produce to sell at farmers markets. It was there that she discovered music and spent her free time singing and practicing trumpet as a beginning band student, eventually discovering her true love, the tenor saxophone. She went on to earn highest honors in district and state concert and jazz ensembles. She loves just about every way of expressing life through music and can frequently be found practicing classical or jazz saxophone, dancing salsa, singing show tunes and jazz standards, or playing in pit orchestras. She teaches 5th and 6th grade band in Downers Grove Grade School District 58 and coaches the middle school jazz bands. She taught private lessons for several years while at Eastern and is looking forward to working with students at the Music Makers Studio.
Katie Cousins (Violin, Viola)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays
"Everyone, no matter how young or young-at-heart, has a unique viewpoint to reveal, and music is an ideal universal language in which to do just that. Learning a new art should be both enjoyable and challenging; through music, students of all ages not only learn how to work with an instrument, but also how to diagnose and approach difficult problems, exercise critical thinking, and learn to work with others to reach a common goal. In lessons, I aim to create an environment in which students feel comfortable exploring both technical processes and an awareness of sound - music reading, ear training, listening, and an appreciation of musical history are all important facets of my teaching."
Violinist Katie Cousins is a versatile performer and teacher with a passion for an enormous range of musical styles, and she has been featured on stages across the US and Europe. Currently based in Chicago, Katie regularly performs with several ensembles throughout the Midwest, including the Illinois, Kalamazoo, Peoria, and Northbrook Symphonies. A lifelong lover of the stage, she has also appeared with many musical theater and opera orchestras from Chicago to New York.
With a special passion for chamber music, Katie has enjoyed sharing both masterpieces and hidden gems of the repertoire with international audiences. She is a founding member of SomArté, an actively touring piano trio based in Chicago, as well as a member of the Living Room players, a chamber music collective based in Oak Park. She has worked with members of the Emerson, Pacifica, and St. Lawrence string quartets, and in the fall of 2011 co-founded Isosceles, a violin-saxophone-piano trio with which she toured across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern US.
Katie holds a M.M. and GPD in Violin Performance from the Hartt School in Hartford, CT. Before completing her graduate studies at Hartt, Katie received a B.S. in Music Education from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. She is a strong advocate for the development and strengthening of music programs in schools across the US, and has been teaching in private, small group, and classroom settings for over 15 years.
Juliet Dawson (Violin, Viola)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays
Juliet is a Chicago-based violist/violinist who has been passionate about string music ever since she was tricked into playing the viola at age 11. Since then, she has received her BM in viola performance from the University of Michigan and her MM from the Hartt School of Music.
As a chamber musician, she has performed as part of Hartt's prestigious chamber program Performance 2020, along with colleagues and professors from both U of M and the Hartt. Currently, she performs with the Living Room Players, a diverse collection of professional musicians in the Chicago area. As a soloist, Juliet debuted with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra in 2007. Since then she has appeared in scholarship showcases as well as faculty concerts. More recently she performed with the Hartt Symphony Orchestra as a winner of the 2012 Paranov Concerto Competition, performing the first viola concerto in over a decade of the competition's history.
She has acted as principal and section viola of her scholastic orchestras, as well as regional, baroque, and opera orchestras in Michigan, Connecticut, and Illinois. Before beginning at Music Makers, she has acted as a private instructor for both violin and viola for the last ten years.
Micki Doherty (MMT Director, Voice)
Teaches private lessons on Thursdays
"I love to watch kids who say, 'I can't', realize that they can!"
Micki earned her bachelors degree in Production of Musical Theater from The University of Illinois, with a triple minor in vocal performance, theater and business. For 7 years she was a talent agent with The Arlene Wilson Agency. Here she learned about the business while booking and casting performers for movies, television and stage. She was finally able to combine her passion for musical theater and her love of kids at Music Makers of Western Springs! For 12 years she has been thrilled and privileged to run the musical theater program and to teach Kindermusik and voice. Nothing gives her greater joy that to watch someone who thinks they can’t realize they can!! Micki has also had the honor to direct the St. Francis Spirit Choir with Music Makers' owner, Jeremy Michor, for the past 13 years. When she’s not directing and teaching she is usually chauffeuring one of her three kids, Jack, Kate and Abby to one of their many activities. She wouldn’t have it any other way!
