Our Teachers

Teaching Artist & Co-Founder, OrKidstraMargaret Maria Tobolowska

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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 other Wednesday and Thursday at the Vanier Hub and 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 leave her professional post as cellist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada to follow her dream of composing and producing her own music. Working in the contemporary Post 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.
Seamlessly drifting between genres and going where her spirit takes her, you will find a variety of music – some expected and some unexpected. Venturing into her creativity is a shapeshifting activity in itself. Opening up to her sonic world and exploring all its dimensions is the fascination. Initially a cellist with a traditional classical performance past, she has broken out of every mould to create something unique and always from the heart. As a graduate of the Curtis institute of Music and a professional cellist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, she soaked up the music of the past to enable her to create music of the future.
Her 14’th album, ‘Between Worlds’ with the great Canadian soprano Donna Brown was released in June 2022 on the Canadian Music Centre’s Centrediscs/Naxos Label. Margaret Maria is currently working on a commission for Strings of St. John in Ottawa to premiere on Women’s Day 2023, her Goddess of Edges most recent series of compositions, her newly formed spontaneous improvising duo Marbyllia and a creativity retreat online course culminating in Italy at BIIMA July 2023.

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Teaching ArtistVenessa 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 has worked as the music director for several theatre productions. Among these are Lo (Or Dear Mr Wells) and Daisy (GCTC, 2019 & 2021), Turcaret, or The Financier and The Bonds of Interest (Odyssey Theatre, 2014 & 2020), Prosodie in Le promenoir (NAC’s Théâtre français, 2014), La fille d’argile and Le long de la principale (Théâtre la Catapulte, 2014 & 2016), and On verra (Théâtre du Trillium, 2016). Venessa composed for Théâtre Tremplin for 6 years. 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 began teaching with OrKidstra in 2014.

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Teaching ArtistBryan Parker

Bryan decided that he wanted to play a brass instrument – the Euphonium – in Grade 8 at Philemon Wright High School, shortly after his first music teacher had demonstrated all of the band instruments. Over the next few years, Bryan learned to play the trombone at the suggestion of his second music teacher in order to play in the school’s jazz band, which gradually led to the bass trombone. Bryan recognizes and greatly appreciates the early influence of both of his high school music teachers.

Bryan’s formative musical experiences were playing the bass trombone in the Heritage College Big Band and the Ottawa Youth Orchestra. The latter gave Bryan his first taste of orchestral playing – Mars, from Gustav Holst’s The Planets – and orchestral music continues to be a major source of musical fulfilment. Bryan learned much under the baton of John Gomez, and looks back on those years with fondness and gratitude.

Bryan later obtained a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Ottawa, where he studied under Douglas Burden (bass trombonist, National Arts Centre Orchestra). He also played in the University Orchestra (David Currie) and sang in the Choral Ensemble (Lawrence Ewashko). Bryan’s approach to teaching music is strongly influenced by his experience working with these three musicians and pedagogues.

Bryan joined the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy (OYOA) faculty for the 2004/2005 season as director of the Junior Brass Ensemble, to which an Intermediate Brass Ensemble was added in the 2016/2017 season. Having marked his fifteenth year with the OYOA in 2019/2020, Bryan continues to feel that working with young brass students is one of his favourite musical activities.

Since the fall of 2018, it has been Bryan’s great pleasure to be an OrKidstra Teaching Artist. OrKidstra’s mission to empower kids from equity-deserving communities by teaching life skills (e.g. teamwork, commitment, respect and pride in achievement) through the universal language of music resonates strongly with Bryan, and he is grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this truly inspiring organization and work with some wonderful young people. The experience continues to expand Bryan’s horizons as a music teacher.

For many years, Bryan has been an active member of the local music scene. He has been the bass trombonist of the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra since 2005, and held the same chair in the Divertimento Orchestra from 2013 to 2018. He has been a church musician, notably at St. Brigid’s and St. John the Evangelist, and has on many occasions played as a freelance trombonist in the community.

An avid chorister, Bryan has sung with the Ottawa Festival Chorus, the Ottawa Choral Society and is currently a member of the Ewashko Singers. Over the years, he has participated in many interesting concerts at the National Arts Centre and elsewhere in the community. Highlights include Bach’s B Minor Mass (Rilling), Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Zuckerman), Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (Nezet-Séguin), Britten’s War Requiem (Shelley), and La Machine (at LeBreton Flats with a giant mechanical spider and fire-breathing dragon!)

