Meet the Faculty
Music Academy South is blessed to have some of the most professional and knowledgeable instructors in the Triangle area. Read on to find out more about our faculty!
Kathryn Cowsert is a recent graduate of Meredith College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Piano Performance and a Minor in Business Administration in 2021. Kathryn studied piano with Dr. Kent Lyman (Professor of Music) and was mentored by Dr. Jean Wozencraft-Ornellas (Chair, Music Department and Associate Professor of Voice at Meredith College).
During her college years, Kathryn tutored students in music theory, was a student advisor, and was treasurer of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity (Beta Zeta chapter). Particularly notable was the collaborative opportunities Octavia Piano Ensemble afforded her. In addition, she was recognized by the Raleigh Piano Teachers Association for her administrative skills. She spent a year assisting in securing judges for the Young Artist Auditions (an event she participated in throughout her pre-college years), updating repertoire lists and forms for their website, creating spreadsheets, etc. While holding these positions, Kathryn maintained Dean’s List status.
During her formative years, playing the piano created rich opportunities for Kathryn, such as winning the North Carolina Talent title for National American Miss. This win enabled her to compete in the National competition in Anaheim, California, which also led to discovering acting and modeling as new talents.
Kathryn started her piano career when she was five years old at Music Academy South. Little did she know that her career path would lead her back to mentoring others as she was mentored. The chance to bring her passion and insights to current students of the studio is exciting and rewarding. She looks forward to helping students find their love of music in a fun and creative environment. The importance she places on music fundamentals, music theory and music history will enrich the discovery process she anticipates building.
When she is not teaching, her interests include spending time with family and friends, gardening, taking long walks, and listening to her parakeets, Clara and Johannes.
Guitar & Bass
Daniel Day has been a resident guitar instructor at Music Academy South since 2005. He has instructed hundreds of students of all ages and abilities. He is the father of four really neat grown children, is married to the lovely Julia Robertson and is stepfather to her son, John.
Daniel's musical journey began during his teenage years in Milwaukee. He studied with Chuck Grazamke and Milwaukee jazz legend Don Momblow, and began performing in local coffee houses, cafes, and college campuses. He started to compose his own material, encompassing many musical genres. While touring with his band in upstate New York, he met sitar player Roop Verma, a distinguished student of the renowned Ravi Shankar. He and his band were invited on a five-month musical tour of India. This deeply meaningful experience led him to return to India for two years to study the fundamentals of Indian raga and rhythms.
On his return to the States Daniel completed a Bachelor’s Degree in classical guitar and composition at Seattle’s Cornish Institute (now known as Cornish College of the Arts). He owned and operated the Rosewood Guitar Music store and performed in the greater Seattle area. He left the music scene for 11 years while he raised his four children in the mountains of Montana and later in Raleigh, but in 2002 he heard music calling to him once more, and he has never looked back. Daniel believes that "though we may teach, it is of vital importance that we shall forever be learning," and continues to hone his skills through his study with local jazz guitarist, Kevin Van Sant.
"Music is a journey of a lifetime in the infinite of the moment," and Daniel encourages his students to take that journey with their talent, their spirit, their instrument and their hearts.
Michelle Dunn is a classically trained flutist with 30+ years of teaching and performing experience. She
has studied and performed with some of the top orchestral flutists in the U.S. and abroad. Michelle's
talents personify the term "multi-faceted" and carry her far beyond the boundaries of typical flutist,
performer, musician. She is the founder and executor of her own record label, production company, and
publishing company. In addition to being a self-produced indie artist, Michelle is also her own recording
engineer and records almost exclusively on her "iZZatcho Music" label. Her first self-produced album,
Awakening, earned two international awards, for both music/album and audio mix/sound editing.
Additionally, Michelle is a piccolo specialist and expert in the field of world/ethnic flutes. When She is
not in the studio recording or teaching, she enjoys doing freelance projects in the areas of audio
mixing/mastering, videography/editing, graphic design, and floral arranging. The album Awakening
available on Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music, etc.
Bass, Guitar, Jam Band
Steve Earnhart is a professional Bassist, Vocalist, Composer, and Producer with over twenty years experience performing, recording, and teaching. He earned his B.A. in Professional Music with an emphasis on performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston.
As a performer and band leader, Steve has toured and performed in theaters and clubs throughout the Northeast and West Coast on bills with artists such as Lindsay Buckingham, Kenny Loggins, Rick Springfield, and Eddie Money. As a session player, Steve has recorded bass parts for Ice Cube, Pete Yorn, PJ Olsen, and many others. On the composing and producing side, his work has appeared on numerous TV programs airing on ESPN, FOX, NatGeo, MTV, VH1, and Discovery. In addition, throughout his career Steve has taught students ranging from beginner to advanced using an innovate approach that blends proven traditional methods with the latest in software and music applications so students are able to efficiently zero in on their goals and surpass them.
