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 working with young people for over 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 named The Most Outstanding High School by the Arts School Network (2014/15) as well as 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.”
Poetry, Short Story, Song Writing
Sal Basile Sr
Sal Basile is proud and honored to have been with YPI since 1991! His longevity and loyalty are a testament to the highest quality of humanism, professionalism, and just plain FUN here at YPI. From teaching creative writing, journalism, and songwriting, Sal gives ample evidence of the wonderful vibe that YPI creates in just two weeks of camp. Lifetime friendships and relationships are forged at YPI among staff and campers alike! There is no other place like YPI because it is a State of Mind!
Louise has been a part of the YPI family since 2008. After several unforgettable summers were spent as a camper in the musical theater workshop, she came back as a Counselor and Assistant Musical Theater Teacher until stepping into the role of Master Musical Theater Teacher. During the school year, she teaches Choir and Guitar at Farmington High School in Farmington, CT. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Education (Voice) from Western Connecticut State University (2016) and a Master of Music and Music Education from Teachers College, Columbia University (2023).
Michaela Dolishny is a singer, songwriter, producer, music teacher, and actor based in Los Angeles, CA. She received her bachelor’s degree in theater arts from Boston College and most recently played multiple parts in an immersive run of “The Skriker” by Caryl Churchill with Coronado Nuns Theater Company. She works as a voice and piano teacher at The Inside Voice in Costa Mesa, CA and spends her free time writing and producing music under the name Michaela Ari. Her music is currently available on all streaming platforms. Michaela is extremely grateful to be part of the YPI family and truly believes in their mission to foster community and creativity through the arts.
Sarah Grasso 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.
Sarah Rehm received her BFA in Dance, along with her BA in English from Adelphi University. She is now working in Manhattan as a professional dancer and pilates instructor. During the pandemic, she had to pivot from dancing in person to dancing on film which led her to discover her love for filmmaking. She now teaches her students to find ways to branch out of their comfort zones and find new creative outlets through film. Her work was featured in the 92Y Mobile Dance Film Festival.
Judy Niedzielski, RN, has been the registered nurse for YPI since 2016 and has been employed as a school nurse for over 20 years. Mom to 4 adult children and Oma to 2 grandchildren, her spare time is shared among leadership within her church community, volunteering at her local Thrift Shop, sewing, woodworking, creative projects, and helping others. You will find her at YPI hanging out in the quad, riding her bike from here to there, and making sure campers and staff are healthy and feeling their best.
Tee has been a nurse for ten years. She has worked in cardiology, dermatology, pediatrics, school nurse’s office, adult medicine, urgent care, short- and long-term rehab centers, and camp nurse. Tee currently is a charge nurse in a dementia/Alzheimer’s assisted living facility. Tee also is a board member for CT-ALIVE and a volunteer on the medical team for Crossroad Community Cathedral. A proud mother of two amazing daughters, one who graduated with a psychology degree and the younger daughter pursuing a degree as a social worker. Tee enjoys dancing with her husband, spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading, and writing.
David earned a Bachelor of Science in Music Education at Western Connecticut State University in 2016 and a Masters of Music Education from Texas Tech University in 2022. During his time at Western, he studied with percussionists Dave Smith and Doug Perry. During this time, David has shared the stage with the likes of Pius Cheung, Dave Samuels, Joe McCarthy, and others. This is David’s fourth year teaching at Jonathan Law High School. He teaches Band, Jazz Band, Orchestra, Music Technology, and Guitar. David was awarded the Jonathan Law High School Teacher of the Year in 2022. David is a member of the National Association for Music Education, the Connecticut Music Educators Association, and the Percussive Arts Society. David is endorsed by Innovative Percussion Sticks and Mallets.
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 Linderman is a composer, music producer, and music educator based in Connecticut. Calvin has written and produced music for brands and institutions such as Amazon, Merrell, Yale, IMDB, Nespresso, and many more. Calvin's music has also been featured on multiple film projects and TV shows, most recently on the Discovery Channel's Shark Week. Calvin started his career as a touring musician for hip-hop and pop acts but now runs his own studio and teaches modern music and orchestra at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, a performing arts high school in Hartford, Connecticut. As an accomplished composer, producer, sound designer, and audio engineer, Calvin brings his expertise and artistic skills to help YPI campers have the most fulfilling week of their summer!
