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.
Piano, Voice, Early Childhood
Sarah is thrilled to be combining her passion for music and special education! She graduated from the University of Ottawa in 2016 with a B.A. Honours in Music and Psychology, where her studies focused on voice performance, and child psychopathology. Sarah
most recently completed a Master of Education in Special Education, with her research focused on music learning for people with autism spectrum disorder. Sarah is also a classically trained pianist and vocalist with extensive performance experience in musical theatre and opera, and has competed in vocal competitions locally and provincially with much success.
Sarah was introduced to Lotus Centre in 2014 through a teacher-training workshop, and began teaching students at the centre soon after. Over the years, Sarah’s passion and expertise have grown tremendously. She has comprehensive experience teaching voice to children with auditory processing deficits and has strongly-developed methods for supporting music learning for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and behavioural challenges. Sarah is always happy to support students of all abilities and needs, and adapts her teaching to foster the strengths of her students and encourage their own unique development.
With a passion for learning, Sarah commits herself to life-long learning by regularly attending workshops and conferences. She is actively involved in research projects and has presented research at conferences such as the World Congress of Audiology, the North American Community: Uniting for Equity, the International Society of Music Education: Preconference in Special Music Education and Music Therapy, and the ABLE Assembly, Berklee.
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 mostly on piano performance. In addition to being involved in piano, Erin has participated in various choirs, and has training
in voice, clarinet, and organ. Through the RCM, she has completed her 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 to pursue her Master’s Degree in Piano Pedagogy with the goal of expanding her knowledge of teaching techniques and theories. Her research area of interest is music performance anxiety in children and teenagers. After completing her program in August 2015, she began her Ph.D. in Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa. She continues to focus her research on piano pedagogy and explore the relationships between self-efficacy and performance anxiety in young musicians. Erin began teaching piano lessons privately during her undergraduate degree, and eventually started teaching at a studio where she gained exposure to students of all ages. After taking a break from teaching to focus on her academic studies, Erin eagerly returned to teaching in 2016 at the Lotus Centre. She believes that music is a gift that children of all abilities should have the chance to experience. 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.
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.
After School Program Lead
Guitar, Bass, Beginner Piano
Liam has his Bachelor of Music Degree in Performance from Carleton University where he focused mainly on jazz. He has performed with fellow students and faculty in many ensembles including choir, jazz, fusion, rhythm and orchestra. He has
also taken courses in psychology and disability studies. Liam began volunteering at the Lotus Centre in the spring of 2017. He has worked at our summer, March Break and Respite camps, in addition to our After School program, where he has learned to adapt music in different ways to reach children with special needs. Liam plays guitar and piano, but his primary instrument is the bass guitar. Liam plays bass in several local bands and has played many venues around Ottawa. 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.
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.
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.
Brett Jacqueline Fortin,
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 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.
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-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 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.
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
Heather Bennett, President
Heather graduated from Carleton University with Honours in Psychology. She has been working with youth and families within Ottawa for the past several years, primarily working with youth with behavioural struggles as well as youth with various mental health diagnosis and learning disabilities. Currently
working within the Ottawa high schools for a charitable community-based organization to provide individual, family and group counselling as well as ongoing training for educators and general public.
Jordan Miller, Secretary
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 of
Lotus Centre. Jordan currently works in consulting in the private sector focusing on public safety and emergency management.
Stephen Twiss, Treasurer
Bio coming soon!