Music Conservatory of Illinois

Meet our Strings Faculty!

Michael Ayala 
Viola Faculty

Native to San Antonio, Texas, Michael Ayala is a graduate student of Northwestern University studying Viola Performance under Helen Callus, as well as a Master’s of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprises. Michael has attended festivals such as the Music Academy of the West, the National Repertory Orchestra, the Montecito International Music Festival, and the Sphinx Performance Academy. Michael was a member of the Adrian Symphony Orchestra, as well as on the board of the DEI committee for the National Repertory Orchestra. Michael has participated in masterclasses with world renown violists such as Richard O’Neil, Karen Dreyfus, Paul Colleti, and Renee Skerik and has studied with others including Cynthia Phelps and Weijing Michal. As a strong advocate for diversity within the arts, Michael is currently in the process of curating a nonprofit organization based in San Antonio called the San Antonio Chamber Initiative with a mission of promoting Latinx representation in classical music through high level chamber music making, instruction, and community engagment. Michael completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, studying Viola Performance under Yizhak Schotten, as well as Arts Administration.

Amanda Beaune

Administrative Manager and Violin Faculty

Amanda Beaune is a violinist based in Chicago, where she obtained her Master's degree in Violin Performance at Northwestern University, under the guidance of Blair Milton. Originally from Michigan, Amanda spent many years cultivating her passion for ensemble playing by performing in regional orchestras, chamber orchestras, and free-lance projects throughout metro-Detroit. These included ensembles such as Rochester Symphony Orchestra, Dearborn Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Chamber Orchestra, and many others. During her time at Wayne State University, Amanda was concertmaster of the University Symphony Orchestra and worked on a wide-range of projects for the jazz and composition departments, as well as two student-created chamber orchestras. She is an alumni of Bowdoin International Music Festival, Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, and Lake Tahoe Music Festival. Amanda currently teaches violin and piano for the Chicago School of Musical Arts, and is a sectional coach/private teacher for the Niles Township High School District. In her free-time, Amanda is passionate about yoga and anything to do with musician’s wellness!  


Mike Vinopal

Guitar, Ukulele, Bass, and Piano Faculty

Mike Vinopal is a guitarist and songwriter, best known as the founder of Chicago’s lyrical funk/soul band, Local Motive. Having worked with renowned producer/engineer Noam Wallenberg (Alan Parsons, Mac Miller) at Rax Trax Recording (Buddy Guy, George Clinton) on a large discography of original material, Mike's compositions can be found on all streaming platforms. Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, he was immersed in a musical family. His dad and uncles would often gather around the family piano with guitars to harmonize to their favorite Beatles' songs. Beginning piano lessons in kindergarten, Mike discovered his passion for guitar and other stringed instruments early in his teens, amassing an impressive collection of instruments throughout his life. As a teacher in Chicago Public Schools, he would incorporate musical instruments into lesson plans whenever possible as he continued to create his own music in his free time with many talented collaborators. Working with students ranging from early elementary to adults, Mike created his own music program to teach critical social and emotional skills through group songwriting during his time as the education director for Chicago mental health non-profit, Hope For The Day. He continues to record and perform his music live while working for Chicago Music Exchange, specializing in new and vintage instruments. In his free-time, Mike enjoys playing and composing music on bass guitar, ukulele, mandolin, keyboards, harmonica, and drums, in addition to his old favorite, the nylon-stringed classical guitar he first learned on. As a lover of animals and nature, he especially loves to cuddle with his pets and play in his garden.

Luiz Fernando Venturelli

Cello, Piano, Guitar, and Bass Faculty

Luiz Fernando Venturelli is a Brazilian cellist who is rapidly gaining recognition as one of the most promising young musicians of the country. He received his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University in 2021 and is currently a second year master’s student under Professor Hans Jensen. Born and raised in a musical family, Luiz began his musical studies at the age of 3 and began playing the cello when he was 8. He studied at the Instituto Baccarelli, a non-profit organization that offers free music lessons to children, from the time he was 8 until he came to the United States when he was 17. Luiz is a member of the Galvin Cello Quartet, formed in 2021 at the Bienen School of Music, which recently won the silver medal at the 2021 Fischoff Competition and the 2022 Victor Elmaleh Competition. Luiz has been a prize winner in multiple competitions including the Paulo Bosisio competition, the Samuel and Eleanor Thaviu String competition, the concerto competitions of the Orquestra Filarmônica de Goiás, OSESP and Northwestern University, as well as the 24th annual Sphinx competition. As a soloist, Luiz has performed with a number of orchestras in Brazil, including the Symphony Orchestra of São Paulo, the Bahia Symphony, the Goiás Philharmonic, the Espírito Santo Symphony, the Campinas Symphony, the Piracicaba Symphony, the Heliópolis Symphony, the São Paulo University Symphony and the SESI Chamber Orchestra. Luiz is also a huge enthusiast of other kinds of music, having led a rock band and played and recorded with multiple artists in Brazil. 

