Directors

Ben Denne

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Ben Denne is a graduate of Northwestern University where he studied Euphonium performance with Rex Martin and conducting with Mallory Thompson and John Paynter. He received a bachelor of music degree with an emphasis in both performance and education. He received his masters' degree in music education from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Mr. Denne has directed the orchestra program at Ellicott Mills MS since 1998.   In that time, the orchestra has grown from a small group of 4 violinists to a program that currently reaches ~150 students in four orchestras.  Mr. Denne is a frequent guest conductor around the state of Maryland, where he has conducted county middle-school and high-school honor groups.  He has also served on adjudication and assessment panels for Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford, and Montgomery Counties.  He has had a place on the music leadership team in Howard County for 8 years and has worked on many curriculum writing teams over the past 18 years.

A conductor of the Howard County High School Gifted and Talented Orchestra (formerly the Howard Regional Youth Orchestra) since 2002, Mr. Denne has taken students to perform at Carnegie Hall, the Midwest Clinic, and most recently the Kennedy Center, where the orchestra performed a side-by-side concert with the top student orchestra from Beijing, China.

For 10 years, Mr. Denne also served as the director of the Howard High School orchestra, adding a second orchestra and doubling the number of students reached in the program.  The Howard High Orchestras and Mr. Denne were awarded recognition and won compeitions for performances in Boston, Chicago, Orlando, Virginia Beach, and Myrtle Beach.

Ben maintains a small studio of private students on euphonium, trombone, and tuba, performs with One Flight Up on trombone, and performs as a bass soloist at the Zion Lutheran church.  He resides in Columbia, MD with his wife Beth and daughter Katie.


Colin o'Bryan

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Colin O’Bryan has been an educator in Howard County Public Schools since 2000.  A graduate of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Double Bass Performance, Mr. O’Bryan has previously been the Orchestra Director at Atholton, Howard, and Mount Hebron High Schools in Howard County Maryland.  He is currently the Orchestra Director at Reservoir High School, where he also teaches Music Theory I and  Theory II AP.  In addition, Mr. O’Bryan has served as Director of the Howard County Gifted and Talented Orchestra, Howard County Repertory Orchestra, Baltimore County Middle School GT Orchestra and the Southern Maryland All County Orchestra.  Mr. O’Bryan also served on the review and appointment panel for the position of Conductor for the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra.   As a bassist, Mr. O’Bryan has served as a clinician with the Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra, and the New York String Teachers Association Summer String Institute at Ithaca College.  He has also been an adjudicator for various county and state festivals and assessments.  Colin has been a part of Bassworks since its inception, and serves as director of one of its many chamber groups.


James woomert

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James Woomert is the Director of Orchestras and Music Technology at Atholton High School in Columbia, Maryland. Prior to arriving at Atholton, James served as Associate Director of Orchestras at the nationally recognized Carmel High School Orchestra Program in Carmel, Indiana. Originally from Toronto, Canada, James moved to Indiana to study at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he completed a Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance and a Master of Science in Music Education. While attending IU, James studied string pedagogy with Dr. Brenda Brenner and Mimi Zweig and was a member of the founding staff of the Fairview Violin Project, a pilot musical outreach program providing violin instruction to at-risk elementary school students. As well as conducting and coaching various southern Indiana youth wind and string ensembles, James also taught music introduction and methods courses at Indiana University as an Associate Instructor.


In addition to his classroom and private studio teaching, James has been a freelance violist in the Indianapolis area, performed as a member of the Owensboro (KY) Symphony Orchestra from 2008-2012, toured with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and was selected to participate in three summer seasons with the National Academy Orchestra. James has also held leadership positions in the orchestras of Indiana University, performed with almost every regional orchestra in Indiana, and enjoyed the opportunity to work with such renowned musicians as Leonard Slatkin, Sir Andrew Davis, Jaime Laredo, and Joshua Bell.


James’ principal teachers and musical mentors include Kent Teeple of the Toronto Symphony, Yuval Gotlibovich, formerly of Indiana University, and Soo Han and Richard Saucedo of the Carmel High School Performing Arts Department.


sari o'Bryan

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Sari O’Bryan is an educator, conductor and violinist originally from Helena, Montana.  Mrs. O’Bryan graduated from the College of Music at Loyola University, New Orleans, earning a Bachelor of Music.  She also holds a Masters of Music Education from Boston University.

Mrs. O’Bryan is the Director of Orchestras at Centennial Lane Elementary School and Clarksville Elementary School in Howard County.  As a string specialist for Baltimore County, Mrs. O’Bryan taught at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School where her string orchestras received consistent superior ratings at county and state festivals.  She was also the co-director of the Baltimore County Summer String Camp.  Mrs. O’Bryan has been an adjudicator for violin, viola, cello, and bass for the Baltimore County Junior and Senior All-Honors Orchestras as well as for the Maryland Junior All-State Orchestra and Senior All-State Orchestras.  She has also served as an adjudicator for multiple Maryland county Solo and Ensemble festivals.

Mrs. O’Bryan began her teaching career as an Artist in Residence in the state of South Carolina at the Charleston County School for the Arts in Charleston, SC where she taught middle school strings.   She also served as a clinician for the South Carolina Regional Orchestra, as a violin adjudicator for the South Carolina Junior All-State Orchestra and as the cello section coach for the Charleston Youth Symphony Orchestra.  Mrs. O’Bryan has also been an elementary general music teacher in Miami, FL working primarily with ESOL and ED children.

