John was born in Riverdale, Maryland, and attended a Lutheran private school where his music teacher helped encourage his love of music to grow. John and his family moved to a blueberry farm in Bucyrus, Missouri, in 2004. He then attended Houston High School, graduating in 2009.
John's first experienced The STARS Foundation when his brothers were taking part in the production of Alice in Wonderland Jr. He served as Stage Manager for that play and has been involved with many productions since.
John is currently taking voice and piano lessons to help him further his understanding of music.
Grover Willcox was born on the East Coast in Hackensack, New Jersey. (In the same hospital where the TV show “House” was filmed!) Grover’s dad was a full-time pastor of a church in Newark, NJ, for 45 years. He was a flutist and played all through his school years, including four years at Wheaton College as orchestra flutist. At age six and a half, Grover was given permission to play the flute with his father as his first teacher. His desire to play lasted for several months and then was quenched! However, Grover’s grandmother set a timer for 30 minutes each weekday for years so he continued practicing and lessons.
Grover’s own “career” started in grammar school when he tried out for the orchestra and found that he was the best in class (so to speak). He says, “This was good for the ego and I commenced serious studying.” Grover outgrew his dad’s instruction, and then took lessons from an amazing flutist from the New Jersey Symphony - a graduate from Julliard who studied with the great George Barrere. He then took an entrance exam and was admitted to Arts School of Fine Arts (similar to Fame) and studied through high school with three periods of music per day, plus concert band, marching band, and orchestra. During the latter part of high school Grover changed teachers to Genieve Hall, principal flutist with the NJ Symphony.
Grover’s own performances during this time consisted of playing flute in Newark Symphony and Hillside Symphony Orchestras. He also performed at various venues for both church and secular events. During his Sophomore year of high school, Grover opened for a Carnegie Hall pianist who was performing in Newark. The piece was Cecil Chaminade’s “Concertina for Flute.” After graduation, Grover started Jersey State Teacher’s College, then deciding it wasn’t for him at the time he joined the US Navy, auditioning for and joining the Naval School of Music in Little Creek, Virgina.
Jumping ahead to later years, Grover learned the trade of carpentry, got married, had two daughters, and finally worked in the area of international exporting, shipping, and packing. He owned a successful crating and packing company for a number of years. After 25 years in shipping, he and his wife felt called to full time missions work in Uganda in Eastern Africa. This decision was rather difficult, as they had just reached a very comfortable stage in their life. However, in 2000 they sold their house and moved to Uganda, working over three years before returning to the USA. Upon returning, Grover worked for Teen Challenge in Garrison, New York, for three years before “retiring” to Cabool.
“Why Cabool?” you might ask. After realizing that taxes, etc. were too high to settle in New Jersey near old friends and family, Grover and his wife returned to an area they had visited during the 90’s while looking for retirement properties. They chose Cabool, building a new house and becoming (almost) Ozarkians. “After nine years we truly call Cabool home,” Grover states, “and we are learning to enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks. After all, we live where others come to vacation!”
Grover became aware of STARS several years ago when a STARS student, who was leaving for college, asked if he would get involved and teach - which is exactly what he did! He now enjoys playing and teaching, and his goal is to pass on the beauty of producing beautiful music and to help students establish good study skills, which carry over to other areas. Grover and his wife, Marianne, live on a small farm with beef cattle and vegetable gardens. They are both involved with several other local non-profit organizations, and they thoroughly enjoy their work.
Stacey grew up in a small town in central Illinois. She has always had a passion for all things creative and children, which led her to study both child psychology and photography. She has been fortunate enough to have traveled to Europe and had the opportunity to live in several places before settling in southern Missouri with her family.
Stacey became involved with STARS in 2012, shortly after moving to the area. She has helped make costumes for 10 STARS productions and has been affectionately nicknamed "The Costume Lady." It is her desire to use fun art projects to instill the principles of art as well as inspire children to always think creatively.
Hannah, one of the Executive Director's many children, is 18 years old recently finished her senior year of high school. Hannah has always been an athlete. She says her parents gave her many opportunities to find out what she really loves and wants to do with her life. A gymnast from an early age, her parents enrolled her in competitive gymnastics. By the time she was nine, Hannah was competing in the Junior Olympics. Although she placed in all the events, her greatest love was the balance beam where she consistently scored 9.9's and 9.8's out of 10.
