Arroyo Grande Dance Teachers - Arroyo Grande Music Instructors - Arroyo Grande Voice Instructors

 
Tara Behnke, Owner / 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.


Kathy Schultz, 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.


 

Faculty/Staff

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Owners/Directors

Molly McKiernan, Artistic Director Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet / Dance Instructor

Molly's first ballet class was at the age of 5 at Mary Coudin Snyder's Dance Studio. Her dance training continued at American Dance and then on to Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo where she spent many years studying ballet and jazz as a young dancer. At the age of 10, Molly auditioned for the prestigious Ballet Austin and was accepted to their Junior Company program for 3 years of classical ballet training under the direction of Eugene Slavin and Alexandra Nadal of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She performed many of the children's roles in their acclaimed production of The Nutcracker.


Upon returning to Academy of Dance, Molly became a member of the Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo. For more then 12 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 hired as Lead Guest Artist for 2 seasons of Ballet Fantastique's Nutcracker and went on to further her training with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.


Molly's devotion to dance transitioned seamlessly into teaching and choreographing. 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 Legends Shows" and Co-Director for their ACT Children's Broadway Camp programs, Artistic Director for The San Luis Jazz Dancers, Choreographer/Master Teacher for Mission College Prep, Morro Bay High School, Alan Hancock's Spectrum and Cal Poly's Orchesis Dance Company, performer/choreographer for Academy of Dance's International Dance Festival in China, Cuba and Spain, creator and Teacher for San Luis Coastal Unified School District's Elementary PE/Dance program which provided an enrichment through dance for over 2000 students a year. She most recently has been recognized for her collaborative efforts with the San Luis Obispo Symphony in "Carnival of the Animals".


Molly is incredibly proud to be the Artistic Director of Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet and takes great pride in nurturing her Company dancers into exceptional artists.


Natalia Salsbury, Artistic Director Coastal Youth Theater / Theater Instructor

Natalia is enjoying her third year at CDMA as a drama teacher and the Artistic Director of Coastal Youth Theater (formerly CDMA Triple Threat). She is proud to have directed Once on This Island, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Beauty and the Beast with Coastal Youth Theater. She has a BA in Theatre Arts from Cal Poly where she portrayed the role of Charlotte in the musical Falsettos and studied the fundamentals of directing, scenic and lighting design, and play writing. She is also a graduate of the actors training program at PCPA and has worked professionally with PCPA during their summer fests in numerous productions such as The Secret Garden, Grapes of Wrath, Julius Caesar, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, The King and I and Once Upon a Mattress. She has worked with Sorcerer Productions as Executive Producer and Artistic Director, and has enjoyed portraying roles such as Christine Colgate in the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Trix in the Drowsy Chaperone and Celeste in Little Shop of Horrors.  Natalia has worked in children’s theater for the last 8 years. Her credits include Nipomo High School, Atascadero High School and the San Luis Little Theatre. She has always believed that children are the future participants in a theatre community, therefore, teaching them to respect the laws of the theatre etiquette alongside the craft itself, might be the hope and salvation of live theatre in the future. She uses Uta Hagen as her inspiration. “We must overcome the notion that we must be regular…it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre.”  Natalia believes that teaching children the fundamentals of acting will not only prepare them to be solid, grounded, and talented  performers, but that it will also prepare them for other major performances in life such as job interviews and college applications. Her goal is to one day get her Masters in Directing so that she can teach collegially and remind adults that we were all children at one point and to not forget that it is our responsibilities as thespian leaders, to keep molding future generations! Natalia wants to thank the husband Jeff Salsbury for his encouragement and for reminding her that she is destined to direct,  her children Lucas and Josie for believing in her,  her mother for encouraging her and loving her, and  her father, for always reminding her that she  a teacher and to always master life’s lessons. Love you all!

 
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.


Corrina Gemignani, Dance Instructor

Bio coming soon.


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.


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."


Leah Kolb, Dance Instructor

Leah is originally from Sacramento, Ca. where she began her dance and theatre career at the age of three. She grew up in the Cisneros Studio of Dance pursuing all fields of dance and musical theatre. Soon her taking classes led to teaching and thus began her pursuit of a career in the arts. She headed off to the east coast for college where she received a BFA in Theatre from the University of Rhode Island.  Leah returned to CA in 2007 to make her professional theatrical debut at PCPA. She was most recently seen there in last summer's production of Legally Blonde the Musical. She was also seen in West Side Story, Curtains, Ragtime, Godspell and the U.S. Premier of Nicola McCartney's Lifeboat. She has also spent a few seasons at The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville; not only as a performer, but also choreographer on occasion. She was last seen there in The Vaudeville Spectacular, The Three Musketeers, and The Holiday Spectacular of 2011.  She feels so lucky to call the Central Coast her home and she is so excited to be a part of the CDMA family.


