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Coastal Dance and Music Academy

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Meet Our Wonderful Team

Owners

Kathy Schultz, Co-Owner / Director

Kathy holds a Master's of Education and a teaching credential from Cal Poly. She has taught in a variety of capacities including the public school setting as a dance specialist for Children’s Creative Project, Bellevue Santa Fe Charter School, and Ocean View Elementary School, and as a guest teacher for the ACE Camps summer program. Kathy studied, taught, and choreographed at the Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo for 15 years. While at the Academy of Dance she also directed performance troupes and served as the executive director of the Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo. She was one of several choreographers featured in an international tour of The People’s Republic of China. Kathy was able to fulfill a dream when she opened her own studio, Coastal Dance, in Shell Beach in 2004. Due to the incredibly positive reaction, the fledgling studio was soon too small for it’s growing number of students. Therefore, in February of 2008, with the help of family and dear friends, Kathy expanded her growing studio to a beautiful new facility in Arroyo Grande, CA, adding music, voice, theater, and fitness to her program. Coastal Dance has now become Coastal Dance and Music Academy (CDMA).


Kathy has been a contributing choreographer for Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California. Her work has been featured in the dance department’s productions of Dance Spectrum and Dimensions in Dance. She currently teaches jazz, tap, and ballet to all ages at Coastal Dance and Music Academy, and is the Director of the Performance Troupe. In 2008, Kathy and Tara became the founders of Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet, a non-profit ballet company. Her family-oriented, up-beat and polished performance troupe shows have received rave reviews wherever they have performed. Kathy’s loving, nurturing, and positive teaching style continues to be the guiding force behind Coastal Dance and Music Academy.

 
Tara Behnke, Co-Owner / Assistant Director

Tara has been dancing since the age of three. She fell in love with performing immediately and has loved being on stage ever since. As a young artist, she began her study of classical ballet at the Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo. Her training immediately broadened to include pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical, musical theater, contemporary, and hip hop. Along with dance conventions, Tara has trained at West Side Ballet, Zeal Studio, and the Edge in Los Angeles as well as Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. She was the top scholarship winner at the Dance in Action Convention in 1998. Tara's intense schedule of training provided the foundation for a myriad of dance experiences including national and international tours to Spain, China and Cuba. Tara has danced with several professional level companies in SLO county, including All Things Contemporary Dance Company, the San Luis Jazz Dancers for eleven years and the Civic Ballet Company for seven years. As on of the company’s principal dancers, she performed in numerous roles in productions such as the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and original works, and danced the lead of Maria in West Side Story and Nancy in Since I saw Her Standing There, a Beatles ballet.


Tara holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Child Development and Psychology from Cal Poly. The research for her senior project focused on how extracurricular activities influence positive developmental outcomes during adolescence. She is now fascinated with immersing child developmental theory into her teaching. Tara has been teaching dance and directing performing groups in San Luis Obispo county since 2002. Tara joined Coastal Dance as a guest teacher in 2005, and in 2008 she joined forces with Kathy as they expanded Coastal Dance to it’s Grand Avenue location, adding “and Music Academy.” At that time, they became the Founders of Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet, a non-profit ballet company. Tara is a contributing choreographer for CDMA’s Summer Intensive Programs, Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet’s Babes In Toyland productions, and Morro Bay High School’s 2009 Dance Intensive. Tara’s diverse teaching experience expands beyond dance, including public preschool and working with students with autism. Tara is the Assistant Director and Owner of Coastal Dance and Music Academy as well as an instructor of jazz, contemporary, pointe, ballet, and contemporary pointe, Performance Troupe Director, and CDMA’s web designer.


 
Molly McKiernan, Artistic Director Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet

Molly's first ballet class was at the age of 5 at her neighbor Mary Coudin Snyder's studio. Her dance training continued at American Dance and then to Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo where she spent many years studying ballet and jazz as a young dancer. At age 10, Molly auditioned for the prestigious Ballet Austin in Texas and was accepted to the program for 3 years of formal training and performing children's roles in their production of The Nutcracker.


