MUSIC DEPARTMENT FACULTY AND STAFF
Jennifer Malone Hobbs, M.M.: Faculty; Music Department Chair; Director of Orchestra & String Orchestra; Chamber Music; Instructor of Violin and Viola; Music Survey; Teacher of Music Survey; Advisor to The Kent Music Honor Society (Tri-M)
Jennifer Hobbs holds an A.B. from Bowdoin College (1990) in Music and History, and a Master of Music from the University of Connecticut (1997). At the University of Connecticut her coursework focused on performance practices, history, and music education & philosophy. She studied instrumental conducting with Jeffrey Renshaw and sight-singing, choral methods and children’s vocal development with Mary Ellen Junda. Before coming to Kent in 1993, she was the Assistant Manager for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra; her responsibilities included coordinating the Music in the Schools program and being the guest artist liaison and host. In this position, she was able to work with many great artists including Emmanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Judy Collins and Tony Bennett. Her study of violin began at the age of three with Yuko Takahashi (student of Dr. Shin’ichi Suzuki). During high school she studied violin at Yale University with Paul Kantor and the piano at The Hartt School of Music with Betty Winograd. In her college and post-graduate years, Mrs. Hobbs studied violin with Stephen Kecskemethy (Bowdoin College), Thomas Moore (University of Miami, School of Music) and Emlyn Ngai (The Hartt School). She studied chamber music with Stephen Kecskemethy & Julia Adams (viola), members of the Portland String Quartet. Mrs. Hobbs is a violinist with the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, and performs as a soloist and chamber musician throughout New England. Her students have participated in numerous honors ensembles and competitions, including the Carnegie Hall Youth Honors Orchestra & the Tanglewood Institute.
Thomas Bouldin, PhD: Faculty; Director of Concert Band & Jazz Band, Brass Instructor; Teacher of Music Theory & Music Technology; Facilities Coordinator for Mattison Auditorium and the Music Center; Music Director for the Musical Theater Productions
Dr. Thomas Bouldin received the Bachelor of Music Education, Master of Education in Music and the Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education degrees from Auburn University, where his coursework focused on curriculum and teaching in music and music technology. While at Auburn, he studied trombone with Dr. Bill Walls, orchestral conducting with Dr. Harold Kafer, and wind conducting with Dr. Rick Good. Groups under Dr. Bouldin’s direction have consistently received superior ratings and numerous first place and grand champion awards. An avid performer, Dr. Bouldin has an extensive background in orchestral, band, chamber, and jazz performance as a trombonist. In addition, he has toured regionally and nationally as a guitarist/bassist in various rock, jazz and blues ensembles. Dr. Bouldin has maintained close working relationships with local school and community theater groups, serving as musical director and/or technical director for dozens of productions.
Barbara Harris Kovacs, M.M.: Director of Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, Kentones & Kentettes; Minister of Music and Organist for St. Joseph’s Chapel; Instructor of Voice, Piano and Organ; Teacher of Music Survey
Barbara Harris Kovacs is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of West Chester University of PA, having earned a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance in December 2008; she is also an alumnus of Western Connecticut State University, with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music Performance and in Communications. Mrs. Kovacs studied for several years with Dr. Thomas Houser, International Master Teacher of Singing, as well as Dr. Betty Jones of the New York City Opera; she began her study of the piano at age 5. Mrs. Kovacs has sung in performance as a soprano soloist with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and with the Immaculata University Symphony Orchestra. She served as adjunct Professor of Voice at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT, as well as teaching at the Westtown School and Bishop Shanahan High School in PA. Mrs. Kovacs has maintained a private music studio since 1994, and has served as the choral conductor/director for several adult, high school, and children’s choirs, having studied Advanced Choral Conducting with Dr. David DeVenney. Though she is a classically trained vocalist and pianist, Mrs. Kovacs enjoys performing several different styles of music, including jazz, rock, and blues; she has composed, recorded, performed, taught and conducted various styles of music throughout the Northeast. She has sung jazz with the legendary Les Paul, was the featured rock vocal coach on MTV’s “Viva La Bam,” and has performed extensively as the jazz vocalist for several Philly-based swing/big bands, as well as singing with rock bands in CT and PA.
