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.

SAM and its teachers are available to work with schools and other venues to provide short-term classes and/or experiences in music for children of all ages. Contact us by email or phone to enlist our services.


Our Amazing Instructors

Elin Boklund

Elin Boklund


Elin Boklund teaches saxophone at the School of American Music. She grew up in La Porte, Ind. After graduating from high school, she attended VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. While attending VanderCook, she took advantage of performance opportunities at many popular Chicago-area venues. Boklund began her teaching career at John Young Middle School in Mishawaka, Ind. She has been a member of the La Porte City Band for the last five years and a member of the Down by the Dock Jazz Band for the last eight. Borklund is currently pursuing her master’s in Music Education.

Matt Daniel, tenor

Matt Daniel


Matthew Daniel, tenor, has been described as “a tenor of steely power and robust tone” — The Denver Post. Over his twenty-five-plus years of singing, he has had the privilege to perform Opera, Oratorio, Concerts, and in Recital. He has been a member of the Lyric Opera Chicago chorus since 2004.

Along with his singing, Matthew teaches voice in his home studio in South Bend, Indiana and at Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana. Most recently he has added stage director to his resume when he directed Die Fledermaus and L’elisir d’amore with South Bend Lyric Opera.

Madison Kutch

Madison Kutch

All Band Instruments/Brass Specialty

In addition to her duties at SAM, Madison Kutch teaches Elementary Music for the Michigan City, Ind. schools and has given private lessons for eight years. She is a member of the La Porte Symphony Orchestra, the Windiana Concert Band, the Michigan City Municipal Band and the La Porte Municipal Band. Kutch earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Valparaiso University. She has studied with well-known trumpet player Charles Steck for 12 years, and performs with him regularly. Her primary instrument is trumpet, but she is experienced in a broad variety of instruments.

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 and Flute

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.

Ron Spears

Intermediate and Advanced Guitar, Jazz Emphasis

Ron Spears has played guitar since a teen, influenced by the Woodstock generation of music and Broadway musical theatre. He is well-versed in all kinds of music with a huge home library of vinyl. He studied under Jorma Kaukonen, guitarist of the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, as well as Tony do Rosario, a Chicago Jazz guitarist, and studies finger-picking styles of guitar greats adding finesse to his repertoire of Ragtime, Jazz and Broadway standards. Ron is currently the guitarist for “Down by the Docks”, a NW Indiana big band. Originally a N.Y. native, he now calls Chicago and Union Pier home and solos at various Michiana venues.

Garth Taylor

Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Guitar; Ukulele; Beginning and Intermediate Mountain Dulcimer; 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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