WESTBURY Instructors

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  

Alyssa DeGuzman

Piano / Voice

New York University / Adelphi University

Alyssa is a talented multi-instrumentalist with a Bachelor’s degree in Music and Computer Management from Adelphi University, and has recently received her Master’s degree in Music Technology from NYU. Her love for music began in the first grade with the start of her piano lessons. Just a few short years later, her passion grew as she began singing and performing on stage. Alyssa was involved in NYSSMA, All-County, and All-State all through out her years from elementary school to high school. While being classically trained in both piano and voice, she also enjoys singing other genres like pop, musical theater, and jazz. She has been involved in many ensembles at school, such as, a select Vocal Ensemble, Opera Workshop, and the Jazz Ensemble. She has also performed as a soloist for several years at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall alongside fellow musicians who share a passion for performing as well. She participated in the Music Talent Competition of the Morgan Park Summer Festival, and won first place! She also sang the National Anthem at the Nassau Coliseum for an Islanders hockey game, and for Event Power’s various triathlons held at Eisenhower Park, Nickerson Beach State Park, and the Nassau County Aquatics Center. As an instructor, she has been teaching piano and vocal students for many years, helping each student achieve their own personal musical goals. She has also assisted the Select Children’s Choir of the Manhasset School of Music. Alyssa hopes to inspire and help students cultivate their talents, while instilling a passion for them to be motivated to pursue their goals.

Bella Petz, Voice and Piano teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Bella Petz

Voice/ Piano

Hofstra University

Bella Petz is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Music Education, with a minor in Musical Theatre from Hofstra University. She began singing at twelve years old, and is proficient on piano. Bella performed in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra all throughout high school and has continued her performance career in college. She singe in Hofstra’s Select Chorale, as well as in community theatre groups. Bella has been working with kids since she was in high school, as she was a camp counselor for many years at the Cultural Arts Program of East Meadow. She has been teaching voice and piano students for about 2 years and as an instructor, Bella aims to teach strong technique while also giving her students the opportunity to explore different genres of music and above all, have fun!

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

Brandon Allen, Instructor at Center Stage

Brandon Allen

Violin/ Viola/ Cello/ Bass (upright and electric)/ Guitar/ Piano/ Voice/ Saxophone/ Trumpet/ Krumhorn Family/ Viol de Gamba Family/ Lute

Long Island University, New York University

Brandon Allen has been teaching since the age of 16, and has been involved in music since the age of 8. He was a member of the LIU Post Orchestra, LIU Post String Ensemble, Merriweather Consort, as well as the bass section leader for the Long Island Sound Vocal Jazz. Brandon was also a member of the LIU Post Chorus where he had the privilege of performing at Carnegie Hall in collaboration with the Cecilia Chorus under the direction of Dr. Mark Shapiro. In the summer of 2018, Brandon had the opportunity to perform at the Sydney Opera House in Australia as a percussionist in the Long Island Honor Band. A year later, he went on tour to Spain to perform with the Long Island Sound Vocal Jazz, where they performed in San Sebastian, Frias, etc. He has also been a past member of Chamber Singers, the LIU’s Jazz Ensemble, the Chamber Music Festival and LIU Post’s Piano Showcase. Outside of LIU, Brandon has played in the Off-Broadway musicals, Songs for a New World, 13: The Musical on bass, Heathers on violin, and Spring Awakening on Guitar etc. He has also sung in the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation, under the direction of Lisa Meyer. Recently, Brandon taught Chorus and General Music in the Middle Country district as a leave replacement. Currently, Brandon is teaching privately while being a part of the Huntington Choral Society, under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Scott Miceli as he finishes his master’s program. Brandon is also a current member of the Long Beach Seaside Marching Band as a percussionist with over three 1st place trophies. He is also a music producer/studio engineer for various genres, including, but not limited to Classical, Jazz, Rock, Hip hop/R&B etc. Brandon will be releasing an album in the fall of 2023 under his duo rock band, Students Eclipsed, and will also be going on tour in England this summer with the choral group, Belle Voci as their violinist/vocalist. Brandon believes in a concept classified as edutainment; education through entertainment. With this mindset, Brandon holds his classes in a demeanor that is both lively and energetic, while maintaining the balance of hard work to draw out the best in his students. With the various styles under his belt, Brandon aims to bring understanding to Hans Christian Andersen’s quote “Where words fail, Music speaks”  as he believes that individuals can communicate with each other through music, regardless of their primary spoken language.

