HMC provides employment opportunities for local musicians.

HMC Instructors are proficient musicians, who have experience teaching music, a post-secondary education and specialize in specific instruments. Our instructors have diverse backgrounds, including; performers, teachers, producers, music therapists and composers, which ensures added depth and richness to AIFEC’s programs.

Click the names to read more about our instructors.

Andrew Bentham-Riley | Grade One / Jam 101

Andrew Bentham-Riley is a Hamilton born and raised Singer Songwriter, Guitarist, and Music Instructor. Before working in music full time Andrew supported children, youth, and adults in social services. Andrew carries this passion for supporting others into every lesson with his students as he guides them along the path working collaboratively towards their goals. Andrew has been performing on stages with bands for over 15 years feeling the positive impact of music and the connections it fosters. Andrew shares his practical approach to performance with his students to develop repertoire, technique, and to further their understanding of music theory. In 2022 Andrew began writing and performing his own music using it as a means to process his past, present, and future. Through writing he has come to understand the true power music has as a tool for self expression, healing, and connection. You can hear Andrew’s music everywhere music is streamed!

Aimee Berends | Music for Wellness

Aimee Berends (MMT, BMus, MA In Progress) is a music therapist and freelance musician. As a music therapist, Aimee’s clinical focus is mental health and addictions. She has worked with clients in hospital, street-based, community and education settings. In professional music contexts, Aimee might be heard tuning the orchestra on her oboe, pulling out juicy melodies on the English horn, or jamming on the keys with any group of people. Aimee is a Music Care instructor for the Room 217 Foundation, an avid runner, a lover of cooking, and a mom to three young kids.

Annie Shaw | Piano / Jambassadors

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.

Ben Culver | Percussion

Ben Culver, a Hamilton native, is a drummer and educator currently studying at Humber College. He has learned from musicians across genres like Jazz, Rock, and South American percussion, including Larnell Lewis, Steve Mancuso, Mark Kelso, Marito Marques, and Barry Romberg. In January 2023, Ben traveled to Brazil, studying with master drummers of the Samba Reggae tradition in Salvador, Bahia, such as Mestre Memeu of Olodum, Mestre Gordo of Cortejo Afro, Mestre Mario Pam of Ile Aiye, and ex-leader of Male De Bale, Mestre Cesar Veloso. Ben musically leads and teaches for the Samba Batucada ensemble, Hamilton Beat Harmonic, which aims to teach a wide-range of community members in the city and perform on a semi-professional level.

Borys Franiczek | Guitar / Ukulele / Jambassadors

With 13 years of teaching and performing experience and backed up by his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music from York University, Franiczek has developed a flexible teaching style that serves all learning styles and skill levels. He strives to provide an environment that fosters emotional and intellectual growth while nourishing a sense of community. He is proficient in a multitude of styles such as jazz, classical, rock, R&B, and latin/bossa nova. Franiczek continues, “I hope to earn the privilege of guiding my students into the journey of musicianship. Anyone with an interest in guitar is encouraged to come in for a lesson with an open mind and a willingness to grow. I welcome the challenge of teaching an art of patience in a world of distractions.”

Caitlin Boyle | Violin / String Ensemble

A Hamilton based violin and viola performer and pedagogue, Caitlin Boyle is a member of the Isabel String Quartet, the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, teaches at the Hamilton Suzuki School of Music, and is co-artistic director of Five at the First Chamber Music Series. A JUNO-nominated performing artist, Ms. Boyle concertized extensively for thirteen years from 2006-2018 with the Cecilia String Quartet. She has won several international awards including Banff, Bordeaux, and Osaka String Quartet Competitions. Her passion for music education has led her to teach at the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts, Taylor Academy at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Festival of the Sound Music Scores Program, Toronto District School Board, Central Okanagan School District, in addition to having taught students across the US, Spain, UK, Italy, and the UAE. Ms. Boyle began her musical training at the Hamilton Suzuki School when she was three years old. Since that time she has received subsequent training at the New England Conservatory, The Glenn Gould School, McGill University, and most recently at the University of Toronto where she researched nonverbal communication in chamber music for her doctoral thesis.

Christopher Eckart | Grade One

Christopher, AKA My Friend Christopher performs original songs that explore family life from diverse perspectives—parent and kid, cat and dog. His debut album and hit single Get Dressed! have made their way worldwide on many platforms. Early Jazz changes and lyrics that encourage children while acknowledging parents aren’t perfect are what set My Friend Christopher’s songs apart. His second album, Tuba Blues, follows the musical roots of blues and jazz down deep. New songs like “Shoe Pile” deliver the dad perspective on kid foibles while others invite imagination through poetic lyrics and eclectic musical arrangements. 2023 has seen the release of the singles All the Small Things, Holey Socks, and The Christmas We Need. His album Tuba Blues (2022) is still receiving airplay on digital radio from North America to the UK to Australia and has garnered a nomination for Children’s Album of the Year by the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

David Baldry | Trumpet / Piano / Orchestra

David Baldry is a well respected trumpet player/improviser and composer in the Hamilton and Toronto music scene. As a 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.