Deborah Pendal, M.M. and L.R.S.M.: Instructor of Flute & Piano; Director of Chamber Ensembles; Choral Accompanist; Teacher of Music Survey; Advisor to The Kent Music Honor Society (Tri-M); Administration
Deborah Pendal began her musical studies at the Birmingham Conservatory of Music, UK before transferring to the University of Colorado, Boulder. Here, Ms. Pendal graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree and was the winner of the Fiske Competition Award. She completed her Master of Music Education degree with Adams State University. Ms. Pendal continued to teach and perform in the Denver area (Colorado Wind Ensemble and Denver Centennial Orchestra) before moving to New York. She continued to freelance and teach (Hudson Valley Wind Ensemble, Bronx River Opera and New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra) whilst earning an Advanced Certificate and Licentiate in Flute Teaching from the Royal Schools of Music, London, England. (LRSM). Ms. Pendal has taught in Connecticut for the past 15 years and directs the Kent School Flute Ensemble. She is a member of the National Flute Association and judges for CT Regional and All-State auditions. Her students have been accepted to the CT Regional, All-State, All-Eastern and New England Music Festivals and have won regional concerto competitions as well as pursuing professional careers in music.
John Aschenbrenner: Piano Instructor
John Aschenbrenner received his B.A. in Music from the University of California at Berkeley in 1976. His early undergraduate work focused on music for the theatre, and he became composer in residence for the Berkeley Repertory Theater in 1973. He attended the University of Southern California as a graduate composition student in the music department in 1978, with an emphasis on the film and theater school. This led to a Broadway career as a pianist and conductor for shows such as Tommy Tune’s “My One And Only” and Rupert Holmes’ “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” John was originally a piano student of Denise Lassimone and Frank Mannheimer, both proteges of the Royal College of Music master teacher Tobias Matthay. John is the winner of many awards as a composer, including an Emmy Award for Musical Direction, a Drama Critics Circle Award and the NY Meet The Composer Award. His music has appeared in many television shows (General Hospital, Another World, As The World Turns) and films (China Syndrome) and he is the composer of a large cinematic stock library, Cinemusic, which is still widely used in broadcast and film genres. He has composed incidental music for many theater productions, and his musicals have been performed at the Williamstown Theater Festival and the Alley Theater in Houston, and still enjoy a place in the repertoire of many stock and regional theaters. John has concentrated on piano teaching since 2000 and created a piano method for preschool students which allows young kids to delay reading music and simply enjoy the piano.
Liang-Fang Chang: Piano Instructor
Pianist, Liang-Fang Chang, has appeared in solo recitals in the United States, Thailand and her homeland Taiwan. During her doctoral studies at the University of Iowa, she won the highly-competitive Iowa Performance Fellowship and the UI Concerto Competition performing Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto. In addition to being a piano teaching assistant at the University, Dr. Chang also served as a research assistant at the UI prestigious and well-known Center for New Music. As an active pianist in this position she recorded many contemporary works for the Center, and the CD was internationally released on the Albany label commemorating the Center’s 40th Anniversary. A successful solo pianist, Dr. Chang’s musicianship has also been deeply enhanced by extensive experiences as a chamber musician. Her collaborative concerts have brought her performing throughout Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut. As the pianist for the Taipei Success Children’s Choir, she has performed in major cities, such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Beijing, Tianjing, Linz, Los Angeles, and Taipei. Dr. Chang earned her Bachelor of Music with the highest honors from the Fu-Jen University in Taiwan and her Master of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She received her Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Iowa. Her teachers have included Sheau-Ping Hu, Daniel Shapiro, and Uriel Tsachor. Dr. Chang is also a successful private studio teacher. Recent success of two of her students led them to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York in March 2019. Currently, Dr.Chang is an adjunct faculty in both the Department of Music and Kathwari Honors Program at Western Connecticut State University and the Kent School at Kent, Connecticut.
