STEP Teachers

All STEP teachers are trained in accordance with the standards of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and are dedicated to providing the highest quality instruction in the Suzuki Method.

Whether you are looking for a private teacher or just want to learn more about STEP teachers and accompanists, please read on.

Carole Bestvater (Violin, Fiddle)

STEP Teachers - Carole Bestvatar

Carole relocated to St. John’s, NL to pursue a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance with Nancy Dahn as part of the inaugural class of the SUNCOR String Quartet Fellowship Program. Upon graduating, she decided to stay rooted in St. John’s.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Carole pursued a Bachelor of Music degree at Brandon University, and then further east to Providence, RI to complete a unique Fellowship Program at Community MusicWorks, a non-profit organization based in the inner-city neighbourhoods that melds high quality performance and music education. Carole started the Strong Harbour Strings Program, which is based largely on the philosophy and model of Community MusicWorks.

Equally versed in both classical and folk music, you are just as likely to find Carole playing Bluegrass, Scandinavian, Irish, Newfoundland, Old Time or Appalachian music in local bands as you are playing chamber or orchestral music. She is the assistant principal second of the NSO, and founding member of Strataphoria, a new chamber ensemble known for innovative programming and exciting school outreach ideas. She is also a dedicated educator, being on faculty here at STEP, Strings Coach for the NSYO, and maintains a full studio.

Maggie Burton (Violin, Fiddle)

STEP Teachers - Maggie BurtonMaggie Burton is originally from Brigus. She moved to St. John’s to study violin with Dr. Nancy Dahn and in 2013 completed a Bachelor of Music degree (Hons.) at Memorial University. As a performer, Maggie is interested in both classical music and traditional music and dance. She currently plays violin in the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and is past assistant concertmaster of the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra. Maggie has participated in summer music programs including Domaine Forget in Quebec. Her favourite musical experience to date is when she traveled to coastal Labrador in 2010 to play violin in a series of workshops and performances with Moravian Inuit choirs.

Nancy Case-Oates (Violin)

Nancy Case-Oates began her musical studies on piano and violin at an early age, performing regularly at local Kiwanis Festivals and winning many awards for violin, piano and voice. She has acquired degrees in performance from both Universities of Toronto and Victoria.

Nancy holds the position of Principal Second Violinist with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, a position she also held with the Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra, and is also currently the violinist of the Atlantic String Trio. She has been featured as solo artist twice with the NSO Sinfonia.

Currently, Nancy maintains an active performing career with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, teaching Suzuki violin, and playing with The Pachelbel Trio. In her spare time, Nancy designs and creates hand-embroidered crafts and enjoys spending time with her sons Edmund and Noah.

Maria Cherwick (Musicianship, Fiddle)

Alex Cho (Musicianship, Accompanist)

Amy Collyer-Holmes (Musicianship)


Amy Collyer-Holmes, a cellist originally from Toronto, has made Newfoundland her home since 2016. A Tuckamore Young Artist Program alumna, she performs regularly with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and Opera on the Avalon. Amy received her Bachelor of Music from Queen’s University studying with Wolf Tormann, and completed her Master of Music in Cello Performance & Pedagogy at Memorial University under the direction of Vernon Regehr. In her time at Queen’s Amy acted as Musical Director for Queen’s Players, Blue Canoe Productions, and Queen’s Musical Theatre. During her studies at Memorial, she joined Dr. Christine Carter’s work in performance psychology research, and completed the review of a provincial syllabus for music festivals in Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition to performing and teaching in St. John’s, Amy works as an arts administrator and can be found enjoying the outdoors in her spare time.

