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Teachers

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Claudia Birdsall

Suzuki and Traditional Violin

Claudia moved to Sarasota from Colorado where she owned and operated her own teaching studio for over 20 years and coached for the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association.  She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance from the University of Denver and has extensive training in Suzuki violin.  Claudia was a member of the Colorado Springs Symphony and the assistant concertmaster of the Venice Symphony.  She has soloed with the Pueblo Symphony and the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra.  She loves working with Suzuki or traditional students at all levels.

Robert Birdsall

Suzuki and Traditional Violin

Suzuki Guitar

Robert Birdsall is originally from Michigan and started piano lessons at age 5. He then transferred to violin at age 8. He has a Bachelor of Music in violin performance from Eastern Michigan University, where he also was introduced to the Suzuki Method of violin instruction.
He left Michigan to join the Colorado Springs Symphony and later continued his Suzuki training in Colorado. He has worked with the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association, a public middle school in Colorado Springs, a cooperative Suzuki group teaching situation, and has maintained a private studio. He enjoys teaching students from both traditional and Suzuki backgrounds.

Mary Healey

Piano, Royal Conservatory Program

Mary Healey has spent her entire life in music, having been born into a musical family. Her formal studies began at age seven with piano, and gradually expanded to include clarinet, trumpet and organ.

Mary obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Music at Rivier University and two additional Masters Degrees in Music Pedagogy and Education. Continued Piano studies were at Boston University with Prof.Leon Tumarkin. Organ studies were at New England Conservatory. Her performances include the Harvard Summer Band, The Middlesex Orchestra, and the B.U Alumni Concert Band. Additional positions include Choir/Organist at St. Annes’ in Peabody, Sacred Heart in Lynn, and Robert Bellarmine in Andover, all in MA.
 

Throughout her years as Music Director, K-12, Mary initiated studies for herself and staff to include the 5 major Music Methods: Suzuki, Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze and Alexander Techniques. The music curriculum that resulted reaped significant results with the children in the K-12 grades. As a result Mary was invited to serve the Massachusetts State Board of Accreditation for K-12 music programs.

Medsyre (Sye) Rochanavibhata

Piano, Guitar, Music FunTime

Medsyre Rochanavibhata (Sye) is originally from Bangkok, Thailand. She started her piano lessons at Yamaha Music School in Thailand at age 4,  and earned several certificates and awards from Yamaha Music, as well as Trinity College London in Thailand for piano and classical guitar. She later moved to the United States to continue her studies in Music in 2010, and was a collegiate member of the Music Teachers National Association from 2013-2017. She earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano Pedagogy and Performance from the University of North Florida and for the past several years has been teaching piano to students of all ages and skill levels, internationally. 

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Laura Miller

Piano, Music FunTime

Laura has been a teacher with the Suzuki Institute since 2004. She holds a BS in Sacred Music from Florida Southern College, where she studied piano, voice, and organ. 

She is a part of the Sarasota Music Teachers Association, where she serves as co-chair of the District Student Day Competition. During her time at Suzuki, she has enjoyed building long-term relationships with her students and their families. She loves helping students find the joy in music and grow in their self-confidence. 

Dr. Joyce Mizer

Founder
Violin, Piano, Royal Conservatory Program

Dr. Joyce Mizer is founder and former director of the Suzuki Institute. She has degrees from Madison College, James Madison University, Commonwealth Open University and Sherwood School of Music, Chicago. Joyce taught music in public schools and served as an adjunct professor at Bridgewater College in Virginia. As a teacher-director in Virginia, she was awarded highest honors. She attended Catholic University, receiving training from the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Her students have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and Wolf Trap Farm, Virginia. She was a soloist in the guest artist series at the Pentagon, Washington, DC and a guest conductor of The United States Air Force Band. Joyce is a founding teacher of the Carnegie Hall Royal Achievement Program in the United States. In 2004 she was nominated to the Marquis Who’s Who for her service and dedication to the arts.

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Carolyn Suda

Suzuki Cello, Piano

Carolyn Suda is a deeply-experienced Suzuki cello specialist performer and piano teacher. She has performed with orchestras around the country and also taught all ages and levels of students in her private studio and at Monmouth College and Knox College in Illinois. She and her daughter Anne Suda (herself an accomplished soloist with international performing experience) are helping us build our new Suzuki cello program for students of all ages.