Steve recently relocated from the Los Angeles area where he has lived for the last fifteen years, and is very much looking forward to getting to know the musicians and community in Wake Forest.
Piano, Guitar, Ukulele
Colin Fleisher is a pianist, guitarist, and composer who has lived and taught in the Triangle area for most of his life. After completing his B.M. in Piano Performance at the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University under former Moscow Conservatory professor Dr. Bair Shagdaron, he continued his graduate studies under Dr. John Salmon at University of North Carolina Greensboro.
In addition to piano studies, Colin performed for four years with the Appalachian State Guitar Orchestra, under Dr. Douglas James. It was there that he discovered his love for ancient music, and spends time apart from teaching studying and constructing replicas of extinct musical instruments.
The crossover goes further: Mr. Fleisher also teaches Ukulele from beginner levels through baroque and classical techniques adopted from older styles of guitars.
Christopher Foti, also known as Mr. C, is a drummer and percussionist originally from Boston, Massachusetts. Christopher is an avid music lover and listener to a variety of genres from hard rock to smooth jazz. Born with a very natural sense of rhythm from his fathers side of the family, Christopher started playing drums at the age of 6. At the age of 9, he was playing with adults at his Baptist church. Christopher has played with many different bands throughout the country. After his military career, he graduated from Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California with a degree in drum performance and music business. His performing styles include Jazz, Funk, Pop, R&B, Reggae, Metal, Bossa-nova, and Afro Cuban. New to the Raleigh area, Christopher's teaching opportunities continue to grow. His new found passion for teaching and educating all skill levels and young minds makes Music Academy South proud to feature him as our newest percussion and drum instructor. Mr. C loves what he does and brings his passion to the table to help inspire and get students to understand why we all need music in our lives.
piano, guitar, and ukulele
Raymond Frasche received his teaching certification in 1984 from William Paterson University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education. For the past 33 years he has been teaching and directing music in the New York metropolitan area receiving the State of New Jersey's 2011 Governors Teacher Recognition Teacher of the Year Award.
Primarily an Organist, Mr. Frasche has also studied and taught piano as well as voice, guitar, and music theory and composition. He also served as Music Director for the Hillsdale United Methodist Church for the past 21 years. Mr. Frasche has also been the principal Music Director for Passaic Valley Summer Music Theater conservatory.
Mr. Frasche sang baritone with Pro Arte Chorale, an oratorio choir, and has performed extensively with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in major venues such as Carnegie Hall, NJPAC, The State Theater of New Jersey, and Princeton University. Mr. Frasche has had numerous students become Broadway performers as well as Music Educators and Music Therapists. Being an avid hand percussionist, Mr. Frasche is skilled in West African Djembe and South East Asian Tabla drumming.
Recently retired from the public school system and re-located to the beautiful town of Wake Forest, Mr. Frasche is excited to share his love for music and teaching with his new community.
Piano, Voice, Blast OFF With Music
Margot Hafner holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Iowa. Prior to moving back to Iowa her senior year, Mrs. Hafner received an outstanding musical education at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. Mrs. Hafner teaches at West Oxford Elementary School in Granville County where she is an active teacher, leader and volunteer. Her experience is extensive and spans choral, solo and theatrical endeavors. She has directed both the West Oxford Chorus, a 60-member first grade choir and the Little Theater and Children's Theater musicals in Granville County.
Annually, Mrs. Hafner guides her young elementary students to produce a Showcase of Stars as a fund-raiser for their school with outstanding results. Many of her students audition and perform in the All-County Music Festival led by Sally Albrecht and Andy Beck, clinicians.
Each summer Margot provides leadership as the musical director for Broadway and Beyond Theater Camp in Vance and Granville County for elementary students, as well as musically directs the TeenWorks Theater Camp for middle and high school students for the county.
Though a highly sought after voice and piano instructor at Music Academy South, Mrs. Hafner enjoys being a part of her community and volunteers when possible. Favorite opportunities are singing in the Raleigh-Durham Sacred Chorale, playing in the advanced handbell choir at her church (Wake Forest Baptist Church), as well as singing in the choir, and frequently as a soloist.
Mrs. Hafner is a dedicated member of the Raleigh Piano Teachers Association and her students always achieve the highest scores. Music Academy South students are in good hands in her studio.
Gina Krause Hayek earned a degree in general and choral music education with a major in voice from Michigan State University. She spent 27 years teaching preK-8th grade music mainly in the Wake County Public School System, and achieved National Board certification in 2003.
After giving birth to twins in 2013, Gina retired from public school, and began her home studio in 2017 teaching private piano and voice lessons to young children through adults.
