Our Teachers

All of our teachers are accomplished musicians who bring their love and passion for both music and children into their classes, creating a fun and quality music time for all!

photo Michele Venegas

Joyful Sounds owner, director and teacher, Michele Venegas taught Music Together® for several years in Michigan, Vancouver, B.C., and Florida before opening the Joyful Sounds Music Studio in Grand Rapids in 2008.  Michele did several units of Suzuki violin training at the University of Wisconsin, Steven's Point.  She taught Suzuki Violin for many years, teaching hundreds of children through private and group lessons as well as fiddle workshops, including one at the internationally renowned Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.  Although no longer teaching private violin, she continues to play and has great fun performing with the regional Celtic/World-Beat group An Dro.

Michele received her Music Together training in Princeton, New Jersey with Music Together co-authors Kenneth Guilmartin and Lili Levinowitz, PhD. in August, 2000. She achieved her Music Together Certification Level 1 in August, 2014, and has recently been awarded Music Together Certification Level II status (July 2019) having demonstrated ustanding achievement in teaching, musicianship, program philosophy, and parent education. The award was granted by the Center for Music And Young Children in Princeton, NJ, Kenneth K. Guilmartin, Founder/Director.

Michele finds it pure joy working with families with young children and loves to get them excited about making music!

photo Sonja Noykos

Sonja Noykos has truly loved teaching Music Together since she was trained in 2010.  She has taught at Joyful Sounds since 2014, having previously taught and directed Music Together in Raleigh, NC.  Sonja and her husband Matthew are the music directors at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Matt co-owns Grand Rapids Violins.  So yes, Sonja is part of a musical family!  Sonja also grew up in a musical family, and besides singing at home, she sang in many choirs and learned to play piano and flute.  As she got older she became more serious about being a flutist and received her Bachelor’s of Music in Flute Performance in 2005 from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music.  Sonja has placed in or won many local and national flute competitions.  Although currently not playing her flute as much or teaching flute lessons due to a busy life with two young children, she hopes to play her flute more again in the future!  It is her love for music and children that makes teaching Music Together a natural fit for Sonja.

photo Josh Dunigan

Over the past fifteen years, Joshua Dunigan has used his love of world music to teach and perform Afro-Cuban and Latin percussion with adult classes and public school students. As the percussionist for Latin-Rock band Cabildo and Afrobeat band AfroZuma, Josh places traditional Cuban, Brazilian, and Andean rhythms in a contemporary setting for live shows in Grand Rapids. Josh has also been an instructor at The Cook Arts Center in Grand Rapids for the past 10 years. He uses a curriculum with emphasis placed on understanding the fundamentals of rhythm, practicing proper playing technique, and having fun with world music in an ensemble. As an instructor for Artists Creating Together (ACT), Josh works with cognitively disabled students using world percussion instruments to learn communication, expression, group play and the science of sound. Through ACT,  Josh directs The Action Drummers an inclusive group of cognitively disabled musicians. The goal of this group is to perform at community events to promote the work of ACT and disabled people in the community. At the fantastic Arts In Motion Studio, Josh teaches private lessons and provides small group activities for students of all abilities. Working every day to ensure equal arts opportunities for all, Josh teaches afterschool at all Grand Rapids Boys and Girls Clubs locations.

photo Abby Whitenight Brooks

Abby Whitenight Brooks is thrilled to be teaching at Joyful Sounds!  She is excited to play musically with the children in her classes, as well as to offer parents a framework of musical activities to do at home.  Abby has taught elementary music in Hudsonville Public Schools for ten years and is currently the assistant director for the high school musical.  Abby has also taught dance in Chicago Public Schools.  Abby has undergraduate degrees in music and dance education from Hope College, and has a Master of Music Education degree from Michigan State University.  While completing her master’s degree, Abby completed both the early childhood and level one certification courses in Music Learning Theory with Edwin Gordon and Cindy Taggart.  Abby completed her Music Together training in Kalamazoo, June 2016.  

photo Eric Engblade

Eric attended DePaul University in Chicago, IL and studied Music (vocal performance) and Religious Studies.  He has been teaching guitar, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, voice, drum and piano lessons professionally for six years at Firehouse Music in Grandville, MI, and privately through takelessons.com, at Charter Schools, Churches, and in his home.  He also has experience working with children as a counselor and program director for Camp Michi-Lu-Ca in Fairview, MI, the lead teacher at the YMCA's Before-And-After-School program in Comstock Park, MI, a facilitator at the Youth and Education at Peace Lutheran Church in Sparta, MI.  Eric has also been performing his original music and children's music at venues all over the state of Michigan since 2005.  He completed his Music Together training October 2018 and is excited to bring his experience teaching music lessons, working with children and families, and performing to Joyful Sounds.

photo Melia Sneden Colwell

Melia is excited to be joining Joyful Sounds Music Studio! After falling in love with music and the piano, she earned her degree in Applied Music and History from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2015. While living in Kansas City, MO, Melia served as the Manager of Education at Wonderscope Children’s Museum and ran weekly music, art, storytime, and activity classes. She has also worked as a Montessori classroom teacher and worked extensively with young children and their families. Currently, Melia and her husband Justin operate Yellow Door Music Studio, a private piano studio serving preschoolers to adult students. She also serves as the accompanist for Girls’ Choral Academy campus choirs and Mayflower Congregation Church’s children’s choirs. She completed her Music Together training in their pilot virtual training program in December 2020 and can't wait to learn, grow, sing, and play with Joyful Sounds families!