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, NLSI Co-Artistic-Director)

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 Co-Artistic-Director, NLSI Co-Artistic Director)

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)

STEP Teachers - Nancy Case-OatesNancy 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)

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 ensembleIn 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 Griffieon (Piano, Accompanist)

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

Valerie Hewson - Suzuki Violin, FiddleValerie Hewson has been playing musical instruments and singing since she was a small child. She studied violin and fiddle with Christina Smith and Jennifer Johnson, as well as guitar and piano with her sister, Jean Hewson. She has been a member of a number of groups, including the STEP Fiddlers and the Young Virtuoisi. She began teaching as a fiddle instructor for the Atlantic Canada Suzuki Institute in 2011. Since then, she has taught privately and in group settings. Recently, she has become the violin instructor at Soulful Sounds, and is enjoying every aspect of it.

Currently, Valerie is in her fourth year of her undergraduate degree at Memorial University. She is working on a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psychology, with a minor in Music. For the last two years, she has been part of the Memorial University Chamber Orchestra. Prior to her studies at MUN, Valerie attended Gonzaga High School, where she played a large role in the music scene. She could be found singing in both the Chamber and Girls Choirs, playing in the Concert band, singing for the Jazz Band, and as well, Valerie also filled the role of violinist for the choirs. At that time, Valerie also took part in playing with the Newfoundland Youth Symphony Orchestra, among other groups.

Valerie has played at many events, including the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. As well, she has played at many weddings, and private events. Valerie loves to sing, play guitar, write, and play traditional music. Fiddle music has inspired Valerie in many ways, and her main goal in teaching is to share that love with the people around her.

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, 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 KaoHeather Kao is a freelance violinist and teacher living and working in St. John’s. She frequently can be seen on stage performing as a soloist, with the violin and guitar duo called Duet Ever, or with the Ora Ensemble. She has been a guest performer on countless recordings, as well as on TV and radio. She has a performance degree from the Memorial University School of Music and is a past member of the The National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Quintessential Vocal Ensemble and Lady Cove Women’s Choir. She has received many awards from the Kiwanis Music Festival including the Senior Rose Bowl, and has competed at the national level of the Canadian Music Competition and National Music Competition. Heather enjoys playing different styles of music, and has previously performed with pop groups Hey Rosetta and Christa Borden, as well as traditional music with Ennis. Heather is currently the associate concertmaster of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.

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, Former STEP Artistic Director)

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 and from 2014 – 2016 served as Artistic Director. 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:

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)