Helena Martin is a songwriter, producer, and one-half of the electropop duo Playdate. From 2010 to 2015, she fronted and wrote the songs for the piano rock trio Distoria. She's been a vocalist, keyboardist, and drummer for several bands, mostly in New York City. She also happens to be a priest in the Episcopal Church. After taking Songwriting at YPI as a camper, Helena became one of the regular Songwriting teachers in 2006. She records and produces the YPI recordings and loves helping young musicians discover their unique voices.
Natasha D. Miles
Natasha is an accomplished painter, printmaker, book designer, and arts advocate. 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 Visual Arts Department Head and Equity Team Leader. Recently she joined the Wadsworth Atheneum's Artist Educators Workshop series. The program at Wadsworth was created to engage the community by connecting museum and gallery culture with creative response programs led by artists. She will be returning this summer to YPI to develop modern art techniques with inspired students!
Raina Mullen is a nationally touring musician in her band Ghost Light. She's been a YPI camper, counselor and teacher over many years beginning in 2007. Raina learned to write songs in YPI songwriting with Sal Basile and she continues to work as a professional songwriter, singer, guitar player, and teacher in Philadelphia.
Musical Theater & Dance
Mackenzie Trowbridge is a freelance NYC-based stage manager and dog-walking extraordinaire. She is a proud member of the Actor's Equity Association and has worked on numerous regional, Off-Broadway, and Broadway productions. She serves as the resident production stage manager for dance departments at Adelphi University and Union College. YPI has been foundational in how she perceives the world as an artist and as a human ever since the poetry class of 1993 chose her name when her mom worked at camp. She loves coming home to YPI each summer to help new generations of young artists find their voice!
Robyn joined the YPI community in 1984 as a counselor, then head counselor, assistant director, and medical director. She is the proud parent of 4 and works as an Advocate and Director at a non-profit serving individuals with intellectual disabilities. Robyn is also a poet and intuitive painter who credits her years spent in the company of artists as the catalyst for the emergence of her own “inner artist”.
Director of Giving
Andy Tyson leads the YPI annual giving and fundraising efforts. During the school year, he 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.
Operations & Marketing Consultant
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.
Mercedes Jelinek is an artist and professor working in both NYC and Italy. She holds a BFA in visual arts from the State University of New York at Purchase and an MFA from Louisiana State University.
Erica Moffit-Dilks has a long history with YPI. She first fell in love with the camp back in 1992 when she started as a camper. She was beyond excited to return in 2018 as an assistant in our writing class. Erica is an Emmy Award-winning morning reporter in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She’s been working on air since she started her broadcast journalism career more than 20 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. Being back at YPI and getting to work with all of the incredible young people and staff at camp is something she looks forward to all year long.
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!
Composer and percussionist Benjamin Paden strives to create a unique musical style that embraces the spirit of rhythmic complexity, surprising harmony, and tension/release. His music incorporates a chaotic blend of styles and genres using elements from classical, jazz, rock, and avant-garde. Originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Benjamin holds a masters degree for composition at The Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, where he studied under David Macbride, Dr. Robert Carl, and Ken Steen. Other education includes B.A in percussion performance and composition from Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, studying under Dr. James Doyle, and Dr. Matthew Schildt. Ben plays drums in the rock band The Professors of Sweet, Sweet Music (POSSM), and is also the drummer for “space metal” band Ellimist. His original music can be found at Eastern Hill Music. Benjamin is proud to be a co-founder of the Hart Beat Music festival, which is held annually in Hartford, Connecticut every september.
Jaileen Vargas began her Balanchine training at the late age of 14 years old. She trained at The Ballet Center in Old Bethpage and later expanded her technique under former artistic director and founder Frank Ohman from 16 to 21 at The Ohman School of Ballet. Jaileen continued her studies at Adelphi University as an English/ Education major with a minor in dance. In the dance program, Jaileen broadened her technique, in both Ballet and Modern, through Vaganova, Graham, Taylor, and Forsythe style training under Orion Duckstein, Frank Agustyn, Adelheid B. Strelick, and Jen Kreichman. During her time at Adelphi University, Jaileen was featured in guest pieces choreographed by Rasta Thomas and Joy Douglas and dance films choreographed and directed by Sarah Rehm. It is an annual tradition for Jaileen to be involved in NYDT’s Nutcracker since 2016. She has danced in lead roles, such as Arabian Coffee and Dew Drop. Currently, Jaileen gives back to her community as a teacher, full time, by passing on her knowledge and innate love for ballet and using her training in all aspects of the classroom.
