Our Team & Board
of Directors

Our Team

Leadership and Administrative Team

Dr. Erin Parkes

Dr. Erin Parkes

Founder, Executive Director, Piano Instruction

Erin founded Lotus Centre in 2012 based on a passionate belief that people of all abilities have a right to learn and experience music in an environment that meets their needs. Her strengths-based approach to adaptive music education is based on a combination of evidence-based practice and a deep belief in the importance of relationship and responsiveness to the individual student.

Erin received her Bachelor of Music, Master of Arts in Musicology, and Graduate Certificate in Piano Pedagogy Research from the University of Ottawa. She completed a PhD in Music Education from McGill University in 2015, where she researched how to effectively train studio music teachers to work with students with autism. Erin has been teaching music since 1996 and has worked with students of all ages and abilities in a variety of settings, primarily as a private and group piano teacher. Based on her research and teaching experience, in 2020 Erin founded the Lotus Centre Institute for Professional Development to provide training, tools and resources for music educators working with students with exceptionalities.

In addition to her experience and work as a music teacher and teacher trainer, Erin is an active researcher with specific research interests in determining effective practice in teaching students with exceptionalities, therapeutic benefits of music education, and trauma-informed teaching. Erin is a principal researcher at the Music and Health Research Institute at the University of Ottawa, and research fellow at the Research Centre for Music, Sound and Society in Canada at Carleton University. Erin is an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, where she teaches and mentors students in special music education. Erin presents at conferences and guest lectures throughout North America and internationally on teaching music to students with special needs and other issues in music education.

 
 Julia Lauton

Julia Lauton

Finance Manager

Julia has always had a love for music and believes that every child should have the opportunity to discover a passion for music as well! As part of Julia’s musical background, she is a classically trained vocalist who also has experience playing piano, guitar, and saxophone. She also enjoys musical theatre, choral singing, and music theory. Julia is very excited to be working with the Lotus Centre administrative team! She graduated from Algonquin College’s Bookkeeping and Accounting Practices program in 2016 and is currently a Nipissing University distance learning student. Julia is working towards her Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting major.

Marianne Keuleman

Marianne Keuleman

Program and Outreach Coordinator, Voice, Piano, Ukulele

Marianne is a recording artist, DIY producer, and music educator. Marianne showed a natural love for the arts from a young age; growing up, she took piano and dance lessons, taught herself to play guitar, and rarely stopped singing. This led her to study pop voice and singer-songwriter studies at Carleton University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music in 2022. Throughout this time, she played original music around the city, sang in choirs, accompanied singers on piano and guitar, played in a variety of bands, worked at a small record label, learned to record and produce music, and more. Marianne has been teaching private music lessons since 2018 in voice, piano, guitar, and ukulele. As a teacher, her goal is to help students grow holistically, expanding their musical knowledge and skills while fostering growth in areas such as confidence, creativity, body awareness, communication, and more. She tailors lessons to each student’s interests and needs, including diverse elements such as theory, listening, singalongs, rhythm practice, movement, and more. Outside of teaching, Marianne continues to write and perform her original songs and produces music for herself and other artists at her small home studio.

Erin Fobert

Erin Fobert

Office Administrator

Erin graduated from Queen’s University with a degrees in both Honours English and Education. Erin is a music lover and enjoys singing and listening to the wonderful sounds around The Lotus Centre. Erin was honoured to sit on The Lotus Centre Board of Directors as a parent advisor for many years and is extremely excited to help the Centre in her current role as their Office Administrator.  “Lotus is a special place, full of special people, who love music and work hard to make sure that every person, regardless of his/her diagnosis or exceptionalities, is able to participate in music education in a meaningful way. I am so happy to help facilitate special music education experiences to members of the community!”