Gina has worked as the director of children’s music at Hudson Memorial UPC from 2015-2021. In 2022, Gina served as the Young Musician’s choir director at Rolesville Baptist Church.
Gina has performed on stages across the US and abroad, traveling with 2 professional choirs, as well as performing as a solo singer in church, weddings and Memorial services.
Gina hopes that by sharing her love for music and her students, as well as her years of experience, she can instill that same love and confidence in her students so that they can become the life-long musicians they desire to be.
Susan (Sue) has lived in the Raleigh area since August of 2019 and moved here with her
husband, Ken, from Nebraska. She has two grown sons and a daughter-in-law, and has a
Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene from the University of Nebraska Dental
Sue’s love of music started at six years of age, with piano lessons, and the oboe in fifth
grade. She received superior ratings at district music contests throughout high school
and is the recipient of the John Philip Sousa Award and the Elna Young Orchestra
Past instructors include Mr. Orlan Thomas, affiliated with the University of Nebraska,
Mr. Kermit Peters, former principal oboist of the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, and Dr.
William McMullen, current principal oboist with the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra and
instructor at the Glenn Korff School of Music in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Musical memberships have included the Lincoln Civic Orchestra, the Great Plains
Music Society Orchestra, Quintessence woodwind quintet, and The Great Plains
Chamber Winds woodwind quintet. Sue is currently performing with the Christ Baptist
Church chamber orchestra. She is a member of the musicians’ union, local 500.
Sue loves to continue to learn and improve in the world of music and strives to inspire
her students to develop their own passion through positive encouragement.
Jodi Lewis has a Masters degree in Vocal Performance/Pedagogy from the Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Illinois. She has been teaching voice and performing for over 15 years. Mrs. Lewis is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others to enhance their sense of confidence and pride in their vocal study and performance. Working with each student to uncover and develop his or her unique voice is her objective and one that each student will find compelling and innovative. She naturally works to enhance the student’s musicianship and general musical skills related to note reading, rhythmic and pattern relationships, as well as sight reading and stage presence. Every student's lesson is uniquely designed to the individual needs and desires of each student. Mrs. Lewis does not teach one particular style of music but enjoys helping the students develop their foundation and technique that will enable them to sing any style they choose: Popular, Musical Theater, Cover Charts, Classical, Country, etc. Experienced in Opera, Musical Theater, and church. She will serve her students well at Music Academy South.
Blaine McNeil is a piano teacher at Music Academy South. Blaine studied piano at Music Academy South under Dr. Skinner from 2005-18, and upon graduation, he went on to receive his B.M. in Piano Performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in May 2022. Blaine is deeply grateful to instruct at the academy he received such great training from.
Blaine’s goal is to provide students with every resource they may need to aid on their musical journey. Whether the end goal is a working familiarity of the instrument, self-accompaniment, piano proficiency, or to build a career in music, he hopes to be the mentor who places the student’s aspirations first. Blaine maintains a comprehensive and structured teaching approach while inspiring the student to undertake musical growth beyond the classroom
Blaine’s classical repertoire is diverse, with a special interest in Liszt, Chopin, and Schubert. Blaine is also a gifted jazz pianist, and he continues to explore new possibilities on the piano. Blaine serves as a staff accompanist at Music Academy South, and is an in-demand accompanist for church, school, and university choirs.
When he’s not playing the piano, Blaine plays with his cat Carlyle, and enjoys cooking foods he’s never tried before.
Trombone,Trumpet, Tuba, Euphonium, French Horn
Yoshi Nakamura has been the band director at Raleigh Christian Academy and orchestra director at Beacon Baptist Church since 1996. His advanced band has won the North Carolina Association of Christian Schools annual band competition numerous times over the past twenty years. His bands have also competed at the American Association of Christian Schools annual competitions in Greenville, SC several times over the years with a third place finish this past year. Yoshi is also one of the clinic chairmen for the annual North Carolina Association of Christian Schools All-State Band Clinic. In addition to his school responsibilities, Yoshi has also performed as a trombonist in the Triangle Wind Ensemble, Wake Community Christian Band, and Cary Town Band where he also serves as assistant director.
Yoshi began playing the trombone in fourth grade in Shimizu, Japan. Upon graduation from high school, Yoshi came to the United States to study at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola, FL. While in college, Yoshi won the commencement brass competition three times. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pensacola Christian College in trombone performance in 1996; he later earned his masters in secondary education from PCC in 2007.
Over the past twenty years, Yoshi has taught private instrumental lessons on the violin, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, French horn, baritone, tuba, and percussion. His students have consistently received superior ratings in various competitions and earned top seats in all-state bands.