Elizabeth Eastwood | Music for Wellness

Elizabeth has been studying the harp for 14 years, and enjoys including the harp in her work, as well as voice, piano, guitar, and ukulele. She earned her Bachelor of Music Therapy from Wilfrid Laurier University, works as a music therapist in Long Term Care, hospice, as well as with children and is a harp teacher.

Garrett Lajoie | Ukulele / Guitar / Beats By U! / Jambassadors

Garrett Lajoie is a music producer, guitarist, songwriter, and educator based in Hamilton, ON. As a producer and co-writer he has worked with Mauve, Julianna Jones, Eyesha (Lifeandthetribe), Cassidy Cummings, and Groundwaves. Garrett is known for his versatile pop sensibilities, backed by training in jazz, rock, and classical spheres. As a singer-songwriter, he released his self-produced EP ‘Morning People’ in 2019 which blends folk, rock and contemporary influences. As an educator, Garrett provides a well-rounded approach to teaching, building on the interests expressed by his students, and challenging them to reach new levels. He hopes to incite emotional fulfillment and excitement in his students every step of the way. He has worked with HMC for nearly 8 years, and also taught as a contract instructor with Mohawk College. Originally from the small city of Sarnia, Ontario, Garrett moved to Hamilton in 2015. He graduated from the Mohawk College Applied Music Program in 2018, specializing in Contemporary Guitar. In 2016, Garrett attended the Berklee College of Music Songwriting Workshop where he worked with Anne Heaton, and Sam DeRosa.

Gosia McCarroll | Violin / Piano

Classically trained, Polish native Gosia McCarroll combines her love for performance and education. Her lifelong 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 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 believes that every child can learn to play an instrument, given the opportunity. As a proud member of the AIFEC team, she believes that music is a great vehicle for children to elevate their self-esteem, feel important, included and inspired by what they can accomplish, and be proud of their own efforts.

Ivanna Monnar | Flute

Ivanna Monnar is a local musician, who began studying flute from a young age and went on to attend McMaster University’s School of the Arts. She mentored under David Gerry and Sara Traficante and received her Honors Bachelor in Music with a focus in Flute and Piccolo pedagogy. She has played in numerous groups including the McMaster Flute ensemble, McMaster Concert Band and local community bands throughout Hamilton. Ivanna has a focus in classical flute playing, with the goal of achieving excellence in technique and sonority.

Jennifer Budd | Voice / Grade One

Jennifer Budd is an award-winning recording artist and celebrated vocal coach across the GTA, dedicated to telling important stories through music, drama, and dance. Budd began teaching vocals and piano 10 years ago and remains actively involved in the North American music scene. She is often praised for her equanimity and comfort level with her students, and for providing incredible vocal breakthroughs from beginner to Juno-Award winning vocal students. After 3 years of training privately with Barbara Young (Stratford Festival), Jennifer began training with Janet Obermeyer at Redeemer University. During this time, she also trained with Brett Manning (Singing Success Founder, Nashville, TN) and his associate, Charmaine Brown for 3 years. Budd graduated from The Contemporary Music Centre in Nashville, TN in 2013, a program focused on songwriting, performing, and the music industry. In 2014 she earned her B.A. in Music Performance from Redeemer University. Professionally, as a performer, Jennifer Budd has been working in music, film, and television for the past 4 years as a singer, songwriter, and actor. Budd released her debut album “Lip Service” in 2015, recorded at Threshold Studios (Hamilton, ON). Budd won “Best New Artist” in 2016 at the Hamilton Music Awards and was nominated for “Gospel Song of the Year” at the 2016 Canadian Gospel Music Awards. Presently, she travels between Nashville and Toronto working on her upcoming sophomore Pop album. Budd’s notable co-writes have been with Jordan Saap, Phil Barlow, Randall Kent, and Elias Dummer. She releases music under her Artist name, Myla (@yours_myla) and is a member of CARAS, SOCAN, NATS, and WIMM.

Jennifer Ferreira | Flute

[bio coming soon]

Joel Banks | Ukulele / Guitar

Joel Banks is a versatile professional bassist who has performed 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.

