Current and Past Faculty
Paul Agbih, Nigeria/Germany (African traditional percussion/Composer)
Paul Agbih graduated as a teacher of English and Religion from the University of Benin, Benin city in Nigeria. Since 1985, he has been working with IofC on a voluntary basis either organizing conferences, facilitating, mentoring or giving leadership training in different countries. Paul grew up in a family of traditional dancers and drummers where rhythm and dance are passed on from one generation to another. He won several competitions in his secondary school days, hence he earned the name 'Agbih The Drummer Boy'. Drumming is a part of his life so he takes it to anywhere he goes besides composing. He is not only teaching drumming but also coaches teams and uses his drums for group meditation and supervision. He has performed with diverse groups and founded the drum group 'Rhythm and Life Band'.
Paul sees drumming as a mirror to self reflection and a way of identifying beautiful and wonderful qualities that lie dormant in people. He helps participants to draw on their inner resources besides the fun and the positive energy that drumming creates among people. He is also trained in the TAKETINA method.
Bev Appleton (Drama/Music Theatre)
As Producing Artistic Director of Haymarket Theatre and Blue Ridge Theatre Festival (BRTF) Mr Appleton has produced and directed over 60 productions, including more than 20 musicals. His Haymarket Theatre won 25 Richmond, Virginia theatre critic awards. BRTF has presented shows internationally in Hungary, Romania, England, Scotland and Switzerland.
As an actor, Bev has performed in shows from New York to Nevada and all over Europe. He was an Associate Artist at TheatreVirginia for nine seasons where he performed in 35 productions. For the past 10 years he has worked in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC performing with the Manhattan Theatre Club, Walnut Street Theatre, Arden Theatre, MUMPuppet Theatre, Arena Stage and The Shakespeare Theatre in productions of Twelfth Night (Feste), King Lear (Kent), Sweeney Todd (Judge Turpin), Man of La Mancha (Padre), Proof (Robert), Of Mice and Men (Candy), Pacific Overtures (Lord Abe/Kanagawa Madam), My Fair Lady (Doolittle), Oliver (Fagin), and Much Ado About Nothing (Antonio).
As a director he has staged the musicals The Wiz, Shenandoah, The Fantasticks, Cotton Patch Gospel, The Apple Tree, Ain't Misbehavin', Dames At Sea, Annie, How To Succeed In Business . . . among many others.
His film and TV work include supporting roles in six feature films and six made for TV movies including The New World, The Contender, My Name Is Bill W and The Fields.
Bev was a member of the Virginia Museum Theatre Conservatory, has studied directing and acting in New York with Nikos Psacharopolus and has taught musical theatre classes both privately and on the university level. He created the Blue Ridge Theatre Festival Youth Ensemble, a training/performance program for young theatre artists.
In collaboration with Renewal Arts he has presented performances of Cotton Patch Gospel, The Apple Tree, Wenceslas Square, Two Rooms, Muriel: The World Walked Into Her Heart and portions of his one-man musical theatre journey, Nice Work . . . IF You Can Get It! Bev was one of the founding members of Renewal Arts International and has been on the RA Planning Team since 1998 for the Renewal Arts Forums held in Caux, Switzerland at the Initiatives of Change International Conference Centre. Email
John Burrows, UK/USA (Voice/Vocal Technique/Music Theatre)
John Burrows has been acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. He was born in England, and is now a US resident. In 1983 he founded The Lyric Opera of Dallas and served as Artistic Director for ten seasons. He appeared as guest conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra, Shreveport Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Opera Theatre of San Antonio, OperaDelaware, Nevada Opera, Opera Northeast, the American Music Theatre Festival, and Cleveland Lyric Opera. Venues have included London’s Royal Albert Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Barbican Centre, as well as Washington's Kennedy Center, Philadelphia's Academy of Music, and New York City's Kaye Playhouse.
For 12 seasons, John Burrows prepared productions for English National Opera, and was the prompter for the legendary Ring Cycle at the London Coliseum. He also composed and arranged the music for a number of BBC Television drama productions. John has always maintained a strong interest in the training of young singers and actors. He headed the music theater departments at Southern Methodist and Temple Universities in America, and was a vocal coach for the Welsh National Opera Apprentice Programme, and for the London Opera Centre, and the Academy of Vocal Arts and the University of the Arts both in Philadelphia. For four years he led vocal workshops at the Centre Lyrique in Aix-en-Provence.
