Music Faculty Bios

    Gretchen Paxson-Abbergersmiling woman holding violin

    Director, MNjcc Suzuki Program and Music Department

    Gretchen lives in Toronto where she is the Artistic Director as well as a violin teacher at the Miles Nadal JCC Suzuki Program, now in its 25th year, and Chair of the MNjcc Music Department. Gretchen also teaches at the North York Suzuki School of Music. Gretchen holds a Bachelor of Arts from Bennington College where she studied painting with Pat Adams, violin with Jacob Glick, and composition with Henry Brant. She received her undergraduate degree in performance from the Manhattan School of Music, and completed her Masters degree in Baroque Violin in the Mannes College of Music’s Historical Performance Department.

    As a Suzuki teacher she completed Louise Behrend’s intensive training course at the School for Strings in New York where she was also on the faculty, and served on the faculty as well at the Manhattan School of Music prep dept. before moving to Canada. She has been a guest ESM workshop teacher in past years, as well in Ottawa, and has taught at the Southwestern Suzuki Summer Institute for the past five summers. Gretchen serves as treasurer on the board of the Suzuki Association of Ontario, and founded and directs Thanks to Dr. Suzuki Concert Performances, a charitable community organization currently in its 15th season. She has performed with Tafelmusik, Aradia Ensemble, Mendelssohn Choir Orchestra, TOST string quartet, and Opera Atelier in Toronto, as well as with Artek, Aulos Ensemble, and Rebel Baroque Orchestra in New York City. Gretchen, and her husband, oboist John Abberger are parents of two children who are both violinists, and who studied at the MNjcc Suzuki Program.

      

    smiling man hiding behind a guitarEric Stein

    Director, MNjcc Klezmer Ensemble

    Eric Stein is a multi-instrumental musician and a leading figure in Canada’s World, Folk and Jewish-roots music scenes. He is founder/leader of the innovative klezmer/world fusion group Beyond the Pale, with whom he has performed across North America, Europe, Brazil and Australia and released four award-winning CDs. Eric’s deep knowledge of klezmer music has earned him stature not only as a performing artist with numerous groups, but as a leading lecturer, educator, and artistic curator in the contemporary Jewish music world. He is a longtime faculty member at the KlezKanada Festival, and serves as Artistic Director of Toronto’s Ashkenaz Festival, one of the world’s largest celebrations of Jewish music and culture. Eric also leads the Brazilian choro ensemble Tio Chorinho, is a member of the international supergroup the Ger Mandolin Orchestra, and has performed with a number of other leading world, folk and classical artists, including Socalled, Theodore Bikel, Flory Jagoda, MIke Marshall, Avi Avital, and various Canadian chamber groups and symphonies. Eric was educated at McGill University (B.A., M.A).

      

     

     

    headshot of man smilingAsher Farber

    Daytime Choir Conductor

    Asher is a freelance pianist, collaborator and teacher. Asher began working with the MNjcc in the fall of 2014, accompanying the Daytime Choir with Gillian Stecyk. He is also the accompanist and Assistant Conductor for the MNjcc Community Choir with Harriet Wichin. Originally from Ottawa, he is now primarily located in Toronto. Asher continues to pursue his interests in opera, song, choral work, vocal piano and musical education. He has worked in masterclass settings and received instruction from many great singers and coaches including Stephanie Blythe, Adrianne Pieczonka, Wendy Nielsen, and Daniel Taylor.

