Meet BlackRock's Teaching Artists!
Jess Apo (E-RYT500; YACEP; RPYT) has always been a teacher, first completing a Masters of Teaching and certification, she began her career as an elementary educator for Montgomery County Public Schools. She turned to yoga to manage the daily stress in her life and discovered her true passion. After practicing yoga, Jess felt compelled to bring teaching and yoga together as her full-time career, bringing peace and expansion of self she experienced to others. A daily meditator, she is a lover of movement and stillness alike. Powerful cueing and physical alignment are skills she teaches so that her students understand vibrational energy. Jess is highly skilled at dynamic sequencing and connecting to the individual student’s needs. She uses Yogic philosophy, personal experience and hands-on adjusting as tools for transformation in her classes. Jess loves teaching many styles of yoga and enjoys watching transformations in her students on and off the mat. She leads yoga retreats all over the world, taking her students to exotic locations to immerse themselves in yoga. Jess has created an original 85-hour prenatal teacher training from her vast teaching experiences including teaching prenatal yoga while she was pregnant with her children. She is so grateful for the practice that has changed her life in countless ways.
Brad Watkins, director, actor, writer, and producer is a life-long student of the theatre. He has directed and/or cast more than 200 shows and spent four years seeing more than 500 productions as a judge for the Helen Hayes Awards. Brad began his professional career creating outdoor “informances” on regional history for the Department of the Interior at Camp David, subsequently toured America with the Catholic University of America’s National Players and handled just about everything at the acclaimed Harlequin Dinner Theatre. His original revue Dear Mr. Ziegfeld toured the U.S. through Columbia Artist Theatricals. Brad partnered in the development and production of Troika Entertainment and, later, consulted during the creation of Phoenix Entertainment, two internationally renowned theatrical touring companies. He spent 10 years as producing director for Olney Theatre Center, directing major musicals including THE GIFTS OF THE MAGI, CAROUSEL, OLIVER! and ANYTHING GOES. His production of CARIS’ PEACE, an original collaboration exploring an actress’ journey following brain injury, played the NYC Flea Theatre, was the subject of a feature article in the New York Times, became the subject of an award-winning documentary, and is currently in development as a feature film. Most recently, Brad served as Director of Artistic Programming for BlackRock Center for the Arts, Vice President of Communications and Theatre Services for Theatre Washington, and Casting Director /Company Manager for AMAZING GRACE, which as a featured part of the opening launch of the Museum of the Bible. He is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, lives in Damascus, MD, and loves when his days are filled with peace, joy, and gardens—the perfect place to contemplate the universe.
Kelli Harrison is the Camp Director for BlackRock’s Sports Meets the Arts Camp held at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kelli earned a Masters Degree in Art Education from Towson University. With more than 10 years of teaching experience, Kelli began her career in a Title 1 community and later teaching at a National Blue Ribbon school. She has influenced hundreds of students from all walks of life. Her passion for the arts began in early childhood, and she is committed to her own learning to grow as an artist and as a teaching artist. In addition to drawing and painting, Kelli has experience with clay, printmaking, papier mache, and stained glass.
Michael Friend and his sister, Khandi, started performing in 1984 as the Soul In Motion Players, performing famous works from highly acclaimed writers including the Last Poets, Maya Angelou, and James Baldwin. Five years later, Michael's first play, WE ARE AFRICA, was completed and the Soul In Motion Players went on to perform it for 13 seasons. The Soul In Motion African Dancers and Drummers has become an energetic 11-member company, performing at some of the premier dance events in the Washington, DC area including the ever popular Dance Africa hosted by the Dance Place. Soul In Motion's schedule continues to highlight a busy Black History Month season and a full calendar of annual events including festivals, weddings, and a wide variety of corporate events.
Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Angela Gonzales' passion and connection to her Afro Peruvian roots stem from listening to the sounds of her father's congas and her mother's art. Angela has danced Festejo (Afro Peruvian dance) at festivals and fitness events including the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, Around the World Tour for the Embassy of Peru, NBC Fitness Expo, and more. She is a long-time instructor of dance fitness and movement therapy.
Charu Kamdar is a licensed Occupational Therapist in Maryland. She has been serving students for more than 25 years with extensive experience working with the pediatric population. She loves working with students of varied age groups and am passionate about her work. She ensures that students have fun when working with handwriting challenges using multi-sensory techniques so thatchildren build confidence and develop new skills they can be excited to apply.
Barbara Kober, concert artist, accompanist, teacher, writer and critic, teaches in her home studio and for BlackRock's Conservatory programs. She has performed in the Washington, DC area as a soloist and accompanist and has published articles in several major newspapers and magazines. Before turning to music full time, she spent 25 years working for the Washington Star. Barbara has Master of the Arts degree from American University, a Master of Arts in Journalism from the Pennsylvania State University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Grove City College. She is a Permanent Professional Nationally Certified teacher of Music in Piano, A Steinway Teacher, and Education Partner, a member of Music Teacher National Association and Kappa Tau Alpha honorary journalism fraternity.
Beena Raichura is a licensed and registered occupational therapist in Maryland with 29 years of experience, nineteen years serving student in a school setting. She has worked with children of all ages from preschool to high school. She is also a certified handwriting specialist having received the certification with the Handwriting Without Tears program. The Handwriting Without Tears approach aims to improve students’ versatility to perform tasks at school. Passionate about her work and the social emotional well-being of students, Beena incorporates play-based therapy, art projects, a variety of materials, music, and movement to help children develop foundational skills for learning. Her occupational therapy background provides a unique approach to the arts, handwriting that results in fun for her students as they develop specific skills.
Morenike Rossman is a freelance producer, writer, editor, visual, and teaching artist, with a passion for storytelling. During the school year, she serves local students across the curriculum as a long term substitute teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools. As Assistant Director for the BlackRock Arts Journeys Camp, Morenike designs and implements a program that integrates music, theater, visual arts and dance – all in a day. When she’s not helping children to express their artistic talent she is honing her own - telling fantastical stories through original art, creative fiction, and short films.
Natalia Vladimirova has 20 years of experience in music education. She graduated from Novosibirsk Music College in Russia with a Diploma in Performing Artist and Violin Teacher. Natalia is also a graduate of the Novosibirsk Conservatory with Bachelor and Master degrees in Fine Arts in Music. She worked for 15 years in the Opera and Ballet Theater in Novosibirsk and in the Symphony Orchestra as a member of the first violin group. After moving to the US, Natalia began teaching private and group violin lessons, as well as performing as a violin soloist and chamber player. She is currently a member of the Columbia Orchestra as a first violinist. She has also played with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Anjali Wells received her bachelor's degree in Fine Arts and Master of Art Education from the University of Maryland, College Park. Anjali also has a Post Graduate Certificate in Equity and Excellence in Education from McDaniel College. She has been a Highly Qualified Art Educator for Montgomery County Public Schools since 2013. In 2013, she developed an arts-based mindfulness program for at-risk elementary students which proved to reduce the number of office infractions of participants. Anjali was the site coordinator and lead teaching artist for Explore, Create, Connect at Briggs Chaney Middle School, a program made possible by a Trawick Foundation Grant that collaborated with Arts on the Block, Impact Silver Spring, and Clancyworks Dance company to provide struggling students with arts based community engagement. The program proved to improve participant’s self-esteem, a sense of belonging in the school community, and ultimately their attendance and GPA. In 2019, Anjali worked as a contributor to the Smithsonian Freer Sackler Museum's Freeman project writing curriculum resources for the gallery’s Chinese art collection. Additionally, she provides professional development annually through the Maryland Art Education Association. Anjali currently serves on the MCPS Fine Arts curriculum team.