FACULTY AND STAFF

Leslie Jones - Executive Director

Leslie 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 herself, 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 and partnerships with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 92NY School of Music and Harkness Dance Center, National Dance Institute, among others. Leslie has served on the New York and Montana State Arts Councils, and has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the Performing Arts Division at Rowan University.

Dalia Sakas - Director of Music Studies

Piano, Chorus, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People (CMPYP)

Dalia 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. She is the founder of our Comprehensive Music Program for young People. Dr. Sakas has served on the faculty of William Paterson University in New Jersey. She also maintains a piano studio of fifteen students.   

Dalia Sakas - Director of Music Studies

Piano, Chorus, Comprehensive Music Program for Young People (CMPYP)

Dalia 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. She is the founder of our Comprehensive Music Program for young People. Dr. Sakas has served on the faculty of William Paterson University in New Jersey. She also maintains a piano studio of fifteen students.   

Pablo Rodriguez - Assoc. Director of Music Studies

Music Technology, Music Theory, Ensemble, CMPYP

Pablo is a 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’s 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, a non-profit organization that supports the artistic development of people with disabilities in Chile and Latin America.

Richard Thai - Program Manager

Woodwinds, Accessible Music Technology Large Print Specialist, CMPYP

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. He began his role as Program Assistant in July 2021.

Two adult musicians play the bass guitar and saxaphone.
Two adult musicians play the bass guitar and saxaphone.

Richard Thai - Program Manager

Woodwinds, Accessible Music Technology Large Print Specialist, CMPYP

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. He began his role as Program Assistant in July 2021.

Donna Grajauskas - Director of Administration

Donna 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.

Michelle Trovato - Social Media Manager

Voice, CMPYP

Michelle 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. Samples of Michelle’s performances can found at youtube.com/divatrovato

Michelle Trovato - Social Media and Community Outreach Specialist

Voice, CMPYP

Michelle 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. Samples of Michelle’s performances can found at youtube.com/divatrovato

Jennifer Apsel

Piano, CMPYP

Jennifer received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music. She is a highly dedicated teacher with 30 years of experience working with students of all ages and levels, from beginners to conservatory graduates. Under her guidance, students have successfully participated and won awards in national competitions. Jennifer has been teaching at the FMDG Music School since 2010, and is on the faculty of 92Y. She also maintains a private studio in NYC.    

Svetlana Avezbakiyeva

Braille Music, Piano, CMPYP

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

Svetlana Avezbakiyeva

Braille Music, Piano, CMPYP

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

Nora Bartosik

Piano, CMPYP

Nora 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. More information can be found at norabartosik.com

Katharine Flanders

Flute, Recorder

Katharine 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.

Katharine Flanders

Flute, Recorder

Katharine 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.

Fernando Garcia

Drums, CMPYP

Fernando is a drummer and percussionist well versed in a wide variety of musical styles. Originally from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico he graduated with a BA in Popular Music from the Inter-American University of PR, and later studied at the Berklee College graduate campus in Valencia, Spain. Fernando moved to New York City, established himself as a drummer, percussionist, composer, and educator, and earned a Master of Music Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. As a composer, he has four studio albums. In 2021 Fernando was awarded the prestigious New Jazz Works grant by Chamber America, that enabled him to compose and record the record “Behique,” released with Sunnyside Records in February 2023. More information can be found at fernandogarciamusic.com

Daniel Gillen

Accessible Music Technology Specialist

Daniel 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

Cyrus von Hochstetter

Piano

With his training in both classical and jazz piano, Cyrus von Hochstetter straddles the musical worlds as a performer, composer and educator. Cyrus has performed internationally as a soloist and with ensembles spanning a wide musical spectrum. A passionate teacher, he designed an innovative composition curriculum teaching children how to write music from scratch. He is the founder of ‘Piano on Park’ a non-profit concert series which creates new opportunities for musicians to showcase and develop their projects. With his knack for storytelling, he introduces audiences into the deeper fabric of classical music through his YouTube series ‘My Music Notes’. More information can be found at cyrusvonh.com

Daniel Gillen

Accessible Music Technology Specialist

Daniel 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

Yo Kano

Piano, Jazz Improvisation, Trumpet, Accessible Music Technology, CMPYP

Yo Kano got his start in New York City at the Lighthouse Music School where he studied with the renowned Lance Hayward. Along with  going to Japan each year for concerts and tours, his career has also taken him to Thailand, Mongolia, Indonesia, Singapore, Morocco, and Turkey. He has also released four CD’s: Yo!, Mother, Sukiyaki, and Now is the Time. Besides performing, he is currently working as a composer/arranger as well. Since 2006 Yo Kano has been on the faculty of The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School teaching piano, jazz theory, arranging, composition, and accessible technology. His work can be found at yokano.com.

