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Buffalo Suzuki Strings Faculty

Mary Cay Neal: Founder, Executive Director, Music Director, Violin Instructor

Mary Cay Neal is the Founder and Executive Director of Buffalo Suzuki Strings. Mary Cay teaches violin and conducts the BSS Advanced Ensemble and the Friendship Touring Ensemble. Mary Cay holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from Georgia State University and has done post-graduate work in Suzuki Pedagogy. She has studied with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki on many occasions including: teacher-training workshops at the International Conferences in Hawaii in 1975 and 1977; Munich, Germany in 1979; Amherst, Massachusetts in 1981; Matsumoto, Japan in 1983; and has taught at the International Suzuki Teacher’s Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 1985; Adelaide, Australia in 1991; Matsumoto, Japan in 1999; and Turin, Italy in 2006. Mary Cay is a registered Teacher Trainer and has served on The Suzuki Association of the Americas Board of Directors for three terms. She has taught teacher training and violin at many Suzuki Institutes and workshops in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan and South America.


Lauren Eastlack: Assistant Executive Director, Violin Instructor

Graduate of Indiana University Jacob’s School of Music, violinist, Lauren (Zang) Eastlack began her studies at the age of five at Buffalo Suzuki Strings studying with Mary Cay Neal during her final six years in the program before graduating. Lauren earned a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance, a Masters in Music in Violin Performance, and a Performer Diploma Certificate during her time at the Jacob’s School of Music. Her primary teachers were Paul Biss and Mimi Zweig.

Between 2007 and 2009, Lauren earned a position as Associate Instructor of Violin at the Jacob’s School of Music. Lauren spent five years studying pre-college string pedagogy with Mimi Zweig and Brenda Brenner, Director and Assistant Director of the String Academy at Indiana University Jacob’s School of Music. Lauren taught both individual and group lessons at the String Academy as well as being a teacher’s assistant during the Summer String Academy for four years. Lauren is continuing to work through her Suzuki teacher training in violin with Mary Cay Neal. In 2015 Lauren participated in the stage one training for the Suzuki Early Childhood Education program in London, Ontario with Sharon and Dorothy Jones. From 2009-2012, Lauren was a full time instructor of violin at the Carolina String Academy at Ashley Hall School in Charleston, South Carolina.

During her years at BSS, Lauren went on tour with the Friendship Touring Ensemble to Chile/Peru in 1997 and England/Ireland in 2000. In 2002, Lauren was the recipient of the Amherst Symphony Orchestra Scholarship, the Buffalo Philharmonic Scholarship, and the Buffalo Chamber Society Scholarship. Lauren has performed as soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic on two separate occasions and in the fall of 2009 performed as soloist with the Amherst Symphony Orchestra. Lauren performed with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the Ensemble of St. Clare Chamber Orchestra in Charleston, SC from 2009 – 2013. Lauren has been subbing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013.

Lauren lives in Clarence Center with her husband Aaron and Goldendoodle puppy, Luna.


Emily Greetham: Violin Instructor

Emily Greetham graduated from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. She is from Buffalo, New York and started playing the violin when she was five years old. At age 7, she began her studies at Buffalo Suzuki Strings and continued there with Mary Cay Neal as her teacher during her last five years. Throughout her high school and college years, Emily had experience teaching private violin students and working with children in afterschool programs and summer camps in the Buffalo area. Additionally, she volunteered at the BSS repertory classes and summer workshops. At Indiana University, Emily studied violin with Dr. Brenda Brenner and worked for Dr. Brenner’s string project, teaching violin at Fairview Elementary School. She was also involved as a helper teacher and counselor for Indiana University’s String Academy. Emily taught all string instruments and orchestra during her student teaching experience at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, Indiana. She studied Suzuki Violin Pedagogy at Indiana University and recently completed Suzuki Violin Training courses with Nancy Lokken and Karen-Michele Kimmett. While at BSS, Emily went on tour with the Advanced Touring Ensemble to Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2008. During college, she performed with the IU orchestras as well as the Carmel Symphony Orchestra in Indianapolis. Emily is excited to return to Buffalo, NY and to teach at BSS, which continues to impact her musically and personally.


