Founder and President
After experiencing the college admission process as an artist, student, instructor, admissions director, and parent, Halley believes that talented young artists understand that they must fully commit to furthering their development – particularly given the competitive admissions environment. For this reason, Halley developed a structured program of college preparation, training, coaching, and real world engagement with a special faculty of acclaimed performing artists and instructors. The goal is to help young artists identify and successfully apply to the program that best suits the needs of each individual in order to further student development within a college setting.
ArtsBridge was founded in 2008 by Halley Shefler, who previously served as Dean of Enrollment for The Boston Conservatory, Director of Admissions for Boston University’s College of Fine Arts School of Music, and Director of Academic Affairs for the Longy School of Music.
Halley attended a pre-college program at the Juilliard School before earning her undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College and a Masters degree at Boston University. She is an accomplished flutist who has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, the former Opera Company of Boston, and the Harvard Chamber Orchestra.
Halley is a member of the Arts Schools Network (ASN), the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC), and a professional member of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association).
With over 13 years of leadership experience in higher education enrollment, admissions, and student affairs at multiple music colleges, Shaun Ramsay joined ArtsBridge in September 2016 as Vice President. At ArtsBridge Shaun works with students on all aspects of the college admissions process including artistic assessments, artistic growth opportunities and advice, building college lists, audition and interview preparation, application support, and guidance on preparing for both the artistic and academic requirements for college admission.
Shaun most recently served as Assistant Director of the School of Music for Admissions and Student Affairs at Boston University. Previously he was the Assistant Director for Recruitment at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester and Admissions and Student Services Coordinator at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Shaun’s work at Eastman, BU, and Longy allowed him to work with thousands of students applying to college and graduate school, and has given him a keen understanding of the arts admissions field.
Shaun has presented widely on admissions and enrollment at conferences including the National Association of College Admission Counselors, the Performing Arts Admissions Roundtable Conference, and the New York State School Music Association, as well as at numerous high schools and universities nationally and internationally. He received degrees in music performance and economics from the Eastman School of Music (University of Rochester) and the University of Massachusetts respectively.
Vice President, Artistic Programs
Ari Strasser joined the ArtsBridge team in 2012. She brings expertise in working with individuals and groups of students on the artistic components of preparing for summer programs, portfolio reviews, auditions, and prescreening recordings. She is passionate about working with high school students on the college admissions process and leads all ArtsBridge summer programs, audition workshops, and artistic evaluations.
Prior to her time at ArtsBridge, Ari taught general music education in Marblehead, MA. A Minnesota native, Ari is a graduate of the BFA Musical Theater program at The Boston Conservatory and is an active performer as a pianist, singer-songwriter and actor. Ari’s first album, Crooked Line, was released in November 2013, and she is currently recording her second album, The Light, to be released in spring 2018. See more at arielstrasser.com.
Essay Coach and Editor
Matt Denis received his B.A. in Creative Writing from Purdue University and an MFA in fiction from the University of Massachusetts Boston. His stories have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Buffalo Almanack, and Breakwater Review. When he’s not teaching or writing, odds are high that he’s riding his bike, eating pizza, or spending time Minnesota with his fiance, cat, and two dogs.
Kristi Armstrong is the newest member of the ArtsBridge team. She brings a broad range of experience in project management and administrative coordinating, as well as expertise in multi-tasking and keeping one’s ducks in a row from parenting four children and seven pets.
“Some students are taught by professionals, and those people are great, but they don’t necessarily know what colleges are looking for. ArtsBridge programs are led by top college faculty.”
▶ Vicky Bussert, Director of Music Theatre Program & Professor of Theatre, Baldwin Wallace UniversityVictoria Bussert balances the professional and academic worlds dividing her time between an active career as an award-winning free-lance director while holding the position of Director of Music Theatre for Baldwin Wallace University. Nationally, her work has been seen at Manhattan Theatre Club, York Theatre, New World Stages, Goodspeed Opera, Playhouse Square, Portland Stage, Dallas Theatre Center, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and the Beck Center for the Arts among others. Her international credits include Friar Tuck in Russia, The Who's Tommy in Brazil, the Danish Premiere of Avenue Q (2012 Reumert Award Nomination) and the European Premieres of LIZZIE and [title of show] for the Fredericia Teater in Denmark.Recent productions include the award-winning ISF/GLT SWEENEY TODD; along with CARRIE at the Beck Center and MURDER BALLAD at Playhouse Square.
