Our Teachers

Alex Faulkner

Guitar, Rock Ensembles

Alex Faulkner holds a bachelors degree in Guitar Performance from Western Connecticut State University. He has been a performing musician since the age of 13, and has professionally studied jazz, rock, and classical music. Alex has taught guitar full-time throughout Fairfield County since 2002, and he is a foundHafezer and co-owner of The Southbury Music Studio. Alex can be heard performing throughout Connecticut with No Big Deal and original rock and jazz groups.

Christina Tran

Western Connecticut State University
B.S. in Music Education, 2021

Christina Tran is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Music Education with a concentration in Voice at Western Connecticut State University. Her heavy passion for choral works along with 8 years of piano lessons perpetuated her love for music at a young age. She was an ensemble member in the Connecticut Music Educators Association’s (CMEA) Southern Middle and High School Regionals Choirs from 2013-2017 and CMEA All-States in Spring of 2017. Now, in pursuit of her teaching certification, she takes private voice lessons with Dr. Margaret Astrup at WCSU. She has placed 2nd place in the Lower College Division of the New England Online Regionals Round of the 2018 National Association of Teachers Singing (NATS) Competition and has qualified for the 2018 Online National Round for NATS. Christina has participated in various operas at the university such as “Amahl and the Night Vistors”, “Magic Flute”, and “L’Elisir D’Amore” as an Alto Section Leader/Chorus Member through Opera Theater of Connecticut (OTC). She actively participates in many collegiate ensembles at WCSU such as University Choir, Chamber Singers, and Symphonic Band. She is also one of the student piano accompanists for the Concert Chorale ensemble. Christina is an active member of the WCSU National Association of Music Education (NAfME) chapter, American Choral Directors’ Association (ACDA) chapter, and the Keyboard Club. Christina loves spending her time at local coffeehouses to catch up on light reading or mediations on the balcony to start her day. Christina believes that every student has the ability to inspire and nurture their unique musicianship through the powers of compassion, curiosity, and noise!

Colleen Toole


Colleen is a pianist and educator. She is currently studying Music Education at Western Connecticut State University, with a concentration in classical piano. Colleen first fell in love with piano at age eight, when she started taking private lessons.

She currently studies piano with Dr. Hirshfield, and has preformed in two of his studio
recitals. Colleen is an active member of Western’s NAfME (National Association for Music Education) chapter, and Keyboard Club.

Colleen loves teaching and believes that music is for everyone.

Erik Perez


Erik D. Perez is a native New Yorker with 33 years of Experience as both a player (live and studio) and instructor. Erik started playing drums at the age of 11 for his church choir. He studied with Robert Brown and Peter Metranga. Through the years, Erik explored various styles of music such as Gospel, Funk, R&B, Jazz, Pop, Rock, and World (Latin etc.).

He continues to play in the Tri-state area with various groups and singer song-writers. Erik enjoys helping students discover a passion for music through drumming.

Grace Nield


Grace Nield has been playing the cello for 20 years. She is currently a freelance cellist here in CT playing everything from weddings and musicals to benefits and bar gigs. Grace is a cello teaching artist for Bravo Waterbury! an El Systema inspired educational initiative of the Waterbury Symphony and enjoys teaching her K-6 students after school.

“I have learnt much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and most from my students.”
-Rabi Hanina, Ta’anit 7a

Gina Carrozza

Flute, Woodwinds

Gina Carrozza has been teaching private lessons since 2014, and started teaching at the Southbury Music Studio in 2017. Gina has been playing flute since the age of ten. She received her Bachelor of Science in Music Education in 2015 from Western Connecticut State University with a concentration in Flute, and is currently a Music Teacher in the West Haven Public School District. She has studied classical flute with Heather Levanti-Syzmanki and Dr. Kerry Walker, and has played for famous flute players Robert Langevin, Susan Hoeppner, and Bart Feller. Gina also teaches the New Milford High School Marching Band and musically directs the Danbury Drum Corps. She is a member of the Hat City Flute Choir as well as the WCSU Alumni Band, plays fife with the Danbury Drum Corps when she is not directing, and is the Piccolo player and Flute Sub for the New Haven Chamber Orchestra. Gina has also performed with the Ives Symphonic Winds, Sound Beach Community Band, Shepaug Valley Flute Choir, and the Danbury Music Centre Orchestra as a sub. In college, Gina played flute and piccolo in the Wind Ensemble, New Music Ensemble, Flute Choir, Woodwind Quintet, Orchestra, Pit Orchestra for the Musical Theater Department, played flute and clarinet in the Symphonic Band, and sang in the Concert Choir. With her flute duo and trio, Gina won the WCSU James Furman Chamber Competition two out of four years of her college career. She has a passion for music and believes that it is a universal language that can be learned, spoken, and appreciated by anyone.