Hannah spent four years training five days a week, working hard because every gymnast knows it's not easy training for the uneven bars or landing a perfect score on the vault. It takes total dedication to do the things you see in the Olympics. Hannah's gymnastics journey came to an end when she injured both her ankles on a layout twist. She struggled for a time but her parents encouraged her to rest. Her experience as a gymnast taught her hard work and dedication.
Around this time, The STARS Foundation was created, and Hannah began to dance and learn to play the cello. She learned the piano at a young age from her mother and now plays six instruments. Hannah and her sisters have arranged and composed several pieces of music which are featured on their YouTube channel Counterpoint 69. Hannah has performed in many concerts and plays produced by The STARS Foundation. Musical theatre is one of her favorite things to do, and she has performed many roles including: Mushu in Mulan, Ursula in Little Mermaid, and the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz.
Tim began his violin studies at an early age with Carlton Herrett, a first violinist in the National Symphony in Washington D.C. Tim has also studied with Jody Gatewood at Catholic University, Lynn Pierce with the Air Force Orchestra, Dennis Powowraski also with the National Symphony Orchestra, Laura Boyd and Kenneth Sarch at Shenandoah College and Conservatory where Tim earned a Bachelor in Music – Performance degree. Tim also studied with David Hays at Missouri State University where he earned a Masters in Music – Performance degree (3.98 gpa). Tim has also performed in Master classes for notable violinists such as Charles Castleman, Earl Carlysis, Joel Krosnick and Joseph Silverstein.
Tim has more than 30 years pf professional experience playing in many orchestras such as Arlington Symphony (Virginia), Alexandria Symphony (Virginia), Maryland Symphony, Roanoke Symphony, Valdosta Symphony, Albany Symphony (Georgia), First Coast Symphony, Central Florida Symphony and Springfield Symphony (Missouri). Tim currently teaches at Missouri Southern State University.
Elizabeth is a 2011 graduate of Cabool High School. At the age of 15, Elizabeth began professional vocal lessons at Missouri State University, which gave her the desire to pursue more training for a career in music. Immediately following graduation, she went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Musical Theatre from College of the Ozarks, graduating in 2016. It was there at College of the Ozarks that she received many opportunities to perform. Some of her favorite roles include: Cinderella in Into the Woods, Clyta Take in Four Star Country Boy, Alice Beineke in The Addams Family, and Mellie Hopper in Railway to Heaven.
Elizabeth now resides in Branson, MO, where she works full-time as a performer at Silver Dollar City. She is also working toward a Masters Degree in Vocal Performance and Opera Studies. Elizabeth is extremely excited to have the opportunity to teach at The STARS Foundation under the leadership of her former piano teacher, Rebecca Peterson.
David began his cello studies in Pereira, Colombia with Adriana Marin and Marcela Jimenez. He continued his studies in Bogota in the Central University with Laura Ospina and Petar Ivanov during the period of 3 years. After getting admitted with an outstanding audition in the Conservatory of Music at the National University of Colombia, he joined the cello studio with M.M. Gabriel Guzman for a period of 5 years. In addition, he enrolled the Bogota Chamber Music School where he supplemented their training in pedagogy chamber ensembles and cello performance and pedagogy with Adriana Marin. In 2015, David got admitted in the Graduate Music Performance program at Missouri State University, where was recipient of the William T. White Scholarship Award for his high-quality audition.
David has received master classes with Soloists such as Aldo Mata, Eduardo Valenzuela, Andres Diaz, Edgar Moreau, Alvaro Bitran, Luis Biava, Theodore Buchholz, Peter Opie, Damien Ventula, Detmar Leertower, Crispin Campbell and Michael Hell. He has participated as an orchestral musician volunteer with the National Symphony Orchestra of Colombia, active musician in the Symphony Orchestra of the Conservatory of Music of the National University of Colombia, Chamber String Orchestra of the Central University, MSU Symphony and Chamber Orchestras and Springfield Symphony Orchestra in cities such as Pereira, San Andres Island, Bogota, Lima, Barcelona and Kansas City.
Lori has been involved in music nearly all her life, but got a relatively late start in dance. She had a passion for step dancing early on, but the time and opportunity never seemed to present at the same point. Six years ago, they finally both happened at once. She jumped at the chance to start clogging with Reda Foster and fell in love with a discipline that combines music, movement, and rhythm. Two years, several performances, and a couple of workshops later she started helping teach new routines. Of course, to teach, you have to know it well yourself first, so she started spending quite a few hours on the hardwood. That lead to two of her four kids learning to clog as well.
