Lori Sager is the founder and director of Aspire Music Academy. Known to her performers as “Miss Lori,” Ms. Sager has been involved in music and vocal performance since the age of three.
Lori is an accomplished singer, pianist, choral and orchestral director, and vocal performance coach. Since 2003, Lori has been offering private vocal and piano instruction through Miss Lori’s Studio, serving hundreds of students of every age and talent level. The motto of Miss Lori’s Studio — “Inspiring people through music” — has been the story of Ms. Sager’s professional life.
As a musical theater director, Lori invented and directs the Stars on Broadway ® musical revue series. In Woodbury, Minnesota alone, Stars on Broadway productions have featured a total of over 500 cast members and attracted total audiences of over 15,000 patrons. Lori also served as a vocal director and coach accompanist — most notably for the record-breaking 2015 production of Les Misérables at Woodbury Community Theatre (WCT), as well as the 2016 production of Mary Poppins, the 2017 production of Legally Blonde, the 2018 production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and as the creator and director of the Summer Stock middle and high school camp programs. Lori also co-directed Junie B. Jones for WCT in 2017.
In the academic world, Lori established the musical theater program at Woodbury Middle School (a part of the South Washington County School District — Independent School District 833), directed Grease in 2014, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. in 2015, and Disney’s Lion King Jr. in 2016, Shrek, Jr. in 2017, Hairspray, Jr. in 2018, and The Little Mermaid, Jr. in 2019. Each production featured over 80 students and a live orchestra. Lori is also a classroom music instructor in South Washington County schools, currently serving as both choir director and musical theatre director at Woodbury Middle School. Lori has also taught music in Orlando, Florida, and New York.
Jeremiah Lewis-Walker has been coaching, performing and choreographing for nearly 20 years. He is also the owner and creative director of JLW Productions, a new local company focusing on choreography and performance. Jeremiah has performed in and choreographed many top award winning show choirs, dance troupes, cheer teams, theater productions, international and national music acts. He has also choreographed talent productions for national pageant contestants as well as providing entertainment for numerous national hair and fashion events.
Since he has had experience in this field for many years, Jeremiah strongly believes the importance of passing the torch to young performers and getting them to understand and appreciate how they can positively impact people’s lives on and off stage.
Colleen Wenzel has been a performer from a very early age, including time as a recording artist and performer with The Young Americans and being a part of touring theater and performance companies that barnstormed across America. While living in California, she also began a lifetime vocation of service to church choirs and liturgical programs.
Closer to her home in the Twin Cities, Colleen has been involved for decades in music and theater endeavors. Colleen headed the children’s choir ministries at New Life Church of Woodbury, growing the program to well over 100 participants. Colleen was also at the forefront of bringing summer stock theater programs for children into both Roseville and Woodbury, Minnesota.
In community theater, Colleen has collaborated with Lori Sager to create the Stars on Broadway series, as well as the Woodbury Middle School productions of Grease in 2014, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. in 2015, Disney’s Lion King Jr. in 2016, and Shrek, Jr. in 2017, Hairspray, Jr. in 2018, and The Little Mermaid, Jr. in 2019. These shows each involved over 80 cast members, a full orchestra, choreography, lighting, and staging. Colleen also co-directed Junie B. Jones for Woodbury Community Theatre in 2017.
Tom Prestin is the owner of Born Into Royalty, a leading provider of creative sound design, creative and technical production, audio restoration, sound mixing and mastering. Tom provides the sound recording and editing for any Aspire Music Academy students wishing to create professional recordings of their vocal performance.
Tom has led the sound design and engineering for many productions, including shows for The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. In the Twin Cities area, Tom has led the sound design and engineering for shows at Ashland Productions and Woodbury Community Theater, including collaborating with Lori Sager on the production of Stars on Broadway 3, Stars Rock Broadway, as well as other shows.
