Wirth Center for the Performing Arts Faculty
Piano Faculty, Saint Cloud
Dr. Paul Wirth - Artistic Director, Piano - Teacher of Young Artists
Artistic Director, Dr. Paul Wirth, is a prominent figure in our national piano teaching community. His unique combination of masterful performing and teaching, along with a sense of humor and unassuming personality have made him a much sought-after featured artist in concerts, master classes, fundraisers, conventions, special events, and lecture series.
With his Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Temple University, and his Master and Doctorate degrees in Piano Performance from Indiana University, he co-founded and is now the Artistic Director of the Wirth Center for the Performing Arts (formerly Central Minnesota Music School) in St. Cloud, MN, a bustling performing arts center with over 300 students taught by a faculty of twenty.
Chosen as the 2004-05 Teacher of the Year by Thursday Musical, he has taught numerous first prize-winning students of regional, national and international competitions - with thirty of his pre-college students having performed over seventy solo performances with orchestra, including numerous appearances with the Minnesota and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras. In addition to his presentations at conventions and conferences, including the 2007 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy and statewide conventions in Minnesota, Iowa and Texas, Dr. Wirth’s GRAVI-DVD - a cutting edge DVD on teaching piano technique to children - is now being distributed nationally and internationally. His masterclasses, most recently at the Cleveland Institute of Music Preparatory Division, are always well received, and his presentations, drawing upon 30 years as a pre-college specialist teaching advanced concepts to 4 -18 year olds, often elicit further engagements. He is also an avid supporter of young performers, having co-founded the Salon se Lève concert series in Minneapolis and the nationally recognized Young Artist World Piano Festival at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN.
Dr. Wirth maintains three studios: at the Wirth Center for the Performing Arts in St. Cloud, MN, at the Schmitt Music Center in Roseville, MN, and at his home in St. Joseph, MN where he lives with his wife and greatest support, Kathy Wirth.
Jeanine Barrett, Assistant Artistic Director, Piano
Jeanine Barrett, a native of
Jeanine’s musicianship began when she studied for nine years at WCPA with Dr. Paul Wirth. During this time she placed first in the MMTA Senior Young Artist Division and performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra as the first place winner in their competition.
Jeanine is a member of MMTA, MTNA, and the National Federation Music Club. Mrs. Barrett resides in
Dr. James Dennihan, Piano
James Dennihan is a native of Kansas City, Missouri where he studied with Joanne Baker from the age of seven through his Bachelor’s degree. During that time, he was a national finalist in the MTNA High School Auditions and appeared as soloist with several Kansas City area orchestras, including the Kansas City Philharmonic. In New York and Boston,he studied with Martin Canin and Leonard Shure. He was pianist for the New Amsterdam Chamber Ensemble and a member of the faculty at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. He received his doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music where his teachers were John Browning and Constance Keene.
Since moving to the St. Cloud area, Dr. Dennihan has appeared frequently in solo and chamber recitals and in concerto performances with the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra, the Heartland Symphony Orchestra and the Willmar Symphony Orchestra. In addition to teaching at the Wirth Center for the Performing Arts, Dr. Dennihan is an adjunct faculty member at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, St. Cloud State University and teaches music appreciation at the College of St. Scholastica/St. Cloud Campus.
Christopher Goering, Piano and Composition/Theory
Christopher Goering received his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Theory and Composition and Master of Music degree in Piano Pedagogy from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He is continuously composing new solo and duet music for the piano. He encourages musical experimentation and creativity in his students and often incorporates composition and improvisation in the lessons.
Christopher began piano lessons at age 6 with his mother, Maria Goering. He has also studied with Ann DuHamel, Dr. James Dennihan, and Dr. Paul Wirth. Christopher and his wife, Jacinta, currently live in St. Cloud.
Brenda Handel-Johnson, Piano and Voice
Brenda Handel-Johnson believes that all children and adults are capable of learning how to participate and enjoy music. The journey into the world of music can be filled with joy, excitement, beauty, hard work and challenges, but mostly great satisfaction. She has been passing on this teaching philosophy to students at the
Brenda began her career as a piano teacher 24 years ago. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at
“I truly enjoy observing students when the light bulb clicks on and they “get it”. I also love to see students make music really become their own vehicle for expressing themselves,” Brenda muses when reflecting on the joys of teaching. Her goal in working with each student is to identify what the music requires of the student, and to help that person answer the challenge with skills and techniques that help him/her perform each piece musically.
