Meet Our Team
Executive Director, Founder
Connie Dienner is the founder and director of the Cavod Academy of the Arts, pulling together 30+ years of involvement in the Theatre Arts both in the United States and abroad, and the desire to foster a setting where creative people are accepted and their gifts nurtured. Connie’s undeniable passion for God, the students, and the community, is shared with a distinct vision of how excellence in the performing arts can be used to grow and advance the God’s Kingdom. This vision radiates through Cavod as student’s are trained and mentored to use their creative gifts in an inspiring and world-impacting way. Connie’s successful leadership was pivotal in several musicals to include Cavod’s own “Clever Holiday Title”, and producing Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man”; impacting the local region for years to come. Her submissiveness to God’s direction and call, has revealed a growing Cavod family. “As the students and staff grow also in confidence, the achievement of excellence seems almost…..contagious!”
Tahnya has been dancing at various performing arts schools in the region from a very young age. Her passion for dance developed when she traveled and performed across the east coast on a mission trip at 14 years old. It was then that she discovered there was more to dance than looking good onstage… dance is a powerful tool that breaks cultural barriers and reaches the hearts of people without even saying a word. Tahnya has been with Cavod Academy of the Arts since it’s small beginnings. She has taught Hip-Hop, Modern, Worship Dance and Ballet. She has received much guidance from Carolyn Trythall, former owner of Lancaster School of Ballet. She has been taught under the professional instruction of Paul Sutherland (Joffrey Ballet), Brunhilda Ruiz (Joffery Ballet), Emily Borthwick (Contra Costa Ballet), Raymond Lukens (American Ballet Theatre), Christopher Hird (Boston Ballet), Franco De Vita (American Ballet Theatre). Tahnya attends the Cecchetti Council of America conference every fall and spring. She is certified in teaching Cecchetti through grade IV from Cecchetti Council of America. She is very excited about the potential Cavod has not only to raise up dancers with beautiful technique but dancers that can dance with excellence and purity unto the Lord. She has a passion to see the Kingdom of God influence the world with dance that is modern and relevant, instead of the world influencing the Kingdom. Tahnya and her husband, Richard reside in New Holland. They have eight young children.
Artistic Director of Theatre, Acting Instructor
Monica is thrilled to be serving as artistic director of cavod theatre as well as teaching and directing shows in its thriving, creative community! For the last 5 seasons, Monica has performed with Blue Gate Musicals on The Bird In Hand Stage. Past Blue Gate credits include: Karen Ledbetter and Queen Elizabeth in “Josiah for President”; Rosie in “The Confession”; and Sadie in “Our Christmas Dinner”. Originally from Orange County, California, she obtained her BFA in Musical Theatre from California State University, Fullerton and then made her way to the East Coast via New York City. After spending 4 years in the Big Apple, she enjoyed 10 years performing with Sight and Sound Theatres here in Lancaster PA as part of the casts of Abraham and Sarah, Psalms of David, Voices of Christmas, In the Beginning, Jonah, Noah and more. Locally she has also had the pleasure of working with such companies as The Fulton Theatre, PRiMA Theatre, Servant Stage Company and Portrait of a Lady Summer Cabaret Series. Favorite roles include: Sarah in Abraham and Sarah, Julie in Showboat and Nimue in Camelot. She has also taught private voice lessons in her home studio, for Meadows of Hope Girls Home and cavod. Teaching thrills her because it gives her the opportunity to pass on knowledge and experience to the next generation of artists… isn’t the way God brings us together beautiful?