Heidi Ohngemach

Heidi is a violinist and educator in the Southbury and Danbury areas. She has played violin since age 10 and has studied under Stephan Tieszen, Patti Kilroy, and Hafez Taghavi.

Heidi is a Bachelor of Science in Music Education student at Western Connecticut State University planning to graduate in 2020. There, she is the concertmaster of the orchestra and has performed on the violin and viola in musicals and operas including The Gondoliers, Evita, and Amahl and the Night Visitors. Outside of WCSU, she has also played violin for Little Women, West Side Story, Seussical the Musical, Behold the Lamb of God, and Newsies. Heidi is also very involved with on-campus clubs, being on the e-boards for WCSU’s chapter of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and Strings Club, and is also a co-captain for the Ultimate Frisbee Team.

Heidi is very excited to share her passion for music with everyone that walks into a lesson, and cannot wait to learn with all of her students.

Jake Habegger

Jake Habegger began playing the drums at the age of 13. He holds a Master of Music Education degree from University of Bridgeport and a Bachelor of Music degree from Western Connecticut State University in Jazz Performance. While at Western, Jake studied drum set with Jeff Siegel and classical percussion with Dave Smith and Patrick Smith. Jake is an elementary band teacher in Stratford, CT and plays many instruments in addition to percussion. He has been teaching private music lessons since 2007. Jake’s teaching is centered around making music and learning essential skills through playing rather than through lecture. Jake has been in many different bands and often performs with local musicians in the CT area.

Jeff Gursky

Jeff has been playing the guitar for 13 years across various styles of music. He attended Western Connecticut State University, where he received a Bachelor of Music degree in Audio Production with a concentration in jazz guitar. Since graduating, he has performed in a variety of musical settings, including jazz ensembles, pit orchestras, and playing/touring with indie-rock band Standby. Jeff also alternates between playing guitar and bass in post-rock band Hovel, and co-writes source cues for production companies Imaginary Friends Music Partners and 4 Elements Music, where some of his work has been included in television programs.

Joe Conticello

Joe began playing the piano at the young age of 5 and took private lessons through his sophomore year of high school. At 15, Joe began attending the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts where he began learning the craft of jazz piano and came into contact with local heavy-hitters such as Jonathan Barber, Matt Dwonszyk, Jovan Alexandre, Alex Nakhimovsky, and Doug Maher. He went to earn a Bachelor’s Degree of Music with a concentration in Jazz Piano at Western Connecticut State University. There, he played in the school’s top performing ensembles, gaining experience by playing small and large ensemble music, and got to learn from the pedagogical tag-team of Jamie Begian and Dr. Jimmy Greene. Through his involvement as the president of WCSU’s Jazz Club, he gained opportunities to meet and perform with the likes of Robert Glasper, Gerald Clayton, Orrin Evans, Sean Jones, Josh Evans, and Ron Carter.

Joe loves teaching and guiding young musical minds through private lessons. He has experience teaching any age, and has the facility to teach piano, composition, arranging, theory, and basic digital audio skills (i.e. recording, mixing, and using a DAW).

Julie Sharp

Juliana Sharp is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music with degrees in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy. She is the first undergraduate student to ever receive a pedagogy degree and be registered to teach violin volumes 1-10 in the US. At CIM, Julie studied with William Preucil, Brian Lewis, and Philip Setzer. She teaches private lessons to students of all levels in Fairfield and New Haven counties, and has worked with chamber groups at the Summer program, Chamber Music Central, for several years. Julie graduated from the Juilliard Pre-College in 2015 and performed numerous recitals throughout Lincoln Center. She has also received full merit scholarships and performed at the Round Top Festival Institute and the National Orchestral Institute, as well as four Summers at the Meadowmount School of Music. Julie enjoys playing for special events and has also organized and performed many benefit concerts for civic organizations, raising thousands of dollars for charities.

Larry Davis

Lawrence Davis, a recent graduate of SUNY Purchase, is a drummer originally from New Milford, CT. He is a regular performer in New York City and Connecticut as a freelance musician. He continues to play with many different groups, including small and large jazz ensembles, pit orchestras, singer songwriters, and hip hop collectives. He also worked as a staff member at the Litchfield Jazz Camp in 2017 and 2018.

An experienced teacher as well, Lawrence has taught a wide range of ages and ability. In lessons, he likes to focus on listening, reading, and technique. He has also prepared students for CMEA (drum set and snare drum), school concerts, and live performances.

Lindsay Tuttle


Violist Lindsey Tuttle has her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Western Connecticut State University where she studied privately with Professor Erick Lewis and Professor Hannah Levinson. Lindsey grew up going through the Region 15 school system, and ultimately completed half of her student teaching at Pomperaug Elementary School. Lindsey has also played in a variety of ensembles, including pit orchestras for Westconn’s opera productions, pit orchestras for Newbury Theatre Company’s summer musical productions, as well as in quartets for a variety of different events. Lindsey is a passionate music educator and enjoys teaching viola, violin, and cello. She also teaches general music in Bridgeport to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. In the next few years, Lindsey hopes to continue her studies and complete masters degree in Music Education.

