About UsFaculty and Staff
Director of Dance
Schmidt holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Ballet from Texas Christian University and a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Oklahoma. In 2017 she became an ABT (American Ballet Theatre) Certified teacher for Pre-Primary-Level 3 and in 2018 she was certified as Progressive Ballet Technique (PBT) Instructor. As director of dance, Schmidt leads and teaches in the dance division of MCA, as well as the dance minor program at Saint Mary's University. Additionally, she serves as artistic director for MCA's Dance Repertory Company. Schmidt has restaged and choreographed several full-length ballets for the company including: Cinderella, Paquita, The Nutcracker, Excerpts from Swan Lake, and the Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère. Schmidt received the State of Oklahoma's Miguel Terekhov award for her original ballet, A Tender Age. Schmidt is a member of the American College Dance Festival Association and the National Dance Education Association. She has previously taught at Viterbo University, Winona State University, La Crosse Dance Centre, the University of Oklahoma, North Houston Ballet, and Backstage Dance Theatre. Her performing career includes work with Ballet Dallas, Houston Ballet, Ballet Austin, Milwaukee Ballet, and Oklahoma Festival Ballet. Contact Tammy at: Tschmidt@smumn.edu or 507-453-5502.
Megan is originally from Winona, growing up and going to school in the Winona Public School District. She very briefly attended ballet class with Mrs. Stephanie Kierlin and was a part of the Dance Team at the Winona High School. Megan has been with MCA since 2015 leading in many areas such as our music division, helping and guiding over 20 music instructors and countless families. Megan has since taken on many new duties to support MCA in various ways and continues to grow her knowledge in other MCA aspects. Prior to 2015, Megan spend 7 years experience in an administrative assistant role at Ashley Furniture in their Human Resources department. When Megan’s daughter was 2 years old, she decided to take a break from working and stay home with her. It was an opportunity to watch her child grow and be a part of her daily development.
Assistant Director of Dance & Instructor-Dance
Jess has been a dance educator since 2006. She currently teaches early childhood, jazz, tap, modern and hip hop at the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts and Saint Mary’s University and has taught as a guest instructor at Viterbo University. She has created original works for the Dance Repertory Company’s annual spring productions over the years, including In Session, in the hood, Kid You'll Move Mountains!, One Night at Gatsby's, and Unite as well as choreographing and restaging several of the company’s biennial productions of The Nutcracker. Dienger has also served as the assistant choreographer for several Fountain City River Player annual musicals including Sugar, Anything Goes, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Guys and Dolls. She served as choreographer for their last three summer productions of The Producers, Little Shop of Horrors and Hello, Dolly!. During her performing career, Dienger participated in many DRC spring productions as well as The Nutcracker. Her favorite roles include Spanish Chocolate (The Nutcracker), Spanish Fan Dance and Big Swan (Swan Lake), Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off tap quartet, Bugle Call Rag tap soloist and Drusilla (Cinderella). Outside of the Conservatory, Dienger was a founding member and dancer of the Two Lakes Dance Project in 2010 and performed in their debut performance Theories of Connection.
Instructor - Clarinet and Saxophone
Ryan began teaching music lessons in 2006 and has been teaching at MCA since 2010. He has earned both a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Arts in Instruction degree. Ryan is a licensed teacher in K-12 Instrumental/Classroom Music. He has performed in a variety of ensembles including concert bands, jazz ensembles, chamber ensembles, and theater pit orchestras.
In addition to teaching lessons at MCA, Ballanger works full-time in information technology and often incorporates technology into music education. Ryan is an active performer in community ensembles as a member of the Winona Municipal Band and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Concert Band.
Instructor- Guitar & Piano
Chad Cagle is a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter in Winona, MN. Chad graduated from Saint Mary’s University with a major in Music Industry and a minor in philosophy. While at Saint Mary’s, he studied piano, performed in vocal ensembles, and played guitar and bass guitar for school variety shows.
He began teaching students at MCA in 2022. In addition to teaching lessons, he is a gigging musician in the Winona area, and has an album released on music streaming services, including Spotify: Musically Inclined – Spotify
Instructor - Music
Mariah Ciangiola has come back to her midwest roots and is excited to lead vocal lessons at the Music Conservatory of the Arts in Winona, Minnesota. She most recently finished a 7-month contract as a lead vocalist with AIDA Cruises based out of Germany. Before cruise work, she lived in New York City for ten years. While in New York she performed off-Broadway, in regional theaters, and toured as an Equity actress. She is now performing locally with jazz and blues bands as well as writing original music with The Mettalarks. Please feel free to check her website out at www.mariahciangiola.com for any updates and inquiries!