▶ Salvatore Champagne, Director, Division of Vocal Studies & Professor of Singing, Oberlin ConservatorySalvatore Champagne has appeared in opera houses and concert halls throughout the United States and Europe. His career began in 1988 when he was chosen to be the tenor soloist in a European tour of Leonard Bernstein's Songfest conducted by the composer. Immediately thereafter he joined the ensemble of the Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe, Germany, appearing in a wide range of leading lyric tenor roles. For the next ten years he was engaged as guest artist in many of Europe’s finest opera houses, among them the Opernhaus Zürich, Opéra du Rhin, Teatro Bellini, and the Bayerische Staatsoper. In addition to his opera performances Champagne has appeared in recital and concert with such performing organizations as the London Philharmonia, Cologne Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. His singing has been recognized with numerous awards, including prizes at the Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition and the International Singing Competition s’Hertogenbosch, as well as grants from MUSICA, the Sullivan Foundation, and the National Institute for Musical Theater. In 2004, at the suggestion his teacher and mentor, Richard Miller, Champagne joined the voice faculty of his alma mater, Oberlin College Conservatory, where he now serves as Professor of Singing and Director of the Vocal Studies Division. He is currently a much sought after teacher and gives lectures and master classes throughout the United States. Mr. Champagne’s students have won many prestigious competitions, including the Metropolitan Opera Council auditions, and appear regularly with premiere performing organizations throughout the United States and abroad.Pianist Dr. Alison d'Amato is passionately engaged as performer and teacher in the full spectrum of collaborative musical genres, particularly skilled in song and text-based genres. A valued colleague and innovative mentor, she is Artistic Co-Director of Florestan Recital Project, Assistant Professor of Vocal Coaching at Eastman School of Music, Program co-Director of Art song Lab, and Lecturer in Voice at University at Buffalo. In all these activities, Dr. d’Amato is dedicated to energizing the relationships and communication inherent in music and bringing students’ love for their music to the forefront of their projects. Alison has developed several projects that explore interdisciplinary collaborations and new approaches to the performer-audience relationship. Since 2003, Alison has been Artistic Co-Director of Florestan Recital Project (www.florestanproject.org), engages audiences and artists in a broad spectrum of art song collaborations through performances, recordings, and mentoring. From 2007-2015, she was a Founding Faculty member of Vancouver International Song Institute (VISI), a summer program for innovative performance and interdisciplinary study. In 2011, she co-created the Art Song Lab (www.artsonglab.com), a program that facilitates creative interaction between writers, composers, and performers from around the world to advance the genre of contemporary art song. Alison has been a guest artist at The AmBul Festival (Sofia, Bulgaria), SOURCE Song Festival, Boston Conservatory, Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto), Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, SUNY Fredonia, and Dickinson College. In addition to traditional masterclasses in collaborative repertoire, Alison has shared classes with colleagues in Humanities, musicology, poetry, composition, and performance disciplines. Recent recording projects include The Complete Songs of Virgil Thomson (New World Records) and Music for Violin and Piano by Joseph Achron with violinist Michael Ludwig (Naxos). Recent concert activities feature programs at the Schubert Club (St. Paul, MN), premieres with Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), Wordsong, and the Buffalo Chamber Players, and recitals with acclaimed soprano Tony Arnold.McCaela Donovan is an Elliot Norton and IRNE award winning actress, theatre educator, and audition coach and is thrilled to be here with the ArtsBridge team. She has served as Associate Artistic Director and founding member of Bridge Repertory Theatre of Boston. She has performed Off Broadway and in various regional theatres, including Primary Stages, NYMTF, ArtsEmerson, The Huntington Theatre Company, American Repertory Theatre, Speakeasy Stage, Gloucester Stage Company, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Lyric Stage Company, New Repertory Theatre, Company One, Stoneham Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Reagle Music Theatre, and the Children’s Theatre of Sioux Falls, SD. A member of SAG-AFTRA, AEA and SAFD, she has worked and taught at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Boston Conservatory, Emerson College, Dean College, Emmanuel College, Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts. McCaela is also working towards a master’s degree in Urban Affairs at BU and is grateful to be a proud member of the BU School of Theatre. Go Terriers!
