Headshot of Laura CookLaura Cook

I began taking piano lessons at age six and continued taking them through high school. During that time I accompanied choirs, went to piano contest several times and of course practiced a lot…much to my dismay at times! My college major was education so I spent my years after college teaching first grade. After teaching, I decided to stay home with my children. I began teaching piano here six years ago and am currently the director of School of the Arts. My roster of piano students includes my sons which always keeps things interesting. My passions are teaching and also playing the piano so I love that I get to combine both into one! I also play the piano at Pathfinder for worship when my schedule allows. I love getting to work with such talented musicians in church.

I would be happy to talk with you about taking lessons through School of the Arts. I love being able to incorporate faith and worship into learning music. School of the Arts is a great place to be!

Mat Dale

I’ve been serving at Pathfinder as a worship guitarist for over three years and am happy to be a part of the teaching staff at SOTA. Aside from teaching, I am an active gigging musician. My favorite styles include rock, jazz, blues, acoustic fingerstyle, worship, soul, and pop. I’m also an avid gear-head so don’t ask me about guitar amps or pedals unless you are prepared to get your ears talked off! My journey with music started at an early age watching my dad play guitar. By the time I was 6, I started private guitar lessons and continued all the way through the end of my high school career. Upon entering college, I pursued audio engineering while studying privately with Dave Black. After a year at Webster University I transferred to McNally-Smith College of Music in Saint Paul, MN and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Music in Guitar Performance.

After college I began teaching and gigging professionally, and spent most nights and weekends practicing, practicing and practicing some more, which led me to develop my own technique and approach to music. My teaching method is three-fold. First, music is a language, and we learn this language as we did our native language- by listening. As we listen, music resides in our hearts and minds. We, then, study technique on an instrument to express the music already within ourselves. Next comes the theory of how music works to make the process streamlined and repeatable. With all that in mind, I like to make things fun and enjoyable so everyone can experience the joy music can bring.

Justin Guldalian

Hi! My name is Justin Guldalian and I am a charter member of the St. John School of the Arts staff. I have been playing percussion since 1993, and have played in every kind of band/ensemble you can think of.

Throughout grade school I performed with the Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Marching Band (snare), and Percussion Ensemble. I received a Bachelor of Music in percussion performance from Drake University in 2005, and while there performed as principal percussionist in the Wind Symphony, drum line section leader in the Marching Band, and as timpanist for the Symphony Orchestra.

In the non-academic world, I have played drum set in bands of all kinds, from classic rock, to punk, to Indy rock, to blues, performing both covers and original work. I have been playing in praise bands of various kinds since 2002. Currently, I play and tour nationwide with a theatrical percussion group called stikyard (stikyard.com). As an instructor, I enjoy teaching about all facets of music (yes, even music theory). I do my best to set my students up with real world percussion skills and musical knowledge so they will meet with success in all of their playing endeavors.

Julie Kern

I agree with Martin Luther who said, “Next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Music stirs the soul, that’s for sure.  I am a huge advocate for any kind of musical training because it will be with you for life. It is great therapy and can be useful in so many different ways. I began piano lessons in the 1st grade. I still remember my first piano teacher, Elsie Hoteling, who taught me for about 6 years. I then took organ lessons in 6th grade and ended up playing for my hometown Lutheran church services until I left for college. I studied fashion merchandising and art at the University of Missouri, Columbia.  I missed the piano so much I would often go to the studio rooms on campus and play at night. When my 3 children attended St. John Lutheran School I became the pianist for the school choirs and worked as a 4th grade teachers’ aid. After a few years I became the 6th-8th grade art teacher, school choir director and music teacher for 1st through 8th grades. I was in charge of at least 20 musicals over 10 years. I was also a choir member and often played for services. What a joy and blessing! I am currently the choir director for Meramec Bluffs Singers at the Lutheran Senior Services Center in Valley Park.  Needless to say those piano lessons served me well as this wonderful hobby has turned into a career! Now I am finally teaching piano and I hope to bless your children with this incredible joy that lives inside me!

Katie Lorenz

This is my first year as an instructor for School of the Arts and I am extremely excited to be blessed with this opportunity! I started piano lessons when I was seven and continued to study formally throughout high school. I attended grade school at St. John and Lutheran South for high school. I am currently in my third year at Lindenwood University, pursuing a degree in marketing.

During middle school, I got the opportunity to play during worship services and have done so periodically ever since. Currently at St. John I am a Core mentor and I love working with the middle schoolers! Though I love classical music, (Beethoven is my favorite composer), my love for music covers many genres and time periods. I continuously work to further my knowledge of piano and music in general. The piano is one of my greatest passions and I am so excited to share my love of music with others!

