The Soundworks Team

Soundworks Director and Senior Teacher Rhys Davies Smith

Hello, my name is Rhys Davies Smith and I teach Guitar, Drums and Ukulele. I began playing drums 20 years ago and picked up the guitar at nearly the same time. I hold a deep, profound respect for music and view it to as the “language of soul”.

My genres range from an array of interests, from rock, punk and metal to pop, folk and blues and all the way to hip-hop, classical and country.

I have played in bands as a drummer, guitarist and lead singer (though my ability to sing is nothing to boast about). I was also the timpanist and percussionist for my school’s concert bands during high school.

Most of the music I have performed has been my own originals as I have been writing my own songs from the age of 7. I am currently working on my own debut musical album as a singer/songwriter, producer, sound engineer and mixer.

As an educator, I believe in teaching the technicalities of reading, playing and performing the instrument in balance with the player's ability to express themselves through the music. I look forward to working with you all.

Mary Kriechbaum

Senior Piano Teacher

Mary has a B.Sc. and Diploma of Teaching and was a secondary school Maths teacher before she became a mother of four. She has since turned to music teaching as her family have grown up. She is currently completing the NZ Suzuki Institute Piano Teacher Training programme and has been teaching piano with excellent results for around eight years. For the last five years she has also been a Music Basics teacher for Saturday Music in Palmerston North.

Christian Stafford

Senior guitar, Ukulele, & Drums Teacher

Christian Stafford has 19 years of high school teaching experience as both a classroom teacher and itinerant music teacher as well as playing professionally for over 20 years in pubs, clubs and running his own recording studio for 15 years. He teaches electric and acoustic guitar, bass, ukulele and drums and encourages students to develop their creativity and write their own songs. He especially enjoys organising them to join with other students to play and sing in groups/bands in our holiday Band Factories.

Keiko Uchidate

Senior Piano Teacher

Keiko has been a musician all her life as a songwriter, pianist, bassist, guitarist, singer and sound engineer. She toured and did some recordings as a bassist with a few British bands in the 1990’s, and fronted some bands as a singer/guitarist/songwriter in Japan after returning from the U.K. She also released her own album for a record label in Tokyo. Keiko has always been a teacher throughout her adult life, teaching English in Japan for several years and teaching Japanese at tertiary in New Zealand after having gained Master’s degree from a British University. She absolutely loves teaching and always has a very strong empathy with her students. These days she is settled in Palmerston North where she has been focusing on classical piano again and gained her LTCL in Piano Recital in 2010. She has been enjoying teaching the piano for approximately 7 years in New Zealand and is also heavily involved in running Saturday Music as the Assistant Director/Curriculum Supervisor.

Debbie Donkin

Senior Singing Teacher

M. Mus (Hons), Ph. D, B.Mus (Hons), LRSM, LTCL, Dip.Ed Debbie is a teacher of singing, piano and theory to advanced level. She has worked as a Soloist, Choral director and Adjudicator, and has had many years’ experience in a variety of styles from classical, to contemporary musicals and jazz.

Shirley Xu

Piano Teacher

Shirley is a graduate from the University of Melbourne majoring in Psychology and Media and Communications. She started playing the keyboard when she was 4, and later switched to the piano, learning with Liz Locke at the age of 7. She completed an ABRSM Piano Diploma in Music Performance, and has experience in piano tutoring for junior duet groups and ensembles in high school. Since graduating, she has been a piano teacher at a private music school in Singapore, and has recently moved back to Palmerston North as a piano teacher at Soundworks.

Mike Cowles

Violin and Viola Teacher

Mike’s violin career started over 35 years ago at the Saturday Morning Music scheme in Nelson. He has had a wide music experience in not only Violin, but also Viola, Cello, Clarinet, Trumpet, Singing and Drums. He has been teaching Violin for over 20 years. This has involved private and class tuition, where he taught in the Manawatu Saturday Morning Music scheme. He has also had a wide range of performance experience performing and conducting in various orchestras. His practical experience also extends to playing in professional and amateur operatic shows, chamber ensembles and studio recording work.

Walter Taber

Piano Teacher

Walter is a second-year Massey student studying Psychology and Geography.  He has been playing classical piano since he was seven and guitar since he was nine. He passed his ATCL recital diploma on the piano in 2015. Outside of classical music, during his high school years he played guitar and sang in a rock band, composing and covering songs. Teaching music has been something he has always enjoyed doing. “It’s always a good feeling having been a part of helping someone progress with what they play and seeing the enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from it. When it comes to teaching, I strive to give my students the technique to play safely, effectively and musically throughout the grades in an environment that has a mix of fun and seriousness.”