Joel Haynes | Percussion

Joel has grown from his early community musical experiences in his hometown of Burlington, Ontario, and has progressed to playing with some of the finest jazz artists. Highlights include being nominated for a “National Jazz Award” in 2003 and two nominations in 2009 for CD of the Year and Drummer of the Year. He has performed at many international jazz festivals in North America, Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, South America, Australia and the Caribbean. Joel has also recorded over 30 recordings as a side man including artists such as; Seamus Blake, Russell Malone, Ray Anderson, David Braid, The Cookers and Denzel Sinclaire.

Josephine Tavares | Piano / Voice

(Bio coming soon).

Maria Campbell | Voice

Maria is currently completing a Master of Science (MSc) degree at King’s College London (UK) studying Psychology & Neuroscience of Mental Health. Maria weaves together her professional practices in voice, movement, contemporary art, and science to create and to empower effective expression in others. Maria is endlessly curious about the many intersections of the mind & body and how these intersections, often subconsciously, effect one’s disposition, performance, wellbeing, and sense of self. This understanding informs both, Maria’s artwork and coaching. Maria J. Campbell has a Master of Music degree (MMus) in Vocal Performance from The University of Auckland in New Zealand, and a Post-Graduate Artist Diploma (ArtDip) from Western University in Canada, as well as a Bachelor of Music (BMus) degree, from the University of Prince Edward Island. Maria also serves on the faculty at Mohawk College in Hamilton as the music department’s Classical Voice Instructor.

Marianna Pijewska | Violin / Piano

Marianna completed her Masters of Music in Violin Performance in Poland. 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’s teaching method is based on the belief that no one has insensitive ears, and that we are all created uniquely with a focus and awareness which can be developed and trained. Marianna helps develop strong ear training and sensitivity to musical tone with the understanding that every student requires a different approach and speed of learning.

Mark Caruana | Ukulele / Guitar / Jambassadors

Mark Caruana has been playing guitar and singing since age 10. He studied jazz at Humber College, and then toured extensively with Big Rude Jake from 1993 to 1997. Mark has been teaching music since 1996 and has since moved to Hamilton, now leading our Jambassadors bands as well as ukulele classes.

Matt Soliveri | Drums

Matt Soliveri is a professional drummer and instructor based out of Hamilton Ontario. Matt’s journey as a drummer began nearly 20 years ago, playing in numerous local acts before studying Music at Mohawk College. After completing his music degree, he began performing and recording with some of Canada’s top artists such as Alessia Cara, Jesse Labelle, Brian Melo. These experiences allowed him to perfect his craft as a session and live drummer. Since joining the award-winning alt-country/ roots-rock band The Redhill Valleys in 2017, Matt has continuously proven his expertise as a drummer, songwriter and performer. The knowledge and experience Matt has gained working in the Canadian music industry has funnelled into his 10-year span as a music instructor. Above all else, Matt has a never-ending passion for drumming as an art form which he hopes to pass onto future generations of drummers and musicians alike.

Melissa Dutch | Voice / Songwriting

Melissa Dutch is an artist, performer, writer and vocal coach, specializing in contemporary pop, rock, and indie genres, with a technical background in jazz, classical voice, musical theatre, and opera. She offers students a diverse and all-encompassing music education, or a specific focus on almost any genre of your choice. ​ She has been running her registered private studio, MELISSA DUTCH MUSIC STUDIO, from 2016 to today, with a community of dedicated voices, both in person, and virtually throughout the pandemic. Melissa has been coaching for a over a decade, and spent 2018-2020 as a founding coach at OMARI MUSIC STUDIOS: a studio in Oakville with a high standard for technical excellence in music study and performance.

Sarah Good | Voice / Jambassadors / Guitar / Ukulele

Sarah Good is a Hamilton, On based multi-instrumentalist and composer with 15+ years teaching experience. A graduate of the Applied Music program at Mohawk College, and student of Music Cognition at McMaster University, she strives to always be improving her craft and knowledge. She has a deep love of sharing that knowledge and experiences with the younger musical generation and is excited to be part of the team at the Hamilton Music Collective. Sarah performs with Sarah Good and the Bads, The Can’t Elopes, GlassEYElashes and is the conductor/co-director of Earth, Wind and Choir.

Sasha Szlafarski | Beats By U!

Sasha Szlafarski is the studio manager at HMC. He is also a multi-instrumentalist, audio engineer, and neo-classical producer interested especially in Nordic music. He was trained in film composition at the Berklee College of Music and has toured Asia as a guitarist.


Astrid Hepner – Program Director / CEO

Jennifer Budd – School Program Coordinator

Annie Shaw – Advanced Program Coordinator

Janice Shearer – Development Coordinator

Garrett Lajoie – Marketing & Events Coordinator

Sasha Szlafarski – Studio Manager

Jo Ann Salci – Community Liaison

Joel Banks – Musical Instrument Coordinator

Kelly Marais – Social Media Manager

Sue Pollon – Bookkeeper