We take pride in our team of university-trained instructors, who use their professional experience as both educators and performers to foster each student’s music education. They are qualified to teach students of all ages, from toddlers to adults. Our instructors are versatile in all styles of music, from classical to jazz to rock and everything in between. Whether you are a novice or have been playing for years, we will help you achieve your musical goals.

Al Dibisceglie, Guitar Teacher at Center Stage

Al DiBisceglie

Guitar/ Bass/ Ukulele

New York University

Al received his degree from New York University, and since studying at NYU, has been teaching guitar, bass and ukulele for over 20 years. He tailors his lessons to suit each individual student’s learning needs, as well as their taste in music. Al is also a talented performer and plays in various bands across the NYC area. He aims to motivate his students by teaching them to play the songs they love, as well as encouraging them to create their own songs. Al inspires each of his students, and teaches them the skills they need to develop into great musicians.

Alex Martinez

Piano/ Voice/ Guitar

Long Island University, CW Post

Alex has been teaching piano, voice and guitar for the past 5 years. As a performer, he has played across Long Island starring in musicals and plays. Alex has also had the honor of performing in exclusive venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Tilles Center and the 50th Anniversary Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland. Alex is also a proficient accompanist, often working with colleagues and students for jazz shows and cabarets. Alex has prepared his students for all levels of NYSSMA. Although he specializes in Musical Theatre and Jazz, Alex accommodates all of his student’s interests in pop, rock, and opera, while also exposing them to new influences. Alex has taught students of all ages, applying his knowledge and experiences to each lesson. Alex is very passionate about helping people achieve their goals, and has a high sense of pride when he can help his students achieve those goals. Above all, he wants his students to feel confident in what they do and for them to learn how to interpret the music they are passionate about. 
This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than 
ever before. – Leonard Bernstein  
Ben Berkowitz, woodwinds and percussion teacher at Center Stage

Ben Berkowitz

Woodwinds/ Percussion

Ithaca College

Ben has been playing percussion for 13 years and woodwind instruments for 7 years. He has experience teaching in public schools from Elementary to High school levels, and holds a New York State certification to teach K-12 music. Ben earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Ithaca College, where he has served as the percussion section leader of the concert band, wind symphony, and wind ensemble. He also has experience with steelpan, Afro-Cuban drumming, and percussion ensembles. In addition to performing and educating, Ben has been composing and arranging for 11 years. A highlight of his composition career has been premiering an original steel band composition with “Paganini of the Steelpan” Liam Teague. In teaching, Ben believes that everyone can learn an instrument and play it as well as they want given they are dedicated to playing either as a pastime or for a career. Every student with the motivation to learn, is teachable.

“Music is to the mind as air is to the body” -Plato

Blake Carey

Brass/ Piano


Blake Carey first became a musician at age 10 when he started to learn the trombone. Since then, his skillset has expanded to several other brass instruments, piano, and composing/arranging music.  Over the years, Blake has performed live countless times at venues including the Blue Note in Greenwich Village, the Borgata in Atlantic City, and at the Newport Jazz Festival. He frequently plays in wedding bands as well as with local bands in the Long Island and New York City area. In addition to playing live, Blake has performed on records for various artists. As a teacher, he places a high priority on customizing his lessons to fit his students’ needs as he understands that every musician is different. Most importantly, he places an even higher priority on making his lessons entertaining as he believes the point of playing music is to have fun.

Chris Savarino Drum Teacher at Center Stage

Chris Savarino


Berklee College of Music

Chris Savarino is a Long Island, NY native who has been playing drums for the past 20 years, working as a session/recording drummer for 10 years and teaching drums for 7.  His passion for drums began when he was very young, taking lessons at the age of 5 with Long Island drummer Dan Kleffmann and continuing his music education at Berklee College of Music in Boston.  

He has performed and worked with bands and projects of all different genres including extensive study of styles ranging from Rock, Metal and Progressive Rock/Metal to Funk, Fusion, Jazz, Blues, Latin, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and more. Some of the artists Chris has worked with include: Cindy Latin, Jobi Riccio, Jesse Timm, MMune (Zach Munowitz), Moving Paintings, Colin Sapp, Anupam Shobhakar, Jeannie Gagne, NKV (Nathan Koski-Vacirca) and more. 

After graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2020, Chris went on to create his own project called “Absurd Condition” as well as a Fusion side project called “[sav]”.  While creating and managing these two projects, teaching and doing session work Chris also wrote two polyrhythm focused books. Chris continues to push the boundaries of his own drumming and creativity.

“Drumming was the only thing I was any good at” – John Bonham

Christian Serrecchia, voice & piano teacher at Center Stage Music Center.

Christian Serrecchia

Voice/ Piano

Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam

Christian has been teaching voice and piano for about 3 years. As a performer, Christian has
showcased a diverse range of genres, including Opera, Classical, Musical Theatre, and
Contemporary Christian Music. Currently, Christian teaches K-12 General Music and Chorus at
Smithtown Christian School, where he inspires his students to explore various music styles as
they develop their musicianship. Christian’s teaching approach centers around establishing a
solid foundation of technique, encompassing proper posture and vocal health. He firmly believes
that every student can achieve success in their musical pursuits through enjoyable and immersive musical encounters.

“Music making is the most joyful activity possible, the most perfect expression of any emotion.”
~ Luciano Pavarotti

Courtney Conkling, Woodwinds teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Courtney Conkling

Flute / Saxophone / Clarinet / Oboe / Trumpet / Horn / Trombone

Hofstra University

Courtney Conkling is a flutist and woodwind specialist from Long Island. She is a recent graduate of Hofstra University, where she studied under and worked with Brandon Patrick George, Jessica Aura Taskov, and Philip Stoecker. Her musical endeavors have taken her all across the United States, from Chicago to Nashville to New Hampshire and beyond, as well as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Some significant mentors include Jessica Wyman, Kenneth B Andrews at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, and Molly A Barth at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. Her accomplishments include the Just Flutes Inc. scholarship to Robert Dick Contemporary Flute Week, presenting her undergraduate honors thesis about sacred music by women composers at the Chicago Flute Fair, performing with the Trinity Church Congregational Arts Allegro recital series at St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan, and the Hofstra University Dorothy B. Hoag Honors Recital. While her heart belongs to flute, she has professional experience performing and teaching on a wide variety of woodwind and brass instruments.

Debbie Yanez Voice, Piano & Flute Teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Debbie Yanez

Voice/ Piano/ Flute

Adelphi University

Debbie began her musical journey at the age of five, and has since evolved into a multi-instrumentalist who specializes in voice, along with piano and flute. She is a recent graduate of Adelphi University with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, where she not only refined her performance skills, but also developed her teaching technique. Debbie has performed in various ensembles at Adelphi including the Vocal Ensemble, Concert Band, and Orchestra, as well as in many shows including various musical theatre revues and operas like “The Little Prince” and “The Old Maid and the Thief.” Debbie is passionate about passing on her knowledge and love of music to her students, and focuses on a student-based approach to allow each pupil to reach their individual music goals in their own unique way. She believes that music is one of the greatest joys in life and strives to bring that joy to every lesson and performance.

Dr. Merkel, voice/piano and woodwind teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Dr. Joseph Merkel

Voice/ Piano/ Woodwinds

Canterbury Christ Church University

Dr. Joseph Merkel has a BA, MA & DMA in Music Education and Performance. With over 25 years teaching experience, he has sent thousands of students to NYSSMA, most of whom have received outstanding or perfect scores. Many of his students have gone on to participate in All State, All Eastern, and All National Honor Bands.
He has also prepared students for auditions to the finest music schools in the world, including Juilliard, The Curtis Institute and Berklee. He is well versed in teaching and playing all styles; from classical to rock/pop, Broadway to jazz, and everything in-between. Dr. Merkel has taught students who have appeared on Broadway, performed at famous venues such as Birdland and the Bluenote, and have even won Grammys! When he is not teaching, Dr. Merkel is a world class musician and often performs in the pit orchestra for famous Broadway shows.

