Christopher Laughlin School of Music
Christopher Laughlin School of Music

Faculty

Denotes Artist Faculty. Our artists faculty are select instructors who - through extensive experience and/or exceptional artistic accomplishment - are in particularly high demand.

 

*Christopher Laughlin, M.M Yale University, B.M. Peabody Conservatory. Christopher has performed extensively across North America and around the world. Under the sponsorship of the United States Information Service, Christopher Laughlin has toured in 25 countries on five continents, performing in Portugal, Greece, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Austria, Yugoslavia, Romania, The Czech Republic, Ghana, Cameroon, Bolivia, and many others.

Christopher has performed as soloist with the Symphony of the Shores, Chicago Chamber Orchestra, the Westshore Symphony, the St. Joseph Pro Musica, the LaPorte County Symphony Orchestra, the Northwest Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Symphony String Quartet. He has made two recordings for Peregrine Records, Danza!, and Simplicio.

In 1984 Christopher was awarded a Fulbright Grant for study in Paris with Uruguayan guitarist Betho Davezac, continuing his studies for a second year with a grant from the French government. Christopher has won prizes in two international competitions, the Concours International de Guitar in Sable-sur-Sarthe, France, and the Concours International de l'U.F.A.M. in Paris.

Guitar, Classical; Director 

Youtube

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Maria Alexeeva, BM and MM, St. Petersburg State Conservatory of Music, Artist Diploma, Ball State University.

Maria has won numerous international and Russian competitions, including 1st Prize at the International Competition “St.-Petersburg Spring" 2010, 2nd Prize at the X International Marina Yudina Competition 2008, and 3rd Prize at the All-Russian “Hope" Competition.

She performed as a soloist with Krasnoyarsk State Symphony Orchestra, Camille Saint-Saens Piano Concerto #2, 2003 and Ball State Symphony Orchestra, Sergey Rachmaninov Piano Concerto #1, 2013. She also recorded chamber music in the Saint-Petersburg's  famous “Melodia" recording studio.

Participated in master-classes of Lubov Timofeeva, Stephane Silvester, “American Piano Trio", Dina Yoffe, Thomas Lymenstull  and Berlin Philarmonic Wind Quintet.

Maria was the principal accompanist for international trumpeter Sergey Nakaryakov's  master-class in 2011.

She was awarded the “Mayor’s Prize" and Ministerial Grant during studying in elementary school.

Maria’s teaching experience began in 2010 at the St.-Petersburg Conservatory and she currently teaches children and adults.

Piano

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Cory Biggerstaff, B.M.E., University of Nebraska, M.M., De Paul University.  Cory Biggerstaff received a Bachelors degree in Music Education from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. After teaching in Lincoln Public Schools for a year, he moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University where he received a Masters Degree in Jazz Performance in 2004. He studied with many DePaul faculty members including bassist Kelly Sill, pianist Larry Novak and guitarist Bob Palmeri. Cory now teaches privately at the Laughlin School and is the bass instructor at Harold Washington College. He works with wedding bands covering a wide variety of musical styles and also performs as a freelance musician on both acoustic and electric basses around the Chicago area.
Bass

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Haley Gabriel, MM, Cleveland State University, BM, Morningside College.

Haley Gabriel started her career as mezzo-soprano singing in Opera Omaha. She was a featured chorus member in their 2015 staging of John Adams,  A Flowering Tree, under the artistic direction of James Darrah and musical direction of Christopher Roundtree. During her time in the Opera Omaha Chorus, she also performed in Beethoven’s Fidelio. In 2018, she made her solo debut as Dido in Dido and Aeneas by Purcell with the Cleveland State Opera Theatre Workshop, and she participated in Opera Summer Chicago, as Mago, in Handel’s Rinaldo. In 2019 and 2020, she was Ms. Todd in The Old Maid and the Thief  by Menotti, as well as a soloist, choral scholar, a part of numerous professional choral groups, and finished her Masters of Music from Cleveland State University (May 2019).

Voice

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Valentina Guillen Menesello

M.M. Northwestern University, B.M. DePaul University. Valentina studied violin at Northwestern University with Gerardo Ribeiro and at DePaul University with Olga Kaler. 

 

Valentina began her musical journey in Miami, Florida at the age of six where she started playing in her school and church orchestra in addition to private lessons under the Suzuki Method. At the age of ten, Valentina and her family returned home to Venezuela, and was welcomed into Venezuela's world-renown youth orchestra program "El Sistema". During those years, Valentina performed under conductors such as Cesar Ivan Lares, Dietrich Paredes and Gustavo Dudamel, and studied privately with the concertmaster of  Merida’s Symphony, Maria Alejandra Guerrero and with Pedagogue Semaias Botello.

