Instructors - Music

Sarah Neiman – Voice

Sarah Neiman is a mezzo-soprano with a passion for teaching and performance. She has earned a MMusic from UWO in Voice Performance, as well as a BMusic in Music Education. Her performances include Antonia’s Mother and Stella in Les Contes d’Hoffmann with the Halifax Summer Opera Workshop, covering the role of Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro at Opera Nuova, and the title role of Vivaldi’s Griselda with UWOpera. Sarah has also performed in concerts and art song recitals, both out of province and within Fort McMurray. Sarah has built a busy private studio, and she is passionate about passing on her love of music and singing to her students.


Alana MacKay – Voice

Born and raised in Manitoba, by a very musical family, Alana Mackay has been actively involved in the music community from birth. She first performed at her local church at the tender age of 3, and began piano lessons at the age of 4. She performed in many musical theatre productions throughout high school, and went on to study piano, and voice at Vanguard College, and Alberta College in Edmonton, Alberta. She has taught piano, and voice lessons for over 25 years, and has led a number of youth choirs, and musical theatre groups. Alana, her husband Nathan and their family are enjoying all Fort McMurray has to offer, and are excited to be involved in the community!

Alana is excited at the opportunity to offer voice, piano, and gospel piano chording lessons through Up Town Music at the Suncor Centre of Performing Arts. She is looking forward to helping students reach their musical potential in a fun and encouraging environment.


Peter Ellis – Violin

Peter started violin when he was five years old, and went to boarding school as a choirboy at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, when he was seven. A music scholarship to Radley College enabled him to continue in the boarding school system, and since the school had its own chapel, he was able to start studying organ.

Peter received his MA (Music) from Cambridge University in the UK. He also received his ARCM in violin teaching from the Royal College of Music in London. Post graduate study was done with the following:

  • Frederick Grinke, Professor of violin, Royal Academy of Music
  • Hugh Maguire, Concertmaster, BBC Symphony Orchestra
  • Emanuel Hurwitz, Aeolian String Quartet
  • Linda Case, Suzuki String Program, Calgary
  • Paul Makanowitzky, Professor of violin, Ann Arbor
  • Ivan Galamian, Julliard School of MusicPeter came to Canada in 1969, and has taught strings in the following places:
  • Charlottetown City Schools, Charlottetown, PEI
  • University of PEI
  • Grande Prairie Regional College, AB
  • School District #57, Prince George, BC
  • Prince George Music school
  • Keyano College, Fort McMurray, AB

Chamber music and solo performances have been constant features in Peter’s musical life, and he was concertmaster of the PEI Symphony Orchestra, Grande Prairie Symphony Orchestra, and Prince George Symphony Orchestra. Peter has held regular positions as a church organist in Charlottetown, Grande Prairie, Prince George, and Fort McMurray, where he currently plays at All Saints’ Anglican Church.

As well as teaching at Keyano College, Peter also taught at the Keyano conservatory since its inception in 1990. Peter is excited about moving to join the Uptown! conservatory at the Suncor Energy Center for the Performing Arts, based at Holy Trinity School.


David MacLean – Violin

David MacLean has pursued his love of the violin through many avenues of performance, including studio album and film recordings, local ensembles-for-hire, orchestras, and alternative bands.  He has a special love for Celtic and Jazz Fiddle and is always eager to expand his improvisatory styles.

At age four, David began the Suzuki method, which emphasized a natural internalization of the music.  David completed these studies with Toronto Symphony Principal Second, Sonia Visante, and Dr. Steve Strawley, but credits his success to his father’s (Terry MacLean) constant devotion, and own love for the instrument.  Before beginning his university training after high school, David completed his grade 10 RCM, gained excellent ensemble experience, leading the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra as Concert Master, and won a spot for two seasons studying with conductor Boris Brott at the National Academy Orchestra.  While working with German violinist, Annette-Barbara Vogel at the University of Western Ontario’s Performance program, David played with many quartets and ensembles, and continued to refine his own approach to teaching.

David has teacher qualifications in the Suzuki violin method of teaching, and strongly supports it for children as young as 3.  His work with the El Sistema program in Los Angeles, while in school, also had a formative impact on his sense of dedication to strings teaching, and to familiarizing young people with the Arts.  David currently teaches music with the Fort McMurray Catholic District in Fort McMurray, AB.  He plays often for local churches and events, and enjoys scoring religious music for young players.

David, age 30, is from Dunnville, a small town in the Niagara region of Southern Ontario.  He enjoys water skiing, biking, and History.


Lydia van Thiel – Cello

Lydia’s musical training started with piano lessons, rather than Kindergarten, at age five, and cello lessons added at age nine.  During her youth she played with many youth orchestras and ensembles, ultimately advancing to the position of section cellist with both the Regina and Saskatoon Symphony Orchestras.  Fort McMurray has offered many musical opportunities, including performing many years with Peter Ellis’ various ensembles, as well as providing music support to many of our community’s choirs and musical productions.  As the only cellist in town, Lydia has enjoyed teaching scores of cello and piano students over the years. She also founded and ran the Sunday Night Cello Ladies choir for 10 years. Currently she is seeking new students interested in becoming cellists who have prior background in either piano or some other instrument.   Students must be 10 years or older, with preference being given to adults and an interview with the student is required before registration is accepted.

On a personal side, Lydia has lived in Fort McMurray since 1990 with her husband Bob and where they have raised their two boys.  She has been active in the Potters Guild (student, member and instructor) and believes in lifelong learning. She approaches teaching from a student centered approach where lessons are designed with the students’ interests and strengths in mind.  Lydia has a BA, with distinction, from Athabasca University, a MEd from the University of Calgary, and I works full time as the Educational and Assistive Technology Facilitator for the Fort McMurray Catholic Schools.


Ruben Rotar – Piano

Bio Coming Soon!