Meet Our Instructors

 Meet Our Instructors


DeNeil headshot
DeNeil Hartley,
Administrative Director

Private Instructor,
Piano &
Piano Lab

DeNeil Hartley has served as Administrative Director of Aspire! Conservatory of Fine & Performing Arts since it’s conception in 2015.  This new chapter in life and re-direction of her career from public music education is a fresh and welcome change.  She feels like she’s living a dream helping others find their passion and watching them grow in the arts . DeNeil prays that this program will be a blessing to the community, provide a void in arts related experiences, and will inspire talented artists throughout the Tri-State to dream, believe and achieve their individual greatness.

DeNeil holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Ohio University and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Marshall University.  In her twenty-three years of teaching in the public schools of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, DeNeil has taught both middle school and high school band and choir, and elementary general music.  In addition to her service in the public schools, DeNeil served as Musical Director for the ACTC Theatre Department for eight years conducting more than 20 musicals, and has played with the Brass Band of the Tri-State, The Huntington Symphony Orchestra and the Huntington Pops Orchestra.  DeNeil has also maintained a private music studio for more than 20 years, and has served in church music ministry.

DeNeil is a member of Music Teachers National Association and currently serves as co-chairperson of WVMTA District V in Huntington, WV.  Her private students participate in performance and testing events with WVMTA regularly.

FUN FACT:  DeNeil enjoys cycling and swimming.  In 2013, she was part of a relay team which swam a race around the island of Key West.  Her favorite color is HOT PINK and her bike’s name is The Pink Princess (because it has pink on it, of course).  She is also a certified scuba diver.

School of Music



 Vocal Music

Ruth Crowe

Private Instructor, Voice

Ruth Crowe is a professional educator with over 30 years experience in public school music education, elementary education, and gifted education.  She has a BME from Morehead State University, specializing in voice (1979), a Master’s in elementary education from Marshall University (1985), and a Kentucky Rank 1 Certification in K-12 gifted education from Marshall University (1991).  She taught in the Fairview Independent Schools in Ashland from 1979 until her retirement in 2017.  During her time there, she served as an elementary music teacher, high school/middle school choral director, an elementary/middle school regular education teacher, Title 1 resource teacher for arts and humanities, and gifted resource teacher/coordinator for the entire district.  She has experience teaching students from preschool through grade 12.  She has also taught private piano and voice.

Ruth currently sings in the Marshall University Choral Union and is a part of the sanctuary choir and Praise Team at First Baptist Church, Russell, KY where she co-directs the Children’s Choirs and co-teaches an adult ladies Sunday school class. Over the years she has had many opportunities to perform and serve in both the community and church as a soloist, pianist, organist, and music director.

She is a past member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA), American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), National Association for Gifted Education (NAGC), Kentucky Association for Gifted Education  (KAGE), and Northeastern KY Association for Gifted Education (NEKAGE).

Originally from Williamsburg (Whitley County),KY, Ruth lives in Ironton, with her husband, Tony, who is a drummer.  They have four children: Micah, Joe, Kelsey and Abbie; one daughter-in-law, Ally; and one son-in-law Ryan. In her spare time, Ruth loves cooking and reading.

Fun Fact:  Ruth loves to beach and going to Jazzercise 5 times per week.

Ashlyn Denney

Private Instructor, Voice

Ashlyn Denney is a recent graduate of Morehead State University, having completed a Bachelors of Music Education with voice as her primary instrument.   She currently teaches K-12 general and vocal music at Sciotoville Community Schools in Portsmouth, OH.

As a student at MSU, Ashlyn was a member of the Concert Choir, Marching Band (cymbals), Chamber Singers, and Opera Works. She also worked on the costume crew for multiple MSU theatre productions. As a part of the Concert Choir and Chamber Singers she performed internationally in Italy and Spain, as well as in various places around Kentucky and Ohio.  She studied voice with Roma Prindle and private conducting with Greg Detweiler.

