Connie Dienner is the the founder and director of the Cavod Academy of the Arts, pulling together 30+ years of involvement in the Theatre Arts both in the United States and abroad, and the desire to foster a setting where creative people are accepted and their gifts nurtured. Connie’s undeniable passion for God, the students, and the community, is shared with a distinct vision of how excellence in the performing arts can be used to grow and advance the God’s Kingdom. This vision radiates through Cavod as student’s are trained and mentored to use their creative gifts in an inspiring and world-impacting way. Connie’s successful leadership was pivotal in several musicals to include Cavod’s own “[Clever Holiday Title]”, and producing Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man”; impacting the local region for years to come. Her submissiveness to God’s direction and call, has revealed a growing Cavod family. “As the student’s and staff grow also in confidence, the achievement of excellence seems almost…..contagious!”
Creative Advisor and Ballet Instructor (Grades II – IV Cecchetti)
Tahnya has been dancing at various performing arts schools in the region from a very young age. Her passion for dance developed when she traveled and performed across the east coast on a mission trip at 14 years old. It was then that she discovered there was more to dance then looking good onstage… dance is a powerful tool that breaks cultural barriers and reaches the hearts of people without even saying a word. Tahnya has been with Cavod Academy of the Arts since it’s small beginnings. She has taught Hip-Hop, Modern, Worship Dance and Ballet. She is currently focusing on ballet and her roll as Assistant Director/Artistic Director. She has been receiving much guidance from Carolyn Trythall, owner of Lancaster School of Ballet. She has been taught under the professional instruction of Paul Sutherland (Joffrey Ballet), Brunhilda Ruiz (Joffery Ballet), Emily Borthwick (Contra Costa Ballet), Raymond Lukens (American Ballet Theatre), Christopher Hird (Boston Ballet), Franco De Vita (American Ballet Theatre). Tahnya attends the Cecchetti Council of America conference every fall and spring. She is in the process of getting her Grade IV teacher certification from Cecchetti Council of America. She is very excited about the potential Cavod has not only to raise up dancers with beautiful technique but dancers that can dance with excellence and purity unto the Lord. She has a passion to see the Kingdom of God influence the world with dance that is modern and relevant, instead of the world influencing the Kingdom. Tahnya and her husband, Richard reside in New Holland. They have seven young children.
CDC Director/Creative Director/Dance Instructor (Worship Dance, Modern)
Jill grew up north of Boston, and has lived in Lancaster County for a little over a year now pastoring a church alongside her husband. Jill graduated from Roger Williams University with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance/Performance Studies and Secondary Education. Jill trained under Kelli Wicke-Davis and had the opportunity to work with a variety of well-known artists from the New York area, including; Sean Curran, Neta Pulvermacher, Jenny Rocha, Tiffany Mills, and Jennifer Conley (Martha Graham Company.) Post college she performed and choreographed for dance companies throughout the Northeast including; founding/directing Agape Dance Theatre, and dancing for Dendron Dance Company, cancer benefit company Voices of Hope, Navarasa Dance Theatre, and Audra Carabetta Company. Jill predominantly teaches and choreographs modern-based dance work, but has experience in many other dance genres, gymnastics, yoga, and acrobatic work. Jill has always had a passion for dance, but her number one love is sharing the hope of Jesus with others. She believes the performing arts is a powerful tool to share this hope. Prior to becoming part of Cavod, Jill served as the Director of Children’s, Youth, & Arts Ministry at Vineyard Community Church in the Boston area; pastoring teens, building children’s programs and jump starting an arts ministry department. Previously, Jill was a preschool teacher for three years, and taught dance at performing arts centers/schools all over Massachusetts. In the summer of 2012 and 2013 she traveled to Haiti to teach modern and worship dance while sharing the gospel. Jill is always striving to grow as an artist and teacher, and is honored to have the opportunity to guide and give creative direction to Cavod Dance Company. Jill’s desire is to instill the joy of artistic movement in whomever she can, while serving God with her life and the gifts he has graciously given her.
Theatre Administrator/Theatre Instructor
Meredith Nicholson is a graduate of the Student Ministries program at Lancaster Bible College. There, she studied under Stan Deen and Dr. Robert Bigley in Acting and Vocal Performance, truly falling in love with theatre, as she took the stage in several productions. Since coming to Cavod in 2011, Meredith has expanded her love of theatre by exploring all different roles of a production, including costume construction/dressing, stage managing, production managing, and directing. Some of her favorite credits include Little Women, the Broadway Musical and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and directing Cavod’s junior productions, most recently, Fiddler on the Roof, Jr. Meredith is passionate about helping students grow in their love of theatre and giving them opportunities to use their God-given gifts and talents to honor and glorify him on and off the stage. Meredith has also worked as an administrative assistant/coordinator since 2007 and is thrilled to be able to combine her love of the arts with her love of details and organization, and to be a part of making the arts available to the Lancaster County community.
