World-class masters in their fields
Meet Our Staff
OUR MASTER TEACHERS
Director/President of YPI Inc.
Jeff has been at YPI since 1981 as a writing teacher and as the Director/President of YPI Inc. He has been a working with young people for about 50 years as a counselor, teacher, coach, principal and camp director. He is the former Principal of the CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. GAA was recently named The Most Outstanding High School from the Arts School Network (2014/15) as well a school of Excellence from Magnet School of America (2015/16). Jeff truly lives the notion that “YPI is not just a place; it’s a state of mind.”
Jess has been at YPI since birth, growing up and learning from the talented and artistic community that YPI cultivates. She studied acting, photography, and creative writing at camp before becoming a counselor for six years. Now, she is a consultant to the director and #1 daughter. When she’s not helping her dad make YPI happen each year, she the CEO and the Director of Calm for a virtual assistant agency called Don’t Panic Management. With the “don’t panic” mantra in mind, she has found that there are no projects too big or strong for her to conquer. She firmly believes in the Oxford Comma and has a passion for helping people find efficient ways to get things done.
Poetry, Short Story, Song Writing
Sal Basile Sr
Sal is as proud as Punch and Judy to still be a part of the Greatest Camp on Earth. He has been at YPI every summer since 1991, with a winning streak as a master teaching in poetry, journalism, short story, and song writing. His academic background as English teacher in the Hartford School System for 35 years, and his musical experiences as lead singer and guitarist in various bands and as a solo artist, playing currently with Dually Noted, have supplied his campers with plenty of instruction and inspiration. His son, Sal, was a camper for six years in video and screen writing and was a counselor for three years; his grandson, Alejandro, has been a camper since 2011; his granddaughter, Julia, has attended camp since 2015. So, you see how important YPI is to the Basile Family! YPI has gotten better each passing summer. So, YPI can do the same for YOU!
Greg has a part of the YPI family since 2005. He spent 5 summers as a camper taking acting and songwriting and 5 summers as a counselor/assistant instructor for songwriting. As a visiting guitarist, Greg still sits in with the songwriting classes. Greg is an alumnus of the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Business Administration and Information Technology Management. He lives in Chicago and works for Ernst & Young in their Forensic Technology group. Greg is an avid musician and songwriter who enjoys seeing the campers test themselves and grow as he once did and continues to do each summer at YPI.
Louise has attended YPI since 2007. She took musical theater and photography as a camper spanning five years. She is now a counselor, and assists the musical theater and acting classes. She studied Music Education and voice at Western Connecticut State University, where she graduated in May 2016. She is now a Music Teacher at Farmington High School in Farmington, CT where she teaches Choir, Guitar, and World Music.
Sarah has a degree in Fashion Design from Framingham State University in MA and a Master’s in Theatrical Costume Design from the University of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, UK. She owns Sarah Lynn Couture, a custom garment company making a wide range of bespoke garments. She has worked on many stage productions, ranging from small theaters to the Boston Ballet, as well as a few film sets. Sarah currently works as a technical designer for a national jean brand.
Sarah Grasso – Sarah has been at YPI since 1990. Her first years were as a camper where she studied short story, poetry, and photography. Given the opportunity to be the first dance teacher at YPI, Sarah leaped (and pirouetted) and has been in that role ever since. In her life outside of YPI, Sarah has been dancing since she was 3. Trained in tap, jazz, and ballet, her heart beats to hip-hop and fusing them all together is her passion. She has studied in New York City and, in college, was honored to study with an Alvin Ailey veteran. Sarah lives in Brattleboro, Vermont with her family, where she teaches dance and serves as a school counselor at a middle/high school. Fulfilling a life dream, Sarah is a member of a professional dance company, KaleidoDance, and has been performing with them since 2013. The most special part of this life-addition is that the company’s owner and choreographer is an alumnus of the YPI dance program.