Lori was introduced to the STARS program in late 2014 through square dancing at Foster’s Outback and quickly took advantage of it for both her kids and herself. In the fall of 2015, after taking part in STARS’ production of Mary Poppins, enough interest was expressed that she started teaching a clogging class at the STARS studio. It quickly went from 60 minutes to 90 and split into two classes. Lori loves being able to share the joy that is dance with others. In addition to clogging, she also enjoys dancing lines, squares, western couple, contra, ballroom, swing, ballet, and tap dance and believes firmly that you are never “too old” to start something new!
Christopher was born and raised in Houston, Missouri. An outgoing child, he was to make his acting debut at the Houston Elementary Kindergarten Circus as the ringmaster, only to be struck down by a sudden case of chicken pox only days before his premiere. Shattered, he's spent every day since then struggling to find purpose in a cold and heartless world.
From the darkness shone a light of hope: The STARS Foundation! After assisting as a stagehand on the foundation's production of The Wizard of Oz, Christopher has spent many a weekend shoving props about and generally getting in the way of young talent. After a short stint as one of three instructors for the STARS improvisational acting class, he has since embraced the full breadth of theatre and assists in teaching multi-faceted acting classes to the young hopefuls he then bumps into backstage.
Drama aside, he has studied at Drury University and competed at the local and state level in the National Speech and Debate Association, formerly known as the NFL. He still cannot play football.
Jodie Woosley-Forbes recently retired from the Houston School District, teaching in the public schools for over 30 years. She graduated with Honors and a Bachelors of Music in Education degree from the Dana School of Music, part of Youngstown State University of Ohio, and was principal flute with the University Wind Ensemble. She traveled with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra and was principal flute in the Venice Suncoast Symphony Orchestra of Florida. She is presently Assistant conductor of the Southern Ozarks Community Orchestra and the STARS Orchestra. She has worked with many musical groups including, "The Shortleaf Band," handbell choirs, and various vocal and instrumental ensembles. She is the mother of two sons, Lawton and Ahren, and a daughter, Olivia, who is also a member of the Southern Ozarks Community Orchestra. Jodie has 7 grandchildren and, like all grandmothers, she enjoys them very much!
Paul Foeller is a retired U.S. Army Bandsman with over 20 years of experience as a trumpet player, composer/arranger, conductor, and recording/live sound engineer.
Mr. Foeller studied trumpet under the direction of Mr. Jim Fortune, and became a trumpet instructor at age 17 for Nottelman Music in St. Louis. Upon graduation from high school, he joined the Army Band Program in 1980 and has been stationed throughout the United States, Panama, and Germany.
In addition to his military training, Mr. Foeller has received an education in Photography, Poetry, Electronics, Business, and Accounting.
A native Missouri resident, Christopher Lair currently resides in Springfield, MO with his wife and son, where they enjoy a thriving arts community and the beautiful Ozarks wildlife.
He began his musical career at Perryville High School in Perryville, MO, where he performed at several major venues across the United States and on national television as a member of the McDonald’s All-American High School Band. He studied music education at Southeast Missouri State University, earned the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The University of Kansas, and the Doctor of Music degree from The Florida State University. He is currently Director of Bands at Seymour High School in Seymour, MO, after serving in a similar capacity at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City, MO. Previously, he taught at Evangel University, where he was instructor of tuba and euphonium, a member of the Faculty Brass Quintet, founder and director of the Evangel tuba-euphonium ensemble, and assistant director of The Evangel University Marching Band.
Dr. Lair is active locally, nationally, and abroad as an artist and educator. He is founder and director of a community tuba-euphonium ensemble, which includes performers from several universities, high schools, and other community members. He is also founder and artistic director of the Springfield Brass Choir, a group of world class performers and educators who give free concerts and clinics with the sponsorship of the Hoover Music Company. He is a member of the Mid-America Tuba-Euphonium Quartet, a professional group with an educational mission. He has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral musician, and military bandsman across the United States and Central America. He frequently serves as a clinician and adjudicator for such organizations as the International Tuba Euphonium Association, Missouri Music Educators Association, and numerous high schools, middle schools, and universities.
