Executive Director
Cynara Pierzina


Artistic Director
Ann Tucker


Financial Administrator
​& Office Manager

Jeanette Gehrmann  jgehrmann@encoremusicacademy.org


Keith Hulen
Clarinet & Guitar
Keith Hulen taught instrumental music to students from fifth grade through twelfth grade in the McHenry County public schools for eight years before auditioning for the United States Air Force Band. As an Air Force musician he performed with the concert band, ceremonial band, clarinet quartet, woodwind quintet, and chamber winds. He performed for Presidents Clinton, G. W. Bush, G. H. Bush, and Carter. With the band he also recorded 5 compact discs; 3 of them as Principal Clarinetist. Following his Air Force career, he returned to teaching where he was the instrumental music and general music teacher for Shiloh Village Schools. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Clarinet Performance and Music Education as well as a Master of Music degree in Clarinet Performance and Music Composition from Western Illinois University. He is currently an instrumental music teacher for Crystal Lake School District 47, Crystal Lake, IL.

Kristen Inion
Early Childhood Music
Mrs. Inion, Early Childhood Music Instructor, graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and North Park University where she studied music and teaching and toured internationally with the Moody Chorale. Mrs. Inion taught Kindergarten and second grade before having her own children, Charlie and Liza. She and her husband Byron live in Crystal Lake.

Breda Barry King
Voice, Piano
Breda Barry King earned both a BA and BMu in Music from the National University of Ireland as well as a diploma in Sacred Liturgy from Pontifical University of Maynooth, Ireland. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Liturgy and Music from St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, IN. She has taught both private voice and piano for over 20 years and is a frequent soloist and musician for local churches the Rockford and Chicagoland areas. Ms. King has recorded and performed with G.I.A Publications, OCP Publications, Rory Cooney, Gary Daigle, St. Louis Jesuits, David Haas, Michael Joncas, Jeanne Cotter, Liam Lawton and Feargal King.

Alberto Mantovano
Voice, Clarinet
Mr. Mantovano graduated Summa Cum Laude from Butler University in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. While studying in Indianapolis, he was an avid singer and choir director, frequently appearing with church and community choirs throughout Indianapolis area. While finishing his studies, he received the Outstanding Student Teacher Award for Choral Music. After college, he returned to his home of Lake in the Hills, IL and is currently the Choir Director of Park View School in Morton Grove and a Voice & Piano instructor at Art Reach Educational Theater in Palatine. A versatile musician, he is also a clarinetist in the Wheaton Municipal Band.

Carol Munn
Encore Youth Choir
Mrs. Munn, Co-Director of Di Canto Choir, received her bachelors degree in music education from North Park University and her masters degree in teaching from Aurora University and became a Nationally Board Certified Music Educator in 2009. Ms. Munn was recently appointed the position of ILMEA District 7 Junior Chorus Representative-Elect. She is the choir director at McHenry Middle School, where she built a strong choir program over the last 11 years. Ms. Munn was raised in a musical family and enjoys sharing her love of music with her students.

Cynara Pierzina
Flute & Flute Ensemble
Mrs. Pierzina, Founder and Executive Director of Encore Music Academy and Private Flute Instructor, earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Augustana College and her Master’s Degree from DePaul University, both in Flute Performance. She is a frequent freelance flutist and teaches private flute instruction. A recipient of first place awards in the Lakeview Musical Society Woodwind Competition and the Society of American Musicians Young Artist Composition, she has performed with Lake Forest Symphony, Park Ridge Civic Orchestra, University of Chicago Orchestra and Minstrel’s Chamber Ensemble. With over twenty years in arts administration, she has served as Assistant Director of DePaul University’s Community Music School, Director of Admission and Programs / Interim Executive Director at Sherwood Conservatory of Music and as Assistant Director of McHenry County Music Center.

Ashley Puenner

Mezzo-soprano Ashley Puenner holds degrees in Voice Performance from Illinois Wesleyan University and the University of Kansas. Previously with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, she was a Studio Artist in residence with the Florentine Opera for 2016-2018, where she performed roles in main-stage operas, education opera outreach and concert work, and will be a 2018 Summer Resident Artist with Opera North. Ashley has performed for President Obama and as a back-up singer for Josh Groban, and made her New York City debut in 2016 in recital at the National Opera Center. As a recording artist, Ashley can be heard on the world premiere recording of the opera Sister Carrie. More information can be found at ashleypuenner.com.

Alison Rohrbach
Encore Youth Choir

Mrs. Rohrbach, Director of Bella Voce Choir, received her bachelors degree in K-12 general and vocal music education from Carroll University and her masters degree in music education from Boston University. She has been teaching elementary general and vocal music for 13 years in the Barrington school district. Ms. Rohrbach lives in Cary with her husband John and two children Ella and Joe. She sings with Chicagoland Voices and a small A cappella group called C6. 

Lon Schmidt
Mr. Schmidt has a Master of Music Degree from Chicago Musical College at Roosevelt University. He spent 32 years at Cary Junior High where he was director of choirs and taught classroom guitar. Lon is an active member of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Crystal Lake, where he directs the adult choir, accompanies the children’s choir and plays with the Praise Team. His post graduate studies at Vandercook College of Music include classes on Beginning Guitar, Guitar for the Non-Guitarist, Guitar Skills and Curriculum and Guitar Literature and Pedagogy.

