Meet the Kennedy Violins Staff of Professional Performers & Teachers

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Meet the Staff

Kennedy Violins is owned and operated exclusively by trained, educated, and experienced professional performers, teachers, and luthiers who know classical music and are experts in their individual areas of focus. With our unparalleled expertise, we can guarantee that every instrument is setup and inspected to the highest standards of excellence. 

Contact us at support@kennedyviolins.com or 1-800-779-0242 with any questions about our instruments or services. We are always here to help! 

Leading Representatives

Luthiers

  • Shiloh Congleton, Head Luthier & Amazon Product Specialist (Instrument Setup)
  • Jeff Pomerantz, Luthier (Instrument Setup)
  • Randy Knecht, Luthier (Instrument Setup)
  • Jason Dollar, Apprentice Luthier
  • Chris Morgan, Apprentice Luthier
  • Joe Brown, Apprentice Luthier

 

Support Staff

 

Private Lesson Instructors

  • Katie Lubiens, Violin & Fiddle
  • Amy Crocker, Violin
  • Jessica Rhee, Violin
  • Brooke Carroll, Viola & Violin
  • Bryce Witherington, Viola
  • Brandon Nelson, Piano
  • James Manuele, Guitar & Ukulele
  • Hasan Abualhaj, Cello
  • Rachel Burgh, Cello

 

 

 

 

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Joel Kennedy, President

joelk@kennedyviolins.com

Joel Kennedy is president and global strategist for Kennedy Violins, Inc. He has played viola and violin for over thirty years. He attended the Eastman School of Music in New York, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in viola performance and completed graduate studies in education there as well. He has played professionally with orchestras in the Unites States and around the world and has students attending top conservatories in the U.S. and abroad.

Joel Kennedy originally started Kennedy Violins in order to create a platform to provide high-quality instruments for his own string students, who often showed up at lessons with violins that were barely playable. Since then, Joel has traveled the world in search of makers who not only approach violin making with the highest professional standards but also as an art form to be respected. Every instrument maker that Kennedy Violins represents has been hand-selected because they adhere to Joel's specific standards. He currently volunteers with several youth orchestras and continues to lead Kennedy Violins towards an even brighter future!

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Karen Kennedy, Vice President/International Liaison

karen@kennedyviolins.com

Karen Tsao is a sales representative who specializes in premium instrument consultation. She received her bachelor’s degree in viola performance from the Eastman School of Music. She has performed professionally in orchestras all over the world.

Karen has served as the principal violist for the Portland Opera. Her particular expertise is traveling the world to test and select the best instruments for Kennedy Violins. She is fluent in several languages and is a great asset to Kennedy Violins in communicating with luthiers and selecting only the highest quality instruments.

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Adam Easley, Chief Operational Manager

adam@kennedyviolins.com

Adam has been involved with music since he was eight. He plays violin, guitar, and piano. His high school string orchestra was excellent and toured throughout the United States. He studied with Krzysztof Zymovski and James Stern at UOP. At San Francisco State he played jazz violin in the Creative World Ensemble with Havez Modirzideh with whom he also studied advanced improvisation. He also worked in production in San Francisco for Bill Graham Presents as a stagehand and projectionist. At Evergreen State he studied Music Technology and Audio Engineering.

Adam enjoys composing and recording in his home studio. He has taught at the 4/4 School of Music in Clackamas Oregon for two years.

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Amy Crocker, Administrative Assistant & Head of Online Sales

amy@kennedyviolins.com

Amy started playing the violin at eight years old, and after ten years of private lessons, Suzuki camps, private gigs, and performances with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Clark College Orchestra, and Harding University Orchestra, she finally found her musical passion playing in the pit orchestra for The Music Man. Her favorite musical experiences so far have been performing in her university's production of Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan with Vancouver’s own Journey Theater. She loves the theater thrill.

Amy brings that same love of teamwork and camaraderie to her position at Kennedy Violins. She is excited to work with customers to find instruments that help them find their own passion.

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Alberto Gonzalez, Customer Service Representative 

alberto@kennedyviolins.com

Alberto was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington, and began playing the violin at the age of ten. He has participated in school orchestras throughout his life, most recently performing with the top chamber orchestra at Mountain View High School from where he graduated in 2016. He also performed in the Evergreen School District Honor Orchestra for multiple years.

Alberto is passionate and dedicated to his work for Kennedy Violins, and for the past three years at Kennedy, has been excited to be in an environment where he can be close to what he loves to do — make music. With music as a main focus in his life, Alberto also teaches swing dancing privately in Vancouver and Portland.

