Faculty

String Project Faculty, after Fall Concert 2013

Behind every great teacher, there’s another great teacher

August Gmitter, bass

Augie GmitterAugie Gmitter hails from Buda, Texas. From an early age, he was exposed to a wide array of musical styles that could always be heard playing around his house. His father’s love of a broad range of musical genres instilled in him a great appreciation for the diversity of the medium. As an 8-year-old, his personal CD collection included an eclectic mix of performers, from Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman to The Who and Pink Floyd to Irish Pub songs and Motown. When he entered Middle School, he joined the band and had his pick of instruments to choose from. He settled on the French horn. That led to the desire to play his “own” instrument and he chose the bass guitar, after one of his influences, John Entwhistle, who early on played French horn and went on to master the bass with The Who. Other early influences for him were Paul McCartney, who besides being a prolific songwriter and singer for the Beatles, is an amazing bass player, Trifon Dimitrov with The Prodigals, another phenomenal bassist, and of course, Jaco Pastorias. Although starting relatively late in seeking formal training, Augie began lessons at Buda’s Allegro School of Music when he was 13. There, he was eventually paired with the multi-talented Thomas Mann, who not only mentored Augie’s performance training but also introduced him to music theory, which is still a passion for him today. While at Allegro, which is owned by the Derailer’s keyboardist Jonathon Jamison, Augie wanted to expand his appreciation of his instrument and began lessons on the upright bass. He was fortunate to be the sole student of Kevin Smith, the Derailer’s former bassist, who also toured with The Brian Setzer Orchestra and Dwight Yoakam. While working with Kevin, who is currently the bass player for Willie Nelson, Augie developed his country chops as well as explored the walking style of jazz players, such as Ray Brown.

Currently, Augie is a student at the University of Texas at Austin. He is studying to become a music educator and occupies a position in the UT Symphony Orchestra. He is also playing both electric and upright bass in many bands playing in and around Austin. In keeping with his never-ending desire to master his instrument, he has studied classical double bass under the tutelage of George Fahlund, and is now a member of DaXun Zhang’s Classical Contra Bass Studio. Along with exploring the wide world of classical music and studying the Contrea Bass, he is actively involved in teaching with the UT String Project where he is able to teach children the importance of music as well as developing musically along with them.


Aurora Adamson, violin

Aurora AdamsonAurora Adamson has over 14 years of experience teaching violin to a wide variety of students. She is a Suzuki Method-trained teacher, and enjoys teaching beginners of all ages, continuing students, and “returners.”  Aurora’s teaching goal is to combine a diverse range of music with solid technical training and share her love for playing music with her students.  She earned her Bachelor of Music at Saint Olaf College and recently completed long-term Suzuki teacher training at the University of Minnesota (ECC through Book 10.)  She has played in several Twin Cities-based groups, in both classical and fiddle traditions, including Lirica Chamber Ensemble, Supertet String Quartet, Clover Bridge Calamity, and SlovCzech Band.  She is currently studying at the University of Texas in Austin, working towards a Masters in Music and Human Learning with teaching certification.  Her goal is to become a Suzuki in the Schools teacher.


 Aurora Zenfell, viola

Aurora ZenFellOriginally from St. Louis, MO, Aurora Zenfell began playing the violin in her school program in 3rd grade. Though viola and percussion were always her main instruments throughout high school and college, she enjoyed playing flute, trumpet, singing, and performing in early music ensembles, steel band, and an African drumming ensemble while earning her Bachelors of Music Education degree from The Florida State University. Following an internship in band and orchestra, Ms. Zenfell taught middle school orchestra and elementary strings in Orlando, FL for 3 years. She has performed professionally on percussion with the Tallahassee Symphony, and viola and percussion with The Florida Lakes Symphony.

Since coming to UT in 2008, Ms. Zenfell explored her love of Middle Eastern music, devising a curriculum to teach Arabic music in an orchestra class, which was presented at the national ASTA conference in 2011. She completed a masters degree in Music and Human Learning with emphasis on strings at the University of Texas at Austin in May 2010. She currently teaches orchestra and guitar at Paredes Middle School in Austin and performs Middle Eastern music on violin around the Austin area.


