About Our Performing Arts Instructors
What sets Elefante performing arts apart is our instructors. They are top-notch, professional teaching artists actively working in the industry. Their professional backgrounds include Broadway, top regional stages, television, and film, as well as membership in AEA (Actors' Equity Association) and SAG (the Screen Actors' Guild).
Karen Cantor –
Karen's professional credits include the role of Venus in the long-awaited revival of Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus at the Goodspeed Opera House. She played Louisa in The Fantasticks with the Miami Opera, toured as Susan in The Desert Song with Ron Raines, played the title role in Naughty Marietta in New York City, Josephine in HMS Pinafore, The Mistress in Evita with Carolee Carmello, Anna in Tintypes, Maria in The Sound of Music, and Starting Here, Starting Now in the Cayman Islands. On the concert stage, Karen's credits include West Side Story at the Caramoor Festival, musical comedy selections at Carnegie Recital Hall, and a debut as Cunegonde in Candide at Michigan’s Midland Center for the Arts. On television she has been seen as Katie on ABC's All My Children.
Karen has written and/or directed several New Jersey productions that have met with popular acclaim, including many cabaret shows/revues such as Gershwin Cabaret, Kern Cabaret, and Rodgers & Hart Cabaret (Light Opera of New Jersey), and South Mountain TheatreWorks’ Broadway Broads. Also for South Mountain TheatreWorks, Karen served as Assistant Director of The Rocky Horror Show, and Director of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. A fervent aficionado of The American Songbook, Karen’s cabaret performances have been seen at such spots as Here’s to the Arts, The Dancing Goat, the Watchung Arts Center, and countless private functions, charitable fundraisers, parties, and corporate events. Recent roles include Alaura/Carla in City of Angels, Phyllis in Iolanthe, Liliane LaFleur in Nine, Signora Naccarelli in The Light in the Piazza, and Tessie in Gypsy.
David Cantor –
David Cantor appeared on Broadway as Bobinet in La Vie Parisienne and covered the role of Che in Evita, later playing Che with the First National Tour on the West Coast. He appeared Off-Broadway for a year and a half as both Amshel and Nathan Rothschild in the critically acclaimed revival of The Rothschilds at Circle in the Square Downtown. Other credits include Vernon Gersch in They're Playing Our Song; Benny, the comic lead, in a national tour of The Desert Song; Stanley Jerome in both Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound; Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors; Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing; Tony Lumpkin in She Stoops to Conquer; Matt in The Fantasticks in a special production directed by the show's creators, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt; John Adams in 1776; and Charlie in Tintypes.
David won a Perry Award as Best Actor in a Play for his performance as Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross, a role he took on with only four days notice when the original actor left the cast. He was also nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Fagin in Oliver!. Recently he was seen as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady and Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps. In addition, David has performed principal roles in all thirteen Gilbert and Sullivan operas in the USA, Great Britain, and Italy. He has been seen in films including Working Girl, Prince of the City, So Fine, and The Chosen, industrial films for Fidelity Investments and Sharp Electronics. Television appearances include All My Children, Loving, Another World, and Ryan's Hope, and add a recent guest starring role on Madam Secretary, as well as leading and supporting roles on Grave Secrets, Six Degrees of Murder, A Crime to Remember, Redrum, The Hunt with John Walsh, and Mysteries at the Museum.
Laura Chaneski –
Laura obtained a double B.A. in Dance and Sociology from Rutgers University. Some of her favorite professional theater credits include Singin' in the Rain (Kathy) with the Ocean City Theater Company, White Christmas (Rita) at Surflight Theater, Footloose (Ariel) at Bucks County Playhouse, Nunsensations (Sister Leo) at Off-Broadstreet Theater, and White Guy on the Bus (Molly) with the Passage Theater Company. Her television appearances include Law & Order: SVU, Do No Harm and over 50 commercials. Laura has been a dance educator of students ages 2-adult for the past ten years and has choreographed musicals for Kids In Production, Inc. and the Livingston Theater Company. For more, visit www.laurachaneski.com
Clare Dill –
Clare double majored in Theater Arts and Humanities at Fairleigh Dickinson University. While still in college, she discovered teaching drama to children and fell in love. She has taught acting, puppets and playwriting in schools all over NJ and in multiple studios, putting on one-act plays that always try to incorporate a little modern humor to keep the kids interested. She taught at an arts camp in Bologna, Italy in 2010 and used theater as a method for her students to learn English.