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Katie Lubiens, Online Sales Manager & Violin Instructor

katiej@kennedyviolins.com

With a background in performing classical, traditional Irish, Celtic, gypsy, blues, rock ’n’ roll, country, folk, modern, klezmer, and even improvisation, Katie customizes her lessons to the style of music her students want to learn. Her energetic teaching style gets her students excited about making music while learning the fundamentals of technique and theory which are imperative to becoming a great violinist. She believes that with a strong foundation of reading sheet music and understanding impeccable intonation, her students can take their learned skills into any genre of music with ease. Each lesson with Katie incorporates some form of ear training, sight reading, technique coaching, muscle memory exercises, and defining the student’s personal goals with their violin so Katie can create a customized curriculum to attain their musical aspirations.

Katie currently performs with several groups around the Pacific Northwest. Her groups range from a classical quartet, a traditional Irish group, a classic rock and folk band, a country and blues group, and a gypsy steampunk band. Her vast experience with these different musical genres has influenced her teaching style to incorporate fun new repertoire, technique, and teaching methods into her lesson program. Katie recognizes that music comes in many different forms and styles, and she loves exploring both traditional and new ways to express oneself through music. As a teacher, Katie hopes to inspire her students to find the same joy from making music as she has for so many years. 

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James Manuele, Customer Service Representative

james@kennedyviolins.com

James has been a music teacher for over twenty years, learning and advancing his craft as a teacher. He has studied guitar pedagogy, piano and has written a basic method book that have he uses successfully. In his years teaching, he has dealt with students needs from learning disabilities to social issues that create obstacles in their development, and a lot of techniques using communication skills with music as a medium to help those students overcome barriers in their lives.

He has also been teaching music and guitar classes since 1997. Lecturing as an educator on the importance of art in the community, at libraries, schools, churches, museums; He is a resident of Vancouver, WA and has offered himself as a liaison to students in the surrounding schools. He has been a part of teaching programs in the middle and high school level and has been invited to participate in school music education advising and productions. James also has great joy taking on the responsibility of teacher and mentor and has seen the result of his work from the responses by parents as well as students themselves.

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Zach Sears, Customer Service Representative

zach@kennedyviolins.com

Zach Sears is a Portland native with a bachelors degree in bass performance from PSU. He’s been an active private teacher in the Vancouver area since graduating in 2010. He’s studied with Jeff Johnson of the Oregon Symphony as well Jazz artists Glenn Moore, Alan Jones, Dan Schulte, and Kevin Deitz. Zach performs as a member of the SW Washington symphony as well as freelancing throughout SW Washington and the Portland area. When he’s not playing bass Zach enjoys permaculture gardening, mountain biking, kayaking, and anything that gets him out in the great outdoors of the pacific northwest. 

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Bryce Witherington, Customer Service Representative

bryce@kennedyviolins.com

Bryce Witherington is a passionate violist and is a student of the sciences and the arts. His interest in music began early with his introduction to his grandmother, and he found a perfect match in the viola near ten years ago. Since, he has studied privately in the viola and in composition, and performed in honors groups all throughout his public education. He is currently focused on his studies at Clark College and working/teaching at Kennedy Violins, but he hopes to begin performing again soon.

His philosophy on musicality is rooted in traditionalism, mostly because of his upbringing with romantic era pieces, but he isn't afraid to explore newer schools of thought surrounding music and society. This is reflected in his personality and expression through expanding his interest in music to his hobbies and interests such as film and animation, where music is often not the centerpiece but an emotional guide.

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Shiloh Congleton, Head Luthier & Amazon Product Specialist

Shiloh Congleton apprenticed one-on-one for several years under an exceptional luthier and master repairman in a West Coast shop authorized by C.F. Martin & Co. After performing warranty-related work on Martin instruments, Shiloh’s professional training has given him the ability to recognize the subtle differences that make instruments perform both as they should and at their best—the latter for which he strives.

Shiloh loves putting instruments in the hands of those that wish to play them, spreading the power of music as far as possible. He strives to provide anyone with a desire to play instruments with high-end setup that are both affordable and playable.

Beyond his expertise in violin setup, Shiloh enjoys building instruments and spending time with his beautiful wife and daughter.

