Doctorate Degree Instructors
Dr. Todd Payne, Doctorate Degree Vocal Instructor
Dr. Todd Payne teaches voice lessons at Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield, Missouri.
A native of Munford, Tennessee, Metropolitan Opera District Winner & Regional Finalist, and Tenured-Full Professor of Music (Voice) at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, Dr. Todd Payne’s voice has been described as "Magnificent", "Impassioned", and “Stentorian." He is sought after for his commanding presence, ringing tones and intense work ethic in opera, recital, oratorio, etc.
Todd’s musical roots began in the church where he grew up singing gospel music. Coming from a family of gospel singers, Todd’s first solo was “Walk Around Heaven All Day” which was the song he first heard his mother sing frequently in church. When Todd decided to study music, it was his dream emulate his musical idol, the late R&B balladeer Luther Vandross who autographed a photo for Todd with these words; “Word Hard & Believe! Kindest Regards, Luther.” Nevertheless, according to Jeremiah 29:11 God had other plans. When asked on occasion, “Todd, how did you get into opera?” His is response is simple.
“I didn’t choose opera. Opera choose me.”
April 14, 2018, Todd made his New York City Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall as the baritone soloist in a new premier work entitled “Gathering.” On April 21, 2018 Todd performed this same masterpiece on the campus of University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana (MM & DMA), in celebration of the sesquicentennial anniversary of his alma mater.
Prior to this performance, Todd appeared as guest soloist in composer Russell Robinson’s arrangement of Old Man River with the Missouri State University Men’s Chorus at the Missouri Music Educators Association Conference. Also, Todd performed a selection of Old American Songs, arias, and an excerpt of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s famous I Have A Dream speech, with an underlying orchestral arrangement of “Precious Lord Take My Hand” & “We Shall Overcome,” with Springfield Symphony and Topeka Symphony.
October 2017 Todd sang his first Iago in Springfield Regional Opera’s concert performance of Otello. Prior to this performance, he sang the role of Malatesta in Springfield Regional Opera’s production of Don Pasquale. February 2017 he was the bass soloist in Beethoven 9th with Springfield Symphony Orchestra. In January he reprised the role of Hero/Louis Armstrong in Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Opera The Real Ambassadors in Memphis, Tennessee; a role he first sang in a collaboration with Opera Memphis/Rhodes College in April 2016. Also in April, Todd made his Topeka Symphony Orchestra debut as the bass soloist in The Verdi Requiem. Summer 2016, Todd appeared in concert as guest soloist with the Memphis Wind Ensemble. May 2015 Todd sang “Old Man River” with the Memphis, Symphony at Tom Lee Park.
Summer 2014 Todd was heard in the title role in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with the Princeton Opera Festival in Princeton New Jersey and received review following review:
Richard Todd Payne conveys the spirit of his character, and the opera, before he even opens his mouth. You like this Porgy the minute he makes his entrance. Payne’s physical stature is of a piece with his spiritual resolve. There’s a solidity in his manner, and you just know there is nothing that will keep him down, totally at variance with his status as Catfish Row’s crippled beggar. When he sings “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” you believe icebergs would glance off the prow of this man, and you suspect the menacing Crown is in for a world of hurt!”
Todd has performed the title roles in Tartuffe, Gianni Schicchi, Rigoletto Porgy & Bess and The Marriage of Figaro. Other roles include Ned in Treemonisha, Dr. Bartolo & Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville, Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola, Don Pippo in L'Oca del Cairo, Escamillo in Carmen, Marcello in La Boheme and many others.
Professional credits include performances with Princeton Opera, Opera Memphis, Indianapolis Opera, Illinois Opera Theater, Houston Grand Opera, Union Avenue Opera Theatre, Springfield Regional Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre St. Louis, Chicago Opera Theatre, Princeton Opera, Memphis Symphony, Champaign-Urbana Symphony, Danville Symphony, Eastern Illinois Symphony, Rockford Symphony, and the Memphis Youth Symphony.
Todd is represented by Dietsch Artists International in Orange County, New Jersey. The key to his success is first and foremost, his Strong Faith in God and the profound belief: IF YOUR MIND CONCEIVES IT, YOUR HEART BELIEVES IT, YOU CAN ACHIEVE IT!
