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Meet Our Staff

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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.

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Brian Ostrega

Music Director

Suburban Youth Symphony Orchestra

Brian Ostrega has been teaching with the Suburban Youth Symphony Orchestra since 2021
and is thrilled to continue his work with SYSO as its new Music Director.

 

Mr. Ostrega began his musical studies 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, under the private instruction and tutelage of Terrance Gray. From his involvement with 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, he won performing positions with Civic Orchestra of Chicago, followed by first
violin seats with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) where he regularly performs.

 

In addition to a thriving orchestral career, Mr. Ostrega, together with pianist Stephen Uhl,
formed Ostrega Uhl Project, an ensemble dedicated to playing chamber music featuring local professional artists to educate and entertain audiences. He also takes great enjoyment in his administrative role as IPO’s Orchestra Librarian. Mr. Ostrega formally began teaching private lessons in 2017 and since then has grown successful violin studios at Beverly Arts Center, Blue Island Music, and Trinity Christian College.

 

As its previous Assistant Director, SYSO provided Mr. Ostrega a unique venture incorporating his group beginner violin lessons into the Glenwood School District and to Crete-Monee Middle School. This has been done in a collective effort by arts organizations and academic institutions to revitalize string education in the south suburbs.

 

As Music Director of SYSO, Mr. Ostrega strives to give a well rounded music education to all
students. This includes providing beginners a musical foundation on which to grow through the Incredible Opportunity Program, introduce intermediate level students to basic conducting
elements and ensemble playing in the Junior Orchestra, and strengthen students’ technical
abilities and musical interpretation through its primary ensemble, Suburban Youth Symphony
Orchestra.

 

With his leadership, Mr. Ostrega envisions the Suburban Youth Symphony Orchestra to provide anenjoyable learning experience for its aspiring young professionals. He is honored to lead all music ensembles as SYSO’s Music Director.

 

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.

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Mason Spencer

Orchestra Manager/Executive Director

As a violist with a Bachelor of Music and Performers Diploma from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Mason is a strong advocate for new music, and is dedicated to expanding the breadth of the classical canon through commissions and performance. 

 

His passion for musical variety has led to collaborations with storytellers, singers, a variety of chamber and orchestral ensembles, and even a soloistic tea kettle. As a performer, he has toured internationally as a member of the Sileo Quartet, toured nationally with video game shows Undertale and Journey LIVE as a member of the Fifth House Ensemble, performed at the inaugural Patreon Assembly in Los Angeles, and with the Chrysalis Rock Orchestra in New York. Mason can currently be found performing with the Civic Orchestra as a Civic Fellow. 

As an educator, he has conducted workshops at universities across the United States, including at University of Milwaukee, Denison University, and Southeast Missouri State University- while also maintaining an active teaching schedule at home in Chicago.

 

Mason firmly believes in the importance of providing amazing, fun and challenging performance opportunities for young musicians. He is looking forward to working with SYSO strategically and artistically to provide exciting programming. Even more so, Mason is looking forward to bringing his energy and passion to work alongside the organization  and getting to know the students and families in the program.

Violin and Music Sheet

Suburban Youth Symphony Board of Directors

President - Janet Kuester

Vice President - Mort Castle

Treasurer - Cynthia Westerman

Secretary - Pam Cabrera

Parent Liaison - Melissa Banks

Stan Birer

Andrea Hetzel

Marilynn Tannebaum

Christie Buralli

Sue McKeigue

Andrea Gibb

Joan Finnegan

Lynn Werth

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