(click on faculty names to view bios)
Guitar and Ukulele
Nicole Arendt – Kindermusik, Suzuki Piano
Nicole Arendt is a licensed Kindermusik educator and a Suzuki piano teacher. She received her Kindermusik training in Victoria and Edmonton and her Suzuki training in Pittsburgh. Nicole also has a Bachelor of Music (University of Alberta) and a Master of Music (University of Victoria) in percussion performance. She has performed with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, the Victoria Symphony, and presently plays with the Vancouver Island and Okanagan Symphony Orchestras. Nicole also performs as a recitalist and a chamber musician and has performed concerti with the Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra and the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra. She is a founding member of the Tan Trio along with Chris Helman (saxophone) and Trish Clair Peck (violin).
Nicole is passionate about sharing her love of music with others and has taught piano, percussion, and Kindermusik extensively in Alberta and British Columbia.
Nadya Blanchette – Voice
Nadya Blanchette leads a worldwide career which spans over 15 years of oustanding contributions (Cirque du Soleil, Vancouver Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, CBC radio & television, national anthems for the Montreal Canadians, Ave Maria at Pierre E. Trudeau’s State Funeral).
Fluent in 5 languages, Nadya Blanchette charms the audience, accomplice of her generosity and vibrant personality. She hosts conferences and events with panache and elegance. Her achievements include media, film & teaching projects. Nadya Blanchette created 7 shows and released 4 cds, aired on the radio.
Angela Birney – Piano
Angela Birney is a dynamic and engaging pianist who has been teaching and performing for over 20 years. Her guiding philosophy is to inspire and motivate her students to realize their potential while providing a patient and encouraging atmosphere.
Angela completed a Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo where she studied with Ralph Elsaesser. During her Laurier years, Angela played harpsichord with the WLU Baroque Ensemble, sang in the University Choir and accompanied both instrumentalists and vocalists at festivals and for juries and recitals.
Following a Master of Music degree from the University of Calgary Angela moved to Vancouver where she and her husband, also a musician, enjoy rewarding teaching and performing schedules. Angela is an active collaborative musician performing with students and professionals, ensembles and choirs. She has worked with the North Shore Light Opera Society and the North Shore Chamber Orchestra and accompanied the British Columbia Boys Choir, Corpus Christi College Chamber Choir, and Saint Patrick Secondary School choirs. She also plays viola and has been a member of the New Westminster Symphony and the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra. Angela enjoys teaching students of any age, including adults. She has extensive teaching experience with Royal Conservatory exams in both piano (all levels) and theory (Rudiments).
Jennifer Cluff – Flute
Jennifer Cluff holds a Bachelor’s degree in Flute Performance from The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, is an Associate in Performance with The Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto (A.R.C.T.) as well as Principal Flute of The Vancouver Island Symphony from 1995 to 2006.
Jennifer has appeared on numerous occasions as a soloist with the Vancouver Island Symphony, and performs frequently in recital in Nanaimo, Victoria and other parts of Vancouver Island as a chamber musician and as a guest artist of other orchestras and chamber ensembles. Jennifer is a popular Woodwind Adjudicator at The Pacific Northwest Music Festival, and has been the flute instructor for Malaspina University College and The Nanaimo Conservatory of Music since 1993.
Jennifer teaches advanced flutists, from grade 6 RCM to University level. Dedicated beginners and novice flutists are also welcome.
Jennifer’s website: www.jennifercluff.com
Carol Fetherston – Voice, Opera Workshop
Mezzo-soprano Carol Fetherston brings extensive experience to the faculty of Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, both as a vocal soloist and as voice teacher/coach. Born in Vancouver, Carol obtained a B.Music from U.B.C. and sang for a number of years with the Vancouver Opera Association. She also obtained an A.R.C.T. in piano during this period. Moving to Toronto, she was accepted into the Opera School at the University of Toronto and continued to study voice with such prominent coaches and teachers as Elizabeth Benson-Guy, Stuart Hamilton and Dixie and Ross Neil. Her roles included Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), Carmen (Carmen), Madellena (Rigoletto), Nickolaus (Tales of Hoffman), Lola (Cavaliera Rusticana), Principessa (Suor Angelica), Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus), Frugola (Il Tabarro), Flora (La Traviata) and Old Maid (Old Maid and the Thief). While working as a choral director for the Toronto Board of Education, Carol obtained her M.Music from the University of Toronto. She studied vocal pedagogy and choral conducting with Doreen Rao, and worked with the Elmer Eisler Singers, the choir-in-residence at the University of Toronto.