Ashlyn completed her student teaching at Franklin County High School in Frankfort, KY  and Shelby County East Middle School in Shelbyville, KY. She had the opportunity to teach many choral ensembles as well as much theory and piano classes.

In addition to her job as a teacher, Ashlyn spends her free time teaching voice lessons in her home studio in Jackson, OH and spending time with her friends and family.

Fun Fact: Ashlyn is a vegan and a huge animal lover.  Her favorite animal is a manatee,  She’s also training to run her first half-marathon in April!

Instrumental Music – Piano

DeNeil Hartley,

Private Instructor, Piano
click here to see bio


Karen Hopkins

Private Instructor, Piano

Karen Hopkins is a professional musician and music educator with a wide range of experience.  She has both Bachelor and Master Degrees in music education from Marshall University, majoring in piano and also studying voice and choral music.  Karen has taught K-12 music in private and public schools, taught Kindermusik, and has managed a large private piano and voice studio.  Her experiences also include church music (pianist, singer, choral director, handbells, worship leader) and community accompanying/performing/directing theatre.  She is currently the choral/vocal music teacher at Ashland Blazer High School and Ashland Middle School, teaching choirs, piano, and AP Music Theory, and is also pianist at Rose Hill Baptist Church.  Karen is super excited to now be a part of Aspire!

Karen’s professional memberships include National Association for Music Education, Kentucky Music Educators’ Association, American Choral Directors’ Association, Music Teachers’ National Association, Ashland Area Music Teachers’ Association, and West Virginia Music Teachers’ Association.

Fun Facts:  Karen’s hobbies include growing a backyard vegetable garden in the summer and home canning and preserving.  She has a husband who is a singer and drummer, and two daughters who are also music educators and performers, one in Nashville, TN and one in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.  Karen is also a Kentucky Colonel and has a black cat named Schoenberg…after the influential 20th Century composer.  

Nick Blain
Private Instructor, Piano

Nick Blain studied composition and orchestration under Dr. Mark Phillips at Ohio University (2009) and Dr. Steve Rouse at University of Louisville (2011). Nick is a lifelong native of the Tri-State area who currently resides in Huntington, WV. He has taught music lessons for many years specializing in piano, strings, voice, and theory. He is an active member of the Music Teachers’ National Association and the American Choral Directors’ Association.

Nick is the assistant Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church, Huntington, WV where he directs various children’s’ choirs, the middle school hand bell choir, and assists with youth Bible study. Nick believes every student has a mind to appreciate music. His goal as a teacher is to make music relatable by drawing on the strengths and interests of young people, utilizing both popular and classical genres, and he and strives to foster discovery within the minds of his students.

Fun Fact:  Nick and his finacé met in their high school orchestra in 2001.

nie Johnson, Private Instructor
Beginning Piano, Voice

Annie Johnson is originally from Louisa, KY.  She has taught music in the Boyd County School system for the past 17 years.  Annie received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Music degrees from Morehead State University where she studied trumpet with Greg Wing.  In addition to teaching, Annie enjoys doing music theater, sewing, and watching the Atlanta Braves.  She has been married to her husband, John for 15 years.  They share two children, Henry and Georgia.

FUN FACT:  Annie’s dog is named Molly.

Felicity Jenkins
Private Instructor, Piano

Felicity Jenkins is a recent graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA where she completed a Bachelor of Music Degree in Instrumental Music: Music Education. In addition to teaching private piano at  Aspire! Conservatory, she currently teaches Music at Ponderosa Elementary School in Catlettsburg, KY.

During her time at Liberty University, Felicity was involved in many instrumental ensembles. She was a member of the Marching band, where she marched alto saxophone then served as a Field Commander for three years. She was also a member of the Wind Symphony, University Band, Jazz Ensemble, and Honors Program, along with accompanying students for juries and recitals throughout her undergraduate study. She studied saxophone privately with Mr. Joseph Henson. She completed her student teaching at Symmes Valley Elementary School in K-5 music, and South Point High School in 6-12 Band, where she also taught online private lessons during COVID-19.

