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Teaching Artists

The Monmouth Conservatory of Music is comprised of professionals from around the world, including graduates of prestigious music conservatories and universities. Our faculty strive to maintain the mission and integrity of classical music training, theory and performance.


(CLASSICAL + FLAMENCO GUITAR) Mr. Appello has taught classical and flamenco guitar at Monmouth Conservatory since 1990. He served on the music faculty of Georgian Court University for ten years, and has studied guitar with Manuel Barrueco, Frederic Hand, Juan de la Mata, and Ana Maria Rosado, plus lute and theorbo with Pat O’Brien. Mr. Appello earned a B.M. in Guitar Performance from the Manhattan School of Music and a Masters in Performance from New Jersey City University. Amongst his accomplishments, he was co-winner of the Oscar Ghilia Guitar Competition and solo artist in the Master Class at the Aspen Music Festival, and served as the original solo classical guitarist for the famed “Cellar in the Sky” restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Tower. His CD Reflections, a collection of Renaissance and early-Romantic music performed on historic instruments, was released in 2007. A second CD, The Last Rose of Summer was released in 2012, hailed as “delightful by its array of guitar techniques, idiomatically conceived for the instrument” by Early Music America.


(PIANO) Bernice Cooperman has been a piano teacher at the Monmouth Conservatory for over 18 years. She is a graduate of the Juilliard School and holds a degree in music education from the Teachers College, Columbia University New York City…

While at the Conservatory, she teaches children as well as adults. Her method of teaching is adapted to each individual’s needs and tastes. Classical music is her primary concern, though she teaches popular music to students who are also interested. Duet playing is also encouraged between students and teacher and students together.

In the past, some of her students have participated in various competitions and have performed in High Honors Recitals, sponsored by the New Jersey Music Teachers Association. Two of her students from the Basie Center’s Monmouth Conservatory were picked to perform in New York City; one at Carnegie Recital Hall, and the other at the Alice Tully Hall At Lincoln Center.


(VIOLIN / VIOLA / CELLO / PIANO) Christopher Klaus is a graduate of Rutgers University with a B.A in Music. He studied under world renowned violinist Lenuta Ciulei. As a violinist he has performed in various ensembles including the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, Rutgers Philharmonia, New Sussex Symphony, Pocono Youth Orchestra and the Brook Symphony Orchestra. His musical interests included classical, rock, celtic, and bluegrass which are incorporated into his lessons. As a dedicated music educator he has over 16 years experience teaching violin, viola, cello and piano. His approach to teaching integrates elements of various string methods which include Essential Elements for Strings, Strictly Strings and the Suzuki Method. Each lesson is tailored to fit the students musical interests while fostering a creative and compassionate environment that supports basic fundamentals and reliable technique.


(VIOLIN / VIOLA) Mrs. Koch began her classical music training at the age of six. She received her Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and completed her Master of Music degree in Viola Performance at Penn State, where she was also a teaching assistant. In that role, she worked with beginners taking strings methods, to more advanced players who studied privately with her. Mrs. Koch continues to perform classical music and is currently the principal violist of the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra.  She also teaches the after school String Program at Manasquan Elementary School.


(VIOLA / VIOLIN) Mikhail Kuchuk graduated from the Academy of Music in Odessa, Ukraine and completed his Master of Music and Doctorate of Music Degrees in Freiburg, Germany. His teachers have included Alexander Stanko, Wolfgang Marschner, and Felix Gottlieb. He has received numerous awards for his work; in 1990, Mr. Kuchuk was a winner of the Ukrainian National Violin Competition, the Carl Flesch Violin Competition (Hungary) in 1993, and the Baden Wurtemberg Violin Competition (Germany) in 1996. Other awards include receiving the David Oistrakh Scholarship in Odessa, Ukraine and the Rosenberg Foundation’s Scholarship in Freiburg, Germany. Mr. Kuchuk was a concertmaster of Odessa Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, where he toured as a soloist in Germany, Italy, and France. He also held a full-time position at the Odessa Opera House.

Since 1997, Mr. Kuchuk has been living in the United States. He was the solo violinist on Broadway in New York City, in the production of Forever Tango.  He has appeared as a soloist with the Manhattan Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, the Westchester Chamber Orchestra, St Peter’s by the Sea Symphony Orchestra, and the Bachanalia Chamber Orchestra.

From 1999-2009, Mr. Kuchuk was the leader of the Forte String Quartet, quartet-in-residence at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. During this period they participated in festivals throughout the United States including Maine, Washington DC, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. Since 2009, Mr. Kuchuk has been a member of the Art-Strings Ensembles, which actively performs at prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, David Geffen at Lincoln Center (formerly known as Avery Fisher Hall) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since 2004, Mr. Kuchuk has been a member of Tito Castro Tango Quartet and has participated at various locations in New York, including the Blue Note, as well as in Hawaii, Korea, and Japan.

