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    Rebecca James    

Studio Owner/Director;
Instructor of Piano, Trumpet, Ukulele, Junior Jamboree and African Drumming

Rebecca James is a music educator and freelance musician who is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where she earned a BM in Music Education and Trumpet Performance and Interlochen Arts Academy.


Rebecca has taught and performed throughout the country. She has taught both privately and in the schools and has experience working with students ages 1 to adult. Rebecca has also been music director and accompanist for musical theater productions, youth/adult choir, youth band and has performed in a variety of groups including band, orchestra, brass quintet and pit orchestra as well as various solo performances.

Rebecca is a member of Songworks Educators Association and was given the honor of being a Fleurette Sweeney Emerging Pioneer in Education (2012). Rebecca teaches utilizing SongWorks principles and has presented in Vancouver, B.C. about the use of SongWorks in ensemble settings. 


Rebecca is a military wife teaching in the Dayton, OH area. She resides there with her husband, 2 sons and dog. Rebecca is the owner of Gem City Music Studio.

Kathy Cooney is an exceptional teacher with over 30 years experience. She is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire (MS in Music Ed) and Keene State College (BM).


Originally a flautist, she has taught a variety of subjects in addition to flute including group keyboard, guitar, general music, chorus, band, math and 5th grade. Kathy is a fun and engaging teacher who custom fits any curriculum to each individual student. At each lesson, you can expect to be challenged and encouraged. Although Kathy is a stickler for details, she has an unexpected way of making learning playful and fun. 

Kathy was raised in a military family and has traveled all over the world. She spent time teaching at an American school in Germany, but spent most of her career teaching elementary and middle school music in New Hampshire. Kathy has led many award winning groups over her extensive career. 

Kathy is an avid baseball and football fan. She most enjoys spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren. 

   Kathy Cooney    

Studio Assistant Director;
Instructor of Guitar, Beginning Piano, Flute, Saxophone, and Director of the Junior Singers

   Mara Burnett    

Instructor of Voice, Piano, Trumpet, Euphonium and Tuba

Mara Burnett has a Music Education Degree from Wright State University as well as an Arts Management Certificate. She studied piano under Steve Aldredge. Learning piano has given her many opportunities in the community. She has experience accompanying solos, musicals, and congregations. Mara prepared several students for piano performances at Solo and Ensemble. All her students received the highest rating. Mara has the honor of being one of many judges for the Junior Ohio Federation Music Club.


Mara has also studied tuba and euphonium under Steve Darling and Dan Honacker. During her studies she held the position as treasurer in the Tuba Euphonium Ensemble. This position allowed her to help plan a trip to Iowa for a performance at the International Tuba Euphonium Conference.


She has experience teaching students from PreK through-12. Throughout her teaching experience she has taught band, choir, orchestra, and general music. Mara is very passionate about music and strives to get her students to connect with the emotions connected to music. 

C.J. Roden is excited to be joining the staff at Gem City Music Studio. He is the current Director of Choirs at Kettering Middle School in the Kettering City Schools and has held that position since 2019. Roden has been on the music staff in Kettering since 2017. 


Roden holds a Master of Education in Principalship from Wright State University (2022), a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University at Portland (2019), and a Bachelor of Music in Music Education, cum laude, from Wright State University (2015). He also spent two years studying music at the Conservatory of Music at Baldwin Wallace University. He is a graduate of Xenia High School (2011). 


A native of Xenia, OH, Roden has performed extensively in the Dayton area in churches, community theaters, and with ensembles as an accompanist and chorister. 


When not working, C.J. spends time with his wife of nine years, Marissa. Together they have four children: Camden (7), Lincoln (4), Keegan (3), and Ella (9 months). The Roden family currently resides in Vandalia. 

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     C.J. Roden      

Instructor of Voice and Piano

   Devlan Taylor   

Instructor of Voice

Devlan Taylor is a 2017 graduate from Wright State University with a Bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance. During his time at WSU, Mr. Taylor performed in over 7 operas, toured Italy with the Collegiate Choral, traveled and performed in over 50 concerts with Ethos - Wright State’s premier a cappella group - and participated in band and other choirs. Since graduating, Mr. Taylor has performed as a member of the Dayton Opera Chorus in various operas at the Schuster Center in Dayton, Ohio, and as a featured soloist for Musica, a professional choir.

Mr. Taylor obtained his Masters degree in the field of Vocal Performance at the University of North Dakota in 2021. During his time at UND, he performed with the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, the Grand Forks Chorales, and the University of North Dakota’s Opera Program. Currently, Mr. Taylor is residing in Dayton, Ohio where he teaches private voice lessons, sings with the Dayton Opera Chorus, and is a featured soloist in the Ohio area.

Mr. Taylor is extremely excited to be a part of the Gem City Music Studio team. When he’s not teaching or singing, he’s curling his mustache, reading a book, and playing with his two cats.

Sarah Castillo is a recent resident of the Dayton area, previously having lived and taught music in Texas and Minnesota. She earned a BM at Baylor University, where she studied with faculty on piano, violin, and viola. Her primary teachers include Dr. Kae Hosoda-Ayer and Professor Jane Abbott-Kirk (piano), Dr. Bruce Berg (violin), and Dr. Kathryn Steely (viola). 


Sarah has taught both privately and in group settings and has experience teaching students from ages 4 to 80+. She grew up with the Suzuki method, and utilizes some of the philosophy in her teaching. 


Sarah has performed on piano, violin, and viola in a variety of ensembles, including symphony orchestra, pit orchestra, string chamber ensembles, and choir. She has been a repeat guest soloist with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra on viola, and was a finalist at the American Viola Society Collegiate Solo Competition in 2018. Despite her performances on viola, her true passion is accompanying and she spent her last couple years at university accompanying the viola studio on piano. Though she has primarily worked as an accompanist with string players, she has also accompanied vocalists and choirs. 


In her free time, Sarah enjoys going on long walks with her spouse, tending to her plants, and drawing. 

   Sarah Castillo   

Instructor of Piano, Violin and Viola

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   Alan James    

Alan James holds a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music in Teaching degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. His primary trombone teachers include James DeSano, former Principal Trombone of the Cleveland Orchestra, and former Cleveland Orchestra bass trombonist Thomas Klaber. 


As an educator, Alan has experience teaching students from grades K-12 in general music, instrumental band, youth orchestra, and private lesson settings. Alan has taught and performed throughout New England and the Midwest. He has also served as faculty at the Festival de Musica de Santa Catarina (femusc) in Brazil. 

Alan is originally from Waynesville and now resides in Kettering with his wife, sons and dog. In his free time, he coaches his son's t-ball team and enjoys baking. 

Instructor of Trombone, Euphonium and Tuba

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