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Amazing teachers.



Julia Gish-Salerno serves as Professor of Violin and Viola at Eastern Washington University. Her accomplishments include winning first prize and the festival medal in the 2000 Seattle Young Artists Music Festival; national finalist for the String division of the 2001 MTNA collegiate competition; and being the String division Young Artist Winner of Musicfest Northwest in 2004.

Gish-Salerno has also served as concertmaster of many orchestras, including three years at the University of Michigan. During their 2004 season, the UM orchestra made the Grammy Award-winning recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, conducted by Leonard Slatkin. Julia was concertmaster and a violin soloist in that recording.

Gish-Salerno has been featured as a soloist with several orchestras, including the Walla Walla University Orchestra, Andrews University Orchestra, Northwest Philharmonia, Spokane Symphony, Ann Arbor Symphony, Southern Adventist University Symphony and, on three occasions, the Walla Walla Symphony. Julia also appeared with the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra in Prague and presented a recital for their International Diplomat Series.

While in Los Angeles, Julia enjoyed many other aspects of being a musician, including a small appearance in the 2009 movie The Soloist, the 2009 Academy Awards Governors Ball Orchestra, a PBS Documentary honoring Ella Fitzgerald, and performances with musicians like Stevie Wonder and Natalie Cole. She also participated in chamber performances with principal musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and performed in the popular Classical Underground chamber music series with her USC piano trio.

Julia started her musical training at age two. Her teachers have included Kathleen Spring, Margaret Pressley, Stephen Shipps, Lyndon Johnston-Taylor, and Martin Chalifour. Julia has been a scholarship student at several summer festivals including the Encore School for Strings, Indiana University String Academy, and four years at the Meadowmount School of Music.

Julia was awarded major scholarships for music study at the University of Michigan where she received her B.M. in violin performance, and University of Southern California, where she received her M.M. and D. M. A., respectively, in violin performance summa cum laude.



Barbara Riley grew up in Minnesota, and studied violin at the New England Conservatory in Boston. She received a Master of Music degree in Viola Performance from Western Washington University. On a visit to Japan in 1980, she met Dr. Shinichi Suzuki and returned to Bellingham, Washington, to begin teaching the Suzuki Method. In 1988, she spent two months in Matsumoto studying with Dr. Suzuki.

For over 20 years she led a busy life in Seattle, teaching violin and viola and playing in musical theater. Since moving to Ellensburg, Washington in 2005, Barbara continues to teach private lessons in her home studio as well as classes at Central Washington University through the Preparatory Strings Department. She also teaches music and movement classes to mixed groups of preschoolers, parents and seniors.

She plays fiddle in her trio, Prairie Spring, and viola with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Barbara has taught violin, viola, music reading and chamber music at many workshops and Suzuki Institutes in Seattle, Kennewick, Pullman and Walla Walla as well as Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon. She lives on a small hay farm near Ellensburg with her husband, John, their dog, Nico, and three horses.



Ruth Marie Ballance grew up as a Suzuki violin and piano student, later earning two degrees in violin performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

She has been on preparatory and university faculties in Cleveland, Rochester (New York), and Birmingham (Alabama) where she has enjoyed performing extensively as a chamber musician and working with young beginners and their parents all the way up through very advanced students.

She has taught at a number of summer workshops including several summers at Credo Chamber Music in Oberlin, Ohio, where she and some friends launched a project dear to her heart. It was called the Alaska Quartet, and they performed several summers in outreach settings, including most of the prisons in Alaska.

For the last four years, she and her cellist- and Dalcroze-teacher-husband have been building up their own Suzuki program, Ballance Talent Education, in the Seattle-Tacoma area. She currently sees thirty students every week plus group classes in Covington and on Fox Island. The rest of her time is spent playing with her two small children, reading, and being outdoors.



Benjamin Gish is the director of the Walla Walla Valley Academy String Orchestra and has a large studio of cellists and bassists ranging in age from 4 through 20-something. He is also an adjunct faculty in the music department at Walla Walla University. Several of his students have won top awards in state, regional, national competitions and major scholarships to colleges and universities.

Mr. Gish is also assistant principal cellist of the Walla Walla Symphony. He holds both a Bachelor’s degree in Music and a Master’s degree in Cello Performance and Conducting. Mr. Gish is frequently asked to be a clinician for orchestra festivals and guest cellist artist/teacher on various campuses. He also adjudicates for state and local chapters of MTNA and MENC.

For the past 25 years he has attended summer music camps across the nation in the role of student, parent, faculty and guest artist. Mr. Gish is also the director of the Walla Walla Suzuki Institute. He is married to Connie Camp Gish who teaches junior high math and science at Rogers Adventist School. They have two children, daughter Julia Gish-Salerno (violinist on faculty at Eastern Washington University, married to Tres Salerno), and son Jamie, a sophomore at Walla Walla University and a cellist in their orchestra. Ben and Connie are loving their newest role in life as the grandparents of Luci & Dru Salerno.



