Our Faculty


Micah Burgess : Art House Co-Founder/Director - Guitar, Ukulele, Tenor Banjo, Mandolin

Micah Burgess

Art House Co-Founder/Director - Guitar, Ukulele, Tenor Banjo, Mandolin

Micah Burgess is a versatile guitarist whose credits include Cirque Du Soleil's "Banana Shpeel", the first national tour of “Come Fly Away”, and numerous off-Broadway productions. He has also been a sub on the Broadway productions of “Beautiful”, “Newsies", "Soul Doctor", and "Mary Poppins".

Micah has shared the stage with Matthew Broderick, Bibi Neuwirth, Ian McKellan, Chris Meloni, Stephen Schwartz, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Megan Hiltey, Jeremy Jordan, Chuck Cooper, Richard Kind, Danielle Hope, Charlotte Jaconelli, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Seth Rudetsky, Harriet Harris, Katie Rose Clarke, Tracie Thoms, Shoshana Bean, Constantine Maroulis, Krysta Rodriguez, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Iconis, Tituss Burgess, Brian Lynch, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, and Danny and the Juniors among others. His playing has been heard on television and radio including the 2014 Winter Olympics, ABC Family’s “Becoming Us”, and National Public Radio.

As a composer, Micah co-wrote the score for “In The Magic of the Green Mountains”, a feature length documentary with Rob Cookman featuring Tony Trischka on banjo. Other composing credits include the Off-Broadway production of “The Hat Left Behind” as well as a documentary entitled "I Am Bombay", a featured selection at the 2006 Indo American Arts Council Film Festival in New York City and the 2007 Stuttgart Film Festival Germany. In 2008, Micah released his first CD as a bandleader, "We Do Know You".

As an instructor, Micah has over ten years of experience including adjunct positions at New York University, The New School, Duquesne University and the Queens Conservatory. He is a co-founder and guitar instructor at Art House Astoria, a nonprofit conservatory for music and art in Queens, NY.

Micah is also a recipient of the Eubie and Marion Blake Award for jazz performance and holds a Masters Degree in Jazz Performance from New York University and a Bachelors Degree in Guitar Performance from Duquesne University

Jane Burgess : Co-Founder/Board President - Voice, Women's Show Choir

Jane Burgess

Co-Founder/Board President - Voice, Women's Show Choir

Jane Burgess is a New York City-based singer/actor/instructor. She has performed throughout the United States and Italy. She received her B.M. and Artist Diploma in vocal performance at Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, PA). Jane has appeared on opera, musical theater or cabaret stages.

Most recently Jane has made a home for herself teaching for and co-directing here at Art House Astoria. In 2009 Jane and her husband, Micah Burgess, co-founded Art House Astoria with a mission to provide affordable, quality music and art education to the Astoria, Queens community and surrounding areas. We have grown from 5 students to over 125 in a little over 5 years.

After living in Astoria for only 6 years Jane is very much a part of the community. Having grown up in a strong community, Jane has longed to create a similar feeling in her Astoria neighborhood. In 2013 the Astoria Presbyterian Church hired Jane to be a Community Liaison where she reaches out to people through the church, her music and arts organization and helps others obtain a sense of responsibility and pride for their community.

Zofia Bogusz : Art

Zofia Bogusz

Art

Zofia Bogusz was born in Poland in the ’80s. As a child, she moved with her parents to New York City where she currently works and resides. Zofia received a bachelors degree from the School of Visual Arts, where she focused in oil painting and figurative studies. Zofia regularly exhibits her work, and enjoys doing freelance illustration as well as commissions. Her personal work was featured in Juxtapoz, the leading international art and culture magazine. Her art and interview is also featured in the print issue of a Miami-based art magazine Art Nouveau, as well as the Brazilian art and culture magazine ZUPI.

Ben Brewer : Violin, Guitar

Ben Brewer

Violin, Guitar

Ben Brewer is a musician and educator from Long Island, NY. Growing up, he was actively involved in his school’s music program, and gained a sharp ear for both classical and popular music styles. He has performed with various groups including the renowned Nassau-Suffolk Jazz Ensemble, with whom he was televised on PBS. He attended Stony Brook University where he studied both classical and jazz performance, along with composition, theory, and history from professors such as world-class trombonist Ray Anderson, and renowned composer Peter Winkler. At Stony Brook, Ben rose to the top of his class, receiving multiple awards for musicianship and academics and went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude. Currently, he is living in New York City as a musician and teacher, and can be found both in the studio and playing throughout the country with many different groups that range though all musical styles. As an instructor, Ben is informative, patient, inspiring and develops individualized lesson plans tailored to the unique abilities and goals of each student. His motto is: “It’s not what you play, but how you play it.”