Brittni Brown, violin

Brittni BrownBrittni Brown, a sought after violin teacher and performer in Austin, instructs privately and at the University of Texas String Project. During the summers, she teaches at the renowned Interlochen Arts Camp. She has played in numerous orchestras, and most recently substitutes with the Austin Symphony, as she is currently attaining her doctorate degree at the University of Texas. Brittni received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees with honors from the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying under William Preucil. She is a certified Suzuki teacher, and received her long-term training under the tutelage of Kimberly Meier-Sims. Brittni also uses Eurhythmics, a method used to teach rhythm involving hands-on activities, often during lessons. Ms. Brown enjoys concertizing with her peers in chamber music recitals, and has had the privilege of being coached by renowned chamber musicians: Anton Nel, Peter Salaff, James Dunham, and members of the Miro and Cavani Quartets. She previously taught at Clavier-Werke Music School, Mentor High School, and the CIM Preparatory Department. Brittni is currently accomplishing her Doctorate degree in music Performance with instruction from Brian Lewis.


Caitlin Coughlan, viola

Caitlin CoughlanBio coming soon


Caroline Moore

Caroline MooreCaroline Moore has been teaching music for more than a decade in New York City, where she also performed with choruses at BAM, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Allen Room, and the Metropolitan Opera. Caroline holds a B.A. from New York University’s Gallatin School, an M.A. in Music and Music Education from Teachers College at Columbia University, and she is currently a student in the PhD Music and Human Learning program here at UT. Caroline is also the Summer Music Study Program Director and an Early Childhood Advisor at the Diller-Quaile School of Music in New York, as well as the Primary Children’s Choir Director at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin.


Courtney Castaneda, cello

Courtney CastanedaCourtney Castaneda, cello, is a graduate student in the Music and Human Learning program at UT Austin. She began playing music in her elementary school in Houston. She received her Bachelor of Arts degrees in cello performance and psychology from the University of California, Davis and her Master of Music degree in cello performance from Sacramento State University where she was a teacher in the Sacramento State String Project. She has taught privately for seven years, and was the Business Administrator for the Suzuki Music Institute of Dallas for the past two years.


Daniel Smith, cello

Daniel SmithDaniel Smith is a second year doctoral student studying cello with Bion Tsang. Before his studies at The University of Texas, he received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the University of Michigan, studying with professor Richard Aaron. Daniel has received numerous scholarship awards for both school and summer study, most recently to the summer music festival at Colorado College, where he was a winner of the student concerto competition.  Daniel is originally from sunny Southern California, but has only recently begun learning how to surf. His other hobbies include yoga, meditation, tennis, and writing.


Daniel “Toby” Rodriguez, guitar

Toby RodriguezBio coming soon


 David Campbell, cello

Dave Campbell teachingDave Campbell is a doctoral student in Cello Performance at the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music.


Deborah Seale, cello

Deborah Seale

Bio coming soon


Eva Van Houten, violin

Eva Van HoutenEva Van Houten is from Ellisville, Mississippi, and studied Music Education at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. During her time at Southern Miss she studied violin with Dr. Stephen Redfield and was awarded a scholarship to perform with the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. During the 2009/10 school year Ms. Van Houten taught string orchestra in the Jackson Public Schools via the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and from fall 2010 to Spring 2013 Ms. Van Houten taught elementary orchestra in the Hattiesburg Public School District. Ms. Van Houten has taught at the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Premier Orchestral Institute summers 2010-2013 and has worked as a camp counselor for Festival South Orchestral Academy 2011-2013. Ms. Van Houten is currently a Masters Student in Music and Human Learning at the University of Texas Austin.


James Welsch

Conductor: String Project Chamber Orchestra

James WelschJames O. Welsch  is pursuing his DMA in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Texas at Austin, studying with Gerhardt Zimmermann. While at The Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music he serves as a Music Director and Conductor of the University of Texas University Orchestra and an Assistant Conductor to Gerhardt Zimmermann and the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra.  He is also Music Director for the EChO (UT Engineers Chamber Orchestra) and  serves on the faculty of the UT String Project as Conductor of the Chamber Orchestra.

Welsch received an M.Mus. in orchestral conducting from Syracuse University and a B.Mus. in theory and composition form Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. He has studied composition with Joseph Krienes, Kari Juusela, Dan Godfrey, and Sydney Hodkinson. As a conductor, Welsch has worked closely with Anthony Hose, Duncan Couch, Bobby Adams, and James Tapia. Additional seminars have been with Timothy Reynish, Jim Croft, Raffi Armenian, and Jorma Panula.

