WEST COBB STAFF
Clare Mansell, Director & Founder
Ms. Mansell is a violist and violinist who is a product of the Fulton County School System. Her first orchestra teacher was the legendary Christine Dunn, and the coordinator the legendary Joseph Kirshner. Ms. Mansell is a middle school director in Cobb County at McClure Middle School, and prior to that was a string specialist in Fulton County for 17 years.
Ms. Mansell holds a BM and MM in viola performance from the University of Georgia, and an EdS in administration from Lincoln Memorial University. She has also studied at SUNY in Fredonia, NY. Ms. Mansell’s teachers include Lillian Fuchs and Eduard Melkus, amongst others. She has performed in many symphony orchestras – those of Charleston, SC, Jackson, MS, Baton Rouge, LA, Greenville, SC, Asheville, NC, Savannah, GA, and Atlanta Ballet, to name a few. She also lived in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, where she was a member of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Xalapa. Her last full-time symphonic position (before beginning her teaching career) was as Chattanooga Symphony’s assistant principal violist and a member of the Chattanooga Symphony String Quartet. Ms. Mansell still free-lances in the Atlanta area on viola and violin. Ms. Mansell was a finalist for the 2005 Disney Teacher Award and was listed in the 2006-07 Who’s Who Among American Teachers. She founded Upbeat! String Camp in 2000.
Ms. Mansell has a son, Zachary – of whom she is very proud – who resides in Dallas Texas and is principal cellist of the East Texas Symphony and also is a member of the Dallas Opera. He graduated from Cleveland Institute of Music with a graduate degree in cello performance in 2013. Ms. Mansell’s hobbies, besides playing and attending concerts (especially chamber music) are hiking, reading history, traveling, gardening and photography. Her musical cats are Comet, Lucky, Dusty and Ned.
Jennifer Aikey, Violin
Jennifer Aikey is the Orchestra Director at Durham Middle School in Acworth, GA. Prior to this position, Jennifer was the Assistant Orchestra Director at Durham from 2013-2015, and was the founding teacher of the Strings program at East Aiken School of the Arts in Aiken, SC from 2010-2013. She obtained her Bachelor’s in Music Education at Augusta State University in 2013, followed by a Master of Music Education at Florida State University in 2016. An Augusta, GA native, Jennifer started playing violin through the Richmond County Orchestra program in 4th grade, and picked up the guitar, mandolin, and other instruments along the way. An avid lover of all things music, she has sung and played with many types of ensembles and bands with a variety of music, including jazz, old-time, bluegrass, country, and rock. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys arranging and writing music, fiddling, traveling, and most of all, spending time with her family. She resides in Acworth with her husband, Ben, and their daughter, Claire.
Shalunda Fincher, Cello
Shalunda Fincher is a native of South Carolina. She began her amazing journey with the cello in the 5th grade. Ms Fincher holds a Bachelors in music education from the University of South Carolina and a Masters in cello performance from Bowling Green State University. She has performed with orchestras throughout Georgia, South Carolina, and Ohio. Chamber music and teaching privately are also areas that Ms Fincher loves and continues to be actively involved. She is currently an elementary music specialist in Fulton County where she was also an orchestra director from 2000-2010 and in Cobb County from 2010-2013. From 2013-2017, Ms Fincher was actively involved in a church plant where she continues to serve as worship leader. She is forever grateful for the many doors of relationship and opportunity that music has opened in her life.
Susie Hines, Violin
Susie Hines is a violinist from the Atlanta area. After completing high school she attended Furman University in Greenville, SC and earned her Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education. After graduating she taught orchestra in Cobb County at Garrett Middle and at Mabry Middle School. During that time she earned her Master’s degree in Violin Performance from Georgia State University. She currently teaches part time at Lost Mountain Middle School and plays in the Georgia Symphony and Rome Symphony Orchestras. She is married and has two daughters, Morgan and Kylie.
Clay Rogers, Double Bass
Clay Rogers is currently a double bass player at Kennesaw State University who is working on getting a degree in music education. Clay has been playing bass for 8 years and in that time has made honors orchestra twice and is 2nd chair bass in the symphony at KSU. He has preformed all sorts of styles of music including classical, bluegrass, jazz as well as playing in multiple musicals. While he is a primarily a double bass player, he is not limited to just the bass. He has also taught himself how to play an assortment of other various stringed instruments such as the guitar, ukulele, and banjo. His plan is to learn most of, if not all of the stringed instruments at some point. While being around Clay, you are certain to learn more than you probably wanted to know about the British rock band Queen.
Joel Schroter, Percussion
Mr. Schroter grew up in Pennsylvania and began his musical path as a percussionist. The positive musical experiences in his public school music programs influenced his decision to become a music educator. Although percussion is his primary instrument, Joel did his Master’s Degree in string pedagogy under the guidance of Dr. Michael Allen. Mr. Schroter’s greatest joys come from his 3 daughters: Stella, Rosie, and Betty. He also loves hanging out with his dog Wolfgang “Wolfie” Amadeus Schroter.
Mary Vavra, Viola & Chamber Music
Mary Vavra is the Orchestra Director at Lovinggood Middle School in Powder Springs, GA. She is a product of the Cobb County School System, now home after studying and working in South Carolina. Ms. Vavra received a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Viola Performance Certificate from the University of South Carolina. She has performed with the Palmetto Chamber Orchestra, Aiken Symphony Orchestra, and Jubilate Choir. When she’s not making music, Ms. Vavra enjoys reading, knitting, and cooking. Additionally, she is the honorary aunt of four cats and two dogs.