▶ Byron Easley, Associate Professor & Head of Dance, NYU’s New Studio on Broadway (Tisch School of the Arts)Byron was awarded the 2011 Society of Director’s and Choreographer’s Joe A. Callaway Award and an Audelco Award for excellence in choreography for the Off-Broadway production of Langston in Harlem. A two-time winner of Atlanta’s Suzi Bass Award in choreography for the Alliance Theatre’s productions of Sophisticated Ladies and Jelly’s Last Jam, his work as Choreographer, Assistant Choreographer and/or Assistant Director has been represented at Ensemble Theatre Company, San Jose Repertory, Cleveland Playhouse, Arizona Theatre Company, Baltimore Center Stage, The Goodman Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, City Center Encores, North Shore Music Theatre, Hartford Stage, Trinity Repertory, Two River Theatre Company, Pioneer Theatre Company and the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. As a performer, Byron has been seen on the PBS Dance in America Special Fosse, and the series Broadway: The American Musical. He has been a featured player in the Broadway companies of: Fosse, Play On, Oh Kay, and The Tap Dance Kid, in addition to numerous national tours, regional productions, TV specials, commercials, industrial shows and films. Prior to joining the Department of Drama’s New Studio on Broadway, Byron was a full-time faculty member at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama - teaching dance.Lynn Helding recently joined the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music as Associate Professor of Practice in Vocal Pedagogy. She is an associate editor of the Journal of Singing and author of the journal’s “Mindful Voice” column, which illuminates current research in the cognitive, neuro- and social sciences as they relate to music teaching, learning and performance. Ms. Helding is a thought-leader within the dynamic field of contemporary voice science, or vocology and was elected to head the founding of the first vocology association, PAVA, incorporated in 2014 as a 501(c)(6) non-profit association. She was the 2005 recipient of the National Van Lawrence Fellowship, jointly awarded by the NATS Foundation and the Voice Foundation to those who have “demonstrated excellence in their profession as singing teachers, and have shown knowledge of voice science.”Lynn Helding’s stage credits include the title role in the first American production of Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo, and leading mezzo-soprano roles with Harrisburg Opera, Nashville Opera, Tennessee Opera Theatre, and Ohio Light Opera. A deep commitment to art song led her to create such projects as Made in America, a narrative song recital of works by eighteen American composers which toured Italy, France, England, Germany, Spain and Australia and Iceland, and the theatrical performance piece This is My Letter to the World, a song recital which she assembled using spoken fragments of Emily Dickson’s letters interspersed with Dickinson songs by composers Aaron Copland, Jake Heggie, William Bolcolm and Lori Laitman, which premiered at the Brook Center for Music in New York City. Her highlights in chamber music include the title role in Schoenberg’s Perrot Lunaire, broadcast on Nashville Public Television, and Good Night, written for Lynn Helding and the Baltic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra by Icelandic composer Thorkell Sigurbjornnson, which premiered at Miller Theatre’s “New Works” series in New York.Lynn Helding studied voice at the University of Montana, in Vienna, Austria, and at Indiana University, where she was the first singer ever accepted to pursue the prestigious Artist Diploma in Voice. She earned her master’s degree in vocal pedagogy from Westminster Choir College of Rider University, and completed the Summer Vocology Institute of the National Center for Voice and Speech in Salt Lake City, where she has returned as guest faculty. Her voice teachers have included Esther England, Dale Moore, and Chris Arneson, and voice science mentors Scott McCoy, Ingo Titze and Katherine Verdolini-Abbott. Previous to USC, she taught voice at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, and served twenty-two years as Associate Professor of Voice and Director of Performance Studies at Dickinson College.Quin is a professional theatre director recently transplanted from the NYC. His NYC directing credits include: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Sonnet Repertory Theatre), The Dinner Party (Lincoln Center Institute), Babette’s Feast (World Premiere-Threads Theatre Co.), Hot Cripple (Seeing Place Theater), Things We Want (TheatreLab), Red Light Winter(DPVCT), Modern Love (Theatre Row), The Power of the Crystals (NYC Fringe Fest). Regionally he has directed Shostakovich's Hamlet (Aspen Music Festival, John Mauceri-conductor). Quin is a graduate of The New Actor's