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  our teachers make all the difference 

OUR TEACHERS  create a fun musical experience that spurs engagement and supports each child's musical development. All of them are passionate about music and guiding the growth and development of every child's musical ability. All of our early childhood instructors are Registered or Certified Music Together® instructors. Each and every private lessons instructor will tailor the method to the individual student's learning style, which may include the Suzuki methods or a more traditional approach.

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  Sam Sharp  

Violin Instructor & Camps Manager

Sam Sharp is a music teacher, violinist, composer, arranger, and very mediocre juggler. A full-time teacher since 2010, Sam uses his Suzuki training, therapy and healing work, and performance experience to create a unique and highly personalized learning environment. His vision as a teacher is to guide each student in a way that allows them to find their own creatively fulfilling path with music. Sam's performing activities include outreach concerts at hospitals and schools and shows with his Beatles string quartet. He loves playing classical, blues, bluegrass, and Irish music and has been exploring improvisation as important element of learning the violin.  He holds violin performance degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University.

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   Katie Dunn-Rankin 

Early Childhood Music Instructor

Katie Dunn-Rankin is an early childhood educator with experience teaching kindergarten and preschool. With a background in musical theatre, Katie has a lifelong love of music and performing that she has enjoyed sharing with young people since she was still in grade school herself. She has a degree in elementary education from Wheaton College, and a certification in ESL education, speaking conversational Spanish. These days, Katie enjoys acting in the comedy and theatre scene here in Chicago, as well as performing in character at children’s birthday parties and events with Princess Party Chicago

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   Jessie Ewers  

Early Childhood Music Instructor & Enrollment Manager

Jessie is a mother of two daughters and music and dance has always been a part of their everyday routine--whether it be family karaoke night or a random dance party in their living room. She was in choir and acapella singing groups all through school. Jessie worked as a preschool teaching assistant at a local public school and a Montessori school. She has her paraprofessional education certificate, as well as an associate's in early childhood education. When she's not teaching, or handling enrollment for MMM, she loves to spend time with her daughters and snuggle with her dog.

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  Amber Farish    

Early Childhood, Voice & Piano Instructor

Amber Farish grew up in Orlando, Florida, and has been living in Illinois since 2014. Her love of music and play allowed her to take to the Music Together curriculum like a fish to water, and under the mentorship of Julie De Grandpré, she completed her training in 2021. When Amber is not leading group classes at Merry Music Makers she teaches private voice and piano lessons in the suburbs at Des Plaines School of Music. Amber earned her Master’s Degree in 2016 in Vocal Performance and Literature from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 

   Bernadette Garza

Voice & Piano Instructor

Bernadette has over 15 years of professional experience teaching and a genuine excitement to develop musical growth at any age through ear training, pitch recognition, rhythmic structure and harmonic expression. She has performed throughout the regional Midwest in the classical, musical theater, and contemporary genres, including Chicago Opera Theater's Nixon in China, American Chamber Opera’s Madame Butterfly, and Porchlight Theater’s Ragtime. Bernadette  works with several different groups as lead vocalist, performing for live music venues, jazz series, festivals, and private  events. She has a Masters of Voice degree from the Chicago Conservatory of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

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  Sarah Ma  


Sarah Ma is the new  Executive Director of Merry Music Makers as of February 2023. As founder of LYRIQ Music School in 2016, Sarah brings a wealth of experience to Merry Music Makers as both a performing artist and business owner. She is excited to be part of a musical program rooted in early childhood development and learning styles that establishes pathways in young brains for musical fluency. Sarah attributes much of her success to her background in Chemical Engineering and her time in the Peace Corps Tanzania as a Chemistry Teacher. She lives in the Northcenter neighborhood with her husband, two children, and dog, Crash.

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  Cara Paden   

Early Childhood Instructor

Cara grew up in a musical family and always knew she would utilize this nurturing later in life. She obtained a bachelor's at Goshen College in Indiana and went on to teach elementary school for a year in Zimbabwe. She then went on to obtain her masters in music therapy at Illinois State University. She has been facilitating music therapy groups at various behavioral health hospitals in the Chicago area before joining InTouch & Motion, a private practice for creative art therapists. Cara believes that her varied experiences have helped shape who she is as an inclusive and mindful music therapist. She is excited to join Merry Music Makers and bring joy to all the families who join her classes.

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  Kristen Regester

Early Childhood Music Instructor & Program Manager

A percussionist, dancer, and singer, Kristen Regester has been teaching and performing around Chicago since 1999. She started her career at Sherwood Community Music School and received her Music Together certification in 2000. She went on to create early childhood curricula and served as Children’s Program Chair at Columbia College. Kristen now spends her time applying the principles of Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a unique kinesthetic approach to music education, to the students at four different music schools. She is very passionate about working with children who are differently-abled, and finds that music is the bridge connecting her to them. Kristen holds a BA in Instrumental Music Education from the University of Michigan.

   William Smith 

Guitar Instructor

William's teaching career began soon after he took up the guitar at age 11, offering instruction to peers and family friends. This passion for teaching continued at Ball State University where he taught fellow students. After graduating in 2013 with his Bachelor of Music Performance degree, William moved to Chicago where he earned his Master of Music degree at DePaul University. William also teaches after-school guitar classes through AES’s Guitar Stars program and assists with Suzuki instruction within DePaul’s Community Music Division. William enjoys performing with various ensembles in the Chicago area, gigs with his bands, composes/arranges works for the guitar.

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