Dan has been a part of the YPI family since 2009, and he is still as excited as a kitten with a ball of string about going back for more of the best summer experience you could ask for. When not at YPI, or thinking about being there, Dan is the Director of Graphic Arts for Mekorot, a blended learning curriculum company for which he has designed responsive web layouts, icons, maps, infographics and instructional comic books. Before working at Mekorot, he taught art for 8 years at Caravel Academy while also freelancing as an illustrator and graphic designer. Dan enjoys making up songs and imitating Muppet voices, because doing so makes him feel like he’s at YPI.
Fitz is a professional drummer, singer, and producer based in LA. His professional credits include Blue Man Group, The National Symphony Orchestra under Grammy-winning conductor Leonard Slatkin, and the European tour of The Berlioz Requiem under Grammy-winning conductor Robert Shafer. Fitz has composed and tracked music for The Discovery Channel and Black Box TV, played in orchestras on and off Broadway, and spent the better part of the last decade recording and touring with a wide variety of artists and bands. Fitz has been teaching at YPI 2006.
Since 1985, Stew Huey has been a part of the YPI community. He brings over 30 years of photography experience, and over 20 years of digital arts experience to his position as Digital Photographer Master Teacher. As VP of Creative/Print for Universal Pictures in Hollywood, Stew has a reputation for producing superior, high quality imagery and has been recognized as an expert in his field. His knowledge and expertise in the latest technologies to produce highly acclaimed art and marketing materials for Movie Promotions is unparalleled.
Over the years, Stew has been rewarded by watching his students find successful careers in the visual arts field. He brings his optimistic attitude and a winning philosophy to his students, encouraging them to express their ideas and concepts through digital media. Stew brings out the best in his students who are buoyed by his cheerful spirit and educated by his professional skills and talents.
Calvin has been attending YPI since the summer of 2004. Outside of camp Calvin is a teacher of composition and leads an award winning jazz band and orchestra at the Greater Hartford Academy of Arts. As a multi talented musician, Calvin is often asked to play bass, keyboard, flute and reeds in YPIer backup bands. Calvin is one of three master teachers in the Songwriting class, working with campers on electronic music, beat making, and overall musical creation. Calvin hopes to enlighten and excite everyone he meets, and looks forward to camp every year!
Sara Lukasiewicz studied Theater and Drama Therapy in NYC, earning her BA from Marymount Manhattan College, while performing improv, sketch, and stand up comedy all over the city. She has trained and performs at UCB, iO West, and clubs all over Los Angeles. In addition to performing and teaching, she is a Creative Associate at Goon Creative – a Digital Media Firm. Sara has been at YPI since 2011, having taught Acting, Acting for Film, and Musical Theater. She is determined to make it past the 7-minute mark this year during Counselor Hunt.
Helena Martin is a songwriter, producer, and keyboardist based in New York City. She wrote her first song at YPI as a camper in 2002. Her band Distoria’s music features her original piano rock music and is available on iTunes and Spotify. A member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Helena has acted as vocalist, keyboardist, and drummer for such NYC bands as Jumbo Brown, Mongolian Monkfish, and The Land of Dreams. She studied piano under a few different master musicians: a jazz pianist who happened to be blind, a genius organist/pianist/conductor from Cambridge University who now directs operas on the West Coast, and a scary lady who loved the Suzuki method and hated fun. Helena loves fun and has taught the YPI Songwriting workshop since 2006. She records and produces all of the YPI recordings and most enjoys helping young writers and musicians discover their unique voices.
Natasha D. Miles
Natasha is an accomplished painter, printmaker and book designer. Her multimedia works of art have been exhibited at local, national and world-renowned museums such as Galleria d’arte Nocchia in Cortona Italy, Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut and the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida. She offers enriching arts education for children and adults of all ages by introducing innovative visual arts skills across multiple disciplines. Since 2002, Natasha has been an arts educator and mentor at CREC’s Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts where she also serves as Arts Department Chairperson for Visual Arts. She will be returning this summer to YPI developing modern art techniques with inspired students!
