Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts

Faculty and Staff

Michael Charron, M.F.A.

Dean of Arts and Humanities

Charron earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and English with a secondary education license from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. He continued his education by obtaining a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theatre from the University of Minnesota. Charron was a faculty member at Concordia University in Saint Paul, MN from 1983 – 2007. During his years at Concordia, he became a tenured professor of theatre arts, as well as Chair and Artistic Director of the Department of Theatre. Charron has extensive experience as a director, playwright, actor, and leader within the arts community. Additionally, he served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2004 – 2006 and is currently the Chair of the Minnesota State Arts Board. While a student at Saint Mary’s, Charron was an active participant in Theatre Department productions. Furthermore, he was involved in Winona Community Theatre and The Ballet School [MCA].

Tammy Schmidt

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. 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.

Ryan Ballanger

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.

Alanna Duffy Pellowski

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.

Dave Gudmastad

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.

Aleah Harvey

Instructor - Piano

Harvey holds a Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance from Saint Mary’s University. She has been giving private piano instruction in the Winona area for the past ten years.  Harvey is also the music director and organist at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church. In addition to her church and teaching duties, Harvey accompanies several choirs in the Winona area.

Avin Honecker-Sherman

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.

Kerry Klungtvedt

Instructor - Guitar and Bass

Klungtvedt is a jazz, classical and finger style guitarist. His influences include Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, Andreas Segovia and Joe Pass. He has taught guitar in several colleges in Southeastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. Kerry is also a Suzuki Guitar instructor, a specialized program of instruction for children ages 3-7. In his spare time he also accompanies weddings, dinners and other special occasions. He holds two degrees in Music from Winona State University, with additional studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. He also holds a MN State Teaching license in K-12 Music.

Hannah Nagel

Instructor - Violin and Piano

Nagel is a student at Winona State University pursuing a degree in Human Resource Management with a minor in music. She has been playing violin since the fourth grade and has been actively involved in orchestras for six years. Now she is involved in both Saint Mary’s University and WSU orchestras and quartet music. She has taught students from age 5 to adult and works with groups of younger students in the Winona Fiddlers. She loves teaching as it combines her love of working with people and her passion for music.

Theresa Remick

Instructor - Piano and Voice

Remick began studying piano at age four, winning several awards at local and regional competitions during middle and high school. She began her vocal studies at The Fine Arts Center in Greenville, SC, and went on to receive a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Eastman School of Music, where she performed with several choral ensembles, Eastman Opera Theatre, and Gamelan Lila Muni. Theresa received her masters in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College, and worked for organizations such as Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, Washington National Opera, National Arts Strategies, and The Metropolitan Opera before moving to Winona in 2015 to serve as Managing Director of the Performance Center at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Ian Schultz

Instructor - Piano and Voice

Ian Schultz is the Music Director at the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka where he is choir director and organist/pianist. Ian also attends Winona State University for Vocal Music Education and is currently in his Junior year. In the summers he is one of the marching band directors at Cotter High School. After parade season, Ian is the musical director for the Fountain City River Players summer musical. On the side, Ian is an accompanist for many different musicals, solo and ensemble contests, and choirs.

Jamie Schwaba

Managing Director

Schwaba earned a Masters degree in Adult and Continuing Education Leadership from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with a minor in Communications from Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. In addition to her role at MCA, Jamie is a member of the Education Committee at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and the Secretary of the River Arts Alliance. Before relocating to Winona for this position she was the Director of Continuing Education and Children’s Theatre Director at University of Wisconsin- Marinette from 2007-2014.  Also while living in Marinette Schwaba was an active member of the Menominee Area Arts Council who’s mission was to promote, educate and support local arts activities.  Prior to living in Marinette she spent 8 years in the Milwaukee area where she was the Education Director at Milwaukee Youth Theatre, taught at First Stage Milwaukee, Danceworks, To The Pointe Fine Arts Academy and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music as well as performed professionally with Skylight Music Theatre, Discovery World and Windfall Theatre. Contact Jamie at: jschwaba@smumn.edu or 507-453-5501

Megan Bagniewski

Administrative Assistant

Megan is originally from Winona, growing up and going to school in the Winona 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 more than 7 years experience in an administrative assistant role. She was most recently with 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.

Jessica Dienger

Instructor - Dance

Jessica has been studying all forms of dance since the age of three. She eventually turned her lifelong passion for the art into a career when she began teaching at the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts in 2006. She was a founding member and dancer of the Two Lakes Dance Project in 2010, and in 2014 restaged Plum’s Divine Crazy Quilt for the DRC 40th Anniversary Concert. Dienger has created original works for both DRC & DRC. Dienger now teaches jazz, hip hop and tap at MCA. She resides in La Crosse, WI with her husband, Mitch and daughter Elliotte.

Amanda Grace

Instructor - Music Composition/ Song Writing

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.

Brianna Haupt

Instructor - Art

Haupt graduated from Winona State University with a degree in K-12 art education with an emphasis in printmaking.  She currently teaches at Riverway Learning Community Winona.  Her art has been seen locally at Acoustic Cafe, Some Sum Studio and the former Smith Gallery.

Samantha Heaver

Instructor - Theatre

Samantha’s love of theatre began while building sets in high school. She went on to receive her B.A. in Theatre from Winona State where she studied everything from design to performance. After spending two seasons in the box office with The Great River Shakespeare Festival she is now thrilled to be teaching at MCA.

Christine Martin

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.

Rachael (Moore) Nehring

Instructor - Dance

Moore has been studying ballet since she was four years old. Moore has studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia with the Mussorgsky Theatre of Opera and Ballet as well as the Rimsky-Korsakov School. Moore was a member of a pre-professional company for 12 years prior to graduation from Butler University with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance Pedagogy. Some of her roles have included the Rat Queen in The Nutcracker, Berthe in Giselle, Queen Mother in Sleeping Beauty, all with the Butler Ballet; and Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland with Alexandra Ballet Company. Moore has taught for the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts and Saint Mary’s University Department of Theatre and Dance for three years. Her work with the Dance Repertory Company includes serving as rehearsal assistant and choreographer for the 2008 and 2010 Nutcracker productions as well as choreographing original works for the DRC II in 2009 in 2011.  She plans to further her education by obtaining her Masters in Dance.

Rachael Ryan Dahlgren

Instructor - Cello and Dance

A recent 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.

Jennifer Taber-O'Neill

Instructor - Dance

Jennifer Taber-O’Neill holds an M.A. in Dance Education from Barat College and a Bachelor of Dance Arts from the University of Michigan. Taber-O’Neill has taught at Winona State University, College of Lake County, Lansing Community College, and at numerous conferences, studios and academies throughout the Midwest. Currently, Ms. Taber-O’Neill is on faculty at Rochester Community and Technical College and Saint Mary’s University, Winona. Taber-O’Neill was the Artistic Director of the Pre-Professional Program and the Education Director for Allegro School of Dance and Music in Rochester, Minnesota. Jennifer is Align Barre, Leap ‘N Learn, Cecchetti Grade I teacher certified and is a member of the National Dance Education Organization. Taber-O’Neill’s original works have been performed by many colleges and companies including the College of Lake County, Lansing Community College, and the Children’s Dance Theater Her performance experience includes Happendance Company, Revival Dance and the Emily Berry Dance Company (now B3W).