Faculty Highlights: Tara Neill (Music Together)


Tara is thrilled to be joining the team at Music Center to offer Music Together® classes. Tara graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 2013, with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy. She completed her clinical internship at The Center for Discovery in Harris, New York, a national specialty center for children and adults with significant disabilities, medical complexities and autism spectrum disorders. Here she specialized in improvisational music therapy. After returning to the PNW and becoming a board certified music therapist, Tara began working with individuals in a variety of settings, including: children and adults in medical settings, older adults, and children and adults with disabilities.

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Faculty Highlights: Aaron Nation (Suzuki & traditional cello)

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Aaron began his musical life on the violin at a young age, switching to cello during high school with a year of study with Richard Aaron. In the years since, he has performed in a variety of settings, from musicals and ballets, to chamber and orchestral music, as well as with rock bands. In 2005 he took his first Suzuki teacher training in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and teaching music has been a part of his life ever since.

In 2012, Aaron graduated magna cum laude from Seattle University with degrees in both psychology and music. Not surprisingly, he takes as much interest in the ways that music can help develop a whole person as he does in the music itself. This said, when you dive into the world of music, you find one of the most incredibly enriching environments available for helping people, both children and adults, live life to their fullest satisfaction. 

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Faculty Highlights: Robert Murphy


In his own words:

“Music is a wonderful gift that has shaped my life in beautiful ways. The Suzuki philosophy seeks to develop beautiful human beings through the study of music, and I take great pleasure in teaching Suzuki violin at the Suzuki Academy at Music Center of the Northwest."

More about Robert:
Mr. Murphy, a McNair Fellow, began violin studies in his hometown of Columbia, SC. He received his Bachelor of Music in performance from Youngstown State University and a Masters of Music in violin pedagogy and performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He studied violin with Myron Kartman, Bernard Zinck, Katherine Rapaport, and string pedagogy with Darcey Drexler and Mimi Zweig. He has played in masterclasses for Jamie Laredo, the Cleveland Duo, and Robert Hanford.

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Faculty Highlights: Leslie McMichael


Harpist Leslie McMichael feels lucky to be doing what she loves for a living. She has taught harp at Music Center since 2010 and strongly supports the school’s core belief in the transformative power of music. Leslie joined the Seattle Symphony as a Teaching Artist in 2015 and also includes performance, teaching, recording, and composition in her musical pursuits. Leslie’s versatility takes her from touring with silent film performances to playing for local weddings. A graduate of Wellesley College, Leslie has pursued Suzuki Method training with Mary Kay Waddington at the American Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and now directs a thriving Suzuki harp program in the greater Seattle area.

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Faculty Highlights: Les Martin (Suzuki piano)


In his own words:

“It is my great pleasure to teach piano in the Suzuki Academy at Music Center of the Northwest. As one who has embraced the Suzuki philosophy, my first priority is not to develop professional musicians, but to nurture loving human beings and to help develop each child’s character through the study of music.  When we nurture a child and help them to develop a beautiful heart, the music they make will flow from that heart and spread that same beauty in our world.

Teaching and creating music could not be more gratifying or personally invigorating. Music-making calls upon our imagination and creativity; our spontaneity; our fine-motor skill; our sequential memory; our creative problem-solving abilities; our sense of spatial awareness – as well as our own self-awareness – as we actively listen and discern ‘in real time’ to bring music to life.”

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Faculty Highlights: Steven Luksan (Traditional and Suzuki Piano)


In his own words:

"My goal is to inspire students to become lifelong musical learners and to encourage each student’s curiosity so that he or she becomes a well-rounded musician in addition to being a skilled pianist. The study of music can teach us many valuable things, such as how be self-disciplined, how to be part of a team, and how to get in touch with our own creative side. These benefits of studying music are made richer and more meaningful by discovering the context of the music we create, by listening to others perform music, by learning music history and theory, by learning about music composition, and by learning how to play music in an ensemble."

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Faculty Highlights: Cassie Lear (Flute)


In her own words:

"My teaching focuses on creating an environment tailored to every student’s individual needs by working with them to identify and achieve goals. Playing music is a joy on its own, but also reinforces skills such as nonverbal communication, anticipating problems, and practical problem solving. Music students also learn the value of practicing consistently instead of cramming at the end – flute is one thing you cannot possibly succeed at by last-minute practice! I love teaching music and appreciate the moments when a student succeeds at a hard passage they’ve struggled with, when they feel that they’ve given a meaningful performance, and when they can look back on all they’ve learned and feel proud of their hard work."

