Faculty & Staff
Two smiling art students stand next to the seated ceramics teacher who is working on a pot.
Home / Why Usdan? / Faculty & Staff

Our Faculty & Staff

 

Alice Clancy

Manager of Operations

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Alina Kiryayeva

Faculty, Piano

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Amalia Drewes

Faculty, Painting & Drawing

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Amelia Dombrowski

Costumer

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Amelia Nickles

Faculty, Classical Studies

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Andrew Ranaudo

Faculty, Piano

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Ben Boecker

Faculty, Musical Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Berkeley Rousseau

Faculty, The Actor Sings/Children's Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Brian Karen

Faculty, Chess

Camp Faculty & Staff

Chess

Careitha Davis

Faculty, Next Generation Dance

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Carl Ferrara

Faculty, Musical Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Carolyn Popadin

Faculty, Musical Theater/The Acting Group/Children's Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Caryn Ronis

Faculty, Metalsmithing

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Chelsea Parise

Faculty, Organic Gardening & Sustainability

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan green laurel icon

Chelsea Zak

Faculty, Musical Theater/Children's Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Cheryl Frey

Faculty, Painting & Drawing

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Chris Vivas

Faculty, Sculpture

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Christina Pawlyszyn

Faculty, Children's Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Cindy Rosin

Faculty, Nature, Ecology & Design

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan green laurel icon

Cory Benson

Manager of Buildings & Grounds

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Courtney Kassinger

Transportation Manager

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Cristalina DeNicola

Faculty, Sculpture/Ceramics

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Dan Sussman

Faculty, Scene Shop

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

David Lake

Chair, Recreation

Camp Faculty & Staff

Recreational Camp Icon

David Schecher

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Denise Trezza

Faculty, Sustainable Design/Discovery Nature

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan green laurel icon

Diana Crum

Interim Director of Education

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Eilish Henderson

Faculty, Chroeography/Contemporary

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Elizabeth (Eli) Rus

Faculty, Comic Art

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Emily Kenyon

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Eugene Rossi

Faculty, Scene Shop

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Gerry Saulter

Faculty, Guitar/Ukulele

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Grace Hsu

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Hawley Hussey

Curriculum Specialist

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Hosun Moon

Faculty, Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Jacklyn Breitfeller

Faculty, Discovery Art

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Jacqueline Selesky

Faculty, Hip Hop

Online Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan ballet shoes icon

James Beneduce

Faculty, Stage Combat/Children's Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

James Crichton

Faculty, Musical Theater/The Actor Sings/Children's Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Javan Howard

Coordinator, Creative Writing/Chess & Faculty, Creative Writing

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Yellow pencil shaped like a U Icon

Jeffery Hoffman

Faculty, Usdan Troupe

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Jessica Blair Lukasik

Faculty, Broadway Jazz/Musical Theater Dance

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Jessica Petersen

Faculty, Jr. Vocal Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Jessica Zamek

Faculty, Sr. Vocal Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Jillian Neve Davis

Faculty, Photography

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Jim Incorvaia

Department Chair, Theater

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Jodie Embleton

Art, Department Chair

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Joe Levy, CVE

Chief Operating Officer

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Joel Salman

Faculty, Chess

Camp Faculty & Staff

Chess

Johan Van den Berghe

Controller

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Johanna Taylor

Faculty, Broadway Jazz/Musical Theater Dance

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan ballet shoes icon

John T Harris

Faculty, Discovery Art

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Jordan Hue

Faculty, Musical Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Josh Kant

Faculty, Musical Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Julia Forrest

Faculty, Photography

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Julio Garcia

Senior Groundskeeper

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Kageki Nagao

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Ken Gilbert

Faculty, Scene Shop

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Kerry Barnhart

Senior Director of Student Affairs

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Krista Biedenbach

Faculty, Painting & Drawing

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Kyra Leeds

Community Relations Senior Associate

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Lafiya Watson Ramirez

Marketing and Communications, Consultant

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Lauren Brandt Schloss

Executive Director

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Lauren Kinane

Enrollment Coordinator

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Lindsay Robbins

Faculty, Organic Gardening/Sustainable Design

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan green laurel icon

Marc Cubas

Faculty, Discovery Music

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Mark Bligh

Department Chair, Music

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Matthew Mantione

Parent Support Staff

Camp Faculty & Staff

Melanie Jackson

Faculty, Comic Art

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Michelle LaPorte

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Mike Schwendemann

Faculty, Usdan Troupe

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Noah Packard

Faculty, Comic Art

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Olivia Wise

Manager of Marketing & Communications

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Patrick Armann

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Robert Gallagher

Faculty, Musical Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Sadie Friedman

Discovery, Department Chair

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Discovery U icon

Sam Dillon

Faculty, Jazz Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Spencer Glass

Faculty, Musical Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Stella Shepherd

Donor Relations Coordinator

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Stephanie Martinez

Faculty, Comic Acting & Storytelling/Improvisation/Improvisation & Theater Games

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Sue Lehr

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Tatiana Birenbaum

Faculty, Discovery Dance/Dance Adventure

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Taylor Cohen

Faculty, Painting & Drawing

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Victoria Ellerbe

Director of Administration

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Victoria Garbarino

Faculty, Musical Theater

Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Zach Rifkind

Dean of Students

Camp Faculty & Staff

Cory Benson

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Manager of Buildings & Grounds

Administration

 

 

Alice Clancy

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Manager of Operations

Administration

Headshot of Alice Clancy.

Alice first joined Usdan in 2019 as the Festival and Gala Stage Manager. As a child, Alice was a serious saxophone player, and jumped from the pit to the wings in the early years of high school. She continued her study of theater at SUNY Fredonia, graduating with a degree in scenic design. Her nearly 30-year career as a stage and production manager has taken her to Santa Fe, Utah, a million hole-in-the-wall theaters in Manhattan, NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, and Harlem's World Famous Apollo Theater. She is thrilled to return to her roots of music, playing with tools, and running around in the woods in her first official role in an Operations Department. Alice is the proud mother of three budding artists and engineers, lucky wife of a second career Social Studies teacher, and dedicated student (and newly minted certified teacher!) of yoga.

Kyra Leeds

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Community Relations Senior Associate

Administration

Headshot Kyra Leeds

Kyra Leeds is an actor and arts administrator from Queens, NY. Kyra was a student at Usdan for ten glorious summers, a Discovery Counselor for three summers, and has worked in Usdan’s administrative offices for the past five years. Kyra has also done some development and fundraising work for DCM, Inc. and, most recently, for the Off-Broadway MCC Theater in NYC. As an actor Kyra has been a part of Royal Caribbean’s CATS (Jennyanydots), Argyle Theatre’s FULL MONTY (Vicki), Hangar Theatre’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Christmas Past), and the REV Theatre Company’s PARADE (Ensemble/Dance Captain).  Kyra holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Ithaca College. 

 

Matthew Mantione

Camp Faculty & Staff

Parent Support Staff

Administration

Smiling man with glasses in a suit.

A New York native, Matthew has been involved with Usdan for the majority of his life. Starting in 2004 as a camper, Matthew attended Usdan as a student for 11 years studying music and the trombone. Concluding his tenure as a “Usdanite”, Matthew sought to pursue music performance professionally and now holds a B.M. from Purchase College Conservatory and an M.M. from The Mannes School of Music. Currently, Matthew is pursuing an advanced degree from Hunter College studying Music Education. When Usdan is not in session, Matthew balances a full-time schedule of school, performing, music administration and teaching. During his free time, Matthew enjoys the sport of Archery in which he holds a coaching certification. When he is not in the office, Matthew is frequently seen on Usdan’s Archery range. Matthew will also tell you how the New York Mets are doing this season as he is an avid baseball fan!

