Florida Youth Orchestra | Classical Music Education for Young Musicians | Music School in Florida

About FYO   |   Calendar   |   Rehearsal Map   |   Contact Us   |   YouTube    |   Facebook


Music Staff

The Florida Youth Orchestra music staff consists of the finest musicians in South Florida. Top artists from the former Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, New World Symphony, University of Miami and Symphony of the Americas offer world class educational and artistic experiences.

Thomas M. Sleeper - Music Director Florida Youth Orchestra Thomas M. Sleeper
Music Director

Conductor of Principal Orchestra

FYO Music Director, Thomas M. Sleeper, is also Director of the renowned University of Miami Symphony Orchestra and Guest Conductor worldwide. He earned his Bachelor's in Music Education at the University of Texas, and his Master's in Conducting at Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He was appointed to his first position as Associate Conductor of the Dallas Civic Symphony and the SMU Chamber Orchestra and Opera Theater at age 22. He later became Interim Music Director of the Dallas Civic Symphony until joining the faculty at Stetson University as Conductor of the university orchestra. In 1992 he received an appointment as Foreign Guest Conductor and Artistic Advisor for the China-Wuhan Symphony.

Mr. Sleeper has guest conducted major orchestras in the U.S. and abroad, appearing with the Rousse, Bulgaria, State Philharmonic; Savannah Symphony Orchestra; Dallas Symphony Orchestra; and Central Philharmonic Orchestra of China. He has conducted a series of highly successful concerts and radio/television broadcasts with the Philharmonic Orchestra of China, and led that orchestra in a historic tour to Shanghai, the first time the orchestra had performed there since the revolution of 1949. An active composer, his compositions have been performed throughout the United States as well as in Europe and Asia, and have been recorded on six labels.

Steven Burnes, Resident Conductor, Associate Conductor, Principal Orchestra Steven Burnes
Resident Conductor

Associate Conductor, Principal Orchestra

A native of Australia, Steve Burnes holds a Master's Degree from the University of Surrey, with performance studies completed at the Royal College of Music in London. He taught in the Government Schools for the New South Wales Dept. of Education, and has vast performing experience at the Sydney Opera House, St. Martin-in-the-Fields and the "Con Brio" Chamber Ensemble, among others.

Dr. Claudio Jaffé
Conductor of Symphony Orchestra

Born in Brazil and educated at Yale University, Dr Claudio Jaffé made his orchestral debut as a cellist at age 11, and, at the age of 18, made his first appearance as a soloist with a major symphony orchestra. He has since performed with orchestras worldwide, winning the most prestigious competitions and being hailed by the New York Times as “an elegant and accomplished artist of taste, technique musicianship and enthusiasm.”

In addition to performing in over 40 U.S. States, Dr. Jaffé has been an active educator, conducting master classes around the world and holding positions on the faculty of major music festivals and universities. He has been a faculty member at Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University, and served as Dean of the Conservatory of Music at Lynn University.

Dr. Laura Joella, Associate Conductor, Symphony Orchestra Dr. Laura Joella
Associate Conductor

Symphony Orchestra

Laura Joella, a second generation conductor, holds the position of Director of Orchestral Studies at Florida Atlantic University. The Sun-Sentinel has praised her as having a “superbly idiomatic touch” and for “drawing tremendously energized rhythmic kick and verve” from the orchestra.

She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting degrees from Michigan State University, and has conducted at the Conductor’s Institute at Spoleto, Mason Orchestral Society, the Michigan Youth Symphony, the Naples Philharmonic and many others, as well as serving as the Music Director of New England Music Camp’s Concert Orchestra in Maine.

Brian Mirsky, Conductor of Repertory Strings Brian Mirsky

Conductor of Repertory Strings

Brian Mirsky received graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins and Princeton Universities and has been on the faculty of the University of Georgia, New Mexico State University and Florida International University. He held the position of Orchestra Director at the Dreyfoos School for the Arts and at Pine Crest School, and has performed with the Palm Beach Opera and other distinguished ensembles. In addition to performing as a violinist, Mr. Mirsky is an active piano accompanist, serving as accompanist at the Dreyfoos School and Florida Atlantic University.

Teresa Esparza

Co-Conductor of Chamber Strings and Silver Strings

Teresa Esparza, an accomplished cellist, received her Bachelor's in music from the State University of New York, where she studied with Bernard Greenhouse. She taught school in New York and Miami, and has been a member of the Miami City Ballet Orchestra. Currently Ms. Esparza is a member of the Symphony of the Americas.