Dominic Greene (Violin, Fiddle)

domgreeneSt. John’s native Dominic Greene has recently completed a Master of Music degree in violin performance at the University of Toronto, in the studio of Erika Raum. While in Toronto, Dominic has performed with various ensembles, including the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, University of Toronto Baroque Ensemble and the Sneak Peek Orchestra. This year, Dominic was privileged to have been given the opportunity to play as concertmaster of the University of Toronto Symphony and Opera Orchestras. He has also been an active freelance performer and teacher across the Greater Toronto Area. Prior to his studies in Toronto, Dominic attended Memorial University of Newfoundland, where he completed a Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance with Nancy Dahn. During his time at Memorial, Dominic played violin and viola with the Memorial University Chamber Orchestra, assuming roles of concertmaster and principal viola, and continues to be a regular member of the first violin section of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, sitting as assistant concertmaster for the 2011-2012 season. He is past assistant concertmaster of the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra. He has participated in summer music programs, including the Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival, the Scotia Festival of Music, the Orford Festival and the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute. Dominic is also a regular member of the orchestra for the Opera on the Avalon Festival in St. Johns, of which he has played as concertmaster. In addition to his love of instrumental music, Dominic has shared his love of choral music with various ensembles around the city of St. Johns, including the Memorial University Chamber Choir, the Quintessential Vocal Ensemble and Innismara Renaissance ensemble. In 2011, Dominic was the inaugural recipient of the Dorothy and David Peters Scholarship for Music Performance at Memorial University.

Dominic is currently a freelance performer and teacher in St. Johns, and frequently performs in solo violin, string duo, trio, quartet and orchestral settings. He is a versatile performer, and is proficient in many styles including classical, folk, pop, rock and jazz. Dominic is also a very passionate teacher, and enjoys sharing his love of music with others.

Jenny Griffioen (Piano, Accompanist)

Jenny Griffioen is a pianist and teacher based in St. John’s, Newfoundland. As a performer, she thrives on collaborative work. She plays regularly with musicians at all levels, accompanying young Suzuki string students, playing for university music students, and performing with professional musicians. She is also involved in church music at St. David’s Presbyterian. As a teacher, Jenny maintains a wonderfully diverse private studio with students ranging widely in age and experience.

Originally from Guelph, Ontario, Jenny moved to Newfoundland to study music at Memorial University. She graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Music in piano performance, and just recently completed a Master’s degree in piano performance and pedagogy. Her primary teachers are Kristina Szutor and Tim Steeves. Jenny has enjoyed settling into the vibrant music community in St. John’s, and is thankful for all the opportunities she has found here.

Valerie Hewson (Violin, Fiddle, Music With Your Baby)

Born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Valerie Hewson has
been playing musical instruments and singing since she was a small child. She studied violin with Christina Smith and Jennifer Johnson, as well as guitar and piano with her sister, Jean Hewson. Her teaching career began as a fiddle instructor for the Atlantic Canada Suzuki Institute in 2011. Since then, she has completed four teacher training courses (including early childhood training!), and now teaches students of all ages privately and in group settings. Valerie is currently the Artistic Director of the Suzuki Talent Education Program, as well as the Music Director of Kings Bridge Montessori school. Active in the local music scene, Valerie performs with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, as well as with several folk/rock bands. In her spare time…she loves to study! Valerie recently completed her Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psychology, with a minor in Music and Culture at Memorial University. She uses her education along with 20 years of Suzuki training and experience to nurture her students, encouraging them to believe that playing music is an experience for the mind, body and soul.

Jennifer Johnson (Violin, Body Mapping)

STEP Teachers - Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer played as principal second violin of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and second violin of the Atlantic String Quartet for twelve years. Presently, she plays first violin in the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.  In 2004, a generous grant from the Canada Council for the Arts funded a 7-month Alexander Technique sabbatical for Jennifer which permitted her to study  with many of the world’s leading Alexander Technique teachers. Jennifer went on to train in Body Mapping with Barbara Conable and in 2005 became Canada’s first Licensed Andover Educator. She now presents Body Mapping workshops internationally teaching musicians to enhance their musical ability and to prevent injury through a clear understanding of how their bodies are designed to move.

She has presented at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, at numerous music schools across Canada, including McGill University and University of Ottawa.  She was the keynote speaker at the Australian String Teachers’ Association in Brisbane, Australia in 2015 and is a regular presenter for the New York Philharmonic Zarin Mehta Program.

