Each fully implemented OMA school has a team of seven artists who work alongside classroom teachers, adapting each lesson to support teaching of core curriculum and knowledge. In addition, children learn to play the recorder, violin, a wind instrument and keyboard. In Tucson, OMA employs more than 26 artists from the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera Company, University of Arizona Schools of Music and Dance and other arts organizations to teach 30-minute, twice-weekly classes for 32 of the 36 weeks of the school year that support core curriculum goals.
Dance Artist

Michelle Alexander

Ms. Alexander has been dancing since the age of three, where she began her dance training with the Lone Star Ballet in Texas.  During her youth, Michelle trained with the Louisiana Dance Theatre, performing many classic and contemporary works before going on to receive a full scholarship to attend the Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet at the age of 16.  Her extensive training included teachers and dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey, and San Francisco Ballet to name a few.

Ms. Alexander went on to dance professionally and toured France, Poland, and performed with variety shows.

Michelle has taught classical and contemporary ballet, pointe, Horton, contemporary modern, partnering, jazz, tap, composition and creative movement for 20 years.  Recently she concluded her 8th summer on the Dance Faculty of the highly accredited Interlochen Center for the Arts and has seen many of her students go on to professional careers in some of the top institutions and companies in the world.  Michelle is very excited to be working with the OMA program and supporting arts education in the Tucson Unified School District.

Wendy Joy

Wendy has a Master of Fine Arts (1998) in Theatre Arts with a dance concentration from the University of Arizona and a Bachelor of Arts (1986) in dance from Douglass College at Rutgers University. In addition to working for the Tucson Unified School District as an Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) Design Team Teaching Artist she is the director/developer of PROJECT: connect, an innovative program that fuses a dance education certification tract with the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Arizona. She is also a founding member of Zuzi!, a Tucson-based modern dance company she worked with for 10 seasons.
Wendy has extensive training in both classical ballet and modern dance, and has studied with and performed for such artists as Liz Lerman, David Rousseve, Alexei Yudenich, Don Redlich, Claudia Gitelman, and Melanie Stewart. Prior to coming to Tucson, Wendy was known throughout the southern New Jersey and Philadelphia areas for her teaching and choreography and was the owner and artistic director of dance images by wendy joy in Ventnor, NJ.

Thom Lewis

Mr. Lewis' movement experience includes walking on fire, rappelling down buildings, riding an elephant, and street performing in France - he has also danced in more traditional French venues, and in Asia, Australia, and Las Vegas. He received an M.F.A. in theater arts and choreography from the University of Arizona in 1997. A recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, his work has been performed internationally by former Pilobolus dancers Dalton-Hartel Dance.
The arts and news journal, The Tucson Weekly described his compositions as “delicious choreography . . . witty, musical, and inventive.” He has taught for OMA since 2004 and is currently the design team coordinator.

Elena Quach

Ms. Elena Quach is a ballet dancer that has trained with Ballet Tucson, Burklyn Ballet Theater and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  Elena has been dancing professionally and performing since the age of 15.  Elena has performed for The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, Burklyn Ballet Theater in Vermont, on Broadway and in several other regional productions around the country.  Elena has also been very fortunate to train with master teachers from American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet and The Royal Ballet.  Elena is an OMA Teaching Artist and is delighted to be teaching dance at Utterback Elementary.

Nicole Stansbury

Ms. Stansbury received her Bachelor's Degree in Dance Education from the University of Georgia in 2003. She moved to Tucson shortly after to perform with OTO Dance and other groups, including New Articulations Dance Theater and Thom Lewis Dance. In 2005, she began playing taiko through collaboration with Odaiko Sonora and OTO Dance. In addition to being a member of the Odaiko Sonora Performing Ensemble, Nicole is a member of Jodaiko, the international taiko ensemble led by Tiffany Tamaribuchi. As a Teaching Artist in Tucson Unified School District's Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) program, Nicole brings dance and taiko to thousands of kids each year.

