SSPA Founder & Instructor | 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.”
Leadership and Administration
Executive Director & Principal Teaching Artist | All levels of Acting & Intro to Tap
Amy comes to Spindrift from TheatreWorks Silicon Valley where she oversaw the education and outreach programs there. She has a diverse background in theatre and arts education from being a professional musical theatre performer to founding a family theatre company in San Francisco to running an arts education advocacy group for San Mateo County. She has developed theatre and arts education curriculum for kindergartners through 12th Grade and specializes in directing new theatre, both musical and dramatic. She studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting from the University of California, Davis. Amy is a proud Pacifica resident and an active member of the Pacifica School District community with two children attending Sunset Ridge Elementary where she serves as President of the Parent Teacher Organization.
Director of Dance & Principal Teaching Artist, Administrative Associate | 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.
Gary Craig Schoenfeld Jr.
Director of Theatre & Principal Teaching Artist | All levels of Acting, Improv, 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 and teaches all levels of Musical Theatre, directs Play Production classes and teaches in-school drama at Cabrillo. 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.
Principal Teaching Artist & Social Media Coordinator | Beginning Musical Theatre, Acting, and Jazz, Beginning Ballet, Tap, and Hip-Hop
Lizzie Chapman found her passion for dance 15 years ago when she took a dance class at a summer camp. Since then, she has danced non-stop and dabbled in just about any dance style imaginable. Lizzie received her BA in Interdisciplinary Dance Studies with double-emphases in Dance Education and Choreography from Humboldt State University. Her senior Interdisciplinary Project, titled “A Story of a Girl”, was chosen to be performed at both the Transformational Justice Festival and at the American College Dance Festival. Before coming to SSPA , Lizzie taught Ballroom, Latin, and Swing as a certified instructor at Arthur Murray Dance Center in Millbrae.
Guest Teaching Artist | Voice Instructor | All levels
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.
Guest Teaching Artist | Music and Vocal Performance
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.
Music Instructor | Beginning Piano, All levels of Voice
Soprano, Sarah Benzinger holds a CA Secondary credential to teach Music and Mathematics and loves joining her students on their unique journeys of musical discovery on the piano and in voice. She currently co-teaches classroom music at Casa di Mir Montessori school in Campbell and has maintained a full studio in voice and piano at Santa Teresa Academy of Music and Dance for the past three years. She has taught and performed in the US and abroad, working with students through Opera Tijuana in Mexico, Opera Nova in Costa Rica, and with students at Lake County high school in Leadville Colorado. Previously she sang with the Oregon Bach Collegium, Lyric Opera of San Jose, Cascadia Concert Opera, Humboldt Light Opera, Portland Summer Opera Workshop, Vivace Vancouver, Chamber Music Silicon Valley, Redwood Symphony and at the Astoria Music Festival.
Scenic Designer & Painter and Guest Instructor | Technical Theatre & Design
Mel Bratz has been teaching, painting and designing sets for over twenty years. She developed a love of teaching over ten years at McDonogh School (Maryland) and Edmund Burke School (Washington, D.C.) as well as Catholic University and George Mason University. She has worked at almost every major theater in the DC/Md/Va region. Since moving to California she has limited her theatrical endeavors to SSPA and a few select others. Mel now primarily creates art in smaller formats at home or in her studio at Marin Society of Artists.
Tap Instructor | All levels
Serena is originally from the Bay Area and started dancing at the young age of 2yrs old. Along the way, she won many awards and scholarships in dance which inspired her to pursue a career as a professional performer. She has returned to the Bay Area after spending 15 years in NYC and NJ where she’s been performing, teaching, choreographing, judging competitions and pageants. She has a strong technical background in all major dance forms specifically Ballet, Jazz (including Luigi technique), Lyrical/Contemporary, Tap, and Musical Theater. A graduate of the Musical Theater program at the American Musical & Dramatic Academy in NYC, she brings with her a wealth of knowledge about performing in multiple styles of the dance art form. Serena works with children from the age of 3 all the up to adults and continues to produce award-winning choreography.
Voice Instructor | All levels
Elana is a professional singer, teacher, music director and choral conductor currently residing in San Francisco, Ca. Ms. Cowen has a Post-Graduate Certificate and Master’s of Music in Vocal Performance from San Francisco Conservatory of Music as well as a Bachelor’s of Music from Chapman University with a minor in Germanic Studies. Ms. Cowen teaches voice and has musically directed all over the Bay Area, with companies including Starbound Theatre and Missouri Street Theatre to name a few. Currently, Ms. Cowen is conducting with the San Francisco Youth Chorus as well as being a soloist at the Episcopal Church of St. Matthew’s in San Mateo. Ms. Cowen is also an active performer, performing with companies all over the Bay Area including Pocket Opera, Lamplighters Music Theatre, West Bay Opera and recently debuting at Phénix Opera.
