Mr. Ed Kelly – Director of Bands

A music teacher for 40 years, Mr. Kelly has had a wealth of experiences. He has done both undergraduate and post-graduate studies in music performance and music education at the Aaron Copland School of Music, located at Queens College in NY and holds certifications in both NY and NJ.  Mr. Kelly’s main instrument is trombone, but he has also studied trumpet, classical guitar, and piano. He has served as principal trombone in the Jamaica Symphony, the Queens Philharmonic, and the Hanover Wind Symphony. He has performed extensively as a freelance musician in Big Band ensembles throughout the tri-state area. While teaching at Oceanside High School in NY, Mr. Kelly served as department coordinator and Middle States committee chairman. He was commissioned to compose for and conduct choirs and orchestras for major religious seminars in NY and Washington.

Mr. Kelly was a member of the faculty of Future Musicians Inc. for 17 years and served as supervisor, arranger, and curriculum writer as part of his duties on staff. He has taught in many of FMI’s schools and served as conductor of the All State Jazz Ensemble as well as guest conductor of the All State Band program. Mr. Kelly was also instrumental in creating a jazz program at Pope John XIII High School, and created a children’s choir at Our Lady of the Lake Church, both located in Sparta, NJ. As an outgrowth of his educational experiences, he has adjudicated marching band competitions and spring music festivals throughout the tri-state area. He has been a site director for the High Note Music Festivals for the past 15 years.

An accomplished composer/arranger, Mr.Kelly has written well over 200 pieces of music that are in use at many schools throughout the region. He has developed a robust curriculum and lesson book series titled “First Songs for Band

Over the past 12 years, he has been granted the opportunity to be the Directing Administrator of Fundamental Music Instruction as an outgrowth of Future Musicians offering online and in-person instrument lessons.  Most recently, Mr. Kelly founded All Kids Need Music, a non-profit program dedicated to serving children who would not be able to participate in music education without support.

Mr. Brian Franca

Mr. Franca is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA. He holds a degree in professional music and an instructional certificate (music k-12) in New Jersey. He has also studied Music Education and Dalcroze Eurhythmics at New York University. Mr. Franca’s main instrument is tenor saxophone but has also studied most woodwind instruments as well as trumpet, trombone, guitar and percussion. Mr. Franca has performed club dates and weddings in the tri-state area since he was nineteen and continues to perform as a free-lance musician with many local bands.

He has studied with many well known artists such as Frank Foster, Yusef Lateef, Eddie Daniels, Andy McGhee, Jazzmobile, Barry Harris and the late Lenny Tristano. Mr. Franca was a member of the faculty of Future Musicians Inc. for 10 years and has served as chairperson of the All-State Symphonic bands as well as conductor for Symphonic and Honors bands. He looks forward with integrity and dedication to your child’s instrument lessons and musical development as a staff member of Fundamental Music Instruction.
In addition to his work in instrumental music, Mr. Franca serves as the St. Michael’s School Music Teacher.

Mr. Robert Pisacreta

Robert studied guitar with international performing artist Anna Maria Rosado and composition with American composer Annette Le Siege. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Guitar Performance from New Jersey City University, and has performed extensively in small venues throughout Vermont. He was a house musician for several seasons at the Yosemite Theater in Yosemite National Park, California. .
Robert has been performing and teaching guitar for over 20 years. Notable performances include a guitar trio led by Dr. Rosado at the 2011 NJMEA conference in East Brunswick, and several trips to Carnegie Hall as a member of the NJCU Choir. His focus is on creating individualized lesson plans that address the students particular interests and needs.

“ Every student comes to their first lesson with a particular set of skills and musical interests. My job is to assess the students abilities and lead them down the appropriate paths to achieving their musical goals. My goal is to make music fun and cultivate musicianship simultaneously. I focus on music, not exercises. Students are encouraged to develop technical skills through creative and emotional expression. Sight reading and improvisation are taught together with music theory and composition.” Robert is comfortable teaching all levels and styles of guitar. He works with all ages, and welcomes special needs students. He has expertise in ukulele, banjo, mandolin and mountain dulcimer, as well as an assortment world folk instruments. His hobbies include arranging and recording original guitar compositions and folk music from around the world.

Mr. Brendan Stavris

Brendan Stavris has been teaching both general music and instrumental music in Catholic Schools for almost 15 years. As a student in Rutgers University’s Doctoral of Musical Arts program, he is continually improving and reflecting upon his teaching methods in order to help students reach their utmost potential.

He enjoys incorporating many different styles of music into his teaching, and brings experience as a performer in a number of different musical settings include classical, jazz, rock, and pop. Mr. Stavris is looking forward to beginning the new school year and is especially eager to be a part of another superior-level FMI Honor Band.

Mrs. Janet Bender

Mrs. Bender is a graduate of Rutgers University and Thomas Edison State College.  She has studied with Vincent Penzarella (Tpt., NY Philharmonic), Roger Voisin (Tpt., Boston Symphony) and Jan Roller (Tpt., San Antonio Symphony). Mrs. Bender has taught for 14 years in several private schools.  She has been responsible for building and/or maintaining a high quality program at each school that she has taught at.