Sujata Gazder (Piano & Voice)
Teaches private lessons on Fridays & Saturdays
"I believe that a solid grounding in note skills, rhythm and technique is very important. After learning the basics, a musician must look inside themselves to find their expression and create their art. I believe in creating a safe and enthusiastic environment for my students to explore that part of themselves. Enabling a student to access that inner expression allows them to grow not only as an artist but also as a person."
Sujata has over 25 years of teaching experience. She is able to teach both classical and popular styles on the piano and is comfortable with both children and adults. Sujata studied under the Royal School of Music, London until age 18 in India. She was the youngest finalist at the All in Your Box competition in 1988. (She gained admission to the Julliard School of Music.) Sujata received a bachelors and masters of music at The Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University. She majored in music theory with a minor in piano performance. She taught for three years at the Chicago Musical College from 1995 to 1997 and at Music Makers of Western Springs from 1996 to 2006. From 2006 to 2014 Sujata continued her teaching privately, and she has since rejoined Music Makers' faculty on Fridays and Saturdays teaching both private lessons and group classes.
Mary Gibson (Piano)
Teaches private lessons on Wednesdays and Fridays
Mary holds a Bachelor of Music Degree and Master of Music Degree in Piano Performance from the Chicago Conservatory College with a voice minor.
Her musical journey includes private piano instruction, choral educator/conductor of 32 years: those being spent at Montini Catholic High School, Lombard (12 years) and Lake Park High School, Roselle (20 years). In her role as choral educator Mary has served as vocal director for numerous musicals. Her choral students have participated at the All-State level at the Illinois Musical Educators Associations (IMEA) Choral Festivals.
Mary has also enjoyed being the vocalist for the Glen Ellyn Jazz Ensemble. She has worked with college level students as an accompanist for the Elmhurst College Choir Program under the direction of Susan Moninger.
Mary enjoys the collaborative efforts of parent, student and teacher in creating and developing the immense joy of music.
Andrew Gust (Voice, Guitar, Trumpet, & Piano)
Joining Music Makers late spring 2019!
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ― Albert Einstein
The beginning of music for Andrew started in 5th grade with the trumpet, and slowly moved to the voice and stage. Through elementary to high school, Andrew has been involved with many theater performances and competitions, as well as the ILMEA honor choir where he placed in the top four for his voice part in District 9 both his junior and senior year of high school. Andrew held lead roles in the productions of “Phantom of the Opera” and “Grease” for West Aurora High School where he graduated in 2012.
In 2016 Andrew graduated from Millikin University with a B.M. in Music Education with an emphasis on voice. Andrew traveled to countries such as Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia to sing with the prestigious Millikin University Choir. Andrew is currently in his third year teaching music and is the music teacher for two separate elementary schools in Lyons School District #103. Andrew is also a tenor in the professional choir ‘Cor Cantiamo’ as well as a theatre student and improv performer at the nationally acclaimed Second City Theatre of Chicago. Through Second City, Andrew studies Improv and Acting, and hopes to add in performance skills of the stage, as well as musicianship through piano and voice.
Rob Hynes (Guitar, Bass Guitar, Ukulele, Banjo, Mandolin, Rock Band Instructor)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays - Thursdays
"My teaching philosophy centers around making lessons and practice fun through the exploration of a wide variety of techniques and styles. It is my belief that this is the key to growth. I strive to instill a firm understanding of music fundamentals and instruct while using the student's favorite songs as examples. Skills developed during lessons are sight reading, improvisation, ear training and more."