As Assistant Professor of Music Theory, Composition and Conducting at Syracuse University, Welsch conducted the Contemporary Directions Ensemble (CDE), served as associate/assistant conductor of the Syracuse University Symphony Orchestra and founded the Setnor Brass Choir. In addition to his University responsibilities, he was a classical music and opera critic for the Syracuse Post Standard, director of music ministries at Liverpool First United Methodist Church in Liverpool, New York, and served as an associate/cover conductor for the Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestras.

Welsch has worked with notable ensembles and organizations as conductor, including: the former Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, Society for New Music (Syracuse, NY), The Orlando Philharmonic, Syracuse University Wind Ensemble, Stetson University Symphonic Band, The Greater Syracuse Ecumenical Choir and Orchestra and the Syracuse University Oratorio Society.

In 2012 Welsch returned to Stetson University as a member of the faculty, teaching Music Theory and Aural Training and serving as assistant conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra.

Welsch has worked closely with university and community arts leaders in facilitating the residencies (and conducting the works) of several composers including Steven Stucky, John Harbison, and Judith Weir, and ensembles, including The Hugo Wolf Quartet, and Flexible Music.

His compositions include various chamber works, several works for wind ensemble and concert band, and five chamber operas. These works, as well as his original orchestrations and arrangements, are often performed in concerts and contests.


 Jenna O’Connor, violin

Jenna O'ConnorPrior to moving to Austin, Ms. O’Connor taught violin at the Vancouver Academy of Music and at École Rose-des-Vents in Vancouver, BC.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in violin performance from The University of Western Ontario, Canada and a Master’s degree in Music Education with an emphasis on Suzuki Pedagogy from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.

Ms. O’Connor is a certified Suzuki teacher. She has studied with Suzuki teacher trainer Pat D’Ercole (Suzuki book 1 – 8), Carol Dallinger (Suzuki book 9 & 10), Dorothy and Sharon Jones (ECE), and has taken supplemental Suzuki training courses from Alice-Joy Lewis, Teri Einfeldt, and Nancy Lokken.


Jennifer Martinez, viola

Jennifer MartinezJennifer Martinez, A native of Milwaukee, WI, Jennifer was raised in El Paso, TX where she began playing at the age of eleven. She has studied privately with Monica Arredondo from the El Paso Symphony Orchestra as well as with Guillermo Quezada from the Juarez Symphony Orchestra and director of Esperanza Azteca. In 2011, Jennifer was accepted into the Conducting Apprentice Program where she studied the art of conducting under the direction of Andy Moran for two years as part of the El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestras. Jennifer is currently an undergraduate Music Studies major at the Butler School of Music and studies viola with Professor Roger Meyers.


Jennifer McKeeman

Jennifer McKeemanBio coming soon


 Jesse “Mic” Vrendenburgh, cello

Mic_VrendenburghBio coming soon


Jessica Bedol, violin

Jessica BedolJessica Bedol is a violinist who has performed throughout the Austin and Los Angeles areas. She has participated in a number of music festivals, including the Idyllwild Arts Summer Festival Orchestra, with which she twice performed at the Disney Concert Hall, under the baton of Maestro Larry Livingston. In Los Angeles, Jessica was a member of the pre-professional Young Musicians Debut Orchestra and participated in the recording of soundtracks for student film projects at UCLA. Jessica has also recorded tracks for Los Angeles-based indie rock musician Chris Allen, and was a member of the alternative rock band Vice Versa. Having completed a Bachelor’s degree in music history (UCLA, ’08) and a Master’s degree in music, with an emphasis in musicology (California State University, Long Beach, ’11), Jessica is currently a third-year PhD student in musicology at UT. Jessica is in her first year as a faculty member with the UT String Project, for which she serves as a violin teacher and Electives Coordinator.