Instructor - Music & Visual Art
Douglas grew up in a home where music was always present and appreciated. Her father learned to read music and sing harmonies from his grandmother. Douglas’ mother learned to love music from her father who was in the Navy Band and later directed a small town municipal band.
Douglas began formal piano studies at age five after trying to figure out the instrument from the time she was old enough to climb up on the piano bench and entertain (annoy) her family. After a rough start with having a new teacher every year and finally, in third grade, being told by a highly recommended teacher that she would never be a pianist because she had too many bad habits, Douglas determined that pursuing music should be enjoyable and therapeutic for anyone who chooses to do so. During that time she started studying other instruments including guitar, flute and french horn and in her early teens started coaching the younger students in the small, private school she attended. She has fond memories of practicing band pieces at home with her brother and her best friend, their combo being flute, trombone and sousaphone and then trading instruments and playing again. The trio continued practicing and performing together on different instruments for many years and all work in the music industry today. Douglas arranges music and performs often in the Winona area with various individuals, choirs and ensembles.
Douglas also had an early love for art and crafts that started with drawing pictures of horses, sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlework and an incessant need to know how things were made. She took every art class she could fit into her schedule and continues to pursue new skills. Currently she is studying fiber arts by spinning, dyeing and weaving fiber from her alpacas and angoras.
Instructor - Dance
Bio coming soon!
Instructor - Dance
Grace attended Winona State University and earned a degree in communication studies and music. She writes, releases, and performs for all ages; in genres including acoustic rock, children’s music, gospel music on the piano & guitar. She is also in a women’s contemporary folk band called Wildflower that performs regionally. She enjoys teaching at Young Writing Conferences within the state and has released 3 albums since 2010 titled: “Trains, Cars & A Trip To Mars,” “Embrace,” & “Keeping Hearts.” She is currently back in the studio working on her 4th album and hopes to launch a 2nd children’s album in 2016.
Instructor - Brass and Jazz Combos
Dave Gudmastad directed the Winona Cotter High School Band Program for 25 years. He retired from teaching band at Cotter in 2012, and continues to work as a music educator in the Winona area. He is currently an instructor in the Music Education Department at Winona State University. He also directs the Winona Middle School Jazz Band and the Jazz Combo Program at MCA. Dave also teach private brass lessons at MCA. Prior to his tenure at Cotter High School, Dave served as Vocal and Instrumental Music Director for West River Public Schools in Dupree, SD, and the Lynnville-Sully Community Schools in Sully, IA. Dave earned a Bachelor of Arts from Augustana College and a Master of Music from the University of South Dakota Dave was named the Minnesota Music Educator of the Year in 2007. Dave has been a Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin adjudicator for large group, solo/ensemble, jazz ensemble and marching band festivals since 1980. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) and on the Music Advisory Council for the Minnesota State High School League. He is also a charter member of the Winona Brass Band, as well as member of the Jazz Education Network, Minnesota Band Directors Association, Phi Beta Mu, and International Trumpet Guild.
Instructor - Art
Brianna Haupt grew up in Manitowoc Wisconsin and moved to Winona, MN to attend Winona State University. In 2013, she graduated with her K-12 Art Education degree with an emphasis in printmaking. Brianna currently teaches at Riverway Learning Community, a public charter school in Winona. Brianna teaches youth and adult classes at Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts and was an integral part in executing the E.A Michelson Philanthropy programming for adults 55 years and older. Brianna volunteers on various boards and committees at Riverway and within the City of Winona. When she’s not teaching art, Brianna enjoys gardening, photography and working in her home pottery studio.
Instructor - Early Childhood Dance
Miss Elizabeth is a high schooler who has danced at MCA since she was very little. She has been in our upper level classes for a few years not. She is currently taking Ballet, Pointe and Tap classes, although she has also taken Jazz, Hip Hop, Barre and Progressing Ballet Technique. She has attended many of our Summer Dance Intensives as well.
Instructor - Dance
Honecker-Sherman is a graduate from Winona State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Studies: Dance and Movement Studies. She has performed with MCA’s Dance Repertory Company, as well as performing for WSU, the University of Minnesota, Ballet Arts City Children’s Nutcracker Project, American College Dance Festivals, Sam Costas “10,000 Dances” Company, Sweets of May Irish Dance, Children’s Dance Theatre, and many other community performances. She is a graduate of Perpich Center for Arts Education where she has also been a guest artist. Her teaching experience includes ballet, modern, jazz, tap, clogging, improvisation, swing, and Irish dance. Honecker-Sherman is also a certified Pilates instructor and Personal Fitness Trainer, skilled in kickboxing, land and water aerobics and weight training.