David Levine: Assistant Music Director, Violin & Viola Instructor

Currently Assistant Music Director of Buffalo Suzuki Strings, David Levine has taught violin and viola for the program since 1996. David grew up in Connecticut, and completed a B.S. in Music Education and a B.A. in Music from the University of Connecticut, as well as the M.M. in Suzuki Pedagogy from Ithaca College. He has studied violin and viola with several teachers, including Theodore Arm, Linda Case, Debra Moree, Sanford Reuning, and Almita and Roland Vamos. In addition to long-term Suzuki violin teacher training at Ithaca College with Sanford Reuning, David has also taken short-term violin training courses with Teri Einfeldt, John Kendall, Mary Cay Neal, Carrie Reuning, and Stevie Sandven, as well as many viola units with Elizabeth Stuen-Walker. David, an active clinician, has taught at Suzuki Workshops and Institutes in Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, DC, and Wisconsin as well as in Argentina, Brazil, Canada and South Africa. In addition to teaching many students, ages 3-18, through Buffalo Suzuki Strings, David is also an active freelance performer on both violin and viola in the Western New York area. David lives in Buffalo with his wife Shannon Levine, cello teacher at Buffalo Suzuki Strings.


Shannon Levine: Cello Instructor

Shannon Levine has been practicing the cello since she was ten. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Music at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota (with a detour through the chemistry department along the way). In 2008, she earned a Master of Music degree in Cello Performance from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois; while she was there she participated in orchestra and numerous chamber ensembles. Mrs. Levine was a group class and individual lesson teacher for Illinois State’s String Project program, which provides instruction to school-age children on violin, viola, and cello, under the supervision of Master Teachers Dr. Katherine Lewis and Dr. Adriana Ransom. After graduation, Mrs. Levine stayed in central Illinois, teaching private lessons and mixed-instrument group classes. She also performed with numerous local ensembles, including the Millikin-Decatur Symphony, the Illinois Symphony, and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. Mrs. Levine has completed Suzuki teacher training through cello book 5 at the American Suzuki Institute, the Chicago Suzuki Institute and the Ithaca Suzuki Institute under teacher trainers Jean Dexter, Barbara Wampner, Sally Gross, Pam Devenport and Carol Tarr.


Sonsoles Llodrá: Violin Instructor

Sonsoles is originally from Montevideo, Uruguay. She started her violin studies at the age of six. After graduating from high school, she won a chair at the Orquesta Filarmónica de Montevideo, the official orchestra of the capital city. In 2009, she decided to continue her violin studies and came to the United States to study with Venezuelan violinist Edward Pulgar at Carson-Newman University. While in Tennessee, she performed regularly with orchestras in the area such as Symphony of the Mountains. After attending several summer music festivals, both nationally and internationally, Sonsoles decided to pursue a Masters in Suzuki Pedagogy at Ithaca College under Suzuki Pedagogue Carrie Reuning-Hummel.

While in Ithaca, Sonsoles enjoyed the best of both worlds: playing in numerous concerts throughout the year, both in orchestras as well as a member of the graduate string quartet, and having the privilege to observe and teach both private and group class lessons at Ithaca Talent Education and Ithaca College. In addition to her long-term Suzuki training, Sonsoles has also been part of short-term teacher training institutes having studied with Kimberly Meier-Sims and Edward Kreitman. Sonsoles is also particularly excited about the Suzuki Early Childhood Education program and is pursuing the completion of all stages of certification of ECE.

An avid performer, Sonsoles was a member of the MostArts 2015 Festival Orchestra, a professional chamber orchestra based in Alfred, NY where they performed in numerous concerts in the month of July. Sonsoles is particularly excited about moving to Buffalo and getting to collaborate with so many wonderful musicians!


Rasa Stalygiene: Piano Instructor

Buffalo Suzuki Strings faculty since 2005, Rasa Stalygiene is a graduate of the Lithuanian Music Academy in Vilnius, Lithuania, Europe. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in piano performance, accompaniment, and piano pedagogy. Before coming to the United States, Rasa taught piano and accompanied string, wind, and vocal students. She also toured Europe as a soloist, and accompanist. Rasa has completed Suzuki Piano Teacher Training Units 1-7 with Rita Hauck and Mary Craig Powell. Currently she is a full-time Suzuki piano instructor and accompanist at Buffalo Suzuki Strings. She resides on Grand Island with her husband, Jonas, and their sons and daughter.


Amy Terranova: Violin Instructor


Kela Walton: Harp Instructor, Music for Infants & Toddlers Program Coordinator

Kela Walton began her musical journey at the age of five as Suzuki piano student. By the age of eleven she finally convinced her parents to let her study the harp, and it was love at first lesson. Kela Walton holds a M.M. in Harp Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Houston Moores School of Music where she studied with Paula Page, and a B.M. in Harp Performance from the University of Texas at Austin where she studied with Gayle Barrington. Additionally Kela studied upon invitation with Alice Chalifoux at the Salzedo School in Camden, Maine. Her Suzuki training includes coursework in early childhood education and harp with Sharon Jones, Delaine Leonard, and Dr. Laurie Scott.

