Meet Our Faculty
Our talented instructors are excited to provide exciting and personalized musical experiences for your family.
Sophia S. Ahmad
MM in Piano Performance, Arts Leadership Certificate - Eastman School of Music
BM in Piano Performance - Gordon College
Ms. Ahmad holds a Master of Music in Piano Performance and Literature and an Arts Leadership Certificate from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. She earned her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., with additional chamber music studies in collaboration with New England Conservatory in Boston, Mass. Her principal teachers have included Edward Ferdinand, Mia Chung-Yee, Anne and Raymond Hanson and Douglas Humpherys.
As a pianist, she collaborates regularly with Simon Estes, she has recorded for Prentice Hall’s Inside the Orchestra DVD and she has performed with artists from the New World Symphony, the National Portuguese Symphony Orchestra and the Des Moines Symphony, among others. In 2013, she presented a lecture recital entitled Schumann’s Romantic Forest: A Musical Journey Through ‘Waldszenen, Op. 82 throughout Central Iowa and at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
An advocate of new music, she has premiered numerous pieces and worked with composers including Libby Larsen, Bright Sheng and Simone Fontanelli. Her solo performances have been broadcast on Iowa Public Radio, and in 2012, she made solo appearances at Iowa State University and Drake University, performing the music of Philip Glass. She appeared as the keyboard soloist in Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 with the OSSIA new music ensemble. In 2018, she was invited by the Des Moines Art Center for a solo performance of Satie's "Relache" in conjunction with the opening of "The Irrational and the Marvelous" exhibition.
Ms. Ahmad is a Presser Scholar and active as a music teacher, performer, critic and writer. At the Eastman School of Music, she taught piano class, and she co-founded and performed in the annual Women in Music Festival. She was invited to make a solo appearance in March 2014 at the tenth anniversary of the Festival, which featured Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon as its composer-in-residence.
Outside of music, she has served as Director of Marketing & PR for the Des Moines Symphony, Vice President of Public Relations at the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Senior Director of Development at MercyOne Des Moines Foundation. She currently serves as Vice President of Philanthropy at WesleyLife Foundation.
Piano, Clarinet, Voice, Flute, Guitar
BA in Music Education - Iowa State University
Arkay Brown has been a private music educator for over 24 years teaching piano, clarinet, voice, flute, and guitar. She has resided in Ankeny for the past 19 years with her husband and two children. Upon graduating from Iowa State University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Music Education Degree (focus in Clarinet and Voice), Arkay accepted a position as director of bands at Dallas Center-Grimes High School from 2003-2010, where she taught concert band, jazz band, marching band, and music theory classes. After choosing to stay home with her young children, Arkay maintained her private studio and became very active in her church’s music ministry where she became Director of Music from 2019-2022. Arkay now subs primarily for band, choir, and general music in Ankeny Public Schools while continuing to teach privately.
Since beginning piano lessons as a second grader herself, music has always been Arkay’s strongest passion. For her, music speaks when words alone cannot. Her primary goal is to share that gift of expression with her students while instilling the importance of skill development through dedicated practice.
BM in Music Performance - Wartburg College
Brittany Brugman attained a Bachelor of Music degree from Wartburg College in 2008 with a flute emphasis and piano minor. Brittany grew up playing piano, flute, and organ in church, at school, and for various events and occasions throughout Northeast Iowa. While at Wartburg, she was the principal flutist in the Wind Ensemble and Wartburg Community Symphony Orchestra. Brittany also accompanied Wartburg’s Ritterchor (men’s choir) under Dr. Paul Torkelson and accompanied for students, concerts, and festivals. She studied piano pedagogy and collaborative pianism under Dr. Suzanne Torkelson and flute pedagogy and performance from Prof. Dominique Cawley.
Since moving to Des Moines in 2019, Brittany accompanies Waukee Middle School's vocal program and also works as a piano consultant at West Music. She is passionate about promoting music education and helping people find an instrument that furthers their interest and development into becoming lifelong musicians.
BS in Music and Education - Faith Baptist College
Amy Vaughn is a piano and violin instructor from Ankeny. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Faith Baptist College in Elementary Education in 2005 and graduated with an additional Bachelor of Science degree in Education and Music in 2009. Amy is a liscenced elementary teacher in the State of Iowa.
