City School of the Arts Faculty

Faculty & Student Spotlight

April 2024 Student of the Month: Estelle Knurek

April 2024 Student of the Month: Estelle Knurek

Estelle is 11 years old and is homeschooled. She has been attending Charter Oak Cultural Center for 2 years. In that time, she has taken Piano, Arts and Crafts and Violin. Currently Estelle is enjoying taking Violin for her 4th semester.  

When asked what she likes about playing violin, Estelle reports is makes her happy and she has fun playing with the class. She has fond memories learning and playing piano at Charter Oak but Violin is her favorite right now. The song that she loves to play is ‘The Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson. 

Free time brings Estelle outside to jump and take photos of buildings. Her favorite fields of study is Health, especially diet, exercise. She aspires to be a surgeon or sales person. Her sales passion comes from a love of selling her own crafts to others. She makes art, jewelry and clay pieces and sells them. 

A fun fact about Estelle is that she has a passion for geography and she can identify every flag in the world!  

Estelle looks forward to studying Violin and piano she is interested in learning Accordion!  Estelle enjoys Charter Oak Cultural Center Teachers for making the lessons informative and fun! She likes the community and meeting other students. She and her family enjoy attending the showcase events and the Nomads Christmas event.  

March 2024 Student of the Month: Jaelie Lanier

March 2024 Student of the Month: Jaelie Lanier

Jaelie is in 11th grade at Rockville High School she is 16 years old

Jaelie has been attending Charter Oak for over 2 years. She has taken Cooking, Salsa Dance, Poetry, Painting and drawing and is currently in Brass Band where she plays the Clarinet. 

Last year she was playing the flute, her teacher guided her to the clarinet. She is learning to read music and play notes.  

Jaelie often comes to class after a full day of school and she tries to leave the day behind and enter Charter oak with ‘Brave mind’ especially when she has had a bad day.  

One of Jaelie’s favorite memories is dancing to Nicki Minaj and she entered and preformed in a talent show at school singing a favorite Nicki Minaj song!

Jaelie likes to make up her own songs on the clarinet. She loves to improvise and make music that goes along with how she is feeling. 

In School Jaelie reports a love of English class since she has taken poetry at Charter oak. She has gotten A’s in English since she has taken poetry and reports that taking the poetry class has opened her vocabulary. 

Jaelie was an only child most of her life, but in 2021 her baby sister has change that!  Jaelie is devoted to her sister and loves making arts and crafts projects with her and 

Some of her favorite things to do is work at JC Penny where she enjoys helping customers, write in her journal and play with her baby sister. 

Jaelie loves to mentor that younger students in class with her helping them makes her happy.  She enjoys helping others and making them feel safe.

Jaelie is planning to attend college after High School and she knows music and dance will always be in her life.  

Jaelie’s mom is happy to be able to be part of the “Charter Oak Family” they attend many of the family programs and parties. They also benefit from the To Assure Us zoom workshops for our families, that span many important topics.  

April 2022 Student of the Month: Andrea Cotto-Juarbe

April 2022 Student of the Month: Andrea Cotto-Juarbe

Andrea Cotto-Juarbe is a 13-year-old student at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy in Hartford, Connecticut. She has been a Youth Arts student for a year and attends the program alongside her sister one night a week. Andrea has a love for music and gymnastics and is an aspiring author. She believes that music can positively impact the lives of others as it has done for her.

Andrea has played the Viola for four years, but it is not the first instrument she learned to play. She played the violin for two years before switching to the Viola. “I like the viola better because it has a deeper, darker sound,” Andrea explained.

Andrea plays the Viola with her school orchestra and the Hartford All-City Youth Orchestra at Charter Oak Cultural Center.

Andrea first became interested in string instruments in elementary school. “I wanted to try something new,” Andrea explained. All her friends were getting into sports, but Andrea decided to pick up the violin. “I became the classical person in my friend group.”  When I asked Andrea about one thing that music has taught her, she explained that she learned that you “definitely have to practice a lot.” “If you want to get better or be the best, you have to practice.” Andrea also expressed the positive impact that music has had in her life. “When I was going through a depressive state, music helped me a lot,” Andrea explained. “I want to continue pursuing music because it can help people out of a depressive state like I was in.”

When Andrea is not participating in some form of musical performance, she is writing. Romance novels inspire Andrea, her favorite being The Inheritance Games. She is currently writing a book titled The Language of a Criminal. While Andrea keeps most of her writing in her room, she hopes to share it with others someday and is looking forward to taking writing classes at the Youth Arts Institute over the summer. 

In addition to playing the viola and writing, Andrea is a gymnast. “I was in gymnastics for seven years until COVID started.” The Olympian Gabby Douglas inspired Andrea’s love for gymnastics. When I asked what Andrea was looking forward to in high school, she explained that she hopes to take honors classes to get into a good college. One school that is on her radar is UCLA. “I watched the gymnastics movie Full Out,” Andrea explained. “UCLA has a really popular coach, and they have a gymnastic gym.” 

If music could take Andrea anywhere, she hopes to go to Paris, France. The romance capital of the world. After she builds a solo career in music and becomes a world-renown novelist, Andrea wants to be a pediatrician. “In my family, there are a lot of kids,” Andrea explained. “They always need guidance, and I want to help them.”