Throughout his career, he has trained choruses. For three seasons he was the Assistant Chorusmaster with English National Opera. He prepared a 500 strong chorus in The Pirates of Penzance for the centenary production at the Royal Albert Hall. He was the Chorusmaster of the Pennsylvania Opera Theater preparing the choral forces for Rigoletto. At the Des Moines Metro Opera, he trained the choruses for La Traviata, Sister Angelica and Barber’s Vanessa.
In the 1970s, John was the Musical Director of A Chorus Line at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and of Cowardy Custard and Cole at the Mermaid Theatre in London.
For Initiatives of Change at the Westminster Theatre, John was Musical Director of Ragman, Love All and Poor Man, Rich Man. He also musically directed Un soleil en pleine nuit, The Silver Thread and The Apple Tree here at Mountain House. www.johnburrows.net
British Soprano Grace Carter began her musical career as a pianist at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Having graduated in Postgraduate Vocal Performance from Trinity Laban, London, she is now based in Amsterdam working with Rosemary Joshua and Olivier Lallouette.
Kathryn Gardner, USA (Vocal Coach/Music Theatre/Opera)
Kathryn Gardner received her music degree from Emory and Henry College and a Master’s of Music Education at James Madison University. She studied with Sharon Christman who was instrumental in helping her perfect the lyric coloratura repertoire. She was delighted to be able to work with Randolph Mauldin, a vocal coach from the Washington Opera Company. Ms Gardner has earned accolades from her performances with numbers opera companies, symphonies and choral societies. She has toured throughout the east coast of America and France performing with the Virginia Ensemble.
Ms Gardner has been teaching voice and coaching for the past twenty years. Her students work on music from Opera to Broadway repertoire, perform throughout the USA and have been accepted to some of the top college music programmes. Kathryn draws upon many different disciplines to develop the technique for each student. She includes physical alignment, varied breathing and relaxation techniques to create and maintain a healthy and relaxed instrument.
Dida Guigan, Lebanon/Switzerland ( Voice, Vocal Technique, Humanities)
Dida Guigan is a graduate of the Swiss Jazz School in Bern, Switzerland. She continued her learning in Lebanon and Egypt with the support of the Swiss promoter Pro Helvetia, and over the course of four years immersed herself in many different singing techniques, languages and musical systems. For the last seven years she has accompanied and assisted choirs and individuals with personalized designed programs and workshops in Switzerland, Beirut (Collectif Kahraba, 3a 7abl el Hawa and the music hub) and the Emirates (Emirates Foundation Youth Mentoring Platform). As a singer, Dida’s approach to the voice is intimate. Through her own identity path, she has developed a unique technique based on listening to one’s inner voice as a foundation for expressing the melodic and spoken voice in a coherent and personal context. As both a soloist and band performer, she regularly tours in Europe and the Arab world with her different projects; in 2016, “Free” was selected for performance at Chouftouhonna, the feminist art festival of Tunisia. As a composer, Dida’s personal and authentic work also carries over into the field of theater, having worked with French Canadian sound and theater director Christelle Franca in Montreal. Dida’s vocal technique, writing and coaching skills are, as she says, the inevitable consequence of what her life brought her to explore: freeing one’s self from the rigid life constraints that are all too often imposed upon one. Her own story as an illegal international adoptee, and the ten-year search for her biological family, compelled Dida to create the NGO “Born in Lebanon”, designed to give a voice to, and free from the inside, the illegal international adoptees lost in an ongoing global conflict. She is regularly invited as a guest speaker on the subject of identity in different forms and contexts – artistic, physical and political. www.didaguigan.com
Jodie Marshall, UK (Drama/Music Theatre)
Jodie Marshall set up A Mind Apart Theatre Company Limited in 2008 after finishing her degree in Drama at Lincoln University. Having found her love from the Brazilian social and political theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed, Jodie’s directing often leans towards bringing unheard voices out for the audience to hear whilst encouraging them to look deep into themselves. Jodie encourages her actors to stay true to their characters, whilst bringing historical themes and texts into the present, questioning current political and social themes in our society. She has experience of working with a wide range of abilities and ages and adapts her directing according to what her actors need. She also has experience training adults in a range of theatre and teaching techniques, including her own techniques and methodology created and used within A Mind Apart.
