Teacher Bios

Monica Behler

Monica Capiral - Education Coordinator Monica Behler Email Address

Monica Behler began her violin studies at the Port Jefferson Music Academy in 1998 (the founding year of the Academy) as a student of Sophie Arbuckle and Arik Braude. During that time, she was a member of the Academy's String Quartet which performed regularly at various local outreach events.

She later concurrently attended the Mannes College Prep where she was a member of the Mannes Philharmonic - Monica has also attended the Killington and the Green Mountain Summer Chamber Music Festivals. She began her collegiate studies of music at the Aaron Copland Conservatory of Music at Queen's College (CUNY) and is a violin student of Arik Braude.

Monica joined the Port Jefferson Music Academy faculty in 2008 and has since developed a vibrant violin & viola studio. In addition she teaches music theory and kindermusik classes. Monica is our new Education Coordinator. She will be happy to assist you with any questions about our music lessons program!


AJ Barbera AJ Barbera Email Address

Born and raised on the south shore of Long Island, AJ Barbera has years of experience delving into the educational, technological, and business aspects of music, bringing all sides of the music industry together to create musical minds, push the development of new products, and encourage creativity when composing and recording music.

Attending the Crane School of Music, AJ has studied under the renowned Dr. Sarah Hersh, absorbing vast amounts of knowledge passed on from her violin pedagogue, Shinichi Suzuki.

Graduating from the Crane School of Music, AJ has achieved a degree in Music Business and has been pushing to expand his horizons to benefit musicians of all ages and skill levels.

On top of many years of classical expertise, AJ maintains extensive knowledge with a background of rock, metal, jazz, hip-hop production and many other facets of music that aid his journey to becoming a well-rounded and well-versed musician. 


Bonnie Foti

Bonnie Foti holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the Crane School of Music as well as a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and has been a string educator for over 20 years.

Ms. Foti began her teaching career at North Middle School in the Brentwood School District. During her time there as orchestra director her orchestras consistently received the highest ratings of Gold and Gold with Distinction at NYSSMA Major Organization Festivals and Dixie Classic Festivals in Virginia.

She has adjudicated numerous NYSSMA solo festivals, chaired SCMEA All County Festivals, is the current librarian and chairperson for the Long Island String Festivals and hosted and chaired the NYSCAME String Symposiums. Ms. Foti has enjoyed the honor of guest conducting several All County rehearsals and concerts as well as served as a string specialist for the Gemini Youth Symphony.

Ms. Foti currently works at John Mandracchia Sawmill Intermediate School in Commack where she teaches the fourth and fifth grade orchestra, chamber orchestra, Rockin’ Strings orchestra, general music and most recently began the musical theater program in 2017. In 2018 Ms. Foti was nominated by peers and Administration as Teacher of the year, and this year she will be honored again as the PTA Founder’s Day Recipient for the Commack Union Free School District.

Over the years, Ms. Foti has had the privilege to perform with many community orchestras and chamber groups including Sound Symphony and is presently active as a freelance musician. She continues to hold a large private studio and is the first violinist in the Lyrical String Quartet which performs in venues across Long Island and in the New York City area.

In her free time Ms. Foti enjoys spending time with her four children and husband. She loves to cook, read and garden. She is very active in her church as part of the music ministry, VBS music director, Pastoral Council member and Faith Formation catechist.


Tom Valdez Tom Valdez Email Address

Tom Valdez is a cellist, educator, and clinician based in Suffolk County, NY on Long Island. Prior to his recent move to the area, Tom lived in Virginia where he was a student and freelancer in the VA, MD, and D.C. areas.

Tom has played the cello for over thirteen years and holds a Bachelor of Music in Performance from Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, VA. While living in Virginia, he was a member of Shenandoah Summer Music Theater, Labrador Entertainment, the National String Symphonia, the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra, and EDGE Ensemble. Tom has also collaborated with many renowned music. He recently made his New York debut with Lost Dog New Music Ensemble.

Tom also maintains a healthy teaching lifestyle. His private students are not only recognized as members of their schools’ top ensembles, but as top members of those ensembles as well. Schools at which he gave sectionals and coaching sessions consistently earned Superior ratings at district and state festivals.

When not performing or teaching, Tom likes to play video games or crochet and often has a sizable backlog of new games and yarns to get through.