Akayaa Atule & Bolga Zohdoomah

As San Diego’s only Afro-pop band, Akayaa & Bolga Zohdoomah write, arrange, and perform songs rooted in the traditions of Highlife and Afro-Beat, two of the most well-known styles of West African popular music. Akayaa Atule, the band’s leader, songwriter, singer, dancer, and drummer, was born in the village of Gowie in the Upper East region of Ghana near the capital of Bolgatanga.


Deeply rooted in her Frafra ancestry, Akayaa was raised singing, dancing, and drumming the traditional music of this part of West Africa. Throughout her life as a professional musician, she has incorporated a wide variety of song writing, musical styles, and dancing from all over Ghana. Akayaa has teamed with musicians from San Diego to create one of the most unique Afro-pop sounds in Southern California. Not straying too far from the traditional rhythms and melodies of Ghanaian popular music, Bolga Zohdoomah also bring subtle influences of jazz, rock, and other world traditions to the mix. The result is a lively, energetic, funky, and imminently danceable form of African popular music.



The goal of Akayaa & Bolga Zohdoomah is to spread the joy and energy of West African music and culture to the public. The band is flexible and can be tailored to fit any performance venue from school assemblies to major concerts. From a small workshop in traditional drumming and dancing for any age group to a full 7-piece band ready to play a 2-3 hour concert, Akayaa & Bolga Zohdoomah are ready to impart the spirit of West Africa to all who want to experience it!

Assembly & Workshop Artists - Dance & Music, African

Akayaa Atule

Drenched in the sun-bright rhythms of Africa, singer and drummer Akayaa Atule brings her own flavor of Ghanaian Highlife music to San Diego schools. Akayaa is a native of the Frafra tribe in the Upper East Region of Ghana and moved to San Diego in 2000. The daughter of a master drummer, she learned how to dance and drum almost as soon as she learned how to walk. As a young woman, Akayaa attended the Performing Arts School of Ghana, where she furthered her study of the talking drum and traditional dances. She is currently a dance instructor at San Diego State University and Southwestern College, and at several elementary schools in San Diego through Arts for Learning San Diego. Akayaa received her Master's Degree in Dance and Music from the Performing Arts College in Ghana in 1982.

Assembly, Residency & Workshop Artist - Dance & Music, African

Asian Story Theater

Asian Story Theater began in 1989, dramatizing Chinese folk tales as a project sponsored by the San Diego Chinese Center. The first production was The White Snake (1989-90), presented at the Lyceum Space Theatre and subsequently toured to county schools, libraries, and recreation centers. In 1991, the company staged its first adaptation based on the 16th century fantasy novel Journey to the West, featuring the Monkey King. Additional productions followed each year.  In 1995, the company incorporated as the Asian Story Theater, independent of the San Diego Chinese Center, to diversify programming and expand touring operations to San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Each year since, Asian Story Theater has produced at least one production in pursuit of our mission and to increasingly diverse efforts, including a full-length musical about the artist Paul Gauguin (The Musical Paul Gauguin, November 2011-May 2012), as well as partnering to produce a pilot television episode, based on the 2006 production Shave Ice (December 2013).


The company also produces a continuing a series of annual theater productions linked to the Lunar New Year Celebrations--such as the recent RAM-GIRL and current Monkey in the Mirror. New production partners and collaborators have resulted in shows with an increasing community impact, such as the 2015 Stories of the Sun Cafe, in conjunction with local Japanese and Chinese community organizations, and the upcoming Halo-Halo: Mixed together Stories of San Diego's Filipino American Community (March 2017).



I’ve read that most creative artists find their thematic focus as teenagers, often as early as 13 or 14, then spend the rest of their creative lives exploring different permutations. It’s probably true of me.  I grew up in a foreign place, among the small minority of Americans around the Pacific Islands of Micronesia.  My everyday life was suffused with cultural discovery.  


Now as a mid-career playwright, director, and producer, my work has indeed focused on the interaction of cultures, explicitly or symbolically, fueled by research today and perhaps the subconscious instincts of my particular youth.  I have written for and helped lead companies committed to African American (including Human I Theatre and San Diego Black Ensemble), Latino (Teatro Máscara Mágica), and Asian and Pacific Islander (Pacific Asian Actors’ Ensemble and Asian Story Theater) folktale and performing art traditions.  Other projects seem less obviously connected. But the story of American artists blacklisted in the 1950’s, no less than the Mexican Revolution, are also stories of class-culture conflict.  Even my musical about the “French” artist Paul Gauguin is the story of how his voice came to synthesize the cultural dynamics of his time in Peru, the Caribbean, and Brittany, long before his more familiar time in, the Pacific Islands.  There is unlimited dramatic potential in exploring and ultimately understanding new and different cultures.  In a world where culture clash is so common, with distances shrinking and virtual exposure exploding, there is no more important issue I know to address.

Assembly Artists - Theater

Brass Trinity / Classic Brass Quintet

Leader and trumpeter Dirk Koman is a founding member of Brass Trinity and Classic Brass.  He has performed with, arranged music for, and produced concerts and CD’s with both ensembles since their inception.  Dirk was principal trumpet with the San Diego Gilbert and Sullivan Company and Comic Opera for 17 years and has played with the San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera.


Trombone player Jim Prindle is in great demand as both a player and teacher/clinician all over San Diego.  He has played and recorded with the San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera, the Starlight Musical Theater, Old Globe, San Diego Comic Opera, the San Diego Chamber Orchestra and numerous touring shows. 


