Samantha Arizmendi is a pianist, violinist, vocalist, and guitarist, hailing from Waukegan. Born into a family of musicians, she started studying piano and violin at age five and grew up singing at family parties. She later received pre-collegiate classical training in piano and voice from the Zion Conservatory of Music, where she learned the value of hard work and regular practice. Sammie obtained her bachelor of science in nursing, with a minor in music, from Marquette University.
Sammie is the music director of St. Anastasia Parish in Waukegan, where she has continued the development of the choral program for the last five years and started the parish’s first Teen Choir. Sammie is also the accompanist for the Swedish Glee Club of Lake County and the Filipino Choir of Lake County.
Sammie’s favorite aspect of teaching is fostering her students’ curiosity, and watching their faces light up when new skills click. She is very excited to be part of the Piano Power team, and she can’t wait to meet more great students in the year ahead.
A native of Glenview, Andrew holds a bachelor’s of music from the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music, where he majored in jazz guitar performance. Andrew has been a lifelong musician, beginning both cello and guitar instruction at an early age. While studying at the New England Conservatory, Andrew was an active member of the Boston music community, in addition to appearing on several commercially-released recordings.
Andrew’s teaching experience includes directing a high-school jazz band, and structuring lesson plans for legendary pianist and educator Ran Blake. Andrew believes in the importance of embracing the individuality of each musician. Provided with the right tools, each student can thrive and contribute a unique perspective. Andrew is thrilled to be a member of the Piano Power team.
Joe Contreras is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in music education from Northeastern Illinois University. His original choral compositions have been performed by collegiate choirs throughout the Chicagoland area. He also performs regularly and has been featured at Jazz Showcase and the Elmhurst Jazz Festival.
Joe believes in fostering a lifelong relationship with music, built upon the idea that anyone can succeed with dedication to their craft. His teaching approach is warm and empathetic, while also promoting a work ethic that can be applied to all aspects of life.
Alex started playing music at five years old, and he has never wanted to do anything else. As he progressed, he explored numerous instruments and genres. He naturally found himself participating in improvised and rehearsed groups, teaching lessons to peers, and honing his sight-reading skills as a church organist.
Alex continued his musical growth at the esteemed Berklee College of Music, where he earned a degree in jazz composition. Since graduating, Alex has played with touring groups across the world, as both a writer and instrumentalist.
With over a decade of teaching experience, Alex aims to cultivate creativity while building technique. By incorporating his students’ interests in a comfortable setting, he fosters structure, routine, and confidence.
An Indianapolis native, Egan has studied at both the University of Toronto and Columbia College Chicago. While hailing from a family of performers, Egan has focused in his own work on original composition. During his college years, Egan also coached youth soccer all over the greater Chicago area. He’s excited to combine his passion for music with the joy of working with kids.
Egan is well-versed in multiple genres, with experience composing and performing jazz, blues, pop/rock, and musical theatre, to complement his native classical background. Egan is active in the composing and freelancing scene in Chicago, currently concentrating on musical theatre.
Dominic is a singer, teacher, and choir director in Chicago. He sings regularly with many Chicago ensembles, including Grant Park Chorus, William Ferris Chorale, Bella Voce, and Constellation Men’s Ensemble. He has sung previously with Chicago Symphony Chorus, Music of the Baroque, and Chicago Opera Theater. He also sings with the Grammy-winning Philadelphia-based choir, The Crossing. Dominic teaches at Maine West and Maine East High Schools and is an adjunct instructor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston. He serves as the Chancel Choir director at North Park Covenant Church and conducts the Chicago Swedish Mixed Chorus in Andersonville. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in vocal performance from Moody Bible Institute and North Park University, respectively.
Equally comfortable in classical and pop genres, Dominic takes an integrative approach to teaching that focuses on fundamentals while encouraging students’ creativity and individualism.
A Minnesota native, Aaron was performing in rock bands by the time he reached high school. After fostering a love for jazz music, he moved to Chicago in 2014 to pursue a degree in jazz studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. While at UIC, he had the opportunity to perform at legendary venues such as the Jazz Showcase, as well as to play alongside jazz greats Chris Potter and Rufus Reid. He regularly performs throughout the Chicago area, with groups ranging from a jazz guitar duo to a rock cover band.
Aaron’s teaching style reflects his wide range of musical influences. Tailoring lessons to his students’ musical interests, he gets students playing the music they love while he teaches them the fundamentals of technique and music theory. His teaching philosophy emphasizes good practice habits and strong work ethic, skills that are vital to success in music and in life. By giving his students the tools to express themselves through their instruments, Aaron instills a lifelong passion for music.
Noah began his life-long love affair with music at an early age, singing every word to “Hey Jude” while still in diapers. From there, he spent most of his childhood playing various sports (in a mediocre fashion) until a guitar landed in his lap around age 10. Immediately, the world began to make sense in new and different ways, and he traded in the baseball diamond for the stage.
A background in classic rock and folk music merged with a developing love for musical theater, and, somehow, someway, over a decade later, he finds himself as a full-time teacher, composer/lyricist, and music director! Noah now has a couple handfuls of original theatrical musicals under his belt, and a career highlight of an original show playing in an NYC off-Broadway theater.
A gifted, personable, and committed teacher, Noah has an enduring love for helping his students find the stories and feelings in every note they play.
Andrew completed his master’s in music at Concordia College-Chicago, and he holds bachelor’s degrees from University of Wisconsin-Madison and Columbia College Chicago. His rich training in pedagogy allows him to work with all ages and levels, and to develop a unique lesson plan for each student. An active participant in the local music scene, Andrew has performed at such venues as Millennium Park and Soldier Field. He currently plays with a number of prominent cover bands throughout Chicago.
