The People of Creative Stage

Madeline Bender

Madeline Bender (Founder of Creative Stage, and Musical Theater Builders Lead Teacher) has had a rich career as international opera singer, arts educator, and producer.  She has worked with some of the top stage directors, conductors and singers in the classical music profession. 

Madeline developed the Musical Theater Builders program over seven years ago.  Originally created for the After School Program at the School at Columbia University, Musical Theater Builders is now offered in numerous schools and venues across Manhattan, in addition to a thriving summer camp program offered at the Peter Norton Symphony Space, and Riverside Church.  Also the co-creator of the Dancing Designers, and Instrumental Story Tellers programsMadeline's, multidisciplinary, child-focused performing arts curricula have proven hugely popular with students, educators, and  parents alike.  

As a performer, Madeline has been praised by the New York Times, for her "dramatic stage presence",  "voluptuous soprano" and "theatrical flair”.  Her extensive performing career has spanned nearly 15 years, and saw her in leading roles on many of the world's most important operatic stages. She has worked with notable opera directors such as Sir Colin Grahm, Sir Peter Hall, Robert Wilson, David McVicar, Paul Curran, John Copley, Mark Lamos, and  Sir Jonathan Miller, to name just a few. Career highlights include performances as Euridice in Orphee’ e Euridice at the Le Theatre du Chatelet in Paris with Sir John Eliot Gardiner Conducting; Helene in A Midsummer Night's Dream at La Monnaie, the Royal Opera House in Brussles, as well as with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera; Konstanza in Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail with the Baden Baden and Aix en Provence festivals; Violetta in La Traviata with Santa Fe Opera, as well as performances as soprano soloist for Beethoven's  Symphony No. 9 with the  New York Philharmonic, and Handel's Messiah with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Sir  Andrew Davis. 

A passionate supporter for children's education, Madeline is the Founder and General Director of Voices of Hope.  Voices of Hope is an opera gala event that raises tens of thousands of dollars each year to provide life changing education to severely underprivileged children around the globe. 

Madeline received her Masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music.  She lives in NYC with her husband, operatic bass Paul Whelan, and their six-year-old son.

(For more about Madeline's performing career click here.)

Tanya Bannister

Tanya Bannister (Co-creator and Lead Teacher of Instrumental Story Tellers ) is a distinguished private piano teacher with an award winning studio, and a solo performer with a distinguished international career.  She is also Founder and Director of the AlpenKammerMusik Festival in the Austria Alps.  Her passion for music making and teaching for students of all ages spans the breadth of her various pursuits. 

Lauded by The Washington Post for playing “…with intelligence, poetry and proportion,” Tanya Bannister’s recent victories at the Concert Artists Guild International Competition and the New Orleans International Piano Competition confirm her status among the leading pianists of her generation. Receiving further distinction as an “Artist to Watch” on the cover of SYMPHONY Magazine, Ms. Bannister’s career has already brought her to many of the world’s great concert halls, with recitals at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Salle Cortot in Paris, Teatro Communale in Bologna, Tokyo’s Nikkei Hall, London’s Queen Elizabeth and Wigmore Halls, The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.

Ms. Bannister’s extensive recordings include; chamber versions of Chopin Concerto No. 2, Mozart Concerto K. 449 and Schubert Adagio and Rondo, released in the fall of 2012, her debut recording, featuring three late piano sonatas of Muzio Clementi, was released in 2006 on the Naxos label, and her latest recording for Albany Records, This is the story she began, features solo piano music of American composers.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which occurred soon after Ms. Bannister’s victory in New Orleans, she joined forces with three previous winners of that competition to form “Pianists for New Orleans.” These artists performed together across the United States to achieve their ambitious mission to raise $100,000 to help support the classical music community of New Orleans.  Born in Hong Kong, Ms. Bannister holds degrees from the Royal Academy of Music in London, Yale University, where she studied with Claude Frank, and New York’s Mannes School of Music, where she received an Artist Diploma as one of a handful of pianists selected to study with Richard Goode.

christina beck


Christina Beck (Musical Theater Builders, Dancing Designers, Comedy Improv Lead Teacher) is a recent graduate of Barnard College of Columbia University, where she studied Theatre, Religion, and German. An actor and director, she has extensive performing experience both locally and internationally. She has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where her piece (in which she played the lead) received five-star reviews, and off-Broadway at the Tank Theater in New York, as well as at Barnard College, and in professional productions in her hometown in Massachusetts. She is trained in various methods and styles of acting, including extensive musical theater training and performance, Avant Garde theater, and Shakespearean performance. Her newest passion is directing, and she has assistant directed both college-level and professional pieces in the past year. Christina also has a background in dance, including in ballet, contemporary and musical theatre styles. She loves to teach theatre, and has been teaching theatre in the city at Creative Stage for several years.

