Sistema Australia People

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Christopher Nicholls – Director


After twenty-five years involved in high end IT marketing and business development with some of Australia's most highly regarded IT and IT Security companies, Christopher decided to pursue his real love, music and music education following on from his strong involvement in community music in Canberra, and development and management of a large and popular community symphony orchestra. He witnessed the effect of music on the life of his own children and realised the significance of music to youth.

Christopher built and designed Sistema Australia which had a view to doing something vital and important in the wider community and to give back to the society and to Australia widely that he had enjoyed as a business citizen.
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Mark Shiell – National Sistema Australia Music Director


Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra, Mark Shiell has established a reputation as one of the leading Australian conductors of his generation. During the last 3 years his guest conducting appearances have included the West Australian Symphony, Victorian Opera, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, Canberra Symphony, Sydney Sinfonia and Melbourne University Symphony Orchestra.

Originally a flautist, Mark Shiell studied at the Victorian College of the Arts where he won the Gwen Nisbett Award for Outstanding Musical Achievement. His conducting study began with Graham Abbott through Monash University and with John Hopkins in the renowned Masters Program at the Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne. Further study has taken him to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Perugia where he has been pursuing the teachings of the great Russian conducting pedagogue, Ilya Musin.
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Elisse Kleiner – Program Director, South Australia


Elisse has performed, taught, lived and breathed music across Australia, the UK, Europe, North and South America. Originally from Melbourne, she studied flute with Jaime Martin and Paul Edmund-Davies at the Royal College of Music in London, UK. Since then she has toured Europe three times with the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra, performed and taught flute in Spain (in Spanish) and Montreal (in French), spent many glorious months in the Canadian Rocky Mountains participating in Creative Residencies at the Banff Centre, and backpacked throughout North and South America researching El Sistema childhood music education programs, that are used as a vessel for social change.

Dedicated to facilitating wider access to quality live music, Elisse has helped to launch several independent chapters of Classical Revolution – an international collaboration of musicians that surprise and delight people across the world through the power of classical music, offering free chamber music performances in public spaces. In North America, her intercontinental tango ensemble The Mash Potangos have staged successful tours in Montreal, Toronto, Baltimore and San Francisco. She now resides in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, where she is busily building the first Sistema program in South Australia.
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Laura Horn - Sistema Laverton Teaching Artist and Program Co-ordinator


Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Laura completed a Bachelor of Music in violin performance at McGill University in Montreal. Laura has studied with artists including Mark Fewer, Andrew Dawes, Itzhak Rashkovsky, the St Lawrence String Quartet, and Honggang Li of the Shanghai Quartet. She is the recipient of three Royal Conservatory Silver Medals, a Nova Scotia Talent Trust grant, a Williamson Foundation for Music grant, a Governor General’s Academic Medal, and a scholarship from McGill University.

Laura is dedicated to communication through Classical music and is the co-founder of Chamber Music without Borders, the outreach program of McGill University’s Schulich School of Music. This project sends music students out into the surrounding community to give interactive performances in nursing homes, schools, and homeless shelters.

Laura is trained in the Orff method of music education and is currently a Program Coordinator for Sistema Australia’s Crashendo program in Laverton, Victoria. She also performs regularly with groups around Melbourne on both violin and viola.
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Eric Di Florio - Sistema Laverton Program Coordination & Teaching Artist


Eric graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Music in 2010, where he attained first class honours in teaching, conducting and academic subjects. Eric also holds accreditations from both the Australian National Council of Orff Schulwerk and the Kodály Music Education Institute of Australia, and is currently completing his Suzuki Method (Primary Level) accreditation in violin.