Mr. Kuchuk is the Concertmaster of St. Peters by the Sea Symphony Orchestra in New Jersey and Principal Second at the Bachanalia Chamber Orchestra in New York City.  As an educator, Mr. Kuchuk teaches violin at Wharton Music Center in New Jersey, and he is a faculty member at the Prep Division at Rutgers University.


(PIANO) Ms. Lerner is a graduate of The Hartt School of Music in West Hartford, Connecticut. She holds an A.B. in Music from Barnard College, NYC and M.Ed. from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City. A member of Music Teachers National Association and New Jersey Music Teachers Association, Ms. Lerner has also served as an adjudicator for the Crescendo Music Festivals International for piano, voice and violin students. Her specialty is teaching young students to love music.


(BRASS / WOODWINDS) Mr. Luckenbill started his musical career on piano at age 5. In high school, he was selected to the McDonald’s All-American Band, All- Eastern and first chair in the NJ All-State Bands. He received a music scholarship to Michigan State University, where he was section leader in the wind-ensemble and symphonic band and received his BA in Music Education and graduated with High Honors. He is presently the conductor of the Asbury Concert Band and John Luckenbill Pops Band, professional bands which perform on the boardwalks in Asbury Park and Belmar and various towns around the shore area. Mr. Luckenbill has performed with and is the personnel manager for the Orchestra of St. Peter, which has done concerts at Carnegie Hall, Claridge Casino, Philadelphia Academy of Music, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tillis Center in Long Island, and as a back-up orchestra for both Marvin Hamlisch and Ray Charles.  He has performed as the official bugler at Monmouth Park , Philadelphia Park, and the Meadowlands, and has played on “Good Morning America”, ABC-TV and “Good Day New York” on FOX. He has performed with the Lansing Symphony, Trenton Symphony, Staten Island Symphony and Delaware Valley Symphony.

Mr. Luckenbill has been the Talented Theme Magnet Program Team Leader in the Long Branch Public Schools, where he is also an instrumental music teacher. This is his 40th year of teaching in Long Branch, where he was Teacher of the Year in 2012 as well as receiving a Master Music Teacher award from the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.  He was also named Arts Educator of the Year in Monmouth County from the Algonquin Theater in 2015. Many of his students have won positions in high school and junior-high All-Shore, All-State Region and All State bands and orchestra.


(VOCALS) Deb Lyons has starred on Broadway and London’s West End in Smokey Joe’s Cafe (including the DVD). She portrayed “Lucy” in the 1st National tour of Jekyll & Hyde. She has worked with Tony Award-winning directors, Jerry Mitchell, Jerry Zaks and Richard Maltby Jr. Her theatrical credits include Next to Normal, Hairspray, Ring of Fire, Side by Side by Sondheim, Swing, and The Last Goodbye (Romeo and Juliet). Off-Broadway she worked alongside Grammy-winning songwriters Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil.

In addition to her theater work, she toured the world for 5 years as a member of the legendary pop group The Mamas & The Papas with original Papas, John Phillips and Denny Doherty. She’s sung in concert with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and shared the stage singing duets with Rick Springfield, Ben E. King and Mary Wilson. She’s also sung backup for Carrie Underwood, Lee Ann Womack, Roseanne Cash, The Chieftains, Martha Reeves, Frankie Avalon, Lesley Gore and Donna Summer.

She has over 20 years of experience in the recording studio singing with major artists, singing jingles & recording voiceovers. Trained by Tony Award-winning renowned voice teacher, Joan Lader, NYU vocal coach, Andrea Green, and HB Studios, Deb has been teaching vocal technique and performance for 15 years. One of her students was a Top 10 finalist on the X Factor!


(PIANO) Born and raised in the United States, Mrs. Muench is a music educator, teaching piano on the piano faculty of the Monmouth Conservatory since 1997. Highly experienced working with piano students of all levels and backgrounds, Mrs. Muench loves helping people age 4 to 94 to reach their musical goals.

In 2013, Mrs. Muench won the first place Audience Award for her composition “Nautilus Dances” at the Sub Tropics Music Festival in Miami, Florida. “Nautilis Dances” and many of her original compositions and piano artistry may be viewed on her Youtube channel. Her actual music scores can be downloaded at

Invited in 2018 to perform some of her original works in New Orleans, she continues composing and giving piano performances throughout the country. Classically trained, Ms. Muench holds a B.A. and M.A. in Music and Applied Piano from the University of Miami, under Teresa Escandon, Robert Floyd and Maxwell Lepper.


