ASTA MD/DC Chapter


ASTA MD/DC CHAPTER is a part of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA), a national organization with over 10,000 members. There are 48 other state chapters, and affiliates in many other countries around the globe. ASTA serves as our united voice, bringing us together by supporting teachers of string instruments.
Our Maryland and Washington, D.C. chapter members are teachers and performers of string instruments, including violin, viola, cello, bass, harp, and guitar. We are studio teachers, private and public school teachers, university professors, performers, composers, arrangers and conductors. Our members include professionals, retirees, amateurs, students and string enthusiasts. Our corporate members include libraries, luthiers and other businesses that serve the string profession.
As the Capital Chapter of ASTA, we strive to offer our members outstanding opportunities, such as workshops, webinars, masterclasses, and many other special events promoting string teaching excellence. We look forward to seeing you at one of our events soon!

Click here for a copy of our state chapter bylaws.

Click here for the ASTA COVID 19 Resource page.

Click here for the National ASTA website and for new membership.



Nicole Boguslaw has been playing cello since she was eight years old. Her teachers have included Diana Fish, Paul York, and Evelyn Elsing. She performed on the premier of “Ballad for cello and seven cellos” by Aaron Kernis, and performed on its’ first recording, “Cello Vision” in 2008. She has performed at the Aspen Summer Music Festival for three summers, and AIMS Festival in Graz. She recently completed an artist’s diploma in orchestral studies at the San Francisco Academy Orchestra, where she studied with Amos Yang of the San Francisco Symphony. In 2017 she became a member of the Annapolis Symphony cello section.

She began teaching in 2010 at Louisville Academy, a homeschooling institution, where she organized and directed an orchestral ensemble. She’s been doing ensemble teaching since then, including at the Harmony Project in San Francisco in 2016, an El Sistema inspired program. Since then, she has also had a very active private studio where she has taught students from ages four to seventy-eight, and of all abilities. Nicole is very passionate about disability rights and inclusion, and would like to incorporate that into music education. She is now studying with Eric Kutz at the University of Maryland, in pursuit of a doctor in the musical arts, and expects to graduate in May 2021.


Elizabeth Cunha earned her MM in Music Education from The University of Maryland where she participated in the Suzuki Strings Pedagogy Program under the tutelage of Ronda Cole. She received her BM from The Catholic University of America with studies in Music Education with Dr. Robert Garofolo, Violin Performance with Jody Gatwood and Piotr Gajewski, and Musical Theater with Jane Pesci-Townsend. Elizabeth currently serves as the All-School Performing Arts Department Chair at Stone Ridge School in Bethesda Maryland and teaches beginning strings, middle school and upper school orchestras. She is founder and director of Silver Strings Studio, a Suzuki violin program in Bethesda and Silver Spring, Maryland. Elizabeth’s students have participated in international performance tours, as members of prestigious youth orchestras and as section leaders of their school orchestras.

Elizabeth earned teacher trainer certification for Music Mind Games in 2009, has led workshops across the U.S., and abroad including Denmark and London. She is currently working towards Dalcroze Certification with Jermey Dittus. Elizabeth has been a clinician for violin, theory and musicianship classes at several institutes, including the Greater Washington Suzuki Institute. As co-music director for the international touring performance group Washington Preludio Strings, Elizabeth has led student performances in Germany, Austria, Italy and England. Beyond Suzuki and Classical training, other professional development credits  include: Orff Schulwerk at George Mason University Levels 1 and 2, World Music Drumming with Will Schmid Levels 1 and 2, various courses in Music Technology, Creative Strings with Christian Howes, Tune-writing, Looping 101, Music Mind Games Units 1 and 2 plus Teacher-Trainer Certifications Units 1 and 2, Rock Violin, Bornoff Method, Delfest Academy with Jason Carter, Ronnie McCoury & Sierra Hull. In addition, Elizabeth taught General Music for ten years and enjoys incorporating creative musicianship activities into the Orchestra classroom and studio teaching. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Suzuki Association for the Greater Washington Area. Beyond violin, Elizabeth also has many professional theater credits including: Cabaret National Tour, Shakespeare Theater, Signature Theater, Ogunquit Playhouse, Toby’s Dinner Theater and more in the DC metro area.

