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Founder, Piano started playing the piano when she was five years old. Under the direction of Lucretia Peterson of Salt Lake City, Utah, Lisa played competitively on a state level throughout her formative years. She received numerous honors in piano performance, played publicly throughout the inter-mountain area, and also participated in the music and vocal program at Lewis and Clark College of Portland, Oregon where she received her degree in International Business.
She founded Musical Chairs Studio in 2004 with the goal of providing a music lesson experience that created a life long love for music and served as a vehicle for self-expression and building self confidence. Under her direction, Musical Chairs has experienced consistent growth and now operates in various Chicago schools as well as offers lessons in the Lincoln Square studio. Additionally, Lisa established the Serenading Seniors and Play it Forward programs where students are encouraged to share their gifts with those who are less fortunate and instill the concepts of community service and philanthropy in today's youth. Lisa believes music is the single most important childhood experience that has shaped her life and feels blessed for the opportunity to pass this on to others.
Voice, Piano, and Business Manager Stuart Thompson teaches beginning to intermediate piano and beginning to professional voice. He is a classically trained vocalist with a masters in vocal performance from DePaul University and has studied piano at Indiana University and Butler University. Stuart is a frequent performer of opera and cabaret around Chicagoland with a budding career as a comedic baritone. Having a versatile voice some notable roles include, Tonio, The Father in Hansel and Gretel, and The Count in the Marriage of Figaro. Stuart’s musical interests are French art song, German Opera, and Italian food. His teaching methods revolve directly around the student’s individual needs and personality but always include heavy emphasis on technique, and theory. As a singer Stuart incorporates singing into piano lessons and has the student using their voice to fully understand intervals and for note learning. Stuart’s approach to music education is fully nurturing and enjoyable, but he has the highest of expectations for his students as he consistently sees success from his most dedicated and disciplined students. He can be reached at email@example.com
Violin, Viola, Strings, Composition, Guitar, and Piano
Trevor Adams is an Alaskan composer, music educator, and violist whose style of writing ranges from eclectic and rhythmically driven to intensely introspective. He has an affinity for creating narrative in music and his work has been described as “visual in nature”. Trevor pulls inspiration from astronomy, physics, mythology, the environment, his Iñupiaq heritage, and his intrapersonal experience. Some stylistic influences include film and video game music, minimalism, Iñupiaq drumming and dancing, musical theater, rock, and indie music among others. Trevor earned his B.M. in Music Education and B.A. in Music Composition from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) where he studied composition with Dr. William Post and viola with both Dr. Kathleen Butler-Hopkins and Dr. Bryan Hall. As a composer, Trevor has given two recitals (2015 and 2017), scored several short films, and collaborated on arts/science presentations for the 2017 and 2018 American Geophysical Union Fall Meetings. Recently, Trevor scored the film Bodies of Water for the UAF Department of Film and Performing Arts and premiered two works: Siqiñiq for solo violin and Locality for alto flute, piccolo, and piano at Roosevelt University. Trevor has played in a wide variety of ensembles including both the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and Northern Lights String Orchestra as principal violist, multiple pit orchestras including Les Miserables with Fairbanks Light Opera Theater and Tosca with Opera Fairbanks. From 2014 – 2018, Trevor was the violist for the Nanook String Quartet, performing varied repertoire including Ravel’s String Quartet and Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet. As an educator, Trevor has taught all ages in the public schools. From 2015 – 2019, Trevor was both the orchestra director at West Valley High School and the band, orchestra, and general music teacher at Two Rivers K-8 School. Aside from public school teaching, Trevor has directed adult community orchestras, youth orchestras, and taught at youth summer music festivals and string chamber music intensives. Trevor is currently pursuing graduate studies in music composition at Roosevelt University with Dr. Kyong Mee Choi.
Piano Nico Carter is a Chicago-based pianist and composer who’s been teaching music for 16 years. He graduated from Oberlin Conservatory where he received the Conservatory Dean’s Talent Award and the MTNA Young Artist’s Award. Though classically trained, Nico also has extensive experience with jazz, blues, and popular genres. Combining theories from different genres and musical disciplines helps his students learn different approaches to piano and find ones that fit best with them. Nico is an enthusiastic teacher who loves helping people develop a musical passion. He believes that music is an incredible tool for self-development where anyone can learn confidence and discipline and unlock powerful tools of self-expression. He is currently the head of piano faculty for the People’s Music School for the Greater South Side and runs ‘The Juicebox,’ where he teaches piano and music production to homeless youth.
