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. 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 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, Ukulele 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
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.
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.
Mike Britt – Guitar- Rock School 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!
Lexi Schreiber – Voice, Piano, Musical Theater
Lexi Schreiber is a classically trained singer who applies that technique to performing and teaching pop, rock, jazz, country and musical theater. She is just days away from her BM in Jazz Vocal Performance with a Minor in Musical Theater from University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Lexi is also an actor and dancer with training in ballet, tap and jazz and has done choreography for various High School and Junior High productions. As a performer some of her favorite roles include Scary Spice in The British Invasion, Cathy in The Last Five Years and Lucy Van Pelt in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. She also sang lead in the opera Dido and Aeneas.Her teaching experience includes private voice lessons, music theory, ear-training and Musical Theater. For 3 years Lexi worked with kids ages 2 to 13 at the Jewish Community Center in Houston, Texas where she coached acting, music and songs for original productions.
Lexi’s believes in the importance of encouraging musicianship from a young age. She emphasizes sight singing and ear training and often uses solfeggio technique and hand signs to help singers improve their sound and their control. Lexi has a passion for teaching and works hard to inspire each of her students with confidence and heart.
Kara Shidemantle – Piano, Voice, Musical Theater
Kara Shidemantle is a jazz, classical and pop vocalist as well as a jazz and classical pianist. She graduated with honors from the University of the Arts in 2013. She is currently working on her Masters in Music at the University of the Arts. Kara has performed with many talented musicians including her time with the Kenny Rogers Christmas Tour in 2007. She has also performed with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops. She also opened for Sting at the Academy of Music with the University of the Arts Chorus. Kara was mentioned in Downbeat Magazine for an outstanding recording of the jazz standard Come Rain or Come Shine in 2009. She has sung in France in two operettas with the Franco-American Vocal Academy in 2012 and at several jazz festivals. Kara has been teaching for 5 years and has loved every minute of it. It is so rewarding to see the joy of music in young people’s eyes.
Chana Kirsten – Violin, Voice, Piano, Guitar
Chana’s musical journey has taken her from her native farm town in north central Illinois, across the United States, to Europe and back. A violinist since age 7, Chana played with various local ensembles and co-founded a string quartet as a freshman in high school. At age 16, she discovered a second instrument in her possession, her voice, and thus began an opera career, specializing in the lyric coloratura and soubrette repertoire of Mozart and Handel. After studies in Europe, Chana returned home, where she completed her Bachelor’s at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, at which point she moved to Philadelphia to study under the tutelage of Fred Martell in New York. After close work with the special needs population, Chana was inspired to channel all that she had learned into a career in Music Therapy, in which she is currently in pursuit of a Master’s at Immaculata University. She is certified in the Suzuki Method. For Chana – progress and love of music and learning, not perfection, is the focus.
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.
Matt Keppler – Upright Bass, Electric Bass, Guitar
Matt took up the guitar at an early age and instantly became hooked on music going on to play and write songs with several different bands. In High School he became enamored with the bass and got serious about Jazz. He entered SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music to pursue an upright bass performance degree. There he did session recordings in many different genres, as well as jazz and musical theater performances. Matt went on to further study at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where he received a Bachelor’s in Instrumental Performance. He currently performs with various rock, blues, gospel, and folk acts with tours including Memphis, Montreal, and Athens, Greece.