Instructors & Staff

Brynn Albanese

Brynn Albanese
Gypsy fiddle, violin technique

Brynn Albanese is a classical violinist who is a fearless musician unrestrained by a single discipline. As a member of Cafe Musique, a popular Central California band, she moves easily and exuberantly from her classical mode into gypsy, swing and folk styles. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, she has served as concertmaster and soloist for the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic, and has been principal second and soloist with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. After seven years of living in the Netherlands and performing with various Dutch Orchestras, Brynn returned to California and settled on the Central Coast. She currently teaches violin and is an orchestral coach for the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Symphony.

Thorne and Zac

Thorne Ashton

Thorne Ashton is a regular part of the Tehachapi traditional music scene, and part of the “House Band” at Fiddlers Crossing. He loves singing old-time and bluegrass songs and playing guitar, mandolin and fiddle in jam sessions.  When not teaching, Thorne will be keeping a watchful eye on everything in camp as Facilities Manager.

Andrea Beaton
Cape Breton Fiddling and Step-dancing

Andrea Beaton is one of a long line of outstanding Cape Breton fiddlers and is in the forefront of her generation. In fact, the Beaton name is one of the names synonomous with Cape Breton fiddling, along with that of her uncle and cousin, Buddy and Natalie MacMaster. Like her father and grandfather, she is a composer in the tradition, adding fine new music to the repertoire. Andrea will bring this traditional style of Cape Breton fiddling to Camp Kiya. As an added bonus, she has also agreed to teach a class in Cape Breton step-dancing.

Suzanne Botha

Music has been an inspirational force in Suzanne’s life from the time she started playing violin at age eight. Upon moving to Tehachapi at age ten, Suzanne quickly became involved in the local classical and traditional music scene. She played in the Tehachapi Symphony, was the first concertmaster of TPOPS (The Tehachapi Pops Orchestra), and a member of several traditional music groups. She holds a bachelors in Music Education from CSU Bakersfield, and has been teaching violin, viola and piano in Tehachapi and Fresno to students of all ages and skill levels for 12 years. With an open mind to learning, Suzanne loves to share music with the world.

Ashley Broder

Ashley Broder is an in-demand mandolinist, violinist and cellist from Ventura, California. Ashley toured as a duo with fiddler Jamie Laval, playing traditional Celtic music, and is now a member of the Syncopaths, a popular contra dance band that stretches the genre to include vocalist Christa Burch, as well as keyboard, mandolin, fiddle and bodhran. When Ashley is not touring, she teaches private lessons. She is also working on her first solo album featuring her own compositions.

Christa Burch
Singing, bodhran

 Singer and bodhrán player Christa Burch’s expressive voice is fresh, powerful, and instantly recognizable. Christa marries a gift for storytelling with her intuitive musicianship, bringing to vivid life the songs from the Celtic tradition. Part of a vibrant new generation of American folk singers, Christa has lent her distinctive voice to many West Coast projects, working with keepers of the tradition such as master Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser, as well as updating the tradition with red-hot contra band The Syncopaths. She works with experimental projects like the a capella duet Lintie and nouveau-Celtic band Blackwaterside, and makes guest appearances with many other fine artists and Celtic bands.

Howard Chu
Donegal Fiddle Style

Howard Chu has been singing and playing fiddle for most of his life, and has been a devotee of the fiddle music of Donegal for the past two decades. He is the founder of the band Highland Sun, a founding member of Everything Celtic Dance and Music Troupe, and has also performed with the Scottish Fiddlers of LA. Formerly a Los Angeles local, Howard now resides in Co. Donegal, Ireland.

William Coulter
Guitar (Classical and Celtic), whistle, bodhran

William Coulter has been performing and recording traditional music for 20 years. He has a classical guitar studio at UC Santa Cruz, and is a sought-after teacher at many summer music camps. William is a Grammy-winning artist who enjoys collaborations with other musicians and has toured internationally. He holds, among other degrees, a Masters in ethnomusicology from UCSC, with an emphasis on traditional Irish music and song.