Katelyn Candiello

Katelyn Candiello Head shot.png

Katelyn Candiello (Musical Theater Builders Co-teacher), is currently studying at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in the prestigious Stella Adler Studio. She regularly performs in both student and professional productions in repertoire ranging from Shakespeare to My Fair Lady.  Katelyn also has a strong musical background and has trained in both classical voice and piano for nearly a decade. She has also trained as a dancer in ballet, tap and jazz.   In addition to her performing experience, Katelyn is also an experienced teacher, having spent many summers teaching and directing young people in her home town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  


Jake Chapman

Jake Chapman (Comedy Improv Co-teacher) is a musician, composer, and lyricist.  Originally from Los Angeles, he studied music and computer science at Columbia University and jazz vibraphone at Juilliard.  Now a member of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, he began his career writing musical theatre with the 122nd Annual Varsity Show at Columbia, for which he contributed music, lyrics, and orchestrations.  Jake’s performing credits include Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Harold Hill in The Music Man, and Troy Bolton in High School Musical.  He plays keyboard in NYC alternative rock band Cale and the Gravity Well.  Jake has worked as a music director for children, teens, and college students, and as a pianist for improv theatre. He has also taught lessons in music theory, guitar, vibraphone, and piano. 


Alexis Flakes


Alexis Flakes (Dancing Designers Co Teacher)  has performed in dance ensembles since early childhood.  A graduate of Howard University, Alexis is also a trained yoga instructor, specializing in Vinyasa Yoga, and Kids Yoga since 2012. 

Alexis currently works at The School at Columbia University, were she teaches dance, and yoga, and continues to create other curricula in the fields of science and business for the External Affairs Department. 

A passionate educator, Alexis strives to enhance children’s spatial awareness, and motor skills through her teaching. Her love for all things creative has lead her to explore other avenues, most recently including jewelry making, and short story writing.



RAFaeL Hernandez


Rafael A. Hernandez (Film Makers Workshop Lead Teacher) is an independent Filmmaker, who has worked as assistant Director, editor and producer on multiple projects for Shatter Wolf Entertainment. He has assisted on music videos and shorts, while balancing other key rolls, such as directing, budgeting low-budget productions, and scheduling shoots. Rafael has scripted and filmed his own short, and he has written a feature entitled “No Sleep till” that he plans to produce and direct in the summer of 2019. Hernandez has worked as a freelance videographer for companies such as New York Cut & Sew, Stay Woke Harlem, and for the indie group, The Quantum. Hernandez severed as a producer of a community activism project called “The Cost of Milk,” a short film made by the community of Hamilton Heights to bring to light the struggles of inner city residents, screened at Stay Woke Harlem Community meetings and community centers around Harlem. While in high school, he interned as a producer’s assistant for TEDx working with guest speakers, scheduling events surrounding the talks and Q&As afterwards. After his graduation from Hunter College, Hernandez teaches film at The School at Columbia to elementary students.


DAniel Kvoras

Daniel Kvoras (Creative Stage Intern) is an actor, comedian, musician, and current student at Columbia University, majoring in Drama and Theater Arts. He studied and performed improv comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and wrote and performed shows at the People’s Improv Theatre. He currently performs with the improv team Apostrophe in New York City. As a musician, Daniel has played and studied Jazz for over ten years.





alexis lambright

Alexis Lambright (Musical Theater Builders Co-Teacher) is a New York City-based performer and comedy writer. She has studied improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre as well as the Magnet Theater, and performs every Wednesday night during Megawatt. She can also be seen entertaining scores of children as a performer with the Story Pirates!

Previous performing credits include extensive appearances with Boston Improv, The Lab Theatre, Queens Secret Improv Club, and thePeople’s Improv Theater.  Her one-woman show, The Alexis Lambright Tell-A-Thon was presented at both the FringeNYC, in 2013, and again at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2014. She can also be heard on the award-winning podcast The Truth.


Eric Messihi (Musical Theater Builders Co-Teacher) has held a fulfilling career as a Professional Multi-Instrumentalist and Educator. He has shared the stage with world-renowned artists and has contributed to musical projects with some of the top writers and producers in the contemporary music industry.