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!!


Amanda Ormonde, Dance Instructor

Amanda started dance seven years ago and has been in love with it ever since. She performed with Dellos performing arts center before joining the CDMA family, where she danced with the Performance Troupe for two years. She has also been involved both on and offstage in Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet's annual productions of Babes in Toyland. Amanda is currently dancing on the Arroyo Grande High School dance team in addition to teaching hip hop to younger students. She loves helping children reach their artistic goals and watching them grow in dance. Amanda strives to aid her students in improving just as her teachers have done for her!


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!


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!


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.


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.

 

Program Directors

Dance Instructors

Music & Voice Instructors

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.


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.


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.


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.

 

Theater Instructors

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.


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.


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. 


 

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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.

 

Photos © 2012 - Sideline Photography Studio & Tracy Waitkus Photography

Leah Kolb, Dance Instructor

Leah is originally from Sacramento, Ca. where she began her dance and theatre career at the age of three. She grew up in the Cisneros Studio of Dance pursuing all fields of dance and musical theatre. Soon her taking classes led to teaching and thus began her pursuit of a career in the arts. She headed off to the east coast for college where she received a BFA in Theatre from the University of Rhode Island.  Leah returned to CA in 2007 to make her professional theatrical debut at PCPA. She was most recently seen there in last summer's production of Legally Blonde the Musical. She was also seen in West Side Story, Curtains, Ragtime, Godspell and the U.S. Premier of Nicola McCartney's Lifeboat. She has also spent a few seasons at The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville; not only as a performer, but also choreographer on occasion. She was last seen there in The Vaudeville Spectacular, The Three Musketeers, and The Holiday Spectacular of 2011.  She feels so lucky to call the Central Coast her home and she is so excited to be a part of the CDMA family.


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.


Sarah Rijnen, Theater Instructor

Sarah has a Bachelors of Arts degree in Theater Arts from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA and a Masters degree in Education from Arizona State University.  She worked at the Seattle Children's Theater, discovering a passion for Creative Drama.  She sees drama as an excellent resource for social, intellectual, and physical development and a vital component of primary and preschool education.  She is a former first and second grade classroom teacher, teaching for three years in Phoenix, and for three years in Helsinki, Finland.  In addition to incorporating drama techniques into the classroom, she led drama programs in both schools for kindergarten - eighth grade.  Here on the Central Coast, she has been able to focus on raising her family and  bringing Theater Arts into preschools and into elementary through the Children’s Creative Project.


Natalia Salsbury, Instructor/Artistic Director Coastal Youth Theater

Natalia is enjoying her third year at CDMA as a drama teacher and the Artistic Director of Coastal Youth Theater (formerly CDMA Triple Threat). She is proud to have directed Once on This Island, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Beauty and the Beast with Coastal Youth Theater. She has a BA in Theatre Arts from Cal Poly where she portrayed the role of Charlotte in the musical Falsettos and studied the fundamentals of directing, scenic and lighting design, and play writing. She is also a graduate of the actors training program at PCPA and has worked professionally with PCPA during their summer fests in numerous productions such as The Secret Garden, Grapes of Wrath, Julius Caesar, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, The King and I and Once Upon a Mattress. She has worked with Sorcerer Productions as Executive Producer and Artistic Director, and has enjoyed portraying roles such as Christine Colgate in the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Trix in the Drowsy Chaperone and Celeste in Little Shop of Horrors.  Natalia has worked in children’s theater for the last 8 years. Her credits include Nipomo High School, Atascadero High School and the San Luis Little Theatre. She has always believed that children are the future participants in a theatre community, therefore, teaching them to respect the laws of the theatre etiquette alongside the craft itself, might be the hope and salvation of live theatre in the future. She uses Uta Hagen as her inspiration. “We must overcome the notion that we must be regular…it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre.”  Natalia believes that teaching children the fundamentals of acting will not only prepare them to be solid, grounded, and talented  performers, but that it will also prepare them for other major performances in life such as job interviews and college applications. Her goal is to one day get her Masters in Directing so that she can teach collegially and remind adults that we were all children at one point and to not forget that it is our responsibilities as thespian leaders, to keep molding future generations! Natalia wants to thank the husband Jeff Salsbury for his encouragement and for reminding her that she is destined to direct,  her children Lucas and Josie for believing in her,  her mother for encouraging her and loving her, and  her father, for always reminding her that she  a teacher and to always master life’s lessons. Love you all!