Meet Our Instructors

NWSM Music Instructors

Mallory Huerta

Executive Director, Northwest School of Music

Instructor of Piano

Mrs. Mallory Huerta began taking private music lessons at the age of 8, and continued training through her elementary school and high school careers. This eventually led to a Bachelor of Music at Eastern Oregon University, majoring in music and minoring in theatre. She has always been musically inclined with structured training in both Voice and Piano. Ms. Huerta has also had the pleasure of dabbling in violin, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone, guitar and various African drums such as the djembe and dunun. She has received training in vocal and piano performance, technique, music theory, music history, and pedagogy.

Teaching music consistently since 2007-2008, she brings skill and expertise to every music lesson. She enjoys working with all ages, but now specializes in children three to six years old. Ms. Huerta teaches with a classical focus, and incorporates solid music theory training, technique, classical repertoire, performance, and music history into training with each student.

Mrs. Huerta considers tailored teaching to each student’s learning style of utmost importance – for every individual is different. She ensures to explain and demonstrates each concept in a variety of ways that each specific student can connect and understand.

Michelle Reed

Instructor of Violin & Piano

Michelle Reed began studying the violin seventeen years ago in elementary school orchestra. After quickly falling in love with the voice of this instrument, she pursued private instruction, and constantly sought out more opportunities to play. Over the years this led to her involvement in several Klamath Falls string quartets and trios, performance in the Klamath Symphony, the Ross Ragland Theatre Pit Orchestra, and the Western Oregon Symphony. In her musical pursuits Ms. Reed felt compelled to further her piano abilities as well, and started taking both private and group lessons, and expanded this practice in college aided by aural skills and theory classes.

Ms. Reed began receiving requests to teach private lessons in Klamath Falls in 2011, and started gaining experience assistant teaching in orchestra classrooms throughout the Klamath Falls City Schools District. Through all of this, and after instructing a variety of violin classes at the Klamath Symphony Summer String Camp for three consecutive summers, Ms. Reed quickly developed a deep passion for teaching. She went on to direct this camp in 2013, 2018, and is excited to be preparing the camp for 2019!

Since finishing her Bachelor of Arts from Western Oregon University in 2015, Ms. Reed has moved to Salem and spends her days Substitute Teaching for the Salem-Keizer School District, teaching Orchestra at Abiqua Academy, and currently plays in the Salem Philharmonia, the Rainy Day Quartet, and the touring orchestral-rock band Yaquina Bay.

Above all else, Ms. Reed believes in exploring the full range and power of the violin, and strives to understand each student’s individual strengths and struggles with this instrument. In her lessons she prioritizes helping each student develop a personal sense of musicality through exposure to a generous variety of styles and sounds. Ms. Reed intends to inspire dedication through meaningful practice, helping students establish essential technical foundations, a well-rounded understanding of musical concepts, and a passion to reach new goals each week, month, and year!

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the divine.”  -Ludwig Van Beethoven

Carly Eilers, Piano Teacher Salem oregon

Carly Eilers

Instructor of Piano

Ms. Carly Eilers began taking private piano lessons in 2002 from Rebecca Hedman, and then from Barbara Van Vliet from 2010-2015. Throughout elementary and high school, she participated in annual piano adjudications, and was additionally involved in local competitions during her high school years. Carly has received master lessons from instructors such as Kay Zavislak, Jody Graves, Yelena Balabanova, and Oksana Ezhokina. Since 2009, she has accompanied various choirs, including those from Burlington-Edison High School and Skagit Valley College. Most recently, she was the rehearsal accompanist for Corban University’s Concert Choir, as well as for various solo instrument/vocal lessons and performances at the school. Carly is a 2018 graduate of Corban University, where she studied privately under Peggy Dougherty, receiving her degree in Music Performance with a Concentration in Piano. Prior to her undergraduate studies, she has had 3 years of private piano teaching experience (2012-2015).

Carly believes her role as a teacher is to partner with her students in the learning process. She wants to mutually pursue dedication, excellence, consistent growth, and a love for music alongside her students. This is accomplished by maintaining consistent practice, developing healthy technique, understanding music theory and notation, and refining musical expression, both in practice and performance. She wants to encourage her students not to see music as an end in itself, but as a means to enrich the lives of others and convey truths which are inadequately expressed in words. Because every student possesses a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses, Carly believes in the importance of adjusting teaching strategies to the student’s personality, learning style, and individual goals. She loves working with students of all ages, although her primary experience has been with elementary and high school students of varying levels and proficiency.

