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Our Teachers

Lourdes de la Peña

Founder & Director, Cello Teacher

Lourdes has been blessed with amazing performance opportunities playing for celebrities, ambassadors, and on world-class stages. Most notably, last summer she was one of three cellists asked to play at the Kennedy Center for John Williams' 90th Birthday Party Dinner attended by Stephen Spielberg and David Rubenstein, Chairman of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Board. In 2018, she played for the Aspen Institute's Project Play Summit's Private Dinner featuring Kobe Bryant. She has given concerts at the Embassies of Colombia, Argentina, and Brazil, played for private events for former Congresswoman Connie Morella, and at the US Senate to help promote the arts. 

Her more recent performances range from playing at Carnegie Hall to a Handel's Messiah Concert in Pennsylvania where she played alongside David Chan, the Concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera and Violin Professor at Juilliard. While a student at Oberlin Conservatory, Lourdes's quartet performed for Latin American ambassadors and high ranking government officials at the Inter-American Defense Board. They performed at Central Union Mission homeless shelter in DC and her quartet hosted a fundraiser concert for the Children's Inn of the National Institute of Health. 


In high school, Lourdes was an NSO Youth Fellow at the Kennedy Center where she performed several times in the NSO's Concert Hall and on the Millennium Stage. On behalf of the Kennedy Center's NSO in your Neighborhood Community Outreach Program, she brought music to DC schools. Among other opportunities, she played in a master class for world-famous Cello Soloist Alban Gerhardt. As part of The Capitol Symphonic Youth Orchestra, Lourdes performed in front of 17,00 people as the Principal Cellist at the Microsoft Inspire International Convention. 


Lourdes is now the Founder and Director of StringTime where she is fulfilling her dream of running a beginner strings camp that will inspire kids to learn to make beautiful music. She continues to teach privately both cello and piano while also studying cello with NSO Principal Cellist David Hardy and learning to play the Viola da Gamba with John Moran, the Historical Performance Chair at Peabody Conservatory.  

Emera Gurath

Assistant Director, Violin Teacher

     Emera has performed in renowned concert halls around the world including Carnegie Hall, David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, Severance Hall, and the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. She has served as the concertmaster for the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra and has won numerous solo and chamber competitions. 


     Last November, she appeared by invitation as a featured soloist with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, performing in Severance Hall to a sold-out audience. In the summer of 2015, Emera went on a multi-week tour to China and Hong Kong with the National Youth Orchestra of the USA. In 2021, the Cleveland Institute of Music sponsored her string quartet on a multi-state tour with Si-Yan Li and Phil Setzer.


     Emera holds a Bachelor’s and a Master's Degree in Violin Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Stephen Rose, principal second violinist of the Cleveland Orchestra. This year, she was selected as a Substitute Violinist for the prestigious New World Symphony Orchestra. Emera is passionate about spreading her love for violin and especially chamber music. She has taught privately for years and has coached small ensemble masterclasses. 

Jane Lenz

Viola Teacher

Jane Lenz holds a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School where she studied with Carol Rodland and holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music where she studied with Kirsten Docter.  

While at Juilliard, Jane received a Morse Teaching Artist Fellowship where she developed her teaching skills working with students in New York City. She coached strings with the Williamsburg Youth Symphony and Northern Ohio Youth Orchestras, and taught at Chicagoland’s Ping! program. Jane has Suzuki Certification in Violin Books 1-3 from the School for Strings and maintains a private lesson studio in Hampton, Virginia.

Jane won the 2019 Concerto Competition at Oberlin Conservatory and won the second prize in the 2019 Ohio Viola Society competition. During her time at Oberlin, she was a performing artist with the Performing Artists in Residence program at the Oberlin Center for the Arts and performed in New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and Nebraska.

Jane has performed around the country including multiple summers with the Adirondacks Performing Arts Fellowship’s orchestra and string quartet, Chicagoland’s 6:26 Concert Series, and as a member of the Kenaniah Project, a Rochester, New York-based collaborative ensemble combining faith and artistic excellence. After moving to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, she began teaching at Christopher Newport University and appearing with the Virginia Symphony, Richmond Symphony, and Williamsburg Symphony. As a baroque violist, she has enjoyed performing with Juilliard415, the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble, and studying with Cynthia Roberts through secondary lessons during her time at Juilliard.

