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About Our Instructors

Our Instructors' Credentials

All of our instructors hold at minimum a Bachelor's degree in music. Most hold multiple degrees in music, including Master's in many musical fields such as performance, education, and jazz studies. Among our teachers one can find public and private school teachers, college professors, professional musicians who have toured and recorded worldwide, and seasoned music educators who have a wealth of knowledge to share with their students.

Besides insuring that our instructors are qualified, we realize that a big part of a successful student-teacher relationship is building a rapport between the teacher, student and parent. All of our instructors are friendly, knowledgeable, and always encouraging to their students. In addition, they continually provide weekly feedback to parents and strive to maintain open lines of communication and a good working relationship with parents and students alike. We truly have a wonderful group of teachers who care for their students and work very hard for them.


 About Our Instructors

Dr. Peter Coco, President

Bassist and educator Pete Coco has been a musician for as long as he can remember. At an early age he studied piano, and as a teenager he began the electric bass, playing at a local church and in rock bands. It wasn’t long before he found his voice on the double bass and decided to pursue music full time.

Pete has served as director of the Music Academy since its founding in 2006. The Music Academy quickly became known as Long Island's premier school for the arts, and home to the best music education available in our area. Currently, Pete is responsible for implementing and directing all Music Academy programs, as well as teaching lessons and ensemble classes. Pete is also an Adjunct Professor of Music at Hofstra University where he teaches private lessons, co-directs the lab jazz band, directs the chamber music program, and teaches History of American Music.

Pete graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelors in Jazz and Commercial Music and soon after completed a Masters in Jazz Studies from SUNY Purchase College. After taking a few years off from school to perform, tour, and teach, he went back in order to focus on classical repertoire and graduated in 2013 with a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Classical Performance from Stony Brook University.

Pete has had the great fortune to study and perform with many of the finest musicians in the world. He has studied jazz with bassists Todd Coolman, Doug Weiss, Dennis Irwin and Bob Bowen, and classical with Kurt Muroki and Rachel Calin. He has shared the bandstand with Jane Monheit, Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola, Matt Wilson, Dave Lalama, Steve Salerno, Ray Anderson, Tony Tedesco, vocalist Janice Seagal of Manhattan Transfer, and guitarist extraordinaire Tommy Emmanuel, to name a few. Pete has also toured extensively and performed at many noted venues in New York and around the world.

Pete’s diverse musical background has given him the opportunity to perform in a variety of settings and genres. He has played in everything from orchestras and Baroque ensembles to wedding bands and jazz bands. He has also performed much of the solo repertoire for double bass including works by Bottesini, Koussevitzky, Bach, Hindemith, and more. He is accomplished on both the electric and upright bass, and currently plays on a German bass built circa 1850 that formerly belonged to jazz bass luminary Milt “The Judge" Hinton.


 About Our Instructors

Emma Ente, Staff Accompanist & Music Director of Musical Theatre

Emma Ente is a classically trained pianist of over 20 years. She holds both a B.A. and M.S. in Music Education from the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College with a concentration in Piano Performance. While at Queens College, Emma performed as a soloist in studio recitals and served as an accompanist for vocalists, instrumentalists, and ensembles. She has trained extensively in both piano and vocal pedagogy and holds NYS Teaching Certification in Music. She has adjudicated and accompanied soloists and school groups at NYSSMA festivals in the NYC area. Currently, Emma is a piano accompanist in the Great Neck School District and NYC schools. In addition to teaching piano and voice at the Music Academy of Garden City, Emma serves as a piano accompanist for student performances and as Music Director for the Musical Theatre program.


 About Our Instructors

Samantha McElhaney John, Director of Theatre Studies

Samantha McElhaney is an American Soprano whose voice has been described as “one of those dramatic, heroic, and epic, full-throated voices that comes along once in a lifetime."

Ms. McElhaney’s career has taken her to some of the world's best opera houses and concert halls. The balance of her authentic, powerful vocalism, sophisticated stage presence, and thrilling theatrical abilities allows her to pursue a wide array of operatic depictions and to enchant audiences in concert and recital appearances worldwide. Operatic audiences have largely celebrated Samantha McElhaney for her most notable roles as Nella in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, 1st Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Elisetta in Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto, Barbarina in Monzart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Strawberry Woman in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. These signature roles have brought Ms. McElhaney to the Washington National Opera Company, the San Francisco Opera, the Washington Symphony Orchestra, the Hines Lee Opera Ensemble, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the University of Maryland Opera Studio; earning her numerous press acknowledgements and remarkable performance reviews.

Other significant engagements to Ms. McElhaney’s credit include concert soloist performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, DC), Carnegie Hall (New York, NY), the National Cathedral (Washington, DC), the Smithsonian (Washington, DC), the Citadel (Cairo, Eygpt), the Washington Performing Arts Society (Washington, DC), and the White House in her nation’s capital. Handel's Messiah, Bach's Magnificat, and Mozart’s Requiem comprise her oratorio and concert experience.

Samantha McElhaney is currently working on her debut CD appropriately titled, ‘The Dream’, to be released in 2016. She is also preparing to launch World Stage Performing Arts Education Foundation (WSPAEF), a non- profit dedicated to fostering and advancing music education programs in schools and communities throughout the USA.

Ms. McElhaney graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio and a Master of Music degree from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. She currently performs with the Washington National Opera and resides in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, USA.