Zach Rifkind

Camp Faculty & Staff

Dean of Students

Administration

Zach Rifkind headshot

After attending Usdan as a student, Zach joined the staff in 2017 and has served in Administration, the Music Department, and now as Dean of Students. Zach is a multi-instrumentalist, primarily focusing on Saxophone and Clarinet. Zach's favorite styles to perform include Jazz, Rock, and Classical and he regularly performs with Jazz Ensembles and Pit Orchestras. During the school year, Zach is the director of bands at Lynbrook North Middle School in the Lynbrook School District. Zach holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Education and a Master of Arts in Education with Honors from the Hostra University Honors College. Zach is an avid distance runner. 

Lauren Brandt Schloss

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Executive Director

Administration

Lauren headshot

Lauren Brandt Schloss joined Usdan in 2015. With her appointment, she became Usdan’s third leader in a half century and the first woman to hold the position. Bringing 20+ years experience in arts education, at the Queens Museum, MoMA, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Lauren is committed to ensuring that Usdan is at the forefront of educational and artistic practices. 

Lafiya Watson Ramirez

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Marketing and Communications, Consultant

Administration

Headshot of a smiling Lafiya Watson.

Lafiya Watson Ramirez is a multidisciplinary artist, web and mixed reality developer, and graphic designer. She began working for Usdan in 2011. Formerly Usdan's Marketing and Communications Coordinator she now brings her talents to Usdan as a consultant. Her work has been used for Vandoren, BET, NPR.org, and countless other publications, websites, and album covers. She has recently begun to pivot to creating Augmented Reality experiences. At the beginning of 2020, she was accepted for the MIT Reality Hackathon and spend a week working with a team to build an AR experience using Nreal glasses. In October 2020, she was chosen for a Snapchat residency and created an AR game based on the game Simon Says. Lafiya continues to work in the realm of Immersive Design focusing on using AR for storytelling in her own work and beyond. 

 

 

Johan Van den Berghe

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Controller

Administration

Headshot of Johan Van den Berghe

Johan joined the Usdan family in 2022. He brought with him over 15 years of experience working and volunteering in nonprofit organizations. His main responsibilities have revolved around bookkeeping, finance and strategic development. He graduated from Baruch College in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Finance. Soon after, he fell in love with the nonprofit world and has not looked back since. He then attended NYU for a course in accounting for nonprofits and followed it with a medical coding and billing certificate from Hunter College in 2016. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University. He resides in Chelsea, MA with his partner, two cats and a ball python. He has great appreciation for music, especially live concerts.

Kerry Barnhart

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Senior Director of Student Affairs

Administration

Headshot Kerry Barnhart

Kerry Barnhart is a proud alum of Usdan. Here is where she discovered her passion for music and theater as a child, going on to study vocal performance at The George Washington University. After several summers spent in the Usdan administrative office during college, she became part of the year round staff in 2005 as Registrar. Following her work as Registrar, Kerry oversaw student admissions as Director of Admissions, and has now added student affairs and operations as Senior Director of Student Affairs. She is happy to share the magic of Usdan with her son who attends as a student.  

Courtney Kassinger

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Transportation Manager

Administration

Headshot of Courtney Kassinger

Courtney Kassinger has spent her summers at Usdan since 2002 when she first attended as a student. She has served as Discovery counselor, transportation staff, and is now Transportation Manager. Courtney is a teacher (and proud alum!) at Harborfields Central School District, teaching band, chorus, and music, as well as director of the annual Variety Show. She is a member of SCMEA and NAfME.

Julio Garcia

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Senior Groundskeeper

Administration

 

Olivia Wise

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Manager of Marketing & Communications

Administration

Headshot Olivia Wise

Olivia joined Usdan’s full time staff in 2017. Formerly Usdan's Admissions Counselor and then Enrollment Coordinator, she now brings her knowledge of Usdan's program and enrollment process to her role of Manager of Marketing & Communications. Raised by a professional muralist and actor, Olivia was exposed to the life-changing power of art making and creativity at a young age. While her expertise lies in administration, Olivia’s personal art making practice includes mixed media collage and cooking. Olivia holds a B.A. in Urban Studies from The New School and has worked for arts and culture organizations in the New York City region since 2011.

Diana Crum

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Interim Director of Education

Administration

Headshot Diana Crum

Diana Crum works at the intersection of dance and education. She currently serves as Program Director for Movement Research’s Dance Makers in the Schools and teaches dance in NYC and NJ public schools with ArtsConnection, Brooklyn Arts Council and New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Her choreography has been presented in New York, Atlanta, Mexico, and across Europe. Recent honors and awards include Brooklyn Studios for Dance Artist in Residence position (2018), Su-CASA artist residency (2017), and Foundation for Contemporary Art Emergency Grant (2015). Diana started at Usdan in 2018, where she enjoys dancing in the woods with young people.

Stella Shepherd

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Donor Relations Coordinator

Administration

Headshot Stella Shepherd

Stella Shepherd is originally from London, United Kingdom. She moved to New York to study Musical Theater and graduated from The New School with a BFA in Musical Theater and Liberal Arts. Prior to working at Usdan, Stella worked at a few non-profit Off-Broadway Theater Companies in their Fundraising departments. At Usdan she is the Donor Relations Coordinator and loves visiting the studios in the summer whenever possible. 

Lauren Kinane

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Enrollment Coordinator

Administration

Headshot Lauren Kinane

Lauren Kinane is a clarinetist, educator, and currently serves as the Enrollment Coordinator at Usdan. Prior to becoming the Enrollment Coordinator, Lauren worked with the Leadership Institute and Supervision team, and she spent four summers as a camper at Usdan. Her summers at Usdan inspired her to pursue her passion for clarinet further. Throughout the year Lauren can be heard performing with the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, and she can be found teaching masterclasses and coaching clarinet sections at schools throughout Long Island. She can also be heard on the Massachusetts Chamber Players' album Frank Martin: Music for Winds. Lauren is currently pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Stony Brook University. She also received her Master of Music from the University of Massachusetts - Amherst and her Bachelor of Music from SUNY Fredonia. 

Victoria Ellerbe

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Director of Administration

Administration

Victoria Ellerbe Headshot

Victoria joined Usdan in 2022 and has more than 10 years experience working in nonprofit organizations in HR, Finance, and Administration. She earned a bachelor's degree in Accounting from St John's University and since then has worked with NYC organizations such as Seeds of Peace, Harlem's World Famous Apollo Theater, and the Children's Museum of Manhattan. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her partner and maintains a great appreciation of arts and culture, as an avid cellist and a regular patron of live performances, art houses, and museums. 

 

Joe Levy, CVE

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Chief Operating Officer

Administration

Headshot of Joe Levy sitting in Usdan Amphitheater.

Joe Levy joined Usdan’s team in 2021 bringing with him 30 years experience managing, building, and renovating cultural arts organizations, overseeing multi-million dollar operating budgets, extensive physical plant operations, multi-phased construction projects, and safety and security.

Joe’s professional experience includes leading operations and facilities at The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Harlem’s World Famous Apollo Theater, Kaufman Center, Jack Morton Worldwide, The Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival, and the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Levy was also owner and operator of Radiant Construction; a contracting, construction management, and capital project consultancy committed to green-building practices.

Levy is the current chair of the Venue Safety and Security Committee for IAVM, which serves over 7,000 members worldwide. He received the Chair’s Citation at the 2017 annual IAVM conference and his Certified Venue Executive designation in 2018.

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Taylor Cohen

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Painting & Drawing

Art

Taylor Cohen

 

 

 

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Amalia Drewes

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Painting & Drawing

Art

Headshot of Amalia.