Jessica Campbell

Viola, Violin, Music FunTime

From the first moment Jessica picked up the viola at the age of five, she knew it was the instrument for her. She started playing at the Florida West Coast Symphony when she was seven years old. As an adult, she was a member of the State College of Florida’s Orchestra and currently plays with the Sarasota Bradenton Pops Orchestra.

Jessica loves working with children and has been teaching children ages one and older for the last thirteen years. She finds the looks on their faces when they learn something new to be simply priceless.  She also has a background singing in chorus and stage acting and is the mother of three wonderful children, one of whom plays the violin and the other two play the piano.

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Annie Addington

Voice, Piano, General Music

Annie has spent her entire professional life in music, as a composer, songwriter, singer and educator. She wrote her first song at age 11, then went on to study musical theater and perform in musicals in New York. Later, she moved to Europe, living in Holland and Germany and touring with her own band, frequently performing her own songs.

She finished her BA in Music and did Graduate School at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, receiving a Master's in Jazz Performance (with Jon Faddis) and a Master's in Composition (with Joel Thome).  During that time, she taught Music and Drama at Oakwood Friends School, where her son also attended. 

Annie loves working with kids, having taught music in the New York City School System. There, she taught Chorus, String Ensemble, and worked with Fellows from Carnegie Hall for 4 years to create a strings program for the violin, viola and cello, with three performances per year, both Choral and Instrumental. She is teaching voice, piano, introductory guitar and general music to our students.

Jorge Garcell

Classical Guitar

Jorge Garcell is a Cuban concert artist, teacher, composer and writer. He began learning classical guitar at an early age and is a recipient of the prize for the best interpretation of Renaissance music in the National Guitar Competition, Havana. He earned a Bachelor of Music (Classical Guitar Performance) from the Advanced Institute of Havana.

Jorge was the Head of the Classical Guitar Department at the Conservatory of Havana as well as at the Culture and Art Institute in the Dominican Republic. He has offered concerts and master classes in many international festivals, all through his distinguished career. His students have gone on to attend advanced conservatories and entered professional careers in music in many countries around the world.

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Rafael Silva

Saxophone, Clarinet, Piano, Trumpet, Guitar, Mandolin, Flute

Hailing from Santos, Brazil, Rafael Silva, otherwise known as "Ruffus," began his musical studies at eleven years of age and by the time he was fifteen, could play thirteen instruments such as: Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Piano, Bass, Guitar, Harmonica, Mandolin, Trumpet, and more. He studied at Souza Lima College in Sao Paulo City, playing and studying with a number of renowned Brazilian musicians. 

 

In 2007, he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. With two bachelor's and a master's degrees in music, he pursued a minor in the culinary arts and one in astronomy. While living in the northeastern USA, he performed with illustrious American jazz players at venues such as the Blue Note Jazz Club, The Bitter End Club and the Jazz Standard in NYC.

 

Rafael has been teaching music for about 17 years, both individual and group lessons on a number of instruments, in conservatories and high school programs. 

 

Ruth Weaver

Violin, Piano

Ruth Weaver has been playing the violin since she was 8 years old and the piano since she was 10. As a youth, she was selected to perform with Florida Allstate Orchestras, the Sarasota Youth Opera Orchestra, FWCS Youth Philharmonic, Pine View Chamber Symphony (as concert mistress and concerto soloist), Sewanee Symphony, New England Music Camp Orchestra, Sarasota's Just Kids Just Music, was a national member of the National Piano Playing Auditions, and received superior ratings from the National Federation of Music Clubs. She was privileged to study violin with Dr. William Hayden at USF and piano with Mrs. Warrene Johnson. Her musical talent has also been demonstrated in performances with the Tulsa Philharmonic, former Florida West Coast Symphony, Anna Marie Symphony, ORU Orchestra as concerto soloist, Venice Symphony, and former MCC Orchestra. Ruth has taught private and group lessons, both Suzuki and traditional, to all ages in various settings since 2000.

