Our Artists

Alex Bootzin – Founder/Voice & Piano: Private Instruction in Advanced Piano & Voice. Alex along with his late wife Martha, co-founded the Spindrift School of Performing Arts back in 1994. Alex’s training and experience include a B.A. degree in Piano Performance and a M.A. in Musicology from the University of California. His education includes many years of study with European master teacher, Dusi Mura. Alex is committed to sharing his experience and knowledge with young people. He is also active as a pianist and music director throughout the Bay Area and is currently the Associate Music Director at First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame. He also leads a jazz quartet called Nucleus.

“The arts are a metaphor for life, and as such, play a vital role in a young person’s balanced and well-rounded development. They can do the same for adults, regardless of their age! Music, especially, touches the emotions in a way that few other mediums can. Studying and playing music can be an avenue for all manner of growth, healing, breakthrough, and success. My goal is for my students to express themselves in a way that draws forth who they really are.” Email Me

Noelle DeWeeseNoelle DeWeese – SSPA Executive Director, Dance Instructor: Tap, Hip Hop & Jazz, Pre-School Dance, Acting & Musical Theatre. Noelle began teaching at SSPA in the summer of 1998 and became our Executive Director in 2003. She holds a B.A in Theatre Arts from San Francisco State University with a minor in Business. Noelle has studied ballet, modern, tap, hip-hop, jazz and theatre in the Bay Area, New York, and London and has appeared as a featured performer for the British American Drama Academy in London. (Note: Noelle is not available for private lessons)

“I love watching children succeed through the performing arts. Many children come to us with a desire to learn and with hard work and discipline they attain a life-long passion! I love the collaborative artistic community SSPA provides. We’re training musicians/dancers/actors all day long. I feel so fortunate to have a team of incredibly talented and inspiring instructors that bring out the best in all their students!” Email Me

Paul Kwapy – Theatre Instructor: All levels of Acting, Improvisation, Speech, Movement, Character Study & Development.  Paul began with SSPA in 2004.  Paul is currently the Director of Technical Theatre at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco and directs our summer Actor’s Studios.  Paul studied with the acclaimed Chicago’s Second City Improvisational Theatre.  He studied theatre at University of Colorado and has worked for the Colorado Renaissance Festival, Iron Springs Chateau Melodrama, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Repertory Theatre and has been performing since he was 7 years-old with many hundreds of performances under his belt.  (Note: Paul is not currently available for private lessons)

The purpose of theatre is INVOLVEMENT. I’ve always felt one of our purposes in life is to become comfortable in our own skin. I hope to provide tools to achieve this through theatre training. Students gain abilities and confidence by learning speech, movement, discipline and performance skills that are required in theatre. These are key steps to providing that pathway for students to achieve those social interaction skills that serve them well in whatever they do in life. Email Me

Mel Bratz- Resident Scenic Designer & Artist has worked as a Scenic Artist and Set Designer for over twenty years.  She relocated to the Bay Area from Washington, D.C. with her husband in 2014 and is delighted to be part of the SSPA.  You may have seen her work at SSPA in Peter Pan, Putnam County Spelling Bee, Beowulf and Mulan at Terra Nova, in 2017’s production of Pippin. 

While living near D.C., Mel worked as a Visual Arts instructor and Theater Technical Director at Edmund Burke School, and she is excited to find more teaching opportunities at SSPA.  As an educator, Mel believes in providing students with a supportive structure and framework that allows them to be creative and collaborative while learning to realistically assess their time and resources. She believes that working on sets and backstage offers students the opportunity to develop personal responsibility, safe work habits, and appreciation for the teamwork it takes to put on a successful production.  You can find her portfolio at https://www.flickr.com/photos/melabratz/albums