Amalia Drewes is an artist, a lover of nature, and a spiritual explorer. Amalia graduated from Parsons School of Design, The New School in 2015 with a BFA in Illustration. Over the last few years Amalia has continued to add new creations to her portfolio and started her own business called Visual Remedies, providing various forms of art for those who in need of healing. Amalia operates as a freelancer and graphic designer, but one of her biggest joys was becoming a teacher of Reggio and nature-based learning at Spark Elementary. Amalia started online teaching "Mixed Media Exploration" at Usdan in 2020 and "Art Adventure/Painting and Drawing" in 2021. Amalia had the pleasure of attending camp as a young girl, starting when she was in 3rd grade. Her summers at Usdan were some of the best memories of her life. She is very excited to be on the campgrounds again this year to share in the celebration of art, music. and nature coming together.

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Noah Packard

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Comic Art

Art

Noah Packard Headshot

Noah Packard is a Teaching Artist and filmmaker teaching Comic Art this summer at Usdan. He started teaching at Usdan during the summer of 2021 and attended the camp for several years as a teen. During the year he works on commercials, music videos, and teaches various arts classes all over Long Island to people of all ages. Whether he is experimenting with VR art or teaching music, photography or cartooning; Noah is as excited to learn as he is to teach.

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Caryn Ronis

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Metalsmithing

Art

Caryn Ronis headshot

Caryn is thrilled to join the Usdan staff this summer. Caryn is a jewelry designer, part-time nanny, sometimes actress, and wanna-be world traveler. Caryn has an MFA in Speech and Theater Arts and studied for five years with jeweler, Mary Beth Rozkewicz. Fun fact: Caryn is in the February 9, 1987 issue of People Magazine.

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Cheryl Frey

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Painting & Drawing

Art

Cheryl Frey Headshot

Cheryl Frey is a painter, illustrator, designer and art teacher living and working on Long Island. She has guided and taught Visual Arts to all ages and abilities from toddlers to college portfolio students to artists with Alzheimer's. She ran her own art education business for over 15 years before moving full time into the studio and classroom . Cheryl has worked as a curriculum coordinator for Middle School and High School Art students and is currently the Art and STEAM teacher for a school in Queens.

 

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Chris Vivas

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Sculpture

Art

Chris Vivas Headshot

Chris Vivas joined Usdan’s Art Department in 2010.  Lead Art Teacher, he brings his interest in art, culture, travel, literature, and ceramics to his teaching philosophies.  His artwork, influenced by existential writers such as Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus, explores the duality of strength and fragility found within human existence.  Exploring how strength synthesizes to weakness and vice versa has led him to working in ceramic during his initial studies at Stony Brook University followed by receiving his MFA from SUNY New Paltz.  Art residencies have also been an important aspect of his artistic development and growth as an educator.  Residencies include; Shigaraki Ceramic Culture Park in Shigaraki, Japan, Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York, NY, AIR Vallauris in Vallauris, France, Babayan Culture House, Ibrahimpaşa, Cappadocia, Turkey.  He currently teaches at Suffolk County Community College and St. Joseph’s College along with various workshops and lectures throughout Long Island.

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Cristalina DeNicola

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Sculpture/Ceramics

Art

Cristalina DeNicola headshot

Christina started teaching in the Usdan Art Department in 2012. She recieved her BFA from Pratt Institute and MSED from Queens College. Christina's personal art form is mix media sculptures and ceramics. During the school year, Christina teaches high school Studio Art for BUFSD and Farmingdale Smart Scholars Intro to Graphic Design. 

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Elizabeth (Eli) Rus

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Comic Art

Art

Eli Russ Headshot

I first began at Usdan as an Art Assistant teacher in 2013 and have worked every year since. Then, in 2021, I became a Lead Teacher. I attended Usdan for 7 years as a student. As a kid, I moved homes every year and Usdan was the one place that really felt like home to me.

My personal art form is primarily digital illustrations. 

I hold a B.A in Education from SUNY Geneseo.

 

 

 

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

John T Harris

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Discovery Art

Art

John T Harris

J.T. Harris started his Usdan career in 2018 as an assistant ceramics teacher. In 2019, he was promoted to a lead teacher position as the Discovery Program’s art teacher. He is now returning for his fourth summer at Usdan as the Discovery Art lead teacher. Outside of Usdan, J.T. is a NYS Certified Teacher in art, general education, and special education. He is currently working as an elementary art teacher in the Central Islip School District on Long Island, where he has been for the last three years. J.T. is also a frequently commissioned illustrator based on the south shore of Long Island.

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Jacklyn Breitfeller

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Discovery Art

Art

Jacklyn Breitfeller

Jacklyn started at USDAN in 2011 and this will be her 11th summer. Her personal art form is Mixed Media arts. She does have a passion for painting, photography, ceramics, drawing, and jewelry making. During the rest of the year, she is an art teacher here on Long Island. She has a BFA in Studio Art, a MFA, and a MS in Art Education. A fun fact about Jacklyn is that she have a cat named Jasper, who acts like a dog.

 

 

 

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Julia Forrest

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Photography

Art

Julia Forrest Headshot

Julia Forrest has been working as a lead photography instructor since 2014 at Usdan. Julia is a fine art photographer who prints her own work in a compact traveling darkroom that she brings on various artist residencies. Working in film, she uses mirrors and forced perspective to create illusions in front of the camera. When not teaching at Usdan, Julia teaches classes at the Brooklyn Museum, and receives grants to travel to different locations to make new art. She graduated from the Hartford Art School in 2009 and has worked on using her artistic practice to connect with students in inspiring them to become artists themselves. Julia has received brief fame and recognition for being on Jimmy Kimmel for 3 seconds during a street segment. She still gets recognized for it to this day.

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Jillian Neve Davis

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Photography

Art

Jillian Neve Davis

Jillian Neve has been both teaching and creating art for as long as she can remember. Now out of college and a certified art teacher, they meshed both of their passions together for a fulfilling career. 

Jill has moved up at USDAN from being an assistant photo teacher for summers 2018 & 2019, to being a lead in 2022. She is always excited to be a support system for her students. She aims to create a fun environment to learn about art, each other, and themselves! 

 

When not at work, she enjoys bike riding, watching true crime videos, creating/viewing poetry & art, going to music venues and enjoying nature.

 

 

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Krista Biedenbach

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Painting & Drawing

Art

Krista Biedenbach Headshot

This will be Krista's seventh year with Usdan, first serving as an assistant in the Art department in 2012, then returning as a lead teacher in 2016. Krista's current work involves large scale, mixed media paintings of abstracted, figurative imagery. In addition to spending summers at USDAN and creating work in her personal studio, Krista is currently a high school art teacher. Krista holds a MA in Art and Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and BA Degrees in Art History and Studio Art from Stony Brook University. Along with teaching, Krista is currently pursuing an Ed.D. degree in Art and Art Education back at Teachers College. Besides everything art, Krista enjoys relaxing with her two small dogs, Patrick and Lily.

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Jodie Embleton

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Art, Department Chair

Art

Headshot Jodie Embleton.

Jodie joined us at Usdan in 2008. Her role has evolved from assistant, to teacher, to art chair representing her dedication to Arts Education and her love of Usdan.  She holds a BFA in Painting and Drawing from SUNY Purchase College and a MSEd in Art Education from CUNY Queens College.  Jodie’s personal work consists of paintings depicting abstract architectural designs with sculptural elements. On the off-season, Jodie is a visual arts teacher in a public school on Long Island. Her favorite experiences at Usdan include working with teachers and children as they reconnect with nature and funnel their creative energy into building a better community. A fun fact about Jodie is that she used to foster hurt wild animals. 