Artistic Director of Dance, Artistic Director of Citylight, Dance Instructor of Modern and Worship
Jill grew up right outside of Boston, and joined the Cavod Team after moving to Lancaster County in 2015 with her husband Joel who pastors a local church. Jill and Joel are passionate about ministry and have an adventurous 2 year old son named Ezra. Jill graduated from Roger Williams University with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance/Performance Studies and Secondary Education. She trained under Kelli Wicke-Davis and the Roger Williams faculty. During her collegiate studies she had the incredible opportunity to work with a variety of well-known artists from the New York area and beyond including; Sean Curran, Neta Pulvermacher, Jenny Rocha, Tiffany Mills, Carl Flink (Limon Dance Company) and Jennifer Conley (Martha Graham Dance Company). Post college she performed for dance companies throughout the Northeast including; Dendron Dance Company, Voices of Hope, Navarasa Dance Theatre, and Audra Carabetta Company. Jill co-directed Awakening Youth Dance Company in 2008-2010, and founded/directed Agape Dance Theatre in 2012-2015. She had the amazing opportunity to launch several original productions partnering with Vineyard Community Church of the greater Boston area, her favorite production being “Every Captive Free”, an original show based on a woman’s true story of human trafficking and how Jesus brought her to a place of freedom and redemption. Since joining Cavod, Jill has had the honor of directing the dance department and Citylight Dance Theatre (formerly Cavod Dance Company). She is passionate about how this ministry has a vision to use the artistry of dance to give God the glory. She has played a large role in fostering discipleship among the dance company, and has loved being able to grow as a choreographer creating dozens of original pieces while serving as artistic director. Jill predominantly teaches and choreographs modern or contemporary dance work, but has trained in many other dance genres, gymnastics, yoga, and acrobatics. Jill has always had a passion for dance, but her number one love is sharing the hope of Jesus with others. She believes the performing arts is a powerful tool to share this hope. Prior to becoming part of Cavod, Jill served as the Director of Children’s, Youth, & Arts Ministry at Vineyard Community Church in the Boston area, she was a preschool teacher for three years, and also taught dance at performing arts centers and schools all over Massachusetts. In the summer of 2012 and 2013 she traveled to Haiti to teach modern and worship dance while sharing the gospel. Jill is always striving to grow as an artist and teacher, and her desire is to instill the joy of artistic movement in others, while serving Jesus with her life and the gifts he has graciously given her.
Office Manager, Dance Instructor of Tap, Music Instructor of Piano and Voice
Amy Rau brings a music education degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and over 2 decades of experience in musical theatre to Cavod. Both behind the scenes as musical director and pit musician, and performing on stage in operas, broadway-style musicals, and church productions, Amy gets excited about theatre! Favorite performance roles include: Sister Mary Wilhelm in Nunsense Jamboree, Della in Gifts of the Magi, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, and Claire in On the Town. Music directing credits include: Seussical the Musical, Annie, Singing in the Rain, Jesus Christ Superstar, Little Shop of Horrors, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, Cats, The Music Man, I Do! I Do!, My Fair Lady, and countless church productions. Amy has led worship for several churches, directed the Fred Waring Choral workshop for three years, and is a professional photographer. She is excited about being a part of Cavod’s mission behind the scenes as Office Manager as well as teaching tap, private voice, private piano, and music directing for Cavod Theatre, PRiMA, and Dutch Apple.
Executive Assistant, Accounting Specialist, Coordination Producer
Taylor graduated from Eastern University with a degree in Accounting & Finance and a concentration in Entrepreneurial Studies. During her time at Eastern, she held several leadership positions and discovered her passion for helping people succeed in their given fields, specifically social entrepreneurship. The key to her success in life is developing efficient systems, a strong line of communication, and trust. Outside of Cavod, Taylor can be found participating in marathons and triathlons or at the yoga studio. She is a 200-hour certified yoga instructor and loves empowering others with her teacher by assisting their personal discoveries. Taylor is excited to see the growth of Cavod in the years to come!
Communications Specialist, Artistic Director of Citylight II, Dance Instructor of Ballet, Modern, Worship, Tap, and Intro to Dance
Savannah Huyard has been training in multiple areas of the art of dance for fifteen years and has been teaching for six years. She has studied in Ballet (Cecchetti Method, ABT Curriculum, and Non-Syllabus), Pointe, Lyrical, Contemporary, Modern, Physical Theatre, Musical Theatre, Tap, Jazz, and Gymnastics under several different teachers from all around Lancaster County. Prior to teaching, she assistant taught for four years, soaking in knowledge and teaching skills from numerous instructors. She is continuing to further herself, education, and training for the betterment of her students by receiving certifications in ballet from Cecchetti Council of America and American Ballet Theatre, attending Cecchetti East Coast Committee Conferences, local master teacher classes, and more. She is certified in Ceccehetti Grades I & II and in American Ballet Theatre Pre-Primary through Level 3. Savannah has had the privilege to dance on Cavod Dance Company for seven years and to perform in musicals such as The Music Man and Joeseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Dance is what inspires Savannah most and she is thrilled to share her passion, as well as knowledge and experience, with her students and to encourage them to grow in their God-given skills and talents. She is whole-heartedly living out the will of God though magnifying Him in her own dancing, as well as showing her students how wonderful it is to give the glory back to God and to use the talents He has blessed them with to further His Kingdom.
