Skip to Main ContentSearch Site

Music Faculty

Faculty Biographies

(Click on the faculty name below to visit their CCRI Faculty Website.)

Dr. Joseph J. Amante y Zapata holds a B.A. in Church Music from Point Loma Nazarene University, an M.M. in Choral Conducting from New England Conservatory of Music, and a D.M.A. in Choral Music from the University of Southern California. He has studied with John Glenn Paton, Joseph Flummerfelt, James Vail, Rodney Eichenberger, and the late Daniel Pinkham. He has also done orchestral work with Hans Beer, Pascal Verrot and the late Leonard Bernstein at Seranak (Tanglewood Music Center) on scholarship.

Originally from California, Dr. Amante directed several church music programs and community choirs in both San Diego and Los Angeles, one choir appearing on the CBS news documentary 48 Hours. He taught high school and elementary school music in Los Angeles, and served as music director for the Towne Singers, a 100 member (Hollywood affiliated) chorus.

Currently, Dr. Amante is Chair of the Performing Arts Department and Director of Choral Activities at Community College of Rhode Island. His choirs have performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, Fauré’s Requiem, Duruflé’s Requiem, Mozart’s c-minor Mass and Solemn Vespers, Corigliano’s Fern Hill, Rutter’s Magnificat, Britten's Ceremony of Carols and Ellington’s Sacred Concerts. Future plans include more choral music transcriptions of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, a continuation of his doctoral topic. Amante’s hobbies include ensemble piano accompaniment, viola with the South County Chamber Orchestra, hiking, road biking and antique tractors.

Dr. Audrey Kaiser, Professor of Piano, has toured the United States for over 25 years performing, arranging, and recording with a show act called the Two of Hearts. Active in the theatre world as director, musical director, pianist, and arranger, Dr. Kaiser has also performed extensively as both a solo and collaborative concert pianist, including numerous concerts with David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. She has also performed in concert with Alice Ripley, Tony Award winning singer and actress.

Dr. Kaiser earned the B.M. in piano performance from Rhode Island College, the M.A. in piano performance from Marshall University in West Virginia, and the D.M.A. in piano performance from the University of Kentucky. Her academic honors embrace membership in Who's Who Among Students in Colleges and Universities, Who's Who in America, Who's Who Among American Women and two years on the National Dean's List. In addition, she completed both the Master's and Doctoral degrees with 4.0 averages.

Dr. Kaiser joined the music department at the Community College of Rhode Island in 2004 where she teaches music theory, class piano, applied piano and music appreciation. From 2004 to 2009 she also served as the resident musical director of the Granite Theatre in Westerly, RI, where she conceived, directed, and performed in four original musical revues entitled Our Hearts on Broadway, Lullaby of Broadway I, Lullaby of Broadway II, and Lullaby of Broadway III. She is also the originator and director of the summer Cabaret Theatre event at CCRI called Hello BROADWAY!, which began in 2009 and features both students and professional casts performing together.

Dr. Steve Lajoie is Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Community College of Rhode Island. He directs the Jazz Ensembles and teaches improvisation, arranging, jazz history, music theory, piano, and composition. Dr. Lajoie was a guest lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008, and was guest conductor of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Jazz Ensembles during their 1996 tour of St. Petersburg, Russia. His students have transferred to numerous jazz programs, including William Patterson University, the New England Conservatory of Music, Berklee College of Music, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of South Florida. From 1993-2005, eleven of his jazz-studies students were selected by audition to participate in the International Association of Jazz Educators Community College All-Star Big Band.

Dr. Lajoie is the author of Gil Evans and Miles Davis: Historic Collaborations, 1957-1962. Published by Advance Music of Rottenburg, Germany, it contains transcriptions and analyses of four of Evans’ and Davis’ collaborations for large jazz ensemble, and is the only text about these important works.

Dr. Lajoie holds a B.M. in Music Education with Percussion concentration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an M.M. in Jazz Piano Performance from the University of Miami, Florida, and a Ph.D. in Jazz Composition from New York University. He also attended the University of Southern California. He has studied with Jim McNeely, Vince Maggio, Ron Miller, Jeff Holmes, Peter Tanner, Nigel Coxe, Michael Pavone, the late Richard Govoni, and the late Wesley DeLacy.

Dr. Lajoie’s compositions and transcriptions have been performed by the Smithsonian Institute Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, and jazz ensembles at James Madison University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Wyoming, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Rochester, and Moorpark College.

Originally from Massachusetts, Dr. Lajoie is married to flutist and teacher Marcia Lajoie. Together, they have three children. Dr. Lajoie also enjoys coaching youth baseball, as well as studying Catholic Social Teaching, the early Church Fathers, and Catholic apologists.

