Staff

 
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L’aura Bagdziunas, Dance

Q: About her professional experiences…

A: L'aura Bagdziunas earned her BFA in dance from Marymount Manhattan College and is a graduate of Long Island High School for the Arts. She has studied under the direction of Broadway stars: Elizabeth Parkinson, Scott Wise, Mary Ann Lamb and numerous others. She has performed in works by Jeff Shade, Larry Keigwin, Mark Morris, Pascal Rioult, Twyla Tharp and Cherice Barton. She is a member of Yellow Brick Road Theatrical INC, Mad Cap Dance Company and is the lead choreographer for CPSM at Queens College.

Q: Why did you want to work at LIHSA?

 A: To pass on the knowledge that I gained from my teachers here and from my performance experiences.

Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: I am an equestrian.

 Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Funny, team-player, kind.

Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A: When the students are ready to work hard and excited!

Q: What inspires you?

A: My mentors and when I see passion for the arts.

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: One of my former teachers quotes:”good things happen to good people. Great things happen to people who make things happen.” Janice Aguilera

 Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A: Back in time to a rehearsal with Bob Fosse.

 

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Erik Chocianowski, Special Effects & film

Q: About his professional experiences…

A: "Erik", as he is affectionately known, is a creative person through and through. He approaches new challenges like presents on Christmas morning, metaphorically opening (starting) new projects with an unabashed fervor. He throws himself into new endeavors with everything he's got because that is all that he knows. Erik has attended several institutions, including the Art Institute in Pittsburgh where he graduated with a BS in Industrial Design, Queens College and SUNY Empire State College where he earned his art teacher certification and Master's Degree respectively. In Theater, he started in early 2012 on the production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Since then, he's worked on nearly 20 shows including In the Heights, Seussical, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, The Crucible, Play It Again Sam and many more. As a scenic carpenter, Erik worked for a production company that provided scenery for the award winning Amazon original show, "The Marvelous Ms. Maisel.” The variety of shows he's worked on have provided an interesting foundation of theatrical skills that he can draw on for any project.

 Q: Why did you want to teach at LIHSA?

A: To share the knowledge I have, do the things I am passionate about, and to work with other passionate artists.

 Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: I recorded some hip-hop and rap songs in college.

 Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Resourceful, curious, and fun-loving.

 Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A: When kids accomplish their goals and are proud of the work they’ve done.

 Q: What inspires you?

A: Passion

 Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: Be resilient and don’t give up, you learn the most from your difficulties.

 Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A: On a big budget film set. It would be fun to see such a large scale production in action.

 

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Mark Cocheo, music

Q: About his professional experiences…

A:  Mark Cocheo is a guitarist and educator based in New York City. He has performed with Melissa Etheridge, Charlie Daniels, Gloria Gaynor, James Burton, Kristen Chenoweth, James Moody, George Garzone, Bucky Pizzarelli, Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, Wayne Newton, Tony Orlando, Larry Gatlin, BJ Thomas, Darryl Worley, Collin Raye, The Dan Band, The Brighton Beat, The Mark Zaleski Band and many other artists. In New York, he has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Blue Note, B.B. King's, The Iridium, The Gramercy Theatre, Highline Ballroom, Joe’s Pub, Dizzy’s, Smalls, Cornelia St. Café, The Bar Next Door, The Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End and countless other venues. On Broadway, he appeared in “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” and currently is playing with “Bat Out of Hell”, the music of Meatloaf. From 2010-2015, he was a house guitarist at Fox, performing extensively on national television. As a studio musician, his guitar work has also been featured on MTV, ESPN, and FX. Mark holds music performance degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music and New York University. Mark also earned a Master’s Degree in music education as a Lincoln Center Scholar at Hunter College.

Q: Why did you want to teach at LIHSA?

A: I mainly wanted to teach at LIHSA because of the students. It is very rewarding to work with talented and motivated music students on a regular basis. My goal as their teacher is to help them develop their craft and artistry to the highest possible level. 

Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: I’m not sure if I have any hidden talents!

Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Kind. Enthusiastic. Musical.  

Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A: A good day at school is when I am making great music with the students and we are all learning together. 

Q: What inspires you?

A: I am inspired by listening to new music, reading, and travel.  

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: As a professional musician, talent isn’t enough. You must also always be prepared, reliable, and easy to work with. I would also say that learning to play music is a never ending process. It is hard work and it can sometimes be difficult to measure progress. Be patient and practice as much as you can. Great things will happen!

 Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A:  I think that Royal Albert Hall in London would be a fun trip!  

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Michelle Vivona, dance

Michelle began studying dance at the age of 4 at her parents' studio, in Pittsburgh, Pa. Her parents are both veterans of Broadway, television and film having worked with Luigi, Bob Fosse, and Jerome Robbins, Jack Cole, Michael Kidd, Peter Gennaro, Carol Haney and many other luminaries of the time as well as featuring on the Perry Como show. Michelle followed her dreams to NYC and shortly thereafter landed her first role as the Tap Leader in the National Tour of On Your Toes starring Leslie Caron and Natalia Makarova. Michelle joined the line at Radio City Musical Hall as a Rockette. She then was cast as Lorraine in 42nd Street, which led to her Broadway debut in Sweet Charity directed by Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon starring Debbie Allen, Bebe Neuwirth and later Ann Reinking. Anything Goes was next, starring Patti Lupone, followed by working for Jerome Robbins in Gypsy with Tyne Daly and Linda Lavin. Michelle was then cast in Thoroughly Modern Millie Directed by Tony Winner Michael Mayer and Choreographed by Tony Winner Rob Ashford, starring Tony Winner Sutton Foster.

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Abbe GrosS, Theatre

Q: Can you tell us about your professional experiences?

A: I have been an actress and director for many years and I am a member of Actors’ Equity Association, and S.A.G./A.F.T.R.A.  My Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre is from S.U.N.Y. Brockport and my Master’s Degree in Performance is from Hofstra University.  Additionally I have studied Acting at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. I have taught at LIHSA for twenty years and have been nominated for The Disney American Teacher award several times.  I have directed and choreographed several shows for Broadway Clubhouse including MOST LIKELY TO…The Senior Superlative Musical, which we performed at The Dramatist Guild Of America, The Player’s Theatre in NYC and as part of The Midtown International Theatre Festival.  The show was nominated for eleven awards including Best Director/ Choreographer and we won Best Ensemble.

Q: Why did you want to teach at LIHSA?

A: I am passionate about Theatre and I love working with students who share that passion. I love watching my students grow as performers and as enlightened people.

Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: I love horseback riding.

Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Creative, Hardworking, and Caring.

Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A:  “Good Days” at school are the days when students grasp a concept that they have been struggling with or they can understand the subtext and make strong choices based on the subtext.  When you see their work improve that is extremely satisfying. I love creativity and the opportunity to collaborate with students and with other faculty members.

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: I would love my students to feel confident and make strong choices in their work.  I also hope that they feel a great deal of joy in the process of creating Theatre.

Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A: I would love to have the opportunity to take my students to Greece to see where Theatre began and to take them to Russia the home of Stanislavski and Chekhov where contemporary realistic acting began. 

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Kimberly Larkin, theatre & MUSIC

Q: Can you tell us about your professional experiences?