 

At the age of fifteen, Valentina attended the Meadowmount School of Music, founded by Ivan Galamian, in upstate New York. This summer experience transformed her life and Meadowmount became her summer school and home for many years to follow, studying with Walter Schwede and Gerardo Ribeiro and studying chamber music Tokyo String quartet member Kikuei Ikeda. Valentina has had the opportunity to attend Nuevo Mundo Summer Festival and Bowdoin International Musical Festival. She has played for Itzhak Rashkovsky, Simon Gollo, the Dover Quartet, Ani Schnarch, Blair Milton and Robert Hanford.

 

Valentina’s artistic mission is to transmit the love and importance of music and welcome new audience members into classical music. As a performer and teacher, she believes that a high level of music education is crucial from an early age. She believes in the power of the arts as a key instrument for the development of society. 

Violin

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Kimberly Jeong, B.M., Eastman School of Music, M.M., Yale Univsersity 

 

Canadian Cellist Kimberly Jeong loves to play music and to perform for anyone with open ears. She strongly believes in the inherent power of music and its unique ability to connect with people transcending culture, age, race, and socioeconomic background. She is an advocate of this belief and she feels honoured to have the ability to speak from her heart and to share her story through the music that she loves with her audience members.

Ms. Jeong holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Yale School of Music, Royal Conservatory of the Hague, and the Glenn Gould School. A recipient of the George Eastman Grant, Ms. Jeong was previously a student of Steven Doane at the Eastman School of Music. She has received mentorship from artists such as Pinchas Zukerman, Martin Beaver, Nicholas Mann, Michael Tree, as well as members of the Ying, Tokyo, Brentano, Takacs string quartet. She served as a member of Musica Nova and the Mannes American Composers Ensemble and has worked with composers such as John Adams, Hans Abrahamsen, John Harbison and Steven Stucky.

A prizewinner in the Canadian Music Competition and the Glenn Gould Chamber Music Competition, she has attended and given performances at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Orford Arts Centre, Lake George Music Festival, Bowdoin International Music Festival, and Heifetz International Music Institute. A passionate chamber musician, she has performed with ensembles such as the Canadian Opera Company and the ARC Ensemble and her performances have been broadcasted on Brava TV, CBC Radio, and BBC. Performance venues include Avery Fisher Hall, De Nationale Opera, National Sawdust, Yale Center for the British Art, Societa Dante Alighieri Vienna, Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Koerner Hall, Arts and Letters Club, and Wigmore Hall.

Jeong is a strong believer in arts education and has taught in several educational initiatives in the Rochester, New York area including Music for All and Sound Exchange. She also served as a Teaching Artist with the Yale Music in Schools Initiative. Jeong is interested in the interdisciplinary arts and communicating with new audiences through various mediums; she worked as a research assistant at the Yale Center for the British Art and has given performances in a special conjunction with exhibitions at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for the British Art, as well as the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York. She is a co-founder of Harmony for Growth, a program that provides music lessons to mature adults in retirement homes. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Cello Performance and Literature at the Northwestern University under the guidance of Hans Jorgen Jensen. 

Cello

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Aaron Kahn, B.M.E. Illinois Wesleyan University.

Aaron is a Music Educator currently teaching Elementary Music in Elgin, Illinois. He received his Bachelor of Music Education, concentrating in voice, from Illinois Wesleyan University, graduating in May, 2019. Aaron has been a very active music director for the past several years. He is currently the director of the Glenview Children's Theatre where he has put on The Wizard of Oz Jr., Beauty and The Beast Jr., Seussical the Musical Jr., and Madagascar: The Musical Adventure Jr. His other music direction credits include: Edges The Musical (Illinois Wesleyan Pheonix Theatre), Leader of the Pack (IWU Music Theatre Society), The Marvelous Wonderettes (Phoenix Theatre), Spring Awakening (4 Chairs Theatre), Applause (Music Theatre Society), Be More Chill (4 Chairs Theatre), and most recently Rent (Glenbrook South High School). Aaron has also performed jazz, classical, a cappella, and has been in many musicals. Growing up in Glenview, Aaron has participated in the Northbrook Theatre and productions at both Glenbrook South and Glenbrook North High School. Aaron is excited to be back at the Christopher Laughlin School of Music to work with students that are interested in growing and expanding their skill sets. 

Voice

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Andrew Kremer, B.M., Columbia College Chicago. Andrew began studying the guitar at the age of 12 under the instruction of Jim Konsbruck. While at Columbia College Andrew studied composition with Philip Seward, orchestration with Ilya Levinson, and classical guitar with Norman Ruiz. Andrew has also studied jazz guitar with Dave Saenger, Frank Portolese and Bill Boris.
Pursuing classical guitar further, Andrew participated in the 2005 International Festival de la Guitarra in Cordoba, Spain, where he studied with Pepe Romero and Pavel Steidl.
In 2007, Andrew won first prize in the Society of American Musicians collegiate classical guitar competition. Following this he gave a concert for the Chicago Classical Guitar Society featuring the music of Sor, Rodrigo, Barrios, and Guiliani.
Guitar, Classical/Rock/Pop/Jazz

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Audie M. Lomboy Jr., B.A., Loyola University, Chicago.  

