Meet Our Faculty

We are honored to have highly talented musicians and artists on the faculty of the Columbia Institute of Fine Arts.  To learn more about them, click on the individual photos for their bios and contact information, or scroll down for an overview of our instructional programs.

The Columbia Institute of Fine Arts Faculty

  • Bob Prather - Director, The Columbia Institute of Fine Arts
  • Brenda Arthur - Musikgarten
  • Alexandra Baldwin - flute, harp, composition
  • Ruth Ann Barr - art
  • Suzana Basaric-Ilic - flute, piano
  • Sharyn Byer - flute
  • Joshua Cullum - trombone, tuba, euphonicum
  • Bonnie Driggers - art
  • John Gockel - cello
  • Jaime Guitz - piano
  • Slavica Ilic - violin, viola
  • Jeannine Lacquement - dance
  • Tamara Manukovskaya - senior blallet and character dance
  • Matthew Misener - trumpet
  • DJ Palmire - Percussion
  • Scott Schwertfeger - classical guitar
  • Sue Walia - children's art
Bob Prather - Director, The Columbia Institute of Fine Arts

Bob Prather

Director, The Columbia Institute of Fine Arts

Brenda Arthur - Musikgarten

Brenda Arthur


Brenda Arthur (Musikgarten™) has been the Musikgarten™ Coordinator for CIFA since 1996. She received her Musikgarten™ training from one of the founders of Kindermusik™ and Musikgarten™, Lorna Heyge. Her many years as a kindergarten teacher in Fairfax County, along with her extensive experience in solo and chamber group singing, make her a natural for leading CIFA's early childhood music program.

Ms Arthur is a member of the Washington Kantorei and the Fairfax Choral Society.
Alexandra Baldwin - flute, harp, composition

Alexandra Baldwin

flute, harp, composition

Alexandra Molnar-Suhajda Baldwin has over twenty years of professional teaching experience. She is a graduate of George Mason University with a Bachelor of Music in Composition. She has studied flute with Wendell Dobbs, Judith Beverley Rajnes and Judith Lapple and has studied harp with Jeanne Chalifeaux.

Ms Baldwin presently performs with the Columbia Flute Choir and the Columbia First Light ensemble, also serving as their composer and arranger. She performs with the Safari Wind Quintet and has performed with the St. Gregory Chamber Ensemble as principal flutist, the Serapis Wind Ensemble and the Capitol Wind Symphony.
Ruth Ann Barr - art

Ruth Ann Barr


Ruth Ann holds a BS in Education from George Mason University, and an M.I.S. in Art Education/Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University. She taught art in the Fairfax County Public Schools from 1975-1980, and 1984-2006.

Ruth Ann has contributed to art curriculum for elementary and middle school education through the Fairfax County Public Schools. At present, she is a substitute art teacher for Fairfax County.

Ruth Ann is an active artist. She is skilled in painting,oil and watercolor, as well as ceramics, fiber arts and sculpture, and has taken classes given by renowned Botanical Artist, Anne-Marie Evans.

In 2001, Ruth Ann was selected as the Northern Virginia Outstanding Elementary Art Educator of the Year. She has been a presenter at the Virginia Art Education Association Convention and the National Art Education Association Convention. Ruth Ann was president of the Northern Virginia Art Education Association from 2001-2002, and was the recipient of Impact II Grant Awards , 1991-1992 and 1996-1997.
Suzana Basaric-Ilic - flute, piano

Suzana Basaric-Ilic

flute, piano

Suzana Basaric-Ilic is an experienced performance artist and music educator. A native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, she received her education in flute performance at the Conservatory of Music in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and at the Music Academy in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her education continued in the United States, where she completed her Master’s degree in Education.
While a member of the Symphony Orchestra in Mostar, Herzegovina, Mrs. Basaric-Ilic has performed throughout the former Yugoslavia and Europe with world renowned soloists and conductors. As a soloist, she has performed in numerous recitals in the former Yugoslavia and the United States, at the National Theater and at various embassies and fundraisers sponsored by Balkan Express and Women for Women.
Mrs. Basaric-Ilic has over twenty years of teaching experience. In addition to the Columbia Institute of Fine Arts, she has served on the faculties of The American University and St. Marks Music Studio. During her career many of her students have received among the highest scores and awards at competitions, and many have become professional musicians. Currently, she is a freelance performer and is a full time music teacher with the Montgomery County Public Schools. She holds a Master of Science in Education in Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment from Walden Unversity.
Sharyn Byer - flute

Sharyn Byer


Sharyn Byer (flute) graduated from the School of Music of the University of Miami where she soloed with the Wind Ensemble under Frederick Fennell. She is currently Principal Flutist of the Capital City Symphony in Washington, DC.