Jane Zwerneman has performed regularly with the San Diego Symphony, Lyric Opera of San Diego, Grand Pacific Band, the Orquesta de Baja California, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Old Globe Theater since 1987.  She holds both a Doctor of Musical Arts and Masters of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music. She is currently Fine Arts assistant for the Stuart Collection at UCSD.   


Trumpeter Doug Meeuwsen received his bachelor of Music degree from Western Michigan University and Master of Music degree from SDSU.  He plays a variety of musical styles from classical to commercial to jazz and Latin.  He has been a band Director at Mission Viejo High School since 1999.


Robert Larsen has been a professional free-lance tuba player in San Diego for 20 years.  He has performed regularly with Grand Pacific Band, San Diego Chamber Orchestra and La Jolla Symphony.



With a strong education mission, Brass Trinity and Classic Brass Quintet passionately believe in the power of music to positively enhance peoples' lives.  Young people learn focus, concentration, and self-discipline in their pursuit of music making and listening.

Assembly Artists - Music

Brooke Benedix

My first memorable spark of creative excitement came to me when I was in the Fourth grade when I was assigned to compose a rendition of a Vincent Van Gogh. It didn’t matter to me that I essentially just constructing my own copy of a dead artist’s masterpiece. I was too absorbed in the smells of the dripping paint on my palette, mixing colors on my paintbrush and sitting at a REAL easel like a REAL artist. Most importantly, I was overwhelmed by that indescribable rush every artist feels when they know they are falling in love with their craft. It was like Magic.


My job is to provide students with the tools and resources to create their own magic. When I walk into a classroom it is my hope to awaken at least one student to the wonder of art. I am delighted when I can help a students discover the gift of transcendental inspiration. It is no coincidence that I’ve repeatedly heard the same observation exclaimed by young artists over the years, “It’s like Magic!”. When I can provide gentle guidance for the students to create with their own voices, then I have succeeded in my path as an arts activist.

Residency Artist - Visual Art

Laura Bueno

As a Teaching Artist of music and theatre, my goal is to teach children something that they may not have the chance to learn outside of my class. I love to choose music from previous generations that is still relevant today. Children are able to learn about the classics and the history of different songs and shows. I have taught at Ira Harbison Elementary for many years, and have applied this philosophy. The children have flourished and have gained an appreciation for several genres of songs including musical theater, opera and songs from the movies.


I have performed all over San Diego County in numerous roles, singing and dancing. Notable roles include Gigi in Gigi, Tessa in The Gondoliers, Iolanthe in Iolanthe, and Petra in A Little Night Music, all with Lyric Opera San Diego. I currently am a member of the core San Diego Opera Chorus and have been singing with them for 12+ years. In addition to performing professionally, I teach dance, music and theater throughout the county in elementary and middle schools. I am the resident music teacher at Blossom Valley Elementary School and have recently started an after-school musical theater program there that has expanded to other schools.

Residency Artist - Music: Show Choir & Musical Theatre

Kanna Burch

I was born and raised in Japan. I have been dancing since the age of five. When I was seven, I was greatly influenced by one of my favorite ballet /tap teachers who happened to also be a proud cast member of the musical “Annie.” I started dreaming of becoming a pro dancer/educator. I have trained in hip hop, ballet, jazz, tap, etc. in my college. After graduating from college with Bachelor of Arts, I have been teaching dance for all ages and all skill levels in Japan. Since I relocated to the United States, I have been inspired by my fellow teaching artists. I admire how they shared their love through arts with children. It was my life changing moment and so I am privileged to be a part of Arts for Learning.


In my class, Students will learn the fundamental of many dance styles in ballet, modern, jazz, hip hop and more. Through a series of fun and expressive movements to music, students will learn simple choreography, the discipline behind each dance style, spatial awareness, terminology and other potential benefits while they experience the beauty of the performing arts. I believe the importance of the arts and their value in developing our humanity and our culture. I strive to make each student’s experience both a fun and meaningful one. I hope students will experience the joy of dancing, have the opportunity to explore their creative potential and develop both confidence and discipline.

Residency Artist - Dance

California Rhythm Project

California Rhythm Project was founded in 1996 by Pam Thompson-Spinner, protégé of the legendary Eddie Brown, and has been under the direction of Nancy Boskin-Mullen since 2012. We focus on preserving and sharing the technique and choreography of tap masters from the past and present while also creating new pieces that celebrate rhythmic dance forms and human creative expression. Our performances highlight the continuing development of tap dance as a uniquely American art form.


Students will learn about the cultural transmission of art by experiencing how tap dance grew from traditional dances brought to this country by immigrants and has developed into today’s contemporary style of dance with its connection to urban music. Rich in history, tap is both dance and music, and we love inspiring students to create rhythms with us. Our ensemble performs a high energy, interactive concert featuring music and dance from a variety of eras and styles that illustrates the connection between history, society and art.

Assembly Artists - Dance

Araceli Carrera

Araceli Carrera received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance Education from Arizona State University in 2001. Her involvement with dance and art has built a strong foundation within her teaching methods. Her interest in art began the moment she held her first pencil and dance entered to build a beautiful relationship with her at the age of 20.  During her dance studies she was commissioned to create artworks for dance that inspired dance-works and vice versa in Arizona, Tijuana and San Diego.  Collaborating in several dance events allowed her to display artwork that spoke of social and cultural issues on the dance stage. From 2001-2006 she worked intensely through Eveoke Dance Theatre as visual artist, costume designer, company dancer and outreach artist.  She was the resident artist at Freese Elementary teaching academics through visual art and dance from 2003-2015. From 2015 to 2018 she worked for High Tech Elementary teaching Art and Dance to grades K-5th.  Working with Arts For Learning San Diego as teaching artist, leading community and professional development workshops has been a highlight in Araceli's teaching career. She is the Artistic Director of Danza, Impulse y Arte a San Diego based multi-generational dance company where Visual Art, Modern Technique and Afro Caribbean Dance come together to cultivate and celebrate Art/Dance DIVERSITY.