Ardene Shafer earned a degree in music education from Oklahoma State University and a Master of Arts degree from Concordia University in River Forest, IL. She has taught music programs in public schools in Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, and
Maryland for more than 35 years. In addition to her public school teaching experience, she has taught in private schools in Illinois and North Carolina. She has also taught dozens of private students in the various states where she has lived during the past 35years.
In 2019, until the pandemic took hold, she taught for the Wake Forest Youth Orchestra program in Zebulon and Rolesville. She continued teaching via Zoom until summer of 2021.She has held memberships in small orchestras in Illinois, Maryland and North Carolina and was a founding member of the Prince George’s String Quartet in Maryland.
During the summer months in North Carolina Ms. Shafer has participated in the Masterworks Reading Orchestra in Durham, NC.
Ms. Shafer is retired from public school teaching but continues to be active with private students. She is a member of the Meredith Sinfonietta and the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, She is married to Steve (a saxophonist) and has two wonderful little dogs. She and her husband enjoy attending the symphony and opera and traveling.
Dr. Jeanine Skinner is a teacher, performer, collaborative musician, and church musician. Her degrees from Anderson University, Furman University, Florida State University and the University of South Carolina are in Piano Performance with her final degree focused on Performance and Pedagogy. She has served on the faculties of Southern Wesleyan University (Central, SC), Presbyterian College (Clinton, SC), Lander University (Greenwood, SC), the State University of West Georgia (Carrollton, GA), Berry College (Rome, GA) and Judson College (Marion, AL).
As a collaborative musician, Dr. Skinner has accompanied numerous college and professional choruses, vocalists and instrumentalists, performing in Carnegie Hall, various countries in Europe and the United Kingdom. As a soloist, she enjoys performing for concerts, community service events, and church services in the local area. Dr. Skinner is an active member of the Raleigh Piano Teachers Association and is their current president.
Dr. Skinner has served as a church musician for 49 years. She has served as organist, pianist and choir director in a number of denominations. For the past 10 years, Dr. Skinner has served as organist and accompanist for Wake Forest Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC.
In addition, Dr. Skinner owns Music Academy South in Wake Forest, NC where 247 students study numerous traditional musical instruments. Her studio is currently expanding to accommodate the increasing requests and growth in her community. She continues to be active in local, state and national Music Teachers Associations, adjudicate and offer piano workshops. Her love for life in Wake Forest is amplified with the opportunity to live near her sister’s family and to raise her fur-child, Allie.
Elizabeth ("Liz") Sniffen relocated to Wake Forest, NC from New York City, NY where she realized a successful professional career as a vocalist. Most recently, she completed 24 seasons as the soprano soloist, section leader and cantor at the Church of Saint Vincent Ferrer, a prominent Roman Catholic Church in the Upper East Side of New York City. Under the direction of Dr. Mark Bani, the music program at St. Vincent's included major choral works each season including Handel's "Messiah", Mendelssohn's "Elijah", Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" and Mozart's "Requiem" where Elizabeth participated as both soprano soloist and section leader. Her ministry of music at St. Vincent Ferrer Church also included singing as soloist for the funeral Masses for many celebrities, politicians and other prominent figures, including Geraldine Ferraro, Dominick Dunne and Claudette Colbert. Other highlights of her career include performances, singing with Bryn Terfel and Aprile Millo of the Metropolitan Opera.
Prior to St. Vincent's, she was a soloist at various other churches in the tri-state area. For almost 10 years, Elizabeth was a soloist with the "Chorus Angelorum" of Pan Am Airlines singing in major cities throughout Poland, Spain, Ireland, Hungary, Germany, Austria and Italy. She has participated in chamber music workshops, has performed in art song symposiums, and has performed works of various composers at the Society of Composers, Inc. conferences. More recently, Elizabeth performed in cabaret shows in NYC.
Elizabeth began studying voice at the age of 10 and her teachers have included Marcelle Bolman, Dr. Helen Lightner (New York University) and Irene Gubrud. Her mother was a church organist and thus Elizabeth began singing in church choirs at a very young age. Elizabeth embraces sharing her experiences with students and to provide them with vocal techniques and the confidence to enjoy singing and performing.
Cello, Violin, Viola, & M.A.S. String Ensemble
Kevin Yen holds his Bachelor's degree of Music in Violin Performance from Pennsylvania State University. He also holds a Master's degree of Music in Performance with Suzuki Pedagogy emphasis from East Carolina University. Mr. Yen taught in Greenville, NC while completing his studies at East Carolina University gaining broad experience through group and private instruction. He was a member of the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra and currently performs with the Beyond String Quartet. In addition to private lessons, he is also the instructor of the M.A.S. String Ensemble. Mr. Yen is in great demand as a teacher and performer throughout the triangle area.