Music School Faculty
Holley Bartlett-La Sala (Early Childhood Music, Piano, Flute) MA Music Education, Hunter College; MA Music Performance, Flute, Hunter College; BA English/Music, Queens College. Holley is a N.Y.S. Certified Music Teacher (Pre-K-12), a 2017 Lincoln Center Scholar, and brings to our school years of experience teaching students of all ages, in Public and Private Schools throughout N.Y.C. She was the accompanist, music assistant and Parent’s Association President for the DiCapo Opera Children’s Chorus from 2008-2016, and the Music Director of the Imagine Project for over 20 years.
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.
Alice Colby (Violin) BM, Manhattan School of Music; MFA, Purchase College Conservatory of Music. Alice has been teaching the violin for 20 years. She attended a summer workshop at the Hartt School Suzuki Teacher Institute and a violin pedagogy course at Indiana University and has taught at Merit Music School in New Canaan/Norwalk, CT and Music and Art School in Staten Island. Several years ago, Ms. Colby furthered her interest in pedagogy through music education courses at Teachers College, Columbia University. She enjoys combining different approaches to enable students to play music that they love and have fun doing it!
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.
Emily Ellen Gulati (Voice, Piano) MM Vocal Performance, New Jersey City University; BM Vocal Performance, Barry University. Music instructor for Henrico Virginia Parks and Recreation; Consultant, Nu Jazz Agency. Performances with Miami Lyric Opera, Miami Music Festival, Colony Theater, the Band Shell Theater, the Cor Jesu Chapel and Montclair Opera.
Daniel Fernandez (Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute) MM,Woodwind Performance, California State University at Fullerton; BM University of Texas at El Paso (Bachelor of Music). A seasoned performer and teacher, Danny regularly performs and teaches on saxophone, clarinet, and flute in classical, jazz, and Latin styles. Before moving to NYC, he was the founder and director of Fuego Latino, a Cuban Salsa band that performed with Son Como Son, Tito Puente Jr., and Ocho y Mas. As a classical player Danny has performed with the Orange County Wind Symphony, Claremont Winds, and more. He has served as a band director for several intermediate and high school programs; been an adjudicator for the Texas Music Educators Association, and has taught students from beginner to university level.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Sean Smeed (Piano) BM Composition, Juilliard. A composer who uses creativity as the main inspiration for his teaching, Sean encourages all of his students to express themselves by composing their own music on their instrument. Mr. Smeed also has experience in preparing students for the NYSSMA and Royal Academy music exams, of which 17 of his current students ranging from ages 6 to 16, have passed.
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.
Benjamin Sutin (Violin, Viola, Piano) BM Jazz Violin Performance, Manhattan School of Music. Ben has been teaching private and group violin, viola and piano students of all ages, levels and styles (including jazz and improvisation) for over seven years. He specializes in a personalized variant of the Suzuki method, efficient practicing techniques, music theory and creative problem-solving regarding technical advancement in areas such as tone production, intonation, phrasing, articulation and musical expression. Lessons are always fun, engaging and catered to the specific needs and personality of each individual student. Benjamin’s students have been accepted to orchestras such as ISO, programs such as Jazz at Lincoln Center’s High School Jazz Academy and performing arts high schools such as Special Music School.
Caroline Valenzuela (Violin) BA Konservatorium Vienna, graduate studies at Anton Bruckner University. Prima La Musica award, performer with Jeunesse Orchestra, Philharmonices mundi, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony; Concert master for Opera festival Herbsttage Blindenmarkt.