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Staff

UpBeat NYC is fueled by a dedicated and talented team of staff and volunteers. We are inspired by the spirit and hard work of our kids and strive to open their hearts and minds through the power of music.

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Liza Austria

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.

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Richard Miller

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.

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Christine Austria

Christine Austria received a BFA in piano performance from Manhattan School of Music and a master's degree in Education from Hunter College. Christine has taught both music and general education in at P.S. 145 in Manhattan for 22 years. Prior to working in the NYC public school system, she taught private piano lessons, gave group music lessons, and put on several musical shows in her neighborhood while her own three children were young. She has taught at UpBeat since its inception. She believes that a good music education is a right for all children, and that it is a social force that can strengthen the mind, heart and soul of both the individual child and his/her community.

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John Austria

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.

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Caitleen Kahn

A native of Milwaukee, WI, Caitleen is a soprano and arts administrator currently based in New York City. She received her degrees in Vocal Performance from Indiana University's Jacob's School of Music, graduating with Departmental Honors in Music, and the Eastman School of Music, where she was also an Arts Leadership Certificate student. Caitleen works for UpBeat as Administrative Coordinator and as a violin teacher. An advocate for the universal accessibility of music, she has also served as Operations Director for Musicambia, an organization that creates musical conservatories in the prisons of the United States, and she co-runs Lynx Project (lynxproject.org), a nonprofit dedicated to connecting performers and audiences through art song. She was the recipient of Eastman’s 2015 Catherine Filene Shouse Fellowship Award, was a 2016 Byron Fellow, and in 2017, performed in Marilyn Horne's The Song Continues program at Carnegie Hall.

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Mariel Bildsten

Mariel Bildsten currently works as professional trombonist in New York, playing mostly in jazz big bands and small groups, as well as world and Caribbean music, classical, funk, R&B, and Latin music bands.

She has performed at venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Smalls Jazz Club, the Kennedy Center, and Swing 46, performing alongside Wycliffe Gordon, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Brian Lynch, Pedrito Martinez, Cyrus Chestnut, Lew Soloff, Jerry Dodgion, and Frank Lacy, among others. Mariel also leads her own quartet and trio.

Mariel graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in December 2015 with a BFA in Jazz Performance. During her time there, Mariel had the opportunity to study with fantastic teachers and mentors, such as Elliot Mason, Steve Turre, Vincent Gardner, Sam Burtis, Jimmy Owens, Mike LeDonne, Reginald Workman, and Jane Ira Bloom.

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Amy Gardner

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.

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Ling Lopez

Ling Lopez is a New York based musician and arts administrator. She is a violin instructor at UpBeat NYC and is part of the administrative staff at the Bloomingdale School of Music. Ling received her Bachelor's of Arts degree in Music and Business from Queens College and is pursuing a masters degree in Music at Columbia University.
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Ramón Carrero Martínez

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.

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Gabrielle Murphy

Saxophonist, Flautist, Composer, and Arranger, Gabrielle Murphy, was born in Philadelphia, PA, and raised in Wilmington, DE. Gabrielle picked up the alto saxophone at 9 years old. After high school, Gabrielle continued her musical education at the world renown Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. Under the guidance of saxophone great Gary Thomas, she received a Bachelors degree in Jazz Saxophone Performance. In 2011, Gabrielle relocated to New York City, where she now resides. In May 2013 she completed a Masters of Arts Degree in Saxophone Performance at the Aaron Copland School of Music, of Queens College City University of New York, under the tutelage of the highly seasoned alto saxophonist Antonio Hart. Gabrielle's musical palette and expertise has only continued to expand with performances as varied as appearances with the world renown DIVA big band, to performing with Solange Knowles, to being recorded for B-Side with Lee Hogans, featuring hip hop legend, Masta Ace.

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Leonard Mims

Lenny is a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn, growing up and currently living in Manhattan. He started with the piano at age seven and switched to cello at 11, introduced to the instrument through the public school system. He started private lessons the same year, studying for over 7 years and subsequently attended the prestigious High School of Music and Art after which he played sporadically throughout college, thereafter doing some accompaniment and solo playing. After an extended hiatus to help raise his family and pursue other projects, he returned to the instrument after retiring in 2010, most recently studying with cellist, Louise Dubin. Since his passionate return to the instrument Lenny has performed with a number of ensembles including the Broadway Bach Ensemble, Seniors Orchestral Society of New York, 92nd Street Y Orchestra, the Litha Symphony Orchestra, several operas produced by Vocal Productions NYC and various chamber groups throughout New York City.

