Meet Our Instructors
Our instructors are graduates of some of the finest conservatories in the country.
With great care, dedication and experience, they support each student in their own musical path.
Dave Childs has taught and performed as a classical and jazz pianist for over thirty years. He attended the Berklee College of Music, studying under Steve Allee, James Williams and Donald Brown. Dave also spent several years traveling and working as a pianist in the Far East.
Dave performs throughout the area and has shared the stage with jazz greats Jimmy Heather, Eddie Bert, James Moody, Lionel Hampton, Larry Ridley, Roswell Rudd, Dirk Oatts, Bill Watrous and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. Some of his performance venues have included New Haven Jazz Festival, Quick Center, Long Wharf Theatre, Stamford Forum, St. Peter’s Church NYC, Pequot Library and many others. He has also held several positions as a church musician, including Hastings on Hudson Lutheran and Royawton Methodist Churches. For the past six years, Dave has served as pianist for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Bridgeport where he combines, classical, jazz, pop, folk and world music for services and other events. Dave also teaches piano at Fairfield University.
Instructor, Piano & Voice
Matthew Cimino, Tenor, is honored to be on faculty for his 15th year at WSM teaching both piano and voice.
He is the Assistant Director of Liturgical Choir at SacredHeart University, Adjunct Professor of Voice at Southern Connecticut State University and is also a private piano teacher. He holds a Master's of Music degree in vocal performance from the University of Connecticut as well as a Bachelor’s in Voice from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
A versatile performer, Matthew has extensive performing credits in opera, operetta and art song recitals throughout New England. He has received awards from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions as well as American Prize Competition in Art Song, the Accadia Foundation for the Arts and the Bel Canto Competition.
Matthew is a firm believer in freedom of expression and creativity, and as such he nurtures students of all ages to find their own “voice” and love for music of all styles.
Heather Fairchild Hisey is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance. She has played with the Meridian (MS) Symphony Orchestra, was principal flute in the USM Symphony, and played in and conducted the USM Flute Choir. In this area, Heather participates in Faculty recitals at the WSM and gives private recitals with local artists. She has taught privately, at the MACH School in Bridgeport and in her own studio in Fairfield County. She currently teaches for Mary Ann Hall's MUSIC FOR CHILDREN, and serves as the Director of Children & Youth Activities as well as Children's Music at the United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston.
Heather's teaching philosophy for her students is to love music first as she believes that the joy music brings and the ability to play an instrument will last longer than any sport a child will ever play. Mrs. Hisey’s students participate in WSM recitals and Schubert Club events. They have earned such prestigious honors as auditioned members of the Mississippi Lions' Club All-State Band, Connecticut Western Region Middle School Band, Connecticut Western Region High School Band, Connecticut All-State Band, Norwalk Youth Symphony, and Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras.
Instructor, Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet & Saxophone
Ernest Guadagnini has taught at WSM for 15 years. He received his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the Juilliard School of Music where he was a full scholarship pupil of Joseph Allard on saxophone and clarinet, and Julius Baker on flute. He had further studies in composition with Vincent Pershichetti, flute studies with John Krell, Samuel Baron and Jean Pierre Rampal, clarinet study with Robert Marcellus, and jazz studies with Phil Woods and Hall Overton. Mr. Guadagnini has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with Eugene Ormandy, and at the Tanglewood Festival with Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa.
Ernest has played in Broadway productions, as well as having played jazz with Duke Ellington, Guy Lombardo and Glenn Miller. He was in Frank Sinatra's orchestra, played principal flute and piccolo with the Band of America, and has recorded for RCA, Columbia and Nonesuch. He taught at the Spring Valley Music School in Spring Valley New York and was a full professor of saxophone, flute and clarinet at Rockland College in Rockland, New York. Ernie strives to provide a solid musical and technical foundation while nurturing and developing each student’s individual strengths.
Dana Laporta earned her Bachelor of Music degree from the Hartt School of Music and her Master of Music in piano from the Manhattan School of Music. She has studied with Arkady Aronov and Constance Keene at the Manhattan School of Music and Paul Rutman at Hartt.
Dana has taught privately in New York and Connecticut. Dana has played recitals and chamber music in New York and Connecticut and has been accompanist for the Manhattan School’s Preparatory Division, for musicals and for Hartt Community Division master classes. She has been accompanist for the Adesso Choral Society of Ridgefield, and has taught at The Greenwich Country Day School.. Dana teaches privately in Thomaston, CT, and is accompanist for the Thomaston Ladies Choral Club. She has been a member of the WSM faculty since 2000 and enjoys working with students of all ages.
Instructor, Violin, Viola, Fiddle
Ryu Mitsuhashi is a violinist/fiddler/violist who was born in Japan and began studying strings at age three. At age ten, she was accepted into the pre-college division of The Julliard School. Ryu holds a bachelor’s degree with a minor in jazz and a master’s degree from the University of Maine in violin performance. Her major teachers included Yuval Waldman, Akiko Silver, Shirley Givens, Angela Eto, and Anatole Wieck.
Ms. Mitsuhashi currently performs with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, and has performed in the Winter Harbor Music Festival and the Bar Harbor Music Festival. She has also taught at the Chamber Music Institute LLC and the Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra. She has also toured internationally with the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra in Croatia, the Camerata Austriaca in Austria and the Orchestra for the Festival Vaniloquio in Mexico.
Ryu also plays the fiddle for the folk fusion band Tough End String Bandand in pit orchestras for musicals throughout the Northeast. Having recently moved to Connecticut, Ryu is excited to be teaching at WSM and performing with musicians in the Fairfield County area.
