Our Teachers

Teaching Artist & Co-Founder, OrKidstraMargaret Maria Tobolowska

In 2012, Margaret Maria was awarded the Leading Women Building Communities Award by the Government of Ontario for her work in the Ottawa community with OrKidstra (an El Sistema inspired program) she co-founded in 2007 along with two of her musical colleagues, Tina Fedeski and Gary McMillen. OrKidstra is a thriving charity that brings musical opportunities to children who would otherwise be unable to participate. Margaret Maria is also an Honorary Board Member and the conductor of OrKidstra. You can find her sharing her love of music with the kids every Thursday at the Bronson Centre in Ottawa. Her passion for social justice and music continues to hold strong and true even though she is focused on composing and creating music. In 2012, Margaret and Tina were recognized as Kickass Canadians (www.kickasscanadians.ca).
Margaret Maria is very passionate about teaching and has given master classes in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. She has taught at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, the National Arts Centre’s Summer Music Institute, the Southern Ontario Suzuki Institute and currently teaches at the National Capital Suzuki School of Music and OrKidstra.
In 2011, Margaret Maria decided to change her career from her professional post as cellist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada to follow her dream of composing and producing her own music and Enchanten Productions was born. Working in the contemporary Classical, Electro Acoustic, New Age, Instrumental, Cinematic, and Steampunk genres, Margaret Maria creates stunning new music with her phenomenal cello playing at the heart of it. Her two children’s albums, A Cello for Chelsea (2005) and Zara the Maggini (2006) were her first creative musical stories that incorporate her narration, musical compositions, and arrangements, into delightful performances that sparks the imagination of children and adults alike. Her 8th album, Carried By An Angel, a love story told through music was just released October 2017.

Junior KidStringers DirectorLouise “Loulou” Paquette

Louise Paquette began violin studies at the age of 7 in Montreal and furthered her performance studies with teachers from the University of Montreal and the Conservatory of Quebec. Ms. Paquette graduated from Laval University in Violin Pedagogy. Louise also studied violin pedagogy with Claude Létourneau for two years in Quebec City, in Orford (Quebec) and Kingston (Ontario) with internationally renowned teacher trainers of the Suzuki Association of Americas from the United States, Europe, and Canada. Ms. Paquette has her Certification in the Violin Suzuki Method and is a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas.
Louise has run private studios in Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau (Quebec) and Paris (France) providing lessons to hundreds of children over her thirty years of teaching experience. Ms. Paquette joined the OrKidstra family in 2012 where she is known as Ms. Loulou providing love as well as violin experience to her students.

Senior KidStringers DirectorCendrine Despax

Professional violinist, Cendrine Despax had as masters Calvin Sieb and Anne Robert. She is a graduate of the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal where she obtains in 2008 the “Prix à l’unanimité” in violin, in 2009 the “Prix à l’unanimité” in chamber music and the “Certificat de stage de perfectionnement en musique” and in 2010 the “maîtrise en musique, profil interprétation, spécialité violon.”
She is the first violinist of the Quatuor Despax. She is also part of the Orchestre Symphonique de Gatineau (OSG) from the foundation thereof, in 2007. She performs regularly in the national capital, Outaouais, Ottawa and in Europe.
In addition to being a teacher at OrKidstra, she teaches violin at the École Élémentaire Publique Trille des Bois, the École Secondaire Publique De La Salle and in private. Cendrine Despax is the founder of the festival “L’Art de la Musique | The Art of Music” which takes place in Gatineau during the summer in July.