She also teaches instrument lessons privately and has had the honor of placing many students in All-Shore Band, Shore Intermediate Band, Region II Intermediate and High School Bands and New Jersey All-State Bands and Orchestra. She is presently Principal Trumpet with the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra.  She can also be seen performing with the Orchestra of St. Peter’s by the Sea, with the Brass Belles, an all-female brass quintet, the Asbury Park Municipal Band and at area churches.

Mrs. Nancy Tipnis

Nancy Tipnis is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music where she studied Horn with some of the finest brass players in New York City.  Nancy additionally holds a certificate in computer programming from the Chubb Institute and a Mastertrack Certificate in Instructional Design from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.  She is currently starting two businesses creating curriculum in the areas of music and foreign language acquisition and looking forward to a third start up in the area of drama.

In her ‘spare time’, she is Troop Committee Chair for ScoutsBSA Troop 99G (Girls!) chartered by Our Lady of Sorrows Church in South Orange, NJ.

Nancy has been teaching music for over 20 years both privately and in groups.  She believes that Music is a fundamental that every student should learn; not because they will become a professional musician (most do not) but because the research is clear that the study of music exercises all areas of the brain, teaches valuable practice skills, and enhances focus and concentration.  Music orders the brain for success.

Mrs. Kate Clores

Kate has a Bachelor of Music in performance from the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University. Kate has extensive experience teaching in a number of settings. She has worked in pre-schools, formed children’s choirs, and has taught one-to-one lessons to students of all ages for 13 years. Her teaching plans have included classical music, musical theatre, improvisation, and many more genres. In the most recent portion of her career, Kathryn owned and operated a music lesson and piano tuning business for eight years, managing 100 students with bi-annual performances. Kathryn is a New Jersey-based freelance musician, also giving clinics and lectures in schools for music students and teachers. Additionally, she is a Certified Piano Technician, having studied at the Piano Technician Academy in Mesa, AZ. Kathryn is currently enrolled in a distance program in Music Therapy through St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana to become a Board-Certified Music Therapist.

Dr. Gregg Wramage

Gregg Wramage serves as a teacher for FMI. He received his BM and MM from Manhattan School of Music and his DMA from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and currently serves on the music faculties of Caldwell University and Montclair State University.

Dr. Wramage’s classroom goal is to provide a fun, creative, and intellectually stimulating environment for children to explore their musical interests, while they also develop important personal and social skills, experience a sense of pride in their accomplishments, and create friendships that will enrich their time both in and outside of the classroom.

Mr. Thomas Bender

Mr. Bender received a BA Music Education from Rowan University (Summa Cum Laude) He is a performer, composer, arranger, and a Member AF of M; His professional performance includes; Orchestra Amadeus (NY), Garden State Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Peter By The Sea, Monmouth Symphony and Navesink Brass Quintet. He has also performed with Brookdale Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Lobsters, Lakewood Jazz Ensemble.

In addition, Mr. Benders performs with his original quintet as well and is a  free-lance musician throughout the tri-state area (including pop-rock and theater venues) Has recorded a CD of both original and standard material. Mr. Bender has over 35 years of experience teaching instrument lessons in private and public schools.

Mr. Victor Della Pello

Mr. Della Pello is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a Degree in Professional Music. He is an Asbury Park based Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter, and Producer. Mr. Della Pello has spent the past 30 years teaching, performing, writing, and recording through much of the Tri State area. He has performed original music, with Cover Bands and recording sessions. As a solo artist, He has released 12 independent albums. He continues to teach as well as perform to all age groups. He is passionate about teaching and sharing his knowledge of music.

Mr. Della Pello has brought his considerable talents to Fundamental Music and has enlivened the guitar program at many of the schools with instrument lessons.

Mrs. Karen Shaffstall

I began my music career at the age of 8 by taking two years of private piano lessons. Playing the piano came easily for me so my mother encouraged learning another instrument and the trumpet (cornet) was added to my study.  I basically taught myself how to play these instruments and thus the love of music lead me to excel throughout high school and then to West Chester University as a Music Education major.  I became a cornet soloist playing with a few of the country’s best brass bands and studied with principal trumpet Phil Smith of the New York Philharmonic.

I have taught music K-12 in public and private schools, conducted a 100+ chorus and 35 piece brass band, taught piano and orchestral instrument lessons in music studios, and eventually had my own private studio of 50 students. I continue to play cornet with the world-famous New York Staff Band having just returned from a tour of Japan (pre Covid), continue to serve as a piano/organ accompanist and conductor of various vocal groups. My expertise in recognizing and analyzing the music potential in each person and teaching and motivating them to utilize those skills continues to bring me great joy and satisfaction.