    Asher completed his Masters of Music in Collaborative Piano Performance at the University of Toronto in April 2014 with Steven Philcox. He also has a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Ottawa, where he graduated in 2011 Magna Cum Laude. There, he studied with pianists Stéphane Lemelin, Andrew Tunis, and Frédéric Lacroix. In 2010, Asher was the recipient of the Nora Hickson Kelly Scholarship in Music, which is awarded to undergraduate piano students who exemplify great potential as future performers. Asher also plays piano for Eurhythmy classes at Waldorf Academy for grades two to eight, inspiring young minds to respond to music with coordinated expressive movement. In the summer of 2015, Asher worked with the Halifax Summer Opera Festival as a rehearsal pianist, vocal coach, and as a performer in the production of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. In the spring of 2015, Asher was the musical director and pianist for ‘Toronto Opera Initiative’, performing Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel. In the summer of 2013, Asher joined in the production of Die Zauberflöte with 'Opera on the Avalon' in St. John's, Newfoundland as an assistant coach and pianist/répétiteur.

    Asher's musical abilities, tastes, and experience are quite broad and eclectic. He works regularly with a wide range of musicians for a variety of venues, concerts, competitions and recitals. Although he is classically trained, educated, and inspired, he regularly collaborates alongside many different soloists, singers, instrumentalists, ensembles, and bands in many different styles, which include (but are not limited to): opera, chamber music, jazz, musical theater, hip hop, rock, folk, klezmer, cantorial, blues, funk, pop, power metal, and even gospel. Since as early as high school, Asher has developed and expanded his knowledge, love, and appreciation of klezmer and Jewish music. His participation and attendance at 'KlezKanada' in the Quebec Laurentians for numerous summers, under scholarship, has awarded him the opportunity to learn and perform alongside some of the greatest klezmer musicians in the world today. In addition to performing and collaborating, Asher is also a dynamic coach, educator and teacher.

     

    Alex FiddesAlex Fiddes

    Specialty Choirs Conductor

    Alex Fiddes has had the privilege of being the lead conductor/arranger for a local choir organization called My Pop Choir for the last 4 years.  It is an amateur (but talented) choir that sings exclusively sings pop music from the 50’s to current.  Every session is a fun-filled silly time where members let their guard down for an evening, sing some music together, and leave with that wonderful feeling singing can bring out in people.

    He has also been teaching private singing and piano lessons for the last 8 years throughout various places in the GTA, including at his home in the Annex.

    Besides that, he’s a lover of laughing, sleeping in, eating popcorn, and singing in places where people usually don’t sing. He is looking forward to creating and sharing many wonderful memories with the members of this choir and he is honoured to be a part of the JCC community.

     

    Ramsay Headshot 2Mark Ramsay

    Community Choir Conductor

    Mark is the conductor of the MNjcc Community Choir and Chamber Choir.  He is also the director of the University of Toronto Men’s Chorus, the assistant conductor and pianist for the Exultate Chamber Singers, and recently joined the Choirs Ontario Board of Directors as the editor of its publication, Dynamic.  He has been a student conductor with the Elmer Iseler Singers, conducting fellow with the Canadian Chamber Choir, apprentice conductor with the Ontario Youth Choir, and tour manager for the National Youth Choir of Canada. Before moving to Toronto, Mark worked for ten years as a high school music teacher and curriculum specialist in Summerside, PEI where he was also the conductor of the Summerside Community Choir. He holds a Master of Music (Choral Conducting) from U of T as well as a Bachelor of Music Education (Piano) from the University of Prince Edward Island.  Currently, Mark is enrolled in the Doctor of Musical Arts (Choral Conducting) program at U of T under the guidance of Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt and teaches an undergraduate course in choral music education.  He is a recipient of an Elmer Iseler National Graduate Fellowship in Choral Conducting as well as a University of Toronto Fellowship. (www.markramsay.ca)

     

    briony webBriony Glassco

    Assistant Community Choir Conductor

    Briony has come recently to conducting singers after a career as an actress, singer and dancer that took her from London’s West End to many roles in film, television and radio drama with the BBC. Briony joins the MNjcc Music Faculty this year as Apprentice Conductor for the MNjcc Community Choir.