Melody Morrison, Piano Instructor, Salem Oregon

Melody Morrison

Instructor of Piano

Melody Morrison is a recent graduate of the Masters in Piano Performance and Pedagogy program at University of Idaho’s Lionel Hampton School of Music. During her time at U of I, Morrison won the 2016-17 University of Idaho Concerto Competition and the 2016-17 Washington-Idaho Symphony’s Young Artist Competition. As a result, Melody was given the opportunity to perform with the Washington Idaho Symphony as a guest soloist during the 2017-18 concert season.

Melody also holds a Bachelor of Science in Piano Performance from Corban University in Salem, OR. During the course of her undergraduate study at Corban, she served as pianist and percussionist in Jazz Band, assistant principal second violinist in Chamber Orchestra, and accompanist for Chamber Choir. She also appeared as a guest soloist with the Corban University Concert Band and was a recipient of the 2016 Music Performance Award. Melody holds much accompanying experience, and enjoys collaborating with all types of instrumentalists and ensembles. Melody enjoys performing in all venues and plays solo, duo, and jazz ensemble gigs across the state.

Ms. Morrison has been playing piano since the age of five and has been teaching private lessons since 2011. Melody uses all of her past and present musical experiences to enhance her teaching in creative approaches and aims for each student to learn about and love music, while having fun along the way. She has taught students ages ranging anywhere from ages 3-70 and has taught styles from baroque to modern pop.

Melody believes in continual growth as a teacher and musician and is currently taking lessons from Dr. Thomas Otten. In August 2018, she participated in Chetham’s Summer School for Pianists in Manchester, UK, where she received classes from master teachers from around the world.

Melody also values professional development and is an active member of MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) and serves as the Membership Chair of the Oregon state division. Additionally, she is in the process of becoming a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM). Melody has also presented at various conferences across the country and is presenting a poster session titled “The Education, Experience, and Enjoyment of Jazz in Piano Lessons” at the MTNA National Conference in March 2019. In addition to this, Melody is involved in several piano teaching forums and associations where she shares ideas with other teachers across the world and attempts to keep up with the latest trends and discoveries in piano pedagogy.

Trevor Fischer, Instructor of Guitar and Cello

Trevor Fischer

Instructor of Guitar & Cello

Trevor Fischer is a composition and instrumental performance major at WOU, and possess nine years of musical experience on the cello and guitar. Throughout his years of involvement in music, Trevor has played in All City Orchestra, Salem Youth Symphony, Salem Philharmonia Orchestra, and has been inducted into the International Thespian Society for his contribution to the musicals put on by McKay High School. Trevor also has experience playing bass guitar, baroque guitar, baroque cello, ukulele, violin, mandolin, and piano, and has played music genres spanning from classical and metal, to jazz and samba.

Trevor currently plays guitar in an alternative band (The Ferenjis), and aspires to compose and arrange music for films like Interstellar and Whiplash, while still expanding his knowledge of music theory and performance skills. He hopes not only to pass on his knowledge to his students, but also wants to inspire the youth to find their voice within music to create a personalized relationship with art. Whether the student wants to master repertoire, write their own song, or learn a song for fun, Trevor plans to provide the essential tools to make it happen.

Jake Cokeley

Instructor of Piano

Jake Cokeley began studying classical piano in 1993 while finishing high school in New Haven, CT. At that time, he also studied music theory and composition at Yale University. These early experiences gave Jake a strong foundation throughout his musical career. He spent many years in Chicago where he wrote and performed music for a small three piece group.

In 2004, Jake moved to Tiennen Belgium where he also played with several small groups for about three years: before returning to the States in 2007. Jake began teaching locally a little under two years ago. He is currently completing an undergraduate degree in Composition at Western Oregon University. He plans to continue his education by pursuing a graduate degree as well as maintaining a healthy studio of individual students with private lessons.

Evie Herndon

Instructor of Piano, Kindermusic, & Beginning Voice

Evie Herndon began taking private piano lessons at age 7, once her mom “caught” her playing a song by ear that she had heard on the ice cream truck.  Although she is classically trained, she grew up favoring improvisation, songwriting, and playing “by ear” over her classical studies.  These hobbies (that sometimes interfered with her classical practice!) informed her jam sessions with numerous bands, as well as her own songwriting career.  Evie has recorded two albums of original music (and can be found in itunes as “Evie Haskell”), and has won several songwriting competitions.  She continues to write and perform locally today.