Tosha Knibb, Co-Conductor, Chamber Strings Tosha Knibb 

Co-Conductor, Chamber Strings

Tosha began her music career on the piano in 3rd grade and switched over to the violin in 4th. She attended New World School of the Arts for high school and studied violin under renowned artist and teacher, Thomas Moore. After graduating from NWSA, Tosha went on to continue her music studies at the Florida State University in Tallahassee. She majored in instrumental Music Education studying with Beth Newdome, Dr. Steven Kelly, Dr. Alex Jimenez and the late Dr. Michael Allen, one of the country’s best string pedagogues. Tosha earned her Bachelors in Music Education K-12 in 2010. She has been teaching for the past 4 years and is currently the Orchestra and Chorus Director at Sawgrass Springs Middle School. She is a member of the Florida Orchestra Association as well as the Florida Vocal Association and has been a judge for many string competitions in Florida.

Stephanie Firdman

Assistant Conductor, Repertory Strings

Stephanie Firdman earned a Bachelor's in Music on Viola Performance at Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Heidi Castleman, and continued on to receive her Master's in Music at the prestigious Juilliard School in Manhattan. She performed in the Mexico City Philharmonic, Nashville Symphony and the New Artists String Quartet before joining the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra.

Dr. Rufus Jones, Jr., Co-Conductor, Chamber Strings Geremy Miller

Conductor, Alpha Strings

Geremy Miller is a graduate of the State University of New York, where he studied with Oscar Shumsky and Joseph Fuchs, of the Juilliard School. He was a member of the Violin I section of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, resulting in numerous stage and operatic performances with world class artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zuckerman and Ida Hendel. As a professional studio violinist, he worked with numerous recording artists, including Jackie Gleason, John Denver, Barry Gibb, Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Lopez, among many others.

Sarah Weinstein, Conductor, Flute Choir Sarah Weinstein

Conductor, Flute Choir

Ms. Weinstein is a graduate of Princeton University, where she studied Music Performance. She has toured Europe, performing in iconic concert halls, and continues to perform locally and beyond. Ms. Weinstein currently teaches music at Weston Christian Academy, sits on the advisory council of Keiser University and is an interviewer for applicants to Princeton University. We’re proud to say that, as a high school student, she was a member of Florida Youth Orchestra!

  • August Berger, String Bass
  • Eric Berken, Violin, Viola
  • Steven Burnes, Winds
  • Matt Calderin, Percussion
  • Teresa Esparza, Cello
  • Stephanie Firdman, Violin, Viola
  • Lisa Gelfand, Winds
  • Dr. Claudio Jaffe, Conductor, Cello
  • Calvin Jenkins, Brass, Winds
  • Lei Fei Jenkins,  Harp
  • Dr. Laura Joella, String Bass
  • Tosha Knibb, Violin
  • Eddie Mejia, Percussion
  • Geremy Miller, Strings
  • Brian Mirsky, Violin, Viola
  • Marco Navarrete, Winds
  • Chauncey Patterson, Violin, Viola
  • Anna Rudzinski, Violin
  • Jennifer Rudzinski, Brass
  • Tom Stancampiano, Brass
  • Sarah Weinstein, Flute
  Proudly Sponsoring FYO programs
www.ArtsCalendar.com sponsors Florida music education Broward County sponsors music education in Florida JM Family Enterprises Inc sponsors orchestra music lesson in Florida League of American Orchestras sponsor music schools in Florida Florida Cultural Alliance sponsors music classes for children
National Endownment for the Arts sponsors music education in Broward NSU University School sponsors classical music education in Florida Dade Cultural Alliance sponsors orchestra lessons for children in Forida PNC Arts Alive Tanglewood
Turnaround Arts Division of Cultural Affairs sponsors classical orchestra education in Florida Funding Arts Broward sponsors classical music lessons in Florida Miami-Dade County sponsors orchestra schools in Florida A.D. Henderson
Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture
This program is supported by Funding Arts Broward, supporting innovative local visual and performing arts in Broward County.
With the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County mayor and Board of County Commissioners.
    Publix Supermarkets    

A copy of the official registration (#SC-01177) and financial information may be obtained from the Division of Consumer Services by calling toll-free within the State (800) HELP-FLA or http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Consumer-Services. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval or recommendation by the state.

About FYO | Contact | Security & Privacy
Copyright © 1988-2019 Florida Youth Orchestra