Music School Faculty
Amy Carstensen (Voice, Piano, Flute) BM Music Performance, New England Conservatory, majoring in jazz performance with a concentration in voice and piano. Pre-College Certificate, Carnegie Mellon University, Classical Voice. Four years on New England Conservatory’s Dean’s List; NYSSMA medals in Jazz Vocal and Flute; lead vocalist, pianist and co-songwriter of pop-folk band Quiet City; four years private teaching studio.
Christine Chen (cello, violin, viola) MM, Cello Performance, Mannes School of Music at The New School; BM, Cello Performance, Boston Conservatory. Principal cellist for Boston Conservatory Orchestra, assistant principal cellist of Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Carnegie Hall debut with her piano trio in 2014, and again in 2016 with her string quartet. Active performer with various chamber groups around NYC. Chen is a two time First Prize winner of the Taiwan National Music Competition and a First Prize winner of the Taiwan Culture Music Competition. She toured with an orchestra as a soloist in four major cities in Taiwan, performing the Dvorak Cello Concerto after winning 1st Prize in the Concerto Competition at TNNUA in 2008. Chen’s teaching career started when she was 14 as an assistant to multiple string faculties in a music school in Taipei. She is also a ESL tutor at The New School, helping international students who are new to this country to adjust to cultural differences and language challenges in courses and daily life.
Leslie Frost (Early Childhood Music) MM, Piano Performance, University of Arizona. Leslie has performed across the United States as a solo pianist, collaborative pianist and vocalist and is an experienced music educator. Additionally, Leslie studied Dalcroze Eurythmics at the Diller-Quaile School of Music in Manhattan, where she was also a faculty member. Dedicated to reaching a broad range of audiences through performance and education, Leslie develops and performs interactive presentations at schools, community centers, and libraries. Leslie is also a piano instructor at St Paul’s Choir School, in Englewood, NJ, where she teaches piano and musicianship and at the Thurnauer School of Music at the JCC on the Palisades.
Hermira Gjoni (Piano) Degrees from National Conservatory of Music and Liceu Artistik School of Music in Tirana, Albania. In Tirana 1958-1993: Opera Concert Master, Piano Master for State Opera, Piano teacher at Tirana School of Music. Accompanist for Placido Domingo, International Vocal Competition, Paris.
John Gray (Guitar, Bass, Piano) BM, Jazz Bass, Manhattan School of Music, 2009. John has taught private lessons on upright bass, electric bass, piano, and guitar to students from ages 4 to 65 since 2011. He has also taught at music schools in Westchester, Connecticut, and Staten Island. John is experienced in teaching a wide variety of styles and subjects, including jazz, classical, rock, Latin, folk, country, and music theory, ear training, improvisation, composition, recording and production.
Kim Johnson (Musical Theater) BA Theater, Northwestern University; extensive dance training including a merit scholarship with Alvin Ailey School. Kim has worked in regional, stock theaters, and on Off-Broadway dancing, singing and acting, directing and choreographing. For nine years she was the Artistic Director of ARTISTS IN SEARCH OF …, a NYC performing arts company. Teaching work includes, Horace Mann, The Center for Arts Education, CommunityWorks and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She is currently a teaching artist for Alvin Ailey American Dance and Henry Street Settlement/Abrons Arts Center.
Debra Kreisberg (Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Recorder, Beginner Piano) MM Jazz Performance, Manhattan School of Music; BM Music Education and Performance, Eastman School of Music; performs, composes, arranges and records with the NYC-based Latin jazz groups Los Mas Valientes and Anaisa, as well as award-winning Klezmer bands Metropolitan Klezmer and Isle of Klezbos, with whom she has toured in the US., Canada and in Europe. Debra has taught woodwinds to students of all ages for more than 10 years, and previously served as Managing Director of Educational Outreach at 92nd Street Y, developing and implementing arts programming for New York City public schools.
Natalie Kriegler (Violin, Viola) Artist’s Diploma, Manhattan School of Music; Certification from School for Strings; BM Empire College (in progress), over 30 years teaching experience including The Riverdale Y, Westchester Conservatory of Music, Montclair State University Preparatory Department, Crestwood Music Education Center, and Union College. She has appeared as a violin soloist with The Vermont Symphony Orchestra, The Amphion Chamber Orchestra, The Mohawk Trails Chamber Orchestra, as well as Capriccio Ensemble, of which she is the Artistic Director. She has been a NY State sponsored, and featured recitalist at The Empire State Plaza on several occasions.
Jon LaTona (Guitar, Bass, Piano, Beginner Violin, Beginner Cello) BM Jazz Studies, University of the Arts; live performances at House of Blues, WNYC Greene Space, Smalls, The Roxy, SXSW and NXNE music festivals; nominated for an Independent Music Award for best jazz EP. Private music instructor in NYC, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Buffalo since 2002.