Steven Cardona : Musical Theatre

Steven Cardona

Musical Theatre

Steven Cardona is a Teaching Artist for Disney Theatrical, teaching choreography from all of the Disney on Broadway shows. International; The Wiz ( Scotland), Click Clack Moo (Canada). Regional; "The Untitled John Mayer Project" (The Merc) Altar Boyz (Theater Barn), Strike Up The Band (Boston Conservatory), Ragtime (Dr. Phillips), Guys and Dolls (Act III Pro.) Money$hot: a new musical (Rush Theatrical productions) Asst. Choreographer: Murder For Two (Second Stage/ New World Stages/ 1st National Tour) Yeast Nation , ZM: Zombie Musical (creators of Urinetown), BFA: musical Theater Boston Conservatory.

Shakira Croce : Flute

Shakira Croce

Flute

Shakira Croce is a New York City-based freelance flutist and flute instructor.  A Georgia native, Croce first moved to New York to study at Sarah Lawrence College, where she concentrated in Music, studying flute performance with Tara Helen O'Connor (Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center).  Croce also studied abroad at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole in Italy with Paola Bonora (BBC Symphony Orchestra).  She holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence and a Masters from Pace University.  Croce has performed at national and international venues, including Chelsea Piers, LIC Bar, Palazzo Corsini, and Teatro Puccini.  She is experienced in teaching beginner through advanced levels of flute. 

The Grundy Family : Eli Draws

The Grundy Family

Eli Draws

Eli Draws are a family and a team supporting their young son Eli's passion for being creative and transforming it into a brand where other parents and kids can participate in exploration, learning and collaboration.

Eli Draws is an Astoria based company founded by Eric Briarley Grundy and Amanda Whitford Grundy, Eli's parents.

Eric is an actor, singer, and songwriter. He has appeared in the Broadway National Tours of Les Miserables and My Fair Lady as well as many other regional musical theatre productions.

Amanda is a musical theatre actress and performing arts educator. She is currently a teaching artist for Disney Theatricals, Trinity Baptist Church, and Art House Astoria.

Eli Draws mission is to encourage children and adults to explore their imaginations, expand their horizons, and actively engage through creativity, play, and art.

Towner Galaher : Guitar, Drums

Towner Galaher

Guitar, Drums

Galaher's long career in education began in 1980 at Brown's Drum shop, and has since developed into over 30 years of teaching at community centers, giving private lessons from music stores and his home studio, and more than 15 years in New York City Public Schools. Now a New York resident, Galaher has garnered much respect as an educator who is committed to mentoring and passing the baton to younger generations.

Towner Holds a BA in music from Empire State College and an MA in jazz performance from Queens College where he studied composition and arranging with Mike Mossman and Roland Hanna. The author of three seminal essays, "Parallel Developments and Cross-Cultural Exchange in the music of New Orleans and Cuba 1900-1920", "The History of Latin Music in New York City", and "New Orleans R&B 1945-1970". He has written an instructional drumming book entitled "Coordination Development for the Drum Set" and collaborated with Mike Clark to produce the book, "Mike Clark Funk Drumming: Advanced Concepts & Innovative Grooves" for which he did all the transcriptions and text. His transcriptions work was also featured in the first six issues of "Drumhead Magazine".

Since moving to New York City from the Pacific Northwest twenty five years ago, Towner has preformed with some of the top names in jazz, including Wynton Marsalis, John Faddis, Mondre Moffet, Jon Hendricks, Louis Armstrong all star Arvel Shaw, guitar legend Jack Wilkins, Peter Cincotti, Craig Handy, and Arturo O'Farill (leader of the Chico O'Farill Afro-Cuban Big Band).

He has studied Afro-Cuban drumming with Frankie Malabe, Johnny Almendra and Victor Rendon… Brazilian drumming with Duduka DeFonseca and Cryo Baptiste… New Orleans drumming with Ricky Sebastian and Jazz R&B and funk with Mike Clark and Mel Brown.

With the release of his third CD, "Uptown!", which reached the top 10 on the National Jazz Charts @ #8, and was on the top 50 for an impressive 22 weeks……Towner Galaher has firmly established his reputation as stated by jazz drumming legend Lenny White, "…a triple threat. Great drummer, composer and band leader."

Amanda Whitford Grundy : Musical Theatre

Amanda Whitford Grundy

Musical Theatre

Amanda is a musical theatre actress and performing arts educator. She is currently a teaching artist for Disney Theatricals, Trinity Baptist Church, and Art House Astoria.