Gianna DiFilippis, Piano & Voice teacher at Center Stage

Gianna DeFilippis

Voice/ Piano

Hofstra University

Gianna is a singer, songwriter, arranger, and performer from Long Island, NY. She began taking piano lessons from the age of six and voice lessons at eleven. In high school, she performed in her school’s Concert Choir, Treble Choir, select Chamber Choir, and was even chosen to conduct and direct the Women’s Choir her senior year. These groups have performed at renowned music venues such as Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. Since then, she has been pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Hofstra University. Throughout has been participating in the university’s select Chorale and select Chamber Choir. Not only is she classically trained, but Gianna has a strong passion for all genres of music. She has been the leader of an a cappella group at Hofstra for three years. This group performs music of all genres, arranged and composed by Gianna herself. Aside from songwriting and performing, her main goal is to share the gift of music with students of all ages and provide them with a positive experience tailored to their individual needs. Every student is unique and so is their own musical journey.

“Behind every child who believes in themselves is a music teacher who believed in them first.” — Unknown

Joe Salto, Drum teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Joe Salto


SUNY Oneonta

Joe is an enthusiastic drum teacher who believes that the essence of learning lies in the balance between self-fulfillment and personal progress. His philosophy is to educate his students about the most essential and practical skills on their instrument so that they can thrive in any musical setting and grow into the player they want to be.

Joe’s background in music is strong and diverse. His experiences range from playing percussion in classical ensembles, to musical theater, to playing drums for both original artists and cover bands. In 2017, he graduated from SUNY Oneonta with a bachelor’s degree in music industry. During this time, he studied privately under Blake Fleming, a renown drum educator and former member of the progressive metal band, The Mars Volta. Joe was a member of many of the college’s music ensembles, including the school’s funk band, led by Professor Jeremy Wall, an original member of the jazz fusion band, Spyro Gyra. Joe has dabbled in many genres during his years as a musician, and especially enjoys playing pop, rock, punk, metal, and funk music.

“You can play quite simple things and have a powerful effect on the music.” – Gavin Harrison

John Loffredo, Piano & Guitar teacher at Center Stage Music Center

John Loffredo

Piano/ Guitar

Nassau Community College

John has been teaching guitar and piano for the past five years. Learning the piano himself at the age of 5, and guitar at the age of 8, John has more than 15 years experience playing music as he regularly performs throughout the NYC area. John is a qualified NYSSMA teacher and has achieved high level rewards for both himself and his students alike. His passion for music has been passed down to him by his great grandfather, and his goal is to continue to pass on the gift of music to his students. He is extremely patient and caring to each and everyone of his students. John tailors each of his lessons to his students goals, and always keeps it a top priority to make sure the lessons are fun. John believes that it is important to continue to inspire his students by teaching them how to play in their favorite genres and styles. With a wide variety of musical styles, John’s goal is to help you become the musician you want to be, while also helping students become well rounded musicians and versatile in multiple genres. Music is like building blocks, once you have the material you can build any masterpiece you want out of it.

“Where words fail, music speaks.”  Hans Christian Andersen

John Misciagno, String teacher at Center Stage Music Center

John Misciagno

Cello/ Bass/ Violin/ Viola

SUNY Potsdam

John is a public school orchestra instructor with a passion for teaching. He has been teaching lessons for over fifteen years, and playing for over twenty years. John is qualified to prepare his students for the NYSSMA festival, and has found great success with his students. In his lessons, John teaches a combination of level-appropriate, fun-to-play music and custom playing exercises to teach specific techniques. In this way, students are able to remain motivated as they develop their musical skills quickly. John believes that students learn best when they understand the “why” of their practice and can see their own progress for themselves. When students understand the “why” of what they do, they will soon become their own teachers and reach their full potential.  