 About Our Instructors

Kevin B. Clark - Director of Jazz Studies

Jazz guitarist Kevin B. Clark has been described as “one of the stars of tomorrows’ jazz guitar.” His unique approach to the electric guitar, combining a highly refined technical prowess with a style of playing that is unique to his personality, sets him apart from his contemporaries. His musical language is harmonically inventive and fresh, while still drawing from the examples set by the great masters of modern jazz. “Kevin’s true skill is not just in his virtuosic prowess, but his capacity to merge these influences together to create unique, exhilarating music that is never mired in abstraction.”- Gary Thomas

He began his musical studies on guitar at age 13. By the time he was 16, he concentrated primarily on jazz. He performs regularly in New York, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. He has performed and recorded with numerous premier jazz artists, including John Abercrombie, Jack Dejohnette, Joey Defrancesco, Gary Thomas, Arturo Sandoval, David Kikoski, Clarence Penn, Johnathan Blake, David Binney, Peter Erskine, Ed Howard, Nasheet Waits, Jack Wilkins, Ralph Lalama, and Warren Wolf. He has performed across the United States, as well as internationally in Japan and Singapore. His debut album, “Causes and Conditions”, was released in 2017 on the Inner Circle Music label.

Most recently, Kevin recorded on two live Gary Thomas records; “Pariah’s Pariahs”, a 13 piece large ensemble featuring modern instrumentation and dense arrangements, and “The Divide”, a sextet record featuring a 2 guitar no piano rhythm section with Kevin and Paul Bollenback, and a front line featuring cello along with Gary Thomas on tenor saxophone and flute. Kevin also performed throughout February 2018 with Joey Defrancesco, performing music from his Grammy nominated record “Project Freedom”.

In 2008, Kevin performed at the North Texas State Jazz Festival, earning an “Outstanding Soloist” award. He was also designated a finalist for the 2008 Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensemble, which accepted applicants from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Other awards Kevin has earned include the 2008 Louis Armstrong Jazz award from Garden City High School, the 2008 Barry Manilow Music Scholarship from Garden City High School, the 2008 Max Corzilius Jazz Scholarship from the Peabody Conservatory, the 2011 Charlie Byrd Endowed Endowed Memorial Scholarship in guitar, and the 2012 James Winship Lewis Endowed Memorial Prize for performance.

As an educator, Kevin teaches private lessons in guitar, improvisation, composition, and music theory. He has taught lessons, classes, ensembles, and masterclasses on both high school and college level at schools including the Peabody Conservatory, Carroll Community College, The National University of Singapore, and the Baltimore School for the Arts. In 2012, he received a Bachelor of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory, and in 2014 he earned a Graduate Performance Diploma from Peabody under a full tuition scholarship.


 About Our Instructors

Benny Reid, Ensembles, Rock Bands and Camps Director

BENNY REID, saxophonist, composer, and teacher is a Concord Records Recording Artist and endorser of Selmer Saxophones, Vandoren, Novation, Focusrite and Applied Microphones.  He has played with numerous acclaimed artists and bands including Frankie Valli, Bon Jovi, Fergie, The Temptations, Buddy Rich Band, Chico O’Farrill Band, Max Weinberg, among others.  As a composer, his music has been featured in the Major Motion Picture “Get On Up” (2014) and on major networks including CBS, NBC, FOX, HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Esquire, and USA. Reid has composed and performed music for major brands such as Gevalia Coffee, Mercedes, Panera Bread, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sprint, 76 Gas, Blackberry, Booking.com, Snyder’s Pretzels, Quiznos, USPS, JibJab.com, Fidelity and Happier Boston. He currently leads his own group around the world and has released two albums on the Concord label to critical acclaim. 


 About Our Instructors

Kelly Miller, Summer Theatre Director

Kelly Miller, mezzo soprano, recently completed her first successful year at Binghamton University as a Master’s student in their Opera Studies program. Previously, Kelly appeared in both opera and concert performances in New York City as well as on Long Island in Sands Point, Northport, Oyster Bay and the Bronx. Kelly graduated from Adelphi University with a degree in Music in 2013 and in the same year came back to perform as a soloist with the Adelphi Symphony as the Narrator in their performance of La Damoiselle Elue by Debussy. She then traveled to Vienna to further her training with “Vienna: Language of Lieder.” She sang the role of Cherubino in an abridged version of Marriage of Figaro with Bronx Opera Company in 2015, and also attended Songe d'été en musique in 2016 to study with her current teacher Thomas Goodheart. Since studying at Binghamton University Kelly won third place at the Finger Lakes District level of the National Associate of Teachers of Singing. Kelly co-directed the Music Academy Summer Theatre Intensive, and wrote an original play which utilized new and existing songs. Additionally, she has taught voice lessons, sight-singing classes, and theatre classes at the Music Academy since 2013.


Cassandra Buckhout

Cassandra Buckhout is a New York State Certified teacher in Music PreK-12. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2015, with her Bachelor's degree in Music Education. While at Hofstra, Cassandra studied clarinet with Laurie Friedman-Adler. For the past three years, Cassandra has worked in the Bronx as a PreK-8th Grade General Music, Choir, and Band teacher. She also spent five years as a field instructor, and then Assistant Director of the Garden City High School Marching Band. She is excited to join the staff at Garden City Music Academy.



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32 Nassau Blvd South, Garden City, NY 11530
| Phone: 516-292-2777
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