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PPSI 2019 Faculty Biographies


Reagan Brasch Headshot Reagan Brasch, CT
Reagan Brasch grew up in the Suzuki method studying with Paula Woyton in Texas. She graduated with a bachelors of music in violin performance and received her masters in music with an emphasis in Suzuki Pedagogy from the University of Denver. After teaching with Denver Talent Education for five years with James Maurer, she moved to Chicago to teach at the Music Institute of Chicago under the direction of Gilda Barston. She has had additional Suzuki training from Linda Fiore, Joanne Bath, Ann Smelser, Pat D’Ercole, Michele George, and Doris Preucil. Mrs. Brasch currently teaches at the University of Hartford Community Division in CT giving both private and group instruction in Suzuki. She also is program coordinator of the early childhood classes. She was awarded Outstanding Teacher by the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood. Mrs. Brasch has taught extensively at Suzuki institutes and workshops around the country.

Helen Higa Headshot Helen Higa, HI
Helen Higa comes from a family with 3 generations of Japanese and Western music teachers, and was born and raised in Honolulu. Her Suzuki Teacher training includes study with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki for two and a half years at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan, where she received her Teacher Certification from him in 1973. She continued her Suzuki teacher training at the University of Tennessee with William Starr, and Louise Behrend at the School for Strings. In NYC, she also worked with Gerald Beal on violin performance skills. Since 2000, Helen has continued research and study with Felicity Lipman, violin professor and Coordinator of Chamber Music for London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama (Junior Department), on her visits to Hawaii.
      In 1983, Helen became a Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique at the American Center for the Alexander Technique in New York City. She taught AT in the Center’s Teacher Training Program for 4 years, and violin for 5 years before returning to Hawaii in 1987. From 1990 -1998, she taught with the late Hiroko Primrose who founded the Suzuki Violin Program at Punahou Music School. Helen is currently the head of Punahou Music School’s Suzuki Violin Program, and privately teaches over 50 violin students. Other teaching positions have included the University of Tennessee’s Suzuki Program, New York’s School for Strings, and the Diller-Quaille School of Music.
      Helen enjoys exploring how Alexander Technique principles can complement Dr. Suzuki’s violin pedagogy and educational philosophy. In 2004, Helen was invited to give a presentation on this topic at the Suzuki Association of the Americas National Conference in Minneapolis. At the 2006, Conference, she and Hiroko Driver-Lippman, gave a Heritage Night Keynote Presentation, called Okagesamade (in your honorable shadow) Suzuki Sensei.
      Helen has been invited to teach at summer Institutes on the mainland, including the Intermountain Suzuki String Institute (UT), the Oregon Suzuki Institute, the Northern California Suzuki Institute (Santa Rosa), the Peaks to Plains Suzuki Institute (CO), the Japan-Seattle Suzuki Institute (WA), the Stanford Advanced Suzuki Institute (CA), and the Idaho Suzuki Institute (ID), Helen serves as the President of Suzuki Talent Education of Hawaii, is a member of the Honolulu Symphony, and serves as the part-time musicians’ representative on the Honolulu Symphony Musicians’ Orchestra Committee.

Leo Kitajima Headshot Leo Kitajima, CA
Leo Kitajima was born and raised in Los Angeles and received his early formal music training at the Colburn School of Performing Arts.
      Leo has always been interested in exploring and learning from all musical forms and genres. He pursued his musical exploration and studies at the University of Southern California, earning a B.M in Jazz Studies as the only violinist in the jazz program and performed with the orchestra, new music ensemble, jazz combo, and Latin-jazz band. His eclectic musical palate has given him the opportunity to perform alongside many legendary musicians, such as Tony Bennet, Arturo Sandoval, Christian McBride and Stevie Wonder.
      Passionate about promoting musical creativity to young students through music education, Leo has earned a Master in Music Education with an emphasis on improvisation and composition from Northwestern University. He has also organized several non-traditional improvisation and composition workshops with a group named, WE ARE LIKE MUSIC. Some of the workshops included learning to improvise by "reading" fish swimming at the Aquarium of the Pacific (Long Beach, CA) or creating hip-hop beats using graphic notation and string instruments with Money Mark (Beastie Boys, Beck).
      Leo is currently the Director of Orchestra, Jazz, and Chamber Music at Menlo School in Atherton, CA. Past faculty positions include the Colburn School of Performing Arts, Pasadena Conservatory of Music, and Westridge School in Pasadena, CA.

