Council of Advocates

Austin, Texas

Member Biographies

Co-Chairs: Lois Ferrari and Eric Pearson
Italian-American conductor Lois Ferrari is Professor of Music at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas and has been a member of the faculty since 1993. Dr. Ferrari conducts the SU Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, and teaches conducting. Many of her students have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in conducting at prestigious institutions such as the Peabody Institute, the Ithaca College School of Music, and the University of Houston. Maestra Ferrari also serves as host and clinician for the bi-annual SU Conductors’ Institute in instrumental conducting.

As Music Director of the Austin Civic Orchestra, Dr. Ferrari was awarded 2nd place in 2016 and 2012 for the American Prize in orchestral conducting. Judge David Katz remarked, “She reminds me of the eminent Margaret Hillis." Over the years, she has brought many celebrated guest artists to the ACO stage, including David Amram, Peter Bay, Lauren Lane, Anton Nel, and David Whitwell. Maestra Ferrari has also been intimately involved with nurturing future virtuosi through the ACO's Pearl Amster Youth Festivals and with the Texas Rising Stars Contest, presented in collaboration with the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas.

An enthusiastic champion of new music, Dr. Ferrari founded the ACO Composition Contest and is proud to have premiered more than 25 works during the course of her career. In 2012, she and the ACO were commissioned by David Amram to present the Texas premiere of his Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie. In regard to this experience he wrote, "The whole country needs to get behind the arts in their own communities, just as Lois and the ACO are doing in Austin."

A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where she received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting, Dr. Ferrari received a full doctoral fellowship and was appointed Assistant Conductor of the renowned Eastman Wind Ensemble. She also earned a Master of Music degree in conducting and a Bachelor of Music degree with a double major in performance and music education from the Ithaca College School of Music. Her principal teachers were Donald Hunsberger, Rodney Winther, David Effron, Pamela Gearhart, Lawrence Doebler, and Donald Neuen.

When she isn’t busy with musical endeavors, Maestra Ferrari indulges an interest in playwriting/screenwriting and has won several awards for her efforts. She is also an avid motorcycle rider and golf enthusiast. Originally a Long Islander, Dr. Ferrari now resides in Georgetown with her husband, Dr. Paul Gaffney, and their two cats, Buddha and Gandhi.

A native of Western New York, Eric Pearson is currently the Director of Community Guitarists for Austin Classical Guitar. He joined the organization after graduation from Ithaca College in 2011 as a curriculum developer and to support their rapidly expanding classroom guitar programs in Austin. His work in Austin, TX consists of consultant-teaching in the public school guitar programs as well as conducting adult amateur guitar ensembles. He holds a MM in Music Performance from Ithaca College, has taught public school, college courses, and was formerly the acting executive director of the Infinity Performing Arts Program, Inc. He is also a frequent clinician at state and national meetings for music educators, including conferences hosted by the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Guitar Directors Association, the National Association for Music Educators, and the American String Teachers Association.

Alyssa A'Hearn is a 2014 graduate of Ithaca College. There, she received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education, concentration French horn. After spending her early life in Syracuse, NY, Alyssa made the move to Austin, TX to "keep it weird" and escape the snow. Alyssa is a passionate volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and continues her love of music through her constant support of the Austin Symphony and Texas Performing Arts.

Alyssa currently works in the Central Development Office at the University of Texas at Austin, supporting university-wide fundraising efforts.

Kamila Swerdloff is a pianist, singer, and songwriter from the pacific northwest. She received her B.M. in Piano Performance from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. Her musical interests range from writing hip hop covers for her folk/pop band to playing Beethoven piano trios. She has played in the Astoria Music Festival and the Austin Chamber Music Festival, and has served as an adjudicator and presenter for the New York State Music Teachers Association. She is the co-founder and composer of a collaborative dance project entitled "Chance Encounters: Stories of mostly true missed connections and mostly fictional responses inspired by Craigslist Austin”, which is currently being workshopped with dancer Dorothy O’Shea Overbey. The project was selected to be a part of the visual arts/music/dance festival "Revolve: A Movement Display", and will be premiered in September of 2017. In addition to composing and performing, she is a ballet pianist for Ballet Austin and the American Ballet Theater summer intensive at the University of Texas at Austin. She is half of the duo band The Satellite Junes, an Austin based, a female duo that explores blending indie pop with lush, singular harmonies and modern folk. She started her eponymous solo project in early 2017. Her songs are a fusion of singer- songwriter, jazz-influenced folk/pop with a bit of funk. She has been praised as being “no stranger to intricate melodies and complex arrangements.” She plays with Elayne Harris on drums and Ben Vogel on bass. She recently joined the faculty as a Guest Artist for the Odo Sound Creative Musician Summer Sessions. She has spent the better part of 2017 writing, recording, and producing her debut EP "Adalyn", which is set to be released on July 29th. She enjoys listening to and drawing songwriting inspiration from Joni Mitchell, The Tallest Man on Earth, Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz, Bob Dylan, Elliot Smith, Paul Simon, Margaret Glaspy, Fleetwood Mac, Becca Stevens, The Staves, Vulfpeck, Gabriel Kahane, and whoever else she is currently obsessing over (the new Brad Meldau/Chris Thile collaboration). She currently lives in Austin, TX.

Seth Magee is the assistant band director at Roy J. Smith Middle School in Killeen, Texas. Seth co-conducts two performing ensembles and teaches beginning band classes. Prior to teaching at Smith Middle School, he was the Band Director at Audie Murphy Middle School in Fort Hood, TX. 

