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MUSIC

INSTRUCTORS

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Suzuki Violin, Ukulele

DEPARTMENT HEAD

BETSEY KARAKO

​Elizabeth Karako is an active performer and teacher in the St. Louis area. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree with high honors from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and a Master of Music in Violin Performance with an emphasis in Suzuki Pedagogy from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. During the summers of 2014-2018, she served as a Unit Director and Associate Staff Director at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan. Elizabeth currently plays with the Salem-St. Louis Chamber Orchestra and is registered through the Suzuki Association of the Americas for Volumes 1-10 of the Violin School. 

Questions about lessons?

Fill out the Private Lesson Inquiry pop-up on this site. Your information will go straight to Betsey and she will connect you with the teacher she sees as the best fit for you.

Have other questions, contact Betsey directly at betseykarako@dayspringarts.org 

About Our Teachers:
  • Advanced degrees and highly qualified
  • Passionate about teaching
  • Provide a nurturing environment
  • Collaborate, providing unique opportunities for education and performance
  • Participate in professional groups (SLAMTA, NFMC, MTNA, MMTA, and Royal Conservatory Exams)
Teachers can help assess for readiness and appropriate ages for beginning private lessons.
 
Please contact Betsey Karako for more information to make sure students are set for success in musical studies!

MUSIC INSTRUCTORS

Deborah Thuet

Music Class Instructor

Deborah Thuet has taught band and general music for more than 28 years. Deborah has a Bachelor’s in Music Performance from the University of North Texas, and she has a Masters in Music Education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Deborah is a percussionist and she has performed in various groups around the world along with performing on T.V. and on the radio. In recent years, Deborah has been a percussionist with the Gateway Orchestra, the St. Louis Wind Symphony, the St. Louis Philharmonic along with various other groups. Deborah is presently the timpanist for the St. Louis Philharmonic and the drum set player for the Queens of Swing. Deborah has taught with Band for Today since August 2018.

 

PIANO INSTRUCTORS

Nancy Schaff

Piano

Nancy Schaaf received her formal education from Webster University, with a BM Ed. in Music Education and a Master of Music in Piano Performance and Pedagogy. She has studied with Gail Delente of Washington D.C. and Jules Gentil from the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris; and has taken workshops with accompanists Nancy Revzen and John Wustman from U. of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. She has worked as a freelance accompanist for 25 years in the St. Louis and Chicago metropolitan areas for many fine soloists, having also professionally worked with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, St. Louis Chamber Chorus, Windfire- flute and percussion with John and Paula Kasica, and the St. Louis Conservatory and Webster University as staff accompanist. Ms. Schaaf’s work with children has included choir direction and music teaching at a school for gifted children in Chicago and she has taught piano privately for 20 years, developing students to college level. As part of her function as Music Director of New Covenant Church, she led choirs and orchestras, writing and arranging music for various settings, including several musicals. Since 1992 she has worked as Director of DaySpring School of the Arts, having been a founder of the school. She continues to perform and teach piano & musical theater, having been on the piano faculty of the Masterworks Festival of the Performing Arts in Houghton, NY in 2000. In her involvement in the piano teaching community she has been Vice president of programming for SLAMTA for 4 years and is state treasurer of MMTA. She has been a founding member of the Maryland Hgts. Arts Commission, and has served as chairperson for 2 years. She lives in St. Louis with her 3 awesome children.

Doris Lam

Piano

​Doris Lam was born in Hong Kong and began playing the piano at age of 6. She has recevied her BA (Hons) in music with emphasis in music theory and analysis in 1999, from the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU). She has earned certifications of Grade 8 Piano and Music theory from Royal School of Music (ABRSM) and Trinity Guildhall (ATCL). After she graduated, she kept her piano study with Mr. Khong Wing-Yin. Her passion of music motivated her to get involved in different music activities. While she was still in Hong Kong, she earned first runner-up in high school music competition. She has been a piano accompanist in churches for their choir’s. She was a choir member of HKBU, and earned awards from international choir competitions in Europe. She conducted a children’s choir and church choir for a couple years after she graduated.

Lydia Rosensteel

Piano, Clarinet

​Lydia grew up as a Missionary Kid in Papua New Guinea. She began playing piano at the age of 8 and clarinet when she was 10 as part of a band program at a mission based international school. She continued playing and singing in an active music program there until she finished high school and taught piano her last two years of high school before moving back to the United States to attend college. She graduated from Taylor University in Indiana with a B.M. in Music Performance in Clarinet, studying under Dr. Christopher Bade, and a piano minor under the direction of Kathy Grile. In 2008 she was awarded the Presser Scholarship in recognition of music and academic excellence. Lydia has been teaching piano and clarinet privately in the St. Louis area for over 10 years. She enjoys playing with community bands and ensembles in church and around St. Louis. She has a great love and interest in music from around the world and enjoys incorporating that diversity wherever possible.

