About The Academy & Staff
The Eugene Piano Academy opened its doors to twenty-four young children and their parents in the fall of 2011. From its beginning, the Academy has seamlessly combined traditional teaching methodology with the social and advanced learning support that comes from group classes. These peer groups make all the difference in creating an energetic, empathetic, and enthusiastic learning environment.
The Academy also serves as a vital part of the arts community, having hosted concerts for the Eugene Symphony, Oregon Mozart Players, and the University of Oregon. It has supported some of our community's invaluable non-profit organizations such as Well-Mama, MECCA, OSLP, and the HIV-Alliance, and has been a regular supporter of the visual arts with its involvement in the Lane Arts Council's First Friday Artwalks.
Beginning in 2016, the Academy partnered with Classic Pianos of Portland to further serve our community as, not only a place of learning but also as a trusted piano retailer.
Susane Davis, Director
In 2009, after completing her undergraduate studies in piano performance with Dr. Stephen Thomas, Susane entered the University of Oregon to pursue her master's degree in piano pedagogy. It was there, under the guidance of Dr. Claire Wachter, where her dream of providing the best method for beginning musicians, while instilling the love of music, was born. Over the next few years, with this mission in mind, she was able to further develop as an educator and pianist, filling her tool belt with skills and experience that proved invaluable when she went on to open the Academy in 2011.
It was also during this time that she was first introduced to the Harmony Road music method and soon thereafter knew that this was the only method that demonstrated both evidence-based curriculum and a thoughtfulness for the joy and art of the process of learning. It has proven to be one of the most complete beginning methods for all ages through its unique approach to engaging the ear. Through this method student's are able to simultaneously develop their reading skills while also encouraging their innate sense of creativity. Along with teaching the fundamentals of music, it is Susane's goal to foster the aspiring young pianist in their pursuit of technical mastery, lyrical touch, and knowledge of the vast repertoire written for the piano and the history behind it. Through this, she hopes that the Eugene Piano Academy will be able to fuel a lifetime of musical love and appreciation with time-tested quality instruction in a supported learning environment.
Nancy Meston, Instuctor & Operations Manager
Nancy used to pretend she was a ballerina, dancing around the living room to her sister’s piano practice and couldn’t wait to start playing herself. She started piano at 5 years old and after a chance meeting with “Mrs. B” (Gay Blankenship) in 3rd grade turned her attention to the violin. Nancy was a Viola Performance major at the University of Oregon when physical limitations prevented her from completing her degree.
After a hiatus from music, surgery and lots of physical therapy Nancy has reclaimed her passion. Having to rebuild her skills has given Nancy a unique perspective on learning and teaching. She loves teaching all ages and believes it is never too late to start an instrument. Nancy tailors her lessons to each student and strives to instill an appreciation for the learning process. She believes in combining a strong fundamental base of skills and music knowledge with improvisation, varied styles of music and even different instruments for a well rounded experience and education. Personally, she enjoys mixing her music life up and has played in everything from symphonies to touring the world with a DJ (playing electric viola).
Jamie Yang, Instructor & Special Programs Coordinator
Jamie Yang has been playing piano since age 8 and has been actively involved in music and performing arts ever since. Jamie received her Bachelor’s of Science in Music and Arts Management from the University of Oregon in 2015, where she studied piano under the guidance of Dr. Dean Kramer, Dr. Claire Wachter, and Dr. David Riley. Miss Jamie has been a certified Harmony Road instructor since 2013 and had the opportunity to train with the Harmony Road Course founder, Jan Keyser.
At the heart of Jamie’s teaching philosophy is her belief that music is a vehicle for which students can, through proper instruction, channel and convey their creative thoughts and emotions. She helps facilitate this endeavor by providing a well-rounded approach to music education in a fun and relaxed environment. It is her hope that by teaching music, her students will, in turn, share the joy they’ve found with others.
Chris Misa, Instructor & Events Manager
Chris Misa began studying classical piano at eight years old leading to a passion for many genres of music. In 2007 he began performing jazz and improvised music professionally in addition to attending a conservatory-like arts high school. He attended DePaul University in Chicago studying jazz and classical piano, earning a BM in Composition in 2014. Since then he has earned a living teaching, composing, and working in restaurant
Chris Misa firmly believes that music is an integral part of the multifaceted web which connects human beings. Understanding the intricacies of how different cultures have used this medium to communicate complex inner experiences enriches our lives and creates a stronger, better-connected society. In the classroom and in lessons he seeks to strengthen students understanding of whatever musical realities they are interested in and to introduce new tools and ideas pertinent to their passions.
Ali Jones, Instructor
Ali Jones began playing piano at age 7, and developed a passion for teaching and performing music shortly thereafter. In 2014, she received her Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from the University of Idaho, where she studied with Dr. Rajung Yang. She moved to Eugene to continue her studies at the University of Oregon and earned her master's degree in piano performance under the guidance of Dr. Dean Kramer and Dr. Claire Wachter.
Ali believes that music should be a central part of education and that playing the piano can enrich many areas of a person’s life. In her teaching, she strives to engage each student’s creativity, imagination, and self-expression, while building a strong foundation in technique, reading, and listening skills.
Rebecca Hutton, Instructor
Rebecca Hutton began playing the piano at age 6. In 2014, she received her Bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Abilene Christian University, where she studied with the late Dr. Paulineung Bjorem. Rebecca entered the University of Oregon to pursue her masters degree in piano pedagogy, and studied under Dr. Dean Kramer and Dr. Claire Wachter.