Much of her directing has been done within her own theatre company, A Mind Apart, and with community dance and theatre groups in Brazil. This has included directing Forum Theatre, physical theatre and text based pieces for a range of audiences. She has successfully coached and trained various students into some of the top UK drama schools.
Jodie has a strong passion for social fairness and justice, which has helped to ignite the fire for her work both here and abroad, both in theatre and with social enterprises and cooperatives and charities. She has a Masters in Co-operative and Social Enterprise Management with Sheffield Hallam University, and also works with other arts and youth organisations, offering consultation and mentoring.
Daniel Schroeteler performed his first concerts whith his father from the age of five and studied classical drum set and later Jazz with Joop van Erven and Rene Creemers in Arnheim (NL).
He taught at the music conservatories of Arnheim, Mainz and Cologne and gave workshops as a soloist or with bands in Usbekistan, Tadjikistan, Kasachstan, Kirgistan, India, Algeria, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia and studies intensively the traditional music of different cultures. As a musician he travelled extensively in Africa, Europe, the Near East and Russia.
Daniel is today living in Berlin and performing with a wide range of internatioal Bands from the NDR Radio Big Band to Rock, Pop and World Music Ensembles to contemporary Jazz while maintaining and constantly developing his own strong voice on his instrument.
He believes strongly in the words of Ernst Fischer: "Art must show the world as changeable - and help to change it.
Ben Schwendener, USA (Piano/Composition)
Pianist Ben Schwendener sustains a unique voice in contemporary creative music, natural pedagogy and dialogue-based arts education. He is a leading authority on George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. As a critically acclaimed pianist/composer, he has created music for small and large ensembles, dance companies, film, video and art installations, and has written volumes of children’s piano music. He performs frequently with his ensembles and on solo piano throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan.
He has produced eight CDs as leader / co-leader on Gravity Records (an independent label he co-founded in 1992), Label Bleu and Alabaster. His latest releases, both in 2011: Apfelschaun-New Episode (with Uwe Steinmetz) and his first solo release since 2005, the two CD Industrial Folk Music, are receiving wide recognition.
Schwendener was an Editorial Assistant to the late George Russell, and is a certified teacher of the Lydian Chromatic Concept. He has presented the LC Concept and his own Creative Pedagogy at national and international seminars. Former teachers also include Ran Blake, Jimmy Guiffre, MiroslavVitous and Joe Maneri.
Presently living in Boston, Schwendener is on the Faculty at the New England Conservatory, the Longy School of Music and the Rivers School Conservatory in Weston, MA, and at UMass Boston’s Creative and Critical Thinking Department in the Graduate College of Education. He is also founder and director of Gravity Arts, Inc., a non-profit organization providing customized educational services and products for individuals, groups and corporations.
Mr Schwendener has created music for diverse ensembles, dance, film and art installations. He has produced eight CDs as leader. '…an artist who sees music as a form without boundaries, a medium of boundless possibilities and infinite potential.' (John Kelman, AllAboutJazz), Ben performs in the USA and internationally. www.benschwendener.com
Soprano Joanna Marie Skillett was recently awarded a Distinction from The Royal Academy of Music for her Masters Degree. She has appeared as Soprano soloist for The Royal Opera House’s Production Park Grand Opening; the lead role in the premiere of Random for English Touring Opera and at the Lytham Proms with gold status soprano Lesley Garrett. Her performance schedule also includes concerts with The Royal Opera House’s Head of Music David Syrus; the distinguished Opera director John Copley at Amersham Music Festival (as Mimì in La Bohème); performances at some of London’s most prestigious venues such as St-Martin-in-the-Fields, The National Portrait Gallery, St Paul’s Cathedral and St James’s Palace; and as a Guest Solo Artist for Macmillan’s ‘For Dusty’ Tribute at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Recent operatic role debuts include Mozart’s La Contessa (Amersham Music Festival), Donna Elvira (Opera Up Close / Soho Theatre on London’s West End), First Lady (Regents Opera UK Tour) and Puccini’s Musetta of La Bohème at Windsor’s Theatre Royal (London Festival Opera), in the presence of HRH Prince Edward.