Jeff Sabo

Jeff Sabo

Professional Development Coordinator, Piano

Jeff has been a music lover for his whole life, and he began playing piano at age 5. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Composition and Theory from Ithaca College. In addition to music, Jeff is also passionate about helping people with their mental and physical wellness. He received Post-Baccalaureate Degree in Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and then worked for over a year as a community mental health counselor. He has also trained in the Taubman Approach to healthy piano technique. For his graduate studies, Jeff came to the University of Ottawa to pursue his love of both music and science and to improve his skills as a teacher. He received a Graduate Diploma and a Master’s Degree in Piano Pedagogy Research, and is now pursuing a PhD in Health Sciences. Jeff has worked with students of many different ages and abilities. He loves playing and teaching many different styles of music, such as classical, rock, and pop. His goal as a teacher is to combine his passion for music and wellness and to adapt his approach to each individual student, so that anyone can enjoy making music in their own way.

Music Educators

Chris Uba

Chris Uba

Guitar, Drums, Piano

Receiving his Bachelor of Music degree with Honors, along with a Minor in Business from Carleton University; Chris practiced in classical, jazz and many popular styles of guitar at university. While at university, he taught himself how to play the ukulele, pass guitar and piano as well. He believes that anyone in the right environment with the right lessons can learn and accomplish their musical aspirations. Chris is interested in teaching students with special needs to discover new and creative ways to teach and assist students while they learn music. His material consists of lessons being as simple as they can be by breaking down the essentials of learning music in its simplest form in order for his students to fully understand and grasp the material while building their skills and confidence in their playing. Every student learns and progresses differently and like his lessons they are all tailored specifically to the student’s goals.

Tracy Smith

Tracy Smith

Piano

I started formal music studies late in life, at the age of 28. I have always wanted to play piano. Both parents were very musical, between the two they played piano, guitar, alto sax, organ, banjo and accordion. Both played for enjoyment, my mom even brought her piano to senior’s apartment. As I juggled family, work, and volunteering, music lessons always came last. I still take lessons from Erin (of Lotus Centre). We are currently in RCM program, working on ARCT Intermediate Pedagogy. It has been a long musical journey, and I’m still moving forward.

There are so many benefits when learning to play music: to call upon a few, growth of imagination and creativity, development of small muscles, and a confidence booster when playing for a teacher or at a recital. With the skills we learn, I believe when we teach music, we teach for life. Just like my parents, I aim to enjoy playing the piano for years to come.

Sam Smadella

Sam Smadella

Voice, Guitar, General Music

“I love the way music transcends everything. It has the power to change a mood, validate a feeling, speak without words, and feed a spirit.”

Sam is a recent addition to the Lotus team, but a long-time fan of music! She is now taking new students for general music, voice, and guitar.  Sam is a pediatric recreation therapist who uses music, art, drama and play to help children navigate life’s challenges. Sam started professional voice training at a young age and followed her passion by acting in musicals and performing in the community throughout her youth. When not at Lotus, Sam loves to jam with the kids at Roger Neilson House, teach acting classes at Kanata Acting Studio, and provide recreation therapy services in private practice. As well as being a recreation therapist and a mom of two, she has worked as a physiotherapy/occupational therapy assistant and brings adaptive tools, creative solutions and professional experience to meet students’ unique needs. She is excited to bring her therapeutic background into private music lessons and help students to build their skills and confidence inside the studio and out.

Robin Kenny

Robin Kenny

Voice, Piano, General Music

Robin is a singer, songwriter, and music educator born in Ottawa. Her interest in music was clear from a young age after taking piano lessons with a family friend which then led to an interest in singing. In high school she formed a band with some classmates that led her to opportunities playing at bluesfest, local fairs, and venues around Ottawa which garnered a love for songwriting and performing. In Spring of 2021 she completed a Bachelor of music at Carleton University where she studied Jazz & Pop vocal performance. Since graduating she has worked with various artists around Ottawa performing in jazz quartets, recording with local artists, and working on her own music projects. As a teacher she believes that music education is a great way to foster interpersonal and social skills and it is her goal to provide a positive and accommodating environment to do so. Robin has benefited greatly from music’s role in her life and through her lessons she aims to provide the same to all of her students.