Joe Craven
Swing Fiddle, Mandolin, Percussion, General Musical Mayhem

Joe Craven is a madman who can turn anything – bedpan, umbrella stand, cookie tin, squeeze toy, his face – into a musical instrument. He is well-known to music festival-goers throughout the country as an emcee, performer, educator, storyteller and artist. Joe gets people up off their feet playing whatever is at hand – keys, chairs, the silverware, you name it!

Penny CritchlowPenny Critchlow
Back-up guitar, harmony singing, Old-time dance caller

Penny Critchlow is a long- time resident of North Fork, CA in the mountains of Eastern Madera County. She is an award-winning singer as well as a dance caller and guitarist. She regularly performs with Mark Olson in their duo, “Twice as Nice,” at festivals and camps, including the Berkeley Old-time Music Convention and as part of the contra dance band at the Strawberry Music Festival. The two have lately been adding vintage country and bluegrass songs and tunes to their repertoire. At Camp Kiya, Penny will share her multiple talents by teaching back-up guitar, harmony singing and Old-time dance styles. She will also serve as a dance caller for our contra dance.

Aria Curzon
Irish dancing

Aria Curzon has been in the entertainment industry since the age of 6, and has acted in many stage, commercial, television and film productions over the years. Also an avid musician and dancer throughout her life, she particularly enjoyed the form of Irish Dance, and studied and competed for over 6 years with the Aniar Academy of Irish dance in Laguna Niguel, CA. She loves sharing this wonderful, energetic dance with dancers of all levels, and can’t wait to return to Camp Kiya for her third year.


Dave Gamble
Classical Guitar

Dave Gamble has been teaching music in Bakersfield and Tehachapi for approximately 18 years. He obtains a B.A. in Music Education from CSUB and has worked for several schools and organizations throughout Kern County. Mr. Gamble has been playing guitar professionally for over 30 years. He has recorded and performed with several different ensembles throughout his career and enjoys playing a vast array of musical styles that incorporate acoustic and electric guitar. He is most comfortable playing rock, classical, blues, country, folk, jazz, and pop, to name a few.

Topher Gayle
“Party Guitar”, songwriting, funny songs

Topher Gayle plays a variety of string instruments and hand percussion, and enjoys many styles of music. He’s especially fond of funny songs, and what he calls “genre abuse.” He plays with a number of bands in the San Francisco area, and is in demand as an accompanist for singer/songwriters. He gives private lessons in San Jose, has published several instructional books, and is a skilled luthier. For Topher Gayle, the musical emphasis is on fun.

Diane Grotjohn
Beginning/intermediate Irish Whistle

Diane Grotjohn
Diane Grotjohn has been a professional educator for 30 years. She is the founder of Pint of Irish, a non-profit organization in the High Desert area around Victorville formed in 2011 to promote Celtic music. The organization provides music lessons and workshops, gives concerts and holds jam sessions for High Desert Celtic musicians. Diane also plays the Irish whistle in a local band and in sessions around Southern California.  She has  taught whistle classes in schools and in a variety of camps, including Lark Camp, for several years.

Michael Gutin

Accordion firebrand Michael Gutin hails from Santa Barbara, CA, where he is in demand for contra dances and all manner of events and festivities. It might seem unusual for the accordion to be such a popular attraction at a fiddle camp, but Michael can play anything on the squeeze box, from “Light My Fire” to fiddle tunes. He will again teach a workshop on playing music for contra dances, as well as giving everyone a “hands-on” opportunity to tickle the accordion keys.


Deborah Hand

Deborah Hand has been singing and playing cello, ukulele and guitar from her early childhood, and mountain dulcimer for the last few years.  She is the owner of Mountain Music, co-owner with her husband, Peter Cutler, of Fiddlers Crossing, and a former Mayor and Council member of the City of Tehachapi. She has performed with the Scottish Fiddlers of Los Angeles on bass, cello and guitar (not at the same time!), as well as with other local bands and orchestras. She teaches cello and mountain dulcimer at Mountain Music.