Mary Costanza: Cello Instructor
Cellist Mary Costanza enjoys a multifaceted career as a teacher, performer and recording artist. She has developed a thriving private studio for students of all ages and currently serves as Instructor of Cello at the Kent School and the Gunnery. Mary is also a teaching artist for the ASAP Inter-district Strings Project with the Waterbury Symphony. She previously served on the music faculty at the Hotchkiss School. Ms. Costanza is assistant principal cello in the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra and performs with other regional ensembles such as the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, the Berkshire Lyric and the Windham Chamber Music Festival. She played for many years with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and previously performed with the National Orchestra of New York, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Canton Symphony. Her recording of the complete Cello Suites of J.S. Bach (MSR Classics) has received critical acclaim, including Music Web International’s designation as a Recording of the Month. Ms. Costanza holds a B.M. from the Cleveland Institute of Music (Case Western Reserve) and a M.M. from the Juilliard School, where she studied with Zara Nelsova.
Larry Deming: Violin and Viola Instructor
Larry Deming received a B.S. Degree with Distinction from the Indiana University School of Music in 1981, studying violin with Henryk Kowalski. Mr. Deming played violin in the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, continues to play with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, serves as the Concertmaster of the Danbury Symphony Orchestra and is the first violinist of the Deming String Quartet. He has played with many musical luminaries, including Jessye Norman and Placido Domingo. His experience on viola includes filming a TV special with Kenny Rogers. His multi-cultural recording “Journey to the East” was released in 2005. Mr. Deming is also the Director for the Summer Strings Program at the Danbury Music Centre (since 2002).
Theresa Dolak: Clarinet, Saxophone, Double Reed, and Piano Instructor
Theresa Hilton Dolakis a graduate of Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Leon Russianoff. She also studied under master teacher David Weber (Juilliard) from 1999-2002. Other teachers include Alay Woy (Crane) and Susan Martula. Ms. Dolak currently teaches at The Gunnery School, Duchess Day School, and Newtown High School (Visiting Artist) and maintains a private studio in her home in New Fairfield, Connecticut. She has also held positions at WCSU and Rumsey Hall School. She has performed as soloist and orchestral and chamber musician, performing with the Talea Chamber Ensemble, Danbury Chamber Ensemble, Camerata Strings, WCSU Faculty Quintet/Quartet, Ridgefield Symphony, Danbury Symphony Orchestra, Berkshire Opera Orchestra, The Gateway-Candlewood Theatre and The Manhattan Clarinet Quartet.
Cindy Iffland: Wind Instructor
Ms. Iffland graduated from Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania with a degree in music education. Although bassoon was her major instrument, she served as piano accompanist for the university's choral program and accompanied numerous vocal and instrumental recitals. She performed with the Corning and Elmira, NY Symphony Orchestras on bassoon. Ms. Iffland received her Masters of Science in Music Education from Western Connecticut State University and worked as a public school educator for 35 years, in the Amity, Litchfield and New Milford School Systems. During her tenure as an instrumental music director, her ensembles consistently received high ratings in Regional competitions. She has been music director and/or piano accompanist for Goshen Players musicals, accompanist for area choral groups and substitute choir director and organist for several area churches. Currently retired, Ms. Iffland maintains a private lesson studio, is full time organist and choir director at the Warren Congregational Church and directs and accompanies the Goshen Festival Singers. She also prepares and accompanies students as they work for Regional and All State festivals, and college admission in music. She also has served as accompanist for the Wamogo High School choral performances and their annual musical.
