Welcome to the etc. Music School faculty page!
Teaches: Piano, Voice, Composition
etc. Choir Director
Director of etc. Theatrical Productions (TinyShows, KidShows, Presents)
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.
etc. theatrical productions Assistant Director
etc. Choir Assistant Director
Teaches: Piano, Flute, Composition
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.com. Alejandro has a simple teaching philosophy that centers on learning being rewarding and music being social.
“I like the universal perception of music.”
Juli Brubaker grew up in Littleton, CO where she took her first piano lesson at the age of 6 and has been passionate about music ever since! She later attended the University of Denver, receiving her Bachelor of Music degree in Classical Voice Performance under the instruction of Kevin Kennedy. She went on to complete her Master of Music degree from Northwestern University in Vocal Performance and Literature under the tutelage of Sunny Joy Langton and Alan Darling. Juli has a wonderfully diverse portfolio as a musician, including private voice teacher, certified Musikgarten instructor in Early Childhood Music and Movement, as well as head cantor and choral assistant at Immaculate Conception Parish in Highland Park. She is also the very proud Co-Founder and Music Director for Green Light Vocal Productions, LLC – a boutique performance company specializing in vocal works located in the North Shore.
Juli is also privileged with the joy of being an active singer and performer. She has performed the roles of Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro, Cobweb in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Luisa in The Fantasticks, Minnie Faye in Hello, Dolly!, Valencienne in The Merry Widow, Young Pocahontas in Duluth Festival Opera’s 2011 production of Pocahontas – A Woman of Two Worlds, and appeared as Baby Bear in The Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood in The Knightly News (both with Green Light Vocal Productions). She was the 1st Place recipient of the Denver Lyric Opera Guild competition in 2009, as well as the winner of the Northwestern Aria and Concerto Competition where she performed Ophelia’s Mad Scene in concert with the Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra in 2010, and again with Kenosha Symphony Orchestra in 2013. Solo works include Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, and Schubert’s Mass in G. She has also been honored to sing the National Anthem at the Taste of Chicago for four years in a row.
Juli loves exploring the amazing instrument that is the voice and is constantly amazed at what she continues to learn from the inspiring accomplishments of her students. She believes that healthy singing is top priority, with an emphasis on creating well-rounded musicians that genuinely love what they do.
Teaches: etc. theatrical productions (Choreographer)
Sylvana Langton has been a choreographer for etc. Music School’s musical theater productions since 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 email@example.com.