The staff at Chestnut Hill Music Academy 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 and adult students. They have all undergone both a PA Criminal Background Check and a Child Abuse Clearance. Since each student is totally unique, at CHMA teachers are empowered to use their intuition and experience to create a unique learning environment to suit each child’s interests, temperament and learning style. Our goal is to choose just the right match for each student from our diverse staff. Each teacher is encouraged and supervised to be flexible and creative in their approach. In collaboration with parents we design a unique personal teaching plan to keep each 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. He founded and co- directed Soundstage School of Music for 9 years before moving on to CHMA. 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 was the Montgomery County director of Makin’ Music the interactive parent-tot program from 1998 to 2010. Mickey also holds a Master’s Degree from Chestnut Hill College in Counseling Psychology with special training in play and music therapy for children. Mickey personally chooses and supervises all teachers.
Marie Spidale – Voice, Piano Marie is a graduate of Millikin University’s School of Music with a degree in Vocal Performance. She is currently in the master program at Temple University. 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. Marie is currently working towards her Masters in Voice at Temple University.
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.
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
Henry Tirfe – Saxophone, Clarinet, Piano
Henry specializes in classical, jazz and pop styles on the saxophone and clarinet. He is also an accomplished pianist. He has been a part of The Kimmel Center Youth Jazz Ensemble, Simple Commotion, Rick Kerber Tribute Ensemble plus various Classical Saxophone Quartets. Over the years he has performed at Chris’ Jazz Café, The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, City Hall Philadelphia, Penn’s Landing, Warmdaddy’s Café and the Merriam Theater among many others. He is currently pursuing his degree in performance and music education at the University Of The Arts in Philadelphia. Throughout his musical education Henry has been fortunate to study with a great many musical mentors including Mike Cemporla, Chris Farr and Korey Riker. Henry has taught private students since 2010 and spent two years on the faculty of The Brad Schoener Music Man Camp. Henry encourages music students to start young as he did so they can learn about music as they are learning about life. Henry’s goal as a teacher is to bring out the joy and creativity in each of his students.
John Backetti – Violin, Viola, Cello John has been teaching the violin for more than 15 years with stints on staff at The Springside School and Dresher School of Music. He earned a B.A. in Music and English, a MA in English, and a Master of Education Degree, all from Arcadia University. John studied under several great violin teachers in his 25 year career including Amedeo Wm. Liva, a Julliard trained violinist. Since 1995, John has performed extensively as a member of The Old York Road Symphony Orchestra and The Chestnut Hill Symphony. Although classically trained, John also enjoys playing and teaching fiddle tunes, Broadway classics, popular music and Standards. He believes that each student is a unique individual and it is his job to help them find and present their unique musical voice.
Emma is a graduate of Temple University with a masters degree in voice performance. She also holds a bachelors degree in voice performance from Eastman School of Music. Emma is an active performer in the Philadelphia area and overseas. Her recent credits include the Neil Semer Vocal Institute in Coesfeld, Germany, Temple Opera Theater, and Curtis Opera Theater. She has been an active church musician, serving as an alto staff singer at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for four years. Although performance is an important part of her life, Emma is also a passionate private music teacher. She has been teaching voice and beginner piano lessons for the past three years. Her ultimate goal is to create music at a high level in a nurturing, healthy environment.
Anne is a graduate of University of the Arts with a degree in Music Education. She recently moved back to Philadelphia after having spent the past twenty years in beautiful Arizona and California. While in California, she taught privately and coached flute ensembles for adults and was a member of the professional flute quartet “Flutés dé Salon”, performing on Piccolo, C flute, Alto flute, and Bass flute.She is currently a member of the Philadelphia Flute Quartet. Anne has been teaching flute to all ages for over 30 years.
“I love to see the excitement in a child when they make their first sound on the flute and their sense of accomplishment as they improve week by week. I also admire and enjoy teaching adult students. I know how busy their lives can be and I realize they are taking lessons because they enjoy the music and the flute. My goal is to make the lessons fun but also guide students to perform with a beautiful sound and musicality”
Born and raised in southern New Jersey, Nicole is an actor and classically trained soprano who is passionate about performing in both opera and musical theater productions. Nicole completed her Master of Music degree in Voice Performance at Temple University. She also holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Rutgers University. While performing is very important to Nicole, she has been a passionate and dedicated private voice teacher for over five years. Her students have gone on to major in music at the collegiate level, perform leading roles in their school musicals, and even compete on NBC’s The Voice. Nicole believes that singing is one of the ultimate forms of creative expression, and that any genre can and should be performed with healthy and efficient vocal technique. She strives to cultivate performers who are master singers as well as exciting storytellers!