A Milwaukee native, Bridget has worked with numerous arts organizations as both a performer and administrator. From 2014-2016 she performed as a principal singer-dancer with the KIDS from Wisconsin organization and went on to be a part of staff for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Cushman studied Vocal Performance at Columbia College Chicago from 2014-2015, finishing her studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a minor in Business and a Certificate in Fine Arts Administration. During her time at Eau Claire she performed in various settings including multiple musicals and operas such as the Last Five Years (Cathy) and Don Giovanni (Dance Captain/Ensemble). Cushman also became the lead vocalist for a number of events within the Eau Claire area and has performed with University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire Jazz I ensemble -- voted America’s #1 college band.
Alora Sager is a graduate of Florida State University with her Masters in Education of Students with Exceptionalities, and also from the University of Virginia baccalaureate pre-med program. She is currently pursuing her dream of being a dancing doctor! Alora is a choreographer and dance instructor for Aspire Music Academy student performance groups and brings her 20+ years of competitive dance experience and a lifelong of performing to help enhance the vocal performances of the students she works with. With dance experiences ranging from tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary and musical theater, Alora has come to love teaching technique and performance through modern and fun choreography.
Alora has had past experiences as a Summer Stock choreographer and counselor and as guest choreographer for Stars on Broadway 3, Stars Rock Broadway, and the Woodbury Middle School production of Lion King Jr.
Mariah Hoffman has been singing all her life, whether it be in school, church or in other performing groups. Mariah graduated from Concordia University in the spring of 2016 with a degree in music education. She is currently a music teacher in the St. Paul public schools. Mariah has been teaching for the past five years. She loves her job and has a passion for teaching inner city youth.
At Aspire Music Academy, Mariah instructs in every level of programming, from grade-school performers all the way through adults. She teaches both vocals and dance.
Mariah has also been a part of planning and delivering Aspire summer camp and intensive programming for several years. She also has been a technology leader for Aspire, operating our systems to deliver remote instruction and digital rehearsal content.
In her own words, Mariah says: “I think that Aspire is a great arts outlet for students and adults. Not only are we getting to do what we love (sing and dance) but we are also a welcoming, tight-knit community. I love working with our Aspire Family! I can't wait to have you join us!"
Monica Hamer has been playing her flute publicly since she joined her high school church choir in 7th grade. She has always loved playing in ensembles with voices, including pit orchestras in high school and an opera orchestra (The Magic Flute) in college. In the years since college, her performing has included playing with the Woodbury Chorus and Orchestra and Woodbury Community Theater. She also teamed with a pianist, playing dinner music at restaurants, fundraisers, and special occasions. Throughout the years she continued to play at Masses, church services, funerals and weddings and is currently Associate Director of Music and Liturgy at St. Ambrose of Woodbury. She has taught private flute lessons since 2008. Monica has worked with Miss Lori, arranging and performing in all four Stars on Broadway shows and most of the Woodbury Middle School shows.
Michelle Witte serves as the production consultant for Aspire Music Academy, arranging performances, communication and just generally making all of us look awesome! Michelle was instrumental in the creation of Aspire Music Academy when she served as the Executive Director for Merrill Community Arts Center (MCAC). She is also a Director on the Board of Education for South Washington County Schools. Michelle is passionate about youth and promoting new possibilities to expand access to the arts for all. Michelle is also a vocal performer, and remembers fondly her "Swing Choir" days in high school (complete with a homemade plaid jumper) and performing in wonderful venues like Orchestra Hall as a member of the University of Minnesota Symphonic Chorus and Lyric Opera ensemble.
Justin Madsen has been singing, dancing, acting, directing, and performing for over 25 years. Having performed professionally on stage, screen, and radio, as well as in dozens of community theatrical productions, he brings incredible experience to classes at Aspire Music Academy. Justin graduated from Luther College with a BA in Accounting and Theatre/Dance. Equally left- and right-brained, he is able to provide insights and education into the performing arts while equally balancing and stressing the importance of the administrative components that goes into all productions.
