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1396 Dixwell Avenue, Hamden, CT 06514
Phone/Fax (203) 288-5647 
Familymusiccenter@yahoo.com

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ABOUT OUR TEACHERS

We have the finest staff of teachers, combining both educational and professional experience.  Our knowledgable and experienced teachers have come from The Hartt School of Music, Yale School of Music, Western Ct, Southern Ct, and Quinnipiac Universities. Most of our teachers are presently preforming in the regional music scene.  We teach all levels of learning abilities from the gifted to the challenged, and all in between.  We teach all ages, from the preschooler to the senior citizen!  They work closely with each individual student, at the student's pace, to provide quality instruction. Come join in!

 

Deborah DeMusis received a B.A. in music from Providence College in 1976. She has been teaching piano in the greater New Haven area to students of all ages and abilities for many years. She has also served as the organist/ choir director at several area churches. She is currently the organist/choir director at the Old Stone Church in East Haven.

Stephanie Buggie was drawn to music, the unspoken language which transcends all others, from a very young age.  She devoted herself to broadening her understanding and perfecting her skills, so that by the time she was ready for college, she decided to pursue a career as an orchestral bassoonist. She attended the Eastman School of Music, an esteemed music conservatory in upstate New York. After obtaining her Bachelor of Music, she pursued her Master’s at The Juilliard School for one year but left to finish it at Wichita State University in Kansas, where she played with the Wichita Symphony for two years. After graduation, she worked briefly at a local music store, selling music but more often educating everyone else about the details and history of music. She would often practice classical keyboard pieces in the store when no customers were around, which caught the attention of her co-worker and now husband. After they were married in 1996, he suggested that she try teaching, so she started with some piano students and discovered that she loved teaching, and she also started working as a substitute teacher in various public schools. Over the next two and a half years, she attended the University of Bridgeport, to train formally as a teacher and obtain the State of Connecticut teaching certificate for General Music which allowed her to teach officially in several public schools, while continuing to teach individual lessons on the side. She took off a few years when her daughter was born in 2002, but has been enjoying ALL of her talented students at Family Music Center since she started there in 2014. Besides resurrecting her bassoon-playing with the Hamden Symphony Orchestra, she also currently plays flute and saxophone with her husband, who is a Christian musician and Hammond B3 organist at Bible Gospel Center, in Hamden, CT. 

Stephen Cusano is a drummer, musician, performer, and an educator. Mr. Cusano is a recent graduate of the Hartt School of Music/Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz with a BS Degree in Jazz Studies Performance (concentration drums) He has had the privilege of studying under Eric McPherson, Mark Guiliana, Jonathan Barber, Arti Dixon, Jesse Hameen III, and Nick D'Errico. Mr. Cusano is one of the founding members of the award winning band, Broca's Area, and is the drummer for Wise Old Moon. He has also been the drummer for New England's award winning singer songwriter, Daphnee Lee Martin. He has recorded numerous material with the above bands and has been touring throughout New England and metro NYC with both Wise Old Moon and Broca's Area. Additionally, Mr Cusano is the General Music teacher at St. Rita in Hamden ( Grades pre K thru 8 ). Wise Old Moon was recently featured on Stage 8, and you can hear their performance here.

Zack Bassage is a guitarist interested in a variety of genres from classical to blues, jazz to rap/hip-hop. Originally from the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, Zack graduated from Hobart College in 2015 with a B.A. in music. With excitement and an abundance of passion, Zack thrives on educating the next generation of musicians by drawing from his experiences in composition, performance, and accompaniment.

Natalie Jimenez-Lara holds a Master's degree in Music Education from University of Bridgeport and a Bachelor’s degree in Music with a concentration in world traditions from Southern Connecticut State University. Natalie is currently the instrumental music director at Ross Woodward Classical Studies Magnet School in New Haven, CT. She works closely with the Yale School of Music through the Music In School’s Initiative, a partnership with the New Haven Public Schools. Natalie serves as the conductor for the Yale-New Haven All City Honors Camerata and String Orchestra in New Haven. She also conducts the Camerata and String Orchestra at Morse Summer Music Academy at Yale. Natalie is also an active member of the Connecticut Music Educator’s Association. She served for several years consecutively as a teaching artist at Neighborhood Music School’s Summer Jazz Intensive. With over 12 years of experience as a music educator she specializes in teaching strings, with equal proficiency in voice as well as numerous wind instruments. Natalie has played violin with Hamden Symphony Orchestra since 2006. She has performed with Southern Connecticut State University’s choir in Barcelona, Spain under the direction of composer, arranger, and Grammy- winning conductor Craig Hella Johnson as well as in Athens, Greece under the direction of composer, arranger, conductor and former King’s Singer Simon Carrington. She is also the lead violinist and co-arranger for Sonido Libre Latin Band and Elation funk sextet.

