Teacher Profile: Sarah Kienle, viola

Violist Sarah Kienle teaches beginning violin for 20 fourth graders at Peak Preparatory Academy, an East Dallas charter school. The FACP violin program at Peak, which just concluded its fifth year, is the only music program on campus and fourth graders are the youngest students to participate in our program. Ms. Kienle has taught for FACP for two years and, in general, her students are not only receiving violin instruction for the first time, but it is their first exposure to music class.

Kienle, Sarah 2017How old were you when you started playing? Do you play other instruments? I’m a “full-blood” violist and started playing at age 7. I took six years of piano lessons when I was young and I can still find my way around a keyboard, albeit a little clumsily.

So, your instrument is viola, but you’re teaching violin. Is there a lot of crossover between the two instruments? Both playing and teaching violin and viola are very similar. In fact, it is not uncommon for violinists to switch to viola or play both. Every once in a while, a violist will switch to the violin. They are held and played the same way, although there are some minor idiosyncrasies to each instrument that require a little adjustment. The viola is slightly larger than the violin and rather than having E, A, D, G for strings, violas have A, D, G, C. Viola music is also written with the alto clef, or C-clef, although sometimes our music switches to treble clef when there is a risk of too many ledger lines (it gets difficult to read because it is too high).

What did you study in college, and where did you study? I received my Bachelor of Music in viola performance from the Colburn School and my Master of Music in viola performance from Indiana University. My outside major in college was beginning violin and viola pedagogy — I love to teach beginning violin.

Who is your favorite composer to play? Beethoven.

What do you love about teaching young violin students? Their excitement! Violin is still so new and fascinating to them and it’s inspiring to see.

Have you taught other ages? I have taught ages 8 – 65.

What is a particularly memorable recital or performance of yours? I’ll never forget my first experience playing a real symphony when I first moved away from home. My youth orchestra was playing Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, and I was blown away by the experience of sitting in the middle of such a powerful sound.

What piece of advice would you give 11-year-old Sarah? Always make sure to have FUN while you play!

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? I love the sound of choirs, especially small ensembles or those singing early music. My least favorite sound is any sound that wakes me up when I’m sleeping.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I’m excited to see what the old masters (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven) do with today’s music technology.

Teacher Profiles: Bo and Gretchen Gerard–the Dream Collectors

Read Hat - DCHusband and wife performing duo Bo Gerard and Gretchen Walz Gerard are co-founding members of FACP’s education outreach program, joining Rogene Russell and Winston Stone to become the Dream Collectors. Their first performance in April 1989 was part of the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration at the Dallas Museum of Art where they won “Best Live Performance.”

They were off and running from there! For 28 years, Bo and Gretchen have been busy writing plays, choreographing, performing, and teaching as part of this award-winning group. Dream Collectors’ shows combine live theater, music, magic, and circus skills to explore topics like learning differences and character in a fun, engaging way. Their original, cross-curricular musical programs are for schools in the Dallas area, and each performance is customized with grade-appropriate curriculum in compliance with State of Texas mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). 

Read more and get to know our FACP educators, Bo and Gretchen!

What did you study in college, and where did you study? 

Gretchen:  I was fortunate to have received a full Presidential Scholarship to study theatre at Adelphi University in New York. My college experience was quite exceptional because it was more like attending an intensive four-year conservatory where I graduated with a BFA in Theatre Arts, summa cum laude.

Bo:  I studied Architecture at the City College of New York, and made a sudden and fortuitous left turn into the world of New York Theater.

What is your professional background?

Gretchen:  After graduating from Adelphi, I did voice work for Sesame Street cartoons. I also performed in numerous New York City theatre productions at Playwright’s Horizon, Lamb’s Theatre, Drama Committee, and the Lincoln Center Festival, etc. Bo and I met while creating and performing with Bond Street Theatre: it’s an incredible company that pioneers theatre-based projects for conflict resolution, education, and empowerment worldwide in countries such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Azerbaijan. After New York, I did regional theatre, finally landing in Dallas where I performed in local theatre productions, TV commercials, and country music videos. I had a lot of fun hosting 30 episodes of the children’s television show, “Club 27.” For 10 years, I performed and taught with Young Audiences before they became Big Thought.

Bo:  I began in music as a recording artist in NYC, and segued into musical theater. I studied with a host of amazing NYC teachers and have performed in shows with Glenn Close, Jim Dale, and Stacy Keach. As a Comedy Magician I have performed over 14,000 shows so far & have shared the stage with: Bill Gates, Lee Iacocca, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Bodett, “Mary Kay” Ash and many other celebrities.

What instruments do you play and what other performances specialties do you have?

