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.
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.