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Melanie Jackson

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Comic Art

Art

Melanie Jackson Headshot

Melanie is the Comic Art Instructor for Seniors at Usdan. Known for introducing Usdan, Comic
Con, this is her 10 th year at Usdan. Melanie attended Usdan as a sculpture Major from 1999-2003.
Melanie is big into quantitative data! Her 2015 research study, B.A.T.M.A.N ( Benefits and Academics
through Making and Narrating Comics) saw the positive correlation between reading fluency/vocabulary
and reading graphic novels. A long time educator, Melanie holds New York State Teaching certification
in Visual Arts, Special Education pre-K-6 th , General Education pre-k-6 th , as well as certification in School
Building Leader and School District Leader. Melanie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Study and a
Master’s in Education Administration and Leadership. She’s currently in the St. John’s Education
Instructional Leadership Doctoral Program where she is researching the best practices of Social
Emotional Learning in order to effectively design and implement into the New York Public School
Curriculum. Melanie has an extensive background of work in education and social justice that includes:
Educational Curriculum Coordinator,Special Education Teacher and Art Instructor at the Nassau County
Juvenile Detention Center 2015-2019, Brentwood Special Education Teacher 2019-present, Mindful
meditation facilitator at Oak Park Elementary, Art Instructor at Usdan Art’s Camp, and Guidance
Counselor at Central Nassau Guidance. Through education her philosophy is “if the child’s is not socially
and emotionally present, than academic work can’t be done”. In 2018, her progressive research best
and effective practices effectively helped decrease the amount of juvenile detention violent outbreaks
as well as helped students retained attention in the classroom setting through instruction in: restorative
practices, mindfulness, and yoga. In 2019, Melanie joined the Brentwood School district where she
currently is a special education teacher for students with emotional disabilities. Melanie’s Social
Emotional Learning furthers with Project Presence and Kids at Hope. Her lifelong mission is to educate
the importance of putting the student’s mental health and well-being first. Her hobbies include:
collecting Comics, Art, Hiking, Yoga, and hanging with her dog Butter.

 

 

Usdan Pink Paint U Icon

Hawley Hussey

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Curriculum Specialist

Art

Headshot Hawley Hussey

Hawley Hussey is an artist who is working between the visual, the written word, and the performing arts. Throughout her career she has engaged in diverse mediums including painting, printmaking, small press publications, artists books, sculpture and installation. Hawley got her BFA from The University of Massachusetts in Amherst and her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art where she has presented as Workshop Faculty for the Masters Program in Art and Design Education. Hawley served as Education Coordinator and Director of Contemporary Art Education at BRIC Arts Media and as an Art Education Mentor for the New York State Council on the Arts. Hawley is proudly a co-founder of the arts integrated high school, Bronx Envision Academy and she is also a founding member of the Park Avenue Armory Artists Corps where she remains active as a Teaching Artist. Hawley is a contemporary art education activist engaging recent immigrants and special needs students in immersive art laboratories that she builds and calls the HH:ArtLab. 

Hawley has been working as Usdan's Curriculum Specialist since the beginning 2020 and played an integral role in the development of Usdan Online. 

Chess

Brian Karen

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Chess

Chess

Headshot Brian

Brian is ranked within the top 3% of tournament chess players by the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and Federation Internationale Des Échecs (FIDE). Brian has been awarded the Candidate Master Title. Brian has directed the Usdan Chess program since 1997. Brian founded and conducts chess programs across Long Island as a full time chess teacher, tournament director and organizer. Brian founded and administrates chess groups on social media encompassing over 100,000 members and was hired by IBM to give web commentary during the famous Deeper Blue – Kasparov match.  

Brian was elected by chess instructors from across the United States to the USCF Scholastic Council. This is a five-person body that manages National Scholastic events and regulations involving thousands of children across the United States. 

Brian Received a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Syracuse University.

 

Chess

Joel Salman

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Chess

Chess

Joel Salman Headshot

Joel is a Professional Chess Master from Oceanside, New York.   A FIDE Master and USCF National Master, Joel has been teaching Chess full-time since 1994, joining the faculty of Usdan in 2003, where he co-chairs the Chess Department. Joel also has a wealth of experience as a tournament director and organizer, including State, National and International competitions for all levels of players from young children to International Grandmasters. Joel has a BA in Mathematics from The Johns Hopkins University (1987).

Fun Fact:   In addition to Long Island, Joel has played/taught Chess on the islands of Bermuda, Curacao and Hawaii.

Yellow pencil shaped like a U Icon

Javan Howard

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Coordinator, Creative Writing/Chess & Faculty, Creative Writing

Creative Writing

Headshot Javan Howard.

Javan joined Usdan’s full time staff in 2017. Year round hip hop and poetry are his modes of survival and inspiration. A Bronx born creative that hails from the same high school as James Baldwin, he spreads love one word at a time. He truly believes that the lived experience is the ultimate teaching tool and uses poetry as a social forum to foster discourse about love, culture, and identity. He was recently named a 2022 Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellow. He also suffers from severe milk chocolate withdrawals and has been diagnosed with a case of the New York Knicks.

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Tatiana Birenbaum

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Discovery Dance/Dance Adventure

Dance

Tatiana Birenbaum

Taty is very excited to be joining the USDAN team for the first time this summer! She moved from Sao Paulo (Brazil) to the US in 2013 to pursue her Musical Theatre career. She got a degree in Performing Arts from AMDA and been performing in musicals, TV and commercials since. Some of her credits include: "Legally Blonde - The Musical", "Brigadoon" and a Brazilian online TV show called "Grandes Pequeninos Broadway", where she brought some of the best of musical theatre to children all over Brazil. When it comes to teaching, Taty started teaching dance and creative movement to children/teenagers ages 2-13, fifteen years ago back in Brazil. When not teaching or performing, you can find Taty traning aerial silks and lyra.

 

 

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Amelia Nickles

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Classical Studies

Dance

Amelia Nickles headshot

Amelia grew up in Reno, Nevada and left home at the age of 15 to study ballet at the North Carolina School of the Arts where she graduated from high school. She then switched gears and received her B.A. in Performance at Fordham University, Lincoln Center and her M.F.A in Acting from the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University. Before graduating from Fordham, Amelia was cast in the Broadway production of The Man Who Came To Dinner starring Nathan Lane. Amelia lived in the Washington D.C. area for several years and choreographed, directed and taught dance and theatre for several wonderful organizations, including Imagination Stage. She recently returned to NY to jump back into her acting career, continue to choreograph and of course, teach! During the year, Amelia works at Ballet Tech in Manhattan. This is Amelia's first year at Usdan and she is thrilled to be here and cannot wait to meet her students. Fun fact: Amelia is half-Argentinian, her mother being from Buenos Aires!

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Careitha Davis

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Next Generation Dance

Dance

Careitha Davis Headshot

 

 

 

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Jacqueline Selesky

Online Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Hip Hop

Dance

Jacqueline Selesky Headshot

A proud native of Long Island, New York, Jacqueline was introduced to dance at the tender age of seven. She became well versed in all styles including but not limited to ballet, modern, jazz, latin, tap, and hip hop. She graduated from Montclair State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Education. Jacqueline appeared on Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It NetLlix series, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Good Morning America, and Live with Kelly and Ryan. Some of her credits include performing with Cardi B, Demi Lovato, Rita Ora, and G-Eazy. She has been able to share her expertise at dance competitions as an adjudicator. She was in the Orange Public School District in New Jersey as a K-12 Dance Teacher. Jacqueline began teaching at Usdan in 2017, and as a lover of nature is thrilled to spend yet another year dancing the summer away.