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Program Assistant & Teaching ArtistKaterina Dimitrova

Katerina has been a part of the OrKidstra team since Autumn of 2022 starting through an ETAP practicum/merit scholarship offered at the University of Ottawa. She is currently completing her degree in violin performance at the University of Ottawa studying under Professors Timothy Chooi and Michael van der Sloot. As Katerina has been studying the violin since the age of 9, past teachers include Anna Klochkova, Tian Peng Chen, and the late Yehonatan Berick.

Katerina has worked with various groups such as the uOttawa Orchestra and Kanata Symphony Orchestra. She has also had the privilege of performing alongside members of NACO and the Symphony Nova Scotia. Other interesting performances include chamber and solo performances at the NAC Fourth Stage and various concerts at the University of Ottawa. Katerina’s interests outside of music encompass the arts with hobbies including the creation of short animations, film photography, and illustration. Katerina speaks English, French, and Russian.

As a program assistant and teaching artist on the OrKidstra team, Katerina teaches the violin and viola as well as working behind the scenes programming for the lessons and events that
OrKidstra provides. Katerina believes in the importance of music education as a child never truly stops learning. One never knows so much that they cannot learn more.

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Teaching Artist & Program FacilitatorSonia Caceres

Originally from Colombia, Sonia is an Ottawa-based musician and music educator specializing in violin. In 2017, she completed her Bachelor of Music with Honours in Education from the Industrial University of Santander (UIS) in Colombia. Sonia has performed with the Symphonic Orchestra of the Autonomous University of Bucaramanga (UNAB), the Young UNAB Orchestra, and the string quartet Aniri; she currently plays with the Kanata Symphony Orchestra. Thanks to her family, Sonia had the privilege of listening to traditional Colombian Andean music while growing up. From a young age, she was part of the musical ensemble Corazón Santandereano, where she learned to love and cherish Andean music. In 2019, Sonia completed a Graduate Diploma in Violin Performance at the University of Ottawa. Recently, Sonia successfully culminated her Master of Arts in Music and Culture at Carleton University.

Sonia’s passion for teaching has grown since the completion of her bachelor’s in 2017. She strongly believes in the positive impact of music on people and feels honoured to be part of that process. In 2018, Sonia joined the OrKidstra family, first as a violin Teaching Artist Assistant and later as a Violin Teaching Artist. Sonia was thrilled to join the OrKidstra staff team as the Teaching Artist & Program Facilitator in fall 2021.

For Sonia, being part of OrKidstra has been a transformative experience as she has found a place full of wonderful people committed to changing lives through music. Additionally, the passion and commitment of the students have encouraged her to keep loving her profession and believing in the power that music holds to transform society. In spring 2022, Sonia was accepted into the AIM Firebird Fellowship. The Firebird Fellowship is AIM (Academy for Impact through Music)’s investment in teachers as the vital change agents for tackling inequality through music education.

In addition to her work with OrKidstra, Sonia has a private violin studio and works for a private music school. Sonia enjoys outdoor spaces, spending time with her loved ones, and dancing. Sonia speaks English, Spanish, and she is currently learning French.

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Teaching ArtistViola Szakony

Viola Szakony, born in Calgary, Alberta, began playing the violin at age 6 under Aranka Nagy’s guidance. Mentored in orchestral playing by Ben Neumann, Chris Sandvoss, George Fenwick, and Edmond Agopian at the Mount Royal Conservatory Orchestral Program, she transitioned to the viola upon joining the Calgary Youth Orchestra in 2017. Viola conducted the orchestra at the Banff Orchestra Symposium and toured Hungary, Austria, and Poland with CYO in 2018.

Viola studied viola with Nick Pulos, Chris Sandvoss, Theresa Plotnick, Paul Casey, Dean O’Brien, Dan Scholz, and John Thompson. Mentored by Fiona Carnie through the Amici Strings program (2019 – 2020), she explored Chamber Music. Pursuing a Bachelor of Performance at the University of Ottawa with Michael Van der Sloot, Viola performed with the Caelis Vocal Ensemble and premiered the Elevator Theatre Company’s “The Last Five Years” in 2024.

Viola, trained as a singer since age 6, with the Cantare Children’s Choir under Catherine Glaser-Climie, collaborating with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Calgary Opera, and Calgary Symphony. Notable performances include Beethoven’s 9th (2014, 2019), Puccini’s Tosca (2013), and Mahler’s 8th Symphony (2016). She toured with Cantare, including an European Arts Tour in England (2014) and Unisong Festival in Ottawa (2015).