After returning to Academy of Dance, Molly auditioned and became a member of the Civic Ballet of San  Luis Obispo. For more then 11 years she performed corps de ballet, solo and principal roles for the ballet company including Snow Queen, Rose Queen and Sugarplum Fairy. Contemporary roles in Alice in Wonderland,  West Side Story,  Where the Wild Things Are and soloist for Jon Anderson's "Earth Mother Earth". She was invited and performed as Lead Guest Artist for 2 seasons of Carmel Ballet's Nutcracker and furthered her training with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.


Molly's passion for dance transitioned into a desire to teach and choreograph. She was appointed Artistic Director for 2 seasons of  the Civic Ballet's well received Sleeping Beauty at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center, Master Ballet Teacher for Dance in Action's Summer Convention in Hawaii, Guest Choreographer at  The San Luis Obispo Little Theatre for "Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison Legend Shows" and Co-Director for their ACT Children's Broadway Camp programs, Artistic Director for The San Luis Jazz Dancers, Choreographer for Alan Hancock's Spectrum and Cal Poly's Orchesis Dance Company, performer/choreographer for Academy of Dance's international dance exchange in China, Cuba and Spain, Co-creator and Teacher for San Luis Coastal Unified School District's  Elementary PE/Dance program which provided an enrichment through dance for over 1200 students a year.

 
Meghan Betts, Dance Instructor

Meghan began her dance training at the age of 4 where she studied classical ballet at the Classical School of Ballet in Lompoc (formerly the Sue Dalton School of ballet). Here she danced her heart away for 15 years. During those 15 years Meghan performed in many studio ballet productions which included excerpts from the classical ballets of Coppelia, the Nutcracker and a leading role in Markitenka. She also received training in tap and jazz. In 2007 Meghan danced as a part of the Allen Hancock College dance department for 2 years where she dove deeper into her passion of dance. She participated in multiple shows where she danced in pieces that included ballet, lyrical, modern, tap and jazz. During this time Meghan was a part of Children’s Creative project where she brought her love of dance into elementary school classrooms around the Santa Maria Valley. This is where her two passions met- dancing and teaching children. She later moved to Sacramento to continue her education as well as her dance passion. She danced for one year at Sacramento State University, where she received training in classical ballet and tap. Meghan holds a Bachelors of Arts in Child Development from Sacramento State University.

 
Cami Johnson, Dance Instructor

Cami grew up here on the central coast and attended her first ballet class at the Academy of Dance in SLO at the age of three.  Her love of dance developed instantly and has only continued to grow through the years. She also discovered, early in her life, the joy of working with children. Cami attended San Jose State University where she studied ballet, tap, and jazz as she earned a degree in Child and Adolescent Development. During these college years up north, she was the coordinator of a child care program at a private elementary school and also had the opportunity to teach beginning ballet and tap to children of low-income families at a Family Life Community Center. After graduating college, her journey into motherhood began and she moved back to the central coast to raise her family. She jumped at the chance to be part of the CDMA family in March 2011 and is thrilled to share her love of dance with young children.

 
Jesse Parra, Dance Instructor

Jesse Parra was born in Fresno County, and moved to the Central Coast with his family for the better life that it provided. Jesse started dance classes during his junior year of high school at Arroyo Grande High, and has been hooked ever since. He currently teaches hippity hop and breakdancing here at CDMA. Specializing in breakdancing and hip hop, he practices every day, anywhere, anytime. If there's music playing, Jesse will be dancing!

 

Program Directors

Dance Instructors

Ben Reyes, Dance Instructor

Ben has been involved in dance at Allan Hancock College since 1983, first as a student and dancer, and later as a choreographer and currently an instructor on campus. He has participated in AHC Dance Ensemble since its beginnings, performed and choreographed for numerous dance concerts, and taught for the Youth Dance Company in the AHC College for Kids program. He has been a guest choreographer and dancer for Cal Poly's Orchesis dance productions 1995-2001. He has also been an instructor for Class Act Dance studio in Paso Robles and a guest choreographer for high schools in and out of the area. Ben is a jazz, hip hop, boy’s technique and partnering instructor at Coastal Dance and Music Academy.