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Faculty Highlights: Shiho Kurauchi


In her own words:

“I teach a traditional Japanese 13-string instrument called the Koto at Music Center. I enjoy teaching as Music Center because there is a wide range of music classes, and the organization is committed to its mission to engage with the community. In my lessons, I try to create a positive learning environment to encourage my students to enjoy studying and practicing music. This approach is especially effective with children.

In the past I have taught at a middle school located in Japan, as well as at Nikkei Manor in Seattle. I also have taught my own private classes. In addition to classes and lessons, I have done demonstrations and performances of Koto at several preK-12 public and private schools in the Seattle area, as well as at public libraries.”

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Faculty Highlights: Nina Kemel (Piano)


Nina Kemel, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, has devoted her entire career to teaching and nurturing pianists of all ages and levels. Ms. Kemel holds Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in Piano Performance from one the most legendary music schools in Europe, the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory of Music in St. Petersburg, Russia. After completing her studies, Ms. Kemel launched an impressive career as a pedagogue, having taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, as well as at two prestigious conservatories in Israel, one of them being the famed Tel-Aviv Conservatory. A resident of Seattle for over 20 years since her international teaching career, Ms. Kemel has been a private instructor and coach in many music schools in the Seattle greater area and has always been admired and cherished by all her students as both a warm and encouraging teacher of the highest quality. Having taught students in three countries, many of her students have been extremely successful in their pianistic careers, having been awarded numerous prestigious prizes, awards, and scholarships.

Faculty Highlights: Yvonne Hoar (Piano, Theory, Composition)


Yvonne Hoar graduated from University of Idaho with degrees in Elementary Education and Music (Organ Performance) with composition as a minor. She holds organ performance certifications from Italy including Vacanza con la Musica Antica (Mentione di Merito) and Corso di Organo degli Incontri Musicale. Yvonne has performed and accompanied on both piano and organ for many years in the northwest/northeast United States and Italy. She has held many organist/music positions in churches for nearly 30 years and is presently at Sand Point Methodist church. Yvonne is an active composer and has written music for instrumental solos including piano, organ, trombone; duets for piano/voice, piano/trombone, organ/recorder, organ/English horn, organ/congregational singing and various chamber groups ranging from string quartet, woodwind quintet to a nonet for mixed winds, strings and piano.

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Faculty Highlights: Lauren Hepburn (Clarinet, Saxophone, Around the Sound director)


“Teaching is what I love to do. Guiding students through the process of learning an instrument and helping them see their potential is immensely gratifying. I like to follow student interests in combination with reinforcements of good technique and musicality.

I have a BA in Music Education from Central Washington University as well as an MA in Music Education from the University of Washington. I have taught middle school band and orchestra at Broadview-Thompson K-8, and then at Whitman Middle School in Seattle. I have also taught Music Education classes and band at the University of Washington, and maintained a small saxophone studio while going to school.”

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Faculty Highlights: Fred Hoadley (Piano)


In his own words:

“I enjoy helping students understand and appreciate music. There are many ways to approach music, from sheet music, recordings, and improvisation and my goal is to find the way that suits my students the best. From traditional piano study to Beatles chord charts to jazz theory and improvisation or current pop tunes, we'll enjoy exploring music together.

I've had many students tell me that it was liberating to find new ways to experience music, and learn different styles. I've worked with many students who were in their school's jazz band to help them make their own choices and learn to improvise. I especially enjoy working with adults who may have studied as a child, and would like to rekindle their relationship with the piano.”

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Faculty Highlights: Justin Henderlight (oboe)


In his own words:

“In teaching oboe lessons or any other aspect of music, I always aim for an approach tailored to each student’s individual needs that makes connections to other parts of their lives. Good musicianship teaches students a variety of larger life lessons, such as the ability to be a strong member of a team, to have respect for the world’s cultures, and to value precision. Whether students hope to enter the music profession, or whether they wish to play casually alongside friends and family, I will support anyone to achieve their personal goals and become a more confident musician. The oboe can be a challenging instrument, but overcoming its challenges—including learning good reed-making skills—makes it all the more rewarding to play. I advocate a well-rounded education in musicianship, including ear training, the cultivation of a beautiful tone, and the pursuit of accurate musical style and solid technique that allows each student to find his or her own voice.”