Piano Zaira Castillo holds degrees in piano performance from the University of Oregon and the University of Georgia. Her primary professors have included Alexandre Dossin and Liza Stepanova. She has participated in masterclasses with world-renowned artists such as Simone Dinnerstein, Ran Dank, and Stephen Drury. Zaira’s dedication to new music has led her to attend the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance at the New England Conservatory in the summer of 2021. She is also the founding member of Duo Minimus, a piano duo primarily focused on performing works of the 21st century. As a pedagogue, Zaira has worked with beginning to pre-collegiate students. Her teaching philosophy states that every student deserves the opportunity to experience the art of music making in their own unique way. She strives to make any musical experience fun and insightful for her students. In her spare time, Zaira enjoys taking long runs or walks, yoga, photography, and reading a good book!
Piano earned her BMA from DePauw University School of Music. She studied piano with Carmen Alverez-Breckenridge, Lorna Griffin, Claude Zimmerman, Julliane Miranda, Jeffrey Swinkin, and accompanying with Mikail Hallak. Carrie attended the Interlochen Arts Camp and the Las Vegas Music Festival.
Carrie brings many years of teaching experience to Musical Chairs. She taught at the San Francisco Music Center, the Morton Grove Park District and in her own studio. In addition to teaching, she is accompanist and co-founder of the Chicago Womens’ Chorus and was rehearsal pianist for American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. She sat on the board of the Music Teachers’ Association of San Francisco, chairing the after-school piano program in the public schools. She has taught movement and music classes for infants to preschool. Carrie enjoys working with all ages, but specializes in working with young children as early as 2.5 years old.
In 2007, Carrie took a hiatus from teaching to study body mechanics. Now owner of Stretch Chi, a bodywork studio, she specializes in balancing muscles through stretching. She brings this knowledge into her lessons, creating a muscularly balanced technique.
Piano, Voice, Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Trumpet and Drums is an experienced multi-instrumentalist and composer. He earned his Bachelors of Music degree for Composition and Classical Voice at San Francisco State University, where he studied composition under co-founder of EarPlay, Richard Festinger and voice under Nikolas Nackley. He is currently studying at the Chicago Conservatory of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University for his Masters in Composition and Classical Voice, where he is studying under composer Daron Hagen.
He has performed in a number of ensembles, choirs and bands in addition to having many of his works premiered for opera, choir, chamber ensembles, and piano. He is most known for his work as singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the rock band “The Silhouette Era,” which have released numerous works and toured over the last 7 years.
Carlos' diverse experience and love for all types of music allows him to creatively approach each instrument and student with the attention they need. He believes that creating a fun and safe environment for his students is crucial. Music fundamentals are an integral part of his lessons, but fun musical experiences are the driving force of his teaching.
Violin, Viola and String Techniques: A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and has performed with numerous regional orchestras around the country, including Mercury, Unsupervised, and Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestras. She is a founding member of the Southport String Quartet which has engaged in outreach and professional performances around Chicago. She holds degrees from Rice University and the University of Maryland where she studied with Ivo Van Der Werff, Joan DerHovsepian, and Katherine Murdock. Hanna has performed in solo and chamber music masterclasses for James Dunham, Peter Slowik, Geoff Nuttall, Roger Meyers, and Ralph Kirschbaum. Over the summers she has performed with the National Repertory Orchestra, Contemporary Performance Institute, Kent/Blossom Music Festival, Chautauqua Music Festival, and the National Orchestral Institute.
As a violin and viola teacher, she works to make music a fun, enriching, and challenging aspect of a student’s life by working to develop the critical thinking, listening, and emotional skills that can be learned through studying music. She teaches students of all ages and ability levels, from beginners to those preparing for auditions.
Flute, Saxophone, Clarinet and Piano: Wills Mckenna is a saxophonist, flutist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist based in Chicago, IL. He grew up in Evanston, IL and after learning flute and saxophone in middle school and high school, he studied jazz saxophone and flute at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, and continued studies at the New England Conservatory in Boston, receiving training in both improvised and classical approaches. Wills also has experience as a board-certified music therapist and received a Master's of Music Therapy at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY, and later worked as a music therapist at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago for six years. At Lurie Children's Wills provided music therapy interventions to children ages 0-18 in intensive care and oncology units. He has maintained an active performing career in Chicago and across the midwest playing flute and saxophone in a variety of bands ranging in style from straight-ahead jazz to rock and pop and has played at venues including Schubas, Lincoln Hall, and the Jazz Showcase. He has released several albums under his own name or under his regularly performing collective groups. Wills's music teaching approach is rooted in developing strong musical foundations and technique while also embracing improvisation, even from an early stage, as a vehicle for self-expression and confidence building. His work as a music therapist has led him to believe that music education can have a positive impact on emotional and physical health. In his free time Wills enjoys mindfulness meditation, composing original music, biking, and experimenting with saxophone and flute electronic effects pedals.