Kris Jensen, a saxophonist, flutist and composer/arranger, studied with legendary saxophonist Jackie McLean at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music and was a semi-finalist in the 1996 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition. He has performed in wide variety of musical genres, from the mainstream jazz settings of swing and bebop, to Latin jazz, jazz fusion, R&B and soul. He has also performed with many top jazz artists, including Eddie Henderson, David Hazletine, Roy Haynes, Steve Davis, Randy Johnston, George Coleman, Mark Templeton, Nat Reeves, Steve Davis, Phil Bowler, Jesse “Cheese” Hameen, Rohnnie Lawrence, Phil Woods, Larry Wilis, and Jackie McLean. Jensen is also an active member of a few acclaimed ensembles based in Connecticut including the popular latin jazz, salsa group Orq Espada, the Val Ramos Flemenco Ensemble, Jeff Pitchell and Texas Flood, Beau Bolero and most recently the NEW Matt Zeiner Band. He has appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” with Gregg Allman & Friends and on stage with The Allman Brothers Band, The Dave Matthews Band and with Warren Haynes and Govt. Mule. Jensen was a featured soloist with Maynard Ferguson and Big Bop Nouveau. He has also performed with Cuba Gooding and “The Main Ingredient,” as well as entertainers Ben Vereen, Frank Gorshin and Al Martino and the Charlie Daniels Band. 

Randy Bost has been playing jazz, funk, and rock for the past 40 years. Starting in North Carolina, he played with Little Royal and the Swingmasters. He has also backed up James Brown. 

JD (Jeff) Herzog from Hamden Ct, started playing clarinet in grammar school in 5th grade and switched to saxophone in 8th grade. He studied clarinet and saxophone with the late Joe Sebastian of Hamden until he was 18 years old. While traveling through New Delhi India in the Sept 1971 he had the opportunity to play second clarinet with the New Dehli Symphony Orchestra, and play with the Hotel Vikram Jazz Band. Traveling to Europe, he visited The Musik Collective Inningan in Augsburg Germany. He played saxophone with them. The highlight was playing on the Spielstrasse at the 72 Munich Olympics.Coming back to the states in 1973 he moved out to California. Played in the band Klicken in Santa Rosa Cal., and studied sax with Fred Mathis. Moving back to Connecticut in 1980, he again studied with Joe Sebastian and played in the band "Blue Eyed Soul." A 9 piece band playing all the Motown hits. In 1986 he resumed studying jazz theory with the late pianist Drew Salperto. He then became involved with "The Elm City Blues Project" led by the late Ken Mellilo. He also played with Bill Bakers 5 Satins, Rocky Lawrence, Bobby Torello, The Cobalt Rhythm Kings and recorded with the WPLR Breakfast Band, and DW Armstrong and the Rent Party.These days JD performs with "The Benders" a 5 piece Rock and Roll Band, playing sax , guitar, slide guitar, "The Blues Patrol Show Band," a Blues Brother tribute band , "On the Serious Side," a Tower of Power Tribute band and is on call as a sub for other bands. He also enjoys teaching saxophone to young and older people interested in learning the instrument.

Sandy Mehinovic  holds a bachelor's degree in Composition and Music Theory from Sarajevo University, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He holds two master's degrees in Composition: one from the University of Novi Sad, Yugoslavia and the other from SUNY at Stony Brook, New York. Sandy has about thirty years as music educator in guitar, violin, viola, cello, double bass, general music, piano, voice, choir and music theory. He has won a numerous awards, including the SUNY at Stony Brook Scholarship, awards for composing work "American Fanfare", awards for choral music, children's songs, ear training and sight-singing competitions and for his educational work. He has written chamber music, music for solo instruments, as well as choral, orchestral, electronic and computer music. Sandy is organist and music director at First Church Woodbury and teaches guitar at Manchester Community College.

Here are our teachers Emeriti

            (some of our former teachers)

Polina Mann received her Bachelor of Music degree from Wesleyan University in 2006. She did graduate work at the University of Hartford, Hartt School of Music where she received a Master of Music History with Performance Practice Emphasis degree in 2010. She continued her education at Central Connecticut State University where she received her music education teaching certification in 2012.