Felicity is an active member of Gateway Baptist Church in Ironton, Ohio, where she serves as the pianist and Assistant Choir Director. She serves as the Drama Director for the yearly Vacation Bible School, along with teaching music. She is also a member of the Greater Huntington Symphonic Band and the Ohio University Community Band, along with playing in pit orchestras for various musical theatre productions.

Felicity’s professional memberships include the Kentucky Music Educators Association, National Association for Music Education, and Music Teachers National Association.

In her free time, Felicity enjoys traveling, reading, learning new instruments, video editing, baking, diamond painting, latch hook rug making, cross stitching, and spending time with her family and two cats, Lady Grey and Jasper.

Fun Fact: Felicity absolutely loves roller coasters, and has ridden 102 different coasters as of December 2020. Her favorite is Fury 325 at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina.

James Newsome
Apprentice Instructor, Piano


James Newsome is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Piano Performance at Marshall University, under the guidance of Dr. Henning Vauth and is a collegiate member of the MTNA. During his time at Marshall, James has received first place awards from the WVMTA Mountain State Competition, the Marshall University Concerto of Soloists Competition, and the Jackson and Balshaw Competition, as well as competing in the Ashland-Area MTA Piano Competition. In addition to his solo performances, James is an avid collaborative pianist with many opportunities to play with many soloists and ensembles including the WVMEA All-State Choir, the WVACDA Honor Choir, the Marshall University Symphonic Band, Wind Symphony, University Chorus, Chamber Choir, a number of Marshall University students and faculty members, and high school ensembles. He also serves on the worship teams at his home church in Charleston, WV and Tenth Avenue Church of God in Huntington. James is so excited to be joining Aspire!

FUN FACT: Too Come 🙂

Christina Dowell
Private Instructor, Piano

Christina Dowell is a music educator and experienced church musician with a Bachelors degree in music from Trinity Baptist College. She has taught private and group music lessons in piano, voice and flute for over 20 years. Part of Christina’s musical experience as an instructor includes the honor to have served as a children’s choir director and a worship leader for a church in another state. Christina is excited for this new professional chapter, and considers it an honor and privilege to serve Aspire’s students.

Fun Fact:
Christina has two hard headed dogs that like to play at inconvenient times, steal food, lick the wrong places and make a mess, but thankfully on the cold days they snuggle up close to keep her (and them) warm.

Instrumental Music – Winds & Percussion

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Elizabeth “Libby” McClung
Private Instructor, Flute

Elizabeth “Libby” McClung, flute and piccolo, received her Bachelor of Arts in music education, and Master of Arts in flute performance from Marshall University.  She has taught flute in the Huntington area for over 25 years, and her students range from middle school age through adult. She began teaching at the Pied Piper lesson department in Huntington, and then was co-owner and a flute instructor at Note By Note Lesson Center in Huntington.

She performs regularly with the Huntington Symphony, the Huntington Pops, and has also performed with the West Virginia Symphony, the Ohio Valley Symphony, and in the orchestras for Michael W. Smith and LeAnn Rimes.  She has performed throughout the Tri-State area in many musicals, with the Greater Huntington Symphonic Band, and at various area churches, including First United Methodist, Ashland.  She teaches band and choir at Barboursville Middle School in Cabell County, WV.  She is a member of the West Virginia Music Teachers Association, The Delta Kappa Gamma Society, and the National Flute Association.
Libby enjoys teaching and performing music, and hopes to pass that enjoyment on to her students.

Fun Fact:  Libby enjoys flute and traveling.  She has attended 15 national flute conventions (so far!) which have taken her from Los Angeles to Boston, to Minnesota and Orlando.  She has also driven her car into New York City four times!

Kathy Saltsman
Private Instructor, Reeds/Brass

Kathy Leibee Saltsman graduated from Fairview High School in 1976 and was a member of the Kentucky All-Sate Band (clarinet).  She attended Pikeville University and graduated with a Bachelors in Music Education (1980) and received her Masters of Secondary Education with an emphasis in music from Morehead State University (1991).  Kathy has served more than 30 years as a private and public school music educator.  She previously taught at Notre Dame Schools in Portsmouth , Ohio and is now teaching at Wurtland Middle School in Greenup County where she teaches both band and choir.

