Ann Felder earned her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Michigan where she studied with Nate Gordon, Yizhak Schotten, Bob Culver, and James Froseth.
Ann was the string specialist for Monroe Public Schools where she taught 6th-12th grade. The high school orchestra under her direction has earned a first division rating at every festival they have attended, both district and state, during her tenure. Ann also led two after-school groups, the Frenchtown Fiddlers and the MHS Chamber Strings. In addition to the 37 years, Ann has taught at various public, private, and parochial schools. She also had the pleasure of directing ensembles and teaching young string players in community organizations. During her 24 years with the Monroe Youth Orchestra and the Arts Centre Orchestra (ARCO), Ann worked with colleagues that included Michael Hopkins, Robin Bloomberg, and John Iatzko.
Ann has served on the executive board of the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association at both the district and the state level for several years and is currently serving District 12 as Past-President. In 2021, she presented at the Michigan Music Conference as part of an MSBOA panel put together by the Music Education Committee. As a member of ASTA, she regularly sent students to MASTA camp and even spent a couple years as a camp counselor once upon a time. In addition to teaching and MSBOA duties, she continues to serve as the organist for her church, a position she's held for the past 18 years.
Ann plays violin and viola in various community and musical theater ensembles and occasionally can squeeze in a concert cycle with the Adrian Symphony Orchestra. She and her husband, Mark, had the opportunity to join the South Shore Orchestra of Valparaiso, IN on the China tours of both 2016 and 2018. She is enjoying her retirement (June 2022) and hopes that she will have the opportunity to explore the joy of playing even more. Ann and Mark have 3 grown children and three grandchildren of whom they are immensely proud.
Dennis Kozian, in his 25th year of teaching, currently directing the 6-8 Bands & 8th Grade Orchestra at Portage West Middle School. He also directs an extra-curricular Jazz Band, which includes students from Portage West, Portage Central & Portage North Middle Schools.
As a 1997 graduate of Western Michigan University & a 2002 graduate of the VanderCook College of Music, Dennis began his teaching career in the St. Louis Public Schools (Michigan), serving as interim Director of Bands from January-June, 1998. In July of 1998, Dennis was hired as the Director of Bands at Vicksburg High School & Vicksburg Middle School.
While at Vicksburg, Dennis built a dynamic band program. The VHS Marching Band grew to over 150 students in the ensemble. The VHS Jazz Band saw continued growth and the band eventually split into two ensembles, meeting during zero hour five days a week! The high school bands received many awards & honors. The Symphonic & Concert Bands earned many first division ratings at both the District & State Band Festivals. The VHS Marching Band performed at a Western Michigan University home football game in 2001. That same year, the marching band also performed in the America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, held in Detroit. The Vicksburg Bands traveled extensively under Dennis’ leadership. The concert bands performed in London, England in 2001 and Hawaii in 2004. The jazz bands performed in the Magic Kingdom in 2005.
In 2007, Dennis became Director of Bands at Portage West Middle School. For the past sixteen years, Dennis built the WMS band program into over 275 students. Dennis’ responsibilities include teaching four sections of beginning band, two sections of 7th grade band, 8th grade band & 8th Grade Orchestra. Dennis runs two clubs after school including “Band Jam,” which serves as a practice club for students, and the Portage Jazz/Rock Ensemble. The Jazz/Rock Ensemble typically consists of over 70 students per year. The Jazz/Rock Ensemble has performed in Chicago (2010 & 2013) and at Mackinac Island (2015 & 2017). The Jazz/Rock Ensemble has also performed at the Michigan State Capitol, the Kalamazoo Air Zoo and for Senator John McCain in 2008.
Since the 2013-14 school year, the WMS 7th & 8th Grade Bands have earned straight first division ratings at the District XI Band & Orchestra Festival. He has taken the 8th Grade Orchestra to the District Festival in 2020 & 2022, earning a first division rating & straight As both years. Dennis had 90 events perform at Solo & Ensemble Festival in 2019 & 80+ events in 2022. In addition, he has mentored over 50 pre-intern teachers since 2010. Dennis had the honor of presenting three sessions at the Michigan Music Conference, in 2010, 2016 & 2021.