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything” – Plato

Chris Savarino Drum Teacher at Center Stage

Chris Savarino

Drums

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

Christina Fileas, Voice and piano teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Christina Fileas

Voice/ Piano

Adelphi University

Christina Fileas is an Actor, Singer, Pianist, Dancer and proud Greek-American native of Queens, NY. She is trained in musical theatre, classical opera, Shakespeare, piano, and dance styles such as ballet, tap and musical theatre. Christina holds a Bachelor of Arts from Adelphi University with a double major in Music and Communications. After receiving her degree, she has gone on to continue her training at establishments such as Broadway Dance Center and The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. As a singer, Christina is proficient in different vocal genres ranging from musical theater to classical. Aside from teaching a strong classical foundation in voice and piano, she encourages her students to explore all genres of music. She believes that everyone is capable of learning music and loving music. Her goal is to inspire students to find their passion and to share her love of music and performing with them.

“Music is what feelings sound like.” – Unknown

Christopher Quintana, piano and voice teacher at Center Stage music Center

Christopher Quintana

Voice/ Piano

Adelphi University

Christopher has taught music lessons for 5 years now, including music theory along with vocals and piano. In addition, he has been the musical director of the Middle School Show at West Hempstead Middle School for 4 years. Christopher is currently studying Music Education and has attended several conferences in Rochester and Buffalo regarding the teaching of music to children, and has even presented work from his own experience interning at an early learning center. As a performer, he has experience singing and playing piano in recitals, performing in several musicals, and is a member of a jazz band that he helped create. When it comes to his teaching style, he is incredibly friendly and makes sure the student enjoys their time, alongside learning valuable music and using it to express themselves. While keeping classes entertaining, Christopher will go in depth on proper technique and how to give the best performance for an audition or recital. He adapts greatly to his students and forms lessons keeping each one of their learning styles in mind. He understands well that music is an important part of life, and will gladly show his students how to use music to not only get over rough times, but to join with others and form life-long connections

​​“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” ― Confucius

Courtney Conkling, Flute and Saxophone Teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Courtney Conkling

Flute / Saxophone

Hofstra University

Courtney Conkling is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in music at Hofstra University. In the past she has studied at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music and Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. She is particularly passionate about wind band repertoire, underrepresented composers, and making the arts more accessible. Some career highlights of hers include performances at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, receiving Gemini Youth Orchestra’s Matthew Sunshine Award, and working with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center through the New York State Summer School of the Arts. Courtney is determined to find the pedagogical methods, repertoire, and approaches that allow all her students to remain musical throughout their life.

Eric Annibale, guitar teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Eric Annibale

Guitar/ Bass Guitar/ Ukulele

Stony Brook University

Eric has been playing the guitar for over twenty years and has been teaching private guitar, bass and ukulele lessons for about five years. An avid performer, Eric has been playing guitar in various blues, country and rock bands for the past fifteen years. His current band, The Grand Central, has performed over 1000 gigs in 27 states across America, including being the first NY based Country band to become the House Band of the world famous Bill Bob’s in Texas. As an educator, Eric prides himself on being able to motivate and inspire his students to develop a passion for performing while helping them master technical skills. He is patient and believes that learning music should be a fun experience. He hopes to instill a passion for music in each of his students that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Esther Chung

Piano/ Voice/ Violin

Adelphi University

Esther began her musical studies with piano from the age of three, violin at age seven, and voice at age fourteen. Her love for music continued to grow throughout college and she graduated with a double major in Music Performance and Business. She has performed at renowned music venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, both solo and with ensembles. She has been concertmistress of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra Principal Orchestra directed by Scott Stickley, and first soprano in the Chamber Chorale with Edward P. Norris III. Throughout her musical career, Esther has had the privilege of working with musicians such as Ola Gjeilo, Molly Mustonen, Darla D. Diltz, and Keith and Kristyn Getty. Aside from preforming, Esther loves teaching students of all ages and enjoys bringing music into everyone’s lives.