Jon Hammond
Nature and Native American Culture

Jon Hammond has lived in Tehachapi all his life and writes a weekly column for the Tehachapi News on nature, and local history. He speaks and teaches the native Kawaiisu language.

Susie Hastings

Susie Hastings
Hammered Dulcimer

Susie Hastings has being playing the piano since she was a child. She took up the hammered dulcimer when in high school. She is a retired school teacher from Los Angeles, and loves teaching about the hammered dulcimer and how to play it.

duane inglish

Duane Inglish

Duane’s musical education began at the age of six under the tutelage of master accordionists Frank Umbro and Ray Gibson. He has lived in San Luis Obispo since 1971. In addition to being an original member of San Luis Obispo’s  popular gypsy band, Cafe Musique, he was a founding member and director of the Live Oak Music Festival in Santa Barbara. He has owned an acoustic music venue, helped produce countless shows and concerts featuring folk, blues and bluegrass music, and hosted “Basically Bluegrass” at KCBX Public Radio in San Luis Obispo for the last sixteen years.  Duane has also been involved in musical productions at Cuesta College, and was the music director in Philip Valle’s multi-disciplinary performance,“CQD/SOS”, which premiered at the 2008 Sound Symposium in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Ann Jones

Ann Jones
Beginning Mountain Dulcimer

Ann was in the last class of local Mountain Dulcimer Guru Al Crisalli Jr., who was a student of Janita Baker. Al passed on in 2013, and Ann, along with Jon Hammond and Deborah Hand, are maintaining his legacy in Tehachapi.

Zach Leger

Zac Leger
Celtic Guitar, Bodhran,  Whistle  

Zac Leger has toured, performed and taught music all over the U.S.,   Canada and Ireland, and currently resides in Los Angeles. He has won numerous medals on various instruments from both the U.S. and Ireland, and is one of the few Americans to hold a prestigious All-Ireland medalon the uilleann pipes. Zac has recorded on over a dozen albums and has on the uilleann pipes. Zac has recorded on over a dozen albums and has played, recorded and performed with numerous world-renowned musicians, including Eileen Ivers, Jamie Laval, and the Irish-based show “Celtic Crossroads.”


Aedan MacDonnell
Harp, back-up piano, Cape Breton step-dancing

Aedan MacDonnell taught herself to play piano and read music at the age of seven. She went on to study classical piano for the next ten years, along with tap and ballet. In her early 20′s she found Celtic music and the harp, and fell in love with both. Aedan initially studied Celtic harp with Deborah Friou. She went on to study harp in Ireland from Máire Ní Chathasaigh. Over the past 20 years, she has opened for Scotland’s Battlefield Band, and has played on radio shows, public television, and festivals. She learned Cape Breton step dance from various teachers, and performs it in her own style, as well as teaching the basics.

Sharon Martinson
Clawhammer Banjo

Hailing from the mountains of Wyoming, Sharon was classically trained on the French horn. A gift from her grandfather twisted her musical career. The old Washburn banjo sat under her bed in a cardboard box for over five years while she pursued her graduate ecology degree. In the last year of her PhD, she heard Bruce Molskey play clawhammer style banjo and was inspired to pick up the instrument and teach herself a few songs. Sharon now performs as a guest with several local bands, in Santa Cruz and Mammoth.

Miguel Martinez

Miguel Martinez fell in love with the low rumbling sounds of the upright bass while studying music at Mount Sac University. Miguel currently lives in Southern California but is in such high demand for his musical skills that he gigs everywhere. He teaches private lessons for guitar and bass, as well as coaches teen bands at Mike’s Guitar World in Glendora. He also teaches and coaches at other music camps throughout the year. Miguel plays in a number of different bands including Squared U, a dance band  with fellow Camp Kiya instructor Erin Esses.