Viola started working with OrKidstra in the fall of 2023, through the ETAP practicum program offered by the University of Ottawa. She has worked with children through both the ETAP practicum program and CCSD/CSSD as a TA volunteer and guest musician. She incorporates pedagogical tools learned from Michael Van der Sloot, Paul Marleyn, Theresa Plotnick, Laura Hawley, and Michael Zaug in her teaching, emphasizing the importance of musical education for cognitive and motor development, confidence building, and community building.

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Program Assistant & Teaching ArtistLucas Olsen-Willford

Lucas Olsen-Willford is a violinist born and raised in Kamloops, British Columbia. He began his musical journey at age 7 through an organization similar to OrKidstra. This upbringing ignited a passion for a life of music. Lucas was an Assistant-Faculty member at the Kamloops Interior Summer School of Music (KISSM) and spent many summers teaching all levels of Trombone, Ukulele and World Music to children of all ages. His can-do attitude once led him to become a percussionist for KISSM’s performances of Mama Mia!, one of his favourite musicals. During his time at KISSM, he was also able to work closely with the School District 73 strings program, mentoring youth, changing many broken strings, and leading string instrument workshops. Lucas has served on the Board of Directors for the Kamloops Festival of the Performing Arts and the Thompson Valley Orchestra. He has also been able to work with several orchestras across Canada, including the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestre de la Francophonie. Lucas’ love for all genres of music has allowed him to work with people of all backgrounds and ages in various ensembles. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music specializing in performance at the University of Ottawa. Lucas is extremely excited to get to know everyone in the OrKidstra family and help them succeed in every way possible!

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Artistic Operations Manager & Teaching ArtistMark Constantine

Mark Constantine is an arts administrator, educator, and performer with a variety of musical interests. Originally from Canada’s East Coast, he is a graduate of both the University of Ottawa and Indiana University, where he received Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Horn performance, respectively. His principal artistic mentors include Dale Clevenger, Lawrence Vine, and Dan Gress, among others.

As a performer, Mark has appeared with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, the Opera on the Avalon Festival Orchestra, and a variety of other performing arts organizations across Canada. He was a member of the National Youth Orchestra in 2016 and 2017, the National Academy Orchestra in 2019 and 2020, and has worked with renowned conductors including Alexander Shelley, Thomas Wilkins, and Tania Miller. Mark was a member of The Ottawa Brass Initiative from 2016-2018, has performed in the Ottawa Chamberfest, The Scotia Festival of Music, the Bathurst Chamber Music Festival, and is a founding member of the Monteregian Brass Quintet.

Believing strongly in the power of music to build community, Mark joined OrKidstra’s team as a Teaching Artist in September 2020 and expanded his role as Artistic Administrator later that year. Mark looks forward to his sophomore season with OrKidstra in 2021-2022. In addition to performing and his work with OrKidstra, he maintains a small private studio of horn students in the National Capital Region. In his free time, Mark enjoys exercising outdoors, spending time with loved ones, and the company of his cat, Moe.

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Teaching ArtistEmmanuel Solomon

Emmanuel Solomon has been involved in music education since the past 12 years, when he started teaching music at secondary schools and churches. After studying the piano and voice throughout his youthful years, he went on to study for a Bachelor of Music degree in Performance (Voice Major) at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she studied under the tutelages of baritone, Dr. Michael Donovan and soprano, Dr. Betty Allison, both of whom have made significant contributions to his development as a music scholar. Through his study time at the university, he took several electives such as extended techniques, theory of popular music, diction & language (English, French, Italian, German), conducting and composition which have all contributed to his comprehensive knowledge in music making him into the well-rounded musician that he is today. Emmanuel also holds several musical certifications and diplomas in voice, piano, music theory, advanced choral singing and practical musicianship with several music school bodies including the internationally acclaimed music board, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), UK. He hopes to continue his master’s education sometime in the near future.