A: I hold an MA in Vocal Performance: Concentration in Musical Theatre from NYU and a BA in Music Education from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, where I studied both voice and piano. I currently study voice with renowned Broadway actress/singer Judith Blazer and am a board member of Ms. Blazer's theater company, The Artist's Crossing. In October of 2006 I founded a theater company, I.M.P.A.C.T. Theatre Group, for young artists ages 11-18. The company performed at The Wings Theatre and Player's Theatre in NYC and raised over $3,000 for children's charities. My recent NYC theatre credits include: Wendy in The G69 Triple X-treme Oscillator (Finalist in the Riant Theatre Strawberry Festival, NYC), Archon in the new musical Float (at the Dream Up Festival/Theater for the New City), Enid in F.F. of America (at the Riant Theatre Strawberry Festival), Miss Bunny in the new musical Molly Bloom-Lately (at the New York Children's Theatre Festival), Claire Simmonds in Bare: A Pop Opera at The York Theatre and Eurydice in Antigone with The Storm Theatre Company. In May 2014 I had the incredible opportunity to create the lead role in the new musical Evangeline, a Curious Journey in a one-night performance at Adelphi University PAC. I performed the role of Sarah Lincoln in the off-Broadway musical Honestly Abe at the Actor's Temple Theatre in NYC for over 2 years and performed in the final performance on November 2nd, 2014.

Q: Why did you want to work at LIHSA?

 A: It is the perfect place to combine my love for performance and teaching.

Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: Photography

Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Professional, Thoughtful, and Problem-Solver

Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A: When students collaborate or have a break through.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Seeing performances, students, and all forms of art.

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: Prepare, be in love with the work and process, see art/ performances.

Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A: London or Paris. 

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Mark McCarron, music

Q: Can you tell us about your professional experiences?

A: My summer at the Banff School of the Arts was a formative experience, during which I was surrounded by some of the top musicians in Jazz. The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop had a big influence on my writing and improvising. Attending the UNB Jazz Workshop in Fredericton, NB, under the direction of Phil Nimmons, introduced me to the musicians of the Toronto music scene. Playing at Expo ’86 in Vancouver, BC as a member of the Lincolns gave me the experience of being part of a major international event. Performing at all of the major jazz festivals in Canada – Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa expanded my musical horizons and further honed my performing skill. Paved Paradise: Playing Joni Mitchell’s music for Joni Mitchell and receiving her approval was an honor and a validation. Playing a week-long engagement with Jazz legend Ed Bickert at a club in Toronto. Being a substitute player on many Broadway shows including Rent, Hair, Wicked, Shrek, Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, and The Cher Show, has developed my ability to quickly learn material to an exacting standard and be able to maintain a high level of performance. Playing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks featuring Rufus Wainwright gave me valuable experience of performing on late-night television. My current work on the soundtrack of the FX mini-series Fosse/Verdon, playing banjo and guitar, involved intense preparation and recording with some of New York’s top session musicians. Some of the major venues at which I’ve performed have included Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Town Hall and Tilles Center in New York, Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, CO, the National Arts Center in Ottawa, ON, and the Kravitz Center in West Palm Beach, FL.

Q: Why did you want to work at LIHSA?

 A: I wanted to pass on the benefits of my experience working as a performer/studio/show theater musician to students.

Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: I have developed the ability to hear music and quickly and accurately create written arrangements for a wide range of (sometimes specialized) ensembles.

Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Dedicated, Talented, Loyal.

Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A: A good day at school is one in which students have expanded their horizons by learning new music and thereby recognizing their potential.

Q: What inspires you?

A: When I see a student who wants to learn.

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: Be flexible and adaptable: Prepare for every eventuality, not only the one you expect.

Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A: I would take them to Cape Breton, NS, where they could be exposed to a culture of music passed down through the generations as a way of life.

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Frank Porcu, fine arts

As a sculptor, painter, educator, writer and lecturer, Frank Porcu has spent over two decades studying and mastering the logistical function and structure of human body, coupled with Florentine Neo-Platonism. Renown for his ability to illuminate the anatomy of the human form and effortlessly render the fundamental principles of anatomical form making, Porcu has built a unique and alternative career in the arts while pursuing an uncompromised vision. In addition to his studio work which includes private sculpture and drawing commissions including celebrities such as Tony Bennett, he is universally lauded for the passion and imagination that goes into his distinct lecturing style and the drawings he creates in the process.

Trained in fine art and stereoscopic medical dissection and as an instructor of lab anatomy at Columbia University, he has taught courses and lectures at: Pratt Institute, The New York Academy of Art, & The Art Student’s League. Porcu has honed his skills and natural charisma into educational performances that often transcend the classroom and embrace larger audiences ranging from business executives to patrons of the New York Gallery scene. 