Matthew Spencer


Matthew Spencer
Matthew Spencer, recent graduate of Western Connecticut State University with a degree in Jazz performance has been playing drums for 17 years. Hailing from Newtown, CT, he has been teaching drums for 7 years having students ranging from age 6 to 60. He plays a variety of styles and currently plays in two groups, both with albums out on iTunes, Spotify, and other popular streaming sites. They are entitled: Tales of Joy – Breathe Easy (Reggae/Soul) and Sub-Urban – Everybody Knows (Neo-Soul/HipHop).

Matthew Volpe


Matthew Volpe
Matthew Volpe is a certified PK-12 music educator from Western Connecticut State University with a concentration in jazz and classical trumpet. He began studying trumpet at age 15 with Domonic Talotta, focusing on classical and jazz trumpet. At age 18 he began studying with jazz trumpeter Dave Scott and studied with him for 2 years. He then studied with Rich Clymer, the first trumpet player for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, for two years studying classical trumpet.
He has performed in the WCSU Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Orchestra, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Combos, and Brass Quintet.
Music is for everyone, and He believes that every student has the potential to be great, so long as they desire to be such.

Nick Blanchette

Instructor of Guitar

Nick Blanchette is a guitar player in the new haven area who is currently finishing his bachelors degree in jazz studies at western Connecticut state university. Nick started playing guitar at age 10, beginning with rock tunes and the blues. Since then he has studied a wide range of styles including jazz and classical guitar with renowned teachers such as Christopher Morrison, Joe Tinari, Barry Ries, and Val Ramos. Nick has played all around Connecticut and beyond in his own trio that plays a mix between jazz, soul, the blues, funk and classical music, and as a sideman for an assortment of jazz, rock, and funk bands.

Noelle Chave

Instructor of Voice

Noelle Chave graduated Magna cum Laude from Western Connecticut State University with a degree in Music Education and holds her Connecticut license for teaching music K-12. While at WCSU, she was a member of the Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, Opera Ensemble and Symphonic Band (flute) and was the recipient of the Connecticut Choral Society Scholarship, which is awarded to a music major “with a record of academic achievement and who possesses extraordinary singing or musical talent.” Noelle studied voice with Dr. Margaret Astrup and music composition with Dr. Kevin Jay Isaacs and was a music theory and sight-singing tutor as well as a private voice and flute instructor for students of all ages during her time at WestConn.

Noelle recently returned to Connecticut after spending a number of years in Wisconsin, where she sang with the Madison Symphony Chorus, the Madison Chamber Choir, and the Milwaukee Chamber Choir. She also worked as a choral music editor for Hal Leonard where, in addition to editing sheet music and teacher resource books, she collaborated with colleagues, McGraw-Hill and esteemed writers, educators, and directors to create a choral music textbook. She has performed in venues ranging from local churches in Connecticut and Wisconsin to the Overture Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York City. In addition to teaching privately, Noelle is currently a cantor at St. Edward the Confessor Church in New Fairfield and sings with various ensembles throughout the state. You may also find her working the front desk at the studio, so stop by and say hello!

Katie Kelly

Instructor of Voice

Katie Kelly is a classically trained Soprano, Actor, and Voice and Piano Teacher based in the New York/Connecticut area. She possesses both a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Western Connecticut State University. Katie is known for her comedic performances as well as the beauty and power of both her classical soprano sound and her Broadway mixed belt. Katie’s teaching style focuses on enhancing the strengths of the musician through collaboration by adding tools and techniques to their arsenal in order to improve their skills. This includes song analysis, ear training, and incorporating acting techniques into performances. Katie has been teaching voice and beginning piano at Southbury Music Studio since January of this year.

Rachel Merriam

Rachel Merriam is currently completing her Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Performance at Western Connecticut State University with a concentration in Jazz Guitar. She started playing guitar at age 9, and played her first gig at age 12. At age 16 she started playing with funk groups S.O.N.S of Funk and Smoovtime, led by Parliament Funkadelic drummer Rico Lewis, playing gigs in the New England and New York area as well as music festivals in Ohio and Indiana.

Rachel has had the privilege of studying with guitarist Christopher Morrison since high school. She has also studied theory and improvisation with saxophonist, pianist and arranger Jon Blanck. At WestConn, Rachel has had the opportunity to play with pianist Orrin Evans and trumpeter Sean Jones as part of their guest artist series. She also works as musical director for recording artist Samantha Cole’s Vocal Showcases.

