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Piano player
PIANO FACULTY

The piano department at Fox River Academy offers a comfortable and supportive learning environment for young musicians to adults at beginner to advanced levels of study. We provide the finest instruction, emphasizing the importance of each student‘s individuality, while establishing a solid foundation for all of our students.

Our piano faculties are professionals committed to music and their instruments, with outstanding credentials and years of performing and teaching experiences in the music field. We believe this real-life expertise is also key in offering a comprehensive music learning experience, providing a wealth of first-hand opportunities and growth potential.

Karen Kulzer
Karen Kulzer

ACADEMY DIRECTOR • PIANO INSTRUCTOR

In August 2003, Ms. Kulzer co-founded/incorporated Fox River Academy of Music and Art, Inc. (a community music and art school) with musician Ron Stark, opening its doors with three employees and 40 students. Since then, Fox River Academy has grown to 400 enrolled students and 30+ full- and part-time employees, with members participating in student recitals, charitable fundraisers, art exhibits, and numerous other community art and music activities.

Karen received her Bachelor of Music from DePaul University’s School of Music (Chicago, Illinois); she has studied piano performance and composition studies with Dr. Michael Fritsch, Dr. Melody Lord, Dr. Janice Misurell-Mitchell, Alan Swain, Jim Trompeter, and Dr. Kurt Westerberg. In addition to 20+ years of private piano teaching experience, Karen has been involved with many local organizations and community outreach associations.

Dr. Beth Ann Miller
Dr. Beth Ann Miller

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Dr. Beth Ann Miller was an elementary music teacher in the public school system for 39 years; she also began teaching private piano lessons to students starting in 1987.  She received her Ed.D. in Music Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Through her doctoral studies and beyond, Dr. Miller continued pursuing research in the area of incorporating original student composition in the piano studio. In addition to teaching private piano lessons at Fox River Academy, Dr. Miller teaches group preschool music classes for the Oswegoland Park District’s preschool.

Andrew Maya
Andrew Maya

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Andrew is a graduate of Illinois State University, where he obtained a Masters in Collaborative Piano and was on staff as a piano instructor with their Community School of the Arts for several years. He has extensive accompanying experience, from accompanying University opera practicum to collaborating with vocal and instrumental students for masterclasses and semester juries. Andrew also has experience performing with jazz ensembles and accompanying vocal jazz groups through both Illinois State University and Aurora University. He is also a Fox River Academy Alumni, having taken lessons through our program for his youth studies.

Ellen Avery
Ellen Avery

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Ellen graduated from North Central College summa cum laude with a double major in Music Performance and Elementary Education, receiving the Aurora Foundation and Hansen Furnas Scholarship, North Central College Presidential Scholarship, and North Central College Piano Performance Scholarship. She has studied with Zanieda Constantinova, Maribel Robinson, April Stovall, and Barbara Vanderwall.

Ellen has participated in various performance classes and events throughout the community, such as participating in the American Grands performances, teaching AWANA classes for five years, and acting as pianist for the Ukranian Baptist Church in Berwyn, Illinois. For many years, she coordinated and taught the Fox River Academy's Preschool Music and Theory classes. 

In addition to teaching at Fox River Academy for over nineteen years and raising a family with her husband, Ellen continues to be active in mission trips and church activities.

Mac Willaert
Mac Willaert

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Mac has a wealth of knowledge and experience in both the performance and music education sector. He received his Bachelors of Arts in Music from North Central College, where he held positions as Assistant Conductor and as Music Director of their Summer Theatre program. In addition to directing and conducting, Mac also has worked extensively as an accompanist for the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale and locally for Oswego High School, and as an improvisational pianist for The Comedy Shrine. In addition to teaching private piano lessons since 2007, Mac currently serves as a musician on the Worship Team for Oswego Presbyterian Church.

Anne Badger
Anne Badger

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Anne received her Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College in Music and English and a Master of Arts from Yale University. She studied organ with Richard Litterst, piano with Donald Walker, Minka Roustcheva, and Wilbur Price.

Anne was a freelance pianist and specialist in early music in New Haven, Connecticut and the New York metropolitan area. She served as the Professor of English at Bucknell University, with a field specialization in eighteenth-century British literature, and with particular interests in the interrelations between the arts.

She currently holds the position as the organist at the First Congregational Church UCC in Ottawa and maintains a private piano and organ studio. Anne is also a registered instructor for the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program.