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Eilish Henderson

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Chroeography/Contemporary

Dance

Eilish Henderson

Eilish Henderson (she/her) is an movement artist, educator, choreographer, student, and advocate based in Queens, New York. She is currently a graduate student in NYU Steinhardt’s Dance Education Program, anticipating a M.A. of Teaching Dance in the Professions by 2023. She also holds a B.S. in Dance Education (2018) from Hofstra University. Eilish began teaching at Usdan in 2021. Her studies have included: contemporary, breakdance, Qi Gong, modern, ballet, Capoeira, and house dance. Eilish’s interests are grounded in poetry, deeply rooted emotion, visceral movement, and transporting the viewer into a place beyond the stage. She engages with many NYC public schools as a teaching artist for Dancewave, Brooklyn Arts Council, and Notes in Motion. She is constantly searching for ways to enhance her practice as an educator, and value new perspectives to contribute to how she translates the landscape of movement to her students.

 

 

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Jessica Blair Lukasik

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Broadway Jazz/Musical Theater Dance

Dance

Jessica Blair Lukasik

Jessica Blair is a performer and dance teacher based in New York City. This will be her 5th summer at Usdan teaching Broadway Jazz. Originally from Chicago, she received her B.F.A. in musical theatre from the University of Michigan. She has performed in musicals across the country and was last seen in Something Rotten! at Pioneer Theatre Company in SLC, Utah. Jessica has served as choreographer for Young People’s Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI and Plymouth State University’s Educational Theatre Collaborative. She currently teaches at Shuffles NYC in Manhattan.

 

Usdan ballet shoes icon

Johanna Taylor

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Broadway Jazz/Musical Theater Dance

Dance

Johanna Taylor

Johanna Taylor is a performing and teaching artist. She is a Long Island native and grew up dancing locally. Johanna is a graduate of both the Long Island High School for the Arts and the University at Buffalo, where she obtained her BFA in Dance. When the pandemic hit, she was on the road performing in the Broadway National Tour of A Bronx Tale. She has also had the pleasure of performing in regional theater productions directed and choreographed by Emmy Award Winner Al Blackstone and legendary Fosse veteran Lloyd Culbreath. In addition to dance and theater, Johanna also teaches yoga. She completed her 200 hour yoga teacher training with Awakened Spirit Yoga. This will be her second year at Usdan!

 

 

 

Usdan Discovery U icon

Sadie Friedman

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Discovery, Department Chair

Discovery

Sadie Friedman headshot

Sadie started working at Usdan in 2008 as a Discovery Counselor and has loved the Discovery program ever since! She currently teachers Elementary School General Music in the Three Village School District. She also teaches Early Childhood family music classes. Her main instruments are voice and piano.

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Patrick Armann

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Music

Patrick Armann

Dr. Patrick Armann has been a member of the Usdan music faculty since 2003. He is a graduate of the Boston Conservatory and Stony Brook University, where he completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Percussion Performance. An active performer, Dr. Armann has worked as a percussionist with many performing ensembles and organizations on Long Island. Dr. Armann is an active educator year-round. Although his primary passion is all things percussive, his journey as a teacher has included working with bands, orchestras, chamber ensembles, and jazz bands. When not enjoying summers at Usdan, he teaches orchestra in the Sachem Central School District and serves as a co-chairperson of the SCMEA Day of Percussion.

 

 

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Andrew Ranaudo

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Piano

Music

Andrew Ranaudo Headshot

An award winning performer, composer and teacher, Andrew Ranaudo first started teaching at Usdan in 2017. As a recitalist and collaborative musician, he has a focus on eclectic artistic partnerships, and has played across the USA and Europe in different formats. He holds piano performance degrees from Hunter College, CUNY (MA) and New York University (BM). He works with musicians and artists across the spectrum, and his work can be found in numerous recordings, film soundtracks and art installations. With over 20 years teaching experience, Andrew maintains an active teaching studio in both Brooklyn and San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he currently resides and is working to create recordings of century old music from composers on the island. Andrew is excited to return to Usdan in 2022!

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Alina Kiryayeva

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Piano

Music

Headshot of Alina

Alina joined Usdan's Music Department as a faculty member in 2021. Alina is a professional concert pianist and chamber musician best known for her innovative approach to presentation of classical music and superb command of her instrument. Alina has performed in over a dozen countries with venues and collaborations including the Kharkov State Philharmonic and State Opera Theatre Orchestras, The Imperial Valley Symphony Orchestra, the New York Symphonic Ensemble Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, the Morse Recital Hall, the Concerto Takes Manhattan Series at Yamaha Hall, the Smithsonian Museum and Library of Congress. 

Alina has released two albums including “Sonatas” and “Moving Pictures”. She is one of few classical pianists that completed both Bachelor and Master degrees at The Juilliard School of Music on full scholarship; and was also awarded the Fannie Gottlieb-Harkavi Scholarship and Susan Rose Piano Scholarship. Her awards include top prizes in Senigallia International Competition, the Grace Welsh International Competition and the California Young Artist International Competition. Kiryayeva has been honored by Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, with the State Award for Achievements in Arts. 

In addition to her performing and teaching career, in 2020 she a Doctoral degree from The City University of New York upon completion of research on the relationship between classical and popular music. 

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Jessica Petersen

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Jr. Vocal Ensemble

Music

Jess Petersen Headshot

Jess is excited for her very first summer here at USDAN working with the Junior Vocal Ensemble! Prior to starting her career as an educator, she had a career of 8 years at sea working for Carnival Cruise Line performing as a showband pianist, music director, piano bar entertainer, and finally, teaching the shows on board as a vocal supervisor. Jess also music directed and stage directed shows outside of Chicago and New York in between cruise ship contracts. Moving back to New York, she taught a large private studio with approximately 50-60 piano and voice students while completing her Teaching Certification and Master's Degree. She also had the opportunity to work as a piano accompanist for multiple school choral ensembles, sparking her desire to become a school music teacher. Fun Fact: When she's not creating music, she loves playing video games, especially the Legend of Zelda! 

 

 

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Emily Kenyon

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Music

Emily Kenyon Headshot

Emily Kenyon is thrilled to be joining the Usdan team as an Orchestra Lead Teacher for the summer of 2022. Ms. Kenyon is a high school orchestra director in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, where she teaches the 9-12 ensembles at Kennedy and Mepham High Schools. Previously, she has taught middle school orchestra and college-level music theory and aural skills courses at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Eastman School of Music. Ms. Kenyon also serves as a chair for the LISFA 11-12 Festival and the NMEA Division 3 Festival. As a violinist, Ms. Kenyon has performed in prestigious ensembles such as the Eastman Philharmonia, Eastman Opera Ensemble, the Brevard Festival Orchestra, and the National Orchestral Institute, where she performed on the album Ruggles, Stucky & Harbison: Orchestral Works, nominated for Best Orchestral Performance at the 2018 GRAMMY Awards. In her spare time, Ms. Kenyon enjoys baking, geeking out about Broadway shows, and performing as a violinist with the South Shore Symphony Orchestra. Kenyon holds a B.M. in Music Education from Ithaca College and an M.M. in Music Theory from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

 

 

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Gerry Saulter

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Guitar/Ukulele

Music

Gerry Saulter

Gerry Saulter is glad to be a part of Usdan’s Music Department this summer! He is a distinguished Alhambra Guitars and RC Strings Performing Artist, Centaur Recording Artist, and guitarist of the award-winning flute and guitar ensemble, Serenade Duo. As a performer, educator, and chamber music advocate, Gerry has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. In addition to maintaining an active private teaching studio, he is also an Applied Instructor of Classical Guitar at Suffolk County Community College. When not playing guitar, Gerry enjoys playing tennis, cooking, and spending time with his family and his dog! Gerry earned a Master of Music Degree from Five Towns College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Performance from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. www.serenadeduo.com

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Grace Hsu

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Music

Grace Hsu Headshot

Grace Wu Hsu is thrilled for 2022 to be her first summer teaching at USDAN. Grace is a graduate of The Juilliard School Pre-College program and Carnegie Mellon University (B.F.A. in Cello Performance). During the school year, Grace is the String Teacher and Conductor at The Hewitt School in NYC. She also maintains a private cello studio, teaches cello lessons at The Waldorf School of Garden City and freelances throughout NYC and Long Island. Former faculty teaching positions include: The Children’s Orchestra Society, The School for Strings (Suzuki cello), Director of HS Orchestras at Kellenberg Memorial HS, The Brearley School, The Portledge School, Teaching Artist for Elemental Strings (Los Angeles), Strings Specialist in the Santa Monica-Malibu USD, and lower strings coach at Pacific Blue Summer Music Camp (Santa Monica, CA).