Brenda resides in
Jessica Heim, Piano
Jessica Heim graduated with high honors from the College of St. Benedict in 2009 with a B.A. in Music and Environmental Studies where she studied under Dr. Edward Turley. Her musical interests began with piano lessons at the age of 7 and she studied with Dr. Paul Wirth throughout high school, attending the Wirth Center for the Performing Arts’ (formerly Central Minnesota Music School) Young Artist Piano Camp for 7 years and passing Levels 1-5 of MMTA theory. She continues her studies with Dr. Wirth.
Jessica has been a piano accompanist for ballet classes at the St. Paul City Ballet and WCPA since 2002. She also accompanies services at the St. Cloud Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. In 2008, she performed the first movement of Ravel’s G Major Piano Concerto with the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra as the grand prizewinner of their Young Performer’s Competition. During June, 2009, she participated in Webster University’s Chamber Music Vienna program directed by Dr. Daniel Rieppel.
Outside of music, Jessica’s interests include hiking, nature photography, and bird watching. She has taken biology and ecology classes in the mountains of Montana and on the Oregon coast. She also spent a May Term in Sweden and Denmark, where she studied ways in which these countries have become more environmentally and socially sustainable.
Piano Faculty, Twin Cities
June Chang, Piano
June Chang received her undergraduate degree at National Taiwan Normal University in music performance and education. After teaching music class in middle school for one year, she came to the United States studying her master’s degree with Antonio Pompa-Baldi at Cleveland Institute of Music. Then she went on to attend University of Minnesota for her doctoral degree with Alexander Braginsky. At this time, she was awarded the Teaching Assistantship to teach class piano at the college level.
June has won several piano competitions in Taiwan including Kawai Piano Competition, Taichung City Piano Competition, and Vienna Piano Competition. Her recent performances including recitals at the University of Minnesota, Schumann Concerto for the Schumann Festival in Sundin Music Hall, and Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” for Minnesota Public Radio. With the passion for music and teaching, June is pleased to join the faculty and will be continuing her study with Dr. Paul Wirth.
Kim Lange, Piano
Kim Lange received the B.A and M.M. degrees with an emphasis in Piano Pedagogy from the University of Minnesota where she studied with Paul Freed. She has 26 years of teaching experience, including teaching at the Crystal Free Church School of Music, the Northwestern College Academy of Music and the Northwestern College Piano Institutes.
Kim has studied the Suzuki approach with Maria Rantapaa and the Taubman Technique with Teresa Dybvig. She also has had extensive training in early childhood music, including the Yamaha, Musikgarten and Musical Trolley programs. Her teaching experience has included students of all ages, including both gifted students and students with disabilities.
She is an active member of the Minnesota Music Teachers Association, the St. Paul Piano Teachers Association and Minnesota Music Teachers Forum, and has attended numerous workshops, master classes and institutes. A lifelong learner, she continues her piano studies with Dr. Paul Wirth. Kim resides in Crystal, MN with her husband who is her greatest support, Dr. Richard Lange.
Dance Faculty, Saint Cloud
Breanna Dvorak, Dance
Breanna Dvorak is a professional ballerina and instructor in the St. Cloud Area. She received her ballet training in the Vagonova method, from the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia, completing their courses and graduating as the second American in 250 years to receive a diploma as a Ballet Artist.
After graduating, Breanna danced as Soloist with the St. Paul Chamber Ballet, and began her teaching career. Breanna has taught and choreographed for several studios around Minnesota, as well as choreographing an award winning dance routine for a prominent color guard.
Other specialties include teaching Jazz, Kick, and body strengthening for children and adults, as well as creative movement classes and “Mommy & Me” classes for toddlers and the Pre K age group.
While keeping each class upbeat and enjoyable, Breanna’s teaching style is more traditional with a focus on technique resulting in a more refined dancing style. She prides herself on being an actively involved teacher, demonstrating for and executing movements with the class she is teaching.
Danielle Moriarty, Dance, Early Childhood Education
Bio and pictures coming soon!