Dennis has volunteered in District XI for many years. He was President from 2001-2004, and again from 2012-2017. Dennis was also the co-chair of the District XI Honors Band for two years.
Dennis is married to Sarah Kozian, a science teacher at Portage Northern High School. Dennis & Sarah have two boys, Dennis Robert, age 9 and Benjamin, age 7.
Justin Valla grew up in Madison, Connecticut and started playing the bass in 2nd grade. He fell in love with music and the bass right away. He played in as many ensembles as he could; including groups at Yale University’s Neighborhood Music School. There, he discovered symphony orchestra, jazz, blues, rock, and other alternative styles of music. In high school, Justin regularly performed with the Southern Connecticut Regional Orchestra, the Connecticut All-State Orchestra, and he sat principal bass of the All-New England Orchestra.
Justin came to Michigan State University in the fall of 1995. He played in the MSU Symphony Orchestra under Leon Gregorian, and studied bass with Peter Dominguez, Jack Budrow, and Rodney Whitaker. He played in the MSU Wind Symphony under John Whitwell, and was active in the jazz studies program playing for Branford Marsalis and Benny Carter under Joe Lulloff and Andrew Speight. After student-teaching in Okemos with Marilyn Kesler, he graduated in 2000 with bachelor’s degrees in double bass performance and music education.
He began his teaching career in January of 2001 in the Lansing School District teaching beginning and middle school strings. He joined MSBOA and started taking his 8th grade orchestras to Festival in 2001. In 2005, he became the director of orchestras for the Marshall Public School District where he taught the entire program 5th-12th grade. In Marshall, Justin started conducting symphony orchestras, and he took students to Festival, as well as District and State Solo & Ensemble. He also conducted the Marshall Middle School Jazz Band and was invited to perform for collegiate jazz ensembles at jazz invitational nights hosted by Albion College. He later earned his master of music education from MSU after he left Marshall and began teaching in St. Johns in 2010. He spent eight years teaching orchestra and conducting pit orchestras for musicals in St. Johns before coming to Okemos in the summer of 2018.
Since becoming director of the Okemos High School Orchestras, Justin sends an average of 85 events to district Solo & Ensemble, and 50 events to State Solo & Ensemble. He has students perform with the Michigan All-State Orchestra, has had students perform for the MSBOA Concerto Competition, and has earned top ratings for every ensemble at MSBOA District Festival. At the 2019 MMC, Justin presented on how to introduce the blues, jazz, and improvisation to students with the help of a student demonstration group. Justin is thrilled that the Okemos Philharmonic Orchestra was selected to perform next year at the 2023 MMC.
Over the course of his career, Justin has had students perform at the Lansing Capitol, Disney World, Hawaii, and multiple venues in New York City. Throughout his teaching, he remains dedicated to teaching all students to be thoughtful and productive people as well as high-achieving musicians. He does this by fostering what he calls an “orchestra family” where students know they are safe and cared for every day. He makes it a point to expose his students to many styles of music. His groups perform classic repertoire as well as pieces by new, local, and diverse composers. This leads to his groups learning elements of improvisation, jazz, rock, and fiddle music along with orchestral classics by well-known composers. Justin seeks to give back to music education by training multiple intern teachers, being a clinician, arranging music for ensembles, and by hosting District Band & Orchestra Festival and both District and State Solo & Ensemble for MSBOA. He has also had students participate in MSBOA adjudicator training workshops.
Justin has performed with the Lansing Symphony, the West Shore Symphony, various community orchestras, and in many pit orchestras for local theaters. He also plays every Sunday for a local church in Lansing. Currently, Justin lives in East Lansing with his wife, Samara, who is a choir teacher in Haslett. Together, they have three daughters; Myah, Julia, and Lara. Outside of school, Justin enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, cooking, arranging music, and performing for his neighbors with his dad-band.