Osvaldo de Leon
Director of Spindrift Performance Choir & Music Instructor | Intermediate/Adv. Piano, and all levels of Voice
A native of Mexico, Osvaldo earned his BA in Piano Performance at Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey in México and was the recipient of the Mexican National Fund for Culture and Arts grant to complete his MA in Piano Performance and Chamber Music at San Francisco State University. Osvaldo has performed with the Russian Chamber Orchestra in Marin California, the SFSU Orchestra, and the Orquesta Juvenil de Nuevo Leon. He conducted the production of The Marriage of Figaro with Berkeley Chamber Opera. He has also studied composition under the guidance of Jorge Torres and Georgina Derbez.
Kaori Nakano DeNoia
Music Instructor | Beg & Int Piano, All levels of Voice
Kaori graduated from Japan’s prestigious music school, Kyoto Horikawa Music High School, where she studied vocal performance. She earned her BA from Kobe College and graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with an MA in vocal performance, having studied with Herman Leroux and received a first place prize in the American Art Song Competition. She received preschool and teaching credentials from San Francisco State University, studied pipe organ with Wyatt Insko, and has Kodály training from Holy Names University. Kaori is passionate about teaching and has served as a choir director, pianist and organist for many organizations. These include the San Francisco Girls Chorus (20 years), A.P. Giannini Middle School choir, Christ United Presbyterian Church, and her very own children’s choir Kirakiraboshi Children’s Choir in Japantown. She currently teaches over 1,000 K-5th grade students in the Millbrae School District. When she is not teaching, Kaori enjoys spending time with her family and practicing karate. She is very excited to be a part of the Ragazzi family and to continue sharing the love of teaching music to talented young musicians.
Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Banjo, and Piano Instructor | All levels
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. 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.
Guest Instructor & Choreographer | All Levels of Jazz, Tap, and Musical Theatre Dance
Mary Kalita is is a professional dancer and actor with well over a decade of experience. She attended Millikin University and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre. Her Bay Area regional performance credits include roles in A Chorus Line (Val), Legally Blonde (Brooke Wyndham), Gypsy (June), Chicago (Velma Kelly), Cabaret (Frenchie), Singin’ in the Rain (Lina Lamont), Cats (Bombalurina), Pippin (Fastrada), and Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey – for which she received a SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Actress in a Musical). Mary has taught ballet, jazz, tap, and musical theatre dance to children and adults, beginning through advanced levels for the past 15 years. She is also the Dance Specialist at Bullis Charter School, where she teaches dance elective classes, as well as extra-curricular dance teams and serves as choreographer for their three annual musical productions.
Violin Instructor | All Levels
Chikin has been playing violin for over 20 years and is currently pursuing her B.A. in violin performance at San Francisco State University. She is studying chamber music with the Alexander string quartet as well as violin with Fred Lifsitz. She has performed with the SFSU orchestra, the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony and several bands in the Bay Area. Chikin has worked with young children in numerous capacities for many years beginning at a young age. She is patient and excited about making music fun!
Piano Instructor | All levels
Tatyana Loskutova was born into a family of professional musicians. At the age of 16, she was the winner of the region festival program “New Names”. In 1994, she graduated with honors from Rachmaninov College of Music and went to obtain her degree from St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music.Ms. Loskutova is an active chamber musician in music recitals in the USA, Russia and Holland. She is a member of the Music Teacher Association of California and teaches chamber ensembles in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Ms. Loskutova also studied Arts Management at the St. Petersburg State Theatre Academy. Over a period of many years, she served as an arts administrator at the Vaganova Ballet Academy, Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg State Conservatory, and State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg where she initiated and managed several cultural projects.
Music Instructor | All Levels of Piano
Peter Meredith is a pianist, choir conductor, singer, and music educator who enjoys helping people of all ages experience the joy of making music. He is currently finishing his Master’s of Music Education at Holy Names University, where he studies vocal pedagogy and the Kodály method. He works as a director and accompanist for Ragazzi Boys Chorus in Redwood City, and a teaching artist for the SF Arts Education Project. He is the music director at College Heights Church in San Mateo, First Congregational Church of Redwood City, and Mission Bay Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. He also performs regularly as a jazz and salsa musician, leading the Golden Gate Jazz Trio and playing with several Bay Area salsa bands.