Front Desk Manager
Becky is Cavod’s Front Desk Manager and is thrilled to be helping to make the vision a reality. Becky comes to Cavod with years of managing experience in the workforce and in her family with her husband, Matt, and 4 children. She was drawn to Cavod because of her youngest son who had an interest in music and acting and now it has grown to include a love of dance. He found a place of belonging and encouragement at Cavod and Becky has done everything she could to give back to the organization and now manages the front desks and the Cavod Theatre lobby and house during productions. Her favorite part of the job is meeting all the new students who come through the front door!
Director of Ballet Curriculum, Dance Administrator, Dance Instructor of Ballet, Jazz, and Modern
Julie grew up just south of Atlanta, GA where she began dancing at the age of 14. Throughout high school Julie trained at Into the Light Ballet. Here she learned the craft of various dance techniques, but more importantly began fusing her passion of worship with her ability to move and create. After receiving her Associates in Biblical Studies, Julie moved to Houston, TX to dance with Ad Deum II. She spent two years with ADII and then apprenticed with Ad Deum for a full season. During this time Julie had the privilege of serving (performing, teaching, etc) through dance in various locations across the globe including, but not limited to: Hungary, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and The USA. Julie has also trained with incredible dance masters and choreographers including Steve Rooks, Durrel Comedy, Roxane D’Orleans Juste, Vincent Hardy, and more! Julie spent the beginning of 2018 with a group of passionate artists known as Bridge Dance Collective, teaching in the greater Houston area, and receiving her Barre Certification. She received her Barre Certification through the International Ballet Barre Fitness Association and enjoys leading motivational classes built with everyone in mind. In addition, Julie received her teaching certification through The American Ballet Theater National Training Curriculum in the year 2018. She enjoys teaching Ballet, Modern, Jazz, and various other dance techniques! Julie strives to maintain a positive class environment that focuses on proper form, dedication, and performance. Julie believes in cultivating a supportive community of like minded artist, who are passionate about sharing the love of God through the medium of dance. Julie is delighted to be a part of Cavod Academy of the Arts.
Social Media and Marketing Specialist, Artistic Director of Cavod Ballet Theatre, Dance Instructor of Ballet, Pointe, Contemporary, Hip Hop, and Conditioning for Dancers
Stephanie Morales has been studying ballet and modern dance since the age of 10 and has received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Belhaven University in 2016.
In 2005, she began taking her dance training seriously and attended Lancaster School of Ballet under the direction of Carolyn Trythall and the Viktor Yeliohin International Ballet Academy under Viktor Yeliohin. Here she trained with instructors Molly Carey, Matthew Metro, Kristie Beatman, and Viktor Yeliohin as well as danced numerous lead roles in classical ballet’s with Ballet Theater of Lancaster. Stephanie went on to attend Ballet Magnificat’s 4 week summer intensive in 2009 and 2010 to further her ballet training with the Ballet Magnificat company members.
While in college, she developed her technique, choreography, and teaching skills further under the direction of Cynthia Newland, Laura Morton, Caleb Mitchell, Ravena Tucker, Sol Nazario, Mia Whitehead, Erin Rockwell, Kristen Bower and Dr. Emily Wright. She worked with several renowned choreographers and guest instructors such as Steve Rooks, Vincent Hardy, Sheron Wray and Kim Nofsinger. She also presented several works in Belhaven Department Showcases and presented her Senior Research “On Display: A Look into Body Dysmorphic Disorder among Female Dancers” to the University as well.
Post college, you can find Stephanie working as a dance instructor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She continues to pursue her passion in choreography by presenting works in local festivals, choreographing shows for Cavod Community Theater (Dr.Dolittle Jr., Beauty and the Beast Jr., Seussical, Lion King Jr., Mary Poppins Jr., and Gift of the Magi), creating and directing Wonder – a contemporary ballet for Cavod Ballet Theatre, as well as traveling to set works on companies. Stephanie also attended American Ballet Theater’s National Teacher Training and is a certified ABT NTC teacher in the pre-primary- level 3 curriculum.
Whether teaching, dancing, or choreographing, Stephanie’s passion is to instill the love of the art of dance into her students or audience. Her hope is to show the joy that dance can bring your soul. She believes that through hard work, dedication, laughter, and learning from mistakes, one can find an appreciation for dance no matter what you do in the future.
