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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Program Facilitator & 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 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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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 ManagerMark 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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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 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 a Teaching Artist with Orkidstra, where he teaches low brass and conducts the Junior Concert Band at the Centretown Hub. He looks forward to taking a few brass ensembles under his wing in the fall of 2020. Orkidstra’s mission to empower kids from under-served 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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Teaching ArtistRichard Page

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Ottawa-based woodwind artist Richard Page has become a sought-after performer and educator for all levels. His unique sound and approach to the baritone saxophone has been featured on many recordings and he is an in-demand sideman in the Ottawa-area.

Richard has performed with many world-renowned artists. Most recently, he performed at the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival with the = Jazz Orchestra, led by Christine Jensen (who’s saxophone section included – Tara Davidson, Allison Au, Anna Webber and Claire Devlin). At the 2018 Ottawa Jazz Festival, Richard performed with the Jerry Granelli Group, which featured guitar legends Robben Ford and Bob Lanzetti. He also performed with Hilario Duran (as the baritone saxophonist/bass clarinetist with the Ottawa Latin Jazz Big Band) that year. Richard has shared the stage with Mike Rud (Juno Award Winner), Adrean Farrugia, Phil Nimmons and many other jazz greats.

In addition to his own projects, Richard performs regularly with the Prime Rib Big Band, Sly High – A Tribute To Sly & The Family Stone, ERU-ERA, Renée Landry, The Commotions and The Rock Steadies. Richard’s woodwinds have been featured on television on commercials, TV shows and movies, and can be heard on the Kidscreen award winning (Emmy and Canadian Screen Award nominated) Sesame Workshop/Nelvana cartoon, Esme and Roy.

Richard’s musical education was developed through a combination of his studies at Mohawk College (2005-2007) and many performing opportunities in his early career. He was a member of the Hamilton All-Star Jazz Band (2004-2008) and in 2007 travelled to Europe, performing at the Montreux and Vienne jazz festivals. Through his involvement in the HASJB and he was awarded the Noreen and Phil Nimmons Scholarship from the Steeltown Friends of Mohawk Jazz (2005 and 2007). Richard has studied with many renowned Canadian musicians, such as Kirk MacDonald, Petr Cancura, and spent several years studying with world-renowned woodwind artist, Tim Price.

Richard is a proud endorser of Gonzalez Reeds, Key Leaves, and DeQuelery Windinstruments woodwind products.

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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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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Apprentice Teaching ArtistNaomi Hagedorn

Naomi is currently a grade twelve student in Canterbury High School’s vocal music program. She began volunteering with OrKidstra in the fall of 2020 as a zoom manager for online KidSingers classes. Over time, her role grew and in the summer of 2022, she started working as an Apprentice Teaching Artist alongside Jessica Simpson, Wendy Berkelaar and Christine Hecker with the KidSingers. Naomi’s music education began when she started taking piano lessons as a four-year-old. She also sang in her elementary school choir but really fell in love with choral singing when she joined the Ottawa Children’s Choir Chamber Choir in 2018. This experience showed her the beauty and impact that comes when different people from different backgrounds work together to make music. She is now a member of the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir and the Senior Treble ensemble at Canterbury High School. Naomi has been taking private voice lessons since 2018 and is very excited to be joining the OrKidstra team as an Apprentice Teaching Artist!

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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 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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Teaching ArtistRenee London

Renee London is an Ottawa-raised violinist who made her first public appearance at the age of seven. A natural performer, Miss London has impressed music lovers with her unique style and interpretation. Her musical inspiration was her grandfather, cellist James Hunter, one of Canada’s great pedagogues (Victoria Conservatory).

Renée began her studies with Elaine Klimasko, first violinist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. She earned her Bachelor of Music in 1999 in violin performance at the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music under the tutelage of William Preucil, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra. Renée continued her violin studies with Steven Rose, Principal Second Violin of the Cleveland Orchestra and received her Master of Music, also from the Cleveland Institute of Music, in 2001.

Renee has performed on the CBC-Ottawa’s noon-hour concert series and has given recitals throughout Canada and the United States. Renée London is a chamber music enthusiast, and has worked and studied with North America’s great chamber music geniuses, Peter Salaff, Donald Weilerstein, and William Preucil (Cleveland Quartet); the Cavani Quartet, Samuel Rhodes and Ronald Copes (Juilliard Quartet), and Canada’s own St. Lawrence Quartet. She was a regular chamber music coach at the Summertrios Chamber Music Festival in Pennsylvania, and a member of the Wintergreen Music Festival Orchestra in Virginia. Renée is the proud founder of the Classics in the Tropics music festival in Tobago, West Indies.