Evie graduated with her BA in music in 2006 from Bethany University with a focus in piano and voice, as well as music education. She immediately began teaching music, and has since taught hundreds of students, ages 1/5-70, in Kindermusik classes, elementary schools, junior high and high school ensembles, glee clubs, and private and group piano lessons. 

Evie believes in a creative, holistic approach to teaching music.  Her classes and private lessons are active, playful, and complete, as she uses games and movement to accomplish a fun and thorough approach to music.  Her lessons give students training in music literacy, performance, theory, technique, and improvisation/songwriting.  Her aim as a teacher is cultivate love and literacy of music for life in each student she instructs. 

Kurleen Nowickas

Instructor of Voice

Kurleen Nowickas is passionate about sharing music with others through singing,
acting, and teaching. In addition to being a classically trained singer, Kurleen enjoys
singing jazz, pop, and the music of her Caribbean heritage (reggae, zouk, calypso…). Some of her recent engagements have been with Portland Opera, Enlightened Theatrics, Cosmic Tomato Productions, Willamette Master Chorus, The Shedd, Salem Pops Orchestra, and The CheeseBurgers Band.

Kurleen received her Bachelor of Music degree from Western Oregon University, and she studied opera at The American Institute of Musical Studies, in Austria. She is currently a graduate student at Oregon State University, pursuing her masters in teaching music.

Kurleen has taught private voice lessons for the past eight years. In her voice lessons, she focuses on artistry, vocal technique and building repertoire. Kurleen’s singing and teaching are both heavily influenced by Body Mapping. Body Mapping is a system that helps students to learn more efficient vocal technique. It emphasizes tension free singing and movement.
Kurleen is delighted to be an instructor at Northwest School of Music. It is truly an honor for her to work with students of all ages and musical levels. Kurleen finds joy in helping students discover and develop their voice.

Brandon Franko

Instructor of Voice

Brandon Franko is a graduate student at Western Oregon University. He has a bachelors degree in vocal performance and audio production, and is currently working on his masters degree in vocal performance focusing in jazz and pop music. Brandon has had a love for music from a very young age and this has led to him being involved in choral and jazz choirs since 2005, as well as being involved in his own private voice lessons since 2010. He has received several different awards throughout school and music festival attendance. Some of these awards include Outstanding Choir Member, Outstanding Audio Engineer, and his latest, Outstanding Musicianship at the 2019 Reno Jazz Festival.

Brandon’s years of being involved in choir have allowed him to travel and perform in places such as Alaska, Ukraine, Budapest, and Rio de Janeiro. His involvement in music has also allowed him to work with people such as Jennifer Madsen, Greg Jasperse, Peter Eldridge, and Sara Gazarek. He also had the opportunity to be a background singer for the great Allen Toussaint. 

In his free time, Brandon likes to compose and arrange his own music, as well as professionally record for himself and others. He has recorded several songs of his own and has been the recording engineer behind some other local artists’ projects. 

Brandon has received training in vocal performance, recording studio performance, music history, choral literature, ethnomusicology, music theory, vocal technique, improvisation, and listening skills/aural musicianship. He brings all of these features to every lesson and tailors each one carefully so it is catered to the students’ wants and needs. He is a firm believer that confidence and fun are two major keys to performing, and pledges to give his students whatever they need in order to feel confident and have fun on stage.


Kaylie VanOcker

Instructor of Trumpet, Guitar, & Ukulele

Kailey VanOcker has been involved in music since she was very young. Beginning piano lessons at five years old, her interests expanded into the guitar and trumpet when she entered middle school. Through grades 6-12, she participated in several ensembles, and performed at various jazz festivals including the Lionel Hampton Jazz Fest in Moscow, Idaho. 

Kailey attended college at Eastern Oregon University. While there, she took private trumpet, guitar, and vocal lessons. Kailey also performed in many musical groups including brass quintets, women’s choir, drum line, jazz ensemble, percussion ensemble, and bluegrass ensemble. 

Besides giving music lessons at NWSM, Kailey is currently involved in a music project called Sum People. She is also working on obtaining an MFA in creative writing. 


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