Kimberly Meier-Sims Headshot Kimberly Meier-Sims, OH
Violin faculty member of the Cleveland Institute of Music, director of the Sato Center for Suzuki Studies at CIM (since 2004), and registered Violin Teacher Trainer through the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Ms. Meier-Sims conducts a graduate two-year Suzuki teacher training program at CIM which is part of the unique Master duo degree program in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy. She became one of the youngest registered Suzuki Teacher Trainers in the country in 1988. From 1996-2004, Ms. Meier-Sims was a full-time faculty member at the University of Memphis where she conducted long-term teacher training, was the Coordinator for the University of Memphis Suzuki String Program and Director of the University of Memphis Suzuki String Summer Institute. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in education and performance from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, where she studied with John Kendall, the first American Suzuki pioneer. At Western Illinois University she received her Master’s degree in performance, studying violin and pedagogy with Almita Vamos. The summer of 1986, Ms. Meier-Sims traveled to Japan for a six-week study with Dr. Suzuki. From 1984-1996 Ms. Meier-Sims was a violin instructor at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City, where she also served as Suzuki Teacher Trainer, Faculty Program Assistant and Chamber Music Coordinator. She has published articles in the American Suzuki Journal, Strings Magazine and the Tennessee Musician. In 2001 she was recognized as one of Tennessee’s outstanding educators by the Tennessee Governor’s School of the Arts. She was the Violin Coordinator for the 2002 10th SAA National Conference in Minneapolis. In April 1999, she attended The Thirteenth World Suzuki Method Convention in Japan. Ms. Meier-Sims has taught Suzuki institutes and workshops in Cork, Ireland and throughout the U.S.

Susan Montzka McDonald Headshot Susan Montzka McDonald, MO
Susan directs the Suzuki Program at the Community Music School of Webster University (formerly St. Louis Symphony Music School and St. Louis Conservatory and Schools for the Arts), where she has taught for over 30 years. She has taught at numerous Suzuki workshops, and at the Chicago, Colorado, Florida, and Louisville Institutes. In 2000, she was the recipient of the Byron Hester Award for excellence in teaching. She recently completed a three-year term on the Suzuki Association of the Americas Board of Directors, and is the mother of two Suzuki violin graduates. Ms. McDonald began her study of the violin as a Suzuki student of Kazuko Numanami in Oberlin, Ohio. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Lawrence University Conservatory (cum laude), and her Master’s Degree in Violin Performance from Western Illinois University, where she studied Suzuki pedagogy with Almita Vamos. She continued her long-term pedagogy study with John Kendall at Southern Illinois University—Edwardsville. Ms. McDonald currently performs with the Metropolitan Orchestra of St. Louis and the Simply 4 String Quartet, and is a former member of the Washington University Symphony, the Knox-Galesburg Symphony, and the Fox Valley Symphony.

Ann Montzka Smeler Headshot Ann Montzka Smelser, IL
Ann Montzka Smelser began playing violin at the age of 3 with the help of her mother and father, Marilyn and Arthur Montzka. Later she studied under Kazuko Numanami and Sarah Hersh at the Oberlin College Suzuki Program and later with Rebecca Sandrok and Pierre Menard. In between receiving her Bachelors of Music Education and Masters in Performance and Pedagogue at Northern Illinois University, Ann studied with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan.
      After college, Ann toured extensively with the Ruggieri String Quartet to all four corners of the United States through Columbia Artists Management. Ann has performed in many orchestras and chamber ensembles and is currently principal 2nd violinist with Camerata Chicago and concertmaster of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra. In 2003 Ann received the Hester Byron Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2013 was inducted into the Sycamore Music Booster Hall of Fame and was honored to receive the Legacy Award.
      Ann is a lifetime member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and has been invited to present at several SAA Conferences. Ann has served as coordinator of the Suzuki Youth Orchestras of the Americas in 2006 and 2008 and coordinator for Violin at the 2014 and 2016 National Suzuki Conferences held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
      Ann became a Registered Suzuki Teacher Trainer in 2005 and currently teaches Suzuki Pedagogy at both Northwestern University and Northern Illinois University. Ann teaches about 40 private students and is director of the NIU, CSA Suzuki Strings Program at NIU and a teacher at MIC in Winnetka. Ann enjoys working with Suzuki families and teachers at Suzuki Institutes and workshops throughout the United States. Ann was a guest teacher at the 2010 International String Conference in Singapore and has given Teacher Training courses in Lima, Peru, Costa Rica and Mexico City.
      Ann lives in DeKalb, IL with her husband, Linc, and her Golden Retriever, Chloe. Linc and Ann are proud Suzuki parents of their daughter, Genevieve, and son, Benjamin, who are currently pursuing music in college.

