Meet Our Master Teachers
Nicole Lippey (Artistic Director): Nicole is the artistic director and founder of A Work of Heart Productions! For 4 years, WHP has been producing shows throughout New Jersey and NYC. Since its creation, Nicole has produced over 30 Off-Broadway shows in New York City with professional actors and singers.
Some of her favorite productions are Godspell (54 Below), Little Women (54 Below), Sister Act (54 Below), and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (The Bickford Theatre). This past summer, Nicole performed and produced as The Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods at The Bickford Theatre in Morristown, NJ. Nicole also wrote, directed and produced her One Woman Show, “Not Afraid To Fall” at Feinstein’s/54 Below to a sold out audience. A director, performer, producer and writer, Nicole is also a passionate and dedicated teacher. She has directed and assistant directed various children’s productions. She also teaches private voice lessons throughout New Jersey. Nicole is a graduate from Seton Hall University with a B.A. in Theatre Performance. During her education, Nicole taught abroad in Quilotoa and Esmeradas, Ecuador and studied at The Globe Theater in London, England. She also attended The Stella Adler Studio of Acting's Evening Conservatory Program in New York City. Nicole currently studies with her mentor, Tony Nominee Erin Dilly who she models her mission statement after. Nicole teaches students to not only be grounded and confident performers; she urges them to be kind, passionate and driven. She reminds her students to never compare themselves to others and to ride the energy of their own unique spirit.
Angelo DeFazio (Artistic Director): Angelo De Fazio holds a Masters degree in Educational Theatre from New York University and a degree in Theatre Performance and Communication from Seton Hall University, where he is an Adjunct Professor of Communication and The Arts. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Communication and Theatre at the College of Saint Elizabeth, Adjunct Professor of Communication at Montclair State University, and teacher of Fine/Performing Arts & Music at Our Lady of Sorrows School in South Orange. Angelo is an Associate Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, as well as a Theatre Arts curriculum writer for the National 4-H Youth Development Organization. He was the Founder/Artistic Director of Theatre Next Door, a triple-threat performing arts studio with locations in East Hanover and South Orange, as well as a State of NJ certified Teacher of Theatre, having taught theatre and musical theatre at public schools, private schools, and performing arts studios throughout Essex and Morris counties. Angelo recently taught at Orange Preparatory Academy as a Teacher of Theatre, The Calais School as a Teacher of Theatre to students with special needs, and worked as Director for Livingston Community Players, Drama Director at Brooklake School in Florham Park and Memorial Middle School in Cedar Grove. He holds positions as Director of Theatre at Wayne Valley High School, Glen Ridge High School, Hanover Park High School, Ridgedale Middle School in Florham Park, Our Lady of Sorrows School in South Orange, and East Hanover Middle School. Angelo has directed The Wizard of Oz, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and The Addams Family at The Bickford Theatre , Almost, Maine at the College of Saint Elizabeth, Mystery Play at Seton Hall University, A Raisin in the Sun at the Mary Burch Theatre at Essex County College, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown at Montclair State University, and a new play, Day of Awe, at New York University Steinhardt’s Black Box Theatre, as well as Little Women, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Sweet Charity, Legally Blonde, Little Shop of Horrors, Fame, Miracle on 34th Street, Annie, A Year with Frog and Toad, Willy Wonka, Grease, Footloose, Robin Hood, Guys and Dolls, Once Upon a Mattress, Into the Woods, Peter Pan, The Music Man, The King and I, Oliver, Nephew Fred, and numerous other children’s theatre productions. He has had the opportunity to portray such iconic characters as The Emcee in Cabaret, Charlie Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Jaques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and Jesus in Godspell. Angelo has worked in the theatre as a stage manager, theatre reviewer, production manager, producer, teaching artist, vocal director, singer, actor, technical director, and director at such organizations as The PlayHouse at East Hanover, Celtic Theatre Company, South Orange Performing Arts Center, Paper Mill Playhouse, and New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Susan Braden (Music/Vocal Director): A native of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Susan Braden graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in French horn performance from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and a Master of Music degree from the Mannes College of Music in New York City. She performed with and taught for many years at the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival in Maine, and with the Estherwood, Montanea, and Fontainebleau Festivals in Europe. She was also the recipient of several Geraldine R. Dodge Fellowships, recorded backups for many commercials—including Macy’s—played for 2 seasons with the National Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall, and played for CATS on Broadway.
Although Susan’s first school teaching jobs were with the Mannes Prep Division and with Juilliard Pre-College, she began teaching in New Jersey after receiving her Alternate Route Teacher’s Certification. She recently retired after 25 years of teaching instrumental music in the Springfield, Chatham and Florham Park Public School Districts.
