Avi Friedlander, Cello, is the founder and director of STEP Birmingham. Mr. Friedlander currently teaches at both STEP Birmingham and the Alabama School of Fine Arts and formerly taught at Emory University. He received his Master’s and Bachelor’s of Music performance degrees from The University of Michigan, and pursued his professional studies degree from The Cleveland Institute of Music. Mr. Friedlander is the former Assistant Principal cellist of the Atlanta Opera and member of The New World Symphony. He has been trained in the Suzuki methods with Dr. Tanya Carey, Pam Devenport, Rick Mooney and Gilda Barston. Mr. Friedlander has also studied Early Child Development with Ed Sprunger, teaching group classes with Carey Beth Hockett, Ed Sprunger and Terry Durbin, Music Mind Games with Elizabeth Cunha and cello pedagogy with Irene Sharp. Mr. Friedlander has studied improvisation with Ellen Rowe at the University of Michigan, Eugene Friesen from the Berkely College of Music in Boston and Stephan Braun from Berlin . His primary teachers have included Anthony Elliott, Stephen Geber, Tanya Carey and David Premo. He has also studied with Richard Aaron, Eric Kim, Yehuda Hanani, David Premo and Hans Jensen. Mr. Friedlander has taught at workshops and festivals around the world and has performed and recorded music from classical to rock. Mr. Friedlander currently performs with Sunday Jazz Night and String Theory Birmingham and writes his own arrangements for solo cello and ensembles from Jimi Hendrix to Pearl Jam.
Troy Bast, Violin, currently performs regularly with the Alabama Symphony, the Chattanooga Symphony, the Huntsville Symphony, and the Mobile Symphony. He is the former assistant principal 2nd violin in both the Huntsville Symphony and the Chattanooga Symphony. He began his violin studies in Pennsylvania, where he was a student at Temple University Preparatory Division. Mr. Bast received his Bachelor of Music degree from New York University, and his Master of Music degree from The Peabody Conservatory of Music. His teachers have included Marie Griffith, Davyd Booth, Mark Steinberg, Shirley Givens and Laura Kobayashi. Mr. Bast received his training in the Suzuki methods with Edmund Sprunger, Marilyn O’Boyle, Carrie Reuning-Hummel, Allen Lieb, Thomas Wermuth, and Timothy Durbin.
Laura Usiskin, cello, has diverse musical interests spanning from early Baroque to 21st century music and solo to orchestral playing. Laura’s solo, chamber, and orchestral performing have taken her throughout the United States and Europe. In 2008 she received the Aldo Parisot prize at Yale University, given to gifted cellist showing promise in a solo career. Laura’s cello studies began at age five with Gilda Barston of the Music Institute of Chicago and continued with Richard Hirschl of the Chicago Symphony. She graduated from Columbia University cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and Behavior and from Juilliard School with a Master of Music in Cello Performance, where she studied with Fred Sherry. Laura studied with Aldo Parisot at Yale University’s School of Music, where in 2009 she finished her doctoral coursework. Laura did her Suzuki training with Jean Dexter, Pam Devenport, Nancy Hair and Sally Gross.
Group classes are held every other week and are an essential aspect of the Suzuki Method. Classes are offered for both beginning and intermediate levels. Each student is assigned to a group based on their age and skill level for 60 minute sessions. Group classes incorporate many aspects of playing as well as movement, reading and ensemble. Group classes are able to perform thoughout the city of Birmingham through many different events types including Magic City Arts Connection, German Food Festival, Levite JCC, Ronald McDonald House and more.
Improvisation Classes classes are designed for students Book 2 and above and are designed to enhance creativity and joy in developing an unique voice and sound on the students.
Private lessons are the cornerstone for success in the development of every child’s musical ability. Weekly private lessons are required for all students and are offered to students ages 3 and up of all levels of ability. New students may begin lessons at anytime during the teaching quarter. Students may study in 20, 30, 45, or 60 minute lessons which are up to the discretion of the teacher.
Once a year, S.T.E.P. Birmingham hold parent talks to help assist parents in practicing at home with their children to give an opportunity for parents to discuss there experiences in raising a Suzuki student in an open warm environment.
Students are given the opportunity to participate in a group “Play Down” recital, “Program” recital and every other week “Performance” recitals. These recitals are a chance for the students to hone their performance skills and gain confidence in their playing. Each student will perform a graduation piece before moving on to a new Suzuki Book. This is a wonderful way to give the studets a sense of accomplishment and progress as they move on to the next level in their studies. For more information on the recital formats, please contact email@example.com
Reading music, having a sense of inner rhythm and understanding the theory of music is an essential part of playing an instrument. Classes to improve these skills are offered through a variety of methods including traditional reading, music mind games, and delcroze eurhythmics.
Rene Reder, Viola and Violin, joined the Alabama Symphony in 2004. She was born and raised in Tacoma Washington, where she attended the University of Puget Sound, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in music. She then studied at Temple University in Philadelphia, receiving her Masters of Music Degree and Performance Diploma. Music has taken her to a handful of beautiful and interesting places including Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, Europe, Israel, and Argentina. In 2001, after three years in the New World Symphony, Rene won a position with the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, where she played until 2003. In June 2004 she completed a one year position with the Virginia Symphony before moving to Birmingham. Rene has studied the Suzuki methods with Linda Steig at Capital University in Columbus, OH
Romona Merritt, Viola and Violin, is a native of Jacksonville Florida and violist with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. She completed her Bachelors of Music Performance from the North Carolina School of the Arts and her Masters in Music Performance from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. In 1994, Ms. Merritt was chosen to participate in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s fellowship program, performing with the orchestra for two seasons. After performing with the Grand Rapids Symphony for one season, Ms. Merritt joined the Alabama Symphony in the fall of 1998. Having taught and performed at many leading music festival around the country, Ms. Merritt is currently the viola instructor at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Ms. Merritt has studied the Suzuki methods with Carrie Reuning-Hummel at the Atlanta Suzuki Institute.
Sarah Dennis, Violin, currently plays in the first violin section of the Alabama Symphony. Previously she was a member of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Sarasota Opera. She also taught violin with the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from the University of Alabama, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude at age nineteen, and a Master of Music in Violin Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She has performed collaboratively with members of the Berlin Philharmonic and in faculty recitals at both UA and CIM. She has also been soloist with the Tuscaloosa Symphony and National Repertory Orchestra. Sarah’s family has lived in Birmingham since 1990
S.T.E.P. Birmingham brings down some of the most famous Suzuki teachers from around the country at a weekend workshop. For more information on these special events, please go to www.birminghamyaw.com