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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 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.

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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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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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Lessie Vonner

Lessie Vonner is a trumpeter and entertainer based in the NYC Metropolitan area. Having developed a skillset and admiration for many different types of music, Lessie currently performs in music scenes around the world with some of music’s biggest names, including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Lizzo, Jon Batiste, Ari Lennox, the Fugees, Jennifer Hudson, the Broadway Sinfonietta, and many more. Lessie has received Grammy recognition for her participation on Beyoncé's award-winning music film “Homecoming”, as well as for her work on the CARTERS’ award-winning “Everything Is Love” album. She is also a regular on the scene, having made multiple television performances – such as BET Black Girls Rock, the Today Show, Good Morning America, the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, and the UrbanOne Honors.

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Ramón Carrero-Martínez

New York-based Venezuelan violist RAMÓN CARRERO-MARTÍNEZ is a Gold Medal
and Grand Prize winner of the 2022 Fischoff Competition, a semi-finalist at Sphinx
Competition 2023, and a semi-finalist for the 14th Banff International String Quartet
Competition as a member of the Terra String Quartet, a young and vibrant ensemble
based in NewYork City. He has won other competitions in the US, Italy, and
Venezuela has toured the US with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, performed as a
guest violist with the American String Quartet, and made his US soloist debut with
the New York Classical Players for the World Premiere of James Ra Triple Viola

As an educator, he is a faculty artist at the San Antonio Classical Music Institute
(CMI) summer education program since 2016. In the fall of 2017, he joined the
violin/viola and string faculty at the Bronx-based music program UpBeat NYC, in
2019 he joined Orchestrating Dreams as a viola and string faculty in Inwood-NYC,
and in 2022 he joined the faculty of the Youth Orchestra of St. Luke’s (YOSL) in

Mr. Carrero-Martínez was a member of the celebrated Venezuelan National System
of Youth Orchestras “El Sistema” and previously studied economics in Venezuela.
He holds a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan
School of Music where he studied with American String Quartet violist Daniel

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Julian Pardo

Born in Tucson, AZ and raised in Hermosillo, Mexico, Julian Pardo is a Percussionist, Composer and Producer based out of Brooklyn, NY.

Julian attended Berklee College of Music and has performed with a wide array of musicians from Ralph Peterson jr., Jason Palmer, Donald Harrison jr. to Toto la Momposina and Alexander Acha among others. He currently is based out of Brooklyn, NY where he works as a music educator and freelance musician. As an Army Reservist SGT Pardo currently serves as the band leader for the New York detachment of the 78th Army Band.

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Laura Hutton

Laura Hutton is a NYC based teacher and performer. You can catch her on the latest season of “Mozart in the Jungle“ playing in the fictional New York Symphony. Outside of fake tv orchestras, Laura has performed at Disney Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, David Geffen Hall, and all over the NY Metropolitan area in various orchestras and chamber groups.

As a teacher, Laura has over 10 years of studio teaching, film coaching, group, and school-based program experience. Growing up in the mountains of Appalachia, she loves playing and teaching traditional folk and bluegrass music along with the Suzuki method.

Laura holds a master’s degree in violin performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music. She also has done studies in musicology at the University of Oxford, and continuing education at Carnegie Hall.

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Isabel Serrano

Isabel Serrano, Mexican-American flutist, is from Southern California and currently in New York City pursuing her Masters at Manhattan School of Music studying with Marya Martin. During her undergraduate studies at La Sierra University, she won the Promising Young Artist competition and two department All-Stars Competitions. Most recently, she placed 2nd in the Puerto Rico Flute Symposium 2022. Isabel’s experiences range from performing as a soloist with orchestra to playing in a jazz combo and conducting wind ensembles. With ensembles she has performed in Walt Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, and various halls/cathedrals across Czech Republic, Austria, and Italy. Over the last several years of her teaching experience, she taught privately and was faculty of La Sierra University’s Academy of Visual and Performing Arts. Isabel currently is a freelancer in NYC and plans to continue business and performance endeavors in advocacy for first-generation/underrepresented groups in higher education and the music industry.