Marly Ahearn started her YPI experience in 2013, discovering a passion for photography and never looked back! She continues to use her passion and develop film outside of her time at YPI. After 5 years as a camper, Marly returned to YPI as a counselor in the summer of 2021. For her, YPI is the place to inspire yourself and others through your creative journey while making memories that will last a lifetime. Marly is currently attending Southern Connecticut State University, studying Special Education/Elementary Education. She is thrilled to continue her journey as a counselor for YPI this summer & is looking forward to inspiring campers to keep the YPI state of mind!
Ava Dell’Orfano first came to YPI in 2016 as a camper where, over the next six summers, she fell in love with the YPI family. Over the years, she explored five of the different fabulous classes, including acting, musical theater, song writing, creative writing, and visual arts. Currently, she is a Digital Film/Video Production BFA student at the University of Connecticut and spends her free time exploring her passions for theater and film. She is beyond excited to return to this one of a kind community as a counselor and help share the magic with her campers!
Emmy was a camper at YPI for three years and is now so happy to be a counselor! During her time as a camper, she took songwriting, acting, creative writing, and dance. Emmy is now a music education major at UConn, studying voice. She works as an organist and a piano accompanist on campus, and she music directs her a cappella group, the Rolling Tones. Emmy loves teaching and is so grateful to have found a second home at YPI.
Olivia Emert (she/her) is a freelance choreographer and movement artist. She graduated with her BFA in Performance and Choreography from the University of Missouri- Kansas City; she continues to dance and create works throughout the Kansas City area. Emert has worked with Mortal Coil, Kostas Contemporary (intern), Kansas City Open Pro Class, Charlotte Street Foundation, City in Motion, Creative Intersections, as well as self-funded and artistic-directed projects. She was a featured artist with the Making Moves series at Charlotte Street Foundation, producing her own evening-length work. YPI made her the artist and the human she is today. It positively impacted her outlook on collaboration, community, and confidence in her life. She feels privileged to be a part of YPI every summer and be able to share with young artists what YPI taught and continues to teach her.
In her fifth consecutive year as a camp counselor, Bunny is more than ready to return to create energy, excitement, and euphoria at YPI 2023! Bunny is an aspiring comic book artist, costume designer, voice actor, and everything in between, on top of studying to become an art therapist in graduate school. When Bunny attended YPI as a camper in 2016 and 2017, she could be found in the Visual Arts Center creating giant-size comic book pages and down in the photography studio experimenting in the darkroom. If not there, they were on the YPI dance floor tearing it up on Wednesday nights. Bunny is elated to be a guide and helper to all of YPI's campers, familiar and new alike, and is looking forward to this summer with hopes of fostering an accepting, empowering, and encouraging camp environment!
Alejandro Arcila is working on his Bachelors in Social Work at Central Connecticut State University. He has been working at his town's Board of Education for a few years and wants to do Social Work in the education system. He is going into his third year of being one of our proud counselors, having the opportunity to be a part of the family since he was 11. His goal is to incorporate the excitement of summer camp with the expertise of the teachers to try and ensure that you are having as good of a YPI experience as he did! Starting from creative writing, he has been involved with multiple classes, including theater and photography but is more than willing to warm up with the dancers!
Jaya is excited to be returning to YPI as a counselor after 5 years of being a camper. When she was a camper, she was able to take songwriting, dance, musical theatre, and creative writing throughout the time she was at camp. Jaya is currently a sophomore Vocal Music Education and Performance major at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, where she has had many opportunities to further explore the passions she was able to explore at camp. She is extremely excited to share the amazing experiences she had at YPI with her campers and continue to make lots of fond memories with one of her favorite communities.
Kobi Masselli is a first time counselor at YPI. Born in Connecticut, Kobi Masselli now attends NYU's Playwrights Horizon School specializing in theatrical directing. Kobi hopes to bring his love for art to the already rich and vibrant culture at YPI and help bring up a new generation of young artists.
Sofia Yanza (she/her) started her journey with YPI in the summer of 2018, where she studied creative writing and musical theater. She then enrolled in college at George Washington University and graduated in May 2023 with a BA in Criminal Justice and a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies with the goal of pursuing a law degree. Throughout her college years, she participated in a variety of musical theater productions either as a performer or behind the scenes as a stage manager. She is thrilled to bring the magic of YPI to life and give the campers the experience that she remembers being given as a camper herself.
George Chakulski (he/him) is a student at Quinebaug Valley Community College, where he studies Economics. Previously, he studied at the University of Limerick, in the Republic of Ireland, before making his transfer to QVCC. He spent 3 years as a camper at YPI, taking both Musical Theatre and Photography. Now in his 2nd year as a counselor, George is excited and grateful to continue to be a part of the wonderful community that is YPI and to help cultivate the positive environment that he loved as a camper.