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Music Teachers at The Music Connection in Sycamore! (click on teacher's name for bio)

The Music Connection is a full-service music lesson studio. We have highly talented and professional music instructors who teach lessons for the following instruments: piano, voice, guitar, flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, trumpet, trombone, baritone/euphonium, Fr. horn, tuba, violin, viola, cello, string bass, drums, and percussion.  We offer both group and one-on-one lessons. Whether you are just starting out as a musician or want to further your musical knowledge and talent, our teachers have years of experience instructing music. Sign up today to further your musical talent!

Una Lawrence teaches flute lessons at The Music Connection. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music education and K-12 teacher licensure from Northern Illinois University, where she has studied with Peter Middleton and currently studies with Dr. Elizabeth Barber. Una has performed with numerous ensembles at NIU, including the university’s Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble, Philharmonic, Flute Ensemble, and more. She also serves as the principal flutist for the NIU Wind Symphony.

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Wednesdays: 4PM-9PM
Una Lawrence

Alex Rattana hails from Elgin, Illinois, and will graduate with his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance in 2019. Alex has performed with the NIU Philharmonic as Osmin in Die Entfürung aus dem Serail and other opera companies in Chicago and Elgin. An accomplished conductor, he has taken the positions of a conductor/music director for organizations in Lombard, Rockford, and Oswego. He currently is the Bass Section Leader of professional choirs in Elgin and Schaumburg.

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Tuesdays: 9AM-3PM
  • Thursdays: 9AM-3PM
  • Saturdays: 9AM-3PM
Alex Rattana

Ben has over 20 years of professional percussion experience in both teaching and performance. But, his musical journey began long before that while growing up in Texas and Missouri. After playing clarinet in his middle school bands, he caught the percussion bug while being immersed in the rich musical environment found in and around St. Louis, and the rest is history. Some of his St. Louis percussion teachers include Thomas Stubbs (St. Louis Symphony Orchestra), Michael Farris, and Glen “Papa” Wright. Ben is also fortunate to have been able to train and perform with some of the most talented young musicians in the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra (Leonard Slatkin, consultant). Ben later chose to make percussion his career and, upon a recommendation from his high school band director, travelled to Northern Illinois University, a school known for it’s world music, jazz, and percussion education. His primary instructors were Rich Holly and Robert Chappell. Ben earned a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance in 1998 and is fortunate to have performed at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Atlanta, GA with the N.I.U. Steel Band, under the direction of Al O’Connor and Cliff Alexis, and also during their Taiwan tour, among other things.

After graduation, Ben travelled to Nashville, TN to pursue a career in the studio scene. He was fortunate to meet and work with some great people from various parts of the Nashville music industry for over 10 years. He also marched 3 years with the DCA drum corps Music City Legend and also helped start the corps from the ground up in 2003. Other unique experiences while living in Nashville included working for several years at Treeworks Chimes and Row-Loff Productions.

In 2011, Ben relocated to Northern Illinois to pursue his Professional Educators License in K-12 Music Education at Northern Illinois University again. Some of his teachers from his time at N.I.U. include Rich Holly, Robert Chappell, Dr. Greg Beyer, Liam Teague, Dr. Ronald Wooten, and Dr. Mary Lynn Doherty.

Ben currently teaches band in the Wheaton CUSD 200, maintains another private studio in Sycamore, and freelances in the Chicagoland area. He is also Percussion Coordinator and Percussion Arranger for the Racine Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps. In the fall of 2013, Ben started his own summer drum line activity for area percussionists called Cadence Percussion. More information can be found at

Ben is a member of the Percussive Arts Society and Illinois Music Educators Association. Ben desires that all percussionists, regardless of age or skill level, learn the techniques and skills needed to be a well-rounded percussionist (i.e. mallets/snare/timpani/drum set/electronics) while having some fun too! Please feel free to contact him with any questions: # 615-300-3482 (cell).

