About The Academy & Staff
The Eugene Piano Academy opened its doors to twenty-four young children and their parents in the fall of 2011. From its beginning, the Academy has seamlessly combined traditional teaching methodology with the social and advanced learning support that comes from group classes. These peer groups make all the difference in creating an energetic, empathetic, and enthusiastic learning environment.
The Academy also serves as a vital part of the arts community, having hosted concerts for the Eugene Symphony, Oregon Mozart Players, and the University of Oregon. It has supported some of our community's invaluable non-profit organizations such as Well-Mama, MECCA, OSLP, and the HIV-Alliance, and has been a regular supporter of the visual arts with its involvement in the Lane Arts Council's First Friday Artwalks.
Beginning in 2016, the Academy partnered with Classic Pianos of Portland to further serve our community as, not only a place of learning but also as a trusted piano retailer.
Susane Davis, Owner & Piano Instructor
In 2009, after completing her undergraduate studies in piano performance with Dr. Stephen Thomas, Susane entered the University of Oregon to pursue her master's degree in piano pedagogy. It was there, under the guidance of Dr. Claire Wachter, where her dream of providing the best method for beginning musicians, while instilling the love of music, was born. Over the next few years, with this mission in mind, she was able to further develop as an educator and pianist, filling her tool belt with skills and experience that proved invaluable when she went on to open the Academy in 2011.
It was also during this time that she was first introduced to the Harmony Road music method and soon thereafter knew that this was the only method that demonstrated both evidence-based curriculum and a thoughtfulness for the joy and art of the process of learning. It has proven to be one of the most complete beginning methods for all ages through its unique approach to engaging the ear. Through this method student's are able to simultaneously develop their reading skills while also encouraging their innate sense of creativity. Along with teaching the fundamentals of music, it is Susane's goal to foster the aspiring young pianist in their pursuit of technical mastery, lyrical touch, and knowledge of the vast repertoire written for the piano and the history behind it. Through this, she hopes that the Eugene Piano Academy will be able to fuel a lifetime of musical love and appreciation with time-tested quality instruction in a supported learning environment.
Nancy Meston, Managing Director
Nancy used to pretend she was a ballerina, dancing around the living room to her sister’s piano practice and couldn’t wait to start playing herself. She started piano at 5 years old and after a chance meeting with “Mrs. B” (Gay Blankenship) in 3rd grade turned her attention to the violin. Nancy was a Viola Performance major at the University of Oregon when physical limitations prevented her from completing her degree.
After a hiatus from music, surgery and lots of physical therapy Nancy has reclaimed her passion. Having to rebuild her skills has given Nancy a unique perspective on learning and teaching. She loves teaching all ages and believes it is never too late to start an instrument. Nancy tailors her lessons to each student and strives to instill an appreciation for the learning process. She believes in combining a strong fundamental base of skills and music knowledge with improvisation, varied styles of music and even different instruments for a well rounded experience and education. Personally, she enjoys mixing her music life up and has played in everything from symphonies to touring the world with a DJ (playing electric viola).
Jamie Yang, Piano Instructor & Special Programs Coordinator
Jamie Yang has been playing piano since age 8 and has been actively involved in music and performing arts ever since. Jamie received her Bachelor’s of Science in Music and Arts Management from the University of Oregon in 2015, where she studied piano under the guidance of Dr. Dean Kramer, Dr. Claire Wachter, and Dr. David Riley. Miss Jamie has been a certified Harmony Road instructor since 2013 and had the opportunity to train with the Harmony Road Course founder, Jan Keyser.
At the heart of Jamie’s teaching philosophy is her belief that music is a vehicle for which students can, through proper instruction, channel and convey their creative thoughts and emotions. She helps facilitate this endeavor by providing a well-rounded approach to music education in a fun and relaxed environment. It is her hope that by teaching music, her students will, in turn, share the joy they’ve found with others.
