Our Faculty


Carole Bestvater – Violin

Carole relocated to St. John’s, NL to pursue a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance with Nancy Dahn as part of the inaugural class of the SUNCOR String Quartet Fellowship Program. She recently graduated in May 2013. Originally, Carole is from Saskatchewan, but ventured over to Manitoba to study music at Brandon University. Upon completion of her degree, she packed her belongings into her car and drove to Providence, RI. There, she was part of a unique Fellowship Program at Community MusicWorks, a non-profit organization based in the inner-city neighbourhoods that melds high quality performance and music education together. Along her travels, she has collected many tunes and stories, and is thrilled to continue her adventures here.

A lover of both classical and folk music, Carole is a diverse and energetic musician. She is also a dedicated educator, having experience teaching individual lessons and an array of different types of group classes. She has studied the Suzuki Method with Joanne Martin and Karen Kimmett, and is very happy to be teaching with the STEP program here in St. John’s. You are likely to see her at folk sessions downtown, sitting as Assistant Principal Second in the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, or performing chamber music in a variety of spaces around the city of St. John’s.


Julia Bowdring (Violin, Fiddle)

Julia Bowdring, a St. John’s native, is a violinist, fiddler, and pianist, working with the STEP Program and the Montessori School, and as a freelance performer. She holds a Bachelor of Music (classical piano) from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and a Masters degree from the University of Limerick, where she specialized in Irish Traditional Music Performance. Julia has studied the Suzuki Method with Helen Brunner and Paule Barsalou, and has experience with the Dalcroze and Kodaly Methods. She has taught in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Limerick, Ireland. She is actively involved in the St. John’s music scene as a violinist, fiddler, and pianist, playing with many local musicians.

Visit Julia’s website for events and teaching ideas at juliabowdringmusic.com

Maggie Burton – Violin

Maggie Burton is originally from Brigus, Newfoundland. She completed a Bachelor of Music degree (Hons.) at Memorial University in 2013, where she studied violin with Dr. Nancy Dahn, and completed a thesis equivalent in musicology with Dr. Jane Gosine. She currently plays violin in the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, and is the Co-Artistic Director of both the Suzuki Talent Education Program and the Newfoundland and Labrador Suzuki Institute and maintains a full violin studio at her home in St. John’s.

Interested in many musical traditions, including Newfoundland, contemporary, historical music and interdisciplinary performance, Maggie performs with many ensembles in St. John’s, including AE Bridger, Eastern Owl, Gambade (Viola da Gamba ensemble), and the St. John’s New Music Collective, of which she is the Artistic Director. When not teaching and performing, Maggie is an award-winning poet and mother of two Suzuki students, Jack and Ursula.

For more information and to see an events calendar visit her at maggieburton.com, and the St. John’s New Music Collective at sjnewmusic.com.


Sarah Caines – Orff

Sarah Caines graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland as a vocalist from the Conjoint Music/Music Education Bachelor program in 2011. During her time at Memorial University, Sarah was awarded a number of scholarships, including the Ben Heppner 25th Anniversary Scholarship in Music and the Tony Walsh Award. Sarah was also named to the Director’s List in both 2009-2010 & 2010-2011. To conclude her degree, Sarah travelled to Harlow, England in the fall of 2010, where she interned at Burnt Mill Performing Arts Academy.

Since graduating, Sarah has been teaching privately in St. John’s. She teaches voice, beginner piano, and Kindermusik classes at Dynamic Sounds Music Studio. In addition to her private teaching, Sarah is also a music teacher with the Newfoundland & Labrador English School District. Sarah has held a number of replacement positions with the school district, the most recent being at St. Mary’s Elementary School.

Adrien Doucet – Choir

Amber Ghent – Cello 

A versatile chamber and orchestral musician, Ms. Ghent has performed throughout North America with a wide range of ensembles including Tapestry New Opera, NUMUS contemporary music, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Orchestra London, and the Erie Philharmonic where she was assistant principal for two seasons. Amber has recorded for Eclectra and Artifact labels, and numerous CBC broadcasts.

A member of the Madawaska Quartet since 2007, Amber has been privileged to perform both with the quartet and other esteemed colleagues at Koerner Hall, Perimeter Institute, Banff Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University, Kitchener Waterloo Chamber Music Society, and the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound.

Currently Amber is training to become a licensed Andover Educator, helping musicians to avoid injury and to play with ease. She is also a dedicated educator in demand as a clinician, adjudicator, and education consultant collaborating with composers in the development of new works for young cellists. Amber enjoys teaching at numerous summer festivals including Suzuki Institutes in Waterloo and Valhalla, as well as the Kincardine Summer Music Festival and Lakefield Music. Amber is on faculty at the Wilfrid Laurier String Academy and the Suzuki String School of Guelph.


Zachary Ebin (Violin)

Dr. Zachary Ebin has performed extensively in the United States, Israel, and Canada. He has studied with Leslie Fayette, Jocheved Schifter, Lazar Gosman, Daniel Stepner, Joseph McGauley, and Jacques Israelievitch. He earned Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in music from Brandeis University, where he was concert master of the Brandeis-Wellesley Symphony Orchestra, as well as a Master of Music degree in violin performance from the Boston Conservatory. Zachary recently released his debut recording with pianist Maria Dolnycky titled Dreams: A Revival of Ukrainian Music.