Mrs. O’Bryan is a classically trained violinist studying primarily with Valerie Poulette.  She is also a proficient violist and cellist under the tutelage of Suzanne Lefevre and Allen Nisbet.   She is married to another Howard County Orchestra Director, Mr. Colin O’Bryan of Reservoir High School, and the mother of beautiful children, Eamonn and Fiona.          


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nicole sobel

Nicole Sobel received her formal training from Peabody Conservatory, where she studied Music Education and Wind Conducting. Mrs. Sobel holds two bachelor degrees and a master’s degree in Music Education, under the guidance of Dr. Harlan and Laura Parker. Her conducting experience includes working as the assistant conductor for the Peabody Preparatory Wind Orchestra and Youth Orchestra. For 6 years in that position, she had conducted rehearsals with Dr. Harlan Parker and Eli Wirth. 
    Mrs. Sobel is the director of bands at Mt. Hebron High School. In this position, she works with threes bands, percussion ensemble, jazz band, and marching band each day. Prior to her time at Mt. Hebron, she has taught band and strings for three years at Centennial Lane, Waterloo, and Thunder Hill elementary school. 
    While teaching at Howard County Public Schools, she has an active private studio with students who are regular members of Maryland Junior and Senior All State, concerto competition winners, and solo and ensemble performers. She has coached sections and judged auditions for GT ensembles of all levels. 
    As a performer, the majority of her experience have been in symphony orchestras. She was a member of the New York Youth Symphony, Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, Longwood Symphony Orchestra, Peabody Concert Orchestra, Peabody Wind Ensemble, and Queens College Wind Ensemble. Her notable performances have included the premier of Paquito D’Rivera’s Improviacion, performing Tchaikovsky 4, Mahler 5, and Symphonie Fantastique at Carnegie Hall with the New York Youth Orchestra, and performing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with the Queens College Orchestra.
Mrs. Sobel is a member of the National Association for Music Education and the Phi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society. In her spare time, she loves to listen to podcasts and cook.


Tim McKay

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Tim McKay currently serves on faculty at Howard Community College where he teaches applied percussion lessons, percussion ensemble, and the Fundamentals of Music theory course. Mr. McKay maintains a strong private teaching studio through HCC's Music Institute program, and he is the director of Drummin' Dragons, a week-long summer percussion workshop. In addition to teaching at HCC, he is the long-time percussion coordinator of the Howard County HSGTO (High School GT Orchestra). An active clinician and educator, Mr. McKay has given clinics and masterclasses throughout the DMV, including the PAS MD/DE Day of Percussion, and has adjudicated Solo and Ensemble Festivals as well as regional and state-level auditions. Mr. McKay is a member of the Percussive Arts Society, the Vic Firth Education Team and the Black Swamp Percussion Educator Network. His students have performed in prestigious national programs such as the Juilliard Percussion Seminar, Sewanee Music Festival, Music For All National Percussion Festival, Midwest Clinic, Honor Orchestra of America, and Tanglewood. They have been accepted into the leading music schools and conservatories across the country including Elon, George Mason, Maryland, Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern, Cincinnati, Oberlin, NEC, and Carnegie Mellon. 

Mr. McKay performs regularly as section percussionist/assistant timpanist with the Apollo Orchestra, and has previously performed with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, Concert Artists of Baltimore, and the Annapolis, Roanoke, West Virginia, and Syracuse Symphonies. He has performed at venues across the country including the Kennedy Center, Strathmore Music Center, Baltimore Lyric Opera House, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, The Hippodrome, National Cathedral, Getty Center, Merkin Hall, and Cleveland Museum of Art. He has also performed with many DC area musical theater companies including Olney Theater, Imagination Stage, Studio Theater, Atlas Theater, Catholic University, and Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theater. In 2009, Mr. McKay performed the first movement of Christopher Rouse's percussion concerto Der geretette Alberich with the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra alongside UMD alumni Lee Hinkle and Danny Villanueva. In 2012 he was named a Rising Star finalist at Howard County's Celebration of the Arts Gala, and he performed with American Idol winner Phillip Phillips for PBS's A Capitol Fourth celebration on the National Mall.

Mr. McKay holds a BM in percussion performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he studied with Michael Rosen, and a MM in percussion performance from the University of Maryland where he studied with John Tafoya. Former teachers include Guy Gauthreaux (ret. US Navy Band), Bill Richards (ret. US Army Band) and Brian Prechtl (Baltimore Symphony).


kate bateman

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Kate Bateman is a flutist and teacher originally from Columbia, Maryland, and a proud product of Howard County’s music programs. She graduated magna cum laude from Northwestern University with her Bachelor’s degree in 2012, and she earned her Master’s degree with merit from the Royal Academy of Music in London in 2014.

As a professional musician, Ms. Bateman has appeared at many festivals and competitions. She played with the National Repertory Orchestra in Colorado in 2015, and the Verbier Festival Orchestra in 2016. She has worked with distinguished conductors such as Charles Dutoit,  Michael Tilson Thomas, Paavo Jarvi, Ivan Fisher, and Trevor Pinnock. She was named prize winner of multiple competitions, including the British Flute Society’s Young Artist Competition, the Mid Atlantic Flute Society’s Young Artist Competition, and the Royal Academy’s annual flute and piccolo competitions.

Ms. Bateman’s teaches general music and band at Mount View and Burleigh Manor Middle Schools. Previously to her work in the United States, Ms. Bateman taught music theory and aural skills for two years at Chetham’s School of Music, a selective private music school in Manchester, England. She also coaches woodwind sectionals for the Howard County GT High School Orchestra and teaches privately in the area.