Sasha has been attending YPI since 2003. She’s been a camper, counselor, and is now one of the teachers for the photography classes. A majority of her summers as a camper were spent in photography class where she was given the opportunity to learn valuable skills from professional photographers. She now works as a teacher at Thacher Montessori School in the Boston area. Sasha feels that YPI has always been a safe place for her to express her creativity and try new things. It has not just been a place to learn new art forms, but also a place to meet great people and make great memories that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Raina has been attending YPI since 2007 as a songwriting, acting, and poetry student as well as a counselor and assistant teacher for the songwriting class. She writes and performs her own folk-pop inspired music that has been molded by her experience and the people she has met at YPI. She is currently a Music Business student at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, and is the station manager and club president of the college radio, WMVL Radio. She helps plan campus events that bring focus to developing acts. She is a strong, fun, and focused leader because of many of the skills she has incorporated from other counselors and teachers at YPI.
Andy consults in YPI’s Musical Theater and Song Writing classes once again. During the school year, Andy is the band teacher and musical theater director at The New Canaan Country School. He earned his Masters in Music Education from Boston University in 2007, he sits on the music committee and board of directors for The University Glee Club of NYC, and his trio, The Andrew Tyson Trio, released an album of original music in 2014.
Musical Theater & Dance
Mackenzie Trowbridge is a freelance NYC-based stage manager and dog-walking extraordinaire. She is a proud member of Actor’s Equity and has worked on numerous regional, Off-Broadway, and Broadway productions. She received her BFA in Theater Design/Technology with a concentration in stage management from Adelphi University and serves as the resident PSM for the college’s Department of Dance. She was born and raised (literally!) at YPI and loves to see the power that the arts have to change the world for the better.
Robyn has been at YPI since 1985. She was a counselor, then Head Counselor, and now the Medical Director. Outside of camp, she is a director at RMS, a non- profit serving adults with intellectual disabilities. Her two daughters grew up at YPI and still are members of the YPI family.
Poetry & Short Story
Ben started at YPI in 1992 when he was 10 years old and has taken almost every YPI workshop as a camper. He has served YPI as a counselor and then as a Master Teacher for the past several summers. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from Cornell University, and currently works in the Writing Program at Princeton University, teaching students the ins and outs of academic writing while pursuing his own research in early medieval literature. He is passionate about the arts in general and looks forward to sharing his experiences as a martial artist, visual artist, musician and a human being with the YPI family every year.
Jaz Zepatos, a professional actress and singer in NYC, is beyond thrilled to be part of the YPI family. She studied Musical Theatre at Rollins College and has since been continuing her studies in NYC. She trains and performs improv at Upright Citizens Brigade and has begun training in Voice and Speech at the Linklater Center while performing in New York and regionally in theatre, film, and commercial. She could not be more excited to bring her passions for performance and camp together for an incredible summer.
Mike Mazz is a graphic designer from New England creating logos and brand identities for high-end businesses around the country. Although he was never a camper, Mike has been a part of the YPI staff as a counselor and teacher since 2013, and considers camp his home away from home! Outside of the office, you can find Mike spontaneously road-tripping, hiking, making lattes, taking photos, or cloud watching at his leisure.
Mercedes Jelinek is an artist working in both NYC and NC, and has recently completed a residency at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. She holds a BFA in visual arts from the State University of New York at Purchase and an MFA from Louisiana State University. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in Louisiana; the Hinson Art Museum, Gaston County Museum, Blowing Rock Art and History Museum, Asheville Art Museum 2016 Gala and the Cassilhaus Gallery in North Carolina; SoHo Photo Gallery, Cuchifritos Gallery, Littlefield Gallery and Gallery MC in New York; Page Bond Gallery in Virginia; the Satellite Art Show (Berlin Collective Booth) at Art Basal Miami; 30-under-30 Exhibition at Vermont Center for Photography; the Arena 1 Gallery and the Lyceum Theatre Gallery in California; MPLS Photo Center in Minnesota; Midwest Center for Photography Exhibition at the Center Gallery in Kentucky; and the Pingyao International Photography Festival in China, among others. She received both Best in Show and Third Place in the 2015 Juried Art Show at the Gaston County Museum in North Carolina, was a finalist for the 2015 Alternative Process Competition at the SoHo Photo Gallery, as well as the 7th Edition Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Woman Photographers. Mercedes’ first book These Americans was launched this past July -published by Kris Grave Projects in New York City.
