Performing Arts Faculty Biographies
Heather Marsden, Program Manager
Actress, recording artist and vocalist Heather Marie Marsden has enjoyed a diversified career, encompassing the big and small screen, stage, and the recording studio. Heather has starred in, recurred or guest starred on over 55 TV and film titles, including Pursuit with John Cusack, The Office, Hometown Hero, Lucky, Pool Boys, Charmed, Drake & Josh, Austin Powers, and That Thing You Do! She voiced the immensely popular character, "Sarah Lyons" in the award-winning game Fallout 3, and narrated the Spike TV Video Game Awards. When not on camera, Heather often returns to her theatre roots. She has had the honor to work with multiple Tony award-winning directors and writers, and Grammy-winning song-writers while originating roles in award-winning plays such as “Zephyr” in Mask (directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.) at The Pasadena Playhouse, and “Elyssa” in The Beastly Bombing at The Julia Miles Theatre (Off-Broadway.) As part of the Chicago cast, she delivered 190 consecutive performances as “Dyanne” in Million Dollar Quartet. Other regional and tour credits include “Rosie” in Sweet Charity, and A Chorus Line, directed by Baayork Lee. Heather’s musicianship has led her to the recording studio, where she has co-written and co-produced two pop/rock releases and a Billboard charting dance hit that showcase her as a talented and credible songwriter and vocalist. Songs from her releases have been heard on LA’s 103.1 as well as films and TV shows including Justified, Jane by Design, Law & Order CI, Miss Teen USA, Melrose Place 2.0, and more. Her single "Venice Freak" entered the Billboard Dance Charts at #25, alongside Madonna and Beyonce, and appeared on Trance Divas 2. Heather did vocal arrangements of Disney songs for her well- received jazz e.p., So This Is Love, (BFM Music/The Orchard.) She was Assistant Musical Director, vocal producer and on-camera talent coach for two Subaru (“Put a Little Love in Your Heart”) campaigns. She continues to be a busy live and session vocalist singing on film and TV scores (Wild Whites of W.Va, Tanner Hall), national commercials (Subaru, McDonalds, Barbie, Toyota), song demos (Bob Dylan) and artist releases.
Ryan Shervington, Assistant Program Manager
Mr. Shervington was born in Guyana, South America, grew up in Oklahoma and moved to California upon completing his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Throughout his university experience he performed in a tri-state traveling theatre troupe and studied mime. Mr. Shervington has been a teacher for 27 years with the Los Angeles Unified School District. Three of those years were teaching Elementary Theatre (kindergarten-6th grades) through the Arts Education Branch. He has also worked with the Conservatory of Fine Arts for over 15 years. Mr. Shervington has a passion for regional theater. Some of his performances include: Fool for Cool, Godspell, Annie, The King and I, The Bride, South Pacific, Hello Dolly, Carousel, The Diary of Adam and Eve, Raggedy Ann and Andy, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Little Lord Fauntleroy, at venues including: Theatre Tulsa, Jewel Box Theatre, San Gabriel Civic Auditorium, Alex Theatre, Glendale Centre Theatre, Oxnard Performing Arts Center, Santa Monica Playhouse, Disney Hall, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In addition to his theater work, Ryan has danced in the company of Ballet Oklahoma. He continues to act on stage with the L.A. Opera and works at Haskell STEAM Magnet Elementary School.
Jose Najera, Assistant Program Manager
Jose Najera has worked for the Conservatory of Fine Arts for over twenty years. He works in Instructional Technology for a charter schools network while not managing Conservatory program operations.
Marcia Armstead-Ivy, Voice Instructor
Marcia Armstead-Ivy teaches Vocal Ensemble II. This is her eighth year working at the Conservatory. Her educational background includes a B.S. degree in Music Education and post baccalaureate studies at California State University, Long Beach and Dominguez Hills. She is certified to teach vocal music in grades K-12 and retired from teaching vocal music in LAUSD. For the District she has also served as a cohort leader, presenter and mentor teacher in the District Intern Program. Prior to teaching elementary school music she taught high school vocal music in the Compton Unified School District. She is currently teaching Music 1000 (Music for Elementary School Teachers) at Cal State Los Angeles.