President-Elect Vacant  


Dr. Sachi Murasugi, violin, has performed extensively as a professional orchestral and chamber musician. She has been concertmaster of the Sorg Opera Orchestra in Ohio and Filarmonica del Bajio in Mexico, and a member of the West Virginia Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, and Springfield Symphony. As a chamber musician, she has performed throughout the United States, Mexico and Spain, performing in such venues as the Museo del Prado in Madrid. She received the National Endowment for the Arts Rural Residency Grant and was selected for the Nebraska Arts Council’s Touring Artist Program as a member of the Sandhill Trio. A dedicated teacher, she has taught violin, viola, and chamber music at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, and University of Dayton in Ohio. Sachi holds music performance degrees from Manhattan School of Music and CUNY Queens College, and earned her DMA at Ohio State University. Her teachers include Raphael Bronstein, Daniel Phillips, and Cathy Carroll. In addition, Sachiho holds an MBA from Tulane University, where she received the Business School’s highest award, the Freeman Fellowship. She is currently a full-time faculty member in the Salisbury University music department and is concertmaster of the Salisbury Symphony.

Membership Chair/ Cellobration Co-Chair

Dr. Alison Bazala Kim served as President of the ASTA MD/DC Chapter from 2018-2020 and was the recipient of the 2020 ASTA State Chapter Leadership Award “For her many contributions to the Maryland/D.C. ASTA State Chapter.”  As a cello instructor, she has served on faculties of Maryland institutions of higher education, including Anne Arundel Community College, Hood College, the Naval Academy and Washington Adventist University. She taught cello at the Holton-Arms School and the Bullis School and was the orchestra director at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Formerly, Dr. Bazala Kim taught at Michigan State University’s Community Music School and was the Director of the Chamber Music Program from 1998-2001, where her students won the MASTA competition and were semi-finalists in the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. While living in Michigan, Dr. Bazala Kim was Principal Cellist of the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra and played with the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra.

In the United States, Dr. Bazala Kim has given recitals in Houston, Miami Beach and Boston. Locally, she has given concerts at the Embassies of Bangladesh and Romania, the State Department and the Ambassador’s Club. As a concerto soloist she performed with the National Repertory Orchestra in Colorado, the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra and the Albanian String Orchestra. As a chamber musician, she performed in Miami Beach, New York City, Boston, and locally at the Washington Arts Club, Frederick Community College, Hood College and the University of Maryland. Internationally, Dr. Bazala Kim toured Macedonia, the Slovak Republic and Bulgaria. She was a featured guest artist in the 2005 Bach Festival in Kosovo and the first American soloist to appear in Sarajevo after the 1992-95 war in Bosnia, performing at the National Theater, the Dom Armije concert hall and NATO headquarters. In 1999 she returned to Bosnia, performing in Banja Luca and Sarajevo. She gave a masterclass at the Sarajevo Music Academy, and her concerts were broadcast on television and radio. Other recital tours include Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

As a member of the New World Symphony in Florida, she performed in Carnegie, Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and in Brazil, Argentina, Monaco, and Israel. She recorded with the NWS on the Argo-Decca label. Locally, she was Associate Principal Cellist of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra in Virginia. She currently plays with the Annapolis, Apollo and Alexandria Symphony Orchestras.

Dr. Bazala Kim holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, Master of Music degree from Rice University and a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of Maryland. She also studied at the Eastman School of Music. Her teachers include David Hardy, Peter Wiley, David Soyer, Paul Katz and Fritz Magg.

Her students have been prize-winners in numerous competitions, including the ASTA/MSMTA Solo Strings Festival, the Feder Memorial Competition, the Gaithersburg Youth Artists Award Competition and the American Protégé Competition at Carnegie Hall. Her students are members of prestigious youth orchestras and are leading members of their school orchestras. Dr. Bazala Kim coaches and adjudicates for both youth and professional orchestra. She lives in North Potomac, Maryland with her husband and two children.