Tom Surkamp

My family and I joined St. John Church in the summer of 1994. Within a few months, my wife was in the choir and I was playing in the worship band on guitar, keyboards and occasionally on bass guitar. I have played professionally at Six Flags over Mid-America, in theatre productions, in stage bands, with rock bands, bluegrass and polka and even a belly dancer. I have taught guitar and piano previously, but when the School of the Arts began, I was one of the first teachers. I have taught every semester since. Focusing on the fundamentals of reading music, I work fun into every lesson along with music the student likes.


Jodi Treat

I’ve been teaching with School of the Arts since 2009.  I work part time as a physical therapist for Mercy and have played piano most of my life.  While I didn’t pursue a music degree in college, I feel that I have always been led in the direction of worship and music.  I started teaching piano years ago for friends and family.  Trading piano lessons for babysitting was a “win-win” for me when I had three little ones at home.  Over the years, it has given me so much gratification to watch my students grow at all levels, and express their musical gifts.

The bible tells us that God’s expectation is that we share our talents and gifts to further His kingdom.  I am grateful that School of the Arts is helping artists of all ages and skills fulfill God’s purpose in their lives.

My husband Calvin and I have three daughters and have recently become empty nesters, with one daughter teaching in Rockwood and two in college.  My hobbies include traveling, photography, scrapbooking, and Cardinals baseball.

Michele Youngberg

My name is Michele Youngberg and I thank God for blessing me with the opportunity to teach piano here at St. John’s School of the Arts!

With my mom being a music teacher and choir director/pianist and organist at our church, I grew up with a strong musical background. I began playing piano when I was in first grade and eventually accompanied our church choir and small groups in church. I began playing piano in our church’s worship team six years ago and love playing anything from old hymns to the newest Christian music out there.

My husband and I have been married for almost 30 years and have four daughters. We are originally from Nebraska but have become loyal fans of the Cardinals, Rams and Blues since moving to St. Louis. I now spend parts of my days as a nanny, as my own girls are pretty much grown, and love to interact with and teach children any way that I can. Teaching piano is a way that I can continue to do that in a musical sense.

Annalyse Erbst

Hey! My name is Annalyse and I’m a singer-songwriter and worship leader, born and raised in St. Louis. My passion for music started on the karaoke machine, where I began singing at age 5. As I got older I explored other things, starting piano lessons at age 7 and then wrote my first song at 12 years old. I learned most about music through serving in my church growing up, slowly working my way from the second keyboard in the farthest corner of the stage, to leading for the full congregation by the end of high school. In 10th grade, I recorded my first album of original songs, and won iSing St. Louis through Joy FM that gave me the opportunity to perform before Tenth Avenue North took the show for a sold out concert. I went off to school in Arizona for my first year of college and studied worship ministry under MercyMe’s front man Bart Millard, and recorded with Rend Collective during my time there. After my first year, I transferred to Webster University, where I study music and will earn my degree in Songwriting with a minor in Audio Engineering in December 2019. I’m currently on staff at a church in St. Louis leading worship and am also under contract with a local music group who records, produces, and distributes my original music. Some of my favorite artists include Ingrid Michaelson, Jon Foreman (Switchfoot), Coldplay, and The Japanese House. Outside of music, I love to spend time with my family (I have 4 siblings), travel, swing dance, read books, attend concerts, and hike. I believe learning music should be fun, creative, and hands on. My goal in lessons is to create a safe space for students to be expressive through music they want to learn, and to then empower them to perform and share their art.


Hi! My name is Jason Erbst and I am a graduate of Webster University with a degree in Music Education (emphasis in Choral Music.) I transferred to Webster University my sophomore year from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. I grew up in the town of Bettendorf, Iowa. This is where I first discovered my love for music. One could say I was late to the game of pursuing music as my career, as I did not take any private lessons until my senior year of high school. I had always been around music, but largely, I was an athlete. I wrestled for 11 years, starting at the age of 5. I also have played baseball every summer since age 7. Despite how invested I was into athletics, I was ultimately drawn to music. 

I am a choral director at heart, but I also love to perform with my primary instrument, my voice. I have performed with St. Louis Winter Opera in their production of Bizet’s Carmen. I have sang at many churches around the St. Louis area, such as Christ Church Cathedral, The Cathedral Basilica, and Manchester United Methodist. I was also staffed as one of the section leaders for the church choir at Webster Groves Presbyterian Church for two and a half years. I have also performed with the St. Louis Symphony. 

My passion for music has only grown since I have started teaching. This is one of the reasons I am so elated to have the opportunity to teach at School of the Arts. I believe the true joy of music making, is the process of learning. This process is a very vulnerable and precious thing. That is why I believe it is very important to create and feed positive relationships within each session we have together. The positive relationship found within lessons inherently empowers the student to find and build confidence not only within the music, but within themselves. 

Still have questions about the School of the Arts?

Please email Laura Cook, Director of School of the Arts, at [email protected] or call her at 636-779-2386.