GENEVA — A new season of music and dance is under way at St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy.

Most lessons and classes begin today, Sept. 4. The school also welcomes three new faculty members and is preparing for an Open House on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

The three new instructors are Meng Zhou, piano; Ellen Sonnenberg, Suzuki violin and String Explorers; and Margaret Sawyer, piano. The addition of the trio increases the size of the school’s faculty to 12 members, plus Dean of Faculty, Donna Davenport. “We are very excited to have these new instructors,” said Academy Administrator Sue Adams.

More than 200 students have been registered as of late August, said Adams. More students are expected to sign up because students may enroll for classes and lessons at any time during the academic year under the school’s “Rolling Registration” policy.

The Open House will be 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at the school, 149 Genesee St. Those attending can listen to the children’s choir and observe instruction in violin, guitar and piano. Davenport and instructors for the dance, Musical Beginnings and other classes will be present to talk about their programs. Academy staff will prepare hot dogs and pizza for the event.

The Arts Academy provides arts education not available in public schools nor elsewhere in the local community. It offers lessons and performances in choirs, piano, violin, cello, organ, voice, dance and guitar and serves students from 16 area schools in a five-county area. Musical Beginnings, a special pre-school music and movement class for ages 1-3 or 3-5, includes a caregiver and his or her child in early music education. The school’s theme is “Arts for All,” which invites students of all ages and skill levels, regardless of financial means or religious affiliation.

People can enroll students by going to the website,, or stopping by the school, Adams said. Scholarships are available; those who wish to apply for a scholarship should do so by Sept. 16. The school urges those registering students to contact and meet with the appropriate music or dance instructor beforehand.

The three new instructors are:

• Margaret Sawyer, who has spent the past 27 years maintaining a private studio and working as an elementary and preschool teacher in Shortsville. She teaches all ages and enjoys playing piano and viola performances.

Sawyer started piano lessons at the age of 5 with her mother, Janet B. Smith, and studied the viola with Nancy Hunt of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. At age 12, she continued piano lessons through the Eastman School of Music’s community education program with Harriet Zimmerman, and also continued viola lessons, playing in the Youth Orchestra. She attended Houghton College, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

Later, after she began offering private lessons, she returned to the Eastman School of Music, focusing on piano and early childhood music. She created “Munchkin Music,” a movement and music program for pre-school children, which involves the use of rhythm instruments.

Meng Zhou, who began her professional music education at age 5. From 2008 to 2014, she attended the Eastman School of Music and received master's of music degrees in piano performance and literature. This year, she earned a doctor of music arts degree studying with Douglas Humpherys, chair of the Eastman School of Music’s Piano Department.

She served as teaching assistant for the Eastman School of Music for many years, winning the Eastman School of Music Teaching Assistant Prize for Excellence in Teaching and a host of other awards and honors.

She maintains an active performing career and appears frequently as a soloist and chamber musician both locally and internationally. Her concerts have taken place in Beijing, Hong Kong, Moscow, Alberta and cities throughout the United States. She also has performed in solo and chamber master classes for major artists, including the Jerusalem String Quartet. She is based in Rochester.

• Ellen Sonnenberg is a violinist from Wisconsin who currently performs in the violin section of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. She graduated with her master’s degree in violin performance and literature at the Eastman School of Music in 2018, studying with Juliana Athayde. She Federico Agostini.

Starting in the Suzuki method at age 5, she has completed courses in Suzuki Violin Teacher Training at Ithaca College under Christie Felsing. Before joining the RPO, she was a full-time member of Symphoria for two seasons, receiving tenure.

She participated in the Collegium Musicum Summer Academy at Weissenstein Castle in Prommersfleden, Germany, serving as principal second violin and soloing with the chamber orchestra.

She also has attended summer festivals at the National Repertory Orchestra, Orford Academy of Music, and Interlochen Center for the Arts.

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