Pei-Wen Liao

Violin, CMPYP

Pei-Wen 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. More information can be found at peiwenliaoviolin.com

Pei-Wen Liao

Violin, CMPYP

Pei-Wen 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. More information can be found at peiwenliaoviolin.com

William Payne

Affiliated Professor, Director of FiLOrk

Willie is an Assistant Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill with a research focus on inclusive design and creative expression.  At ‘The Fil’ he teaches Laptop Ensemble (FilOrk), works with the Technology Team to transcribe music and digitize the school’s library of accessible scores, and is developing SoundCells, a music app for writing braille and large print music. Willie earned a Ph.D. in Music Technology from NYU and holds degrees in Music Composition and Computer Science from the University of Colorado. More information can be found at williepayne.com.

Willie Payne

D'Agostino Music Technology Fellow

Willie is a PhD Candidate in Music Technology at NYU studying inclusive design and creative expression. As the Technology Fellow at ‘The Fil’ he teaches Laptop Ensemble, works with the Technology Team to transcribe music and digitize the school’s library of accessible scores, and is developing SoundCells, a music app for writing braille and large print music. Willie’s publications have received awards at highly selective human-centered computing conferences, and his mentorship has been highlighted at NYU. Willie holds degrees in Music Composition and Computer Science from the University of Colorado where he was the Outstanding Graduate of Engineering. More information can be found at williepayne.com.

Vanderlei Pereira

Drums

Vanderlei, a Rio de Janeiro native, is one of the most sought-after musicians on the contemporary Brazilian jazz scene. Combining a prodigious knowledge of Brazilian rhythms with dazzling technique and a distinctive touch, Vanderlei has captivated audiences around the world in performances with a virtual “Who’s Who” of Brazilian and Latin jazz. Based in New York City since 1988, he leads the acclaimed Brazilian jazz sextet Blindfold Test. More information can be found at vanderleipereira.com

Chris Petz

Guitar, Theory, Contemporary Ensemble

Chris 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. More information can be found at chrispetz.com.

Jillian Raquet

Musical Theater Coach

Jillian graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a BA in Musical Theatre. She has been a student with FMDG for over a decade, which has provided her with unforgettable performance opportunities. In addition to her work as a vocalist, Jillian is equally enthusiastic about arts education and administration. She has held positions with organizations such as TADA! Youth Theater, A Class Act NY, Riverdale Children’s Theater, Theatre Development Fund, Waterwell Drama Program at the Professional Performing Arts School, and Philadelphia Theatre Company. Jillian is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with artists who live with vision loss, like herself.

A close up of Jillian Raquet on stage. Jillian is dressed in a gold colored gown. Jillian has long blond hair with a slight curl.

John Sanfilippo

Accessible Music Technology Specialist

John 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

Charlotte 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. Charlotte is currently in the process of writing a book on the same topic. On April 26th, 2020, Charlotte and Dalia presented a webinar through NYSTA. More information can be found at charlottesurkin.com

Charlotte Surkin

Voice

Charlotte 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. More information can be found at charlottesurkin.com

Anthony Vine seated with a white wall and window behind him. Anthony has dark curly hair a beard and a mustache and he is wearing glasses and a white shirt.

Anthony Vine

Guitar, Composition/Songwriting, Music Appreciation

Anthony Vine is a composer and guitarist living in Brooklyn. He is a PhD candidate in music composition at the University of California, San Diego, and holds degrees from the University of Washington and Ohio State University. His orchestral and chamber music has been performed by Alarm Will Sound, Quatuor Bozzini, The La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, longleash, Yarn/Wire, and many others. Vine is the recipient of the 2024 Rome Prize in Musical Composition at the American Academy in Rome, 2022-24 Creatives Rebuild New York Artist Employment Program grant, and 2016 Gaudeamus International Composers Award. More information can be found at anthonyvine.com.

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