Piano Faculty


Danielle Braga

Danielle Braga is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, with a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance with a minor in piano pedagogy.

Danielle is passionate about music education and curriculum design, and is approaching her eighth year of teaching. While studying with piano pedagogy professor Dr. Andrea McAlister at Oberlin, Danielle gained experience in a variety of private and group teaching settings. Her most recent pedagogical endeavor was an exploration of intermediate technical methods, which is awaiting publication. While at Oberlin, Danielle served as a teacher in the Oberlin Secondary Student Teaching Program and was selected as a theory and aural skills tutor for her peers at Oberlin Conservatory.

Throughout her high school career in the pianist program of the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA), Danielle received awards including the Most Promising Pianist Award in 2013, the Virtuosity, Talent, and Enthusiasm Award in 2014, and the Outstanding Senior Award in 2015. At OCSA, Danielle had the privilege of performing in countless master classes for esteemed artists, such as John Perry and the Anderson and Roe Duo.

Danielle’s performance career has taken her from Carnegie Hall and Segerstrom Hall in the U.S. to the White Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, and the Union of Composers Hall in St. Petersburg, Russia.



Now working toward completion of her Doctorate in Music Theory at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University-Bloomington, Nicole holds a Master of Music degree from the Jacobs School at Indiana U. and her Bachelor of Music from the University of Michigan, where she studied piano with Louis Nagel. She has also had the pleasure of undertaking additional coaching with famed piano pedagogues Menahem Pressler, Waleed Howrani, Christopher Harding, Donald Morelock, John Ellis, and the late Eugene Bossart. She has been praised as a "sensitive pianist" and "outstanding accompanist" who delivers "powerful interpretations."

Currently, Nicole is an online Adjunct Lecturer in Music General Studies and Music Theory for Indiana University and a sought-after private instructor of piano, music theory, and composition. Ms. DiPaolo also frequently judges state, regional, and divisional MTNA composition competitions at all levels. She was on the composition and collaborative piano faculty at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in 2014 and 2015. Ms. DiPaolo continues a pedagogical lineage that can be traced through Béla Bartók (a great-grand-instructor) to Franz Liszt and Beethoven. Most recently, she completed the two-level Tales of a Musical Journey certification course, which prepares piano teachers to instruct younger beginners in the Russian tradition.

Nicole is a versatile musician and teacher who has appeared as a concerto soloist with the Ambassador Chamber Players and as a recitalist, collaborator, and presenter worldwide. Nicole composes and arranges music, and she earned a doctoral minor in composition from IU. Nicole's music has been heard across the world, including her commissioned song settings of Muscogee poet laureate Alexander Posey's texts and her Divertimento written for the International String Quartet of Yucatán which received its Mexican premiere in 2013. In 2014 Ms. Nicole published a set of twenty short pedagogical pieces in uncommon keys, Venturing Beyond, for early-intermediate pianists of all ages, and she is currently working on a new set of pieces for intermediate pianists.

Her favorite recent performing engagements include numerous competitions and degree recitals in Indiana and two long-term, international cruise ship performing contracts with violinist Amy Lee as the Duo del Mare. Additionally, she recently finished recording an album of unique folksong settings with bass-baritone and IU Kelley School of Business professor Timothy Fort, to be included in the business ethics text, Vision of the Firm. In June 2018, Ms. DiPaolo was a Collaborative Piano Fellow at the Bay View Music Festival in Petoskey, Michigan, which also won her two appearances in the Bay View Young Artist Series.


Dr. Gary Graning

 Gary Alan Graning earned his Doctorate in Piano Pedagogy from Columbia University, Teacher’s College where he was course assistant to Robert Pace. He received his Master’s in Piano Performance from The University of Michigan where he studied with Benning Dexter, Karen Keys and Marian Owen, and Pedagogy with Alice Mahler Kern, and his Bachelor’s in Piano Performance from Oberlin College Conservatory where he studied with Joseph Shwartz and Axel Sigunde and Pedagogy with Janet Owens. 

Gary taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music Preparatory Division for over 40 years. His teaching career began with teaching assistantships at The University of Miami and Florida State University. Later he taught at Cuyahoga Community College, and the University of Akron where he taught group piano, keyboard harmony, piano pedagogy, as well as private lessons. He also taught piano in New York City at the Stecher and Horowitz School of the Arts, Greenwich House Music School, and the Community Music Center.

He has performed as a collaborative artist at Pomona College, and the Aspen and Scotia Music Festival. Gary has premiered solo piano works with the following composers present: Samuel Adler (Sonatina 1979), Vohn Hilliard (Sonata in the Sun) and Camargo Guarnieri (Dansa Brasileira, Dança Selvagem, and Sonatina VI).



bill shaffer

Bill Shaffer received his Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance from Baldwin Wallace University, and a Masters of Music Degree in Collaborative Piano from The Cleveland Institute of Music.

Bill has over twenty years of teaching experience at such places as Solon Center for the Arts and the Baldwin Wallace University Outreach and others. His philosophy is to encourage each student to achieve their goals by teaching everyone to their strengths. He teaches students as young as 4, all the way up to adults.

Bill has enjoyed an extensive performing career, playing at all major venues in the greater Cleveland area, including Severance Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, the University of Akron, Cleveland Institute of Music, and several others. He has had opportunities to perform with the Chicago Symphony, Blossom Festival Orchestra, and at the White House, as well as on three international tours. As an organist, he was Music Director at Old Stone (Presbyterian) Church on Public Square in downtown Cleveland for 10 years. Bill has held positions at numerous additional churches including the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland.

Bill recently completed his first national tour with the Broadway show Something Rotten, where he was both Associate Conductor and Keyboardist. Other Broadway shows William has played for include Wicked, The Addams Family, Pippin, Cinderella, Grease, West Side Story, Finding Neverland, Hello, Dolly at Playhouse Square, and Mamma Mia with the Great Lakes Theater. He has directed numerous regional shows including Beauty and the Beast, Les Miserables, Newsies, Aladdin and Oklahoma among others.