CMA Instructors

Ben Thomason

beginning orchestra and director of CMA

Relocating to Texas from Los Angeles, Ben brings his experience as the Assistant Director of the Suzuki Program at Cornerstone Music Conservatory and 10 years of experience teaching violin to the CMA. He also maintained his own private studio of violin students in Los Angeles and has registered training in Suzuki Violin Units 1-6. Inspired by the legacy of Shinichi Suzuki, Ben is a compassionate and focused violin teacher, partnering with parents to provide a positive learning environment in which students learn important life skills through the challenge of learning to play the violin beautifully.

Ben began to play at the age of 3 in the Boulder, Colorado Suzuki Strings Program, studying with Amy Gesmer-Packman and Dr. William Starr. He earned a B.A. in Violin Performance from Whitman College studying with Dr. Susan Pickett, and a M.M. from California State University, Northridge, studying with Professor Michael Ferril. He has performed as a soloist in Walla Walla, Portland, Pasadena, and Los Angeles, and has been a member of the Walla Walla Symphony, Santa Monica Symphony, and now the Mid-Texas Symphony. He is an active member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, American String Teachers Association, and the Texas Music Educators Association.

Laurie Jenschke

youth choir

Laurie Jenschke has been a choral director for the past 30 years, specializing in children’s choirs and training young voices. She was the founder of the Fredericksburg Children’s Chorale, which she served as the artistic director for 22 years. She founded the Eastman Children’s Choir and The Eastman Youth Choir at the Eastman School of Music’s Community Music School in Rochester, New York. She has been a church choir director for 25 years teaching adult, youth and children’s choirs. She has taught private voice for 30 years and continues perform as a soprano soloist.

Laurie is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin with an undergraduate degree in music education, a graduate of the University of Texas in San Antonio with a master’s degree in conducting, and has an associate degree of sacred music from Perkin’s Seminary at S.M.U. in Dallas. She now serves as the director of the four Community Music Academy Youth Choirs at TLU.

Dr. Eliza (Thomason) Jeffords

violin & viola instructor

Dr. Eliza (Thomason) Jeffords is the Director of Strings and Assistant-Professor at Texas Lutheran University, holding the Anita Windecker Endowed Chair. She completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), where she served as teaching assistant to Masao Kawasaki and Catharine Carroll. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from Vanderbilt University, magna cum laude, and Master of Music from Indiana University. Previous to her current position, Dr. Jeffords has served as a mentoring fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School, and on the faculties of the Cincinnati Music Academy, Wyoming (Ohio) Center for the Arts, and the Talent Education Suzuki School in Connecticut. A registered Suzuki violin and viola instructor, she has also studied string pedagogy with Mimi Zweig and Kurt Sassmannshaus. As a dedicated educator, Dr. Jeffords has presented at the American String Teachers Association National Conference and Texas Music Educators Association Convention, and has served on the Texas ASTA Board for three years. She has studied orchestral rehearsal techniques with Cliff Colnot at Indiana University.

Sought after as a recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestral violist, Dr. Jeffords keeps an active performance schedule. She is currently assistant-principal with the Mid-Texas Symphony and violist for the Mid-Texas Symphony Chamber Players, as well as appearing often with the San Antonio and Corpus Christi Symphonies. In addition to having previously won positions with the Spokane, New Haven, and New World Symphonies, her orchestral solos as principal violist with the Aspen Concert Orchestra have been featured on The Classical Station of New York City and NPR's show, Performance Today.

An advocate of new music, Dr. Jeffords has premiered several works for solo viola, chamber ensemble, and orchestra. Most recently she has recorded new chamber music for the MSR Classics recording label; "Winning Works of the 2010 Bassoon Chamber Music Composition Competition." Jeffords' other recent performances include chamber and solo works on Texas Public Radio, at Oklahoma State, UT-Austin, Texas Lutheran, and Stephen F Austin Universities, chamber music at the International Double Reed Society conference, and solo recitals in various Texas locations.

Dr. Elizabeth Lee

cello & violin instructor

Originally hailing from New York, cellist Elizabeth Sook-Hee Lee has performed extensively as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player. Lee is a recent DMA graduate in Cello Performance from the University of Texas -Butler School of Music in Austin, Texas studying with the Miró Quartet cellist Josh Gindele. She began cello studies at the age of 9 and continued her studies at the Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division with André Emelianoff. Lee continued her studies at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music (BM) studying with Norman Fischer and at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (MM Chamber Music) studying with Jean-Michel Fonteneau. Her principal teachers have also included Timothy Eddy, Hyung-Won Chang, and Michael Kannen. Lee was a prize-winner in the Yonkers Enrico Fermi Concerto Competition resulting in a performance with the Yonkers Philharmonic Orchestra. She is also a recent winner of the University of Texas- Butler School of Music String Concerto Competition. Lee has also performed as a chamber musician and recitalist in both Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie Hall. As a chamber musician, she has performed with such artists as Ian Swensen, Jorja Fleezanis, Bonnie Hampton, Joel Krosnick, and Jean-Michel Fonteneau. In addition, Lee has performed in masterclasses for Mstislav Rostropovich, Lynn Harrell, Paul Katz, Desmond Hoebig, and Colin Carr. As an orchestral musician, Lee has performed with the Austin Symphony, Monterey Symphony, Santa Cruz Symphony, and the San Francisco Lyric Opera. Lee has also ventured beyond classical music and has recorded and performed with the Christian rock band Future of Forestry and toured with Fernando Ortega. In addition to performing, Lee is a dedicated teacher and has served on the faculties of the University of Texas at Austin String Project and the Austin Chamber Music Center as well as maintaining her own independent teaching studio. Elizabeth plays on an 1806 Johannes Gagliano cello.