Chika (Arthur) Nagata

Chika Nagata was born in Hilo, Hawaii, and learned to play ukulele when he was 10 years old. He received formal music training by playing in the Hilo County Band in his youth. In 1990, he formed a quintet in Los Angeles that entertained for weddings, birthdays and other events, and played for Hula dancers in several Hula Halau’s. Chika later formed Na Mele Kakou, a duo with a bass player. They perform at local venues noted for Hawaiian entertainment and at private events. For the past 12 years, Chika has been teaching ukulele lessons at JCI center in Gardena, Ca. He also gives lessons at home, and at Los Angeles Community College.

Harriet Nagata

Harriet Nagata was born in Tappen, North Dakota, east of Fargo and grew up as a farm girl. After leaving home “to find a better life,” she met Chika and they married. He introduced her to Hawaiian culture and music. In 1993, she learned her first hula and fell in love with the culture. Harriet joined a hula class at the Torrance Recreation center and I took hula lessons for two years. She then joined a hula halau to further her understanding of the culture and the meaning of Hula, and performed in several Hula competitons. Harriet has been teaching Hula since 2003, both at home and at JCI Community Center in Gardena. CA.

Dave Ogden
Guitar, bouzouki, Irish flute, whistle

Dave Ogden grew up in a musical family and has played guitar since he was 10, eventually adding wooden flute, whistle, bouzouki, clawhammer banjo and bodhran to his repertoire. He currently plays with the Sunday Drivers and specializes in the traditional music of Ireland and Scotland, as well as American old time. His album “And Why Not” came out last year and he’s currently at work on his next release in his studio, Clear Creek Recording, based near Tehachapi.

Mark Olsen

Mark Olson
Old-time fiddle, mandolin, harmony singing

Old-time fiddler Mark Olson hails from North Fork, CA, in the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains. He has played in dance bands and in concerts for many years, winning awards along the way from various camps and festivals, including Strawberry Music Festival, the Grass Valley Bluegrass Festival, and the Berkeley Old-Time Music Convention. Mark has a varied repertoire that includes tunes from the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers and others, as well as unnamed tunes from old-time “back-porch” fiddlers he has met and played with over the years. Mark plays with Penny Critchlow in a duo, “Twice as Nice,” and will join her in teaching harmony singing and leading the dance band at Camp Kiya.

Ellen Ramirez

Ellen Ramirez joins us again this year  as one of our ukulele instructors. She comes from Santa Barbara, Ca where she has been studying, playing, and teaching others how to play the ukulele, for the last 9 years. Ellen teaches a very popular class in Santa Barbara, called “Strumming the Ukulele with Ellen” and will be one of the featured instructors at this year’s L.A. International Ukulele Festival this September 2o18.  She has taught many people to take their ukulele strumming to the next level. She looks forward to doing the same with this year’s camp attendee’s.

Maury Richmond

Maury Richmond
Scottish Fiddle, Beginning-Intermediate Fiddle

Maury Richmond grew up in Hawaii where he learned to play the violin at an early age.  He was a school principal in Europe for many years and played with local orchestras, including the Orchestra de Camera in Madrid and the Zaragoza Symphony. For 40 years, he lived part of the year in a mountain village in Northern Spain and gave village concerts throughout the region under the auspices of the Spanish Ministry of Culture.  Maury discovered Celtic fiddling 30 years ago when watching Alasdair Fraser perform. He has since learned from and played with both Fraser and Martin Hayes. He has been in several Celtic bands including Celtic Blue, Paint-A-Rose, Golden Bough, and SFLA as well as touring Scotland with a Scottish band. He also had a long career as an educator in Europe, and taught fiddle for many years at the Claremont Music Festival.

Amy R. Rodriguez
Finger picking Ukulele/Acorn Program Director

Beginning on flute and moving on to oboe at the age of 12, Amy learned to play 8 different instruments proficiently by the time she graduated high school. Amy holds a degree in music from Central Missouri State University, where she studied classical oboe from Dr. Andrew Brown for over 10 years. Although she specializes in woodwinds, she also plays guitar, bass, violin, dulcimer, ukulele, and percussion. Amy has taught private music lessons for 25 years, and currently teaches a wide variety of beginning/intermediate lessons at Mountain Music in Tehachapi. Amy enjoys teaching and playing a wide variety of music generes, but will always be a ” rockin’ country girl” at heart.

