Liza Austria is a modern dancer and jazz/Brazilian vocalist performing regularly in New York City. As a child she studied piano and sang in the professional children’s choir at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Liza holds a bachelor’s degree in “Dance, Community and Social Change” from the Gallatin School at New York University. Since 2009 Liza has served as director of UpBeat NYC.
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.
Dr. Pablo Rodriguez is a Composer and Special Music Educator from Santiago, Chile. He received his BA degree in Music Composition from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and his Master Degree in Music and Music Education from New York University (NYU) where he specialized in Education for people with disabilities. He completed a Doctoral degree in Music and Music Education at Teachers College, Columbia University where he specialized in Reseach in Music Education and Social Justice.
His previous experience has been focused on inclusive approaches in the Music Education field. He has been working for the Filomen M. D'agostino Greenberg Music School for the Blind, is one of the founders of Chile, Música y Braille, a nonprofit organization that supports the artistic development of people with disabilities in Chile and Latin America, and is currently Program Coordinator for UpBeat NYC.
Litzy Melissa Rojas was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She graduated from Bronx Academy Of Letters in 2020 and is currently a rising sophomore studying at Lehman College pursuing a biology major. As the new Program Assistant, she communicates with parents and faculty connecting, thus, our program with the community.
Amy Gardner grew up just outside of Columbus, OH, where she was incredibly lucky to have a musical family and several amazing music teachers in the public schools she attended. She earned a B.A. from Barnard College while studying violin with Burton Kaplan at the Manhattan School of Music. Following her undergraduate studies, Amy spent several years abroad working as a musician and educator, first in Beijing, China and then in Quito, Ecuador, before returning to NYC in 2016. Excited and proud to be a member of the growing El Sistema movement, Amy also currently teaches with the Youth Orchestra of St. Luke's. Amy is a Suzuki-registered teacher and holds a M.Sc. in Education from SUNY Buffalo.
Venezuelan violist Ramón Carrero Martínez began his music lessons in Caracas when he was eight years old with El Sistema, the Venezuelan National Youth Orchestra Foundation founded by José Antonio Abreu in 1975. He has played with orchestras such as the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra (Guest Collaborator) and the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (Principal Violist), which he performed with in prestigious festivals including Beethoven Fest (Bonn) and the Salzburg Festival. He also has performed in legendary venues including Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Konzerthaus of Vienna, and the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. Carrero Martínez has had the honor of being conducted by Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Benjamin Zander, and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, among others. As a founding member of the Teresa Carreño String Quartet, he studied with professors from Cuarteto Latinoamericano for several years. He also took lessons with José Antonio Abreu and members of the Chilingirian String Quartet and the Borromeo String Quartet. In 2014, the quartet won First Prize in a chamber music competition in Caracas and also played in the String Quartet Festival in Esterházy Palace (Austria). Currently, Ramón Carrero Martínez is an undergraduate at Manhattan School of Music, where he attends on a full scholarship under the tutelage of Daniel Avshalomov.
A Dallas native, Lessie Vonner’s love of music began at a young age when she picked up the trumpet at eleven. Lessie’s passion encouraged her to pursue a music education at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. With aspirations to pursue a career in the music industry primarily as a jazz musician, composer, and educator, Lessie chose to continue her education at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. Since arriving to New York, she has had the privilege of studying under Cecil Bridgewater, Charles Tolliver, Jimmy Owens, Tanya Darby, Ingrid Jensen, Reggie Workman, and Bobby Sanabria. She also worked as a private instructor for the Jazz Big Band's trumpet section at Frank Sinatra High School for the Arts in Queens during her first years of college.
Lessie has performed in Chicago, Kansas City, Boston, and Philadelphia and in jazz venues throughout New York City with musicians including Roy Hargrove, Snarky Puppy, Space Captain, Charli Persip’s SuperSound, JC Hopkins Biggish Band, Bobby Sparks, Keith Anderson, Bernard Wright, Quamon Fowler and JT Thomas.
John Austria is a jazz pianist who has been performing and teaching professionally in New York City for over ten years. He performs regularly with the Sonny Simmons Quintet, Michael Marcus Quintet, and Makane Kouyate's West African/Jazz fusion ensemble "Denbaya.” John is a long time student of Dizzy Gillespie’s pianist Mike Longo and received his Bachelor's degree in music from The City College of New York with a focus in music theory.
Sara Dudley is a violinist/violist from Nashville, Tennessee now residing in New York City. She began Suzuki lessons at age five, which fostered her love for music and music education. She received her Suzuki training for Books 1-3 at the Atlanta Suzuki Institute and completed her Book 4 training at the Ithaca Suzuki Institute. Sara has over ten years of teaching experience and is committed to providing her community with quality music education and sharing her passion for music with students of all ages. Sara holds a BM in Violin Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, where she studied under the tutelage of Lara Lev and Daniel Phillips, graduating Magna Cum Laude. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at Manhattan School of Music in Viola Performance where she studies with Karen Ritscher.
As an accomplished performer with a versatile background, Sara has performed with the Nashville Early Music Ensemble playing both violin and rebec, the Nashville Philharmonic, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Manhattan Opera Studio, Bronx Opera, New Amsterdam Opera, and The Chelsea Symphony. In 2020, Sara was a soloist with The Chelsea Symphony performing the Walton Viola Concerto. She has performed at major music festivals Bonnaroo and SXSW. She has also made multiple television appearances including CMT’s Artist of the Year Award, performing with country artist Eric Church, the hit show Nashville, and Amazon Prime’s Mozart in the Jungle.