CHSMA Welcomes New Faculty: Claire Chatelaine, Dr. Jay Pierson, and Melody Rike!

We are pleased to welcome three excellent teachers to our faculty!

clairec250CLAIRE CHATELAIN (VIOLIN)  Claire received both her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and her Master’s Degree in Education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA. She brings to CHSMA a wonderful variety of teaching and performing skills. Most recently, she was a school Orchestra Director in the Roanoke Public Schools where she taught students grades 4-8 daily. Prior to that, she worked with the Virginia Tech String Project, where she served as a master teacher, working with students aged 9-18 and mentoring student teachers and arranging for and providing performances for the community.

She was also Director of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra After-School Program, where she developed curriculum, including theory and technique, led rehearsals and took students out in the community for performance opportunities. Claire is a deeply committed teacher who is comfortable working with students of all ages and is passionate about expanding their technique, their ensemble work and their love of the arts.


jaypDR. JAY PIERSON (VOICE) Jay has had a successful and fulfilling career as an educator, singer, conductor, pianist, harpist, and composer, spanning almost three decades. Former Head of the Voice Department and Opera Workshop at Bucknell University, (where he was awarded the Harold and Gladys Cook Award for Excellence in Teaching), former Associate Professor of Music at the School of Music at East Carolina University, and former Adjunct Voice Faculty at Santa Clara University and UNC-CH, Pierson has taught studio voice, diction, song literature, opera history, voice pedagogy, and conducting at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. He has presented master classes in vocal technique at many colleges and universities throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Jay holds a B.M.E degree from Olivet College, and the M.M. and D.M.A. in Voice Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music.

He debuted in NYC in Handel’s “Imeneo” at Merkin Hall with a subsequent solo recital at Carnegie Hall with pianist Robert Spillman. Jay has appeared as soloist with the Rochester Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, Prince William Symphony, Washington DC Bach Consort, Buffalo Philharmonic, and the North Carolina Symphony. He has also sung lead and comprimario roles with Austin Lyric Opera,  Rochester Opera Theatre, Opera Under the Stars, Coastal Carolina Opera, Brighton Light Opera, Art Park Opera, White Iris Light Opera, and Meredith Opera, and was on the faculty of the Bach Aria Group at SUNY-Stonybrook.  In 1992 he toured Greece singing concerts of American Music and teaching at the State Music Conservatory of Thessoloniki, sponsored by the US Information Services and Fulbright Scholar Program.

Jay’s musical theater credits include Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls”, Padre in “Man of LaMancha”, Gangster in “Kiss me Kate”, Frank Butler in “Annie Get your Gun”, Matt in “The Fantasticks”, and Paul in the world premiere of the new musical “Stay With Me”.  Jay loves teaching students of all voice types and interests and is looking forward to working with students at CHSMA.


Melodyr250MELODY RIKE (VIOLA, VIOLIN) Melody’s viola studies began in Chicago at Northwestern University, after which she continued with the Chicago Symphony’s Principle violist, Milton Preves, until accepting a job with the Orquesta Symphonica de Xalapa in Mexico. She next studied in NYC at the Manhattan School of Music with imminent violist Paul Doktor and lastly, with Nobuko Imai, another premier violist.

Her first years were involved with orchestral performance, freelance work, and teaching. With Chicago Symphony she had the privilege of playing with some of the most talented musicians in the country and in the Chicago Chamber Orchestra she served as Assistant Principle Violist for over a decade while simultaneously maintaining a full roster of Suzuki violin students. Next, in SC she was a founding board member for the Long Bay Symphony and founder and violist in the Upton String Quartet, a South Carolina Arts Council approved project, where she toured the state introducing young people to classical music. In addition to these activities, she led a busy family life, taught a full roster of students, and played two seasons in Charleston Symphony.

She is still passionate about violin and viola education and believes that it is never too late to learn something new. Her students are taught in a warm, supportive, and welcoming environment and she particularly enjoys working with motivated adults or high school students no matter the level.

“Disney Music” Day Madly Successful!

CHSMA’s students participated in events celebrating the wonderful and iconic music of Disney.  This year, our events were themed on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland.  We constructed a giant tree in our classroom featuring colorfully lit lanterns, clocks that were precisely right two times a day, and the enigmatic Cheshire Cat.  Tables were decorated with flowers and perilously perched teacup sculptures.  Our children’s party was lead by the Mad Hatter (Freddy Perkins), the White Rabbit (Fonda Laughlin) and Alice (Meris Robinson).  Students played musical games and participated in enthusiastic sing-alongs.  After the sun set, the room was set up for our adult students and their guests.  Adult students and teachers alike enjoyed a casual and festive get together where some performed, some enjoyed the performance, and some were eventually convinced to join the former group by the end of the evening.



We’re thrilled to welcome Mila Vaswani to our faculty!

Mila started playing piano at the age of 5. Mila was growing in the family of musicians so everyone was playing , singing ,performing and teaching. Her mother often took her to concerts and various music festivals and events. From very early age Mila loved ballet and insisted that her parents would take her to see the ballet as she was enchanted by the stories told in movement and set to a incredible music, it all seemed magical to her.

Mila decided to pursue piano study seriously at the age of 9 when she had auditioned and gained admittance to the music school for specially gifted children in Moscow, Russia. There she studied with a renowned teacher and concert pianist Alexander Bakulov.  During those formative years Mila participated in a great number of musical festival and regional competitions. Mila continued her studies at the Music Conservatory in Ukraine where she earned her Bachlor’s and Master’s Degrees in Piano Performance and Teaching.

In 1993 Mila moved to United States where she started teaching general classroom music in New York and New Jersey public schools as well as privately in her own piano studio. She became a Doctoral student at TC Columbia University at the Department of Music Education where she has greatly expanded her teaching methods and approaches. She has taken a variety of classes on Jazz improvisation and music composition which greatly informs her current teaching style.

She performed solo and chamber recitals in New York and prepared a few of her piano students for music festivals and recitals.

Mila always starts at the student’s level and interest and she believes that it is the student who should sets the pace and goals for his music journey. Many times, along the way, the pace and goals might change as the student develops his own tastes and preferences.  Students learn the best in a no pressure environment and when they choose their own repertoire.

CHSMA Open on Feb 4th (Water Shortage Announcement)

The greater Chapel Hill/Carrboro area is currently under a total water usage ban.  Due to the low level of water reserves after the pipe break, the community has been told to use only bottled water for drinking, cooking, personal hygiene and the flushing of toilets.
As of now, CHSMA is planning on being open for business as usual for lessons at the school and we will go forward with recitals at the Community Church of Chapel Hill.  It is likely that we will not have drinking water available all day.  It is also likely that we will not have enough water to operate our restrooms as usual.  We are attempting to bring in some water for flushing from outside of Orange County, but this will be necessarily limited and kept in reserve for emergencies.  Luckily, CHSMA’s studio is located very close to the boundary between municipal water lines.  The closest public restrooms with full access to water will be on the other side of highway 40 (likely the shops and restaurants in New Hope Commons).  These are approximately 5-8 minutes away.
If you are unable to attend your lesson due to the lack of potable water or toilet facilities, please let your teacher know ASAP so they may schedule a make-up lesson.

CHSMA’s Winter Break

CHSMA will be closed for Winter Break from Thursday, December 22nd through Wednesday, January 4th.  Lessons will resume on Thursday, January 5th.  If you need to reach us during this time, please email us at or leave a message on the phone.  We wish you and yours a happy and prosperous holiday season!