KiddlyWinks DirectorVenessa Lachance

Venessa Lachance hails from a small French community in Northern Ontario and launched her musical career in Ottawa. Since her arrival in the capital, the young composer worked as the music director for several theatre productions.
Among these are Turcaret, the financier (Odyssey Theatre, 2014), Prosodie in Le promenoir (NAC’s Théâtre français, 2014), Le long de la principale (Théâtre la Catapulte, 2016), and On verra (Théâtre du Trillium, 2016). Venessa is currently completing her sixth year’s residency in composing for Théâtre Tremplin with 72 mirroirs cassés. She was nominated for a Rideau Award in 2015 in the Emerging artist of the year category.
In 2014, she released her first album consisting of solo piano compositions. Venessa’s classical background and her interest in using music as a story-telling device can be heard throughout the narrative-like short pieces on the album. It’s to this recording that Venessa owes her Trille Or Award nomination in the Discovery of the Year category (2015).
Venessa had the opportunity to share her skills starting at a very young age and is passionate about music pedagogy. She’s walking in her mother’s footsteps, having taught piano tutorials starting at age 12. Bringing change in the world through music is Venessa’s passion.

Guest ConductorDonnie Deacon

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Donnie Deacon studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. He continued his studies at the Yehudi Menuhin School in London under the tutelage of Natasha Boyarskaya and Lord Menuhin. He finished his schooling at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Jaime Laredo and Ida Kavafian.
Mr. Deacon has performed all over the world with such distinguished orchestras as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, BT Scottish Ensemble, London Soloists, Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia, Pablo de Sarasate Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music. He became principal second violin with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in 2001, the youngest player to do so in the history of the Orchestra. He has also been guest Concertmaster of both the Vancouver Symphony and The National Arts Centre Orchestra.
As an advocate for Canadian music, he has given the world premiere of Gary Kulesha’s 2nd violin concerto and William Rowson’s violin concerto. Mr. Deacon was named Resident Artist in the Community for the National Arts Centre in 2016, which sees him teaching and conducting all over Ottawa.
Mr. Deacon is currently the Music Director of the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra, the Conductor of the Ottawa Youth Orchestra and a Guest Conductor with OrKidstra.

CEO & Artistic Director, Teaching Artist and Co-Founder of OrKidstraTina Fedeski, MSM

After a life-transforming experience in UK’s Bedfordshire Youth Orchestra, Tina went on to study at the world-renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England, and then played principal flute in the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra for four seasons. After spending a six-month sabbatical on full scholarship at the Banff Centre for the Arts, she moved to Ottawa, where she played with all the established orchestras and festivals in Ottawa including the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival.

In 1999, in partnership with her husband Gary McMillen, she opened The Leading Note, now recognized as one of Canada`s leading classical print music stores – and a hub of the classical music scene in Ottawa.

In 2007, motivated by her belief in the transformative power of youth music, Tina visited Venezuela to research El Sistema. Soon afterward, she and co-founders Gary McMillen and Margaret Tobolowska founded OrKidstra (previously known as The Leading Note Foundation.)

As Executive Director, Tina proudly accepted a Peace Award from the Mayor of Ottawa in 2011 in recognition of OrKidstra’s impact on the community of Ottawa. In spring 2012, Yasir Naqvi, MPP Ottawa Centre, presented Tina with the Leading Women/Leading Girls, Building Communities Award. She is also recognized as a Kickass Canadian, and late in 2012, she received, with immense gratitude, the Canadian Institute for Child Health Leadership Award. In 2017, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, awarded Tina Fedeski the Meritorious Service Medal for creating the OrKidstra program.

Teaching ArtistWendy Berkelaar

Originally form Nova Scotia, Wendy came to Ottawa in 1995 to pursue her master’s degree in fortepiano performance under the mentorship of the late Cynthia Floyd. Little did she know then that she was actually destined for the musical theatre world. Wendy got her theatrical start at Orpheus Musical Theatre Society as a rehearsal accompanist and pit orchestra musician. She went on to apprentice several musical directors there and conducted her first show (Guys and Dolls) in 2006. Since then, Wendy has worked nationally and internationally as a musical director and keyboardist.
Here at home in Ottawa, Wendy is a still familiar face around Orpheus, and has also worked with Ottawa Little Theatre, Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet Productions, Indie Women Productions, and recently made her debut with the Great Canadian Theatre Company. She’s also has the privilege of being the local sub for Broadway Across Canada and has performed in the orchestra with the tours of Wicked, The Book of Mormon and Les Misérables. Wendy has been the accompanist for the KidSingers program since 2013, and is thrilled to be a part of the OrKidstra family.