Mr. Kyle McLaughlin

Kyle McLaughlin is a 2019 graduate of The Catholic University of America’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music Drama and Fine Arts with a bachelor’s degree in Instrumental Music Education.  At Catholic University Mr. McLaughlin also was a 4-year member of their varsity Division III lacrosse team.  Originally from Northern New Jersey, he recently relocated to the Jersey Shore.  While Mr. McLaughlin’s main instrument is the trumpet, he has extensive experience playing in bands performing on guitar, bass, piano, drums, and vocals.  Mr. McLaughlin is also an avid songwriter, writing primarily instrumental music on the guitar and piano.

With a profound love for working with children, Mr. McLaughlin spends his summers as the Lacrosse Specialist at Pine Grove Day Camp in Wall, NJ.  While in college Mr. McLaughlin studied trumpet under Dr. Davy DeArmond, the Unit Leader of both the Naval Academy’s Brass Quintet and its Brass Ensemble; through Dr. DeArmond, he was given the honor to meet and learn from contemporary composer Kevin McKee.

Mr. Matthew Smith

Matthew R. Smith is a bassist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator living in New Jersey. He studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where he earned his bachelors and masters degrees in jazz performance and studied with some of the city’s top jazz musicians.

For over a decade, he has performed professionally with a variety of musicians and ensembles throughout the tristate area in venues ranging from restaurants and clubs to festivals and concert halls. As an avid composer of multiple styles ranging from jazz to electronic, he is continuously evolving and experimenting in his compositions with a mixture of grooves, textures, and atmospheres. He is a professional educator as a senior adjunct professor of music and teaches instrument lessons and classes at various music academies.

He formed his jazz trio in January 2018 and spent the year composing, rehearsing and recording their debut album Vernal Equinox, which was released on May 1st, 2019. For the rest of 2019 and into the beginning of 2020, they performed all over New Jersey and New York City at venues such as Feinstein’s 54 Below and Williamsburg Music Center.
On June 1st, 2020, he released his solo experimental album Multidimensional Atmospheres, which contains thirteen tracks all composed, performed, and recorded by himself.

Mr. Chris Klaus

A graduate of Rutgers University with a B.A. in Music under the instruction of world-renowned violinist Lenuta Ciulei, Christopher has over 17 years of teaching experience. He is proficient on the piano, violin, viola, and cello and has performed in various orchestras including the Rutgers symphony, Rutgers philharmonic, New Sussex Symphony, and Pocono youth orchestra. His musical interests include classical, bluegrass, celtic, and rock which are incorporated into his lessons. Each one of his instrument lessons are tailored to fit the student’s individual needs and musical tastes. Many of his students play in community and state orchestras and have also gone on to obtain degrees in music.

Mr. Sergio Hernanez

Sergio Hernandez is a tenor and voice teacher who holds a Master of Music degree from Westminster Choir College in Voice Pedagogy and Performance, and a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from The College of New Jersey. He is an avid reader of vocal literature and a practitioner of hot yoga who integrates these two passions when teaching his voice students to sing from a place of joy, flexibility, and acceptance of ever-changing experiences. As a musician, Sergio is an experienced recitalist, chorister, church musician, and soloist who has performed in numerous concert venues throughout NY, NJ, and PA. He has performed with major orchestras of the Tri-State area with the New York Choral Society and the Westminster Symphonic Choir at Verizon Hall, Carnegie Hall, and David Geffen Hall. He is also a Certified YogaVoice Teacher, which is a dual singing-yoga philosophy that helps produce a free body and voice to make performing its most authentic, artistic, and radiant.

Mrs. Debbie Thompson

Mrs. Debbie Thompson has been teaching music for the past 30 years. She graduated from The College of New Jersey with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education majoring in the clarinet. She has recently retired from teaching in public schools in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Mrs. Thompson has taught instrumental music for grades 3-8, directing concert band, jazz, beginning band and taught lessons for every musical instrument. In addition, she has taught elementary/middle school choir, general music and she has directed the school musicals.

In addition to teaching, Mrs. Thompson plays woodwinds in the pit orchestra for schools and community theaters throughout New Jersey.
Her hope is to reach every student and inspire them to improve their musical skills, self-discipline, and most of all, help them to develop a lifelong love and appreciation of all music and the arts. She is very dedicated to sharing her expertise and experiences with students of all ages.

Mr. Matthew Fischer

Matt Fischer is a Trombonist, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and educator currently based in Thousand Oaks, California. He graduated from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a bachelor’s degree in Music Performance and a Minor in Music Education. Some of his coursework included Psychology of Music Teaching and Learning, Music and Children with Special Needs, Conducting and Rehearsal Techniques, and Music Instruction for Private Lessons and Improvisation. 
Matt has 15 years of experience teaching personalized musical instruction on Piano, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Ukulele, Flute, Alto Sax, Trumpet, Trombone and Tuba. His personalized musical arrangements and approach to education allows students to succeed in Musical Performance, Music History, Music Theory, and Music Technology. 

Matt has experience touring nationally and internationally, performing at a professional level at a multitude of events such as weddings, corporate gatherings, benefits, music festivals, and parades. You can also find Matt performing, arranging and recording with various groups throughout the Los Angeles area.