Since 1989, AUSTE has been a leading source of Suzuki music education in Minnesota. The AUSTE is fortunate to have an outstanding staff of trained professionals who have extensive training and experience in Suzuki repertoire and pedagogy. Each member of our staff is dedicated to helping our students achieve their highest potential.
Nancy Lokken – Violin / AUSTE Director / Suzuki Association of the Americas Teacher Trainer
Nancy Lokken directs Augsburg College Suzuki Talent Education (AUSTE) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she also teaches Suzuki pedagogy as a registered Teacher Trainer with the Suzuki Association of the Americas. She studied with Dr. Suzuki in Japan and is an active Clinician and Teacher Trainer at institutes, festivals and workshops throughout the United States, Canada, and Latin America. She is a founding member and first President of the Suzuki Association of Minnesota, and served on the board of the American String Teachers’ Association of Minnesota. She was the Coordinator of the 30th Anniversary Conference of the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA) in 2002, has presented at several SAA and American String Teachers’ Association (ASTA) National Conferences, and served on the SAA Teacher Development Committees which developed the courses ECC!, “Every Child Can!, and SPA, “Suzuki Principals in Action.”
Ms. Lokken has taught in Bermuda, Canada, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Vienna. Her students have been recipients of numerous awards and recognitions, including performances with the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The AUSTE students were selected to perform in the International Ensembles Concert at the SAA Conference in 2004, invited to perform in Mexico City at the International CEDROS-UP Festivals in 2005 and 2010. AUSTE students have toured throughout Mexico and Spain and in 2016 performed in Salzburg, Vienna and Prague. Ms. Lokken was honored by the American String Teachers Association with the award of Master Teacher for the state of Minnesota in 1998, and received the American Suzuki Institute Chair Award in 2012.
Erika Blanco – Violin
Erika Blanco, a Southerner by birthright and Midwesterner by recent transplant, holds a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music and a master’s degree in violin performance and Suzuki pedagogy from the University of Minnesota. She studied under the late Stephen Panchaud, assistant concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, before transferring to Blair School of Music under Blair String Quartet first violinist Christian Teal. Most recently, she has studied at the University of Minnesota with Suzuki pioneer Mark Bjork. Erika has performed in masterclasses with violinists Alexander Kerr, Professor of Violin at Indiana University and Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Soh-Hyun Park Altino, Professor of Violin at the University of Memphis; and Leanne League, Professor of Violin at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Loving collaboration, Erika attends different festivals throughout the year, including the Oskaloosa Chamber Music Festival, where she oversees the educational outreach portion of the week; at the 2013 OCMF, she soloed Vivaldi’s Summer concerto with the chamber orchestra. She’s played with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, and the Mankato Symphony, and is currently a core member of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra.
She plays violin in the Minneapolis-based salsa band Charanga Tropical. Charanga Tropical is the first North American group to be invited to Cuba’s 2015 International Danzón Festival in Havana. Additionally, she is first violinist and a founding member of Lux String Quartet based in Minneapolis. In 2014, Lux cooperated with the University of Minnesota School of Music in presenting six original string quartet compositions by graduate composers for celebrated composer Brian Ferneyhough’s residency. Lux is currently one of MPR’s Class Notes Artists ensembles for the 2015-16 school year.
A Suzuki student herself, Erika has completed, in addition to her long-term training with Mark Bjork, numerous short-term Suzuki training units with Carol Smith, Ronda Cole, Brian Lewis, Kimberly Meier-Sims, Mary Cay Neal, Kathy Wood, Nancy Jackson, and Nancy Lokken. She staunchly believes that every child can achieve a high level of ability given a nurturing environment and sound teaching.
Though trained classically, Erika enjoys jammin’, stompin’, and shakin’ in any setting: homegrown folk, fiddlin’, rockin’-and-a-rollin’, salsa, and the new music scene. Pedagogically, her passion is to nurture an appreciation for beauty, collaboration, and the learning process, and personally, to be spurred on by great musicians and colleagues and to participate in the transcendental euphoria of chamber music. Erika delights in practicing and playing on her commissioned 2012 Kurt Widenhouse violin.