Eric has collaborated with many musicians in various genres. He has toured nationally with acclaimed artists including the Disney Stars Bridget Mendler, and Zendaya. His collaborations have led him to perform at multiple world-renowned festivals including SXSW Music Festival, CMJ Music Marathon, and Montreal Pop. Most recently, Eric has performed as lead Bassist for the Broadway Musical workshop of August Rush. Additionally, Eric has contributed to multiple studio projects. His most recent work includes Bass, Guitar, and Piano performances on The 2014 record Ille Grande, by Texas Indie rock band, Analog Rebellion.

Eric graduated from Berklee College of Music where he studied under the tutelage of world-class musicians including Whit Brown (Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie), Danny Morris (Bo Diddley, James Cotton) and Anthony Vitti (Sammy Davis Jr., The Drifters).

 As an educator, Eric has worked taught with the After School Program at The School at Columbia University since 2013. Eric also takes great pride in his career as a private music instructor, teaching piano, Guitar, and Bass to students of various ages and skill levels. Eric currently resides in Greenpoint Brooklyn and works with several local acts including the breakout Pop artist, Catey Shaw.


Teresa Morrison (Musical Theater Builders Co-teacher) has performed in regional productions at the Carousel Music Theater in Maine and at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. Some of her favorite credits include: Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, and Madame de la Grande Bouche in Beauty and the Beast, because who doesn't love singing high C's? She also studies improv at the Magnet Theater, sings in multiple cabaret shows throughout New York, including the Duplex and Don't Tell Mama, and is taking the leap at stand-up because she loves making people laugh! 

An alumni of Montclair State University, Teresa  graduated with a BFA in musical theater and a minor in psychology, with a focus geared towards child development. She has worked at recreational day camps, interned for a summer at A Class Act NY, where she assisted in teaching choreography and songs to the kids, and she recently received her certificate to teach MusicTogether. 


Andrew Pace (Hip-Hop, Sing!  Co-teacher) has performed professionally around the country and in NYC in productions of Forever Plaid, The Wedding Singer, Les Miserables, Agatha Christie's Towards Zero, and more. When he isn't performing he loves to work in theater education and development.  He holds a BFA in Musical Theater from Montclair State University, and has interned with leading NYC casting agency Binder Casting where he was fortunate enough to work closely with professional and award winning casting directors on such productions as The Lion King (Broadway and Nat'l Tours), Zorba! (City Center Encores!), Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (Broadway), Trip of Love (Off-B'way), among other productions at leading regional theaters. He has assistant directed multiple children's theater productions and coaches students in Musical Theater, Audition Technique, and Acting. Andrew is a proud Canadian, but sends all his love to his true hometown, Pittsburgh, PA.


Paulina Perera-Riveroll (Creator of Imaginary World Builders Summer Camp, and Set for Puppets Lead Teacher) is a visual artist and educator who believes that an arts education is critical for the healthy development of children. Paulina received training in Inquiry Based Learning from the Guggenheim Museum and has worked as a art educator with kids of all ages in museums across New York City. She presently teaches at New-York Historical Society leading the Spanish speaking program Hablemos de la Historia y el Arte and The Miriam and Ira Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University. Paulina has worked also at El Museo Del Barrio and the Queens Museum. Her artwork includes photography, mixed media and installation. 

Paulina Perera-Riveroll was born in Mexico City.  She received a BFA in Photography from Parsons School of Design.  She is a co-founder and active member of RadiusTwelve a group of independent artists working together to showcase contemporary art. She has participated in several exhibitions. Her artworks are in private collections in Mexico and the U.S.


Lindsey Simpson (Musical Theater Builders Lead Teacher) is a veteran performing arts educator, with a specialty in early childhood education.  As the Creative Director and Co-Founder of The Oz Project at the Palace Theater in Hamilton, NY., Lindsey brings an inclusive musical theater program aimed at developing and enhancing social skills through theatrical performance to children with and without special needs.  Lindsey has also taught numerous musical theater classes at The Studio: A School for the Performing Arts in New Canaan, CT.  Lindsey's own performing credits include appearances in favorite roles such as:  Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, Mary Lane in Reefer Madness, and Hope Cladwell in Urinetown.  She is classically trained as a singer, and has studied ballet, jazz, tap, and partner swing dancing.  She completed her graduate training at Teachers College, Columbia University, and is currently at first grade teacher at the Manhattan School for Children.