Jens Larsen: Brass Instructor
Mr. Larsen holds a Bachelor of Music in trumpet performance from Old Dominion University, where he studied with Dr. William Bartolotta, and a Master of Music in trumpet performance from Rice University, where he studied with Armando Ghitalla. Mr. Larsen also completed studies at Indiana University, where he studied with Charles Gorham. Mr. Larsen currently performs with the Greenville Symphony as Co-Principal Trumpet. Previous positions include Principal Trumpet with the Symphony Orchestra of Augusta and Acting Principal Trumpet with the South Carolina Philharmonic. He has also performed extensively in the Southeast with various other ensembles, including the Greenville Brass Quintet and the Newberry College Faculty Brass Quintet and has appeared as a soloist with many orchestras including the Spartanburg Philharmonic, Atlanta Pops Orchestra, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Starlight Jazz Orchestra at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. During the summers, Mr. Larsen teaches talented middle and high school students at the Performing Arts Institute at Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania. Mr. Larsen served as Instructor of Trumpet on the faculties of Newberry College from 2005 to 2014 and Converse College from 2003 – 2014. As an ensemble musician Mr. Larsen has had the opportunity to share the stage with many popular and classical artists and groups such as Yo-Yo Ma, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Art Garfunkel, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Amy Grant, Boston Brass, Wycliffe Gordon and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Mr. Larsen has also had the opportunity to perform in the pit orchestras of various Broadway productions on national tours as they stop in the area. Some of these shows include The Producers, Evita, The Drowsy Chaperone, Anything Goes, Annie, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line, Young Frankenstein, 9 to 5, The Boyfriend, Legally Blond, Peter Pan, Dream Girls, Mary Poppins, Billy Elliot, Wicked, Matilda and Hairspray.
Margarita Nuller: Piano Instructor and Accompanist
Margarita Nuller is a graduate of St. Petersburg Conservatory, Russia. She studied with Kasimir Grinasuk, Edward Bazanov, and Luiz DeMoura Castro. Since her arrival to the United States in 1990, she has performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician in the New York metropolitan area and New England. Ms. Nuller presented her debut recital at Weill Hall at Carnegie hall, New York City as a winner of Artist International Auditions. Her CD of Russian music was released on LÁrt label in 2003. Her most recent performances include solo recitals in Cambridge MA, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Ms. Nuller was on the faculty of the University of Hartford (CT), the Mussorgsky College of Music (Russia), and the Connecticut Conservatory in New Milford. She maintains a private piano studio in New Fairfield, CT.
Margaret O’Brien: Voice Instructor
Margaret O’Brien, soprano has a BA in Music and French from Hamilton College, and a MA in Music Therapy from New York University. She teaches private voice lessons at the Kent School, in Kent, CT. She studied voice with Nancy Wertsch and Cheryl Bensman Rowe. Locally, she has performed as soloist with the Sherman Chamber Ensemble and the Kent Singers. She is a section leader for the Crescendo choir based in Trinity Lime Rock, CT. During the 1990’s she founded a vocal performance series in New York City called Voice Emporium which provided performance opportunities for professional and amateur singers. She was a member of the professional choir at St. Bartholomew’s Church and at St. Michael’s Church in New York City. She is a frequent soloist at St. Andrew’s Church in Kent, CT where she also directs the children’s choir. In 2015, she presented a recital of Italian, French, German and English at St. Andrew’s Church.
Levon Ofgang: Guitar Instructor
Levon Ofgang is a founding member of the Celtic Roots group MacTalla Mor. With the band he has toured nationally and internationally playing guitar and Great Highland Bagpipes in performances at ESPN Studios, Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, Pete Seeger’s Clearwater Festival and many other festivals and venues. Along the way he has shared the stage with all-time greats such as Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and Levon Helm (from The Band). He continues his studies of classical guitar at WCSU and has studied other styles such as jazz, rock and folk extensively. He has served as interim music director of St. Mary’s/St. Bendict’s in Stamford, Conn. and as accompanist at Blessed Sacrament in Waterbury, Conn. He co-directed the musical ensemble for WCSU's production of "Two Nights Near Doolin." He is an adjunct guitar instructor at The Marvelwood School and also operates a private teaching studio in Fairfield County, Conn. When not touring with MacTalla Mor, he can be seen most Friday and Saturday nights “strumming his six string” at Aranci 67, in Redding, Conn. and various other venues across the tri-state area.
