Mary Havenstrite received her Bachelor of Music Education from Loyola in New Orleans and a Masters in Violin Performance from the Univ. of North Texas. She is currently the orchestra director at Robinson Middle School in Plano, Texas. Under her direction, the Robinson Full Orchestra was the Honor Middle School Full Orchestra of TX and in 2009 the Robinson Chamber Orchestra was the Honor String Orchestra.
In 2011 Ms. Havenstrite was honored with the Excellence in Teaching Award for Plano ISD. Mrs. Havenstrite has built several high school and middle school programs in the North Texas area. In addition to her public school experience, she conducted the Dallas String Ensemble from 2003-2006. Ms. Havenstrite has been a regular performer with Fort Worth Symphony and the Dallas Opera. Ms. Havenstrite has studied violin with Phil Lewis and Emanuel Borok. Ms. Havenstrite is an active member of ASTA, TMEA and TODA and is a frequent guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator.
Deborah Perkins, Ph. D. is known for her love of teaching diverse musical styles and her ability to have fun by creating an encouraging atmosphere where students are challenged, yet achieve mastery of musical skills that defy the age level of the students playing. She received her BME degree from State University College at Potsdam, NY; MME degree from the University of South Carolina; and a Ph. D. from the University of North Texas. Also known for building programs, Dr. Perkins built and rebuilt public school orchestra programs in Florida, South Carolina, and Texas. She has served in leadership position in professional organizations of SCMEA, FOA, TexASTA, ASTA and TMEA and has recently completed a two year term of “Member at Large” on the national ASTA board.
Dr. Perkins currently teaches string pedagogy and string techniques. She is the co-founder of the internationally travelling Texas Youth Orchestra & Choir who have travelled to Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, France and the UK. A hallmark of her teaching is how to make music that expresses and touches the heart of the students and audience alike. Her dissertation focused on the motivation of students to be enrolled in orchestra and she is fondly called by her friends the Pied-Piper of Strings. Dr. Deb maintains an active schedule as a clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor throughout the United States and serves as a performing artist and clinician for Eastman Strings. She is married to Steve Perkins, and they have one daughter, Kayla.
Just because she’s living the rock-star life doesn’t mean Neyla Pekarek has forgotten her roots. And those roots lead directly back to school.
Pekarek is the cellist for folk-pop band the Lumineers, whose 2012 single “Ho Hey” propelled them from humble Denver origins to global mainstream success – a platinum album, two White House appearances, a firm foothold as one of the top live acts in music today. For her, it all started as a brief detour from a planned future in the classroom.
“I just sort of thought I would pass the time with something fun until I got a full-time teaching job,” Pekarek says from Pittsburgh, in the middle of a new world tour, describing how she first hooked up with her band-mates. Having just graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in music education, the then-22-year-old spotted a Craigslist ad posted by fledgling songwriters Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites, and decided to audition. She had been playing cello since the third grade.
The competition was minimal – “I think there was one other person,” Pekarek remembers, “an older man who worked at Radio Shack.” But finding her place within the band’s stripped-down sound was no guarantee. “I don’t think they even quite knew what they wanted in a cellist,” she says. “They kind-of wanted a bass element that was easy to travel with.”
What Pekarek had going for her, besides chops and an easygoing attitude, was that academic background. For one thing, she had studied everything from show tunes to orchestral arrangement, which gave her the know-how to stay flexible as the Lumineers’ sound emerged and evolved. For another, her years in classrooms had honed the ability to collaborate – as she puts it, “You’re in front of people everyday and learning how to communicate, how to listen, and I think all those things are really important in a band.” Meanwhile, working with students had imparted tangible know-how in the art of getting on stage: “I think teaching is performing.”
After some initial creative “struggle,” she and her mates eventually started to click, and to generate a few sparks of industry interest. Around that time, Pekarek received her first job offer to teach. Although she didn’t exactly foresee the Grammy nominations or the sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden, she felt strongly enough about the band’s direction to stick with it. Soon enough, “Ho Hey” hit.
No, she doesn’t regret the way things have gone, but in her view, it wasn’t simply a black-or-white career choice. “I think I would’ve had a great life as a teacher,” she says. “The reason I’m a musician is because of the teachers I had – incredible teachers and mentors that I still keep in touch with. I knew so many kids in school, especially in music classes, that’s where they thrived. They wouldn’t have come to school otherwise.”
These days, Pekarek is walking the walk by finding time to teach some classes, to get up-close-and-personal with those who remind her of her younger self. And if anything, it’s this mode of performance that now gets the unexpected pop star’s butterflies fluttering. “I’ve done some workshops recently in schools and things like that,” she muses. “And I think I’m more nervous for those than being on stage in front of thousands of people!”