 

oOsvaldo de Leon, SSPA Director of Music. Intermediate/Adv. Piano and all levels of voice. Osvaldo was the recipient of the Mexican National Fund for Culture and Arts grant in 2011 to finish his graduate studies at San Francisco State University (SFSU); The Avalos Award in 2010 after his interpretation of Latin American Music; and the Concerto Competition at SFSU in 2010; the FINANCIARTE grant in 2006 to produce, direct the opera “La Voix Humaine” by Francis Poulenc; and the Mexican National Fund for Culture and Arts grant in 2003 to study a year at the University of Texas in Austin.
In Mexico he was admired due to his capacity to approach solo repertoire as well as to perform chamber music, accompany singers and instrumentalists, coach opera, and direct choirs both amateur and professional. He has performed with the Russian Chamber Orchestra in Marin California, the Orquesta Filarmonica de Sonora, The San Francisco State University Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Nuevo Leon, the Orquesta Juvenil de Nuevo Leon. He has appeared at the Festival Ceiba in Tabasco, Mexico, Encuentro Internacional de Opera in Coahuila, the Vocal Cycle at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, the Festival Cultural Tamaulipas, Spring Festival of Radio Nuevo Leon, and the Festival Rio de Bravo in Coahuila. He has conducted with Verismo Opera in Vallejo, CA the productions of Madama Butterfly by G. Puccini, and Il Tabarro by G. Puccini. He conducted with Berkeley Chamber Opera the production of The Marriage of Figaro. He recently has been working at Spindrift School of Performing Arts as Musical Director for their musical theater productions such as A Chorus Line and Seussical the Musical.
Osvaldo finished his Bachelor´s degree in Piano Performance at Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey, México and his Master’s degree in Piano Performance and Chamber Music at San Francisco State University. His teachers have been Gerardo Antonio González, Naoya Seino, Gregory Allen and Dr. Roger Woodward. He also has studies in composition under the guidance of Jorge Torres and Georgina Derbez.Email Me

Erica Lopez – Director of Dance. All levels of Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Tap & beg. Hip Hop.Erica graduated from San Francisco State University in May 2016, where she received a B.A. in Dance with a Minor in Political Science. During her time at SFSU, Erica was a member of University Dance Theatre, SFSU’s resident repertory company, from 2013-2015. While in University Dance Theatre, Erica performed works by SFSU dance faculty members Ray Tadio, Cathleen McCarthy, and Wendy Diamond, as well as several works by guest choreographers Raissa Simpson, Kamala Devam, and ODC/Dance’s Brenda Way. She served as Student Director of UDT during the company’s 2014-15 season.  As a member of UDT, Erica also had the pleasure of performing at American College Dance Festival, a regional collegiate dance conference, in both 2014 and 2015. In addition to her involvement as a performer at SFSU, Erica also had the opportunity to showcase her own choreography in the New Moves Student Showcase in 2014. Upon graduation from SFSU, Erica was awarded The Dance Service Award for her contributions to the School of Theatre and Dance.

I feel so privileged to be able to teach at SSPA. Not only does the school offer a welcoming and supportive environment for both its students and teaching artists, but it also feels like a second home. After having taken over a decade of classes at Spindrift, I feel as though my life as a dancer has come full circle. After having received a well-rounded dance education at SSPA and beyond, I am inspired to pass that teaching along to younger artists. As Director of Dance I hope to nurture a love of dance and movement in my students. I seek to offer a comprehensive dance education to all our students in order train well-rounded performers—ones that are thoughtful, creative, and confident. I believe that a physical dance education combined with an intellectual one can help prepare dancers for life outside of the studio.Email Me

gary-schoenfeld-99e2b723Gary Craig Schoenfeld Jr. – Director of Theatre. All levels of Acting, Improve and Musical Theatre. Gary joins the Spindrift Team with a long list of performance & directorial credits Gary has been a teacher with SSPA since early 2016. He has most recently been training to take over the position of “Artistic Director”. He is also part of an outreach team dedicating to bringing quality theatre opportunities to schools all around the Bay Area. He has always hoped he would have a job like this. He is ready and eager to help inspire the next generation of great artists. Email Me

 