Jan Blunt, Dance Instructor
Jan Blunt is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, where she began her dancing and teaching career as a student of Jane Burkhalter, Ballet Mistress of the Cincinnati Ballet Company. She was also a member of Cincinnati’s African American Drum and Dance Ensemble, Espere Liturgical Dance Ensemble and Dansi Jazz Dance Ensemble. She earned her undergraduate degree at Hampton University, where she majored in Mass Communications and Broadcasting, and danced with the school's dance company, the Terpsichoreans. She relocated to Southern California in 1986 and became a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She has been a student of Katherine Dunham technique for 390 years and is a certified Dunham Technique Instructor. She earned her Master's degree in Educational Administration at California State University, Northridge. Her close proximity to Hollywood has afforded her many opportunities in television, movie and music videos, but she is most proud of her efforts and accomplishments in the education of young people, in academics as well as the arts.
Melissa Booey, Drama Substitute
JMelissa Booey has been teaching acting and improv to all ages in LA since 2018. She is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton's BFA Acting program and works closely with local theaters like 24th Street Theatre, Theatre 360, and A Noise Within. She also teaches with PUSD in-classroom programs such as Theatre Arts Integration and Open Stage. She is an active company member at Little Fish Theatre and Shakespeare by the Sea in San Pedro, as well as Towne Street Theatre in Hollywood, and enjoys acting onstage, collaborating in the writers' room, publishing her poetry, and sharing her art in the classroom.
Esteban Coronado, Dance Instructor
For over four decades Esteban Coronado has performed at diverse cultural events throughout Southern California. Esteban heads two dance academies and the main company; Ballet Fiesta, Ballet Viva and BRAVO and Ballet COCO. An artistic director, Esteban Coronado studied Ballet and Jazz with Joe Tremaine and the Debbie Reynolds studios and studied Folklorico dance with the Ballet Nacional de Silvia Lozano, and the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez. He received his BA in Theater Arts and Dance at CSULA. He has also been a part of LAUSD as a professional instructor for over 35 years helping instill pride, culture, and values to students of all grades and ages. Overall, Esteban Coronado has dedicated his passion and love of the arts for over 45 years. Esteban has had the privilege and honor of participating in the Rose Parade twelve times; he is part of many year round cultural events at Olvera Street, and has performed at many Southern California theaters as well as theaters in Texas and cultural tourist sites on his company's 2015 tour. The Ballet Coco de Esteban Coronado takes pride in sharing its presentations to audiences of both the community and the professional stage. The company provides dance instruction for students of all ages in Folklorico, Spanish, Latin Dance, Stage Dance, Ballet, Hawaiian, and more at Ramona Hall Community Center, Shatto Recreational Center, and Arte Flamenco Dance Theater.
Donald Gaiter, Accompanist
Mr. Gaiter has undergraduate degrees in music, liberal arts, and English. He has a passion for music and tennis. Currently, he teaches English at Hamilton High School, where he also coaches tennis.
Gloria Garayua, Drama Instructor
Gloria Garayua has worked at the Los Angeles Unified School District's Conservatory of Fine Arts since 2006. She currently works as a full time stage, TV, and film actress, and continues to teach on the side because it is one of her passions. Gloria has taught group acting classes both in NYC and in LA since 2000. She is known for playing “Blanca” in Sony Studios and Imagine Entertainment's: Fun with Dick and Jane with Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni, Seasons 4- 6 of Grey’s Anatomy recurring as “Intern Graciella,” Detective Davis in Season 3 of ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, and Sony's "Reckoning" which was on Netflix until recently. Gloria also played "Penny" on Netflix's MAID, nominated for three Emmy categories. She also voiced "Gloria" in "CyberPunk Edgerunners", the animé. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.F.A in Acting from C.W. Post, Long Island University. Her teaching philosophy is: "Learn how to ‘act smart’ by embracing the artist within you, and learn to make strong choices that have your unique signature on it!"
