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.
Music has always been a big part of Blair Sailer’s life. She attended the University at Buffalo where she received a BA in Music Performance with a minor in Education. This is where she first heard about Buffalo String Works and was fortunate to be a part of it from the very beginning. It is inspiring to see what BSW started as and how much it has grown and evolved throughout the years. Blair received her Master’s of Education from UB and is currently working in the Buffalo Public School district teaching General Music to grades K through 8th. Blair also is a co-founder and member of The Bell Canto Quartet which performs throughout the Buffalo area.
Isaac Hutton lives, works and plays in Western New York. He received training at the Greatbatch School of Music, Houghton College, and at Nazareth College. Isaac is thrilled to be part of the Buffalo String Works team because of its commitment to music for social change. Highlights of 2018 include being a chorus master for the Glimmerglass Opera Company in a collaborative concert with inmates from Attica Correctional facility and conducting the Falcón Symphony Orchestra in Coro, Venezuela. A native of Montana, Isaac enjoys running and bicycling.
Born and raised in Buffalo, Claire Fisher earned a B.M. in violin performance from SUNY Fredonia in 2012. Since the completion of her time at Fredonia, Claire has enjoyed an active and diverse life as a freelance musician through the Western New York region.
As an orchestral violinist, she has been a member of the Western New York Chamber Orchestra since 2011, Nickel City Opera Company since 2014, the Clarence Summer Orchestra since 2015, and has performed as a substitute member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra since 2015. Claire also has a love for musical theater, and has performed in dozens of productions of musicals throughout the region.
Claire is an active chamber musician as well. Along with her sisters, also violinists, she is a founding member of the Fever Pitch String Quartet, with whom she actively performs at weddings and other events.
Claire has been a dedicated private teacher since 2012, and joined BSW in the summer of 2018. She is truly touched to be a part of so many musical journeys!
Evan Courtin is a freelance violinist and instructor from Buffalo, NY, and has been teaching at BSW since September 2014. He graduated from Buffalo State College with a BA in Music, where he studied with Amy Glidden. During his time at school he served as concertmaster of the BSC Philharmonia.
From 2007 to 2013, Evan was a member of local prog group Peanut Brittle Satellite, which received a Buffalo Music Award in 2008 for Best New Original Music. In 2013 he received an All WNY Music Award as an instrumentalist not traditionally found in a rock band. He is currently working with Wooden Cities, a new music chamber ensemble which seeks to bring awareness to contemporary music through unique, educational programs. Additionally, he plays with Little Cake Cover Band and Evolution of the Arm, for whom he also composes.
Evan has been involved in several different aspects of theatrical violin performance as well, including productions at Lancaster Opera House and Theater of Youth, and with Zodiaque Dance Company. Recent notable performances include 2 marriage proposals; ziplining across Camp Centerland in his debut as a stunt violinist; and 3 shows with The Goo Goo Dolls. He also regularly performs murder mystery dinner theater.
Caroline Gilbert, born in Bloomington, IN, grew up playing the violin in the pre-college program at Indiana University. After a little soul searching at Vanderbilt University where she double majored in music and pre-med, she transferred to Indiana University where she completed her Bachelors of Music with Atar Arad. While at the University, she won the concerto competition and performed Hindemith Der Schwanendreher as a soloist with the Indiana University chamber orchestra and was asked to represent the school at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., performing in the "Conservatory Project” concert series. For her Masters of Music, she attended The Juilliard School where she studied with Samuel Rhodes and Rodger Tapping. After participating in the Keshet Elion summer mastercourse in Israel, where her performance was broadcast on the radio in New York, she went on to play with the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, worked with Michael Tilson Thomas as a member of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in Sydney, Australia, toured Turkey, Spain, and Germany with the Schleswig-Holstien Festival Orchestra, played alongside the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood Music Festival, and spent the last three summers in Switzerland playing with the Verbier Festival Orchestra. After completing her degrees, she moved to Miami Beach to join the New World Symphony until recently winning the Principal Viola position with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. This is her first year teaching at Buffalo String Works.
Jessica Tufte is a life-long violinist who has performed in a number of groups including the NIH Philharmonia, the Durham Symphony Orchestra, the Greycliffe String Quartet, the Buffalo Tango Orkestra, and the folk/bluegrass band "The Porchmen." She has also performed in a number of master classes, including one with the Tokyo String Quartet and also spent a short stint as the UB Symphony's Concert Master. Jessica has consistently taught violin, viola, and piano for the last ten years, and is wrapping up her second year with BSW.