Active as a music educator, Zachary was on faculty at South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, Massachusetts, where he was appointed chair of the Suzuki Department. Zachary has also served as teaching assistant to world-renowned violinist Jacques Israelievitch. He is currently on faculty at Etobicoke Suzuki Music and on the executive board of the Suzuki Association of Ontario. Zachary is also the music director of Arco Violini, an advanced student ensemble that performs throughout Ontario. Zachary is in demand as a guest clinician in both Canada and the United States.


Valerie Hewson (Fiddle)

Born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Valerie Hewson has been playing musical instruments and singing since she was a small child. She studied violin and fiddle with Christina Smith and Jennifer Johnson, as well as guitar and piano with her sister, Jean Hewson. She began teaching as a fiddle instructor for the Atlantic Canada Suzuki Institute in 2011. Since then, she has completed four teacher training courses, working with students of all ages, privately and in group settings.

Valerie often plays at a variety of events, playing with bands, singing, playing or accompanying weddings. In her spare time…she loves to study! Valerie recently completed her Bachelor of Science (Honours), majoring in Psychology, with a minor in Music and Culture at Memorial University. She plans to continue her studies into a Masters and Doctoral level, all the while encouraging her students to believe that playing the violin is an experience for the mind, body and soul.

Mark Latham – Violin Picture of a teacher

AGSM Guildhall School, London; B.M. Philadelphia College of Performing Arts; M.M. Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music; D.M. A. orchestral conducting the University of Michigan. Studies with David Takeno, Masao Kawasaki, Zvi Zeitlin; orchestral conducting studies with Kenneth Kiesler, Larry Rachlef and Marin Alsop. Has been active as a violinist, teacher, composer and conductor in North America, Europe and Africa. Former faculty Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada. Conductor/Music Director of numerous performing groups, including CAMMAC, in Quebec; the Nahsua Chamber Orchestra; the Avalon Chamber Ensemble; the Life Sciences Orchestra, in Ann Arbor, MI; the Campus Symphony Orchestra at University of Michigan; and the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of the University of Michigan. Music festivals include Aspen, Spoleto, Banff. Recordings with Black Auks improv ensemble and Atlantic String Quartet. Current faculty at Concord Academy and University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Etienne Pemberton-Renaud (Violin) 


laurensmeeLauren Smee (NL) – Violin

Lauren Smee is a violin teacher and performer living in St. John’s. Originally from Toronto, Lauren studied with May Ing before going to Wilfrid Laurier University where she earned her Bachelor of Music degree studying with Jerzy Kaplanek and Christine Vlajk. Lauren is a member of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and has performed at various music festivals including the Casalmaggiore International Festival in Italy and the Tuckamore Festival here in St. John’s.

Currently Lauren is pursuing a Master of Music degree in Performance and Pedagogy at Memorial University, studying with Dr. Nancy Dahn. In addition to teaching at STEP, Lauren has taught Suzuki violin at the Atlantic Canada Suzuki Institute and Toronto Suzuki Studio Summer Camps. Outside of the Suzuki world Lauren has been a music teacher at Canada’s National Ballet School, an assistant conductor for the Laurier Singers Chamber Choir, and Choral Director for the First Unitarian Congregation of Waterloo.

As a teacher and player Lauren is passionate about cultivating physical and musical freedom and preventing playing-related injury. As an Andover Educator Trainee studying Body Mapping with Jennifer Johnson, she explores how accurate information about the body in movement can enhance music pedagogy and musical ability. In June 2011 Lauren attended the Andover Educators’ 5th Biennial International Conference in Montclair, New Jersey.

christinasmithChristina Smith – Violin, Fiddle, Cello

Christina Smith is a performer, recording artist and teacher, living in St. John’s. A native Newfoundlander, Christina performs in North America and Europe as half of the award-winning Newfoundland Folk Music duo, Christina Smith and Jean Hewson, and as a member of the Mahers Bahers. She teaches both Suzuki Method strings and Newfoundland Fiddling in St. John’s and at workshops in Ontario and Quebec. In April 2012 she was presented with the 2011 “Arts in Education” Award by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.

Christina’s compositions and arrangements can be heard on several CBC radio documentaries, as well as short films and videos. In demand as a session player in her hometown of St. John’s, she has backed up Newfoundland’s best known musicians, including Emile Benoit, Buddy Wasisname, the Irish Descendants, Jean Hewson, Jim Payne, Fergus O’Byrne, Ron Hynes and others. She is featured on a solo CD entitledFiddle Me This, and the duo albums Like Ducks! and August Gale.

Christina holds a B.Mus. with Honours in History and an Artist’s Diploma in Cello Performance from the University of Western Ontario, and the Suzuki Cello Teacher’s Degree from the Talent Education Institute, Matsumoto, Japan. She learned Newfoundland fiddling from Emile Benoit and Rufus Guinchard.

Christina’s website: http://jeanandchristina.ca