Jessica McNamara (a.k.a. Mrs. Mac) began playing the violin at the age of six in a Suzuki program at her elementary school in Queens, New York. She continued on violin throughout high school, playing in regional festivals, summer camps, and youth orchestras. She went to Providence College on a full scholarship and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Music Education. Jessica also holds a Masters Degree in Music Education from the Hartt School of Music.
Jessica taught middle school orchestra in the Westport public schools for 11 years and later went on to found the Ridgefield Suzuki School in Ridgefield, CT. Jessica and her colleagues at Ridgefield Suzuki School enjoy inspiring children as young as 3 years old to begin playing violin, viola, cello or piano and continue to make music an important part of their lives as they grow into adults. In addition to being the director of the Ridgefield Suzuki School, Jessica is also the conductor for the Philharmonia String Orchestra, an intermediate tier of the Norwalk Youth Symphony. In her free time she enjoys being with her two children, cooking, and playing violin.
Mrs. Mac conducts the Intermediate and Advanced Orchestra at the Southport location.
Michael McNamara (a.k.a. Mr. Mac) always loved music but went to a Catholic elementary and middle school that didn’t have an orchestra or band program. He didn’t start playing music until his aunt got him a guitar for his 15th birthday. He taught himself how to play while in high school by reading music theory books and learning songs by ear. Michael attended Providence College and double majored in Accounting and Jazz guitar performance.
Mr. Mac has been teaching in Ridgefield as the orchestra director for both middle schools for 11 years. In 2012, he became the Instrumental Music Director at Ridgefield High School where he teaches Symphonic Orchestra, Concert Band, Jazz Band, and Applied Percussion courses. The Symphonic Orchestra at Ridgefield High School was selected to participate at the CMEA All State Festival as an Honors Orchestra and has earned superior ratings in all competitions, including a national competition at Festivals of Music in Virginia Beach.
In addition to teaching, he has served as the President of the Board of Directors for the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra for 2 years (having been a member for 4), is an active member of CMEA, and serves as co-director for the Western Regional Music Festival (sponsored by CMEA). Michael holds a masters in music education from Western Connecticut State University. Michael also helped found Relative Souls, a Bridgeport based rock/funk/jam band, who plays all over Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, NYC, and at any festival they can find. In his spare time, Michael enjoys playing guitar and piano, performing with his band, composing and arranging music, or anything involving a beach, camping, kayaking, biking, and reading.
Mr. Mac conducts the Advanced Orchestra and Band at the Ridgefield location.
Mr. Shane Peters Guitarist, educator and composer Shane Peters received his Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Studies from Western Connecticut State University in 2005, his Music Education Certification in 2006, and his Master’s Degree from SUNY Purchase Conservatory in Jazz Studies in 2011. Since 2003, Shane has been both an active performer and educator.
Mr. Peters’ professional teaching career began in 2007 when he was hired as Bethel Middle School’s orchestra director. In 2009 he resigned in order to pursue his master’s degree. During that time he served as a part-time elementary orchestra director for Danbury Public Schools. After finishing his master’s in 2011, Shane was hired as an elementary orchestra director for Ridgefield Public Schools. In the fall of 2012, he took over for Mr. Mac as orchestra director for both of Ridgefield’s middle schools, and has helped to maintain and further elevate a tradition of musical excellence. Each school has one orchestra per grade 6-8. In addition, Shane conducts two all-town extra-curricular orchestras in Ridgefield. One is the Ridgefield Middle School Chamber Orchestra, the other is a 100+ student full Symphonic Orchestra. Both orchestras have received rave reviews within the community of Ridgefield and have earned the highest ratings at adjudication festivals.
Mr. Peters conducts the Elementary and Intermediate Orchestras at the Ridgefield location.
Miss Strazza began playing violin at the age of 8 in her elementary school in Greenwich, CT. Through years of continued practice and playing, she was part of the Stamford Young Artists Philharmonic, regional festivals and summer orchestras. After high school, she went on to earn her B.A. in Music at Western Connecticut State University in 2010 and her M.S. in Music Education at University of Bridgeport in 2012. She has taught strings in many districts in Fairfield County including Norwalk, Stamford and Westport. She currently teaches General Music, Chorus & Strings in Stamford.
In addition to working in the Stamford School System, she previously worked with the Stamford Young Artists Philharmonic as a coach and Orchestra Manager.
We are pleased to have on staff this summer, Mr. Jim Buchta. Mr. Buchta has been conducting concert bands in the Fairfield County area for over twenty five years and he brings a wealth of experience with him to the middle school level musician. In 1993 he co-founded what eventually became the Western Connecticut State University Summer Music Camp. For over twenty years he would bring his passionate conducting and enthusiastic energy to his students. During the school year he teaches at Fairfield Woods Middle School conducting the seventh grade band and the school’s wind ensemble. He has done extensive work at the regional level for over two decades as audition chair, festival chair and most recently as jazz chair. He has an extensive private trumpet studio and his students can be heard at The Greater Bridgeport Youth Symphony Concerts, as well as the high school regional and state level bands. It is our pleasure to welcome Mr. Buchta to our summer music program.
Mr. Buchta will be conducting the band at our Southport location.
Patrick Francis is currently a music education student at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He has been playing his main instrument, euphonium, for about eight years. Over those years, he has taught himself the other brass instruments, including trumpet, trombone, French horn, and tuba.
Patrick played with the Ridgefield High School Concert Band, Symphonic Orchestra, and Jazz Band while attending the high school. For two years of his time at the high school, he was also a drum major for the Pep Band. Patrick has also participated in the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra, CMEA Western Regional Band, and CMEA All State Band.
During his time in Wisconsin, Patrick has studied both euphonium and tuba under the direction of Tom Curry. He has played with visiting musicians such as Stockholm Chamber Brass and Dave Taylor, as well as competing in both the solo and chamber competition hosted at the Great Plains Regional Tuba and Euphonium Conference.
Patrick has taught private lessons as well as larger ensembles while in high school and during his internship at East Ridge Middle School. We are proud to welcome such a budding talent into our faculty with maturity and teaching ability beyond his years.
Patrick will be co-directing the Band with Mr. Mac at the Ridgefield location.