 Jordan Loveland, bass

String Project Assistant Director

Jordan Loveland

Jordan Loveland holds a B.M. in Music Business from the Butler School of Music. At the age of twelve, Ms. Loveland began playing the double bass and taking lessons with Zlatan Redzic of the San Antonio Symphony.  She has studied under double bass pedagogues such as Yuan Xiong Lu, Paul Sharpe, Jack Unzicker and DaXun Zhang.  Jordan has performed with the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra, the Round Rock Symphony, the UT Early Music Ensemble, the UT Bach Cantata Project, the Austin Pops Summer Orchestra, and other various ensembles.  Ms. Loveland works as the assistant director for the UT String Project where she also teaches double bass.  Ms. Loveland is a certified Suzuki teacher.  She has studied with Dorothy and Sharon Jones (Suzuki Early Childhood Education, stages I and II) as well Dr. Laurie Scott  (Suzuki Violin Book I).  Currently, she is working towards an all-level teaching certification at The University of Texas at Austin.


 Judson Deitrich, viola

Judson DeitrichJudson Deitrich received his Bachelor of Music in viola performance from the New England Conservatory in 2012, under the tutelage of Martha Strongin Katz. He now studies at the University of Texas at Austin where he is pursuing a Master of Music and Human Learning degree and has served as the teaching assistant for viola, and as the assistant to the Head of the Strings Division. A passion for music education, Judson has worked closely with the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts and the development of its Austin Soundwaves curriculum, and is an instructor for the University of Texas String Project. Judson has also completed Suzuki Method teacher training under the guidance of Dr. Laurie Scott.

An avid performer, Judson plays regularly with Ensemble Settecento, an Austin-based group dedicated to presenting historically informed performances of music composed in the 17th and 18th centuries. In other settings, he has collaborated with members of the Ariel and Harlem String Quartets, performed under the batons of Itzhak Perlman, Hugh Wolff, and Gerard Schwarz to name a few, and has studied chamber music with James Buswell, Paul Biss, and members of the Cleveland, Juilliard, Cavani, Concord, and Borromeo string quartets, among others. Judson is also an alumnus of the Interlochen Arts Academy where he was a student of David Holland and performed as a soloist with the Academy Orchestra. Festivals and workshops he has been a participant of include the Interlochen Arts Camp, the Castleman Quartet Program, North American Viola Institute at Orford, The Karen Tuttle Coordination Workshop, and the Perlman Music Program where he was a student of Heidi Castleman for two summers and a two-week winter residency in Sarasota, Florida.


 Kelsey Nussbaum, bass

String Project Instrument Steward

Kelsey NussbaumKelsey Nussbaum is an undergraduate student in bass with DaXun Zhang at the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music.


Lani Hamilton, violin

Lani HamiltonLani Hamilton is an active violinist and teacher in the Austin area.  In addition to teaching with the UT String Project, where she serves as the UT Elementary School Coordinator and teaches private lessons, group classes, and Suzuki Early Childhood Education Classes, she has also taught with Monarch Suzuki Academy and served as Co-Coordinator of the Suzuki violin program at Austin Montessori since moving to Austin.  She has coached chamber music through Austin Chamber Music Center’s academy, in school, and summer workshop programs.  An avid believer in public school music education, Lani has also directed the string program at both Manor and Decker Middle Schools and assisted Manor ISD in establishing and developing their string program.

Lani began her violin studies at the age of three.  She was awarded the Constance Weldon Scholarship to attend the University of Miami where she received her bachelor’s degree in violin performance and graduated with honors.  She later attended the University of Texas at Austin where she earned her master’s degree in violin performance, and continues her studies there, working towards a PhD in Music and Human Learning.

Before moving to Austin for her graduate work, Lani maintained an active violin studio in Ft. Myers, FL, was a member of the Southwest Florida Symphony, and served as principle second violin with Opera Naples.  She served as an orchestra consultant for the Lee County Public School System, where she assisted them in developing and growing orchestra and chamber music programs at four different schools.  An active chamber musician, Lani has also served as a chamber music fellow at Brevard Music Center and performed as part of the Sunflower Chamber Music Festival.


Lauren Peacock, cello

Lauren PeacockLauren Peacock is a first year master’s student at the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music studying cello performance with Bion Tsang.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan with Richard Aaron.  She is a member of the UT Symphony Orchestra and an active chamber musician. She was previously a member of the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy program for gifted pre-college musicians where she studied privately with MIC artist faculty member Gilda Barston. Lauren was part of an ensemble from the Music Institute of Chicago that performed live on WFMT in Chicago.  She attended the Aspen Summer Music Festival, Colorado College Sumer Music Festival, Meadowmount School of Music, and the Chautauqua Summer Music Festival.  This past summer, she received Suzuki Book 1 Teacher Training from Barbara Wampner.