(VOCALS) Christina Nigro is a graduate of the Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick, NJ. She holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree, certified grades K-12. While at Rutgers, she had the pleasure of studying with Judith Nicosia and Dr. Brandon Williams who inspired her teaching career. While receiving her degree, Ms. Nigro instructed the Rutgers Children’s Choirs and won the Chamber Music competition singing vocal duets composed by Mendelssohn and Purcell. She completed a senior recital singing works in various languages and time periods. Ms. Nigro had the opportunity to perform with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for their ‘Home for the Holidays’ tour at the State Theatre and NJPAC. Currently, Christina Nigro is going into her fourth year of teaching in Holmdel Public Schools where she has experience teaching general music and choir grades K-8


(PIANO) Born and raised in Germany, Mr. Nowaczyk studied privately with Rhandi Haiberg-Druckenbrodt and Erika Haase at the Conservatory of Hanover, Germany, later receiving his degree in piano performance from the University of Ashland, Ohio, where he was a student of Elizabeth Pastor, Regius Professor at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Mr. Nowaczyk has appeared in solo and chamber music recitals throughout the United States and Germany, including a memorable performance of Schumann’s Piano concerto with the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank. His work as a vocal coach with emphasis on the French and German repertoire and his extensive experience as a choral conductor has made him highly sought after by musicians and vocalists alike. Mr. Nowaczyk has been a member of the piano faculty of the Monmouth Conservatory since 1995. He also holds a degree in Romance Languages and Literature and German Philology from the University of Heidelberg, Germany.


(VIOLIN / VIOLA) Mrs. Petillo is one of Monmouth and Ocean counties’ most well rounded musicians and teachers. A recipient of the Lydia and Frank Bergen Foundation Scholarship Award and the Bayview Foundation scholarship award, Mrs. Petillo is currently pursuing a Masters in Early Childhood Education from Monmouth University. She is an avid session musician and has recorded instrumental works for Disney animators, along with many concerts in the local and NYC area. On Baroque violin and viola da gamba, she has performed at the Boston Early Music Festival with the New York Continuo Collective, as well as the “NYCC’s” performances with the Gotham Early Music concert series. She has studied with Randy Hollander, Patricia Hickson, Irina Kovalsky and Lenuta Cieulei. In 2004, she performed with the combination New Jersey State Youth Orchestra and TCNJ Band in the “All American Youth in Concert” performing the original works of John Phillip Sousa while touring Germany, Czech Republic, and Hungary.


Matt Rosen started his musical training at age 10 on the clarinet and bass clarinet. Through middle school and high school he held first chairs in All Shore Band, Region II Symphonic Band, All State Band and first chair Bass Clarinet All Eastern Band.  From there he achieved an invitation to the prestigious ALL NATIONAL BAND. After graduating from Red Bank Regional High School School of Visual and Performing Arts, and Manhattan School of Music’s pre-college program, Matthew went to the Eastman School of Music and Mannes School of Music where he received his Bachelors of Music Performance.  He then received his Masters in Music Performance at California State University, Fullerton. At Fullerton Matt assisted his studio in teaching undergraduate Clarinet students in and outside of their weekly studio class. Over the years, Matt has taught a wide variety of students from Saxophone, Clarinet, Guitar and Electric and Upright Bass. Currently, Matthew is a freelance musician in the New Jersey/ NYC metro area and has performed with many prominent musicians from the Metropolitan Opera, Imani Winds, and Alarm Will Sound.  He enjoys teaching, composing and learning from his students.


(VOICE & PIANO) Kellie Shane has been teaching singing and piano in the Monmouth County area full-time since 2009.  She attended Monmouth University where she studied music theory and opera, performed with various singing groups, and participated in the musical theatre program.  She graduated with a BA in Vocal Performance and a minor in Theatre. Kellie began working with Count Basie in 2018 and has recently found a home with being the director and leader of the A Cappella Troupe The Bass C Sharps.  When Kellie is not teaching, she is following her songwriting and music passion as the lead singer and piano player in an original band called Pepperwine that she founded with her husband.  They have traveled all over playing music festivals and venues along the east coast as well as in and around the Asbury Park area since 2012.   They have released 2 EP’s, one full length album, and various singles. Kellie continues to expand on her musical knowledge and believes that one can never stop learning and growing!


(CELLO) Mr. Soeda has taught, performed and written music for various notable international artists and organizations. He has performed at the United Nations and at each of the major classical venues in New York City, as well as overseas — including an appearance as a rock cellist in the Iceland Airwaves rock festival in Reykjavik, Iceland. Mr. Soeda has performed at the Chatauqua Music Festival, Orford Music Festival, the Henri Mancini Institute, and the Beverly Hills International Music Festival. He has also appeared on national TV programs, and in commercial recordings such as Yeah Yeah Yeah’s It’s Blitz! He has also performed regularly with groups such as Asian Artists and Concerts, New York Virtuosi, Sketchy Orkestra (jazz), New Radio (rock), etc. He now serves as the principal cellist of Lucidity Chambaristas in Queens. As an educator, he currently serves as a conductor and chamber music director at New Jersey State Youth Orchestra, and as a conductor at Lucy Moses School in New York City.

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