Meet Our Team
Meet the Arts & Learning Conservatory team.
Founder and CEO
Debora Wondercheck (MFA) is the Founder and CEO of the Arts & Learning Conservatory (A&L), an inspirational arts education program now celebrating 10 years of influential growth in Orange County. Starting with only four performances a year and growing to over 35 county-wide, Debora expanded A&L’s reach in just a decade, from 21 students to over 1,500, and its audiences now extend to 10,000 annually. Debora also currently serves as Director of Music at the Waldorf School of Orange County (unanimously superior rated orchestra of SCSBOA). She is the founding conductor of the Bellagio Strings Youth Orchestra of OC. Debora is an accomplished Master teacher of string pedagogy having taught at Vanguard University, Irvine Unified School District, and Newport Mesa Unified District.
As for awards, on behalf of A&L, Debora is a recent winner of the Outstanding Arts Organization Award from Arts Orange County for the creation of effective arts and education programs to youth. Earlier in 2014, Debora was presented the Distinguished Woman of Substance Award of Orange County. In 2012, Debora received the Links Incorporated Woman of Service Award, for Exemplary Community Service to youth for her After School Arts Programs. Debora has also received the Teacher of Excellence Award from the Newport Mesa Unified District.
Debora embraces her community with participation on various arts commissions like the Cultural Arts Committee for the city of Costa Mesa, the Arts Alliance of California, and the Orange County Music and Arts Administrator Association. Debora always counts it a high privilege to serve children, their families, and our community with inspiring programs that develop confidence and creativity …for life.
Aaron Al-Imam is a Music Education Major from Vanguard University and grew up in Orange County, CA. Aaron is a private music instructor and has also music directed many musicals such as, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Godspell, Hairspray, and Joseph. Aaron has played the lead roles of Jesus in Godspell, Joseph in Joseph, and Motel in Fiddler. He has also been in Man of La Mancha, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Les Miserable and All Shook Up. Aaron recently wrote and directed an original production called Pinocchio, A Christmas Tale in December 2014.
Keenah is a Broadway veteran, choreographer, biz coach, mentor and educator formerly with the nationally ranked musical theatre program at Texas State University. “With over 15 years as a professional Broadway actor and Instructor, my life’s work in theatre has always been to preserve the rich and diverse history and to bring that to the world. My passion for Show Biz has presented me with incredible opportunities in leadership and artistry throughout my life career, and I am highly determined to leave this as my legacy.”
Haley Bess has been working in choir and theatre for her whole life, first as a performer, and then as a stage manager and director for the past six years. She loves working with kids, and now that she has one of her own, she hopes that her daughter will love the arts as much as she does. We’re very excited to have her as a part of our Arts & Learning team and you can find Haley teaching our after school theatre classes, bringing her love of theatre and education to the classroom.
Mr. Shaun Carmer is a young and enthusiastic music educator and performer specializing in brass and percussion techniques. He studied music performance and jazz theories at Fullerton College in 2009. Since then, Shaun has been performing on National television for over six years and plays in front of 1,200 people on a nightly basis. He has shared the stage with music greats: Wayne Bergeron, Willie Murillo, Sam Most, Mark Pender, Kye Palmer, Francisco Torres plus many others. Mr. Carmer has performed at the Fullerton Jazz Fest and The Monterey Jazz Festival among other prestigious events. Shaun has received numerous awards including: (both nationally recognized) The Louis Armstrong Jazz award and The John Phillip Sousa Musicianship award. Mr. Carmer has been teaching students for the past six years. He believes in teaching his students how to apply musical concepts in other subjects and how to utilize those skills in real life.