Robert Hynes has been an instructor at Music Makers of Western Springs for over ten years and enjoys the chance to share his love of music through private & semi-private lessons, guitar ensembles, and Rock Band. Instruction is available for all styles of guitar including classical, jazz, rock, blues, slide/bottleneck, country/bluegrass, and pop. Other instruments offered are bass guitar, ukulele, banjo, and mandolin. Skills taught in lessons include sightreading, ear training, chord comping, song and solo transcription, technique development and songwriting. Robert is also responsible for guitar repair at the studio.
Having written music & performed with a wide variety of groups throughout the Chicagoland area for almost 20 years, Robert has built an impressive live-performance resume including stops at the Taste of Chicago, Park West, and House of Blues. The Robert Hynes Band - a group featuring his original compositions - has shared the stage with acclaimed national acts such as Buckwheat Zydeco, the Mighty Blue Kings, Rusted Root Trio, Leo Nocontelli (guitarist of the Meters), and CJ Chenier. He has performed in wedding bands, jazz ensembles, blues bands, cover bands, and done studio work for other acts as well.
Robert first learned guitar and piano at a very young age from his father, a self-taught multi-instrumentalist. Piano, guitar, voice, and viola lessons were continued at school and at the house of a next-door neighbor who was an instructor. Robert has attended Downers Grove South High School, Davea Career Center (Media Technology), and College of DuPage, and has received countless hours of private guitar instruction from the area's finest guitarists.
Joy Jeffries (Voice, Songwriting, & Piano)
Teaches private lessons on Wednesdays
Joy Jeffries has a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. A classically trained singer, Joy’s techniques and teaching style are deeply rooted in this genre. She strongly believes that once you study classical techniques of any instrument that you can flourish in any other genre of music that you desire. Joy’s formal vocal studies first began as a sophomore in high school where she was also very active in show choir, concert and honor choirs. Her lessons and experiences during this period of her life led Joy towards pursuing music as a career.
As a mezzo-soprano, Joy’s voice has a warm depth in color and soulful characteristics. These attributes led her to discover jazz while in college - self-teaching herself this genre of music. Joy has performed jazz at various venues throughout Chicago and was reviewed in the Chicago Tribune and interviewed on WGN Radio early in her career. Besides singing, Joy Jeffries has always had a passion for writing music. During her undergraduate studies, she expanded her music pursuits to include composition and songwriting. To this day, Joy continues to be an avid songwriter and thoroughly enjoys the creative process of songwriting. In 2012, she was a featured artist on a charitable anti-bullying nonprofit album “Anonymuse” available on iTunes; a project that was created by one of her former students. Joy hopes to record her debut album of all original music in the very near future.
Joy has been teaching private voice lessons for over 20 years, and it is through her teaching that Joy has truly found her voice. She has gained great satisfaction and accomplishment from seeing her students flourish vocally over the years.
Joy is excited to be back at Music Makers to share her love for music and vocal talents with all of her students!
Sean Keenehan (Percussion, Drums)
Teaches private lessons on Saturdays
“I believe that all music is relative and have been teaching all musical genres at Music Makers since 2000—as Duke Ellington once said, ‘If it sounds good, it IS good.’ Beginning with a solid foundation of the basics, I identify with each student’s unique personality and structure curriculums according to the student’s learning style, incorporating snare drum, drum set, xylophone, percussion and musical theory studies accordingly. I have had the privilege of studying with great instructors and do my best to honor and emulate their spirit through my own teaching approach.”
Sean Keenehan began his dedicated musical studies in Philadelphia and, after relocating to the Chicagoland area, remained increasingly active as a determined percussionist in school jazz, symphonic, orchestra and marching band programs, achieving numerous awards for solo and ensemble performances through college.
As a music performance major at Columbia College Chicago, Sean engulfed himself in the city’s blues, jazz and fusion scene and studied under the direction of the late and legendary jazz composer William Russo, Fulbright Specialist Kimo Williams and former Ramsey Lewis percussionist Frank Donaldson. During his freshman year, Sean was hired by Columbia as a session drummer and also performed percussion for several of the college’s musical theater productions, including “Chicago” and “Godspell.”