In the past, Amy was the Central Iowa Symphony Young Artist Competition Winner, The Music Academy of St. Paul's Young Artist Competition Winner, The Des Moines Youth Chamber Players' Young Artist Competition Winner and was a selected performer at Terrace Hill. As a young musician, Amy regularly performed in events such as the Piano Guild Auditions as well as IMTA.
Amy has over 16 years of experience teaching violin and piano in her private studio. She performs regularly as a violinist for Simpson Opera and was concertmaster for their productions of The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute. She has recorded three solo CDs. Amy has a passion for teaching and enjoys inspiring young students to pursue their interests in music.
Violin and Viola
BM in Music Education - Drake University
Julisa Heredia studied violin and viola with Sarah Plum and Joyce Beyer at Drake University. Julisa started violin as a 4th grader in the Des Moines Public School District, and she is active as a teacher and performer. Her teaching philosophy is very student-focused. She has a calm demeanor and motivates students achieve their potential.
BM in Flute Performance - University of Northern Iowa School of Music
Rebekah Hickok holds a Bachelor of Music in flute performance from the University of Northern Iowa School of Music. Her principal teachers were Mary Schneider, Dr. Claudia Anderson, Dr. Angeleita Floyd, and Goran Marcusson.
Rebekah began her musical journey at the age of five studying the piano. At the age of nine, she began studying flute and piccolo. She grew up playing flute and piano in the church as well as various other venues through out North Central Iowa. In 1993, Rebekah was selected as a member of the Iowa All-State Orchestra as well as a participant of the University of Northern Iowa HS Honor Band. In 1994, she was the recipient of the John B. Phillip Sousa Award.
While at UNI, Rebekah participated in various chamber ensembles, wind symphony, orchestra, and the UNI flute choir. She studied piano under Dr. Robin Guy and flute performance under Dr. Claudia Anderson and Dr. Angeleita Floyd. Upon graduation, she moved to Princeton, New Jersey, to further her musical career. In 2001, she was selected as a participant in masterclasses with Bradley Gardner, Julius Baker, Trevor Wye, and Jeanne Baxtresser. In 2018, she was accepted as a performer in masterclasses with Wally Kujala and Goran Marcusson of Sweden. While living out east, she regularly performed in the Northern Tier Symphony Orchestra and maintained a robust private student base at both Scranton Music Academy and Endless Music of Tunkhannock, Penn.
Since moving to Des Moines in 2021, Rebekah performs regularly with the Greater Des Moines Community Orchestra as well as an orchestra member of Grace church in Des Moines. Ms. Hickok is a strong advocate for music education and strives to use standard as well as new techniques to make learning fun. She hopes to instill her love for music into the hearts and minds of each student she works with.
DMA in Vocal Performance - University of Minnesota
GPD Peabody Conservatory (Johns Hopkins University)
MM Crane music of SUNY (Potsdam)
Dr. Fei Ma is an adjunct voice faculty at Graceland University and an active performer and stage manager for the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre and Opera company. Dr. Ma has received many awards and has sung in various concert halls and opera theaters. Dr. Ma won the third prize in the International Competition of Belcanto Vincenzo Bellini (Hong Kong, 2009) and the second prize in the Canada International Artist competition. As an active recital singer, Dr. Ma held a recital "Duet in Opera" at National Centre for the Performing Arts (China) and as a soloist in Gabriel Fauré's "Requiem" at Carnegie Hall in 2016. As a choir conductor, she led Jinfan Choir of Beijing, performed Song of Yimeng and sang Jasmine (soloist) in the Wiener Musikverein in 2013. In 2023, Dr. Ma will manage the opera production "One-Log Bridge."
Saxophone, Clarinet, Oboe, Flute & Piano
BA in Music – University of Northern Iowa
Marian Marturello received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education from the University of Northern Iowa in 2013. She has had numerous years of performing in wind ensembles, jazz ensembles, and currently has the privilege teaching saxophone and piano in the Des Moines area. Marian has a strong passion for music and enjoys teaching students of all ages and skill levels. She has traveled to Ireland, Thailand, China, and Italy performing and teaching both jazz and classical music.
While at the University of Northern Iowa, Marian led the saxophonists in the top Wind Symphony ensemble, she was the lead saxophonist in the Jazz Panther ensemble and an alto saxophonist in the UNI Jazz One ensemble. Marian has also had the opportunity to serve as a saxophone clinician in northern Iowa school competitions. She studied with Dr. Robert Washut, Chris Merz, Dr. David Rachor, Tom Berry and Dr. Ronald Johnson. Currently, Marian is a professional saxophonist and performs in numerous groups in Des Moines.