The possibilities of the cello:
A cello is super-versatile. I think you can put it in a lot of different settings and immediately it kind of ups the drama of a song. It can be percussive, it can be super-melodic and super-musical. It’s a really cool instrument to add to a lot of different kinds of music.
What makes a good instrument:
For a touring instrument, durability is important for sure, and finding that balance of something that sounds really rich and nice and that is durable. It’s often hard to describe why I like the cellos that I do – I kind of have to sit down and play it. It is such a personal instrument, there’s something so human about it. And each one plays a little bit differently. It’s about the tone and how it responds.
Paring it down:
There’s a real mantra of minimalism in this band in general. The thing that I think is strongest about the Lumineers’ music is the stories that are being told. There’s always a way to record more and more sounds, and I think Wes and Jer are very mindful to not do that, to kind of let the lyrics breathe. So all the band members kind of have to put their egos aside – it’s really about the bigger picture of what fills the song.
The band’s sudden rise:
Everything sort of happened simultaneously. It happened really fast. Within about a one-month period we did “Saturday Night Live,” the Grammys, and our first European headline tour. It became so regular so fast to go to Paris multiple times a year. Things like that. It was hard to take all that in at once.
When I joined this band and the music industry in general I had never been so aware of being a woman, especially an all-male band. I think it’s hard to be the only anything in a group of people. If you’re the only vegetarian in a group of meat-eaters, you often feel like you’re being left out, like people aren’t considering your feelings… It’s such an important thing right now. It’s a very hot topic – which is good, I’m glad it’s a conversation.
Denver native and classically trained cellist, Neyla Pekarek tours full time with The Lumineers proving the cello can be at home in any environment, ranging from front porch clap rock to a sold out concert arena.
Avett Brothers member Joe Kwon began playing the cello as a young child and continued to play throughout his high school years at the Idyllwild Arts Academy in California. Deciding to focus his college career on something other than music, he graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in computer science and got a job at a tech corporation. Still playing the cello in his spare time, he caught the attention of The Avett Brothers when his band, Big Pretty and the Red Rockets, opened for them in a 2006 show. Scott Avett, Seth Avett and Bob Crawford asked Joe to record with them for their album Emotionalism. The band then realized that they wanted a full time cellist, so they asked Joe to join them as a permanent member of the band. Joe promptly joined The Avett Brothers in 2006 and has played with them ever since.
Dr. Charles Laux is the Director of Orchestras at Alpharetta High School where his duties include directing four levels of orchestra, including the nationally recognized AHS Symphony Orchestra, and teaching class guitar. He is also an Essential Elements consultant and contributing editor for Hal Leonard Corporation. Formerly he served as Assistant Professor of String Music Education at Kennesaw State University where taught string techniques and pedagogy, music education technology, supervised student teachers, conducted the KSU Philharmonic and served as founding director of the KSU String Project. He has directed award-winning school orchestra programs in Nevada, Florida, and Ohio. Dr. Laux holds degrees in music education from Ohio University, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.
An endorsed artist educator for D’Addario Orchestral strings, Dr. Laux has presented over 100 educational sessions for organizations such as the Midwest Clinic, American String Teachers Association, Technology Institute for Music Education, Association for Technology in Music Instruction, and at music conferences spanning twenty states. He has conducted All-State Orchestras in South Carolina and New Mexico, and regional orchestras in Florida, Ohio, Georgia, and Nevada. He has served as a presented for several school district professional development in-services and has worked internationally at Colegio Menor San Francisco near Quito, Ecuador. His performing experience includes seasons with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, the Nevada Chamber Symphony, the Columbus String Quartet, and a variety of freelance opportunities. Dr. Laux has made appearances across the nation as an orchestra clinician, conductor, and adjudicator.
At age 21, Randy Sabien founded the String Department at the Berklee College of Music (1978.) He hit the road as a sideman with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer/songwriter Jim Post in 1981. Randy’s first jazz album was released in 1983 and he has been touring the nation as a performer with his own groups, appearing as guest soloist with symphony orchestras, and leading workshops for jazz strings for 35 years. He co-wrote the Jazz Philharmonic series with Bob Phillips and is an Alfred Music composer. Randy is currently head of the string department at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. His college ensemble “Rhythm and Bows” won first place in the college group division at the 2012 ASTA Eclectic Strings Festival and took Grand Prize for overall best group. He will be the featured guest performer at the 2013 ASTA conference.
Nicholas G. M. Ross’ musical career as a conductor, violinist, and music educator has spanned over twenty-five years. In addition to gaining extensive conducting and violin performance experience in the professional realm, Ross has worked continuously with students ranging from the public school through university levels.