Newsletter Editor and Cellobration Co-Chair

Matthew Ivon Tifford is founder and owner of the Tifford Cello Studio in North Bethesda, Maryland. Over the years, his students have won acclaim in local and state-wide competitions, and have been a constant presence in both the Maryland All-State Orchestras and the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras for over a decade. An accomplished performer, Mr. Tifford has been featured as a soloist for Pope John Paul II in Vatican City, and has recorded and performed live on stage with rock musician Dave Matthews. Mr. Tifford’s most recent work can be heard on the soundtracks for National Geographic films “24 Hours after Hiroshima” and “Canyonlands,” a collaboration with Emmy award-winning composer Christopher Biondo. Matthew has also performed at The Birchmere, The Barns at Wolf Trap, New York City’s Irving Plaza, and on National Public Radio’s “Mountain Stage” radio program. Matthew Tifford has taught cello at the Salisbury University, the Selma M. Levine School of Music, and the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program. Mr. Tifford received his MM in Cello from the Peabody Conservatory and his BM at the Catholic University of America. In the course of his training Mr. Tifford has been fortunate to have studied with many great teachers including Stephen Kates, Robert Newkirk, Christopher Von Baeyer, and Jeffrey Solow. Matthew lives in the wonderful community of Randolph Hills with his wife and five children.



Mark Pfannschmidt began studying violin at age seven, piano at ten and viola at thirteen. Along the way he also studied voice, harp and harpsichord. In the end, he settled on the viola, because of its rich tone and unusual, interesting repertoire (and the employment prospects were better). He received his high school diploma from the Interlochen Arts Academy with a major in viola and minors in harp and voice. His viola performance degrees include a BM from Peabody and an MM from Catholic University. His principal teachers are David Holland, Karen Tuttle and Jody Gatwood. Mr. Pfannschmidt has been teaching since 1986 and has taught ages four to adult. Courses in pedagogy have been completed with Ronda Cole and Rebecca Henry. His viola and violin students have played in MCYO, AYP, PVYO, RRYO, ASCYO, Montgomery County Honors Orchestra and Maryland All-State Orchestra. Currently a violist in the National Philharmonic, his varied career has included seven years in the US Marine Chamber Orchestra, where he was a frequent performer for White House functions. Mr. Pfannschmidt is also a piano accompanist for studio recitals, local competitions and festivals. His thirst for interesting and unusual repertoire has led him to edit and publish an ever-expanding catalog of pieces in the public domain. He and his wife, Laura, make their home in Gaithersburg, with their two children, Jason and Emily.


Julianna Chitwood earned her MM in Violin Performance from the University of Maryland at College Park, where she participated in the Guarneri String Quartet Coaching Program, and her BM in Violin Performance from Florida State University. She has performed in master classes for Dorothy Delay, Samuel Applebaum and Seigsfeld Kuijkan, as well as studied with members of the Meliora, Lark and Guarneri String Quartets. Ms Chitwood is the Associate Principal Second Violinist for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and has performed with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, The Concert Artists of Baltimore, The Orchestra of the 17th Century, Stylus Luxurians, The Cathedral Choral Society, The Washington Concert Opera, The Washington Bach Consort, and The Bach Sinfonia, of which she is a founding member and former concertmaster. In addition to orchestra instruction at the Washington Waldorf School and the D.C. Youth Orchestra, Ms Chitwood has been a violin and/or Music Mind Games clinician at many workshops and Suzuki institutes, including the Greater Washington Suzuki Institute, and on the faculty of the Levine School of Music as a music theory and Music Mind Games instructor. She founded the Frederick (Maryland) Community College’s Suzuki Violin program. Ms Chitwood has also served on the Board of Directors of the Suzuki Association of the Greater Washington Area. Currently she teaches over forty Suzuki violin students at her private studio in Rockville, Maryland. In her spare time, Ms Chitwood is an avid reader, volunteers with groups addressing community food and clothing needs and enjoys hanging out with her dogs, Brubeck and BellaLuna.


