Summer Theater Workshop Faculty & Staff
Instructors vary depending on the session and show
Jess is so exited to be joining the TPAC team as a summer counselor! She has been a TPAC student since she was nine years old, and has been dancing since she was three. Some of her favorite roles have been Jane in Mary Poppins, Sophie in Mamma Mia!, and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She is looking forward to helping students grow as people and performers as they put on amazing productions, and having fun at TPAC with everyone! Woo!
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Music Directing Team
John has been teaching voice at The Performing Arts Connection since 2007. He holds a B.A. in music theory/composition and vocal performance and a minor in French language from Haverford College. In 2008, JB became the music director for the recording group "Girl Authority," that performed at venues nationwide and sold over 100,000 albums. He has also been an active music director and pianist for various community theater companies in the Metrowest area. JB currently works at The Rivers School where he is the Assistant Head of Middle School, directs the Middle School Select Chorus, and music directs the school productions. When not teaching, you can find JB singing first tenor in his semi-professional a cappella group, "Redline," golfing, and enjoying quality time with his three boys, James, Miles and Lucas.
Kayleigh Cyr graduated with a B.A. in dance with honors from Salem State University in 2017, and is TPAC alum since day 1 in 2007 (and before)! Kayleigh started as a camper in 2000 and went from camper to intern to counselor to choreographer! At Salem State she was heavily involved in both the theatre and dance departments. Her choreography has been adjudicated at The American College Dance Association conference, and in 2017 she received a “Distinction in Choreography” Merit Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and The Creativity Award from Salem State's Center for Creative and Performing Arts. Kayleigh now lives in Orlando, Florida and works for The Walt Disney World Company (Resort Activities/Trainer), Gaylord Palms Resort and Water Park (Entertainment), and Legoland Florida (Entertainment). Kayleigh looks forward to coming back home every summer, and cannot WAIT to see both new and old faces. Fun Facts: Used to give safari tours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, loves nachos, and her favorite movie is Hannah Montana: The Movie.
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Courtney began dancing at the age of three, studying jazz, tap, ballet, and lyrical until graduating high school. While at Stonehill College, Courtney was on the dance team and was part of the dance club. In addition, she danced in several musicals during high school and college. After graduating from Stonehill and while living in Boston, Courtney continued her dancing at the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio, performing in several of the studio's semi-annual repertory shows. Since graduating from Stonehill with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in early childhood education, Courtney has worked within the field of early childhood development as an infant/toddler teacher, a preschool teacher, and as a developmental specialist in Early Intervention. Courtney is thrilled to be back at TPAC for her fifth year!
Emma is so excited to be back for her third summer at TPAC, this year as a choreographer! Emma has recently graduated from Wheaton College, MA with a double major in Theatre and Dance Studies and Psychology. While at Wheaton, Emma was a captain of the dance company and the tap dance group and participated in various productions with the theatre department. At Wheaton she was able to foster her creativity and love of performing and she is so glad she is able to continue pursuing this passion at TPAC. Emma’s favorite part of TPAC is how welcoming and inclusive everyone is, from the staff to the kiddos! She loves the way she can share her love for the theatre in such a warm and supportive environment. Emma is looking forward to all the great shows this summer and can’t wait to be back! Woohoo!
Fun Fact: Emma will definitely not win a hula hoop contest against Zoe this summer as she is a horrible hula hooper.
Music Directing Team
Rachel Hamilton is an accomplished performer and teacher whose passion for the arts is
matched only by her passion for teaching. Ms. Hamilton holds undergraduate degrees in Music
Education and Vocal Performance from Anna Maria College as well as a Master of Music in
Opera and Graduate Performance Diploma from Longy Conservatory. Ms. Hamilton is a
graduate of the German for Singers Language Immersion Program at Middlebury College and a
Certified Teaching Artist. Through her 10+ years of collaboration with children and families, she
has witnessed first-hand the positive impact and active outlet that the arts facilitate. Ms.