Karena Ferrier – Accompanist, Violin Instructor
Karena Ferrier began her music studies at age three as a Suzuki violin and piano student. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance from St. Olaf College where she was the winner of concerto competitions with both the St. Olaf Philharmonia and the St. Olaf Orchestra. Her graduate studies at the University of Minnesota included violin performance with Sally O’Reilly and Suzuki Pedagogy with Mark Bjork. During this time she served as a teaching assistant for undergraduate music theory courses. Her studies also include summers at the Aspen Music Festival, the Chatauqua Institute in New York, Bravo! Summer Music Festival at the University of Minnesota, and the American Suzuki Institute in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin.
Ms. Ferrier is a violin instructor and accompanist with Augsburg College Suzuki Talent Education, and was one of the teachers who performed and taught in Spanish schools on the AUSTE Tour to Spain. She served as the accompanist for the 2010 Mexico Tour for five performances in Mexico City, Santa Fe, Morelia, and Guadalajara. In addition, she is a faculty member at the MacPhail Center for Music in the Early Childhood Music department, and performs as violist in the String Quartet Sonorous Strings.
Eric Graf – Cellist
Eric holds a Master’s degree in Cello Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Dr. Melissa Kraut. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Cello Performance from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, having studied with Ms. Tanya Remenikova. He has had years of teaching experience and is an avid teacher of all levels. He taught throughout the Cleveland area prior to moving to Minnesota.
Eric was assistant principal cellist with the Wheeling Symphony, section player in the Lexington Philharmonic, and finished his fourth season as principal cellist of the Mansfield Symphony. As founding member of the Aceso Quartet, he traveled to Denmark for a chamber music residency at the Hvide Sande Masterclass. Eric will perform as soloist with the Long Prairie Chamber Orchestra in April 2018, and has been a soloist with the Mansfield Symphony, Long Prairie Chamber Orchestra, and Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra. Eric loves solo, chamber, and orchestral playing equally, but has a soft spot for chamber music.
As the new cellist for the Lux String Quartet, Eric Graf is thrilled to be back in his home state of Minnesota. Eric is a freelance musician and cello teacher now based in the Twin Cities.
Eric believes everyone can learn an instrument. He also believes every student is an individual with their own strengths and needs, and he tailors his teaching approach for each student to help them grow the best they can.
Randi Kvam Hellman – Violin and Music Reading Class Instructor
Randi Kvam Hellman has been a Suzuki violin specialist for over twenty five years. She has trained at all book levels in the Suzuki repertoire with such distinguished teachers as Mark Bjork, Linda Case, Carol Dallinger, Walter Haderer, John Kendall, Alice Joy Lewis, and Nancy Lokken. Her college and post-baccalaureate violin studies have been with Richard Massman and Kensley Rosen. She holds a BA in Theatre Arts and Psychology from the University of Minnesota.
She has taught in the Augsburg program since 1997, and regularly teaches as a guest clinician at workshops and summer institutes. Her previous teaching experience has included positions at San Francisco State University and, for ten years, at the MacPhail Center for the Arts. Randi has traveled with the Augsburg Suzuki Program to Spain and Mexico.
She has served on the board of the Suzuki Association of Minnesota as Treasurer, President-elect and President. Randi is also a Suzuki parent, with her daughter Laura playing violin. Her years of experience as both teacher and parent have deeply reinforced her commitment to the Suzuki talent education approach.
Elise Parker – Violin Instructor
A native of Minneapolis, Elise Parker completed a Master’s degree at Rice University in 2008, where she was the recipient of the Distinguished Fellowship of Violin Award, studying with Kathleen Winkler. She received a Bachelor’s degree in music performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a School of Music scholarship, studying under Vartan Manoogian. Her study and training in the Suzuki Method includes pedagogues William Starr, John Kendall, Nancy Lokken, Mark Bjork and Brian Lewis.