Lucy Shaw Headshot Lucy Shaw, WA
Lucy Shaw is an active performer, Suzuki teacher and clinician currently based in the Seattle, WA area. A native of Nova Scotia, Canada, she received her Bachelor degree at the S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatte Conservatory of Music at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada, and her Master of Music in Violin Performance at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Important musical influences include Sergiu Luca, Francis Chaplin, Sydney Harth and Jean-Jacques Kantorow. For eighteen years Lucy was owner/director of the Village Violin School in Houston where she was an active member of the Houston Area Suzuki Strings Association coordinating annual teacher development seminars, Suzuki graduations and workshops. As a guest teacher and clinician Lucy has taught at Workshops and Institutes in Canada, Mexico and throughout the continental United States. An ardent supporter of the SAA, Lucy was violin coordinator for the Suzuki Association of the America’s 2008 National Conference and served on the SAA Board of Directors 2011-2014. Lucy currently maintains a private studio, directs the State Suzuki Festival and serves as Vice President of the Suzuki Association of Washington State.

Stephen Sims Headshot Stephen Sims, OH
Stephen teaches in the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Joint Music Program with Case Western Reserve University, and in CIM’s Sato Center for Suzuki Studies. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in performance and pedagogy from the University of Iowa, a Master’s Degree in performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a Bachelor’s Degree in performance from the University of Illinois. His principal teachers include Leopold LaFosse, Linda Cerone, David Russell, Catherine Tait, Sergiu Luca, and Barbara Jackson. An orchestral musician for many years, Sims served as Assistant Principal Violin of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Concertmaster of the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra, and Assistant Concertmaster of the North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. He has been a violin instructor at Denison University, El Sistema @ University Circle, the University of Memphis Community Music School, the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City, and the Cedar Rapids Symphony School of Music. Sims has been a registered Suzuki teacher for 30 years and is a frequent clinician at Suzuki workshops and institutes around the country.

Janse H. Vincent Headshot Janse H. Vincent, WI
Janse is a violist and violinist, teaches with the Suzuki Strings of Madison teaching cooperative. She is also a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra viola sections as well as violist with the Con Vivo chamber music ensemble. Previously, she taught at the Cincinnati String Academy and the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City, IA where she completed long-term Suzuki teacher training with Doris Preucil. She was a long time clinician at the Memphis Suzuki Institute and has also taught at the Columbus Suzuki Institute, The American Suzuki Institute and weekend workshops in Dubuque, IA and Milwaukee, WI. SAA biennial conference responsibilities have included viola area coordinator and acting as the first coordinator of the SYOA. After concluding her undergraduate studies at Furman University, she earned a masters in viola performance from Northwestern University with Peter Slowik and a D.M.A in viola performance from the University of Iowa with William Preucil, Sr. Her association with the Suzuki method began early with violin lessons at the age of five in Gainesville, Florida


Jane Kutscher Reed Headshot Jane Kutscher-Reed, SC
Jane Kutscher Reed is a Suzuki Piano teacher and educator from Greenville, SC. She earned her degree in Piano Performance from the University of Findlay, in OH. In addition to her private studio she is a Suzuki Teacher Trainer, SPA Facilitator, ECC instructor, and teaches at workshops and institutes throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Bermuda and Asia. Jane also offers seminars in Suzuki parent education, the art of teaching, music reading games, and presents motivational lectures. Mrs. Reed is a facilitator for the internationally recognized Love and Logic Parenting Curriculum. Jane is also a certified Elite Life Coach with specialties in parenting and teaching. Through her website: Solutionary Insights.com, she offers blogs, seminars, speaking engagements and personal coaching sessions. These learning opportunities develop significant positive parenting and teaching skills by inviting inquiry-based, experiential learning.


Blake Brasch Headshot Blake Brasch, CT
Blake Brasch is cello teacher at the Music Institute of Chicago and admin. Director of the Chicago Suzuki Institute. He studied with Alan Harris at The Cleveland Institute of Music and Mark Schroeder at Ohio University. He did his pre-college studies with Carol Tarr and Gilda Barston. He teaches at workshops and institutes around the country throughout the year. His students have placed and/or received top prizes in regional competitions such as the Society of American competition, Walgreens Competition and the Depaul Concerto Competition. He is a certified Suzuki CelloTeacher Trainer from the Suzuki Association of Americas. He began his Suzuki training at the age of 6 and attended MANY Suzuki institutes with his family growing up and is very proud to now attend them as a parent.