Audie received his B.A. in music from Loyola University Chicago, where his emphasis was in vocal performance. He has sung both as a soloist and chorister in everything from classical to musical theatre. His piano expertise comes from years of technical instruction, along with personal exploration of chord-reading, improvisation, and arranging.

He loves singing while accompanying himself at the piano, and he loves teaching this skill as well.  In his spare time, Audie writes songs and has jam sessions. He plays and sings for Bonanzarafa, a group of friends who love music and love to have fun.

As an instructor, Audie facilitates growth — musical, academic and personal — in his students. His goal is for his students to not only develop musically, but be well rounded in all other facets of life as well.

Audie is a certified Yamaha Music Education System teacher.

Piano, voice, Yamaha Junior Music Course, Yamaha Young Musicians Course

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*Weiwen Ma, B.M., Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, M.M., Cleveland Institute of Music
Weiwen Ma is a native of Shanghai, China. As a young child she was invited to perform numerous concerts at China's most prestigious venues, notably Shanghai Concert Hall and Shanghai Great Grand Theater. After winning the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) concerto competition, she performed with the CIM orchestra in February 2009. She made her Carnegie Weill Hall debut in May 2009 as the winner of Bradshaw & Buono International piano competition. After winning a Bronze medal at the First Chinese International Piano competition, she had her first appearance at The Town Hall in Manhattan in 2008. She has also won prizes at many other international piano competitions including The World Piano Competition, Corpus Christi International Competition for Piano & Strings, Kankakee Young Artist Piano Competition, and Thousand Islands Piano Competition. Her appearances abroad have included performances in China, Italy, Switzerland and Poland.
Ms. Ma's principal teachers include Robert Shannon at the Oberlin College Conservatory and Antonio Pompa-Baldi at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She has worked with and attended masterclasses of famous teachers throughout the world such as Sergei Babayan, Alexander Toradze, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Emanuel Krosovsky, Vladmir Viardo, Fou Ts'ong, and Russell Sherman.
Ms. Ma previously taught at the Aurora School of Music in Aurora, Ohio where her students ranged in age from 3 to adult.

Piano

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*Alexa Muhly, M.M., Yale School of Music, B.M., Cleveland Institute of Music.  Alexa has performed extensively in the United States, Canada, England, France, Germany, Hungary, and Lithuania, and is an active orchestral and chamber musician in the Chicago area.  In recent seasons, she was the principal cellist of the Kalamazoo Symphony, and also appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Pine Mountain Music Festival.  Ms. Muhly received early recognition as first-prize winner in the Iowa Center for the Arts competition as well as prize winner in the Jugend Musiziert national competition in Germany.  Other honors include a long-term residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Calgary, Alberta and awards from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Yale University, and the Aspen Music Festival.  She is currently the cellist for the new music ensemble Opus 21 with whom she has performed at Symphony Space and Carnegie Hall in New York City, as well as in Ann Arbor, and Kalamazoo.

Cello

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Keith Murphy, D.M.A., M.M.A. and M.M., Yale University. B.A. University of Chicago.  Dr. Murphy has taught piano at the Laughlin School for 2 years and previously taught piano and accompanied middle and high school students on the faculty of New England Music Camp.  Trained as a composer, his music has been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, Eighth Blackbird, Opus 21, the Illini Saxophone Club, Indian percussion prodigy Rohan Krishnamurthy, and many others.  Dr. Murphy has taught at both Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University in the areas of Composition, Music Theory, 20th-Century Music, American Music, and World Music, and he was a Teaching Fellow in Yale University’s Department of Music.  In addition to teaching at the Laughlin School, he currently teaches music theory at both Loyola University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He also sings professionally as a tenor vocalist and is a stipendiary member of both the Rockefeller Chapel Choir at the University of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Chorus.
Piano

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Casey Nielsen, B.M. Northern Illinois University
While growing up in Geneva Illinois, Casey Nielsen began studying classical guitar with Roosevelt University professor, Paul Henry. Soon discovering a love for jazz music he began lessons with Chicago jazz guitarist, Neal Alger. Casey continued his lessons until attending Northern Illinois University where he received his bachelor's degree in Jazz Studies. At NIU he had the privilege of playing in the NIU jazz ensemble and studying jazz and classical guitar extensively with internationally renowned guitarist Fareed Haque.