 

Music and Voice Instructors

Claudia Bessette, Music Director

Claudia began piano lessons in second grade and has been hooked on making music ever since! Singing in choirs or playing in an instrumental ensembles ever since then, she has participated in many opportunities to bring music to others. Throughout her school years, she sang in concert choirs, pop choirs, large ensembles, small ensembles, jazz choirs, played oboe and percussion in marching band, concert band, and orchestra, played piano in jazz band, and accompanied singers and instrumentalists.  Claudia worked across the country in a variety of Las Vegas based groups and shows before earning her Bachelors and Master of Music degrees. Specializing in music education, she has taught every age level of choirs, from little ones to adults, working as a school choral director, music educator, director of music in musical stage productions, and festival organizer. She has taught private voice and piano students since 1994 and was the guest conductor for the Nevada Northern Zone Middle-School Honor Choir 2010. She has served as Co-Chair to the Clark County Nevada High School Honor Choir, as member of the Nevada Music Educators High School All-State Choir Audition Committee, and served as the American Choral Directors Association Nevada Multicultural and Ethnic Choral Music Repertoire & Standards Chair.  Claudia has for many years been an active member of The American Choral Directors Association, The National Association for Music Education, and The National Association for Teachers of Singing. A new resident to the Central Coast, she is excited to be the Director of Music for CDMA!

 
Natalia Salsbury, Theater Director

Natalia has a BA in Theatre Arts from Cal Poly. She is also a former graduate of the actors training program at PCPA and has worked professionally with PCPA in a few of their summer fests in numerous roles. She has worked with Sorcerer Productions for the past four years as Executive Producer and Artistic Director, and has enjoyed portraying roles such as Christine Colgate in the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Her ultimate goal is to merge Sorcerer with a company that can evoke training to adults but especially to youth and that is why she is excited to be joining CD&MA. Natalia wants to thank the man she loves Jeff Salsbury for his encouragement and for being her best friend. Finally, she is grateful to her wonderful parents Alberto and Marcia and loving children Lucas and Josie for their continuous love and support. She wants her family to know that she loves them very much! 

 
Karen “Kaz” Kahn Pearson, Dance Instructor

Karen, known to most as "Kaz", is a Kindergarten teacher in Santa Maria. She has been singing and dancing her entire life. She trained with The Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo from age 5 all the way through college where she was a member of several performing groups including The San Luis Jazz Dancers and The Civic Ballet. She also instructed everything from adult classes to preschoolers to performing groups there for several years. Musically, she started as a Voice Major at Cal Poly where she sang with several groups including Polyphonics and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Karen is also heavily involved with musical theatre and her love for performing took her all the way to New York for 2 years. She has performed in several productions here on the central coast everywhere from The Great American Melodrama, SLO Little Theatre and Sorcerer Productions. Favorite roles have included "Anita" in West Side Story, "Charity Hope Valentine" in Sweet Charity and "The Chaperone" in The Drowsy Chaperone. Karen is happy to be welcomed into the CDMA family!

 
Beverly Dahlke-Smith, Music Instructor

Beverly is a talented music industry woodwind professional with many years of performing and recording experience. She has worked with such music industry heavyweights as Les Brown, Elton John, The LA Philharmonic, The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Tom Petty, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Michael Bolton, to name just a few. In addition to many live performances and tours, she has performed on recordings for many features films, television shows, radio and television commercials, and music CDs. Beverly has the distinction of being the only female instrumentalist ever to be a member of the Les Brown Band of Renown. In addition, she was also the first female instrumentalist ever hired to be a part of the Harry James Band and also the first woman to be a full time member of a studio band for a TV talk show - the Joan Rivers Show. Beverly is a keyboard and woodwind instructor at Coastal Dance and Music Academy.