An accomplished rock/pop career has allowed Sean to record and perform with a vast array of artists and enabled him to travel from coast-to-coast in support of a diversity of international acts—including Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Queensyrche, The Mighty MIghty Bosstones, Disturbed, Sum 41, Ratt, The Plain White T’s and Alter Bridge—earning worldwide radio/video airplay, critically-acclaimed press reviews, an appearance on Fuse TV and two appearances as a guest host for the music television show JBTV along the way.
Sean also works in Chicago as a multi-media journalist and has a BA in Communication Studies Magna Cum Laude from Loyola University Chicago.
Ben Lansing (Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Mandolin, Banjo, Dobro, Lap steel)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays & Thursdays
"As a teacher, I create individual lesson plans for each student, according to age, experience, preferred style(s) of music, and long-term goals. I have taught students from age 5 to over 70. One of the biggest challenges in teaching musical instruments is keeping the student excited enough to practice regularly. I generally teach through songs that are easily recognized. This allows the student to hear when he/she is performing the song correctly, and the result is immediately rewarding. While teaching songs, I look for opportunities to introduce the appropriate theory (chords, scales, technique, etc.) so that students can play the songs and understand the harmonic structure. I work with every student to help promote a good sense of time and feel, which I believe is an essential part of making music."
Ben Lansing began playing guitar at fourteen, influenced by various rock and metal bands of the day. Taking lessons in Memphis with a local blues guitarist, he learned early on the importance of tone, rhythm, and groove. That first teacher taught him how to improvise and play slide guitar, which has become a dominant aspect of his playing and a specialized aspect of his teaching.
Another unique element of Ben's playing style is his use of hybrid picking (incorporating both a pick and fingers simultaneously). This versatile picking technique allows for sounds and note combinations not possible with pick or fingers alone.
Since moving to Chicago in 1998, Ben has played in many bands, both live and on studio recordings. These bands range in style from rock, blues, country, folk, funk, fusion, traditional and free jazz, to many types of "world" music. His ability to play traditional West African guitar styles has lead to performances with international artists, and he has toured Europe and America playing American roots music.
In addition to playing many styles of music, Ben also enjoys playing many different stringed instruments, including electric, acoustic, slide, and fretless guitar, bass, ukulele, mandolin, dobro, lap steel, and banjo. Playing a variety of styles and instruments has garnered him studio work with other artists and for tv and film soundtracks.
Ben continues to play and record with a number of artists in the Chicago area. He strives to continue advancing both technically and creatively as a musician and to continue to evolve his unique approach to stringed instruments.
Andres Lopez (Drums & Beginning Piano)
Teaches private lessons on Thursdays
“The main goal in music education is to spark curiosity and to encourage the discovery of the intriguing ways in which sounds are capable of transmitting emotions.”
Andres holds a Master of Music Degree in Jazz Performance from New York University. He also received a Bachelor of Music Degree from Berklee International Network - COM., where he graduated Magna Cum Laude, and a Bachelor of Communications Degree from Salesiana University.
Before moving to Chicago in 2017, Andres was a Faculty member for four years at Universidad de las Americas in Quito, Ecuador (UDLA) where he helped develop the curriculum studies for the drums and ear training departments. A composer, performer, and educator, he currently leads his own musical project, the Andres Lopez Jazz Quartet. His first album Outrospección features alto saxophonist Dave Pietro.
Andres has performed and conducted workshops in many countries, including: Spain, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Cuba and the US. He has collaborated with many musical projects, including The New Folk Collective, David Banker and the International Ensemble, Signos Andinos, Koyari, among others. The album “La Mitad de mi Mundo” by Chilean pop singer Alberto Plaza in which Andres participated, received a triple Platinum Album Certification in 2014. In 2010, Andres won the Jazz Envoys Competition, sponsored by the US Embassy in Quito, Ecuador. The same year, he performed at the prestigious Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.