In addition to Emmanuel’s educational achievements, he has also garnered experience through several performance opportunities through the years of honing his skills. Highlights of such performances include featuring on several occasions as a soloist with the Symphony Nova Scotia (SNS) in their Family series concerts and Link Up events for schools, the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra’s (NSYO) North Preston Black History Month concert, the Chebucto community choir Serenade concerts; the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21; the Cecilia Concerts Series where he shared the stage with Met opera star and soprano, Harolyn Blackwell at the Portia White commemoration concert Genius Child: Portia White at Town Hall in October 2019. He has also participated and competed internationally in choral festivals and competitions at the INTERKULTUR’s 9th Johannes Brahms International Choral Festival & Competitions in the summer of 2015 in Werningerode Germany, and the World Choir Games International Choral Festivals and Competitions in July 2016 in Sochi Russia where he won gold and silver laurels with a choral ensemble. Other performances include two returning recitals Evenings @ the Government House with pleasurable invitations from the Honourable Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia and his wife, Arthur J., and Patsy LeBlanc, amongst other workshops, concerts and recitals in churches and concert halls across Canada. Emmanuel has also worked at different points in his career in various positions as a tenor section lead, composer, and music director. All these experiences have afforded him the skills to be competent as a performer, composer, director, and instructor, and to guide students, irrespective of their age and abilities, through whatever aspect of music inspires or strikes their interests.

Emmanuel’s Awards & Distinctions include the following:
Winner of the FGS award at the Harmonized Scholarship Competition
James and Abbie Campbell graduation prize for best graduating student
Golden Keys International Honours Society prize and recognition for academic excellence
Akintola Williams prize for best graduating student
Banke Ademola prize for best Bel canto singer
Award and prize for winning the MUSON National Music Quest Youth competition
John D. Cameron, Emmanuel Solomon & William Clarke. The European Journal of Development Research (2021). Soundtracks of Poverty and Development: music, Emotions and Representations of the Global South. Published by Springer Link: 25 March 2021

Emmanuel is currently the Artist-In-Residence at Dominion-Chalmers United Church, Ottawa ON Canada. He now resides in the downtown western region of the capital city.

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Jeannie Hunter

Jeannie Hunter has been a music teacher and band director with the Ottawa Carleton District school board for 30 years. She is the recipient of a Director’s award for Excellence, and was nominated for a Juno award for Canadian Music Teacher of the Year in 2010. In 2015, her band was crowned ‘Canada’s Greatest Music Class’ by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Jeannie is passionate about teaching music as a means of pursuing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. She was the founding director of Brookfield High School’s World Voices Choir. She has written projects in support of the music curriculum that have been published by the Ontario Music Educators’ Association. As a presenter, she has worked with teachers across Canada and beyond.

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Executive & Artistic Director 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. Until its sale in 2020, it was recognized as one of Canada’s leading 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 also 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. Tina is a Certified Integral Associate Coach™ with Integral Coaching Canada.

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Teaching ArtistEmma Grant-Zypchen

Born and raised in Ottawa, Emma began her musical studies with the National Capital Suzuki School of Music at the age of 7. There she studied with Kirk Starkey and Margaret Tobolowska. At Canterbury High School she attained a Fine Arts Certificate in the Strings Program, during which she also first became involved in OrKidstra, as a mentor! After high school she decided to pursue her musical studies further at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music where she obtained her Bachelor’s of Music in Cello Performance with Outstanding Achievement in Cello, Dean’s Honour List and the McGill Alumnae Society Prize under the tutelage of Matt Haimovitz. During this time, she was twice a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada whose tours saw them performing such venues as Montréal’s Maison Symphonique, the National Art Centre’s Southam Hall, Toronto’s Koerner Hall, the Berlin Konzerthaus and Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. After graduating from McGill in 2019, she returned to Ottawa and began her career as a music educator, becoming a teacher at the same Suzuki school that fostered her as a child, as well as at OrKidstra. She finds great fulfillment in this path, aiming to share her love of music and the cello with the next generation, and enjoying witnessing each child uniquely grow through their musical experiences. Emma has completed Units 1 and 2 of Suzuki teacher training and in the spring of 2022, received her Master’s of Music in Cello Performance from the University of Montreal, studying with Yegor Dyachkov. In her free time, she enjoys various outdoor pursuits such as running, cross country skiing and backcountry canoe camping as well as hobbies such as watercolour botanical illustration and knitting.

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Teaching ArtistJordan Goodfellow

Jordan, a student at the University of Ottawa, is pursuing his dream of becoming a music therapist. His affinity for music took root in childhood with piano lessons at age five. Throughout high school, this passion blossomed further as he delved into music, honing his skills on the saxophone, which he has now been playing for ten years. Jordan was primarily self-taught before his enrollment at the University of Ottawa, where he studied under the guidance of Victor Herbiet, one of his most influential mentors. During his time at the University of Ottawa, Jordan actively participated in two choirs under the direction of Laurence Ewashko. Notably, he showcased his talents in three performances at the National Arts Centre in front of thousands.