Priscilla Jones lives on Bainbridge Island where she maintains a private Suzuki Cello Studio for students ages four to adult. Since moving to the island in 1993, she has helped found the Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestra, and has organized a multi-age group of cellists who call themselves, “Cello Island Mania.”

Priscilla has also enjoyed playing in local concert series including Music Millennium, Soundscapes, Kitsap Opera, and Chamber Music at Bainbridge Performing Arts. She is a registered Suzuki Teacher Trainer and the Past President and Chamber Music Coordinator of the Washington State Suzuki Association.

As a cellist, Priscilla Jones has enjoyed 40 years of freelance work — symphony, chamber music and recitals including solo performances with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, South Texas Symphony, and the Oberurseler Kammer Orchester near Frankfurt, Germany, where she and her husband lived for six years.

A native of New Mexico, Priscilla graduated from the University of New Mexico with a BA in Music Education (emphasis on cello and theory/composition). She received an MM in Cello Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Teachers include Joanna deKeyser, Wolfgang Laufer, and Karl Fruh. When not with her cello, Priscilla likes to hike, bike and travel.



St. Louis, Missouri native, Bruce Walker, currently serves as Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington. Duties include teaching courses in Western Music History, second year Music Theory, Advance Aural Skills, and Director of the Columbia Basin College Orchestra. He is also Music Director for the Yakima Youth Symphony Orchestra, Cover Conductor for the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor and Conductor of Preparatory Orchestras for the Oregon East Symphony. He has previously served as Director of Orchestral Activities for the Sunnyside School District in Sunnyside, Washington, Conductor for the Kittitas Valley Youth Orchestra, Co-conductor of the Ellensburg Campus-Community Orchestra, Director of the Central Washington University Music Preparatory Strings Program, and cello/conducting intern for the Marrowstone Music Festival.

Mr. Walker has participated in some of the finest conducting workshops and music festivals across the United States such as the Marrowstone Music Festival, Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestral Musicians, various workshops sponsored by the Conductor’s Guild, Astoria Music Festival, Rose City International Conductor’s Workshop, and the University of Oregon Orchestral Conducting Institute. During the summer months since 2010, Mr. Walker works as a faculty member with the Youth Excellence on Stage/YES Academy in collaboration with American Voices, a US non-government, non-profit, cultural exchange organization. Through this organization, he has conducted, traveled, and taught in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.

As an instrumentalist, Mr. Walker remains very active as a solo performer, educator, adjudicator, and orchestral cellist. He has appeared as soloist with the Marrowstone Music Festival Orchestra and the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also held principal cello positions with the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Orchestra, Marrowstone Music Festival Orchestra, Central Washington University Symphony, Wenatchee Valley Symphony, and the Pierre Monteux School Symphony Orchestra. As a chamber musician, Mr. Walker won numerous competitions with Trio Giocoso and the DeKalb and Byron String Quartets. Currently, he is principal cellist to the Oregon East Symphony (Pendelton, Oregon), section cellist with the Walla Walla Symphony (Walla Walla, Washington), and is an on-call musician for the to the Mid-Columbia Symphony (Richland, Washington) and Yakima Symphony (Yakima, Washington).

Mr. Walker holds baccalaureate degrees in Music Education and Cello Performance from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and master degrees in Performance studying Orchestral Conducting and Cello Performance from Central Washington University. His primary teachers have been Kangho Lee and John Michel (cello) and Dr. Jeffery Meyer, Michael Jinbo, Dr. Nikolas Caoile, Kenneth Woods, and Lawrence Golan (conducting). When not on the podium, he can be found enjoying time outside around his BBQ pit and smoker and having people sample his new creations.



Cellist Valdine Ritchie Mishkin is a diverse musician, recognized both as a gifted cello teacher of all ages and an avid solo, chamber, and orchestral musician. Equally dedicated to teaching the youngest students in early education as well as training advanced cellists, Dr. Mishkin serves as adjunct faculty at Willamette University and teaches at her home studio in West Linn. She coaches chamber music and orchestral repertoire with the Portland Youth Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Youth Symphonies, judges competitions for regional and national organizations, and is a clinician for Chamber Music Camp of Portland.

Dr. Mishkin has explored a wide range of musical genres and disciplines, from period baroque to large orchestra, from live radio performances to studio recording, and from contemporary music premiers to rock/pop concerts with Josh Groban and Rod Stewart. A seasoned performer of both ensemble and solo repertoire, Valdine champions contemporary and lesser- known chamber music, most recently performing live on All-Classical FM Portland for Club Mod and March Modern. She was also heard on that station’s live radio program Thursdays at Three with David Hattner and Janet Guggenheim. Valdine serves as substitute cello with the Oregon Symphony, and previously performed with Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, and on period instruments with the Mercury Ensemble. Debuting at age 10 as a soloist with the Winnipeg Symphony, Valdine performed the Schumann Concerto with the Chehalem Symphony, and has been a featured soloist with the Mercury Ensemble, the Aurora Chorus, and Portland Boy Choir.