Favorite performing credits include Dr. Frederick Frankentstein (Young Frankenstein), Sir Robin (Spamalot), Seymour (Little Shop), Dan (Next to Normal), and countless others. Favorite directing credits include The Last Five Years, Songs for a New World, and most recently, Stars on Broadway 5 - Heroes and Villains. Justin also serves as a Board member for Open Door Community Theatre and is regularly involved in the staging of high-calibur performances with this theatre partner as well.
As much as he loves to perform, Justin has a passion for directing and coaching performers of all ages, to hone their craft and continue to grow and polish performance skills, and loves working with such talented students at Aspire Music Academy!
Theresa Pelton-Jutz developed a love for clothing design and sewing when she was in middle school. Her first exposure to costuming came when she began sewing simple Halloween costumes for her young children. These simple costumes seemed to get more and more complicated every year. After a 20+ year career at the St. Paul Companies/Travelers with her Management Information Systems Degree from UW-Eau Claire, Theresa decided to make a career change. She was now able to devote more time to volunteering at her children’s schools.
Theresa started her journey into theatre by sewing and assisting in the Hill-Murray costume shop. She helped costume several productions including A Christmas Carol, Children of Eden, and Beauty and the Beast. This is where she really learned the difference between “sewing” and “costuming”. This out of the box thinking allowed her to create costumes without the use of patterns, typical sewing techniques or really any rules. As her youngest daughter entered Woodbury Middle School, Theresa began volunteering with costuming there. She took on the lead costumer role in Lori Sager’s productions of Grease, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Jr., Shrek Jr., Hairspray, Jr and The Little Mermaid, Jr. Each of these middle school productions typically had 80+ cast members and an average of 200 costume pieces. Theresa continued to collaborate with Lori Sager on the production of Stars on Broadway 3 and Stars Rock Broadway, each of which involved over 100 performers requiring approximately 600 separate costume pieces. Theresa enjoys creating costumes to enhance the performers ability to get “in character”.
Tami Stauffacher has been involved in performance and music for as long as she can remember. Her love of music ignited in Middle school after being encouraged and inspired by her music teacher. She has participated in Concert Choirs, show choirs, speech, musical theater and cheerleading since that time. These performance paths lead her to eventually begin coaching cheerleading, participating in community theater, singing at her church, and joining Aspire Music Academy.
Lewis Youngren holds a B.A. in Theatre Performance from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. He is a freelance actor, dancer, and choreographer in the Twin Cities and spends his days as a substitute teacher at Park High School in Cottage Grove. At Park, Lewis also co-directs the One Act Play, coaches Speech, and is the musical choreographer.
Lewis has participated in Shrek the Musical as the Big Bad Wolf and the Pied Piper with Open Door Community Theatre and, most recently, Stars on Broadway 5: Heroes vs. Villains with Aspire Music Academy. Other recent credits include: Beauty and the Beast (Ashland Productions), I Am My Own Wife (Commonweal Theatre Company), Much Ado About Nothing (Black Dirt Theater).
Megan is a Twin Cities based singer, actor, and director. Originally from Woodbury, Minnesota, Megan continued her theatre career by pursuing a B.A. in Musical Theatre Performance and minor in Arts Administration from the University of Wisconsin La - Crosse.
Favorite acting credits include: Little Sally in Urinetown, Sonia in Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike, and Sandrine/Gayle/Deena/Hope in Almost, Maine. Directorial credits include Director of Money Monologues at UWL, Assistant Director for Games Afoot at La Crosse Community Theatre, and Assistant Director of Beauty and the Beast Jr. at Woodbury Middle School.
In Summer 2019, she was happy to be the head of Marketing for EnCompass Theatre’s Productions R Culture; which was featured in the 2019 Fringe Festival. Megan is set to direct Heathers the Musical with the Ashland Alumni Production in June 2021; after a 2020 postponement due to COVID. She is excited to return to Aspire and become a part of the wonderful Teaching Artists Staff.
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