Mr. Carmer was raised in Orange County, California and began playing the trumpet at the age of eight. He majored in music at Fullerton College and is a graduate of the United States Navy School of Music. He was a member of the U.S. Navy Band where he served as Musician First Class & toured around the world playing in Hawaii, China, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia and the U.S. Steve has performed for 5 U.S. Presidents, the President of South Vietnam, dignitaries, as well as televised NASA splashdowns for Apollo 11 & 12. and the ‘christening’ of the Aircraft Carrier USS John F. Kennedy with the US Navy Band from Washington. Mr. Carmer was also a charter member of the U.S. Navy Show Band West. He later joined the US Army Band serving as Staff Sgt. and trumpet section leader for 6 years.
As a civilian, Steve has been active throughout the county playing in the pit for the Fullerton Children’s Repertory Theatre for many years as well as directing a successful 19 piece ‘Swing’ Big Band for 20 years. He’s been an active volunteer for many community based organizations such as Walnut Village, a senior residential campus. Mr. Carmer currently teaches for A&L and for the Anaheim City School District as a brass specialist.
Sukyi Choi-Kim is a private violin teacher, as well as a string instructor in Fountain Valley elementary schools for the Arts and Learning Conservatory. Mrs. Kim studied at the Colburn School of Performing Arts before earning her Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance from the Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach. She earned a Master of Music in Violin Performance, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Suzuki Teaching, from the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.
Mrs. Kim started teaching violin in 2004 through the Rainbow Music Academy, a non-profit organization that brings music to underprivileged children. While there she was awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles for her work. Mrs. Kim has continually taught children of all ages and levels. States Mrs. Kim, “I am in love with teaching young children, and have found it challenging, inspirational, and rewarding.”
Karen Deaner is a cello teacher residing in San Clemente CA where she runs a private studio with over 25 students. The ages range from the very young to retired adults. She has received training in a teaches the Suzuki Method as well as traditional teaching methods. She began her cello studies at the age of 10 in Santa Clara CA where she participated in school orchestras, honor groups and the San Jose Youth Symphony.
Karen received a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy with a cello concentration from the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music in 1981 and completed her Music Therapy internship at the Alan Short Center for the Arts in 1982. Also, Karen has taken many continuing education classes including cello pedagogy and chamber music.
Mrs. Deaner worked as a Registered Music Therapist until 1989. Currently, besides maintaining an active private studio she regularly coaches the cello sections at various Middle and High Schools in the South Orange County area and is the cellist in the Vintage Piano Trio in Laguna Beach.
Karen and her husband Ross have raised three children in San Clemente all of whom attended school in the Capistrano Unified school District and participated in the music programs offered there.
Vanessa Evans is an insanely creative artist with an endless imagination the belief that anything is possible. She is a true leader with a passion for the performing arts both onstage and off. Her acting includes a multitude of roles including the Stepmother from “Into the Woods” with Chandler Gilbert Theatre, Alma/Maude in “Music Man” with Attic Theatre, and Ms. Hannigan in “Annie” just to name a few. She is a fantastic director and choreographer and is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatics Academy of New York City. We’re very honored to have her as a part of A&L team.
Candy is thrilled to be a part of the talented staff at Arts and Learning Conservatory. She has been active in music and theater in Riverside, CA. where she has been teaching choral music and directing shows for over twenty years. Her most recent projects in stage and musical direction include “Annie”, with Gold Leaf Theater, “Mary Poppins,” “Oklahoma,” and “The Wiz.” She studied Music Education with a Vocal Emphasis at Azusa Pacific University where she also received her Master of Arts in Worship Leadership. She is currently singing on the worship team at her local church.
Reginald Goodjoin, bassist, percussionist and trumpeter began studying and performing music when he was six years old. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Education from South Carolina State University. He has collaborated with and served as Music Director of the Henderson-Davis Players of SCSU in many of their productions, including Ain’t Misbehavin’, Caravan, Pearlie, and Motown Review. Along with his passion for conducting, producing and collaborating, he says: “There is no greater joy than when the band “locks” its sound and the audience is connected and inspired!”