Master's Degree Instructors
Heather leverich, Master voice & piano instructor
Heather Leverich teaches private voice, autoharp, drama and piano lessons at the Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield. Innovative teaching techniques characterize Heather’s teaching style. Viewing each student as unique, Heather helps her students define and reach their goals for musical growth.
During her high school years, Heather studied piano at Archer Music Studio in Monett, Missouri with Mr. John Archer for 10 years.
Miss Leverich holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Voice from Maranatha Baptist University and is currently pursuing a Master of Music Degree in Voice from Concordia University. Heather spent spent two years studying the Alexander Technique and is experienced as a performer, a Church Music Director, and a Master Class Clinician.
In addition to teaching at Conservatory of the Ozarks, Heather has taught music appreciation and voice courses at Crowder College and Ozarks Technical College. In the past Heather also taught private voice and piano lessons at Beihoff Music, J. Hale Music and the River City Conservatory in Wisconsin.
Susan sponheim, Master strings instructor
Susan Sponheim teaches private and group strings lessons at the Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield, using a blend of Suzuki and traditional teaching techniques. Ms. Sponheim began her tenure at the Conservatory in 2009. Sponheim holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Violin Performance from San Francisco State University in California, a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance and a Graduate Assistantship from Ball State University in Indian, and teaching certifications in Louisiana and Kansas. Her career includes 20 years performing with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra and 15 years of teaching in public schools, as well as performances with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and the Drury Civic Orchestra. She has led numerous Suzuki workshops and also is proficient in Orff.
During her time as an instructor at Conservatory of the Ozarks, Susan has performed in a variety of Community Outreach events and prepared her students for countless studio recitals.
Michael payne, master voice instructor
Michael Payne teaches private voice and piano lessons at Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield.
Michael holds a BM in voice performance from Lee University in Cleveland, TN and a MM in vocal performance from Missouri State University where he studied under Dr. Chris Thompson.
Michael has experiences in opera, performing roles in Dido and Aeneas (Purcell), Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart), The Gondoliers (Gilbert and Sullivan), Amahl and the Night Visitors (Menotti), and L’enfant et les sortilèges (Ravel).
Michael performed the role of Dater #2 in Michael Ching’s comic one act opera Speed Dating Tonight and The Emperor in Bruce Trinkley’s St. Thomas the Carpenter, both newly composed operas. He was also the bass-baritone soloist in Gustav Holst’s Christmas Day with the Missouri State Grand Chorus and Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Payne also teaches voice at Evangel University and Drury University and is a studio artist for the Springfield Regional Opera.
Emily engebretson, master flute instructor
Emily Engebretson teaches private flute lessons at the Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield. Emily joined the faculty at the Conservatory in 2014.
Mrs. Engebretson holds a Bachelor in Flute Performance degree from Evangel University and a Masters in Music Flute also from Evangel.
At EU, Emily got to travel throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe with their touring orchestra.
Outside of school and work performances, she has played in some events around the Springfield area including the Marshfield Community Theater.
Emily has performed flute solos during several Community Outreach Events during her time as a teacher at Conservatory of the Ozarks, including performances at the Idea X Factory, Clara Thompson Recital at Drury University, and the Toys for Tots Christmas Toy Drive. Mrs. Engebretson has also accompanied many Conservatory voice students with her flute for a variety performances.
Bachelor's Degree Instructors
Nathan Walter, Keyboard, Drums, bass, guitar & cello instructor
Nathan Walter teaches keyboard, guitar, bass, cello and drums at Conservatory of the Ozarks. Mr. Walter’s students love his gentle but passionate approach to teaching music. Students of all ages enjoy Nathan’s enthusiasm and authenticity as a music teacher.
Growing up in a musical household, Nathan Walter first started experimenting with sound around age three while seated at a Fender Rhodes electric piano and an analog synthesizer. As an adult, Nathan went on to pursue a Bachelor of Music degree in college. Nathan plays bass, cello, guitars, keyboards, piano, and drums, and considers himself a lifelong student of Bach, John Coltrane and Pythagoras.