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Casey Robbins: Musical Theatre and Acting Instructor: All levels of Acting and Improvisation, Directing, Play Writing, Musical Direction.
Casey is a recent graduate from San Francisco State University where he received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Drama.  Having studied extensively the arts of acting, directing, musical composition, improv and playwriting, Casey can’t wait to share his passions with the community of the Spindrift School of Performing Arts!   His work can be seen all over the Bay Area; most- recently as performer and musical director for Idiot String’s O Best Beloved (summer tour 2014, winner of Best of SF Fringe), as musical director for 99 Stock Productions Millicent Scowlworthy, as musical director for The Pied Piper Player’s Summer Theater Conservatory’s productions of Fourty-Five Minutes to Broadway and The Rockin’ Tale of Snow White, and as Director of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Fuddy Meers at SFSU.

“I believe simply, that there is no better way to learn a craft than to teach it.  The beauty of theater and the beauty of collaboration is that no matter what age, background, or artistic level we may be on, we always have something simple and profound to learn from each other and something valuable to give.  I believe that the artists tools we develop together may last a long time indeed, but the imagination, compassion and trust we build with each other will last a life-time.”

Brianna Anthony – Dance Instructor:  all levels Ballet, Pointe, Modern, and Jazz dance. Brianna began teaching at SSPA in the Fall of 2006. She has a BA in Dance from CSULB, is a member of RequisiteDance and has studied under dance greats Joe Goode, Bliss Kohlmeyer, Douglas Neilsen, Keith Johnson, Lauren Johnson, Alaine Haubert, Allison Deane and Barbara Crockett.

“Ever since I discovered my love of dance, it has become a lifeline, as necessary as breathing. There is nothing quite so wonderful as being able to share this, to watch something that brings me such great joy become the passion of another.” Email Me

 

Victoria Lethco, All levels of Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop, beginning-intermediate levels of Ballet and Modern, and Musical Theater choreography. Throughout her time dancing, Tori has experienced various realms of dance. She began her career as a competitive team trainer where she coached teams on technique and provided them with performance pieces. After 3 years of competitive coaching, Tori became the dance coordinator and instructor for a private school in Santa Barbara, CA. During her 2 years with the school, she taught all K-12 grade dance classes, choreographed performance pieces, offered private lessons to advanced dancers, and co-directed musical theater plays. Tori then moved to the Bay Area where she earned her BA in Dance from San Francisco State University. Since graduating from SFSU, Tori has joined the SSPA family where she has loved teaching Outreach classes, working with camps, and helping to train SDC students.

“My hope for my students is that they will gain a personal connection with dance. I want dance to be a way for them to express themselves, gain confidence in who they are, and feel free.” Email Me

Kelsey Gerber – All levels of ballet, jazz, and hip hop, with a focus in contemporary jazz.

Kelsey is a professional contemporary dance artist based in the bay area, and holds a BFA in Dance performance from UC Irvine.  She has performed works by Twyla Tharp, Brenda Way, Autumn Eckman, Saleemah E. Knight, and many others.  Kelsey specializes in contemporary jazz, and is currently a company member of ka·nei·see | collective and Multiplex Dance.

She educates the students in somatic and kinesiological awareness, while teaching proper technique and encouraging the students to be creative and inspired by movement. Email Me

 

walter_headshotWalter Anderson – Piano Instructor, all levels.
Walter is a performer, educator, and composer. He holds a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in music education and piano performance from San Francisco State University, where he also received his teaching credential. Walter teaches K-12 in the San Francisco Unified School District, as well as private piano and theory/musicianship skills. He accompanies singers and ensembles regularly throughout the bay area. His compositions have been featured by ensembles in the bay area and beyond.
“I believe in a well-rounded approach to piano playing – integrating theoretical and historical knowledge with a strong technical foundation that enables and empowers an individual’s musical spirit. Everyone has their own unique, musical voice, and to enable yourself or someone you love to use, develop, and master that voice is one of the greatest gifts that can ever be given.” Email Me

