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Music Faculty

Faculty Biographies

(Click on the faculty name below to visit their CCRI Faculty Website.)

Dr. Joseph J. Amante y Zapata holds a B.A. in Church Music from Point Loma Nazarene University, an M.M. in Choral Conducting from New England Conservatory of Music, and a D.M.A. in Choral Music from the University of Southern California. He has studied with John Glenn Paton, Joseph Flummerfelt, James Vail, Rodney Eichenberger, and the late Daniel Pinkham. He has also done orchestral work with Hans Beer, Pascal Verrot and the late Leonard Bernstein at Seranak (Tanglewood Music Center) on scholarship.

Originally from California, Dr. Amante directed several church music programs and community choirs in both San Diego and Los Angeles, one choir appearing on the CBS news documentary 48 Hours. He taught high school and elementary school music in Los Angeles, and served as music director for the Towne Singers, a 100 member (Hollywood affiliated) chorus.

Currently, Dr. Amante is associate professor of music and Director of Choral Activities at Community College of Rhode Island. His choirs have performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, Fauré’s Requiem, Duruflé’s Requiem, Mozart’s c-minor Mass and Solemn Vespers, Corigliano’s Fern Hill, Rutter’s Magnificat, Britten's Ceremony of Carols and Ellington’s Sacred Concerts. Future plans include more choral music transcriptions of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, a continuation of his doctoral topic. Amante’s hobbies include ensemble piano accompaniment, viola with the South County Chamber Orchestra, hiking, road biking and antique tractors.

Dr. Audrey Kaiser, Associate Professor of Piano, has toured the United States for over 25 years performing, arranging, and recording with a show act called the Two of Hearts. Active in the theatre world as director, musical director, pianist, and arranger, Dr. Kaiser has also performed extensively as both a solo and collaborative concert pianist, including numerous concerts with David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. She has also performed in concert with Alice Ripley, Tony Award winning singer and actress.

Dr. Kaiser earned the B.M. in piano performance from Rhode Island College, the M.A. in piano performance from Marshall University in West Virginia, and the D.M.A. in piano performance from the University of Kentucky. Her academic honors embrace membership in Who's Who Among Students in Colleges and Universities, Who's Who in America, Who's Who Among American Women and two years on the National Dean's List. In addition, she completed both the Master's and Doctoral degrees with 4.0 averages.

Dr. Kaiser joined the music department at the Community College of Rhode Island in 2004 where she teaches music theory, class piano, applied piano and music appreciation. From 2004 to 2009 she also served as the resident musical director of the Granite Theatre in Westerly, RI, where she conceived, directed, and performed in four original musical revues entitled Our Hearts on Broadway, Lullaby of Broadway I, Lullaby of Broadway II, and Lullaby of Broadway III. She is also the originator and director of the summer Cabaret Theatre event at CCRI called Hello BROADWAY!, which began in 2009 and features both students and professional casts performing together.

Dr. Steve Lajoie is Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Community College of Rhode Island. At CCRI, he directs the Jazz Ensembles and teaches improvisation, arranging, jazz history, music theory, piano, and composition. Dr. Lajoie was a guest lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008, and was guest conductor of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Jazz Ensembles during their 1996 tour of St. Petersburg, Russia. His students have transferred to numerous jazz programs, including William Patterson University, the New England Conservatory of Music, Berklee College of Music, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of South Florida. From 1993-2005, eleven of his jazz-studies students were selected by audition to participate in the International Association of Jazz Educators Community College All-Star Big Band.

Dr. Lajoie is the author of Gil Evans and Miles Davis: Historic Collaborations, 1957-1962. Published by Advance Music of Rottenburg, Germany, it contains transcriptions and analyses of four of Evans’ and Davis’ collaborations for large jazz ensemble, and is the only text about these important works.

Dr. Lajoie holds a B.M. in Music Education with Percussion concentration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an M.M. in Jazz Piano Performance from the University of Miami, Florida, and a Ph.D. in Jazz Composition from New York University. He also attended the University of Southern California. He has studied with Jim McNeely, Vince Maggio, Ron Miller, Jeff Holmes, Peter Tanner, Nigel Coxe, Michael Pavone, the late Richard Govoni, and the late Wesley DeLacy.