 
Teresa Gasca-Burk, Music and Movement Instructor

Teresa has been teaching music and movement to children on the Central Coast for 15 years. She began at the Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo teaching Creative Movement to preschoolers. Word of her wonderful work with children spread and she was asked to present a class for the young students at Shell Beach Elementary. She expanded her program to include basic music theory and appreciation for the young. She has now shared her program with students from Shell Beach Elementary, Bellevue Santa Fe Charter School and Robin’s Rugrats Preschool. Teresa performs in the community for children with her band BIRDIE. Along with her husband and writing partner, Gary, she has written and recorded two original CD’s for children titled, “Birdie,” and “Birdie-My Family Tree.” Her music can be found on iTunes, CDBaby, Pandora, and Rhapsody.

 
Tom Mears, Music Instructor

Tom has been instructing students of all ages in the fundamentals, techniques and musicality of drums and percussion for over 20 years. Tom recently moved from Las Vegas to San Luis Obispo and will be continuing his successful teaching style to future drummers on the Central Coast. Tom has already found his niche playing drums for the SLO County Band and the White Caps. Tom's musical background includes studying with the principle percussionist of the Kalamazoo, Michigan Symphony Orchestra and playing with the Western Michigan University Concert Band, Symphony Orchestra, and Percussion Ensemble. As a music major at Western Michigan University, he composed several pieces for percussion and drum ensembles. As a multi-percussionist and drummer, Tom has found many opportunities to showcase his talents in virtually every type of music ranging from country to jazz to rock and has played with numerous bands. Tom is also a certified drum therapist with an international program, Drums and Disabilities (D.A.D.) a non-profit organization that helps children and adults with Autism, Dyslexia, ADD, Tourette's, Asperger’s, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and other disabilities, to develop retention, coordination, social skills, sensory integration, fine motor skills, and physical and cognitive functioning. The DAD Program is featured in school systems, hospitals, health facilities, and community centers throughout the world.  TO LEARN MORE ABOUT  D.A.D. PLEASE VISIT www.dadprogram.org

 
Matthew Goodman, Music Instructor

Matthew received an Associate of Arts from Cuesta College in Music Performance, where he studied guitar under Jeff Miley and Jennifer Martin, the chair of the Cuesta Music Department. Ms. Martin is the conductor of the Cuesta Wind Ensemble of which Matthew played percussion for two years.  Additionally, he sang in the choir, Mixed Chorus, at Cuesta College. Matthew is currently attending Cal Poly University, where he is studying guitar under James Bachman.  Matthew is a member of the Cal Poly Classical Guitar Ensemble. Matthew has composed a piece of music for the Ensemble that they will be performing this year, and has also participated in three Master Classes with Dr. W. Terrence Spiller. He is a recipient of the Lucien Morrison Memorial Scholarship and the Janet Lee Memorial Scholarship. 

 

Theater Instructors

Natalia Salsbury, Theater Director/Instructor

Natalia has a BA in Theatre Arts from Cal Poly. She is also a former graduate of the actors training program at PCPA and has worked professionally with PCPA in a few of their summer fests in numerous roles. She has worked with Sorcerer Productions for the past four years as Executive Producer and Artistic Director, and has enjoyed portraying roles such as Christine Colgate in the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Her ultimate goal is to merge Sorcerer with a company that can evoke training to adults but especially to youth and that is why she is excited to be joining CD&MA. Natalia wants to thank the man she loves Jeff Salsbury for his encouragement and for being her best friend. Finally, she is grateful to her wonderful parents Alberto and Marcia and loving children Lucas and Josie for their continuous love and support. She wants her family to know that she loves them very much! 

 
Paulette Messenheimer, Theater Instructor

Paulette has directed theater workshops and plays in Greensboro, Colorado, Chicago and Topanga, CA since graduating from Indiana University. She has instructed students from 6 years to adult and has helped students explore drama using imagination, text, and props. The range of Paulette’s work includes Street Theatre of The Singer in church, the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland with an LA Community Block Grant for teens, to creative dramatics with children in the City of San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department.