Instrumental Artists

Dominic Livigni

A native Tucsonan, Dominic Livigni received both his Bachelor and Master of Music from the University of Arizona under the tutelage of Jerry Kirkbride. Dominic has performed with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the Sierra Vista Symphony, and the Tucson Repertory Orchestra. As a freelance musician, Mr. Livigni performs regularly in chamber music concerts, festivals, churches, and musical productions around the Tucson area; including the UA Presents production of Wicked in 2011. He has also performed in master classes given by such artists as Mitchell Lurie and David Shifrin. Dominic has worked for Tucson Unified School District’s Opening Minds Through the Arts (OMA) Program since 2002. Under the auspices of OMA, Mr. Livigni has performed and recorded with various ensemble, participated in the BigAZ Music Festival, and has assisted with workshops and residencies throughout the state of Arizona.

Diana Schaible

Ms. Schaible received a Bachelor's degree in Music Performance from the University of Idaho in 2011, where she studied flute with Leonard Garrison and classical guitar with James Reid. She has won prizes in guitar in the Idaho IMEA collegiate competition, MusicFest Northwest, and Northwest Guitar Festival. In 2013, she received her Master's degree in Flute Performance at the University of Arizona, where she performed in the Arizona Symphony, wind ensemble, and the Fred Fox Wind Quintet, the university's premier student ensemble. Since moving to Tucson, Diana has maintained a private flute and guitar teaching studio, and currently teaches as an OMA Teaching Artist and at various music academies in the Tucson area

Nicole Stansbury

Ms. Stansbury received her Bachelor's Degree in Dance Education from the University of Georgia in 2003. She moved to Tucson shortly after to perform with OTO Dance and other groups, including New Articulations Dance Theater and Thom Lewis Dance. In 2005, she began playing taiko through collaboration with Odaiko Sonora and OTO Dance. In addition to being a member of the Odaiko Sonora Performing Ensemble, Nicole is a member of Jodaiko, the international taiko ensemble led by Tiffany Tamaribuchi. As a Teaching Artist in Tucson Unified School District's Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) program, Nicole brings dance and taiko to thousands of kids each year.

Opera Artists

Juan Aguirre

Originally from Mexico, Juan Aguirre earned his Masters Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Arizona where he was the first- prize winner of two major Opera competitions. Juan has sung professionally since ’97 with companies such as Arizona Opera, Phoenix Metropolitan Opera, UofA Opera, Opera de Bellas Artes, S.A.S.O and Wieck Chamber singers and Orchestra. He has worked with world-renowned directors such as Tito Capobianco and performers such as legendary bass, Jerome Hines. Equally versed in popular music, Juan is a regular on Arizona stages performing in musical theatre, country, big band, and latin music concerts. He has recorded two CDs and is the founder of The Presidio Boys, a country/gospel male quartet. He performs regularly in recitals /concerts throughout Mexico and was a featured bass soloist with the Liszt Academy orchestra in Budapest Hungary, as well as having the privilege to sing for president Maduro of Honduras. Juan can also be seen and heard on both local and national television and radio as a bilingual actor and voice over artist and has appeared on a few films. When not performing he enjoys stage directing, teaching private voice, and has worked in arts integration for 11 years and has helped children write and compose over 60 original operas with Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA).

Brent Burmeister

Brent is a native Tucsonan and he began studying piano at the age of six. Before becoming a teaching artist with Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA), he spent 19 years accompanying vocalists at the U of A. He is accompanist for the Sons of Orpheus and has performed in seven international tours with them. He has also been the pianist at St Paul’s UMC for over 10 years.

Kimberly Chaffin

Ms. Chaffin (soprano), originally from Longmont, Colorado, graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance, and graduated with her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Arizona. Mrs. Chaffin has performed solo roles in the Fauré Requiem, the Mozart Requiem, Rossini's Stabat Mater, Mozart's Coronation Mass, Mozart's Mass in C Minor, and Handel's Messiah. Kimberly's operatic roles include Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, Magda in La Rondine, and Alice Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Mrs. Chaffin has performed the role of Mary for the last five years in the Arts Express production of Follow the Star. Currently, Kimberly is singing in the Arizona Opera Chorus, and involved with the OMA Program (Opening Minds through the Arts), as a Teaching Artist, and Opera Team Coordinator, Trainer and Mentor. This is a student achievement program that was developed within the Tucson Unified School District, and it integrates all the arts (opera in the first and fifth grades) with the tested core curriculum. Mrs. Chaffin is also a member of the OMA Design Team which is developing professional development for teachers and artists, and helping OMA to expand to other school districts around the country.

