3rd-5th Grade Music Program

3rd-5thGradeMusic Program
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3rd-5thGradeMusic Program_b
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Band Orchestra and Choir

The Miller Creek School District Music Department believes that music is an integral part of a student’s overall education. The music program enables students to acquire knowledge, develop skills and expand their creative potential. Miller Creek School District music specialists strive to establish for every student a lasting relationship with music that provides satisfaction, enjoyment, and personal growth during the school years and throughout life.

Miller Creek District music curriculum is based on developing skills in the areas of the elements of music, performing, describing, and creating. Music instruction uses the hands-on implementation of listening, singing, playing, moving, reading, writing, exploring, creating, developing, and performing. Miller Creek District music specialists emphasize that students learn by using a variety of learning modes and cognitive processes.

Our comprehensive music program includes band, orchestra, and choral music education.

Email Sherry Vakharia: svakharia@millercreeksd.org for more information.

Sherry Vakharia

Ms. Vakharia is in her twenty-fifth year of teaching music and her fourteenth year in the Miller Creek School District. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Prior to coming to Miller Creek, she taught band and orchestra at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in Columbus, Westerville, Ohio, Odessa, Texas, and Livermore, California.

Ms. Vakharia teaches the orchestra at Miller Creek Middle School and its three feeder schools; Lucas Valley, Mary E. Silveira, and Vallecito Elementary Schools. She served as the District Music Department Director from 2010 until 2014.

Ms. Vakharia is a member of several professional organizations including the California Music Education Association, National Association for Music Education, American String Teachers Association, and California Orchestra Directors Associations.

From 2010 to 2012, she served as the Assistant Orchestra Representative for the California Music Education Association Bay Section managing the CMEA Conference Orchestras for two years. Locally, she served as the treasurer of the Marin Music Education Association. She was the Orchestra Representative of MMEA until 2018, organizing and managing the Marin County Middle School Honor Orchestra.

Over the years, Ms. Vakharia’s students have received excellent or superior ratings in solo and ensemble festivals and large ensemble festivals. In 2014 she received the Excellence in Education Award presented by the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce. She was part of the Miller Creek music team that received the Golden Bell Award in 2018. In 2019, she received the Public School Music Teacher of the Year Award presented by the Marin Symphony Orchestra.

Ms. Vakharia has served as an adjudicator in solo and ensemble festivals in the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District. While teaching in Texas, she was an adjudicator for students in grades seven through twelve who were auditioning for all-city, region, area, and all-state bands and orchestras. She has also been an adjudicator for students auditioning for seats in the CMEA Bay Section Conference Orchestra.

Ms. Vakharia frequently seeks out opportunities for her students to hear professional musicians. Over the years she has had performers from the Ali Akbhar School of music and professional violinist Babak Sabetian who introduced students to traditional Iranian music. Students have heard professional string quartets on several occasions. Thanks to the Marin Symphony, her students have had several opportunities to hear professional cellist Zuill Bailey.

Ms. Vakharia seeks out opportunities to involve professional musicians in the community. When she taught band at Miller Creek, she invited members of the Sewer Band to volunteer in the classroom. This program still continues today. Violinist Odin Mitaine and cellist Pierna Dell’Avo have worked with orchestra students on many occasions.

When she is not creating music, Ms. Vakharia is an aviation enthusiast and completed a ground school course. You can catch her gardening on plane spotting on her time off.

Mercedes Castro

Ms. Castro is in her fifth year of teaching and her first year in the Miller Creek School District. She received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education and teaching credential at Sonoma State University. Prior to teaching at Miller Creek, she taught general music, band, and choir to students across all grade levels from K-8th.

Ms. Castro currently teaches band at Miller Creek Middle School and its three feeder schools; Lucas Valley, Mary E. Silveira, and Vallecito Elementary Schools.

Ms. Castro is a member of several professional organizations including the California Music Education Association, National Association for Music Education, and California Band Directors Association.

When Ms. Castro isn’t teaching, she enjoys hiking at all the local parks and trails, weightlifting in the gym, or relaxing at home with her two cats, Athena & Apollo.

Samantha Nickel

Samantha Nickel is the new choral director and 3rd-grade general music teacher for the Miller Creek School District. Samantha grew up singing and playing flute in public school ensembles and pursued a formal music education at California State University of Chico, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in humanities and general music, as well as her single subject teaching credential in music. She taught 4th-grade general music and 5th-8th grade choir in the Ross Valley School District in San Anselmo, where her choirs received excellent and superior ratings at festivals and competitions.

This is Samantha’s fourth year teaching in Marin County, CA as a choir director. She has also been a musical theater director in the county, reinstating a musical theater elective at White Hill Middle School and directing/musical directing YES Theater productions such as Alice in Wonderland (Fall 2021) and Bye Bye Birdie (Spring 2022). Samantha also worked as a vocal coach with the high school students in the Archie Williams High School drama production of Spamalot (2020).

Samantha has performed with the North State Symphony as a flautist and vocalist in Northern California, as well as other venues with vocal and instrumental groups in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Chico, Redding, and performing with the Coro Universitario di Firenze (Florence University Choir) in Florence and Venice, Italy. Outside of teaching and performing, Samantha spends her free time listening to audiobooks, playing games with friends, eating good food with her fiancé, and playing with her cat, Alphonse.

Tyler Graves

Tyler Graves is a trumpet performer and music educator in the Bay Area and he has been the music aide for the Miller Creek School District since 2016. He can be found playing all styles of music, and can be seen performing at Big Rock in Terra Linda and at Warriors' games. Originally from Ohio, he has always enjoyed the arts, especially photography and art. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two cats.

Marianne Ellenberger

Marianne has been teaching in the San Rafael public schools since 1989. She began her education career as the Radio Broadcasting Instructor at San Rafael High from 1989-2009. Since 2010, Marianne has taught everything from General Music to Ukulele, Guitar, and Glee Club in various Marin schools and after-school programs All of her classes were based on project-based learning. Marianne has been the Orchestra Assistant for the last 10 years in the Miller Creek School District.

Marianne's original and simultaneous career was as a producer, an on-air DJ and/or music director in several radio stations such as KSNO, KTID, KEZR, and Alice @97.3. She was also a sought out consultant, working with Radio Canal, G T Radio Network in Beijing China, (the first "pop" music station in China), and conceptualizing, planning, and programming Travlin Tunes, a positive message radio station played on school buses to 3 different demographic groups in Baltimore and Chicago.

She was born and raised outside of Chicago, received her BA in Music from the University of Colorado, and earned a clear lifetime credential through UC Berkeley Extension's Education Program. Marianne is also currently teaching private guitar and ukulele lessons and is a local jewelry designer. Her hobbies include playing guitar with friends, hiking with her Husky, working out, tennis, and spending time with her wonderful and active family.

Contact information

3-5 Music Teacher Contact Info

Choir Director: Samantha Nickel: snickel@millercreeksd.org

Orchestra Director: Sherry Vakharia: svakharia@millercreeksd.org

Band Director: Mercedes Castro: mcastro@millercreeksd.org

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