Administrative Assistant/Voice & Piano Lessons Instructor
Amy Rau brings a music education degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and over 2 decades of experience in music theatre to Cavod. Both behind the scenes as musical director and pit musician, and performing on stage in operas, broadway-style musicals, and church productions, Amy gets excited about theatre! Favorite performance roles include: Sister Mary Wilhelm in Nunsense Jamboree, Della in Gifts of the Magi, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, and Claire in On the Town. Music directing credits include: Jesus Christ Superstar, Little Shop of Horrors, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, Cats, The Music Man, I Do! I Do!, My Fair Lady, and countless church productions. Amy has led worship for several churches, directed the Fred Waring Choral workshop for three years, and is a professional photographer. She is excited about being a part of Cavod’s mission behind the scenes in the office as well as helping the stage productions come to life. Her leading man is her husband of 17 years, Steve, and her favorite productions are her teen daughters, Hannah and Emily.
CDC Assistant Director/Ballet, Pointe, Modern Instructor
Stephanie Morales is a graduate from Belhaven University with her BA in Dance. During her time at Belhaven, Stephanie had the privilege to work with choreographers such as Vincent Hardy, Sheron Wray, Kim Nofsinger, Kellis McSparrin-Oldenburg and Brandon Mitchell as well as the faculty from her university. Much of her training was heavily focused in ballet and modern, but throughout the years has received training in other styles such as jazz and hip hop. As a native from Lancaster, she has had the blessing of training at Viktor Yeliohin International Ballet Academy and Lancaster School of Ballet where she participated in there company performances. Stephanie is excited to be back home teaching and is looking forward to share her college experiences and training with her students.
Creative Movement, Primary I-III, Ballet, Tap, and Tumbling Instructor
Maria is excited to begin another year of teaching with Cavod Academy of the Arts. Over the past 8 years, she has been studying various forms of dance including ballet (both Cecchetti and non-syllabus), pointe, modern, jazz, hip hop, tap, gymnastics, and physical theater. Maria joined the Cavod staff last year and taught several ballet classes. Previously, Maria assisted Hanna Bacon, Savannah Pilon, Derek Martin, and Jill Hertzog with several Cavod classes including Creative Movement, Gymnastics, Primary I, Primary II, and Grade I. She is currently training under Carolyn Trythall (Lancaster School of Ballet) in the Cecchetti method of ballet and received her Cecchetti Grade I teacher’s certification in 2015. She also supplements her dance training further by visiting Koresh School of Dance in Philadelphia. Maria has been a member of Cavod Dance Company for four years, and has enjoyed performing in their original productions “Not of this World”, “Safehouse”, and “Almost Home.” In addition to her dance training, Maria is studying to obtain a business degree from Central Penn College. Cavod has transformed Maria’s life since she came for her first class 9 years ago, and it is here where she learned how extraordinary it is to dance before God in worship. That is why it is her passion to help students discover their God- given talents and show them how to use those abilities to give the glory back to God.
Marketing Assistant/Creative Movement, Tap, Jazz, Modern, Hip-Hop, Tumbling, Kinder Ballet, Cecchetti Ballet, and Non-Syllabus Ballet Instructor
This is Savannah’s eleventh year taking classes at Cavod Academy of the Arts, and her third year of teaching. She has been trained in Ballet (both Cecchetti and Non-Syllabus), Pointe, Lyrical, Contemporary, Modern, Physical Theatre, Musical Theatre, Tap, Jazz, and Gymnastics under several different teachers from all around Lancaster. For the past five years she has been assisting under Cara Dienner for Creative Movement, Primary I, Non-Syllabus Ballet, Cecchetti Grade I, Modern and Jazz, as well as Derek Martin for beginner levels in Gymnastics. For this school year, Savannah is teaching Creative Movement, Kinder Ballet, Primary I, Non-Syllabus Ballet, Gymnastics and Modern. She is currently receiving her certification in ballet from Cecchetti Council of America. She is whole-heartedly living out the will of God though magnifying Him in her own dancing, as well as showing her students how wonderful it is to give the glory back to God and to use the talents He has blessed them with to further His Kingdom.