Kristi J Bade Krause
Instructor - Oboe
Instructor-piano & flute
Bio coming soon!
Instructor - Dance
Martin has been a faculty member at the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts since 1994 and served as managing director from 1999 to 2012. She also teaches dance for Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, Viterbo University, and Winona State University. Martin previously taught at Virginia Luoma Dance Studio and Viterbo University. Martin's performing career includes work with the Minneapolis-based tap company, Keane Sense of Rhythm at: The Minneapolis and Thunder Bay, Canada Fringe Festivals, the Minneapolis and Chicago Human Rhythm Projects, and Choreographer's Evening at the Walker Arts Center. She has staged and choreographed a variety of original works and excerpts for Classical ballet's for the MCA's Dance Repertory Company including Paquita, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker. Martin has choreographed several musicals including A Chorus Line, Baby, Cabaret, Company, Dames at Sea, Guys and Dolls, Gypsy, Little Shop of Horrors, Showtune, Urinetown, and The Wizard of Oz for Gilmore Creek Summer Theatre, Home and Community Options, SMU's Department of Theatre and Dance, and WSU's Theatre and dance Department. Martin is a graduate of Saint Mary's University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations.
Instructor - Piano
In 2018, Lauren Mechell joined the MCA faculty with a dream to create a top-notch Class Piano
Lab. Within a year, a brand new state-of-the-art lab was completed. Lauren’s focus is to bring
the power of music to students of all ages. A passion for learning itself is not exclusive to
young students or to older students. People can develop a passion for learning and music
throughout life – from beginning to end.”
Graduating with honors from Temple University Esther Boyer College of Music in Philadelphia,
PA, Lauren holds professional teaching experience that spans over forty years and four states.
Lauren served as adjunct professor at Winona State University for sixteen years as part of the
WSU music faculty where she specialized in class piano instruction. She has been active as an
adjudicator for the National Federation of Music Clubs in Illinois, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and
the Wisconsin Music Teachers National Association. Lauren has been a member
of the National Association for Music Education, Minnesota Elementary Music Educators, and
the American Choral Directors Association. Lauren sang with the Winona Oratorio Chorus for
twenty years where she served on the WOC Board of Directors.
A few acknowledgements include Lauren’s Pond – dedicated in Lauren’s honor on the
WSU campus, WSU Delta Phi Epsilon Outstanding Professor award – for dedication to excellence
in teaching, and the Winona Home and Community Options Community Builder Award –
acknowledging individuals who provide outstanding volunteerism to the community.
“As teachers, my parents taught me that intelligence is measured in different ways. They also
taught me that each student has their own unique learning ability. Discovering a student’s
unique ability to learn is a guiding principle that stays with me to this day.”
Bio coming soon!
Instructor - Voice
Ruby Oian holds a B.S. in Music Education (K-12 with honors) from Winona State University. She has directed choirs of various ages at Central Lutheran Church has been the musical director of 2 musicals there, 3 at Winona Senior High School, and the technical director on one musical at CFC HS. Ruby, has spent her lifetime, signing in choirs, school and 4-H competitions, and musicals for church. Her college experiences include singing with the WSU Choir in Gettysburg, PA when President Eisenhower died and while he was lying-in-state they viewed the body and sang at Washington’s National Cathedral. She sang as a member of the Winona Oratorio Chorus during its founding year and many subsequent years plus has sung for over 45 years in the Cantori Choir at CLC. She has sung in small groups and as a featured soloists in each of these choirs plus many weddings, funerals, religious and social events.
Ruby was the founder, co-organizer, director and singer of Winona’s Sesquicentennial Historic Gospel Concert in which over 150 children’, adult singers and instrumentalists were on stage to celebrate Winona’s history and raise funds for the Winona Country Historical Society.n Ruby’s has also been involved with preparing costumes for MCA’s Dance Repertory Company performances.She and her husband, Charles owned and operated a bridal business in Winona until Dec. of 2016. Their proudest moments have been in raising 4 children and sharing in the lives of their 8 grandchildren.
