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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.

Amanda Wheeler

Director of Administration, holds a BFA in Musical Theatre with a Concentration in Dance from Otterbein College (OH) and is a Master’s degree candidate in the Nonprofit Management Program at Columbia University. She is responsible for administration of the Music School including the coordination of the Comprehensive Music Program for Young People and Music School volunteers. Amanda is also an audio describer with the Theater Development Fund offering real-time audio description of theatrical events.

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

(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.

Katharine Flanders

(flute, recorder) holds a BA from Harvard University. There she studied chamber music performance with Leon Kirchner and Baroque performance practice with Frans Brüggen. Her principal flute teachers were Samuel Baron and James Pappoutsakis. As a fellowship recipient, she studied flute in Paris with Michel Debost and theory with Nadia Boulanger. She studied piano for many years and is also an experienced choral singer. Ms. Flanders is the long time first flutist of the Riverside Orchestra. She has recorded on the Mode and CRI labels.

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

(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

(Accessible Music Technology Specialist, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) 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 Brooklyn and has performed/composed for electronic instruments.

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

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

(guitar, bass, drums, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) 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

(Music Technology, Music Theory, Ensemble, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) holds a BA in Music Composition from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a MA in Music Education from New York University. A native of Chile, his areas of expertise include mainly Special Music Education and all the music styles across the Americas. He is currently a Doctoral in Music Education degree candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University.

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

(voice) earned degrees from Temple University and New York University. She is adjunct instructor of voice at Marymount Manhattan. She is also on the Board of Directors of New York Singing Teachers Association (NYSTA) and National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). Ms. Surkin recently lectured on the topic of “Teaching Singing to Students who are Blind and Visually Impaired” 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 the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). On April 26th, 2020 Charlotte will be presenting “Teaching Singing to Students with Vision Loss” for NYSTA. For more information, visit

Richard Thai

(Accessible Music Technology Specialist Large Print, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People) holds a MM degree in Jazz Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College (CUNY). 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.

Michelle Trovato

(voice) was recently hailed as “vocally outstanding” by The Washington Post for her company debut as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with DC Public Opera.  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. She has been a substitute vocal instructor at Highbridge Voices, an after school music and mentorship program in the Bronx, NY, since 2018, and has recently joined the staff of ArtSmart, Inc., an arts mentorship program founded by famed tenor Michael Fabiano.  Ms. Trovato’s other performing credits include: Seattle Opera, Opera Colorado, Utah Festival Opera, Opera Les Azuriales (France), the Caramoor Festival, Symphonic Orchestra of Tirana (Albania), the Crimea Philharmonic Orchestra (Ukraine), and Kennedy and Lincoln Centers.