Kela relocated to Buffalo from her native Texas in the summer of 2014. Witnessing the incredible experiences and development of children and parents in Suzuki Early Childhood Education programs world wide inspired Kela to teach Music For Infants and Toddlers in addition to the harp at Buffalo Suzuki Strings. An enthusiastic educator, she embraces teaching with a fun and loving approach as well as a thorough understanding of the scientific evidence regarding the beneficial effects of music education on students of all ages – especially babies and young children. Kela began teaching harp lessons in 1998 and previously held faculty positions at Temple College, Round Rock Independent School District, the University of Houston Moores School of Music Preparatory and Continuing Studies Program, Longhorn Music Camp, and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Kela’s orchestra credits include a seven year tenure as principal harpist for the Temple Symphony Orchestra, as well as engagements with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, and Corpus Christi Ballet. Currently Kela is honored to serve on the National Board of Directors for the American Harp Society, Inc. When not teaching or performing, she enjoys running and practicing yoga.


Anna Whistler: Piano Instructor

A native of Buffalo, NY, Anna Whistler has engaged in musical collaborations at the Eastman School of Music, the Interlochen Center for the Arts, l’École Normale de Musique de Paris, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Buffalo, and Smith College. She has performed in master classes for such musicians as Richard Goode, Philippe Entremont, and Eric Huebner, pianists; Joshua Greene, Assistant Conductor at the Met Opera; and Vladimir Tropp, chair of the piano department of the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music and professor at the Moscow Conservatory. Ms. Whistler holds a B.A. in music with a minor in exercise and sports studies from Smith College, where she studied with Judith Gordon. As a student she won the college’s concerto competition and made several appearances as soloist with the Smith College Orchestra. She received a Susan Rose Internship for Music; the Ida Deck Haigh Memorial Prize for distinguished achievement in piano; the Ernst Wallfisch Prize, given to a student of music for outstanding talent, commitment, and diligence; and the Harriet Dey Barnum Prize for outstanding academic and artistic work in music. Upon graduation, she was awarded a prestigious Alumnae Scholarship to support her graduate studies.

Ms. Whistler holds an M.M. in Piano Performance from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she studied with Gilles Vonsattel. She received the Eugenie May Award, for a student who possesses extraordinary musical talent in the area of piano performance and who makes exceptional contributions to the musical life of the Department of Music at UMass. Since receiving her graduate degree, she has given master classes in Los Angeles – most recently at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts – and has worked for the preeminent piano manufacturing company Steinway & Sons. Ms Whistler is excited about teaching piano at BSS using the Suzuki method. She has completed Suzuki Piano Teacher Training with renowned Suzuki Teacher Trainers Rita Hauck and Mary Craig Powell and looks forward  to further study of the Suzuki Method. In her spare time, Ms. Whistler is an avid ice hockey player, having won a gold medal in the NY-State Championship and a bronze in the National Championship. She is a two-time recipient of the All-Western NY Scholar Athlete Award, and in 2007 was named an Academic All-American in lacrosse.


Peter Zalocha: Guitar Instructor

Peter has been a student of the guitar since the age of six. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance in 2003 from the University of Colorado in Boulder where he studied classical guitar with Charles Wolzien. Returning to his hometown of Buffalo, Peter received a Masters Degree in Music Performance in 2008 from the University of Buffalo where he studied with Joanne Castellani. Peter has been teaching guitar privately since 2000 with students of all ages. He works primarily with classical guitar students, however he also enjoys other genres of guitar music including Folk and Jazz among others. He began his Suzuki training in 2005 with Suzuki teacher trainers throughout the country including Mary Cay Neal, Joanne Castellani, Frank Longay, and Mary Lou Roberts. He has taken part in several Suzuki guitar festivals, seminars, and training courses. He plans to continue his Suzuki guitar training to include registration in all nine books. Peter began as an instructor at Buffalo Suzuki Strings in the summer of 2007.