These days Susan can be found performing as a horn player with orchestras, brass ensembles, and in the pit at Regional Theatres all over the tri-state area. Passionate about musical direction, she also currently produces musicals on the middle school through college levels, as well as accompanying soloists and choirs including Region and State Ensembles and has been accompanist for the Morris-Union Jointure Commission for over 25 years. Additionally, she is an organist, substituting at over twenty-five area churches. Susan also tours and serves as a horn mentor for the Sussex County Youth Orchestra, and coaches brass players at many different schools in the tri-state area.
Susan is an avid swimmer and cook and lives with her husband Gail Edward in Roxbury. They enjoy world travel, especially throughout Europe.
Meet Our Artist Mentors
Our amazingly talented artist mentors have performed in productions on and Off-Broadway, in national tours, and more. They've learned so much through performing in these shows, and what they have learned from others along the way. Each artist mentor is ecstatic to be sharing their knowledge and experience with our students. We are so excited to have them be with us!
Melanie Beck: Since earning her BFA at Ithaca College, Melanie has enjoyed performing regionally, touring, and teaching kids! Favorite roles include Sara in the regional premier of Grace at the Lake Dillon Theatre Company, Izzy in Cloned The Musical! which won NYMF's "Best of Fest" award, Olive Ostrovsky in ...Spelling Bee at the Hangar Theatre, and performing in both the tour and Lucille Lortel Off-Broadway production of TheatreworksUSA's Skippyjon Jones. Passionate about youth education, Melanie is also a teaching artist at Atlantic Theatre Company and a teacher of kids yoga all around NYC.
Kendyl Ito: Kendyl Ito is a NYC based actress from Sacramento, CA and a recent graduate of Pace’s Musical Theatre Program. Since moving to the Big Apple, some of her favorite performing credits include: Matilda (1st National Tour/Canadian Premiere), Tiananmen (Dir. Stafford Arima), A Chorus Line (Dir. Baayork Lee), Oliver (National Asian Artists Project), Grease, Rent, Seussical, Children of Eden. As a teacher, Kendyl has worked with kids of all ages in youth theatre programs, primarily with Young Actors Stage in her hometown of Sacramento. She has taught in all three disciplines — acting, singing, and dancing — but, above all, fancies these practices the most: active storytelling, freedom of interpretation, love of play. Growing up in youth theaters from age 7 on, Kendyl believes in the importance of musical theatre programs for kids of all ages and feels so fortunate to have reached a “full circles” chapter in her life by being a faculty member of A Work of Heart Productions.
Hilary Maiberger: National and international tours include NetWorks Productions Beauty and the Beast (Belle). Her Regional credits include: Daddy Long Legs (Jerusha Abott) Theatre Works in Silicon Valley; The Light in the Piazza (Clara Johnson) at Theatre Raleigh and 2 seasons at Moonlight Ampitheater starring in My Fair Lady (Eliza Doolittle), South Pacific (Nellie Forbush). Other credits include: Aladdin: The Musical Spectacular (Jasmine), Cinderella (Cinderella), Little Women (Jo March), The Marvelous Wonderettes (Cindy Lou). Hilary has earned her M.M in vocal performance from Bowling Green State University and is currently a private vocal instructor in New York City.
Follow her on Instagram @hilarymai
Laura Marie Rondinella: Laura is a New York City/New Jersey/Philadelphia based singer and actor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance and Studies with a minor in Musical Theatre from Seton Hall University. In 2006, she began her long journey of vocal studies with Scott Mello and has been working with him since then.
Laura is honored to have been able to travel this world in many fulfilling roles. Laura's concert credits include Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray in Concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (starring John Waters) and as a Guest Soloist in Broadway Divas with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Laura’s touring and regional credits include Surflight Theatre’s “Surflight-To-Go”, Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray with New Bedford Festival Theatre (2012 Moss Hart Grand Trophy Award Winner), Jan in Grease with New Bedford Festival Theatre and Wendy-Jo in Footloose with Northern Lights Playhouse. Other credits include Witch in Into The Woods, Gertrude in Seussical the Musical (2009 NJAct Perry Award Nominee) and Stepsister Grace in Cinderella (2010 NJAct Perry Award Winner).
Cassidy Stoner: Cassidy Stoner is a graduate of Pace University's BFA Musical Theatre Program. Since graduating in 2016, she has performed around the country under the direction of Broadway icons such as Warren Carlyle and Baayork Lee. She is a Broadway World nominated actress for her portrayal of Anita in West Side Story at both the Connecticut Repertory Theatre and Casa Mañana. Aside from performing, Cassidy loves sharing her passion for story-telling through movement with eager young actors. In class, artists will learn to work from a strong technical foundation while simultaneously harnessing their individuality. Cassidy's class is high energy and all about taking risks, so come prepared to sweat and release your inner magical unicorn!!