Early Childhood Music and Movement, Saint Cloud
Heidi Hansen, Early Childhood Education
Heidi A. Hansen, NCTM, holds an MM degree in Piano Pedagogy and Performance from the University of St. Thomas, and a BS degree in Vocal Music Education from St. Cloud State University. She taught classroom music for 5 years and in 1990 left her school position to become an independent music teacher, teaching piano, flute and voice in her own private studio. In 2010 she underwent training to become a licensed Musikgarten teacher and began teaching classes to preschoolers in the fall of 2010. She currently teaches at Hansen House of Music in Becker, Minnesota, and at the Wirth Center for the Performing Arts in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Ms. Hansen is an active member of the Minnesota Music Teachers Association, the Central Minnesota Music Teachers Association and the National Federation of Music Clubs. She is also a frequent adjudicator and clinician for MMTA events in Central Minnesota. She has done extensive research in the field of learning styles, in particular, the Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic Learning Styles as they apply to the field of piano pedagogy and has written her Master’s Thesis, “Learning Styles: Implications for the Private Piano Teacher” on this subject. In addition to her teaching, Ms. Hansen is the church pianist and Adult Choir Director for South Santiago Lutheran Church in Clear Lake, Minnesota.
Kathleen Kampa, Dance, Early Childhood Education
Kathleen “Kathy” Kampa (Vilina) has been teaching young learners for over 25 years. She is in her second year of teaching at the Wirth Center for the Performing Arts and serves as the director of the Early Childhood Music Program and Dance Program.
Kathleen brings an eclectic approach to both her music and dance instruction. Her musical approach centers on Orff Schulwerk, allowing a child’s creative ideas to be developed through music. As a pianist, guitarist, and vocalist, bringing the music and dance of cultures from around the world has been one of her goals. Kathleen also brings a wide range of dance styles, such as creative , modern, folk, ballet, liturgical, and jazz, to the dance program. She is a member of DEC, Dance Educator’s Coalition, an organization for dance educators in Minnesota. Kathleen is also an active member of DaCi (Dance and the Child International), having attended and presented at conferences in Sydney, Australia; Kuopio, Finland; Regina, Canada; and The Hague, Netherlands.
While in Tokyo, Japan for 19 years, she taught music, dance, and English to both Japanese and international students, developing arts-based, child-friendly strategies for learning to promote success in all learners. Kathleen and her husband Charles Vilina are co-authors of "Magic Time," a starter-level English course for young learners published by Oxford University Press. Their teacher training programs across Asia focus on a "multiple intelligences" approach to learning which aids all students in finding success. Additionally, Kathleen has been a recording artist for children's CD's used in educational settings throughout Japan, and writes a quarterly column for TLC, a newsletter for teachers of young language learners.
Prior to living in Japan, Kathleen developed “Whims ‘n Wishes,” a children's entertainment service for special events and birthday parties. She also directed the Dance Program at St. Francis Music Center, Little Falls, and taught at St. Mary's Cathedral Grade School in St. Cloud.
Kathleen graduated from the College of St. Benedict with a BA in Elementary Education (K-6) and AA in Music. She has continued to pursue graduate studies in music through the University of St. Thomas and TESL(Teaching English as a Second Language) studies through SCSU. Her passion for improving learning for young children can be seen through the numerous workshops and courses she’s taken to integrate knowledge in new and unique ways.
Kathleen is the mother of two boys, John (18) and Chris (15). She is currently residing with her family in the St. Cloud area.
Guitar, Saint Cloud
Mark Hasbrouck, Guitar, School of Rock
Mark Hasbrouck (Hazzy) was born in 1963, in
Hazzy started playing music as a youngster on his gr
One of Hazzy's favorite things about teaching is when he sees the excitement on a student's face when they "get it" for the first time
One of the highlights of Mark’s summers for the past three years has been working as an instructor at the School of Rock camp sponsored by the Wirth Center for the Performing Arts in cooperation with District 742 Community Education, Hazzy plays in a few local b
Alex Maiers, Guitar, Music Theory, Composition
Alex Maiers was born and raised in St. Cloud, MN, graduating from Cathedral High School in 2007. He attended the University of St. Thomas, where he studied with Dr. Chris Kachian (classical) and Steve Morgan (jazz/improvisation/popular music). While at St. Thomas, he also served as a Music Theory tutor and was the lead stage/light/recording technician for student and faculty recitals. In the spring of 2011 he received a Bachelor of Music degree in Guitar Performance, along with a minor in Music Production with a strong emphasis in Music Composition. He also organized and performed in a symposium on “The Music & Scholarship of American Composer Frank Zappa”.
