Instructors who teach: Songwriting/Composition

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Sammie Arizmendi

Sammie Arizmendi

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.

To see Sammie’s current availability, click here.

Alex Costis

Alex Costis

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.

To see Alex’s current availability, click here.

Casey Cross

Casey Cross

Casey is a musician with a rich and varied background. He began playing piano at five years old and quickly found a passion for music (especially boogie-woogie!). He grew up studying classical music, playing piano and guitar in church, performing with his high-school jazz band, and taking on a brief stint as a lead guitarist in a metal band. He later earned his bachelor’s in music from the University of Central Oklahoma, and a master’s in piano performance from the University of Washington. But that was only the beginning of the fun.

While studying, Casey discovered a love for musical theatre and ballet. With a firm grasp of classical and contemporary technique, he spent several years as a vocal coach, in styles ranging from opera to modern Broadway. He has been a music director and conductor for multiple university and regional-theatre productions. Casey further developed his improvisatory skills as a ballet accompanist, a lead pianist and choir director in the Episcopal church, and a dueling pianist. Currently, he works as a class pianist with Ballet Chicago, and as a music director and audio engineer with Roosevelt University.

Casey is also an accomplished composer and arranger. He has written scores for two short films, is developing a feature-length score, and is a freelance arranger, composer, and producer for recording artists and singer-songwriters.

Moving among varied disciplines and instruments, Casey finds that passion for music isn’t genre-specific — it can come from anywhere. That level of engagement is what he seeks to foster in his students. The combination of open curiosity and inspired instruction can produce true magic.

To see Casey’s current availability, click here.

Andrew Doney

Andrew Doney

Andrew Doney is a pianist and vocalist from California with a deep passion for teaching. After completing his bachelor’s degree in jazz piano performance from Sonoma State University in 2009, he moved to Chicago and has been teaching full time ever since. To keep his love of music fresh, he performs with rock bands all around the midwest. Andrew’s easy-going attitude and sense of humor, combined with his love for all types of music, helps his students to laugh off their mistakes and focus on the satisfaction of reaching the next level.

Andrew has been teaching with Piano Power since 2014, developing strong, yearslong relationships with his students and families. He helps his students find joy in music by reading notes, playing by ear, and improvising. Andrew has coached his students through a host of major milestones – everything from first notes and first recitals, to college auditions, and even to big performances at Wrigley Field and Lollapalooza.

To see Andrew’s current availability, click here.

Doug Ferdinand

Doug Ferdinand

Doug Ferdinand

Doug’s teaching approach is relaxed and compassionate, while maintaining structure and high standards for his students. He challenges them to think critically about music and foster a unique voice in the process. Doug’s diverse musical spectrum allows him to relate to students across styles and genres, as he encourages each student to broaden their musical vocabulary.

Doug began his piano study with a classical approach. By high school, he started exploring jazz and improvisation, performing with other like-minded talented young Chicago musicians. Doug currently performs around Chicago with jazz, funk, and rock groups. He has played many notable Chicago venues, including Double Door, Mayne Stage, and Martyrs.

Doug is especially excited to work with Piano Power and to help his students enhance their love of music.

To see Doug’s current availability, click here.

Jacob Fisher

Jacob Fisher

Jacob was born and raised in Lake Forest, where he started playing music at the age of eight. While receiving his bachelor’s in music performance at Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music, he was principal bassoonist in the university symphony orchestra and wind ensemble. With his woodwind quintet, he was a winner of the Neale-Silva Young Artists’ Competition and performed live on Wisconsin Public Radio. Along with his classical endeavors, he also regularly played guitar in jazz ensembles, improvisational groups, and funk bands.

Jacob frequently collaborates with musicians in Chicago and Minneapolis, performing in modern classical chamber groups and his own experimental rock band, Perennial. He also composes and records music for multiple podcasts, including his own show, Wake & Jake, for which he improvises ambient music on a weekly basis.

Jacob aims to share the joy he gets from music with his students through a positive and enthusiastic teaching style. He loves teaching music of all genres and is especially passionate about discussing the theory behind songwriting.

