Elizabeth Sircom

Member, Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers Association 

ARYO Program Director

Instructor: ARYO Beginner Instrument Clinic

Elizabeth Sircom is a cellist and visual artist. She teaches cello privately as a member of the Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers Association (NSRMTA) and in May 2021 was awarded the Janet K. Leffek Professional Development Fellowship by the NSRMTA Trust.

Growing up in Hantsport N.S., Elizabeth Sircom studied cello and piano through the Royal Conservatory and actively engaged in choral singing (school and church choirs, musicals, and the University of King’s College Chapel Choir under David and Helen Buley). She was a cellist in the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra under Robert Raines. Her studies of languages and Fine Arts took her to Paris, France, and then Normandy, where she married and spent 20 years working as a professional artist and art teacher.

In 2012 she decided to make more time for music in her life and spent a year at the Le Havre Conservatory of Music and Dance (Conservatoire Arthur Honegger), studying cello and chamber music. She returned to live in Nova Scotia in 2013 and, while continuing to work in the visual arts, took up studies in cello and cello pedagogy, string methods and chamber music, with Dr. Christoph Both at the Acadia University School of Music. She plays regularly with the Acadia University Orchestra and from 2016 to 2018 was the cello instructor for the HCYO strings program at Horton High School. She was cello instructor and outreach coordinator for this program under its new name of Acadia Regional Youth Orchestra (ARYO), located at Festival Theatre in Wolfville during the 2018/19 season and has been the Program Director since the 2019/20 season.


Keigan Richard

Conductor: ARYO Orchestra, ARYO Introductory Orchestra

Keigan is a third-year Music Education student currently attending Acadia University. He has played violin for the past 12 years, and piano for the last 7 years. In the past, he has played with numerous community orchestras including New Brunswick’s FLO, and the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra for the last three years. Additionally, he has been playing with the Acadia University Orchestra for the last 5 years and served as Concert Master in the 2019-20 season. His other interests include directing and acting in theatrical productions, reading, and killing time watching YouTube. This will be Keigan’s third year as an instructor for ARYO, and he is looking forward to facing new challenges and diving into new music this season!

bio photo Jaya

Jaya Paquette-Jager (they/she)

BMT (Bachelor Music Therapy)
Music Teacher (Violin Viola Fiddle Ukulele)

Instructor: ARYO second level Instrument clinic, ARYO Fiddle Group

Jaya started playing the fiddle at age 3 when living in Alma, NB. A few years later, they switched to classical violin when they moved to Gatineau, QC. They studied violin and viola performance with voice as a second instrument at the Gatineau Music Conservatory with Joan Milkson, a founding member of the Ottawa National Arts Orchestra. There, they played in youth orchestras, string ensembles and string quartets. Jaya was even lucky enough to travel and play in ensembles in Peru, Hawaii and Vienna. They started teaching as a teen to neighbours and haven’t stopped teaching since.

 In 2018, they graduated from Acadia University in Music Therapy. Jaya’s focus now is teaching people of all ages and sharing the joy of music. In the past couple years, they’ve had fun jamming with friends, writing songs on ukulele, and exploring other ways to make music. When they’re not teaching violin, you can find them drinking tea, in the garden, baking, or biking on the rail trail.


Dr. Gillian Smith DMA

ARYO Program Director 

Instructor, ARYO Violin/Viola Clinic and Conductor, ARYO Orchestra

A native of Halifax, NS, Gillian Smith serves as instructor of violin and viola at the Acadia University School of Music. She also serves as Head of the Upper Strings department at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts, and teaches violin, viola, and chamber music at the Conservatory. She is a member of the Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers Association, and has been a member of the summer faculty at the Acadia School of Music.  She was the program director of the Horton Community Youth Orchestra program, the predecessor of ARYO, starting in 2015, and the program director of ARYO in its 2018/19 inaugural season.

 Gillian Smith enjoys a varied performance career and has appeared in recital and as a chamber musician across North America.  She has collaborated in chamber music performances with members of the Acadia University School of Music, the Dalhousie Department of Music, the Yale School of Music, the Juilliard School of Music, the Indiana University School of Music, and the University of Minnesota.  She can be heard on a CD recorded with members of the Acadia New Music Society, “Live Wired”, and has also recently recorded another CD with the WIRED! Ensemble, “In Sonorous Falling Tones”, featuring compositions by Acadia University School of Music professor Derek Charke, which was nominated for an ECMA for Classical Recording of the Year for 2018. She has performed as an orchestral musician in numerous concerts, recordings, and broadcasts with Symphony Nova Scotia, the Winnipeg Symphony, and the Minnesota Orchestra.

 Gillian Smith received a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music, where she was a student of Peter Salaff and Syoko Aki, a Master of Music degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she was a student of Camillla Wicks, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Minnesota, where she studied with Jorja Fleezanis. She has also worked closely in summer studies with noted performers and pedagogues Kathleen Winkler and Roland and Almita Vams.

Allison Ernst

Second level Instrument Clinic, Fiddle Group, ARYO Orchestra

Allison Ernst has been actively pursuing her love for music from a young age. Starting with piano lessons at the age of 5, she later began playing the fiddle. Upon discovering a love for classical string music, she decided to complete a BMus in Violin Performance at Acadia University (’17) under Jennifer Jones, while simultaneously studying the viola under Dr. Gillian Smith and earning a BTh from the Acadia Divinity College (’19). Allison enjoys playing in small chamber groups as well as orchestral settings, and in the past has been an active member of the Acadia University String Quartet, the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra, and the Acadia University Orchestra, as well as various other ensembles. She has maintained her love of traditional fiddle music by performing and teaching traditional styles both privately and through the Acadia Regional Youth Orchestra, while continuing to cultivate her own interests in choral music and Renaissance counterpoint. Allison enjoys playing and singing together with her husband John, and together they welcomed a new addition to their family in early March 2019.

Shawnee Paul (Fiddle Group)

Coming from a musical family, Shawnee always knew that she would be a musician from a very young age. Her grandfather was a well-known fiddler in Cape Breton and encouraged his family members to take on music lessons. At the age of 5, Shawnee began taking  piano lessons and when her grandfather gave her a fiddle at the age of 7, she soon began fiddle lessons. Shawnee comes from a Mi’kmaq community that is very close to a Gaelic community. Because of this and the strong Gaelic culture in Cape Breton, Shawnee has been exposed to Gaelic culture and music her entire life and loves to share this music with others.

Because of the lack of music educators in her area, Shawnee decided to pursue a career as a music educator. She began her music degree at Acadia in 2015, studying the violin under Gillian Smith. Shawnee completed her Bachelor of Music degree at Acadia in May of 2019 and completed her Bachelor of Education in May of 2021.