The partnerschools team
The partnerschool team consists of the director, advisory board, composer-in-residence, poet-in-residence, web designer, volunteers and our most wonderful and invaluable teachers.
Please find the teachers' profiles on the partnerships page.
Born and raised in Germany, Sonja Bruzauskas was trained on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Besides her expansive stage career in musical theater, opera and operetta, Sonja is a well-established concert singer and recitalist, focusing on German Art Song and contemporary music.
Sonja is the founder and director of pARTnerschools.
Peter P. Neuhaus
Peter P. Neuhaus is a German graphic designer. He is responsible for the visual appearance of partnerschools and this website.
Sheryl Rapp is the founder of The UP Experience – Unique Perspectives from Unique People. Since 2007, Sheryl has been designing custom events providing world-class speakers so that audiences can experience new ideas that are making a difference in our world. She also coaches and trains experts on how to craft and deliver their very best story to empower others. UP is an infusion of exceptional people, exceptional stories and exceptional events. Sheryl is also passionate about education and children’s causes and has served on many boards and committees to help children succeed and be the best that they can be.
Composer in Residence
Robert Nelson received his BME and MM degrees from the University of Nebraska, and his DMA from the University of Southern California. He is currently Professor Emeritus at the Moores School of Music.
He has written extensively for film and television and also for theater, including 15 seasons as musical director and composer-in-residence for the Houston Shakespeare Festival.
He was the recipient of the first award for music composition presented by the Cultural Arts Council of Houston.
He has composed and arranged music for VOX-The Rob Seible Singers, the Houston Bach Choir, the Monterey Bay Symphony, the Houston Boychoir, the HSPVA Madrigal Singers, the Bay Area Chorus, the Sons of Orpheus male chorus, the Chicago Chamber Brass, the Paragon Brass Ensemble, the Orchestra Citta di Grosetto, and the Virtuosi of Houston. He is Professor Emeritus in the Moores School of Music and is the pianist for the American Pops Orchestra.
Poet in Residence
Ava Leavell Haymon
Ava Leavell Haymon, Poet Laureate of the State of Louisiana 2013-2015, is a poet, playwright, editor, and teacher. She has published widely, both in journals and in anthologies. Her latest full-length collection, from LSU Press, is ELDEST DAUGHTER. She teaches poetry writing classes, directs workshops, reads her poems widely in the United States and in Canada, and edits the Barataria Poetry Series for LSU Press. Her poems have been set to music and premiered by a number of classical and jazz composers. A number of her poems were used in the CD “Watercolors,” by Robert Nelson. She lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with longsuffering husband, and, after much practice and a few lessons, plays the mandolin very badly.
Daniel’s career in the music industry is multi-faceted with involvement in choral education, musical theater performance, church worship, and fine arts program development. Although an accomplished keyboardist performing both live and in studio throughout the United States, Daniel is most passionate about cultivating community relationships by connecting artists and audiences through creative performances and collaborative events. Currently on staff at Christ the King Presbyterian Church as the Director of Worship and Arts, Daniel curates both sonic and graphic art projects, seeking human renewal and restorative beauty in the city of Houston.
Janice Tirapelli has enjoyed varied careers beginning with her interest in diet and natural foods. A nutrition counselor, she was chef/owner of The Macrobiotic Center of Texas and a catering company providing natural foods to individuals and businesses in Houston.
During the last 25 years, Janice has worked with global non-profits for social justice, food insufficiency, and disaster relief in communication and fundraising.
She is currently working on a Numerology app launched in 2017 and developing online math-oriented games for children and adults.
A mother to 5 children and 3 grandchildren, she is happiest watching pARTnerschool children sing!
Maria received her Bachelor of Education with specialization in Special Education from the José Maria Vargas University in Caracas, Venezuela. For the past 19 years, Maria has worked at Annunciation Orthodox School teaching Spanish to middle school students. Maria’s passion is in helping those who need a chance to succeed in life, from volunteering at the Texas Children’s Hospital, teaching English and Spanish to Immigrants and English speakers with the Learn English and Spanish Ministry. Maria strives to help anyone who seeks for an opportunity to prosper.
Mitch Pengra is a fine arts and special needs educator and mentor who works in a variety of musical and educational settings. He is thrilled to be accompanying choral groups through pARTnerschools and is proud to see it growing and connecting more people together. The majority of his educational experience has been with students working to improve social and communication skills through the arts. Mitch taught art at The Parish School for seventeen years and has conducted creative learning programs through Project ReadWrite that enhance reading comprehension, creative writing, and social skills. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting & Drawing from University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Child Development with a focus on special needs from Our Lady of the Lake University.
Jill Schaar is a lawyer with a lifelong passion for music and singing. Her interest in music began with flute studies in public school, so Jill knows that providing joyful musical experiences to youth furnishes the foundation for a lifetime of creativity and community. After her undergraduate and law degrees, Jill earned her 500-hour yoga and yoga nidra teaching certifications, and she delights in sharing these ancient practices to promote well-being in our modern world. As a board member of the Houston Grand Opera for over twenty years, and a former Houston Symphony Chorus member, Jill is thrilled to be part of pARTnerschools' mission of creating community through choral performances across Houston.