Meet your instructors

Natalie Baker
Sofia Ciobanu
Cicely Deaton
Cicely Deaton
Andrew Held
Andrew Held
Dorie Howard
Dorie Howard
photo of Charlie Kessenich in a yellow shirt
Charlie Kessenich
Kathy Kolesar, piano instructor for Harmony Lessons
Kathy Kolesar
Photo of Peter Le's face
Peter Le
Youngjae Lee
Curtis Peel
Curtis Peel
Tony Perez
Tony Perez
Alex Shawver
Alex Shawver
Kristen Smith
Kristen Smith
Stephen Steele
Stephen Steele
Kaela Swinson
Kaela Swinson

Natalie Baker

Vocal Instructor

Northwest Austin
Southwest Austin
Central Austin

A native Austinite, Natalie Baker began taking voice lessons at the age of ten after memorizing an entire Liza Minnelli CD. She then fell in love with the art of classical singing, the beauty and versatility of the human voice, and the process of learning to sing. In high school, Natalie began taking piano lessons in college. She holds a B.M. degree in Voice Performance from Gordon College, where she studied under Heidi Clark. Natalie has performed in numerous masterclasses, choirs, chamber ensembles, opera scenes, and musical theater. 

Natalie has been teaching for several years and is eager to share the joy of music with her students. She also teaches preschool music classes at Veritas Academy and Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Her approach to teaching is student-centered, building lessons around the student’s individual goals. When not singing or teaching, she enjoys hiking, thrift store shopping, and exploring Austin.

Sofia Ciobanu

Piano Instructor

Northwest Austin
Round Rock

Sofia was born in the Eastern European country of Moldova to a family of musicians. After graduation from C. Prumbescu Music High School, she moved to Romania for university studies. She went on to receive her Bachelor’s in Musicology and Pedagogy from G. Dima Academy of Music in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and completed her Master’s degree in Musicological Synthesis in 2001. Throughout her studies, Sofia has been an avid performer in choirs and vocal ensembles across Europe. Her most recent collaboration was with the Calgary Philharmonic Choice of Canada in 2019.

Relocating to the U.S. in 2004, Sofia has over 20 years of international teaching experience, and is fluently tri-lingual in English, Russian, and Romanian. Sofia specializes in teaching voice, piano, theory, harmony, and music history to students of all ages and skill levels. Many of her students have gone on to receive Royal Conservatory of Music certifications. She joined the Harmony family in the Summer of 2018, and continues to follow her passion of guiding students on their musical paths.

Cicely Deaton

Piano Instructor

Northwest Austin

Cicely has been studying piano for over fifteen years and was classically trained under Melanie Karr Munro. Cicely continued her musical career at The Academy of Art University, studying music production and sound design, receiving a B.S. in Music Business from the University of Colorado Denver in 2018. With a focus in piano performance, Cicely studied under Peter John Stoltzman and Gregory T.S. Walker at UC Denver, learning chamber composition and performance as well as composition techniques, commercial styles, and music theory. 

Cicely is devoted to helping her students receive the best musical foundation possible. She brings an upbeat attitude to lessons, and is willing to work patiently with every child’s learning needs. She is committed to nurturing creative minds and teaching practical piano skills to give students a lasting enthusiasm for music. Alongside teaching piano, Cicely also enjoys sightseeing, taco tasting and a good live band. She is currently studying Music and Human Learning at the University of Texas at Austin.

Andrew Held

Piano Instructor

Central Austin

Andrew studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where he was a dual major in Piano Performance and Contemporary Writing & Composition. His teachers include  Daniel Smith, Daniel McIntyre, Vadim Neselovskyi, Jacques Schwartz-Bart, Suzanna Sifter, and Jeff Perry. He has vast experience as a bandleader, and has created hundreds of complete chord charts and comprehensive arrangements for many genres of music.

To quote Andrew: “I find myself engaging with as many different musical genres as I can. There are few things more rewarding and satisfying to me than playing music with people that I love, and the never-ending road of growth as a musician is one that I find to be equally as exciting as it is demanding. I always look forward to opportunities to spread the joy and passion that learning and understanding music ignites in me.”