BA in Music and Political Science - Drake University
Nick Meyer graduated from Drake University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music (focusing on cello) and in Political Science. While at Drake, Nick studied cello under Dr. Ashley Sidon and participated in the Drake Orchestra, Drake Cello Choir and numerous chamber ensembles. Outside of music, Nick works full time at a public relations firm in Des Moines. He is excited to teach and share his joy of music with Mobile Music Lessons students.
BM in Music Education - Drake University
Maggie Parker studied with Dr. Ann Cravero while at Drake and participated in a variety of ensembles, including Drake Opera Theater, Drake Chamber Choir, and Drake Choir. She is originally from St. Louis, MO, where she discovered her love of music through community choir, playing in the school band, and performing in various settings. Maggie is also involved with professional organizations for music educators, participating in Drake’s chapters of ACDA and NAfME, serving as president of NAfME for two years, and routinely attending conferences like IMEA, ICDA, and more. She began her work with students more than eight years ago, serving as a teacher's assistant for beginning band classes, and has continued to develop and refine her teaching skills through continued private lessons and large group lessons.
BM in Percussion Performance - Drake University
MM in Percussion Performance - University of Illinois
Stacey Ramirez is an orchestral percussionist, chamber musician, soloist, musical theater drummer, composer and educator in the Des Moines area. She has performed throughout the Midwest and New York City with the Kolot Ensemble, Prairie Ensemble, Des Moines Symphony, Illinois Symphony, Milwaukee Choral Artists, Music Under the Stars, Des Moines Playhouse, Mosaics Chamber Ensemble, Orchestra Iowa, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony and the Des Moines Choral Society.
As a new music enthusiast, she has collaborated with several composers and premiered a number of new works. Stacey has presented clinics for the Percussive Arts Society Iowa Day of Percussion and the Illinois Summer Youth Music Festival and is currently a faculty member at Grinnell College and Des Moines Area Community College. Stacey holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois and a Bachelor of Music degree from Drake University, both in Percussion Performance. She is endorsed by Aquarian Drumheads.
MM in Piano Performance & Pedagogy - University of Oklahoma
BS in Sacred Music & Piano - Faith Baptist College
Sarah Reeves has a long-standing passion for teaching, especially the piano. After completing her Bachelor's from Faith Baptist Bible College, where she studied sacred music and piano, she began teaching full time in Ankeny, Iowa. Five years later, deciding she would benefit from formal pedagogy training, Sarah moved with her husband Matt to attend The University of Oklahoma where she earned her master of music in piano performance and pedagogy. Sarah is excited to be back in the Des Moines area and return to teaching full time.
In addition to teaching, Sarah is an active collaborative pianist. She has accompanied choirs, vocal and instrumental soloists and musical theatre productions. As a teacher, she incorporates collaborative playing into lessons as she firmly believes that making music together with others is necessary for musicians of any age and skill level.
BM in Viola Performance - Drake University
Elaina Steenson graduated in 2017 from Drake University with a Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance and Music Business. She studied piano as a secondary instrument and has minors in Business Studies and French Language & Culture. She has been teaching violin and viola for the past seven years.
Her honors thesis focused on music therapy in the correctional setting as a means for prisoner reform, which led her to pursue a law degree from Drake University Law School. In her free time, she enjoys playing for weddings, churches and other events with her band and musical collaboration ClearJoy Music (clearjoymusic.com).
BA in Music & Religion - Coe College
Natalie has taught private lessons for 15 years. She is a trained early childhood educator and has taught early childhood music classes for over 20 years, and currently is teaching at the Montessori Children’s House in West Des Moines. She is the Director of Music and Arts Ministry at Windsor Presbyterian Church and director of a community arts initiative called ArtHouse Des Moines at Windsor Presbyterian Church. Through ArtHouse she hosts a free monthly ukulele choir and oversees other art programming.
She is active in the community, regularly teaching ukulele classes at the North Side library, singing with the Des Moines Choral Society, and offering music, movement and musical storytelling workshops for children and adults through Cultureall and ASAP (After School Arts Programming). Natalie was also a children’s choir director with Iowa Youth Chorus for eight years. Natalie currently serves on the Board for the Des Moines Choral Society and Zenith Chamber Music Festival. Natalie is married and has 2 grown musical daughters, and often performs together with her family.