Joanna made her professional debut with English Touring Opera as ‘The Voice of the Sea’ in Speakout!, a newly written full-length opera which featured a support cast of every pupil from Corbets Tey School, a school devoted to the care and encouragement of children with special needs. Following the show’s huge success, Joanna worked with ETO’s educational department again to develop Speakout! as an educational resource for schools and a published show. Joanna continues to be a collaborator with the ETO Team to this day, as well as other music organisations, on nationwide performance projects and workshops.
When not performing herself Joanna runs her own private music teaching practice, is Musical Director to several local choirs and orchestras and is launching a new Charitable Trust for School Education and Community Music Projects later this year. She is an active supporter of Music and the Arts within the Community and was awarded The Royal Academy of Music Open Academy Clifford Chance Fellowship.
Joanna was inducted as a Patron for Corbets Tey School and in 2012, Joanna was made an Ambassador for the international Concordia Foundation; an organisation that aims to build bridges through Music and the Arts. www.joannamariesoprano.com .
Uwe Steinmetz, Germany (Arrangement/Composition/
Uwe Steinmetz works as a free-lance composer, saxophonist and lecturer up to and beyond the borders of Europe, including: India, Ethiopia, Korea and the USA. He has so far released fifteen CDs in Germany and the USA as a leader and toured with his own music on four continents in over thirty countries.
He studied in Berlin, Berne, Boston and Kodaikanal (India), teaches Ensemble Music, Composition/Arrangement and Saxophone. He is currently a member of the faculty of the HochschulefürMusik in Rostock. Next to his work as a performer he has been commissioned to compose Oratorios, Passions, String Quartets and other chamber music, his most recent work based on Milton's Paradise Lost was premiered in June 2013.
He also directs CRESCENDO JAZZ, a global network for Jazz and Christian Spirituality. Uwe firmly believes that 'Music unifies mind and soul and brings us closer to truth in ourselves, the world and beyond all things. Music shines a fresh, healing light on our momentary fears and longings, our perishable happiness and unhappiness.' www.steinmetzmusik.com www.crescendo-jazz.org
Pauline Warjri, India (Voice and Vocal Technique)
Pauline Warjri is a freelance musician from Shillong, Meghalaya, India. She has written for solo piano, voice, choirs, jazz band and other instruments (Western and Eastern). She has collaborated with musicians of various genres both national and international.
She has been to Caux, Switzerland several times from the year 2002 -2011 as a performing artist at the arts a la carte, plenary session’s speaker and to conduct a choral workshop.
She has toured Poland, England and Switzerland, Sri Lanka in the year 2004, with the Shillong Boys Choir from Meghalaya and with her brother, pianist Neil Nongkynrih and as a trainer of the Shillong Chamber Choir in 2006.
Pauline was the local piano examiner for the Bangalore School of Music 2002-2006 and founded the Bangalore Chamber Choir in 2004 a truly versatile group whose repertoire ranged from Clapton to Handel and Bach to contemporary music. On her return to Shillong in 2007 Pauline founded the Aroha Choir and the Aroha Children’s Choir besides founding the Aroha Music School.
She is engaged in spreading music education to a cross section of people from all over the North-East. She has written several music text books at the primary, junior and intermediate level and advanced students as well. Her Oratorio (the first Khasi Oratorio) - written for choir, jazz band and indigenous Khasi instruments was premiered in June 2009 (Shillong) in collaboration with one of Germany’s most exciting jazz quartets the U-team. Pauline currently trains student teachers and other students (piano and voice) for the London College of Music Examinations. She is also the Representative of the Centre. She formed the Aroha Music and Cultural Society in 2011 to provide a platform for young performers in the city of Shillong and has hosted a number of artists from Austria and England as well.