Undergraduate study of double bass allowed Mr. Walter exposure to every musical genre under the sun. During an average week, Nathan would be programming a DJ set for a nightclub while studying 20th century music theory at Metro State in Denver, CO. During his junior year of college, Nathan was selected to perform the Dragonetti Concerto for double bass with the University's symphony orchestra, an honor that demanded a new level of classical discipline and granted him the confidence to strive for excellence in any musical endeavor.
Mr. Walter began his teaching career in 2015 when he joined the faculty of a Kansas City-based provider of in-home music lessons. Nathan was soon engaged with the next generation of musical minds while teaching a number of different instruments. During his tenure as a music instructor in Kansas City, Nathan learned to integrate classical discipline with the fun and creativity of pop and rock music, emphasizing the benefits music provides for social development and problem solving.
Nathan currently lives in Springfield with his lovely wife Deborah and lightning-fast dog named Misti. He enjoys cooking, cycling and design.
Amanda krieg, piano & clarinet instructor
Amanda Krieg teaches piano lessons and clarinet lessons at Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield, Missouri. Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree in applied music with an emphasis in piano performance from Kansas State University. Currently Amanda is a graduate assistant at Missouri State University pursuing a master’s degree in Piano Performance. Amanda teaches class piano and private student lessons at Missouri State University.
As a piano teacher, Amanda believes that music is important and study is serious, but the learning environment should be enjoyable and imaginative. Ms. Krieg encourages independence in her students and strives to create a fun atmosphere of learning. Miss Amanda’s student commented, “I never thought I would ever have a FUN piano teacher!” (-Alec, age 8).
Ms. Krieg’s students have participated in music competitions and consistently receive high honors. One of her former students includes Grace VanderWaal, winner of 2016 America’s Got Talent. She enjoys teaching all ages from five years old to adults.
In addition to her expertise in piano, Amanda plays clarinet. Beginning her clarinet studies at a young age, Amanda played clarinet in marching band throughout high school and college. Amanda performed in state competitions and participated in symphonic concerts.
Amanda’s past performances include the Kansas State University Innovation and Inspiration fundraising campaign kick-off, art gallery openings, personal concerts, and other school functions. Ms. Krieg has also performed for community theater melodrama and university symphony orchestra. Amanda received numerous scholarships throughout her education for her pianistic skills. Additionally, Amanda accompanies vocalists and instrumentalists, and subs for church services around Springfield.
As a student, Amanda’s primary teachers include Mrs. Carribeth Pilley, Dr. Mark Pretzel, Dr. Slawomir Dobrzanski, and Dr. Wei-Han Su. Ms. Kreig has participated in masterclasses with Simone Dinnerstein, Peter Miyamoto, Justin Krawitz, Ko-Eun Lee, Agustin Muriago, Wei-Chen Lin, William Whipple, and Nikodem Wojciechowski.
Shelley DiMartini, piano instructor
Shelley DiMartini teaches piano lessons at Conservatory of the Ozarks. Since she began teaching at Conservatory of the Ozarks in 2015, Shelley has prepared her students for many performances at the Conservatory’s monthly studio recitals, community outreach events, and shows. Known for her ability to motivate students to progress quickly in their musical development, Shelley has a studio full of talented students of all ages.
Ms. DiMartini holds a BFA in Piano Performance from Stephens College, Columbia, MO and a Lifetime Teaching Certificate K-12. Shelley was the director and accompanist for Campus Sing which traveled the US representing Stephens College at High Schools and College Assemblies. Shelley furthered her education at the UMKC Music Conservatory, Kansas City, MO by earning graduate credits in ORFF Method – including recorder, percussion, and vocal music. In addition to her experience teaching at the Conservatory, Shelley has taught music at Jefferson Jr. High; was the lead music instructor at Music, Magic, and Make Believe in Indio, CA; taught music, aided in honors choir preparations, was accompanist for school programs, concerts and contests at Van Horn High School, Independence, MO; taught piano at Boys and Girls Club, Solana Beach, CA; taught steel drums and piano at Palomar College, San Marcos, CA and was choir director and accompanist at College of the Desert, Palm Desert, CA . A talented pianist, Shelley also plays the organ, harp, guitar, B flat and Alto Clarinet and oboe. Shelley has forty years of experience teaching private lessons.
