Hamilton Music Collective CEO/Founder, AIFEC Program Director/Instructor

Originally a professional saxophonist and educator from Cologne, Germany, Astrid Hepner founded the Hamilton Music Collective in 2008 shortly after moving to Hamilton from New York City. A trained musician, Astrid has performed with Latin music legends Tito Puente and Celia Cruz and regularly performed at the NYC downtown club Knitting Factory with her band Astrid Hepner & Funkmeister. As a record executive she worked with world-class artists including Norah Jones, Sir Simon Rattle, Anita Baker, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis and Al Green at major record companies in NYC (Blue Note Records, BMG Classics, ECM Records). She developed and taught the Music Business program at Mohawk College and strongly believes in the importance of making music education available to all children at a young age.

Astrid Hepner studied Musicology at the University of Cologne and earned her Master’s degree in Performing Arts from The Folkwang School in Essen, Germany. She also holds a diploma in Cultural Management. Astrid is the recipient of the 2013 YWCA Hamilton Women of Distinction Award.



AIFEC Program Coordinator/Instructor

Eric Ryder Costello is a recovering rock star and dad-in-training who has seen it all, done it all, and lived to tell the tale. He brings a wealth of experience (and experiences) to AIFEC, culled from a rich and diverse musical background, including his tenure as Artist Services Coordinator at Cleveland Opera, and touring all over the world as a drummer for such renowned bands as The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs and Crash Kelly. But despite his brushes with near-fame (and infamy), nothing compares to the joy he feels when sharing his love of music with his students.



Educational Consultant/Instructor

Rachael Finnerty  (MTA MMT MA) joined the AIFEC team in 2010 as an instructor, at the first AIFEC school. As the program expanded to more schools, Rachael took on the role of Education Consultant. Rachael was the President of the Music Therapy Association of Ontario (2010-14), and received the 2016 Woman of Distinction Award (Health Category). As an accredited music therapist, she has experience working with children with a diversity of developmental, social, physical and emotional needs. Rachael has a passion for assisting children to access their abilities despite any barriers, and knows that music is the key to accessing a child’s full potential.



Musical Instruments Coordinator/Instructor

Joel Banks is a versatile professional bassist who has preformed and recorded with a wide variety of artists in southern Ontario and across the country. As a music educator, Joel has taught ukulele, bass and guitar to all ages of students in group and private settings for more than a decade, and has worked with several programs providing music and arts education to at risk youth. Joel is excited to continue helping Hamilton youth learn and experience music with the talented team of AIFEC instructors.


Program Assistant/Volunteer Coordinator

Annie Shaw has been playing the piano and singing from an early age.  After completing her musical studies at Mohawk College and McGill University where she earned her B. Mus Annie moved back to Hamilton to joyfully engage in many musical endeavors.  As a solo musician, band leader and sidewoman she has enjoyed playing in numerous bands of many different genres (from jazz to punk to cabaret to noise).   As a music educator she loves working with kids of all ages in diverse settings.  Annie started her involvement with AIFEC in 2013 as a volunteer coordinator and more recently has had the opportunity to work with the awesome kids in the Jambassadors program.  She is passionate about equal opportunity for music education and loves working with AIFEC.


Program Coordinator, Beats by U! / Instructor

Tim has been one of Canada’s premiere composers for the last 25 years. As head writer for one of North America’s busiest music production houses ‘The Air Company’ and later as a partner in ‘The Einstein Brothers, voted top music production house in Canada three times. Tim has won numerous major awards, including Craft Awards for arrangement, sound design and composition. His clients include General Motors, The Federal and Provincial Goverments, Labatt, Molson, American Express, Visa, Nike and NBC News. He has also written and produced for Diana Ross, the Boomers, Allanah Miles, Alice Cooper and many others. Numerous TV themes & music include CBC Kids ‘Get set for life’, Eerie Indiana’ for Hearst Entertainment, and the CBS special ‘ The Martin Short Show’.



Summer Camp Director

Dejehan Hamilton is the Executive Director and founder of Musica Palooza Summer Camp now partnered with AIFEC. Dejehan is a percussionist and singer/songwriter of Trinidadian and Jamaican heritage, born in Hamilton, Ontario. Dejehan has been passionately playing music over the past 13 years. During this time he has extensively performed internationally, and for music legends such as Harry Belafonte and Brian Mcknight. Dejehan holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Business/Management from the prestigious Berklee College of Music.



Bio coming soon…


AIFEC provides employment opportunities for local Hamilton Musicians.

AIFEC Instructors are expected to be proficient musicians, who have experience teaching music and specialize in playing specific instruments. Our instructors have diverse backgrounds, including; performers, teachers, music therapists and composers, which ensures added depth and richness to AIFEC’s programs.