Dorie Howard

Dorie Howard

Piano Instructor

Belterra

Dorie successfully auditioned for a local girl’s choir at the age of 7, and began playing the flute by 9. Although not formally trained, she played her parents’ upright piano for hours on end. By age 10, Dorie knew composing was her calling, and she has been writing music ever since. As a pre-teen, she began training with the Austin Chamber Music Society, eventually enrolling in the music school at the University of Texas at Austin to major in Music Composition.  She was later accepted into Texas State University’s Sound Recording Technologies program. While obtaining these degrees, she worked at Apple, Inc. as technical support, and also as a freelance flute and piano teacher, music transcriber, and as a composer for short films. These days, Dorie is happily splitting her time between teaching music and composing for short films, online streaming videos, and other media.

photo of Charlie Kessenich in a yellow shirt

Charlie Kessenich

Piano Instructor

Central Austin

Charlie is a high-energy, fun-forward teacher with a wide breadth of musical knowledge and experience. Play is at the center of his teaching style, emphasizing the joy of practicing, performing and writing music. He has been teaching music for 18 years, including 6 years directing shows at group performance-based music schools. His ability to play and teach multiple instruments, along with his extensive experience as a composer/band leader, give him a holistic sense of how each musical part is a thread in a tapestry of sound. Charlie has been a member of Toebow and ensemble et al., and currently writes and performs music under the moniker Simitree.

Kathy Kolesar, piano instructor for Harmony Lessons

Katherine Kolesar

Piano Instructor

North Austin
Cedar Park
Round Rock

Katherine has been playing piano since she was six years old. She majored in Music and English at Texas State University, and has a passion for sharing her love of music with her students. Katherine enjoys sharing music with her students as a fun and fulfilling pursuit and an engaging, fun way to tell a story. She brings lots of energy and creative tools to her students and looks forward to helping them achieve their musical goals, whether it’s learning “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or a Beethoven sonata.

Photo of Peter Le's face

Peter Le

Piano Instructor

North Austin

Peter is an experienced pianist who began in his hometown of Waco, Texas. He learned with various teachers, most notably Jeanenne Bezerra and Jane Abbott-Kirk, who was a professor at Baylor University. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education, learning from Laurie Scott, Bob Duke, and Margarita Denenburg. At the University of Texas, he studied piano under Andrew Brownell, Patti Wolf, and James Maverick.
 
Peter began his journey on the piano at age six and continued ever since then, all the way into college. During his time at the University of Texas, Peter taught in a variety of places, from teaching privately at local Austin schools to teaching general music at elementary schools to teaching right at UT Austin in their highly esteemed piano program, Piano Project. It was during these experiences where he realized the importance of developing a sense of expression and musicianship in students so that they are able to express their own voices through the piano.

Youngjae Lee

Piano Instructor

North Austin
Leander
Cedar Park

Youngjae graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Film Scoring and as a Piano principal. She has been working as a film composer and piano instructor for over 10 years. She was twice nominated for the Best Score category at the La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival, and also won the award for Best Music Score at the Wide Screen Film Festival in Miami. She enjoys working with children, and sharing her passion for music with her students.

Curtis Peel

Piano / Guitar Instructor

Central/North Austin
Westlake

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Curtis attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, majoring in musical composition. Curtis enjoys piano, guitar, voice, percussion, and music production. He has performed in a variety of bands, ensembles, and choirs in his 30+ years of music. He currently fronts the alternative rock band Futurist.

As a teacher, Curtis enjoys finding what students like most about learning an instrument and making lessons fun and engaging. Curtis emphasizes theory, composing, and songwriting in his curriculum, and tailors lessons and goals to each student.

Tony Perez

Violin / Guitar Instructor

North Austin

Tony got his start in Las Cruces, NM, to a family of musicians. He started playing violin at 11 and guitar at 16, playing in his high school’s top orchestras, jazz band, and multiple gigging bands. In 2015, he continued to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ, where he completed his undergraduate degree in violin performance. Tony taught violin, viola, cello, guitar, piano, ukulele, mandolin, music production, and music theory at the Flagstaff School of Music for 3 years. He continued to perform in and around the Flagstaff music scene with various folk, rock, funk, blues, jazz, and experimental music projects, and also formally studied both jazz and classical violin at NAU. Tony has been performing and teaching around the Austin area since July 2021, and continues to thrive in a new and extremely talented music scene. He spends his spare time composing, performing, producing, and doing what he can to broaden his understanding of music.