ArtForm/Skills:   Pastels, Watercolor, Acrylic, Drawing, Collage and Paper Mask making.

Workshop and Residency Artist - Dance and Visual Art

Lorraine Castellanos

Lorraine Castellanos has an intense passion for music, evident in her perceptive phrasing and tone, both as an instrumentalist and vocalist. Her ravenous musical fervor combined with a magnetic, weighty voice, and sensitive execution on the Classical Guitar, has commanded a dynamic musical presence in her hometown of San Diego, California. Castellanos holds a Bachelor of Music, Masters of Music in Classical Guitar, and a Teaching Credential from San Diego State University.

Teaching Artist

Bridget Cavaiola

As a high school English and Theatre Arts teacher for over 7 years in Maryland, I was able to provide an amazing outlet of creativity, support, and engagement for a community of students who were not exposed to the arts at a young age. My passion for working with young people and continuing my own personal growth as an arts performer, facilitator and trainer has led me into the fulfilling world of being a teaching artist. I have been performing and teaching improv theater and communication strategies to adults and children since 2005. Currently, I am a performer and teacher with Finest City Improv. I am the former Education Director for the Baltimore Improv Group, and a former Teaching Artist for Young Audiences of Maryland. Some of my favorite moments as a teaching artist come from working with a Summer program with Baltimore City School children where we witnessed dynamic growth in both math and literacy understanding because we engaged the students with the arts.


I teach improv theater---and the key elements of improv: Listen, Agree, and Add---which are wonderful tools for not only classroom content, but classroom climate as well! My favorite guideline of improv is “make your partner look better than you.” With this in mind, students are collaborating and problem solving while taking risks in order to create art together. Improv theatre can be very funny! And we create the best comedy when we are honest, empathetic, supportive, and in the moment. These skills are needed in our children and in our communities and I love to watch a student really find their own sense of humor while supporting their peers. A program with me will be interactive, fun, engaging, and will be able to reach students of all ability and social levels.

Residency Artist / Workshop Artist - Improv Theatre

Diana Cervera

Holding a BA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California San Diego, Diana Cervera is an artist and educator whose work navigates the intersections of art and social justice.  Diana facilitates identity-based workshops and lectures using poetry and theatre as a point of departure to engage in complex conversations about equity, race, representation and the power of the counter-narrative. She has hosted workshops throughout universities  and community spaces in California, Boston, Puerto Rico, Mexico City, and Guanajuato, Mexico.

Residency Artist - Poetry, Theater, and Arts Intervention

Bianca Chapman

I am an educator, dancer, performance artist, and writer who has been featured in numerous international dance conventions, publications, film, television, theater, and stage productions. As an educator, I have lead classrooms and professional workshop series in universities and conferences all over the world.


There are two important principles that play a role in the success of every student in my classroom: authority and empowerment. I encourage students to take ownership of their learning. I empower students to perform, create, write, and dance with authority while giving them the tools needed to improve and enjoy their artistic and academic experiences. With my love for the performance arts and language, I show them the value of collaborative learning; the value of collaborative work; and the value of their voice. I hold a BA in Theater from Dillard University and an MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University.

Residency Artist - Theater

Mayra Chavez

As a child, I spent many of my formative years in a small ranch in Queretaro, Mexico where I learned the arts of embroidery, sewing, and crochet from my mother and her sisters. As an artist, I love to spend my time creating elaborate embroidered skirts and wall hangings inspired by the nostalgia of growing up in the countryside. Chickens, cows, and colorful flowers are constants in my pieces. I love working with vibrant colors and exploring new stitches.


As a Teaching Artist, I try to incorporate as much of my fiber background as I can into the lessons I teach. Whether it is by having students draw on fabric rather than paper, or having them create a collaborative collage art piece inspired by quilts, fiber will always find its way into my teaching practice.

I believe that children have voices that need to be heard. As an educator, it is my responsibility to assist them in using their voice to create amazing works of art.

Workshop Artist – Visual Art, Fiber Art

Deron Cohen

I spent many summers as a kid learning how to draw and use art materials from San Diego artist and teacher Joe Nyiri. Many years later, after receiving my B.F.A, I found Joe's phone number and gave him a call. I was able to thank him for teaching me and inspiring me to reach for my dreams. I hope to get a call like that from one of my students some day.



Through over a decade of teaching, I have honed a teaching style that encourages students to balance creativity and imagination with technique and skill. I strive to help students discover a process in which they are able to express themselves creatively while also teaching application techniques, color theory and the Elements and Principles of design using diverse art media like watercolors and tempera, oil and chalk pastels, collage, and oil and acrylic paint. Along with the young students I teach, I have also been teaching adults how to make art through different companies and studios in San Diego. I also host my own workshops and private classes both in person locally and from around the world via webcam.



Part of my artist statement is effective at describing why I make my paintings: “The images I create are designed to find a crack in your consciousness, to seep into your mind and spark your imagination.” Whether it is through my art or teaching others how to express themselves creatively, my biggest goal is to inspire.