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Ami Nashimoto all levels of Cello. is a prominent member of the Bay Area music scene, playing with numerous ensembles and bands including The Holloway String Quartet, Mission Baroque, All My Pretty Ones, as well as playing in numerous orchestras and pit orchestras. She studied chamber music under coaches including the Alexander String Quartet, Martina Trumpp, and Yuval Yaron; cello under Carol Rice, Geoffrey Rutkowski, Mario De Secondi, and Sandy Wilson; and played in master classes taught by such artists as the Juilliard String Quartet, Toby Appel, and David Requiro. She studied cello at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, University of California Santa Barbara, San Francisco State University for a Masters in Music, and most recently at the Musikhochschule Trossingen in Germany.

Ami has been teaching the young and young-at-heart since 2008, working with students of all levels. Email Me

luke 2Luke Doughty – Guitar Instructor.  All levels of acoustic and electric Guitar and Bass. All levels of Ukelele. Beg/Int. Banjo and Piano Luke has played guitar for 20 years and has been teaching music for 6 years. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from UC Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Philosophy from San Francisco State University.  He has studied music theory extensively, both within the university and independently.  The primary styles of music that he focuses on are gypsy jazz, early blues, classical, rock, and Irish music. Luke has also spent years playing slide guitar and working with a variety of open tunings.  He teaches both acoustic and electric guitar.  In addition to guitar, Luke also plays and teaches Ukulele, Banjo, and Piano.
My favorite guitar player is the great jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, and my favorite classical composer is Johann Sebastian Bach.  Between these two figures, you can learn all that you need to be a great musician.  My teaching style tailors lessons to the interests of the individual student, rather than working through a generic book as a default method to learning the instrument.  I can teach most styles and enjoy working in concepts from music theory into lessons.

Luke lives in San Francisco and presently plays in several groups around the Bay Area.  He also composes music and has worked with local filmmakers to produce original scores for a variety of projects. Email Me

alexandra sesslerAlexandra Sessler, Soprano, All levels of Voice, beginning Piano. Alexandra divides her time between opera, choral, and voice and piano instruction. In addition to extensive opera performance in the Bay Area, she has soloed with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, where she is an AGMA member, and is a member of San Francisco’s newest all-professional chamber choir, Cappella SF. Alexandra is an active recitalist and is dedicated to broadcasting the music of women composers and the Spanish speaking community. Alexandra completed her Bachelor of Music at the University of Miami, and her Masters of Music at San Francisco State University. She has the joy of studying privately with the world-renowned mezzo, Susanne Mentzer, and coaching with William Vendice. Alexandra teaches voice privately and is a lecturer at San Francisco State University. She has two opera loving, very supportive cats.
“My approach to teaching voice and piano is one that is tailored to each student. We explore their strengths and weaknesses and I design a curriculum to enhance their overall performance, confidence, and love of music. My specialty is getting shy students out of their shell, and encouraging them to share their love of music with the world. As a member of the National Guild of Teachers of Singing, My students have often won awards at District and Regional auditions” Alexandra instructs children, adolescents and teenagers, adults, and professionals. Email Me

Marci Karr – Piano Instructor, Beginning/Intermediate.
Marci Karr has been teaching piano in the Bay Area for twenty years. She especially enjoys working with beginners of all ages. Working with beginners is her passion. She feels strongly that a good solid grounding is learning the ability to read music and understand music theory. Marci encourages improvisational skills so students can get to know the instrument from all aspects.  Marci has composed music and lyrics for two musical theatre pieces. She was awarded Best Original Score by the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle for her musical “Io, Princess of Argos Live” in 2002. She has a certificate in special education from Foothill College and experience in teaching piano to special needs students. Marci is comfortable teaching a wide range of genres including, classical, blues, rock and pop.“When Beginning students are first learning to improvise, there are only good sounds. I encourage students to tell the piano their feelings and express them in music.” Email Me