Aparna Darbha

Aparna Darbha

Voice

Aparna’s love for music first sparked at the age of 5 when she started Indian classical vocal music lessons (Carnatic music). Having been learning and practicing the art for the last 14 years, and with some experience with the western classical flute, she has been able to appreciate the similarities between both worlds of music. She is extremely excited to be sharing these perspectives with students to give back to her community in the way that music has given her motivation and joy throughout the years. Aparna is currently a student at the University of Ottawa pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences. She joined the Lotus Centre as a volunteer for the After School Program, and was soon conducting music circles and leading other musical activities for the students. Now, in addition to being a After School Program Lead, she works as a vocal teacher at the Lotus Centre. Aparna hopes to pursue a career in the field of medicine while continuing to share her passion for music with others

Liam McMullen

Liam McMullen

Music Camp Lead

Liam received his Bachelor of Music at Carleton University in 2018, where he focused on jazz and bass. Liam also has additional courses in disability studies, and psychology. He has performed with peers and faculty members in different ensembles, including choir, jazz, fusion and rhythm.

Liam has worked at the Lotus Centre since 2017, where he first learned of his desire to teach, and developed his passion for working with students with special needs. Over the years, Liam has learned to adapt his style and differentiate his teaching techniques to reach children with a variety of special needs.

Liam works full time at the OCDSB, where he supports and teaches music to students with autism and other exceptionalities. He also provides private respite services for families, offering a range of music, learning and leisure activities.

Liam is very interested in the therapeutic applications of music. He believes that everyone benefits from music education and that music is the key to unlocking hidden potential in people of all ages and abilities.

Tanya Stuber

Tanya Stuber

After-School Program and Camp Music Lead

Tanya has a bachelor of music from Carleton university and also a social service worker diploma from Algonquin College. Tanya has a lot of experience working in the various programs at Lotus such as after school program, mini music camp, summer camp, and PA days. Tanya enjoys supporting students in music education and likes to find new and engaging ways to connect with them and help them succeed. Tanya has experience working with children of all ages as well as adults, and a variety of both physical and mental disabilities. Tanya’s passion comes from seeing family members with disabilities struggle and one of her goals is to advocate for her students so that they can achieve all of their individual goals.

Justin Frenette

Justin Frenette

Piano, Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, General Music

Justin has always been extremely passionate about the arts and started falling in love with music at age 13 when he began diving into the genres of progressive rock and metal. He then started playing the guitar at age 15 and composing at age 16 and has been expanding his instrumental range to include the bass, ukulele, piano, and drums over the years, which allows him to fully self-produce his own music in his free time. Justin received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Moncton in 2016 and has been working with children of all ages and needs since then (mostly working in summer camps and daycare settings, but also as an ABA Interventionist during Summer 2021), which made him develop a passion for promoting and helping people with their mental health, especially in the neurodivergent community. Having firsthand experience with neurodivergence himself (being diagnosed with ADHD predominantly inattentive type), Justin believes that music can be a very powerful and cathartic tool for neurodivergent children and adults to express themselves creatively and emotionally, to connect with their community and to develop a level of self-confidence that will benefit them in every aspect of their life. In his lessons, Justin’s main focus is for his students to explore different aspects of music to find out their strengths and what they’re most passionate about, and then help them reach their full musical potential based on those personal strengths and interests, by using a multimodal and personalized approach to teaching. Justin is also bilingual and offers lessons in both French and English.

Vincent Jeffery-Pacheco

Vincent Jeffery-Pacheco

After-School Program and Camp Music Lead

Vincent received his Honours Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) from Toronto Metropolitan University in 2021 and is currently attending the University of Ottawa Teacher Education program to pursue a career as a high-school science and math teacher. Upon completion of the program, he will mark the 5th consecutive generation in his family to receive a degree and training in education. Vincent is highly interested in all aspects of learning and educating, he seeks to further develop contemporary teaching practices to enhance engagement and interaction for all students.

As a child, Vincent took formal lessons for both piano and bass guitar whilst playing in a youth jazz band. He has rediscovered his passion for playing and creating music within the last few years and has relished the opportunity to play acoustic guitar with the amazing students and staff at the Lotus Centre. He particularly enjoys rock, metal, hip-hop, and electronic music to name a few; but has enjoyed broadening his scope and learning new genres, instruments, and songs over the past year at the centre.