When not teaching or making music, Jacob enjoys walking his dog, McBain, around the boulevards of Logan Square and watching a lot of movies with his wife and cats.

To see Jacob’s current availability, click here.

Egan Franke

Egan Franke

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 teaching students.

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.

To see Egan’s current availability, click here.

Noah Haines

Noah Haines

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.

To see Noah’s current availability, click here.

Andrew Hawk

Andrew Hawk

Andrew Hawk is a pianist, percussionist, and producer who performs and writes music primarily in electronic and pop styles. He studied percussion and music production at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s of music.

Beginning piano and drum lessons at a young age, Andrew eventually gravitated toward keyboard instruments and music composition. He performs in various contemporary ensembles using electronic percussion instruments and synthesizer, merging his skills as an instrumentalist and audio engineer.

Andrew is passionate about teaching, and he enjoys instilling creativity and music appreciation in his students. He plays to his students’ strengths, while also encouraging them to venture outside their comfort zones. His students thrive on the combination of structure and exploration.

To see Andrew’s current availability, click here.

Andrew Hollander-Urbach

Andrew Hollander-Urbach

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.

To see Andrew’s current availability, click here.

Andrew Jaicks

Andrew Jaicks

A native of Milwaukee, Andrew has lived in the Chicago area since 2013. He earned a bachelor’s of music in composition, as well as a minor in piano performance, from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Andrew has performed in rock bands, youth symphonies, jazz ensembles, choral groups, and everything in between. Through an internship at legendary Chicago studio Rax Trax Recording, he trained in the best practices of music production.

In recent years, Andrew has fallen in love with teaching, and he loves finding new and creative ways to explain musical ideas. His approach is student-led. He knows this “music stuff”, and his job is to make sure his students know it too!

Andrew loves customizing the experience to his students’ long-term goals. If a student wants to master Lady Gaga’s catalogue, bring it on. If they’d prefer a deep dive into music theory, Andrew (a self-described “big music-theory nerd”) is ready for that journey too. And if the student has no preconceived objective, he loves guiding them to potential musical interests.

With a focus on fundamentals and a genuine passion for all things music, Andrew is committed to giving each student an engaging and customized musical journey.

To see Andrew’s current availability, click here.

Pat Leary

Pat Leary

From childhood memories of his mom playing Ennio Morricone and Jackson Browne while making pasta, to playing in high school bands, to discovering jazz in college, music has always been front and center for Pat.

A native of the Chicagoland area, Pat started his musical journey at age four with the Suzuki piano method. Guitar became his passion during high school. After studying engineering physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Pat refocused on piano in his early twenties. He dove into his piano reeducation through Bach, jazz, R&B, and everything in between. He also discovered a love of improvisation.

Pat is passionate about teaching music to any and all who have music in their hearts, as well as developing his students’ critical thinking about music and life.

To see Pat’s current availability, click here.

Audie Lomboy

Audie Lomboy

Audie Lomboy

Audie received his B.A. in music from Loyola University Chicago, where his emphasis was in vocal performance. He has sung as both a soloist and a chorister, in everything from classical to musical theatre. His piano expertise comes from years of technical instruction, along with personal exploration of chord-reading, improvisation, and arranging.

He loves singing while accompanying himself at the piano, and he loves teaching this skill as well. In his spare time, Audie writes songs and has jam sessions. He plays and sings for Bonanzarafa, a group of friends who love music and love to have fun.

As an instructor, Audie facilitates growth — musical, academic and personal — in his students. He is thrilled to be a part of the Piano Power team!

To see Audie’s current availability, click here.

Joe Meland

Joe Meland

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.

To see Joe’s current availability, click here.

Gabe Miller

Gabe Miller

Gabe fell for music early. Growing up in Ithaca, New York, he studied piano from the age of seven, later exploring guitar, bass, drums, and mallet percussion in his teenage years. Gabe became interested in jazz in high school, and he began to draw more on improvisational styles in arranging and performing. He studied classical piano performance at Goshen College before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sustainable food systems and journalism. Gabe is now a pianist, teacher, and arranger based in Chicago.