Greg Hammontree : Piano, Brass

Greg Hammontree

Piano, Brass

After studying piano and trumpet as a child, Greg Hammontree has toured China, played with All-State ensembles, and performed all over the NYC and Atlanta area with many legends in jazz. He has a M.A. from Queens College in Jazz Performance and maintains a very active performance and recording lifestyle, in addition to the compositions and arrangements he is commissioned to write.

James Jacobs : Cello, Recorder, Stand-up Bass

James Jacobs

Cello, Recorder, Stand-up Bass

James David Jacobs was one of the original faculty members of Art House Astoria and is happy to return after five years in Boston. James is a cellist, conductor, and composer as well as a radio host and producer. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where he studied cello with Milly Rosner and Colin Hampton, and he also plays Baroque cello, viola da gamba, double bass and recorder. He taught at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music for eight years, where he conducted the chorus and orchestra and began an award-winning salon program. He has played a wide variety of music, including rock, klezmer, and contemporary improvisation, and has often collaborated with theater and dance artists. He has appeared as a musician on Prairie Home Companion and Saturday Night Live and has composed scores for HBO and PBS. In recent years he has organized and directed cello ensemble concerts in New York, Boston and Minneapolis. As a radio host he has worked for WGBH, WNYC and WNYE, and can currently be heard as the Saturday evening host on WETA FM in Washington, DC.

Alaleh Ketabi : Piano

Alaleh Ketabi

Piano

Alaleh Ketabi received her Bachelor of Music in piano performance from Georgia State University, where she studied piano with Dr. Geoffrey Haydon and chamber music with Dr. Brandt Fredriksen. After being recognized as an outstanding performer at the GMEA competition, she participated in several piano competitions throughout the country and overseas.

In fall of 2009, Ms. Ketabi appeared as a soloist to perform Prokofiev Piano Concerto #1 wit the GSU symphony orchestra. In the summer of 2010, Miss Ketabi participated in Vianden Music Festival and School in Luxemburg, where she performed Brahms Cello Sonata in e minor. She also had the opportunity to perform Doppler, Andante and Rondo for two flutes and piano in Neuburg, Germany. Ms. Ketabi is currently perusing a masters degree in Music Education at Hunter College. Ms. Ketabi has over 10 years of experience teaching piano and music theory with several music institutions and schools within the Atlanta area and New York City. Ms. Ketabi’s students have performed in several piano competitions and recitals. Ms. Ketabi’s vibrant energy, eloquent presentations, motivational techniques, and professional approach have brought success to all of her students.

Amirtha Kidambi : Piano, Voice

Amirtha Kidambi

Piano, Voice

Amirtha holds a B.A. and M.M. in Vocal Performance, with training in Classical/Opera, Jazz, South Indian Carnatic music and Classical piano. She loves to teach all genres of music including Classical, Jazz, Musical Theater, Pop, Rock, R&B, Experimental techniques and Improvisation. As a musician, Amirtha is a composer, vocalist, and improviser, playing keyboards and Indian harmonium in many different bands and ensembles. She regularly premieres works by some of the most innovative composers in the world, and is the bandleader of her own avant-garde Jazz quartet, Elder Ones. Amirtha has been teaching voice and piano for almost a decade, and is thrilled to be teaching in the diverse and wonderful borough of Queens!

"It is my passion to instill a love for playing and singing in each of my students, by tapping into what excites them about music! I believe learning music is a highly personal experience, and each student requires a unique approach that reflects their own individuality. For that reason, I never use one single method of instruction, and try to tailor my approach to each student."

www.amirthakidambi.com

Norman Pors : Jazz Workshop

Norman Pors

Jazz Workshop

Norman Pors grew up in Charlottesville, VA and began playing piano at age 10. He studied classical music for many years and while in high school, started playing in local rock and dance bands. In 1979, he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts graduating in 1982 with a B.M. in Performance and Arranging. The following year, he attended New York University where he earned his M.A. in Jazz Composition. While there, he studied with Jim McNeely, Hilton Ruiz and Joanne Brackeen. Over the years, Mr. Pors has proven his versatility by performing not only with jazz groups, but also rock, R&B, blues and fusion bands. Some of the performers he has played with include Brian Torff (bassist with George Shearing), Vernell Fournier (drummer with Ahmad Jamal), Marcus Mclaurine (bassist with Clark Terry) Bob James, David Sanborn, the Gil Parris Band, the Dave Matthews Band, and Marsha Heydt and the Project of Love.