Cheryl Wallace

Piano and General Music

Bio and Photo Coming Soon!

Natalie Harrison

Natalie Harrison

Camp Music Lead

Born and raised in the city of Ottawa, Natalie Harrison has been playing the violin since the age of three. Her first violin teacher was Rosemarie Klimasko, co-founder of Ottawa Suzuki Strings, an Ottawa based Suzuki music institute whose goal is to teach young children through the Suzuki method. Other violin teachers include Sarah Williams and Karoly Sziladi. Natalie recently completed a music degree at the University of Ottawa. Her conducting teachers included David Currie and Laurence Ewashko. She has also finished Suzuki training books one to three. Natalie has played in various local youth orchestras when she was young, including the Ottawa Youth Orchestra where she was principal second violinist. Natalie has several years of experience working as a special needs music teacher at the Lotus Centre for Special Music Education. Since the age of 15, Natalie has been volunteering her time playing the violin at various retirement homes in the Ottawa region. She has performed and recorded professionally with Acadian singer Jeanette Arsenault. She studied at the University of Ottawa in the Faculty of Education (primary/junior division). Natalie is fluently bilingual and can teach in English or French.

Nisreen Jardaneh

Nisreen Jardaneh

Piano & Ukulele Instruction

Nisreen Jardaneh is a music educator and Apple Professional Learning Specialist (APLS) who believes that every child should have access to music education. She holds a Piano Diploma from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). She continued her higher education in Canada with a Graduate Research Certificates in Piano Pedagogy Research, a Master’s of Arts in with a thesis in Piano Pedagogy from the University of Ottawa, and a Masters in Music Education with Université Laval. Nisreen has recently enrolled in special music education pedagogy program at the University of Ottawa to enrich her personal teaching experience.

Nisreen has been teaching for many years in different educational settings, and was featured as Teacher of the Week in Education Journal of the Middle East. She was a team member for developing Music Arts Curriculum in United Arab Emirates, and a contributor to the first Research and Information Guide in Piano Pedagogy published by Routledge.

Nisreen is always eager to find innovative and creative ways into teaching music to all abilities, and embraces the effective use of technology in music learning. She conducts workshops and presentations to promote early and inclusive music education. Nisreen plays piano, accordion, ukulele and enjoys exploring any instrument she can put her hands on!

Program Staff

Kerina Sova

Kerina Sova

Classroom Lead

Kerina Sova has always had a passion for working with children of all ages and a love for music.
After graduating from the Child and Youth Care program at St. Lawrence College, she started
her journey of working with children and expanding her experience in providing programs to
students with specialized needs.
Kerina has been an Educational Assistant in the private school board, a Child and Youth Care
Worker in the Catholic School Board and provided support at The Boys and Girls Club. In her free
time, she enjoys singing, dancing, painting, doing DIY’s and making bracelets.
Kerina is excited to have this opportunity to grow her knowledge in the music field. 

Cassy Shrimpton

Cassy Shrimpton

After-School Program Lead

Cassy graduated from Carleton University in 2022 with an undergraduate degree in Psychology, as well as a minor in Neuroscience and Mental Health. Cassy has experience providing behaviour therapy to children on the autism spectrum, following the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis. Cassy particularly enjoys natural environment teaching and the opportunity to get involved in music, games, and crafts. Cassy hopes to pursue a masters degree in the near future, as she is very passionate about evidence-based approaches and working alongside individuals with exceptionalities. 

Allanna Turner

Allanna Turner

Program Support Staff

I am glad to have been part of the Lotus Centre Family for almost 2 years now. I am a mother of three grown children and a grandmother to three wonderful grandchildren. My formal education includes a diploma in Early Childhood Education. I have worked directly with children of all abilities for 30 + years in several different positions.

My interests include music, nature, crafts and dancing. I look forward to seeing Lotus Centre students every week and sharing experiences with them and their families.

