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. 

John Bernstein – MHS
Timothy Buckley – RJK
David Chidsey – MHS
Dawn Clayton – Cooke
Marissa Jurow – MHS/RJK
Allison Linen – KLR
Michael Mingo – RJK, Elementary Band
Margo Marusek – Elementary, Chase; MHS (Strings)
Nicholas Piperato – RJK
Andrew Verdino – MHS, RJK, Elementary
Nancy Wegrzyn – MHS

John Bernstein

When did you start teaching?
2013

Where did you go to college?
I completed my B.M in Music Education with a Piano Concentration, as well as my M.M in Music Education from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame?
As a performer, I’ve had the honor of performing in many exciting performance venues, including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Webster Hall in NYC, and the Shandelee Music Festival, as both a piano soloist and accompanist. As an educator, I’ve written several articles published in various music education publications. I’ve had the honor of working closely with the Crane School of Music on several occasions as a part of the Joy Douglass Visiting Master Teacher Sessions. I’ve also had the pleasure of presenting at several Music Education Conferences, including NYSSMA, APME and NAfME. My Masters Thesis on the topic of assessment in the music classroom has received critical acclaim across several music education institutions.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
The best part of my day is watching students find excitement and joy in music.

Why did you become a music teacher?
I’ve had some influential mentors in my life show 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 creatively and help my students do the same.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher?
I worked for the Jamaica Field Service Project, where I helped create music education & therapy programs throughout rural Jamaica.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important?
Music Education provides a bridge between student’s individual musical experiences and their endless musical potential.

Who is your favorite musician?
Dave Matthews, John Prine, Kendrick Lamar, Franz Liszt.

Is there an album, song, or artist that you think defines you or at least shaped you?
Some standouts that come to mind are Bon Iver’s “For Emma, Forever Ago”, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and Van Morrison’s “Moondance”

What are your hobbies?
Skiing, Golfing, Paddleboarding, Biking, Traveling with my wife & dogs.

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

Timothy Buckley

When did you start teaching?
2007

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold?
Crane School of Music in SUNY Potsdam Bachelors in Music Education
NYIT Masters in science and Instructional Technology

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame?
I have played leads in community theater and been awarded three TANYS for my roles and work. I’ve also been in some Opera productions and even some personal recording projects.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
Proving to students that something hard is still possible and that with work and practice they will be better than me one day.

Why did you become a music teacher?
To help students appreciate music and see if I can spark some interest and joy or fan the ember into a flame!

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher?
I worked as a PE teacher for a daycare, was a farm hand for a summer and did some landscaping in Colorado.

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important?
I know music education is important. If it is not, then why are there musicians, composers, sound engineers being used in every television program, movie, commercial and big events? Why does every society use music to celebrate life and death? Why is the pentatonic scale the root of multiple cultures and countries’ music? How can something that permeates so many aspects of so many people and cultures not be important?

Who is your favorite musician?
I really like the classic crooners such as the Rat Pack Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Micheal Buble can hold his own and currently musicians I like are The Pentatonix.

Is there an album, song, or artist that you think defines you or at least shaped you?
Boys II Men, Sons of Pitches, and Bare Naked Ladies Stunt Album.

What are your hobbies?
I love to run, bike, hike, refinish furniture or anything with wood working. I also love audio production and dabble in banjo.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician?
Talent cannot take you as far as determination and hard work. Talent can be wasted, but hard work and commitment to one’s passion is always fruitful.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I was promised ice cream…

 

David Chidsey

When did you start teaching?
2009

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold?
BM Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, MM University of Wisconsin-Madison, MA and EdM Columbia University

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame?
Founding member of the New Jersey Guitar Orchestra, member New York City Guitar Orchestra, the Aaron Shearer Foundation United States Guitar Orchestra slated to tour Spain in 2022. Just signed on with the Virtual Guitar Orchestra project releasing the World Premiere 30th Anniversary Romero Family performance live on YouTube Tuesday December 21st at 2pm eastern time. VGO will also release a project between the NJGO and the NAfME All-National High School Honors Guitar Orchestra in the spring of 2022.

As a published composer and arranger I’ve published several well selling materials to Sheet Music Plus’ SMP Press.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
Working with serious musicians

Why did you become a music teacher?
To advocate for guitar education, which is still relegated to an ancillary role in most public schools even though it is one of the most popular American instruments in the industry

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important?
It develops critical thinking so that people are not afraid to abandon the status quo and blaze their own path

Dawn A. Clayton

When did you start 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.

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.

Is there an album, song, or artist that you think defines you or at least shaped you?
Nothing specific, I listen and enjoy all genres of music but opera. There are many but I could mention the JS Bach BWV996 lute suite and Surfing with the Alien by Joe Satriani as profoundly influential in my life.

Marissa Jurow

When did you start teaching?
I started my teaching career in 2009. I’ve been teaching in Monticello since 2014.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold?
I earned my BM in Vocal Performance from Rutgers University, my MM in Vocal Performance and Vocal Pedagogy from Westminster Choir College, and my MAT in Music Education with a concentration in Voice from Montclair State University.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame?
I have had the privilege to perform in several concerts with the NY Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Westminster Symphonic Choir. I’ve also sung at the Mostly Mozart festival in Avery Fisher Hall as part of the Rutgers University Kirkpatrick Choir and at Carnegie Hall with the Boston Symphony Orchestra as part of the Westminster Symphonic Choir.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is helping students find their voice.

Why did you become a music teacher?
I became a music teacher because music has been such an important aspect in 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?
Before I became a chorus teacher, I was a private voice teacher, a waitress, and a performer.

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

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

Is there an album, song, or artist that you think defines you or at least shaped you?
When I was in 8th grade my music teacher played the soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera for our chorus class. I instantly fell in love with the music, and it became the catalyst for me to start taking voice lessons.