Hip Hop/Tap Instructor
This is Bente’s second year teaching hip hop at Cavod and her first year teaching tap. She is really excited to be teaching at Cavod and also working with children and adults of all ages. This will be her seventh year training at Cavod in Hip Hop, Ballet, Pointe, Lyrical, Modern, Tap, and Jazz. In the past couple years she has been assistant choreographer for “Oliver” the musical, “Meet me in St. Louise” and “Alice in Wonderland”. She has also danced in Cavod’s Dance Company for four years, Cavod’s production of “Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”, and stage-managed for both “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin” and “Scrooge” the musical. She is always ready learn new things and to see how God will use her teaching to glorify him.
Primary III Ballet Instructor
This is Olivia’s eighth year at Cavod. She has grown and learned at Cavod since she was 10 years old, taking a variety of classes including Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Tumbling, Tap, Pointe, Hip Hop and Theater. She has been assisting classes at Cavod for the last three years; including the Cecchetti method of ballet for Primary I-III and Grade I with Hanna Eadline, ballet with Savannah Pilon, and tumbling with Jill Hertzog and Derek Martin. She has also worked along side Colleen Dennis at Lancaster School of Ballet. She is currently preparing for her Grade I teachers certification with Carolyn Trythall. Olivia is thankful for the opportunity and privilege to teach Primary levels of ballet this year. She is grateful to be a part of this tremendous Cavod team. This is Olivia’s fourth full year on Cavod’s Dance Company, and she’s excited to continue to use her talents for the One who gave them to her. Olivia has a passion for God, and the people around her. She likes meeting new people and sharing the work God has done for us all; eternal life through Jesus.
Jazz, Modern Instructor
Brooke Bunton was born in England where her family were missionaries and where her love for the arts sparked. After moving to the US, she grew up in Lancaster county dancing with Lancaster School of Ballet, Viktor Yeliohin International Ballet Academy, and Baller Theater of Lancaster, and even her high school dance team. She attended Duquesne University where she danced with the Duquesne University Dance Theatre as a Company member and spent two semesters as Director which involved teaching classes, choreographing, and organizing showcases. While living in Pittsburgh she also did two season with a blossoming professional company, Exhalations Dance Theatre performing Jazz and Contemporary. Since graduating college, Brooke began working at the Webstaurant Store in Lititz, PA and connected with Cavod. She is excited to start teaching and growing with the Cavod family this upcoming year and to see where this new journey takes her!
Sierra is excited for her first year teaching at Cavod Academy! She has assistant taught with numerous teachers at Cavod for many years and is thrilled to lead her own classes. Sierra has been apart of the Cavod family for nearly 13 years, and has loved growing up here. She has been trained at Cavod in various styles of dance including; ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, modern, and hip hop. She was also on the Cavod Dance Company for three years. Sierra has be training hard the past few years to become a teacher, and will continue her training to give her students the best instruction she can. Sierra has acted in many Cavod Theatre shows as well as assisted backstage. She also had the honor to choreograph the Fiddler on the Roof Jr. summer camp. Sierra loves working with kids and is excited to see where God leads her with her teaching.
Tumbling, Hip Hop, Ballet Instructor
Derek has been part of the faculty at Cavod since 2008. He comes with over 25 years of experience doing gymnastics and over 10 years of teaching experience. He has trained under multiple former Olympic gymnasts at International Gymnastics Camp and has taught at other gyms in the area including PFG and AGA. He is currently focusing all of his teaching efforts here at Cavod and strongly desires to see gymnastics used as an art form to express and display the Glory of God.
Derek also enjoys dance and teaching dance. He has 5 years experience in hip hop and more in multiple other genres of dance. He has been certified to teach up to Grade III in the Cecchetti method of ballet.
Derek enjoys musical theatre and performing, especially when he is allowed to use his gifts of gymnastics on stage. Shows that he has been seen in include: Meet Me In St. Louis, Fools, The Wizard of Oz and a host of others with Cavod Theatre. He has also been seen in various ballets with Light of Life Performing Arts and on stage at The Fulton Theatre in White Christmas as the feature tumbler.
Josiah is excited to start his first year of teaching gymnastics for Cavod. Although he has only been here for two years, he has eight years’ experience in men’s competitive gymnastics and three years as assistant gymnastics instructor at his former gym as well as Cavod. Besides gymnastics training, Josiah has been trained in tap, jazz, modern, ballet, acro, and hip hop. Josiah has performed in various shows in the area including seven with Cavod Theatre. Josiah’s goal for his classes is to teach strong foundational skills to build upon for more advanced gymnastics. Josiah is looking forward to using the gifts and talents God has given him to invest in others.