Since moving to Vancouver Island, Carol has performed as a soloist with the Malaspina Singers, Parksville Community Choir and the Cowichan Consort. She was recently the musical director/conductor for Opera Nanaimo’s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, as well as the music director/accompanist for Hansel and Gretel with Opera Nanaimo. Since 2017, Carol has been the musical director/accompanist for Echo Players’ production of Pirates of Penzance, Opera Nanaimo’s Voices in the Vineyard and rehearsal/orchestral accompanist for Vancouver Island University’s production of Sondheim’s Into the Woods.
Mary Jackson – Suzuki piano, voice
B. Mus., ARCT, AVCM, GTMLI, BCRMT
Mary Jackson began her piano studies at the age of five in Ladysmith. At seventeen, she moved to Victoria to study with Robin Wood at the University of Victoria, earning her Bachelor of Music degree with Distinction, followed by her ARCT in Piano Performance with First Class Honours. As a Suzuki Method specialist, Mary studied and instructed at Suzuki workshops and summer schools in Canada, the United States and Japan, and became a teacher trainer for the Suzuki Association of the Americas.
Mary studied Voice at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, where she earned her AVCM diploma in Voice Pedagogy, with Distinction. Besides teaching solo singing, she has directed choirs, sung with opera and musical theatre companies in Victoria, Kelowna and Kamloops, and coached children’s choruses for Pacific Opera Victoria and Viva Musica (Kelowna).
Over the years, several of her former students have successfully embraced music as a profession, but Mary loves to work with people of all ages and abilities, and her deepest satisfaction comes from helping students with less obvious gifts explore potential they didn’t know they had.
Leslie Krull – Violin, Intermezzo Strings Orchestra
Leslie studied with John Chlumecky through the Vancouver Academy of Music before moving to Gabriola Island in 1979 where she studied with Heilwig von Koenigsloew at the Central Vancouver Island Community Music School, now the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music. Leslie played a number of years with both the Nanaimo Symphony Orchestra and the Mount Benson Philharmonic, before becoming a member of the Vancouver Island Symphony for seven years, where, in addition to her musical role, she acted as librarian and board member.
Recently, Leslie has held the principal second violin seat in the Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra and is principal violinist with Trio Chocolat. Having taught for eighteen years, Leslie has entered many students in the Upper Island Music Festival with great results, and is excited to expand her teaching practice to include Suzuki Method at the Conservatory.
Alex Lee – Cello, Suzuki Cello
Newly arrived to the city of Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, cellist Alexandra Lee joins as an instructor at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music. She brings along her family: Nicholas Ross (violinist and trumpet player) and their two young children.
Alexandra leaves behind her position of Principal Cellist of the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, as well as students of her own, in Sudbury Ontario. She will be taking over the cello studio of
Hannah Wilson, a cellist at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, and a professor at Vancouver Island University. “I happened to meet Hannah Wilson’s mother Jane when I was teaching chamber music with the Silver Birch String Quartet at a Quebec summer music camp. It was the
last contract that my quartet was doing and Jane casually asked me, ‘Are you interested in teaching cello in Nanaimo?’ Alexandra remembers, “I was surprised and intrigued! I did some
more research and submitted my resumé, and, to make a long story short, here I am!”
In inheriting Hannah Wilson’s cello studio, Alexandra will be teaching a wide range of ages and levels, from preschool age to retirees, as well as directing a cello choir. Teaching strategies include the renowned Suzuki method, based on the “mother-tongue” method of teaching
young children. Group classes and monthly “Cello Café” are also planned for the future. We may even see her latest community arts project “Cello Steps” for cello and dancemob, or her
programming for young children “Contes d’un violoncelle” / “Cello Tales” in French or English. “I like bringing the cello to people in creative ways,” says Alexandra, “It is especially a joy to
introduce the instrument to young children. They are so entranced by the sound of the cello, and they teach me how to listen with new ears.”
Though the teaching position at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music has allowed her the opportunity to relocate across the country, Alexandra admits that family was a big part of their
decision. “My parents are here on Vancouver Island, and my sister lives just across on the mainland. Now that I have young children of my own, I have felt an ever stronger urge to be closer to them,” Alexandra says, “I feel lucky to be given the opportunity to teach at the
Nanaimo Conservatory, and excited to be relocating closer to my family here in British Columbia.” Her two young children are already bonding with their grandparents, and enjoying the delights of life by the sea. “My eldest has taken the Twinkle melody and changed the lyrics
to list the names of all the whales,” Alexandra says, “so needless to say, they are loving it out here!”