Residency Artist – Visual Art

Ann Davis

I consider myself a process-based visual artist, and an abstract intuitive painter.  Ask any of my students and they will tell you that in my classroom the most important rule is: MISTAKES WELCOME!  The freedom to make mistakes and benefit from them is the basis of intellectual growth.  I strongly believe that we are all artists, and it is an honor for me to nurture the creativity that lives within each of my students.  I aim to provide my students with opportunities to discover, to wonder, to play, to engage their senses, to be human and make mistakes, and to fuel their own imagination as they proclaim, “I AM AN ARTIST”!


I hold a Master’s of Public Health degree from Columbia University, and I spent the first twenty years of my professional career as a community organizer.  I am currently working on my Master’s Degree in Expressive Arts with a focus on peace building and conflict transformation from the Expressive Arts Institute and the European Graduate School.  It was through this program that I first experienced the healing and transformative capabilities of the arts and I am passionate about sharing these gifts with others.  I am also deeply committed to the presence of arts integration in our schools and believe wholeheartedly that arts helps us to make sense of our world.  The arts provide an opportunity for self-exploration and expression where one might not otherwise exist.

Residency Artist - Visual Art & Arts Intervention

Abril Diaz

I have been immersed in a wide variety of art forms since I was born, and lucky enough to experience puppetry, theatre, dance, music and visual arts during the many stages of my life.  My parents had a Puppetry Arts & Music Theatre Company, and I have gratitude for the consistent presence of the arts in my childhood because of that.  As a result I have also chosen to participate in those disciplines and have always loved to do so.  Now that I have the opportunity to share my experiences as a teaching artist, I have focused on music as my field of expression and pedagogy.


I studied Music in Mexico City, wherein I served as a Music Teacher Assistant for several years.  During this time, I learned how to implement different techniques and methods to bring the basic foundations of music to new students, an experience that has been key to develop my own original ways of teaching Drumming and Percussion.  I believe in the importance of giving students a comprehensive, natural, joyful and intuitive rhythm approach as they learn music that will provide a strong should they pursue further musical studies in any instrument.  World drumming provides a very resourceful tool to talk about a variety of cross-curricular subjects in the public school setting.

Residency & Workshop Artist - World Music/Percussion

Felix Diaz

I’ve been lucky enough to live in different cities, in different countries, which has allowed me to experience part of the vast richness of cultural diversity existing in our world, both as a human being and as an artist.  My travels have also taught me that artistic expression is a universal and necessary language for every single person on the planet.  I studied Arts and Music in Mexico City, and it’s been more than 30 years since I taught my very first workshop to students.  My last ten years of teaching have been exclusively focused on world drumming and processional arts.


My teaching specialties include world drumming/percussion, giant puppets, processional arts, and murals; all of which I can link with any curriculum subject.  What these art forms have in common is that they are community celebratory arts and collective efforts that bring the participants a vast array of experiences including satisfaction and unparalleled joy.

Residency & Workshop Artist - World Music/Percussion

Divya Devaguptapu (Limited availability during the 2019-20 school year)

Bharatanatyam for me started out as an after-school activity to channel my energy. But even at the tender age of 7, became my defining factor. Hailed a child prodigy, I performed my solo debut at age 7 and dance has shaped every aspect of my life ever since. Although academically l earned degrees in Electrical Engineering, my true calling has always been Bharatanatyam. Having worked in Technology for a few years, I gave it up to follow my heart.


Today as an internationally recognized performer and teacher of the art form I am very thankful to be able to live my passion. When I teach, I aspire to pass on my passion of dance & art to my students. To enable them not only to understand the movement language of Bharatanatyam but experience the transcending power of art through the sheer joy of movement. I believe in holistic understanding of dance and integrate the historical, mythological and cultural context of Bharatanatyam and Indian culture as part of the curriculum. They learn the intricate rhythmic and gestural language of Bharatanatyam as a dance form and a powerful medium of storytelling. Various Indian mythological and cultural stories are also taught as part of the curriculum. Through my residencies I aspire to enable each child to express themselves through movement as well as for them to have an appreciation for the culturally diverse society that we live in today.

Residency / Assemblies Artist – Classical Indian Dance (Bharatanatyam Artiste)

Sharon DuBois

History and Evolution of Jazz Music

In 1987, under the leadership of U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jazz Music was recognized as "a rare and valuable national American treasure." It is DuBois’ desire to keep this tradition of music alive by imparting her knowledge and passion for Jazz to students of all ages. Her program incorporates geography (the slave trade and the great Jazz migration), science (sound), history (of not just Jazz but comparing where all instruments used in Jazz music come from), social studies and, of course, music and music theory! At the end of the residency, children will perform several pieces of Jazz music as well as an original blues song accompanied by professional musicians.

DuBois’ original style has been evolving since she began singing at the tender age of three and she credits her wide variety of influences, ranging from Joan Armatrading to Jon Anderson, and Joni Mitchell and Betty Carter to Billie Holiday. When not performing traditional Jazz, she’s singing her originals with all her heart. She calls her style Evolutionary Jazz.

DuBois holds a BA from San Diego State University and studied vocal performance at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. 

She was Co-Executive Director and Teaching Artist for SoCal Jazz Society, where she began teaching the History and Evolution of Jazz to children from kindergarten age through high school, and how teaches this same program for Arts For Learning San Diego.