Jeremy & Gwen Michor (Owners and Studio Directors)
Music Makers is a family-owned business run by Jeremy & Gwen Michor of Western Springs. The school was started in 1978 by Jeremy’s mother, Penny Wright, with Penny teaching in her home until the move to Grand Avenue in 1986.
Jeremy took over the business in 1995 with his wife Gwen joining him in 1998. Jeremy and Gwen believe that the school’s professional staff, friendly atmosphere, and wide variety of programs are what draw students of all ages and talents to Music Makers. They are the proud parents of four beautiful children, all of whom are involved with Music Makers lessons/theatre classes. In his spare time, Jeremy also co-directs the Spirit Choir at St. Francis Xavier in La Grange and enjoys singing and playing guitar in the locally popular band, Hidden Village.
José Ormaza (Drums)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays and Tuesdays
Born in Quito-Ecuador, José began his musical studies at the School of the Ecuadorian National Symphony Orchestra. He moved to Chicago in 1998 where he received his undergraduate degree in Jazz Studies at Columbia College. He completed his Masters degree in Percussion Performance at Northeastern Illinois University. He has played with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble and with the Ecuadorian National Symphony Orchestra as a soloist. He has toured and recorded with the Grammy nominee Cuban artist Chuchito Valdez. Currently, he is active performing around the Chicago area playing in a variety of bands covering different styles such as Jazz, Rock, Latin Jazz and Funk.
Danielle Pender (Musical Theatre Dance Technique)
Danielle Pender is a dance teacher who is excited to bring her love of musical theater to MMWS. Her performance experience includes Full Circle, Disney’s Belle, and Joel Hall’s dance company. She has taught at Lou Conte, Dance Center of Lagrange and Columbia College where she received her BFA in Musical Theatre Performance. She met her husband at the Goodman Theatre and is the proud mom of Lucas and Siena. She has been honored for her artistry and commitment to community arts programming, but making a difference in the lives of her students is her greatest award. She is an ACE certified instructor, member of the American College Dance Association, National Dance Education Organization, and Musical Theatre Educator’s Alliance.
Wen Rudnick (Piano)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
As a piano teacher, my mission is to help students find joy and accomplishment in their music. During training, my students will learn to develop various techniques and musical appreciation in a friendly and encouraging environment that can inspire them to improve on their own.
Wenqian (Wen) Rudnick began playing in her home city of Nanjing, China at the age of 4. She also learned singing and composition and had competed in many local competitions. After completing high school, she left to study at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music composition and music production.
In 2012, Wen decided to study in the United States and later received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in piano performance from Indiana State University. During her study, she worked as a teaching assistant and has taught secondary piano lessons for college students and young kids as young as age 5. In additional to teaching, she worked with various performers and ensembles in the United States and China. In Spring 2017, Wen won the ISU concerto competition. That following fall she has attended Classical Music Festival in Eisenstaedt, Austria where she performed and attended lectures at the Esterhazy Palace.
Wen recently moved to the Chicago area to start her music career. She was accepted to perform at Brevard Music Center Summer Institute & Festival last year and sought to join the professional organizations. Wen is currently a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda Honor Music Society, and also a certified piano teacher of Music Teacher National Association. She aspires to better her teaching and performance career.
Sladjana Saric (Voice & Piano)
Teaches private lessons on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Saturdays
An impressive soprano with extensive European concert experience, Sladjana is now successfully building her career in the USA. Hailing from Belgrade, Serbia, she has a widespread history of international performance.
From 2010-2012, Sladjana was a featured soprano with the National Theatre Opera Studio in Belgrade, Serbia. She made her first full US operatic debut with Opera Ouvert as Mimi from Puccini’s La Boheme and as Vitellia from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito in the Chicago Summer Festival.
