The original inspiration for Star Kidz dates back to 2001, when Alyson Isbrandtsen was asked by a summer camp to develop and teach a music program. “Knowing that I had 10 groups of campers of all ages coming each day, I knew I needed to create a program that would keep them entertained and interested, so I decided to combine singing, acting and dancing in each session."
After that summer program became such a hit with parents and students, Alyson thought about creating a unique performing arts program that would teach the same three disciplines in a single class. Based on her years of experience as a performer and singing teacher — as well as her observations of her own kids and their friends — she had concluded that kids learn best in classes that offer variety, fun and individual attention.
In 2003, Alyson and Suzanne joined forces and Star Kidz was launched as a 4-week pilot program with 40 students. Star Kidz was an immediate hit and before long had over 90 students — ranging in ages from 4-14. Within a year, Suzanne and Alyson carefully selected a professional staff of teachers and expanded to locations across Westchester and had over 300 students enrolled. Star Kidz-Westchester’s biggest hit.
Alyson and Suzanne believe that what makes Star Kidz unique is their commitment to nurturing each child’s individual needs. This approach allows students to focus better on each area of performing arts without getting bored, receive individual attention and stay engaged in a fun, creative, supportive setting.
Alyson Isbrandtsen has been a highly regarded singing/acting teacher for over 25 years, developing singers and actors of all ages who have appeared on Broadway, national tours, TV and film. Her students have included Noah Schnapp (Will on Stranger Things), Gabriella Pizzolo (Susie on Stranger Things), Eli Golden (Evan Goldman on Netflix
Alyson Isbrandtsen has been a highly regarded singing/acting teacher for over 25 years, developing singers and actors of all ages who have appeared on Broadway, national tours, TV and film. Her students have included Noah Schnapp (Will on Stranger Things), Gabriella Pizzolo (Susie on Stranger Things), Eli Golden (Evan Goldman on Netflix’s ‘13 The Musical”) Colby Kipnes (Squirrel in Grey House (Broadway)), Cody Braverman (Christopher Hillard in Mrs Doubtfire (Equity National Tour)), Annie Braverman (Young Anna in Frozen (Equity National Tour)), Leila Gross (Young Anna in Frozen (Broadway)), Mackenzie Mercer (Young Elsa in the Frozen (Equity National Tour)), Montgomery Lamb (Katie in School Of Rock (Broadway)), Riley Perler (Lulu in Waitress (Broadway)), Madisen Lora (Frannie in Theater Camp (The Movie)), Jack Sobolewski (Christopher S. in Theater Camp (The Movie)), Rachel Gordon (Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Who Stole Christmas (National Tour)), and Jadyn Schwartz (Small Allison in Fun Home (Equity National Tour)). Other students’ credits include Les Misérables (Equity National Tour), Mary Poppins (Papermill Playhouse), Sound Of Music (Papermill Playhouse), and more. Alyson also continues to scout talent on behalf of agents and managers in NYC.
Alyson grew up in show business. At 10 years old, she landed the part of Duffy in the first national touring company of Annie. Her other credits include Off Broadway shows, several national commercials, voiceovers, and various film and TV roles. During her years on stage and in front of the camera, Alyson was a member of Actors Equity Association (AEA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and AFTRA (American federation of television and Radio Artists).
Alyson began her transition to the other side of “the business,” working in New York City as a talent manager in the early 90’s. Since 2004,
She has recently completed her certification in vocal pedagogy from Boston Conservatory/Berklee and is a member of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing)
Alyson thanks her husband Rob, Jordan, Danielle and Tyler for all of your support. And thanks to our dog Riley for always being happy to see me : )
Suzanne moved to NYC at the age of 20 and spent 13 years in show business performing as an accomplished singer, actress and dancer whose credits include Grand Hotel on Broadway and the leading role of Grizabella in the Vienna company of Cats. She also worked as a recording artist and performer in Europe. Suzanne completed the two-year act
Suzanne moved to NYC at the age of 20 and spent 13 years in show business performing as an accomplished singer, actress and dancer whose credits include Grand Hotel on Broadway and the leading role of Grizabella in the Vienna company of Cats. She also worked as a recording artist and performer in Europe. Suzanne completed the two-year acting program and master courses at the William Esper Studio, and studied voice and dance with leading teachers in NYC.
