* 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
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.
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.
Dr. Ann Birman is a classically trained pianist and teacher who has had a far-reaching influence on the music community in Chicagoland. Her students have participated and won numerous prizes in the United States and Europe on national levels, including the National Piano Concerto Competition. Ann’s students have also performed with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Ann performs with chamber groups in the Chicago area.
Dr. Birman's students have gone on to attend some of the nation’s top universities, including Yale, Harvard University, Princeton, the University of Chicago, and others. Many have also gone on to pursue musical careers, and most importantly, have become music lovers and more well-rounded people as a result of their passion and love for the Piano. Her most talented students have participated in master classes with internationally renowned pianists including Emanuel Ax, Eteri Anjaparidze, Lang Lang, Jorge Federico Osorio, and Andre Watts.
Dr. Birman has extensive experience as a solo pianist, chamber musician and teacher. Born into a musical family (her mother was a well-known pianist and professor at the Lvov National Conservatory in the former Soviet Union), she studied with her mother from an early age. As a young soloist she was already performing Two Liszt’s piano concertos with Lvov Symphony Orchestra.
Dr. Birman completed her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Piano Performance and Pedagogy at the Gnessin Academy of Music in Moscow, Russia under the tutelage of Professor Evgeny Lieberman. Lieberman was a pupil of the legendary pianist and teacher Heinrich Neuhaus, author of the famous “Art of Piano Playing,” who established his own, unique musical-technical approach to piano pedagogy and fostered a movement of musicians. Two of the most significant pianists of 20th century, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, were Neuhaus’ disciples.
After graduating from Oberlin College and Conservatory, where she studied with Gregory Fulkerson as a violin performance major in addition to receiving a Mathematics degree, Myra made the great migration to Chicago, where she performs in the Madison Symphony and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Myra has appeared with fixtures of the Chicago new music scene, including the Morton Feldman Chamber Players and NON:op, and hosts the Flow series at Transistor as part of the Ayuda Quartet. Myra began playing the violin at age 6 with Jung-Kyu Min in Saint Paul, MN. In high school she attended the Aspen Music Festival for two years, studying with Naoko Tanaka, and returned again in 2011. She has attended the National Orchestral Institute, the Mimir Chamber Music Festival, National Repertory Orchestra, and Spoleto Festival USA. At Oberlin she performed in the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble and as principal second violin of the Oberlin Orchestra and the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra.
Jeremy Cunningham is a drummer, composer, and improviser. Originally from Cincinnati, he moved to Chicago in 2009, where he currently performs and composes as an integral part of the city’s vibrant music scene. He holds a Bachelors of Music from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he studied with Professor John Von Ohlen, whose zen, loose approach toward drumming continues to inform Cunningham’s technique today.
Since moving to Chicago, Cunningham has performed with an impressive roster of luminaries such as Von Freeman, Chris Foreman, Jeff Parker, Mike Allemana, Marquis Hill, and Nick Mazzarella. He can be heard on Marquis Hill's albums "New Gospel" and "Sounds of the City," as well as Nick Mazzarella’s Meridian Trio recording “Triangulum.” In addition to performing in clubs and festivals throughout Chicago, Cunningham also appears throughout the United States with various projects. He has toured internationally with IsWhat?!, the Moshier/Lebrun Collective, and Paul Giallorenzo's GitGo.
Most recently, Cunningham earned a Masters in Music from DePaul University, where he studied with Dana Hall, and he has been working regularly with Meridian Trio, a collaborative effort with Nick Mazzarella and Matt Ulery. He also released his first album as a bandleader, re: dawn (from far). The album, out on earsangelina&eyes Records, was recorded with some of Cunningham’s closest colleagues and mentors: Jeff Parker, Josh Johnson, and Matt Ulery. New City Music described that album as “the kind of bravura storytelling and image-painting only the tightest, most simpatico ensembles can pull off.” The band has been gaining notoriety for their highly evocative performances that are rooted in the rich language of Chicago improvised music. They have performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Umbrella Music series at the Hungry Brain, and internationally as part of the improvised series at Casa del Popolo in Montreal.
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.
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
*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.
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Active as both an orchestral and chamber musician, Kelly has appeared as a soloist in concerto performances after winning the 2006 Baldwin Wallace Youth Orchestra Competition and the 2013 University of Oregon Concerto Competition. Since 2007 Kelly has played in professional orchestras around the country, including the Oregon Mozart Players, the Eugene, Huntsville, North Mississippi, and Tuscaloosa Symphonies, and is currently a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. She was a founding member of the Delgani String Quartet, a professional ensemble and nonprofit organization that specializes in intimate, innovative performances and educational outreach. Kelly can be heard playing music ranging from the Baroque period to compositions that were just finished last week, and has toured as a member of the Portland Cello Project, a group of cellists who play rock, jazz and pop.
In addition to her extensive performance career, Kelly is also active as an educator, working with students spanning all ages and levels. Kelly has taight beginning strings at Sistema Ravinia and chamber music for the Southside Suzuki Cooperative. Kelly has also taught cello at Willamette University, the University of Oregon, and the Douglas County Youth Orchestra, where she served as assistant director. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in cello performance from the University of Alabama and a Master’s from the University of Oregon, where she was the 2013 Outstanding Graduate Student in Strings.
Ms. Thompson is a frequent performer in the Chicago area. She was recently seen as The Mask Vendor in Neilsen's Maskarade with Vox3 Collective. Jennifer is an active member of the Vox3 Collective, and has participated in many unique art song recitals and choral concerts. Operatic highlights include The Duchess in The Gondoliers, Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, and Mrs. Gleaton in Susannah. Solo oratorio credits include the Saint-Saëns Oratorio de Noël, Mozart's Requiem, Handel's Messiah, and Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.
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.
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.