Workshop where he trained under Mike Nichols, Paul Sills, and George Morrison. He received his BFA in directing from UNCSA where he now serves on the faculty teaching acting and directing and serves as the Director of Recruitment. At UNCSA he recently directed Stephen Adley Guirgis' The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Vaclav Havel's The Memorandum and CP Taylor's Good with an orchestra of 20 onstage. He has also directed workshop productions of Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Othello.Kevin Kittle has worked as Joseph Chaikin’s assistant director and with Arthur Miller and Sam Shepard for the Signature Theater Company. He has directed numerous productions and readings in such New York City theaters as The John Houseman, The Neighborhood Playhouse, The Harold Clurman, Ensemble Studio Theater, Arclight, Chashama, HERE, Sullivan Street Playhouse, The Zipper, The Gene Frankel, the 45th Street Theater, and The Irish Repertory Theatre, as well as regionally. His most recent productions include In God’s Hat at Playwrights Horizons Peter Jay Sharp Theater for Apothecary Theatre Company, Beyond the Pale (nominated for Best Director and Best Production at the 1st Irish 2009 Theatre Festival), The Medicine Show at CSV (Flamboyen), Animals at The Connolly, and A New Television Arrives, Finally, at Theater 54. At The Greenwich Street Theatre, he directed the world premiere of Jamie Linley’s Dirty Works(critical acclaim in New York City and at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival) and Philip Ridley’s The Pitchfork Disney, both as resident director of Stiff Upper Lip, as well as Joe Penhall’s Some Voices with The Villar-HauserDevelopment Fund. Other credits include: And Mirasaki Danced (starring Michael Warren Powell) for Circle East, the New York City premiere of Carter Lewis’s Soft Click of a Switch at The Flatiron Playhouse, and TheBCam at the Flamboyen, Watching and Waiting at The Judith Anderson, The House of Yes at The Currican, and Life During Wartime(2001 Off-Off Broadway Review Award for Outstanding Production) with Inertia Productions as their resident director. As co-developer and dramaturge-director, Kittle has worked on Burnt, with Rhett Rossi at The Present Company Theatorium, David Dannenfelser’s When Words Fail… at The NY International Fringe Festival (the script of which is published in Plays and Playwrights, Vol. One), and Peter Handy’s East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which was a finalist in the Samuel French One Act Festival and is published by Samuel French. His Los Angeles production of Chet Whell’s Economic Subterfuge, starring Jason Huber, was nominated for an LA Weekly Award. Kevin is an assistant professor of acting and the director of Performance Ensemble in the BFA program at Mason Gross, and is an associate director of the Youth Theater of New Jersey, where he teaches in their Summer Theater Institute in residence at Juilliard.Gary Kline is Professor and Assistant Head of Acting and Musical Theatre at Carnegie Mellon University. He has taught private singing and music theatre courses such as Cabaret and Acting A Song for Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious School of Drama since 1990, where he currently oversees the Vocal Curriculum. He is the artistic director of ArtsBridge Summer Musical Theater. In demand as a teacher, Gary has taught Master Classes at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) in Sydney, Australia, the Torggler Vocal Institute at Newport University, the Flying Swan Program at Wesleyan University, The Broadway Theatre Project at FSU, The Performing Arts Project at Wake Forest, and Perry-Mansfield Arts Camp in Colorado. Gary has taught some of the most highly-skilled Broadway Performers at CMU, including Tony-winners Christian Borle (Peter and Starcatcher) and Patina Miller (Sister Act/Pippin), as well as Patrick Wilson (The Full Monty), Chris Hoch (Beauty and the Beast), Kirsten Bracken (Follies), Megan Hilty (Wicked), Kyle Beltran (In the Heights), Bradley Dean (Spamelot), Renee Goldsberry (Color Purple) Donna Lynne Champlin (Sweeney Todd) and dozens more. Regionally, Gary has appeared in leading roles in Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Night Music, 1776, The Civil War, Man of La Mancha, Secret Garden, The Laramie Project, and Fiddler. He’s also sung with the Pittsburgh Opera and soloed twice with the Pittsburgh Pops under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch. Gary is a graduate of the Dana School of Music (YSU) and the CMU School of Music. He has studied Acting at Stanford U. with Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason, and Ann Jackson, as well as with Johanna Merlin and Victor Garber in NY. His CD “Lucky” includes duets with friends Billy Porter, Patrick Wilson, Sally Mayes, and song legend Margaret Whiting. Gary is a member of Phi