 

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Monique Garza O'Neill

Suzuki Violin

Monique has taught Suzuki and traditional violin to students ages 3 through adult since 2001. A 10-year Suzuki student herself, Mrs. Garza O’Neill received her Bachelor of Music cum laude in Violin Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She studied under Dr. Won-Bin Yim and Kurt Sassmannshaus. She has completed the Suzuki Association of the Americas’ violin teacher training in multiple books, as well as the Teacher Practicum. As a young violinist, Monique had the wonderful experience of
participating in a concert with Dr. Suzuki himself at the American Suzuki Institute.
While living in Cincinnati, she taught at the Musical Arts Center, performing with groups of her students at various MAC local outreach events as well as lead group string instruction for Cincinnati Public Schools.
Monique's performance experience includes the Aspen Music Festival Concert Orchestra, Richmond Symphony Orchestra and the Lebanon Symphony Orchestra. She also enjoyed performing with various Cincinnati-area community theatre troupes. She most recently performed with the Queen City Chamber Orchestra, both as a soloist and in the ensemble.
Since moving to the Sarasota area in 2021, all five of her children have been enrolled at the Suzuki Institute School of Music for violin group class and Suzuki piano. She is thrilled to join the SISM violin faculty and looks forward to continuing her journey as a Suzuki teacher (including to three of her own children).

 

Heather Blount-Elliott

Voice, Music FunTime

Heather Blount-Elliott started her vocal studies at 5 years old and received her Bachelor of Arts from Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. She has over a decade of teaching experience that includes voice, circus arts and preschool enrichment. Heather has worked extensively as an after-school enrichment teacher for after-school, summer camps and in-school programs. She has also led many preschool enrichment classes in gymnastics, circus arts and music.

In addition to being a classically trained vocalist, Heather also has a background as a professional circus performer. This has allowed her the opportunity to explore music from different avenues such as choreographing and performing circus acts. Past performances include performing in a choir at Boston Symphony Hall and as a circus performer for the Venardos Circus. She has also had her circus act featured on the Netflix series, Selling Sunset

With years of training and performing under her belt in many disciplines, Heather has developed a deep appreciation for the unique contributions her music foundation brings to her life and artistic endeavors. She loves teaching and always tries her hardest to help her students become
well-rounded individuals by building their foundation in music.

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Gail Ofterdinger-Ledgister
Piano

Gail brings to the Suzuki Institute decades of experience as a piano instructor at every level up to college and as a church pianist and organist. She was born in a suburb of Philadelphia where she began piano lessons at age 8 and was playing in the school band and accompanying the choirs by 6th grade. Gail attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and the Philadelphia Musical Academy (now the University of the Arts) and graduated with a Bachelor of Music in piano performance. Graduate school took her to Temple University and she earned her Master of Music in music history. Additional graduate work in harpsichord at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music was followed by completion of the coursework for a PhD in historical musicology from Rutgers University.

Katie Priest

Voice, Piano

Katie is a multitalented performing artist with training in musical theater, opera, acting, dance and piano. She has over 15 years of piano training including at the college level and over 10 years of experience as a singer in styles ranging from musical theater to classical, pop & jazz. Katie holds a Bachelor's in Music Degree (vocal concentration) from the Florida State University and has performed in leading roles in numerous musical, stage and film productions. Honors include 1st Place in the Musical Theatre division of regional “National Association of Teachers of Singing” (NATS) Competition; being chosen as a classical soloist to represent SCF at Winter Symposium Competition, and the Montserrat Campos Fong Endowed Scholarship in Voice. Katie is an experienced voice and piano teacher for students of all ages and skill levels, complemented by her work as a musical director for productions of stage musicals.

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Dr. Salil Singh
Director

Jennifer Singh
Director of Client Relations and Early Learning Programs

Jennifer brings to the Suzuki Institute twenty five years of experience working in various customer-centered positions in the real estate industry. She has worked with a wide range of clients and brings her passion for arts education to her work at the Suzuki Institute where she is nurturing relationships with all our families and students and initiating events to further the educational mission of the school.

Jennifer is also the director of our early childhood music development program. This brings together her love of music education and children to create this new program.

Dr. Singh brings his love of performing arts education to the Suzuki Institute. He is a teacher, director, playwright, actor and designer who has directed more than fifty theater productions and musicals in his teaching career. Most recently, Dr. Singh taught at The College Preparatory School, an independent high school in the San Francisco Bay area and was head of their arts department for over a decade. His productions have been seen in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, California and internationally in India and at the Edinburgh Festival. He received his MFA from the University of Iowa and his doctorate in theater from the University of Texas at Austin.

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