Dr. Erin Parkes, Founder and Executive Director
Erin passionately believes that all children have the capacity to learn and enjoy music as long as they are in an environment that meets their needs and uses their strengths to allow them to grow. She founded the Lotus Centre in 2012 based on three things: her experiences teaching children with special needs, the diagnosis of her son with autism spectrum disorder, and her research indicating a lack of options for students with special needs seeking music education. All three indicated a pressing need for a specialized centre that could provide music lessons, conduct research to determine best practice in special music education, and provide teacher training to allow more music educators work with children with special needs. Her mission is to improve access to music education for learners of all abilities.
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 in a variety of settings. She presents at conference and guest lectures throughout North America and internationally on teaching music to students with special needs and other issues in music education.
Erin MacAfee, Program Development Coordinator, Piano
Music has been part of Erin’s life from a young age. Beginning piano lessons at the age of 6, Erin continued to play through her undergraduate degree at Brock University, where she focused on piano performance. In addition to being involved in piano,
Erin has participated in various choirs, and has training in voice, clarinet, and organ. Erin has completed her RCM practical grade ten piano and grade nine voice examinations, as well as the accompanying theory qualifications. After completing her Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree at Brock University, Erin came to Ottawa pursure further education. She has a Master's Degree in Piano Pedagogy, and is currently completing her Ph.D. in Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa where her research focuses on music performance anxiety and self-efficacy in young musicians. Erin taught piano lessons privately and at a studio during her undergraduate degree, where she gained exposure to students of all ages. After taking a break from teaching to pursue her academic studies, Erin eagerly returned to teaching in 2016 at the Lotus Centre. The knowledge she has gained in academic and professional pursuits allows her to create a personalized teaching approach for each unique student. Erin is very passionate about helping students explore their musical potential and experience the same joys that music has brought her throughout the years.
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, 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.
Tanya Stuber, Voice, Piano
Tanya Stuber grew up with a passion for music. She has two older brothers who have autism
and this has helped shaped the person she has become and how she views her role as a music teacher at the Lotus Centre. Both of her brothers are musicians as well so she has witnessed first hand how music can
have a positive influence in the lives of children/adults with or without disabilities. Music can be the unifying factor where people who don’t seem to have commonalities can share a special bond. She hopes to be able to uplift her students and make sure they appreciate all their abilities that they currently have and help to develop them further. Tanya received her Bachelor of Music (Honours) at Carleton University and studiedclassical voice with David MacAdam. MacAdam has a quote in his studio that states “It does not matter where you start, rather where you end up. “ Tanya applies this to her style of teaching as every student starts from unique place. For Tanya it is a wonderful journey to be able to watch them grow as musicians. Tanya has also been the Alto soloist at Dominion Chalmers United Church since 2016. Tanya is currently a student at Algonquin College in their IntensiveSocial Service Worker program. After she graduates she hopes to work in the fields of disabilities and addiction services.
Marianne Keuleman, Voice, Piano, Ukulele
Marianne began playing piano at the age of six and has been singing for most of her life. After studying piano for ten years with a focus on jazz and popular music, she began her studies in the Bachelor of Music program at Carleton University in 2017. Her performance experience is
quite varied, including playing solo jazz piano, accompanying choirs, singing in many different vocal groups, and writing and playing her own music in her band. Additionally, she has a strong knowledge of music theory from private study and university courses. She is excited to share this diverse skill set with her students. Above all, she has a strong love for all kinds of music, and believes that music has an enriching part to play in the life of every person.
Ashton Morris, After-School Program Support
Ashton grew up surrounded by music. They spent their childhood in a musically oriented family, and knew from a young age they wanted to go into education. Growing up, Ashton was in multiple choirs, school musicals, and vocal classes. The year after graduating high school,
Ashton went on an exchange program where they volunteered in different low income communities across Canada. Through this,they got opportunities to work in schools and day programs for people with special needs. They realized an interest in working with people with exceptionalities, especially children. Ashton went to school for Developmental Services at Loyalist College, and Social Services at Algonquin. They currently work for Ottawa Carleton District School Board,does private respite for families, and works in multiple programs at the Lotus Centre. Ashton was first introduced to Lotus when they came as a one on one support for a camper during summer camp. Ashton created bonds with staff members as well as other campers, and fell in love with what Lotus stands for. When the opportunity came up to work at Lotus’ summer camp the following year, Ashton jumped on it. From there, Ashton branched out to different programs offered by the centre, and enjoys making personal connections with each person they work with.
Julia Lauton, Office Administrator
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.
time at the University of Ottawa, Brett had volunteered at local high schools within the music program. She was then asked to participate in creating a Special Education Music Program for a local high school. Based on her experience and dedication, Brett was offered a position as an Educational Assistant in the Renfrew County School Board. Brett is currently a Conductor for the Voca Sol Choir, a Popular Music Choir for the retired. Brett teaches piano, clarinet, and voice (both Classical and Pop). In the future, Brett hopes to build her own After School Music Program in her hometown, for low income children, and children with special needs.