Ann Ahrens

Piano

Ann Ahrens earned a Master of Arts in Music from Webster University in 2001, and a PhD in Christian Worship from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2017. Ann has taught music and worship arts at Urshan College in Wentzville, MO for 25 years where she currently serves as Professor of Music and Worship Studies. In addition to her service at the college level, Ann has taught private and group piano at The Community Music School of Webster University (2002-2006) and Missouri Baptist University (2006-2008). Ann has studied piano with Daniel Schene, Cathy Benton, and Ruth Price. In addition to teaching piano, theory, and history, Ann’s areas of interest include the function of music in the corporate church worship service.

Cindy Graeler

Piano

​Cindy Graeler is an accomplished pianist and teacher with experience both as a private piano and bassoon teacher as well as a classroom music teacher. She received her BME in Music Education from the University of Missouri in 2009 and recently graduated with a Masters of Music degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma, studying with Dr. Jane Magrath.
Cindy began giving lessons while at the University of Missouri and has enjoyed the opportunity to teach students of all ages (5-75) and all levels. When in Oklahoma, she gained experience teaching group piano classes and private lessons to more advancing college students. Since moving to St. Louis, Cindy continues to put her love of music to use in a variety of ways; maintaining a private studio, teaching adjunct group lessons at St. Louis Community College, and performing each Sunday at Kirkwood Baptist Church.

Huiyun Liang

Piano

​Huiyun Liang is a D.M.A. candidate in Piano Pedagogy at the University of South Carolina (USC), and holds a master’s degree in Music Education from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She was a recipient of a full graduate assistantship in teaching class piano and accompanying at USC from 2013-2016. She also taught piano lessons and group classes for students of all ages and levels at the USC community music program. Her students have received outstanding results in the South Carolina Music Teachers Association’ district and state auditions and Royal Conservatory Music examinations. She served as a vice president of MTNA Collegiate Chapter at USC from 2016-2017. Huiyun has studied piano with Dr. Janice Wenger and Dr. Joseph Rackers, and chamber music with Prof. Phillip Bush.

Formerly involved in the production of numerous TV programs and concerts in China, Huiyun moved to the United States to pursue her dream of becoming a musician in 2011. She has established herself as a pianist, chamber musician, and pedagogue. Huiyun has given solo recitals in the U.S. as well as in her hometown, Wuhan, China. As a chamber musician, she performed at the 2017 Vianden Festival in Luxembourg. Featured as “Emerging Piano Pedagogue” by Hong Kong Commercial Daily, Huiyun is also actively presenting at American national conferences, including Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) National Conference, National Conference of Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP), and Piano Pedagogy Symposium. Her pedagogical article on music memory has been awarded and published by Clavier Companion in 2015. Aimed to maximize students’ learning outcomes, her dissertation focuses on video modeling in piano teaching. Huiyun is very motivated to share her passion and experience with the music community in St. Louis.

Sharla Bender

Piano

A music teacher for 19 years, Dr. Sharla Bender has a passion for mentoring students of all ages and skill levels in piano and violin. Her introduction to formal music began with violin lessons in 5 th grade and continued through several degrees, including a Bachelor of Music from Huntingdon College, a Master of Music, and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Alabama. During graduate school she studied with the late Amanda Penick who was the 2008 National Music Teacher of the Year as well as the host of a 28-year-long series called The Pianist at Work by Alabama Public Television. Sharla believes that music is meant to be shared and enjoyed. She partners with her students so that they can fully develop their musical talents.
Sharla most recently served as a music professor at Urshan College in Florissant, MO from Spring 2014 - Spring 2019, where she taught private piano lessons and music classes such as Ear Training and Sight Singing, Class Piano, Music Appreciation, Piano Literature, and Piano Pedagogy. She continues to serve as an adjunct professor of piano there. Sharla has a variety of experience, including her years as an instructor of the Academy of Performing Arts, an adjunct professor of music at Faulkner University, as well as successfully running her own private studio in her home states of Alabama and Missouri. She has also performed in the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, as a featured soprano soloist with the Urshan College Chamber Choir, and in recitals around the community. Sharla became a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM) in April 2019.