In addition to Seymour High School, Helias High School, and Evangel University, he has taught at The Missouri State University, Drury University, The Ozarks Technical Community College, The Southeast Missouri State University, The University of Missouri, and The Florida State University. He has coached numerous youth orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and brass groups. His music appreciation textbook, Savoring Sounds, was published in 2010 with Cognella Academic Publishing. His scholarship also includes presentations on music of the Great Depression Era, and a collection of arrangements for solo tuba and/or euphonium and piano of works by early American composers. He is the author of a series of method books for beginning and intermediate tubists and euphoniumists titled Journeys; A Methodical Approach for the Young Tubist (Euphoniumist). He has commissioned, arranged, and premiered several new pieces for brass quintet, tuba-euphonium ensemble, and tuba solo.
His applied low brass students have won numerous honors, including selection as finalists and winners in regional, state, and national competitions sponsored by such organizations as The Music Teachers National Association and The International Tuba Euphonium Association. They have been selected as finalists in auditions for premiere military bands and symphony orchestras. His students have also appeared on NPR's radio show “From the Top”, in ensembles such as the I.T.E.A. All-Star Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble, and they frequently participate in a variety of festivals such as Boston's Tanglewood Institute, The Symphonia Workshop, The Brevard Music Center, and The Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.
He is a member of International Tuba Euphonium Association, Missouri Music Educators Association, Music Educators National Conference, Music Teachers National Association, and Pi Kappa Lambda.
Miss Jenn grew up in the south, a shy and awkward child who enjoyed acting in family skits, school productions, and church plays. Now less shy, but equally awkward, she still loves all things theater. She has participated in lead roles in STARS productions as well as church plays. She has also enjoyed directing children’s plays in her church.
Miss Jenn enjoys sharing this love of theater with students, helping them become comfortable “playing pretend,” which is really the essence of acting. She loves sharing acting lessons and strategies, while reinforcing those lessons with games and activities.
“Acting is an art that helps tell stories. Storytelling engages the heart and helps us appreciate the true, the good, and the beautiful. These elements direct our hearts to the One who created them.”
Ms. Jenn's other passion is teaching. She has taught through homeschool groups, Sunday School, and Youth Groups for over twenty years. Her favorite age group to teach is middle school, mostly because she loves their refreshing honesty. She jumped at the chance to teach theater, which combined her two passions into an hour of fun learning.
Miss Jazmynn Grounds joins STARS as the new Jazz/Hip hop dance instructor. Miss Grounds currently teaches Beginning and Intermediate hip hop at Point Academy in Springfield, MO. She started dancing when she was 10 years old, taking her first studio class in Modesto, CA. She spent three years on the Ozark Varsity Dance team and was captain her senior year. Miss Grounds was selected to join the Motion Playlist Dance Team in Springfield, going on to win many ribbons. She has competed at the MSU Invitational Dance Convention Competition, winning multiple ribbons, and received a medal for UDA All-American. She also enjoys choreography and has completed several routines.
Matt was raised in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in Houston, Texas, in 1990. He then spent two years in Spain as a missionary and learned to read, write, and speak fluently in the southern part of Spain.
It is in Spain that Matt really learned different cultures and fell in love with learning about other cultures. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in History with a Spanish minor. Shortly after graduating, he moved with his family to Missouri. He got his teaching certification from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, and began teaching Spanish at Cabool High School. He has also taught 6th grade math and world history. This will be Matt’s 10th year teaching. He recently received his Master’s degree in Educational Administration and loves the teaching profession.
Matt was married to his beautiful wife Rebecca on August 25, 1995. She is a concert pianist and very talented with music. They have been blessed with seven wonderful children. They are the proud parents of six daughters: Tessa, Madison, Hannah, Kyleigh, Abigayle, and Elleigh and one son, Weston.
Matt is currently employed as Spanish teacher at Houston High School. He is involved with family and church. He loves being in the community and serving on boards. He also enjoys every aspect of sports and recreation; especially coaching High School football. He too is learning to play the cello at The STARS Foundation.
Ms. Debbie Claus joins the faculty of The STARS Foundation with 40 years
of experience teaching dance in Springfield, MO. She opened her own
studio when she was just 22 years old after graduating from Missouri State University with a bachelor’s degree in Dance Education. She spent many years teaching classes in ballet, tap, and jazz at her Springfield studio.
Ms. Claus is trained in the Ceccehetti method of dance instruction, obtaining certification in classical ballet in 6 of the 7 grades offered by the Cecchetti Council of America. The Cecchetti Method, as described by The Cecchetti Council of America, “is a rigorous method which pays careful attention to the laws of anatomy. It develops all of the qualities essential to the dancer: balance, poise, strength, elevation, elasticity, ‘ballon,’ etc. It is classic in its purity and clear-cut style.”
