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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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Gerardo Morantes

Gerardo Morantes is an arts manager and journalist from Venezuela. He received his degrees in Arts Management from The University of Puerto Rico and in Social Communication from the University Rafael Belloso Chacin, Maracaibo, Venezuela. Gerardo works for UpBeat as an Administrative Coordinator. His previous experience is focused on Individual Giving and Development for cultural organizations such as Centro de Bellas Artes Maracaibo (Venezuela), University of Puerto Rico's Arts Manager graduate program (Puerto Rico) Museo del Barrio and the Metropolitan Museum in New York (New York).

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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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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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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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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.