 

 

 

Usdan Music Notes Icon

David Schecher

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Music

David Schecher

Dave Schecher has been a member of Usdan's staff for over thirty years. He is a trombonist, private music instructor, and retired public school teacher. Mr. Schecher is also the Director of The Long Island Brass Guild.

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Jessica Zamek

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Sr. Vocal Ensemble

Music

Jessica Zamek Headshot

This is Jessica’s first year at Usdan! A native of Maine, Jessica earned her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance from Western Connecticut State University. She attended graduate school at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. She is a veteran private voice teacher who works with students of all ages, an experienced high school choir director, and an early childhood music specialist. Currently, she is on the music faculty at Rye Country Day School. Jessica concertizes throughout the country, performing art songs and oratorio repertoire. She is currently directing a concert series titled “She Said”, which highlights female composers.

Fun fact:
My first opera role was a COOKIE in Hansel and Gretel!

 

 

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Kageki Nagao

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Music

Kageki Nagao Headshot

Dr. Kageki Nagao has been working at Usdan as a double bass lead teacher and a chamber music coach since 2008.  He has been a director of junior orchestras since 2014.  During the school year, Kageki directs the string department of Long Island Lutheran Middle & High School.  Graduated from Juilliard School and Stony Brook University, Kageki is active as a soloist, orchestra and chamber musician.  Kageki was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to serve as principal bass for the Schleswig- Holstein Festival Orchestra.  Recently, Kageki appeared as a member of the Strauss Symphony of America, which played in venues such as the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia and David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center, NYC.  As a conductor, Kageki led the SCMEA Division III East Festival Orchestra in March 2018.  Kageki lives with his wife Jeanine and 7 critters.  He is also a fanatic Loch Ness Monster hunter.

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Michelle LaPorte

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Music

Michelle LaPorte

Michelle LaPorte happily joined Usdan as the Flute Lead Teacher in 2019 – her love of nature, animals, and the arts makes Usdan her perfect artistic home! She enjoys a global career as a performer, educator, and chamber music  advocate. Michelle is a Miyazawa Flutes Performing Artist, Centaur Records Artist, and flutist of the international award-winning flute and guitar ensemble,  Serenade Duo. She is passionate about sharing the beauty and diversity of flute and guitar music by composers from around the world.  

In addition to maintaining an active private teaching studio, she is also an  Assistant Adjunct Music Professor at Suffolk County Community College.  Michelle earned a Master of Arts Degree in Music from Long Island University  and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Performance from the State  University of New York at Stony Brook. 

www.serenadeduo.com

 

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Mark Bligh

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Department Chair, Music

Music

Headshot Mark Bligh

Mark Bligh is the director of the Denton Ave Elementary Band (Herricks UFSD, New Hyde Park, NY) where he teaches winds, brass and percussion for grades 3-5.  The Denton Ave Band regularly attends NYSSMA Majors and consistently earns Gold and Gold with Distinction honors.  

Mark Bligh is a graduate of the Esther Boyer College of Music at Temple University where he received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education with Honors. He received a Master of Arts from Stony Brook University.  Mr. Bligh was published in Scholastic for his contributions in an article entitled, “10 Best Musical Apps for Kids”. Mark has been honored to conduct the Winds, Brass and Percussion sectional for the NYSSMA All-State Symphonic Orchestra.  Mark was privileged to conduct the 2018 SCMEA Division 1 Central All-County Band and the 2019 WCSMA All-County Elementary Band.  Mr. Bligh has performed with the Long Island Wind Ensemble, Atlantic Wind Symphony, Northwinds Symphonic Band as well as various chamber ensembles.  Mark is the current Music Department Chair at Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts where he has worked since 2005.

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Sam Dillon

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Jazz Ensemble

Music

Sam Dillon Headshot

Sam joined the USDAN faculty as Jazz Conductor in 2018.  Previously Sam was a camper at USDAN in the late nineties while he was in high school.  Sam’s soloist and sideman work includes over 20 studio recordings, performances on a global level and international critical acclaim garnering him recognition as one of the defining voices on the tenor saxophone today.  In 2016, Sam received his Artist Diploma from the prestigious Juilliard School as the saxophonist in the A.D. Jazz Program.  Now Sam enjoys bringing his experiences back to students at USDAN while creating a fun environment to learn and explore Jazz.

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Marc Cubas

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Discovery Music

Music

Marc Headshot

This is Marc’s first year at Usdan! Marc has a educational background of an Undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance and a Masters in Music Education. Marc is a elementary general music teacher and has experience working with all age groups and choirs. He is excited to create engaging and stimulating activities and musical moments with our campers! 

 

 

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Sue Lehr

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Instrumental Ensemble

Music

Sue Lehr Headshot

Sue Lehr joined Usdan as the cello instructor in 2000. Cello ensemble is her passion and she loves working with her Usdan students. Sue retired as the orchestra teacher at the Waldorf School of Garden City in 2009. She continues to freelance, teach in her private studio and perform and teach in school residencies with the Classical Strings Ensemble and Orchestra Long Island during the school year. Sue has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in performance from the New England Conservatory. She is an enthusiastic participant in the Covid Cello Project. Check it out on YouTube for some wonderful cello ensemble performances!

Usdan green laurel icon

Chelsea Parise

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Organic Gardening & Sustainability

Nature & Sustainability

Headshot chelsea

Chelsea is very excited to join another summer with the gardeners of Usdan! She loves all things at the intersection of plants and people, especially farming, public park horticulture, and botanic natural history. Previously, Chelsea worked in horticulture at the High Line and Riverside Park Conservancy, and with scientific plant collections at Boston’s Arnold Arboretum and Harvard University Herbaria. Chelsea’s favorite form of art practice is drawing plant doodles, which utilizes active close looking to counteract “plant green blindness.” When not gardening, she is pursuing a master’s degree in geography investigating how urban forests reflect their neighborhoods, creating site-specific “novel ecosystems.” Fun facts about Chelsea: her work with botany collections includes a 100-year-old tortilla, mushrooms that turn caterpillars into zombies, and Henry David Thoreau’s plants from Walden Pond!

Usdan green laurel icon

Cindy Rosin

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Nature, Ecology & Design

Nature & Sustainability

Cindy Rosin Headshot

 

This is Cindy's second year at Usdan, and will be her first year as a Nature lead teacher. Cindy is an artist and environmental activist based in Rockaway, Queens, where she lives on a houseboat made from converted shipping containers. She has a BFA and a Certificate in Art Therapy from School of Visual Arts. A painter and printmaker, Cindy is five years into a daily drawing practice that has made her a firm believer in the power of making art every day. When she’s not teaching, Cindy spends portions of her year volunteering in the field for environmental organizations – from monitoring buffalo migrations to working on ocean-going conservation ships, Cindy believes that life is best lived outdoors.