Kathy served as the musical director for the ACTC Theatre Department for 3 years and conducted musicals such as: Blood Brothers, Copacabana, A Little Night Music, and Chicago.  Kathy has also conducted the KMEA District 8 All-District Choir in the past.

Fun Fact:

Austin Wood
Private Instructor, 

Austin Wood recently completed his Bachelor of Music Education from Morehead State University. Originally from Ohio, he is now teaching general music, band and art at Fallsburg Elementary in Lawrence County Kentucky. He has performed all over Kentucky as a member of the Morehead State Percussion Studio. Austin has played for the musical, basketball band, and as the center snare in Morehead’s Marching Band. He was also a member of the World Class WGI Group ConneXus. He founded the Morehead Percussion Educational Outreach program through the Percussion Club. The program has visited 14 schools in Kentucky and Ohio. Austin is currently conducting research linking a correlation between non-locomotor movements and retention of musical concepts. He presented his research in Frankfort and won a Certificate of Merit from MSU. Austin spends his free time teaching marching percussion and hiking with his wife.

Fun Fact:  Austin was born with 3 teeth, he has drink cozies from all 50 states, and his dog is a little overweight and looks like a bratwurst.

 Instrumental Music – Strings

Steven Schumann

Apprentice Instructor,
Cello & Viola

Steven Schumann is currently pursuing bachelors degrees in Cello Performance, and Music Education at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.  Although still working on his college degree, Steven is an experienced private instructor who has maintained an independent private studio.  He is also a member of the Cave Run Symphony Orchestra in Morehead Kentucky.

Steven’s exposure to music began at a young age and in multiple different genres and instruments.  Steven regularly collaborates with musicians in chamber group settings and in multiple orchestras in the local area.  In addition, Steven works with artists and producers across many styles of music, and this musical diversity transfers over to his pedagogical philosophies.  One of Steven’s current projects, Cypress, features a unique infusion of the cello into mountain-music genres as well as contemporary pop.

Clancy Hatfield

Private Instructor, Guitar
Class Guitar

Clancy Hatfield has served as a music educator and performer for 50 years.  He has taught at Morehead State University, Marshall University, and Kentucky Christian University. Clancy has also worked in numerous music stores and other colleges all over the Tri-State, and had his own studio and musical services business.  He currently continues to teach at KCU on a part-time basis.

As a performer Clancy has been active playing guitar, bass, and singing in music groups of all genres including orchestras, jazz bands, rock bands, blues bands and more. The list of artists he has performed with is long and impressive indeed.  Clancy says, “I think I’ve pretty much played it all – I was even in a polka band for a while.”

When asked about retiring, Clancy states that he still “loves teaching, still loves the kids, and still loves the new music the students bring to him. So, why retire?”

Fun Fact: Kentucky basketball and football fanatic. There will be no lessons during final four days!

Phil Osborne
Private Instructor, Guitar

Born and raised in Ashland, Kentucky, Phil Osborne started learning to play the guitar at the age of eight, had his first public appearance at the age of thirteen, and from then knew that music would be his dream in life. Phil’s early music influences were the Beatles, Kiss, Elvis and Chuck Berry, leading him to a love for rhythm & blues, funk, and soul.

Phil attended Morehead State University where he studied music performance, music theory, and classical and jazz guitar. Spanning more than three decades, Phil’s musical career of playing and performing has taken him to many cities and countries. He has played with everyone from country legends (Billy Ray Cyrus, Jeannie Sealey, Jack Greene, Jan Howard, Jean Shephard, Bobby Cyrus, Seth Bunting. Also, Craig Morgan and Stella Parton. Phil currently plays with groups such as Woodstock Nation, The Chase, and the Joe Freeman Bluegrass Band, as well as the Praise Team an Salt & Light Church.), well-known artists to the not-so-well-know. His proficiencies lie in lead and rhythm guitar, bass guitar, classical guitar, jazz guitar, and drums.