Residency Artist - History and Evolution of Jazz Music

Leo Francisco

When I was 4, I was shy about applying my choices on a big, beautiful coloring book page. It showed a boy wearing a propeller-topped cap, riding a big front-wheeled bike. The page was about as tall as I was at the time. I asked my mom how to color it. She smiled and told me to hold a crayon and move it on the page. "So easy," I thought, "I can do that!" I scribbled the whole a page, in a vibrant aquamarine. Top to bottom, left to right, in one color of my choosing. All mine!


As an educator, I strive to teach the arts as ways for children, teachers, and parents to make their own choices in exploring, representing, and deepening the understanding of their own experiences. In my classes, we discuss the essential elements of an activity, be it technique of holding a crayon for a coloring book, the arrangement of a collage illustration, or the levels, gestures, and speeds of a creative movement sequence, and delve into the wonderful world of possibilities in making such projects. We work to identify the choices made as well as the significance and reasons for those choices. While artists will share similar subject matters and mediums, each will produce unique works, reflecting their individual choices. In my dance classes, we often collaborate to create sequences, formed from movements created and refined by the students themselves.

Residency & Workshop Artist - Dance & Visual Art

Eddie Gallagher

Growing up in a family of educators, the conversation often centered around student engagement, parent involvement, and classroom environment dynamics. As such, when the opportunity to bring my passion for fantasy and science fiction art into the classroom, I jumped on it. I’ve been working primarily as a teaching artist since I graduated from Arts for Learning’s Teaching Artist Institute in 2016. I specialize in the visual arts, drawing and illustration— more specifically the storytelling, world-building and character creation involved in comic book making. I often share my comic book work with my students, juxtaposing it with my art from elementary school, showing them the growth potential that we all have as creators.


There’s nothing quite as spectacular to me as helping a student uncover their own ability to create a magical world where they have the power to become anyone/thing they want to be; a concept which flows synergistically into real world social-emotional application. Seeing such changes happen over the duration of a residency continues to be one of the most inspiring aspects of my life. I look forward to meeting, learning with and from you and your students in the future.

Residency Artist - Visual Art (Drawing and Comic Book making)

Rebecca Goodman

I am a sculptor, furniture maker, ornamental metalworker, performer, educator, and dreamer.  I love building inspired and inspiring pieces that create a sense of wonder and invite people in.  I’ve spent much of my life on stage- dancing, acting, and designing sets and props.  This has affected my work greatly, making the performance and interactive elements key.  I have an MFA from San Diego State University and a BFA from California College of Art as well as Teaching Artist Certification from Young Audiences. 

I love sharing my passion with people of all ages and am available to create custom work as well as offer one-on-one and small group art classes in a variety of media.  Please visit my website to learn more about what I do! or find me on Facebook

Residency Artist - Visual Art

Krystina Grammatica

Bio coming soon!

Residency Artist - Dance

Julie Greathouse

I began my life in music and theatre as a child in Cleveland, Ohio. As a singer and performer in numerous local productions, regional theatre, and national touring, I loved being onstage for over 20 years. After my sons came along, I decided to work on the other side of the curtain as a Teaching Artist. I never expected to find that as "Ms. Julie,” I love teaching children even more than being onstage!


In my classes, we explore foundational musical concepts like pitch, steady beat and rhythm, and we apply them to singing and dance. Younger students (grades K-1) learn to read music, play recorders, and compose simple pieces. Older students (grades 2-5) deepen their understanding and broaden their ability to sing and play more complicated music on their recorders and ukulele. Every day of teaching is an inspiring and joyous journey that can fuel the classroom and the students with confidence, creative thinking and the love of music!


As a dedicated teaching artist for Young Audiences/Arts for Learning San Diego since 1998, I have enjoyed providing music and theatre instruction at over 55 schools in San Diego County, and was honored to be chosen as Teaching Artist of the Year in 2008.

Residency Artist - Music & Musical Theatre

Joan Green

I am an environmental artist who loves nature and is passionate about reusing materials. I love giving people the time and space to connect to their creativity through open-ended, reusable materials. I am an Artist-in-Residence at Cabrillo National Monument. In my art, I am exploring “the edge” of Cabrillo – which translates to this environmental edge that we are balancing on. I am deeply concerned with the plastic ocean pollution problem, and through my art and teachings, am empowering children and their families to make more sustainable everyday choices to respect themselves and our planet.

I am an ideas person and especially love to connect art experiences to the classroom curriculum. I believe in the process of art and in giving children opportunities to relish in the process of creating. Once in a Kindergarten class, I asked my students to tear paper to make collages. They were so afraid of not having perfectly cut lines that they were hiding scissors under their desks and cutting the paper instead of tearing. I realized that many students have forgotten how to think outside the box, especially artistically. I give them time and space to create, so they can express and soar! In my art classes, your students can expect to learn the elements of art through process-based art activities that connect to nature and sustainability. We can explore drawing, painting, collage, clay, sculpture, nature art, movement and theater.   

Residency & Workshop Artist - Visual Art

Stacie Birky Greene

I decided to become an artist at an early age, as I was possessed with a heightened attention to visual detail and in love with the sensual delights of the processes involved with making art. There is nothing quite like the feel of the brush as it releases newly mixed paint on a canvas or the sound of charcoal scraping across art paper. I pursued art since I was a child, earning degrees in painting and art history and have worked as a practicing artist for over twenty years. The subject of my art has always centered around nature and its interaction with humanity, which I have explored in a variety of media: paint, drawing, photography, murals and installation. 