Emily Bauerlein

Emily Bauerlein graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from Buffalo State College in May 2015. She began studying viola at the age of four at Buffalo Suzuki Strings and studied under Mr. Levine for her last 5 years. She was also a member of the Advanced Touring Ensemble and went on tour to Italy in 2006, Spain in 2008, and Argentina in 2011. Throughout her high school and college career she has volunteered at BSS in group classes and summer workshops. She was a frequent visitor to local health care facilities for the elderly to bring a smile to their faces. At Buffalo State, Emily studied under Kate Holzemer and Janz Costello of the BPO. Emily won the Young Artist Competition at Buffalo State in 2014. During her senior year of college, Emily taught pre-twinkle classes with Lauren Eastlack at St. Andrews Day School. Recently, Emily participated in the Infant and Toddler Suzuki Training course in London, Ontario. Emily is ecstatic to be teaching the Infant Toddler class at Buffalo Suzuki Strings.


Christopher Holmes

Christopher Holmes began the study of violin at the age of 4 with Mary Cay Neal, founder and director of the Buffalo Suzuki Strings. At age 11, he joined the Buffalo Suzuki Strings Advanced Ensemble and toured to Australia, Italy, the southern states of America, Chile and Peru. He performed as a soloist in the final two tours.

Mr. Holmes completed a bachelor’s degree in violin performance at the Crane School of Music where he studied with John Lindsey and Ioan Harea. Following this, he completed a master’s degree in violin performance at the University of Maryland where he studied with Dr. James Stern. Mr. Holmes then completed a master’s degree in music education at the Crane School of Music.

During his time at the University of Maryland, Mr. Holmes began the study of Dr. Suzuki’s teaching methods with Rhonda Cole. He continued Suzuki teacher training for books 1 through 10 with Carrie Reuning-Hummel, Edward Kreitman, Mary Cay Neal, Kimberly Meier-Sims, and Mark Bjork.

Mr. Holmes has performed extensively. He has performed as a soloist and is currently a section player with the Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra in Buffalo, NY under the direction of Marylouise Nanna. He was the first violinist in 11 years to win the Crane School of Music concerto competition. He has also performed in chamber ensembles in Prague at the Ameropa Chamber Festival, at the Milwaukee Chamber Music Festival, and with the Lake Effect String Quartet in Buffalo.

Mr. Holmes has been a faculty member at the Buffalo Suzuki Strings where he taught students ages 3 to 18 in group and private instruction from 2004 to 2006. He then taught in the public schools in the Rochester, NY area for three years where he was responsible for both small group instruction and orchestra lessons. Subsequently Mr. Holmes moved to Pittsburgh, PA where he was a faculty member with the Pittsburgh Music Academy.  He has been a faculty member of the Buffalo Suzuki Strings Summer Workshop since 1999.  Throughout this time, Mr. Holmes has worked as a master-class teacher, quartet coach, and orchestra director for various schools.  In 2013, Mr. Holmes founded the Rochester Suzuki Strings based in Pittsford, NY.


Karen Robinson teaches Elementary General Music in the Cheektowaga Central School District. She received her Bachelor of Music Degree from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, her Master of Science Degree from Buffalo State College with specialization in Multi-Disciplinary Arts and her American Orff-Schulwerk Certification from Memphis State University. She is a member of ECMEA and has participated in the All-County Festivals. She is also a member of the Western New York Orff-Schulwerk Association (WYNOSA), having served as a member of its Board and Past-President, as well as the National Orff-Schulwerk Association. She has been as an Orff-Schulwerk clinician for the ECMEA Conference Day and for many other colleges and organizations. Karen was the 2013 recipient of the BPO and ECMEA Award for Excellence in Music Education. In addition to her public school teaching, Karen also teaches children’s classes in Orff-Schulwerk for BSS as part of the Saturday morning program.


Linda Ross serves as the BSS Administrative Director and member of the Board of Directors. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Ithaca College in Music Education with a piano concentration and an Education Masters Degree (Ed.M) from SUNY at Buffalo also in music education. Prior to her retirement from public school teaching she taught for 33 years at Smallwood Elementary School in the Amherst Central School District. In addition to her administrative duties for BSS, Linda also teaches Rhythm Reading, accompanies Saturday morning classes and students recitals, and is a co-tour director for the Advanced Class Ensemble.


Shannon Ross is a 2000 graduate of Buffalo Suzuki Strings having studied with Marilynn Standard and Mary Cay Neal. She continued her violin studies at Ithaca College while attending the Ithaca College Park School of Communications. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Ithaca College with a major in Radio/TV Production in 2004. In addition to teaching violin Saturday classes for BSS, Shannon is employed as a news producer at WIVB, Channel 4 in Buffalo.