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Our Faculty

James Ray

Music Director


Dr. James Ray is a string music educator and performer, currently on faculty at Western Washington University. Formerly Director of Orchestras at Port Angeles High School, Dr. Ray currently conducts Bellingham's North Sound Youth Symphony in Washington State. He also teaches private violin and viola lessons to students at intermediate and advanced levels. Beyond his day-to-day roles, he thoroughly enjoys working with various organizations as a guest conductor, adjudicator, and clinician. He has also established a presence as a researcher, with an article based on his doctoral work appearing in the Journal of Research in Music Education.  He is a co-founder of Summer Strings, launched in 2018 at Olympic National Park.

Monique Mead

Violin and Artistic Director

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Inspired and mentored by Leonard Bernstein, Monique Mead has been a lifelong ambassador for classical music as a violinist, educator and innovator. Performing as a soloist, chamber musician, and presenter, Mead has devoted her performing career to nurturing new audiences and deepening the musical experience for seasoned concertgoers. Since 1998, she has reached millions on German television and radio featuring her innovative youth concerts with prestigious German orchestras in Berlin, Munich, Düssedorf, and Cologne, among others. In the U.S. she has collaborated with the Pittsburgh Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Port Angeles Symphony and other organizations to create engaging concert experiences for young people. She currently serves as Board Chair of Chamber Music Pittsburgh and directs the Music Entrepreneurship program she created at Carnegie Mellon School of Music. Her passion for Music and Wellness has led her to recent appointment as Artistic Director of a Festival at Rancho la Puerta, a top wellness resort in Mexico.

Guest Faculty 2023

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A native of Port Angeles, Erin Hennessey performs as a soloist and chamber musician across the United States and Ireland and is deeply invested in reviving the music of under-represented composers. As a freelance violinist, she works with the National Symphony Orchestra, RTE Concert Orchestra, Irish Chamber Orchestra, and Irish National Opera, and is an avid chamber musician, recently performing the Irish premiere of Bastien David’s quartet L’impatiente in New Music Dublin and leading the world premiere of Ina Boyle’s chamber opera Maudlin of Paplewick for the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival.  In 2021, she received the Gaiety Bursary to typeset, perform, and record Boyle’s Phantasy for violin and chamber orchestra, which she premiered in November 2021. Erin is a graduate of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and has studied with Marilyn McDonald, Ida Haendel, Sarah Sew, and Mia Cooper


 Cellist Jared Ballance, a northwest native, is active as both a performer and teacher in the Seattle area. The Cleveland Plain Dealer praised his solo playing for its “poetic and dramatic panache.” He is currently the cellist of the Ballance Duo, was previously the cellist of the Samford String Quartet and the Brandywine Piano Trio, and has performed chamber music with members of the Cleveland Orchestra. Before returning to the northwest, Jared was professor of cello at Oakwood University and Samford University. Jared enjoys working together with composers and has premiered many new works for solo cello and chamber ensembles. Jared combines his interest in history and music by presenting lecture recitals on music written by composers who were censured, imprisoned, or killed during the Nazi Holocaust. Jared earned a bachelors and masters degree in cello performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, a master of music degree in music theory pedagogy from the Eastman School of Music, and a doctor of musical arts degree from the Eastman School of Music. He studied cello with Richard Aaron, Desmond Hoebig, and Alan Harris, viola with Jeffery Irvine, plus additional studies in violin, piano, and viola da gamba. He holds the internationally recognized Dalcroze License from Carnegie Mellon University and the Dalcroze Certificate from Juilliard. He teaches Dalcroze classes in his studio, for the National Children’s Chorus, and frequently presents Dalcroze workshops for teachers.

Jared passionately enjoys nature and the outdoors. He backpacked the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in 2022.   


We are thrilled to partner with Music on the Strait Artistic Directors, James Garlick and Richard O-Neill to offer masterclasses and performance opportunities for our students.

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