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Sunday: 2pm-8pm
  • Monday: 5pm-8pm
  • Tuesday: 5pm-8pm
  • Thursday: 5pm-9pm
  • Saturday: 4pm-6pm
Ben Weaver

Isaac Armstead is the trumpet instructor for The Music Connection, LLC. A native out of the Chicago suburbs, Mr. Armstead has a diverse musical background that includes jazz, classical, and contemporary music. He is an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University. He is currently the lead trumpet of the acclaimed NIU Jazz Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and has performed as principal trumpet in the NIU Philharmonic. Mr. Armstead has performed with several different musical groups, and had the pleasure to perform at the Elmhurst Jazz Fest, a featured artist at Jazz in the Meadows festival, and an ILMEA All-State musician. His primary teachers include Art Davis, Mark Ponzo, Tayna Darby, Wayne Bergeron, Brain Finn, Ron Carter, Reggie Thomas, Rodrigo Villanueva, Ronnie Wooten, Lucia Matos, and Thomas Bough. Mr. Armstead is a brother of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the men’s music fraternity of America. Outside of his studies, Mr. Armstead is active in several different musical groups. He plays in a chamber brass quintet, The Naperville Municipal band, and has been the brass instructor at Streator Township High School for two years. He has been awarded the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award as well as the John Phillip Sousa Award. Mr. Armstead is very passionate about music and performing. His goal is to continue his love and passion for music through all of his students, and looks forward to working with trumpet players of all ages and skill levels.

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Weekdays: 5pm-8pm
Isaac Armstead

Sarah is a senior, pursing a Bachelor of Music from Northern Illinois University. Her primary focus is vocal performance with secondary studies in piano and organ. Sarah has played piano for about 14 years, having participated in the National Piano Guild Auditions and the annual American Grands concert at Elgin Community College. In the past, she had accompanied for her high school choir and local middle school choir and had also been a rehearsal assistant for the Communities in Schools Drama and Drums Camp in Aurora, accompanying rehearsals and coaching vocals. Sarah actively accompanies for music students at NIU, playing for juries and recitals, and offers her accompanying skills to local organizations, recently including the Fox Valley Youth Choir. She also has accompanied at numerous churches in Aurora and DeKalb, was previously the music director at St. Mary of the Assumption in Maple Park, and currently holds the position as music director at Christ the Teacher Parish and Newman Center in DeKalb. In addition to piano, Sarah also sings with the NIU Concert Choir and Opera Theatre, and contributes her voice to church music ministries as well.

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Sundays: 5pm-8pm
  • Mondays: 5pm-8pm
  • Thursdays: 5pm-8pm
  • Fridays: 5pm-8pm
Sarah Wright

Chris Monzel is a student at Northern Illinois University majoring in music education and performance. He currently studies violin with former second violinist of the Vermeer Quartet, Mathias Tacke. He also studies secondary viola with the current violist of the Avalon String Quartet, Anthony Devroye. Chris is an active performer especially in orchestral and chamber ensembles. He currently is acting principle of the second violin section for the Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra and frequently plays with the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Fox Valley Orchestra. Though performing is a significant aspect of Chris’s career, he finds teaching to be the most important. Chris has had private instructional students for five years and has taught in classroom environments through his clinical experiences for music education and a non-profit music program named El Sistema which focuses on exposing kids in “at risk” schools to music. Chris’s philosophy of education is to prepare students for their future goals, whether music related or not, by providing them a fun but disciplined music education in hopes to develop work ethic, discipline and self-confidence so when they leave his studio, they are confident that they can succeed as long as they are determined.

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Mondays: 4pm-8pm
  • Wednesdays: 4pm-8pm
  • Thursdays: 4pm-8pm
  • Fridays: 4pm-8pm
  • Saturdays: 4pm-8pm
Chris Monzel

Chano Cruz is a working bassist in the Midwest who displays versatility in many styles on his primary instrument, the double bass. He is also an electric bassist and has toured with multiple groups.

Teaching is another strong suit and he has taught students out of Beloit High School who have gone on to win the Essentially Ellington Competition.

He is currently studying at the Northern Illinois University School of Music and continues to perform in cities all around the Midwest.

