Where is your hometown?  Lake Barrington, Il

How long have you been teaching at First Conservatory?  Since 2017

What ages do you prefer to teach?  I am partial to middle school age students, however, part of what I love about being a piano teacher is having a range of ages and enjoying the privilege of watching students grow. 

Who are your favorite performers on your instrument?   My favorite pianist is Mary Sauer.   

And, NOT on your instrument?  I appreciate a great variety, so I don't want to pick favorites.

Who would you like to perform a duet with, dead or alive?  Mary Sauer

Who are your favorite composers?  Brahms and Rachmaninoff

Tell us about a particularly strange or interesting gig.  I always love playing in pit orchestras, never a dull moment!

​What would you be if you weren't a musician?  A noodle maker at Eataly, a hot air balloon driver or a wood chipper.

Favorite books or movies?  Harry Potter

 Cassie Bennett 


 Kristijan Civljak 


Kristijan Civljak was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where he received his first piano instructions at the age of six from his older sister.  Recipient of many awards for piano performances in his childhood, Kristijan studied at the Music Conservatory “Stankovic” in Belgrade, and was distinguished as the best piano student of his generation.  In 1999, Kristijan graduated with the highest honors from the University of Belgrade, where he also pursued his Master’s degree in Piano Performance in the studio of Aleksandra Pavlovic.  He continued his education in the United States at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he was enrolled in Master’s and Doctoral programs to study with Paul Barnes.  He earned his Certificate in Piano Performance at DePaul University in Chicago under the guidance of Eteri Andjaparidze. Kristijan won the Second Prize at the Young Pianists Competition of Yugoslavia (Nis, 1993).  Three years later, in 1996, he was awarded special diploma at the International Young Pianists Competition in Rome, Italy.  In 2001, he was a winner of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Solo Competition.  In 2004, as the recipient of DePaul University music performance award, he became a member of the AmerKlavier™ studio, a unique artistic-educational project founded and directed by internationally acclaimed artist Eteri Andjaparidze at the DePaul University School of Music.

Since 1994, Mr. Civljak has performed in all major cities in Yugoslavia and throughout the United States, both as a soloist and collaborative musician.  He has appeared on Belgrade National Television and Radio, Novi Sad Television and Radio,

and WFMT in Chicago.

In 2005, Mr. Civljak has joined the faculty at the First Conservatory, LaGrange, IL. He has also served as a piano faculty and collaborative pianist at the DePaul University, School of Music. Teaching piano has always been an essential part of his background.  His teaching philosophy implies the art of teaching music that involves balancing of knowledge, intuition, keenness, and energy that should be directed towards the needs of the student.  His highly professional approach encourages passion for the musical art and offers its multidimensional perspective in the context of bigger picture. 

Biography coming soon!

 Jirina Serwas 


 Sooka Wang 


Originally from Montreal, Canada, Sooka Wang  has a glowing reputation as a keyboard collaborator and chamber musician  in North America. He teaches piano at the First Conservatory in Lagrange, Illnois and also coaches vocalists and instrumentalists  in preparation for recitals and competitions .

Sooka Wang holds a performance degree from Mcgill  University in Montreal and has participated in graduate studies at The Hartt School, University of Hartford in Connecticut. His teachers have included Zabel Manoukian, Dale Bartlett, David Westfall, and Luiz da Moura Castro. He has studied chamber music with the members of the Raphael Piano Trio,  the Emerson and Orion String Quartets as well as former Orford Quartet cellist Marcel Saint-Cyr and Cleveland Quartet violinist William Preucil.

Sooka travels back to Massachusetts every summer where he performs with his duo partner, cellist Mark Fraser and in his piano trio with violinist Anthony Berner.

Where is your hometown?  Montreal, Quebec Canada

How long have you been teaching at First Conservatory?  Since 2008

What ages do you prefer to teach?  8 and older

Who are your favorite performers on your instrument? Martha Argerich, Mitsuko  Uchida, Vladamir Horowitz, Daniel Barenboim And, NOT on your instrument?  Janine Jensen, Anne Sophie Mutter, Yo Yo Ma, Stephen Isserlis, Julia Fischer

Who would you like to perform a duet with, dead or alive?  Brahms

Who are your favorite composers?  Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, etc

Tell us about a particularly strange or interesting gig.  Summer outdoor piano trio concert where we were attacked by mosquitos and my page turner ran away during the performance and left me stranded fighting off the insects. The wind blew away the violinist's music and he played the rest of the movement by memory. Needless to say, we refuse to do outdoor events unless the money talks.

​What would you be if you weren't a musician?  Psychology/Scientist.

Favorite books or movies?  Dead Poet's Society

Anything else you think potential students or parents would be interested in knowing?  Teaching from the mind. Developing and strengthening the ability to listen/think/process/multi tasking/problem solving and applying them to not only music but everyday life necessities. How to express, communicate and develop one's identity through the language of music with their instrument.

Students need to be prepared to work/study=practice and expect to achieve a higher goal from week to week. Laziness is not an option!