Rebecca Graul, Accompanist
A GATE kid herself from grades 4 through 9, Rebecca Graul started playing piano for live theater at age 17 and never stopped! With nearly 25 years of experience in musical direction, accompaniment, and vocal health, Rebecca specializes in demystifying all things theatrical! In addition to her ongoing position as Music Supervisor of the Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts (YADA), Rebecca writes and develops educational content for Center Theatre Group (including the recent National Tour of Hadestown) and has partnered with both CTG and Disney Musicals in Schools to build thriving theatre programs in underfunded elementary schools. Pre-pandemic, she spent several years as the resident vocal health guide for Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre Program and has even composed original songs for their touring educational musicals. Rebecca holds a BFA from Cal State Fullerton and has composed/produced music for films, commercials, web series, musicals, and TV shows. These days, you can find her all over southern California promoting conservatory music and theatre with the goal of making the arts accessible to all!
Kellen Law, Drama Instructor
JKellen Law is an actor, singer, dancer and teaching artist. She holds a BFA in Acting from Syracuse University and an MA in Educational Theater from New York University. Through her work as a performer and arts educator, Kellen has worked with organizations around the country including the New York Theatre Workshop, Pasadena Unified School District Syracuse Stage, Seattle Children's Theatre, The Pasadena Playhouse and The Actor's Co-op Theatre Company. Her various pursuits are united by a passion for creating spaces and experiences where people feel seen, heard and valued.
Pasha Mckenley, Drama Instructor
Pasha Mckenley was born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in Toronto, Canada. Pasha holds a degree in Theatre Arts and has over 30+ years of experience as an actor, writer, director, and producer. As an educator, Pasha is credited with the development and implementation of numerous programs dedicated to arts education. In Toronto, she Co-founded the A.M.Y. Project, the ColoUred girls collective, and built a reputation as an advocate for visual and performing arts. Pasha also collaborated on arts curriculum and programming for schools and organizations such as St. Stephens Community Centre, The Catalyst Centre, and M.E.T.R.A.C. (Metropolitan Action against Violence in Communities.) Pasha sat on the jury for the Ontario Arts Councils, has written and received grants from both the Toronto and Ontario Arts Councils, and has served on several steering committees for arts administration for the province of Ontario, Canada. Since moving to Los Angeles, Pasha's career highlights include working at Creative Screenwriting Magazine, the LA City Mayor's Summer Night Lights Program, and the metamorphosis arts project, a program she created to address the lack of arts in public schools. In addition, Pasha has received numerous grants from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to continue her artistic endeavors. Through her work with metamorphosis, Pasha was able to gain the tools needed to revamp and revitalize the theatre program at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, where she's currently the Performing Arts Director for Theatre. Pasha is currently an Artist-in-Residence for high school Theatre Programming at the Marlborough School. Pasha's proudest achievements will always be receiving The President of the United States Volunteer Service Award, for her dedication in amplifying the voice of young performing artists.
Kelsey O'Keeffe, Musical Theatre Instructor
Kelsey O'Keeffe has been teaching children to sing and dance for over 15 years. Kelsey received a B.A. in Theatre with a double minor in Music and Dance from Muhlenberg College. She also studied dance abroad at Accademia dell'Arte in Tuscany, Italy. Kelsey has music directed, choreographed, and stage managed over 40 shows in educational and professional theater settings. She is honored to continue sharing her passion for musical theatre with the next generation of young performers.
Michele O'Quinn, Dance Substitute
An elementary dance teacher for LAUSD since 2003, Mrs. O'Quinn earned her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Loyola Marymount University. She also has a Masters of Education in Secondary Education from her previous years of teaching high school dance, as well as a Masters of Education in Advanced Instruction from USC. As a professional dancer, Mrs. O'Quinn has been a dancer in Disneyland Parades and with the Los Angeles Clippers, as well as a cheerleader for the Rams. Additionally, Mrs. O'Quinn freelanced in videos and films, and in Faithful Dance Company and Jazz Antiqua. Other experiences include substitute teaching for various dance studios, working as a cheer coach, and choreographing. Mrs. O'Quinn resides in Los Angeles with her husband, four children, and their family dog.