VOICE INSTRUCTORS

 
Meredith Todd

Voice | Music Director Musical Theatre 1 & 3

With more than 20 years of experience, Meredith brings a distinct skillset to DaySpring. She has a passion for training current and aspiring musicians through technique, theory and performance, while enhancing their experience by tailoring the lessons to the student’s personal objectives.
As a performer, Meredith has a rich history in a variety of genres including musical theater, classical and contemporary styles. She graduated from Lindenwood University in 2011, summa cum laude, where she received training in vocal & piano technique, performance, composition and conducting. She served as Associate Conductor for Lindenwood University's University Chorus, as well as performing with and composing several works for Lindenwood's premier vocal a capella group, Voices Only. She is currently the Director of Music for Next Generation Theatre Company in Maryland Heights, MO, as well as a worship leader at a local church.
During private lessons, Meredith combines her background as a vocal performer, pianist and music director to provide her students with a truly unique learning experience that encompasses all sides of the music industry. Her students are equipped to understand how to audition and perform properly, but creatively, while working with the musicians around them to create an enjoyable experience. Her approach is challenging, but accessible and rewarding for a wide variety of ages, interest levels and student types.

Mica Tharp

Voice

Mica Tharp graduated with a Master of Arts in Arts Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Music Performance from Lindenwood University. She currently serves on the board of Next Generation Theatre Company and actively performs in the Saint Louis area. She’s been singing for most of her life and finds it the safest place to express herself and find comfort. She has taught private voice, beginner piano and acting lessons for well over five years. Mica believes in creating a safe, creative and individualized experience for each of her students.

Debora Pedigo

Voice

Brazilian Soprano, singer and songwriter, Debora was introduced to music very early in life by her father, Raimundo Silva, also a musician, vocal arranger, guitar player and songwriter, member of Trio Jangadeiro.
Debora can easily navigate through many vocal styles which makes her unique in the music scenery. Her early years were greatly influenced by Brazilian Popular Music, especially the Bossa Nova genre (a lyrical fusion between Jazz and Samba) represented by great names like Joao Gilberto and Tom Jobim, whose songs were often played at home by her father.
At the age of 8, Debora started playing guitar and singing in family gatherings, but remained extremely shy through her teenage years until 17, when she joined a prayer group from Shalom Catholic Community in Fortaleza, her hometown, and started singing at church. Strong in her Christian faith she attributes to God her freedom of singing and the innermost motivations for her art. Being a member of Shalom and its Music Ministry musical group for many years, she recorded about 15 albums becoming one of the most acclaimed female Gospel voices in Brazil.
Her first Solo album Estacao das Flores or Season of Flowers was released in 2005 during a Summer Festival called Halleluya Festival for a crowd of over 200,000 people who come annually from several states of Brazil and from all over the world to the touristic Fortaleza to attend the Festival.
Her passion for Classical Music only came later in her life, at the age of 26, when she started her vocal studies with Baritone and pianist Vitor Philomeno who encouraged her to further her studies and pursue a solo career.
Since then, Debora has participated and national and international vocal competitions, eventually being awarded a scholarship to pursue her Masters in Vocal Performance in the US where she has performed in concerts and operas. In the US, Debora has studied with Dr. Frieda Gebert from Campbellsville University, Dee Pavelka from Webster University and Dr. Emily Truckenbrod, chair of the Voice Department at Southern Illinois Unversity Edwardsville SIUE where she also received her Post Bacculaureate Certificate in Vocal Pedagogy.
Debora is currently opening her private voice studio, while she keeps performing and preparing for a new solo album, first to be recorded in the US.

STRING INSTRUCTORS

 
Betsey Karako

Violin, Ukulele

Elizabeth Karako is an active performer and teacher in the St. Louis area. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree with high honors from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and a Master of Music in Violin Performance with an emphasis in Suzuki Pedagogy from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. During the summers of 2014-2018, she served as a Unit Director and Associate Staff Director at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan. Elizabeth currently plays with the Salem-St. Louis Chamber Orchestra and is registered through the Suzuki Association of the Americas for Volumes 1-10 of the Violin School.

Kevin Ginty

Guitar

​Kevin Ginty is an active classical guitarist, teacher, and arts administrator in the St. Louis community. After completing both a Bachelor of Music in Guitar Performance, and a Master of Arts in Arts Administration at Florida State University, he moved to St. Louis to take the helm as Executive Director of the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society. Kevin believes the moment a student of any age realizes they can convey something with music is magical. As a private teacher, he strives to create opportunities for musical moments from the very first lesson, and every lesson after that.