“Music is my life – I don’t know what I would do without it. Music is so powerful and can be used to heal, bring joy, and sometimes sadness. I want to be able to use that power of music and make a difference in the world.” – Mr. Jordan

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Teaching ArtistHilary Aubrey

Hilary began teaching with OrKidstra in the Spring of 2023 teaching violin and viola classes. She began learning the viola at the age of 3 studying with Kailey Probst, and went on to study with Paul Casey, NAC section viola player. She is currently completing her fourth year of viola performance at the University of Ottawa studying with Michael van der Sloot.

Hilary has had the pleasure of playing with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra through their student mentorship program in 2023 as well as alongside the NAC orchestra in side-by-side concerts throughout high school. Hilary has taken part in several University of Ottawa concerts, including chamber, orchestra, and opera.

In Hilary’s free time, she loves to go cross-country skiing, play soccer with her friends and siblings, and read!

As a TA at OrKidstra, Hilary teaches violin and viola semi-private lessons as well as violin group classes! Hilary enjoys every moment spent with these students brightening their day with some music and fun!

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Teaching ArtistMary Raths

Mary was born and raised in Ottawa. She grew up in a musical family and has developed a deep connection with music. She initially learned to play the piano and flute. In her grade 9 music class, she discovered her love for the cello. During high school, Mary was an active member of her school’s orchestra and string ensemble. Through her involvement in these musical groups, she experienced the sense of belonging and community that comes with being part of a collective musical effort.

Mary pursued her love for music further at the University of Ottawa where she earned a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Music. Mary’s musical journey has been diverse. She has performed in the pit orchestra for musicals and graced the stages of notable venues like the National Arts Centre (NAC) and Bluesfest while accompanying visiting artists. She also performed with smaller groups, both while working on a cruise ship and at private events Mary was a member of the Canadian Forces for nearly a decade. During this time, she had the unique privilege of serving as the cellist with the Canadian Forces String Ensemble. With this ensemble, she had the opportunity to travel and perform for dignitaries from all around the world. Mary has been a member of the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra since 2015.

Mary works as the Office Administrator at a big and busy elementary school during the day. She has been
sharing her passion for the cello with students of all ages for over 15 years through teaching in her home studio. Her teaching philosophy revolves around helping her students create beautiful music, exploring various music genres, and encouraging group collaboration. Mary is excited to be sharing her love of playing cello and playing music together with the musicians at OrKidstra.

In her spare time, Mary enjoys playing chamber music, learning to play the ukulele, baking, cycling, and
spending quality time with her family.

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Teaching ArtistChristine Hecker

Christine Hecker is a Saskatchewan born, Ottawa based artist with a background in classical music and theatre production. Since moving to Ottawa she has completed a diploma in Theatre Arts from Algonquin College, as well as a Bachelor and a Master of Music in vocal performance from the University of Ottawa.
Growing up, Christine studied piano, singing, and speech arts, while participating in drama and musical theatre groups and choirs. Her foremost formative experience however, was her involvement with Camp Shagabec in the Cypress Hills, SK. Having spent many years as a camper before volunteering as a counsellor and director, the principles of leadership, team work, community, radical inclusivity, and giving back are deeply intertwined. These collective experiences left her seeking spaces where social justice, collaboration, and most especially, a sense of play are at the forefront.
After theatre school, Christine began her career as a stage manager with some of Ottawa’s most beloved indie theatre companies including Plosive Productions, Mi Casa Theatre, Evolution Theatre, TotoToo Theatre, Maycan Theatre, Moon Dog Theatre, and Bear and Co, as well as countless productions in the Ottawa and Toronto Fringe Festivals. She spent two years as a producer for the Youth Infringement Theatre Festival (a festival run entirely by artists under the age of 25) and founded their board of directors. One of her most unique projects was creating and producing the Ottawa Stage Manager Battle, bringing backstage into the spotlight. During her university years her theatre career shifted towards production management with companies such as Black Sheep Theatre, Odyssey Theatre, TACTICS, and a Company of Fools.
Musically speaking, Christine has been teaching voice and piano, and running music and drama camps for many years. Notable performances from her university days include the soprano solo in Scriabin’s Symphony no. 1, Miss Jessel in Turn of the Screw, Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Ms. Pinkerton in The Old Maid and the Thief, Marcellina in le nozze di Figaro, and chorus in Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte. She sang in the chorus for Louis Riel (NAC/COC) for Canada150 as well as several mass choir performances with the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
Christine now splits her time between theatre and music. Aside from leading KidSingers with OrKidstra she teaches singing and speech arts in her own private studio and in collaboration with Sharp Performance Studios in Kanata. She is a member of Ewashko Singers, enjoying regular performances and recording projects. She works as an independent stage manager and production manager and spends her summers with a Company of Fools, bringing Shakespeare-in-the-park to dozens of communities across the Ottawa region.