Michael Stiggers

Michael Stiggers (Dancing Designers Co-Teacher), originally from West Point Georgia, is a triple threat performer and teaching artist now living in New York City. Most recently, he has performed in the world premiere of Born For This, having the opportunity to work with Grammy award winning artist, Bebe Winans and Broadway director, Charles Randolph-Wright. Michael's impressive performing credits range from leading roles in Broadway classics such as Pippin at the Legacy Theater, and The Wizard of Oz at the Springer Opera House, to innovative contemporary works such as iLLA: A Hip Hop Musical with Sundance Productions.

Although the stage work has kept him busy, Michael’s passion for working and sharing his talents with young artists is undeniable. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Theatre Education from Columbus State University and has worked as an instructor with The Springer Theatre Academy, one of the southeast’s largest summer training program for Young Artists. Visit his website here.

Mack Walters


Mack Walters (Musical Theater Builders Co-teacher) is a guitarist, composer, and educator currently performing, recording, and teaching in and around New York City.  Recently, he has had the chance to record music with Grammy Award-winning artist John Scofield, and is getting ready to release his debut album as a bandleader.  He is currently teaching classes and individual lessons as an adjunct instructor at New York University.  During his professional career, Mack has had the opportunity to collaborate with some very noteworthy teachers and musicians including: John Scofield, Adam Rogers, Ari Hoenig, Peter Bernstein, Gilad Hekselman, David Newsam, Tony Moreno, and Mark Shilanksy. He is currently pursuing my Masters degree in Jazz Studies from New York University, and have a Bachelors degree in Music Performance from the University of New Hampshire."




Clare Wasserman (Co-creater and Lead Teacher of Dancing Designers) and has had a rich career as a costume designer with projects ranging from Quentin Tarentino films to Broadway shows.  Career highlights include exciting projects such as; Heidi Klum's Halloween costumes, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, the Marc Jacobs costume ball, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa costume, and the creation of a Zac Posen dress for the HBO series, Sex in the City. Clare has also collaborated with award winning designers for the Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Side Show and Tuck Everlasting on Broadway,  as well as working with the prestigious Spoleto Opera Festival in South Carolina.

As an arts educator, Clare has held positions such as lead teacher at the Inner-city Arts Camp in Houston, TX, teaching artist at The New Works Festival at the University of Texas in Austin, and the Children Arts Program Coordinator, at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church.


Chinese-born Canadian pianist Sophie Xuefei Zhang (Musical Theater Builders Co-teacher) enjoys a career both as soloist and chamber musician. First-place winner of the national Canadian Music Competition, Sophie was also the First-place winner of the Beijing district of Concours de Piano Sino-Francais "MIDO" and semi-finalist of the 12th Pacific International Piano Competition. Sophie was the winner of Felix Galimir Chamber Music Award in 2008 and was on full scholarship to attend the Chamber Music program at The Banff Centre. Concert appearances include venues such as Beijing Concert Hall, Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University, Carnegie Hall, Toronto's Arts and Letters Club, Toronto Centre for the Arts, Rolston Recital Hall at The Banff Centre, CBC's Glenn Gould Studio,Berkeley Piano Club and Canadian Opera Company's Richard Bradshaw Theatre. Sophie has also been heard on Beijing Classical Music Radio Station FM97.4, CBC Radio Soundstreams Canada, and Banff Centre Radio Station. She has been named an Osher Foundation Scholar.

An active educator, she led masterclasses for the Alexander String Quartet at San Francisco State University and coached chamber ensembles from the Crowden School in Berkeley. She currently serves as piano faculty at Turtle Bay Music School, and is also a Freelance Lecturer at MoMA The Museum of Modern Art.

Sophie graduated with honors from University of Toronto with a bachelor degree in Piano Performance and a minor concentration in Fine Art History, and obtained her Master of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music. Currently based in New York City, Sophie maintains a private teaching studio


Regina Yung (Musical Theater Builders Co-Teacher) a Hong Kong native, has performed as a soloist, collaborative pianist, and chamber musician in numerous venues throughout Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and the United States. She obtained her Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin College Conservatory, and her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from Manhattan School of Music.  Regina is currently a member of piano faculty at the St. Thomas Choir School and South Shore Conservatory.  She is also a chamber music coach at Duxbury Music Festival Preparatory Summer program as well as a collaborative piano faculty at Duxbury Music Festival.