Performing Arts Instructors

Who’s Who in the Monticello Performing Arts Department? 

The success of the music and performing arts department is largely due to its fine instructors. 

Anthony Berman  – Elementary
John Bernstein – MHS
Timothy Buckley – RJK
David Chidsey – MHS
Dawn Clayton – Cooke
Marissa Jurow – MHS/RJK
Lisa Lombardo – MHS (Dance)
Michael Mingo – RJK, Elementary Band
Margo Marusek – Elementary, Chase; MHS (Strings)
Amy Phillips – RJK, MHS
Andrew Verdino – MHS, RJK, Elementary
Nancy Wegrzyn – MHS
Joyce Wells – Rutherford

Anthony Berman

Position & school(s): Orchestra Teacher R.J.K. Middle School

How long have you been teaching? How long at Monticello?
I have been teaching in public schools for three years. This is my second year in the Monticello school district.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold? 
Schenectady County Community College A.A.S. Music Performance
SUNY Oneonta B.A. Music, College of Saint Rose C.A.S. Music Education K-12 & M.S. Music Education

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? 
While at SUNY Oneonta I received a performance scholarship that paid for most of my tuition, and while at Saint Rose I performed with faculty ensembles, subbed classes and lessons, and had a Graduate Assistantship with the jazz band. Now, I perform regularly in New York City, Albany, and Boston. I am also in the process of composing my first symphony.

What’s your favorite part of your job? 
Working with students who love and are enthusiastic about music.

Why did you become a music teacher? 
Music is my favorite thing in the world (other than my daughter!)and has always been what’s gotten me through tough times in life. With out music I’m not sure what my life would be like. I love my life and waking up for what doesn’t feel like work every day. I want to share my passion for music with young minds, and show them how music can uplift them through adversity.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? 
Music education opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human involvement. The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.” -Gerald Ford

What CD is in your CD player right now? 
Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring

What are your hobbies? 
Spending time with my family, reading and learning about science and philosophy, and trying to stay active.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? 
Study with as many great musicians that you can, learn all you can, but remember to keep an open mind and create your own opinions. Be creative, and practice practice practice!

John Bernstein

Position & school(s): I teach Piano, Performance Skills, Music Technology, and Brass lessons.

How long have you been teaching? This is my sixth year teaching at Monticello High School.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold? I completed my B.M in Music Education with a Piano Concentration from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. I am currently working in my M.M in Music Education from Crane also.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? I’ve had the privilege of performing in some really prestigious venues, including Carnegie and Webster Halls in New York City. I’ve also written several articles published in different music education publications, including School Music News, as well as the opportunity to present on Music Education in the 21st Century at the APME National Conference, NYSSMA Conference, and the Julia Crane Music Education Symposium. Throughout each school year, I do lecture and workshop sessions with graduate and undergraduate classes at the Crane School of Music, talking about current topics and practices in the world of music education. I also had the opportunity to help spread music education to several schools in Jamaica while working for the JAFSP.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Getting to make music in so many different ways each and every day.

Why did you become a music teacher? I had some influential mentors in my life that showed me the excitement of music education and how it can be approached through so many diverse avenues. Being a music educator allows me to think outside the box and helps my students do the same.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? Music Education provides the opportunity for all people, young and old, to uncover their own musicianship.

Who is your favorite musician? I span the whole spectrum, but particularly Jimmy Buffett, Franz Liszt, Dave Matthews, Pretty Lights, The Avett Bros.

What are your hobbies? Skiing, Golfing, Hiking, Biking

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? Decide what to be, and go be it.

Timothy Buckley

Position & school(s): Vocal/General music at RJK & MHS

How long have you been teaching? Three years.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold? 
I went to college at SUNY Potsdam at the Crane school of music for Music Education. I currently have Bachelors in Music education.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? 
My college concert choir was invited and sang at the ACDA conference held in NYC a few years back where we sang in St. Thomas cathedral.

What’s your favorite part of your job? 
Getting students interested in the topic and participating in music. I also enjoy using current songs when possible to show the connection between what is learned in class and what they are listening to in the pop culture.

Why did you become a music teacher? 
Music is one of the few things every culture shares and gives importance to. One could almost say it is a universal language and as such merits enough importance to study and pass on. I also always enjoyed music and figured why not make a career of it?