Until beginning his career as a band director, Mr. Magee served in the US Army’s First Cavalry Division Band for four years as a tuba player. He performed for thousands of audience members in the Fort Hood community and abroad, helping bring music to soldiers and their family members. Mr. Magee has performed professionally in bands and orchestras in the United States, Costa Rica, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Jordan. These performing ensembles include the Nittany Valley Symphony Orchestra, the Pierre Monteux Festival Orchestra, the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, and the Penn State Symphony Orchestra. He continues to serve his country in the Texas National Guard as a member of the 36th Infantry Division Band. 

Mr. Magee obtained his master's degree in music performance from Penn State University under the instruction of Velvet Brown. He received his bachelor's degree in music education from Ithaca College. He is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association and the Texas Bandmasters Association. 

Kristin Burritt began her career teaching at Washburne Middle School in Winnetka, Illinois. She later built a career as a soloist, choreographer, and voice teacher while working on her masters degree in central Arkansas. For the last sixteen years, Mrs. Burritt has made a name for herself as a performer and educator in Austin, Texas. She performed roles with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Austin. She sang with the Conspirare Symphonic ensemble under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson, and was also a part of the vocal duo, Voce Divina, who was featured in Classical Singer Magazine. She is currently the head director of a 250 member choral program at Leander Middle School in the acclaimed Leander Independent School District. Kristin is married to fellow Ithaca College alumnus, Dr. Thomas Burritt. They are the proud parents of three very musical children. Together their family leads music at Open Cathedral in Leander, Texas.

Thomas Burritt: There are storied educators, and there are dynamic performers, and then there are those who are destined to be both. Always in search of new music and new ways to share it with others, Thomas Burritt is today's percussionist. He has received degrees from Ithaca College School of Music (BM – Education and Performance), Kent State University (MM), and Northwestern University (DMA). Active in the creation and performance of new music for percussion Burritt has built a reputation in chamber music, as a percussion soloist and a concert marimbist. He has performed regularly at the Leigh Howard Stevens International Marimba Seminar and was a featured faculty performer at the 2007 and 2009 Zeltsman Marimba Festival. In April 2004 Burritt performed in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall as member of the Hammers and Sticks Ensemble. Later the same year the Hammers and Sticks Ensemble released a CD on the Innova label featuring works by Steven Mackey, Zhou Long, Alvin Singleton, Alex Shapiro, Joseph Harchanko and Belinda Reynolds. As Percussion Soloist Burritt has been active performing percussion concertos by Maki Ishii, Steve Mackey, Joseph Schwantner, Michael Dougherty, David Maslanka, John Mackey, and James MacMillan. Burritt has recorded for guitarist Eric Johnson and recording artist David Byrne. Burritt's first solo CD recording: "All Times Identical - New American Music for Marimba" was released in November 2006. His 2nd solo marimba recording "Groundlines" is available in iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Rdio and Spotify. In August of 2015, Burritt released his latest recording via YouTube, featuring a video album of J. S. Bach's 5th Cello Suite performed on the Marimba. In 2009 and 2016, Burritt performed on two Grammy nominated recordings: "Conspirare in Concert" and "Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings", both distributed world wide on the harmonia mundi label. In the spring of 2012, Burritt was cited as being one of "The most influential Music Professors on Twitter". Follow @tburritt

He is currently Professor of Percussion and Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and is a clinician/endorser for Majestic Percussion, Innovative Percussion, Zildjian, Remo, Beetle Percussion and Grover Pro Percussion.

Jenna Yee has been band directing in Austin, Texas since 2007. She assisted the opening of Stiles Middle School in Leander ISD in 2012, which placed 3rd in the 2015 CC Honor Band Contest and 7th in the 2017 CCC Honor Band Contest. The Stiles Honors Band was also a 2015 performer at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. Prior to her time at Stiles, she taught at Deerpark Middle School in Round Rock ISD, assisting a performance at the Western International Band Clinic, and at Clint Small Middle School in Austin ISD, assisting performances at both the Western International Band Clinic and the Midwest Clinic. Jenna is also on the podcast, After Sectionals, which is aimed at band directors as a place to “talk shop”. At Stiles Middle School, Mrs. Yee conducts the Symphonic Band, and assists with the Honors Band and Concert Band. She also teaches beginning trumpet, horn, euphonium, and double reeds. The Stiles Symphonic Band earns consistent Superior ratings at the UIL Concert & Sight-Reading Contest and was a 2017 Citation of Excellence Winner from the Foundation for Music Education. Jenna earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education and Horn Performance from Ithaca College, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2007. During her time at Ithaca, she performed with the Wind Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Orchestra, studying horn with Alex Shuhan and under the baton of Stephen Peterson, Jeff Grogan, and Jeffrey Meyer. She was Vice President of Mu Phi Epsilon and was inducted into the Pi Kappa Lambda and Phi Kappa Phi Honors Societies. She was also named the Presser Scholar in 2006. Jenna is married to her college sweetheart, Chris, who is a band director at Cedar Park High School. They reside in Leander, TX with their two sons, Noah and Ashton and crazy dog, Mylie. They are both still actively involved performers in the Austin area including Cedar Park Winds, a community wind ensemble that was a 2017 Midwest Performer that Chris founded in 2008. In her infinite amounts of free time, Jenna also runs an online fitness and wellness business that helps many teachers and musicians take care of themselves so that they can best serve their students and families. Jenna and Chris are forever thankful for their time in Ithaca that left them with a wonderful education, their marriage, and friendships to last a lifetime.