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.

Adrien Doucet – Choir

bio coming soon!

Zachary Ebin (Violin)

Zachary Ebin is the Director of the Suzuki Program at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. Ebin holds a BA and MA from Brandeis University, an MM from the Boston Conservatory, and a PhD from York University.

Before relocating to Nashville, Ebin was on the faculty of Etobicoke Suzuki Music in Toronto, where he founded and directed Arco Violini, an advanced precollege string orchestra dedicated to giving back to the community through performances at hospitals, senior residences, and charity events. Ebin led Arco Violini in more than 40 performances, including two television appearances.

In high demand as a guest clinician, Ebin has taught and lectured all over North America at conferences, institutes, and workshops. His research has been published in the American Suzuki Journal and American String Teacher. In 2015, Ebin founded the Silent Voices Project. In the project, young composers write chamber music based on poems written by children during the Holocaust. The Silent Voices Project gave its fourth concert and released its debut recording this past year.

Ebin is an active performer. He recently recorded the forgotten works of Ukranian composers with pianist Maria Dolnycky. For the past four years, he has served as the artistic director of the Belfountain Music Festival in Caledon, Ontario.

To learn more about Zachary Ebin, please visit: www.zacharyebin.com

Susan Gagnon (Cello)

bio coming soon!

Jenny Griffioen (Piano, Accompanist) 

bio coming soon!

Valerie Hewson (Fiddle, Violin, Music With Your Baby)

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.

Heather Kao (Violin, Accompanist)

From St. John’s, Heather Kao is the concertmaster of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and first violinist of the Atlantic String Quartet since 2015. She studied at Memorial University with Dr. Nancy Dahn. She has played in masterclasses for Martin Beaver, Lorand Fenyves, Mark Fewer and Pinchas Zukerman to name a few. She is a past member of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Quintessential Vocal Ensemble, and Lady Cove Women’s Choir. Heather has been a guest performer on countless recordings, as well as on TV and radio. She has enjoyed performing in many genres, from pop music with Rod Stewart and Hey Rosetta! to traditional music with Ennis and the Once. She has played in pit orchestras for many local productions, including White Christmas, Our Divas Do Broadway, West Side Story, Evita, and Annie. In addition to the NSO, Heather teaches with the MUN Chamber Program for Youth, Suzuki Talent Education Program, and in her private studio.

Jennifer Johnson (Violin, Body Mapping)

Jennifer played as principal second violin of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and second violin of the Atlantic String Quartet for twelve years. Presently, she plays first violin in the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.  In 2004, a generous grant from the Canada Council for the Arts funded a 7-month Alexander Technique sabbatical for Jennifer which permitted her to study  with many of the world’s leading Alexander Technique teachers. Jennifer went on to train in Body Mapping with Barbara Conable and in 2005 became Canada’s first Licensed Andover Educator. She now presents Body Mapping workshops internationally teaching musicians to enhance their musical ability and to prevent injury through a clear understanding of how their bodies are designed to move.

She has presented at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, at numerous music schools across Canada, including McGill University and University of Ottawa.  She was the keynote speaker at the Australian String Teachers’ Association in Brisbane, Australia in 2015 and is a regular presenter for the New York Philharmonic Zarin Mehta Program.

Jennifer is also a Professional Associate at Memorial University of Newfoundland Music School where she teaches Body Mapping and violin. She also teaches for the Suzuki Talent Education Program of St. John’s.

Jennifer’s book What Every Violinist Needs to Know about the Body was published in 2009 and is available from GIA Music Publications, www.giamusic.com. The Japanese translation of What Every Violinist Needs to Know about the Body was published in 2011 by Shunjusha Publications and it is presently being translated into French.  Her new book, Teaching Body Mapping to Children, was published in  October 2016.

Christina 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 entitled Fiddle 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