Jonathon Alba – Guitar, Ukulele, Bass
Jonathon is a Penn State graduate and has been deeply involved in music since he was 6 years old, growing up in Bucks County. He believes that everyone is blessed with musical ability and enjoys helping kids discover which instrument they can best express themselves on. He has done a wide variety of things ranging from composing for the Delaware Valley Philharmonic Orchestra as a teenager, audio engineering at recording studios in his 20’s and 30’s, being the lead singer and guitarist of several touring bands, and playing a handful of instruments as well. Jon’s main instrument is the guitar which he has been playing for 25 years. He has taught guitar, bass, and vocals for the last 16 years, both privately and as a teacher in middle and high schools. He studied at the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Society and Berklee College of Music. His solo project includes 4 albums recorded at his own studio in Conshohocken and he currently plays in the Philadelphia-based band “Lucid by Midnight”
Jason Miller – Guitar, Piano , Ukulele Jason has made a career of performing, studying, and teaching music. His training included a BA from Temple University in Broadcast Performance, private music lessons with many great teachers and an intensive apprenticeship to master ukulele virtuoso Peter Delapinia. During his years of living in Hawaii he was a featured performer at the well-known Sunset Club and directed a music program for the Hawaii YMCA for 5 years where he honed his skills at working with students of all ages. Nothing brings him greater joy than finding the unique musical personality of each student, helping them create original songs, building up their confidence to perform for an audience, and work towards mastering an instrument or song that they really want to play.
Rob has a degree in Jazz Studies from Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he was a student of renowned jazz drummer Billy Hart and classical percussionist Michael Rosen. He also studied Brazilian drumming with Jorge Alabê while playing for Jorge’s bateria, Samba Rio. Over the years, Rob has worked throughout the US and China in jazz and rock bands such as San Francisco’s Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, Amos Payne, the Attachments, Otto Mobile and the Moaners, and the jazz trio Beep.
Rob can teach many styles including rock, pop, jazz, samba, Afro-Cuban and reggae. He has 12 years of experience teaching students ranging from young children to adults and spent two years at the Wilmington School of Rock. Music is one of Rob’s highest pleasures in life. He enjoys teaching what he’s learned and watching his students grow as musicians.
Ashley Colabella – Voice, Piano Mezzo-Soprano and a native Floridian, Ashley holds a degree in Music Education from The University of West Florida and a Master’s of Music in Performance/Voice from The University of South Florida. She has worked with some of the greatest artists of our time: Sherrill Milnes, Tito Capobianco, Jennifer Larmore, Howard Watkins, Joan Dornemann, David Friedman, Michelle De Young, John Lidal, and Joseph Mechavich. Classically trained, Ashley has been studying voice for over 10 years and is well-versed in musical theater, jazz, opera, choral, and other styles.
Her fundamental approach to teaching healthy singing is simple: rhythm, diction, and pitch in coordination with proper breath support. She treats the natural singing voice as simply an extension of the spoken voice. Ashley firmly believes that developing basic piano skills can assist cognitive growth in children and helps improve their spatial reasoning. Most importantly Ashley wants her work with students to improve their confidence and self esteem.
Bill is a 1985 graduate of the West Chester University of Music where he concentrated in piano and music education. Upon graduation, he began teaching in New Jersey where he spent 28 years teaching general/vocal music and became the chairman for the music curriculum department. Throughout his teaching career, Bill continued graduate school in music and obtained numerous music degrees including a masters degree in music and a PhD in education with a concentration in music. Bill was the recipient of many music grants to foster music education to students in need. He was appointed conductor and coordinator of the all city orchestra and was the recipient of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Master Teacher’s Collaborative sponsored by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. In 2013, Bill began teaching private piano at the Calderone School of Music in East Hanover, NJ. Later on he was promoted to administrator responsible for students entering state competition. Bill produced many students receiving outstanding condemnations in various New Jersey competitions including MEA and Mid-Atlantic festivals.
Mary received her bachelor’s degree in Music performance from Vanderbilt University in 2016, where she also obtained her Suzuki method teaching certification. Growing up in Philadelphia, she soloed with many regional orchestras as competition winner, including the Ambler Symphony, Old York Road Symphony, Warminster Symphony, Temple University Symphony, and Lansdowne Symphony. She was a finalist in the Philadelphia Orchestra Greenfield competition in 2006 and winner of the Sphinx Competition Achievement Award in 2008. She has also attended many summer music festivals, including the Meadowmount School of Music, ENCORE School for Strings, the International Music Academy of Pilsen (Pilsen, Czech Republic), Brevard Music Center, and has twice been a fellowship recipient at the Aspen Music Festival. Mary has served as the concertmaster of the Vanderbilt Symphony Orchestra and the Brevard Sinfonia, and as associate concertmaster of the Aspen Opera Theater Orchestra and the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. She has also performed with the Nashville Symphony, Nashville Opera, Allentown Symphony Orchestra, Symphony in C, and Peoria Symphony Orchestra.