Dr. Lajoie’s compositions and transcriptions have been performed by the Smithsonian Institute Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, and jazz ensembles at James Madison University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Wyoming, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Rochester, and Moorpark College.

Originally from Massachusetts, Dr. Lajoie is married to flutist and teacher Marcia Lajoie. Together, they have three children. Dr. Lajoie also enjoys coaching youth baseball, as well as studying Catholic Social Teaching, the early Church Fathers, and Catholic apologists.

Cheri Markward, chair of the Department of Performing Arts, came to CCRI full-time in 1997, after a long career as a free-lance violinist and studio teacher. She was formerly a member of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, concertmaster of the Ocean State Chamber Orchestra, Providence Chamber Orchestra, RI Civic Chorale and Orchestra, Providence Singers Orchestra, and Providence Opera Theater, as well as first violinist with the Keewan Quartet and violinist with the New Music Ensemble. She has performed as soloist with the Rhode Island College Orchestra, the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra, the Great Woods Festival Orchestra, Ocean State Chamber Orchestra, and the Quincy Symphony. Markward's teachers include Stephanie Chase, Roger Shermont, Wilfred Biel, and B. Frank Noyes.

She is the advisor for the Bible Study Club and conductor and advisor to the Chamber Ensemble.

Emily Noël, Assistant Professor of Voice, holds a B.M. in vocal performance from the University of Maryland and a M.M in vocal performance from Johns Hopkins Peabody Conservatory of Music. She came to CCRI from Franklin and Marshall College, where she taught applied voice and directed opera performances. Her active performing career includes opera, oratorio, and recitals. Highlights are concerts with The Folger Consort, The Washington Bach Consort, The Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and a debut with the Gabrieli Consort at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.

Full Time Faculty

Name & Contact Information Title Teaching Responsibilities
Joseph Amante y Zapata, DMA
Associate Professor of Music
Director of Choral Activities
Choral ensembles, Music theory, Sight singing & ear training, Music History, Music appreciation.

Emily Noël, MM

Assistant Professor of Music


Foundations,Music Theory, music appreciation, Opera Workshop, Voice

Audrey Kaiser, DMA

Associate. Professor of Music
Faculty Advisor: Music Club
Applied & Class piano instruction, Music theory, Sight singing & ear training, Music history, Music appreciation, Foundations of music.
Stephen H. Lajoie, PhD
Professor of Music
Director of Jazz Studies
Jazz ensembles, Jazz harmony, improvisation & arranging, Jazz history, Applied piano, Applied composition, Foundations of music.
Cheri D. Markward, MM
Professor of Music
Chair, Department of Performing Arts
Director of Instrumental Music
Chamber Ensemble
Teaching responsibilities in Music Theory, Sight Singing/Ear Training, Music History, Strings.

Applied Music Instructors

Name & Contact Information Instrument
Joseph Amante (website)
Randy Cloutier
Jazz Percussion
Steve DeConti (website) Jazz Guitar

John Dennewitz

Classical Guitar

John McKenna, saxophone

Jennifer Bill, classical saxophone

Clarinet, Saxophone

John Curran



Charles Kalajian

Thomas Gregory Euphonium, Tuba
Audrey Kaiser
Timothy Anderson Composition
Steven Lajoie
Piano, Jazz Piano
Cheri Markward
Violin, Viola
Dennis Pratt
Jazz Bass
Eliot Porter String Bass
Eden Casteel Voice
Martha Sobaje Composition
Robbie Lepage Trumpet

Part Time Faculty

Name & Contact Information Title Teaching Responsibilities (Location)
Catherine Gagnon Adjunct Intro to Music, Foundations of Music (Newport)
John Dennewitz
Adjunct Beginning Guitar, Warwick)
Thomas Gregory Adjunct Jazz History
Maria Bedrosian Adjunct Music in Human Services and Education
Dennis Pratt Adjunct Jazz History (Warwick, Lincoln)
Eden Casteel Adjunct Voice Class
James Stravato Adjunct Intro to Digital Recording Technology
Martha Sobaje Adjunct Foundations of Music, Introduction to Music (Warwick, Lincoln)
Jacob Stott
Adjunct Foundations of Music, Introduction to Music (Lincoln)
Monique Bouvier Adjunct Foundations of Music, Introduction to Music (Providence)

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Last Updated: 12/12/16