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher? 
In the past I was a student with many questions, a landscaper, a farm hand, a day care employee, and a substitute teacher.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? 
As I said before music is universal and is used in many cultures in various ways. There is also a common tradition to use music to mourn. Celebrate and even dance to in each culture. I believe that this alone is fact enough as to why music is important and why music education should be taught. We must continue to pass on the importance of music both present and past to inspire future composers, performers and listeners.

Who is your favorite musician? 
Too many to name. I enjoy everything from Fergie, The Rat Pack, Bluegrass and country to Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. Sometimes I even find inspiration in the pieces by Schoenberg, Webern and Rap.

What CD is in your CD player right now? 
A mix of Pavarotti, Arrogant Worms, and Binghamton Crosby’s.

What are your hobbies? 
Frisbee, Yoga, Rock Climbing, Hiking, Skiing, Singing, Performing, Reading, and anything that seems to interest me.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? 
Love what you do, work hard, never stop learning and keep on keeping on and you will be just fine.

Anything else you’d like to add? 
I’m looking forward to this upcoming year and cannot wait to get started!

David Chidsey

Position & school(s): Guitar and Classroom Music at Monticello High. I also direct  the Instrumental Chamber Ensembles and advise the Music Honor Society.

How long have you been teaching? This is my eleventh year in Monticello. Previously I taught at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and have taught private lessons for over 20 years.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold? I came to Monticello from New York City where I completed an MA and EdM degree in Music Ed at Teachers College, Columbia University and received my NY state professional teaching certification. I am also a professional classical guitarist, having received an MM in classical guitar from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I went to the Lawrence Conservatory of Music for my BM degree in performance.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? I lived in Vienna, Austria and toured Europe. I have performed in Europe and Canada and have won a few prizes in some major competitions. I’ve studied classical guitar with Sharon Isbin and Javier Calderon and Jazz Improvisation with Les Thimmig.

What’s your favorite part of the job? Working with music, and seeing students exceed expectations.

Why did you become a music teacher? I love music and I enjoy helping people overcome obstacles.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? Music, and all of the arts, are essential in providing society with an outlet for expressing ideas and critically thinking.

Who is your favorite musician? Julian Bream stands above most because of his incredible tone and stage presence.  Yonder Mountain String Band is my favorite rock band currently.

What are your hobbies? Yoga and meditation, outdoors and traveling.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? Find an interesting or unusual way to get through the difficult moments of practice and study. The work will never seem like work. 

Dawn A. Clayton

Position & school(s): Cooke Elementary School – General Music K-5

How long have you been teaching? 
I’ve been teaching Music in Monticello since 2006.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold? 
Associate Degree in Individualized Studies from Ulster County Community College, Bachelor of Music Performance, Bachelor of Elementary Education N-6, and a Master’s Degree as a Literacy Specialist – all from SUNY New Paltz.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? 
I was a member of the Ellenville Jazz Ensemble that was named the “Best HS Jazz Ensemble in the Country”, in 1982-1983. I had the opportunity to travel with the band to play in the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland.

What’s your favorite part of your job? 
Watching the students glow with pride after a well performed concert. I know I’ve done my job when they ask when they get to perform again.

Why did you become a music teacher? 
I have always had a love for music. It has played an important part of my life. Music has given me many opportunities to travel and to meet people. I love to share with students the joy of music and the opportunities that it brings.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher? 
Yes, I was a full time mom, a credit union representative, a deputy town clerk, and a teaching assistant/substitute teacher in another school district.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? 
When we teach music, we touch on everything else in life. Music is scientific. Music is mathematical. Music is a foreign language. Music is history. Music is physical education. Music is philosophy. Music is art. But most importantly, music is the human experience. Music inspires thought, reflection and emotion. We teach music so students can recognize beauty, have more compassion, and be fully human.

How has music influenced your life? 
Music has always put me back on the right path in life.

Who is your favorite musician? 
I don’t really have a favorite musician. I enjoy listening to a wide variety of music.

What CD is in your CD player right now? 
My car doesn’t have a CD player any more!!

What are your hobbies? 
Riding and showing horses.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? 
Learning to play an instrument is like learning to ride a bike – you have to keep trying. Practice, practice, PRACTICE!!!