Production Manager, Dance Instructor of Tap
This is Bente’s fifth year teaching at Cavod Academy. She loves to teach at Cavod and really enjoys working with children and adults of all ages. She has trained for seven years in Hip Hop, Ballet, Pointe, Lyrical, Modern, Tap, and Jazz. In the past couple years she has been assistant choreographer for “Oliver”, “Meet me in St. Louis” and “Alice in Wonderland”. She has also danced in Cavod’s Dance Company for four years, Cavod’s production of “Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Oliver” the musical. She has managed for over 15 shows across Lancaster county. Some of her favorites were “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin” and “Seussical the Musical”. She currently works as the technical director at Bird in Hand Stage putting up 2 show runs a year.
She is excited to have excepted the role of production manager for Cavod Theatre and to be even more involved in the theatre side of Cavod. She is always ready to learn new things and to see how God will use her teaching to glorify him.
Dance Instructor of Ballet and Worship Dance
Lillian Ortiz, a Lancaster County native, began her professional dance training at the age of 14. She studied ballet under the direction of Marcia Dale Weary at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for a total of four years and upon graduating high school, went on to further her dance training with the Miami City Ballet School under the instruction of Carter Alexander and Geta Constantinescu. Over the course of her years training she has had several opportunities to dance in both classical ballet works such as Cinderella, La Bayedere, Paquita, and The Nutcracker as well as some neo-classical works by George Balanchine such as The Four Temperaments, Serenade, Valse-Fantaisie, Stars and Stripes, and Raymonda. As Lillian‘s heart increased for Christian ministry and worship she discovered Ballet Magnificat, a company based in Jackson, Mississippi that uses dance as a means for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. She trained with them for two years before being promoted to Company Artist in 2012 which gave way to a seven-year touring career performing professionally and teaching all over the United States and world including the countries of Austria, Brazil, Germany, Honduras, Italy, and South Africa to name a few. Lillian‘s passion for God, his people, and for all things reflecting His beauty including dance, are what fuels her. With her strong integrity and love for the art form of ballet, she desires to preserve its timeless classic technique, inspire students through her knowledge and experiences, and reclaim the arts in the community for the glory of God.
Dance Instructor of Hip Hop and Worship Dance
Caitlin Stoltzfoos grew up in Lancaster County, and has been dancing since the age of 14. Her training includes Hip Hop, Modern, Ballet (Cecchetti Method and Non-Syllabus), Pointe, Contemporary, Jazz, Gymnastics, and is currently a part of Cavod’s Citylight Dance Theatre. This is her third year teaching and she is so excited to continue to watch her students grow while having fun! She desires to bring a love of the arts to her students, encourage them to create without fear of being who they were created to be, and to glorify God with their creativity!
Dance Instructor of Hip Hop
Aaron has been teaching Hip Hop for four years and is excited about his first year teaching at Cavod! Aaron has been dancing since he was nine and is currently training under Elijah Morton of Morton’s Dance Center. Also enjoying modern, He has been a guest performer for Citylight Dance Theatre (previously known as Cavod Dance Company). He enjoys being able to really push his students while still having fun.
Dance Instructor of Acro, Tap, Worship Dance, Step & Stomp, Musical Theatre and Gymnastics
Jess Rajski is from Houston, Texas and has over 5 years of experience in performing and teaching tumbling, stunts, acrobatics and aerial arts. Jess trained and performed with Chimal Circus of Houston for 5 years. She has choreographed and trained dancers in acro with trEd Dance Company and Magnify Dance Company. She has also toured the world with trEd Dance Company and had the opportunity to meet and perform alongside several Cavod students oversees on the Switzerland missions trip this past summer. Jess is so excited to be teaching at Cavod Academy of the Arts.
Caleb Heckman got his start in theatre playing tuba in the pit orchestras for his homeschool group’s high school shows before making the leap to performing onstage, a decision he has never once regretted. Since then he has done over three dozen shows as an actor, music director, and pit musician, and has worked with many theatre companies around Lancaster County, including the Lancaster Academy for the Performing Arts, Susquehanna Stage Company, Servant Stage Company, PRiMA Theatre, Fulton Theatre, and, of course, Cavod Academy and Cavod Theatre! He music directed Alice in Wonderland Jr, Honk Jr, and Doctor Dolittle Jr for Cavod Academy, and has been seen on the Cavod Theatre stage as the Cat in the Hat in Seussical, Rooster in Annie, Boolie in Driving Miss Daisy, and Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain, among others. He is very excited to teach and encourage young artists as they pursue the same passion he has discovered for theatre!