In addition to working with Joe Sample, Max Roach, Clark Terry, Betty Carter, Fred Wesley and the late Dizzy Gillespie on the Black College Jazz Network Tour, Reginald was the first bassist to be inducted into the South Carolina State University Jazz Band Hall of Fame. Reginald has accompanied Grammy Award Winners Arturo Sandoval, Le Andria Johnson and Tramaine Hawkins. He has also worked with Richard Smallwood, Oleta Adams, Sheila E, Donald Hayes, Ray Fuller, TC Carson, Lesa Terry, Munyongo Jackson, Judith Hill, Lori Andrews and the legendary Impressions. He has served as bassist for HB Barnum, Isaiah Jones and the Ebony Fashion Fair under the musical direction of Theodist Rogers. Currently, Reggie is Director of Music for New Hope Presbyterian Church in Orange County CA
Christine Hinchee is excited to join the A&L team. She is receiving her B.A. degree in Drama from UC Irvine this June. She loves every aspect of theater and has been seen on stage performing as well as off stage choreographing, directing, and stage managing. Some So Cal theaters she has worked for include: Chance Theater, Huntington Beach Playhouse, All About Girls Production Troop, and the Rose Center Theater. She has also worked for Knott’s Berry Farm and the Disneyland Resort in their Entertainment departments. Christine’s passion for theater came from and early love of dance and has been choreographing and performing since her elementary school days. She believes that and arts education is important for students of all ages develop skills for a healthy, successful life and is thankful for the opportunity to share her love of theater to the next generation of aspiring artists.
Edwin was born and raised in Orange County. He started playing trumpet at the age of 14. He quickly went up through the ranks and was playing in honor bands throughout high school. He went to Cal State Fullerton for a degree in music performance and education. There he won the Rodger Vaughn award, a yearly award given to the best musician. He played in the top wind ensemble, brass ensemble, jazz band, and orchestra there.
He has also played in the La Mirada Community Orchestra and has played trumpet in the Tournament of Roses Parade for the past 7 years. He has been featured on KTLA morning news on trumpet and even unveiled the “Welcome to Orange County” sign off the 5 Freeway with a trumpet fanfare for the OC Register.
He has been teaching for over a year now and has been teaching privately for 7 years. Last year he started teaching music at Waldorf School of Orange County at the middle school level and this year he will also be teaching the high school level. He looks forward to teaching young students what music has to offer and how fun it can be to play music. He hopes to have a strong music program that the students will enjoy and develop lifelong musical skills.
Mary Montgomery has enjoyed being involved in theatre, both as a performer and teacher, over the course of her lifetime. Her first role at 6 years old was a walk-on character for the Cincinnati Ballets Nutcracker. Since then, Mary has gone on to complete her undergraduate studies at Wright State University and training at The Dell Arte International School for Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, CA. She has been in numerous productions along the way including Chicago, Cyrano de Bergerac, Little Shop of Horrors, Mack and Mabel, and Les Miserable. Mary relocated from San Francisco where she was founder of the nonprofit organization Movement for Kids, and is now happily married with five beautiful children of her own.
Voice & Theatre
Having been an Assistant Director in 27 after-school programs through Arts and Learning, and alumni actor in 8 productions, Alex is excited to return for this summer’s production of Shrek JR. An experienced musician, guitar, drums, bass, piano, soloist, Alex has been a Worship Leader at Mariners Church Irvine, Free Chapel OC, and Yorba Linda Friends Church and many others throughout the past 11 years. Additionally, he is a recording artist, guitar and drum instructor, DJ, actor, dancer, and a Senior Dean’s List Honor student at Azusa Pacific University.