EARLY ARTS EXPLORATION
Brynn has been involved with Cavod for 10 years. She was on the Cavod dance company for 5 years . She was involved in the shows A Christmas Story, Clever holiday title and was Anne in Anne of Green Gables. She has over 10 years of child care experience from baby sitting, Sunday school teaching, summer camps as well as being the second oldest in a large family. She has been the Early Arts Exploration teacher 3 years. She has a passion to see kids learn about Christ and to grow into the best people they can be. She is Married to Keith Zook of 4 years. They have a 1 year old daughter and they live in Mohnton.
Drums and Guitar Lessons Instructor
George has been playing drums since 1977. He did bachelor’s work in Jazz Studies with a Concentration in Percussion at the University of North Texas from 1983-86. He studied with Colin Bailey (Vince Guaraldi), Gregg Bissonnette (Woody Herman, David Lee Roth), Rick Latham (Quincy Jones), Clyde Lucas (Illinois Jacquette). George also toured as a drummer with Rhythm & Blues artists such as Little Joe Blue & Gregg Smith, and during that time shared the stage with names such as B.B. King, Johnny Taylor, Bobby Blue Bland, and host of others. George has been playing jazz, funk, blues, and sacred music in the Central Pennsylvania area for the past 20 years, working with artists such as Dave Wilson and Robin Work. His current creative musical project is a trio called The Go Particle. George has been playing and teaching guitar, bass, drums & piano for the past 20 years. He is currently the Music Director of Wheatland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, and an adjunct professor for Lancaster Bible College. George has participated in many music training events both locally and internationally.
Jennifer Eshelman Shaffer is a Magna Cum Laude graduate from The Pennsylvania State University with a B.S. in Music Education. She pursued graduate courses in Vocal Pedagogy under Dr. Thomas Houser at Marywood University. As a former Miss Pennsylvania, she toured the state as its “Ambassador of Goodwill” in 1983-84. She met her husband, Lee Shaffer, when they were partners in the Penn State singing group, Re-Creation, which gave them full scholarships. After marrying, they performed professionally as entertainers for banquets and conventions and ministered in music in churches throughout the state. She has taught private voice lessons to countless talented young people in her home studio and in the music suite of Garden Spot High School. Her students frequently receive the honors of winning lead roles in musicals and success in competitions and choral festivals. Jen volunteers at Christian Fellowship Church as a song leader and on the Drama Ministry Team. She is thankful to the Lord for the privilege of teaching young people how to develop the gifts God has given them and to give back to Him through serving in song. Jen is humbled and delighted to join the amazing team of talented professionals at Cavod!
Voice & Traditional Piano Lessons Instructor
Megan (Brand) Poff, a coloratura soprano, is most noted for her works in Baroque and 20th Century Music. She is currently serving in the Music Department at York College in Pennsylvania. Her previous collegiate experience was teaching voice and music literature at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She was also a Voice and Piano Instructor at New Song School of Fine Arts in Alabama.
She holds a Masters of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from Lee University and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Mars Hill College. She has had extended study with notable coloratura soprano, Chery Brendel, her former graduate vocal instructor at Lee University. Her other instructors include Dr. Julie Fortney, a protégé of Burton Coffin, and David C. Starkey, director of Asheville Lyric Opera.
As a vocal pedagogue and vocal coach, she has taught many area professionals who have performed in local theater venues such as: Sight and Sound Theatres, Fulton Theatre, Dutch Apple Theatre, AMT, PRiMA, Hershey Area Playhouse, and numerous National Broadway Tours. Her students have also found success in acceptance to competitive graduate music programs, National Television spots and most notably, Broadway.
She is a member of NATS, and has had several students win statewide competitions under her instruction. Professionally, she has performed in such venues such as Brevard Music Center, Asheville Lyric Opera, Schumann Liederfest in Zwickau, UAH Theatre and was also as a soprano soloist in several professional choral performances throughout the country. She is married to Jay Poff, a professional actor on the musical theatre stage. When not performing or teaching, she is chasing their toddler, Brendan, who is currently obsessed with “Swan Lake.” Her teaching philosophy is: “As a singer, BE the BEST version of yourself!”
Voice & Piano Lessons/Musical Theatre Performance Instructor
Amy Rau brings a music education degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and 22 years of experience in music theater to Cavod. Both behind the scenes as musical director and pit musician, and performing on stage in operas, broadway-style musicals, and church productions, Amy gets excited about theater. Favorite performance roles include: Sister Mary Wilhelm in Nunsense Jamboree, Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man, Della in Gifts of the Magi, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, and Claire in On the Town. Music directing credits: Singin’ In The Rain, Jesus Christ Superstar, Oliver!, Nunsense Jamboree, Little Shop of Horrors, Scrooge, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol, Cats, They’re Playing Our Song, Nunsense 2, Annie, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Music Man, I Do! I Do!, High School Musical 2, My Fair Lady, and countless church productions. Amy has led worship for several churches, directed the Fred Waring Choral workshop for three years, and is a professional photographer. Her leading man is her husband of 17 years, Steve, and her favorite productions are daughters, Hannah (15) and Emily (12).