Dr. Laurie Scott

String Project Director

Dr. Scott with studentDr. Laurie Scott, Associate Professor of Music and Human Learning, directs, supervises, and mentors the String Project’s teachers.


Linnae Kraemer

Linnae KraemerBio coming soon


Matthew Chan, violin

Matthew ChanMatthew Chan, a Houston native, began playing violin at the age of eleven and was deeply inspired by his public school orchestra teachers to love and pursue music. He began teaching violin as a senior in high school and then entered the University of Texas at Austin as a Biology student, continuing his own violin studies as a non-music major. Realizing his true passions were in music, he added Music Education to his degree goals for his duration at the University of Texas. Matthew now studies violin under Sandy Yamamoto and actively teaches private lessons and sectionals in Austin public schools. He has also received his Suzuki Book 1 certification.


 Mikaila Powers Seo, violin, viola

String Project Office Manager

Mikaila Powers SeoMikaila  received her Master of Music Performance degree in 2012 from Roosevelt University in Chicago, after earning her Bachelor fo Music Performance degree from Boston Conservatory in 2009. She has studied with Lawrence Neuman, Sally Chisholm, and Rictor Noren. She has played in master clsses with Carol Rodland, Samuel Rhodes, Misha Amroy, Jutta Puchhammer-Sedillot, Lila Brown, and Craig Mumm.

In 2012, Mikaila performed at the Lake George Music Festival in Lake George, NY, as a resident artist. Other summer music festivals Mikaila has participted in include the Heifetz International Institute, Killington Music Festival, the International Festival Institute at Round Top, Mendocino Music Festival, and the Orford Arts Center.

Mikaila had the pleasure of teaching her first student while still in high school, in Fargo, North Dakota. Since then, she has enjoyed teaching immensely, and today enjoys teaching at the University of Texas String Project.


Nora Karakousoglou, cello

Bio coming soon


 Paulina Puljek, guitar

Paulina PuljekGuitarist Paulina Puljek was born in Croatia, where she started her musical education and gained her first performing experiences on the classical guitar and the Croatian folk instrument, the tamburitza. She received her high school diploma from the Varazdin Academy of Music in Croatia and graduated Cum Laude in guitar performance from the William Carey University. Ms. Puljek continued her education at the East Carolina University in North Carolina, where she earned an M.M. studying with Dr. Elliot Frank. Currently, she is pursuing a D.M.A. in guitar performance with prof. Adam Holzman at the University of Texas at Austin.


Rebecca Blackner, violin

Bio coming soon


Rebecca Pittman, violin

Rebecca Pittman

Rebecca demonstrates excellent rhythmic scarf technique with a student in Early Childhood class

Bio coming soon


 Yvonne Davila, violin

Yvonne DavilaYvonne Davila is originally from Chicago, Illinois and began Suzuki violin at the age of five. She attended DePaul University and received her B.M. in Music Business and Violin Performance under Joseph Genualdi. During that time, she had the opportunity to substitute for the Chicago Civic Orchestra. She received her M.M. in Violin Performance at UW-Madison under Vartan Manoogian. Yvonne has appeared as a soloist at the AIMS Music Festival in Solsona, Spain and at the Rural Musicians Forum in Spring Green, WI. While in WI, she was a member of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and a substitute with The Madison Symphony Orchestra. Yvonne has served as an Adjunct Instructor at Ripon College, conducted an elementary string orchestra in McFarland, Wisconsin and established Suzuki violin studios in both Madison and Spring Green. Yvonne is currently a doctoral candidate in Music and Human Learning at The University of Texas at Austin. She is a middle school Orchestra Director in Round Rock, TX and an experienced Suzuki method violin teacher. She teaches at The University of Texas at Austin String Project, which she has also served as Preschool Coordinator and Assistant Director. She is an active clinician and has presented her work at the Suzuki of the Americas Association, American String Teacher of America conferences, and Texas Music Educators Association. Her research focuses on children’s musical development, parental education, and children’s musical achievement.