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Jason Cuvelier, fine arts & film

I was born and raised in a developing suburb in Colorado. I left to study at the Maryland Institute College of Art, which enabled me to develop an open-minded, yet distinctly process oriented artistic approach.

After I graduated from Yale with an MFA, I was offered to return for a teaching appointment, where I got the opportunity to teach drawing & painting to enthusiastic undergrads as well as grad students.

Craving more challenge and a new stimulus for my self-expression, I had decided to move to New York City. It was 2001 and I was lucky to secure a position at Christie’s Auction House in New York where I worked for 7 years. This is my sixth year at LIHSA.

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Natalie L’EToile, dance

Q: About her professional experiences…

A: Natalie L'Etoile is very excited to be a part of the LIHSA family as a Dance and P.E. Teacher. She has over 20 years experience performing and teaching dance to students of all ages. She earned her BFA in Modern Dance from the University of Utah. From there her wanderlust took her to Anchorage, AK where she danced for Alaska Dance Theatre and Anchorage Opera. She was an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and taught Modern and Ballet to students in the Theater and Dance Department. Shortly after arriving in NYC, she co-founded Notes in Motion (aka Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre). Upon receiving her MSEd in Physical Education from Queens College, she spent ten years in the NYC DOE at Mark Twain School for the Gifted and Talented. There she taught Dance, P.E., Athletics, Yoga and Health. Ms. L'Etoile has a passion for the arts, health and fitness, which she will impart to her students at LIHSA through a variety of dance and P.E. courses. From Nutrition and Fitness for the Performer to Modern Dance, students in her classes will be able to strengthen both their bodies and creative spirits as they satisfy their high school P.E. credits.

 Q: Why did you want to teach at LIHSA?

A: I wanted to teach at LIHSA where I could bring all my skills and experience to mature students who are pursuing careers in the Arts. I am looking forward to working with the talented students and faculty at LIHSA. LIHSA is the kind of school I've wanted my career path to lead me to, and I am excited to embark on my new journey!

 Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: I'm not sure if they're really hidden talents, but I love to cook and bake. I think I'm pretty good!

Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Calm, Open-minded, Energetic

Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A: A good day at school is when things "click." It could be a lesson where all the students are engaged and excited about what they're doing. It could be a moment where you see a student make a connection or achieve success in a skill they've been practicing. It could be a note from a colleague or student that lets me know I'm making a difference in the school community.

Q: What inspires you?

A: I am filled with pride when I tackle the challenge of learning a new skill. I doubt myself at times, but I push through it and work hard. I know that to be a good teacher, I have to be a student. By staying open to new experiences and skills, I expand my knowledge that I can share with my students. It's not always a comfortable experience, but in the end I am proud when I learn something new.

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: When someone presents you with a good opportunity that has the potential for you to make your mark, grow professionally, work with an expert in your field, etc., say "Yes!" If you're not entirely sure, you will figure it out. The one who gives you the opportunity knows that you can do it, even if you don't.

Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A: I would take my students to Alaska! It truly is The Last Frontier. The vast, raw natural landscape is stunning, and to me provides endless creative inspiration. The Native Alaskan and Eskimo dances are some of the most powerful that I've seen. 

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Eugenia Kurianowicz, music

Q: Can you tell us about your professional experiences?

A: I am a mezzo-soprano and hold a Master of Arts Degree in Classical Vocal Performance from F. Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, Poland, EU. I am also a recipient of an Award Nomination from the Polish Ministry of Culture and Arts for post-graduate studies at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, Israel. In Europe, I performed with the Ensemble of Orthodox Music under the division of the Warsaw Chamber Opera on concert tours in Japan, South Korea, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In the United States, I have performed in numerous recitals in Italian, French, German, Russian, Polish and Latin at multiple venues. In 2015, I received the Diploma of Recognition from Carnegie Hall American Protégé International Competition and had students that have been selected as winners and performed solo in Carnegie Hall. 