Phil Salazar

Phil Salazar
Bluegrass Fiddle

Phil Salazar has become an icon of the California Bluegrass scene. Coming from a classical music family, Phil is the anomaly. His father was the conductor of Ventura County Symphony, and Phil started on classical violin at the age of 5, studying with the concert master of his father’s symphony. When he was 16, he heard Vassar Clemons on the Will The Circle Be Unbroken album, and “I’ve been fiddling ever since, ” he says. Phil can be heard on recordings by his own bands, including The Acousticats and The Kinfolk,  and playing for other prominent musicians, such as Kenny Loggins, John McEuen, Bob Weir, and others. Whether it’s bluegrass, country, rock,  jazz,  Cajun, Zydeco, Irish, old time or blues, Phil is a fiddle master.

Candace Semasek
Voice, “So You Think You Can’t Sing!”

Candice Semasek has been a local voice teacher at Mountain Music since she moved to Southern California in 2009. Although her vocal training is in opera and art songs, her students sing everything from Broadway to standard pop. Candice has a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance, appears on recital programs in Tehachapi and the Antelope Valley, and was the Vocal Director for Desert Opera Theatre’s production of Jekyll & Hyde at the Palmdale Playhouse last fall. She recently appeared with the Tehachapi T-Pops during their Christmas 2010 concert to a standing ovation. Candice resides locally with her fiance’, their Boston Terrier, Stanley, and is an aspiring pastry chef in her spare time.

Korinza Elaine Shlanta

Korinza Shalanta
Belly Dancing, Vocal Technique

Korinza has been with Camp Kiya since the beginning — first as a camper and two years ago as a teacher. She is an accomplished cellist, opera singer, actor and dancer from Ridgecrest. Her belly dancing, or free movement, class was a hit at last year’s Camp Kiya.

Jeffrey Spero

Jeffrey Spero is one of the premiere dance pianists on the West Coast. Known for his energetic style and creative arrangements, Jeff has brought his talents to dances and festivals throughout the nation. His accompaniments bring a fresh perspective to traditional forms. Through performances with The Syncopaths along with renowned fiddlers such as Richard Greene, Laura Light, and Tom Sauber, Jeff’s reputation as a highly sought-after pianist has been well established. Jeff is also in demand as a contradance caller and composer.

Jodi Stauffer
Youth Activities Counselor

Jodi Stauffer has worked with children, in various capacities, her entire adult life. She has been a Nature and Folklore Specialist at a Girl Scout Camp, an English Teacher in Korea, a Kayak Instructor, a Youth Manager at Junior Olympic Training Camp for Kayakers, and a swim instructor. Currently she works as a credentialed K-8 teacher at home-school charter where her favorite responsibility is meeting with all her students weekly to lead them in a fun, social, educational activity. Here at Camp Kiya, Jodi will combine her experience with children and her life-long love of music and the outdoors to enhance the experience of all the young (and young-at-heart) campers.

Jan Tappan
Scottish Fiddle, Learning to play by ear

Jan Tappan is an internationally known Scottish fiddler, educator, competition judge, performer and composer. She counts John Turner, Alasdair Fraser and Alastair Hardie among her mentors. Jan was a founding member of the Scottish Fiddlers of Los Angeles, and assumed the role of director in 1989. She was also one of the founders of Alasdair Fraser’s prestigious Valley of the Moon Fiddle Camp in Northern California. She has taught Scottish fiddle workshops across the U.S., and also teaches private lessons. Jan started Fiddlers Crossing in 1986, selling Scottish music and books. Several years ago she sold it to Debby Hand as part of Mountain Music, and it is now a venue for traditional music concerts.