In 2001,Miss London was a member of the 1st violin section in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. She subsequently served as Associate Concertmaster in the Midland-Odessa Symphony (Texas), and was a member of the ‘Strings of the West’ string quartet, also in Midland Texas, in 2003-2004.

Living in Toronto for 18 years, she worked with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. Teaching has always been a passion of Renee’s and she held a very active teaching studio in Toronto. Renee has also had the privilege of working and training with Suzuki pedagogue, Margot Jewell.

As a new mother of her baby girl Aria, Renee is very excited to return to her hometown of Ottawa. Renee actively trains for marathons with her brother, and is an avid animal lover.

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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 ArtistNawfel Djari

Born in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nawfel began playing the Violin at the age of 13 and Viola at the age of 17. Nawfel is a classical Violist, Writer, Teacher, Conductor, Composer, Painter and Poet.

As a Violist, Nawfel has had the opportunity to tour with orchestras in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Leipzig, Berlin and Prague. In 2019, he had the opportunity to perform as an “emerging artist” with his UOttawa piano Quintet at the NAC 4th stage as well as his current string quartet (comprised of members from the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra). Following this, his string quartet the “Amica quartet” has performed many times in concerts, and is planning a tour in the future.

Nawfel has had the opportunity to study and perform with teachers including Rennie Regehr, Sharon Wei, Jeffrey Irvine, Jutta Puchhammer, Yehonatan Berick, Andre Roy and is currently studying under Michael Van Der Sloot at the University of Ottawa (masters program) and is planning on completing a masters in composition, painting and a DMA in Viola as well.

Nawfel’s main goal is to become a professor, currently teaching students privately, and many more at an array of music academies including the National Capital Suzuki School of Music, Long & McQuade and Music Box studios. His students have become section leaders for orchestras and taken part in RCM exams and summer camps, auditioned for universities and won local and abroad competitions. Nawfel has coached chamber groups in both masterclass and private settings in preparation for festivals and concerts, and plans for teaching to be a big part of his future.

As a conductor, Nawfel has worked with orchestras such as the Oakville Symphony and the Quebec Symphony (OSQ) this past summer. He has studied under Yoav Talmi at Domaine Forget, Alexander Shelley from the NAC and David Currie.

As a composer, his music has been set to be performed in Greece, New York, Paris, Chicago, Ottawa, Beijing, Toronto and London by both symphony orchestras and chamber settings.
Nawfel has recently set his avenue with the fine arts. He has received numerous commissions for abstract art in the practices of squeegee, abstract splatter, Pollock style and impressionism. Nawfel’s work sells in Ottawa (Nawfel Djari – his Facebook page) and receives commissions regularly.

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Teaching ArtistFanny Marks

French/British cellist Fanny Marks entered the local music school at age 9, going on to earn her Bachelor of Music from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London), her postgraduate degree in music from the Royal Academy of Music (London) and her postgraduate Performance Diploma from the University of Indiana (USA) in the studio of Janos Starker.

Trained as a performing artist, most of her career has consisted in touring with orchestras (such as the Nederlands Kamerorkest and the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest) and chamber music groups in concert halls and theatres across Europe and the Americas.

Throughout her music life she has developed a passion for working with kids – music theatre, children’s operas, workshops for disabled kids or kids with special needs /low income families and youth music summer camps.
Fanny moved to Wakefield, Quebec in September 2014 and started her own cello teaching studio in Wakefield alongside teaching in the Chelsea music school. Since summer 2015, she has been a regular substitute at the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa.

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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 Divertimento Orchestra, The Stan Clark Orchestra, the fiVe wind quintet and giving solo recitals. She worked with Ottawa New Horizons from its beginning in 2008 coaching the clarinets, then directing one of the bands from 2014 to 2018. She directs The Beacon, an Ottawa-based community concert band and runs an annual Clarinet Bootcamp, as well as organising clarinet choir afternoons for members of the Ottawa clarinet community. She also teaches students of all ages and abilities privately. She is thrilled to be a Teaching Artist with OrKidstra, directing the senior winds and working with the new Masterclass program that was developed online during the pandemic!

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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 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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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