Meet Our Staff

IMG_2590_edited.jpg

Janet Kuester

Board President

Janet Kuester describes herself as a “music activist”.  She became involved with Suburban Youth Symphony Orchestra as a parent and board member when her daughter played in the violin section in the 1980’s .

Mrs. Kuester has served as the violin instructor/mentor of the Incredible Opportunity program since 2010, Music Director from 2011-2012, and Executive Director. She is currently serving as the SYSO Board President. She has helped develop the high school mentor program to encourage high school string students to mentor and teach younger students and receive community service hours.

Janet Kuester is the founder and previous director (2004-2020) of The Music Connection of Orland Park.

Mrs. Kuester has taught violin and piano for more than 40 years and is a member of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Suzuki Association of the Americas, National Guild of Piano Teachers, and El Sistema U.S.A.  Mrs. Kuester received her music degree from De Paul University and is a certified Suzuki piano and violin teacher. She has performed with the Lake Forest, Waukegan, DePaul, Chicago Civic, Chicago Heights, Kankakee and Illinois Philharmonic Orchestras.

Forsman-Sondag 5.jpg

David Forsman

Music Director
Suburban Youth Symphony Orchestra

David Forsman has been a freelance cellist in Chicago's south suburbs for almost 40 years. His teachers include Karl Fruh, Richard Kapuscinski, Leonard Chausow, and Kim Scholes. He has been a member of the Illinois Philharmonic, the Northwest Indiana Symphony, the Rockford Symphony, and others. He has been a founding member of two chamber music groups, and currently partners with pianist Melinda Sondag in the Forsman Sondag Duo. David also played cello in everyone's favorite band, Time Bomb Taxi. He has been teaching since the mid 80s, and was the strings coach of the Kankakee Valley Youth Symphony for more than 15 years.

David is an avid bicycle rider, a walker in the winter - it's all about being under the sky - and a serious classical record collector. David also loves books. Homer is a favorite. And a low key trip to the Art Institute is the way he treats himself when he needs to get happy.

New Lenox Violin Headshot.JPEG.jpeg

Brian Ostrega

Assistant Director
Incredible Opportunity Program

Brian Ostrega began playing violin when he was five years old. His first orchestra experience was through the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), playing with them from grammar school through high school. From his involvement with the CYSO, he decided to further his musical studies in college. After graduating from University of Illinois (B.M. ’13) and graduating from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of the Performing Arts (M.M. ’15) with degrees in Violin Performance, Mr. Ostrega won performing positions with Civic Orchestra of Chicago, followed by first violin seats with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO). Mr. Ostrega plays chamber music with his violin and piano duo Ostrega Uhl Project, a classical concert series which features local professional artists to educate and entertain audiences about the music the ensemble performs. 

In addition to performing, Mr. Ostrega is Orchestra Librarian for IPO and enjoys teaching a growing studio of students of all ages at Blue Island Music in Blue Island, IL. Mr. Ostrega is thrilled to begin teaching and inspiring students this year through SYSO.

IMG_0331 (2).JPG

Mindy Sondag

Orchestra Manager

Originally from Ohio, Mindy S. has found her home with the community of musicians in the Chicago Southwest Suburbs. Mindy received her Bachelor’s in Piano Performance from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH, and her Master’s Degree in Piano Performance from Brandon University in Brandon, MB, Canada.  In addition to being the Orchestra Manager for The Suburban Youth Symphony Orchestra, Mindy teaches piano full-time at The Music Connection, and is an active performer with Cellist and SYSO Director, David Forsman.

Emily Z Bio Pic.jpg

Emily Zwijack

Incredible Opportunity Program Instructor

Emily Zwijack is an undergraduate at The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, pursuing a double degree in Music Education and Violin Performance. She currently studies with renowned violinists Almita Vamos and MingHuan Xu Choi.

 

     In her early music career, Emily was selected for the prestigious Illinois Music Education Association District festival all 4 years of high school. She also had the privilege of attending the All-State conference festival in 2019 and 2020, where she was announced 15th overall in the Illinois honors state orchestra 1st violins. She has been a part of many other musical events as well, such as Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra (CYSO), Birch Creek, Illinois Summer Youth Music (ISYM), Suburban Youth Symphony Orchestra (SYSO), and more. In these events, she has performed in masterclasses with Robert Chen, Laura Chen, Liba Shacht, John Heffernan, Almita Vamos, and David Taylor.

 

     Emily began teaching private lessons in August of 2019 and continues to do so with her own private students. She teaches private violin and cello lessons at the Justice Park District, Through the Staff, and the Above and Beyond music store in Berwyn, Illinois. She is continuing her musical journey at The Chicago College of Performing Arts and plans to become an orchestra director, teach private violin, cello, and viola lessons, tutor music theory, and perform in well-known orchestras in the Chicagoland area.

Violin and Music Sheet

Suburban Youth Symphony Board of Directors

President - Janet Kuester

Vice President - Mort Castle

Treasurer - Cynthia Westerman

Secretary - Rozalyn Torto

Parent Liaison - Melissa Banks

Stan Birer

Pam Cabrera

Marilynn Tannebaum

Christie Buralli

Sue McKeigue

Andrea Gibb

Joan Finnegan

Lynn Werth