Meet Our Faculty
Our talented instructors are excited to help your student learn music.
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. Currently, she serves as Senior Director of Development at MercyOne Des Moines Foundation.
BM in Music Performance - Morningside College
MBA in Healthcare Administration - Western Governors University
Born and raised in northwest Iowa, Alicia Bohlke has taken two career paths over the last 32 years, spending time in Florida and California. Alicia is a graduate of Morningside College in Sioux City with a double major in Music Performance (piano and voice) and Journalism.
After over 15 years in the television news industry as a reporter and anchor, Alicia changed course and began a nearly 20 year career in healthcare. She received her MBA in Healthcare administration from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City in 2015.
She recently returned to Iowa and is currently the Administrator for MercyOne Des Moines Pulmonary and Infectious Disease Care. She also sits on the board of the local American Lung Association, is a supporter of the Animal Rescue league of Iowa and has two adult boys, one a software engineer and ISU graduate and the other a submariner in the US Navy.
Alicia has spent a lifetime playing and singing music, from leading worship teams, to playing for high school and college choirs to being the musical guest at women’s conferences and being the lead singer in a classic rock band. Alicia is now combining her healthcare career with her love of music and is working toward becoming a certified music therapist.
MM in Viola Performance - University of Georgia
BM in Viola Performance - Northern Arizona University
Neelee Brauner, a native of Las Vegas, Nevada, began her music studies playing violin at age four, switching to viola as a sophomore in high school. She earned her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Viola Performance from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. During her time in Flagstaff, she had the opportunity to perform with the NAU Symphony Orchestra as the concerto competition winner. She was also a contracted member of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. In Athens, Neelee was a part of the graduate string trio as well as the graduate viola quartet which performed at the American Viola Society Conference. Neelee recently became a violin group class teacher for the Beginning Strings Program with the Des Moines Symphony Academy and has been an extra in the viola section with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra for their 2021-2022 season.
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 has served as collaborative pianist for Ankeny First United Methodist Church and Theodore Roosevelt High School’s Vocal Music Department. An experienced teacher, Brittany also works full-time as a piano consultant at West Music, and is passionate about promoting music education and helping people find an instrument that furthers their interest and development into becoming lifelong musicians.
Piano and Violin
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 Viola Performance - Eastman School of Music
Nathalie Cruden received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from the Eastman School of Music in 1992. While there, she was a student of John Graham and studied chamber music with the Cleveland Quartet. Other teachers include William Preucil Sr., Heidi Castleman and Mark Jackobs.
She has participated in the Aspen Music Festival, the Heidelberg Schloss-Festpiele, the Quartet Program, and Piccolo Spoleto. While at Eastman, Nathalie was a founding member of the Eastman Baroque Strings, a quintet that presented performances with Karl Haas and Paul O’Dette. Other founding members were Jonathan Manson and Jonathan Talbot. She also performed extensively with the new music ensemble, Musica Nova.
Nathalie was the Principal Violist of the Cedar Rapids Symphony (2001-2007), and Principal Violist of the Cedar Rapids Opera (2001-2007). She taught viola at Grinnell College (2001-2006).
Her other orchestral experience includes playing with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Omaha Symphony, the Charleston Symphony, the Savannah Symphony, and the North Carolina Symphony, the Lyra Baroque Orchestra, as well as many orchestras in Eastern Iowa. She is currently a member of the Des Moines Symphony. Committed to chamber music, Nathalie has been a guest artist with the Hill House Chamber Players and the Maya Quartet and most recently has performed quartets on the Sensory Friendly Concert series with members of the Des Moines Symphony. This past summer, she also enjoyed making music with the Belin Quartet.
Nathalie is a native of Iowa City where her musical life began at the Preucil School of Music. In her free time, she enjoys chasing garbage trucks with her son.
BA In Music - Drake University
Ryan Doerr started taking private cello lessons at the age of six in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. During his time in Sioux Falls, he won the Lucy Weed Competition as well as the South Dakota Music Teacher's Association (SDMTA) and Music Teacher's National Association (MTNA) competitions in cello. He then moved to Des Moines, Iowa and studied at Drake University. Currently he is a professional cellist and plays for the Des Moines Symphony, Orchestra Iowa, and Sioux City Symphony. In addition to teaching with Mobile Music Lessons, he teaches at Hoover High School, Meredith Middle School and Lincoln High School in Des Moines.
Ryan’s teaching methods include cello technique, tone quality, intonation, and phrasing in order to get the best sound out of the cello. He also implements theory to explain phrasing to his students. Ryan tailors his teaching to the skill level of each student and encourages independent thinking to bring out individuality from each musician.
Violin & 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.
MM in Guitar Performance - Belmont University
BM in Guitar Performance - Simpson College
Steven Kennedy is one of the most in-demand guitar instructors in central Iowa. He is also one of the most sought-after classical guitarists in the area for gigs and recitals. He serves as guitar instructor at both Central College in Pella and Simpson College in Indianola. His debut album, Pequeño vals para Florencia (featuring works by Bach, Sor, Máximo Diego Pujol, and José Luis Merlin) was released in 2013.