Erica Moffit-Dilks is thrilled to be heading back to camp…this time, as an assistant in our writing classes. Erica is one of three kids in her family who (all) fell in love with YPI when she started as a camper with us in 1992. Erica is a morning reporter at ABC27 News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She’s been working on air since she started her broadcast journalism career at an NBC station in Maryland more than 15 years ago. When she’s not bringing viewers the daily news, she’s busy chasing around her three kids or getting creative in the kitchen.
Scott Nidermaier is a professional photographer who has worked in catalogue, editorial and advertising. He was an adjunct at Parsons School of Design for five years and is currently the Manager of Education and a Product Specialist for Phase One, a global digital camera company. Scott volunteers with the Josephine Herrick Project, teaching photography to veterans and people with special needs. In 2009 he was introduced to YPI and was blown away by the talent and love for the arts this camp nurtures. Every year promises new experiences and new friends. He is looking forward to spending some time in the darkroom, sharing new ideas and rocking out with all the YPI superstars!
Evan (Ev) Wilson
Ev started coming to YPI in the summer of 2013 as a camper. After four years of working on visual art and photography at camp, Ev is elated to be back at their second home as a counselor. YPI is where they first learned to love both art and self, and getting to return that experience to campers is incredibly special and important to them. When Ev is not at camp, they attend Massachusetts College of Art and Design working toward a degree in art education. They spend their free time drawing and taking care of their hamsters in their Boston apartment.
Kieva attended YPI for seven years as a camper and is thrilled to return as a counselor. As a camper, she took photography and dance, and was able to grow as a person and artist through the wonderful community YPI has to offer. She is now a student at Muhlenberg College pursuing a degree in English and Political Science. Outside of class, Kieva works as a writing tutor and tour guide and is Vice President of Students for Queer Advocacy. She cannot wait to rejoin the YPI family as a counselor and participate in another joyful summer at YPI.
Zack Ahearn started his YPI experience in 2011, finding a passion for photography. After helping to teach the YPI photography class in 2016, he’s returning to YPI as a counselor. For Zack, YPI is an opportunity to find something new within himself every year and he believes that counseling will truly bring out something spectacular. Currently attending the University of Connecticut, Zack studies Electrical Engineering and uses the skills and experiences he’s picked up from YPI to help him through his years in college. Zack is thrilled to be a counselor for YPI this summer and is looking forward to sharing the YPI experience with his campers!
All the way from St. Louis, Missouri, Olivia Emert traveled every summer to attend YPI. She took creative writing, acting for film, photography and dance. Currently, she is attending the University of Missouri- Kansas City in their Conservatory of Music and Dance. Pursuing a degree in dance and marketing, she is continuing her art form beyond camp. She is incredibly honored to be able to give back to the family who gave her so much.
Emma “Bunny” Halloran is elated to return to YPI as a counselor after having the opportunity to attend as a camper for two years in 2016-2017. In those two amazing years, Bunny took visual arts and photography classes as a YPI camper. Bunny’s other various artistic passions are musical theater, writing, filmmaking, and costuming. She is an aspiring graphic novelist and art therapist and studies art therapy at Springfield College in Springfield, MA, where she is also a member of the Best of Broadway and Art clubs. Bunny has a deep passion for the arts that was heavily influenced by the freedom, encouragement, and support she found at YPI as a camper and her goal is to pass on that experience to future campers.