Voice, Piano Ana holds a bachelors and masters from San Francisco State University where she studied classical voice. While in San Francisco she had a small private voice and piano studio where she focused on technique and musicianship building. She is a strong believer in healthy habit building in voice and body technique and incorporates techniques like Alexander and Feldenkrais with her students. Within her teaching, she provides her students with the foundations of music education which include sight reading, ear training, and theory. Students can expect a welcoming and patient atmosphere where their experience will be personalized to their own needs and desires. While Ana likes to bring a warm and encouraging environment to her studio, she has high expectations from her students and will do whatever she can to see them excel in their instrument.
While earning her degrees, Ana participated in music programs and concerts throughout California where she performed professionally and as a young artist. Her favorites include singing with the Buxtehude band, American Bach Soloists and Haymarket Opera Summer program.
Step the Beat, Drama Alex is a Seattle born multi instrumentalist, band leader, and theatrical comedian who broke into the Chicago scene in 2018. He has been making music since memories could form, but began his formal education through his band program at 12. He continued his education through the Gonzaga Jazz program followed by further education through involvement with jazz festivals in Seattle and Chicago. He currently is a singer songwriter, band leader of an experimental funkadelic brass house group, and a community builder through organizing a long running series of interdisciplinary jams.
In his theater experience, Alex is an improvisational comedian with over 10 years of experience at the Blue Door Theater, Jet City Improv, the iO theater, and the Second City Musical Conservatory. He has been in several independent stage plays through the Annoyance and Pocket Theater.
Alex’s pedagogy is holistic and community oriented in nature. He believes that ultimately music, and performance as a whole, should be for people, by people, and with people. His philosophy of musical humanism is what fosters a supportive environment for students of all backgrounds to connect and learn from each other to advance the art to new vistas.
Guitar, Bass, Jam Session - Born and raised in the Chicago area, Colin began playing bass and guitar at the age of 14 and has been an active musician and instructor ever since. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music business from Southern Illinois University, as well as a master’s degree in jazz studies from DePaul University. Colin also co-formed the jazz/funk trio Spare Parts who are currently signed to the Grammy winning label Ropeadope Records. Colin can also be found freelancing in a wide range of bands around Chicago and beyond. He has performed with notable musicians including Grammy winning bassist Victor Wooten, SNL bandleader / saxophonist Lenny Pickett, virtuoso guitarist Fareed Haque, and drummer Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction to name a few. Colin focuses on connecting his students to music by developing fundamentals and repertoire, as well as the student’s specific musical interests. He works to introduce his students to new music whenever possible and always encourages their own exploration.
Piano: Chicago native and Musical Chairs alum began playing piano at the age of six. During high school, Ethan spent his Saturdays at Merit participating in their prestigious Tuition-free Conservatory. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Lawrence University studying under Anthony Padilla, and his Master’s Degree from DePaul University where he studied with George Vatchnadze and Marta Aznavoorian. He has won numerous awards and scholarships and participated in festivals and competitions nationally and internationally. Since 2018, Ethan has been a member of the piano faculty at the Merit School of Music and Musical Chairs Studio. He is also currently the organist at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church and pianist with the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra.
Theater - Alex has been teaching and directing since 2011, and has an associate’s in child development from Ashworth College. A performance artist who has worked in Minneapolis, Denver, and now Chicago, Alex loves helping students discover the magic of theater through staging, choreography, and song.”
Emily Wright is an American soprano originally from Florence, Kentucky. Emily obtained her Master’s degree in Voice Performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts in 2023. Performing in multiple world premieres during her time at CCPA ignited her passion for new music and contemporary opera. She attended the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts in 2016 for Vocal Music, and received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina in 2021, studying Vocal Music and Economics.
Emily enjoys and has experience working with students of all ages. She prioritizes creating a positive, safe environment where students can develop consistent, sustainable techniques in both voice and piano. She believes in the power of play, and wants her students to have fun and express themselves while also achieving their musical goals.
In her free time Emily loves to spend time by the lake, listen to pop music, and cuddle with her cat, Nicki.