Andrew is a true musical polymath. From Bach to Bela Fleck, from Gershwin to Goo Goo Dolls, he loves crossing genres to help his students learn their favorite tunes.
A native of Ithaca, New York, Lena began her piano studies at age four, and over the next 15 years, she explored classical, jazz, and pop. Around the age of 10, Lena began to develop her voice, participating in numerous musicals, vocal ensembles, and competitions. She also began composing her own music and creating new versions of her favorite pre-existing songs.
Lena soon made her way to classical voice, starting her study of opera in her early teens. The love of opera stuck with Lena, as she went on to pursue a vocal-performance bachelor’s degree, from Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music. While at Jacobs, she performed in numerous operas, most notably Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, and a number of solo recitals.
Lena arrived in Chicago in the summer of 2019, having spent the previous year teaching private piano, voice, and guitar lessons in Boston to almost 50 students, spanning all ages and abilities.
Lena’s passion for teaching shows in her bright personality and in her excitement to share the world of music with others. Lena has a positive, respectful, and motivating style. She has a natural and easy rapport, which she combines with her formidable musicianship and keen intuition. Lena loves to engage her students in critical thinking, enhancing their independence and problem-solving abilities.
When she’s not teaching, Lena can be found walking her dog Harvey by the lake, or checking out the many wonderful restaurants Chicago has to offer.
Kyle moved to Chicago in 2018 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in percussion performance and jazz studies from Northern Illinois University. He performs regularly in Chicago’s jazz/improvised scene. An affinity for many styles, and a willingness to experiment, have made Kyle an in-demand sideman, composer, and arranger.
As a teacher, Kyle favors a warm, interactive approach. He begins by uncovering the source of his students’ internal motivation. The answer he finds holds the key to making music a meaningful part of their lives. Drawing on his diverse musical background, Kyle gives each student a set of customized tools, helping them nurture their own joy in music.
Joe is committed to instilling a lifelong creative spirit within his students, catering to their individual interests while also introducing new and exciting ways to approach music-making. In addition to fostering technical skills, he also emphasizes “thinking like a musician,” giving his students real-world applications for what they learn. He holds a bachelor’s degree in composition from the University of Illinois.
A pianist, guitarist, composer, and producer, Joe’s original music covers many genres. In 2015, he premiered his concerto for rock band at the prestigious Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, taking home a BMI Student Composer Award. He has also received awards from the Wisconsin School Music Association and the National Federation of Music Clubs, and he was a finalist in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Awards.
He is an active performer, playing everything from folk, pop, and rock, to soul, R&B, and hip-hop. On weekends, he can be found playing in Chicago or traveling to play across the Midwest. His band Boycut was recently featured in the Chicago Tribune. Joe looks forward to sharing his love of music and creativity with more great students in the year ahead.
Kieran is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and actor. Originally from Danbury, Connecticut, he began his career at age four (in a wordless — yet stirring! — performance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and has since appeared onstage and in the orchestra in dozens of productions. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, where he studied jazz voice under La Tanya Hall and served as principal arranger for ‘Round Midnight, a jazz/folk a capella group.
Kieran brings to Piano Power an eclectic mix of international experience in arts and youth education. He has lived, studied, and worked in England, Australia, India, and Egypt, as well as across the United States. He is the co-founder of a youth program on the Navajo Reservation that uses arts education to teach environmental history, ecology, and climate change.
Kieran’s teaching philosophy is highly collaborative, emphasizing technique and interpretation in equal parts. He believes that humor and creativity are the keys to any good lesson. Kieran looks forward to working with new students of all ages and genres.
A Chicago native, Cesar completed both his undergraduate and graduate music degrees at Northeastern Illinois University. While excelling in classical repertoire, Cesar also developed into a fine jazz musician, selected to tour throughout China with the NEIU jazz ensemble.
Since graduating, Cesar has maintained an active teaching practice while expanding into the entrepreneurial world. He now produces podcasts and markets original musical content through his company, Sounds of Chicago, and he is in the process of opening a jazz lounge in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.
As an instructor, Cesar is warm and engaging, with an interactive approach that adeptly balances structure and fun. He looks forward to sharing the joy of music with more great students in the year ahead.
The product of a musical Tennessee family, Deanna’s music career began at age three, playing one-string bass in her family’s Italian folk group. Violin, piano, saxophone and guitar soon followed.
Her love of music continued to grow, and she now has 15 musical instruments under her belt. Deanna has toured extensively, playing everything from classical to country to indie rock. Her resume includes stints with Will Oldham, Lambchop and Bobby Bare, Jr., as well as tours of her original compositions.
With more than 30 years of teaching experience, Deanna excels as an instructor. Her friendliness, passion, and patience are complemented by a strong sense of clarity and structure. She encourages her students to explore their instruments and put their personalities in their playing, teaching both solid technique and the art of individual expression. “Even while learning the basics,” she says, “you’ve got to have fun!”
Originally from St. Louis, Ryan completed his graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Grammy-winning guitarist and composer Sergio Assad. Ryan has performed in a wide range of settings, from rock bands, to solo classical concerts, to historical reenactments, to musical theater. Since relocating to Chicago in 2016, Ryan has been diving into the local music community and culture. He loves listening to modern and experimental music, and exploring music’s ongoing evolution.
Ryan believes that all music can be used for learning and growth, and he motivates his students by finding music they love. He balances the study of theory and fundamentals with the space to play for enjoyment, nurturing a sense of fun, excitement, and creativity.