Polina has extensive teaching experience. Having taken a piano pedagogy class at the Neighborhood Music School, she has been giving private piano lessons to children and adults since 2007. She has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Hartford where she taught “Introduction to Music” to undergraduates for several semesters.  Polina also has experience in teaching guitar. As a student teacher in the North Branford School District, Polina taught several beginning group guitar classes a week, in addition to group piano classes and general music classes. 

Nick D'errico attended Western Connecticut State University in 1999 where he majored in jazz performance (drum set) under the tutelage of Jeff Siegel. Nick has performed with all types of projects from The Big Crazy Energy Band (big band jazz/fusion), Vurse1 (hip-hop), Feel Theory (rock/jam band. Currently he performs regularly with Closed Till Dark (r&b/neo-soul/pop), recording sessions with Michael Chenkus (pop/rock/country), community theatre groups and numerous free-lance jazz gigs. In addition to all of this, Nick also spends a lot of time working on his compositions which also cover the same broad range of styles. D'Errico looks forward to his future in music and to all of the obstacles and knowledge he has yet to come across. He is currently a member of the Vic Firth Educational Team (PDT) and is available for clinics and master classes throughout the state.

Nick Drabik is in his 2nd year teaching at John C. Daniels School. His responsibilities include directing Concert Band, Beginner Band and Pre-K General Music. He teaches privately Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone, Percussion, and Violin to beginning students. Mr. Drabik earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree at Western Connecticut State University with an additional three years studying organ performance, sacred music and conducting at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Mr. Drabik is an active member of the Connecticut Music Educators Association. He is currently the organist of Our Lady of Mercy R.C. church in Plainville, CT.

Chris Defossez is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Brandeis University with a BA in Music and can teach several instruments including: Guitar, Trumpet, Bass, Drums, Clarinet, Saxophone, Flute, Trombone, and Ukulele. In the past, he ran the music program at Saint Martin de Porres Academy in New Haven, a private Catholic school for under-served youth. His teaching style strives to ensure students have fun in lessons, while pushing them to constantly improve their own playing. He wants all his students to enjoy music as much as he does, and his teaching style is a reflection of that philosophy.

Jennifer Lucas teaches voice, woodwinds, brass, strings and piano. She graduated with honors from Western Connecticut State University with a bachelor's degree in Music Education. Jennifer performs throughout the region with the Connecticut Choral Society and various orchestras and symphonic bands. She is a member of the Connecticut Music Educators Association and in her spare time is completing her Master's degree.
   

Kaitlin Springer received her Bachelors of Music in Viola Performance from Boston University's School of Music. She has performed in the New Haven Symphony, the Waterbury Symphony, and the Boston University Symphony/Chamber Orchestra. She was also the principal violist in the Boston Civic Symphony and an Honorable Mention in Boston University's Bach Competition.

Kathleen Kenny was born into a musical family and as a result became involved in music at a young age. During her high school years she had been involved in many ensembles including principal flutist of Wallkill Senior High School's Wind Ensemble, Chamber Winds, All-County, and Area All-State. She began free-lance teaching during the age of 2005. In 2007 she attended the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY for Music Education. During that time, Kathleen was fortunate to perform with a very wide variety of ensembles. She also participated in Master Classes with very accomplished performers including Linda Chesis of Manhattan School of Music, Elizabeth Rowe of the Boston Symphony, Jeffrey Khaner of the Philadelphia Symphony, and Michael Parloff of the Metropolitan Opera. Kathleen received her Bachelor's of Science in Music Education from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY in May of 2011. As an instructor, Kathleen finds her strongest focus to be on inspiring her students. She enjoys creating the desire to learn and helping her students along the path of musical success, no matter what their goal.

Alexis Thorne received her Bachelors of Music in May 2013 from New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She enjoys freelancing as a violinist with various classical, Christian, and hip hop music groups as well as working with her own classical trio to bring classical music to more people throughout Greater New Haven. As an instructor she strives to make learning fun and engaging, and enjoys arranging pop pieces for her students that will deepen their practice. She can be seen performing regularly with her church's praise team at Vertical Church in West Haven.

