Learn about our talented music instructors:
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Hideko Amano (Flute) earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1995. She continued her musical education in Europe at the l’Ecole Normale de Paris, where she studied under Mr. Mathieu Dufour, who has since joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as principal flutist. Since her return to Chicago in 1998, she has continued her career as an active recitalist and instructor. Currently, she serves as an adjunct professor at Harper College and an instructor at Midwest Young Artists.
Bekr Ali (Harper’s Back Porch Revue, Banjo, Ukulele, Mandolin) is a rhythm and melody enthusiast who enjoys sharing his passion for plucked stringed instruments with others. This includes banjo, guitar, mandolin, and ukulele. He spent ten years in the Czech Republic working as an ESL instructor while playing in blues, soul, and bluegrass groups on the side. Bekr primarily focuses on American Old Time music, but also dabbles in other styles of traditional music. He primarily teaches by ear and demonstration, using sheet music and tablature as supplements.
Issa Boulos (Composition, Orchestration ) Issa Boulos is an international award-winning composer, lyricist and songwriter. His works have been performed by various groups and orchestras around the world. He studied piano, ‘ud and voice at an early age and later pursued music composition with Gustavo Leone, Athanasios Zervas, and William Russo at Columbia College Chicago and with Robert Lombardo and Ilya Levinson at Roosevelt University. Throughout his career, Issa has injected new life into his music by incorporating traditional instruments in innovative ways. He has composed music for full orchestra, chamber, mixed ensembles, and written hundreds of songs including several hits. Among his commissions are four pieces for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, composition/performance for the Silk Road Ensemble, and original scores for award-winning documentaries, plays, feature films and musicals. Through these efforts, Issa has gained recognition in the United States, the Middle East, and Europe. He has served as a lecturer at the University of Chicago for nearly a decade and co-founded the Qatar Music Academy and acted as its Head of Music since its inception in 2010. Mr. Boulos serves as Coordinator of the Harper Community Music and Arts Center.
Edgar Gabriel (String Orchestra for Adults, Violin, Viola) is equally comfortable performing and teaching classical, jazz, fiddle and rock music. He has performed with such diverse groups as Mannheim Steamroller, Chicago Opera and Steppenwolf Theaters. Edgar’s expertise has won him positions with the world renowned Cirque du Soleil. He can be heard on numerous recordings including Rachel Barton Pine’s Storming the Citadel. His publication STRING GROOVE teaches improvisation, fiddling and other styles outside of traditional violin repertoire. You can see him perform with his group STRINGFUSION. Edgar Gabriel holds an undergraduate degree in music from Northern Illinois University and a Master of Music in Jazz Studies from DePaul University.
Ashley Lynd (Lunchtime Choir, Voice) has taught performing arts in the North suburbs for over 18 years, including at New Trier’s Performing Arts Summer Workshop, Edgewood Middle School, Wilmette Children’s Theatre, Northlight Theater’s Summer Academy, and Starland in Deerfield. Ashley’s lessons emphasize a healthy and fun approach to proper technique and musical concepts. Helping students meet and exceed their own expectations is her focus and passion. Ashley has sung with The Apollo Chorus of Chicago, is a proud New Trier Performing Arts alumna, and has a BA in music from Drake University.
Steven P. Mazurek (World Music Ensemble, Accordion) began his piano accordion studies in 1958 and continued into high school, until he discovered girls, smoking and fast cars. Then he moved to vocal music, continuing to sing through most of his college years. Steven has attended choral sessions at Interlochen Center for the Arts and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and sang with the Michigan State University Russian Choir. Steven then took a short musical hiatus, until he again began to study piano accordion in 2008. Since returning to the piano accordion, Steven has attended master classes with Frank Marocco and Stas Venglevski. He has played in ensembles and accordion orchestras across the United States under the direction of Joan Cochran Sommers, Stas Venglevski and Frank Marocco. Steven has a B.S. in Physics and training in secondary education from Michigan State University. Recently, Steven graduated from Harper College with an AFA in Music. He is a member of the Accordionists & Teachers Guild International (ATG). Steven currently studies with concert Bayanist Stas Venglevski in Milwaukee, WI.
