Meet The Staff

Welcome to the etc. Music School faculty page!

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etc. Founder and Director Mike O’Mara has been working professionally as a music educator and performer since 2000. He currently maintains a private piano, composition and vocal coaching studio containing students of all ages and experience levels. Mike holds a Master’s and a Bachelor’s degree from DePaul University’s School of Music in Music Composition. While at DePaul, Mike studied composition with Dr. Kurt Westerberg, piano with Dimitry Paperno, harpsichord with Roger Goodman and was a member of as well as the accompanist for the upper-level Concert Choir under Dr. Clayton Parr.

Prior to founding etc. Music School, Mike had previous professional experience including 5 years overseeing the music education of a musical theatre program for students grades K-12, directing both children’s and adult choirs (both church and neighborhood), instructing courses in music theory to students grades K-12, and designing cross-curricular activities that showcase music in general classrooms throughout Chicagoland. He has been seen as a conductor and music director in musicals at the Theatre Building (Chicago) and North Central College (Naperville) and has served as an accompanist and coach with the Chicago Children’s Choir, Merit School of Music, Northwestern University and DePaul University.
As a composer, Mike’s choral, orchestral and musical theatre works have been performed by numerous ensembles, from grade schools to universities in America and abroad. He is the winner of the 2012 and 2013 “Silver Platter” award for Compositional Excellence from the American Choral Directors’ Association for his collection “Modern Madrigals”, a series of choral pieces for young adult singers. He continues to collaborate creatively with several other professional partners in the realms of composition, book and lyric writing, and arranging of scores in addition to creating numerous original theater and choral works for the students of etc. Music School, for which he has written or arranged over 100 pieces for choir and penned over 20 works for the stage as of Fall 2016.
Mike’s teaching philosophy and leadership of etc.’s arts community was the focus of an Evanston Arts Council “Bright Spots in the Arts” presentation in October ’14, and etc. Music School was subsequently awarded the 2014 Evanston Mayor’s Award for the Arts for the school’s contributions to Evanston’s arts community.
As a teacher, Mike has been known for taking the students other teachers wouldn’t and inspiring them with unique repertoire and opportunities for personal expression. He brings these skills and a passion for sharing the arts with everyone to his guidance of the programming at etc. Music School.
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David Allen Flowers is a composer based in Evanston, IL. He graduated with a degree in Music Composition from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2016, where he also studied piano and flute. He has composed for a wide variety of ensembles and styles, from solo and chamber pieces to large ensemble works (orchestral and choral), as well as musical theatre—writing in several different genres including jazz, folk, and contemporary concert music.
While attending university he was named a Robert S. Eckley Fellow and recently he participated as a composer for the 2016 Fresh Inc. Festival in Kenosha, WI. David works to create projects which convey complex themes in fresh perspectives, with the intention of bringing said topics greater understanding. As a former student of Mike O’Mara, he is excited to add to the culture of the Etc. community, believing that the arts have much to offer in every student’s life and that compassion lies at the heart of education.
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Alejandro Urzagaste has been a part of the etc. staff for two years as a guitar instructor. Teaching the fundamentals of music including reading, rhythm and sound he likes to focus on the strengths along with the interests of a student. Alejandro studied at Northern Illinois University with Fareed Haque and Roosevelt University with John McClean.

He currently resides in Evanston and is on staff at North Shore Guitar Academy and the Ravinia Lawndale Family Music School. He has been a clinician and guest artist at Arts West/Fresco academy and has taught through the Thelonious Monk Institute, Gallery 37 and Ravinia Jazz Mentors. In 2015 he was featured with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra for their performance of the Charles Mingus classic “the Black Saint and the Sinner Lady,” alongside soloists Rodney Whitaker on bass and John Wojociechowski on alto saxophone. Alejandro performs regularly with his own group and with Shara Maxwell and Juli Wood. You can find him at the local venues or online at www.auguitar.comAlejandro has a simple teaching philosophy that centers on learning being rewarding and music being social.

“I like the universal perception of music.”

 

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Sylvana Langton is the choreographer for etc. Music School’s musical theater productions, with her first work 2015. In addition to being a previous ensemble member of etc. Presents, Sylvana is an active member of the etc. Choir, and has studied under Mike O’Mara since high school.

Her dance background includes several years of classical training at Ruth Page, and a musical background on harp, piano and violin. A firm proponent of the arts, Sylvana is looking forward to returning the learning experience she’s had as a student of etc. Music School, and encouraging the personal and artistic development of students through such important expressive mediums.

A current poli-sci major at DePaul University, Sylvana also dabbles in visual art and song writing, and hopes to continue pursuing both throughout college.

 


Teaching Structure and Philosophy: The etc. Mentor system

Director Mike O’Mara is present at all ensemble classes, offering his 15+ years of professional teaching experience in piano, voice, composition, music theory, theater and curricular development to the proceedings. Assisting him each Saturday during ensemble classes for school year 2016-17 are David Flowers, a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University in Music Composition, Sylvana Langton, a long-time former etc. student and current DePaul University student, and a rotating team of dedicated high-school mentors. There are always 3 and never more than 5 teachers/mentors in every studio with our ensemble students at any time, including director Mike.

The Mentor system at etc. Music School is unique in that it recognizes officially the importance of community in a ‘community music school’. It teaches older students how to lead and instruct others, giving them skills and experiences that will aid them no matter what career path they choose down the road while offering the younger students a chance to work side-by-side with the high-schoolers and college artists they are looking to emulate. Both sets of students learn from one other, growing closer in the process and building confidence and camaraderie for all.

Rather than punishing our most-accomplished and most-dedicated students by taking advantage of their eagerness to help out, the Mentor system recognizes them by offering an additional $125.00 per term off of their family’s etc. tuition for their service (each mentor must apply to come and help on 6 weeks of each term). With other etc. ‘loyalty discounts’, this could mean that as students get older and give back to the school, their term’s bill gets smaller and smaller while their influence grows and grows!

For more information on the high-school Mentor program, please contact Director Mike O’Mara at etcmusicschool@gmail.com.


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