Clare still pursues her own acting career in NJ and NYC and has been seen on stages all over, including: Manhattan Repertory, Union County Performing Arts Center, The Workshop Theater NYC, Gotham Comedy Club, and The Living Theater NYC. She is a member of Alliance Repertory Theater Company, most recently seen in “US Drag” and has performed in five of their children’s shows. Clare performs improv comedy with the Red Tie Mafia in NYC and tries to teach her students at Elefante with techniques she uses in that professional setting. She has been seen in many indie films, shorts and webisodes. She tours with an educational show about bullying called “The Cameo Cast”. You can also see her as Ms. Booksy in the webseries "Cool School" (check it out on YouTube!)
Caryn Elefante –
Caryn Elefante has been performing on stage, television and in recording studios since the age of 5. She graduated from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts with a major in Drama and a minor in Music and received her Masters of Education degree from The College of New Jersey.
She has sung on thousands of commercial jingles such as “Pepsi”, “Cool Whip”, “M&M’s”, and “Toys R Us”. Caryn has sung back-up vocals on albums for artists such as Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan, Liza Minelli, Maureen McGovern and Canadian Brass.
Caryn has performed at regional theaters such as Goodspeed Opera House, Musical Theater Works and the Paper Mill Playhouse. She was a semi-finalist on “Star Search” as a junior vocalist in 1990.
Mrs. Elefante is proud to teach Chorus, Theatre and Dance at Madison High School. She has directed Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Les Miserables, Bye Bye Birdie, Wizard of Oz, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 42nd Street, Into the Woods, Seussical: The Musical, The King and I, My Favorite Year, The Sound of Music, Footloose, Gypsy and Oklahoma on the MHS stage and choreographed productions of Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Caryn lives in Florham Park with her wonderful husband, Joe and her beautiful daughter, Cate.
Joe Elefante –
Joe Elefante has traveled 4 continents as a pianist, saxophonist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He has musically directed, conducted or played countless musical theater productions, including several at the Paper Mill Playhouse and Jersey Boys on Broadway and National Tour. Joe founded the Joe Elefante Big Band in 2001, which was the house band at Cecil's Jazz Club for three years, and was featured on ABC's Nightline and in The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Joe is a freelance composer/arranger/ performer, teaches Vocal Music at both Columbia Middle School and Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, and is Artistic Director of our wildly popular Summer Musical Theater Camp.
For more information, visit www.joeelefantemusic.com.
Michelle Finnerty –
Michelle has worked as a professional musician since completing her Bachelor of Music degree from Towson University in 2005. In addition to performing with various theater companies, Michelle is also a private vocal coach.
In addition, Michelle has extensive experience performing and directing for community theater groups across New Jersey. In 2009 she was nominated for a Perry Award for her performance as Belle in the Maurice Levin Theater's production of Beauty and the Beast. Some of her other recent roles have included Mrs. Cohen in Rent and Janet in Rocky Horror Picture Show with South Mountain Theater Works. She was the musical director for the Chatham Community Players production of Seussical, which was nominated for a Perry Award as well. Prior to that, Michelle assumed the roles of Meg in Little Women, Sharon from Master Class and Belle in A Christmas Carol with the Chatham Community Players. Michelle also played Hope in Urinetown with the Strollers of Maplewood.
Outside of her extensive involvement with community theater, Michelle competed as contestant for American Idol and ultimately became semi-finalist during the show's second season. Currently, Michelle is a cantor for The Church of Christ the King in New Vernon and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Bernardsville. Not only does she perform the duties of mass cantor but she also sings for weddings, funerals and various liturgical celebrations.
Suzanne Hevner –
New York credits include the Widow Mason in the Broadway revival of The Music Man directed by Susan Stroman and Off-Broadway productions. A company member of Chicago City Limits (comedy /improv) for five years, she was also a founding member of comedy troupe The Heartless Floozies. She has appeared in many regional theatre productions around the country such as The Oklahoma Lyric Theatre and The Denver Center.
Film and television credits include: Doubt, Broken Flowers, Meet Joe Black, Changing Lanes, The Sopranos, Orange is the New Black, Law and Order, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Master of None, Mindhunter (with Jonathan Groff) and lots of commercials.