Greg Guenther

Mr. Guenther is from Bozeman, Montana. After earning his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Oregon, he moved to Tucson to pursue his Doctor of Musical Arts Vocal in Performance. Since arriving in Tucson in the fall of 2008, Mr. Guenther has won numerous awards combining his warm lyric baritone sound with his strong dramatic intuition. In Arizona, he has sung with UA Opera Theater, Arizona Opera, Arizona Symphony, Tucson Chamber Artists, and the UA Philharmonic. His work on the stage has taken him across the America from the Pacific Northwest, down to Arizona, and to New York City. His Operatic roles include Sid in Albert Herring, Count Robinson in Il Matrimonio Segreto, Paquillo in La Périchole, Tom in The Face on the Barroom Floor, David in Hand of Bridge, Bartley in Riders to the Sea, and The Professor in Hin und Zurück. Mr. Guenther’s oratorio work include the baritone solos in Fauré’s “Requiem,” Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass,” Handel’s ”Messiah,” and Mondoville’s “Grand Motet Psalm 18.” Prior to his dedication to classical singing, Mr. Guenther helped start the University of Oregon’s premiere a cappella group On The Rocks, which was featured in last year’s season of The Sing Off on NBC. Mr. Guenther is an Adjunct Faculty member at at Pima Community College, an OMA artist with TUSD, and maintains a private studio of voice students.

Gregg Reynolds

Mr. Reynolds was born in Nebraska. He began musical studies with his mother as teacher before he began to go to school. Over the years he studied piano and organ, trumpet, violin and viola, percussion instruments and finally harp. He has studied with famous teachers and performers in all of those instruments and has two degrees in harp performance. Currently he is a musician at St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Francis de Sales Catholic Churches, is accompanist for the Arizona Repertory Singers, and is a teaching artist with Opening Minds Through the Arts, all in Tucson, Arizona.

Vanessa Salaz

Ms. Salaz (Soprano) is very happy to have recently returned to her hometown of Tucson, AZ after over a decade of living and studying in New York and performing opera around the world. Ms. Salaz was the national first place winner of the prestigious NATS Artist Award (NATSAA) leading to her Carnegie Hall debut in Stern Auditorium in 2001 and many subsequent guest recital appearances throughout the country. She was the soprano soloist with the Tucson Boys Chorus in the Christmas Concert special, “Christmas at the Mission” which was nationally broadcast on PBS. Ms. Salaz holds a Master of Music degree and Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Arizona where she studied with Professor Charles Roe and a Professional Studies Certificate from Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Patricia McCaffrey and Warren Jones.

Theatre Artists

Angela Horchem

Ms. Angela Horchem is a mask-maker and performing teaching artist--specializing in ensemble-created physical theatre--who performs and teaches across the country and in Canada.  This year she is a Teaching Artist with TUSD's Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) program.  Thanks to support from the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona, she is creating a one-woman show called Fin which will be featured at Live Theatre Workshop in the spring of 2020.  Most recently, she completed a tour as an aerialist with the Royal Canadian Circus.  Her work draws from clown, commedia dell'arte, traditional Balinese performance, and more, and has been supported by /featured at the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona, National Endowment for the Humanities, and numerous primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions across the country.

Visual Artists

Sarah Howard

Ms. Howard received her BA of Illustration from right here in Tucson, at Southwestern University of Visual Arts (SUVA). While earning her degree, Sarah volunteered her graphic design skills to her children's elementary school, designing newsletters and brochures. She is also a published Illustrator, working closely with local author Michael D. Stofko.

Sarah has been with the OMA program for 3 years, starting on a delightful journey of arts integration right out of college. She has had the opportunity to work with many classroom teachers and their students throughout TUSD, always instructing from a firm foundational knowledge of Visual Arts and core curriculum integration strategies. Sarah always has a peaceful mannerism that comforts those who are shy of expressing themselves visually. She strives to leave tools for teachers to use that will allow them to integrate visual arts into their daily routine, instilling the notion that everyone can be an artist.