Our staff have either university music degrees or professional performance experience. Each teacher is carefully chosen and screened for their ability to teach, inspire and connect with children in their love of music. Of course our teachers all have great skill and a deep understanding of music but frankly that’s the easy part.
Each student is totally unique therefore CHMA offers private lessons that allow the teacher to give each 100% of their attention. Teachers are empowered to use their intuition and experience to create a unique learning environment perfectly suited to each child’s interests, temperament and learning style.
With each new student CHMA creates a completely new program of study. Our teachers are extremely flexible and creative in their approach. Regardless of age or experience we design a teaching plan that keeps your child growing, inspired and engaged.
Mickey Leone – Director and Guitar Teacher - CHMA Director Mickey Leone has been working with children and music for over 3 decades. A professional musician since the age of 14 when he began playing drums in rock bands. Over the years he has studied guitar, piano, voice and fiddle with various private teachers. His musical influences run from blues to country to jazz standards to southern rock. A native of the area, Mickey first started teaching music privately in the mid 1980’s. In 1995 he founded The Chestnut Hill Guitar School where he taught hundreds of students over the years. In addition, he has been a Montgomery County director of Makin’ Music since 1998. Through this interactive parent-tot program Mickey meets with preschoolers and their caregivers in highly interactive weekly music classes. Mickey also holds a Master’s Degree from Chestnut Hill College in Counseling Psychology with special training in play and music therapy for children. He still operates a small private counseling practice specializing in couples, families and individuals. Mickey Leone personally chooses and supervises all teachers.
Joan Topper – Violin, Viola, Piano Joan studied under the tutelage of Toby Appel at The Juilliard School and earned her Bachelor’s degree in violin performance from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, where she studied with world-renowned violinist Ilya Kaler. As a violist, Miss Topper has performed with Ballet Next, New York’s elite independent ballet company founded by international ballet stars Michele Wiles and Charles Askegard, as well as the AXIOM ensemble of Lincoln Center and MusicNow, the contemporary ensemble of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In her lessons, Joan encourages exploration and risk taking. She finds that when learning the violin and viola, taking a chance on something that might not turn out great the first time is the best way to begin to feel comfortable playing the instrument. After some trial and error, each student is able to figure out on his own how to improve and “fine tune”, while having simultaneously taken a risk, and survive! She utilizes Suzuki methods for music immersion and beginning rhythm, and encourages note reading as early as possible. Each student has his or her own progress chart that is updated at each lesson to track progress and set goals.
Michael Galganski – Guitar, Composition, Rock School Michael has a B.A. in Composition with Guitar from SUNY Fredonia, M.A. and D.M.A. (A.B.D.) in Composition from CUNY Queens and Temple University. Teaching experience includes RDC Music, Philadelphia University and Camp Saint Vincent. Specializing in Acoustic, Rock and Jazz styles with particular interest in written notation, solo accompaniment and Tonal theory. Michael has been teaching for many years. He tailors his approach to the personal needs and interests of each student. Able to teach folk, jazz. rock and classical guitar styles, Michael is also a great choice for beginners of all ages.
Marie Spidale – Voice, Piano, Musical Theater - Marie is a graduate of Millikin University’s School of Music with a degree in Vocal Performance. While a classically trained singer, she has performed a variety of genres ranging from musical theater, opera, and contemporary styles. Marie has experience in areas of vocal pedagogy (technique) and has a foundation in foreign language diction. This has given her the ability to sing and educate in music of many styles, in multiple languages healthily. Marie’s career in performance has taken her around and out of the country, her most recent venue being the Salzburg Mozart Festival in Austria. She has a passion for performance and has earned several roles in musical theater productions. Some of her favorites include Ariel in the Little Mermaid, Ti Moune in Once on this Island and Gertrude in Seussical. Other recent credits include various roles in operas, theater workshops and touring with the Millikin University choir. Her background has molded her teaching methods, which mixes classical technique with modern and varying repertoire. It is her mission to make singing a fun and fulfilling experience for each of her students
Marjie Shemanski – Violin, Strings, Piano - Marjie received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from Spring Arbor University, studying with Hui Jin of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She is a registered Suzuki Violin teacher and has completed training courses through book 3 with Wendy Azrak and Mark Mutter. Marjie specializes in working with children s young as three years old, but enjoys working with students of all ages. She has over 10 years of experience teaching students in private lesson, group class, and ensemble settings.
Marjie taught at the Columbia College School of Music in Chicago, as well as the Chicago Suzuki Orff School of Music. Marjie is an active performer and has enjoyed playing with numerous ensembles in South East Michigan. She also enjoys performing with her husband in a folk band called “The Skis”.
Mark Kuczynski – Drums – Rock School. Mark has been playing drums in rock bands at popular music venues up and down the East Coast the past several years. He grew up nearby in Delaware County being professionally trained in complex rock, jazz and Latin patterns as well as the rudiments of drumming. Mark’s drumming influences are some of the most renowned and skilled drummers in rock and roll history including John Bonham, Neil Peart and Matt Cameron. He has a passion for music education, and applies all his lessons to real world examples from popular music as a means for keeping the lessons fun and educational for his students. Mark is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s University where he also played hockey, and is a fan of all Philadelphia sports teams. He looks forward to meeting anyone with a desire to learn music and encourages everyone to explore their musical interests to the fullest.