Brett Jacqueline Fortin, Piano, Voice
Brett is a recent graduate from the University of Ottawa School of Music, where she had focused on Musicology and Conducting. She had also completed a Piano Minor, where she had studied with Masters students in Piano Performance. During her
Jeff Sabo, 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-
Baccalareate 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 purse his love of both music and science and to improve his skills as a teacher. He received a Graduate Diploma in Piano Pedagogy Research, and is starting a Master's Degree in the same field. Since coming to Ottawa, Jeff has worked as part of a team developing the new University of Ottawa Musicians' Wellness Centre, and he is currently working on research related to healthy piano technique and injury prevention for musicians. Jeff began teaching piano during his undergraduate degree and has worked with students ranging from young beginners to adults at the conservatory level. 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.
Samar Abi Nasr, Piano
Samar began her music education early in life, learning the recorder at age 10 and starting piano lessons at age 12. After taking a break for several years, Samar resumed her music learning at university, taking music courses as well as private piano lessons. After earning a Bachelor in Music Education from the
faculty of pedagogy, Samar began teaching music at a Francophone-Lebanese school. She taught kindergarten, grades 1 to 3, and in the special education department. During this time, Samar also managed a music school in Lebanon where she taught piano, monitored the music curriculum of other piano teachers, and coordinated with other teachers to monitor student progress. In 2016, Samar moved to Canada and has taught both group and private piano lessons. She also earned a Graduate diploma in Piano Pedagogy research from the University of Ottawa in 2017 and plans to continue her education in the future. Some of Samar's additional training includes: How to teach Levantine music in schools, Teaching music to autistic children and those with challenges processing sensory information, Teaching children with ADHD, and an introduction to Dalcroze Eurhythmics. Samar teachers in French, English, and Arabic, and her extensive teaching experience allows her to adapt her teaching approach to suit each individual student's needs. In her spare time, Samar volunteers in her community by preparing an annual multicultural dinner, supervising at the ice rink, and helping with soccer camp registration.
Christine Jenkins, Voice, Beginner and Junior Piano, Ear Training
Based on a solid foundation of vocal and piano training, Christine Jenkins has been an active singing teacher since 1996, and a piano instructor from 2012. She graduated from Conservatory Canada with her Voice Teacher's Associate of Music in 1998.
She has used their Contemporary Idioms syllabus since its debut in 2008. Christine took master classes with Lorraine Griffith in 2012, and achieved 96% in Grade 3 Contemporary Piano Idioms in 2013. In 2014 she was one of the teachers who attended Lotus workshops conducted by Erin Parkes to complete her McGill dissertation on The Effect of Training on Studio Music Teacher Attitudes Toward Working with Students with Autism.Since 2010 Christine has been an advocate for those on the autistic spectrum, founding two support groups and, in 2018, joining the Ottawa Adult Autism Initiative. She has previously served on the board of directors of the Asperger’s Society of Ontario and the Policy Advisory Group for Girls and Women with ASD convened by CAMH and Autism Ontario. She has given presentations at several major conferences.Christine excels at accompaniment, arrangement, sight singing and ear training. Her teaching method is individual to each student, her aim* to inspire each to fulfill their promise and nurture their musical gift. Christine loves almost all styles of music and promotes the inherent worth and dignity of every person. She believes music is a creative outlet, and often a gateway to the world. As Dr. Kevin Stoddart told Christine, “Concerts are food for you.” Christine’s other interests include writing (Bachelor of Journalism), water sports, books and cats. *AIM: Accumulate knowledge—Inspire confidence—Motivate skill
Jill White, After-School Program Support
At a very early age the arts has been a major component in her learning. Whether it's painting, singing, dancing, or acting, it's been large part of how she learns and her true love in life. Jill recently went to school at Red River College in Winnipeg Manitoba for Educational Assistant (2017).
She also took ASL courses at the Deaf Center of Manitoba and plans to continue her ASL education with Canada Hearing Society (CHS). When out west Jill taught swing dancing (a dance that was created between 1920's-1950's) and plans to continue teaching dance in Ottawa. Whether it's one on one or whole class, she try to make learning fun, while working with the individual strengths.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Jordan Miller, President
Jordan has worked in the public sector in policy and government, and has worked in the private sector in consulting. He is passionate about the cooperation of the public sector, private sector, academia, and the voluntary sector to bring about social good, and seeking those opportunities for the future
Lotus Centre. Jordan currently works in consulting in the private sector focusing on public safety and emergency management.
Erin Fobert, Parental Advisory Member/Director
Erin graduated from Queen's University with a degrees in both Honours English and Education. An educator and administrator by employment, her life path took a sharp turn with the birth of her son, Nolan. Erin is currently a full time caregiver to Nolan, who was born with complex special needs. Although non-verbal,
Nolan expresses his life long love of music through singing, dancing and smiles. Erin is incredibly grateful to the Lotus Centre for their contribution and commitment to enriching Nolan's life. He is involved in many of the programs at the Lotus Centre and his parents feel blessed to have a safe, inclusive and accessible place where Nolan can participate in his love of music with his peers. Erin is honoured to sit as parent advisor to the Lotus Centre's board. "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."
Stephen Twiss, Treasurer
Bio coming soon!
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.