Alice Ann M. O’Neill Headshot Alice Ann M. O’Neill, OH
Dr. Alice Ann M. O’Neill, professional cellist and teacher, attended Boston University to study cello performance, and subsequently obtained a master’s degree in cello performance and Suzuki pedagogy from Western Illinois University, and a doctorate from The Ohio State University, in cello performance and string pedagogy. She has performed in professional orchestras and chamber ensembles, and as a solo cellist throughout Europe, Canada, and the U.S.
      Dr. O’Neill has extensive teaching experience and specializes in the Suzuki method as a cello teacher trainer. She has taught many clinics and workshops concerning many aspects of pedagogy and presented at state and international education conferences. Her research articles have been published in The Journal of Research in Music Education, the American Suzuki Journal, and the Vincentian Heritage Journal. Her cello students have appeared on NPR’s “From the Top,” and won top prizes at the St. Paul’s String Quartet and Fischoff chamber music competitions. Several cello students of Dr. O’Neill have continued their studies at schools such as Rice University-Shepherd School of Music, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, Catholic University of America, Aspen Music Festival, Meadowmount School of Music, Indiana University, Harvard University, and the Juilliard School in New York City.
      Currently, Dr. O’Neill is professor of cello, teaches chamber music and string pedagogy, and supervises new teachers at Mount St. Joseph University and directs the Mount St. Joseph Talent Education program in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a Catholic nun and member of the Sisters of Charity.


Phala Tracy Headshot Phala Tracy, MN
Phala Tracy teaches Suzuki harp at Studio Fidicina in Minneapolis, MN and she is adjunct faculty at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. She teaches harp and music theory at Suzuki institutes across the country and she is a Suzuki Harp Teacher Trainer. Phala holds degrees in Harp Performance and Music History from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (BM) and degrees in Harp Performance and Composition from the California Institute for the Arts (MFA). She has recorded a children’s CD of Critter Songs and is working toward publishing her curriculum of Music Theory in Song and Rhyme and her collection of Songs for Sight Reading. She is an active arranger, composer, improviser and freelance musician.

Mary Kay Waddington Headshot Mary Kay Waddington, CO
Mary Kay Waddington authored the Suzuki Harp School and has been teaching Suzuki harp in Denver for more than 35 years. She has worked extensively with harp builders to make small harps available to very young students and has invented right hand levers and pedal extensions to further the use of these instruments. Presently, Mary Kay is working on new ways to make music reading more accessible to all students, working with the ISA committee to publish new Suzuki harp volumes, and trying to start Suzuki harp programs in South America.

Suzuki Early Childhood Education (SECE)

Lynn McCall Headshot Lynn McCall, CT
Lynn McCall was named the first, SAA, Teacher Trainer for SECE in the U.S. in 2015. She received her Suzuki mentoring and training from Dorothy Jones and Leena Crothers. Director and co-Founder of Alyla Suzuki Early Childhood Music School in New Haven Ct., Founded as the pilot program in Ct. for Suzuki ECE in 2006. She has maintained an active piano studio, working with young children, since 1995. Clinician for National and International teacher workshops and Institutes. 2013 SECE Faculty for the Suzuki World Conference in Matsumoto, Japan. Founding member of SAA, ECE committee, AMMS Latin American ECE committee. SAA Conference team, Minneapolis in 2010. SECE Conference Coordinator, 2012. She is the proud mother of 2 grown sons and lives in Ct. with her husband.


David Sullivan Headshot Art – David Sullivan, CO
Dave is an Artist and Cartoonist from Arvada, Colorado. He is currently teaching a variety of programs for the Science Discovery program at the University of Colorado, plus Technical Cartooning and Art programs for the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Dave also teaches workshops for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Zoo, as well as programs for many of the local Libraries. Besides working as a freelance graphic illustrator Dave enjoys spending time the rest of his time with his wife, two sons and daughter; though he often dreams of tricking fish with bits of string and feathers.

