The faculty of Northwest Arkansas Suzuki School of Music is highly trained in Shinichi Suzuki’s method of teaching music to children. Our teachers bring experience, education, and enthusiasm to each lesson and group class. Our teachers are dedicated to you and your children.
Christy Paxton: Violin/Viola
Director of NWA Suzuki School of Music
The Director of NWA Suzuki School of Music, Christy Paxton is an active Suzuki teacher and performer. Formerly of Joplin, MO, she studied Suzuki violin from the age of 5. She brings over 24 years of teaching experience and extensive training to Bentonville as an advocate of the Suzuki Method. Her training includes work with Suzuki Trainers such as Alice Joy Lewis, Ronda Cole, Ed Kreitman, Carol Dallinger, Cathryn Lee, Tom Wermuth, Linda Case, Barbara Barber, Susan Kempter, Teri Einfeldt, Brian Lewis, Gabe Bolkosky, and many others. She started the Suzuki program in January of 2012 at Walnut Farm Montessori School, and partners with WFMS in bringing Suzuki education to many of the area’s young children. She maintains a high standard of excellence in private teaching, trains parents to be involved, and provides stimulating and motivation-building group classes and performance opportunities for her students. She currently teaches over 45 students, and is very excited to see the Suzuki Method growing in the NWA region.
She also finds time to be a symphony and solo performer, chamber musician, and director. In 2008, she founded and directed The Youth Orchestra of the 4 States, which allowed students throughout the region to perform in two different orchestras, a beginner-level group, and a full concert orchestra of more advanced students. She performs regularly with the Fort Smith Symphony, the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas (SoNA), the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra. She was selected by the SAA (Suzuki Association of the Americas) to participate in the Parents as Partners program in 2015 as a contributor. Her Parent Training program is one of the reasons for the success of the Suzuki programs. Her students have taken top chairs in All-Region and All-State Orchestras for the last 4 years since moving to Arkansas. Others have won competitions and have performed with several area symphonies. She is a mother to 4 children, who are enthusiastic supporters of the Suzuki School.
Holly Smardo: Violin
She has served as Concertmaster of the North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and currently performs with the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra (APO) under the direction of Steven Byess. In addition, Holly is committed to bringing musical opportunities to Northwest Arkansas by working with the APO to develop programs such as Carnegie Hall’s Link Up.
Holly is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a Bachelor’s degree in music education and an emphasis in performance. She has also completed long term teacher training with Carol Smith and Kent Perry, hence receiving a Master’s degree in Suzuki pedagogy and performance from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Holly has received training from many reputable Suzuki pedagogues including John Kendall, Carol Smith, Ronda Cole, Alice Joy Lewis, James Mauer, Michelle Higa George, Lorraine Fink, Joan Rooney, Stevie Sandven, and Carol Tarr.
John Finch: Cello
John began his cello studies at the age of 7, and grew up in Dallas, TX. He attended Bryan Adams High School where he was a member of the National Honors Orchestra. He received both Bachelors and Masters of Music degrees from Louisiana State University in Cello Performance. He also pursued a Doctoral degree in cello performance at North Texas University where he studied with Adolfo Odnoposoff. He has taught and freelanced as a cellist for many years in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
He is a member of the Faculty at the Suzuki Music School in Fayetteville, AR, where he began teaching in 1993 and currently teaches. He also works as a cello coach for String Coalition. He has spent time in Suzuki Teacher Training with Rick Mooney, Jean Dexter, and Nancy Hare. His students love his devotion to teaching and encouraging young people to love music and love the cello!
Jim Stieren: Classical Guitar
Jim Stieren has taught guitar lessons for many years. Already familiar with the Suzuki Method, but not specifically for the guitar, he discovered in 2011 that classical guitar was one of the Suzuki instruments, and received his Book 1 Teacher Training soon after. He received training for Books 2 and 3 in 2012. Jim has been teaching Suzuki guitar since 2011, and has been looking forward to finding a studio where he has the opportunity to expand from part-time to full-time. Jim is very excited to be relocating from Oregon to Bentonville and joining the NWA Suzuki School.
Note: Please don’t purchase a guitar until you have talked with Jim. Classical guitars have nylon strings instead of steel, and must be sized appropriately for children.