Valdine holds a Doctorate and Masters in Music from Rice University as a student of Lynn Harrell and Norman Fischer, a Bachelor of Music from McGill University (Montreal, Canada) as a student of Antonio Lysy, and holds both performance diplomas (A.R.C.T.) and teaching certificates in cello and piano from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto as a student of Julie Banton and Ann Lugsdin (Winnipeg). Performing across Canada, U.S.A. and Europe, Valdine’s development was shaped by such festivals as Tanglewood, Orford, Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada’s National Music Competition Festival (3rd prize winner), and Schleswig-Holstein Orchestra Academy; by masterclasses with Janos Starker, Aldo Parisot, Zara Nelsova, David Finckel, the Juilliard Quartet, and Arnold Steinhardt; and under the baton of Seiji Ozawa, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Larry Rachleff and Timothy Vernon. 



Joy Muth Fackenthall is a life-long musician. Her love for piano began at an early age, and during high school she studied piano from Dr. Robert Bowman of Chico State University.

She received her Bachelor of Music from Pacific Lutheran University (Tacoma, Washington - 2001) while studying with Dr. Jane Harty, and subsequently obtained her Master of Music in Piano Performance from Western Washington University (Bellingham, Washington - 2005) under the direction of Jeffrey Gilliam.

Joy also loves foreign languages and completed her Master of Arts in Spanish from Sonoma State University in 2015. In addition to teaching Spanish at PUC Prep and PUC Elementary in Angwin, California, she continues to perform and accompany, particularly for choral and strings ensembles.

In her spare time, she loves spending time with her husband, Peter, her two daughters, Isabella and Gabrielle, trail-running with friends, and travelling abroad.



Noel Jabagat teaches orchestra and private lessons in College Place, Washington. He has been playing the violin for 20 years and the steel drums for 15 years.

Jabagat is originally from Avon Park, Florida. He moved to Walla Walla valley to attend Walla Walla University after hearing their steel band play on their Spring Tour of Florida in 2006. He plays the violin with the Walla Walla Symphony as well as a handful of other string and wind instruments for various local performing ensembles.



Robert Vierschilling’s teaching experience includes private lessons, group classes, chamber music coaching, music theory classes, and high school guitar class. Students have ranged in age from preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, and adults. Robert’s Suzuki guitar student ensembles have performed at numerous venues including Bayview and Hearthstone Retirement Homes, the Espresso Buono and Neptune Cafes, the Seattle Classic Guitar Society (SCGS) Holiday Concert, the Northwest Guitar Festival at the University of Washington, the Suzuki Association of Washington State (SAWS) Fall Festival at Central Washington University, and the Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall. Robert’s students often perform individually and with confidence at their schools, family gatherings and other public venues.

Robert has a background in both classical guitar performance and pedagogy. After earning Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in classical guitar at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, he expanded his range as an instructor with extensive Suzuki guitar teacher training. As a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA) and the Suzuki Association of Washington State (SAWS), Robert helps young students develop their interest in music and creates opportunities for Suzuki guitar students and their families to share their musical growth. 



Sarah is a passionate educator and has given masterclasses and career workshops across the country as well as private consulting and coaching. She has been recognized for her gift to guide students and clients to solutions which provides them with valuable tools to further solve problems on their very own. Sarah uses her experience to help other musicians achieve their goals and navigate the music business successfully and effectively. 

Sarah has given guest masterclasses and career workshops at:

  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • New England Conservatory
  • University of Arizona
  • DePauw University
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Grinnell College
  • Ohio University
  • Wittenberg University
  • University of North Florida
  • Walnut Hill School
  • Boston University Tanglewood Institute
  • Eastern Washington University

She is a Music Consultant for Lincoln Center Stage and has served on the faculty of Music in Chappaqua, The Music School of New York City, the Walla Walla Suzuki Institute. She is the former co-director of the Sato Center Outreach Group at the Sato Center for Suzuki Studies in Cleveland.

Her reputation and devotion to sound practice techniques led STRINGS magazine to feature Sarah in an article, ‘The Art of Mindful Practice’, and she has served on panels for the New York State Presenters Network Panel and Young Performers Career Advancement Program where she has advised on music entrepreneurship, progressive programming and innovation for the 21st century music world.
Sarah is passionate about finding new ways to reach out to audiences.  Three years ago she founded Beyond the Notes, an interactive concert series that encourages audience interactions.  Beyond the Notes allows the audience a deeper and more personal view of the performers and their life’s journey, as well the opportunity for the performers to reach out to audience members in a more personal way. Beyond the Notes is now entering its fourth season of successful, sold out concerts.

As a member of the highly successful string quintet SYBARITE5, hailed for its innovative and creative programming, Sarah has been recognized internationally as a pioneer in helping to build a foundation for the future of chamber music in the 21st century, a future that Sarah very much intends to be a part of.


Additional teachers

We’re recruiting a few more teachers. Check back to see who else will join us this summer.