William (Tony) Porter (Symphony Orchestra, Cello) earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Cello Performance from Illinois State University. Mr. Porter has studied with Ko Iwasaki, Kim Scholes, and Susan Phillips. Porter is currently principal cellist with the Harper Symphony Orchestra, the Symphonic Pops Orchestra of Chicago and the Navy Pier Pops Orchestra. He also performs regularly with the Fox Valley Symphony, the Evanston Symphony and the Kenosha Symphony. In addition to teaching at Harper College, Mr. Porter teaches in Waukegan at the Jack Benny Center for the Arts. During the summer, Mr. Porter teaches at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp where he teaches cello and conducting.
Janice Larson Razaq (Piano Ensemble, Piano) has a doctorate from Texas Tech University and other degrees from Eastman School of Music and University of Illinois. A Fulbright scholar to England, she performed at Wigmore Hall in London. Dr. Razaq is heard on WFMT and Minnesota Public Radio and plays concertos with area orchestras. Solo performances range across the country. She is a state officer for Illinois State Music Teachers Association and is Piano Coordinator for Harper College credit students.
Paul Ross (Steel Band I, Steel Band II, Steel Drum) is founder and leader of the midwest’s most accomplished professional steel band, Pan Go. and holds a Master of Music in Steel Pan and a Bachelor of Music in percussion performance from Northern Illinois University. A prolific composer, Paul’s collection of original compositions for steel band and steel pan solo are available from his publishing company Pan Press, Inc. In 1987 he founded the Elgin Community College Steel Band program. While at ECC he composed prolifically for steel band, writing 35 original pieces and arranging close to 100 others. In 1998 Paul produced “Full Circle,” the ECC Steel Band’s first CD, which included 3 of his compositions and a commissioned work by Trinidad steel pan legend Ray Holman. Paul has been directing the Harper College Steel Bands since the spring of 1998. During that time Harper’s advanced steel band has become one of the finest community steel bands in the nation. They have specialized in premiering new works for steel band. Paul has made three trips to Trinidad and Tobago, the home of the steel band, to perform in Panorama and the first World Steel Band Festival. He has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, Carnegie Hall, and on tour in Germany and Switzerland.
Ken Spurr (Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Lab Band I, Piano) is a jazz pianist, teacher and bandleader who has been active as a professional musician in the Chicago area for over 10 years. Ken has performed weekly at the Plaza Club on the top floor of the Prudential Building from 1997 to 2001. He also performed with the Curt Warren Quartet at the Texas Jazz Festival from 1997 to 1999. Ken has performed with many major jazz artists including Louie Bellson, Ira Sullivan, Rufus Reid, Richie Cole, Greg Abate, Marvin Stamm and Joe Gallardo. In addition, Ken has also played and/or recorded with many local jazz artists including Rusty Jones, Nick Tountas, Joel Spencer, Kelly Sill, Larry Grey, Greg Fishman, Jackie Allen and Bob Rummage. Ken is an active member of the Chicago Federation of Musicians and A.P.O.L. (Association of Professional Orchestra Leaders). In May of 2001 he released his first CD recording, Sometime Ago, which is available on Amazon.com and kenspurr.com. Ken received a BA in Music from Valparaiso University and currently teaches jazz piano at Elmhurst College and Harper College. Ken has studied piano with William Foster, Larry Novak, Allan Swain, David Kikoski, Terry Dybvig and Mary Sauer.
Thomas Stauch (Concert Choir, Spectra: Chamber Singers Ensemble) is Professor of Music and Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Harper. Under his leadership, the choral program at Harper College has been recognized as one of the premiere community college choral programs in the United States. His choirs have performed in Carnegie Hall on two occasions since June of 2002, on radio and television included WGN, Italian radio and television, Hungarian State Radio, and other Chicago-area radio and television stations. The Concert Choirs have sung with the Elgin Symphony, the Chicago String Ensemble, the Harper Symphony, and the 1997 International Festival of Choirs in Sienna and Florence, Italy. Under his direction, Harper choirs have performed in Austria, the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Scotland, Wales, and the culminating concert of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics Fine Arts Festival in Beijing and Shanghai, China prior to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games. Dr. Stauch holds Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees in choral music from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Education with High Honors from Western Illinois University. He studied conducting with Douglas McEwen and Robert Hills and in master classes with Helmuth Rilling, Robert Shaw and Randall Thompson. He studied voice with Richard Dales, Harold Haugh and Maughan McMurdie. Dr. Stauch is a life member of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), where he served on the ACDA National Board of Directors, as Central Division President and Vice President; and as chair of the National, Central Division and Illinois Repertoire and Standards Committees for Two-Year Colleges. Professor Stauch worked with ACDA and the Israeli Departments of State and Cultural Affairs on musical celebrations for the Millennia and 50th Anniversary of the State of Israel. In 1996, Dr. Stauch became the Director of Liturgical Music for St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Elgin, Illinois. He is in demand as vocal soloist, adjudicator/clinician and studio vocalist.