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Teaching ArtistRita Matar

Rita was born in Latakia, Syria, the city that incubated the first music notation in the world. She received most of her musical education from Evgueny Loguinov and Uliana Golikova. She has already gained a solid experience as a Violinist.
She has participated in several master classes with eminent musicians such as Evald Donhoffer, Marco Vitale, Tamara Khatchadorian, Tetiana Dreamlok, Ebrahim Baltagi, Ghazwan Zirkly Karoun Baghboudarian, Raad Khalaf and Waseem Imam. Rita graduated from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus after she completed her BA in Music Education in Homs University.
She has been chosen to play in many special occasions such as Mozart’s Marriage De Figaro, Mozart’s Requiem, Oliver Tweest Musical, Carmina Burana, “Yes Academy” Festival in Lebanon, Apple Hill seminar in USA, Kempinski Hotel launch in Jordan Aqaba and Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea as a soloist and as a chamber music player. Also she was a section leader .She performed under the baton of famous conductors such as Nouri Rhbani, Julius Kalmar, Missak Baghboudarian, Shereen Abo Khader, and Steve Griffiths amongst others. Rita had a special appearance with the legendary Lebanese composer Elias AlRahbani in Dubai Mall and in Jonieh festival, Lebanon. She performed in Morocco in Mohammad ALKHAMIS Festival and performed in Arabic Songs Festival at Damascus Opera House and performed with Nahel Halabi in Al Hosen Castle Festival.
She appeared in various countries such as the USA, Dubai, Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, and Syria. Her repertoire varies from classical solo and chamber music to soft and atmospheric music. She participated in film music recordings which were part of big MBC productions. She performed with the Syrian National Symphonic Orchestra on many occasions.
Rita is an inspiring Violin teacher, Theory teacher and Kids Choir conductor. She held different positions in several institutions such as assistant teacher at the Higher Institute of Music, Violinist at Syrian National Symphonic Orchestra, Kids Choir Conductor, and Violin Teacher at two different private Music schools.
Rita organized a musical event during the Christmas season for a charity foundation that helps displaced Syrians.
Rita has made television and radio appearances such as on American NPR radio channel, eSyria, Syrian National TV, Dubai One amongst others.

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Teaching ArtistSandra Van Barr

Sandra Van Barr began her cello studies in Etobicoke after starting in her school music program at the age of 11. She went on to attain both her Undergraduate (Combined Honours – Music and English) and Graduate (Masters of Teaching) degrees at McMaster University, then her (B.Education – Secondary Music and English) at the University of Western Ontario. Her Masters thesis is titled “Practising Multicultural Education in the English Classroom”. During these years, she received numerous scholarships and awards in each year of study, and she was a Rhodes scholarship nominee.

Sandra played professionally for many years with the Niagara Symphony and performed extensively in studio, chamber and orchestra settings while freelancing in the Hamilton and Toronto areas. One enjoyable career highlight was playing on tour with Smokey Robinson.

Sandra started her teaching career with the Etobicoke Board of Education as a Strings Itinerant teacher. She then took on a Secondary School Music Department Headship with the Victoria County Board of Education where she founded a successful award winning Strings program, travelled internationally with her Orchestra, Band and String ensemble, and received an award of excellence for teaching. Upon moving to Ottawa, she taught high school Music and English with the OCDSB and performed with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra. She was the Provincial level award-winning Intermediate Strings Orchestra Conductor for the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy for twelve years and she currently conducts the Canterbury High School Orchestra and coaches with the OCDSB while teaching privately in her own studio. She has always admired the amazing presence of OrKidstra in Ottawa and is honoured to be a part of this wonderful team!

