Academy Instructors:

Our instructors are established music educators and passionate performers with years of experience, who are fully committed to teaching and promoting the art of music and singing on all levels of music education.


Academy Staff:

Dr.Gabriela Hristova, artistic director

Karri Spoelstra, administrative assistant

Miranda Mooney, counselor*

Hannah Wikariasz, counselor

Emily Carter, counselor

Owen Ananich, counselor


*All of our counselors are former Academy students and current music students of the University of Michigan-Flint Department of Music.




Garth Starr, Choir, Junior Academy

Garth Starr is the Vocal Music teacher at Hahn Intermediate School in Davison where he teaches fifth and sixth grade vocal music and instructs the school’s Spotlight Choir.  Previously he had taught general music in Flushing Community Schools, and prior to that he was the choral director at Lapeer East High School where he also served as District Manager for MSVMA District 3. Garth is the Music Director at Davison Assembly of God where he directs the choir and serves as pianist.  He is currently serving on the board for the Michigan chapter of ACDA as an area representative. 

After receiving a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Michigan-Flint Garth earned a Master of Education from Marygrove College, and a Master in Choral Conducting from Michigan State University.

He is currently in his fifth season directing the Lapeer County Concert Choir. They currently perform in and outside Lapeer and Genesee County. 

Garth is a graduate of the Summer Vocal Academy of Music and was privileged to work every summer as a college intern for the Academy under the supervision of Carolyn Mawby while he studied at the University of Michigan-Flint.  After graduation he was able to begin working as Secretary and Instructor for the Academy.  Garth has worked at the Academy for 14 years in various capacities, most recently serving as conductor for the Junior Academy Choirs.


Dr. Joshua May, SATB choir and Men’s Ensemble, Senior Academy


Dr. Gabriela Hristova, Women’s Ensemble, Senior Academy


Julie Anne Carr, Vocal Technique, Junior/Senior Academy


Jason Debandt, Music Investigation, Junior Academy

Jason is a music teacher for Clarenceville District Public Schools, where he teaches Middle School choral music, High School choral music, and Theater Arts.  Previously he was the choral director at Madison High School and taught elementary music at Summit & Crescent Academies.  Choirs under Jason's direction have performed at various Universities and MSVMA events.  Jason is also on staff as a baritone at Christ Church Cranbrook under the direction of John Repulski.  

Jason earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the Rochester College, his teaching certification through Madonna University, and is finishing a Master of Music Education degree from Oakland University.


Patrick Prouty, Theory and Composition, Senior Academy


Elizabeth Sevick, Art, Junior Academy

Elizabeth Sevick is an alumna of the University of Michigan Flint with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Arts and a minor in Art History. She teaches private lessons for art, guitar, and clarinet, and currently substitute teaches through Swartz Creek Community Schools.  This year will be her eighth year teaching with the Academy.


Dr. Jessica Cech, Dance & Movement, Junior/Senior Academy


Ben Schlatter, Percussion Ensemble, Junior Academy

Ben is a percussionist and teacher. He graduated from The University Of Michigan-Flint in 2009.  He has been teaching percussion class for the Summer Academy of Music since 2011, he also has taught band at Kearsley Middle School, Mott Middle College, private lessons at Grand Blanc Music, and music production at the Boys and Girls Club of Flint.  Ben also maintains a busy performing schedule playing drum set, vibraphone, piano, and steel drums with bands throughout the state. 


Bruce Horn, Percussion ensemble, Senior Academy

Bruce earned his Bachelors in Music Education, majoring in percussion, at the University of Michigan-Flint in December 2012.  Bruce has been teaching music in large ensembles as well as individual lessons, for 17 years.  Bruce has played percussion for 25 years professionally, nationally and worldwide.  Performances include national tours with notable National bands, playing drum set for Andy Narrell at the Detroit Jazz Festival, and performing at the Paris Conservatoir, Paris, France with The Steelheads Percussion Ensemble.  Musical styles Bruce is enthusiastic about are Jazz, Rock, Hip-hop, Percussion Ensemble music, and much more!


Frank E. Pitts, Academy Accompanist

Frank is a member of the music faculty of U of M Flint, where he teaches piano keyboard classes and is the accompanist for the choral ensembles at the university.  Mr. Pitts also serves as music director for the fall musical production in the theatre department.  In addition, he is an accomplished vocal soloist and has performed with regional orchestras in the US and Canada.  This is the third year Mr. Pitts has served as accompanist for the Vocal Arts Academy.