In addition, Mr. Pors has had many of his compositions and arrangements  recorded by various artists including Marsha Heydt (“One Night” & “Diggin’ the Day”) and jazz vocalist Donna Cumberbatch (“Daughters of the Nile” and “Seasoned Elegance”). He has also written/arranged music for documentaries (“Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood”) and other independent film projects. He has performed in many musical theater productions including “Cabaret”, “Once Upon a Mattress” and “American Fantasy 1,2 & 3”. Also he was the musical director for the off-Broadway shows, “Five Guys Named Moe” and “Smokey Joe’s Café”. As a teaching artist, Mr. Pors has been on staff at the Brooklyn Queens Conservatory of Music, helped co-found CenterStage: the Queens Center for the Performing Arts and currently coaches the New Jazz Vocal Workshop at Art House Astoria.

Robert Rokicki : Piano, Musical Theatre

Robert Rokicki

Piano, Musical Theatre

Rob is a songwriter, performer and music director in NYC. He's a member of the Dramatists Guild, Actor's Equity, and alum of the Tony Award-winning BMI workshop. His musical, Love, NY (co-written with Mike Ruby) won the 2009 American Harmony Award and was presented at New World Stages (NY), Curtain Call (CT) Oklahoma University. Songs featured in the York's NEO series, at Lincoln Center, Joe's Pub, Ars Nova & at universities internationally. Also with Ruby: Relativity (Theatre Row), 20 to Life (American University), Strange Tails (West Village MT Festival; Best Musical, Best Lyrics, Best Score, Best Book; ANT fest). Composer-lyricist for Martha & Me (NY Fringe) and Samson's Fire (The Cell Theater), Gingerbread House (New York Film Academy). Broadway performers have sung his songs throughout New York and benefits across the country. He is currently adapting "The Lightning Thief" for Theatreworks USA.

As an actor, Rob has performed in national tours including the EVITA 25th Anniversary Tour directed by Hal Prince and was featured in the SOUTH PACIFIC Concert at Carnegie Hall. Many Off-Broadway and regional credits (Carbonell Award Nomination).  Music Directing: Departure Lounge (dir. Christopher Gattelli), The Public Theater; Joe Iconis' ReWrite (also arranged for Sam French), Goodspeed; Hairspray, John W. Engeman Theater. He teaches music theory at Cap21 and is a grad of the University of Michigan.

Vivien Schweitzer :

Vivien Schweitzer

Vivien Schweitzer is an Astoria-based pianist and writer, who contributes articles about music and culture to publications including the New York Times. She studied piano performance at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, and with professors from the Guildhall School of Music in London and the Conservatory of Seville in Spain. She regularly performs solo and chamber repertory at Bargemusic in Brooklyn and enjoys sharing her love of music with students of all ages and abilities

Jessy Tomsko : Piano, Guitar, Voice

Jessy Tomsko

Piano, Guitar, Voice

Hailing from New York City, Jessy Tomsko has a love for music that transcends the simple pop tunes that plague much of today’s music scene. With her heartfelt lyrics and self-penned melodies, Jessy celebrates life and love in her acoustic renditions brought to life on the many stages of New York City.

Jessy’s love for music stretches back to early childhood where she became enamoured with writing short poems and stories, and shortly began to add music to the equation by composing little piano pieces. These early ventures into music cumulated in picking up the guitar in her late teens, and deciding then and there that she wanted to focus on music and pursue a career of her own. After some time spent earning a degree in classical singing, Jessy returned to writing music, reigning in her creative capabilities and challenging herself as a singer-song writer.

In 2010, Jessy worked closely with Greg Fisher of Evolving Sound Studios on her debut, full-length album, “The Light You Make”. The album invites the listener to take part in Jessy’s honest and unguarded musical interpretation of life’s virtues and melancholies. The soft, lilting melodies featured on the record showcases her vocal skills, finessed with years of classical training.

Jessy’s work is infused with a lightness and warmth that is equally embodied in her live performances. Maintaining a busy performance schedule, Jessy has played at venues such as The Bitter End in New York City and the World Café Live in Philadelphia, and major events as the Wave Gathering Music Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey and the Launch Music Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She’s also had the honour of sharing the stage with artists such as David Berkeley, James Maddock, John Francis, Amber Rubarth and Ari Hest among many others.

“Little Reverie”, a three track EP, was released in January 2011. Jessy continued to evoke emotionally charged responses from her listeners with acoustic tracks delivered with sweet and simple vocals. Her stripped down and honest delivery magnified the intimacy she strives to achieve with her audience.