Miquel Fuentes

Cello and Piano Faculty

Miquel Fuentes recently completed his bachelors in cello performance in Barcelona at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu. He currently studies with Hans Jøorgen Jensen. He has won first prize at the Cidade de Vigo competition, Third prize at the Luthiers Clars international competition, and honorary mention at the Casals international award. His musical education began with piano at age three which he continued for seventeen years. After playing violin for a year he then switched to cello and has been playing ever since. He currently teaches at the Christopher Laughlin School of Music and Music Conservatory of Illinois.

Elijah McTiernan

Piano, Voice, and Acoustic Guitar Faculty

Elijah McTiernan is a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and theatre artist born and raised in the Greater Boston area. They graduated from The University of Maine with a degree in music education and has since worked as a professional stage actor, music director, and stage manager for Non-Equity and Equity theaters such as Reagle Music Theatre, Moonbox Productions, Firehouse Center for the Arts, and most recently since moving to Chicago, PrideArts. Elijah sang with UMaine's premier choir, The University Singers, for four years as a tenor. They also sang with their premier male acapella group, The Maine Steiners, for one year. With classical, musical theatre, and pop/rock training, Elijah has a diverse pool of vocal material to pull from. 
Elijah has been playing piano since the age of 8 and specializes in lead-sheet performance and music theory. They have also added guitar, bass, accordion, kalimba, saxophone, and percussion to their repertoire. Elijah has taught a wide range of students aging 4-28 and is a strong believer in music as a lifelong adventure. They have taught classroom, workshop, and private lesson environments, all with the goal of sharing their passion and enthusiasm for music with those around them.

Hanna Bingham

Violin Faculty

Hanna Bingham is currently an actively performing violinist in the greater Chicago area. Raised in Dekalb, Illinois, Hanna holds a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from Northern Illinois University, where she studied under Blaise Magniere as well as with soloist Yang Liu. Hanna also received her Masters Degree in String Performance from Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music where she studied with Blair Milton and Desiree Ruhstrat. Hanna has also studied with Ann Monztka Smelser, Okumura Kazuo, and Drew Lecher. She has soloed with a number of orchestras including the NIU Sinfonia, Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago, and the NIU Philharmonic. She has been featured on the WFMT broadcast "From the Top." Her chamber music experience is diverse, and features an array of ensembles including a string quartet that competed in the St. Paul String Quartet Competition and were named semi-finalists in the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition in South Bend, Indiana. Hanna has been named as a recipient of the Richard and Helen Thomas Endowed Fellowship, twice, and is a recipient of the School of Music Eckstein Fund at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. 

As an instructor, Hanna has been teaching privately for over a decade and pulls inspiration from both the Suzuki method and other traditional methods of teaching. She has worked closely with Stacia Spencer at Northwestern University and Ann Montzka-Smelser at NIU for her pedagogy and teacher training. She is passionate about making sure students get off to a good start and that music making is wonderful for all levels of players. 

Emily Stone

Piano and Harp Faculty

Harpist and Nashville native Emily Stone is a recent graduate of the Eastman School of Music earning her Bachelor of Music degrees in harp Performance and Music Education with a minor in French. Beginning this fall, she will be pursuing her Master of Music degree in Harp Performance at Northwestern University under the tutelage of Marguerite Lynn Williams. During her time at Eastman, she served as the rotating principal harpist of the Eastman Philharmonia, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the Eastman Musica Nova Ensemble, the Eastman Symphony Orchestra, and the Eastman Wind Orchestra. She has performed with the OSSIA New Music Ensemble in Rochester, NY, the St. Andrew's Chamber Orchestra in Rochester, NY, the Ithaca College Wind Ensemble in Ithaca, NY, the Jazz Orchestra led by Chase Ellison in Rochester, NY, and the Cordancia Chamber Orchestra in Rochester, NY. In 2020, she was a finalist in the American Harp Society's Anne Adams Awards and the recipient of a Performer's Certificate at the Eastman School of Music. Her summer festival experience includes the Mostly Modern Festival (2022) and the Brevard Music Center (2016). 




Autumn Selover 
Harp and Piano Faculty

Autumn Selover is a freelance harpist and teacher based in the Chicagoland area. Her work ranges from solo, traditional orchestral, and chamber to innovative works involving electronic processing, hip-hop, mixed media works, and improvisation. An advocate of education and community outreach, Autumn works with student musicians and composers from both classical and non-classical backgrounds. Autumn has been playing the harp for seventeen years and the piano for nineteen years. She received a BM in Harp Performance from Northwestern University and is currently pursuing her Masters under Lynn Williams, the principal harpist of the Lyric Opera. Autumn is co-founder of both Sonder Trio and deafrabbit duo. Recently, she has performed with the Chicago Composers Orchestra at the Thirsty Ears Street Music Festival, and has toured with Fifth House Ensemble for a live-score performances of the video game, Journey. She has appeared as a guest artist with Zafa Collective and Chicago’s premier conductorless orchestra, Unsupervised. Autumn is also a recording artist with the Voic(ed) Project, an organization promoting new music by new, young, and underrepresented composers.