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Teaching ArtistMalcolm Horava

Malcolm Horava is a trumpet player and pianist currently living in Ottawa. He graduated from University of Toronto with a Master’s in Trumpet Performance degree in 2021 as well as from University of Ottawa with a Bachelor’s in Trumpet Performance Degree in 2019. Throughout his education, he has studied trumpet with Steven Van Gulik, Eric Rupp, Karen Donnelly, and Anita McAlister, and piano with Frederic Lacroix during his Bachelor’s at uOttawa. Malcolm played trumpet for the Changing of the Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill with the Band of the Ceremonial Guard during the summers of 2017-2019. Since moving to Toronto in 2019, he has played trumpet and piano with the Band of the Queen’s Own Rifles Regimental Band and Pop Band. Malcolm was honoured to be accepted into NYO’s virtual program from 2019-2020. He has also been the collaborative pianist for juries, recitals and competitions at uOttawa and U of T, and was the collaborative pianist TA for the Brass Orchestral Studies and Trumpet Performance classes at the University of Toronto. Since moving back to Ottawa, he started teaching at Orkidstra and New Horizons Band, and is currently working on contract with the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces as trumpet player.

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Teaching ArtistEmily Marks

Born and raised in North Vancouver, Emily Marks first picked up the flute in her elementary school band program at the age of 10. She went on to complete her Bachelor of Music degree with distinction at McGill University, where her teacher 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 audition for 2nd flute/piccolo with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, a
position she held for thirteen seasons under the baton of Pinchas Zukerman.

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, as well as Carleton University, and currently maintains a private teaching studio at her home in Ottawa.

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Teaching ArtistJennifer Martinez

2021 Director of Education Award recipient Jennifer Martinez, is an active, dedicated Music Educator in the Ottawa Community. Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, she has over 30 years of experience working with children and finding the best teaching practices to keep them engaged, excited, and successful, musically and academically.

Jennifer immigrated to Canada 28 years ago, making her passionate about cultural responsiveness and celebration of diversity within a community. She grew up seeing El Sistema Orchestra Program develop from its first years and witnessed firsthand, the benefits of access to Music in every child’s life, no matter their demographics. Jennifer is the mother of three young men, now all in their 20s!!! She completed her Bachelor of Music at the University of Ottawa in 2002, and her Bachelor of Education (with a concentration in Music Pedagogy and French Language acquisition) in 2003. Her passion for music education goes beyond rhythm and notes. Advocating for social programming through Music, she enjoys planning and collaborating with other music educators to best serve our youth.

Jennifer has conducted bands with the Ottawa New Horizons adult band program and has been a member of their Board of Directors in the past. Presently, she teaches with the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy and is a member of the Ontario Music Educators’ Association. Jennifer is a full-time teacher with the Ottawa Catholic School Board, where she is Department Head of the Creative Arts, teaching Music and French, grades 9 through 12. Jennifer has taught students during all these years 3 to 93 and believes Music involvement in any capacity, young and younger, can change the world!

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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.

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Teaching ArtistDr. Keith Hartshorn-Walton

Multi-instrumentalist Keith Hartshorn-Walton relocated to Ottawa in 2015 and has established himself in the City’s Jazz scene specializing in Tuba, Sousaphone, Electric and Acoustic Bass.

Originally from Winnipeg, Keith toured extensively with the Foothills Brass Quintet. He has performed with Clark Terry, Louis Bellson, Quinsin Nachoff, as well as orchestras in Edmonton, Calgary, Oshawa and Kingston. In the spring of 2018 he was part of Rob Frayne’s Dreamband 3 with musicians from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

In Ottawa he can be found in bands as diverse as The Bank Street Bonbons, Safe Low Limit (an all-bass clef jazz group), Linsey Wellman’s Wedding and Funeral Trio, and particularly Mélanie E., a quartet featuring his wife Mélanie Hartshorn-Walton on French Jazz vocals.

In September 2019, Keith was privileged to be invited to perform in New York City for a special tribute concert to his mentor, jazz tuba pioneer Howard Johnson.

As a bassist he has performed with the Beeched Wailers, Alex Moxon, Zakari Frantz, Peter Hum, Stephen Berndt and Steve Boudreau. Keith is also part of two monthly jazz series with Tariq Amery and Garrett Warner at Ottawa’s Art House Café and also has hosted the monthly Jazz in Barrhaven series at Anabia Cupcakery.

In addition, Keith is music director and organist at Wall Street United Church in Brockville. He received his Doctorate of Music from McGill University in 2010, and has studied with Dennis Miller and Mark Tetreault, and McGill and the University of Toronto, respectively.