James Mark – Advanced Violin
James was born and raised on the West Coast of Canada and has been studying music since the age of four. While in high school, James performed with many renowned acts, including Ashley MacIsaac, Spirit of the West, and also recorded an album with The Irish Rovers. James did his undergraduate degree at York University in Toronto and graduated in June, 2002, earning an honors BFA cum laude. He was also presented with an award for outstanding achievement in the Fine Arts. James completed his Master’s degree in performance and composition at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where he went on to become a faculty member teaching theory and musicianship. In May of 2005, James moved back to his hometown of Nanaimo, in western Canada. He has been performing frequently with the Vancouver Island Symphony, as well as composing for film and television. Recently, James has been hired as violin performance faculty at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, as well as sessional faculty at Malaspina University-College.
James’ website: http://www.jamesmarkmusic.com
Teresa Marusarz-Borek – Piano, Theory
Born and raised in Poland, Teresa began her piano studies at the age of six and later on obtained a Master of Music degree in Piano and Theory from the K. Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice. Following graduation, Teresa enjoyed a varied and successful career in Poland, first as a piano coach and accompanist at the Silesian Opera House. After 2 years with the Opera, she joined the Silesian Philharmonic and, as a member of the orchestra, she performed and toured across Europe. Later, she held the position of Programme Director for the orchestra. After moving to Canada in 1985, Teresa obtained a Teaching Diploma at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and, in 1989, she started teaching in her private studio. In 1997, she joined the faculty of the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music as a piano and theory teacher. She has also been a piano instructor and accompanist at Vancouver Island University since 1998.
Teresa has vast experience in teaching piano students of all ages, from beginner to advanced levels, offering a classical music program allowing her students to participate in the internationally-recognized Certificate Program of the Royal Conservatory of Music, as well as contemporary and popular styles. She also teaches theory classes, including all levels of Rudiments, History, Harmony and Analysis.
Teresa is a member of the B.C. Registered Music Teachers Association and F. Chopin Society.
Teresa’s website: http://teresab.ca/discoverpiano/
Brendan Millbank – Cello
Brendan Millbank has studied and performed cello for over twenty years, receiving his formal training abroad, while attending music schools in countries such as Great Britain, Holland, and the United States. In addition to his formal training, Brendan has participated in numerous string programs, including the Indiana String Academy, The Colbourn School of Music, and the Banff Centre for the Arts, and has been involved in master classes with, among others, Yo-Yo Ma, Janos Stalker, and Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi.
Having studied with an assortment of internationally-acclaimed teachers, including Joan Dickson from the Royal Academy of Music, Ronald Leonard of USC, Pamela Highbaugh-Aloni of UVIC and Dmitri Ferschtman of the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam, Brendan brings a wealth of knowledge to his students. His teaching encompasses basic technique, posture, and playing for beginners, as well as tuition in theory, musicality, and performance, for intermediate to more advanced talents.
Karl Rainer – Suzuki Violin, Violin, Viola, Prelude Orchestra, Junior Orchestra
Karl studied violin with Karoly Sziladi and Joseph Berljawski. He is currently the Music Director and concertmaster of the Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra, and was a founding member of the Waterloo Chamber Players. His orchestral experience includes the KW Chamber Orchestra, the Guelph Chamber Orchestra and the Waterloo Chamber Players, among many others, in addition to performing in many musicals. Karl also currently plays, on occasion, with the Vancouver Island Symphony.
His concert chamber music appearances include the Leith String Quartet and the Nero String Quartet, among others. Since moving to Nanaimo in 2005, Karl has completed a Bachelor of Education degree from Vancouver Island University, and acquired certification as a Suzuki violin teacher.
Nicholas Ross – Violin, Suzuki Violin, Trumpet, Beginning Brass
A native of Ottawa, Nicholas Ross studied both violin and trumpet at the University of Ottawa with John Gomez and Pace Sturdevant respectively. He has extensive professional experience as a member of a number of Canadian orchestras, including the Thunder Bay Symphony, the Ottawa Symphony, Orchestre symphonique de Laval, Charlottetown Festival Orchestra, Sudbury Symphony (Principal Second Violin) and the North Bay Symphony (as Principal Second Violin and Acting Concertmaster). He performs on a violin made in Toronto by Masa Inokuchi.
Nicholas has taught trumpet and violin both privately and at such institutions as Camp Lanaudière, the National Capital Music Academy, École secondaire De La Salle and Cambrian College; and has been a sectional coach for the Ottawa and Thunder Bay Youth Orchestras. He has also been sought after as an adjudicator in Ottawa, Sudbury, and across Northern Ontario. He was an instructor at the Sudbury Symphony Conservatory, and he recently he presented a lecture recital on the violin at Laurentian University. He is trained as a Violin Instructor in the Suzuki Method.