Jason Dollar, Luthier

Jason Dollar is an Apprentice Luthier at Kennedy Violins. Along with his musical background, Jason is excited to bring the technical finesse of his production background to the art of luthiering. He is invigorated by the unique differences every violin has and enjoys the subtleties of this craft. He is inspired by the shared focus of the Kennedy team in providing quality and furthering the world of musicians.

Jason is a Northwest native who loves camping, hiking, and just exploring the outdoors. He has been playing guitar for many years, and has recorded and performed Rock n' Roll of various styles. He looks forward to further sharing the joy of playing music with his niece and nephew.

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Jeff Pomerantz, Luthier & Guitar Instructor

Jeff has been performing on guitar for over ten years, concentrating in classical and jazz studies and rock music. Jeff graduated from Frostburg State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Business, and moved to the Vancouver/Portland area to pursue a life in music. He enjoys working as a luthier here at Kennedy Violins, setting up and repairing violins. He also builds guitars outside of work and can be found performing locally in several groups in the Portland Area.

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Michelle Pomerantz, Outfit Specialist and Photographer

Michelle is a multi-discipline fine artist. Growing up, she trained as a singer; at the peak of her career sang in Carnegie Hall in New York, and received many awards for her performances in Jazz and Classical ensembles. She now does vocal coaching in the Portland Area. In 2010, she received her Bachelor's Degree in Fine Art Photography and Painting from University of California, Santa Cruz. She is thrilled that her passion for photography and for music can come together in her career at Kennedy Violins.

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Anthony Rabago, Shipping Manager

Anthony brings over 10 years of warehouse experience to his role as shipping manager for Kennedy Violins. His attention to detail and organizational background are key to keeping the shipping process worry-free. He enjoys being around people who play so many different instruments and appreciates the family environment at KV.

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Jessica Rhee, Product and Graphic Design

Jessica Rhee started playing the violin at 5 years old and grew up involved in Portland’s classical music community. At 8, she was the youngest person to then be accepted in the Portland Youth Philharmonic. She played with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, leading the orchestra as concert mistress in its 2006 tour to Europe. She was also selected as a soloist in the Pacific Northwest Korean-American Youth Music Competition. 

At New York University, Jessica majored in Violin Performance, gaining a solid technical foundation with Gregory Fulkerson and developing her artistic sensibility with Naoko Tanaka. After working as a professional violinist in New York City, Jessica pursued her master’s degree in Historical Musicology at the University of Oxford. Specializing in 20th-century Russian music, Jessica delved into her intellectual passion for seeing the history of ideas reflected in Western art music. She was also involved in many of the University’s musical groups, including the Oxford University Symphony Orchestra, the Oxford University String Ensemble, and led as concert mistress in the Oxford-Cambridge Trinity College Concert of the Mozart Requiem. 

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Eli Graf, Videographer and Shop Assistant

Eli Graf is a Vancouver, WA native and a recent graduate from Mountain View High School. He will be attending Clark College in the fall. He was heavily involved in both video production and Music throughout his schooling, a perfect combination for working at Kennedy Violins!

Eli first started playing the Bass in the 6th Grade. His past ensembles have included Chamber Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Pep Band, and various professional pit orchestras throughout the Portland Area. Eli loves that his job at Kennedy Violins allows him to blend his passion for music and visual storytelling.

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 Brandon Nelson, Amazon Support

Brandon began his piano studies at the age of 12 in Mount Vernon, WA. He graduated from Washington State University in 2016 with a degree in PianoPerformance with a Jazz Emphasis. During his studies, Brandon studied directly from renowned musicians Brian Ward, Gerald Berthiaume, and Greg Yasinitsky. Brandon is a prizewinner in multiple competitions, including the Washington State Music Teachers Association’s District One Recital (2011), Phase I Scholarship Competition (2012-2016),and The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival (2015 and 2016). In 2016, Brandon was also selected as the pianist to play at Hamp’s Club. Currently a working musician, Brandon is playing with jazz and rock groups around Vancouver and Portland.

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Hasan Abualhaj, Customer Service Intern

Hasan has recently graduated from Portland State University with a Bachelors of Music in Cello Performance. He studied under Hamilton Cheifetz for seven years.

While at PSU, he worked with the Portland Ballet Company on their yearly Thanksgiving show. He is currently a sub for the Portland Columbia, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Along with playing Modern Cello, Hasan also plays Baroque Cello. He has a vast knowledge of music history and is happy to teach from all eras, as well as basic theory, all the way through formal analysis and hopes to bring that expertise to use at Kennedy Violins.