Ms. Byer is the Administrator of the Young Soloists' Competition of the National Symphony Orchestra and is a performing member of The Friday Morning Music Club. She plays with the chamber music trio Trillium (, the flute and guitar duo Dominion Duo, and is an ensemble coach for the American Youth Philharmonic.

Ms. Byer founded and directs the Columbia Flute Choir, (, delighting Washington audiences since 1994, and performing throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area including at the White House, Kennedy Center and the National Theatre. She has conducted the Columbia Flute Choir in recital at the National Flute Association Convention in Washington, DC in 2002, in Pittsburgh in 2006 and again in New York City in August, 2009.

Ms Byer has performed with the National Flute Association Professional Flute Choir and toured with the International Flute Orchestra to Eastern Europe, Russia and the Baltic countries, China, Greece, Chile and most recently Poland.

Ms. Byer was Principal Flutist of The McLean Symphony for more than twenty years, directed the instrumental music program at The Langley School in McLean, VA., and has served two terms as president of the Flute Society of Washington, Inc.
Joshua Cullum - trombone, tuba, euphonicum

Joshua Cullum

trombone, tuba, euphonicum

Josh Cullum is a trombonist with The United States Air Force Ceremonial Brass. Originally from Green City, Missouri, Josh earned Bachelor of Music degrees on trombone and euphonium in 2006 from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Under the instruction of Dr. John Marcellus, Mark Kellogg, and Mark Salatino, Josh was also awarded Performer’s Certificates on both instruments. He went on to receive a Master of Music degree at the Yale School of Music in New Haven, CT while studying with Scott Hartman.

Josh has performed with the Rochester Philharmonic, Syracuse Symphony, Vermont Symphony, the New World Symphony, and the Malaysian Philharmonic. He has also attended the Bar Harbor and Art of Sound Brass Festivals and was awarded the winner of the Potomac Festival Euphonium Competition in 2006.
Bonnie Driggers - art

Bonnie Driggers


A resident of Fairfax County, Virginia, for 30 years, Bonnie Driggers attended Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, and completed her B.A. and M.A. degrees and secondary teaching certification in English at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. She taught English in Texas at Clear Lake High School and at the University of Houston and in Virginia at George Mason University. In 1999, she retired as Publications Manager for an information technology company in Northern Virginia.

Since 2003, Bonnie has focused on botanical painting and exhibited watercolors in numerous juried shows in the United States. Her exhibit of eight paintings of native Virginia plants with the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society in Edinburgh, Scotland, in May and June 2008 was her first outside the United States. She is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA), the Botanical Artists of the National Capital Region (BASNCR), and President of the Botanical Artists for Art & Education (BAEE).

Bonnie studied art, design, and painting at Arizona State University, at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., and with private teachers, including classes with Anne Marie Evans and Pandora Sellars, both of England. Since 2007, Bonnie has hosted master classes in botanical art taught by Anne Marie and held in Virginia and New York City.

In 2011, this group of artists began a long-term project at the suggestion of Anne-Marie, because she felt we needed to paint more regularly to improve our skills. To facilitate this project and to carry on other projects in this vein, the group incorporated as a nonprofit called Botanical Artists for Art & Education (BAEE) with Bonnie serving as President. BAEE received 501(c)(3) Federal tax-exempt status in 2011. We decided to produce a book titled American Botanical Painting: Native Plants of the Mid Atlantic, which was published in March 2014. All the art was shown in an exhibition at the U. S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., from May through mid June 2014.

John Gockel - cello

John Gockel


John Gockel is an accomplished and experienced cellist, teacher and vocalist. He is a charter instructor of cello at the Columbia Institute of Fine Arts and thoroughly enjoys the challenges and rewards of teaching.

Mr. Gockel began taking music and piano lessons from his aunt at the age of four. At the age of six, he continued taking these lessons with teachers at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, and when he was ten, he began his cello studies with Andrew Von Schill. Later, voice lessons were added. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin College, where he studied with Nella Hunkins, Andor Toth Jr., Richard Kapuscinski and the New Hungarian String Quartet. He also received intensive ensemble training at the Taos School of Music.

Mr. Gockel is recently retired as a member of the distinguished United States Army Band’s Strolling Strings & Orchestra, where he performed in string quartets, ensembles, strolls, orchestras, and occasionally as soloist. These groups perform for the public, and also regularly perform at events for military leaders, heads of state, the President, members of Congress, and the Departments of State and Justice. In addition, he performs with the National Christian Choir’s guest orchestra, plays in his church orchestra, and performs as ensemble member or soloist for many other events.

