September 30, 2021 NAfME Webinar Presenter/Facilitator Photos and Bios

composer database

Dr. Rob Deemer, Council Chair

Dr. Rob Deemer is a composer, conductor, educator, author, and advocate. His work as an advocate for underrepresented composers led him to create the Institute for Composer Diversity and the Composer Diversity Database. Deemer is a Professor and Head of Composition at the State University of New York at Fredonia, the State Chair of the NYSSMA Composition/Improvisation Committee, and the National Chair of the NAfME Council for Music Composition.

music teacher
CAROLYN BENNETT Vocal and general music teacher, Wheeler High School/Wheeler Middle School, North Stonington, Connecticut. Photo by Shawn Miller, Library of Congress Photographer.

Carolyn Bennett

Carolyn Bennett is an instructional coordinator with VHS Learning, where she also teaches AP Music Theory. Until very recently, she was a Connecticut music educator. She was the 2018-2019 Teacher-in-Residence at the Library of Congress, and is a Teaching with Primary Sources coach. She serves on the steering committee of the Teaching with Primary Sources initiative for the National Association for Music Education, where she developed standards-based units designed for flexible remote learning.

Dr. Mara Gibson

Composer Mara Gibson is originally from Charlottesville, VA, graduated from Bennington College, and completed her Ph.D. at SUNY Buffalo. Internationally renowned ensembles and soloists perform her music throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Asia, and Europe. Dr. Gibson has taught at the UMKC Conservatory as Associate Professor where she was the founder of the UMKC Composition Workshop and co-director/founder of ArtSounds. Starting fall 2017, she joined the faculty of Louisiana State University where she is currently Associate Professor of Composition and Area Head.

Courtney Kaiser-Sandler

Courtney Kaiser-Sandler is a professional songwriter, vocalist, and musician as well as the founder of the singer-songwriter program at Interlochen Arts Academy. Along with teaching, she oversees the Contemporary Music program (jazz, popular music, songwriting, and MP&E). Kaiser-Sandler has a passion for pioneering pathways in music education. She is a sought after presenter on the importance of repeated performance for artistic growth and controlling the inner dialogue for performing artists. Kaiser-Sandler has lent her talents to high-profile artists including John Mellencamp, The Wallflowers, Sufjan Stevens, Petra Haden, Yuka Honda, and Sean Lennon. Her original songs have been heard on film and television including Bored to Death, The Firm, Private Practice, and Liberal Arts. 

Dr. Xander Koops

Alexander Koops holds a D.M.A. in Music Education from the University of Southern California, with minors in theory, orchestral conducting, and horn performance. He is the author of Composition Concepts for Band and Orchestra: Incorporating Creativity in Ensemble Settings (2020) as well as writing a chapter published in Composing our Future, (Oxford University Press, 2012), and was a contributor to Musicianship: Composing in Band and Orchestra published by GIA in 2013. Koops joined the music faculty at Azusa Pacific University in August 2001 and is currently Director of Undergraduate Music education, Associate Director of Bands, and Director of the Azusa Conservatory (a community music school).

Ryan Main

An award winning composer, Ryan’s compositions are performed internationally and frequently featured at national and regional American Choral Directors Association Conferences, festivals, Carnegie Hall, and other distinguished events around the world. Ryan holds a Master of Music in Music Composition and a Master of Music in Music Education from the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Composition from the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance. He founded and serves as artistic director of the Youth Chorus of Kansas City, a non-profit organization serving youth of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds throughout the Kansas City metro area.

Dr. Cynthia Van Maanen

Cynthia Van Maanen is a composer, educator, and flautist. Van Maanen holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Composition with a minor in music theory from the University of Houston. Her compositions have been performed by members of the Houston Ballet Orchestra, Houston Opera Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Traverse Symphony Orchestra, as well as many collegiate faculty members and students from around the country. Van Maanen currently teaches composition and theory for the Interlochen Arts Academy. She also teaches for the Boston Conservatory High School Composition Intensive (HSCI) during the summers.


Brian Zeller is an educator, composer, and performer residing in New York’s Hudson Valley. He teaches instrumental music, improvisation, composition, and AP Music Theory in the Red Hook Central School District, where he has also served as Music Department Coordinator. Zeller holds a Master of Arts in Music Education from the Eastman School of Music, and a Bachelor of Music in Composition from the Oberlin Conservatory. He has served on the New York State School Music Association’s Composition and Improvisation Committee since 2015, and the NAfME Council for Music Composition since 2020.

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