Instructor, Trumpet
David Baldry is a new trumpet player/improviser and composer in the Hamilton and Toronto music scene. As a recent graduate of the University of Toronto Jazz Performance Program, David has studied under Phil Nimmons, Jim Lewis and John Macleod among others. Most recently David has been cultivating his own compositions as well as working with several Hamilton and Toronto artists. As a member of the AIFEC Team he hopes to inspire his students to find joy in their achievements as well as providing accessible teaching.
Instructor, Guitar
Christian Cowsill is a teacher, guitarist, singer and songwriter in the Hamilton area.  He is a graduate of the Mohawk College music program, where he studied jazz performance, and has been teaching music professionally for over 15 years in and around Hamilton.  In 2015, he recorded and released his first original record called “Half The Story.”  He is also a Hamilton Arts Award recipient. He enjoys sharing his passion for music with youngsters and has worked for AIFEC on and off since the inception of the program, both as an instrumental instructor and also teaching AIFEC grade one classes.
Instructor, piano
JUNO Award winning Pianist and Composer Adrean Farrugia has been a vital member of the Canadian and International music scene for two decades. He has appeared on more than 30 albums to date and has performed across Canada and the United States as well as in Japan, Europe and Australia with artists such as Ernie Watts, Sheila Jordan, Molly Johnson, and Matt Dusk. Adrean is proud to be an instructor at AIFEC as this program serves an important role in bringing the magic and beauty of music to today’s youth.

Instructor, flute
Sarah Lawrance’s musical career began at a young age, when she started learning both guitar and  classical flute. By 16 she was performing and teaching regularly, which led her to tour Canada, perform in the UK and gain recording experience. Sarah graduated from Mohawk college with a diploma in Applied Music Performance in 2013. She began teaching for AIFEC immediately after graduation, finding fulfillment in sparking the initial interest in music for many children throughout Hamilton. In 2014 she was honored with a Hamilton Arts Award as an emerging artist in Arts Education and is pleased to continue sharing her love of music with AIFEC.
Instructor, JAM101
Treasa Levasseur is proud to be a part of the AIFEC team as the leader of JAM 101 and Jambassadors performance coach. Treasa graduated from Ryerson University’s Theatre program, and is always in demand as a session player on her trusty accordion.  A JUNO nominated singer/songwriter, she has run a successful music education business for 17 years, teaches music and drama in FDK classrooms with her Ontario Arts Council funded program Stories Come Alive, is the co-ordinator of the Folk Music Ontario Youth Program, and is passionate about the power of music to elevate and inspire the human spirit.
Instructor, piano/violin
Classically trained , Polish native Malgorzata McCarroll combines her love for performance and teaching. Her life long passion for playing gave her many opportunities to travel the world performing in small and large ensembles, taking part in various projects from the opera festivals in the States, to chamber and symphonic work in Japan, the Caribbean and Europe. Holding a Master’s degree in Music Education as well as a Suzuki trained educator, Gosia’s philosophy is that every child can learn to play an instrument, given the opportunity. “Being part of the AIFEC program gives me such joy and pride, and I love to observe how children flourish through the musical journey.”

Instructor, piano
Steve McRae has been playing piano since he was eight years old.  After graduating with Honours from Mohawk College, McMaster University and the Royal Conservatory of Music, Steve is in demand as a teacher, performer, church musician, and adjudicator in the Hamilton area.  Mr. McRae is also very active in Hamilton’s theatre scene as a musical director, pianist, and vocal director, while also performing throughout southern Ontario in genres ranging from classical ensembles to rock tribute groups.  Steve is very excited to be working with the team at An Instrument for Every Child.
Instructor, vocals
Sophia Perlman is a singer, songwriter, musician and educator. As a performer, she appears regularly with her own jazz quartet and as one half of the duo PerlHaze, as well as appearing as a guest and side-musician with many other ensembles, including. In addition to her work with AIFEC, she currently teaches in the Contemporary Music program at Mohawk College as well as conducting the Children’s Choir for the We are One Jazz Project. Sophia is excited to be part of the AIFEC team, and to be surrounded by people with the common belief that every child has innate creative and musical ability, and the right to experiences that help that ability grow!
Instructor, flute
An avid chamber musician and performer of contemporary music, Sara Traficante performs as member of Vox Metropolis (piano trio), Azuline Duo (flute and guitar), and freelances throughout Ontario. Recent performances include broadcasts on CBC Radio-Canada and the JUNO Awards, appearances at Festival of the Sound, Ottawa International Chamberfest, and The Banff Centre. BMus with Performer’s Certificate at Eastman School of Music and MMus from McGill University. A dedicated teacher, Sara is Flute Instructor at Redeemer University College and maintains a vibrant studio of private flute students. Sara is proud to serve the Hamilton community as an AIFEC Flute Instructor.

Instructor, violin
Marianna joins AIFEC with a strong background and love of the violin and she is extremely excited to motivate her students to share her enthusiasm and joy for music.  Marianna completed her Masters of Music in Violin Performance in Poland, afterwards she has gathered extensive experience performing as a violinist for over a decade in symphony orchestras as well as a member of the entertainment department of cruise lines. Having moved to Canada and settled in Hamilton, she is excited to share her love and passion of the violin and music with others. Marianna has been actively teaching music to children since 2010 and has joined AIFEC as an instructor in 2011. Marianna enjoys working with children of all ages and assisting them in discovering and growing their unique musical talents and gifts.
Instructor, trombone/piano
Severine Salvador is a new trombonist/pianist based in Hamilton. Having recently graduated with her Hon. B.Mus from McMaster, as well as a theatre specialization, Severine is passionate about arts in the community. She performs in many genres; from military bands, to big bands, to musical theatre; which in particular she has served as an actor, a costume designer, a music director/composer, and as a multi-instrumentalist. Severine is passionate about sharing her diverse artistic knowledge with students, and is proud to have the opportunity to do so with An Instrument for Every Child.