 

Office Staff

Suzanne Eisworth, Bookkeeper

Suzanne graduated from Cal Poly in 1991 with a B.S. in Physical Education and a minor in Psychology. While in recent years she has devoted herself to raising her family, she has also worked in administration for Cannon Associates, Staff Builders Home Health Care and Wells Fargo Bank. Suzanne lives in Shell Beach with her husband, Ron, and their three children. When not working, Suzanne is passionate about physical fitness, home projects, and spending time with and supporting her family. Suzanne is the bookkeeper at Coastal Dance and Music Academy.

 
Shannon Freeby, CDMA & CCYB Managing Director

Shannon graduated from CSU, Stanislaus in 1994 with a BA in English. Her main focus is raising and educating three elementary to college-age children with her husband Brent. Over the past years, she has worked for San Luis Medical Clinic, Mission Medical Associates and Grace Bible Church in administrative and educational roles. In addition to her work as Office Manager and Costume Coordinator at CDMA, she teaches literature and philosophy to home schooled high school students.

 

Ilona Jill Meza, President - Board of Directors, Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet, Office Volunteer

With a business degree, Ilona Jill has built two diverse careers.  She spent many years with CBS Television/Radio stations in L.A. and consulting in stations throughout California.  In her second career she ventured further afield working for Marriott Hotels and opening properties worldwide.  Throughout her work history she always made time to work with and for non-profit agencies. While working for CBS she became Public Relations Director for the March of Dimes, with emphasis on all aspects of public education and fund raising.  During her tenure her successful relationships with CBS and other media groups, enough money was raised to build the first handicapped children’s playground in the U.S.  As President of the non-profit Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet Company, she is proud to be part of organizing the annual gift performance of Babes In Toyland to the community through CAP-SLO and other non-profit organizations.

Now, she and her Service Dog, Epie, are delighted to be part of the CDMA family.  Always a patron of the arts she feels right at home and enjoys watching the growth and development of all the dancers.

Copyright © 2014-2015 - Coastal Dance and Music Academy. All Rights Reserved.

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Epie Meza, Office Dog!

A package deal, Epie comes as part of the package with Ilona Jill. Epie, who is Ilona’s Service Dog, alerts to both her diabetic and heart conditions. Epie has proven that she considers CDMA home because she has successfully “alerted” to low blood sugars for both students and teachers, preventing any serious problems. As a dancer Epie has effectively learned to Pirouette and is adorable in her custom Tutu. She is currently working on her double Pirouette turns and leaps through hula hoops. 

 
Natalie Garay, Dance Instructor

Natalie began her dance career at the age of 5 studying ballet, tap and jazz. She continued to dance until she attended Junior high school then took a long break to play competitive sports.  When moving to Santa Barbara to attend college, she fell in love with dance all over again and took every dance class available.  Two years later she decided to audition for the dance department at the University of California at Santa Barbara.  She studied ballet, modern dance and pointe, as well as choreographed and performed in many shows until she graduated in 1999 with her Bachelor’s in Dance from UCSB. Upon graduation she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dance career.  She studied ballet, hip-hop, and jazz dance at The Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles and danced with Word in Motion Dance Company.

Natalie is also a certified Pilates Instructor with 9 years of teaching experience.  She recently moved to the Central Coast and loves it! She enjoys Pilates, Dance, reading, traveling and hitting the beach with her daughters.


 
Hannah Mann, Music Instructor

Hannah began playing violin when she was 11 years old. During her first year she immediately joined the San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony where she played until she graduated High School at age 17. During that time she also played with the San Luis Symphony twice for the children’s day concerts at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center. When she was 14 – 18, Hannah had a private music studio at her house where she taught violin and beginning to intermediate piano lessons to students of all ages. She then went on to attend Biola University’s Music Conservatory where she received a Bachelor in Music degree. Hannah has lived her entire life in Arroyo Grande with her parents, younger sister, and two dogs, Emma and Brooklyn. She has loved the central coast and music for as long as she can remember. Hannah is violin instructor at Coastal Dance and Music Academy

 
Abi Freeby, Dance Instructor

Abi has been performing since she was four years old and has always had a passion for it. In 2009 she started attending classes at CDMA and since then she has been involved in the programs offered. She is currently a senior company dancer in the CCYB company as well as a member of Le Jazz Hot, one of CDMA’s performance troupes. Abi has been assisting in classes for the past three years and recently graduated from the dance teacher training program at CDMA. She is constantly inspired by the energy of the children involved in the programs at CDMA and hopes to inspire them to pursue their artistic dreams in the future.