 

Usdan green laurel icon

Denise Trezza

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Sustainable Design/Discovery Nature

Nature & Sustainability

 

 

 

Usdan green laurel icon

Lindsay Robbins

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Organic Gardening/Sustainable Design

Nature & Sustainability

Lindsay Robbins

Lindsay Robbins (she/her) is an artist and educator originally from Philadelphia, PA. Lindsay joined Usdan in Spring 2022 and is helping lead the Organic Garden and Sustainable Design programs for 4A this summer. Lindsay got her start with community organic gardening and food justice programs during the pandemic in her neighborhood of Ridgewood, Queens. Currently, Lindsay is currently a full-time Middle School Art Teacher at the Village Community School. In addition, Lindsay keeps up an active studio art practice in painting, drawing and printmaking. Lindsay has also taught at The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), The Museum of Arts and Design (New York, NY), City Art Lab @ CCNY (New York, NY), Fleisher Art Memorial (Philadelphia, PA) and University City Arts League (Philadelphia, PA)

 

 

Recreational Camp Icon

David Lake

Camp Faculty & Staff

Chair, Recreation

Recreational Camp

Dave began teaching at Usdan in 2005 as the Tennis Instructor and is pleased to begin a new role in 2022 as the Chair of Recreation. During the school year Dave is a 5th Grade Teacher in the East Islip School District. Fun fact: Dave juggled a soccer ball 12,600 times when he was 17.

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Victoria Garbarino

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater

Theater

Victoria Garbarino Heashot

 

 

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Ben Boecker

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater

Theater

Ben Boecker Headshot

Ben Boecker is a singer-songwriter, teaching artist, and voice teacher living and working in New York City.  His full-length musical, “My True Love! A Perfect Musical Fairytale” (NMI Search For New Musicals Grand Prize Winner 2016, Disney/NMI New Voices Award 2016) has been developed at the BMI Workshop, Andrew Lippas’ Writers’ Bloc, and Ken Davenport's Writers' Group.  Ben has worked as an NYC teaching artist for seven years with companies including TADA!, City Center, Usdan Arts Camp, Wingspan Arts, A Class Act, and the Open Hydrant Theater Company (The First Equity Theater Company in the Bronx.)   Ben has performed multiple times at 54 Below, Birdland, and the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse in NJ.  He is an Adjunct Faculty member at the Calhoun School, a proud member of the BMI Advanced Musical Theater Writing Workshop and a member of the Dramatists Guild.

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Berkeley Rousseau

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, The Actor Sings/Children's Theater

Theater

Berkeley Rousseau headshot

Berkeley Rousseau is excited to be joining Usdan for the first time this summer! His focus is primarily music, however, he has a huge love for musical theater and has music directed many shows. He can be found teaching private voice and piano lesson in Huntington and online. He is a recent graduate of the music education Master's program at Long Island University and is currently on the job hunt. In his free time, Berkeley loves hiking and cannot wait to start exploring more of the Northeast United States.

 

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Carl Ferrara

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater

Theater

Headshot Carl J. Ferrara

Carl taught at Usdan from 2003 to 2004, and returned to the Theater Department in 2019. A songwriter and composer, he has written two musicals, several songs and choral works. He has been Music Director for theatrical productions and cabarets across Long Island and NYC; including CAP, Broadhollow, Kids 4 Kids and South Shore Theatre Experience.

Carl has been a music educator for close to 30 years. He is an alumnus of the Crane School of Music and SUNY Stony Brook, with degrees in Music Education. He is a member of NYSSMA, SCMEA, and NAfME. Currently, he is teaching in the Amityville School District

Carl has been conductor of the Silver Chords, a community chorus in Smithtown since 2014. This year, they will celebrate their 40th anniversary season. He is also the Music Director for Setauket United Methodist Church, served as Associate Music Director for L.I. Voices, and has sung with the Brookhaven Choral Festival.

Carl loves to grill outdoors during the summer, and is looking forward to relaxing outside in nature.

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Carolyn Popadin

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater/The Acting Group/Children's Theater

Theater

Carolyn Popadin headshot

Carolyn began in Usdan’s Theater Department in the summer of 1997. She had a few gap years when her children were young and returned in 2013 making this her 16th summer. During the year she is a NY based teaching artist, director and performer. She brings her love of theater to students throughout Long Island and Brooklyn directing school musicals and incorporating theater arts into class curriculums. Carolyn began her theater education at Brooklyn College and then studied arts administration at NYU. This eventually led her to acceptance in the professional acting program with the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, UK. She has toured the US with the National Theatre for the Performing Arts and has appeared in numerous east coast, regional, and Off-Off Broadway productions. Carolyn is the proud mom of two teenage girls who loved taking classes in Usdan’s Dance Department.

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Chelsea Zak

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater/Children's Theater

Theater

Chelsea Zak Headshot

Chelsea Zak (she/her) is a New York-based music director, composer, orchestrator, musician and actor. She is a Usdan alum and "Lifer" having spent ten years as a camper (2006-16) studying musical theatre, choir, guitar, and creative writing. She also attended programs like Interlochen Arts Camp and Mannes Preparatory School, and is currently working toward B.A. in Music and Drama with a minor in Creative Writing at Vassar College (slated for 2023). Her most recent projects included playing "Mrs." and "Harriet Pawling” in Sunday in the Park with George, composing and music directing a klezmer-based dance piece entitled Troyern (choreographed by Nerissa Tunnessen ‘22), and music directing Ruthless!: the Musical. This summer, she is also a music production assistant for the new musicals From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Griswolds’ Broadway Vacation. When not performing or writing, she loves writing, reading, and traveling!

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Christina Pawlyszyn

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Children's Theater

Theater

Christina Pawlyszyn headshot

Christina has been at Usdan since the summer of 2008, where she has both choreographed and directed, and is thrilled to be back this summer. She holds a BFA in Dance from Texas Christian University, and choreographs both corporate and private events. Her career path has taken her through Europe and Canada dancing and singing in musicals, singing and acting in Pop Opera's with composer Mikel Rouse, and as an actor in the play Tantalus with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a unique opportunity with a combined British and American cast. Christina has performed on Broadway in Meet Me in St. Louis, Roundabout's revival of Cabaret at Studio 54, and S. Pacific at Lincoln Center as a trumpet player. She has taught at Broadway Dance Center, the Lucy Moses School in Manhattan, and coaches dancers from around the country. Fun fact, she loves peanut butter chocolate ice cream!

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Dan Sussman

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Scene Shop

Theater

Dan Sussman Headshot

Dan has been at Usdan since the summer of 2003. During this time he dedicated his time to the Theater department building sets and props, running lighting and sound, working stage crew, and teaching students. Dan has been working as an Actor, Director, and Performer for the past 35 years. His philosophy in performing is based on a combination of Stanislavski and Meisner methods of approaching characters and performance. Dan holds A.A. in Acting from NCC and a B.F.A in Acting, Directing, and Technical theater from Binghamton University. During the school year Dan works as a teacher in the Sachem Central School District. His 3 biggest comic influences are Buster Keaton, Gene Wilder, and Andy Kaufman.

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

James Crichton

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater/The Actor Sings/Children's Theater

Theater

James Crichton Headshot

James joined Usdan’s theater staff in 2017, but in total this will be his 17th collective summer. As an actor James has appeared off-Broadway in Unknown Soldier at Playwrights Horizons & Jasper in Deadland with the Prospect Theater Company. He played Prentiss on the National Tour of Peter and the Starcatcher, and has appeared regionally in Botticelli in the Fire (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company), The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare Theatre Company), The Last Ship (Pioneer Theatre Company), and Sweeney Todd (The Rev Theater Company). He is the host and creator of the podcast, Actors: On Process, and is on the faculty of LIU Post’s Musical Theater program. He received his BFA in Theater Arts – Performance from Hofstra University. Fun Fact: his favorite musicals are The Band’s Visit and Fiddler on the Roof!