In 2011, Sladjana was a finalist of the Grandi Voci International Singing Competition at the Oper im Berg Festival, in Salzburg, Austria. She has been featured in master classes with renowned artists such as Sherrill Milnes, Mirella Freni, Eva Marton, Maria Guleghina, Joan Dornemann, Ruth Falcon, Krassimira Stoyanova, and Elizabeth Byrne.
She was first seen in the US in the spring of 2016 as a member of the International Vocal Arts Institute in NYC. She spent the rest of 2016 as a member of the International Opera Academy in Montecatini Terme, Italy, where she was awarded the 'Al Miglior Interprete Verdiano' for her outstanding soprano voice. She has performed main roles at the National Theatre in Belgrade as Marcellina from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Girorgetta from Puccini’s Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica from Suor Angelica, Mimi from La Boheme, and Senta from Wagner’s Flying Dutchman. She has been featured in concerts in Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Germany, Romania, and the US.
Sladjana earned her Master’s in Vocal Performance from the Faculty of Music in Belgrade, Serbia, and she earned a specialization degree in Vocal Performance from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary in the class of opera star Eva Marton. Additionally, she holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s of Flute Performance from the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Today Sladjana is member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus and member of the Lakeside Singers. She is excited to join Music Makers to teach voice and piano to new musicians of all ages!
Daniel Segner (Piano, Voice)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays
“Learning an instrument is a skill that you will have your entire life. My students focus on fundamentals and technique so that they can explore genres of music that speak to them. Any student who works hard, masters the fundamentals, and is passionate about what they play will become fine musicians.”
Daniel Segner is a graduate of Valparaiso University where he earned his Bachelor of Music in Church Music/Organ Performance with his teacher Dr. Lorraine Brugh. He is the Principal Organist for First United Methodist Church at Chicago Temple in Chicago, Illinois, where he serves under Director of Music Erik Nussbaum and also holds a position as Organist/Pianist for Immanuel Lutheran Church in Downers Grove. For the last three years he has worked as the Director of Music at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Chesterton, IN, and has served most recently as the Interim Cantor and Organist at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lincolnwood, IL. He has studied piano with Nicole Lee, voice with Dr. Christopher Cock, and harpsichord with Dr. Joseph Bognar.
As a pianist, Daniel has enjoyed competing and playing recitals for most of his career; however, his true passion has been collaboration with other instrumentalists. The desire to collaborate, along with his history as a professional chorister, led him to study the organ. For the past 8 years, Daniel’s primary work on the piano has been accompanying a wide variety of soloists and ensembles: from vocalists, brass, and strings, to piano four-hands and piano six-hands.
Including his work as a capable accompanist, some of his notable past performances have been the opening recital for the Pipe Organ Encounter hosted by the American Guild of Organists, a guest artist for Paul Manz Organ Recital Series, and as a recitalist for an organ rededication service at Augustana Lutheran Church in Hobart, IN. Collaborations have included performances with Chorus Angelorum, Civitas (Chicago Symphony Orchestra chamber group), and with the Valparaiso University Symphony and LaPorte Symphony Orchestras. Recently, he has performed alongside the Valparaiso University Chorale in their summer tour of Germany where he played in Luebeck, Jueterbog, and Leipzig. While at Valparaiso University, he received the Ronald G. Reidenbach Prize in Church Music and the Signature Artist Award.
Marco Severini (Guitar)
Teaches private lessons on Thursdays and Saturdays
Marco is a native of Brookfield and has been studying the guitar since he was five years old. Marco was a member of the Pro Musica Children’s Choir in Oak Park for ten years, and as a high school senior at Riverside Brookfield High School, Marco was a member of the school choir and jazz ensemble. During his senior year, Marco was awarded the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award and took first in state for Male Vocalist as a tenor in choir for IMEA. Music has always been his passion and he continued his music education at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. While at Berklee he studied guitar and graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Contemporary Writing and Production. Some of the styles that have influenced Marco’s guitar playing are jazz, fusion, blues, rock and metal; emphasized by guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Al Di Meola, Wes Montgomery, and John Petrucci. Marco looks forward to help pass on the love of music he has to all of his students.