Hamilton is very enthusiastic to be joining such a positive and supportive teaching team at TPAC
whose core values align with her own philosophy of education.
Rachel is beyond excited to be joining the TPAC team! Rachel is a junior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she studies psychology. Although this is Rachel’s first year as a TPAC staff member, she has over ten plus years of theater and dance experience at TPAC. At the age of four, she began her dance training in jazz, hip hop, ballet, tap, and musical theater and continued on her dance journey with the Eclipse Dance Team for four years. In addition to dance, she performed in numerous Metrowest Family Theater productions, including Number the Stars, Once on This Island, and Willy Wonka. Rachel’s favorite TPAC experience was being part of an improv troupe and performing at Improv Boston! Rachel is super excited to be returning to TPAC and can’t wait to spread her love of theater with others!
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Sarah is beyond excited to be joining the TPAC team! Originally from the Seattle area, she has taught around the United States and in France. She holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where she was living prior to this position. Sarah has performed at a variety of regional venues including the Seattle Opera, Benaroya Hall, the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, and the Dr. Phillips Center. Good books, vegan food, and cross stitch are a few of her favorite things. Sarah has already been blown away by the incredible kindness, joy, and talent from the students and staff at TPAC, and is looking forward to making memories and getting to experience what makes this place so special. Fun Fact: Sarah is a fluent French speaker and has been to 27 countries.
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Music Directing Team
Hannah is so excited to be back for her third summer with TPAC! Hannah is a private voice teacher, voice coach, piano teacher, and music director in various locations throughout the Greater Boston Area. She is currently an active singer at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston and has been a soloist at various church locations throughout New England. Hannah holds a B.A. in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH and has over eight years’ experience teaching voice, piano, and music to all ages and levels. She was an actor, assistant music director, and vocal coach for the Educational Theatre Collaborative (credits include Shrek! The Musical, The Sound of Music, and Oliver) and has worked as an actor, vocal coach, and music director for TIGER theater. Hannah’s focus is to bring exposure and awareness to the overall musician by learning and discovering the “whys” and “hows” of each individual's wonderfully unique instrument! FUN FACT: Hannah was born and raised in Vermont but has absolutely no clue how to do any sports related to snow and cold (i.e. skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowshoeing). She also has not remedied any of this as an adult.
Emily Leandro is so excited to be joining the team at TPAC! She started dancing at a very young age at Acton Boxborough Dance Center and began doing theatre when she was nine. In high school, she was a part of ABRHS’s Proscenium Circus theatre and very involved in the school’s a capella groups and choirs. She went on to get her Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Theatre at Muhlenberg College with concentrations in Education, Choreography, and Performance Studies. Throughout college, Emily was the President of the Perkulators jazz dance team, the Alumni Relations officer for the Muhlenberg Dance Association, a choreographer and performer for the Copasetic Rhythms tap dance team and a Lifeguard for the Muhlenberg Athletics Department. She is also choreographed and performed in numerous dance departmental productions. In the summer of 2021, she completed an Arts Administration Internship at the Dance Complex in Cambridge, MA in addition to coaching swim lessons and swim team, and working as a sales associate at Pure Barre. Emily strives to make her classes a site of challenge, exploration, and discovery. She is very excited to get moving with everyone!
Amy Mersch has been dancing since the age of four. She grew up taking ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and pointe and continued her education at Dean College, where she was part of the Dean Dance Company, and their production of Anything Goes. She has been teaching dance for over 20 years. She has been at Dance Xtreme in New Bedford for the past 12 years teaching and choreographing for their competitive and recreational classes. She currently runs the contemporary and musical theater program, and has also choreographed and worked with the New Bedford High School competitive SSA and SATB show choirs. She has won numerous awards at the competitive level, and has continued her education taking classes with choreographers such as Chris Judd, Gil Duldulao, Brian Friedman and Tricia Miranda. Amy’s passion and love for dance has led her to TPAC. She’s excited to be here for her third summer season and can’t wait to work with all the talented, hard working kids!