Ms. Claus has also been qualified by examination and certified to teach by
the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, Dance Master of America, and Dance Educators of America. She has studied with some of the finest teachers in America, including Roni Mahler - former soloist with Ballet Russe, National Ballet, and American Ballet Theater; Patrick Crommett - Royal Winnepeg Ballet and Royal Swedish Ballet of Stockholm; and Margaret Marsh - former pupil of Maestro Cecchetti and holder of his Advanced Certificate, who was a Fellow of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in London.
Barbara is a lifelong student of gardening and landscape design with a passion to promote the beauty, production, and conservation aspects of gardens everywhere. She believes in the power of gardens to better meet the physical, spiritual, and cultural needs of our human selves and the nature communities we occupy.
As a mother of seven children, she has trained some excellent weeders. Barbara's love of gardening was initiated by the lovely productive garden of her paternal grandparents who lived in Huntington Beach, California. This passion was fostered in her youth by many trips to Descanso Gardens, the Los Angeles Arboretum, and time spent enjoying many different biomes across the United States.
Becky has been involved with music all of her life. Growing up in a musical family, she can't remember a time when singing wasn't a large part of family gatherings: Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, parents, cousins, and siblings all surrounded her grandma at the piano. Becky started piano lessons at the age of eight. She began playing clarinet in the 6th grade. Through Junior High and High School her love and appreciation for music expanded to choir and band. Her Junior and Senior years she shifted to bass clarinet, when she began attending Sunnydale Academy near Centrailia, MO. Throughout the rest of her high school career, she performed with the school's Honor Choir and Band, touring all over Iowa and Missouri at various churches. Singing in a trio was one of the things she missed most after high school, so her mom and sister joined her. They have enjoyed many special times learning new music and performing together. She also played with the Republic Community Band in Republic, MO, for a few years. Becky began playing with STARS when her daughter joined the program in the spring of 2012. She desires to live a life of Christian service and believes that music is a lifelong activity. She is thrilled to be able to serve others through STARS.
Kristy knew from a young age that she wanted to teach. At the end of her 5th grade year, she attended a band information meeting where she was told that she didn’t have “flute lips” and that she should play the trumpet. It was a good decision for her as she eventually made the Missouri All-State Band her senior year of high school. It was through her involvement in the high school band that she decided that she wanted to teach music.
In 2008, Kristy graduated from Missouri State University with her Bachelor of Music Education. She immediately attended MSU for graduate school and completed her Master of Music with an emphasis in Wind Band Conducting in 2011. While attending university, Kristy performed, both on her trumpet and while conducting, with many music groups including the MSU Wind Ensemble, MSU Wind Symphony, MSU Symphonic Band, as well as various jazz ensemble and pep groups. She now is in her second year of teaching K-12 music and band at Hartville Schools.
She was married to her wonderful husband Ryan on July 6, 2013. The two met while performing in college. Kristy has many hobbies other than music. They include riding one of her three horses, playing with her dog, and watching Cardinals baseball.
Kyleigh is a 16-year-old high school junior. Her focus in life has always been music, and she doesn't know what she would do without it. One of Kyleigh's favorite quotes is, "Music speaks where words cannot."
When she began playing violin at age 10, Kyleigh immediately fell in love with it and knew it would be a part of her future. She works hard and practices constantly. For the last two years, she has been fortunate enough to take lessons from Tim Daucher at Missouri State University in Springfield. Mr. Daucher has been a huge blessing to Kyleigh, and she's excited to continue her lessons with him.
Kyleigh also enjoyed dancing from a young age, especially tap. After a break from dance classes, she began taking clogging with STARS instructor Lori Leichliter. She loves clogging and was excited to be a part of the STARS competitive clogging team who placed first in their first competition this past year, qualifying them for Nationals. The team performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, and placed second overall. Kyleigh can't wait to compete again next year!
Kyleigh also participates in STARS theatre productions and has had two main roles: Tweedle Dee in Alice in Wonderland and Jasmine in Aladdin. Outside of music and theatre, Kyleigh loves the outdoors and running. She runs three to four times per week and is currently training for a 10k. Next year she would like to work with a flight instructor and obtain her pilot's license. Kyleigh has always wanted to be a pilot, but she also wants to have a family. Those two goals aren't very compatible, so she plans to get her license and fly on her own. Kyleigh also plans to attend college. She loves music and everything else she does with STARS, and she can't wait to see what fun and exciting things the future holds!