Kristopher Spike (Piano, Theory)
Teaches private lessons on Fridays
"Learning music is like learning about life. Sure, you will learn about scales and arpeggios, chords and harmony, rhythms and riffs, technique and performing. But on a bigger scale, you will learn some things you can apply to every aspect of your life. How to set goals and develop strategies for achieving them, how to tap into your inner powers of perseverance and determination to succeed, how to identify problems and find solutions. Most importantly of all, you learn about beauty and the joy of sharing that beauty with the people around you. Music lessons build character and are as much about shaping a good person as they are about creating a good musician."
Kristofer Spike is an Australian composer and pianist now living in Chicago. Kris attended the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he got a Bachelor of Music Education degree and also a Licentiate Performer's Diploma from Trinity College, London. After finishing his degree he worked as a freelance pianist playing many different types of music and has spent many years teaching and accompanying in schools and from his home studio. As a composer, Kris has developed a unique style which draws upon many influences but always aims to feature soaring melodies and rich harmony. Many of his pieces have been inspired by his concern for environmental issues and with his group, Wind Energy he has produced 5 CDs of his compositions. He has given concerts in most Australia's capital cities and his music is regularly played on fine music radio stations. Some of his large collection of compositions can be found on his YouTube channel.
Jon Studtmann (Guitar)
Teaches private lessons on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Fridays
"Since every student has a different background and a unique way of learning, I like to think that my teaching method is a combination of many methods. I feel it is important to adjust to the personality of the learner."
Jon Studtmann is a music educator and freelance musician based in the Chicagoland area. He has been teaching private guitar since 1993, and has been part of the Music Makers faculty since January 2017. Jon's teaching style focuses on learning proper guitar technique; reading music in standard notation, guitar notation, and chord symbols; exploring music theory; developing music appreciation; and expanding each individual student's repertoire.
Ysraelia (Izzy) G. Sullivan
(Director of Client and Faculty Services; Music Makers Theatre Musical Director)
Ysraelia earned her B.A. in Music (minors; Special Education, Theatre) from Mundelein College of Loyola University in Chicago with a focus on Organ studies. She subsequently studied the harpsichord under world-renowned artist and educator David Schrader as part of her Musicology studies at Roosevelt University’s College of the Performing Arts during her Graduate studies.
”Izzy” was an adjunct faculty member of Loyola University Chicago for four years teaching Gospel Music studies before switching to music therapy for special needs children and gang youth and then Alzheimers/dementia patients, which she did for over 20 years. She is currently a church organist/pianist at three different Chicagoland churches. Besides working in the office, she also serves as Music Director for Music Makers Theatre. Her credits as a Music Director include productions of: "Rent", “Miss Saigon", "Spring Awakening", "Mary Poppins", "A Chorus Line", "The Addams Family", "Tarzan", "Dogfight", "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown", "Avenue Q", "Les Miserables", "In the Heights", "West Side Story" "Catch Me if You Can", "Jekyll & Hyde", “13”, “Footloose” and “Anything Goes”, to name a few. She has acted in various musical theatre productions on the North Shore, including playing Queenie in “Showboat”, and has performed in the chorus of “Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz Gospel Musical” at the Auditorium Theatre with tenor Rodrick Dixon. Izzy is most proud oh having had the honor of performing and conducting for both best-selling author and poet Nikki Giovanni and also the late Maya Angelou.
In her spare time, she and her hubby enjoy attending live music concerts, sporting events, theatrical events, traveling, and spending time with their family and friends. Izzy also enjoyed a period of doing runway full-figured modeling but finds her greatest joy doing anything musical!
George Teague (Cello)
Teaches private lessons on Fridays
"My teaching strongly revolves around Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy that “Every Child Can!” It is this belief that every person possesses the ability to play beautiful, satisfying music. There is no one person that possesses an innate talent that another person does not have, and it is my joy as a teacher to discover that talent in each and every student."