I believe in providing a warm and open classroom environment where students learn the fundamentals of art, for example, portraiture, still life, landscape, color theory and art history.  These subjects are explored while fostering a sense of creativity and personal expression. My projects have connections to math, science and the social sciences, and I make a special attempt to link our work with coursework students encounter in other disciplines. I feel the visual arts open doors that can empower a student, helping them to develop confidence and individuality by embracing both the intuitive and the rational, and providing a framework for creative thinking that is applicable to a broad variety of study. 

Residency & Workshop Artist - Visual Art

Carol Greenstein

I bring a unique background of experiences and skills to Arts for Learning San Diego. As an elementary school classroom teacher I was able to infuse art into my school curriculum.  As a parent of a child with Down syndrome I understand the importance of using art as a means to communicate and inclusion.  As an artist I have never stopped creating over the course of my life. Having a Masters in Art Education give me the understanding of the Methodologies of art education. Finally, my training at the Expressive Arts Institute tied it all together – artist and teacher.

My philosophy is that art is fun, expressive, beautiful, and that all children should have access to an art education and experiences. I believe art is a window, an opening for us all to see the world and express our relationship to it.  In my art program students will be expose to a variety of materials, skills, and artists.  They will use clay, make masks, explore drawing materials, paint, create puppets, and they will sing. The theme of identity runs though most of my lessons. Art will be used as a window for children to learn skills but more importantly to also explore who they are. I am passionate about teaching art to children and I have seen happiness, power, beauty, and personally been inspired by my students.

Residency Artist & Credentialed Teacher - Visual Art & Arts Intervention

Danielle Guimond

I was ten years old when my dad taught me how to use his old 35mm Canon AE-1. From that day on, the camera became a tool for my self-expression and my creativity began to blossom. I started to explore and see the world in this whole new perspective. It was beautiful and exciting.  Photography has always intrigued me because of its natural ability to quietly borrow moments of time.  My passions range from darkroom photography, fashion and mixed media.  As an artist, I am on a constant quest to learn and apply new techniques to my craft.  My work continues to evolve through each new experience of my journey.


Art has always been a part of my life, and creating it helps keep me grounded.  As an educator, I find myself exploring and seeing the world with that same excitement I had as a child.  I try to engage that same sense of curiosity into my classroom.  There is beauty in each conversation and moment I share with my students.  Every project begins with that conversation, and spurs ideas, which turn into goals.  As the weeks progress, these ideas come alive through photography, ceramics or fashion.  In my classroom, you will find students eager to refine their work after critiques, allowing their original idea to grow as they reach their goal.  My specialties include arts photography, ceramics, fashion, visual art of all kinds, and arts integration.

Residency Artist - Visual Art

Cory Hammond

Cory Hammond is a San Diego native and attended the School of Creative and Performing Arts. Her love of theatre began in the fourth grade - if there was no opportunity to perform in a play, she would write one herself. She is an improviser, actor, playwright, and arts educator. She earned a BA in Theatre and a teaching credential in English from San Diego State University. She has also studied Shakespeare and clowning at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, is a founding member of SDSU’s improv team, Iota Eta Pi, and has studied at The Groundling’s school in Hollywood. She performs improv regularly with Old Town Improv Company. In her spare time she is a wife and mother to a future triple threat. She has always made sure the arts had a place in her life.

Artist's Statement: As a Classroom teacher, I taught English, English Language Learners and Drama for five years and integrated theatre in all subject areas without really realizing it. My specialty is Improvisation, which I teach through the lens of a collaborative ensemble. Students learn to say “Yes…and,” always supporting their partner both onstage and in life. I believe that Theatre is a language that can allow students to express themselves in many different ways. I love the way Theatre can allow the kids who normally can’t “sit still” to be successful, to learn and explore in new ways. 

Residency Artist / Workshop Artist - Theatre, Improvisation, Arts Integration

Laura Hodge

Growing up in Pittsburgh, I trained with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Point Park University. I studied theatre at the Pittsburgh Playhouse Conservatory, Carnegie Mellon University and I trained throughout New York City and Los Angeles. I have performed in numerous musical theatre productions, dance theatre companies and theatrical touring companies as well as performing in film, television and voice over work. Teaching credits include: Point Park University, University of Pittsburgh, Irene Kaufmann JCC, Millenium (L.A.), Malashock Dance, San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet and Mary Murphy’s Champion Ballroom.


I have choreographed over 15 full length dance concerts, directed and created original choreography for over 40 musicals and ballets, choreographed for a feature film with star Oscar Isaacs, written plays for children's theatre, and worked on every artistic aspect of performance production. I am currently Executive Artistic Director of San Diego Creative Arts Project and I am so proud that my former students have gone on to perform for Disneyland, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Cirque Du Soleil, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and have appeared in film, and television. I believe that a dedication to creativity, proper training, and artistic integrity while encouraging students to explore their creativity in a nurturing and confident environment is what sets a higher standard for excellence in the performing arts.

Residency Artist - Theatre & Dance

Jim Hornsby, M.A.

I've been a Teaching Artist in Poetry with Arts for Learning since 2004. I'm also the Poet-in-Residence at Juvenile Court & Community Schools and Lasting Recovery.  I teach poetry to adults at San Diego Writers, Ink where I serve on the Program Committee.   I am on the Advisory Board of the Poetic Medicine Institute in Palo Alto and host the Jihmye Poetry Open Mic at the Cafe Cabaret in Normal Heights.  