Marissa Jurow

Position & school(s): Chorus MHS/RJK

How long have you been teaching? Four years.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold? 
Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Westminster Choir College, Master of Arts in Teaching from Montclair State University.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? 
I sang with the NY Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Westminster Symphonic Choir.

What’s your favorite part of your job? 
Helping students discover their voice.

Why did you become a music teacher? 
Music has been such an important aspect of my life. I have had many wonderful teachers that inspired me and I wanted to give back to other people.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher? 
I waitressed for many years while I was in college.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? 
Music enriches our lives and gives us an opportunity to delve deeper into who we are.

Who is your favorite musician? 
I like so many musicians, but my favorite vocalist is Renee Fleming.

What CD is in your CD player right now? 
The soundtrack to “Once.”

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? 
When things get difficult, remember why you wanted to become a musician. Always keep the joy in what you do.

Anything else you’d like to add? 
I’m looking forward to being part of such a wonderful music program. This is going to be a great year!

Lisa Lombardo

Position & school(s): Dance Teacher at Monticello High School

Where did you go to college? 
I completed both my bachelor’s and master’s degree at Wilkes University.

Any awards/accomplishments? 
Member of International Honor Society in Education, Kappa Delta Pi and National Honor Society, Alpha Chi

What’s your favorite part of your job? 
 I enjoy watching students finally achieve a personal dance goal.

Why did you become a dance teacher? 
I wanted to share my passion for the art of dance with others.

Did you do anything else before you became a dance teacher? 
I taught in an elementary school for the past six years, while also teaching dance in the evening at a studio.

In your opinion, why do you think dance education is important? 
Students learn teamwork, focus, discipline, and creativity. Dance allows students to develop the knowledge and skills to create, perform, and express themselves.

How has dance influenced your life? 
Dance has always been a big part of my life. I started when I was three and never stopped.

Who is your favorite choreographer? 
George Balanchine and Mikael Barishnikov

 

What are your hobbies? 
yoga, camping, kayaking, jet skiing, and boating

What advice would you offer to an aspiring dancer/choreographer?

Always continue to learn. Take classes or workshops in all different styles of dance not just what you are most comfortable in.

Michael Mingo 

Position & school(s): HS, RJK, Elementary band; lessons 5-12.

How long have you been teaching? 19 years. How long at Monticello? 17 years.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold? Nassau Community College – AAS, Music performance; SUNY Fredonia – Bachelors, Music education; NYIT – Masters with Distinction, Instructional Technology

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? Studied with Jim Chapin and Ronnie Gould. Also, met and worked with many great drummers/ percussionists. Played in a rock band, the guitar player’s father was Johnny Maestro. SUNY Fredonia Music Award recipient for three years.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Working with students and teaching music.

Why did you become a music teacher? Because of great music teachers.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher? I worked for a contractor building houses.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? It’s not just about music, it’s about life. How to be prepared, be focused.

How has music influenced your life? I had great teachers that taught music, but also about life.

Who is your favorite musician? Buddy Rich or Jean Kruppa. It’s a tie.

What CD is in your CD player right now? Led Zeppelin, Celebration Day.

What are your hobbies? Hanging out in my RV with my family, play my drums, ride my four-wheeler, hunting, competition shooting, railroads model/real.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? Practice, good quality practices!

Anything else you’d like to add? Listen to all types of music.

Margo Marusek

Position & school(s): music teacher at Emma C. Chase & Cooke Elementary Schools

How long have you been teaching? since 2004  How long at Monticello? since 2008

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold? I majored in Music at Mount Holyoke College and then went to Boston University for my Masters in Music. I also studied at the University College in Cork Ireland and have done post-graduate studies at Portland State University in Oregon.

Any awards/accomplishments? I was recently awarded the 2010 Jenö Ádám Scholarship for Kodály study on behalf of the Organization of American Kodály Educators.

Any claims to fame? I earned several music scholarships over the years, and freelance as a harpist in the Hudson Valley.