Youth Arts Institute April Teacher of the Month

Youth Arts Institute April Teacher of the Month

Charter Oak’s Youth Arts Institute APRIL TEACHER OF THE MONTH is HENRY OLIVO a.k.a. Savage Henry


Henry Olivo, also known as Savage Henry in the dance world, has been Breakdancing and competing for 15 years as well as teaching dance for 8 years. Actively training the dance in Hartford, New York City and Boston, he takes the knowledge and understanding from these places and brings them back to share with his students. He currently runs classes for our Youth Arts program at SAND elementary, Wish elementary and Charter Oak Cultural Center. In his spare time, he loves to learn new languages and is now studying Russian and Spanish. Thanks for sharing your talents with our students Henry!

March 2022 Student of the Month: Natalia Reyes

March 2022 Student of the Month: Natalia Reyes

MEET NATALIA, OUR MARCH 2022 Y.A.I. STUDENT OF THE MONTH!

Natalia Reyes is a 12-year-old student at Renzulli Academy in Hartford, Connecticut. She has been a Youth Arts student for four years and continues to attend the program two nights a week.  Natalia is passionate about music, loves to sing, and laugh with her friends.

 Natalia has played the violin for three years. “When I was four or five, I had a toy violin, and ever since, I wanted to play the violin professionally,” Natalia explained. She plays the clarinet as well. “I always wanted to be a part of a band. And to get into Funky Dawgz, I had to play a brass instrument.” Today, Natalia plays both instruments at Renzulli Academy and Charter Oak Cultural Center through Funky Dawgz and the Hartford All-City Youth Orchestra.  

 In addition to playing in orchestra and band, Natalia practices both instruments for 30-minutes every day. “I use my left hand a lot,” Natalia explained as she presented her red index finger. “I don’t mind; I pick at my fingers anyway.”

 Natalia has made so many memories around music. Her favorite memory so far was during orchestra practice at school.  “One time, I dropped my violin. I asked my friend to grab my violin while it was slipping, but she didn’t hear me”, Natalia explained. “When the violin hit the floor, my chin rest came off. My teacher began to panic, trying to stop me from crying. She glued it back on so that my mom didn’t have to pay for it. I never told my mom.” Natalia looks back on this memory and can’t help but laugh at how much she cried and how quickly her teacher and friend came to the rescue.

 Natalia’s favorite piece to play is Bandology by Eric Osterling. “It sounds cool with everyone,” she explained. “Sometimes in my band at school, you only hear the clarinets, but it’s fun.” Eric Osterling’s grandson is coming to an upcoming concert at Natalia’s school. Natalia says that she’s not nervous. “I’m not going to be able to tell who he is anyway,” she explained.

 When Natalia is not playing one of her instruments, she is singing. Natalia one day hopes to join Vocal Ensemble at Charter Oak but is nervous about singing in public. “I’m scared of showing my voice to people,” Natalia explained, “I haven’t in a long time.”

 For a career, Natalia hopes to become a veterinarian for large animals. “I love cows and horses. I think they’re so cool.” Last year Natalia had the chance to interact with them at a zoo, “one of the cows licked me!” While her focus will be on large breed animals, Natalia has a soft spot for bunnies and says she will always make time to take care of them.

Charter Oak’s Got Talent

Charter Oak’s Got Talent

Two of our Youth Arts Institute students – Saagariha and Sarvariha Sunoj – were winners of the Be a Friend Lip Sync Contest!

Their mother sent Charter Oak a nice note:

My daughters got an opportunity to participate in a lip sync battle organized by Be A Friend Project. The theme was to raise awareness of social bullying. As a proud parent, I am excited to announce that Saagariha and Sarvariha are chosen as the WINNERS of the ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CATEGORY for DUO PERFORMANCE with the highest scores combined for originality/creativity, dramatic expression, lip sync ability and portrayal of the Social Bullying theme. Charter Oak always empowers their community through the integrated study of theatre acts and arts. The encouragement given by you drives the interest for them to participate in this contest. Thank you very much.

Congratulations, Saagariha and Sarvariha. We hope you enjoy their performance!

City School of the Arts Faculty

Rashawn Asberry

Rap

Keenan Asbridge

Music

Kevin Bishop

Music

Wendy Bradley

Art Therapy

Emma Burke

Cooking

Betsy Carnes

Art

Lyla Cho

Violin

Cheryl Cianci

Art/Zentangle

Taris (Poptart) Clemons

Dance

Jackie Comandini

Dance

Adam Cormier

Theater

Melissa Craig

Dance

Damian Curtis

Music

Monique Davis

Yoga

Gwenath Douglas

Music

Melanie Faranello

Writing

Tiffany Frisenda

Art

Orice Jenkins

Music

Alycia Jenkins

Dance

Olivia Jenkins

Art

Wallis Johnson

Theater/Music

Peyton Johnson

Music

Calida Jones

Music

Savanah Jones

Dance

Gilia Jose

Dance

khaiim Kelly

Rap

Rebekah Kennedy

Music

Brandi Kilbourne

Dance

Kerry Kincy

Dance Therapy

Mary Krush

Music

Bette-Ann Libin

Dance

Jennifer Lizondro

Dance

Dylan Lomangino

Music

Tiger (Randorn) Luangpraseuth

Dance

Mike Marsters

Music

Cindy Martinez

Theater

Marvin McNeill

Music

Jeff McQuillan

Creative Arts

Helena Morris

Theater

Rita Neil

Cooking

Henry Olivo

Dance

Jocelyn Pleasant

Music

Peter Reynolds

Dance

Brad Roth

Dance Therapy

Roberto Sanchez

Rap

Cathy Santiago

House Managing

Pierre Sylvan

Art

Adam Szulczewski

Music

Brittana (Versitile) Tatum

Rap

Matthew Walker (Sagacity)

Rap

Andrew Wilcox

Music

Kirk Woodard

Music

Joe Young

Art