Evan Seickel Piano teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Evan Seickel

Piano

SUNY Fredonia

A pianist, composer, and conductor, Evan has earned his Bachelor of Music in Composition from SUNY Fredonia.  His musical journey began in 1999 with studying piano, eventually going on to explore many musical avenues including pipe organ, composition, and conducting.  Evan is an active performer, singing weekly with the St. Rose of Lima choir, and leading high mass congregations on piano.  Through the LI theatre company, Eastline Productions, he has found the opportunity and privilege to compose and perform solo incidental music and direct the pit orchestra for musical productions.  Evan also has experience as one of USDAN’s lead piano teachers.  In his time at Usdan, he was challenged to compose and teach piano duets for young musicians, while simultaneously using a contemporary musical language that maintains the interest of the young players.  Evan also had the honor to compete as a finalist with Bach’s Concerto in D minor BWV 1052 in the 2014 Concerto Competition at SUNY Fredonia.  As an instructor, he encourages his students to explore the full sound potential of the piano, in-turn unlocking the musical potential of each student.

“Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t.” – Johnny Depp

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

Gwyneth Fernandes

Voice / Piano

Adelphi University

Gwyneth Fernandes is a voice and piano instructor at Center Stage and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance, with a concentration in Vocal Performance, at Adelphi University. She has been singing since the young age of 4 years old and, since beginning her musical career, has performed in multiple Broadway revues, opera performances and jazz/choral concerts. Gwyneth has had the privilege of working with renowned musicians such as Violetta Zabbi and Priscilla Owens. Gwyneth understands the importance of music in life and seeks to teach her students not only to enjoy music, but also to be confident in their music making and to use music as a means of self expression. In her lessons, she caters to each student’s unique learning style and interests while also instilling in them proper technique. Gwyneth believes that a well-rounded education is essential, and she ensures that her students can read, notate and perform music to the best of their ability.

“Music begins where the possibilities of language end.” – Jean Sibelius

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, Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass Teacher

Karina Aristy

Violin/Viola/Cello

Long Island University, CW Post

Karina has been playing the violin since she was nine years old. Throughout the years, she excelled within various performing groups and was given the title of Concert Mistress from grade 7th grade through grade 12. From a young age, she participated in the Gemini Youth Orchestra, the All County Orchestra, and the Usdan Orchestra. During her time at Post, she furthered her studies in violin, viola and cello, and received her Bachelor’s in Music Education. Karina has been teaching students of all ages for over ten years. She is currently furthering her education at Five Towns College, 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

Kevin Lubin, piano/voice/guitar teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Kevin Lubin

Piano, Voice, Guitar, Ukulele, Mandolin

Adelphi University

Kevin is a music instructor, composer, and performer based in New York with a degree in music performance from Adelphi University. As a performer, Kevin is able to play whatever music is put in front of him on a wide variety of instruments, including piano, percussion, or kazoo. He is also the harpsichordist and viola da gamba player of Long Island’s premier early music ensemble “Four and Twenty Strings.” As a composer, Kevin often writes for chamber ensemble and voice, and recently premiered his first klezmer opera Four Jewish Women Playing Mah Jongg. Several notable events have used his arrangements, such as the Adelphi University 2022 Commencement at Nassau Coliseum. Perhaps most importantly, Kevin loves teaching and has been instructing music for over 5 years. Some of the instruments he is proficient in teaching are piano, voice, guitar, ukulele and mandolin, along with general music theory. Kevin strives for all of his students to enjoy themselves and have fun in lessons, while also gaining foundational skills in note-reading, technique, and a general knowledge of music and arts. No student is too young or too old to learn something new and all are encouraged to be the most creative version of themselves.