Krista Wilhelmsen, ABD, Assistant Professor of Music, teaches Music Theory I, Sight Singing/Ear Training I, Music Foundations, Introduction to Music, Voice Class, Opera Workshop, and applied voice. She has taught a diverse student population with schools ranging from the HBCU environment to the community college network. Her unique skill set has helped her garner the ability to successfully direct fully staged productions, scene-workshop productions, as well as large-scale concerts.

Hailed by the Charlotte Observer for “her beautiful soprano,” she “gave chills” to famed soprano, Heidi Grant-Murphy. In 2010, she premiered Tatiana in Micheal Ching’s workshop production, Midsummer Night’s Dream- opera a cappella at Opera America. JSOM Performances: Lady Billows, Albert Herring; Donna Anna, Don Giovanni; Countess, Le Nozze di Figaro; and Zweite Dame, Die Zauberflöte. Praised for cross-over abilities, she performed Patsy, Girl Crazy-Utah Opera Festival and Musical Theatre, Antonia, Man of La Mancha-Natchez Opera Festival, and Johanna, Sweeney Todd-Augusta Opera. Under the direction of Carol Vaness, she performed Zemfira in Rachmaninov’s Aleko and the title role of Suor Angelica. A supporter of arts education, she has sung over 100 performances of various children’s operas with Opera Carolina, Opera for the Young, and Augusta Opera. Other performance credits: Nedda, Pagliacci; Mimi, La Boheme; and Anna, Talk to me like the Rain (world premiere).

A native of Chicago's south suburbs, she completed a Bachelor of Music from Millikin University, a Master of Music in Opera Theater from University of South Carolina, as well as a performance diploma and doctoral coursework from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. Musical awards and scholarships include: Metropolitan Opera Competition District Winner, Long Leaf Opera Competition Award, Heafner-Williams Vocal Competition Award, and Bev-Sellers Women-in-Music Award. Teachers include: Jane Dutton, Gwyn Richards, Timothy Noble, John Fowler, Dr. Tina Stallard, and Dr. Donald Gray.

Ms. Wilhelmsen has editorial assistance credits in Harvard Law Bulletin and Harvard Law Today, is a licensed Zumba instructor, and is CPR certified.

Full Time Faculty

Name & Contact Information Title Teaching Responsibilities
Joseph Amante y Zapata, DMA
[email protected]
Chair of Performing Arts Department
Director of Choral Activities
Choral ensembles, Music History, History of Rock
Audrey Kaiser, DMA
[email protected]
Professor of Music
Faculty Advisor: Music Club
Applied & Class piano instruction, Music theory, Sight singing & ear training, Music history, Intro to Music, Foundations of Music
Stephen H. Lajoie, PhD
[email protected]
(website)                       825-2112
Professor of Music
Director of Jazz Studies
Jazz ensembles, Jazz harmony, improvisation & arranging, Jazz history, Applied piano, Applied composition, Foundations of Music, Intro to Music
Krista Wilhelmsen, ABD
[email protected]
Assistant Professor of Music
Voice and Opera
Voice class, Theory and Sight Singing/Ear Training, Foundations in Music, Opera Workshop, Introduction to Music, The American Musical, Applied Voice

Applied Music Instructors

Name Instrument
Timothy Anderson Composition
Randy Cloutier Jazz Percussion
Stephanie Garcia Flute
Steve DeConti Jazz Guitar
Angelica Alvarez, Devon Russo, Krista Wilhelmsen Voice
Audrey Kaiser Piano
Charles Kalajian Percussion, Percussion Ensemble
Steve Lajoie Piano, Jazz Piano
Nicholas Shleyer Trumpet
Cheri Markward Violin, Viola
John McKenna saxophone, clarinet
Joseph Grilli Bass
Ceili Connors Guitar

Part Time Faculty

James Stravato
Name Title Teaching Responsibilities (Location)
Ryan Campos Adjunct Audio Recording, Intro to Digital Recording Technology
John Dennewitz Adjunct Beginning Guitar Class
Rachel Hanauer Adjunct Intro to Music 
Martha Sobaje Adjunct Foundations of Music, Introduction to Music 
Jacob Stott Adjunct Foundations of Music, Introduction to Music 

Alumni Stories

News Image

Aiden Rogler

Aiden Rogler completed his studies at CCRI in 2020 and is currently enrolled at URI...

Read More

News Image

Danielle Grilli

Danielle Grilli graduated from CCRI in 2013 with an A.F.A in Music. She continued her studies at RIC obtaining a B.A in Music...

Read More


News Image

Daniel Caramante

Daniel Caramante graduated from CCRI in 2017 with an A.F.A. with High Honors. He continued on to URI, graduating cum laude with...

Read More

News Image

Christina Nero

Christina Nero graduated from CCRI in 2017 with an A.F.A. degree in music. She continued her studies receiving her Bachelors degree in music...

Read More

Helpful Links