Mr. Gockel. has been a member of the Florida Symphony Orchestra, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Brockport Symphony, the Cleveland Philharmonic, the DC Youth Orchestra Program (as both faculty and performer), the American Chamber Orchestra, and numerous community orchestras. He has performed with the Asaph Ensemble as choral and solo vocalist, as well as cellist, including performances at the Bolshoi Theater. His work has brought him to a variety of stages including the Lincoln Center, Severance Hall, and the Kennedy Center.

Mr. Gockel is married and the proud parent of two adult children.

Jaime Guitz - piano

Jaime Guitz


Jaime Guitz is an accomplished concert pianist and experienced teacher. He holds a Diploma in Piano Performance from the National Conservatory of Music in Guatemala, having earned his Bachelor of Arts in Music Education at the University of San Carlos and his Bachelor of Arts in Music at the George Mason University. He has also studied at the University “El Valle” in Guatemala and is currently in advanced music studies at George Mason
University. He has served as Professor of Piano, Theory, Didactic and History of Music at the Central American Theological Seminary, and has also served on the faculties of The Alfredo Colom Christian School of Music Teachers, the Jesus Maria Alvarado National School of Music Teachers, the University of San Carlos, the National Conservator y of Music, The Verbo Christian School, the Interamerican School, the Bilingual Guatemalan School and the Philadelphia Christian Educational Center.

In addition to serving on the faculty of the Columbia Institute of Fine Arts, Mr. Guitz served for seven years on the staff of Immanuel Bible Church as Music Director for the Hispanic Fellowship and as Instrumental Director for the Immanuel Christian School.

Slavica Ilic - violin, viola

Slavica Ilic

violin, viola

Slavica Ilic is an experienced performance artist and instructor of violin, viola and music theory. She is a graduate of the Academy of Music of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she studied with David Kamhi. In addition to several awards from string and chamber competitions, she was a recipient of the Fellowship Award for the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado, where she studied with Dorothy DeLay.
Ms. Ilic has performed with numerous orchestras throughout Israel, Italy, Yugoslavia, France, and the United States. As a member of the Aspen Symphony Orchestra and the Aspen Opera Orchestra she had the opportunity to play Puccini’s Opera La Boheme under Maestro Lawrence Foster. Ms. Ilic has made appearances with orchestras at the Lincoln Center, in New York, and at the Kennedy Center, the Lyceum, and Constitution Hall in the Washington area.
Ms. Ilic has served on the faculty of the Columbia Institute of Fine Arts since 1998. In addition, she has served on the faculties of the DC Youth Orchestra, School of Music for Young Talents, and the International School of Music in Bethesda. Earlier, she taught at elementary and high schools in Sarajevo and in Kotor, Montenegro. Her dedication and excellence in teaching violin and viola has brought to her students numerous awards at competitions, auditions, and juries.
Jeannine Lacquement - dance

Jeannine Lacquement


Jeannine Lacquement, founder and Director of Children of the Light Dancers, has been teaching children and youth how to live, move, and have their being in God for over 25 years. She has been the director of a Christian community for adults with cognitive and physical disabilities and led therapeutic programs for nursing home residents. During her seven year season as Director of Children’s Ministry at Church of the Apostles (Anglican) in Fairfax, VA, she initiated youth led summer programs for children and developed outreach opportunities for kids. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance with an emphasis in Special Education from Goucher College, and received additional dance training at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Since then she has used the art form of dance and storytelling to disciple and train children and youth for ministry. Her dancers have performed throughout the Northern Virginia and D.C. area, as well as in Times Square in NYC and Atlanta, GA.
Tamara Manukovskaya - senior blallet and character dance

Tamara Manukovskaya

senior blallet and character dance

Ms. Manukovskaya started her training at the Bolshoi Academy of Ballet in Moscow, Russia. She continued her studies under the tutelage of Nina Maximova, herself a student of Agrippina Vaganova, and graduated at the top of her class with a Soloist Diploma from Saratov Choreographic College. Upon graduation, she joined the world-renowned Grigorovich Ballet Company as a demi-soloist and soloist understudy. While there, she performed as a soloist/coryphee in "Paquita," "Pas de Quatre," "Swan Lake," :Sleeping Beauty," and others.

Ms. Manukovskaya was invited to join Renaissance Ballet Company (North Carolina) as an outstanding performer. With Renaissance Ballet, she performed as a soloist in many stage productions. After 5 years of a professional dancing career, Ms. Manukovskaya successfully transitioned to a full time teaching career, where she enjoyed many successes. Twenty-four of her students received scholarships, and were accepted to the Alabama Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Carolina Ballet, Kirov Academy, Juilliard, and the Bolshoi Academy. Three of her former students perform professionaly with the Nachos Duato Company and Cirque de Solei.