What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are singing in operas and community choruses, reading, and crocheting.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician?
Practice!! If you want something you need to work hard to accomplish it. Don’t wait for it to come to you. 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?
Believe in yourself! Every voice is unique.

Allison Linen

When did you start teaching?
2020-2021 School Year

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold?
I attended the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam and hold a B.M. in Music Education with a concentration in Special Music Education, as well as a Flute Performer’s Certificate.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame?
I am one of ~100 Music Educators chosen to participate in Carnegie Hall’s Music Educator’s Workshop!

What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love sharing my love for music with my students, and bringing them joy amongst the chaos of COVID.

Why did you become a music teacher?
From a young age, I was always so eager to share what I had learned in music class/music lessons with my family.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher?
While in college, I loved performing!

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important?
Music education is essential for the social and emotional wellbeing of the child. The wellbeing of my students is my top priority, and I love finding ways to facilitate social-emotional learning through my lessons.

Who is your favorite musician?
Braxton Cook, Lin Manuel-Miranda

Is there an album, song, or artist that you think defines you or at
least shaped you?
“Epitaphe de Jean Harlow, Op. 164” by Charles Koechlin

What are your hobbies?
Exercising, Reading, Coloring, Cooking

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician?
Loud and proud, strong and wrong! Mistakes are proof that you’re trying, and you’ll make plenty along the way. Don’t give up on the thing you love.

Anything else you’d like to add? 
I’m so thankful to work with such supportive and wonderful colleagues, and the awesome students at KLR!

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.

Nicholas Piperato

When did you start teaching?
I began teaching full time in December 2019. Before that I was a substitute teacher and a student teacher in this district.

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold?
I went to SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, where I received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education.

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame?
My main professional accomplishment in life is learning to read music at the ripe old age of 22, pursuing a music education degree as a 25-year-old, non-traditional student, and gaining the opportunity to share my passion for music and teaching with the next generation of musicians.

What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of this job is how wonderfully surprising it can be. Whether it’s silly moments laughing with students, finding out a student has a hidden passion for music, or a class going very differently than what was planned but, in the end, leads to a deeper engagement. Being a teacher means you need to adapt and improvise as much, if not more than you plan, and you need to be ready to meet your students where they are. When you’re taking part in class as much as your students, the subject comes alive. It is magical, it is surprising, and it never gets old. The fact that I get to teach music, of all things… What’s more fun than that?

Why did you become a music teacher?
To be honest, I became a teacher, so that I could be a musician and still pay the bills… initially. Once I started studying Music Education at Crane, I discovered that being a music teacher was my calling. I was surrounded by amazing musicians in both my classmates and my professors. In the spotlight of a music school, I struggled to stand out as a performer of classical music, but my main strengths came in the form of leading a classroom. I spent hours a day in the practice room preparing for lessons, guitar ensemble performances, and student recitals, and I am proud of the player that I became, but when it came to teaching, there was something very natural about it. It clicked with me, and I found that I could be prepared to teach a class with no anxiety. Once I started working with students, that is when I knew that there was no better feeling than developing a connection and helping each student reach their potential.

Did you do anything else before you became a music teacher?
I studied business at the community college level while working as a Starbucks Barista. Every teacher should work in customer service at some point!

In your opinion, why do you think music education is important?
Music Education is important because it empowers students to become independently motivated while giving them an emotional outlet. In addition to the wide variety of developmental benefits, it’s also just fun.

Who is your favorite musician?
I don’t have a favorite musician, but my favorite band is The Beatles. The Beatles, in four people, encapsulate the qualities every musician should strive for. You have John, the fearless artist and free thinker. You have Paul, the brilliantly creative composer and workaholic. You have George, who is a meditative and thoughtful player and songwriter. And you have Ringo, who is steady and consistent.

Is there an album, song, or artist that you think defines you or at least shaped you?
The album that has had the most influence on me in my life is The Dark Side of the Moon, by Pink Floyd. The Dark Side of the Moon is a concept album that paints a portrait of modern life and the human experience. The album uses themes to describe life’s loneliness and brevity, as well as the pressures of conformity. However, the beautiful sentiment discoverable within the album is the idea that the loneliness and brevity of life can teach us gratitude and balance, and gift us with the space to learn to be ourselves.

What are your hobbies?
Other than playing and listening to music, my first and foremost priority is spending time with the people that I love: my family and friends. I end up spending a lot of my free time catching up on new movies and tv shows, but I also love playing video games, board games, dominoes, and I’m also an avid Bridge player (it’s a card game your grandma probably played). My other hobbies include reading, running, hiking, camping, and strength training.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring musician?
My advice to an aspiring musician is the same advice I would give to any young person: Find balance and self-discipline, but most importantly, enjoy yourself.

 

Andrew Verdino

How long have you been teaching?
This is my 15th year teaching, 10th year in Monticello.

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, Mr. Hogan.

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. Formula 1 racing and college football.

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

When did you start teaching?
1979

Where did you go to college? What degrees do you hold?
Bachelor of Music – SUNY Fredonia; Master of Music Education – College of St. Rose

Any awards/accomplishments? Any claims to fame?
*12 NYS “Meet the Composer” Awards
*Recipient of a grant from New Music USA to write “Four Seasons of Sullivan County” for the Sullivan County Chamber Orchestra
*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?
Working with teenagers. They are very energizing.

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.

Who is your favorite musician?
I don’t have a favorite.

Is there an album, song, or artist that you think defines you or at least shaped you?
“Battle on the Ice” from Prokofiev’s soundtrack to the movie “Alexander Nevsky”.

What are your hobbies?
Walking long distances all by myself.

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.