Gretchen:  I play flute and I can juggle. Off stage, I am a painter and mask maker.

Bo:  Percussion is my main instrument, but I also play piano and electric bass. I also perform magic, incorporating juggling and a variety of circus skills.

How old were you when you started studying music/theater?

Gretchen:  I started performing theatre when I was 13 at the Lexington Children’s Theatre in Kentucky where we performed at the University of Kentucky’s Guignol Theatre.

Bo:  At 15 I simply had to play the drums, so I carved a pair of drumsticks out of some wood my Dad had and played on an array of pillows – every day!

What is a typical Dream Collectors performance like?

Gretchen:  Currently, Bo and I are performing our original musical comedy, “Escape from Couch Potato Land” in schools. In this play two kids are stuck on the sofa watching TV and eating junk food. Super Chef and Vita Girl come to their rescue with the Brilliant I.D.E.A. – a plan to help them escape. We get students and teachers up singing and dancing about the importance of imagination, a good attitude, and fun exercise. We share information about a balanced, healthy diet.  We hope to inspire kids to lead active, healthy lives. We write the lyrics and music, and record our songs. Some titles are “Read All About It,” “Imagine That,” and “Turn It Around” which is a song about having a good attitude.

What do you love about teaching and performing for elementary school students?

Gretchen:   It is such a blessing to get to teach and perform for these students and their amazing teachers. Their openness and enthusiasm are so inspiring. They are ready for a hopeful message and crave an opportunity to learn and to laugh. Although their lives already have so many challenges, they aren’t cynical yet. When our show is over we go out into the audience so we can look in the eyes and share a smile with each and every child. They all want to be seen and valued.

Bo:   Many of the kids we perform for have not been exposed to live theatre, so this is their first experience with it. This is an honor and a great responsibility – to usher them into the world of musical theater and enrich them with topics that are relevant to their lives.

What is a particularly memorable performance of yours?

Gretchen:  We just love seeing the students and teachers up singing and dancing to our original songs like “Be the Hero,” “Work It Out” (about compromise), and “Prove It” (about the scientific method). Also, it was very inspiring performing our show about dyslexia called “The L.D. Zone” at a time when very little was understood about learning differences in the general public.

What piece of advice would you give 8-year-old Bo or Gretchen?

Gretchen:  What a wonderful age. Actually, I think she could probably give me some advice! Play, enjoy each day, be fully present as much as you can because time goes by fast. Appreciate your parents and teachers.  It’s more important to be kind than to be right.

Bo:  Finding myself content and fulfilled in my career, I have no advice to my 8-year-old self, except “You are in for a great ride!

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite?

Gretchen:   Right now my favorite sound is the laughter of our grandson. Also, song birds in the morning. My least favorite is a child crying out in distress.

Bo:   My favorite sound is the sound of pure joy when expressed through an instrument or voice. My least favorite is when I hear people say they could never sing or play an instrument.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to?

Gretchen:  Maya Angelou singing, dancing, and reciting her poetry.  If I don’t make it through the pearly gates then perhaps I’ll dance (as I did as a child) to Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.

Bo:    I would put together a band comprised of Albert Einstein on violin, Alexander Graham Bell on the piano, Charles Dickens on accordion, Neil Armstrong on the baritone horn, and me on percussion.

Teacher Profile: John Tatum, piano

Pianist John Tatum is in his fifth year teaching class piano and private piano lessons through Fine Arts Chamber Players at David W. Carter High School in south Dallas.

Click here to watch WFAA's profile on John Tatum's piano class at DISD's Carter High School.

Click here to watch WFAA’s profile on John Tatum’s piano class at DISD’s Carter High School.

In addition to teaching for FACP, he maintains a private piano studio, he is an in-demand accompanist for many professional groups and soloists, he is an accompanist at multiple Dallas ISD high schools, and he is the Minister of Music at First Baptist Church of Hamilton Park in Richardson. No, we don’t know how it does it all. But, we do know that he is a tremendous musician!

Mr. Tatum has always been around music. He told us about growing up next door to his church. His family would come home on Sundays with church music still in their ears, his mother would sing, and he would “figure it out” on the piano. His mother insisted that all eight (!) of her children have a musical education. Seven of the siblings play the piano (one brother picked up the baritone horn). Mr. Tatum studied piano at East Texas State, which is now Texas A&M-Commerce.