Tayden Bourguinon

Tayden Bourguinon

Program Support Staff

Tayden has been a part of the Lotus Centre team since 2020 working as a support staff in many programs including mini music camps, after school program, and summer camps. Music has played an important role in Tayden’s life for as long as she can remember, but she started officially taking vocal lessons at age 8 and continued to do so for 10 years. Outside of music, Tayden is passionate about language learning and supporting communication in its many forms. Currently, Tayden is a fourth-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics with a Concentration in Psycholinguistics and Communication Disorders at Carleton University. As part of this degree, she is also studying American Sign Language (ASL). She hopes to apply all of the valuable lessons that she has learned about Special Music Education from the experts at Lotus Centre as she pursues a career in speech-language pathology.

Hiba Loft

Hiba Loft

Program Support Staff

Hiba is a passionate support staff member at Lotus Centre, dedicated to cultivating inclusive spaces. Currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Early Learning and Community Development at Algonquin College while applying to Teachers College, Hiba aims to broaden her impact on diverse learners. Her prior role at Club Inclusion in Halifax equipped her with expertise in organizing programs for individuals with cognitive and behavioural disabilities. Committed to generating inclusivity, Hiba strives to create supportive environments, embodying values of compassion and empowerment for all abilities.

Robyn Motion

Program Support Staff

Bio and Photo Coming Soon!

Anisa Khan

Program Support Staff

Bio and Photo Coming Soon!

Ashton Morris

Ashton Morris

Program Support Staff

Ashton was involved in school, community, and church choirs and musicals from a young age. At 13, Ashton was diagnosed with Autism, as well as a range of other needs. Music was a constant fixture in their life as they figured out new hurdles and everyday life. 

Ashton has gone to school and has diplomas for both developmental services and social services. They currently work for both Public and Catholic school boards, offers private respite, as well as working at Lotus Centre. Through additional training, Ashton has experience with ABA, positive behaviour supports, mental health training, trauma based learning supports, and assistive technology. They are currently adapting music skills and resources they have learned about at Lotus to be used in the classroom to engage and motivate students. 

Outside of work, Ashton enjoys spending time with their dog, reading, watching horror movies, and geeking out with friends at local ComicCons. 

April Hutchinson

Program Support Staff

Bio and Photo Coming Soon!

Jordan Goodfellow

Jordan Goodfellow

Program Support Staff

My name is Jordan Goodfellow, I am a student at the University of Ottawa and I am studying to become a music therapist. My passion for music began at a very young age starting with piano lessons when I was about 5 years old. That passion grew even stronger when I got into high school. I joined the music groups as soon as I could and that’s where I started honing my skills on the saxophone, which I have been playing for ten years. I am mainly self taught and I have never had any proper training prior to the University of Ottawa where I have studied under Victor Herbiet who has been one of my biggest mentors. Throughout my years at the University of Ottawa I have joined 2 choirs under the director, Laurence Ewashko. I have performed 3 shows at the NAC in front of thousands of people. I have been apart of 2 successful research projects in music therapy alongside Dr. Nicola Oddy.

 

Music is my life, I don’t know what I would do without it. Music is so powerful and can be used to heal, to bring joy, sometimes sadness and I want to be able to use that power of music and make a difference in the world. 

Board of Directors

Dr. James McGowan

Dr. James McGowan

President

James McGowan (PhD, Eastman School of Music) is a pianist (ARCT), composer, choral conductor, award-winning educator, and published music theorist at home in classical, jazz, and improvised styles. He performs with a number of Ottawa-based musicians, including the jazz-fusion quartet Modasaurus that features his own compositions and the 2020 release of its critically acclaimed sophomore album 4K. James has performed in music festivals, including the Ottawa Jazz Festival, Stewart Park Festival, Skylight Festival and Merrickville’s Jazz Festival. He has received commissions for compositions and arrangements and has written extensively in a variety of jazz forms as well as choral, chamber and orchestral music.