Jennifer is also a Professional Associate at Memorial University of Newfoundland Music School where she teaches Body Mapping and violin. She also teaches for the Suzuki Talent Education Program of St. John’s.

Jennifer’s book What Every Violinist Needs to Know about the Body was published in 2009 and is available from GIA Music Publications, www.giamusic.com. The Japanese translation of What Every Violinist Needs to Know about the Body was published in 2011 by Shunjusha Publications and it is presently being translated into French.  Her new book, Teaching Body Mapping to Children, will be published in  October 2016.

Heather Kao (Violin, Accompanist, STEP Orchestra)


STEP Teachers - Heather KaoFrom St. John’s, Heather Kao is the concertmaster of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and first violinist of the Atlantic String Quartet since 2015. She studied at Memorial University with Dr. Nancy Dahn. She has played in masterclasses for Martin Beaver, Lorand Fenyves, Mark Fewer and Pinchas Zukerman to name a few. She is a past member of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Quintessential Vocal Ensemble, and Lady Cove Women’s Choir. Heather has been a guest performer on countless recordings, as well as on TV and radio. She has enjoyed performing in many genres, from pop music with Rod Stewart and Hey Rosetta! to traditional music with Ennis and the Once. She has played in pit orchestras for many local productions, including White Christmas, Our Divas Do Broadway, West Side Story, Evita, and Annie. In addition to the NSO, Heather teaches with the MUN Chamber Program for Youth, Suzuki Talent Education Program, and in her private studio.

Chris McGee (Musicianship, Accompanist)

13876446_1641079539542699_117957774943179752_nChris McGee is a freelance saxophonist, pianist and composer from St. John’s, Newfoundland. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree at Memorial University, where he studied saxophone with Professor Paul Bendzsa. Chris plays piano as one half of the Avalonia Duo, is the organist at St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, and is co-director of the New Music Collective of St. John’s.

Etienne Pemburton-Renaud (Violin)

Tim Purdy (Musicianship, Accompanist)

STEP Teachers - Tim PurdyBorn in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Tim Purdy began studying the piano at age 4. Through attendance at the Salvation Army Temple, his love for music grew, and this passion led to his involvement in as many musical groups he could attend throughout his formal education. Since graduating from Memorial University with Honours in a Joint Degree program (Piano Performance, Theory and Composition) in 2012, Tim is actively pursuing musical interests in Newfoundland. He is currently accompanying for groups including the NSO Philharmonic Choir, Newman Sound, and has the rank of Corporal in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band (Tuba, Euphonium). He is especially looking forward to the 2014-2015 year where he will work with STEP to teach a theory class and accompany the Young Virtuosi. Highlights of his musical career include the honour of providing piano music during a private dinner function for the royal visit of Princess Anne in April 2010, traveling to Put-In Bay, Ohio with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band in 2013, and sharing the joy of music through teaching and collaborating with others. Telling new stories through piano improvisation is both educational and extremely expressive for Tim, and he aspires to continually improve his technique by emulating the practices set down by the brilliant and diligent people he works with.

Kate Read (Viola, Violin)

IMG_0122In 2013, after almost 10 years, Kate Read returned to Newfoundland and rejoined the Atlantic String Quartet and Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra as principal violist, where she had already played for 3 seasons between 2001 and 2004. Kate is also the violist of Dark by Five, resident ensemble at Gros Morne Summer Music.

In 2004 Kate won a position with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London, England where she was a member of the viola section for 6 years. Kate also regularly played with the renowned Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra of London. As a member of the Elgin String Trio, with fellow BBC colleagues, Kate never strayed far away from opportunities to play chamber music.

In 2011 the draw of chamber music combined with astonishing nature led Kate to the north of Norway to play with chamber group MiNensemblet, with whom Kate performed all over Norway and internationally.

Kate has been recorded by CBC for Two New Hours and Musicraft and made numerous recordings with orchestras in the UK for the BBC as well as for top record labels.