“Some people think music education is a privilege, but I think it’s essential to being human.” –  Jewel

John Potocnik, Drum, Guitar & Band teacher at Center Stage

John Potocnik

Drums/ Guitar/ Band

Five Towns College

John has been teaching drums for over five years and has been playing for a decade. As a performer, he currently plays with several original bands and artist: Crash The Calm , Boxer, Phil Firetog, and Salina Solomon. Also a proficient guitarist, John has a bachelors degree in performance for classical guitar with a concentration in audio recording technology from Five Towns College. John is a qualified NYSSMA instructor and strives for exceptional success with all levels of snare drum, drum set, and guitar. John believes in a balance between progress and entertainment, having his lessons consist of: reading, listening, writing, and improvisation. He is extremely patient, friendly, and relates well to children and adults alike. He aims to not only expand student’s horizons and technique, but to also connect them with other musicians so that they may further submerge themselves in the world of music and its joy.
“Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius
Joseph Vetack, Brass and Sax teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Joseph Vetack

Brass / Saxophone

Queens College, Aaron Copland School of Music

Joseph is currently working toward an undergraduate Music Education degree at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. Alongside his college career, Joseph is a freelance trumpeter, a brass instructor at the Walt Whitman High School Marching Band, and a member of the worship team at East Gate Church. As a freelance trumpeter, he has played in high school pit orchestras, small brass ensembles, and parade bands such as the Tappan Zee Bridgeman. While trumpet is his main instrument, he has extensive experience with all brass and saxophones. Before his college career, Joseph was heavily involved in the marching arts. He was a member of the Lindenhurst Marching Band for 5 seasons and the Sunrisers Drum and Bugle Corps for 2. Here, he played a variety of instruments such as alto saxophone, mellophone and trumpet. Something that Joseph believes in is giving back to his community and country. He does this by playing Taps for various events such as; Lindenhurst’s 9/11 Memorial service, Memorial Day parades and Taps Across America. Joseph aims to teach his students to love music and the instruments they play, to learn how to achieve and repeat success in their playing, and to learn to understand their music on both technical and emotional levels.

Julian Hernandez Voice & Piano Teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Julian Hernandez

Voice/ Piano

LIU Post

Julian has a big love for music and has been involved in all types of music groups throughout his life, from mariachi to jazz piano. Julian is a classically trained vocalist, singing in operas since the age of 15, and is also a prolific piano player. Julian is currently studying music education at Long Island University at C.W. Post. Aside from classical music, Julian is proficient in a wide range of vocal genres such as jazz, pop, gospel, mariachi/latin, and musical theatre. As a pianist, Julian has played for many jazz combos/ensembles at LIU Post, and even performs solo gigs from time to time. Julian likes to put his students first, helping them build a love for music while also teaching the correct techniques and skills.

“You have to believe that things will happen, you have to work and love what you’re doing.”

-Gustavo Dudamel

Karina Aristy, Strings teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Karina Aristy


Long Island University, CW Post/ Five Towns College

Karina has been teaching string studies for over 13 years. Currently a public school orchestra director, Karina is heavily involved with NMEA and LISFA music associations, and has assisted and chaired All County Festivals. Karina has been playing the violin since she was nine years old. Throughout the years, she excelled within various performing groups such as Gemini Youth Orchestras, All County Orchestras, and the USDAN Orchestra. During her time at Post, she furthered her studies in violin, viola, cello and bass, and received her Bachelor’s in Music Education. She is currently furthering her education at Five Towns College through the Fellowship Performance Initiative for music educators in pursuit of her Masters Degree. As a NYS Certified Educator, Karina highly believes in the value of a well-rounded education and makes sure that all of her students can read, write and perform music to the best of their ability.