Art Ortiz has 21 years of experience traveling as a full-time Christian recording artist and evangelist in over 4000 performances. He has a B.A. degree in Vocal Performance and Music Education from Azusa Pacific University. Moreover, he has produced, choreographed, and directed 50 drama and musical productions; from small intimate venues to expansive state of the art amphitheaters across the U.S. For the past 4 years Mr. Ortiz has been the vocal and theatre director for A&L. He is a composer, soloist, and a gifted pianist, with numerous private vocal and piano students. A well-respected teacher/director for TakeLessons, WyzAnt, Virtuosos Russian Music Academy, Shoreline Academy of the Arts, and Musical Theatre of Orange County. Notably, he is a recording artist in his own right with 10 recordings, traveling across country nationally and in 13 countries internationally.
An alumni of Berklee College of Music in Boston and owner of Pretzyl Music, Erik is a songwriter/producer, writing and composing original musical theatre works including: A Song for Christmas, The Velveteen Rabbit, Class of ‘90 – The Musical, The Kingdom that Couldn’t Sleep, #Brad4Laura, and Christmas In Neverland. We are excited to have Erik as part of the team!
Ericka fell in love with music when she was ten years old and has been studying voice ever since! She is currently studying Drama at the University of California, Irvine, with an emphasis in musical theatre. Some of her favorite past roles include Elle Woods in Legally Blonde- The Musical, Kim MacAfee in Bye, Bye Birdie, Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray and First Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She also enjoys directing, stage managing and songwriting! Ericka is very excited to share her passion with aspiring artists in a classroom setting!
Jenny studied Drama and Theatre Arts at Birmingham University, England and trained as a Drama teacher at London Central School of Speech and Drama. In England, Jenny worked as Head of Drama, and Director of Performing Arts at a High School for eight years. She moved to California in 2012 and now works as a freelance Actress, Teaching Artist, Director and Choreographer. In California, Jenny has enjoyed directing and choreographing an array of shows at a range of wonderful venues, including local schools, children’s theatre companies and in local professional theatres. Recent work includes choreographing an extract of The Sound of Music as part of Segerstrom’s Season 2015 Preview, originating the choreography in the world premier musical ‘Journey to the West’, directing Les Miserables for Orange County Children’s Theatre Company and working as a Teaching Artist for Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Jenny is a is grateful to Arts & Learning for the opportunity to direct their shows.
Kelsey Somerville is excited to be working with Arts & Learning! She has been professionally stage managing musicals, straight plays and live concerts for the past 3 years. Some credits include Comedy of Errors, Les Miserables, Willy Wonka, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change and Journey to the West. Kelsey is also the production stage manager for a nationally touring Beatles tribute band, Abbey Road. She would be nowhere, however, without the love and support of her family and friends. There’s no place like home.
Wendy Tobiska spent the last 13 years as an Artist Teacher at the Orange County School of the Arts in Musical Theater, as well as a private performance coach for all ages. She has performed in such roles as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl,” for which she was nominated for the prestigious Irene Ryan Award and Mona Kent in “Dames at Sea” being nominated for a Robby Award for Best Actress. Wendy appeared as Jimmy’s Mum in the world premiere production of “Quad,” a fully-staged musical tribute to The Who’s “Quadrophenia”. Most recently Wendy performed her one-woman cabaret act ISNG4U at venues in Hollywood and Orange County CA, and produced, directed, and performed a concert in the Music @The Chance series at the Chance Theater in Anaheim. Wendy is proud to be a 2012 National Artist Teacher Fellow. Besides performing, directing, and producing, Wendy loves developing new talent and building confidence in passionate performing artists.
Hayley Trittin has been studying and performing musical theatre for the past 7 years, and has studied at Texas State University. She currently works at Disneyland as a performer, and teaches acting classes and camps at the Arts & Learning Conservatory. She has many years of experience teaching camps and classes to young kids and finds it a passion of hers to introduce children to the wonderful world of performing. She hopes to inspire them and provide a challenging and fun environment where they can learn, grow and prosper!
Rebecca Wilson is currently entering her senior year at Vassar College in New York studying drama and education. Along with perusing her acting career, she loves working with children and hopes to continue to teach throughout her life. Rebecca was a former student at Arts and Learning and has been a member of the A&L family for over ten years now.