 
Brittany Jade Merrill, Dance Instructor

Brittany has danced since she was seven years old. She grew up in a ballet studio where she became part of the Civic Ballet Company. At a young age she was able to perform with a jazz company in China twice, Cuba and Russia. She played principle roles like Clara in Nutcracker and Queen of Hearts in Alice and Wonderland. She was offered scholarships to summer intensives at Joffrey Ballet, California Ballet, and Lines Ballet. She started her own Youth Contemporary Ballet Company, in which they performed with the SLO Symphony and all over California. Brittany then auditioned and was one of the twenty dancers to get on scholarship at the Edge Performing Arts Center in Hollywood. She has since gone on to work with many of the top choreographers. She has been a principle dancer in commercials such as the Nip/Tuck promo, Big Lots, Sensa, Che Banca and Danskin. She was also on this season of Fashion Star. Brittany has done stage shows for America’s Got Talent in Vegas, Disney, Sexy Hair, and a Latin show for international star Charo. She has done award shows like Guy’s Choice Spike TV, the Grammy’s, and the American Music Awards. She has danced for artists like Katy Perry, Leona Lewis, and Ameriie. She has done promo tours all over the U.S. and internationally. Brittany has recently just filmed a movie with Jessica Alba. She has done modeling for sportswear and dance articles as well. The last four years she has toured with Nuclear Cowboyz, a freestyle motocross show with dancers and acrobats. She has worked and helps choreograph for children, ballets, and girl groups. Brittany loves her work and how every different project brings about an amazing new experience!!



 
Corrina Gemignani, Dance Instructor

Bio coming soon.


 
Christine Hernandez, Dance Instructor

Christine Hernandez is a classically trained tap, jazz, and ballet dancer with experience ranging from studio work to theatre and film. She was an American Dance Idol Finalist, a dancer in the film American Son starting Nick Cannon, and a Bakersfield JAM Dance Team Member for the NBA Development League. Christine’s studies continued throughout the state of California to include salsa, hip hop, cheer, and break dancing in the early 2000’s. During that time, Christine began teaching private dance lessons to the youth in her community and has continued instructing students ages 3 and up for the past 11 years. Her work experience evolved to include choreography for events, pageants and multi-disciplinary dance instruction in that time. She was the lead instructor for several after school programs throughout the Bakersfield area, participated in the development of her family’s dance company, Planet Dance, in Wasco, CA and was positioned as their Ballet and Jazz Director for the past 5 years. Her love of dance is at the core of every rehearsal and class she leads and she works to reinforce each student’s passion and nurtures the skills they need to be strong, confident, and successful artists.



 

Special Abilities Instructors

Deanna Duarte, Special Abilities Instructor

Deanna has a degree in education and holds an Education Specialist Credential. She has worked for over 10 years with children, beginning with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education as a Behavior Health Specialist, where she worked directly with students on the autism spectrum or with other behavior needs, and as a Special Education teacher, working with a variety of students in different circumstances. She is trained in the MOVE Program (Mobility Opportunities Via Education/Experience), has collaborated with Adaptive PE teachers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, music therapists, art teachers, and other professionals to develop and implement programs to enrich the lives of her students.