He has performed in a variety of ensembles and settings, and has taught violin at various primary and high schools. Eric is currently teaching at Albert Park Secondary College and Port Melbourne Primary School, and is involved with El Sistema Australia’s Laverton program ‘Crashendo’ and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s community outreach program ‘The Pizzicato Effect.’
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Robert Ekselman – Sistema Laverton Teaching Artist - Cellist


Robert has performed extensively in Australia, USA and Japan as a solo recitalist, chamber and orchestral musician and has over 20 years of teaching experience in schools as well as university level. He completed his Bachelor of Music Degree at The Juilliard School under Zara Nelsova and Harvey Shapiro and a Masters Degree at the Manhattan School of Music with David Soyer – founding cellist of the Guarneri Quartet . Robert has played in the MSO and the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra in Japan.

Based back in Melbourne since 2007, Robert now has an extensive teaching practice and has been an examiner and orchestral mentor at Monash University. He performs with pianist Robin Baker in duo recitals. In 2011 Robert assisted Robin in setting-up a chamber music short course to provide advanced school aged students additional performance opportunities. His work with Sistema Australia and the Crashendo program reflects Robert’s ongoing commitment to the development of accessible music education for all young Australians.
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Erica Rasmussen – Sistema Laverton Teaching Artist – Musical Development/Percussion


Erica completed a Master of Music (Performance) in Percussion at the University of Melbourne in 2009. In 2005 she received a scholarship to study with timpanist Andrei Malashenko at McGill University in Canada. While completing her Bachelor of Music (Honours) at Melbourne University under Timothy Hook and Robert Cossom, Erica received the Melbourne University J.S. Bach prize for percussion.

Erica is a founding member of the award-winning percussion trio, BED Percussion, and more recently founded Tungsten Duo with flautist Emily Kimpton.
In 2009 Erica participated in a Winter Music Creative Residency at the Banff Centre in Canada and in 2010 received the Moonee Valley Foundation Scholarship to hold a concert series in the Moonee Valley area. She recently received a grant from ArtPlay in Melbourne to hold a series of workshops where children will respond to live music using crayons and paint. Erica is currently employed as a percussion teacher and as a Teaching Artist with Sistema Australia and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
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Rhys McCleary – Sistema Laverton Teaching Artist – Double Bass


Rhys Began Double Bass studies at the age of 15 which is a little late. He studied with Melbourne Jazz Bassist Gary Costello and was referred to principal bass of the Melbourne Symphony in 2006 and began serious lessons. After winning a scholarship to the Victorian College Of The Arts High School to finish VCE he began his undergrad at the Victorian College of the Arts. During his time as an undergraduate he won places in seasons of the Australian Youth Orchestra including numerous places in the sensational National Music Camp. 

He is competing in solo and orchestral competitions in Australia and abroad as well as working casually with some of Australia's professional orchestras. Rhys currently has over two years of private studio teaching experience teaching between the ages of eight and 46.

The bass is a wonderful instrument, furthermore it is a completely accessible thing to play much like other stringed instruments. To be a bassist on one hand is to wow and astonish the audience with things they thought not possible, on the other its to support and guide the ensemble. As bassists we have a very important role in ensemble and I am proud to be helping and guiding aspiring bassists to experience the true joy that is music making.
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Susan Hull – Sistema Laverton Teaching Artist – Singing and Choir


Susan Hull began her musical career as a classical flautist, studying at the Queensland Conservatorium, The University of Queensland and the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. Towards the end of her tertiary studies she changed majors to study jazz and improvisation. This began a love affair with jazz, Latin, gypsy jazz and eventually led to her composing, singing and songwriting.

She now fronts her band Susy Blue, which has performed around Australia and festivals such as Woodford Folk and Appollo Bay Music Festivals. Her recent album received national airplay on ABC Radio National and Triple J, and previous releases have earned her a nomination for the Melbourne Music Prize and various songwriter awards.

Susan teaches voice, flute and piano and of course her favourite — the Crashendo! Choir at Laverton.

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Please Donate to Sistema Australia's Music Programs!


You are invited to become a supporter of the Sistema Australia music programs. By making a tax deductible donation to the Australia Cultural Fund, operated by the Australia Business Arts Foundation – it will provide essential financial support for Sistema Australia's after-school music program for children during 2012.

Download a PDF of the AbaF Donation form, or donate online here.