Rebecca Hutton, Piano Instructor
Rebecca Hutton began playing the piano at age 6. In 2014, she received her Bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Abilene Christian University, where she studied with the late Dr. Paulineung Bjorem. Rebecca entered the University of Oregon to pursue her masters degree in piano pedagogy, and studied under Dr. Dean Kramer and Dr. Claire Wachter.
Rebecca believes that great artistry can be achieved in even the simplest pieces and that any student can perform artistically, no matter the level. It is her goal to guide students as they master the skills required to play the piano but more importantly, Rebecca hopes that they will find great joy and purpose in the music they create. Furthermore, Rebecca believes in nurturing each individual by helping them find their area of greatest potential in learning and music making.
Zaira Castillo, Piano Instructor
Beginning her teaching from the young age of 15, Zaira has always felt great passion towards being able to provide her students with a strong musical education. Zaira is currently a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Oregon, where she has studied under both Claire Wachter and Alexandre Dossin, as well as collaborative piano with David Riley. She hopes to pursue her masters degree with a focus in modern music performance and piano pedagogy.
Zaira indomitably believes that every student, regardless of age, educational, or ﬁnancial background, should experience the art of making music in their own unique way. Zaira also believes that music is an integral part of human experience and that through guidance and instruction, a student will be able to create and enrich their lives with the art of music. Zaira hopes to create a fun learning environment in which students feel comfortable expressing themselves and growing musically as well as establishing a well-founded base in note reading and technique.
Becca Stankis, Piano Instructor
Becca Stankis has been cultivating her enjoyment of music since she was a youngster sitting beneath the piano bench listening to her siblings playing “Hot Cross Buns” and “Old MacDonald’s Farm.” She graduated from Pepperdine University with an undergraduate degree in Piano Performance and English Literature and, while there, discovered her affections for Russian music as well as Russian literary works. She is currently a student in the University of Oregon’s Graduate Music Program and enjoys it immensely.
Becca is fond of hiking, playing chess, traveling, and all things sweet. Her favorite moments as a teacher have been when her students experience the "light-bulb effect.” Phrases such as "I FINALLY get it!” or "Ohhhhh that makes so much sense!” enliven the enjoyment and delight that music offers.
Sarah Jordan, Flute Instructor
Sarah Jordan is a musical artist who expresses her passions through composition and flute performance. As such she has been a constant supporter of music, old and new, and hopes to inspire everyone to experience and enjoy it. In 2016, Sarah graduated with a dual Bachelor of Music in Composition and Flute Performance with a Minor in Music History from the University of the Pacific, Conservatory of Music. She is now working toward her Master of Music in Composition at the University of Oregon while continuing her performance career through private lessons and performing in new works ensembles. Her previous flute instructors include Isabelle Chaipus, Mathew Krejci, and Molly Barth. Her composition instructors include Francois Rose, Robert Coburn, Robert Kyr, and David Crumb.
Sarah has taught flute, theory, and composition privately and in school settings. She has always been passionate about music education and believes that it is a skill and experience that betters one's life, no matter the age or level. From hobby to extra-curricular, to pursuing a musical career, Sarah has taught a vast array of students and developed a teaching style that not only develops musical skills at the student’s preferred pace but incorporates other life skills using music as an educational tool. She also believes each student is unique in both musical preferences and learning style and dedicates her time to discover these traits to make lessons both productive and enjoyable.
David Mitchell, Guitar Instructor
A Eugene native, David Mitchel, got his start as the son of a guitar player and educator. To expand upon the passion instilled within him by his father, David began his studies at Lane Community College and quickly began teaching for the Eugene School District, Eugene Parks and Recreation, and McKenzie River Music. David later set his sights the vibrant guitar scene in Barcelona, Spain, where he spent more than 30 years honing his craft as he played at various festivals, and with duos, trios, and quartets, all under his name
David has a wide range of teaching experience at places like Conservatory Liceo, El Aula Music School, and Taller de Musics in Barcelona, Spain. He also served as musical director for the Benicassim International Jazz seminar in Benicassim,Spain. David has also given master classes at the University of Oregon, Lane Community College, Santander Jazz Festival (Spain), Marciac Jazz Festival (France), and Colmar Jazz Festival (France).