John Leventhal Headshot Choir - John Leventhal, CO
John has been a musician all of his life, starting with piano lessons at the age of 5. Much of his early inspiration came from his grandfather, who was a blind classical pianist, and great uncle, who was a concert pianist. One of his earliest memories is of visits he made to the New York City Lighthouse for the Blind, where he would meet his grandfather and they would perform for each other. At one point, he and his grandfather were both working on Mozart’s Sonata in C, which made for a great afternoon of music sharing. To this day, he still has the braille copy of that Sonata from which his grandfather learned the piece. John was an accomplished cellist in high school and, when he started his teaching career, became interested in vocal music. He taught middle school choir for two years and moved on to being the music director, in charge of vocal rehearsals and performing live accompaniment, for several high school music theatre productions including "L'il Abner," "Bye Bye Birdie," "The Music Man," and “Grease.” He then spent four years as the music director at the Denver Victorian Theatre, for such hits as “Nunsense," "Little Shop of Horrors,” the children’s production of “How to Eat Like a Child," and others. At the same time, he co-founded a community choir in his mountain town of Nederland, Colorado and performed with them for 4 years, out of which grew the NedTones, a 6 person a cappella vocal jazz group that he co-directed and performed with for 8 years. During this period, he also entertained hundreds of clients as a folk singer and guitar player over his 15 years of professional white water river guiding. Needing a change and new adventures, John took a job as the K-12 music teacher at the American International School in Lisbon, Portugal for two years, forming their first ever choir, a high school rock band, and producing many musical performances with elementary, middle level and high school students. When he came back to the United States, he focused his music education on theory and vocal pedagogy, which continues to be one of his greatest musical interests. For the last 14 years, John has been playing the Zimbabwean marimba and studying and singing African music. Making the leap from a life immersed in Western art music to the polyrhythms of African music invigorated him and broadened his musical perspective. In 2010 he co-founded Nokuthula, an Afro-pop jazz fusion band that has performed all over Colorado.

Emma Shubin Headshot Dalcroze – Emma Shubin, CO
Flutist Emma Shubin is a Suzuki, Dalcroze, and Integrative Educator, and has been joyfully making music since the age of six. Ms. Shubin can be found enjoying the Rocky Mountain Region from her home in Louisville, CO where she works on various projects from composing and recording, performing and collaborating, to community engagement and artistic integrative education events. A proponent of integrative education, Ms. Shubin is the co-founder and director of the Colorado based non-profit Integral Steps (www.integralsteps.org), which strives to bring integrative education and balanced development to individuals, families, and communities through music, movement, psychotherapy, ecology and creative arts. She travels throughout the year performing, giving workshops and masterclasses on audience engagement, Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Integrative education, and teaches not only in person across the US and abroad, but also via virtual platforms like Skype, FaceTime, and Livestream. She has served as the co-director of the Musical Arts Program with the Sounds of Lyons in Lyons, CO (SOL MAP) and has toured with the Arts Evolution and BenFeng Music Festival throughout Taiwan with guitarist Alfredo Muro. Currently, Ms. Shubin serves as the coordinator for new programming and an instructor with the Dalcroze School of the Rockies, and partners Integral Steps with the theater program for youth Reel Kids, the Longmont Dance Theater, and Rocky Ridge Music Academy in Colorado. Her first collaborative album of original compositions was created and recorded in Cabris France with musicians from France, England, & Colorado will be released in the fall. www.emmashubin.com.

André Mallinger Headshot Marimba - André Mallinger, CO
André Mallinger’s musical study began as a young child with classical piano and orchestral percussion. She studied percussion performance at Ithaca College and received her M.A. in cultural anthropology at the University of Colorado. For over 20 years, André has studied, taught, and performed traditional and contemporary music from southern Africa, playing marimba, hand drums, drum kit, mbira and percussion with Zimbabwean-style marimba ensembles throughout Colorado. She currently has a private teaching studio of young aspiring pianists, directs the Afro-pop ensemble, Nokuthula, and is the principle accompanist of the Peak to Peak Chorale. In recent years, André has enjoyed studying the music of Frank Zappa and has become the Denver area’s go-to xylophonist for Zappa tribute bands. André’s recordings include Tobatana Marimba’s Zin’anga (2007) and the Low Flying Knobs’ Sahwira: Friends Across the Water (2002), both of which she co-produced, as well as guest performances on Natural Fire: Humanspiration (2006); Tryptych: In the Cold Morning Mist (2002); and Marimba Ava Murewa: Mazuva Ano (1997). Last year, André co-guided two groups of musicians and artists to Cuba to study traditional Afro-Cuban drumming, dance and religion from notable Cuban teachers and ensembles. With the success of these trips, André now has her sights on Africa!

Gary Jugert Ukulele - Gary Jugert, CO
Gary started his musical career as a 5th grade trumpeter, and since then he’s dedicated his later years to making sense out of the guitar, piano, and of course, the ukulele for students. He founded and conducted the Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra which is now the largest orchestra in the area. He also founded the Denver Guitar Orchestra this year. He is honored to offer ukulele as an enrichment course at the Peaks to Plains Suzuki Institute.



Martha Albrecht, CO - Martha Albrecht received a Bachelor degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from Utah State University, and later received a Master of Music degree and a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of Colorado.  She has taught piano for twenty-eight years and currently has a private studio in Superior, Colorado.  In addition to her teaching, Martha is an active accompanist, playing for numerous auditions, competitions, and recitals, involving local organizations such as the Young Musician’s Foundation of Colorado, Boulder Suzuki Strings, and several Suzuki Workshops.



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