Following her career as a performer, Suzanne graduated from The Culinary Institute of America for Pastry and worked in NYC restaurants. But when Suzanne realized how much she loved children and wanted to work with them, she joined the inclusion program at Greenwich Elementary School, where she worked for three years before co-founding Star Kidz singing, dancing, & acting classes for children in New York.
Suzanne was thrilled to join forces with Alyson at Star Kidz, where she has been able to unite her love of children and teaching with her experience as a performer. She has 3 grown girls and lives with her husband in Yonkers. She is proud to be a grandma, too!
Grace Barber is a musician, singer, actress, writer, composer, recording artist, and senior dog mom.
She graduated from Stella Adler through NYU Tisch’s drama program. She has composed several original musicals, and was the composer, cowriter, and costar of the miniseries Filthy Rich. She also has two albums on Spotify, “Evil Twin” and “I
Grace Barber is a musician, singer, actress, writer, composer, recording artist, and senior dog mom.
She graduated from Stella Adler through NYU Tisch’s drama program. She has composed several original musicals, and was the composer, cowriter, and costar of the miniseries Filthy Rich. She also has two albums on Spotify, “Evil Twin” and “I Can’t Sleep,” that she cowrote with her father. Favorite roles include Goneril in King Lear, Rizzo in Grease, and Annie Cannon in Silent Sky.
Though performing was her first passion, she has realized that teaching is incredibly fulfilling. She is very grateful for the opportunity to help kids learn confidence and joy through the lens of musical theater. You can also find her at gracebarber.com if you’re so inclined!
Kristen Ashley Ragusa is an actor, dancer, singer, and playwright living in Connecticut. She received her BFA in Musical Theatre from The University of Miami with a dance scholarship. Kristen has been previously seen touring the Northeast in Hercules and the Heroes and Aladdin. Other credits include: The Wild Party (Mae), Chicago (Choreographer), In the Heights (Carla), James and the Giant Peach NY tour (Aunt Spiker/Choreographer), and I, Survived where she got to work with the one and only Dascha Polanco. Great theater instructors are what inspired her to be in the industry. She loves teaching theater to children and watching them get the acting bug like she did. For more information about Kristen visit kristenashleyragusa.com !
Karen (K) is thrilled to be a part of the Star Kidz family. She is the proud mom of three teenage girls, all of whom perform, both on stage and behind the scenes. Her oldest, Natalie is a busy Freshman studying Biomedical Engineering at Boston University, Her middle daughter, Ava is a Junior in High school and has been in film, television, commercials as well as professional theaters. Her youngest, Audrey is in 8th grade and plays saxophone, volleyball, basketball and softball. She has been married to her amazing husband Tom for twenty years!
K has taught Elementary children for 15 years, and has a Master’s Degree in Education. She recently had the pleasure of teaching Enrichment in a homeschool learning pod, where her favorite subjects were singing, acting and dancing! Currently, K is stepping in to teach a three year old preschool class while their teacher is on leave.
K has been performing in musicals since high school and continues to find fun ways to perform today in Regional theaters, singing with bands and in fundraisers and cabarets. She also creates costumes for local theaters and is a seamstress for her children’s school productions. K can’t wait to share her passion for the arts with your children in fun and exciting ways!
Maria Cento is thrilled to be joining the Star Kidz team. She is an elementary educator by day and has a passion for teaching children. Maria is a proud graduate of SUNY Geneseo with a BA in Musical Theatre. She has worked professionally in regional theatres and voiceover work. Favorite credits include The Polar Express Produced by Warner Brothers, Wizard of Oz, James and the Giant Peach, and 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She can also be seen on Investigation Discovery's season 3 premiere of Evil Lives Here.
Verna is a graduate of the Circle In The Square Professional Theater School. After graduation, she continued studying with Zina Jasper. Her regional stage work includes The Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Phoenix Theatre and The Children’s Theatre Center of New Jersey.
Off Broadway she has appeared in Wilder, Wilder, Wilder (Drama Desk Nomination – Best Revival), Who Will Carry The Word?, A Child’s Christmas In Wales, The Balcony, Street Scene, and Don Juan Comes Back From The War, all with the Willow Cabin Theatre Company. She has appeared in numerous soap operas, commercials and films. She is a member of Actors Equity and SAG/AFTRA.
Verna has also worked as a teaching artist in the New York City School System, teaching Daniel Sklar’s “Playmaking” program. A mother of twin girls ,Verna spent four years coaching soccer for the White Plains Department of Recreation with girls ages 8 through 12.