Teaching ArtistKathryn Cobbler

Violist, Kathryn Patricia Cobbler is a musician who finds her creation and artistry deeply embedded in the art of pedagogy. Proud to be a Teaching Artist with the social music program OrKidstra, she is constantly finding new ways to dissect, and unpack her craft in sharing it with the next generation. Some of her teaching artist projects include, Exploring Bach Through Shape and Line through the creation of the AltArt Ensemble, and Colour Your World a six week music residency, a project’s development funded by the Ontario Arts Council. In her position working with the Experiential Teaching Artist Program (ETAP), a partnership with OrKidstra and the University of Ottawa, Miss Cobbler plays a mentoring role in leading graduate students to develop their teaching artistry skills. In her own teaching artist practice, Kathryn Patricia aims to engage with the needs of Ottawa communities both socially and artistically.

Performing as a violist since 2009, Kathryn Patricia has varied experience as solo, orchestral, and chamber musician. Performing with Toronto Symphony’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra and featured in the Southminister United Church and Trinity Anglican Concert Series, Miss. Cobbler has developed her voice and sense of style on her instrument. As a recipient of the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship through the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Miss. Cobbler has had the opportunity to research the history of the Suzuki Method and the community impact of its Pedagogy and Philosophy. Through Kathryn Patricia’s professional career she continues to explore the connection between music education, performance and social impact. Along with being a solo and collaborative musician, Miss. Cobbler has a studio of budding violists and violinist in Old Ottawa South.


Teaching ArtistDeclan Kinghorn

Declan Kinghorn began playing music at the age of 10 after receiving a bursary to learn French horn from the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy. From there, he joined OrKidstra the year after to continue playing music. Declan attended Lisgar Collegiate Institute where he learned to play the electric and upright bass, euphonium, and tuba, going on to play with the OrKidstra string quintet, the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, the Strings of St. John’s, and all of Lisgar’s musical ensembles.

Since graduating from high school and the OrKidstra program in 2015, Declan has been working towards obtaining a Bachelor of Music, majoring in euphonium. For two years he studied at the University of Ottawa and now attends Carleton University. Declan is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and plays euphonium in the Governor General’s Footguards Band.

“Playing and singing with OrKidstra builds important life skills like teamwork and leadership, skills that are applicable to all areas of life. And the kids have a really fun time which a bonus. I find teaching at OrKidstra really rewarding because I love seeing the kids accomplish their goals. OrKidstra has really given my life meaning: I feel like I’m really giving back in a positive way.” – Declan Kinghorn, OrKidstra Graduate and Teaching Artist

Teaching ArtistEd Lister

Ed Lister is a professional trumpeter/composer/arranger and educator from London, England and has been based out of Ottawa, Canada for the past 6 years. Ed runs five bands of his own and performs in a further 17 as a session musician/recording Artist. The bands that Ed runs range from an 11-piece Big Band to a 4-piece funk fusion band. For the last three years, Ed has been successfully running his own independent record label London Gentleman Records. The label has booked several across Canada tours for a few of its Artists and currently manages six bands ranging in style. Before moving to Canada, Ed worked aboard Carnival Cruise Lines as a Showband musician for two and a half years. Ed has a BA Hons degree in Jazz studies and was classically trained in trumpet from the age of 10 to 19 and obtained Grades 1 – 8 in Classical trumpet from the Guildhall School of Music in London, England. insert

Teaching ArtistMika Posen

Mika started her Violin studies at the age of 9 and enjoyed her first ensemble experiences as a member of the Ottawa Junior Youth Orchestra and the Lisgar Collegiate Orchestras. She went on to study music at the University of Guelph, completed a Masters at York University, and received her Suzuki Violin teacher training at the Southwestern Ontario Suzuki Institute in Waterloo for Levels 1, 2, and 3.
After completing her studies, Mika spent 10 years working in the popular music industry as a studio violinist/violist, string arranger, and live performer. She has toured to nearly every corner of Canada, the US, Europe and Australia, and has had the pleasure of working with artists such as Timber Timbre, Agnes Obel, Basia Bulat, Feist, and the Weather Station.
After retiring from touring life, Mika returned to teaching; she was a faculty member of the Toronto Suzuki Studio, the Strings teacher for grades 1-8 at Fieldstone Day School, and a regular substitute at Sistema Toronto. She happily returned to Ottawa in 2016 and is thrilled to be a part of the OrKidstra family.