An accomplished performer, Shelley is often seen performing throughout the Springfield area at Country Clubs, the Tower Club, private parties, and events.
Bethany mitchell, cello instructor
Bethany Mitchell teaches cello lessons at Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield, Missouri. Bethany's cello students love working with her on a weekly basis.
Born and raised in Springfield, Bethany Mitchell has been involved in music since 5th grade. As a teenager, Bethany played cello with the Springfield Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Miss Mitchell holds a Bachelors's degree in both music and psychology from Drury University. One of the primary influences on Bethany's approach to musical studies is performance psychology, and she is also highly concerned with musician's wellness.
Bethany is currently a cellist in the Springfield-Drury Civic Orchestra, works with the Springfield Cello Ensemble. Since joining the faculty at Conservatory of the Ozarks in 2016, Bethany has performed with her cello in a variety of community outreach events.
Connor purkot, bass & guitar instructor
Connor Purkot teaches private upright bass, electric bass and guitar at Conservatory of the Ozarks.
Mr. Purkot is a talented guitarist, specializing in Jazz, and with experience in folk, rock, latin, fusion, and musical theater pit orchestra.
Connor has played in several jazz festivals, including the Springfield Jazz Festival and the Elmhurst College Jazz Fest in Chicago.
Mr. Purkot has played in the pit orchestras for the Springfield Contemporary Theater and the Missouri State University theater program, as well as numerous community theater productions.
Connor also performed with the MSU Jazz Studies Ensemble at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village and the Springfield Symphony in their Duke Ellington Tribute concert in 2015. Purkot specializes in Jazz guitar and improvisation.
Since joining the Conservatory's faculty in 2015, Connor has enjoyed teaching students of all ages how to play the bass and the guitar.
Kat miller, art instructor
Kat Miller teaches private and group art lessons at Conservatory of the Ozarks.
Having started towards her goal of entering the Fantasy and Comic art world around the age of 12, Miss Miller currently holds Degrees from Crowder in Graphic Design and Missouri State University in Illustration. With these degrees, Kat focuses on ink, watercolor, and markers in her own work, but with the degrees has come an understanding of various other medias. As a freelance artist, Kat has put her skills to use for District 417, Domino's, and George Washington Carver National Park.
In her work at the Conservatory, Kat focuses on personalized art lessons catering to end goals and the styles of her students.
joshua lee, strings & piano instructor
Joshua Lee is an apprentice instructor at Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield. He teaches piano and strings including violin, viola, piano and cello. During high school, Mr. Lee took private violin lessons with Elizabeth Suh at Asbury and private piano lessons with Ruth Burnside. Joshua also studied piano at Crowder College with Marilyn Abercrombie and is currently a violin performance major at Missouri State University where he studies under Dr. Hays. Josh performed with a variety of string ensembles during high school including the Ozark Festival Orchestra and the PHP Homeschool Orchestra. Also an experienced fiddler, Joshua performed with the Possum Holler Fiddlers for several years. In 2011 the Possum Holler Fiddlers were invited to perform in the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Joshua taught private piano and strings lessons for three years during high school. Several of Mr. Lee’s students performed and received highest ratings and trophies at Piano 88’s Music Festival.
Nika melvin, flute instructor
Nika Melvin is an apprentice flute instructor at Conservatory of the Ozarks.
Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Nika relocated to Springfield, Missouri in 2006. Nika is currently pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Flute Performance at Missouri State University.
Nika has performed with the Millington Central Highschool Concert Band and Marching Bands from Memphis, Tennessee, where she was First Chair and Section Leader for Woodwinds.
In addition to offering private flute instruction, Mrs. Melvin teaches early childhood music to preschool age students. Proficient in the Music for Little Mozarts Curriculum, Nika leads group music classes for students under the age of 5. Parents are delighted to see their pre-k children progress in their understanding of the foundations of music, under Miss Nika's tutelage.
After the completion of her degree, Mrs. Melvin intends to continue teaching at Conservatory of the Ozarks with the intent of helping individuals learn and become a part of the world of music.