Directing & Choreography Team
Gretchen is ecstatic to be joining the team for her first summer at TPAC! Originally from New York, Gretchen graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre from Fredonia State University. She just moved to MA this April to continue her career as an artist and educator. Gretchen has performed at numerous Regional Theaters including Shakespeare in Delaware Park, The Redhouse Arts Center, and the Woodstock Playhouse. She was also a performer on both Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Gretchen is an avid reader, lover of dogs, (especially her pup, Ophelia) and adventurer! She is currently planning her next BIG adventure for 2022 - getting married!! Gretchen is thrilled to be working alongside such dedicated and passionate students and staff at TPAC. She can’t wait to create some magic with these awesome students!
Alissa Schimmel was born and raised in New York where she discovered a natural passion for dancing and performing at a very young age. Alissa received her training at Footworks Dance Center, The Ulster County Ballet Company, Alvin Ailey, Steps on Broadway, and Broadway Dance Center where she was a Summer Intern and an Assistant for the Rockette Experience at Radio City Music Hall. Alissa holds a B.A. in Dance and Theater from Manhattanville College. She has choreographed and taught throughout New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. Alissa has performed for Princess Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Sandcastle Dinner Theater [Guam, Mariana Islands], and throughout the United States with Salazar Magic. She is a former member of the Greater New York Chapter of NADAA (National Association of Dance and Affiliated Arts) and has taught dance teachers and students at numerous NADAA dance conventions. Although Alissa loves performing, her true passion is spreading her love of dance by teaching young performers. She is grateful to be a part of the TPAC faculty and looks forward to motivating her students to be the best they can be.
Katie is excited to be working at TPAC this summer. She is a recent graduate of Providence College with a double major in Theatre Arts and Creative Writing. Katie’s main interests include acting, playwriting, poetry, and reading. Katie is looking forward to a fun summer!
Owner & Artistic Director
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Samm is an award-winning teacher, producer, coach, entrepreneur, and proud mother of three boys ages 9, 6 and 2. She holds a B.A. in Theater Education from Wagner College and is the 2021 recipient of Businessperson of the Year through the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce. Samm established The Performing Arts Connection in 2007 as a way to bring theater and dance to the community and beyond.
Born and raised in Sudbury, MA, Samm has been coaching young performers for over twenty-two years. In 1998, as a freshman in high school, Samm founded The Friends of Broadway, a service-based traveling musical group that performs at venues all over the country. The Friends of Broadway have lent their talents to hundreds of performances to nursing homes, hospitals, and to charities like The Jimmy Fund and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to name a few. It was through the work with FOB that Samm discovered her true passion and purpose: working with young people in theater. In addition to FOB, Samm founded Metrowest Family Theater at age 16 and has directed over 25 musicals and plays with MFT since 2000.
In addition to her work with FOB, MFT, and TPAC, Samm has collaborated with Rounder Records ("Girl Authority", Executive Producer) and SteveSongs on various recording projects in the children's music industry. Over the years, Samm's students have appeared in regional theater, in national recording/commercial/film/TV projects, on national tours and on Broadway. She is grateful to collaborate on many TPAC projects with her husband, John Bower, a vocal coach and music director at the studio and Head of the Middle School at the Rivers School in Weston, MA.
In her free time, Samm serves on the board of HOPEsudbury, an organization dedicated to engaging the people of Sudbury in community-wide efforts to provide humanitarian aid to people in need, both at home and abroad. She is a proud Certified Coach with More Than Just Great Dancing and she enjoys participating in speaking engagements and coaching studio owners all around the globe in best business practices.
Samm teaches classes to all ages at the studio from our youngest performers in our Little Limelight Program all the way to adults! She frequently teaches master classes and directs our sister groups, Metrowest Family Theater and The Friends of Broadway.
Samm's favorite part about theater education is building self-esteem and confidence in her students and watching them soar on stage. She is extremely grateful and honored to be a part of your performing arts journey!