Travis Bliss , hailing from Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, is a multi-reed instrumentalist and recent graduate of New England Conservatory(NEC), where he received a Masters of Music in Jazz Performance: Saxophone. Throughout his time at NEC, Travis studied with many saxophone greats such as Jerry Bergonzi, Donny McCaslin, Miguel Zenon, George Garzone, and Bill Mchenry. In addition to his studies on the saxophone, Travis has been adamantly studying composition from both classical and jazz perspectives in studio with Efstratios Minakakis, Anthony Coleman, and Ken Schaphorst. Travis was and remains to be a very active contributor in the Boston Music scene as well across the country, having performed at Scullers Jazz Club, The Berklee Performance Center, Wally’s Jazz Cafe, The Stone NYC, Roulette NYC, and Twin’s Jazz Club in Washington D.C. to name a few. He was also lucky to participate in music festivals across the continent, such as the BANFF International Jazz Festival in Canada, and The Next Generation Jazz Festival in California, and The New Bedford Jazz Festival. Travis now leads and participates in a variety of ensembles on the east coast, focusing on 1920’s jazz and ragtime, indie rock, free improvisation, and modern jazz dealing elements of comedy and performance art. (Photo By Jonas Tarm)

Peter Romanov attended Western Connecticut State University from 1994-1997, as a Classical Performance Major. Since then he has taught privately, and at music schools in the area including the Mead School. Peter is currently involved with a group project where he blends fiddle, blues, and classical influences. Peter has played with a variety of musical groups including the Danbury Symphony Orchestra, The Ethan Winer Quartet, and has attended the Choate Summer Chamber Music Seminar. He is a multi instrumentalist and devotes most of his spare time to composing and arranging music. He enjoys making teaching fun. He says,"I want to teach the pieces you want to learn. I feel this way the student is more engaged and we both have more fun.

Kevin Seto is a dynamic and diverse musician with over 20 years of progressive experience playing the violin, with a music degree from the Bower School of Music at the Florida Gulf Coast University. He also attended the Boston Conservatory. As an experienced orchestra player he has also won many awards, including first place winner of the Julian Prescott Award (strings category), the Young Artist Award, and the Big Arts Classical Music Award in Sanibel Island, Florida, among others. He also has chamber music experience performing at the Hartt School and many other quartets.

Emily Chao, originally from Edison, NJ, made her solo debut at age 12, performing Bach's Double Concerto with the Union Symphony Orchestra in Union, NJ. A year later, she returned for another performance with the USO of the Kabalevsky Violin Concerto. Emily currently holds Bachelors and Masters degrees from New England Conservatory, where she served as a graduate student teaching assistant for her teacher James Buswell. She expects to receive her DMA from Boston University in 2012, where she also served as teaching assistant for her teacher Lynn Chang. As first violinist of the Iris Quartet, Emily has given recitals at various venues in Boston, Atlanta, and Park City, UT. The quartet was invited in 2011 to the Emerging Quartets and Composers Program in Deer Valley, UT, where Emily coached chamber music at the nearby Lyceum Music Festival for high school students. Emily has been giving private lessons since 2006, teaching students of all ages and levels.

Christopher Brown is an active bass trombonist currently residing in New Haven, Connecticut. He is enrolled at the Yale School of Music and is pursuing an Artist Diploma. Mr. Brown anticipates completing this program in May 2014. His primary teacher is Scott Hartman.

Cellist Brittnay Timm graduated from the University of South Florida with accolades in academic excellence and music history. Her enthusiasm and determination for music drove her to become the principal cellist of the Pinellas Youth Orchestra and the cellist of the senior string quartet. Brittany has had the opportunity to perform in a side-by-side concert with the Florida Orchestra and tour with the Pinellas Youth Orchestra throughout Italy, Germany, and Austria. With her senior string quartet, she performed at several venues and attended chamber music workshops at the University of Tampa. Her primary teachers include Lowell Adams (assistant principal of the Florida Orchestra), Joan Lunde, Scott Kluksdahl (University of South Florida), and Helga Winold (Indiana University).

A native of Florida, cellist Greg de Paula recently graduated with a BM degree in Music Performance from the University of South Florida in Tampa under the tutelage of Scott Kluksdahl. Mr. de Paula's other primary teachers include Loran Stephenson (National Symphony Orchestra), Helga Winold and John Kaboff (Arlington, VA). He has participated in masterclasses with David Requiro and the Baumer String Quartet, Noreen-Cassidy Polera, Rhonda Rider, Carol Ou, Ross Harbaugh, Rebecca Penneys, Emiliqo Colon and Norman Fischer. Mr. de Paula has participated in the Round Top Festival Institute (2014), the Apple Hill Chamber Music Festival (2012 and 2013) and the annual Tennessee Cello Workshop (2009). Mr. de Paula was the principal cellist of the 2009 National Philharmonic Summer String Institute under the direction of maestro Piotr Gajewsky and was recently the Assistant Principal of the University of South Florida Symphony Orchestra.