Samuel Larson

Violin

Sam Larson has been playing viola since he was nine years old and is currently studying for a Bachelor’s in music performance, at the University of Missouri St. Louis under Prof. Joanna Mendoza. Throughout his music career, he has had the opportunity to receive a wonderful education through a variety of teachers and has a long history with learning pedagogical skills in performing and teaching classical music.
Sam has been a part of many orchestras and chamber groups throughout his career. These programs include Webster University’s Young People Symphonic Orchestra, Webster’s Preparatory Program, the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, the University of Missouri’s Symphonic Orchestra, and many chamber groups.
Having had so many amazing opportunities and teachers to educate him about music, Sam decided that he wanted to share that education and passion with kids as well. He has had his own private studio since high school and continues teaching to this day. During the lessons, Sam aims to teach his students everything from music theory, to instrument technique, and standard repertoire.
Sam’s passion for teaching music is unparalleled. He believes that music is the language of the soul and that every person has this inside of them. Sam wants to teach music to students of all ages because music not only is an outlet of creativity for people, but it also teaches lessons about dedication, hard work, problem solving, teamwork, and respect. His biggest hope for all his students is for them to be able to walk away from his studio with skills that will perpetuate their success in life and be able to share beautiful music with others.

Gary Lee

Cello

​Gary Lee is a private cello teacher and freelance musician. He earned his MM in Cello Performance from the St. Louis Conservatory of Music and his BM in Cello Performance (cum laude) from Illinois Wesleyan University. His teachers include Yuan Tung, Robert Luke, Gordon Robson, and Karl Lear. His education includes training in chamber music, orchestral repertoire, contemporary music ensemble, and early music ensemble. Other instruments studied include piano and bass viola da gamba. He was a member of Missouri All-State Orchestra in the first three years of its existence, seated principal cello his senior year.
Active as a freelance musician in both Missouri and Illinois, Gary is principal cellist and librarian of the Alton Symphony Orchestra. He is a cellist in the Landolfi String Quartet, Richard Wappel Trio, and Gateway Festival Orchestra. He has played as extra cellist for Town & Country Symphony, Florissant Valley Symphony, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Masterworks Chorale, and other area ensembles. He has played as a member or extra for various Illinois and Missouri orchestras. He has played in ensembles for touring musicians, most recently Classic Albums Live!, Bernadette Peters, and Amy Grant with Michael W. Smith.
Gary is a member of Musicians' Association of St. Louis (AFM Local 2-197), Suzuki Association of the Americas, American String Teachers Association, and Viola da Gamba Society of America. He was recently honored with the Outstanding Studio Educator 2016 Award from the American String Teachers Association, Missouri Chapter.

Ana Cecilia Vegas

Violin

Graduated MM in Music Education with emphasis in Suzuki pedagogy. She grew up in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Went to the National Conservatory of Music “Germán Alcántara” where she learned to play violin and was part of the students orchestra in first and second violins. She studied at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala and earned the degrees Highschool Music Teacher, Bachelor in Arts and a Bachelor in Music. She has been a music and English teacher for 10 years. She is a certified Suzuki teacher of books 1-8. She enjoys teaching as much as she enjoys music, she likes sports, animals and exploring new places.

Rob Miller

Guitar, Ukulele

WIND INSTRUCTORS

 
Lydia Rosensteel

Piano, Clarinet

​Lydia grew up as a Missionary Kid in Papua New Guinea. She began playing piano at the age of 8 and clarinet when she was 10 as part of a band program at a mission based international school. She continued playing and singing in an active music program there until she finished high school and taught piano her last two years of high school before moving back to the United States to attend college. She graduated from Taylor University in Indiana with a B.M. in Music Performance in Clarinet, studying under Dr. Christopher Bade, and a piano minor under the direction of Kathy Grile. In 2008 she was awarded the Presser Scholarship in recognition of music and academic excellence. Lydia has been teaching piano and clarinet privately in the St. Louis area for over 10 years. She enjoys playing with community bands and ensembles in church and around St. Louis. She has a great love and interest in music from around the world and enjoys incorporating that diversity wherever possible.