She holds a BA in Biological Sciences and English from SUNY University at Buffalo and a Masters in Public Health (MPH) from UNC Chapel Hill. She brings over 7 years of experience working with the refugee communities in both Buffalo and central North Carolina, including time spent in case management and program development/management. Currently, she spends her days working as an Evaluation Associate with a local non-profit that evaluates human-service programming.
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, and has lent her playing to many recording projects in the studio, including multiple albums and stage performances by Buffalo's own Goo Goo Dolls. Katie currently lives in Williamsville with her dogs, rabbit, fish and parakeet, and has been teaching at BSW since the spring of 2018.
Laura Jay holds the position of 8th-12th grade Orchestra Director at Kenmore East High School in Tonawanda, New York. She has taught or volunteered for BSW for almost three years. Laura began her music education as a student in the the Buffalo Public Schools, and later earned the degree of Bachelor of Music in Music Education from SUNY Buffalo State in 2014. Later that year, Laura accepted a fellowship to the Hartt School at the University of Hartford, in which she acted as a mentor teacher for undergraduate music education students and taught undergraduate string techniques courses. Research areas of interest for Mrs. Jay during her time at the University of Hartford included sound-before-sight teaching pedagogies and preservice music teacher training. Upon her graduation with the degree of Masters of Music Education in 2016, Laura returned to the Buffalo area to accept the position of Orchestra Director at Kenmore East where she directs two orchestras and teaches violin, viola, cello, and bass lessons.
A Buffalo native, Lisa started volunteering at BSW as aa violin class teaching assistant in Spring 2016. That fall, she taught BSW’s first class of students on her primary instrument, cello. After graduating from UB with a degree in English and Linguistics with a Cello Performance minor, Lisa spent a year in Riga, Latvia on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. But she couldn’t stay away from BSW for long! This past semester, Lisa returned as a Teaching Artist for both violin and cello classes and has been assisting with other communications work for the organization.
Outside of BSW, Lisa is a volunteer ESL teacher with Jericho Road Community Health Center and also works at StaffBuffalo, a local, small business staffing firm. She continues to play in the UB Symphony Orchestra, where she was principal cellist as a student, and is also a member of the Bell Canto Quartet, along with BSW colleague Blair Sailer. Since 2015, the quartet has been performing at weddings and in coffee shops and other venues around Western NY.
Megan’s commitment to bringing music education to populations who need it has led her to spend the last 8 years working for El Sistema-inspired programs both as double bass instructor and in a managerial role. She became the Associate Director of Buffalo String Works in the spring of 2018 and with the support of Yuki and Virginia, pushed to start the bass class in the fall of that year. Megan has worked extensively as an orchestral musician, having performed regularly with the bass sections of the San Francisco Bay Area, Ann Arbor area, and with the BPO in Buffalo. Her dual passions of new music and teaching moved her to complete a DMA from the University of Michigan under Diana Gannett. She is half of the bass duo Shade & Light (with Betsy Soukup) which strives to create performances that are transformative for audiences as well as themselves. Megan’s interests extend to the research of gender in the field of music (particularly in the realm of bassists), and she has lectured on this topic at the International Society of Bassists convention in Ithaca and at the Great Lakes Regional College Music Society Conference.
Shannon Steigerwald specializes in the study and performance of contemporary music in her career as a violinist. A dedicated collaborator, she pursues working with young composers, giving many premieres of her colleagues’ compositions. Her most recent project with composer Anna Heflin resulted in the composition for singing solo violinist, The Wonderland Series, based on Lewis Carroll’s various books exploring Wonderland. Steigerwald is the violin professor and coaches chamber music at SUNY at Buffalo. She has performed with ensembles such as Ensemble Signal, Broadband Ensemble, OSSIA Ensemble, and the JACK Quartet. She regularly participated in Eastman’s Musica Nova Ensemble under the direction of conductor Brad Lubman, collaborating with artists including Georg Friedrich Haas, Steve Reich, Helmut Lachenmann, and Bernhard Gander. She is a multifaceted musician who also regularly works as a recording artist for creators such as Dave Rivello and Marc Webster. Steigerwald holds a BM and MM in violin performance from the Eastman School of Music. She has studied with Prof. Reneé Jolles, Prof. Charles Castleman, and Richard Rood. An avid reader, Steigerwald is currently making her way through the works of author Virginia Woolf.