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Fostering education, access, and inclusion for people of all ages with vision loss


Leslie Jones

Executive Director of the Music School, holds a DMA from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and an MM from the University of North Texas. She has served on the faculties of Ithaca College and Montana State University. A versatile musician, she enjoys playing chamber music and performs as jazz pianist. She has been instrumental in developing an accessible music technology program within the Music School while expanding community outreach and visibility by establishing collaborations/partnerships with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Dance Institute, among others.

Dalia Sakas

Director of Music Studies (piano, chorus, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) received her BM from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, MM from the Manhattan School of Music and DMA from the University of South Carolina. Dr. Sakas has served on the faculty of William Paterson University in New Jersey. She maintains a piano studio of her own and serves on the board of the Associated Music Teachers League (AMTL). She is the founder of our Comprehensive Music Program for Young People.

Richard Thai

Program Assistant (Woodwind instructor, Accessible Music Technology Specialist - Large Print, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People). Richard holds a MM degree in Jazz Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College (CUNY) and a BM degree in Jazz Performance from the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington. A professional jazz saxophonist and educator, Richard was promoted from being a General Music Intern with the Music School to becoming its second Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Technology Fellow in 2017.

Donna Grajauskas

Operations Manager of the Music School, received her BA from the University of Toronto, and has worn a number of different hats for both commercial businesses and non-profit organizations, in the US, Canada and Lithuania. Her professional work has included human resources, development, business systems and community organizing, always motivated by a mission which enhances people’s lives.

Jennifer Apsel

Jennifer Apsel (piano, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People), received both her BM and MM degrees from the Manhattan School of Music, where she was a scholarship student. She has earned prizes in several competitions at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Jennifer is a dedicated teacher for students of all levels. She has helped prepare many students for auditions, master classes, recitals, and concerto performances. Jennifer has been teaching with the Music School since 2010.


Svetlana Avezbakiyeva

Svetlana Avesbakiyeva (Braille music, piano, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) received her BA degree in music education from The Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College (CUNY). Svetlana also received a BA degree in choir directing and solfege at Kursk College of Music. She is also a graduate of the Music School, where she currently enjoys working with both children and adults.

Nora Bartosik

Nora Bartosik (piano, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) has performed as a soloist, collaborative artist and chamber musician in the United States, Europe and Asia. She holds degrees from Harvard University, the Mozarteum University in Salzburg and the University of Music in Leipzig, Germany, and was on the artist roster of Yehudi Menuhin Live Music Now.  She is currently on the faculty of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, Opus One Music, and the Point CounterPoint summer chamber music festival for teen students in Vermont.

Katharine Flanders

Katharine Flanders (flute, recorder) holds a BA from Harvard. There she studied performance practice with Leon Kirchner and Frans Brüggen. Her principal flute teachers were Samuel Baron and James Pappoutsakis. As a fellowship recipient, she studied in Paris with Michel Debost and Nadia Boulanger. She is also a pianist and choral singer. Ms. Flanders has been principal flutist of the Riverside Orchestra since 1977. She has recorded on the Mode and CRI labels.

Daniel Gillen

Daniel Gillen (Accessible Music Technology Specialist) holds degrees in Physics and Music from Haverford College. A Braille music specialist in the Music School's transcription department, Daniel assists in the production of Braille music to be used for in-house instruction as well as outside contracts for K-12, higher education, and professional settings. He is currently certified in Literary Braille Transcribing and Proofreading from the National Library Service (NLS), Library of Congress.

Juan Pablo Horcasitas

Juan Pablo Horcasitas (piano, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People), holds both BM and MM degrees in Piano Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Nina Svetlanova. Recent performances include presentations in Berlin, Bogota and Washington. Since his Carnegie Hall debut in 2009, he has been working actively as collaborative pianist, chamber musician, conductor and educator. Juan Pablo also teaches at the Diller-Quaile School of Music in New York.

Konrad Kamm

Konrad Kamm (Accessible Music Technology Specialist) holds a BM degree in music education from Brooklyn College (CUNY). A double bassist, he has performed in the Brooklyn College Conservatory Orchestra and has played and recorded bass guitar and drums in bands “Cloud” and others. Konrad is based in eastern Long Island, NY and has performed/composed for electronic instruments. He currently works on music transcriptions producing braille music scores. 

Yo Kano

Yo Kano (piano, jazz improvisation, trumpet, accessible music technology, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) is an internationally known jazz pianist and composer-arranger. His concerts have taken him across Asia, and he has released four CDs. His work can be found at

Pei-Wen Liao

Pei-Wen Liao (violin, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) is a graduate of the Yale School of Music and The Juilliard School. Already boasting sold-out Carnegie Hall recitals, and selected as an honoree in the 2018 Mandarin Leader Magazine, Pei-Wen Liao, has performed as a soloist with more than twenty orchestras in twelve countries across three continents. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Ms. Liao is currently a Doctoral Candidate at the Manhattan School of Music.

Julian Pardo

Julian Pardo (drums, drum cricle) BA (Professional Music), Berklee College of Music. Drummer and producer from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Has performed with a wide array of musicians from Ralph Peterson jr., Jason Palmer, Donald Harrison jr. to Toto la Momposina and Alexander Acha among others.

Chris Petz

Chris Petz (guitar, theory, contemporary ensemble) studied at the University of Vermont and the Mannes School of Music. He has performed and/or studied with jazz greats Phil Markowitz, Ritchie Bierach and Ed Maceachen. For more information, please see

Jonathan Price

Jonathan Price (electric bass, guitar) has taught at the FMDG Music School for 5 years. He has performed and recorded in New York City with hundreds of bands and solo artists and worked on Broadway productions.  Highlight endeavors include touring with Sony artist Sara Bareilles, performing on iHeart Radio with Brendon Urie, and accompanying Stevie Wonder at the United Nations NYC headquarters in 2016.

Pablo Rodriguez

Composer and Special Music Educator from Santiago, Chile. He received his BA degree in Music Composition from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, a Master Degree in Music and Music Education from New York University, where he specialized in Education for people with disabilities, and a Doctoral degree in Music and Music Education at Teachers College, Columbia University where he specialized in Research in Music Education and Social Justice. Pablo is co-founder of Fundación Chile, Música y Braille, and Program Coordinator at UpBeat NYC.

John Sanfilippo

John Sanfilippo (Accessible Music Technology Specialist) holds a BA in music education from Adelphi University. He has performed with the Music School Vocal Ensemble, The Lance Hayward Singers, and in several solo and ensemble concerts. John is the acting Minister of Music of The Queens Reformed Church in Queens Village, NY.

Charlotte Surkin

Charlotte Surkin (voice) earned degrees from Temple University and New York University. She is an adjunct instructor of voice at Marymount Manhattan. Ms. Surkin is on the Board of Directors of New York Singing Teachers Association (NYSTA) and the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). She recently lectured for the College Music Society (CMS) in Sydney, Australia and published the article “Teaching Singing to Students with Vision Loss” for the Journal of Singing through NATS. On April 26th, 2020, Charlotte and Dalia presented a webinar through NYSTA. For more information, visit

Michelle Trovato

Michelle Trovato (voice) has sparked praise in Opera News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications for her “lush” voice and dynamic characterizations.  Having won prizes in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, Ms. Trovato has maintained an active private vocal studio, affectionately called the “Studio Bel Trovato”, since 2010.  Students have gone on to win vocal competition prizes in their own right, and attend such schools as Manhattan School of Music, Juilliard, Temple, Harvard, and NYU.