Cello Instructor | All levels | Piano | Beginning through Int/Adv.
Ami 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 SOTA, UC Santa Barbara, San Francisco State University for a MA in Music, and at the Musikhochschule Trossingen in Germany.
Piano Instructor | Beginning through Int/Adv.
Paige is a pianist and mathematician from North Dakota with a Master’s degree in mathematics and many years of piano training. She has already fallen in love with Pacifica where she lives with her husband and dog. Ms. Relling has been playing piano since the age of eight under the guidance of Nicole Antonenko, where she studied a variety of piano styles including all the musical time periods. During the years, she performed in many recitals. She also participated in festivals in North Dakota where she received superior ratings for all three years. In her high school years, she played piano for her school’s jazz band. She also played bells, chimes, and piano in the band. During this time, she was a percussionist in band for a few years. Ms. Relling also performed in a pop band as a pianist. She truly enjoys performing with others. While studying mathematics in college at the University of North Dakota, Ms. Relling joined the school’s women’s choir and the Sweet Adelines’s choir. While participating in these choirs, she was asked to join a student talent show where she performed Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. She also helped the Sweet Adelines by playing the singing parts to match pitch. This choir invited Ms. Relling to perform in their annual variety show where she performed Georgiana by Dario Marianelli, written for the movie Pride and Prejudice based on the book of the same name.
Teaching Artist | Musical Theatre Dance & Theatre
Elena Ruggiero is a Bay Area native, theatre and musical theatre performer and teaching artist. She received her degree from the University of Redlands, Johnston College where she found her lifelong passion for singing, dancing and acting. Elena has taught drama and dance at multiple theatres and elementary schools throughout San Francisco for the past 15 years. She has choreographed multiple junior musicals including Frozen, The Lion King and Peter Pan. She is joining the SSPA team in the hopes of sharing her knowledge with the next generation of performers with her energy and passion for performing!
Teaching Artist | Ballet, Jazz, Modern & Hip-Hop
Born and raised in Santiago, Chile, Andi Salazar is a dancer, choreographer, and sociologist living in the Bay Area since 2017. She is the founder of Kazé Dance Company, a Contemporary Dance Company located in Santiago, in which she was the Artistic Director for eight years. Since relocating to the Bay Area, Andi obtained her MFA in Dance and Choreography from Mills College and has had the opportunity to perform with Emergence Dance Company and Mogli´s Movers Dance Collective, as well as showing her own work in different festivals and showcases in the area with her recently shaped Dance Collective A Pulso Dance Project. Currently, she works as a Dance Instructor at the Bay Area Ballet Conservatory teaching Ballet, Contemporary and Modern Dance; at PowerPlay SF teaching Creative Movement, Pre-Ballet and Latin Dance Cardio, and at Spindrift School of Performing Arts teaching Hip hop. She recently joined The Alonzo King LINES Ballet Community program “heART with Lines”, as an Assistant Teacher Artist.
Guest Teaching Artist | All levels of Acting, Technical Theatre
Lennon started her theatre training at Southern Utah University, home of the renown Utah Shakespearian Theatre. She finished her BA in Theatre at Cal State Long Beach. During her college years she performed roles in many plays and musicals, directed students projects, and collaborated on new plays. She received a teaching credential for secondary education and was a middle and high school drama teacher for nearly a decade. She has directed many plays and musicals at Bay Area theatres, such as Palo Alto Players, Dragon Productions, Theatre Period!, Coastal Rep, and Pacifica Spindrift Players. Some of her favorite projects include Beehive, Sylvia, Aftermath, Moonlight & Magnolias, Private Eyes, Becky’s New Car, and Pippin, to name just a few. Lennon makes regular trips to Broadway, regional theatres, and the London West End whenever possible.
Principal Teaching Artist & Director | All levels of Acting
Caitlyn Tella is an actor, director, and educator originally from the Bay Area. She is passionate about ensemble-devised theater, and has created a number of original works, supported by Theater Bay Area, Z Space, San Jose Repertory Theater Emerging Artist Lab, Hemera Foundation, Elsewhere Studios Artist Residency, and others. As an actor she is represented by NYLO Talent Agency, and on stage she most recently performed at Cutting Ball Theater in Strindberg’s The Stronger and in the immersive San Francisco production, The Speakeasy. As a theater instructor she has worked with students of all ages, having taught at A.C.T., University of Toledo, San Francisco Opera Guild, and many schools in the Bay Area. She earned a B.A. in Theater from UCLA and an M.F.A. in Contemporary Performance from Naropa University. You can find out more about her work at www.caitlyntella.com.