What’s your favorite part of your job? I love seeing students making music joyfully and with total engagement

Why did you become a music teacher? I became a music teacher because I wanted to help set a good foundation for musicianship in a public school setting. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to build strong musical skills in the primary grades of school, and I want to help foster that skill development.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher? During and in between my college/graduate studies I did office work in a university setting, worked at a summer camp for people with vision loss/impairment, and worked with toddlers and adolescents in an after-school literacy program.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? A comprehensive music education gives children the opportunity to develop cognitively, socially and educationally.   Through music, students can also develop healthy  self-expression and share in community with others.

How has music influenced your life? Music has brought passion, inspiration, discipline, understanding and depth to my life experience. It has also given me a way to express myself and to connect to others

Who is your favorite musician?  I have many favorites. Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, Debussy, and Faure are some of my favorite composers. I always admired my teacher’s playing, Ann Hobson Pilot.  I enjoy the playing of Yolanda Kondonassis and Judy Loman.  I also enjoy a wide range of genres of music played by Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma, the Carter Family, The Seegers,  Crooked Still, the Kronos Quartet, and Mumford & Sons. ‘Too many favorites to list.

What CD is in your CD player right now?  A Wee sing Singalong CD

What are your hobbies? I enjoy reading, making music, photography, hiking, gardening and spending time outdoors with my family.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? Learn how to practice effectively, believe in yourself, develop a sensitive ear, and say “Yes” to as many musical opportunities that you can.

Amy Phillips

Position & school(s): Elementary Morning Music Chorus Teacher, 6th Grade general music teacher, 8th Grade general music teacher

How long have you been teaching? 37 years. How long at Monticello? 25 years.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold? 
I went to college at Indiana University where I received my BME (Bachelor of Music Education). I received my Master’s degree from SUNY/New Paltz in Teaching Reading.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? I sing small roles and chorus with 2 local opera companies: Hudson Valley Opera and Delaware Valley Opera.  I have sung in concerts in Pittsburgh (my hometown) and in New York. My brothers are somewhat famous violinists. They are the two violinists in the Orion String Quartet which is the Quartet in Residence at Lincoln Center in New York City. When I taught in a private school in Manhattan, one of my students was actress Sarah Michelle Gellar.

What’s your favorite part of your job? When a student learns enough skills to sing or perform a piece on the piano, recorder, or ukulele correctly with no help from me.

Why did you become a music teacher?  I wanted children to learn a love for music and to provide a good environment for that to happen. My own music teacher in elementary school was awful, and I didn’t want children to have to experience that kind of music class.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher?  I began teaching piano lessons when I was 14. I also did a lot of singing in operas and concerts

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important?  Music allows people to express their feelings and emotions in a nonverbal way. Also, I think music helps to develop good discipline for learning and good listening skills.

How has music influenced your life?  Coming from a musical family, I have never gone a day without music being a part of my life in some way. It brings me great joy and sometimes helps me heal by expressing my anger or sadness through the music.

Who is your favorite musician? 
Of course, my brothers: Danny & Todd Phillips. My favorite singer is an opera singer from the 1920’s named Amelita Galli-Curci.

What CD is in your CD player right now?  I actually mostly listen to audiobooks. When I listen to music, it is most often a piece of music or opera that I will be performing soon.

What are your hobbies?  Singing in operas, knitting, hiking, pilates, playing computer games, and reading.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician?  Practice. A lot. And join a chorus, orchestra, or band. Join a chamber group or play duets with other musicians. It is important to learn how to make music with other people and it is really fun.

Anything else you’d like to add?  If you aren’t good at playing an instrument or singing, remember that you can always be a good listener. Musicians can’t perform without an audience, so you can always be an educated audience member and enjoy the skills that others possess. They can’t be there without you! 

 

Andrew Verdino

Position & school(s): High School Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, and Jazz Band; Middle School and Elementary instrumental lessons.

How long have you been teaching? This is my 13th year teaching.

How long at Monticello? 8th year.

Where did you go to college? I have a Bachelor of Music Education and Clarinet Performance from SUNY Fredonia. My Master of Music Degree is in Clarinet Performance from the Conservatory at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? I have been very fortunate to perform and audition throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. In Missouri, I was a member of the Liberty Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonica of Greater Kansas City. I spent a summer in Utah performing in an Opera Orchestra at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. I spent two summers participated in the Siena Summer Music Festival in Siena, Italy, performing chamber music throughout the Tuscany Region. I regularly play with The New York Wind Symphony based in the Hudson Valley. As a member of this group, I performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. My most memorable auditions were for the Mississippi Symphony and the United States Army “Pershing’s Own” Band that performs at the White House. I was one of only 17 applicants to be invited to audition for this prestigious group in 2007.