Leslie Smile Hoyle received her BM in Violin Performance with Michael Davis and Charlies Wetherbee at the Ohio State University in 2005. She received her MM in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy with Ronda Cole at the University of Maryland in 2007, also serving as the University of Maryland Suzuki Violin Program Administrator in 2007 and 2008. Ms. Smile served as Suzuki Instructor and Co-Administrator of the Animato Suzuki Violin Program, LLC from 2008-2012. She has also served as Private and Group Violin Instructor at Henson Valley Montessori School, Highland Park Christian Academy, and St. Mary’s of Piscataway Catholic School. Ms. Smile has served as a professional sectionals coach for Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Orchestra and as a volunteer sectionals coach for the College Park Youth Symphony. In addition to Suzuki training, Ms. Smile has also had training in Every Child Can and Music Mind Games. Ms. Smile currently serves as Music Mind Games Instructor and Suzuki Violin Instructor/Program Administrator for the Academy of Fine Arts Suzuki Violin Program in Gaithersburg, MD.

ASTACAP Co-Chair, Nominating Committee

Lya Stern, MM cum laude in violin performance from the University of Southern California. One year post-graduate work in the master class of Jascha Heifetz at USC. BM from Manhattan School of Music. Twenty-five year career in the recording industry performing with Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli and many others. Played on the sound track of over 150 motion pictures and TV films. Performed with the American Ballet Theatre, the National Symphony Pops, the National Gallery Orchestra, and others. Lya was awarded the ASTA National Citation for Exceptional Leadership and Merit in 2000 and again in 2008 for initiating and developing the Certificate Program for Strings (later renamed the ASTA Certificate Advancement Program, or ASTACAP). She led its establishment in the MD/DC Chapter in 1998 and subsequently helped introduce the program in several other states. She continued as an advocate for the program and continued to organize efforts to establish it as a national program; her mission was successfully accomplished in 2004. She is a recipient of the Outstanding String Teacher Award and the Outstanding Service to Strings Award. She is a Past President of ASTA MD/DC Chapter. She frequently acts as chair or judge for student competitions. For the past 16 years Lya has been teaching accelerated and award-winning violin students in her Bethesda studio.


Erin Chester

Erin Chester earned her B.M. in Music Education from Ithaca College in 2002.  She studied violin with Ellen Jewett and Susan Waterbury.  She earned her M.M. in Music Education from the University of Maryland College Park in 2008.  She is the Orchestra Director at Crofton Middle School in Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) and has worked in AACPS for 20 years.  In addition to being a Board member for ASTA, she is also a Board member for the Maryland Orchestra Director Association (MODA).  She performs with the Summer String Orchestra in Glen Burnie, MD and the Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra in Rockville, MD.


Jen Murray

Native of South Carolina, Ms. Murray has established herself as an exceptional educator, director and versatile artist. She is the director of orchestras at Thomas G Pullen Creative and Performing Arts Academy  in Prince George’s County.  She holds a Bachelor degree from University of Hartford, Hartt School of Music, and Masters of Music degree from Boston University,

Classically trained violist, she has a strong passion for performing chamber music,  orchestral playing and is an active composer/ arranger for string ensembles. Ms. Murray’s chamber music experiences have been extremely prominent. She has been performing as a violist in the Prince George’s Philharmonic for twelve seasons.  She performs primarily in MD, DC and VA. Other performance ensembles include Takoma Ensemble, New England Chamber Ensemble, Ensemble du Monde, Columbia players’ quartet, and St. Charles String quartet. 

As an educator, Ms. Murray believes that all children have the potential to achieve a high level of musicality.  She has been teaching in the public schools since 2005 and privately since 2004.   Her middle school programs have been awarded numerous awards and superior ratings.  She is a past President of the Maryland Orchestra Directors Association and a former board member of the local chapter of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA-DC).  She is currently on the consulting committee of the K-12 New Music Project through the National Orchestral institute dedicated to increasing representation in K-12 Orchestral literature.