Alex picked up the guitar at the age of 12 after having a passive interest in music, having played the viola in elementary school and the flute, which he played throughout high school. His earliest influences included Jason Becker, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Metallica. He has since branched out to numerous genres and playing styles, such as progressive rock, slap/acoustic, classical, jazz, folk, blues, country, bluegrass, alternative, film/video game music, musical theater and electronica. He was involved in the School of Rock (as a student and later as an instructor) and was the guitarist for the All-Area Jazz group “Mixed Image” from 2005-2007.
“I remember the day that I picked up the guitar for the first time (May 28, 2002), and after that day it was like a spark ignited within me. Over the years, that spark has grown into a flame that shines brighter than anything I could have ever imagined. Whether it’s performing live with my progressive rock band, Amorphous, or as a solo act, being in the studio or at the composer’s desk, nothing can compare to the joy and serenity I find in music. As a teacher, nothing is greater than seeing that spark ignite in another person, and being able to nurture it into their life, be it as a career choice or as a hobby.”
Outside of music, Alex enjoys exercising, martial arts, Japanese culture and language, reading/writing poetry and spending time with his puppies, Bagheera and Clark.
Ben Poorker, Guitar, Bass Guitar
Central Minnesota native Ben Poorker has had a life long passion for music, which shines through whenever he is playing or teaching. Ben started playing guitar at the age of 8, and bass guitar at the age of 15. He also has 10 plus years live performing experience. Ben loves all types of music including rock, blues, funk, pop, and jazz.
His easy going, high energy personality along with his patience and sense of humor make him a natural teacher. Ben believes that learning should be challenging, rewarding, and above all, fun! Ben teaches his students to be well rounded musicians, focusing on fundamentals, improvisation, theory, practice discipline, ear training, as well as basic guitar care and maintenance.
Percussion, Saint Cloud
Pete Johnson, Percussion
Central Minnesota native, Pete Johnson, has built his musicianship through a variety of professional performances around the greater Midwest, primarily in Chicago and Minneapolis. With a B.A. in Jazz Performance from Minnesota State University Moorhead, Pete has used his education and experience to become an accomplished performer, producer, and teacher in the world of Jazz and Popular music.
“As a drum teacher, having FUN in the lesson room is the most important thing to me. A student’s musical desires are what matters most. My strategy is to provide positive reinforcement to encourage students, helping them to develop their own “self discipline” in order to grow their musical skills. The only one who can push you towards being a better musician is YOU. I am here to give you the tools and skills necessary to do that.”
Pete is an accomplished bandleader and composer – bringing his own Jazz group across the Midwest to Jazz clubs, theaters, and Opera houses. When not leading his own band, Pete is a busy sideman performing and touring with some of Minnesota’s best Jazz and Rock/Pop groups at venues such as the Manhattan Jazz Festival, Dakota Jazz Club, Artists Quarter, Loring Theatre, Paramount Theatre, First Avenue, and the Triple Rock Social Club. When not performing, Pete is in the studio composing and producing his own music – integrating his love for Jazz, Hip Hop, and Pop Music. On occasion, you might see him playing electric bass, another passion. His performance, touring, and recording credits include: the Dan Phillips Group, Simon Rowe Trio, George Maurer Jazz Group, Tim Seisser, Debbie Duncan, Pippi Ardennia, the Allen Carter Big Band, Spencer McGillicutty, Collective Unconscious, Agent Biscuit, Andrew Walesch, and more.
Violin/Viola, Saint Cloud
Lauri Koenig, Violin
An extremely dedicated artist, Lauri is exceptionally passionate about teaching. She studied music and pedagogy extensively through multiple venues, including a long term internship led by world class violinist, Dr. John Thomson of New Zealand, as well as specialized training at the Juilliard School of Music. Lauri delights in taking this instruction to the next level by developing creative, individualized strategies to develop the artist within each student.