Karen Snodgrass
Ms. Snodgrass, has had a long career as a music educator. She attended Northwestern University as a voice major and graduated from Carthage College with a BA in music education. She studied voice with Hermanus Baer, Norman Gulbrandsen, and Eleanor Gardner and has sung under Margaret Hillis with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and Thomas Wikman with the Elgin Choral Union. Her love of children and teaching has taken her down many paths including studying and teaching Suzuki violin, Kindermusik, and handbell ringing. She developed a graded bell choir program at First Congregational Church and was elected Midwest (Area VIII) Chairperson for the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers serving on the national board for six years. Karen has directed children’s choirs in churches and public school settings for over 25 years. She most recently retired from Crystal Lake School District #47 and conducted EYC's Bella Voce Choir from 2008-2014.

Casey Sukel
Flute & Flute Ensemble
Ms. Sukel is a graduate of Illinois State University and earned Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and Flute Performance.  Ms. Sukel completed her student teaching at Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake and was a band director in Wauconda School District 118 at Matthews and Wauconda Middle Schools.  Currently, Ms. Sukel is the band director at Marlowe Middle School in Huntley. With a depth of teaching and training experience, Ms. Casey’s strength is getting to know her students and their learning styles to best suit their needs.

Steve Szalaj
Voice & Joyful Noise
Mr. Szalaj, Private Voice Instructor, recently retired as vocal music instructor at Richard Bernotas Middle School in Crystal Lake, IL, where he had been teaching since 1980. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Millikin University in Decatur, IL and a Master’s Degree in Music/Choral Conducting from Roosevelt University in Chicago. Mr. Szalaj has completed extensive course work beyond the master’s degree, particularly in vocal pedagogy/physiology and educational methods. Mr. Szalaj has taught voice from beginning through advanced levels, and is an adjunct instructor of voice and electronic music processing at McHenry County College. He directs the MCC chorus and is founder and conductor of Voices in Harmony.

Sherry Taliaferro

Piano, Accompanist for Bella Voce and Di Canto Choirs
Ms. Taliaferro, Private Piano Instructor and Accompanist, began studying piano at age 8. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from The University of Iowa, graduating magnum cum laude. Ms. Taliaferro has over thirty years teaching experience and has accompanied for numerous soloists, college choirs, churches, and music festivals in Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois. Currently she accompanies for schools in District 47 and District 155.

Beverly Taylor
Group Piano Instructor
Mrs. Taylor is a teacher and collaborative pianist with over 30 years of experience in working with young musicians and adults. She owns and teaches at Inscribe Piano Studio in Crystal Lake, and serves as accompanist for EMA’s Bella Voce and Di Canto choirs, as well as for the Prairie Ridge High School choirs.  Mrs. Taylor also provides consulting expertise and workshops for independent music teachers through Inscribe Music Solutions.  She earned her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music Degrees, both in Piano Performance, from West Virginia University.   She is a nationally certified teacher of music (NCTM) and active member of Music Teachers National Association, Illinois State Music Teachers Association, Fox Hills Music Teachers Association, and Northwest Suburban Music Teachers Association. 

Ann Tucker

Encore Youth Choir
Mrs. Tucker, Founder and Artistic Director of Encore Music Academy, has taught in the area for over twenty years, and grew up in Crystal Lake. She directs the Aria and Cantabile Choirs of the Encore Youth Choir as well as the Encore Touring Choir. Mrs. Tucker earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. In addition to her work with EMA, Mrs. Tucker is the Director of Music at First Congregational Church in Crystal Lake, where she directs four choirs including youth and adults.

Rose Craig Tyler

Rose Craig Tyler is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she pursued dual-degrees in Music Education and Piano Pedagogy. While at the U of I, Rose was involved in a number of campus ensembles including the Nation’s Premier Marching Band, the Marching Illini where she served as drum major for two years. As a performer, Rose is active in the community as an accompanist and trumpeter for local churches. Rose currently teaches K-4 general music in Bedford Park, Illinois.

Tom Vos
Private Instruction: Violin, Viola, Cello, Voice, Piano, Jazz Piano, Percussion, Theory and Composition

Tom Vos is a graduate of the music school at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois and has worked as a freelance professional musician for more than 20 years. Tom began his musical journey at the age of three, studying the Suzuki violin method with Betty Haag-Kuhnke. Tom then studied violin with Dr. Eugene Gratovich and in 1984, he was introduced to the viola by his third violin teacher, Dr. Milton Goldberg. While a student at DePaul University, Tom studied violin with Mark Zinger and also successfully completed Suzuki violin teaching training for books 1-3 with Judy Yamada and Margery Aber at the Chicago Suzuki Institute. After receiving his Bachelor of Music with a double major of violin performance and jazz studies, Tom attended the University of Southern California from 1993 to 1994, enrolling in the prestigious "Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television" program. While participating in the program, he was awarded the Harry Warren Memorial Scholarship (first prize) for film music composition. Over the course of his professional career, Tom has recorded on every major scoring stage in Hollywood and has participated in both Grammy and Academy Award winning projects. He has extensive experience both performing and recording, including commercial music, film and television scores, live concerts, appearances in films and television shows, and several national and international tours. He is also a member of ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers) and has received the ASCAP Popular Music Award (or “ASCAPlus”) numerous times since first receiving the award 1998. As a composer, several of Tom’s original pieces have been published by The Pilgrim Press (United Church of Christ).