I create a container of safety and cultural respect that allows students to touch their own humanity by writing and speaking their truth whether I’m teaching poetry on an Indian Reservation, in Juvenile Hall, with substance abusers, with beginning or seasoned writers, with adults or with youth, at a university or in the barrio.  There is a miracle in poetry waiting to happen to any student who is willing to pick up their pencil and write (whether they are at, below, or above grade level).  Children are natural storytellers and respond in amazing ways to narrative poetry and teaching that is fun, relevant, and inspiring. I take great pleasure in teaching with those particular ingredients in “my curriculum stew”.

Residency & Workshop Artist - Poetry/Literary Arts

Japanese Music Trio

Japanese Music Trio is an entertaining musical ensemble that brings traditional Japanese music to students.  Formed in 1985, the current ensemble consists of members Masazumi Mizuno, Grace Takeuchi and Jonathan Crick, all with strong teaching backgrounds in each of their respective instruments. The trio performs on traditional classical Japanese instruments – Koto: a 13-stringed instrument resembling a zither; sangen, a 3-stringed instrument similar to a banjo; a 17 gen, a stringed bass koto and a Shakuhachi, an instrument resembling a flute made from bamboo.


The performance performs both traditional and contemporary Japanese music and invite the audience to sing-along and to read lyrics in the Japanese alphabet.

Assembly Artists - Music, Japanese

Faith Jensen-Ismay

Dance saved me! Shortly after my father’s death, and the death of a high school boyfriend, I was forced to try dance in high school PE.  It became an outlet for my expression, a coping mechanism, and a place for me to celebrate my individuality. Now dance is my passion, my job, and my mission field; watching people, young and old, discover expression through movement is pure joy. I have been fortunate to teach and create performances for people from San Diego to Europe. Some of my experiences include: college instructor since 1988, Artistic Director for Mojalet Dance Collective, and I have also has the privilege of working for Arts for Learning since 1989 sharing the art of expression through physicality in dance.


The classes I teach, and the performances offered by my company, Mojalet Dance Collective, offer a variety of methods to make every child successful.  The integration of common daily activities, combined with accessible themes helps students relate to the material.  Three programs offered by Mojalet Dance Collective, Athletic Motion Dancing Through The Pages, and Enchanted & Endangered are specifically designed to motivate students to be active, enjoy literacy and be environmental conscious through fun, playful, and physically challenging movement. 

Assembly, Residency & Workshop Artist - Dance

Steph Johnson

In the wake of the economic crisis of 2008, aspiring musician Steph Johnson made a brave choice: The singer/guitarist chose to abandon her 12-year career in banking and pursue her dreams of making music full-time. It wasn't the only time the intrepid Johnson would eschew the safe decision.  In 2011, Johnson had already released two albums and was clearly on the way up in the soul/R&B musical genre with jazzy undertones. In fact, her second CD won a San Diego Music Award for "Best Jazz Record.”


Later that year, Johnson didn't just switch horses in mid-stream, she switched streams. A chance encounter with double-bassist Rob Thorsen in the green-room at the KSDS Jazz 88 Ocean Beach Music & Arts Festival led to a drastic change in direction that soon found her leaving behind a fine-tuned band -- with pianist Leo Dombecki and drummer Jesse Charnow -- and a devoted following for the relative insecurities of a life in jazz. She formed the Steph Johnson Trio with Thorsen and young drum master Fernando Gomez.


"I didn't really realize at the time what a risk I was taking," says Johnson. "I just knew that [jazz] sounded more interesting to me. Some of my audience has gone with me, and some haven't, but I had to go with my heart." 

Workshop Artist - Music, Jazz

Austin Jones

I started drawing all the time when I was 5 years old. I was then mentored by French painter Sophie Plassard. For 12 years, I studied mostly drawing and painting and gained experience in oil painting under her tutelage. I attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California where I graduated with a Bachellor’s degree in Illustration with a Minor in Entertainment Art. In addition to my college education, I had the honor of working collaboratively with a number of notable artists such as Pia Stern and the late Arland Baron, with whom I learned traditional Disney animation and character design. I am a working artist and have a website displaying some of my work at Since graduating from the Art Center, I have been teaching people of all ages, both in schools and private practice. I graduated from the Teaching Artist Institute in May of 2016.


My favorite thing about creating art is that it has no limits. When I am alone and have the materials, I can create whatever I want. I would like to share this feeling with my students to help them create stories that can be understood in a visual way. The role of an artist is to create stories with visual images that interact with an audience so that the story is seen in the way the artist presents it, and in the way the audience perceives and interprets it. Visual storytelling allows my students to express thoughts and ideas to others.

Residency Artist - Visual art, Cartoon Creation

Levi Kaplan

Levi Kaplan is a director in San Diego and a Teaching Artist with San Diego Junior Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and Arts For Learning San Diego. Recently Mr. Kaplan was the Director of Theatre at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, GA, and a board member of Curtain Call Youth Players in Marietta GA. Mr. Kaplan has trained with The SITI Company/Anne Bogart and continues his Viewpoints work in San Diego. Mr. Kaplan is a proud graduate of the MFA Directing Program at The Theatre School-DePaul University. Prior to his conservatory training, Kaplan received his BFA in Acting from Auburn University.
Mr. Kaplan has directed for a variety of companies in Chicago, Atlanta, Florida, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Mr. Kaplan also served as the Founding Artistic Director of The Acorn Theatre in Tampa Fl. Highlights of Mr. Kaplan’s design work include designing lighting for Walt Disney World. His past teaching credits include The University of Tampa, Woodward Academy, and Hillsborough Community College.