Steven is also an avid chamber musician, performing in various duos, and is a member of the Iowa Guitar Quartet.
Steven received his Master of Music degree from Belmont University (Nashville, TN) and his Bachelor of Music degree from Simpson College; both in classical guitar performance. He has performed in master classes for notable guitarists Jason Vieaux, Jerome Ducharme, and Petar Jankovic, and additionally has observed classes given by Eliot Fisk, Christopher Parkening, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Douglas Niedt, Jorge Caballero, Aniello Desiderio, Denis Azabagić, and Matt Palmer, among others. In addition to his experience in classical music, Steven is proficient in many commercial music genres including jazz, blues, and rock.
Steven currently serves as the president of the Heart of Iowa Classical Guitar Society - an organization that actively promotes classical guitar music and education across the state of Iowa.
Piano, Guitar, Ukulele
BM in Music Therapy/Music Education – Wartburg College
Andrew Hoyt earned his Bachelor of Music degree in music therapy/music education from Wartburg College. He is a K-5 vocal music teacher in the Ankeny public school system, a singer-songwriter and local musician based in Des Moines. Andrew teaches guitar, ukulele and piano (all ages and skill levels).
Saxophone, Clarinet, Oboe, Flute and 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.
BM in Piano Performance - University of Iowa
Luke Most is a piano instructor in the Des Moines area. He has a passion for teaching and collaborating. Mr. Most holds his Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Iowa, where he was awarded the Martha Lednicek Scholarship.
During his time at the University of Iowa, Luke was an active chamber musician, accompanist, and teacher. He formed the Milanda Quartet and collaborated regularly with vocalists and instrumentalists. Luke served as an accompanist for the Iowa City School District where he accompanied choirs. He taught group piano at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center and maintained a private studio in the Iowa City area. He attended the Festival of the Americas in Iowa City, Iowa and Medellín, Colombia. His primary teachers included Dr. Réne Lecuona with additional study with Dr. Ana Orduz and John Helmich.
He currently teaches Group Piano for Young Beginners at the Des Moines Symphony Academy and private lessons through Mobile Music Lessons and at Central College Academy in Pella, Iowa.
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.
Violin, Viola, Piano and Ukulele
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.
BFA in Musical Theater - Drake University
Natalie received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Drake University in 2014. She has been performing ever since she was a child and now she focuses on teaching choreography, voice lessons, directing, and music directing with different theatre companies in Minnesota and Iowa. She runs Children’s Fantasy Theatre in the Park, a summer theatre camp opportunity for children to put on a play or musical in one week’s time.
Natalie also works in the Waukee school district in the special education department. Natalie’s goals for her voice students include finding comfort in vocal range, learning how to support their sound, connecting their physical body to their voice, and most importantly, how to sing with confidence and embrace their own unique sound.
Viola, Violin and Piano
MM and Performance Diploma in Viola Performance - Boston University
BM in Viola Performance - University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Rebecca Vieker is a performer and teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. Born in Detroit, Rebecca began violin lessons at the age of four and began taking viola lessons during high school. She completed a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, studying under Jonah Sirota of the Chiara Quartet. She went on to earn a Master’s degree and a Performance Diploma from Boston University, under the tutelage of Michelle LaCourse. Since she finished her undergraduate degree in 2014, Rebecca has been teaching private violin, viola and piano lessons. During her time in Nebraska, she was a full-time instructor at Nissa’s String Studio, a premier string studio in Lincoln, while also coaching chamber music for the Omaha Area Youth Orchestra. In Boston, she taught with the Worcester Music Academy, the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra Intensive Community Program, City Strings Studio and Noteworthy Experiences. Rebecca has had students perform in All-State and District Orchestras as well as various youth symphonies around the country. During her time in Hartford, Rebecca studied under Terri Einfeldt to become a registered Suzuki teacher.
Rebecca has performed around the country with various symphonies and chamber ensembles. She plays with such groups as the Des Moines Symphony, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the Lincoln Symphony, and the Sioux City Symphony and shared the stage with artists such as Joshua Bell and Ben Folds. During her time in Nebraska, she was a member of the Rangbrook Ensemble and Co-founded the Star City Strings Ensemble. While at Boston University, she served as the orchestra manager and rotating principal in the BU Symphony Orchestra. When she’s not teaching or performing, Rebecca enjoys playing and coaching volleyball, hiking, and spending time with her dog, Rey Feta Skywalker, and her husband, Chris.
BFA in Musical Theater - Drake University
Originally from Denver Colorado, Samanth Worth has been involved in music and theater since she was a young child. In addition to performing, she is very passionate about arts education and its ability to empower young people. For the past three summers, Samantha has worked as a teaching assistant at the Denver Center Theater Academy.