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 Our Teachers 


Louisa Gonzales


Louisa began her college studies for Piano Performance at Scottsdale Community College in 2014. Under the direction of Dr. Andrew O’Brien, she studied various types of music theory, aural perception, and studied many classical works such as Bach, Chopin, and Liszt. She received her Associates in Arts in 2017 and decided to pursue a Music Business degree. Louisa will be attending Arizona State University to pursue an interdisciplinary degree with the concentrations of Music and Business, Class of 2021. Originally a self-taught musician, Louisa learned styles of music from classical to rock on piano and cello. She enjoys learning and teaching music through theory and rote.

Andrew Hughes

   Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Mandolin, Piano

Andrew Hughes began playing guitar in his early teens. His grandmother taught him how to play, going over gospel and classic country songs. With the basics in place, Andrew turned his focus to rock music, learning songs by his favorite artists like Led Zeppelin, Queen, and Guns N’ Roses. 


Andrew studied classical guitar at Reinhardt University with Dr. Matthew Anderson. Working with Dr. Anderson sparked an interest for teaching guitar, wanting to share the joy of creating music with as many people as possible. 


Andrew started teaching part time at Music Authority in Cumming, Georgia in August of 2019. He discovered how rewarding teaching was, and he was able to grow his studio large enough to teach full time. Andrew teaches guitar, bass, ukulele, and mandolin.

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Charlie Kowitt

Piano, Guitar


Charlie Kowitt is an experienced, dedicated musician who teaches his students to stay curious and love music for life. Charlie's teaching philosophy is the result of his passion for music and a wealth of performance experiences spanning 15 years. At 17, he led a statewide drumline ambassadorship to Europe where he toured and performed in 7 countries. Locally, he has performed at many venues including the Marquee Theater and the Sedona Performing Arts Center, and leads worship services at A Prayer Away Church. In addition to live performance, Charlie has contributed to nearly a dozen albums by various bands and recording artists such as Beretta Sun and Metamorphestra, playing a variety of instruments. Charlie is proudest of sharing music with his students as a means of cultivating self-reliance, emotional depth and confidence through practice, education, and performance.

Christina Lafferty

Owner, Voice, Piano

 Christina Lafferty began her musical career at Mesa Community College and continued her undergraduate at Grand Canyon University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Music. She has studied voice with Dr. Cathy Hauan and Carol Jennings. Christina also enjoyed the opportunity to perform as a Soprano in Dr. Craig Peterson’s Canto Vivo Chorale. She has been teaching since 2016, and in August of 2022, Christina took over as owner of Blooming Cactus Music. As an instructor in piano and voice, Christina focuses heavily on note reading and rhythm, and healthy technique. It is her goal as a teacher to help students realize that music theory is fun and exciting! Christina’s areas of interest are in music theory, vocal pedagogy, and ethnomusicology.

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Grace Otto

Voice, Piano

Grace Otto is an independent pop singer/songwriter currently residing in Phoenix Arizona.  Her musical journey started on her grandfather's lap while he played jazz piano standards and fakebooks.  After that, she found her voice on community theater stages, where eventually she found her unique style of writing both for plays and for piano/pop music.  She became a serial open mic performer, playing all around her college town of Tucson Arizona.  What started as something fun to do on Tuesday and Thursday nights turned into a deep passion.  After she graduated from the University of Arizona in 2019  (BA-Theater; emphasis in playwriting/original works) she knew she had to give music a shot. At the University of Arizona, she studied voice with Monty Ralston, Mike Padilla and eventually with Youtube voice educator and author Sam Johnson.  At the core of all of her artistic endeavors is revolutionary love and dedication to expressing her small corner of the kaleidoscope of humanity.  Although she is new to teaching, she is over the moon to start this new adventure and hopes she can inspire her students with bold joy, at the piano or in vocal training.

David Paonessa



David is a musician from Phoenix, AZ.  After playing in piano and trumpet in grade school, David continued his passion for music at Mesa Community College and Arizona State University, studying with acclaimed pianists Nick Manson and Mike Kocour.   He can be found teaching and playing regularly at local venues throughout the Valley of the Sun. Career highlights include Orchestra musician for Phoenix Theater’s Production of Mama Mia, Orpheum Theater’s Director’s Choice Ballet, and sharing the stage with  nationally acclaimed musician Chris Mann at the Musical Instrument Museum.


Liam Pluntke

Guitar, Piano, Voice

Liam Pluntke is a composer/singer-songwriter who is studying music theory and composition at Arizona Christian University. He currently owns the rights to a small music publishing business, Sonoran Heat Records, and has started releasing music in the past couple years. He is working on releasing many more original songs and compositions in the near future. He started learning how to play piano at the age of eight, and has picked up many other instruments since then such as guitar, banjo, drums, and his personal favorite, charango. He has studied guitar, drums, composition, and voice under a plethora of talented teachers. He hopes he can help cultivate a stronger music culture in Phoenix through a variety of songs and orchestral works.

                                 Ryan Shrode

            Piano, Voice, Strings, Guitar, Percussion


Ryan Shrode is an alumni of the San Francisco

Conservatory of Music where he received his

B.M. in Double Bass performance under the tutelage

of Scott Pingel (Principal Bass of the SFS).
While at the conservatory he received master classes

from many of the greatest living musicians such as,

Yo-Yo Ma, Edger Meyer, and Emanuel Ax.

He has played with many of the Bay Area’s orchestras

as well as in numerous ensembles ranging from

Rock to Jazz and everything in between.
He completed his M.M. at SFSU where he studied under

Shinji Eshima (Associate Principal of SF Ballet) and

Joe Lescher (Principal of SF Opera). He won the SFSU

Concerto Competition in 2016 and performed the Bottesini Bass Concerto No.2 with the SFSU orchestra.
Ryan began playing electric bass at 15 and recorded his first album at 16 after winning 1st place in NMHS Talent Competition. Soon after he began to study Jazz, Classical and composition. At18, for his senior project he composed and performed his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra with the North and South Medford Orchestras.
He taught in San Francisco for 7 years and has worked with students aging from four years old to sixty-five.


“Everything in art is a variation of a few fundamental principals”

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