Leanne Darling, Teacher Mentor
Violist/Composer Leanne Darling creates multilayered viola pieces with a soulful edge, mixing modern classical and the blues with a middle eastern flavor. She earned the New York Innovative Theater Award for best original music in 2007, and has received Meet the Composer grants for her theater and dance collaborations. She holds degrees from the Eastman School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, and has studied Jazz under Julie Lieberman and Rob Thomas and Arabic music with Simon Shaheen. Former Assistant Principal Viola with the Florida West Coast Symphony, Darling has taught strings for over 25 years from elementary school to college, from the Brooklyn Conservatory to Hudson River Middle School, and is currently adjunct instructor of viola at University at Buffalo. Her goal is to make music education more accessible to all, and is excited to join the community at Buffalo String Works.
Evan Courtin is a freelance violinist in Buffalo, NY. He is a founding member of Wooden Cities, a local new-music chamber ensemble. He plays in a band called Shubbaluliuma, which is mostly a purveyor of eastern European folk music. He is also a music student at Buffalo State College where he studies violin under Amy Glidden, and is the concertmaster of the BSC Philharmonia.
George Burnett started violin at Buffalo Suzuki Strings when he was about the same age as the beginner students at Buffalo String Works. He loves the violin and it is part of his life. He has recently enjoyed playing in high school musicals at Canisius High School, the Springwater Fiddler's Fair, jazz camp at Buffalo State and ECMEA. His most recent project is organizing and playing church music at St. Michael's Church. George is grateful for the opportunity to teach at BSW, and hopes to inspire his students as much as his longtime teacher Miss Sarah Mitchell inspired him.
Hannah Skoney is currently a sophomore at the University at Buffalo, where she currently is majoring in Music Performance. She has been playing the flute for 10 years. While attending Mount St. Mary Academy for high school, she played flute, tenor sax, and cello. She participated in Area-All State, and ECMEA All County Music Festivals for flute. She was a member of the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra, where she had the opportunity to play side by side with the BPO. She currently studies with Natalie Scanio and Emlyn Johnson for flute. Hannah is grateful to be working with the BSW program and is excited for this upcoming year.
James Burnett's first cello teacher was Nate Keagle, who was “just really fun” and inspired him with his enthusiasm for cello. He is very grateful for his current teacher, Emily Hall, who always finds ways to make learning “magic.” On the weekends, James enjoys playing church music with his brother and some friends at Canisius College or St. Michael's Church. He has had some great experiences at Buffalo State in jazz and classical camps. James also likes backing up his brother in fiddle tunes, and picking out rock songs on his cello. He hopes to get an electric cello someday, when he has a job.
Laura Jay is a violist currently teaching orchestra and general music at Kenmore East High School in Tonawanda, New York. Laura began her music education in the Buffalo Public Schools, where she graduated from City Honors High School. In May of 2014, Laura earned the degree of Bachelor of Music in Music Education from SUNY Buffalo State. Later that year, Laura accepted a fellowship to the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. In May of 2016 Laura graduated with a Masters of Music Education from the Hartt School. Laura was thrilled to return to Buffalo in 2016 to teach at Kenmore East High School, and is excited to be a part of Buffalo String Works.
Jessica Tufte holds a BA in Biological Sciences and English from SUNY University at Buffalo. She, however, spent a lot of time in the music department during this time under the instruction of David Leung and Jonathan Golove. She has performed in a number of master classes, including with the Tokyo String Quartet and also spent a short stint as the UB Symphony's Concert Master. Since then, Jessica has consistently taught violin, viola, and piano and performed with a number of groups including the NIH Philharmonia, the Durham Symphony Orchestra, the Greycliffe String Quartet, and the folk/bluegrass band "The Porchmen."
After working at the International Institute of Buffalo for three years, Jessica moved to North Carolina to complete her Master's in Public Health from UNC Chapel Hill in Health Behavior. After recently moving back home to Buffalo, teaching for BSW was a natural fit due to Jessica's years of experience in both music teaching and refugee resettlement. She is excited to be a part of such an inspirational group - students and teachers alike!
Katie Weissman began playing the cello at the age of three at Buffalo Suzuki Strings after seeing Yo-Yo Ma appear on Sesame St. She holds a Bachelors of Music in Cello Performance from Boston University, and her principal teachers include Feng Hew, Michael Reynolds, Amanda Truelove and Roman Mekinulov. When at home in Buffalo, Katie is cellist and backup singer in the Little Cake Cover Band and is a substitute for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. She also plays with contemporary music ensemble Wooden Cities, the Evolution of the Arm, Buffalo Gamelan Club and various other chamber music outfits in the Western New York area. She has toured at home and abroad with the Marian McLaughlin Trio, the End of America, and Tiny Rhymes, and has lent her playing to many recording projects in the studio. Katie currently lives in Williamsville with her dogs, rabbits, fish and birds.
Rob Webster is a long-time Buffalo resident and classical bassist. Having just completed a Master’s Degree program in Music Performance at the University at Buffalo, Rob has performed extensively with orchestras throughout Western and Central New York and Northern Pennsylvania.
Holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from SUNY Fredonia, Rob is excited to begin teaching music in the Greater Buffalo area as well as teaching violin and cello at Buffalo String Works. His passion for teaching and giving back to the community makes mentoring Buffalo students a bright new step in his career, and Rob is extremely excited to work with the BSW students.