Mu Alpha, Actor’s Equity, and NATS. He is thrilled to be working with Halley and the great faculty and students at ArtsBridge!Cameron Knight had recently joined DePaul's faculty. He hailed from Carnegie Mellon University, where was an assistant professor of acting, and a lecturer in African American Theatre. Cameron has coached and taught actors of all ages for over ten years in: Acting, Shakespeare, Text Analysis, Improvisation, Stage Movement and Stage Combat. Cameron will be teaching acting at ArtsBridge this summer.David Pepin is the current music director at Baldwin Wallace. He has also been a music director on Broadway (Kinky Boots, Wicked, Bring It On: The Musical, RENT) for over a decade and works with singers who are preparing for auditions and those who are in his shows. David will be teaching musical theater at ArtsBridge this summer.Joe Price works as director, actor, and fight choreographer across the country. He spent eleven years at the University of Kansas City as Associate Head of Acting for the MFA Actor Training Program, and he is now the program director at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie BFA Actor Training program. Joe will be the Artistic Director of ArtsBridge Summer Dramatic Acting.Amy Rogers (Director of the BFA Musical Theater Program at Pace University) created and developed the BFA Musical Theatre degree program. The Musical Theater program at Pace University began in 2002 and started with six majors; over the span of seven years, Rogers along with her professional faculty, has created a world-class BFA Musical Theater program with 100 majors. Roger’s professional/academic directing credits include: The original workshops of Factory Girls (Mahoney, Irons, Coleman), Quanah (Larry Gatlin/Tony Dodge), Darling (Ryan Scott Oliver/B.T Rybeck, College: The Musical (Fornarola, Elmgreen), the R&B Musical Warm, But I’m a Cheerleader (conceptual director), Hoods and Hoofers (Rob Lindsay Nassif) and LUCK!(Brad Ross and Mark Waldrop). Full productions include; Elegies, Ragtime, Carousel, Wild Party (Lippa), The Most Happy Fella, Flora The Red Menace, Little Women, My Name is Alice, Urinetown, Violet, Pippin, Into The Woods, Funny Girl, and A Grand Night for Singing. Rogers has taught master classes at numerous universities and summer programs and is an audition and repertoire coach in New York City. Rogers has assisted critically-acclaimed director Lonny Price on the Pre-Broadway workshop of 110 in The Shade starring Audra McDonald, the Emmy Award-winning Passion for Live at Lincoln Center on PBS (Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Michael Cerveris); Candide with the New York Philharmonic (Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth); Anyone Can Whistle at the Ravinia Festival, and both Kismet (Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie) and Can-Can with Encores! at City Center.Patty Thom is currently the Chair of Voice and Opera at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, a position she has held since 2003. Previous to that she was the Director of Music at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, MA, a boarding high school for young performing and visual artists. She was also Director of the New England Conservatory at Walnut Hill in a partner program with the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. In addition to her administrative role at Boston Conservatory, she teaches studio voice and performance skills classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels and co-directs the Vocal/Choral Intensive summer program for young singers. Ms. Thom graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1980 with a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance. In 1985 she received a Masters of Music in Vocal Accompanying from Boston University where she studied piano with Allen Rogers and Anthony di Bonaventura and accompanied and coached in the voice studio of Phyllis Curtin. She continued her affiliation with Miss Curtin both at Boston University and at Tanglewood as Head Vocal Coach of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists' Vocal Program and as instructor of voice and a member of the accompanying staff at the University. Ms. Thom has given concerts and masterclasses around the world and is a regular presenter at the National Classical Singer Convention. She is currently on the Board of Visitors at the Walnut Hill School and the Advisory Board of Boston Opera Collaborative. A native of North Dakota, she lives in Boston.Ralph Zito has been the drama chair at Syracuse since 2010. Before Syracuse, he was the chairman of the voice and speech department of the Juilliard School's drama division. As a voice, text and dialect coach, he worked on and off-Broadway and for several national tours, as well as many regional theaters. Ralph will be teaching acting at ArtsBridge this summer.