 
Liz Muguira, Dance Instructor

Liz was born and raised in Northern New Jersey where she discovered her love of dance at an early age. The granddaughter of a professional dancer, naturally, Liz started dancing at the young age of three at The Mckenna School of Dance, owned by Annette Mckenna, her grandmother. By seven years old she was studying ballet at the Garden State Ballet in New Jersey under the direction of Fred and Steven Danielli. There she participated in various roles in the Nutcracker for several years before dancing the role of Clara when she was ten. Liz continued to study ballet until her early 20’s, at which time she took some time off to pursue school and start a family.  Liz has passed her passion for dance on to her two children and gets so much joy out of watching them do what they love. Sharing her passion and knowledge of dance to her students and working in the office at CDMA is a dream job!

 
Claudia Bessette, Music Director/Voice Instructor

Claudia began piano lessons in second grade and has been hooked on making music ever since! Singing in choirs or playing in an instrumental ensembles ever since then, she has participated in many opportunities to bring music to others. Throughout her school years, she sang in concert choirs, pop choirs, large ensembles, small ensembles, jazz choirs, played oboe and percussion in marching band, concert band, and orchestra, played piano in jazz band, and accompanied singers and instrumentalists.  Claudia worked across the country in a variety of Las Vegas based groups and shows before earning her Bachelors and Master of Music degrees. Specializing in music education, she has taught every age level of choirs, from little ones to adults, working as a school choral director, music educator, director of music in musical stage productions, and festival organizer. She has taught private voice and piano students since 1994 and was the guest conductor for the Nevada Northern Zone Middle-School Honor Choir 2010. She has served as Co-Chair to the Clark County Nevada High School Honor Choir, as member of the Nevada Music Educators High School All-State Choir Audition Committee, and served as the American Choral Directors Association Nevada Multicultural and Ethnic Choral Music Repertoire & Standards Chair.  Claudia has for many years been an active member of The American Choral Directors Association, The National Association for Music Education, and The National Association for Teachers of Singing. A new resident to the Central Coast, she is excited to be the Director of Music for CDMA!

 
Sarah Pullings, Special Abilities Instructor

Sarah has been working with children for about 10 years ranging from teaching theater to working as a behavior therapist. Sarah started working with children at the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre. She started out as an assistant and worked her way up to a Stage Manager/Assistant Director and then became the Executive Director of the ACT program. Sarah has also been involved in teaching dance for the last 4 years in Texas and Oregon at several different studios. For the last year and a half she has been working in Arroyo Grande as a preschool and after school teacher in several programs, the most current being Bright Futures YMCA program at Harloe Elementary and the United Methodist Children’s Center (UMCC) which is where she is currently working. Sarah has also recently worked at STAR of California as a Behavior Therapist specializing in children who have Autism. Sarah is currently working on her BA in Liberal Studies at the University of La Verne and is finishing her AA in Early Childhood Education at Cuesta Community College. Sarah loves inspiring and working with all children to promote a child’s greatest ability through expression and movement. 

 
Julie Harper, Music/Voice Instructor

Julie Harper is an experienced, encouraging, and expert teacher, with 13 successful years of voice, piano, and beginning guitar instruction, as well as chorus and preschool music direction. Classically trained on piano, Julie went on to study singing with retired opera singer Nella Girolo in San Luis Obispo County, and later in Boston, Mass., with a Berklee School of Music alumni.  She studied guitar in Santa Barbara with blues artist Kenny Sultan. In addition to teaching, she writes and performs in eclectic country-rock-folk-blues genres. She is gifted with understanding individual learning styles and abilities, and is very intuitive and precise with diagnosing and correcting vocal production issues. Julie is committed to helping students realize their full potential, and has helped them to select and audition for college programs, plus various theatre and choral groups.