Gabe’s genuine care for others makes him a kind, supportive teacher for students of all ages. In his teaching and playing alike, he explores questions about right relationships between people and the earth. Gabe provides his students with the foundation for a lifelong love of music and learning.

To see Gabe’s current availability, click here.

Nicholas Olynciw

Nicholas Olynciw

Nicholas is a pianist, vocalist, and educator from Long Island, New York. He earned his undergraduate degree from the esteemed University of North Texas, where he was a member of the Grammy-nominated One O’clock Lab Band. He went on to earn a master’s degree from Western Michigan University, where he was a teaching assistant and assistant director of the Gold Company jazz ensemble.

In the meantime, Nicholas received some major honors, including Best Graduate Jazz Instrumental Soloist from Downbeat Magazine, the Bösendorfer Award from the American Jazz Pianist Competition, and first prize from the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition.

Nicholas combines his amazing musicianship with an affable, fun-loving personality. He establishes a relaxed environment where his students can learn and grow. Whether students want to learn to read music, play and sing songs by ear, write their own music, or improvise, Nicholas is ready to help them achieve their goals.

To see Nicholas’ current availability, click here.

Gillian Perry

Gillian Perry

Gillian Rae Perry is a composer, songwriter, and performer. She has taught piano and voice since 2015 and enjoys getting to share her love of music with students of all ages. She is currently a Vanguard Emerging Opera Composer with Chicago Opera Theater.

Gillian’s work has been performed by the Mostly Modern Orchestra, Euclid Quartet, Aperture Duo, and members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. She was a Composer Fellow with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 2018 through 2020.

Gillian graduated from Southern Methodist University with degrees in both music composition and film. Her work is greatly influenced by film, dance, and theater. Gillian holds an MFA in music composition from the California Institute of the Arts.

To see Gillian’s current availability, click here.

Rioghnach Robinson

Rioghnach Robinson

Rioghnach is a pianist, vocalist, and songwriter from North Carolina. She began her piano studies at age three with the Suzuki method. Ten years later, she discovered her love of singing, which carried her into the worlds of musical theatre, a cappella choir, and pop composition. While continuing classical piano and voice training at Kenyon College, she sang with Kenyon’s chamber choir and served as music director for the college’s all-female a cappella group.

Over the years, Rioghnach has worn many musical hats. She has played keys for funk bands, self-produced an LP, accompanied at Underscore Theatre, and composed theme music for the podcast Still Lives. A working novelist since 2016, she is an enthusiastic believer in music as a similarly diverse and powerful form of storytelling.

Rioghnach trusts that a sense of fun, play, and innate motivation will create lifelong musicians at any age. She nurtures each student’s individual voice and interests, while providing the bedrock of technical training that enables a sense of possibility and exploration.

To see Rioghnach’s current availability, click here.

Ben Sullivan

Ben Sullivan

Born and raised in Chicago, Ben Sullivan is a pianist, guitarist, composer, arranger, and teacher. Ben received his bachelor’s in guitar performance from DePaul University, and his master’s from Northwestern University. Well-versed in classical duo and ensemble music, Ben performs with his wife as a guitar-and-violin duo. His versatility extends to rock, blues, funk, and jazz, and he plays regularly in rock bands as a pianist and lead guitarist.

Ben shows his students that music is a lifelong journey, strengthening character and preparing them for everyday life. Having taught students of all ages for a decade, Ben exemplifies the patience and openness that create a welcoming learning environment. Join Ben in the beautiful adventure into musicianship, where students develop life skills and learn awesome songs along the way!

To see Ben’s current availability, click here.

Sam Wolsk

Sam Wolsk

Sam is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, where he earned a dual major in jazz studies and psychology. He is the founder of DW Jazz Orchestra, an ensemble that plays in Chicago and New York. Sam also plays piano and trumpet for Honey Butter, a local R&B/pop band. He has composed and arranged dozens of jazz and pop pieces, and he loves teaching his students how to play their favorite songs.

Sam’s teaching approach is warm and interactive. He sees music as one of the most important avenues of self-expression and connection to others, and he loves equipping his students with the tools and techniques to participate in the conversation.

To see Sam’s current availability, click here.