Joanne Moore, art instructor
Joanne Moore teaches art lessons at Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield, Missouri. Joanne is proficient in drawing, painting, color and mixed media. A flexible and responsible instructor, Mrs. Moore enjoys working with students of all ages.
During her high school years, Joanne studied art under Robert Fletcher at Warwick, New York and completed classes in drawing, painting and graphic arts design.
Artistically talented from an early age, Joanne was the recipient of the Teen Arts Award while in high school. An avid scholar of art, Joanne visited many art museums in the New York City area during her teenage years, including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim and The Cloisters.
Following her graduation from high school, Joanne completed part of her bachelor's degree in art at Sussex County Community College in Newton, New Jersey. During her time at SCCC, Mrs. Moore completed 60 credits including courses in color theory, art history, interpretive design, visual & guttural art. Joanne plans to finish her art degree during the next few years.
Joanne is adept at teaching drawing, painting, color, pencil, charcoal, ink, watercolor, acrylics, oil painting and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain courses. In addition to teaching private and group art lessons at the Conservatory, Mrs. Moore was an art teacher at Reach Co-Op in Ozark, Missouri where she taught origami. Joanne taught Thomas Kincade and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain curriculum at Faith Co-Op in Ozark, Missouri in 2012 - 2013. From 1993 - 1994, Mrs. Moore taught Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain curriculum, a color theory course and interior design at Netherlands Reformed Christian High School in New Jersey.
Anna Epps, piano, voice, guitar & songwriting instructor
Anna Epps is an Apprentice Instructor at Conservatory of the Ozarks in Springfield. She teaches voice, piano, ukulele, guitar, drama and songwriting. Anna has been working professionally since the age of 6, performing in over 600 Broadway style shows including “The Promise” and “A Dickens Christmas Carol” at Silver Dollar City in Branson, M0. Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, Tony Orlando and Joel Manby, CEO of Herschend Entertainment, have all shared praise for Anna’s performance as “Tiny Tim and “Fan” in the musical, “A Dickens Christmas Carol”. Anna has shared her voice in hundreds of professional music projects and jingles such as “Answers in Genesis”. She has appeared in print, commercials and film, both local and national. Anna has completed Intro to Music Business Production, Songwriting and Ableton Live courses from Berklee School of Music in Boston and continues to pursue a degree in music. She loves working with children and desires to instill a love of music and performance in them through her teaching.
katie moore, voice & piano instructor
Katie Moore is an Apprentice Voice and Piano Instructor at Conservatory of the Ozarks.
At six years of age, Katie began 3 years piano lessons in Wisconsin. As she was growing up, Katie studied piano, voice and saxophone for 9 years with a private instructor in Ozark, Missouri. Katie performed in her church school concerts and plays during her formative years.
Miss Katie studied voice with Heather Leverich at Conservatory of the Ozarks beginning in 2016 and completed the Conservatory's Apprenticeship Training Program concurrent with her lessons. In addition to piano, voice and saxophone, Katie studied the autoharp during her lessons at the Conservatory.
After completing her senior recital in 2017, Katie began pursuing a music degree at Ozarks Technical College and plans to transfer to Missouri State University to complete her Bachelor's degree.
During her time teaching at the Conservatory, Katie's has helped several of her students grow and develop in their musical journey. Several of Miss Katie's students have performed in Conservatory studio recitals and community outreach events.
Commercial Music Industry Instructors
benjamin bitter, Commercial Music industry specialist
Benjamin Bitter is a Commercial Music Industry Instructor at the Conservatory of the Ozarks. Ben currently teaches piano, guitar, bass guitar, percussion and songwriting. While teaching, Mr. Bitter is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in piano pedagogy. This is only one aspect of Benjamin’s storied career which spans 25 years. Mr. Bitter is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and recording artist, releasing three albums of all original material. Benjamin has toured extensively, both in the United States and abroad. As a songwriter, Mr. Bitter approaches the craft with a lean towards musical storytelling. “The story is essential!” he is known to say. Benjamin joined the staff of Conservatory of the Ozarks in August of 2012, and he continues to perform and record regularly in addition to his teaching. If you are looking for an instructor with a tremendous amount of energy, happiness and real world experience, contact the Conservatory of the Ozarks to book an audition today!