In addition to teaching privately, Phil continues to perform regularly with various groups, individuals, and as a soloist. His goal is to enrich lives by nurturing and developing individuals who desire to play and perform.

Fun Fact: Phil is a pizza-holic, a chocolate-lover, and yes…that IS his real hair color.

art supplies 2


School of Art

Leasa Swint

Art Instructor, Group and Private

Leasa Swint has been teaching middle school art for 30 years and just retired in 2019.  Leasa has been married for 33 years. She and her husband have one son, and own a small farm near Grayson, KY where they raise cattle, chickens, dogs and cats.

Leasa is a graduate of fMorehead State University.  She earned her undergraduate degree of Art and Art Education, her master’s degree in Secondary Education, and a rank 1 in Art Education.  Leasa has worked with students in many art shows, helping to develop their artistic skills, and even developed an advanced art placement for students in her school. She has worked with local artists and been involved with her church youth.  Leasa enjoys working with young people to help them discover their own talent in art.  She has sold pieces of her own artwork locally.

Fun Fact:  Leasa is a “chicken lady”.  She loves chickens and has even decorated her chicken coop with fun signs and a chicken swing.



Auretta Hensley
Auretta Hensley
THEATREworks Instructor

Auretta Hensley is looking forward to using her Theatre training once again in a classroom setting.  She believes that her training in acting has helped her in all practical areas of her life from teaching in front of large audiences to homeschooling her three children.  She is excited to teach young minds how to utilize the voice, body, and the imagination that God has given them in creative ways.

Auretta earned a Bachelor of Arts in both Theatre (with an emphasis of Shakespearean performance) and English from Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.  She was an acting apprentice during her Junior and Senior years in which she was cast in major roles in all Jelkyl Drama performances.  Her training found her performing on all types of spaces including Proscenium, Thrust, and Theatre in the Round.  She also studied stage movement  in the Master’s program for Theatre at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro before returning to Kentucky to further her education by earning her Secondary Teaching Certification from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond and her Master of Arts at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky.  She taught English, Theatre, and Humanities at East Carter High School in Grayson, Kentucky for eight years as well as English courses at both Ashland Community and Technical College in Ashland, Kentucky and Ohio University Southern in Ironton, Ohio.  She has worked with students of all ages from pre-school to adult in various venues.  Currently, she homeschools her three children:  Seth (17), Noah (15), and Annah (11).

Fun Fact:  Experiencing other cultures is a goal of Auretta’s.  She manages this goal by hosting international students in her family’s home.  She and her family have hosted eight international students mostly from Asian countries.  She also loves to experience culture through travel.  She has made a goal of traveling with her husband and children to all fifty of the United States before their childrens’ high school graduation. They have managed to travel to forty of the states so far and they plan on adding another eight this next summer.  Auretta has also traveled to six foreign countries to explore their cultures and plans to travel more extensively upon retirement.

Kathy Saltsman
Musical Director for THEATREworks

see bio above, Woodwind instructor




kathryn davis lampKathryn Davis Lamp
Dance Instructor

Kathryn Davis Lamp loves dance because it empowers people to tell stories without words.  Her love of dance was born when she realized it was a vital element of musical theatre, her first love.  After local study at the Yvonne DeKay School of Dance in Ironton, Ohio, Kathryn attended Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida where she majored in Musical Theatre, with a specialization in jazz and musical theatre dance.  In addition to performing, Kathryn was a student choreographer and dance captain in the musical theatre program, which included an opportunity to stage the original Jerome Robbins choreography of West Side Story.

Kathryn now teaches at the Yvonne DeKay School of Dance, which contrasts nicely with her day job: the in-house attorney at the Foundation for the Tri-State Community.   She lives in Ashland with her husband, Jonathan, a fellow musical theatre performer