Music Faculty Bios

    Gretchen Paxson-Abbergersmiling woman holding violin

    Director, MNjcc Suzuki Program and Music Department

    Gretchen lives in Toronto with her family, where she is the Artistic Director as well as a violin teacher at the Miles Nadal JCC Suzuki Program, now in its 29th year. She also manages the vast array of Music Programs at MNjcc, and alongside her talented colleagues, is the proud caretaker of our vibrant MNjcc music community. Gretchen also teaches violin, viola and group repertoire classes at the North York Suzuki School of Music. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Bennington College where she studied painting with Pat Adams, violin with Jacob Glick, and composition with Henry Brant. Gretchen 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 2 year 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 preparatory department before moving to Canada. She has been a guest workshop teacher in past years at the RCM, Etobicoke Suzuki School, Hamilton Suzuki Program, as well in Ottawa, and has taught at the Southwestern Suzuki Summer Institute.

    Gretchen served as treasurer on the board of the Suzuki Association of Ontario for nine years, and founded the Thanks to Dr. Suzuki Concert Performances, a charitable Toronto community organization currently in its 19th 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 the proud parents of two grown daughters, both whom for many years studied violin and participated in all classes and summer music camp activities 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 leading adult choirs throughout the GTA for the past 6 years. He believes that positivity, encouragement, and embracing the joys and love of singing are at the core of a successful choir term. Every session he runs is a fun filled, light hearted time where members may let their guard down for an evening, sing some music together, and leave with that wonderful feeling you get from singing together, which Alex calls the “Choir High”; a feeling of deeply grounded contentment and joy.

    Besides choral directing, Alex also creates the choral arrangements which are uniquely designed for the choir sessions he runs. He is an avid musician, playing a variety of instruments with a focus on piano.

    Alex has enjoyed 2 years with the MNjcc community immensely and is looking forward to creating and sharing many more wonderful memories. He is honoured to be a part of this wonderful organization and grateful to be invited back for another year!


    briony webBriony Glassco

    Interim Community Choir Conductor

    Briony comes to conducting choir 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. Briony is looking forward to this year as the interim Conductor for the MNjcc Community Choir.

    Briony grew up in Toronto singing in local choirs and musicals. Studying through her teens with the University of Toronto’s Jean Macphail Briony 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 decided to make the UK her home. 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 Theatre once her career turned more towards theatre, comedy, television and film. After moving to Toronto with her family she joined the MNjcc community choir under Harriet Wichin where she rediscovered her love of choral singing and a passion for conducting. As the assistant conductor under Mark Ramsay, Briony deepened her studies and is grateful for this opportunity to lead the choir through this year of online music making.


    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. 


    A smiling woman holding a violinKate Shaner

    Violin, viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education and MNjcc Suzuki Program Administrative Assistant, MNjcc Suzuki Summer Music Camp

    Kate is a dedicated and passionate Suzuki teacher, music educator and arts administrator. She’s looking forward to joining the admin team at the Miles Nadal JCC Suzuki Program as the Administrative Assistant beginning fall 2020. In addition to her admin duties, she teaches group classes, private lessons and the Suzuki Early Childhood Music class at the MNjcc.

    Prior to moving to Toronto, Kate was the assistant director of Greenwich Suzuki Academy and head of development for the Friends of Greenwich Suzuki Academy fund. She was also a primary member of the violin, viola, and SECE faculty. Prior to joining GSA in 2017, she served as the director of the Milford Branch at The Music School of Delaware and a core violin and viola faculty member in the school’s Suzuki Academy from 2013-2017. In 2016, Kate was selected as one of Delaware’s top young professionals and received the Delaware Business Times “Best 40 under 40” award. From 2008 to 2013, she taught viola and chamber music at Interlochen Arts Summer Camp. She also served on the board of directors for the Greater Philadelphia Suzuki Association from 2016-2017.

    Kate is a registered Suzuki teacher with the Suzuki Association of the Americas in ECC, SPA, SECE Unit 1, violin units 1-6, violin practicum, and viola unit 5. She is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and holds degrees from the University of Memphis (B.M.) and Ithaca College (M.M., Suzuki Pedagogy). While at Ithaca College, she completed the long term Suzuki training program under Sanford Reuning and Carrie Reuning-Hummel, with additional instruction from Edward Kreitman, Stephanie Sandven, Teri Einfeldt and April Losey. Kate has studied Suzuki Early Childhood Education with trainer Lynn McCall. Her principal viola teachers have included Debra Moree, Lenny Schranze, David Holland and Shelley Beard Santore. Kate’s students have been accepted into prestigious training programs including Interlochen Arts Academy and Sphinx Performance Academy.In her spare time, Kate enjoys reading, playing chamber music with friends and gardening. She lives in Toronto, Ontario with her husband Rabbi Jordan Shaner and their two rescue dogs.

    A woman holding a fiddleDiana Dawydchak

    Virtual Adult Fiddle Class

    Since the tender age of 4, Diana has demonstrated her love and passion for performing and love for all genres of music. Classically trained and a Book 10 graduate of the Violin Suzuki Method, she is currently continuing to develop her pedagogical skills and has completed her Suzuki Unit One Teacher Development Course. Diana is currently in the third year of her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto studying Violin Performance under the tutelage of Dr. Timothy Ying.

    At a young age she was exposed to Canadian Old Time Fiddle Music and became hooked. Over the years, she has competed in many competitions in Ontario and the Maritimes and has been a Champion in each of her age categories multiple times as well as Duet and Gospel throughout 2007-current. She is a two time Canadian Open Fiddle Champion, Ontario Open Champion, Southwestern Open Champion and Northern Ontario Open Champion. Diana also demonstrates a love for the American Bluegrass Styles and was the Junior Runner up in the Grand Master Fiddle Championship in Nashville Tennessee, and the Tennessee State Fiddle Championship.

    Diana is a multi-instrumentalist and performs with her Family Band (DnA-Diana and Andrew) where you can find her stepdancing, playing the keyboard and French button accordion. Together with her brother, they recorded their first album in Nashville 2016 and were showcased on Toronto’s CP24 Breakfast Television. She performs at many musical events in Ontario such as celidhs/dances, festivals, showcases and private events. She is a frequently invited guest of Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy and has shared the stage with them at numerous shows and festivals.

    This past summer, Diana was accepted into the National Youth Orchestra of Canada’s summer program and took part in their first virtual orchestral institute. Diana has also had the opportunity of assisting Jonathan Crow as his faculty assistant at the Interprovincial Music Camp. The Suzuki Program is very excited to have Diana on our teaching team for 2020-21. She will be teaching our fiddle classes.


    Contact & Info

    750 Spadina Ave. (at Bloor), Toronto, Ontario M5S 2J2

    Phone: 416.924.6211
    Fax: 416.924.0422

    Charitable Registration Number:
    140344243 RR0001