Janet Lucy (Violin, Viola) MA Music Education, Hofstra University; BM Music, Manhattan School of Music. Suzuki Violin Teacher Training, School for Strings. NYS certified music teacher with over 10 years experience teaching full-time string programs in public and private middle and elementary schools, including The Rudolf Steiner School, Metropolitan Youth Orchestra Academy and Brooklyn Friends. Private instruction with Sylvan Academy, Long Island Suzuki Strings and private studio. Member of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 802, Chamber Music of America, NYS Music Association.
Diego Maldonado (Percussion) BFA CUNY, Magna Cum Laude, Jazz Performance; Advanced Music Certificate, The Collective School of Music. Originally from Venezuela, Diego is a professional jazz drummer and educator. Diego has studied with players such as Kim Plainfield, Peter Retzlaff, Adam Cruz, Mark Ferber, Kendrick Scott and the arranger and piano player Mike Holober. In Venezuela, Diego toured and recorded with many jazz artists and was the head of the Jazz Percussion department at the jazz academy Taller de Jazz de Caracas for five years.
Allison McNeal (Violin, Piano) Masters of Music in Violin Performance, Boston Conservatory; Suzuki Certification in Violin, School for Strings; orchestral experience with Litha Symphony, One World Symphony, Harlem Symphony Orchestra, Boston Arts Collaborative (Assistant Concertmaster), Orchestra for the Conductor’s Institute at Bard College. Teaching experience Turtle Bay Music School, Hamilton-Madison House, My Music Garden, Kids in Music, Art Plaza Cultural Center. Allison holds the 2007 Boston Conservatory Award, 2005 William K. Halligan Award for a Violinist, 2002 Hartt Performing Arts Scholarship, 2002 Gonsalves Award for a String Player, 2000 Douglas Cox Violin Scholarship and was a candidate in 2009 for the Candidate for Marrowstone Music Festival Violin Fellowship.
John Morrison (Guitar, Beginner Piano) holds a MM in Jazz Performance from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts and a BM (Cum Laude) in Jazz Guitar Performance from Duquesne University. He has extensive experience as a performer, composer and arranger in the New Brunswick, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Central NJ and NY area, performing both solo and with collaborators. Since 2012 he has been on the faculties of Batavia Studios (Mars, PA), Music Tech (South Brunswick, NJ) and Westerhoff School (Metuchen, NJ).
Deborah Nixon (Violin) MM Royal Northern College of Music (UK), BM NYU Steinhart. Originally from Peoria, Illinois, Deborah is an active freelancer and teacher with over six years of experience teaching violin lessons. She has performed in various ensembles in the city, including the Bronx Opera, Mimesis Ensemble, and the Chelsea Symphony, with which she recently appeared as soloist. Her teaching approach emphasizes musical understanding and creativity with the support of a comfortable and reliable technique. She has some training in the Dalcroze method, which she includes in her teaching.
Eleanor Pearl (Voice, Piano) MM, BM Vocal Performance, Manhattan School of Music. Her performances include the Pine Bluff Symphony in Arizona, Mignon Dunn’s Opera Moments, New York Lyric Opera, New Jersey Verisma Opera, Mannes Extension Opera Scenes along with community outreach performances such as Two Bridges Concert Series. Teaching experience includes Two Bridges Music School, Little Chopins Inc, and Harrison School of Music.
Danijela Popovic (Piano) MA, AC Collaborative Piano, The Juilliard School; Graduate Studies, BA, Piano, Belgrade Academy of Music; More than 500 performances in the USA and abroad, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center; Principal Pianist and Vocal Coach, Girls’ Choir of Harlem 1995-2003; Head of Piano Department, Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem 2001-2003.
Stephen Schwartz (Voice, Piano, Guitar) MM Voice, Manhattan School of Music; BA cum laude Music, Cortland State University; Opera Engagements: Koblenz Operhaus (Germany), Lobero Theater (Santa Barbara), Nederlands Reisopera (Holland), Bachzaal (Amsterdam); music teacher, choir director, International School of Amsterdam, 1995-1999.
Mariya Spector (Piano) studied in Moscow at the Stasov School of Music and Moscow Musical College, later earning her M.A. in Music Education at CUNY Lehman College. A creative and versatile music teacher, Mariya brings a special knowledge of Music History and Musical Genres. She is skilled in the Dalcroze and Kodaly methods of musical education.
Leo Wexler-Mann (Piano) BM, Piano Performance, Juilliard. Born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, Leo is currently a staff pianist at Juilliard, working with many singers and instrumentalists in repertoire ranging from duos to quintets, and in styles from the Baroque to modern premieres. He has taught with Rhodes Music Education Inc., Nikos Kids, Inc., Joe’s Music and Dance Academy and his own private studio