Q: Why did you want to teach at LIHSA? Long Island High School for the Arts is the only public institution in the region that gives me the opportunity to be both teacher and an artist. 

Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: Ability to speak many languages.

 Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Visionary, Perfectionist, Hopeful.

Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A: A day where students are eager to learn.

Q: What inspires you?

A: The future.

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” Dale Carnegie

Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A: I would take them to the trip around the world to explore undiscovered.  

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Francis Lees, music

Q: Can you tell us about your professional experiences?

A: I was a semi-finalist in the Presidential Scholar in the Arts Competition in Princeton.  I also won the Queens Summer Symphony Concerto competition, and performed the Rachmaninoff 2nd piano Concerto with the Queens Summer Symphony Orchestra.  I have performed with various bands and ensembles in the Tri-state area performing pop, ethnic, theatre and classical music at various establishments.    I have musically directed Broadway Musicals such as West Side Story, Godspell, and Anything Goes to name a few.  Additionally, I have performed with Cabaret groups and solo featured performers at Don’t Tell Mamas, The Cinema Arts Center, and abroad in London and Ireland.  My formal musical education includes studying at the Julliard School, (Pre-College), the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, and most recently receiving a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from St. Johns University. 

Q: Why did you want to work at LIHSA?

A: I wanted to teach at LIHSA because I love the idea of arts training at the high school level on Long Island.  To have a culture of talented and enthusiastic young artists, committed to creating at this level is invigorating and exciting.  LIHSA is a special place and I feel quite fortunate to be a part of it.  The atmosphere is conducive to fostering support and mutual appreciation, among the students, which is a vital and necessary ingredient in their creative journey. 

Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: I am a keen listener and look for ways to encourage people based on what I hear. 

Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Musical, Patient, and Fun-loving. 

Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A: Helping students to improve in the task at hand and seeing the expression of satisfaction when they have overcome something that was difficult is inspiring, and makes for a great day.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Watching a student that has a particular problem, someone who may not have the natural ability, of another, but one that resolutely and resiliently trudges on, and improves.  That is inspiring.   

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: If I could pass any wisdom on to the students, I suppose that hard work always pays off would be have to be at the top of the list, along with never underestimating the power of intention.  Also to enjoy the process, since art usually entails one, and to persevere thru the trials that will surely come as they do for all of us, and to take heart in the hope that the art itself will enrich your life and that it is the journey, not the destination that makes it all worth it. 

Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A: If I could take the students on a field trip anywhere in the world I would take them to: La Scala, Milan; or Stadt Oper, Vienna; or Semper Opera, Dresden. 

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Dr.DALE Stuckenbruck, MUSIC

Q: Can you tell us about your professional experiences?

A: I'm a concert violinist/musical sawist and have performed as soloist with the New York Philharmonic, New Century Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Taipei City Symphony Orchestra, Queens Symphony Orchestra, New York Virtuosi, Soviet Emigre Orchestra, Philharmonia Virtuosi, and Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society. I have also recorded over a hundred film scores, and hundreds of commercial recordings, and have been concertmaster of many Broadway shows. I have been very active in chamber music, contemporary music, world music, historical instrumental music, and have taught at Long Island University for 32 years as their violin professor. I hold a doctorate in violin from the Manhattan School of Music. 

Q: Why did you want to work at LIHSA?

A: I was a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts during my high school years. It was an incredible time for me. LIHSA reminds me of this special place for the arts where they can live and thrive together. The students seems truly interested!

Q: What is one of your hidden talents?

A: I play and have created a vegetable orchestra. Besides the musical saw I play many world instruments such as the erhu, the sitar, the theremin, the danbau, and more.

Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: Inspired/creative/non-traditional.

Q: What makes a ‘good day’ at school?

A: A smile from a student.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Music and instruments that I have not heard before.

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

A: Live and truly experience the process of getting better, and make sure you are getting better. End-gaining is long term backwards.

Q: If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?

A: Vietnam!