Max Valentino

Max Valentino
Bass Guitar,  Guitar, Percussion, Songwriting

Bass Guitarist Max Valentino brings an entirely new dimension to the role of “Bass Player”. With an inventive “chord-melody” technique, coupled with judicious use of digital looping technology, Max re-defines the capabilities of music performed on a four string acoustic-electric bass guitar. As a solo bass guitarist Max, has performed at numerous music festivals including the Millpond Music Festival, Big Sur Experimental Music Festival, and the Santa Cruz International Music Festival. As a studio and session musician he has worked with artists ranging from Martin Simpson to Ziggy Marley to Bill Frisell. Max is currently the “house bassist” at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, CA where he has backed up a wide range of today’s country music stars including Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley.

eric williams

Eric Williams
Guitar Styles

Eric is a multi-instrumentalist who has mastered the guitar, bass, banjo, ukulele and bouzouki. Eric has been a recording artist and album producer on more than one-hundred albums.  He has performed and toured with Tori Amos, Taj Mahal, Tracy Ullman, and Russian Balalaika Orchestras, and he has recorded with Rita Coolidge. He currently plays bass and sings with singer-songwriter, Jill Knight, and has recently joined the San Luis Obispo gypsy band, Cafe Musique, with Brynn Albanese and Duane Inglish. Eric resides in Cambria, California.

Alex Wilson

Alex Wilson has been a student of Natalie Haas at Valley of the Moon. He is a professional cellist, playing classical music with the Bakersfield Symphony and other groups, and alternative and Celtic cello styles in a duo with fellow cellist Erin Esse. He will teach tunes as well as backup styles for traditional music. Alex teaches cello in Bakersfield, both privately and in the schools.


Deborah Hand

Deborah Hand started Camp Kiya as a two-day fiddle workshop in 2009.  She is the owner of Mountain Music, co-owner with her husband, Peter Cutler, of Fiddlers Crossing, and a former Mayor and Council member of the City of Tehachapi.  She is also the founder of TPOPS, the Tehachapi Pops Orchestra.  She teaches  mountain dulcimer and cello at Mountain Music. 

Peter Cutler
Sound Engineer

Peter Cutler has been the engineer for the internationally syndicated radio show FolkScene for nearly 40 years. During that time, he has recorded many of the greatest singer-songwriters and traditional musicians. He and his wife, Debby Hand, run Fiddlers Crossing, a venue that is keeping live acoustic music alive and well in Tehachapi. Peter is also an accomplished singer and guitarist. He and Debby perform as “Occasional Folk.”

Amy R. Rodriguez
Acorn Program Director/Food Service Manager

Beginning on flute and moving on to oboe at the age of 12, Amy learned to play 8 different instruments proficiently by the time she graduated high school. Amy holds a degree in music from Central Missouri State University, where she studied classical oboe from Dr. Andrew Brown for over 10 years. Although she specializes in woodwinds, she also plays guitar, bass, violin, dulcimer, ukulele, and percussion. Amy has taught private music lessons for 25 years, and currently teaches a wide variety of beginning/intermediate lessons at Mountain Music in Tehachapi. Amy enjoys teaching and playing a wide variety of music generes, but will always be a ” rockin’ country girl” at heart.

Thorne and Zac

Thorne Ashton
Facilities Manager

Thorne Ashton is a regular part of the Tehachapi traditional music scene, and part of the “House Band” at Fiddlers Crossing. He loves singing old-time and bluegrass songs and playing guitar, mandolin and fiddle in jam sessions. When not teaching, Thorne will be keeping a watchful eye on everything in camp as Facilities Manager.

Maria Weir Werth
Office Manager

Maria Weir Werth grew up in Los Angeles and San Diego where she was the bass player in her family band. She was the office manager for Mountain Music for several years and played a several local bands. She tours with her sister, Tracy Barns in the Grace Angel Band. Maria teaches special education in Lone Pine and commutes to Tehachapi twice a month.

Marcy Luikart

Marcy Luikart is the owner of Monarch Office Services, Inc, a bookkeeping payroll and tax service in Santa Barbara.  She is also a writer.  Her short stories have appeared in many literary magazines and her novel RiverBraids was recently published.  She is an aspiring fiddle player and has spent the past 18 months making her own violin. It will soon be completed and she will be playing it at Camp Kiya this summer!