    Briony grew up in Toronto singing in local choirs and musicals. Studying with Jean Macphail through her teens she was determined to follow her passion and study opera and further the development of her classical voice. She was hoodwinked though by the Musical Theatre Program at The Banff School of Fine Arts and finally the Courtney School of Music where Nicky Goldschmidt teaching in the opera program convinced her that her lieder singing sounded more Sondheim than Schumann.

     After graduating from the acclaimed Musical Theatre program at Syracuse University she left to study theatre in London, England and over the next 20 years she played leading parts in musicals both in rep and on the West End (Camelot, High Society, babes in Arms, By Jupiter, South pacific, You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, among others) as well as being a regular on BBC radio’s Songs From The Shows singing with the award winning BBC light orchestra on Sunday afternoons. She continued singing with The Lost Musical series at the Barbican Theater when her career turned more towards theatre, comedy, television and film and after moving to Toronto with her family joined the MNjcc community choir where she rediscovered her love of choral singing. Briony recently completed the International Choral Conducting Symposium at the University of Toronto and continues with private conducting studies.

     

    headshot of Susan Baskin Ukulele instructorSusan Baskin   

    Adult Beginning Ukulele Instructor

    B.Mus; B.Ed; M.A; OCT.

    Susan is delighted to bring ‘You Can Ukulele’, an adult ukulele ensemble for beginners to the Miles Nadal JCC.  Originally from Hamilton, Susan has been a musician and music educator in the Greater Toronto area since 1980, where she has taught music to students of all ages,  including over 30 years as an instrumental music teacher with the York Region District School Board. In addition to leading ukulele ensembles, Susan conducts adult concert bands and other instrumental ensembles in her role as director of New Horizons Music North York. Susan also performs as a flutist and enjoys singing in choral ensembles. In her spare time, Susan loves to garden, do many kinds of crafts, and attend opera, ballet, and concerts.  She thanks her family and friends for their ongoing love and support. 

     

     

    Alison Porter

    Preschool Suzuki Instructor

    New to our Suzuki program teaching team, Alison is the proud mama of a budding 4-year old violinist who studies at the MNjcc Suzuki Program. A Suzuki music teacher, and professional performer, she founded and directs her own music school in east Toronto called Lovenotes School of Music. Alison has a passion for sharing music with young children, gentle parenting strategies and baking good pies. She has been working as a music instructor for over 10 years and living it her whole life. Growing up, she studied classical violin, playing in orchestras and quartets and took home many a festival ribbon. After getting her start in the classical world, Alison went on to play violin in numerous indie-rock, alt-country and folk bands and currently sings and plays in the sassy all-girl country/bluegrass trio called “Dirty Dishes.”

     

    The 2018-19 Suzuki Program welcomes two new talented teachers –

    A woman with brown hair holds a violinBethany Bergman will be teaching violin group classes and note reading ensembles, as well as teaching private violin lessons.  Bethany holds a master’s degree focused in Music Performance from University of Toronto, and currently has positions both with Hamilton Philharmonic, and the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra.  She is not only a skilled as an orchestral musician, but also is knowledgeable in baroque styles, contemporary music, and alternative styles of music. Bethany has an international reputation with experience recording for film and numerous artists. We are excited to have her on board working with our students and families.

     

     

     

     

     

    a man wearing glasses sits in front of a mini hutDavid Lokan, son of longtime Suzuki Program teacher Nancy Lokan, began his violin studies at age six, as a student in the MNjcc Suzuki Program.  He continued advancing in the program, playing both violin and viola until leaving for university, completing his bachelor of music at Western University, with a major in composition. He has performed in university orchestras, opera productions, and performed in solo recitals from a young age. He is currently enrolled in teacher's college at York University (primary school division) and has completed a variety of teaching experiences in private and group settings. David is excited to reconnect with the MNjcc Suzuki Program and give back to the community.  The program is equally thrilled to welcome him back as one of our new staff, completing the continuous circle of learning by the Suzuki method.

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    Phone: 416.924.6211
    Fax: 416.924.0422
    Email: info@mnjcc.org

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