How old were you when you started studying piano? I started taking lessons when I was 7, I think. I could play by ear, though, before that. In fact, I can’t remember NOT playing the piano. My older brother played piano and I wanted to take lessons, too. When I started formal lessons, I played everything in my brother’s John Thompson music book by ear for my teacher. Of course, you must learn to read music in order to really study it. My teacher gave me Bartok – well, I almost quit when she put me on his Mikrokosmos series. It was so strange to me: there were no pictures in the books, the titles were in two or three different languages. Everything about it seemed so weird to me at that age! With the Bartok I had to really, really read the music and count. Consequently, when I have students that play by ear, that’s the course of study we use because they have to read the music and count. I attribute my ability to sight read well with studying Bartok.

Who is your favorite composer to play? To teach? To play, Rachmaninoff and most Romantic composers. I am also intrigued by Bach; it’s very cerebral. All students must study Bach because college music programs and conservatories demand Bach in auditions because his music shows how you think and how you play.

John Tatum quoteWhat do you love about teaching high school piano students? Especially at Carter High School, I work with kids who haven’t had many chances in life but I can see how music can change them. Case in point, last year I had a Carter student who was constantly getting in trouble. He got kicked out school a few times, but he connected to the music from our class. We worked together – he worked really hard – and it seemed to center him. In fact, he called me just the other day asking for help
in finding a piano. I’ve bought more pianos off Craigslist for students!

A very promising Carter piano student of mine, earned a gold medal at UIL competition this year. Normally, the music teacher on campus holds the medals to present them at one time in front of the whole class. But, this student wanted his immediately so he could wear it around the halls at school.

I’m so thankful to FACP having me at Carter, because I can teach students who otherwise wouldn’t have private lessons. I get up at 5:30 in the morning to get down to Carter for lessons, and I’m happy to do that for these kids.

Have you taught other ages? In my piano studio, I teach as young as 4 years old and I teach adults, too! In DISD, I work with high schoolers.

What is a particularly memorable recital or performance of yours? Late last year, I was performing in northern Europe while three of my former students were performing elsewhere on the continent. They would call me to ask about what they were seeing and to ask about the cultural differences they were experiencing. I had to convince them to not eat at a McDonald’s in France! When I see my students perform on the world’s stage, my heart bursts. That’s my payback, right there.

What piece of advice would you give 16-year-old John? Heed the advice of others. Listen more, practice harder, study harder.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite sound is the human voice. It can do things that other instruments can’t do. My least favorite would be an out-of-tune guitar. Hearing that drives me nuts.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I want to hear Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, the “Symphony of a Thousand.” And I want to interview all the greats and hear what they were thinking when they wrote their stuff, like Prokofiev – why is the third movement to his Piano Concerto No. 3 so hard? It’s almost impossible to play.

Teacher Profile: Linda Strummer, soprano

We are so glad to have Linda Strummer as one of our Teaching Artists with FACP. A soprano, Ms. Strummer is in her fourth year teaching at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Before teaching, she enjoyed a career as an international opera singer for over 35 years (read more on her website, here). After studying at the University of Tulsa, she started working on a master’s degree at SMU, but left the program to launch her professional career. She has also taught as an adjunct and associate professor for 15 years at the University of Tulsa.

Linda StrummerHow old were you when you started studying voice? I was 13. I also took piano lessons.

Who is your favorite composer to sing? To teach? I can’t actually say I have one. I like almost all of them equally. I sweat bullets when I have to learn Strauss! But once I learn it, I love singing it. The same applies to teaching. I love helping a student learn a new piece and teaching them what I can about the style.

What do you love about teaching high school voice students? I love being the first one to write in their “Singing Book,” metaphorically. I get the chance to help them build a good breathing foundation and formation of vowels and voice placement.

Have you taught other ages? I won’t work with anyone who is under 14. So much changes during puberty – for guys and gals – that it can be dangerous. I have had many calls over the years from parents who want voice lessons for their 6 or 7-year-old. I tell them to have them learn to play the piano first. Then when they are 14 or 15 to call me back.

What is a particularly memorable recital or performance of yours? A few years ago I did a recital of all Fauré music. I loved singing that one! And my debut (after being in Europe for 15 years) at New York City Opera under Beverly Sills with Sam Ramey holds a very special place. And, who could forget La Scala? So many memories.

What piece of advice would you give 16-year-old Linda? Be more curious and don’t assume you know where you are going. An Oklahoma girl of Irish descent, CAN make a career in opera. Learn more!

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite would be a cat purring (especially mine). My least favorite would be an animal in pain.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I love Bach organ music! I’d love to hear that. Or just about any other composer playing his/her own music: Monteverdi, Schumann, Schubert, Fauré, Debussy. OMG, so many! I would also like to discuss with Puccini why, at the most crucial moments in his operas, he does not leave enough time to get the action done!