Alan Peck, Accompanist
Alan Peck has worked with the Conservatory of Fine Arts program since 2006. Since 1993, he has also served as a musician at the Los Angeles Greater Height Mission Bible Church, in the city of Los Angeles. Prior to this, Alan was the Director of the youth choir at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, City of Los Angeles, from 1988 – 1993 and served as Musician for Greater Height Mission Bible Church from 1993 to present. Alan sings and has performed as a pianist, flutist, and/or saxophonist, as a member, soloist, and leader of many groups in schools, parks, churches, hotels, and concert halls from New York to Los Angeles and from Montego Bay to Melbourne, and including venues as varied as the National Cathedral, Radio City Music Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and the White House. He has also written, arranged and directed music for many of these organizations. He currently teaches piano and flute. Alan has studied music privately, at Federal City College, Washington, D.C., and at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business, with an emphasis on management. He was also awarded a Masters of Public Administration degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills.
Jorge Rivas, Dance Instructor
It all started in a small town in Zacatecas, Mexico at the early age of five. In the intervening two decades Jorge, has been active in the world of performance and dance, as well as cultivating numerous cultural and artistic events in many communities. In 2014 Jorge established Ballet Bravo, which allowed him to express his own artistry and appreciation of cultural heritage. Jorge also encourages his students to express their artistry and creativity through the medium of dance. Ballet Bravo has had the privilege to participate in various community, cultural, and professional events. Among these; Downey Theater’s Day of the Dead, Lotus Festival, UNICEF’S Children Programs, and their most recent short film documentary “Sin Cielo”—a film which has been honored with 15 awards. Jorge possesses extensive knowledge of dance styles- folk being his primary focus and passion. Jorge continues to share his passion in the arts by teaching after-school programs; Parks and Recreation classes, the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club, as well as working with various L.A. based dance companies such as Ballet COCO de Esteban Coronado. In addition to his own work, Mr. Rivas has had the honor of working with the LAOPERA in the Barber of Seville (2015), Carmen (2017), and El Gato Montes (2019). He has also performed with various singers, music videos, TV celebrities, and TV shows. His most recent participation was in Vida. Other professional participation includes Angeles Ochoa, Los Rieleros Del Norte, La Santa Cecilia, and his most recent appearance at the Academy Awards presentation for Best Animated Film COCO. He continues to dedicate his time and energy to helping various communities to discover physical and psychological wellbeing through dance.
Bainbridge Scott, Voice Instructor
Bainbridge Scott thinks of herself as a teaching artist sharing the quest of singing with other artists. Does she have a favorite genre of music? The one she hasn’t tried yet. Thus, she’s worked in everything from rock to classical, and taught children to adults. She’s a technique enthusiast who likes to have serious fun. She’s taught privately as an associate teacher for some of LA’s top vocal gurus for 20 years and has been an itinerant general music teacher with LAUSD for 13 years. Her performing career includes backup singing, as well as solo. She has been involved with musical theater as a dancer and choreographer.
Nonna Ter-Avanesova, Accompanist
People usually don’t like their jobs; I do—because my job is to play piano. I started my piano experiments when I was at the age of 5. Now that I am much older, I don’t have a childish curiosity about piano anymore, but I like to play, and this love is what I am doing for a living. What is very important, my fingers don’t have a “Russian” accent, like my language. I arrived in America in 2003 from Russia. At that time, I had only one great phrase in my arsenal—“How do you do?” This phrase was so familiar from Pygmalion! Unfortunately, my neighbors wanted to hear some other phrases from me, too. That was the reason why I graduated from LACC in 2008 (AA, Magna Cum Laude) and from Cal State LA in 2011 (Bachelor of Arts, Keyboard Performance, Magna Cum Laude). My desire to learn English led to an invitation from The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. I have been a member of this society for 8 years. But in order to preserve my Russian, I hosted several shows and events, and I received a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of West Hollywood City Council in recognition of outstanding performance in the Russian Style Festival in 2013. In Russia, I worked as a journalist in the newspaper and a pianist in the ballet college. I also have a Master’s degree in history and political science, and I was a teacher in high school. Now I am again among children—working as an accompanist in the Conservatory of Fine Arts and Pasadena Dance Theater. When my dancers are smiling while I am playing “Nutcracker”, I understand that art is universal — the nutcracker breaks all differences between my two countries. And this is amazing!
