Teachers & Staff

Siobhan Bonny-O'Rourke

Siobhan Bonny-O'Rourke is a Contemporary Vocalist and Educator from Tasmania, Australia. After receiving First Class Honors for her Bachelor of Music from the University of Tasmania, she moved to Melbourne Australia and was professionally involved in many facets of the Australian Music Industry. She has worked in Jazz, Hip Hop, Southern Gospel, Folk and Traditional, Classical and Contemporary Songwriting in both Performing and Educational contexts. Her Honors thesis was about the connection between music and the body and how important it is to understand the connection between them, as well as how universal music is and how it can bring people together from all walks of life. Siobhan is passionate about young people feeling empowered through music, she also stays connected to her own musical expression through local performances and recording projects with people from all over the world. You can listen to some of her music here: https://shhor.bandcamp.com/

Harlan Kesson

Harlan first joined the Taos Youth Music School as a student in 2004 in the garage band program. Since graduating in 2010, he has worked his way through the music industry, performing and producing alongside such Titans as the Wailers, Rakim, the BoDeans, Los Lonely Boys, and many more. Now, Kesson aims to bring his knowledge of music, both technical and professional, to the youth of Taos, so that they may pursue their own dreams of being rock stars!

Tara Somerville

Tara Somerville is a singer songwriter originally from New York City, her songs inspired as much by long subway rides as by silent snowfalls in the sagebrush. The music teacher at Taos Charter School since 2011, she is delighted to embark on her fourth year with Taos Youth Music School. Her body-centered approach to music teaching draws from her practice of 5Rhythms and African dance, emphasizing improvisation and collaboration and a kinesthetic union with the spirit and joy of music from around the world.

Ryan Beckwith

Ryan Beckwith was born and raised in Shelton, CT.  Ryan began taking guitar lessons at age 8 and received formal training in high school. After starting a guitar club in which he taught other students during high school, Ryan attended Berklee College of music where he obtained a Bachelors Degree in Music Education.  Ryan is skilled in guitar, bass, and drums, while being proficient at piano and clarinet.  Ryan currently lives in Taos, New Mexico where he plays guitar professionally with the group "Katy P & the Business", and teaches at the Taos Youth Music School.  Listen to some of Ryan's work at Soundcloud.com/RyanBeckwith

Sarah Martinez

Sarah Martinez was raised in Taos, New Mexico. Inspired at a young age to pick up guitar, she quickly excelled at it while also playing violin in her high school's Mariachi group.  When applying for College she received several grants to get into Berklee College of Music.  These grants were based on the merit of her guitar skill, particularly her original classical pieces.  Sarah studied with highly skilled guitar players of many different styles and received a Bachelor's Degree in Professional Music from Berklee College.  Sarah now lives in her hometown of Taos, New Mexico and teaches at the Taos Youth Music School.  Listen to some of Sarah's work (including award winning original classical guitar) at Soundcloud.com/sarahmtz

Rachael Penn

Rachael moved to Taos after she completed her Bachelor’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from Naropa University in Boulder, CO with an emphasis in the Creative Process and Healing Arts.  She is passionate about supporting the creative process and artistic expression of people of all ages and skill levels.  She believes that music has always been a powerful way that cultures from around the world and throughout the ages have brought vitality into their communities, fostered a sense of individual belonging and created bridges of understanding.  Rachael is active in the local music community, playing and recording with numerous songwriters and musicians.  She is currently performing locally as a violinist and singer with singer/songwriter Tara Somerville, as a fiddler and singer with old time group, The Pot Creek String Band, and is the strings and orchestra teacher at the Taos Waldorf School.  Rachael completed the Orff-Schulwerk Level I training and is excited to bring Orff methodology into her classes, including explorations in improvisation, movement and an interdisciplinary approach to music and learning.

Jenna Paulden

Jenna Paulden has loved to sing ever since she was a child, and she began singing in choirs in elementary school. At age 15, she sang with the Cincinnati Festival Chorus, a professional adult choir that performed a wide range of pieces from classical to modern.  As a High School student, she studied voice at the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, and she performed in several Musicals.  Theatre soon became her passion, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Literature from Grinnell College, though she never stopped singing! Jenna has lived in Taos since 1983.  She has raised three musical children here, and she’s delighted to see that her young grandson loves to sing, play piano, and beat drums, even at the tender age of three!  Jenna enjoys many different genres of music, including Classical, Folk, African, Rock and Roll, Kirtan and Country. She is the lead singer in a new Country Rock inspired band, Green Oaks, started with her partner and friends.
Jenna Paulden has been an educator in Taos private schools for 25 years, and a trained Waldorf teacher since 2003. For the past ten years, she has taught choral singing, music theory, and recorder to grades One through Eight at Taos Waldorf School.  In her classes for young children, she artfully weaves together songs, recorder playing, music games, stories, dances and simple instrumentation. Her intent is to share her joy of music and singing with the children, and foster in them a life-long love of music.

Morten Nilssen - Executive Director

Morten Nilssen is a graduate of The National Norwegian Theatre Academy with the equivalent to an associate degree in Theatre Management. After four years with various theatre companies in Norway he moved to Scotland where he was employed by the Findhorn Foundation developing their theatre venue and sound recording studio. He and his wife Kate and their two daughters moved to Taos in 1981 where he established Moondance Recording Studio He was  employed by the Taos Art Association as Technical Director for the Taos Community Auditorium from 1986 to 1994. He was hired as technical director for Taos Talking Picture Festival in 1994, and was appointed Executive Director for Taos Talking Pictures in 1999, a position he held until May 2003. In 2003 Morten was appointed toGovernor Bill Richardson’s Council on Film and Media Industries.  He is currently the President of the Board of Directors of the Nina Elizabeth Nilssen Scholarship Fund.




Board of Directors

Valerie Davis – Chair

Valerie holds K-8 degrees in both regular classroom education and music education. She began her teaching career in 1987 and is currently teaching general music at Ranchos Elementary (here in Taos). Valerie taught the first class of Taos Youth Music School in 1999 with Penny Voss. Since that time, she has taught classes at most levels of the Music School. Although Valerie felt a need to retire from teaching classes at TYMS she is pleased to help guide the school by serving on its Board of Directors.

Jerry Pacheco - Secretary

Jerry is native Taoseno and the parent of three music school students. He has served as a parent volunteer and supporter of TYMS for the past 13 years.  He has an Associate degree from the University of New Mexico.  He currently also serves on the board of Wholly Rags.  He previously served on the Taos Charter School Governing Council. 

Dani Tafoya-Kesson - Treasurer

Dani has been part of the Peoples Banking Unusual team for 17 years. Her children, Harlan and Makenna, were students of TYMS for several years. Harlan is a current teacher at the music school and Scott, her husband, was a TYMS garage band teacher for 8 years and a past board member as well. Dani is also a member of the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally Association, Taos Optimist Club and has been Co-Producer ofThe Night of 1000 Stars youth talent show for 5 years. She is passionate about her involvement in these organizations and the positive impact they have in providing support and opportunity for youth in our wonderful Taos Community.

Jimena Balestreros - Student Board Representative

Jimena is a long time student at TYMS. Currently she is participating in the Youth Choir and Garage Band classes. She is 14 years old and typical of our student body. She was chosen to become a student representative to our board of directors where she has full membership, including the right to vote on all matters. 

Elaine Taylor - Member