Alex Shawver

Piano Instructor

Central Austin

Alex Molina Shawver is a composer and educator based in Austin, Texas. Born and raised in Wichita Falls, he is a proud Tejano and band kid at heart. Influences on his compositional style range from the French Impressionists to living American composers associated with Minimalism and post-Minimalism. His instrumental background in both piano and percussion allows him to draw inspiration from both the rich mass of historic keyboard repertoire and the constant invention of new ideas in the percussion paradigm. His works are usually inspired by visual art, nature, politics, or some unfortunate combination of these things. 


Alex has been commissioned and had his music performed by the SMU Meadows Wind Ensemble, Latitude 49 New Music Ensemble, Syzygy New Music Ensemble, Meadows Percussion Ensemble, and Bridge the Gap Chamber Players. In June 2021, he was invited to give a solo recital at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas to inaugurate their new multi-form performance space. Alex holds two M.M. Degrees in Composition and Theory Pedagogy from Southern Methodist University, where he studied with Dr. Kevin Hanlon, Dr. Rob Frank, and Dr. Lane Harder. He previously studied composition with Dr. Ted Hansen and Dwayne Rice. Alex also holds a B.M. In Piano Pedagogy from Texas A&M – Commerce, where he studied Piano Performance with Dr. Luis Sanchez, Piano Pedagogy with Libby Vanatta, and Percussion with Dr. Brian Zator. Alex taught on faculty at SMU from 2019 to 2021. He is currently pursuing his D.M.A. In Composition at the University of Texas at Austin.

Stephen Steele

Piano Instructor

Northwest Austin
South Austin

Stephen Steele is a homegrown Texan, raised near the Red River. He began taking classical lessons at a young age and attended various music festivals, workshops and competitions. At one of them, he met pianist John Shelton, who would become his teacher. Stephen continued his creative pursuits in an adjacent field, graduating from Texas State University in 2018 with a B.F. A. in Theatre with an emphasis in dramatic writing and direction. His studies allowed him to explore different methods of acting, improvisation and vocal training, which he incorporated into his musical endeavors at every opportunity. Plays, musicals, elaborately choreographed dance fights – you name it, he probably helped to score one!

Stephen enjoys being able to cultivate a comfortable environment in which students feel permission to be inquisitive and unafraid to make creative choices. Outside of music, Stephen enjoys gardening, listening to music, and walking, sometimes bringing along two very reluctant cats.

Kaela Swinson
Kaela Swinson

Kaela Swinson

Piano Instructor

Northwest Austin
Westlake

Originally from Indiana, Kaela is a passionate musician who has taught music since she was 15 years old. She first started teaching piano out of her mother’s music studio where she also acted as a production assistant in teaching stage presence and performance preparedness for students privately and in group voice lessons. 

After graduating high school, she left her Indiana roots and moved to Virginia for college in August 2015. Kaela studied music pedagogy and vocal performance at a private liberal arts university for two years. While studying in college, she performed in multiple community and college choirs. Kaela finished her degree in Education with a concentration in music pedagogy in December 2018 at Liberty University. 

Kaela is a strong mezzo-soprano with her vocal talent specifically groomed for musical theatre and received classical vocal training while attending university. In her young music career, Kaela has conducted and directed multiple vocal groups and choirs. She is currently working on her degree in Psychology at Arizona State University Online and plans to become a part-time music therapist in the future.

 

Kristen Smith

Founder

Kristen Smith is the studio founder and director of Harmony. Kristen has a B.A. in Music with an emphasis in piano pedagogy and has studied with Dr. Beth Quillian (Dallas Baptist University), Sheila Page (Taubman instructor), and David Renner (University of Texas at Austin). Kristen has been teaching children ages 3 and up for over 14 years, and loves introducing students of all ages to the joy of music. 

Kristen created Harmony to serve families in need of high quality in-home lessons. In addition to teaching private lessons, Kristen designs and leads the summer music camps, group classes, theory classes, and recitals that the studio offers. The success of the studio is a result of her organizational skills, creative abilities, and commitment to hiring skilled teachers who embrace the studio’s philosophy.