Winter/Spring Availability

Tuesdays: 5pm-8pm

Wednesdays: 6pm-8pm

Matthew Callahan, native to the western suburbs of Chicago, is a versatile young Tenor with a robust experience in the world of performing. Since 18, he has toured with Cor Cantiamo, performing a variety of new chamber music under Dr. Eric Johnson. Recently, Callahan fronted a house jazz combo, weekly performing a variety music from Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, to Stevie Wonder and Childish Gambino. He has premiered with the North Shore Opera Hour and has been featured as a soloist for many events at NIU, including lending his vocal talents to the illustrious NIU Jazz Orchestra and NIU Steel Band. Callahan studies both music education and voice at Northern Illinois University, House of Robert Sims, and has emerged as a powerful vocalist across the Chicagoland area.

Winter/Spring Availability

Mondays: 2:30-9pm

Tuesdays: 3:30-9pm

Thursdays: 3:30-6pm

Fridays: 2:30-9pm



Yajing Li is a piano teacher at The Music Connection. Having been teaching piano for many years, she has rich experience in piano instruction. Patient, enthusiastic, and approachable, Yajing is skilled in teaching students of all ages with different levels. Yajing studied piano with Dr. William Goldenberg at Northern Illinois University. She has two Masters degrees in music (solo performance & accompaniment and chamber music) from Northern Illinois University. As a musician, she has been playing for churches and school choirs for years. She was once an accompanist working for DeKalb High School, Clinton Rosette Middle School, and Huntley Middle School. Contact Yajing at

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Tuesdays: 3pm-8pm
Yajing Li

Ted earned his M.A. in Guitar Performance at Northern Illinois University where he was a student of virtuoso, Fareed Haque, and since has been teaching the Suzuki method of classical guitar in Rockford and Sycamore. His classical repertoire showcases Baroque, Classical, South American, Spanish, as well as 20th Century styles and has performed original compositions and transcriptions for recitals. While primarily classically trained, Ted shifts comfortably between a diverse spectrum of musical styles, including jazz, blues, rock, folk, and bluegrass. In addition to guitar, Ted teaches mandolin and ukulele.

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Monday: 3PM-8PM
  • Wednesday: 3PM-8PM
Ted Stavrou

Joshua Mason is currently a graduate assistant in jazz studies at Northern Illinois University. He is a member of the acclaimed NIU Jazztet and NIU Jazz Orchestra. While at his alma mater, Gustavus Adolphus College, he studied a variety of musical styles, instruments, and techniques. He was principal trombone in Gustavus’ premier touring ensembles including the Jazz Lab Band, Symphony Orchestra, and Wind Orchestra. Joshua is also active in chamber music and has performed with a variety of chamber ensembles including: Gustavus Jazztet, Christ Chapel Brass, and Gustavus Trombone Choir. Joshua’s compositions and arrangements have been performed by the NIU Jazztet, Gustavus Jazztet, and Gustavus Jazz Lab Band, and other small groups, including performances at the 2017 JENerations jazz festival in New Orleans, as well as the 50th Elmhurst jazz festival. In 2016, Joshua’s string quartet,Refugee Peace,was chosen as the winner of Gustavus’ inaugural peace composition contest. He continues to write and arrange for groups in both Minnesota and Illinois.

Josh Mason

Adam Hawthorne is an active performer and educator currently based Dekalb, Illinois. With nearly a decade of teaching experience, Adam currently works as the 6-12 grade Band Director at Meridian Junior High and Stillman Valley High School in Stillman Valley, Illinois. In addition to his duties as Band Director, Adam teaches privately in Sycamore and the greater Chicagoland area. As a performer, Adam has performed with the University of Illinois Wind Symphony, Northern Illinois Wind Ensemble, and Jazz Orchestra, while also currently holding a position as a Saxophonist with the Wheaton Municipal Band. Adam holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and a master’s degree in Saxophone Performance from Northern Illinois University.