David enjoys working with students of all levels, from beginning to advanced, and is well-versed in various musical styles, including jazz, folk, blues, rock, and funk. He also understands the importance of laying a solid foundation through, technique, chords/chord construction, reading notation, and music theory to help learn the skills of playing by ear, stylistic variations of standard repertoire, and improvisation. According to David, the most joy for him as a teacher comes from advancing a student from one level to the next, no matter what that might be.
Marisa Finlayson, Woodwinds Instructor
Marisa Finlayson has been performing as a soloist, chamber musician, and ensemble member throughout California and Oregon. Ms. Finlayson completed her undergraduate studies at Humboldt State University in Music Education. During her undergraduate career, Ms. Finlayson performed with the Humboldt State University Jazz Orchestra, A.M. Jazz Band, Symphonic Band, Symphony, Intermediate Orchestra, Chamber Woodwind Ensemble, and Calypso Band. Ms. Finlayson has also held multiple assistantships where she served as a student conductor for the Humboldt State University Symphony, Symphonic Band, Intermediate Orchestra, A.M. Jazz Band, and Madrigal Choir. During her time at Humboldt State, Ms. Finlayson co-directed a non-profit organization, North Coast Music Mentors (through the Y.E.S. House), where she worked to bring private and group music lessons to students and schools in the local community. Currently, Ms. Finlayson is attending the University of Oregon for her Master’s degree in Music Education.
Darian Douglas, Violin/Viola Instructor
Darian Douglas is a professional violinist, violist, and educator, who has been performing and teaching public school orchestras in Tucson, AZ and Lake Oswego, OR since 2008, and is currently a Graduate
Fellow in String Education, and Violin/Viola Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Oregon. In the interest of sharing this knowledge of pedagogy to enrich the community, Mr. Douglas strives to provide every student with a real-world musical experience and instill a life-long love of music and performing. Through partnerships with the American String Teachers Association, universities in Oregon, and professional musicians in the community, Mr. Douglas seeks to initiate more active involvement of students and parents in artistic communities of Eugene and Northwest Oregon.
Suzanne Kirsh, Piano Instructor
While napping at age four, Suzanne awoke to a glorious sound. A grand
piano had just been delivered and, for the first time ever, she heard her mother play. That unforgettable moment marked the beginning of her love for the instrument.
At age six Suzanne began lessons with Beatrice Ericson, who studied at the Paris Conservatory with renowned concert pianist and pedagogue, Isidor Phillip. Suzanne found her teaching style to be warm and her enthusiasm contagious, being Suzanne’s biggest teaching inspiration to this day. Suzanne also studied under Doris Lehnert, student of Rosina Lhévinne, at the College of Music of the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Suzanne began teaching in 1987 and loves teaching people of all ages. Her priority is to create nurturing relationships with her students in order to help them feel at ease during the learning process. In addition to teaching proper technique, body awareness, and the art of practice, Suzanne aims to create an emotionally satisfying experience by challenging students to translate printed marks on a page into music that can be felt when heard. She enjoys helping students develop the discipline, patience, and persistence that music requires; traits that will be applied to many other endeavors throughout one’s life.
Suzanne cannot imagine life without the piano. Whether it’s the joy of practicing, the love of teaching, or the thrill of performing, the piano continues to be her lifelong passion and she hopes to pass on this passion to each student she has the opportunity to work with.
Ga-In Choi, Piano Instructor
Ga-In Choi holds a Master of Arts in Music Theory from the University of Oregon. Originally from Alaska, she studied piano with Dr. Timothy Smith at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where she received Bachelor of Music degrees in Piano Performance and Music Education. Ga-In has over five years’ experience teaching music as a private instructor in Alaska, and also taught undergraduate theory courses for two years as a Graduate Employee at UO. Ga-In’s vision as a music educator is to instill joy in music-making and to provide a creative outlet for her students. She believes in the importance of exposing students to solid technique, basic knowledge of theory, and a wide range of repertoire to foster their musical creativity.
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