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Pete Nater

Two-time Grammy Award-Winner Pete Nater is a band leader, musical director, arranger, trumpeter, and composer living in New York City. As a renowned trumpeter, Pete has been blessed to play and record with over 25 bands on a regular basis, including such groups as The Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Chico O’Farrill’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra (winning Grammys with both bands), The Mambo Legends Orchestra, The Latin Giants of Jazz, and the Frankie Ruiz Orchestra. Over the years, he has also played with, recorded with, sub-ed with, or jammed with, many musical giants of our time, including Ray Barretto, Machito, Johnny Pacheco, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Palmieri, Hector LaVoe, Paul Simon, Cyndy Lauper and Dizzie Gillespie (to name only a few!).

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Charlie Sharzer

Originally from Southern California, Charlie Sharzer works with the violas at Upbeat. He has degrees in music composition and astrophysics from Yale University, and his music has been performed by the Jack Quartet and Yale Symphony Orchestra, among others. He was also the music director for Yale’s Davenport Pops Orchestra. Since graduation, Charlie taught high school science in the Newark Public Schools district, and still believes that the common denominator among all of his college-bound students was identification and participation in an after-school community. He currently plays viola occasionally with the Chelsea Symphony, writes when he can, and works for Palantir Technologies.

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Reynaldo Soriano

Reynaldo Soriano is a New York-based percussionist and has appeared internationally in a wide range of venues – from the showrooms of Las Vegas and clubs in Greenwich Village to timpani masterclasses at the Conservatoire National de Région de Paris, and the Rome International Festival. As an active freelancer, his expertise includes work in film, theatre, symphony orchestras, and small group projects traversing between jazz, improvisatory, rock, and contemporary music.

Rey Received his Bachelors from the University of Nevada Reno and his Masters in Music from New York University in 2010. He has lived in the South Bronx since 2009 and is excited to share his love for music with the kids in the neighborhood.

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Aaron Stokes

Brooklyn multi-instrumentalist Aaron Stokes made his start on a 20-dollar Fisher-Price keyboard. Since then he’s performed alongside top artists such as Solange Knowles, Chris Martin and The Kronos Quartet, crisscrossing the unchartered path between Pop and Classical genres.
Aaron began studying church organ at age 3, where he began to exercise his musical capabilities rooted deeply in gospel and contemporary forms of music. Not stopping there, Aaron’s fervent desire for music led him to the cello where he embarked on his journey through classical studies. His former studies are with award-winning cellist Amy Kim at the preparatory division of Mannes the New School for Music. He is now completing his Bachelor of Music under the tutorship of world renown pedagogue Marcy Rosen, at the Aaron Copland School of Music.
In addition to his training, Aaron has coached with members of Ensemble Connect — a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education.
Aaron’s dedication to his instrument has led to notable performances at Carnegie Hall, The Grammys, The United Nations Head Quarters, Lincoln Center, and Radio City Music Hall. On top of his his solo performances, Aaron is an active member of the World Youth Alliance Chamber Orchestra and the Association of Dominican Classical Artist Mr.Stokes has shared the stage with outstanding soloist and ensembles such as Kronos Quartet, Ryu Goto, Jack String Quartet, and has performed with the String Orchestra of Brooklyn.
Aaron is also the founder of his very own business, Stokes Strings Conservatory. Through his business, he strives to enrich the lives of at-risk youth with weekly strings and piano tutorship.
Aaron Stokes is a young and enthusiastic performer who is making conscious actions to enhance the world through the gift of music.
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Lessie Vonner

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.

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JS Williams

"...there's funk, rock, and soul in his playing, and in his quartet he puts it all to use in service of a danceable, rousing group sound." - Giovanni Russonello, Capitolbop.com

As a New York City native, Williams began honing his musical skills at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts under renown educators Justin DiCioccio and Bob Stewart. Upon graduation, he perfected his gift for the trumpet at Howard University under accomplished trumpeter Fred Irby, III for a year. His education in trumpet performance was completed at The New School under the tutelage of Cecil Bridgewater, Reggie Workman, Jimmie Owens, Charles Tolliver, and Valery Ponomarev. Williams' education in composition and arranging was refined at Queens College under acclaimed trumpeter/arranger Michael Philip Mossman.

Williams' acumen for sight-reading and musical versatility has given him the opportunity to perform with The Revive Big Band, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, The New Ray Charles Orchestra, The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, The Valery Ponomorev Big Band and The Chuck Brown horn section.

Trumpeter of the Year (2013)- tied with superb trumpeter Donvonte McCoy, Washington DC City Paper, Honorable Mention, John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and Honorable Mention, USA Songwriting Contest are a few of the awards JS Williams has been fortunate to receive in his career. Also, JS Williams' debut recording, "The Late BLUEmer", has garnered acclaim for its thought-provoking melodies, lush harmonies, and shines with a group of stellar, young musicians.

Aside from his work as a performing artist, JS Williams also conducts clinics around the country on improvisation, music history, and music theory. His propensity for extending the oral tradition of music has garnered him praise from mentors and contemporaries alike.

JS Williams continues to study, educate, and perform music of various styles and genres around the world.