Rachel Moose

Flute

Chris Cheek

Saxophone

Originally hailing from St. Louis, MO., Chris Cheek has been performing throughout the world for the past 30 years. Following studies in Boston, Chris moved to New York where he was readily answering the call for his work as a saxophone player and improviser. Cheek’s musicianship has earned him tenure with some of the most respected and singular artists in the world. Paul Motian recruited him in 19994 to join the Electric Be Bop Band where he remained a mainstay until the maestro’s passing in 2011. Through his association with Motian, he was summoned to work with other such luminaries, notably Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow and Bill Frisell. What follows is international prominence and a log of countless recordings, live performances, and tours. Along with over 100 recordings as a sideman, Cheek has produced five albums as a leader with formations that have seen the likes of Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Steve Cardenas and Jorge Rossy. He also co-leads such wayward outfits as the Bloomdaddies, Rudder, and Reed’s Ramble. Chris has also been a long time member of Guillermo Klein’s “Los Guachos” and has recorded and performed with the big bands of Dafnis Prieto and Miguel Zenon.
Chris graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Bachelors degree in Jazz performance in 1991 and has just recently received his Masters degree in Jazz composition and arranging at Queens college in New York. He has been an adjunct faculty member at the New School since 2003.

BRASS INSTRUCTORS

 
Steve Sharp

Brass, Beginning Band

Steve Sharp is a trumpeter, composer/arranger, and educator/clinician based in St. Louis, MO. Currently, Sharp is the trumpet player and horn section arranger for Louis Prima Jr. & The Witnesses (www.louisprimajr.com), an internationally-touring 10-piece band that performs 50+ dates annually. In 2020, this band recorded a new album at Capitol Studios to be released this year, with Sharp on trumpet and arranging for the horn section. Sharp’s past performing credits include The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, The Paperboys, Phat Cat Swinger, The Eugene Symphony Orchestra (OR) and the Eutiner Festspiele (Germany). He has performed with jazz luminaries Byron Stripling, James Zollar, Ted Rosenthal, Ken Peplowski, Chuck Redd, Frank Vignola, Ingrid Jensen, and Tony Glausi. As a proponent of new music, Sharp also premiered 7 new works as a guest of the 2018 Space City New Music Festival in Houston, Texas, and maintains a new-music duo with percussionist Dr. Crystal Chu, his wife. Sharp is frequently commissioned as a large ensemble arranger, and in 2018 completed 7 big band arrangements on short notice for Oregon’s Ballet Fantastique (“Babes in Toyland” at the Hult Center in Oregon, Dec. 2018 and 2019, all shows sold out), and then conducted all shows from the orchestra pit. Sharp holds a Masters of Jazz Composition from the University of Oregon and bachelor’s degrees in Trumpet Performance and Music Theory from the University of Kansas. His research is concerned with Steve Larson’s theory of musical forces and its application to jazz improvisation.

Tyler Vahldick

Brass

Tyler Vahldick was appointed Second Trombone with the Las Vegas Philharmonic in May 2016 as well as 2nd/bass trombone with the Municipal Opera Theater of St. Louis (The Muny). He is also adjunct professor of trombone at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Webster University, and Jefferson College. He was previously the Principal Trombone of the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Tyler performs frequently with the Kansas City Symphony and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Fountain City Brass Band, along with various regional orchestras, chamber ensembles, and opera/ballet companies. In the past, he’s performed as principal trombone for Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, American Ballet Theatre, Czech National Symphony, London Sinfonietta, Orpheus Sinfonia, Spoleto Festival USA, Verbier Festival Orchestra, and has worked extensively with the Royal Philharmonic, Canterbury Cathedral Choral Society, Bahrain Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and many others.
As a soloist, Tyler has performed with the University of Central Missouri Wind Ensemble, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Wind Ensemble; the European Youth Music Orchestra in Frankfurt, Germany; Regent Brass Band and Milton Keynes Brass Band in London; and the Springfield Symphony and the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra in Missouri, serving as an artistic advisor for the latter since 2011. Equally at home with popular music, Tyler has performed for shows in London's West End and multiple Broadway national tours in the U.S. and has appeared with the Denmark Street Big Band and Hot Orange Big Band in London; Swing 42's house band in New York, the Boulevard Big Band in Kansas City, Starlight Theatre, and has also worked with artists such as Sting, The Who, and Weird “Al” Yankovic while on tour. In recent years, he has recorded with Madeline Bell, Stax Dempsey, Hot Orange Big Band, the Royal Academy of Music Brass Soloists, and appears on the 25th and 30th anniversary albums of the Verbier Festival Orchestra. Tyler earned his Bachelor's Degree in Performance from the Royal Academy of Music in London and his Master's Degree in Orchestral Performance from the Manhattan School of Music.