John C. Paulson
Music Instructor- Jazz Improvisation
John Paulson started his musical journey in Rochester, MN playing in area rock bands and participating in school music groups. He migrated west and got his B.M and M.M from the University of Utah and later completed his DMA in music education from the University of Washington. He started playing the saxophone at age 10, studied flute and clarinet with symphony players and jazz improvisation in New York. After 35 years of full time teaching, Dr. Paulson retired from Saint Mary’s University and taught jazz studies at Winona State University for five years. Now, he’s excited about becoming a part of the programs offered by MCA. Visit his website at www.paulsonjazz.com for more.
Instructor - Dance
Alanna grew up in a northwest suburb of Chicago and enjoyed Irish dancing, gymnastics and being an all-around pool rat with her three younger brothers. Besides “playing school” and teaching her brothers, she began coaching gymnastics at 16 and teaching swim lessons at 17. She danced with the Mayer School of Irish Dance from when she was 5 until 20. As an older dance student, she helped work with the younger dancers at the school. She came to Winona in 1999 and has attended Winona State and St. Mary’s Universities. During college and after college, as a guest artist, Alanna participated in the Dancescape productions at WSU. She shared her enthusiasm for Irish dance and her heritage with the Winona community by leading her “Sweets of May Irish Dance Troupe” back in the late 90’s at the YMCA and performing at local nursing homes around St. Patrick’s Day. Alanna’s husband Jeremiah is from Winona and they have a son, Waylon.
Instructor - Dance
Claire Penning is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with a BA in Dance. She started her formal dance training at Gotta Dance in Winona, Minnesota under the direction of Kim Whipple and Sheena Gifford and trained in hip hop, tap, lyrical, pointe, jazz, and musical theater. She was a part of the competition team that traveled throughout the Midwest to conventions and competitions. At UWSP Claire trained in modern, ballet, tap, jazz, composition, and Pilates under the direction of Joan Karlen, Michael Estanich, Jeannie Hill, Pamela Luedtke, Patrick Strong, and Amy Beversdorf. University performance credits include Afterimages Outtakes (2013), Afterimages Unplugged (2015-2016), Afterimages (2013-2016), Arts Bash (2014,2016), and Danstage (2016-2017) in works created by student choreographers, faculty Jeannie Hill and Michael Estanich, and guest artist, Max Pollak. Claire presented her first choreography, At the Corner of East and 10th: Some Call It Funk, in Afterimages 2016. Post-graduation Claire began teaching at Trollwood Performing Arts School in Fargo, ND and returns each summer for their month long intensive. She taught classes at SG Danceworkz and Fitness Studio, Winona, MN, and choreographed for their performance company. Claire is now an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s University, Winona, MN and Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI. She also teaches classes at La Crosse Dance Center and Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts. She is also working with Cotter High School, choreographing their fall musical and working with their show choir. Claire is choreographing the spring musical for SMU, Legally Blonde, and Wabasha Kellogg High School, The Little Mermaid.
Instructor - Cello and Dance
A graduate from the Eastman School of Music, Ryan earned her Bachelor of Music in Cello Performance. While at school, she frequently performed with the Eastman Philharmonic, Eastman Collegium, and Ossia. Over the years she has participated in several acclaimed music festivals such as Bowdoin International Music Festival, Colorado College Music Festival, The Quartet Program, the Rochester Early Music Festival, and Northern Lights Music Festival. Ryan has performed with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and has appeared as soloist with the Winona Oratorio Chorus and La Crosse Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, she has worked alongside many of the world’s leading artists, prize-winning soloists, and Grammy-award winning musicians such as Phillipe Jaroussky, Paul O’Dette, Charles Castleman, Lika Yakupova, and Jaroslaw Nadrzycki. Ryan’s performance on the Viola da Gamba at the Boston Early Music Festival in the Summer of 2011 was described as “mysteriously beautiful” by the Boston Globe. Additionally, Ryan is an alum of MCA where she studied Classical ballet for over a decade. She performed many soloist and principal roles as a member of MCA’s Dance Repertory Company.
Bio coming soon!
Joel Zabel is a graduate from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota with a degree in Violin Performance. Joel began playing the violin at the age of 8. Through the private teaching of violinist Bacco Liu, Joel has attended many chamber music festivals such as Stringwood and the Southwest Minnesota String Festival. These festivals have given many performance opportunities as well as a rigorous education on the nuances of chamber music. Joel and his trio “Pontem Firmissimum” competed in the Saint Paul Youth Chamber music competition in 2018, winning second place. Joel is currently the principal second violin of the South West Minnesota Orchestra, a frequent Substitute violinist with the Sioux City Symphony, and a seated member of the Winona Symphony. This coupled with a professional, life long education on solo repertoire and symphonic music has given Joel a passion and hope to leave the audience inspired!