Rachel loves playing music of all styles, and working with students of all ages and levels. She can be seen playing gigs in the tri-state area with various jazz groups, S.O.N.S of Funk, and the reggae/rock band Bahama Mama & the Painkillers.

Ryan Dunne

Instructor of Drums

Ryan Dunne holds a Master of Music Education Degree from the University of Bridgeport and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Jazz Percussion Performance from the Western Connecticut State University. Ryan began studying percussion at the age of 13 and performed with various rock groups throughout the early stages of his career. While studying at Western Connecticut, Ryan performed in a variety of ensembles including the Western Connecticut State University Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Choir, and Small Jazz Combo groups. Throughout his career, Ryan has studied and professionally performed a wide range of musical genres including rock, jazz, funk, r&b, and various types of world music. Ryan currently performs professionally with the wedding band No Big Deal, with the saxophone group the Saxtet, and as a sideman with various jazz groups/projects. In addition to the Southbury Music Studio, Ryan teaches elementary general music and band in the Ridgefield Public School system.

Stephan Tieszen


Violinist Stephan Tieszen has a Bachelors from the Mannes College of Music, a Masters from the Juilliard School and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Yale School of Music. He studied violin with Mischa Mischakoff, Guila Bustabo, Sally Thomas, Sidney Harth, and Gabriel Banat.

Dr. Tieszen teaches violin and chamber music at Mannes College of Music and the Tabor Community Arts Center in Branford CT, and orchestral violin classes at the Meadowmount School of Music in Elizabethtown, NY. He has taught at Yale University, the University of Connecticut, Connecticut College, and Fairfield University. He has been Concertmaster of the Norwalk, Meriden, Bridgeport and New Britain Symphonys, and he is currently the Concertmaster of the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra in New London, and the Principal Second Violin of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Tieszen appears frequently with the Wall Street Chamber Players, was a founding member of the Concord Chamber Music Ensemble, and is an active performer and lecturer in educational outreach programs.

For this performance, Dr. Tieszen has written his own cadenzas in the style of Mozart, and he will be playing on a violin made in the mid-1700’s that was in use in Mozart’s time, using a reproduction of a contemporary Dodd bow. He has based his interpretation on Mozart’s manuscripts as published by Gabriel Banat.

Stephanie Biello

Piano, Music Composition, Music Theory

Stephanie Biello started playing piano at the age of seven. She now holds a Master of Music Degree from SUNY Purchase College in Studio Composition and a B.A. from Western Connecticut State University in Music Education. While studying at WCSU, her instrumental focus was classical piano. It was there that she studied under the studio of Dr Russel Hirshfield. Along with her private piano lessons and performances, she also privately studied music composition with Dr Kevin Isaacs. Stephanie is an experienced performer, piano instructor, composer, arranger, and a founder and co-owner of The Southbury Music Studio. She has been teaching piano, music theory and composition privately since 2004. In addition to teaching and running The Southbury Music Studio, Stephanie performs regularly with her cover band; No Big Deal. She also activly writes and performs original compositions.

Tim Smith



Tim Smith graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a B.M. in Classical Piano Performance. Tim is an experienced accompanist and has performed with choirs, and has been a part of pit bands for musicals and operas.

He also performed two solo recitals while at WCSU. Tim also plays the organ and is substitute organist at many churches in Connecticut. He also enjoys singing and playing French horn and was a part of WCSU’s chamber choir, Symphonic band, and Orchestra.

Vinny Brophy



Vinny Brophy is a graduate from Western Connecticut State University with a degree in Classical Performance for saxophone. Vinny has been studying the saxophone since he was ten, and began playing with combos at thirteen. At fourteen, Vinny began his study of guitar and bass, and while in college added the flute and clarinet to his studies.

Vinny has studied under various saxophone teachers including Mark Rivera, Javier Oviedo, Dave Noland and Dr. Dan Goble. Vinny is a current instructor for the Newtown Nighthawks marching band.

Vinny has performed in various pits across Connecticut, playing shows such as the Wizard of Oz, Nice Work if You Can Get It, Gypsy, Shrek and more. In jazz combos and rock bands, Vinny has played in numerous venues in Connecticut and New York.

Brian Suto


Brian Suto

Brian Suto is set to receive his Bachelor’s degree in Music from Western Connecticut State University. He has been playing guitar since he was 8 years old, and over the years has become well-versed in a wide range of musical styles. He adjusted his focus to jazz music while beginning his undergraduate education at Furman University, where he studied with jazz-fusion great Steve Watson. After transferring to Western Connecticut to work towards a music degree, he began studying guitar with Chris Morrison. In his time at Western, he has had the opportunity to share the stage with some noteworthy musicians like trumpeter Sean Jones and guitarist Russell Malone.

Brian performs regularly both as leader and sideman of various jazz groups, and could be found playing guitar in the hip-hop group Raioh Pop Golden.