The Music Academy


One of the things that sets The Music Academy apart is the length of time and the depth of the relationships we enjoy with our students. It is not uncommon for us to have 10 -14 years to watch them grow and flourish as people and musicians. Our alumni demonstrate that we do, In fact we, have a profound impact on the personal and professional development of our students. They have grown through their music education to achieve their aspirations. A glimpse at what our students have gone on to do in their lives is telling.

Long time (10 year) piano student of artist faculty member Anne Olson, Marissa Lynn Mitchell, 2014 recently presented her senior recital featuring works by Beethoven, Bach, Dvorak, Debussy, Chopin and Bernstein. In her program notes Marissa commented, “About eight years ago, The Music Academy had shirts printed with the quote Life without music isn’t….At that time I did not completely understand the meaning, but now I not only understand it, but believe it.” Marissa will be a pre-med major at Loyola University this fall and plans to continue to study the piano.

All-State Academic Team – Sam Collins


Sam Collins from Chicago Tribune on Vimeo. Read his article




Sponsored by  The Rockford Register Star  


Hannah is a Music Academy piano alum!Hononegah grad’s book shows gritty side of police work  Being the first to arrive at an active crime scene or see the aftermath of a grizzly accident takes a toll on police officers. Some struggle for years with memories they can’t seem to shake. That’s one thing Hilary Dickinson, 27, learned while covering the police beat for the Beloit Daily News. Dickinson, a 2005 Hononegah High School graduate, studied journalism at the University of Minnesota and, along with her experience at the Daily News, has written for publications around the Midwest, including the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Milwaukee Magazine and Rockford Woman magazine. Recently, she interviewed more than 30 police officers around Wisconsin about the most memorable calls they responded to on the job. She wrote a book about their experiences, titled “Wisconsin 5-0: From High-Risk Police Calls to Comic Cop Stories,” that was published July 7. Through gritty firsthand accounts of what it was like for officers who responded to everything from shootings at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in 2012 and Azana Salon and Spa in 2013, to motorcycle accidents, Dickinson said she wanted to show people a side of police officers they don’t often see. “These calls affect officers in ways that civilians don’t really think about,” she said. Dickinson is a Waukesha, Wisconsin, native, but moved to Roscoe with her family in 1999 when she was 12. These days, Dickinson works in Beloit College’s communications and marketing office as a college news editor and writer and enjoys spending time with her two dogs Riley and Randy. Her book is available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.

– Ben Stanley

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Many alumni have gone on to successful careers in:


Dr. Hiran Fernando – Oral and Maxiofacial Surgeon in St. Louis

Alyssa Doering, Registered Nurse and Nurse Practioner

Patty Lee – Premed major at Northwestern University

Dr. Anita Szeto, Family Medicine Doctor, Huntley, Illinois

Dr. Anantha Mallia – Emergency Medical Doctor, Bethesda, Maryland

Kausika Maddali – University of Illinois College of Pharmacy, 2014 graduate!

Dr. Aric Frantz , Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and PhD in Molecular Biology, Medical Researcher at Covance, Madison, Wisconsin


Ben Geller – Principle Violist with the Charlotte Symphony

Leah Zahn – Non-traditional Music Performance major at NIU

Joanna Nerius – violin performance major at NIU

Shelby Latin – violinist and Grammy nominated arranger

Margaret Batjer – Curtis Graduate and Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and on staff at UC Thorton School of Music


John Leib – Design Engineer at Ingersoll Cutting Tools, new home owner in Rockford and violinist with the Rock Valley College Community Orchestra

Adam Frantz – Chief Technical Officer of an internet based business in Florida

Jim Epperson- Owner of CadCam Systems and Azimuth Industries, mountain climber and violin student at Music Academy and with the Rock Valley College Community Orchestra


Ben Keller, Minneapolis

Visual Arts

Mimi Gullock


Elliott Kallstrom – Educator and administrator in Rockford Public Schools

Tarrah Wolf – Prelude and piano instructor at the Music Academy

Brian Doering – East High School Orchestra and Choral director

Rachel Walk Hofmann – Violin instructor at the Music Academy

Amber Viegel – piano and theory instructor in Madison, Wisconsin

Melissa Aurand Haese – harp and Prelude teacher at the Music Academy


It is a testament to The Music Academy that many alumni are among the most distinguished parents you will ever want to witness. They work with their children as they were worked with as children as they grew at The Music Academy. We love seeing alumni return with their children to enjoy Prelude classes or to study an instrument at The Music Academy. Among them:

Elliott Kallstrom and Charlie

Tarrah Wolf and Sam, Alex and Ethan

Rachel Walk Hoffman, Charlotte Rose and Louisa June

Melissa Aurand Haese and Madeline

Heather Glidden Schleuter and Eliora and Tulley

Rachel Handlin and Aria

Shannon Englert and Edward

Academy alumni perform around the globe:

Emily Herdeman Kelly – Violinist with the Houston Symphony

Lily Henley – leads a Celtic/Kelzmer band in the U.S. after many years performing in Israel.

Olivia Dvorak – singer songwriter

Madeline Herdeman – cellist and vocalist on the CD “Mystery Loves Company” – a Kickstarter project!

Ben Geller – principle viola, Charlotte Symphony, NC, graduate of Julliard School of Music and The New World Symphony training program in Miami

Jon Rozman – violinist, pianist and member of a Stephen Grapelli-like jazz ensemble, Music Academy School Board member.

Alumni also hold positions in service industries

Sarah Zimmerman – Bartender and adult violin student at Music Academy

Jocelyn Hare – violist, vocalist and working at ServePro in Rockford

Sandy Welte – adult violin student at Music Academy, tap dancer and funeral director

Melissa Kallstrom – violin teacher in Chicago Catholic Schools and mother of three Suzuki students there.

Music is and was a huge part of their lives:

Adam Frantz – parent and practicing partner of an nine year old daughter studying guitar

Melissa Kallstrom – violin teacher in Chicago Catholic Schools and mother of three Suzuki students there.

As we look back on 29 years of Academy alumni:

We are often asked what our alumni do after studying for years at The Music Academy. Now you can see that they do many different things and they do those things with integrity, honesty, dedication and with passion. They understand and appreciate beauty in their lives. They live their lives to the fullest and our communities are richer because of who they are.

We love it when alumni visit us and stay connected to the school. Are you an alum of the Music Academy? We want to hear from you and add your story to ours. Let us hear from you!  or Phone is 815-986-0037. Facebook is