Meet the Director, Teachers, and Staff

Our teachers are passionate about music and the development of children and have all successfully completed the Music Together® Teacher Training Workshop developed by the Center for Music and Young Children in Princeton, New Jersey.  They have been carefully selected and have spent at least one semester observing classes led by an experienced teacher as well as participating in student-teaching activities.  We are confident in our teachers' abilities and take pride in the fact that each one brings her own musical personality to our classes.  We encourage you to meet them all!

photo Catherine Madrak

Catherine, our center director, discovered Music Together as a new mom living in Brooklyn, NY and has been hooked ever since!  Catherine is a West Hartford native and has an extensive music background.  She is an accomplished cellist with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Eastman School of Music.  The Center for Music and Young Children in Princeton, NJ recently awarded Catherine Music Together Certification Level I status for outstanding achievement in teaching, musicianship, program philosophy, and parent education.  In addition to performing and teaching music, she has worked to expand opportunities for artists and musicians as a member of the program department at Chamber Music America and as a development consultant for David Bury & Associates in New York City.  Her commitment to forming meaningful connections through music has led her to such experiences as an 8-week residency in rural Kentucky as a member of the Florestan String Quartet where she performed educational programs for more than 17,000 school students.  It has been Catherine's lifelong dream to be immersed in music in ways that promote community and understanding among people of different ages and backgrounds, and has found that very dream right here with Music Together.  Catherine lives with her husband, Jay, and two daughters, Ella and Chloe, in West Hartford.

photo Rachel Stein

Like many of our instructors, Rachel found Music Together through her children and after seeing their love for the program, decided to become an instructor herself.  She was born and raised in a musical family in Delaware.  She graduated from Western Maryland College and after several moves, has settled in West Hartford.  Rachel has been singing all her life, most recently with Christ Church Choir in New York City.  She currently enjoys singing with her husband Marc, two daughters, Hannah & Sarah and anyone else who will join her.  Rachel has successfully completed the Music Together Teacher Training.  She is thrilled to be teaching a program that celebrates children and their love of music, while building a musical community.  Rachel is also a YOGAWORKS Certified Yoga Instructor(CYT), avid gardener and runner.

photo Shelley Mendoza

Shelley has been teaching Music Together for nine years and during the first six of those years, she directed the program in our community. She first learned about Music Together when she was a parent in a class with her son, and was hooked instantly!  Shelley has been active in music and singing all her life, studying music education at the University of Hartford's Hartt School of Music, and elementary education at Central Connecticut State University.  She has performed with select choral groups, ensembles, and as a soloist for many years.  Shelley has been awarded Music Together Certification Level I by the Center for Music and Young Children in Princeton, NJ for outstanding achievement in teaching, musicianship, program philosophy, and parent education.  As the mother of two boys, she understands and appreciates the value of music in the lives of children, and is thrilled to be sharing something she loves and believes in wholeheartedly with the families of her community.  Shelley lives in West Hartford with her husband, Greg, and her two sons, Matthew and Ryan. 

photo Susan Freese

Sue began her musical life as a child. She grew up in a large Canadian family. Her earliest memories are of sing-a-longs among her sixty plus cousins, aunts, uncles and extended family surrounding an upright piano in a tiny little farm house. She attended performing arts high school and went on to minor in music education in college while earning her degrees in psychology and education. As an elementary and middle school teacher Susan always found a way to integrate music into her teaching and everyday life. When Susan had her first daughter Olivia in 2010 she began Music Together classes and could see how special the program was for her whole family. "We know we wanted to raise our children in a music rich environment like I was lucky enough to grow up in. Our life is a musical and we wouldn't have it any other way!" Susan began her Music Together teacher training in 2011 and is now very excited to be teaching at Music Together of the River Valley as well as Music Together of West Hartford and Farmington Valley.

photo Pam Hegner (Administrative Assistant)

Pam grew up in Tampa, Florida with a strong music interest, aided by her parents' love of opera. She was an all-state clarinet player in her teens, and took piano lessons as an elective for two years in college. Pam is a proud graduate of the Indiana University School of Journalism in Bloomington, Indiana. She worked as a tv producer/writer at the local and national level for over 15 years, including CNN. Pam's hobbies include sports, fitness and travel and she lives in West Hartford with Luke and her husband Brian. Pam is thrilled to join our center's team because she has seen the wonderful influence the program can have on a family. She began her Music Together experience when her son Luke was 4 months old by enrolling for the Babies Class during the Sticks song collection. She fell in love with the musical enrichment the program provided and met a wonderful community of mothers who became close friends. Pam and Luke continued Music Together through all nine song collections, and even repeated Sticks! Luke has been enamored ever since, asking to assemble his own box of instruments at home. How many kids ask Santa for an accordion?!?