Music Instructor of Drums
Originally hailing from Lancaster County, Steve Rau has recently relocated here and is excited to be teaching at Cavod. Steve studied vocal music, marching band, and music theater at Indiana University of PA and led many youth bands and student choirs over the years. He is partial to Harry Connick Jr. and Frank Sinatra and although he feels he was born in the wrong decade and has missed his calling as a crooner, Steve is grateful for the musical opportunities he enjoys with his wife, Amy. Some of his favorite theatrical roles have been various and sundry characters in the Shawnee Playhouse Irish comedies, Reuben in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Bert the cop in It’s A Wonderful Life, Jim in Gifts of the Magi, and Chip in On the Town. He has been a worship team drummer, youth leader, and assistant pastor in several churches and ministries in upstate NY and the Poconos and loves his family and his two girls, Hannah and Emily.
Music Instructor of Drums and Guitar
George has been playing drums since 1977. He did bachelor’s work in Jazz Studies with a Concentration in Percussion at the University of North Texas from 1983-86. He studied with Colin Bailey (Vince Guaraldi), Gregg Bissonnette (Woody Herman, David Lee Roth), Rick Latham (Quincy Jones), Clyde Lucas (Illinois Jacquette). George also toured as a drummer with Rhythm & Blues artists such as Little Joe Blue & Gregg Smith, and during that time shared the stage with names such as B.B. King, Johnny Taylor, Bobby Blue Bland, and host of others. George has been playing jazz, funk, blues, and sacred music in the Central Pennsylvania area for the past 20 years, working with artists such as Dave Wilson and Robin Work. His current creative musical project is a trio called The Go Particle. George has been playing and teaching guitar, bass, drums & piano for the past 20 years. He is currently the Music Director of Wheatland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, and an adjunct professor for Lancaster Bible College. George has participated in many music training events both locally and internationally.
Music Instructor of Voice
Megan Poff, a coloratura soprano, is most noted for her works in Baroque and 20th Century Music. She is currently serving in the Music Department at York College in Pennsylvania. Her previous collegiate experience was teaching voice and music literature at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
She holds a Masters of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from Lee University and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Mars Hill College. She has had extended study with notable coloratura soprano, Chery Brendel, her former graduate vocal instructor at Lee University. Her other instructors include Dr. Julie Fortney, a protégé of Burton Coffin, Karen Young, Rebecca Achenbach, and most currently, Baroque singer and musicologist, Julianne Baird.
She worked professionally as a Young Artist with the Asheville Lyric Opera singing in recitals and fulfilling various ensemble roles in shows such as The Magic Flute, Madame Butterfly, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Carmen. She is also an alumna from the esteemed Brevard Music Center Janiac Opera Company, and had the opportunity to perform in shows such as Sweeney Todd, HMS Pinafore, Rigoletto, and Dido and Aeneus.
She was also a professional artist at the Schumann Liederfestin Zwickau, Germany. This allowed her to perform German lieder specific to Robert Schumann and sacred works in such venues as Das Robert-Schumann-Haus ist ein Museum in Zwickau and Leipzig respectively.
She has had the distinguished honor of singing The National Anthem at the Pentagon for the commanding officers of the Air Force for a promotional ceremony. Her most recent performance was in Broadway Theatre’s Rocktopia! as a soprano swing for NYCC’s choir.
In regards to teaching, as a vocal pedagogue, she has taught many area professionals who have performed in local theater venues such as: Sight and Sound Theatres, Fulton Theatre, Dutch Apple Theatre, AMT, PRiMA, Hershey Area Playhouse and numerous National Broadway Tours. Her students have also found success in acceptance to competitive graduate music programs, National Television spots and most notably, Broadway. She is a member of NATS and is currently involved with helping facilitate the next round of auditions locally at the Allegheny Mountain Chapter.
She is passionate about teaching all genres of music and has made it a mainstay with instruction to teaching voice. Historical reference, detail to communication with text, pedagogical technique are all foundational elements she instructs to her students.
Coach Courtney a USAG Certified gymnastics coach. She has been a coach for competitive gymnastics for a few years. Courtney trained in gymnastics for more than 9 years. She has coached recreational level gymnastics and is also a certified instructor for the US Junior Olympic program! Courtney has a passion for helping gymnasts to achieve their goals and have fun while doing it!
Early Arts Instructor
Melissa is active at Cavod at the Theatre Box Office– you may have seen her smiling face at one of our productions! She is happily married with four beautiful children and has run an in-home daycare for 16 years. She graduated from the Friends of Israel Bible Program in 1998 and has been working with children since she was 12 years old. Melissa is very excited to be teaching Early Arts this year. She says her family has been truly blessed to have found Cavod and its amazing families three years ago. God is good!
Instructor of Hand-to-Hand Combat
Bio coming soon.