Ms. Manukovskaya also coaches U.S. National Rhythmic Gymnastics, including a U.S. Senior Champion and 2012 Olympian, Julie Zetlin.

Ms. Manukovskaya's unique teaching approach and experience allows her to bring the best from young beginners and aspiring professionals alike. In addition, Ms. Manukovskaya has considerable experience in staging productions from classical ballet to folk dances. As such, she's been recognized by Tatar and Chinese communities for her contributions to cultural exchange and understanding.
Matthew Misener - trumpet

Matthew Misener


Matthew Misener is an experienced trumpet performance artist and instructor. He has a broad repertoire, with a particular interest in the sacred polyphony of the 16th century. He is currently a member of the United States Air Force Band.

He earned his Bachelor of Music, Distinction in Performance, degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, and his Master of Music degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he served as Graduate Assistant. He has studied under Charles Schlueter, Principal Trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Frank Kaderabek, Principal Trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra; Eric Berlin, Principal Trumpet of the Albany Symphony Orchestra; and Ben Wright, Fourth Trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and with Steve Hendrickson and Adel Sanchez, principal and assistant principal of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington.

Mr. Misener was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, and has participated in such music festivals as the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan; the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Bangkok, Thailand; the Casals Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico; the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria; and the Tanglewood Institute Atlantic Brass Seminar.

Mr. Misener’s performance credits include the The National Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra . the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Washington Concert Opera (as Principal Trumpet Substitute,) the National Chamber Players of Washington (as soloist,) the Concert Artists of Baltimore, the New World Symphony, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra (as Principal Trumpet Substitute,) the Choral Arts Society of Washington Orchestra, the Cathedral Choral Society, the Washington Chorus, and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. He has also served as solo or principal trumpet with a number of chamber groups, including Infinity Brass, Faculty Brass Quintet at the University of Massachusetts; the Vox Consort of Boston; Ye Olde Brass Quintet; Tuesday Night New Music at the New England Conservatory; the Hunting Brass Quintet; and the Majestic Brass Quintet.

Mr. Misener’s awards include Winner of the University of Massachusetts Concerto Competition in 2005; Finalist at the International Trumpet Guild Orchestral Excerpts Competition in 2005; and Finalist at the New England Conservatory Concerto Competition in 2002.
DJ Palmire - Percussion

DJ Palmire


Donald Joseph (DJ) Palmire, III graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Music Performance from the Florida State University, College of Music. He is working on a Master of Divinity from Liberty University.

DJ is currently a member of The United States Army Band, "Pershing's Own." The Army Band regularly performs at events for military leaders, heads of state, the President, members of Congress, and other important dignitaries and events for the military district of Washington. DJ's father, Don, is also a member of The U.S. Army Band. They are the first father and son team to perform together with the band since the 1940's.

DJ served as a Prince William County Public Schools Teaching Assistant, aiding the special needs teacher, as well as leading the program's Music Club. At Florida State, he worked with the University Summer Music Camp, conducting percussion sectionals and teaching master-classes and lessons. DJ was a Fellow for the Texas Music Festival with responsibilities including preparing, rehearsing and performing concerts. He entered the United States Marine Corp in May of 2011 as a Marine musician, featured soloist, and ensemble member.

DJ is currently the drumline instructor at Woodbridge High School, and assists theworship leader at Grace Baptist in Woodbridge. He is a member of the Percussive Arts Society, and was on the Dean's List at Florida State, graduating with a 3.84 GPA.
Scott Schwertfeger - classical guitar

Scott Schwertfeger

classical guitar

Scott Schwertfeger received his Bachelor of Science in Music Performance/History, having studied with Dr. Nels Leonard. He also received his Master of Music degree from the University of Akron, having studied with Stephen Aron. Mr. Schwertfeger is an active performing artist, heard on numerous recordings and on national radio and television broadcasts.
Sue Walia - children's art

Sue Walia

children's art

Sue Walia has been a creative person and student of the arts all of her life. She earned a B.A. In Fashion Design and Merchandising from Radford University in 1985. She had a long career in the Investment Brokerage Business but happily stepped back in to the art world in 2004 when she opened her franchise with Abrakadoodle Art. Her 10-years as franchise owner and educational director for Abrakadoodle has been the most rewarding of all of her jobs and the business has grown beyond her expectations with over 500 kids going through the program each month.
The faculty of the Columbia Institute of Fine Arts all have undergraduate, graduate training in their artistic fields, and are experienced performance or visual artists. They provide private instruction in virtually all musical instruments, ballet, tap, children's dance programs, as well as art for children and adults. Weekly lessons are 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or one hour. In addition, ensemble classes provide supplemental instruction in group performance for students who have advanced beyond the beginning level.