Liza Austria was born and raised in New York City and co-founded UpBeat NYC, with her husband, in 2009. She grew up in a household filled with music as both her parents were musicians. Liza studied piano from age 4-20 and as a young adult, performed regularly in and around New York City as a modern dancer and Jazz/Brazilian vocalist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in “Dance, Community and Social Change” from the Gallatin School at New York University.
As director of UpBeat NYC, Liza has worn many hats- from piano teacher to grant writer, family choir director to parent coordinator - all with the belief in the power of music to build community. During her tenure as co-Director, UpBeat NYC has grown from serving a dozen students once per week to a program operating 6 days per week providing year round instrumental classes to 140 South Bronx children, with multiple string and wind ensembles, a youth orchestra and an Afro Latin Jazz band. Liza lives in the South Bronx with her husband and their 2 daughters, ages 4 and 11. Their older daughter has been a violin student at UpBeat since 2017.
Richard Miller worked as a public school music teacher in New York City from 2009-2013. In 2007, he began working with NYC public school students as a teaching artist for Music and the Brain where he discovered the transformative role music can play in children's lives. Richard holds a degree in Jazz Performance from William Paterson University and is an active jazz saxophonist in NYC. He currently studies composition with Paul Caputo and his music has been performed at venues around the city including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. In the Spring of 2009, Richard founded UpBeat NYC with his wife, Liza Austria, where he is working to develop UpBeat NYC into a robust, El Sistema inspired nucleo serving the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx.
Vince Warren is the Secretary of UpBeat NYC. Mr. Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a national legal and educational organization dedicated to advancing and defending constitutional and human rights. Prior to his tenure at CCR, Mr. Warren held the position of national senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where he led constitutional and impact litigation to advance civil rights and liberties. In addition to his other pursuits, Vince has been a professional musician for over 20 years, specializing in Jazz, Blues, Rock, Reggae and Funk drumming. Currently, Vince plays with the Blue Soul Jazz Quintet and the afro-pop band, Denbaya with Makane Kouyate.
Penny Sinanoglou is the Treasurer of UpBeat NYC. Penny is currently an Associate Professor of History at Wake Forest University and received her Ph.D. from Harvard University. As a child Penny studied piano and sang in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine's professional children's choir, and continued to study music through high school and college.
Francesca Laguardia is the Chair of UpBeat NYC. Francesca received a J.D. from NYU School of Law and has successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation in Law and Society at NYU. Prior to completing her dissertation, Francesca worked as Director of Research at the Center on Law and Security at NYU School of Law. Francesca has studied music throughout her life, performing with the New York City Opera Children's Chorus as a child and continuing to study voice through her college years. She began as a music theory major at the University of Chicago before switching to a major in Law, Letters, and Society.