Kim Obert
Kim Obert

PIANO & VOICE INSTRUCTOR

Kim Obert graduated from Valparaiso University with a Bachelor’s degree in music. She has been teaching piano lessons, voice lessons and general music for over 20 years. In addition to teaching voice and piano at the Fox River Academy of Music and Art, Kim is currently the principal accompanist for the Dolce, Treble, and Lyric choirs of Young Naperville Singers, music director at the Kensington School of Naperville, and has been a piano accompanist for School District 308 for almost 10 years. She also serves as a worship leader at her church.

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Barbara Wirz-Ellsworth

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Barbara Wirz-Ellsworth is a German/American trained pianist with over 35 years of teaching experience in the United States and Germany. In 1974-1980 she earned a Bachelor and Masters of Music at the State College of Music in Cologne/Germany in piano performance and Dalcroze Eurhythmics, and in 2003 a Masters of Music in piano performance and music education at Northern Illinois University.

She studied piano under Prof. Donald Walker, Dr. Theodore Edel at Northern Illinois University, and Professor Karin Merle at the State College of Music in Cologne/Germany and others.

Barbara is a Certified Teacher for the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. In recent years some of her students have accomplished Certificates of Excellence as best of Illinois in their level.

Barbara is also a Dalcroze Eurhythmics Specialist (a methodology that teaches music through movement). Her teachings have been highly valued at Northern Illinois University, DePaul University in Chicago, the Music Teacher National Association and the Illinois State Music Teacher Association conferences, the Kodaly Association Chapter in St. Louis, the Chicago Area Music Teacher Association, and other major educational institutions in Germany.

She is author of the book and CD, Das goldene Karussell, The Golden Carousel, an Introduction to Classical Piano Music for Young Children, published in German in 2001.

Cathy Canfield-Jepson
Cathy Canfield-Jepson

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Cathy has taught instrumental and vocal music to all ages, from preschool levels through senior citizens. Throughout her musical career, she has helped to organize and facilitate productions of concerts and musicals, and involved her ensembles in regional and national workshops and conferences. She received her Bachelor of Music/Secondary Education from the University of Iowa, and (following completion of her undergraduate degree) was employed as a band and general music teacher in the school system. Besides participating as an accompanist, singer, and Music Director with the group Pleasant Company, Ms. Canfield-Jepson has previous experience as Music Director for St.Peter’s United Church of Christ (Kansas City, MO) and as a Choir Director for Our Savior Lutheran Church (Aurora, Illinois). In 1999, she accepted the position as New England Congregational Church’s Handbell Director, which she continues to lead into the present day.

Cathy is an experienced musician and teacher who is enthusiastic about sharing her love of music with her students.

Lauren McCombe
Lauren McCombe

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Lauren McCombe is a classically trained freelance musician in the Chicagoland area. Obtaining several degrees in Music Performance, McCombe strives to improve the musical world with one note at a time. She is very active in the area performing at weddings, special events, orchestral ensembles, and much more. Her teaching studio consists of individuals of all ages and strongly believes in the enjoyment of learning music at any given time or place in life.

Cydney Olah
Cydney Olah

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Cydney is a native of Oswego, having taken piano lessons since the age of 8 and starting her piano lessons at Fox River Academy with teacher Mrs. Ellen Avery, continuing studies with Ms. Barbara Wirtz-Ellsworth. She is finishing up this year at Northern Illinois University College with degrees in Elementary Education and Music. Cydney is also a Fox River Academy Alumni, having studied voice and piano as a youth in our programs. She works well with all ages and strives to make learning an enjoyable experience for students.

Tom Hartnett
Tom Hartnett

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Tom is a piano player from the Chicago Suburbs with a wide variety of musical experiences and interests. Throughout his career, Tom has played in various jazz and rock groups, collaborated with songwriters, and even played in a salsa band. He received his M.M. in Jazz Piano Performance from University of Wyoming, along with his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Northern Illinois University. Tom loves to share his knowledge through teaching, and has had the opportunity to teach music at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels, in addition to teaching private piano lessons for the past 10 years. Tom is also a Fox River Academy Alumni, having taken lessons through our program for his youth studies. He currently teaches piano lessons and runs the student Rock Ensembles at Fox River Academy.