What’s your favorite part of your job? My favorite part of the job is when music takes over and the details go out the window.

Why did you become a music teacher? I became a music teacher because of my High School Band Teacher. 

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher? After Grad school I was a musician full-time and waited tables to pay the bills. I lived in Kansas City, Missouri for a few years and traveled throughout the US and Europe playing various gigs and auditions.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? Music is the only academic subject that requires athletic ability and coordination. Music is also a “social” art form where you learn just as much from your colleagues as you do your teacher.

How has music influenced your life? Everywhere I have been and every life experience I have had has come through music. I have learned so many different things from so many different people. I can’t remember the last time I traveled somewhere without my clarinets on my back.

Who is your favorite musician? As a classically trained musician, non-classical music most interests me these days. I want to hear live performances. Anything live and in person; no CDs that can be cut and pasted. Jason Mraz and John Mayer are outstanding live, as well as Trey Anastasio.

What CD is in your CD player right now? Playlists for various gigs coming up and the Broadway Cast recording of “Hamilton”.

What are your hobbies? Driving and playing with my car. News and following politics.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? If you want to make it, you need to go “all-in” and make it your life, otherwise you may not get where you want to go. Remember: there will always be someone better than you, and learn how to practice. Don’t waste time learning bad habits – there is already not enough time to practice.

Nancy Wegrzyn

Position & school(s): MHS Orchestra, AP Music Theory, Department Instructional Lead of the Performing Arts grades 6-12.
How long have you been teaching? 39 years How long in Monticello? 35 years

Where did you go to college? Bachelor of Music – SUNY Fredonia, Master of Music Ed – College of St. Rose

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame? 12 NYS “Meet the Composer” Awards, NYSSMA Certified All-State Adjudicator, Served on All-State Orchestra Selection Committee twice, presenter at state music conferences in NY and NH, conductor of All County Orchestras in Orange and Dutchess counties, music arranger for Weekend of Chamber Music, principal violist of the Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra, principal violist of Sullivan County Chamber Orchestra, freelance violist for choral groups and opera companies in the Hudson Valley.

What’s your favorite part of your job? The energy emitted by interacting in the arts.

Why did you become a music teacher? I was inspired by my teachers. I couldn’t imagine having a career in which I wasn’t having fun, and now I have fun every day.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher? No

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? Music is in the daily fabric of our lives, although often in the background. We are a sad education system indeed if we teach our kids to read and do math, but not to explore the creative and emotional parts of their beings through the arts.

How has music influenced your life? Music is my life.

Who is your favorite musician? Joshua Bell, Yo Yo Ma.

What CD is in your CD player right now? The soundtrack of “The Sound of Music”

What are your hobbies? Camping, Biking

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? Do what you love and love what you do, but don’t expect to succeed without hard work.

Joyce Wells

Position & school(s): General Music K-5 at the Rutherford School, coordinator of 4-5 Morning Music Program, All County choral coach

How long have you been teaching? 42 years privately. 10 in the public schools

Where did you go to college? University of Washington in Seattle, then Graduate School at Goddard College in Vermont

What’s your favorite part of your job? Seeing the light bulb go off when a student “gets” something. The sound of young voices singing in tune!

Why did you become a music teacher? To share what I love so much and have been fortunate to be educated in myself – how to create, understand and enjoy music.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher? Wrote a book on how to make cheese, traveled the world, studied yoga and meditation – which I continue to do.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important? Research shows that music is one of the most important elements of education. Music engages the whole being – including all parts of the brain – and makes connections. It delights and stimulates the imagination, keeps things flowing, is an avenue for self-expression, builds social skills, and strengthens self confidence. All of these help with the ‘academic’ subjects too. I think its value is obvious.

How has music influenced your life? It has basically been my life.

What CD is in your CD player right now? Indian music.

What are your hobbies? Cooking, my cat, learning – I love to learn!

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician? Follow what sets your heart on fire.