Teacher Profile: Karen Gerardo, violin

Karen Gerardo is in her second year as a violin teacher with FACP at Peak Preparatory. She teaches the fourth grade class, and a combination class with sixth and seventh graders. Outside of FACP, Ms. Gerardo regularly performs with Mariachi Rosas Divinas,  an all-female mariachi group. A freelance musician, she is also principal master with the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Irving. And, she teaches the afterschool orchestra program at Paul L. Dunbar Elementary school in DISD.

gerardo-karen-2016What is your violin background? I’m very much rooted in Dallas. I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. I was also part of the Young Strings program [a Dallas Symphony Orchestra music education program] through my middle school and high school years. I began my mariachi career by joining Mariachi Rosas Divinas in 2006. I’m currently working on my bachelor’s degree in music.

How old were you when you started playing violin? Do you play other instruments? I started playing violin when I was 6 years old in first grade. I play a little bit of viola and it’s been years since I have played piano. My piano skills are at a beginner level, so it’s more for fun. 

Who is your favorite composer to play? That’s extremely hard to answer! I love many composers for different reasons. It also depends on the genre of music and what mood I’m in. Right now my top three for classical music would be Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Shostakovich.

What do you love about teaching young violin students? I love the excitement and satisfaction they get when they accomplish a skill or song that they had been working on. 

Have you taught other ages? Yes, I worked privately with middle school and high school students and directed the mariachi at BTWHSPVA.

What is a particularly memorable recital or performance of yours? That’s also hard to pick! I have to pick the year were the mariachi performed with the Grammy award-winning band Ozomatli at the Palladium Ballroom for Red Bull Battle of the Bands. I had the honor to perform the guitar riff at the beginning of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” with an electric violin. Let’s just say the crowd went wild 

What piece of advice would you give 11-year-old Karen? At that time, I was involved with ballet and enjoyed it more than orchestra. So if I could go back in time I would tell myself to get exposed to as much music as possible and to take every opportunity to perform. And, have patience when things are tough!

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? A baby’s laughter just makes me smile every time! My least favorite sound is plastic utensils rubbing against each other. I know it’s weird, but it puts me on edge!

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? That’s so hard to answer! Let’s see… Christian Ferras playing the second movement of the Sibelius violin concertoHumoresque by Alex de Taeye played by Itzhak Perlman, and the festive overture by Shostakovich to name a few.

Teacher Profile: Alfrelynn Roberts, soprano

We hope you enjoy our new series we’re launching – Teacher Profiles! With our free concerts, our community of supporters can get to know the performers we have on stage, but there has not been an opportunity to meet our dedicated and talented Teaching Artists who work with our music education programs. This fun Q&A is chance to introduce you to them!

roberts-alfrelynn-2016Let’s meet Alfrelynn Roberts. This is Ms. Roberts’ second year teaching voice lessons for FACP at DISD’s Carter High School, and her second year at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. A trained operatic soprano, she received her Bachelor of Arts in voice performance from Hampton University, and her Masters of Music from Northwestern University.

Who is your favorite composer to sing? That varies from time to time. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in. For classical, my favorite has got to be Puccini. When listening to music – when I’m in a jazzy kind of mood – I like to listen to Sarah Vaughan. In my car right now, I’m listening to a neo-soul artist named Avery Sunshine.

What do you love about teaching high school students? When the lightbulb goes off – when they get the concept I have been trying to teach them, and they finally hear what I’ve been hearing. It’s when they can grasp new things about their voices and hear what their voices can do.

Have you taught other ages? Yes, I have taught younger students in middle school, and I have taught at the college level. I was an adjunct professor at Cornerstone University in Michigan and at Kalamazoo College.

What is a particularly memorable recital of yours? Oh, I’ve got one! At Kalamazoo College, we were under a tornado watch and the sirens went off when I was in the middle of a song. My teacher came on stage while I was singing, and I thought, ‘What is he doing? Is he going to sing a duet with me?’ but he announced we had to evacuate. So we took the recital to the basement.

What piece of advice would you give 16-year-old Alfrelynn? Ooh! That’s a good question. At 16, I didn’t quite know what the possibilities of what an opera career could be, so I was hesitant about it. But, I loved to sing and study voice. I would tell my younger self: don’t get discouraged – just keep singing. And have fun! I was too serious as a kid.

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite sound would be rain, softly falling. My least favorite sound? I’d say my least favorite genre of music is punk rock. I just can’t find the music in it!

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I think it would have to be a concert of some of the folks who have left the world too soon. My high school choral director, Michael Terrell, had a beautiful falsetto voice – a voice you just don’t hear much of anymore – and I would like to hear him sing again. There are composers, too – Glenn Burleigh and Moses Hogan – whose work I would love to hear sung by a heavenly chorus.

Fine Arts Chamber Players