With a clear passion and focus in the area of opera and musical theater, Ross served as an Associate Conductor with the New York City Opera Company for the ‘07-‘08 season, and served as an Assistant Conductor with the Glimmerglass Opera Company for three seasons from 2005- 2007. In 2010, Ross conducted a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd with John Jay and Ohio Wesleyan Colleges in New York City. This collaboration dates back to 2007, when Ross served as Music Director and Conductor for a fiftieth anniversary production of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at John Jay College. Additional guest conducting appearances include performances with Shreveport Opera and the Arizona State University Lyric Opera Theater.
Past symphonic conducting positions that Ross held include Conducting Assistant with the Phoenix Symphony, Cover Conductor for the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, Director of Orchestras at Northern Arizona University, Music Director and Conductor of the Hunter Symphony, Music Director of the Onondaga Civic Symphony Orchestra, and Assistant Conductor of the Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestra. Symphonic guest conducting appearances include performances with the Valdosta Symphony in Georgia, the Harbin Symphony Orchestra in Harbin, China, the Finger Lakes Symphony Orchestra in Canandaigua, NY, the Society of Composers Festival in Tempe, Arizona, and the Syracuse University Symphony Orchestra.
Currently, Ross is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator for solo and ensemble festivals throughout the state of Arizona and the Southwest. He also serves as an orchestral clinician for Eastman Strings, giving clinics and master-classes around the country. In addition to his conducting career, Ross maintains an active performance schedule as a violinist and is presently a member of the Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra in Cooperstown, NY. Ross performed as Concertmaster with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra for select masterworks series concerts through the 2010 and 2011. Further professional violin experience includes posts with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, the Binghamton Philharmonic, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera, and the Utica Symphony Orchestra. Some of the notable artists that Ross has performed with include Wynton Marsalis, Sarah Vaughan, Natalie Cole, Olivia Newton-John, Manheim Steamroller, Anne Murray, and Broadway touring productions of The Producers, Annie Get Your Gun, and Peter Pan.
Ross earned the Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from Ithaca College, the Master of Music in Violin Performance as a String Fellow at Syracuse University, and was the first recipient of the Doctor of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting from Arizona State University.
The Sounds of Strings: Historical Perspective on the Art & Development of String Playing Orchestral Performance & Festival Preparation: Critical Analysis for Improved Performance Solo & Ensemble Master-classes: Critical Analysis for Improved Performance
Approaching Auditions: A Guide for the Preparation of a Competitive Audition Practicing for Success: A Mindful Approach to Practicing
Mrs. Kurtis is a thirty-six year veteran of public school teaching who received her B.M. degree from Western Michigan University and MME degree from the University of North Texas. Prior to retirement she taught for McKinney ISD in Texas where she led the orchestra team in growing the program from 72 students to over 500 students district-wide in only three years and at Jasper High School in Plano. She also has developed other programs for Escanaba, Michigan, and as cluster leader for twenty years at Berkner High School of Richardson, Texas, where her orchestras were recognized for their superior and mature musical performances at the regional, state and national levels, including selection as Honor Orchestra for the state of Texas.
Ruth has earned many accolades including the RISE Teaching Award for Richardson ISD for innovation and creativity in the classroom, selected many times as Most Influential Teacher by her students, and as the 2009 Texas Orchestra Director of the Year. She has adjudicated and conducted in many state and national orchestra festivals, including the ASTA National Orchestra Festival. She is known for her passion in building quality programs in Richardson and McKinney, Texas and being a dynamo in the classroom. Her goal was to motivate each unique student towards excellence as a team; in making magical music and living out mutual respect for each other. It is a blessing to be invited as guest clinician, conductor, national presenter, adjudicator across the country, and realizing yet a new goal, helping teachers in the field.
Charlotte Moellering received her B.M.E. from Southwestern University and a Master of Education from the University of North Texas. She is presently an adjunct instructor at Texas A&M University-Commerce, where she teaches the String Methods course, applied lessons, and coaches a chamber ensemble. As a master teacher, she currently serves as a mentor to first year teachers in the Lewisville ISD and is a clinician for Eastman Strings and Music and Arts. As a leader in the field of music education, she has served in numerous capacities. She is a Past President of the Texas Orchestra Directors Association. As a member of TMEA, Ms. Moellering has served as Region Chair, All-State Orchestra Organizer, and conductor/clinician for numerous region orchestras. Actively involved as a state and national adjudicator for Choice Music Events, American Classic Music Festivals and Texas UIL, she holds memberships in Phi Beta Kappa, Mu Omicron, TODA, TMAA, ASTA, and is a Texas PTA life member. Ms. Moellering is listed in multiple editions of Who’s Who of American Women and is a recipient of the DAR National Community Service Award. She has served as the Orchestra Vice-President of the Texas Music Adjudicators Association, leading UIL adjudicator workshops.