Lizzy Mackay

Piano Teacher

Lizzy MacKay loves to play piano and has been playing since she was 7 years old. She enjoys being involved in school groups such as the Training Orchestra, Concert Band (where she plays clarinet) and Junior Choir (which she accompanies on the piano). She enjoys playing in piano competitions throughout the year and being involved in music wherever she can. Lizzy looks forward to teaching you and helping you with your musical journey!

Changhee Cho

Piano Teacher

I was born in Wellington in 2001 but my parents are originally from South Korea, and moved to New Zealand for a better life. I graduated from Palmy boys and am currently a student at Massey University and I am studying Food Technology. I have been studying piano for around 10 years and got up to Diploma level. I can also play a bit of saxophone, guitar and traditional Korean drums. In the little spare time I have, I like to play table tennis, badminton or football. I play table tennis competitively and hope to win some medals at the national competition in 2019.

Malissa Sun

Piano and Flute Teacher

Malissa is a student at Palmerston North Girls High School and started learning piano at the age of 7, and flute at the age of 11. She loves music and enjoys getting involved in music groups such as the Manawatu Youth Orchestra, school jazz band and flute choir. She also competes in music competitions throughout the year and plays in chamber groups. Malissa looks forward to teaching at Soundworks and helping students discover their love for music!

Lara Harjes

Student Violin Teacher

Lara is a student at Palmerston North Girls High School. She started learning violin at the age of 4. She passed her ATCL in violin last year. Lara enjoys being part of music groups, such as the Manawatu Youth Orchestra, PNGHS String Orchestra, chamber music groups, and loves competing in musical competitions throughout the year. Lara is looking forward to sharing her love of music with you!

Hannah Fifield

Singing and Ukelele Teacher

Hannah Fifield loves to play ukulele and loves to sing. She has been playing ukulele for 9 years and singing for 7 years. She was in a barbershop quartet, school choir, she directed her own choir and ran a ukulele group at Ross intermediate. She does many performances throughout the year and can't wait to teach you and eventually see you perform!

Emma Wang

Piano and Cello Teacher

Emma is a student at Palmerston North Girls High School. She first started playing piano when she was 6, and is currently working towards her Grade 8 Piano. She also plays the Cello, and is working toward Grade 8. Emma loves being involved in music groups such as String orchestra, Chamber music groups, and the Manawatu youth orchestra. Emma is excited to be able to teach and share her love of music!

Lydia Monzeglio

Singing, Piano, and Violin Teacher

Lydia is a soprano who has been training as a voice student of Aukse Trinkunas for the last 7 years in South Africa. In May 2016 she made her debut in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte as the first Knabe under conductor Desar Sulejmani and director Dr. Christoph Dammann. Performing with Aubrey Lodewyk, Caroline Nkwe, Musa Nkuna and The German Rhine Philharmonic Orchestra. She has won “The Best Female Singer” and “The Best Opera Singer” at the Johannesburg Fesival for the Advancement of Music. As a child growing up she had a big passion for music, studying both piano and violin as well as singing, and she enrolled in many choirs, mass choirs and played in the Simfonia Juventi Youth Orchestra. Lydia is now married and loves to inspire people with music. She still sings in choirs and has successfully taught singing, violin and piano students since 2014.

Liz Locke

Senior Piano Teacher

Liz Locke has been teaching piano in Australia and NZ for a total of around 33 years. She has LTCL in piano and a BA degree in English Literature and foreign languages. In 2002 she was awarded the Australian Music Examinations Board ‘NZ Music Teacher of the Year’ Award for the quality of her work with her students. As well as teaching her own students, she supervises senior students in piano-teaching. She is a mother of three and as her children were growing up, Liz lead a pre-school music class called ‘Musicmakers’ for 10 years and worked as a facilitator of the Early Childhood ‘Feeling Safe Programme’. She also spent many years as a very involved member of Playcentre and later the Steiner Kindergarten. She is convinced that learning an instrument and being involved in music-making can have enormous benefits in the academic, social and artistic development of every child, if they are given the opportunity, and can enrich the life of every adult who gets involved.