“Without music life would be a mistake.” – F.W. Nietzsche

Ken Migliore, piano/ bass teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Ken Migliore

Bass/ Piano/ Violin/ Viola/ Cello

Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College

Ken Migliore is a multi-instrumentalist currently earning his New York State teacher certification 
from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. He takes pride in continuing a 
family interest of teaching and playing music. Specializing in bass and piano, he has worked on 
a variety of recording projects during his undergraduate career at the State University of New 
York at Oswego. Ken’s musical interests range from classical performance to jazz and Latin 
styles. Having played in a wide variety of ensembles throughout his collegiate career, Ken 
believes a strong education to be one of the most valuable gifts that he has received.  
In his own teaching, he considers musical success to be within the reach of any student. With 
music comes a sense of community and a means through which individuals can work towards a 
common goal. Ultimately, music lessons should be something a student can look forward to. 
Recognizing this important consideration, Ken offers instruction that acknowledges the goals, 
abilities, and interests of each particular musician.  
“Each piece of music we play, each dance, each drawing, each episode of life, reflects our own 
mind back at us, complete with all its imperfections, exactly as it is.”S. Nachmanovitch 
Marc Lambert, Instructor at Center Stage Music Center

Marc Lambert


The Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase College

Marc is a professional musician and instructor with a Bachelor’s Degree in Performance from The Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase College in New York, where he graduated at the top of his class. Proficient in both the guitar and drums, he has been studying both instruments for over 20 years. Marc began his musical studies with the percussion/drums in school ensembles, and moved on to pursue private lessons in the guitar. As a multi-instrumentalist, he also teaches beginner bass as well as beginner piano students. Marc teaches students from all over the world as a result of his band, Painted In Exile. He excels in teaching a wide variety of differing styles, from beginner to advanced students. He always concentrates first and foremost on the interests and needs of each individual student.

Ryan Keyes, Band Director at Center Stage

Ryan Keyes

Guitar/ Bass/ Piano/ Band Director

SUNY Fredonia

Ryan has been playing the guitar and bass for nearly fifteen years and recently graduated from Fredonia’s School of Music with a concentration in classical guitar. As an avid performer, Ryan had many years of experience playing in the band TurnKey, which began in 2010. Switching his focus from rock to classical proved to him that many different styles can be explored within the field. Being able to combine the rock style he was familiar, with the new classical skills he was being taught, Ryan found that combining styles and genres can make the musical experience very exciting. He brings his knowledge and experience to every lesson and is able to provide his students with many different avenues to explore the instruments. His vast exposure to all different styles of music has given him the drive to teach students the mechanical works that underly their favorite music, and to help them express themselves through their own creative musical output.

Symphony Chang

Piano/ Flute

Nassau Community College

Symphony Chang started playing piano when she was just three years old, and this is where her love for music started. When she turned 13, she picked up the flute and the world of music expanded for her. She has performed in many choirs, vocal ensembles, acapella groups, bands and orchestras during her musical career, as well as participated in NYSSMA and All State. Her passion for teaching started when she was a senior in high school, coaching freshman to help them prepare for NYSSMA.  Elated to see their outstanding scores, it was then when Symphony realized that this is what she was meant to do. She has been teaching piano and flute students ever since, and has sent countless students to NYSSMA. “There is music in every child. It is my job to find it and nurture it.” -Frances Clark

Tara Lacognata Voice & Piano teacher

Tara Lacognata

Voice/ Piano

Hofstra University

Tara has been teaching music for over 5 years and performing for over 10 years. As a performer, Tara has been part of various audition-based chamber choirs, a capella groups, jazz choirs, as well as performing solo gigs within her community. She has performed both at Carnegie Hall in New York City and has opened twice for the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular in Radio City Music Hall. As a voice teacher, she has extensive knowledge on the inner workings of the voice and is trained in classical voice technique. Tara takes pride in assessing students’ strengths and weaknesses regularly in order to provide appropriate and efficient methods to address students’ learning needs.  Tara inspires and develops musical success and self confidence through an open, dialogic teaching experience tailored to the individual students’ needs. Tara is also a proficient pianist and piano teacher. Tara is an extremely warm, patient, friendly, professional, and caring individual with a passion for music that comes from the heart. Tara believes that music should always be fun and interactive; therefore, her teaching is always student-centered. She strives to make her students into better pianists, singers, and overall musicians while also equipping her students with foundational life skills that can also be applied outside of music, such as practice techniques.

“Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies” -Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Tommy Sanders, drum teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Tommy Sanders


SUNY Oneonta University

Tommy Sanders is a Long Island based Drummer who has been playing drums for fourteen years. He is a multi-faceted precussionst, studying snare drum, latin rhythms, jazz, as well as various other genres. First beginning lessons at age 11, Tommy quickly knew with the drums that he had found something to be passionate about. Tommy has studied Music Industry at Oneonta University in Upstate New York, and is currently pursuing a History Education Degree at Stony Brook University.

Over the last ten years, Tommy has not only performed with various groups, primarily beginning with the group Turnkey in 2010, but has worked as a session drummer recording various genres that range from Rock, to Punk, Metal, Progressive, Funk, Pop, and Jazz. Tommy also performed with a Frank Zappa Cover band in Upstate New York, where he learned how to translate what is heard in the song into what can be played behind the kit. He aims to further the student’s understanding of a drummer’s role in a band as well as how to translate what you hear into what you play. Tommy is an avid performer, and currently plays with the Westchester based band, Without Oars. Tommy quickly learned that combining various genres, styles, and techniques can open up a whole new understanding of music, and aims to share his knowledge with anyone who shares the same love for the drums as he does.

Veronica Nguyen, Voice and Piano Teacher at Center Stage

Veronica St John

Voice/ Piano

Long Island University, CW Post/ Longy School of Music

Veronica Nguyen is a classical singer, voice and piano teacher based on Long Island, NY. After completing her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance at LIU Post, Veronica moved to Boston to continue her education at Longy School of Music, where she earned a Master of Music in Opera Performance. Veronica is an active performer and enjoys a varied career singing opera, choral and concert work. She is also an accomplished pianist and has been playing for almost 20 years. As a teacher, Veronica works with students of all ages and skill levels, focusing on building healthy technique and cultivating individual sound. While she specializes in classical singing, Veronica is well-versed in all genres and values providing her students with diverse repertoire. Veronica is dedicated to providing an educational experience that is not only fun and challenging, but one that can establish the roots for a life-long love of music.

“In this modern society, art may be the only force that invites expression from the inside out, where the pure light of the wisdom of the soul is realized.” – Jessye Norman

Victoria Rose, Strings teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Victoria Rose

Violin, Viola, Cello

Nazareth College/ Long Island University CW Post

Victoria is a dedicated musician and music teacher who has been playing the violin since she was eight years old. She is a 2020 Nazareth College of Rochester graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education. She is currently attending Long Island University, CW Post, in pursuit of a master’s degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education. She has since added a special education certification to her course load. She participated in all levels of NYSSMA, All County, and the Long Island String Festival Association (LISFA) throughout her early music education. During college, she furthered her education in violin, viola and cello. She then broadened her musical horizons by taking piano and voice lessons. Victoria believes that all students are unique, and as a teacher, she aims to work towards their individual goals while also setting a good foundation in posture and technique to create well-rounded musicians. She has prepped many students to participate in NYSSMA, with outstanding score results. Many of these students have been chosen for All County and LISFA. Victoria also has students participate in company recitals and, most recently, has had students perform solos at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Wendi Mancaku, piano and voice teacher at Center Stage.

Wendi Mancaku

Piano/ Voice

SUNY Purchase College

Wendi Mancaku is an Albanian Pop/R&B artist, singer/songwriter, producer and teacher based in New York. She began studying classical piano alongside singing at the age of seven years old and participated in many national and international competitions like: EPTA (European Piano Teachers Association), “The Voice Kids of Albania”, “The MAM’s (Marathon of Albanian Music)”- where she was awarded the first prize, “Kenga Magjike” – where she won the “Best New Artist” title, and “Eurovision 2019” –  where she was a back up vocalist, to name a few. Wendi was also part of “Festivali I Kenges” in 2 editions before she decided to follow her dream by completing her education in “Studio Composition” abroad in New York. Her teaching journey began alongside her collegiate studies. Since then, she has been sharing her passion and expertise with eager students of all ages, levels and styles. Wendi’s classical training, coupled with her broader understanding of music and her real world performance experience, allows her to explore various genres with her students in order for them to excel in their musical journey.

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