Having appeared often as a chamber musician, he has performed in the Timmins Symphony Chamber Series, Thunder Bay’s “Beethoven Festival 2000”, the Sudbury Symphony’s Chamber Series, the Ottawa International Jazz Festival, and with the Silver Birch String Quartet. Some recent concert appearances in Sudbury have been: as a violinist in the Silver Birch Concert Series; as violin soloist with the Elmer Iseler Singers; and in Jane Russell’s Pop-Up Concert Series.
For the 2015-17 seasons, Nicholas was the Music Director of the Sudbury Chamber Singers. Throughout his musical career he has been involved with vocal ensembles: Calixa-Lavallée Chamber Choir; Octatonic Decandence (Sudbury) to name a couple. He has also conducted choral ensembles such as the National Capital Music Academy Choir, the To•ne Chamber Choir (Thunder Bay) and, most recently, Corvus (Sudbury).
Now proud to make Nanaimo his home, he is looking forward to being a part of its vibrant music community.
Marilyn Rummel – Harp, Elements of Music
Marilyn Rummel teaches lever harp to both children and adults at the Conservatory. Students study traditional Celtic styles of harping, classical techniques and music, and traditional tunes from around the world. She has played harp for 35 years, and has studied with some of the finest harpists on the continent and in South America. Exams may be taken up to the grade 10 level. Marilyn has taught band and choir at the elementary and secondary levels, and regularly teaches her Elements of Music classes, providing theory and musicianship training through movement and singing (and no paper!) which is heavily influenced by the work of Dalcrose, Zoltan Kodaly, and Mary Helen Richards. Marilyn also leads group classes for harps for both kids and adults. It’s not too late to learn–and it’s never too early to begin–to play this magical instrument.
Katrina Russell – Bassoon
Born and raised in Edmonton, Katrina Russell obtained her Bachelor of Music Degree in Performance from the University of Victoria. Further studies took her to Toronto, Banff, and then to Boston, Massachusetts, where she attended the New England Conservatory of Music. There she was able to pursue her interest in the Baroque bassoon, and was granted a Graduate Diploma Historical Performance with distinction in performance.
Armed only with a handful of bassoons and a desire to play them, Katrina moved to London, England, where she was lucky enough to spend eighteen years playing them (as well as several others that presented themselves along the way). Specializing in historical performance, she played and recorded with many of the period instrument ensembles in Britain and Europe, including the English Concert, the King’s Consort, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Academy of Ancient Music, the Hanover Band, the Gabrieli Consort and Players, L’Orchestre de la Champs Elysees, the Orchestra of “The Sixteen”, and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra.
After several years of return visits to Canada to play with Early Music Vancouver ensembles and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Katrina and her husband (British horn player Andrew Clark) relocated to the West Coast in late 2010, and are currently establishing themselves near Ladysmith, where they are also setting up a specialty brass-making workshop, producing horns and trumpets.
Marian Smith – Director – Nanaimo Youth Choir
Since the age of four, Marian Smith has pursued a life in music. She came to Nanaimo in 1991 from Calgary, where she had been professionally involved for more than twenty years as an accompanist of choirs who toured and competed in many international festivals. She also taught piano, and had positions as an organist and choir director.
In 1992, she founded the Nanaimo Youth Choir program as part of the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music. Since then, she has seen it grow and receive awards and invitations to many events on the Island and throughout BC and Alberta. Besides teaching voice and conducting a community choir for adults, Marian is also a clinician for children’s choir events. Her choirs and students have been consistent winners in local festivals and have been recommended to compete in the BC Festival of the Arts.
In addition to the above, Marian also works as an organist and an accompanist by request.
Cindy Speelman – Suzuki Flute, Flute, Recorder, Flute Ensemble, Recorder Ensemble
Cindy Speelman graduated from University of Lethbridge in 1999 with a Bachelor of Music degree in Flute Performance. She has also completed her AVCM certificate for teaching at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. She is a member of the BC Registered Music Teachers Association (BCRMTA). Cindy has performed with many different groups, and performs regularly with several ensembles around Central Vancouver Island. Cindy has been teaching private and group flute lessons for over 15 years in Alberta, Victoria and Nanaimo. She currently teaches flute, recorder, and Suzuki Flute at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, and was paramount in bringing the Suzuki Flute program to Vancouver Island through the Conservatory. Her students range in age from 3 to adult, and vary in musical experience.
Pippa Williams – Oboe, Piano, Saxophone
Pippa received her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto, her A.R.C.T. from the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto), and her Masters of Music degree from the University of Western Washington.
A teacher of piano, oboe, and saxophone, she is a member of the BC Music Teacher’s Association. Pippa has performed with many orchestras across Canada, and is currently a member of the Vancouver Island Symphony.