Abbey Menter
Abbey Menter

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Abbey Menter studied piano for over seven years at FRAMA with Ellen Avery and Karen Kulzer. During her studies, she participated in the Royal Conservatory Program and studied AP Music Theory. She received her B.A. in Elementary Education from Aurora University, and achieved a Minor in Piano Performance. Ms. Menter also has experience in collaborative piano, holding the position as the Suzuki Strings Group Accompanist for several years and continuing to provide accompaniment for various instruments and voice. Abbey loves her students and is proud to have a piano program that is both enjoyable and engaging.

Eve Cyncar
Eve Cyncar

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Eve Cyncar started playing piano when she was 11 and fell in love! After starting with several teachers, she found a musical home with the Fox River Academy of Music and Art, where she was a student for many years. The atmosphere of the Academy and the wonderful teachers at it inspired her to start her own career as a music teacher. Ms. Cyncar received her B. A. from North Central College; she hopes to help many students find a love with music as she did growing up.  As well as playing piano she avidly plays the trombone as another outlet for her passion of music. 

 

In addition to participating in jazz band and band ensembles as a trombonist, she also has played in various musicals as a pianist in the orchestra pit. Her involvement with the Academy does not stop as being both teacher and student, but as a volunteer in many events that Fox River participates in, like Beats and Eats and the Oswego Farmers Market

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Emma Vickers

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Emma Vickers is a passionate and professional musician, who specializes in classical and creative piano pedagogy. She began playing piano as a young child, and took lessons at Fox River Academy for most of her life! After falling in love with piano and all of the different possibilities it can bring, she went to college at Western Michigan University, where she studied Music Therapy.

 

Emma has always found piano to be an outlet for creativity and self-expression. She has over six years of experience teaching piano to a wide variety of individuals and groups, so she values providing an outlet for each student to experience and facilitate growth to their high self through music! She believes that each person has the capability to achieve their most desired dreams and goals, and she cannot wait to help you on your musical journey.

Carla Schanstra
Carla Schanstra

PIANO INSTRUCTOR

Carla received a B.A. from Western Illinois Univesity, and participated in studies at North Central College & American Conservatory of Music. She has participated as a violist in the DuPage Youth Symphony, IMEA State Orchestra, Downers Grove Oratorio Society, North Central College Orchestra, Western Illinois University Orchestra, Galesburg Symphony Orchestra, and the Elgin Symphonette.

Carla has studied with John Svoboda, Ki Joo Lee, and David Morse; she is also interested in Celtic fiddle music and has played with several local musicians and groups.

Nichole Young
Nichole Young

PIANO & HARP INSTRUCTOR

Nichole Young, native of Freeport IL, started music lessons at the age of ten through the harp program at her public school. She received a Bachelors degree (in Harp Performance) from Northern Illinois University and a Masters degree from Northwestern University. During her studies, she was the recipient of the prestigious Eckstein Scholarship and the Keefer award. In 2002, she performed two duets with world-renowned Steel-pan artist, Liam Teague, on his Christmas recording A Christmas Gift produced by Sack records. She also performed on the debut recording of modern composer Dexter Morrill entitled Dexter Morrill: Three Concertos produced by Centaur Records, Inc. Recently, she was a featured performer in the Paidiea Project, a documentary on the music of ancient Greece.

Nichole is currently an active freelance musician and performs throughout Illinois and Iowa. She is the principal harpist for the Peoria Symphony, DuPage Symphony, and Illinois Valley Symphony, and she has performed with many orchestras in the area including the Rockford Symphony, Evanston Symphony, Skokie Valley Symphony, Fox Valley Symphony, Quad City Symphony, and Dubuque Symphony. She is a member of the Naperville Chamber Musicians and performs numerous chamber recitals with the group throughout the year. Nichole is also an active teacher and is a piano and harp instructor at Fox River Academy of Music and Art in Oswego , IL and also at North Central College in Naperville, IL.

PIANO DEPARTMENT
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Clarabella Tochimani

PIANO INSTRUCTOR • INTERN

Clarabella has been involved in music her entire life, starting lessons in kindergarten and continuing her studies throughout grade school and high school. She also has eight years of flute experience, and has participated as a Marching Band Flute Section Leader and in the Aurora American Legion Band. She is currently a Marching Band Drum Major at West Aurora High School, and plans to attend university in the fall as a Music Education major. 

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