Rebecca believes that great artistry can be achieved in even the simplest pieces and that any student can perform artistically, no matter the level. It is her goal to guide students as they master the skills required to play the piano but more importantly, Rebecca hopes that they will find great joy and purpose in the music they create. Furthermore, Rebecca believes in nurturing each individual by helping them find their area of greatest potential in learning and music making.
Zaira Castillo, Instructor
Beginning her teaching from the young age of 15, Zaira has always felt great passion towards being able to provide her students with a strong musical education. Zaira is currently a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Oregon, where she has studied under both Claire Wachter and Alexandre Dossin, as well as collaborative piano with David Riley. She hopes to pursue her masters degree with a focus in modern music performance and piano pedagogy.
Zaira indomitably believes that every student, regardless of age, educational, or ﬁnancial background, should experience the art of making music in their own unique way. Zaira also believes that music is an integral part of human experience and that through guidance and instruction, a student will be able to create and enrich their lives with the art of music. Zaira hopes to create a fun learning environment in which students feel comfortable expressing themselves and growing musically as well as establishing a well-founded base in note reading and technique.
Becca Stankis, Instructor
Becca Stankis has been cultivating her enjoyment of music since she was a youngster sitting beneath the piano bench listening to her siblings playing “Hot Cross Buns” and “Old MacDonald’s Farm.” She graduated from Pepperdine University with an undergraduate degree in Piano Performance and English Literature and, while there, discovered her affections for Russian music as well as Russian literary works. She is currently a student in the University of Oregon’s Graduate Music Program and enjoys it immensely.
Becca is fond of hiking, playing chess, traveling, and all things sweet. Her favorite moments as a teacher have been when her students experience the "light-bulb effect.” Phrases such as "I FINALLY get it!” or "Ohhhhh that makes so much sense!” enliven the enjoyment and delight that music offers.
Laura Eason, Brass Instructor
Laura Eason is a Masters Student in Music Education at the University of Oregon. She studied Music Education at Texas Tech University and began her career in West Texas as an Elementary Music Teacher. While there, she taught music for all students and provided tutorial services for at-risk students. Mrs. Eason has been an active educator in the Eugene 4J District since her 2015 arrival in Oregon. She has worked as a substitute K-12 teacher in Eugene 4J and was the Manager of an after-school STEM program. Mrs. Eason is also an accomplished horn player and she performs regularly throughout the Eugene area.
Sarah Jordan, Flute Instructor
Sarah Jordan is a musical artist who expresses her passions through composition and flute performance. As such she has been a constant supporter of music, old and new, and hopes to inspire everyone to experience and enjoy it. In 2016, Sarah graduated with a dual Bachelor of Music in Composition and Flute Performance with a Minor in Music History from the University of the Pacific, Conservatory of Music. She is now working toward her Master of Music in Composition at the University of Oregon while continuing her performance career through private lessons and performing in new works ensembles. Her previous flute instructors include Isabelle Chaipus, Mathew Krejci, and Molly Barth. Her composition instructors include Francois Rose, Robert Coburn, Robert Kyr, and David Crumb.
Sarah has taught flute, theory, and composition privately and in school settings. She has always been passionate about music education and believes that it is a skill and experience that betters one's life, no matter the age or level. From hobby to extra-curricular, to pursuing a musical career, Sarah has taught a vast array of students and developed a teaching style that not only develops musical skills at the student’s preferred pace but incorporates other life skills using music as an educational tool. She also believes each student is unique in both musical preferences and learning style and dedicates her time to discover these traits to make lessons both productive and enjoyable.
David Mitchell, Guitar Instructor
A Eugene native, David Mitchel, got his start as the son of a guitar player and educator. To expand upon the passion instilled within him by his father, David began his studies at Lane Community College and quickly began teaching for the Eugene School District, Eugene Parks and Recreation, and McKenzie River Music. David later set his sights the vibrant guitar scene in Barcelona, Spain, where he spent more than 30 years honing his craft as he played at various festivals, and with duos, trios, and quartets, all under his name
David has a wide range of teaching experience at places like Conservatory Liceo, El Aula Music School, and Taller de Musics in Barcelona, Spain. He also served as musical director for the Benicassim International Jazz seminar in Benicassim,Spain. David has also given master classes at the University of Oregon, Lane Community College, Santander Jazz Festival (Spain), Marciac Jazz Festival (France), and Colmar Jazz Festival (France).
David enjoys working with students of all levels, from beginning to advanced, and is well-versed in various musical styles, including jazz, folk, blues, rock, and funk. He also understands the importance of laying a solid foundation through, technique, chords/chord construction, reading notation, and music theory to help learn the skills of playing by ear, stylistic variations of standard repertoire, and improvisation. According to David, the most joy for him as a teacher comes from advancing a student from one level to the next, no matter what that might be.
Marisa Finlayson, Woodwinds Instructor
Marisa Finlayson has been performing as a soloist, chamber musician, and ensemble member throughout California and Oregon. Ms. Finlayson completed her undergraduate studies at Humboldt State University in Music Education. During her undergraduate career, Ms. Finlayson performed with the Humboldt State University Jazz Orchestra, A.M. Jazz Band, Symphonic Band, Symphony, Intermediate Orchestra, Chamber Woodwind Ensemble, and Calypso Band. Ms. Finlayson has also held multiple assistantships where she served as a student conductor for the Humboldt State University Symphony, Symphonic Band, Intermediate Orchestra, A.M. Jazz Band, and Madrigal Choir. During her time at Humboldt State, Ms. Finlayson co-directed a non-profit organization, North Coast Music Mentors (through the Y.E.S. House), where she worked to bring private and group music lessons to students and schools in the local community. Currently, Ms. Finlayson is attending the University of Oregon for her Master’s degree in Music Education.
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