Jessy continues to grow as an artist, garnering new skills from each musical experience and being inspired by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Ani Difranco and Ingrid Michaelson. These experiences can be seen in her new full-length album, “Join the Circus”, to be released this year.

Known for her well-crafted songs and dynamic stage personality, Jessy’s easy-going personality and warm vocals permeate her music and continues to do so with her latest single, “Come Get Me”. As a member of ASCAP, she has teamed up with Concerthouse Music Management and Blue Pie Records in 2011 to further develop her music.

Jessy Tomsko is part of the Blue Pie Family of Artists. For More Information visit www.jessytomsko.com.

Michael Vannoni : Violin

Michael Vannoni

Violin

Michael Vannoni is a Juilliard graduate (BM and MM) with a local performance schedule including recitals, chamber & symphonic concerts, operas & ballets, new music concerts, and Broadway musicals.  He is also active as a teacher, and and as an orchestral and chamber music coach.  Michael is a multi-instrumentalist with a focus on strings and woodwinds, and also sings.

Michael has attended the festivals at Tanglewood, Taos, Verbier and Musicorda.   As an orchestral player, Michael has toured on a number of occasions, and has touched down on most of the world's continents.

Michael's major teachers were Karen Tuttle (The Juilliard School), Steven Ansell (Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston University), and Christian Euler (University of Music and Theatrical Arts, Graz, Austria). Michael plays on a 1997 Alexander Tulchinsky viola.

In addition to Michael’s performance schedule, he is an experienced music administrator. He has held positions at the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, Schott Music, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Moab Music Festival, and Welltone New Music.

Teaching is a passion for Michael. He has maintained private lesson teaching studios both on Long Island and in New York City. Michael currently teaches at a number of community music schools throughout Queens and Brooklyn, and teaches privately in Manhattan.  While at the Musicorda music festival, Michael was a teaching assistant to Roberta Guaspari-Tsavaras, who is known for her work in inner-city schools in Harlem, NY.

Laura Ware : Acting

Laura Ware

Acting

Laura Ware arrived in Astoria in 2007 with her two suitcases and a laptop after spending two years out on the National Tour of Mamma Mia! where she played the role of Rosie. Since arriving in New York, Laura has appeared on As the World Turns and on the Nickelodeon kids' show The Naked Brothers Band as well as in the World Premiere of Things As They Are in the New York Musical Theater Festival. Some of her favorite stage roles include Miss Hannigan in Annie, Maggie Jones in 42nd Street, and Reverend Mother in Nunsense among others. Originally from California, Laura holds a BFA in Acting and an MFA in Musical Theater and she is a member of Actors Equity Association.

Kris Wettstein : Piano, Drums

Kris Wettstein

Piano, Drums

Kris Wettstein writes and performs spare pop songs that draw on his background in classical piano, Christian hymnody, gospel, and West African music.

A committed musician around New York, he has collaborated with Grey McMurray (itsnotmeitsyou), Pauline Kim Harris (Wordless Music Orchestra) and Esther Noh (Either/Or), and has performed numerous times at Spectrum and Caffe Vivaldi.

In November 2009, he travelled to Dakar, Senegal where he performed frequently to thousands of people with pop star Carlou D, including an appearance at the Festival Mondial des Arts Négres (World Festival Of Black Arts) alongside artists such as Youssou N’Dour and Busta Rhymes. At this time he also collaborated with several other well known West African musicians including Daby Balde (Senegal), and Alfadio Dara (Guinea). He was especially moved by a form of guitar playing characteristic of Guinea, whose weightless and disorienting quality informs his work.

In 2012 he toured the East Coast playing a program of Morton Feldman, whose work profoundly shapes Kris’s music. As a composer, Kris is interested in creating sounds on another scale, with small changes occurring slowly. He recently wrote a song cycle inspired by the works of the Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi, examining the material properties of the piano. In November, he released the EP ‘For Nothing Holds You In’, recorded at renowned studio Water Music with Grey McMurray, Dan Sedwick (Kelly Polar) and Marjorie Gere (Boston Public Quartet).

A committed composer, he collaborated with Portland, OR storyteller Rochelle Saliba in writing the songs for a forthcoming musical named ‘Flight’. His works have been performed and recorded by Trio Rouge.

Kris studied music at Walla Walla University, and at Rice University, where he graduated with a Master’s in Piano Performance. He resides in New York City, where he conducts a gospel choir as director of music at Mott Haven Reformed Church.
Kris Wettstein writes and performs spare pop songs that draw on his background in classical piano, Christian hymnody, gospel, and West African music.http://www.amicroscope.com/