The Lighthouse teaching staff is comprised of highly accomplished professionals whose academic credits include degrees from America's most respected conservatories and university schools of music, including The Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music and the Boston Conservatory of Music.
About Our Faculty and Staff:
Leslie Jones, Executive Director of the Music School, holds a DMA from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and an MM from the University of North Texas. She has served on the faculties of Ithaca College and Montana State University. A versatile musician, she collaborates with duo piano partner, Dalia Sakas, and performs as jazz pianist. At the Lighthouse, she has been instrumental in developing an assistive music technology center, expanding community outreach and visibility of the Music School and establishing collaborations/partnerships with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Dance Institute.
Dalia Sakas, Director of Music Studies (piano, chorus, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) received her BM from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, MM from the Manhattan School of Music and DMA from the University of South Carolina. She has served on the faculty of William Paterson University in New Jersey. She maintains a piano studio of her own and serves on the board of the Associated Music Teachers League (AMTL).
Lisa Johnson, Director of Music Administration, holds a doctorate from City University of New York, where she specialized in woodwind performance and analysis for performers. She was most recently Music Program Director at the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). Dr. Johnson was for ten years the Associate Dean of the Mannes College of Music, and was previously a tenured Associate Professor at Clarion University in Pennsylvania, teaching clarinet, saxophone, jazz, and music business. She has long been active as a free-lance and Broadway orchestra performer.
Jennifer Apsel (piano, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) received both her BM and MM degrees from the Manhattan School of Music. She has earned prizes in several competitions at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Recently, Jennifer has performed as a soloist in New York City, Seattle and Vermont.
Svetlana Avezbakiyeva (Comprehensive Music Program for Young People, Braille music, piano) received her BA degree in music education from The City University of New York, Queens College. She is also a graduate of our Music School.
Gerald Gewiss (wind instruments) holds a BS from The Juilliard School, has pursued graduate studies at the City University of New York and professional studies at The Embouchure Clinic. His teachers have included William Vacchiano, Murray Karpilovsky and Carmine Caruso.
Juan Pablo Horcasitas (piano, music appreciation, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) holds both the Bachelor and Master Degrees in Classical Piano Performance from the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he studied with Nina Svetlanova. An active collaborative pianist, chamber musician, conductor and educator, he works frequently in recitals with recognized singers and pianists. In 2010 he was appointed Music Director of Opera Hispánica. Upcoming engagements include performances in Chicago, San Antonio, Beirut and Dublin.
Yo Kano (piano, jazz improvisation, trumpet, assistive music technology, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) is an internationally known jazz pianist and composer-arranger. His concerts have taken him across Asia, and he has released four CDs. For more information, visit www.yokano.com.
Learn more Music School Faculty Spotlight: Yo Kano
Katharine Flanders Mukherji (flute, recorder, piano, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) holds a BA from Harvard University. Among her teachers are Samuel Baron, James Pappoutsakis and Franz Bruggen. As a fellowship recipient, she studied flute in Paris with Michel Debost and theory with Nadia Boulanger. Ms. Flanders Mukherji is the long time principal flutist of the Riverside Orchestra. She has recorded on the Mode and CRI labels.
Chris Petz (guitar, theory, contemporary ensemble) studied at the University of Vermont and the Mannes School of Music. He has performed and/or studied with jazz greats Phil Markowitz, Ritchie Bierach and Ed Maceachen. For more information, visit www.chrispetz.com.
John Sanfilippo (assistive music technology) holds a BA in music education from Adelphi University. He has performed with the Lighthouse Vocal Ensemble, The Lance Hayward Singers, and in several solo and joint Kramer concerts. John Sanfilippo is the acting Minister of Music of The Queens Reformed Church in Queens Village, NY.
Owen Stewart-Robertson (guitar, songwriting, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) has been an active performer, composer and music educator for many years. He also teaches at Sunset Park School of Music in Brooklyn.
Charlotte Surkin (voice) holds BMEd and MA degrees from Temple University and New York University. She lectures frequently on “Teaching Singing to Students who are Blind or have Low Vision.” In addition to being an oratorio alto soloist at Carnegie Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Kennedy Center, Charlotte Surkin has also performed in operas across the United States. She is also a voice instructor at Collaborative Arts Project (CAP 21) and Marymount Manhattan College. For more information, visit www.charlottesurkin.com.
Marc Wagnon (percussion, jazz, music technology, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) has toured the United States, Europe, and Japan as a percussionist and vibraphonist. He can be heard on over 20 recordings, which reflect his interest in varied contemporary forms. For more information, visit www.marcwagnon.com,
Amanda Wheeler (Administrative Assistant)
Amanda Wheeler holds a BFA in Musical Theatre with a Concentration in Dance from Otterbein College (OH). She is responsible for administrative tasks within the music school including coordination of teaching schedules, tuition billing, space rentals, and concerts. Amanda also assists with the Comprehensive Music Program for Young People.
Maria Rios (Administrative Assistant) serves as Music School receptionist, braillist and student-staff liaison. She sings in the Vocal Ensemble, performs with Jam 59 and studies guitar. She is also a founding and active member of the Music School Student Council. Maria is half of the MaLyn Duo, performing at various venues in the city.