The mission of El Sistema Oklahoma is to serve the community by engaging children within an ensemble-based music program so they can share the joy of music-making and grow as responsible citizens.
Board of Directors
Cathy Busey, Chair
Phil G. Busey, Sr., Vice-Chair
Rev. Phil Greenwald, Treasurer
Rev. Brian Bakeman
Dr. Cory Nagode
Director of Musicianship and Logistics
Dr. Lani Garner is a professor of Music Education at University of Central Oklahoma. She received her Ph.D. in Music Education at the University of Oklahoma in 2017. Her passion for teaching younger students extends through her current work as Director of Teacher Support and a Lead Teaching Artist at El Sistema Oklahoma. Prior to this, she worked with the K20 Center for Education and Community Renewal, providing coaching, mentoring and coordinating technical assistance and training across the state for grant schools and their partners. Dr. Garner also spent over eighteen years teaching elementary music in the Norman Public School District and continues to volunteer with these schools.
As co-founder of the first elementary world-music ensemble in the state, Manyawi!, and founder of a second group, Zambuko, she shares her experiences with undergraduates interested in including “outside the box” lessons to energize traditional elementary music instruction. Her passion for and success with world music education stems from her own travels and research. She was chosen by the Rotary International Group Study Exchange Program in May 2001 to learn from and work with local musicians and educators in Norway. Additionally, through the Fund for Teachers grant, she and two colleagues spent two weeks in the village of Mhondoro, Zimbabwe in 2006, where she was immersed in the culture and music of the Shona people. During the summer of 2014, Lani spent two weeks at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music learning about traditional Chinese music and culture. She also presented research concerning music educators’ self-perceptions and implementation of classroom operations at the International Society for Music Education (ISME) World Conference in Scotland in summer 2016. All of her travels have contributed to her love for teaching children global connections, and she hopes to influence aspiring educators to develop authentic world music communities and creative classroom experiences.
Director of Program and Student Support
Abigail Pappas joined the El Sistema Oklahoma team in January 2019 as an instrumental teacher. She is from Oklahoma City and received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before joining El Sistema Oklahoma, Abigail served as the Instrumental Music Director at Harding Fine Arts Academy. Additionally, Abigail spent five months working at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida in 2017 and spent 6 weeks in Dublin, Ireland for a film internship in Summer 2021. Abigail currently works part-time at Oklahoma A+ Schools as the Project Integration Specialist, where she coordinates the SAIL Box, a monthly, arts-integrated activity box for elementary-aged students.
Cheyenne Rain is the Site Director and cello teacher for El Sistema Oklahoma. She also plays cello for the Oklahoma Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and serves as their Managing Director. Her creative outlets involve performing with Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, local rock band Stepmom, Scandinavian folk band Rauland, and the St. Luke’s Community Orchestra. She holds a master’s degree in cello performance from Oklahoma City University and a Bachelor's of Arts in music from University of Arkansas.
Coordinator of Instrumental Teacher Support
Samantha Sy is a native of Oklahoma City. She received her bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education from Oklahoma City University in 2011 and received her master’s degree in education, instructional leadership and academic curriculum from the University of Oklahoma in 2020.
Since 2011, Samantha has been the orchestra teacher at Taft and Northwest Classen, both of which are in the Oklahoma City Public Schools System. Since 2013, Samantha has also served as the district team leader for OKCPS orchestra teachers. Samantha has served as the North Central Honor Orchestra president since 2014, and has also served as the 2017 Oklahoma Music Educators Association All State Orchestra Chair. In addition to being employed with Oklahoma City Public Schools and El Sistema Oklahoma, Samantha is also an instructor of an undergraduate course at the University of Oklahoma.
Composition Lab Teacher
Luis Francisco Venegas graduated with honors from Oklahoma City University (OCU) from both his undergraduate and master’s degrees. As a teacher, Mr. Venegas has led a very effective private studio for over a decade, starting in his homeland Colombia, and continuing after moving to Oklahoma City where he currently resides. In the professional field, he works as the current guitar instructor at Southern Nazarene University (SNU), the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO), as teacher of Music Composition at El Sistema Oklahoma, and as musician and guitar instructor for St. Luke’s United Methodist Church of Oklahoma. In the Spring of 2020 Mr. Venegas also joined Oklahoma Youth Orchestras as Program Manager. His experience working with guitar ensembles is broad and has been awarded first and second prize as part of the OCU Guitar ensemble and OCU Guitar trio, respectively, at the National Guitar Ensemble Competition at Brownsville, TX - (2014). With an extensive history of master classes and workshops in collaboration with several major guitarists throughout his career, his teaching confers musical sensitivity through effective guitar and ensemble techniques, while utilizing a diversity of educational and creative instrumental methods.
Mr. Venegas currently collaborates and performs with his wife Elizabeth Venegas (Violin) as Venegas Duo, and with guitarist Henry Bayless as Prairie Guitar Duo.