Marc Lambert, Instructor at Center Stage Music Center

Marc Lambert

Drums/Guitar/Bass/Piano

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.

Oscar Martinez, strings instructor at Center Stage Music Center

Oscar Martinez

Viola/ Violin/ Cello/ Bass

SUNY Fredonia

A music educator and active performer from Brentwood NY, Oscar received his Bachelor’s Degree in Viola Performance from SUNY Fredonia. Proficient in all string instruments, he currently works with the Harmony Program at the Ella Baker school in Manhattan teaching 3rd-5th grade strings. Furthermore, he works at USDAN Summer Camp for the Arts, and is the program editor for LISFA. Oscar also teaches private lessons throughout Long Island. Within his teaching, he strives to make sure all of his students learn responsibility and always reach their goals, such as partaking in All-State. In regards to performance experience, he is an active chamber musician who plays throughout Long Island and NYC. He is currently a member of the Long Island Symphony Orchestra, and is the Principal Violist of the North Shore Symphony Orchestra.

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.

Samir Chopra, Voice and Piano teacher at Center Stage

Samir Chopra

Voice, Piano, Guitar

Hofstra University

Samir Chopra has been studying music education and fine arts at Hofstra University with a focus in choir and general music. He started writing music and playing piano as a child, and joined choir in high school where he decided to pursue music. Samir participated in CT’s all state and regional choral festivals, and has been member of Hofstra’s Chamber Choir since 2019. He recently also joined Gamelan Dharma Swara in fall 2023, a Balinese Gamelan ensemble based in Queens. He loves immersing himself in various styles, whether it’s singing in a choir, learning folk harp, playing in a rock band or writing electronic music.

He aims to work with students creatively, encouraging musical exploration and incorporating what they love about music while teaching new skills.
Sofia Notar-Francesco, piano, voice, violin, viola, cello and bass teacher at Center Stage Music Center.

Sofia Notar-Francesco

Piano/ Voice/ Violin/ Viola/ Cello/ Bass

Florida State University

Sofia Notar-Francesco is a talented multi-instrumentalist and has been playing the piano, viola, violin, cello, bass and has been singing since her early childhood. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Music from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in Music Education from Florida State University. Sofia currently teaches general music, orchestra and chorus in the Long Beach City School District. Sofia is highly familiar with the NYSSMA program and what is required for NYSSMA preparation in order for her students to succeed. Sofia maintains performing alongside her teaching career. She is passionate about exploring the best practices for music pedagogy and watching each of her students learn and grow.

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
-Arthur O’Shaughnessy

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

Veronica Barker, piano teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Veronica Barker

Piano/ Flute

Stony Brook University

Veronica began her musical journey as a child piano protege and has been teaching piano, organ, and flute for over 25 years since. She is well versed in teaching students that range from children to adults. Veronica can teach all genres of music, from popular to classical to hymns, and everything in between. She majored in keyboard and composition at Stony Brook University and is also an avid performer. She also recently published two piano lesson books for beginner piano students called “Colorful Melodies for Piano.” Veronica brings her vast experience to each lesson in order to ensure the success of all her students.

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, Violin teacher at Center Stage Music Center

Victoria Rose

Violin

Nazareth College

Victoria is a dedicated musician and music teacher and has been playing the violin since she was 8 years old. Victoria is a 2020 graduate from Nazareth College of Rochester, with a Bachelors of Arts in Music Education. Throughout her early music education, she participated in all levels of NYSSMA, as well as All County and the Long Island String Festival Association (LISFA). During her college years, she furthered her education in violin and viola, and also broadened her musical horizons by taking piano and voice lessons. She believes that all students are unique and, as a teacher, she aims to cater to their individual needs in a safe, nurturing environment. She creates a lesson space that is warm and inspiring, so students can flourish and reach their full potential.

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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