John Towner (Sound Recording) has a degree in Music Business from Elmhurst College and has been teaching and working in the field of sound recording for over 20 years. The majority of his work has been done locally at Maxim Entertainment Group/Solid Sound Recording Studio although John also does remote recording as well. He has recorded countless CD and demo projects for area musicians and taught many students who have gone on to be professional engineers. John has a strong music background, having been in a number of bands and musical ensembles. He also serves as a choir director and composer for his church in Arlington Heights. His recent credits include recordings for GIA Publications, Loyola University Press, Bill O’Connell Big Band, Brian Conn New Music Ensemble, St. Charles Singers, and Tony Barr. John also has done hundreds of recordings of Chicago area bands with varying styles from hard rock to jazz, pop and country.
Steve Vazquez (Guitar Ensemble: Adults, Guitar, Ukulele), Chicago guitarist, began his love for the guitar at the age of eleven. It started with a simple riff picked off a tune being played by The B-52’s on Saturday Night Live. He then forged ahead with pointers from friends and was self-taught for many years. Playing in bands throughout his teen years, his love for music intensified as he began his classical guitar studies under Steve Suvada at William Rainey Harper College. He went on for further study with Mark Maxwell at DePaul University (B.M. ’91) and Ann Waller at Northwestern University (M.M. ’94). These great study opportunities and hard work allowed him to play in Master classes for Sergio and Odair Assad, Oscar Ghiglia, Stepan Rak, Paul O’Dette, David Starobin, Dusan Bogdanovic and more. Fresh out of grad school, Steve was a Chicago Artists International Program award recipient. This allowed him to study with the groundbreaking, great Czech guitarist/composer, Stepan Rak in Prague. Steve has since performed through the Midwest and Chicago area with The Chicago Guitar Quartet, Chicago Guitar Camerata, Ensemble Espanñol, and in duo with Chicago virtuoso guitarist, Brian Torosian, plus many other solo and chamber performances. His diverse classical repertoire spans from music of the Renaissance to modern works, including his own compositions. Steve is also currently rocking with his indie/underground band Blue Eyed Jesus and has played with Woolworthy, Thing 3, and more. His numerous Chicago appearances have included the prestigious Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series, The Fourth Presbyterian Church Noonday Series, The Old Town School of Folk Music, Harris Theater, Hothouse, The Metro, Double Door, and Reggie’s Rock Club. Steve has been heard on WFMT, WXRT, WBEZ, Q101, WNUR and Radio Arte. Learn more about Steve Vazquez and his indie/underground band Blue Eyed Jesus.
Jeremie Witz (The Americana Ensemble, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Ukulele) is a guitarist who has been playing for nearly 20 years. He has played professionally in numerous bands and ensembles ranging from jazz to folk to rock and has been writing music for the same length of time. He graduated from Columbia College Chicago in May 2014 with a BA in Music Composition. He studied under composers: Drew Baker, Kenn Kumpf, Ilya Levinson, and Marcos Balter. He performed and worked with members from the groups, Del Niente and Chicago’s Composer’s Collective. Jeremie teaches bass guitar, ukulele, songwriting, counterpoint, orchestrating, arranging, music theory, and composition. He is experienced with all kinds of music software, such as Pro Tools, Logic, Garage Band, Cubase, FL Studio, Finale, Sibelius. If you want to learn how to write, record, mixing, and master your own music, there’s never been a better time to learn.