Kate joined the STEP faculty in 2015. As well as her private studio and the Suzuki Program, Kate teaches at Memorial University as a sessional professor and is also looking forward to working with the NSYO this year to help build the viola programme.

Lauren Smee (Violin)

STEP Teachers - Lauren SmeeEqually dedicated to both performing and pedagogy, violinist Lauren Smee has a love of playing that fuels her teaching and a love of teaching that informs her performance.

Lauren enjoys teaching students of all ages with the Suzuki Talent Education Program of St. John’s. Lauren has been on faculty at the Atlantic Canada Suzuki Institute and Toronto Suzuki Studio Summer Camps, and has been a music teacher at Canada’s National Ballet School. She has also been an assistant conductor for the Laurier Singers Chamber Choir, and Choral Director for the First Unitarian Congregation of Waterloo.

Whether on stage or in the studio Lauren is passionate about cultivating physical and musical freedom and preventing playing-related injury. As an Andover Educator trainee studying with Jennifer Johnson she explores the body in movement in order to enhance music pedagogy and musical ability.

As a member of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra Lauren has enjoyed the opportunity to work with visiting and local artists. She has performed with the symphony as a part of the Opera on the Avalon and Festival 500 and has nurtured her love of chamber music through performances with the Casalmaggiore International Festival in Italy and the Tuckamore Festival in St. John’s.

Lauren holds degrees from Wilfrid Laurier University (Honours Bachelor of Music) and Memorial University of Newfoundland (Master of Music in Violin Performance/Pedagogy) and is grateful to her principal teachers, Dr. Nancy Dahn, May Ing, Jennifer Johnson, Jerzy Kaplanek, and Christine Vlajk for their immense contributions to her artistic development.

When she’s not teaching or playing music Lauren can usually be found hiking or reading a good book.

Christina Smith (Violin, Fiddle, Cello)

STEP Teachers - Christina SmithChristina Smith is a performer, recording artist and teacher, living in St. John’s. A native Newfoundlander, Christina performs in North America and Europe as half of the award-winning Newfoundland Folk Music duo, Christina Smith and Jean Hewson, and as a member of the Mahers Bahers. She teaches both Suzuki Method strings and Newfoundland Fiddling in St. John’s and at workshops in Ontario and Quebec. In April 2012 she was presented with the 2011 “Arts in Education” Award by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.

Christina’s compositions and arrangements can be heard on several CBC radio documentaries, as well as short films and videos. In demand as a session player in her hometown of St. John’s, she has backed up Newfoundland’s best known musicians, including Emile Benoit, Buddy Wasisname, the Irish Descendants, Jean Hewson, Jim Payne, Fergus O’Byrne, Ron Hynes and others. She is featured on a solo CD entitled Fiddle Me This, and the duo albums Like Ducks! andAugust Gale.

Christina holds a B.Mus. with Honours in History and an Artist’s Diploma in Cello Performance from the University of Western Ontario, and the Suzuki Cello Teacher’s Degree from the Talent Education Institute, Matsumoto, Japan. She learned Newfoundland fiddling from Emile Benoit and Rufus Guinchard.

Christina’s website: http://jeanandchristina.ca

Past Teachers:

  • Maria Bath (Violin, Fiddle)
  • Julia Bowdring (Violin, Fiddle)
  • Scott Chancey (Viola, Violin)
  • Sean Conway (Violin, Viola, Orchestra)
  • Rachel Gauntlett (Cello)
  • Karen Hawkin (Violin, Fiddle)
  • Dana Hunter (Violin)
  • Chantelle Jubenville (Fiddle)
  • Ellen Kogut (Violin)
  • Rachel Landy (Violin)
  • Matthew March (Cello)
  • Kristen Oliver (Violin)
  • Evelyn Osborne (Violin, Fiddle, Early Childhood Education)
  • Sandra Pope (Cello)
  • Gordon Stockwell (Violin)
  • Kellie Walsh (Orchestra)