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.

Valerie Hewson – STEP Artistic Director
Private Violin/Group Fiddle & Early Childhood Education

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 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.

Carole Bestvater – Private Violin/Group Violin, Fiddle & Musicianship

Carole Bestvater, violinist, strives to share her joy of music with those around her.  She is equally at home in a diversity of genres, maintaining a full schedule as a performer and educator.  Carole relocated to St. John’s to pursue a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance with Dr. Nancy Dahn at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and loved it here so much that she decided to stay.

As an educator, Carole is on faculty of the Suzuki Talent Education Program, and has been trained in Books 1-6 with SAA teacher trainers from across North America.  As a performing musician, you are likely to catch Carole in a diverse range of performance settings. She is Assistant Principal Second of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, and performs chamber music with the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. You can also find her playing and singing in various folk and folk-rock groups; she is equally comfortable playing a variety of styles including Bluegrass, Irish, Newfoundland, Scandinavian, Old Time and Appalachian folk music.

Passionate about equity, Carole founded the Strong Harbour Strings Program, an after school music program based in the belief that communities can be strengthened through the learning and sharing of music. This program was designed to bring music education to families with few resources, so that their children can also experience the benefits of learning music.

Maggie Burton – Private Violin/Group Violin

Maggie Burton grew up in Brigus, Newfoundland and Labrador. She currently lives near Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s where she works as a City Councillor, musician, management coach, poet, and violin teacher. She graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Music degree from MUN where she studied violin with Dr. Nancy Dahn and specialized in music history with Dr. Jane Gosine, which involved writing an honours-equivalent thesis on modern Medieval performance practice.

Maggie is an active arts administrator, educator and performer. She is the former Co-Artistic
Director of the Suzuki Talent Education Program and the Newfoundland and Labrador Suzuki
Institute. Maggie was the Music Director at King’s Bridge Montessori School. She is the Co-
Artistic Director of the St. John’s New Music Collective and enjoys collaborating with composers
to create multi-disciplinary performance and has written vocal texts for several commissions.
Maggie makes up half of the experimental pop duo Door Lock, which has created 4 records for
the RPM (Record Production Month) Challenge. She performs regularly with many other local
ensembles and enjoys playing everything from free improvisation to Newfoundland fiddling.
In her spare time, she enjoys walking, painting, reading, gardening, and playing with her kids,
Jack and Ursula.

Nancy Case-Oates – Private Violin/Group 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.

Amy Collyer-Holmes – Private Cello/Group Cello & 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 – Private Violin

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.

Jennifer Johnson – Private Violin/Young Virtuosi

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, was published in October 2016.

Kate Read – Private Viola & Violin/Group Viola

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.

Ema Shiroma-Chao – Private Violin & Viola/Group Fiddle & Musicianship

Ema began her musical journey in her home province of BC, starting violin lessons at the age of 4. Her passion for music has been inspired and supported by many of her childhood teachers, including Angela Schneider, Joan Blackman, Irina Faletski, and Robert Rozek and Joseph Elworthy, who led her early ensemble experiences at the Vancouver Academy of Music. After completing an ARCT Diploma with the Royal Conservatory of Music, she moved to Montréal to pursue a Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance at McGill University. There, she studied under Mark Fewer and was also extremely fortunate to have received coaching from other McGill faculty members including Douglas McNabney, Jean Marchand, and Richard Roberts. It was through playing chamber music at university where Ema picked up the viola, the instrument she now plays as part of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.

Putting her formal studies to use, Ema has performed for theatre shows, weddings, convocation events, and non-for-profit fundraising concerts. In 2017, she was part of a massive orchestra which drew in a crowd of an estimated 70,000 people at the base of Mont-Royal, organized for the City of Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations. Music has led to many opportunities, including travels to attend summer music programs such as Le Domaine Forget (La Malbaie, Québec), and Allegro Vivo (Horn, Austria). It has also inspired Ema’s love for culture, language, and education. Following the completion of her B. Mus. at McGill, Ema obtained a B. Ed. at Queen’s University (while performing with the Kingston Symphony when possible), gaining teaching qualifications in FSL and Instrumental Music. She looks forward to combining her knowledge in education and music to inform her teaching practice with STEP.

Lauren Smee – Private Violin/Group Violin & Musicianship

Equally 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. As a member of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra Lauren has enjoyed the opportunity to work with visiting and local artists including Andre LaPlante, Jonathan Crow, Mark Fewer, and Jody Richardson. 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. As a singer she enjoys performing with the Quintessential Vocal Ensemble.

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 she educates musicians on how accurate information about the body in movement can enhance both music pedagogy and musical ability. As a teacher Lauren enjoys working with students of all ages and levels with the Suzuki Talent Education Program of St. John’s, where she served as Artistic Director from 2014 – 2016. She 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. In 2017-2018 Lauren was the Project Coordinator of Memorial University’s Chamber Music for Youth program.

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, Jennifer Johnson, Jerzy Kaplanek, and May Ing for their immense contributions to her artistic development. When she’s not playing music Lauren can usually be found hiking or reading a good book.

Christina Smith – Private Cello/Group Cello, Violin, Parent Orientation, STEP Fiddlers

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! and August 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:

Jenny Griffioen – Collaborative Pianist

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.