David Milburn

bass instructor

Joseph Palmer

guitar instructor

Joseph Palmer is quickly gaining recognition as one of the leading guitarists of his generation. He has traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and abroad, being awarded a total of fourteen prizes in international competitions (between 2012-2013), including; 1st Prize in the Columbus International Guitar Symposium, 1st Prize in the Louisville Solo Artist Competition, 1st Prize in the University of Colorado Guitar Competition in Boulder, 1st Prize in the East Carolina University Guitar Competition, 1st Prize in the Texas A&M Guitar Competition, 1st Prize in the Mississippi Guitar Competition, 1st Prize in the 'Classical Minds' competition in Houston, Texas, 3rd Prize in the 2013 World Guitar Competition in Novi Sad, Serbia, 2nd Prize in the Montreal International Guitar Competition, 3rd Prize in the Boston GuitarFest, and top prizes in the Tennessee Guitar Competition, and the Appalachian Guitar Festival in North Carolina.

Recently, Joseph Palmer has been a featured soloist for the Fort Worth Guitar Guild's Concert Series, the East Carolina University Summer Guitar Festival, the Texas Classical Guitar Camp Evening Recital Series, the Georgia Music Education Association Convention, and the Austin Classical Guitar Society's 'Classical Cactus' Series.

In 2001, Joseph first began studying classical guitar in his hometown of Rockwall, Texas at the age of fifteen. In 2005, he was awarded a full scholarship to study at the Schwob School of Music in Columbus, Georgia where he studied under Dr. Andrew Zohn and received his Bachelor's degree in Music Performance. In 2009, he was awarded a substantial scholarship to study under the world-renown performer and teacher Adam Holzman at the University of Texas at Austin where he received his Master of Music Performance degree, and furthermore, is currently pursuing his Doctorate of Musical Arts degree.

Joseph first began his teaching career in 2007 as a private guitar instructor at the Schwob School of Music in Columbus, GA. In 2009, he joined the faculty of Orpheus Academy of Music in Austin, TX where he taught part-time for four years. During this time he also worked as a teacher for the University of Texas Music Outreach Program. In addition, he has been also running his own private guitar studio in Austin, TX since 2009. His students have been accepted to study in music programs at several major universities in the U.S. and have won awards in regional and state music competitions. As of Fall 2013, Joseph Palmer joined the faculty of Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, TX, as Adjunct Professor of Guitar.

Bethany Raynes

private violin instructor & CMA Outreach violin instructor

Bethany Raynes began her violin studies at the age of 9. Since then, she has performed in solo and orchestral settings in Austria, Germany, Italy, and the United States.

Bethany is an active performer in San Antonio and the surrounding area. She frequently performs with The Symphony of the Hills in Kerrville and the Mid-Texas Symphony in New Braunfels. In addition to orchestral performing, Bethany enjoys working as a pit musician in local operas and musicals. Some of the recent productions she has performed in include Company and Guys and Dolls at The Playhouse San Antonio.

A passionate educator, Bethany maintains a private violin studio from her home in addition to teaching private lessons at local schools in the San Antonio area. She is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association and the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and is a registered Suzuki teacher.

Bethany holds a M.M. in Violin Performance from the University of Texas at San Antonio as well as a B.M. in Violin Performance from Texas State University. Past teachers and trainers include Bassam Nashawati, Lynn Ledbetter, Stephanie Westney, and Laurie Scott.

Eric Siu

director of the Advanced Orchestra

Eric Siu, a native of Hong Kong, joined the San Antonio Symphony in fall 2013. Since beginning violin studies at the age of six, Eric has given solo and chamber music performances in the United States, Europe, South America, and Asia. Recent activities include a recital of the complete violin sonatas of Eugene Ysaÿe, and chamber music performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and theCali de Cámara festival in Cali, Colombia. His solo performances have been broadcast on KUHF - Houston Public Radio and Classic FM (UK). He frequently performs with the Houston Symphony, and recently toured with the orchestra in New York and Moscow. Eric recently graduated from Rice University with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree under the tutelage of Kathleen Winkler. He has previously studied at The Juilliard School and the Mannes College of Music. His past teachers include Sally Thomas and Catherine Lord.

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