Nina Kenny - Voice, Piano, Musical Theater – Nina’s passion for the arts came early on when her parents felt she was too shy and needed something to give her more confidence and help her become more outgoing. They enrolled her in Freedom Theatre at the age of seven for dance. After three years of studying dance and excelling her mother moved her to voice principle. There Nina found her voice, quickly taking to learning different styles of music. She gained a lot of confidence and passion for theatre and music. In May 2007, Nina was accepted to Berklee College of Music as a voice principle with a World Tour Scholarship. At Berklee, Nina studied Professional music, and widened her range of music she teachers. Her experience is in Jazz, Musical Theatre, Pop, R&B and Gospel.
While in Boston, Nina started a successful musical theatre program at the Cambridge YMCA. The program ran for 2 ½ years under her leadership and put on 4 full shows in the YMCA theatre. Nina wants to give back all that was given to her by the many teachers who helped her be all she could be. She now wants to inspire others and build a community of positive and creative kids.
Pauline Zager – Guitar, Piano, Songwriting . Pauline earned her music therapy license through the Masters program at Drexel University and she currently works with music therapy clients through a private agency. She has been teaching for 10 years. Pauline believes that each person is endowed with the capacity to express themselves creatively and that when they do so they discover distinctive aspects of themselves. She truly feel that music is for everyone! The compassionate guidance of a teacher can make the difference between a musically confident child or adult and the person who feels “untalented” and afraid to “express themselves”. Her father was a gifted pianist and teacher and her grandfather, also a teacher and musician, was a ‘grand poobah’ in the Philadelphia Musician’s Union. A related branch of the Zager family who owned a famous eatery in Tennessee catered Johhny Cash’s wedding.
Thomas Meany – Flute – Saxaphone, Clarinet – Thomas is a graduate of the University of the Arts and later studied with Harold Bennett in New York City before completing his Masters of Music at Rowan University. He has performed at the Aspen Music Festival, Summer Trio Chamber Music Festival and the Puccini Opera Orchestra in Italy. In addition to performing regularly with guitarist Michael Simmons and the Walnut Street Chamber Trio, Mr. Meany has performed in recital for the Matinee Music Club, the Philadelphia Cultural Council, the Flute Society of Greater Philadelphia, the Department of Recreation and Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour (PennPAT). Recent performances include a joint program of Rowan University Flute Faculty and Alumni at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall in NYC. He has played flute for the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Orchestra Society, the Haddonfield Symphony, and the Lansdowne Symphony. Tom has been heard on WXPN and WGLS radio stations. He has also been a guest on WRTI’s programming “Creatively Speaking” and “Crossover”.
Mr. Meany is a Certified Suzuki Instructor and has received three consecutive scholarships from the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Tom believes in adapting his teaching style to fit the needs and learning styles of each of his students.
Dave Mendez - Upright Bass – Electric Bass Dave has been playing upright and electric bass professionally for ten years. He has been touring nationally since 2006 in various bands and has performed over 1000 shows in total, playing all forms of rock, blues and bluegrass music. For two years, he played bass in a cover band which had a grueling three shows per week schedule.
Dave’s lessons with beginners are geared towards proper technique and music reading, while inspiring them with their favorite songs. His advanced students can choose from modern rock, swing, Latin and rhythm & blues. His bass students can also work on advanced techniques such as slap bass, tapping and improvisation. Dave believes that his job is to help each students evolve their unique musical personality.
Mike Britt – Guitar Michael has 21 years of experience as a guitarist, and over a decade of real-life experience in performance, audio engineering, songwriting, and music production. Over the years he has studied guitar, piano, and drums with various private teachers and played guitar in Washington Township High School jazz band, Rowan University small groups under Dennis DiBlasio. In addition, he has traveled Europe in the American Music Abroad program, and in 2005 earned a diploma in Audio Production and Engineering from The Institute of Audio Research in New York City. His eclectic musical influences range from the various styles of pop to progressive rock to electronica to jazz fusion to Indian ragas to technical metal, with a particular interest in “modal” jazz.
A professional musician since the age of 18, Michael encourages his students to gain a thorough understanding of music theory and he challenges even the most advanced students to explore the endless possibilities of the guitar. Michael is a strong advocate of “life-long learning”. In his spare time, he enjoys studying law, economics, Mandarin Chinese, video editing, urban archeology, and the physics of sound.
Mindy Cutcher – Harp Mindy has been teaching harp to children and adults for over 20 years. Although she teaches every level, she specializes in beginning students with no prior musical background. Mindy emphasizes the “Salzedo” technique, but makes the lessons fun and easy. You will be able to play a song with the first lesson!
Principal Harpist for the Pennsylvania Ballet, Mindy Cutcher is an in-demand performer and teacher. Symphonic engagements include the Baltimore and Delaware Symphonies, the St. Louis Symphony and Philadelphia’s Chamber Orchestra. Mindy has performed on The Tonight Show and with notable names such as Joshua Bell, Josh Groban and Anne Hathaway. She studied with world-renowned Alice Chalifoux at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where she received her Bachelor of Music degree in Harp Performance
Tom Connelly – Drums Tom began playing drums in 1993 at the age of 10 under his father’s tutelage. He played in the marching, concert, and jazz bands from 5th grade through 12th, and then big band jazz at Penn State University, where he studied marketing. Since college, he’s played in numerous rock and roll and jazz bands. He plays in three bands currently, all of which are based in Philadelphia. He’s toured through various cities in the eastern half of the U.S., performed at South By Southwest in Austin, TX, and showcased at various venues in New York City. He’s been teaching since 2006 and has loved every minute of it!