Matt Borchers: Matt Borchers, originally from Saint Louis, is grateful to be on the rewarding, never-ending journey of becoming a “New Yorker.” Credits: Nat’l Tour: Dirty Dancing (Neil u/s). 54 Below: Theory of Relativity. St. Louis MUNY: Holiday Inn. OKC Philharmonic: The Christmas Show. MTWichita: West Side Story(Baby John), Joseph...(Benjamin), 42nd Street(Soldier, Shadow Boy). Westchester Broadway Theatre: Happy Days (James Dean). Lyric OKC: Bye Bye Birdie (Harvey Johnson). Follow his adventures! www.matthewborchers.com @mattyluvs
Katie Travis: Katie is an operatically trained soprano who performed the role of Christine Daae in Phantom Of The Opera throughout North America for over 700 shows, including playing Christine in two episodes of The Late Late Show. She continues to performs regularly in the Ensemble of Phantom on Broadway. Regional: The MUNY, Fireside, Liederkrantz Opera. She is a winner of the Lys Symonette award in the Lotte Lenya Competition.
She is an incredibly passionate teaching/artist-both in the US and around the world. She has taught masterclasses in Voice and Acting Through the Song at High Schools and Universities throughout the country. Katie spent time teaching preschool/early music at The Beacon House School in Ghana, and has taught poetry classes and participated in artistic outreach with refugees in Kenya. Outside of building her own studio in NYC, she recently began teaching at The Broadway Method Academy, in Fairfield Connecticut. She is a marathon runner, a Mt. Kilimanjaro hiker, and is certified in Reiki. Katie has a deep desire to learn, is a life-long asker of questions, and cares deeply about doing important work on this planet.
Casey Gorab: Casey is an 19 year old composer and performer. So far, her original music has premiered at Feinstein's 54 Below, the Triad Theater (New York City), Hackensack Performing Arts Center and Montclair State University (New Jersey). She currently studies music composition at John J. Cali School of Music. She has been composing with A Work of Heart for about a year, and she is honored to help shape the company through her music. Her history as an artist is heavily theater-based. She is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and first took the stage at the age of 6 in the role of Gretl Von Trapp. She made her professional debut in 2011 with the 1st National Tour of A Christmas Story, The Musical and was a recipient of a National Youth Arts Award in 2017 for her portrayal of Sally Brown in You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. She was nominated for a 2017 Perry Award for that same production. As she continues to build her musical career, her main priority is to inspire others to stay true to themselves. Instagram: @caseygorabmusic Website: caseygorab.com
Natalie Powers: Recent credits include the 1st National Tour of Fiddler on the Roof (Chava) directed by Bartlett Sher, Annie Get Your Gun (Winnie) at Fulton Theatre, De Materie at Park Avenue Armory directed by two-time Grammy nominee Heiner Goebbels, Under the Sea (Ariel) featuring Pacific Symphony at Segerstrom Concert Hall and violin recordings for the national tour of Fame. She is a graduate of Pace University with a BFA in Commercial Dance.
Danny Harris Kornfeld: Aunt Caroline in Renascence with Transport Group this past fall. Touring: Mark Cohen in the 20th Anniversary Tour of RENT. Off-Broadway: Wringer (City Center; directed by Stephen Brackett). Plays and musicals regionally at The Eugene O’Neil Theatre Center. Barrington Stage Company, Syracuse Stage & Theatre Aspen. Syracuse University drama graduate. @DannyHKorn
Ally Hern: Ally is a New York City performer, teacher, and choreographer. She has performed Off-Broadway as well as with the Emmy award-winning RWS Entertainment Group, Spotlight Repertory Theatre, Weathervane Theatre, and Busch Gardens Entertainment. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theater from Rider University, where she finished summa cum laude. She’s currently on staff at Pure Movement Dance Center in central New Jersey where she choreographs for their award-winning competitive teams, as well as at Spotlight Studios on Staten Island! www.allyhern.com
Tara Llewellyn: Tara is a Connecticut native and Manhattan actress, writer, dresser, and designer. As she wears many different hats, within the last year, Tara has worked on a multitude of productions including Pretty Woman, Hadestown, and currently at Broadway's Moulin Rouge in the wardrobe department. She was most recently seen in the developing musical #LoveStory, where she reprised the leading role of Zoe Tiller after originating the character at the NY Fringe Festival in 2015. Tara was also last seen in the US Regional Premiere of The Bodyguard at White Plains Performing Arts Center. By weaving her dual careers together, Tara wrote and produced a one-woman show entitled Seams & Songs: Chronicles of a Wardrobe-Supervising Actress, recounting the ways in which her time both on and off stage have paved paths towards creative development and success. Tara is currently in the midst of writing, producing, and starring in her pilot Under the Influence, which goes into production this fall. @tarallew