George Teague is a cellist and teacher currently completing his Master’s degree in Cello Performance at the Chicago College of Performing Arts under renowned pedagogue and former Suzuki Association of the Americas President, Dr. Tanya Carey. Before moving to Chicago, George completed his undergraduate degree at Northern Arizona University under Dr. Mary Ann Ramos. An accomplished performer, George has held principal seats in the CCPA Symphony and NAU Symphony Orchestra, as well cello section member of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.
George enjoys performing and teaching in a variety of styles, and takes special interest in performing contemporary works for the cello. He is also a recipient of numerous performing arts awards, including the Nadene Bean Cello Scholarship. His students have won numerous regional competitions, as well as placing in regional and All-State programs. George is always looking for new ways to play and teach, and enjoys the fusion of traditional and Suzuki methods.
Gretchen Wells-Malitz (Voice, Guitar, Piano, Rock Band Jr. Instructor)
Teaches private lessons on Tuesdays, Thursdays, & Saturdays
"My goal as a teacher is to help students understand musical theory, technique, and artistry in an encouraging and inspiring environment."
Gretchen teaches private voice, piano and guitar lessons at Music Makers. Her degrees in music performance are from DePaul University and Illinois State University. Gretchen is an early childhood teacher and the music provider for the Active Learners Preschool/Clarendon Hills Park District. She is also part of the adjunct music faculty at the DePaul School for New Learning in Chicago, Illinois. In addition to teaching, Gretchen has created and developed music classes for several local preschools, and performs early childhood music classes at local libraries. She directs the Rock Band Jr. Program at Music Makers.
Megan Yeung (Violin & Viola)
Teaches private lessons on Saturdays
"The primary objective in my teaching philosophy is for my students to be able to learn the joy of making music, while also building a foundation of a tireless work ethic required of a musician from a young age. I find it most important to emphasize instilling proper technique in my students while they are still young beginners using different systems of scales and etudes. My students also learn a vast variety of repertoire chosen with guidance from the Suzuki books and ABRSM exams. These pieces teach students new technique, musicality, and unique styles of music according to different time periods."
“Megan Yeung began her musical studies in Hong Kong at the age of three, studying the violin with Mr. Ping Wing Chan of the Hong Kong Philharmonic. She was introduced to the viola in the fourth grade, and has since fallen in love with the rich, warm sound of the instrument. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Music Performance degree, studying with renowned pedagogues Almita and Roland Vamos.
Megan performed with the Libertyville String Quartet as their violinist and violist for four years. She also taught violin and viola for two years at Bravo Waukegan and continues to maintain a small private studio of students. She has been accepted to study at music festivals such as: Tanglewood Institute at Boston University, Chautauqua Music Festival, and Philadelphia International Music House Festival. She has also had the opportunity as a soloist and orchestral musician to work with cellist Yo Yo Ma, composer Bryce Dessner, and San Francisco Symphony’s principal violist Jonathan Vinocour.”
Marissa Zagoudis (Piano, Voice, Music Technology Advisor, Wee Sing Instructor)
Teaches private lessons on Mondays - Fridays
"My students and I become music detectives in class. We search for clues, such as symbols, title, and tempo, to play the "mystery" piece technically and musically to the best of one's ability. We look and listen for matching measures to "solve" the song more efficiently."
Marissa was born and raised in Western Springs, IL. She attended St. Francis Xavier Grade School, Lyons Township High School, and North Central College. Marissa was involved in music activities throughout her school career and was blessed to have studied under talented mentors. She believes music has a unique ability to enrich people’s lives. Marissa earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and received her Type 10 Teaching Certificate from the Illinois State Board of Education in Spring 2010. As an educator, Marissa hopes to inspire others to develop an appreciation for music and to strive to reach their musical potential. She currently teaches beginner piano and voice lessons at Music Makers of Western Springs.