Teaching ArtistDeborah Reid

Deborah Reid is originally from Ottawa but spent her childhood and teenage years in Jordan and Germany before returning to Canada for university. In her time overseas, she attended international schools and had the opportunity to travel and interact with people of many different cultural backgrounds. She also participated in several choirs and learned to love singing in a variety of languages and musical genres. She began classical vocal lessons as a teenager, which grew her interest in performance and vocal technique.

Deborah returned to Canada to study her Bachelor of Arts with a Specialization in Music at the University of Ottawa. She most appreciated her classes in music education, sight singing, and choral conducting and received the University of Ottawa Choir Choral Direction Scholarship in her final year. Deborah first got involved with OrKidstra through the University of Ottawa Experiential Teaching Artist Program and has had the pleasure of working with OrKidstra’s KidSingers for several years since. She loves to teach ear training, solfège, and music theory to anyone who is willing to listen; she takes great joy in connecting with kids and helping them to sing with clarity and confidence.

Teaching ArtistJo Ann Simpson

Bassoonist Jo Ann Simpson received her Bachelor of Music Performance degree from the The University of Ottawa, where she studied with Gerald Corey. A year of post graduate studies with William Waterhouse in London England, where she also worked with the BBC Symphony, was followed by a stint as principal bassoon of the Municipal Symphony Orchestra of Caracas, Venezuela from 1979-1986. Since returning to Ottawa, Jo Ann has worked as a free-lance player with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony, the Quebec Symphony and the Orchestra of Northern New York. She is principal bassoon of l’Orchestre Symphonique de Gatineau. Jo Ann Simpson has appeared as soloist with orchestras in Venezuela, Uruguay and Canada. She performs recital and chamber music regularly.
Jo Ann Simpson is professor of bassoon at the Conservatoire de Musique de Gatineau, Québec and Carleton University in Ottawa. She teaches the bassoonists at Canterbury High School and Centre d’Excellence Artistique De Lasalle and runs the Beginner Bassoon Program for The Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy. She has taught bassoon at The Crane School of Music, SUNY in Potsdam New York. Jo Ann Simpson is the founder and director of the only residential bassoon camp in Canada – Brooke Valley Bassoon Days.
Jo Ann Simpson is one of the few bassoonists in North America who plays both the German and the French system bassoon. She is a member of The North American French Bassoon Quartet and is frequently invited to perform at conferences of the International Double Reed Society.

Teaching ArtistZac Pulak

Hailing from Winnipeg; Ottawa based percussionist Zac Pulak studied at the University of Ottawa under the tutelage of Jonathan Wade and Kenneth Simpson, receiving an undergraduate degree in 2014.

Since then, Zac has worked with world-class organizations such as the National Arts Centre, Music and Beyond, Ottawa International Chamberfest, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Scotia Festival of Music, and many others. Zac has completed artist residencies at the Banff Centre, SMU (Dallas, TX) and Destelheide Training Centre (Dworp, Belgium). Recently, Zac was recognized as one of CBC’s “Hot 30 Canadian Classical Musicians Under 30.”

In his work as a freelance orchestral musician, Zac has performed with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, and the symphony orchestra’s of Ottawa, Thunder Bay, and Winnipeg.

As an emerging artist, Zac is the recipient of numerous awards including the City of Ottawa’s Youth in Culture Pilot Program (2016, 2017, 2018) and Ontario Arts Council’s Chalmers Professional Development Grant (2018) which will see him spend the 2018-2019 season working closely with Canadian virtuoso Beverley Johnston.

