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.
Kari holds her master’s in music composition, with an emphasis in film and media scoring, from Columbia College, and her bachelor’s in music composition, with a focus on classical piano and voice, from Baylor University.
She was a teaching artist, pianist, composer, and music director for award-winning non-profit Storycatchers Theatre for three years, as well as an accompanist for the Chicago Lyric Opera. Kari is currently a music theory instructor at the Chicago High School for the Arts.
Kari loves to teach in a way that brings out the vibrant confidence and individuality in each student. Her teaching approach is accepting and relatable, focusing on meeting students where they are while providing a fun challenge in every lesson. She is excited to work with new Piano Power students in the year ahead.
Justin Callis is a teacher, music director, and composer. He has worked extensively with students of all ages and backgrounds, bringing a warm, engaging style mixed with a healthy dose of humor. With Storycatchers Theatre, he worked for many years with incarcerated youth, transforming stories from their lives into original musicals, and music directing and accompanying their performances. He helped over 100 elementary school students put on a production of Madagascar, Jr. this past spring, and served as the music director for a production of Thoroughly Modern Millie at Glencoe Central School.
He is the music director at Community Christian Church in Lincolnshire, and Shir Tikvah Synagogue in Homewood, where he prepares adult choirs for weekly services of spiritual music.
As a performer, Justin toured the country with Child’s Play Touring Theatre, performing original plays and musicals based on the work of children, and he has performed with Chicago Opera Playhouse throughout Chicagoland. In the spring of 2018, Ravenswood Community Orchestra premiered Justin’s original work, Symphony No. 1.
Justin graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s in theatre and English, and a certificate in music theatre. He looks forward to working with more wonderful students in the year ahead.
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.
Sarah Diller moved to Chicago in 2014 after completing a master’s degree in opera performance from Wichita State University. Her piano study began at age 6, and she added vocal instruction starting at age 12. Since then, she has performed in choral groups throughout the United States, Europe, and South America. She has also performed with the Ohio Light Opera, the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company, and the Wichita Salon Series.
Sarah has an enthusiastic, engaging approach, and she enjoys teaching all musical styles, including classical, Broadway, and pop. She has coached her students to great success in auditions and competitions, and is excited to share her love of music with students of all ages.
After studying piano and voice at Sonoma State University, Andrew earned his bachelor’s degree in jazz piano performance in 2009. His easy-going attitude and sense of humor, combined with his love for all types of music, help his students to flourish while playing music they truly enjoy. To keep his love of music fresh, Andrew performs regularly with rock bands all around Chicago.
Andrew holds a firm belief that everyone can find joy in music, regardless of experience or skill level. A full-time teacher since 2010, he’s coached students through all stages of the musical learning process — their first notes, first recitals, college auditions, and even performances at Lollapalooza.
Dominic is currently completing his master’s degree in vocal performance at North Park University. An active performer, he sings in the North Park Chamber Singers and performs in North Park Opera productions. He is also the bass section leader and soloist at Trinity United Methodist Church in Wilmette, and sings with Constellation Men’s Ensemble. Dominic is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, where he received his bachelor’s in sacred music with an emphasis in vocal performance. While at Moody, he studied piano and organ and was a frequent worship leader for chapel services.
Equally comfortable in classical and pop genres, Dominic takes an integrative approach to teaching that focuses on fundamentals while encouraging students’ creativity and individualism.
Chris discovered his love for music and performance onstage in musicals, singing in roles varying from the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz to the Balladeer in Assassins. His involvement in a cappella ensembles led him to become an ace song arranger, in styles from folk and jazz to pop and rock. Today, he performs with Deep Dish, a Chicago-based a cappella group, and composes for musical theatre.
With degrees in theatre and music from Valparaiso University, Chris loves sharing his expertise and experience with his students. A deep love of piano and voice drives Chris to challenge himself as a soloist and ensemble member. In his lessons, Chris seeks to inspire that same enthusiasm in the next generation of pianists, singer-songwriters, and vocalists.
Nico Gutierrez is a teacher, pianist, conductor, and composer. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music composition from Texas Christian University in 2015, and his master’s degree in composition, with an emphasis in film and media scoring, from Columbia College Chicago in 2017.
Nico began his musical studies at age seven and began composing at age twelve. In recent years, his compositions have been premiered, performed, and professionally recorded by members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá. His love for writing film music led him to work for Hollywood composers such as Mark Isham and Heather McIntosh. Nico’s multimedia credits include work for A&E, CBS, and Netflix.
As a performer, Nico grew up playing the piano and cello as well as conducting several orchestras and singing as a professional boy soprano. Nico was a longtime member and frequent soloist in the Grammy-winning Texas Boys Choir.
Nico’s teaching style is upbeat and fun, engaging his students with clarity and kindness. Nico is looking forward to meeting and working with new Piano Power students in the years to come!
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.
A native of Seattle, Christine began her musical studies as a classically-trained trumpet player. Moving to Chicago and collaborating with jazz colleagues led her to pursuing a master’s degree in vocal jazz. She was accepted into one of the nation’s leading jazz institutions, the University of North Texas. There she focused on her new passion for singing, honing her skills in piano, songwriting, arranging, and improvisation.
Since completing her master’s, Christine has enjoyed teaching piano, voice, trumpet, and theory to students of all ages. Her greatest passion is helping students find their personal connection to music, and helping them develop the technique and skills for self-expression. Whether through accompanying, facilitating original composition, arranging pop music, or using traditional literature, Christine leads her students to their goals in practical, attainable ways, by instilling creative and effective practice habits.
Christine is very excited to be back in Chicago, her favorite city. Outside of music, she enjoys drinking coffee, reading, cooking new foods, and spending time with dogs.
Mallory received her bachelor’s in music education, as well as her K-12 teaching certification, from North Central College, and her master’s in voice at the University of Missouri-Columbia. An active performer, Mallory was recently heard singing as Countess in The Marriage of Figaro with New Moon Opera.
Mallory has been teaching piano, voice, and clarinet lessons for over a decade. She has worked with a wide range of students, from ages four to 92, from beginners to advanced musicians, and from home musicians to members of touring rock bands. Her engaging style and comfort with all musical genres help her make great connections with her students. She is excited to work with more Piano Power families.
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.
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!
Marilyn’s musical journey began at four years old when she picked up her first (very tiny) viola. By the age of ten, she added voice and piano to her repertoire and was eager to get on stage whenever she could. Marilyn continued exploring her lifelong love of music at Columbia College Chicago, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in music.
Over the years, Marilyn has performed in a live orchestra session on 98.7 WFMT radio, in Costa Rica, with the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra, and with the Boston-based Neapolitan Orchestra. She also volunteers as a music teacher at Girls Rock Chicago.
Marilyn’s favorite aspect of teaching is the opportunity to work with so many amazing students. Each student brings an exciting new dynamic that makes their learning experience unique and fun. Marilyn is excited to be a part of the Piano Power team and looks forward to working with new, friendly faces!
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!”
Anna has been playing piano for over 20 years. She holds a bachelor of music degree from Illinois Wesleyan University, with a major in piano and minor in voice. In addition to teaching, Anna performs with musicians around the Chicagoland area. Recent appearances at the piano or keyboard include Big Deal Productions’ Evita, Big Noise Theatre’s 9 to 5, Side by Side by Sondheim with Four Star Arts, and numerous cabarets and recitals.
Anna’s favorite way to teach is through collaboration with her students. She nurtures their enthusiasm for music by getting to know their personalities, preferences, strengths, and challenges. Anna’s fun and relevant music choices make lessons a blast.