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Eugene Rossi

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Scene Shop

Theater

 

 

 

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Jeffery Hoffman

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Usdan Troupe

Theater

Jeffery Hoffman

Jeffrey Hoffman has been a member of the theater faculty at USDAN since the summer of 2011. A composer and conductor based in New York City, he works year-round as the organist and director of music at Christ Church, the Episcopal parish of Pelham, New York, where he leads a children’s choir, an adult volunteer parish choir and the parish’s professional choral artists; he also administers Concerts at Christ Church, a mostly classical concert series, as artistic director. Positions he previously held include founding artistic director of the acclaimed Music at Saint Alban’s concert series on Staten Island and organist for the Rossmoor Jewish Congregation in New Jersey. He is an alumnus of Manhattan School of Music and the BMI Lehman Engel theater workshop. In addition to his full time career as a liturgical musician and choral conductor, he has served as musical director for several musical theater productions in New York City and with Barrington Stage Company’s youth theater program, and for several high schools around suburban New York and New Jersey.

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Jim Incorvaia

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Department Chair, Theater

Theater

Headshot Jim Incorvaia

Jim began teaching at Usdan in the summer of 1991 and after more than thirty summers in the woods, he is still as excited as when he first started. Jim is an actor, director and producer who has overseen more than three hundred shows in Usdan’s three theaters. He began his professional work in the arts at the age of five as a commercial model. He was bitten by the acting bug for good in high school. Jim obtained his B. A. and his M.S. in Education at Hofstra Univeristy and studied for his M.F.A. at Columbia. He is the founder of the OnStage Strategies Group, a theater consulting firm assisting educational and local theater programs as they work to grow and re-imagine their student offerings. Jim believes that art has the power to break down the barriers that divide us.

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Stephanie Martinez

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Comic Acting & Storytelling/Improvisation/Improvisation & Theater Games

Theater

Stephanie Martinez Headshot

Stephanie Martinez (she/her) is a teaching artist, stage manager, and director from Long Island, New York. She received her BFA in Stage Management from Hofstra University and is currently pursuing her M.S.Ed in Educational Theatre at The City College of New York. Stephanie is the resident director of the West Hempstead Middle and High School drama clubs. She also teaches improv, devising, and acting classes for Mainstages, Queens Theatre, and the Hofstra University Continuing Education Program. Stephanie is particularly passionate about providing culturally responsive and trauma-informed theatrical education to New York students and schools. A fun fact about Stephanie is that she’s a major Shakespeare nerd, and even has a ferret named Puck! This is Stephanie’s first summer at Usdan, and she can’t wait to get out there and play!

 

 

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Hosun Moon

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Theater

Theater

Hosun Moon headshot

Hosun Moon is the winner of the American Prize 2017-2018 for Conducting Musical Theater. She served the first Keyboard chair for the National tour of “the Phantom of the Opera”. She has worked as a music director for numerous musicals teaching at Five Towns College, Suffolk County Community College, Long Island Lutheran Middle & High School, Huntington High School, and Usdan.

Previous Gateway Shows: A Christmas Story, A Chorus Line, and Les Miserable (School Edition), she also served for a keyboard chair for On the Town, Mamma Mia!, Memphis, Beauty and the Beast, and The Bodyguard . Her chamber music performances with numerous ensembles have been heard in Carnegie Hall, 92nd St. Y, Merkin Concert Hall, The Riverside Church, St. John the Divine, LeFrak Concert Hall in The Aron Copland School of Music, Columbia University, Hofstra Cultural Center, Union Square Park, Bryant Park, SUNY at Stony Brook, and various churches in New York area. She also worked with the San Francisco Early Music Society Baroque Music Seminars, C. W. Post Chamber Music Festival (LIU Chamber Music Festival), and currently working as a Music Director at North Country Reform Temple in Glen Cove, NY.

 

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Jordan Hue

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater

Theater

Jordan Hue Headshot

Jordan joined Usdan’s teaching staff in 2017 as a lead teacher in the theatre department. During the school year, Jordan is an English and Theatre teacher at Long Beach High School in Long Beach, NY. He holds a BA in Drama and English and an M.S. in Secondary Education from Hofstra University. He is also a graduate of Adelphi’s Educational Theatre program. He has worked in regional, community, and educational theatre in NYC and Long Island since 2001. 

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

James Beneduce

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Stage Combat/Children's Theater

Theater

James Beneduce Headshot

James has been with Usdan as a Director and teacher since 2010. During the year James works as an educator/arts educator at the college and high school level. He has served as a faculty member and as a Department Chairat various colleges . He received his MFA in Classical Theatre/Acting at the University of Delaware Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) where he received many scholarships and fellowships. James worked as a professional actor in many Professional, Regional, and Off-Broadway theatres. James has also served as a member of the Society of the American Fight Directors, and as a Resident Fight Choreographer for colleges and theatres. He still teaches many workshops in stage combat, acting, and movement and is a member of Actors Equity Association (AEA).

 

 

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Josh Kant

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater

Theater

Joshua Z. Kant is delighted to be returning for a fourth summer as a musical director for the USDAN Theater department. He has dedicated himself to more than two decades of service in public education, directing choir, teaching general music and, of course, making theater in Suffolk County. Josh holds an MFA from the New York University Tisch School of the Arts' Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. He was in the inaugural class of the Dramatist Guild Fellows Program (2000-01). Evenings of Josh's work have been performed in multiple NYC venues. He began writing for the theater at Hofstra University, where he earned his B.S. in Music Composition. There, he also studied piano, voice, and conducting. As a book writer/composer/lyricist, his work includes Anna Sharpe Versus the Cyberbully, a piece for young performers which will receive its second full production right here at USDAN this summer! For more: www.joshuazkant.com

 

 

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Robert Gallagher

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater

Theater

Robert Gallager Headshot

Rob Gallagher has been a lead teacher in the Theater Department since 2016. He is a professional actor, singer, and voice teacher. He has performed a variety of leading roles on and off Broadway, and with many regional and summer stock theaters across the country, including Long Island’s premier professional theater company, The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport. During the year he is one the voice faculty at LIU Post, training the acting and musical theater majors proper vocal technique. He holds a BS degree in Vocal Performance and Theater from Indiana University. Fun Fact: He played the lead role of Inspector Javert in Les Miserables for a year on Broadway!

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Ken Gilbert

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Scene Shop

Theater

Ken Gilbert

 

 

 

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Spencer Glass

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Musical Theater

Theater

Spencer Glass

Spencer Glass began his Usdan journey as a camper in 2002 where he was Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN. 2022 will be his second summer coming to camp in the theatre department! Spencer is thrilled to be directing one of the most beloved musicals, CRAZY FOR YOU, this summer at his favorite place in the entire world. When he's not at Usdan, Spencer is a full time Middle School Theatre Teacher, as well as a news correspondent for BroadwayWorld.com where he has his own series, TEN MINUTE TIDBITS, where he interviews Broadway stars. Spencer also has his own coaching business for actors. He has a BFA in Musical Theatre from THE BOSTON CONSERVATORY, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Theatre Education at Adelphi University. Fun fact- Spencer puts hot sauce on basically everything!

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Amelia Dombrowski

Camp Faculty & Staff

Costumer

Theater

Amelia Dombrowski

Amelia Dombrowski has over twenty years of professional costume experience designing with top NYC costume shops, operas and theaters. She has worked on the Broadway tour of South Pacific and as the Associate Designer on Xanadu and 33 Variations on Broadway. Amelia has a BS in Film from Northwestern University, a MFA in Design from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and a Masters in Educational Theater from City College. Amelia also is the Costume Shop Director in the Technical Theater Department of Laguardia High School of the Performing Arts.

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Mike Schwendemann

Camp Faculty & Staff

Faculty, Usdan Troupe

Theater

Mike Schwendemann, headshot