Dr. McGowan is an Associate Professor at Carleton University where he teaches music theory, musicianship, composition, and community music. He also serves administratively as Carleton Chair in Teaching Innovation where he promotes music and the arts at Carleton and in the community, and Assistant Director of the Carleton Jazz Camp. He recently served as the Supervisor of Performance Studies. He has been a clinician and adjudicator for different arts organizations (Junos, Kiwanis, Lions, Canadian Music Showcase, City of Ottawa Arts Grants, etc.), and given workshops on topics including improvisation, choral singing, jazz piano approaches, and managing performance anxiety. He has published several articles and given presentations on topics ranging from jazz theory, to choral music, to music theory pedagogy and inclusive curricula. James seeks to support innovative programming in music and music education, arts leadership and mentorship, and research/creation in the activities in which he is engaged; he is glad he can contribute to the vitality of the Lotus Centre and its outreach.

Elizabeth Simpson

Elizabeth Simpson

Director

Having lived in Ottawa most of her life, Elizabeth is thrilled to be part of an Orchestra she has admired for many years. Elizabeth has been the Second horn player since 2011, and has performed regularly in the horn section since 1986.

Elizabeth attained a Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Ottawa and a Masters in Music Performance from Indiana University. She studied with many renowned players including Daniel Gress, Philip Farkas, Meir Rimon, Michael Hatfield, and Arnold Jacobs. While studying, Elizabeth received the Ottawa Music Festival Senior Scholarship in 1983, and the NACO Bursary in 1984.

Elizabeth was a founding member of the Bel Canto Wind Quintet, which ran a successful concert series in Ottawa for eleven years. This chamber ensemble also toured in Ontario and Quebec, and was often heard on CBC Radio, Radio Canada and in the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival. Elizabeth is also a member of the Capital Brass Works. This entertaining thirteen member brass and percussion ensemble performed on its own self run concert series in Ottawa, toured in Ontario and has recorded three CD’s to date.

Elizabeth has enjoyed teaching for many institutions in Ottawa including the University of Ottawa, Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy, and Canterbury School of the Arts.

In 2013, Elizabeth Simpson co-created the NAC’s Music Circle, a music program for children, teens and adults with special needs. This program introduces orchestral instruments and the joy of live music, through workshops and a sensory friendly concert. Elizabeth has worked with students at the OCDSB, CHEO, and the Lotus Centre, and with adults in the LIFE programs.

Sandra Markovic

Sandra Markovic

Director

Sandra Markovic is a certified piano pedagogue with a teaching experience over 25 years. She is pursuing her graduate studies in Piano Pedagogy at the University of Ottawa under the supervision of Dr. Gilles Comeau. Her research topic is effects, implications and strategies of teaching piano to deaf children with cochlear implants. Her pilot study has been presented at six conferences, including at McGill, University of British Columbia and MUSCAN conference at the University of Ottawa. Her pilot study collaboration with Dr. Comeau and Dr. Koravand, “Response of hearing-impaired children to piano lessons: Engagement and enjoyment of music” (April, 2018) was published in Canadian Music Educator. In 2015, her two deaf with cochlear implants piano students were showcased at the International Day of Persons with Disabilities where they were introduced to Minister Qualtrough. A member of Ontario Registered Music Teachers’ Association (ORMTA), she has also participated in the Mentorship Program at Advanced Bionics since 2009, providing support to parents with children undergoing cochlear implantation. She also serves as a parent support group organizer and presenter for Voice for Hearing Impaired Children and Hands and Voices.  Her passion and devotion to neurodiverse children has led her to the newest endeavor: member of the Board of Directors at the Lotus Centre – a music education center designed for children with exceptionalities.

Muriel Mignerat

Muriel Mignerat

Director

Muriel Mignerat (Ph.D., HEC Montréal) is an Associate Professor at the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa. Her current research focuses on the use of information technology by adults with cognitive disabilities, including ADHD. She also serves as an administrator for the social enterprise OPEN Collaboration for Cognitive Accessibility and has served on the board of the SFOA (Société Franco Ontarienne de l’Autisme). 

Gail Christopher

Director

Bio and Photo Coming Soon!