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Sundays: 2pm-6pm
  • Mondays: 4:30pm-8:30pm
Adam Hawthorne

I have a Bachelors degree from Seoul Theological University in South Korea, a Performance Certification from Judson University (accompanying for choir and juries as a scholarship student), and a Masters degree from NIU (specialization is performance in Piano, expected graduation May 2019). I study with Dr. Goldenburg as a graduate student and teach piano-group classes for undergraduate students at NIU. I also have numerous accompanying experiences for summer camps at Judson University and for the summer choir tour with the Judson University Choir.

Winter/Spring Availability

  • Tuesdays: 3:30pm-8pm
  • Thursdays: 3:30pm-8pm
Ahhae Song

Madeleine Felder began her cello career when she was just 4 years old. Since that early start, she has gone on to numerous honors, including selection as an Illinois All-State Cellist three times, two tours in Europe as a Principal Cellist, Principal Cello of the Murray State University
Symphony, Section Cellist in the prestigious Elgin Youth Symphony, Assistant Principal of the Rockford Youth Symphony Orchestra and selection for the Tri-M Music Honor Society. She has performed from Paris to Ravinia to London to Disney World. Maddy is an active musician in the state-line area and enjoys not only performing, but sharing her love of music with students of all ages!

    Winter/Spring Availability
  • Thursdays: 4pm-9pm
Maddy Felder

Sarah Castro is an involved performer and active educator in the DeKalb area. Her musical background is enriched with a variety of styles ranging from Baroque to Jazz and Classical to Pop. She is a senior at Northern Illinois University pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Music Education. She has taught in several classroom environments through her clinical experiences. She received an internship as the Music Director for Penguin Players CCT for two semesters and currently serves as the soprano section leader for the NIU Concert Choir.

Significant performances have been with the NIU Chamber Choir and Concert Choir as well as the NIU Philharmonic as a soprano soloist. Performances of note include Francis Poulenc’s Gloria, Edward Elgar’s Sea Pictures, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Bach’s B Minor Mass, and Vivaldi’s Gloria. She has worked with composers Dominick DiOrio, Augusta Reed Thomas, and Timothy Takach, even premiering Takach’s The Longest Nightsat the Lincoln Center in New York for the Distinguished Concerts International New York Festival. In addition, she has conducted the NIU Chamber Choir on Morten Lauridsen’s Sure On This Shining Night.

She currently works as a Research Assistant for the Department of Choral Activities at NIU. She also contributes her talents as a scholarship singer for the First United Methodist Church in Dekalb on Sunday mornings.

Sarah’s philosophy of education centers around music being a universal language. By using various teaching styles and differentiated learning, music can be more inclusive than exclusive. She believes that music can teach equality, humanity, and compassion by understanding and accepting that we all learn differently.

In her free time, Sarah loves to cook, paint, bake, explore the outdoors, and watch movies, The British Baking Show, and Sunday night football.


Winter/Spring Availability

Tuesdays: 5:30pm-8pm 

Thursdays: 4pm-8:30pm

Izabella Gieron is currently an undergraduate Music Education and Music Performance Major at Northern Illinois University, where she studies with Blaise Magniere.

Izabella was born and raised in the Chicagoland area. As a child, Izabella displayed advanced skills on both violin and piano. She has been studying piano since age 4 with Katarzyna Nowak until high school. Moreover, she was a member of the Protégé Philharmonic in Chicago under the direction of Joseph Glypmph.

Throughout her music career, she has been chosen to play in both District and All-State Orchestra throughout high school. Izabella has also been chosen to perform in the All-Conference Jazz band for three years. It is her talent and dedication in the music industry that has allowed her to perform with artists such as Marek Balata, Wici Song and Dance Theatre. Izabella performed at the Folklore Music Festival in Paso Fundo, Brazil. In 2018, she has performed at the CIOFF International Festival in Arequpia, Peru.

Not only does this music aficionado hope to become a music educator, but she hopes to become a conductor and travel the world “to share her undying passion for music”.

Fall 2019 availability:

Mondays: 4-7pm

Tuesdays: 4-7pm

Saturdays: 4-7pm

Izabella Gieron


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