After college he enjoyed studying with internationally renowned guitarist Denis Azabagic. In 2008, Casey was selected to participate in a Northwestern University master class with guitarist  David Russel. He has given solo and chamber music concerts for the North Shore Baptist church, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Baker Memorial Church, the Northbrook Library, the Elgin Library and Geneva's Fabian Park Japanese Garden series. Casey currently performs in his own groups and as a sideman in various jazz groups throughout North America. His diverse musical interests converge in groups that feature his original music. The Lapis Trio is an acoustic group drawing on Casey’s study of the classical and jazz guitar. Lapis Trio has performed at venues including the Musical Offering’s Music on Madison concert series, Church of Beethoven, and Merriman’s Playhouse.

Guitar, Rock/Pop/Jazz

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Min Park,, M.M. Northwestern University, B.M. University of Texas, Austin.

Min studied violin performance and pedagogy at Northwestern under the guidance of Almita Vamos. and Violin at University of Texas at Austin under Brian Lewis and Miro Quartet. 

She has been in masterclasses with Erin Keefe, Catherine Cho, Donald Weilerstein, and Augustin Hadelich, to name a few. Min is active as a chamber musician and had masterclasses with St. Lawrence Quartet, Lynn Harrell, Philharmonia Quartett Berlin, and Shumul Ashekanisi, among others. As a violin teacher, she has been teaching all around Chicago area and been Suzuki book 1 certified. She has also been trained in the Roland method and Mimi Zeweig method. Min believes in "all students are different and accommodates with  all different style of teaching method in order to accomplish best in a student."  In her spare time, you can find her in a local bikram yoga studio.

Violin

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John-Paul Pendowski, BM, DePaul University, MM, DePaul University.

Pianist John-Paul Pendowski has performed both in domestic as well as international settings. He has performed most often in the Chicagoland area at venues such as Chicago’s Symphony Center, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago, the Chicago Waldorf School, Park District of Palatine, Harper College, College of Dupage and for WFMT's Bach Keyboard Music Festival. He has also had the privilege of performing for venues in the United States at Auburn University, Alabama State University, University of Montevallo and other venues in Alabama and Georgia. 

John-Paul studied at DePaul University where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s diplomas under the direction of internationally renowned pianist George Vatchnadze.  Before this, he has been honored to study under pianists such as Leon Fleischer, Angela Yoffe, and Brenda Huang while also receiving invaluable instruction from Cheryl Lim. 

John-Paul’s passion for music extends into many fields outside of solo performance. He has a passion for collaborative piano work with special interest in exploring new composers as well as giving much-needed attention to composers outside the classical canon. Along with this, John-Paul’s performance practice is informed and supported by his love for research and meticulous study of socio-musicological history.

Piano

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*Deanne Turim, B.S.S., Northwestern University.

Deanne Turim is a professional musical theatre performer, graduating with a theatre degree from Northwestern University, and a full year of theatre studies in London, England.   In London she studied with opera singer Estelle Spottiswood , followed by 8 years with Dr. Ronald Combs in Chicago, and Peter Amster for repetoire and audition coaching. She also holds a Masters in Business Administration from Loyola University. 

Deanne has performed a vast variety of music. Favorite roles include Dolly in “Hello Dolly”, Rosie in Bye, Bye Birdie, Fastrada in Pippin, and the Lead Kit Kat Girl in Cabaret (NU), Light Opera Works: Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore, Wonderful Town and She Loves Me (the last two as lead understudy).  Stage Right Dinner Theatre: My Fair Lady, Kiss Me Kate, Damn Yankees. The reknowned Theatre Building in Chicago: a Cy Coleman Review and musical in development based on Mary Todd Lincoln entitled Crazy Mary. She also appeared in The Golden Apple with Pegasus Players/LOW, Fiddler On The Roof (twice!), Annie Warbuck’s and Northbrook Professional Theatre for Young Audiences. (Her specialty playing the most wicked character in the production.)  

Deanne has appeared in many local commercials and industrial videos for companies such as McDonald’s, Audi and Sears. She holds a dance minor and was on scholarship at Gus Giordano Dance Studio, also studying with Lou Conte and Joel Hall. For many of the
theatre performances she was the dance captain. 

Voice

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Gary Zucker (B. M., Berklee College of Music) is a two-time Downbeat Award winner. Gary began playing drums at the age of four. He received the Berklee Achievement Scholarship, the Berklee Achievement Grant, and the Music Business/Management Marketing & Technology Award. He participated in the Berklee Scholars Assignment Award Program and has earned a place on the Dean’s List for excellent academic performance every semester. Gary enjoys performing, writing, recording, mixing and self-producing music with his band The Sane Abandoned. Their music is available on iTunes/Apple Music and Spotify. He never passes up opportunities that may help him grow as a musician. He has played gigs nationally. He takes pride in his teaching and loves to share his knowledge of drums, recording/mixing, electronic music, and music technology.

Drums, Recording

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