About Our Instructors

Great Lessons Start with Great Instructors

The School of American Music has assembled a highly experienced faculty for its private lessons and group courses. As a matter of policy, the school won’t offer lessons in a particular instrument unless it can pair those lessons with a uniquely qualified instructor.

 

SAM strongly emphasizes performance skills as part of its curriculum and hires teachers who are also performing musicians. All of the school’s instructors perform with local orchestras, bands, ensembles and other groups at venues around the Michiana area, and at SAM-sponsored recitals and other events.

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Our Amazing Instructors

Laura Darby

Voice

Laura Darby is a cum laude graduate of Ball State University with primary study in vocal performance and a secondary focus on music education. Darby has performed in various music groups including mixed chorale and small jazz groups, and was a primary member of the Ball State Opera Company, with which she sang Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. Darby was born and raised in La Porte, IN, and is currently diversifying her musical talents by learning mandolin and writing folk and bluegrass songs.

Priscilla Lee Hellenga

Reading Music

Born and raised in Three Oaks, Priscilla Hellenga comes from a musical family—her parents founded the Lee Music Room in 1960, and she grew up singing duets with her mother in a local church choir. She began giving guitar lessons as a teen in 1964 and was a church choir director for many years. Hellenga has a degree in Public Administration from Grand Valley State University. Apart from her teaching duties, she heads Event Planning at the School of American Music and is past executive director of the school.

Julie Littell

Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Flute

Julie Littell is an accomplished flute performer and teacher. Prior to joining the School of American Music, she headed the Flute Department at the Talent Education Suzuki School in Norwalk, Conn. She was a faculty member at Merit Music, also in Norwalk, and at Claremont Community School of Music in Claremont, Calif. Littell has played with bands and ensembles in Los Angeles; Tarrytown, N.Y., and Michigan City, Ind. She has a BA in flute performance from Principia College and certifications from schools in Iowa, Wisconsin, California and Japan.

Evan Margol

Guitar, Studio Recording

Evan Margol has a degree in audio production and music performance from Belmont University. He is well-versed in musical styles such as classical, jazz, rock and modern electronic. From guitar lessons and basic recording all the way to advanced lessons in synthesis and sound design, Margol blends past and future approaches to music. His recording lessons teach how to record individual instruments, bands and vocals taking a hands-on approach to the sound equipment and setup through the basics of the software that drives today’s studio recording.

Donna M. Mitchell

Voice, Preschool Programs

Donna M. Mitchell is a former classroom teacher of general music and choral director at schools in Indiana. She is well-known locally for her work with the Michigan City, Ind., Messiah Steering Committee and for her involvement in that city’s annual Chamber Music Festival and Monday Musicale Club. Mitchell is also a member of the Harbor Country Singers and the Valparaiso University Community Concert Band. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Mitchell is Executive Director of the School of American Music.

Beth Oeseburg

Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Violin

Beth Oeseburg is a veteran violinist and violin teacher. She is currently Artist in Residence in the St. Joseph, Mich., Public Schools and gives private lessons through the Citadel Dance and Music Center in Benton Harbor, Mich. Oeseburg is director of the Lake Michigan Youth Orchestra Concert Strings, and was an adjunct instructor at Lake Michigan College. She is Assistant Concertmaster for the Southwest Michigan Symphony and has performed with other symphonies in Michigan and Indiana. She has a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Western Michigan University.

Aglaja Petrova

Piano

Aglaja Petrova started taking piano lessons when she was six, and has been teaching piano at the School of American Music since she was 15. She has played for mass at many different churches and has also performed for school plays, piano recitals, The Indiana State School Music Association Solo and Ensemble Contest, and other piano competitions. Aglaja has studied piano under several teachers, and is currently taking lessons from Lydie Regazi of Berrien Springs, Mich. Her goal is to pursue a career in general music education and piano performance.

Garth Taylor

Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Guitar; Ukulele; Music Composition; Small Ensemble; Multiple Instrument and Style Coaching

Apart from his busy teaching schedule, School of American Music Founder and President Garth Taylor is an accomplished composer, arranger and performer. He composed much of the score and served as Musical Director for the 2017 Three Oaks sesquicentennial play, Three Oaks against the World, and composed and directed music for historical videos. Taylor has performed a wide variety of bands, and can frequently be heard trying out new material at the Acorn open mic and at the Three Oaks Farmers’ Market.

Denise Vanden Bussche

Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Piano

Denise Vanden Bussche has taught piano and flute for more than 20 years. She was named Port Huron, Mich., Teacher of the Year in 2017, and has recently moved to New Buffalo, Mich. Vanden Bussche is a frequent performer at weddings and church services, and is an accompanist in music competitions. She plays keyboard and is a backup vocalist for a 70s and 80s rock cover band called Sweet T’s. Vanden Bussche attended Wayne State University, where she majored in music education and studied under members of the Detroit Symphony.

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