Indira Tyler, Dance Instructor
Indira is from Cleveland, Ohio and has trained at the Martha Graham School, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and at the Katherine Dunham seminars and certification workshops in St. Louis. Indira is a graduate of Education, Dance, Cultural Studies and Literature and has earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master Degrees from UCLA, Philadelphia University of the Arts and CSUDH. As an educator and professional artist, Indira is driven to inspire cultural and artistic awareness among youth. In 2009, Indira founded The Tyler Project, a 501c(3), Non-Profit designed to develop the skills and aspirations of young people and focuses on creative partnerships for the arts and humanities. Her non-profit experience has allowed her to bring arts education into schools to promote scholastic achievement. Indira is a dance director/educator at Millikan Middle School and has taught at the LAUSD Conservatory of Fine Arts for 11 years. Her passion is to continue developing quality art and promoting a vibrant and inclusive artistic cultural environment in the community.
Alan Waddington, Percussionist
Alan Waddington has worked in many varied settings in the music industry. Not only has he engaged in performances of many styles of music, he has also lead groups, coordinated events and performances, produced, created and conceptualized many diverse areas of entertainment. Alan has performed with Gwen Stefani, Bon Jovi, Willie Nelson, Joe Walsh, Vince Neal, Dale Kristien, Arturo Sandoval, Melissa Manchester, Savage Republic, The Bay City Rollers, A Chorus Line 20th Anniversary World Tour, various Broadway stars and more. He was a featured artist and member of “The Seoul Pops Orchestra” in South Korea and continues to work with Korean pop stars in America (Baek Ji Young, Hwang Chi Yeol, Kwang Jin Kim, Hyoung Jung Kim,Yoon Min Soo, JK Kim Dong Uk, Hyung Jin Young and more.) His television performance credits include The Grammys, The David Letterman Show, Saturday Night Live, The Ellen Show, and Good Morning America. He can be found on film in Renaissance Man and Cherry 2000. He was in charge of the live drum line performances for “Hollaback Girl” and “Wind it Up” for Gwen Stefani (groups performed for major television shows in the US and Europe as well as stadium venues.) He has helped develop the award winning Citrus College jazz and pop music program. Former students are playing and working with major artists such as Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Meghan Trainor, Neil Young, Andy Grammar, Halsey, Steven Tyler, Lukas Nelson, Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, One Republic, The Biz, and Chris Cornell, as well as living and performing in Broadway, Las Vegas, Europe, South America and Asia. Alan is a sought after seminar writer, instructor, adjudicator, advisor and performer. He also the head coach for the Citrus College cross country team.
Jessica Carma Volpi, Drama Instructor
Jessica Carma Volpi is a classically trained actress, experienced teaching artist, and a dynamic director. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Classical Theatre from Southern Utah University and graduated summa cum laude. Upon graduating she accepted an international, two-year touring contract with Missoula Children's Theatre. She toured to 37 states and 5 countries performing, teaching, and directing just under 100 casts of various musicals. Since her move to the LA area she has been working non-stop. She graduated from iO West's esteemed improv program. She has worked with Center Theatre Group, Disney Theatrical Group, The Geffen Playhouse, and A Noise Within doing many in-classroom residencies and leading professional development sessions. In conjunction with Pasadena Unified School District, Jessica created core aligned Theatre Arts integrated units and lessons across English Language Arts, Science, Mathematics, and History-Social Sciences for kindergarten through fifth grade. She then led multiple professional development workshops on how to apply the lessons. Jessica has just recently completed and achieved a certificate from California State University, Los Angeles, in the pilot Community Teacher Artist Certificate program. She also received her single subject teaching credential in ELA and Theatre. She is in her final year of her M.A. from Cal State LA in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in storytelling. She is a drama teacher and working director in Los Angeles. This is her fourth year with LAUSD's GATE Conservatory of Fine Arts.