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Teaching ArtistJessica Simpson

Born and raised in Ottawa, Jessica began her musical journey learning songs with her Grandma from a very young age. She was always the first of all the grandchildren to be at the piano as soon as Grandma began to play and sing. At the age of 8, Jessica began her formal musical training with Cantiamo Girls Choir of Ottawa (now the Cantiamo Choirs of Ottawa) with conductor Jackie Hawley and fell in love with choral music. Soon after, at the age of 11, she began private voice lessons in Kanata. Jessica is also a graduate of Canterbury High School’s Vocal program where she worked with pianist, organist and choral director Mr. James Caswell. In 2019, Ms. Simpson graduated from the University of Ottawa with a Bachelor of Music with a specialization in music education and during that time Jessica studied voice privately with Professor Sandra Graham. While at the University of Ottawa, Jessica performed in a multitude of choirs including; the University of Ottawa’s Calixa Lavallee Choir with Laurence Ewashko, Canterbury Trebles Women’s Ensemble with James Caswell and Hypatia’s Voice Women’s Choir with Laura Hawley. 

For the past couple of years, Jessica has been as a voice teacher alongside Ottawa voice teacher Diana Sharp at her private studio. Since graduating from her Bachelor of Music at the University of Ottawa, Jessica has also moved on to a second bachelor’s degree with the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education. Jessica is working towards her graduation in June of 2021, with an intermediate/senior division qualification for music and English.

In 2019, Jessica joined the Orkidstra team as a teaching artist. Jessica, known at Orkidstra as Ms. Jessica, works alongside Ms. Deborah with Kidsingers at the Vanier Hub location and now with all of the Kidsingers online. 

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Teaching ArtistAngela Blackwell

Angela is from Harrogate in Yorkshire. She studied clarinet with David Campbell at Dartington College of Arts, where she completed a BA (Hons) in music. She continued her studies with John Fuest at Birmingham Conservatory, completing a GBSM along with two ABSMs in performing and teaching. She settled in Bristol, playing with the Bristol Philharmonic and Bristol Opera Company and freelancing in the many theatres in the area. She taught at Bristol University and in private and public schools in and around the city.

She moved to Ottawa in 1996. She has continued her playing with Kanata Winds, Divertimento Orchestra, the fiVe wind quintet, The Stan Clark Orchestra, National Capital Concert Band and giving solo recitals. She has worked with Ottawa New Horizons from its beginning in 2008 as both a director and winds coach. She directs The Beacon, an Ottawa-based community concert band and runs an annual Clarinet Bootcamp, as well as organizing clarinet choir afternoons for members of the Ottawa clarinet community. She is thrilled to be a Teaching Artist with OrKidstra, directing the senior winds and working with the Masterclass program that was developed online during the pandemic.

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Teaching ArtistAndrew Gesing

Andrew is a 2017 graduate of the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Ottawa, specializing in teaching music and English, and a 2015 graduate of the Bachelor of Music program at the University of Toronto, specializing in music education and classical saxophone performance. Andrew became involved with OrKidstra as a student teacher for his University of Ottawa Teacher Education program in April 2017, and officially became part of the team in May 2017.

Outside of OrKidstra, Andrew is an avid sailor, and an active part of the Ottawa music scene as a member of the funk band Cloud City, the assistant director and lead alto player of the Bytowne Big Band, a member of the Hewey Lewis and the News tribute band Too Hip to be ■, and a freelance performer and arranger.

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Teaching ArtistMarlene Cruz Lozano

Born in Mexico City, Marlene Cruz Lozano began her professional musical education at the Escuela Superior de Música, Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila, where she pursued a performance degree in piano and violin. In 2001, she moved to Canada to continue her studies and obtained a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Music from Bishop’s University. During her degree, she studied composition with Canadian composers Andrew Paul MacDonald and Stewart Grant.

Her musical interests are wide-ranging and she enjoys exploring different genres, such as world music, jazz, classical and contemporary through composition, improvisation and performance.
With more than 20 years of teaching experience, Marlene shares her passion for music by creating a fun and motivating environment in which students can improve both their musical and personal skills. Marlene’s approach to music education is based on creativity – including composition as an imaginative tool – particularly when working with youth. Through this method, Marlene teaches the fundamentals of music theory, along with the exploration of diverse musical styles and improvisation. As a teacher, it is her objective to help students find their own musical voice, as well as to guide those who are interested in composing their own music. Marlene has also had the privilege of working closely with special needs students, using music as a valuable tool for growth.

Being a curious, creative and innovative musician, she is constantly continuing her personal development through diverse masterclasses and online education from Universities such as Berklee (Improvisation Certificate) and Northwestern University (Teaching Violin and Viola: A Healthy Foundation). As a new OrKidstra Teaching Artist, she is excited to contribute and grow as a teacher.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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