Realizing that her students’ development is based greatly on her own, she is committed to her growth as a musician. Her love for performing, as well as delving into the history of the music, personality of the artists, and the stories behind the compositions, provides students a wellspring of exciting discoveries within their lessons.
Lauri’s journey with the violin began at the age of seven, but her passion for its voice was discovered at the early age of three, when upon hearing a violin performance on public radio, she cried – and desired to one day be a master of the instrument. She began private lessons, joined a Suzuki School, and in her teen years developed the need to pursue her lessons over 400 miles away from her home town. She has attended the Master Works Festival, received master classes from world class artists including members of the NSO, won auditions, and has performed in several symphony orchestras. She is also the leader and founder of her family chamber group, String Silhouettes.
Dedicated to offering a complete and nurturing mentorship for her students, Lauri equips them with the technical and musical skills for fine music making, along with assisting them with all of the problems life throws at musicians.
With over 10 years of teaching experience, Lauri has taught Kindermusik classes, Suzuki violin in the Headstart program, and continues to develop her private studio program. Past students have won competitions, played in master classes, performed in Carnegie hall, and have gone on to pursue music as a career.
Voice, Saint Cloud
Hillary Vermillion, Voice
Soprano Hillary Vermillion regularly performs as a soloist in Central Minnesota with such groups as the Minnesota Center Chorale, Calliope Women’s Chorus, and the St. Cloud State University Percussion Ensemble, performing repertoire that includes Faure’s Requiem, Mozart’s Mass in C , and Cirone’s Five Items for Soprano and Percussion. Ms. Vermillion was also featured on a 1997 Mexican National Radio broadcast as soloist with the St. Cloud State Wind Ensemble and has performed in Santa Prisca Church-Taxco (Mexico), St. Mary’s Basilica (St Cloud), and Ted Mann Concert Hall (Minneapolis).
Ms. Vermillion’s operatic performances with Duluth Festival Opera, Dorian Opera Theater, Quite Light Opera Company and The University of Minnesota Opera Theater have included the roles of Ms. Gleaton in Floyd’s Susannah, Sister Genevieve in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Adele in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, the Countess in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, and Baby Doe in Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe. She has also delighted audiences at the annual St. Cloud Symphony Ball singing operatic trios with fellow Divas Carolyn Finley and Catherine Verrilli.
Her recital performances have included Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Arnold Schoenberg’s Vier Lieder, Op. 2., and most recently a study of Emily Dickinson poetry set to music in collaboration with famed Mezzo-soprano Glenda Maurice.
Pursuing a strong interest in contemporary music, Ms. Vermillion has worked with several composers to help promote their works. She has collaborated with Minnesota composers Scott Miller, Low Hangs The Moon; Amanda Albrecht, Fragmented; and Dorothy Williams, Positive, and premiered new works by Irish composer Mary McAuliffe and Korean Composer Yung Wha Son in Spring 2006.
A native of Colorado, Ms. Vermillion is currently completing a Doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota. She has been a voice instructor in Central Minnesota since 1990, serving on the faculties of Saint Cloud State University, Central Lakes College, Saint Francis Music Center, Wirth Center for the Performing Arts, and Great River Educational Arts Theatre.
Lori McNamara, Executive Director
In December, 2005, Lori McNamara agreed to assist the school with payroll and accounting for a few months while the school looked for a permanent bookkeeper. Those few months have turned into a few years after she was invited to stay on and serve as Executive Director in March, 2006. Lori enjoys working with the dedicated and professional faculty and managing the many aspects of the business side of the school as well as meeting the wonderful families that form the larger “WCPA family”.
Lori attended the
In 1991, with four children in tow, the McNamaras decided to relocate to
“When my son began taking lessons with Dr. Wirth in 2004, I never realized the depth and breadth of the offerings at WCPA. From our exciting Early Childhood Music and Movement programs led by the energetic Kathy Kampa, to classic ballet with Julia Tehven-Sutton, and our many dedicated and professional private music instructors to the top-notch summer camps of both the School of Rock and the Young Artist Piano Camp, and our fabulous concert series, Salon se Lève, this school definitely adds to the cultural fabric of the central Minnesota region and beyond!”