An avid orchestral musician, Ms. Parker has performed with ensembles including the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, San Antonio Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Minnesota Children’s Theater Company, Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera, Madison Ballet, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, South Dakota Symphony, Minnesota Sinfonia, and Orpheum Theater of Minneapolis. She served as concertmaster of the Shepherd School of Music’s Symphony and Chamber Orchestras as well as principal of the Aspen Music Festival and School’s orchestras while attending on full scholarship.
Elise Parker began violin lessons at age 6 with Toyo Lang, then continued her studies with Nancy Lokken and graduated from Augsburg College Suzuki Talent Education. She graduated from all ten levels of the Suzuki Association of Minnesota Statewide Graduation.
Ms. Parker lives in Minneapolis and joined Augsburg College Suzuki Talent Education as an instructor in 2010. She is a member of the Minnesota Opera Orchestra and freelances throughout the Twin Cities.
Stella Anderson – Chamber Music Coordinator and Coach
Stella Anderson has a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN, where she studied with William Primrose and David Dawson. Ms. Anderson is a violist and founding member of the Sartory String Quartet, and maintains a large class of violists and violinists at MacPhail Center for the Arts.
Since 1998, she has been the Chamber Music Coordinator for Augsburg College Suzuki Talent Education. She serves as principal violist of the Wayzata Symphony Orchestra and the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra. During the summer she is the coordinator for the Sartory String Quartet Institute at MacPhail.
Ms. Anderson is a past president of the Minnesota chapter of the American String Teachers Association and recipient of the 1995 Minnesota ASTA Master Teacher Award. She is also an Artist member of Thursday Musical, an orchestra member of the award-winning Vocal Essence (formerly known as Plymouth Music Series), a board member of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies and MNSOTA (Minnesota String and Orchestra Teacher’s Association), and an active solo, chamber and freelance musician.
Lorie Hippen – Orchestra Conductor, Violin
For the past forty years Lorie Hippen has been a music educator, conductor and freelance violinist in the Twin Cities for the past forty years. Currently she directs the orchestra at South High School in Minneapolis, and teaches at the MacPhail School for Music. As a professional freelance violinist, she has performed with many ensembles and organizations, including the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra, SkyLark Opera, VocalEssence, The Minnesota Opera, and Minnesota Sinfonia. She enjoys playing an eclectic blend of musical genres with many national and international artists.
Ms. Hippen is active as an educator at the state level having served for many years as an adjudicator for the Minnesota State High School League music contests. She has appeared many times as an orchestra guest clinician, including as the West School District Orchestra Festival clinician in Billings, Montana She is a past- president of the MN String and Orchestra Teachers Association (MNSOTA) and has been a recipient of its Master Teacher: School Orchestra Award. Her additional conducting experiences in the past have included serving as the director of the Linden Hills Orchestra, assistant conductor of the St. Paul Civic Symphony under the tutelage of Edouard Forner, and the MacPhail Suzuki Chamber Orchestra.
Ms. Hippen is a life-long resident of the Twin Cities area. She holds a bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and has pursued two years of graduate study in Violin Performance, studying with Richard Adams and Lea Foli, Her teachers of Violin Pedagogy at the university include Mary West, John Tartaglia, and Suzuki Violin Pedagogy with Mark Bjork.
Lou Ann Reese – Accompanist
Lou Ann Reese became involved with Suzuki Talent Education in 1970, first as a Suzuki parent with her two children, and then as an accompanist. She accompanied numerous Suzuki Statewide Festival Concerts in Northrup Auditorium. In addition to Suzuki students, she accompanies a women’s chorus and other instrumentalists. Ms. Reese also plays celtic harp and harpsichord. She received her music training at Gustavus Adolphus College, and held a 40 year career as organist at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview, MN.