With over 20 years of teaching experience, Suzanne has taught acting and improvisation for all ages, novice to professional, as well as corporate executives. She has been a faculty member At Wagner College,the New York Film Academy, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.
Erica Knight –
Erica's extensive professional resume includes prestigious New York and Regional theater credits, performing roles such as Lodovico in the Titan Theatre Company's all-female production of Othello, Ophelia in Hamlet, Nurse Kelly in Harvey, Morris in The Nether and many appearances with the renowned Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, in roles ranging from Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream to Sarah/Clara in Trelawny of the Wells.
Erica's film, television, and commercial work includes featured and lead roles in Good Ol' Boy and The Stranger, as well as supporting roles on television shows such as Gossip Girl and One Live to Live. Erica has appeared in numerous commercials and print advertisements, and has been the cover model for several acclaimed novels, including Jacqueline Kolosov's The Red Queen's Daughter (pictured at left).
Nicole Labrit-Petrewski –
Nicole holds a B.A. in Theater Arts and English from Arcadia University and attended the prestigious LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in NYC as a drama major. She is currently completing her Masters of Arts in Teaching from Columbia College. While teaching in New York, San Diego, and New Jersey, she directed and choreographed a number of shows including Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr., Fame, Scream Queens, The Nutcracker, On Your Toes, Hairspray, Jr., and Suite Surrender for students ages 3 to 18.
Nicole is currently the Performing Arts Department chair at the Purnell School and choreographs for their award winning dance company. Nicole has spent many summers with Elefante Music School and always looks forward to the Musical Theater Summer Camps. She also co-directs and choreographs Elefante's Spring Musical with Karen Cantor.
Maria Malanga –
Maria Malanga is a recent graduate of NYU’S Masters Program in Dance Education, and is so thrilled to join this performing arts community! She graduated from the NYU Vocal Performance program in 2012, and is now an Adjunct Professor for the program. She also teaches Jazz dance for the Department of Theatre at Kean University, and Theatre dance at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. She has performed professionally at TriArts Sharon Playhouse (Damn Yankees) in Connecticut, as well as in Off-Broadway productions of Angelina Ballerina and at the Snapple Theater Center's Piggy Nation: The Musical in New York City. Maria recently choreographed NYU's production of Pins and Needles, and has remained the associate choreographer for their Main stage productions of Kiss me Kate, Grand Hotel, Carousel, and The Drowsy Chaperone. She believes in story-telling through movement, song, and dance, and guides students to develop an ability to transition elements of confidence, collaboration, and open-mindedness into their everyday life. She consistently encourages creativity, uniqueness, and acceptance.
Sandy Sainvil –
Sandy Sainvil is very excited to join the staff of Elefante Music and School for the Performing Arts. As a teaching artist, Sandy has been a staff member at Dreamcatcher Repertory Theater's Summer Theater Conservatory, Premier Stages, and Very Special Arts of New Jersey. As an actor, Sandy's work includes the lead role of "Yolanda" in The Theater Project production of Crowns, "Disciple" in the Bullet Theater Collaborative's all-female cast production of Godspell, "Trixipop" in LiveIn Theater's flashmob film project, "Rozie" in Dreamcatcher Repertory Theater's The Electric Baby, and "Sister Robert Ann" in Edison Valley Playhouse in Nunsense II: The Second Coming. Sandy is also Drama Director at a local church, and has written and directed four plays.
Joshua Schnetzer –
Joshua Schnetzer graduated summa cum laude from Kean University holding a B.A. in Theatre with a minor in Dance. He is the resident choreographer, Chairperson and a founding member of The Bullet Theatre Collaborative. His choreography has been featured in BTC’s Perry Award winning Razia’s Shadow (Best Original Musical), Assassins, and Parade. Regionally, Joshua has choreographed for Paper Mill Playhouse’s New Voices Concert: Oh, What A Night and Hooray for Hollywood. He went on to assist Broadway choreographer, Wendy Syeb, on the world premier musical Mosses Man, which premiered in NYC as part of NYMF. As a director, Joshua has created a movement inspired retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and the devised work, Water Does. He serves as the Dance Director of the award-winning Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir and is a teaching artist for Paper Mill Playhouse’s Theatre School/Conservatory and Oak Knoll School.