Jane enjoys skiing, cooking, and playing board games in her free time with her husband Patrick, the Composer/Arranger of the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band.

Sarah Senn

Cello Teacher

Sarah is a member of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. She received her Undergraduate and Master’s Performance degrees at Cleveland Institute of Music, as well as a minor in Suzuki Pedagogy and a Suzuki teaching certification. Sarah began studies at the age of four and was later trained in the Precollege division at the Manhattan School of Music. 

In 2019, she won the “Getting To Carnegie” competition, where she not only had the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall, but also won a trip to the US Virgin Islands to give a concert tour. Sarah has also won prizes in the New York Music Competition, Tennessee Cello Workshop Competition, the Tuesday Musical Scholarship Competition, the Cleveland Cello Society Concerto Competition, and the Island Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition. Sarah performed as a soloist with the South Shore Symphony in New York.


In 2021, Sarah released her debut album called “Hymns of Grace," a project that she worked on with her friends during the pandemic lockdown. She maintains a private studio of her own where she brings together her Suzuki training and performance experience to train the next generation of young cellists. 

Caitlyn Dillard

Violin Teacher

Grace Collins

Violin Teacher

Grace is currently pursuing her Master's Degree in Violin Performance from Stony Brook University, where she studies with renowned professor Phil Setzer of the Emerson String Quartet. She completed her undergraduate studies at Oberlin Conservatory on the Dean’s Scholarship. where she studied with Sibbi Bernhardsson. She was finalist in the Oberlin Conservatory Senior Concerto Competition, the school's most prestigious competition. 


At eleven years old, Grace was accepted into the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, a highly competitive high school conservatory, where she then studied until graduating high school. She won the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts Chamber Festival Competition. Grace has spent her summers studying at Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Madeline Island Chamber Music Festival, Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, Interlochen Music Festival, Interharmony International Music Festival, and Philadelphia Music International Festival.


She has also performed in masterclasses for world-class violinists including Maurcio Fuks, Ronald Copes, and Rachel Barton Pine. She has studied viola with Kirsten Docter, former violist in the Cavani String Quartet. She has taught group class through the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra and privately to non-music majors at Oberlin College.

Caitlyn is on a full ride violin scholarship at Mercer University’s Robert McDuffie Center for Strings where she studies with David Kim (Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra), Robert McDuffie (Grammy-nominated violinist), and Amy Schwartz-Moretti (award-winning chamber musician). 


She has performed alongside The Piano Guys at the National Theater and with her string quartet at a private dinner for the Supreme Court Justices. She was a National Symphony Orchestra Youth Fellow where she performed multiple times on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. In 2019, She won the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra Concerto Competition and performed as a soloist with the orchestra. 


​Her passion lies in providing young musicians with the tools necessary to express themselves. She has developed the elementary strings program at First Presbyterian Day school and has a vibrant private studio of her own. 

MaryGrace Bender-Waggoner

Cello Teacher

MaryGrace holds a Master of Music degree from The Cleveland Institute of Music in Cello Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy and a Bachelor of Music degree from The Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University. 


She founded the non-profit Nashville Chamber Music Society--a group of musicians dedicated to the performance and promotion of chamber music through excellent performances, music educational programs, and outreach initiatives. 


Recently she taught and performed at Lincoln Center’s Restart Stages series as a faculty member for BridgeMusik in NYC.  She recorded orchestrally under Philip Glass’s Orange Mountain Music label which The Wall Street Journal reviewed as, “impeccably polished.”  


She records with Nashville Music Scoring working on projects for Netflix, Sony, Bungee, Disney, and Hulu. 


She has spent summers at The National Repertory Orchestra, Meadowmount School of Music, The Rome Chamber Music Festival, Brevard Music Festival, Chautauqua Summer Institute, and the Aspen Music Festival and School as a New Horizon's fellow.  Past influential teachers include Dr. Melissa Kraut, Hans Jørgen Jensen, Julie Albers, and Dr. Felix Wang. 


Currently she is a Suzuki teacher on faculty at the Covenant Conservatory of Music, plays with the Huntsville Symphony, and maintains a private studio in Huntsville, AL. 

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