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Faculty Highlights: Janice Gockel (Director Emerita & Music Together® Director)


Janice Gockel has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with music; She holds degrees in viola performance and has been inspiring violin and viola students of all ages for more than 40 years. Remembering her own early childhood musical experiences, Janice fell in love with Music Together®. She became a registered Music Together® teacher and has completed advanced Certification training. Janice is the founder/conductor of Hildman Strings, founder of the Puget Sound Chamber Music Workshop, and was the founder of Music Center of the Northwest. In addition to her busy teaching schedule, Janice is a member of Philharmonia Northwest, plays with Allspice International Folk Dance Band, and especially enjoys playing chamber music.

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Faculty Highlights: Nick Fuller (Music Together®)


Nick Fuller is a songwriter, singer, guitar player, piano novice, ukulele strummer, and harmonica dabbler. He performed in a band called The Birthdays during the late aughts (2007-2010) at many Seattle venues including Neumo's, The Tractor, The Crocodile, The Sunset, The Comet, Chop Suey, and the High Dive. Music at thebirthdays.bandcamp.com.

Nick learned about Music Together and the Music Center of the Northwest when researching early music education options for his son, Roscoe. Music Together's research-based curriculum and parent-child focus struck a chord with Nick, himself a new parent. So he signed up for Music Together Teacher Training, which he completed this summer (2018).

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Faculty Highlights: Mariah Fraser (Music Together®)


In her own words:

“I am thrilled to be teaching Music Together! I love getting to work with babies and children and their grownups each day, and hope that these classes give them a true, deep love for music that lasts a lifetime. It's truly the best job I've ever had. I have twin 7-year-old girls in 2nd grade, and I spend a lot of time volunteering at their school and leading their Girl Scout troop.”

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Faculty Highlights: Jal Feldman (Suzuki Piano)


In his own words:

“I teach because it is very exciting for me to help children develop the skill and the heart to express themselves through music. Being able to do this was extremely important to me during my own childhood. I enjoy guiding others through the rewards and challenges along the path to having the same gift. The development of musical skill requires a combination of great discipline and enormous creativity. I try to foster and encourage both in my students.

Teaching music to young children through the Suzuki Method is 70% about child psychology and 30% about music training. As the child gets older, those percentages even out and eventually reverse in most cases. However, knowing how to work effectively with children is an essential part of being a good music teacher. I teach at Music Center because it is supportive to this process in so many ways that I could not begin to list them. Music Center provides a collaborative setting with many invaluable opportunities for student and teacher.”

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Faculty Highlights: Vicki Boeckman (Recorder & Music Together®)

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In her own words:

“I believe we all have strengths, talents, and unique gifts that deserve to be shared. We are all good at something, and I happen to be good at teaching and sharing my learned skill with others. I especially love seeing the joy in a student's eyes when something clicks and they “get” it! At Music Center I teach recorder and also coach chamber music ensembles.

I hope to impart my sincere love of music, humanity, and connectivity to all my students. I have students that still contact me even after 20 years have passed since they had lessons, so I think I establish lasting friendships and respect. Because I am still in the game as a performing artist I believe that I have a strong impact on students that hear me perform and can see that I practice what I preach, or 'walk the talk'.  They can see that the recorder is a real main stream instrument that will take them as far as they want to go.”

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Faculty Highlights: Bill Blayney (clarinet)


William Blayney is highly regarded as a soloist, clinician, and clarinet pedagogue. His wide range of experience extends from playing with the Atlanta and Seattle Symphonies, opera and ballet companies in New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Seattle, to playing First Clarinet on Broadway and on movie soundtracks such as Die Hard III. He is on many of the SSO’s CDs including the premiere recording of David Diamond’s 11th Symphony on which he plays First Clarinet.

Upon receipt of his Bachelor of Music Degree in Clarinet Performance from the Peabody Conservatory, he was invited to teach in their Preparatory Department. While in Baltimore he also taught at the Baltimore High School for the Performing Arts and the University of Maryland (UMBC). 

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Faculty Highlights: Kerry Bollinger Blanton (violin and viola)

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Continuing our faculty highlight series, let's get to know Kerry Bollinger Blanton, one of our amazing string faculty members (Suzuki and traditional violin and viola):

In her own words: "My goal is to help my students find and develop their relationship with music and their instrument. Everyone has their own goals and journey that they want to take with music, and no two people are the same in that regard. I always strive to make sure that my students are getting some level of enjoyment and meaning out of their lessons with me, while promoting a careful balance of structure, technique, and self-discipline. I want to share my love and knowledge of music with my students and help facilitate their own life-long musical journey, in whatever capacity that may be."

Kerry received her Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance from the University of Puget Sound, where she studied under Joyce Ramée.

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