 
Karin Svare Noble, Musical Theater Instructor

Before moving to the area in the fall of 2012, Karin taught drama at Connections Visual and Performing Arts Academy in Tuolumne, CA. Raised in the Midwest, she received her B.A. in English Education at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. Thanks to a musical and dramatic family (a ‘tenor’ dad and an ‘alto’ mom) and strong school programs, Karin learned vocal harmonies at a young age and has been singing and acting all of her life. She pursued music and theatre throughout high school, college and into her adult years, taking voice, piano, flute, guitar and acting classes and participating and performing in many acting troupes, choirs, vocal and dance groups, and bands. Karin has performed, directed, taught and choreographed at community theatres, schools, camps and churches in WI, IL, IN, Spain, and CA. A strong advocate for arts education, Karin has served on a children’s theatre board, arts planning groups, and founded the Creative Arts Support Team (CAST) (a parent booster club for the school’s arts programs) at Connections Academy. Locally, she brings theatre arts into schools with the Children’s Creative Project. Karin is a firm believer that exploring their abilities and gifts through performing arts strengthens kids in all areas of individual growth and learning, making them into stronger, well-rounded adults, whose participation in and appreciation for arts enhances lives and communities. Karin has two grown daughters and lives in Los Osos with her husband, almost-grown son and two dogs that adore her and a cat that ignores her. She loves the Central Coast!

 
Catherine Russell, Dance Instructor

Catherine was raised in Philadelphia, PA where she trained and performed with The Pennsylvania Ballet and later with the Massachusetts Youth Ballet under such notable teachers as Gloria Govrin, Carter Alexander, Sandra Jennings and Suzanne Farrell. In her professional career, Catherine has performed in New York, St. Louis, Irvine, California and at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Catherine danced with the Kansas City Ballet for 12 years performing many principal roles including Lisette in La Fille Mal Gardee, the Paquita Pas de Trois, and Desdemona in Limon's The Moor's Pavane as well as many Balanchine works, most notably the Stairway to Paradise soloist in Who Cares? She has also been involved in several contemporary dance projects in the Kansas City area including acting as a founding member of Quixotic Performance Fusion and dancing with Owen/Cox Dance Group as Marie in The Nutcracker and the Mouse King a Nutcracker parody as well as several mixed repertory programs. Catherine taught ballet at the Kansas City Ballet School and master classes at several Kansas City area ballet schools and is delighted to be sharing her knowledge and experience with her students at CDMA.

 
Chad Ruyle, Vocal Instructor

Chad, vocal instructor, and tenor is a graduate of California State University, Northridge with his Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance. Chad is a new resident of the central coast, hailing from the Los Angeles area where he spent the last ten years teaching and performing in various music academies.  Chad made his professional operatic début as Don Curzio in Center Stage Opera’s production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. During his graduate studies he enjoyed the roles of Spärlich in Otto Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, as well as Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, Sam in Susannah, and Ferrando in Così fan tutte. Chad was a recipient of the Village Voices scholarship where he performed as a soloist at the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Plaza. For his undergraduate degree Chad attended California State University, Fullerton where he was very active in the Chamber Singers under the direction of John Alexander, and in the operas Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc, and Die Entführung aus dem Serail by Mozart to name a few. As an emerging solo artist, Chad has performed numerous recitals in the Los Angeles, Orange County, and Riverside areas. He spent eight years as the tenor soloist and section leader for the First German Speaking United Methodist Church in Glendale. Chad looks forward to teaching and performing along the central coast, sharing his love for singing and performing.

 
Alyssa Juarez, Dance Instructor

Alyssa has been dancing since she was two years old. She started to become really involved with dance at the age of 9 when she danced with The Studio of Performing Arts. Alyssa danced competitively for two years, and performed in a winter and spring show each year. In 2009, she found Coastal Dance and Music Academy and fell in love with the welcoming atmosphere and culture that comes with such an amazing studio. She is currently a Senior Company Member of the Costal Chamber Youth Ballet Company, and has recently graduated from the Dance Teacher Training Program. She has been a part of the winter production of Babes in Toyland for 5 years and enjoys the tradition of performing in that show every year. Alyssa has also been an assistant at CDMA for 3 years and is very excited to continue her love of teaching. She loves working and seeing the children grow and develop as dancers just as she did when she was that age. "I love this studio so much and I am glad that I can be involved in something so special."  

 

Photos © 2012 - Sideline Photography Studio & Tracy Waitkus Photography