Drum & Guitar Lessons Instructor
Originally hailing from Lancaster County, Steve Rau has recently relocated here and is excited to be teaching at Cavod. Steve studied vocal music, marching band, and music theater at Indiana University of PA and led many youth bands and student choirs over the years. He is partial to Harry Connick Jr. and Frank Sinatra and although he feels he was born in the wrong decade and has missed his calling as a crooner, Steve is grateful for the musical opportunities he enjoys with his wife, Amy. Some of his favorite theatrical roles have been various and sundry characters in the Shawnee Playhouse Irish comedies, Reuben in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Bert the cop in It’s A Wonderful Life, Jim in Gifts of the Magi, and Chip in On the Town. He has been a worship team drummer, youth leader, and assistant pastor in several churches and ministries in upstate NY and the Poconos and loves his family and his two girls, Hannah (15) and Emily (12).
Incredible directors throughout Middle and High School gave me a chance on stage and I hope to “pass the chance on” to the kids who attend the Young Actor’s Studio this year. Great Lancaster coaches from The Theater of the 7th Sister, The Fulton Opera House and The Actor’s Company molded me and taught me how to seriously pursue my career. Landing roles at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater and Ephrata Playhouse deepened my passion for excellence in acting. Commercial Acting Classes in LA taught me how to audition for Television and Film, helping me to land a role in Biola University’s film “Forgiven”. Back in PA a local agent found me numerous “B” film jobs. What a blast! Working on all aspects of the production team and backstage crew for numerous Drexel and Temple University productions and studying under incredible writing professors and acting coaches gave me a solid foundation and I graduated with a BA in Communications – Radio/TV/Film emphasis. Also, an internship on Philadelphia’s Pitt/Willis film “12 Monkeys” gave me a ton of “real world” experience! Writing proves to be a constant love, and I have been blessed to write/cast/and direct numerous Vignettes at Calvary Church as well as for other local traveling Drama Troupes. Most recently, I have enjoyed Directing and Stage Managing for several shows and Summer Camps at the Lancaster Academy of the Performing Arts. Working under Stan was an incredible learning experience! Connie’s heart for Cavod’s kids cannot be matched and I am truly thrilled to be working with such an amazing, humble, Godly team. Our Creator has given us each unique gifts. We can honor Him by giving them back, excellently!
Lauren Groff, a Lancaster local, grew a passion for theater during high school. Since then, she has studied Theater, Ministry, and Psychology at Liberty University and has worked with youth in theater in various capacities (Lancaster Academy for the Performing Arts, Veritas Academy, Gap Homeschool Education Program, Cavod Academy Summer Camps). On the Cavod stage, Lauren has been seen in Miracle on 34th Street (Doris Walker) and Singin’ in the Rain (Dora Bailey). Other favorites include Into the Woods, Our Town, Importance of Being Earnest, A Christmas Carol,Thoroughly Modern Millie, and A Man for All Seasons. While she does love performing, Lauren is additionally interested in expanding her repertoire on the other side of the stage to create meaningful theater, whether through dramatherapy, playwriting, teaching, directing, and ultimately, facilitating the arts in a way that honors God and produces excellence. Theater has an obvious visual product, but its process also teaches empathy, teamwork, communication, public speaking skills, and offers the chance to participate in a project from script to stage. She is grateful for the opportunity to teach at Cavod and hopes to infuse her students with the joy and skill of acting!
Meredith Bulgrien is a graduate of the Student Ministries program at Lancaster Bible College. There, she studied under Stan Deen and Dr. Robert Bigley in Acting and Vocal Performance, truly falling in love with theatre, as she took the stage in several productions. Since coming to Cavod in 2011, Meredith has expanded her love of theatre by exploring all different roles of a production, including costume construction/dressing, stage managing, production managing, and directing. Some of her favorite credits include Little Women, the Broadway Musical (Marmee) and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Lucy) and directing Cavod’s junior productions, most recently, Fiddler on the Roof, Jr. Meredith is passionate about helping students grow in their love of theatre and giving them opportunities to use their God-given gifts and talents to honor and glorify him on and off the stage. Meredith has also worked as an administrative assistant/coordinator since 2007 and is thrilled to be able to combine her love of the arts with her love of details and organization at Theatre Administrator, and to be a part of making the arts available to the Lancaster County community.