A Berklee College of Music graduate, Karen Hogg brings a wealth of experience in musical instruction. She is a prolific performer and author. She is the author of Guitar Made Easy and Women in Rock for Alfred Publishing. Karen has written many articles for Acoustic Guitar magazine and Fretboard Journal. Her teaching experience includes: teaching both private and group lessons on guitar, mandolin, and ukulele at the World Music Nashville, the National Guitar Workshop, the Lesson Studio in Boulder, Colorado and the International Studio of Music in New York City.

Born in Togliatti, an industrial city on the Volga River in Russia, Polina Nazaykinskaya studied piano, violin and flute as a child, and as a teenager at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory she concentrated on violin and composition. She came to the U.S. to attend the Yale School of Music, where she completed a master's degree in composition and theory and artist diploma in composition, working with Christopher Theofanidis and Ezra Laderman. She is now is pursuing a doctorate degree in composition at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, studying with Tania León. She has won numerous awards including the Charles Ives Scholarship at The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship and has garnered performances by ensembles including the Minnesota Orchestra, the U.S. Army Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra, the Hermitage Orchestra and Chorus, the Yale Philharmonia Orchestra, the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Russia, the Omsk Philharmonic Orchestra, Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the St. Olaf Philharmonia and the Juventas New Music Ensemble, where her chamber opera, The Magic Mirror, drew considerable attention for its elegance and rich, intricate score. 2015-2016 concert season includes collaboration with such orchestras as the American Composers Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony orchestra and Eastern Connecticut Symphony orchestra.

Magdalena Abrego is a guitarist, composer, and educator based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. She began her journey into jazz studies after hearing a recording of Duke Ellington’s Orchestra. Captivated by the sound of the music, her intrigue led her to The Regional Center for the Arts, a performing arts high school in Connecticut. There she studied electric, acoustic, and classical guitar performance. Upon graduating from the Regional Center for the Arts, Magdalena received the Louis Armstrong Award for outstanding musicianship and excellence in jazz performance. In addition to attending a performing arts school, Magdalena continued her studies at Fairfield University’s Jazz Workshop, as well as consistently utilizing private instruction in both jazz and classical music. Apart from her studies in jazz, Magdalena has also served as the guitarist in pit orchestras throughout Connecticut for Sideshow, Hairspray, Footloose, and Grease. Ms. Abrego recently graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music where she received her Bachelor’s Degree of Music with a focus in Guitar Performance. Through her private instruction at Berklee, she had the privilege of studying with notable instructors Amanda Monaco, Sheryl Bailey, Kim Perlak, Tim Miller, Mick Goodrick, and David Tronzo. She is currently refining her artistic vision as she performs with various groups and works on a series of original compositions to be released on an album with her quartet in the summer of 2016.

Andy Martin started playing in his early teens after being exposed to music at an early age by his mother, who often played classical piano for him. He dedicated his teenage years to practicing his instrument for 16 hours a day, while studying theory, ear training, composition, and improvisation with Chris Risola and the late Legend Ted Greene who took Andy's playing to a whole new level! Andy has written the first ever 7 String instructional aide titled “Seven String Guitar.” 7 String Guitar is quoted by a good friend Steve Vai, and is currently breaking all instructional aide sales records according to the publisher (Hal Leonard Corporation). Andy's latest publication is called “The Guitar Arpeggio Encyclopedia”. It is published by Mel Bay publications and is quoted by Andy’s mentor, guitar legend Ted Greene. It immediately soared to Mel Bay's “Hot List” and “Best Sellers List”. Some of Andy's accomplishments range from gold & platinum records, a two time best selling author, Andy has been put on Ibanez / Hoshino Gakki's payroll as their “Product Demonstrator / Product Evaluator,” as well as working on Ibanez's R&D team. Some of the most recognizable products he contributed to are the TS808 Tube Screamer reissue and the WD7 Weeping Demon Wah Pedal. Andy has been teaching guitar all over this country for over 27 years! He taught master classes at GIT, Musicians Institute in Los Angeles with his mentor Ted Greene. He also taught at LAMA (Los Angeles Music Academy) with Frank Gambale. Andy has taught several multi platinum recording artists and celebrities..

 

Gone but still in our hearts.

Ken Mellillo was on the music scene since the mid 70's leading the very popular bands "Made in the Shade", "Full House", and "Elm City Blues Project". As a member of the DW Armstrong Rent Party, Ken arranged and played on both CD's showing his versatitly on both guitar and harp. In early 2001, they were chosen as CT's best blues band and traveled to Memphis for the National competition. He hosted both the Foundry Blues Jam in the 80's and up until 2009 the Sunday Night Blues at Cafe 9. Ken was an accomplished musician and arranger, and has also played drums and saxophone professionally.