Instructor of Double Bass & Electric Bass
Andrew Muench earned his Bachelor of Music degree at the Hartt School Of Music at the University of Hartford where he double-majored in Music Education and Classical Instrumental Performance.
He plays regularly as Principal Double Bassist in the Hamden Symphony and as the bass player in JINQS, a jazz combo based in Torrington, CT. Beside working as a freelance artist in various ensembles and as a private teacher throughout the state of Connecticut, he has also presented as a guest artist at the 2017 Fairfield County String Festival.
In addition to honing his skills as a performer and educator, Andrew continues to evolve and to push the boundaries of his musicianship, having invented and mastered several of his own varieties of musical solfege, researched and discovered links between light and sound waves, and even learned to perform human echolocation.
Instructor, Violin, Viola and Piano
Melanie Sasaki earned her Bachelor of Music degree studying under Albert Markov at the Manhattan School of Music and Laurie Smuckler at the State University of New York at Purchase.
Ms. Sasaki was born in Germany and began violin lessons at the age of four after moving to Japan. She first studied under the guidance of her mother, Heidi Sasaki-Born, an accomplished violist/ violinist. Upon moving to the United States, she enrolled in the Westchester Conservatory in New York at the age of seven and also studied with teachers in Chicago and Switzerland.
Additionally, Ms. Sasaki began piano studies as a child, studying with Dorothy Jonas at the Westchester Conservatory. She performed throughout college and accompanied her string students along with choirs and orchestras for several public school music programs.
Ms. Sasaki has performed with orchestras in New York, Chicago, Switzerland, Germany, Venezuela and numerous tri-state ensembles, including the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra. She also maintains an active teaching studio at the Riverside School of Music in Greenwich, CT.
Sarah received bachelor’s degrees in both cello performance and fine arts management from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in cello performance from the University of Connecticut where she studied with Kangho Lee.
Sarah, has performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe and she strives to capture audiences with her energy and passion. She is currently performing with the Bridgeport, Ridgefield, and Wallingford Symphonies and is the professor of cello at the University of Bridgeport. She has performed as a soloist at the Domaine Forget international music festival in Quebec and with the Seven Hills Symphony., having also concertized extensively in various chamber music settings, Sarah has performed at the Quietside Festival and the International Musical Arts Institute in Maine as well as the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria.
Alan Simon earned an M.A. in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers University, and graduated with honors from the City University of N.Y. with a B.A. in Music.
Alan has recorded and toured with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. While with that group, he played the major Jazz Festivals throughout Europe, South America and the U.S. He appeared as featured soloist at Carnegie Hall and has made television and concert appearances with Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Tate, Clark Terry, and Frank Foster. Alan has performed at the Vienna Opera House, The Blue Note, and has appeared with the New Orleans, Milwaukee, and Omaha Symphony Orchestras. He has taught at the university level, been on the faculty of the Hotchkiss School in CT, and has many years of experience teaching all ages, levels, and genres of piano music.
Alan strives to inspire a deep understanding and appreciation for all music. He finds teaching beginners as well as advanced students very rewarding. One of his goals as an instructor is to help turn students from passive listeners into active listeners so they become stronger musicians.
Instructor, Violin & Viola
Bruce Sloat graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Music degree in performance. While there, he was the recipient of the James Furman Memorial Chamber Music Award.
As a member of the Donn Trenner Orchestra, Bruce has performed in concert with Josh Groban, Celtic Woman and Earth, Wind & Fire. As the violist of the Barber String Quartet, he performed concerts throughout Poland on a U.S. Embassy-endorsed tour. An active chamber musician, Mr. Sloat is a member of the Trio Dolce and the Ives Chamber Players. He is the strings professor at Fairfield University, an adjunct faculty member in the Greens Farms Academy's orchestral program, coaches string sectionals for the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras, and has conducted Monroe's Music Enrichment Program and Enchanted Garden's Summer Music Immersion ensembles.
Bruce believes that music and the arts are a vital part of education and that every child should have the opportunity to study and learn how to play an instrument.
Ahyoung Son holds a Masters Degree and Bachelors Degree of Arts in piano performance from the Conservatory of Vienna, in Vienna, Austria, where she studied with Leonid Brumberg. Ms. Son also received an Artist Diploma from the University of Tennessee and was inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. More recently, she received a Graduate Professional Diploma from the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, Connecticut. For many years, Ahyoung performed with her sisters (who play violin and cello) in a piano trio, traveling throughout Europe, Korea and the United States.
In addition to her teaching, Ahyoung also serves as the Music Director of the Korean Presbyterian Church in Hartford and as the organist/pianist for the United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston. Ms. Son enjoys teaching students of all ages and levels and believes that playing an instrument can provide a creative source of expression, healing and joy throughout one's entire life.
Patricia Ashford, MusicWorks! Music Therapist, received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Therapy from Emmanuel College, Boston and completed her course work for Music Education Certification at Western State University in Danbury. Patty completed her Masters in Special Education at Southern Connecticut State University.
Certified as a Music Therapist by the American Association for Music Therapy, Patty wroked for ten years as a rehabilitation therapist at the State of California Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, CA. Additionally, she was a music therapist for the West Orange County Consortium for Special Education in Huntington Beach, CA. She has worked at the State of Massachusetts Westborough State Hospital and at the Baroco Corporation, a day care program site. Currently, Patty teaches 1st and 2nd grade students with severe behavioral challenges for the Norwich Public School District.