David Poirier: Saxophone Instructor and Jazz Studies
Mr. Poirier received his Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the Hartt School of the University of Hartford which he attended on full talent scholarship. He received his Masters of Science in Music Education from Western Connecticut State University. At Hartt, he performed throughout New England as the alto saxophonist with the Nice Guy Sax Quartet, and was featured on their CD, "Sax-A-Plenty". Since 1994, Mr. Poirier has been instrumental music director and music teacher at Kent Center School of the Region One public schools. He is a member of Phi Beta Mu, the International Bandmasters Fraternity. Mr. Poirier performs throughout Connecticut and beyond with numerous groups including the Thomaston Jazz Orchestra, the Kent Algo-rhythms, the David Poirier Quartet, and Undercover. He has also subbed with Bristol Reunion Jazz Band, Valley Swing Shift and Apricot Brandy. Mr. Poirier is also an accomplished liturgical vocalist having sung with St. Thomas of Villanova Church choir, and professionally at funerals and weddings.
Jackson Pryor-Bennett: Double Bass, Electric Bass and Guitar Instructor
Jackson Pryor-Bennett graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance. He teaches private lessons at Kent School in Connecticut. He studied electric bass and upright bass with David Ruffels at Western. Jackson has always enjoyed singing, and studied jazz voice with Atla DeChamplain. At an early age he began teaching himself the fundamentals of music and the electric bass. He soon began playing alto saxophone and gained experience playing both instruments for performances and recordings both in school ensembles and outside of school. At age sixteen he began teaching himself to play the guitar. At age nineteen, Jackson taught himself to use digital audio workstations such as Studio One and Logic Pro X, and began experimenting with electronic music, home recording, and found sounds such as rainfall, birdcalls, and more for use in his original compositions and recordings. At Western, he took a music technology class to expand on this aspect of his musicianship and discovered a talent for arranging. Although he has extensively studied and performed jazz, Jackson has also played folk, funk, fusion, pop, rock, blues, bluegrass, hip hop, R&B, rap, soul, heavy metal, progressive metal, and more. He has explored more unusual styles of music including solo bass performances, experimental music, atmospheric, atonal, microtonal, 12-tone, free jazz, and other music. Jackson has had many performing experiences, among them singing with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra with Western’s choir and three operatic soloists in a performance of Johannes Brahms’ Opus 45, A German Requiem. On the upright bass, he has performed with guitarist Doug Munro, and the great jazz pianist Orrin Evans.
Seina Shirakura: Violin and Viola Instructor
Violinist, violist, and educator Seina Shirakura graduated Summa Cum Laude from The Hartt School in West Hartford, Connecticut where she studied under Anton Miller. She is also a graduate from the Manhattan School of Music Pre College Division where she studied extensively under Hungarian violinist Bela Horvath. Miss Shirakura holds Suzuki Certification in Books 1 through 8, received from long-term training with Teri Einfeldt, former Chair of Suzuki Association of America. She is currently on faculty at the West Hartford Montessori School, The Music School at Sound Crossing in South Windsor, the Kent School in Kent, Connecticut, and her private studio. As an avid performer, educator, and lifetime student, Miss Shirakura thrives on learning each day from her students and colleagues. Whether she is teaching traditional, Suzuki, or other genres of music, she prioritizes focused fun with life lessons to be used throughout her students’ lives. A native of Japan, her study of music began at just under 2 years old at the Kawaii Music School, where she studied voice and piano. Later in her elementary years, she began learning the violin and fell in love with its diverse sound and ability to captivate audiences. Now, with performances at Carnegie Hall, New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Tanglewood Ozawa Hall, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Saratoga Performing Art’s Center and more, she hopes to continue spreading her passion for music.
Dave Wonsey: Percussion Instructor
Mr. Wonsey studied percussion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a Bachelor degree from the Manhattan School of Music. His performance career includes work with the North Carolina Symphony, the Brooklyn Opera, the New Music Consort (NY), and the Danbury Symphony. Currently he is the Principal Percussionist with the Ridgefield Symphony and was the featured soloist playing “Concerto for Solo Timpani and Orchestra.” He also plays with countless community and summer theaters, and numerous jazz, pop/rock, and dance bands. On the “World Percussion” scene, Dave is an accomplished hand drummer and performs regularly with his group, “WoMaDe”. In addition, he is a World Champion rudimental snare drummer (Scottish style), teaching seminars and master classes along the East Coast, including the Manhattan School of Music and the Julliard School.