Zac performs in his own chamber projects SHHH!! Ensemble, trio [no]relation, and Percussion A to Z at festivals internationally. He is the founder/curator of #NSFWcc (not safe for work contemporary cabaret), an interdisciplinary concert series dedicated to showcasing the national capital region’s emerging talent.

Zac is an artist/endorser of Mike Balter Mallets, Grover Pro Percussion, and Sabian Cymbals.

Teaching ArtistEmily Marks

Flutist Emily Marks joined the National Arts Centre Orchestra as second flute and piccolo in September 2002 at the age of 23.

Born and raised in North Vancouver, she studied with Camille Churchfield, principal flute of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. She completed her Bachelor of Music degree with distinction at McGill University, where her
teachers were Carolyn Christie and Timothy Hutchins of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. While pursuing a Masters degree at Indiana University studying with Thomas Robertello, she won the job with NACO.

Emily was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada in 2001 and 2002, and toured internationally with the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra for three sessions. Additional studies were at the Banff Centre, Orford Arts Centre, and performing with the National Academy Orchestra in Hamilton, Ont.

Emily has been on the faculty of the University of Ottawa, and has performed educational concerts in schools throughout the Ottawa area with the Ayorama Wind Quintet. She has been a regular performer at the Ottawa
Chamber Music Festival and with Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra.

Teaching ArtistYolande Laroche

Yolande Laroche is a clarinetist, keyboardist, singer and composer. Since graduating from the University of Ottawa with a Bachelor in Music and Minor in Arts Administration, she has performed locally and has been on several tours across Canada with her main musical projects Pony Girl and mal/aimé. As a freelance player, she has shared the stage with Pallice, Marie-Clo, Her Harbour, John Aaron Cockburn, Claude Munson, Old Cabin, Isaac Vallentin, Cedric Noel, Luka and others. Yolande is also a member of the Governor General’s Foot Guards band and has performed for a number of dignitaries and special events in the NCR.

Become a Teaching ArtistA life-changing experience

OrKidstra’s Teaching Artists are extraordinarily talented musicians and music educators who are passionate about OrKidstra’s social mission of success through music. Are you passionate about music education and social change? Do you live in the Ottawa area? OrKidstra invites all experienced musicians and music educators to learn more about becoming a Teaching Artist with OrKidstra.

Register now for our FREE Teaching Artist Training Workshop


Teaching Artist Development WorkshopsLearn valuable skills in a hands-on environment

Are you a musician or music educator who is interested in learning more about social development through music? Do you want to add valuable skills to your resume? OrKidstra offers Sistema-inspired Teaching Artist Development Workshops that allow participants to develop their understanding of social development through music in an experiential, creative environment. 

Register now for our FREE Teaching Artist Training Workshop

Experiential Teaching Artists Practicum (ETAP)Gain real, practical experience

In partnership with University of Ottawa Music Department and Community Service Learning Department, OrKidstra offers a 3-credit course to undergraduate and masters level students at the University of Ottawa. Since 2008, the Experiential Teaching Artists Practicum (ETAP) has offered valuable teaching experience through hands-on teaching assistant placements within the OrKidstra program.

This unique partnership also covers a broad overview of music teaching philosophies, the philosophy and history of El Sistema as it applies to OrKidstra’s uniquely Canadian Model, and its implications for society and social justice.

Contact us


I was able to gain real practical experience at OrKidstra: it was a great opportunity for me to take the skills I was learning in my university pedagogy and conducting classes, and apply them in real-life situations.

Kaley Duff


There is a very caring and welcoming atmosphere at OrKidstra, and no matter how I felt coming in each week, I always left with a very positive attitude, and I expect the same can be said for the students.

Heather Bourne


I look forward to every session that I teach, from the kids to the staff to the atmosphere, it’s so full of love and community. The whole entire OrKidstra organization is just amazing.

Arthurine Duhaney