Workshop Artist - Theater

Ellen Kaz

Ellen Kaz is originally from Chicago and has lived in San Diego for four years. She began her dance training at the age of five in ballet, jazz, tap and character dance in Chicago. Then she discovered modern/contemporary dance and studied with Nana Shineflug, dancing in company with Lin Shook. Upon moving to the East Coast, Ms. Kaz trained in the Master of Fine Arts program at Smith College for two years; studying, teaching and dancing in the contemporary companies of Wendy Woodson, Jim Coleman/Therese Freedman and others. Some of Ms. Kaz's most exciting moments were working under Bebe Miller (Chicago), Liz Lerman (Chicago and Northampton, MA), and Meredith Monk (New York).

Ms. Kaz offers young people creative expression through dance and movement, with the benefit of positive body image and a bigger picture on the experience of being human.

Residency Artist - Dance/Creative Movement and Visual Art

Korean Classical Music and Dance

This ensemble brings authentic and beautiful dance and music of Korea to its audiences. Founded in 1973, under the artistic direction of Dr. Dongsuk Kim, this Southern California-based company, is recognized for its performance of ceremonial and social dances that are an integral part of Korean culture.  The performance also includes traditional music performed on Far Eastern instruments such as the KaYakum (a 1,500 year old stringed instrument).

Assembly Artists - Music & Dance, Korean

Mark Lamson

With countless recordings and performances to his credit, Mark Lamson is highly sought after for his integrity, experience, and expertise in a broad range of musical styles. While Mark’s repertoire includes R&B, rock, latin jazz, New Orleans brass band, funk, country and hip hop, his true mastery and passion lies in fusing the popular and traditional music of Brazil and Cuba with modern American and Latin American styles. One of Mark’s greatest achievements to date has been the creation, recording and performance of Bata Ketu with San Francisco musician, Michael Spiro. Conceived as a fusion and interplay of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian folkloric music, Mark and Michael produced the CD in 1996, and it is hailed around the world as being a landmark recording. It is registered with the Smithsonian Institute and has received funding from the Rockefeller Institute.


Mark is the Director, Manager and lead percussionist for SOL e MAR, a dynamic Brazilian/Latin and Caribbean music and events collective which he co-founded in 1985. Mark has performed with Sergio Mendes and The Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. He has also played with Harry Belafonte, opened for Ivan Lins and The Neville Brothers, and has performed at numerous jazz, Carnaval, and street festivals including San Diego Street Scene, San Francisco’s Carnaval, the Stanford Jazz Festival, and the Mardi Gras Ball at the Palladium in Hollywood, CA. As a Production co-ordinator, Mark has been contracted by numerous Fortune 500 clients to plan and produce large scale events with up to 10,000 in attendance. Mark is considered a key go-to person for quality entertainment by San Diego’s top event planners. Mark is recognized around the globe for his abilities as an educator and workshop clinician.


In addition to serving for twenty years as an adjunct faculty member at San Diego State University, Mark has served for sixteen years as a faculty member for the prestigious California Brazil Camp. Mark most recently served in the capacity of adjunct faculty in the World Music department at Santa Clara University in San Jose, CA and in the past, has been on the adjunct faculty for CSU Long Beach, Palomar College and has been a guest lecturer and conducted clinics at UCSD, UCLA, Portland State University, Wisconsin State University, Lawrence University, Tulane University, Arizona State University, Univeristy of Arizona, UC San Marcos and has conducted numerous International workshops. In 2013, Mark was commissioned by the U.S. State Department to conduct an Artist in Residency in Monterey, Mexico.

Workshop Artist - World Music

Julie Leonard

I come from four generations of classroom and music teachers. I started as a classroom teacher and musician, who ran several children’s music groups. Then in 2010 became a music-teaching artist. My life is teaching; my passion is music. As a teaching-artist I bring a love of children’s music, skills to play multiple musical instruments, and years of training and experience teaching pre-school to adults. I am excited to have this opportunity to connect more students to a lifetime of music.


My general music program is California VAPA: Music Content Standards based, Common Core compliant, with Webb’s Depth of Knowledge questions, hands-on, sensory based program of children’s music with dance, rhythm instruments, real instruments from all instrument families, cultural instruments, music notation and terminology, opportunities for students to create rhythms, lyrics, choreography, and written compositions. My students don’t just listen, I put instruments in their hands, show visuals, and get them to feel and move with the music. Connections to local musicians, groups, children musicians, local opportunities in music, and cultural pride are an important part of my lessons. I also bring tremendous enthusiasm to my lessons with the intention of inspiring students to seek music in their lives and become life-long musicians and music lovers. I truly believe, that academics help our students make better lives, but music makes their lives worth living. I’m their connection to the world of music.

Residency Artist & Credentialed Teacher - Music

Claudia Lyra

I grew up in Brazil and identified myself as an athlete, being part of a professional gymnastics team and later getting involved in Capoeira for almost 20 years.  I have experienced the importance and value of social skills, of a balanced mind and body, in combination with exploring identity. I have a BA in Psychology, certification as an Expressive Arts Practitioner and am an experienced teaching artist.  I am currently enrolled in the Bilingual Education Masters Program at SDSU.


With a strong awareness of the connection between mind, body and identity awareness, I have developed programs engaging students and audiences of all ages to learn and experience Brazilian rhythms, dances and stories in a very interactive and kinesthetic way.  Through dynamic activities and lesson plans, students increase their understanding of history, geography, math, languages and other much needed 21st Century Skills. In response to the accelerated climate change currently happening on Earth, I have been also teaching K-4th grade Science workshops in order to cultivate awareness in my students regarding how to take care of nature.  I weave music and movement as well as instrument making out of recycled materials into these workshops.