Gabriella Sanna – Executive Director

Gabriella Sanna woman smiling wearing pearls

Gabriella Sanna is a visionary leader with a proven track record of program development, enrollment growth, successful fundraising, and recruiting at several of Boston’s leading community music institutions. She joins Hoff-Barthelson following her position as Director of The Rivers School Conservatory and Co-Chair of The Rivers School’s Performing Arts Department.

Prior to serving as Director of The Rivers School Conservatory, Sanna served as RSC’s Chamber Music Department Chair, Registrar for the Conservatory, and Private Piano Instructor. Before that, she served as Executive Director at Project STEP (String Training Education Program), founded in 1982 to provide rigorous string training, performance opportunities, and family support to children from underrepresented communities in the Greater Boston Area. As Executive Director of the Dedham School of Music from 2010 through 2016, she exponentially increased enrollment and developed an array of programs, including early childhood classes, private lessons, ensembles, outreach programs in local public schools, partnership programs with private schools, and public concerts.

Beyond Ms. Sanna’s administrative achievements, she has performed extensively in solo piano recitals, chamber music performances, and collaborative piano work with vocal and instrumental groups in the Boston area and throughout Italy. She has also served as the Artistic Director of the Steinway Society of Massachusetts Piano Competition, Assistant Director at the Dana Hall School of Music, and Chamber Music Director and Artist-in-Residence at Beaver Country Day School.

Sanna holds a Master’s degree in piano performance from the Longy School of Music, and a Bachelor’s degree, in piano performance from the Conservatorio di Musica “L. Canepa,” Sassari, Italy.

Christopher Kenniff – Dean

Christopher Kenniff - Dean of Programs - Hoff-Barthelson Music School

Christopher Kenniff serves as the Dean at the Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale, NY.  He was formerly the Director of the Mason Gross School of the Arts Extension Division at Rutgers University (2011-2018) where he also served as the Artistic Director and Managing Director of two concert series – the Mason Gross Presents Summer Series (2012-2018) and Music at the Museum Concert Series (2015-18).  Mr. Kenniff was a member of the Rutgers University Continuing Education Coordinating Council (2015-2018), and was named a Rutgers Leadership Academy Fellow (2015-17), a highly selective two-year program focused on the development of cross-cutting leadership concepts and competencies.

Prior to his tenure at Rutgers University, Christopher was a member of the Concert Artist Faculty at the Conservatory of Music, Kean University (2001-2012).  He also served as the Founding Executive Director of the American String Teacher’s Association of New Jersey (ASTA/NJ) Chamber Music Institute (2005-2011).

Mr. Kenniff has been recognized for outstanding achievement as a private studio instructor at the pre-college and collegiate level and was presented with the 2008 American String Teacher’s Association of New Jersey’s Teacher of the Year Award. He is also a critically acclaimed, award-winning classical guitarist having earned first prize in multiple competitions. He holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX) and an Artist Diploma from Indiana University (Bloomington, IN), and has completed Suzuki Guitar training at the Ann Arbor and Hartt Suzuki Institutes. 

Derek Cooper – Associate Dean of Musicianship and Educational Technology

Derek Cooper - Brass Teacher - Hoff-Barthelson Music School

Dr. Derek Cooper’s music has been performed worldwide by groups including Contemporaneous, Decoda, Sonic Apricity, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania wind ensemble, Jenny Lin, Yarn/Wire, Ekmeles, the Iridium Saxophone Quartet, and Blueshift Ensemble. His piece, Kill James, received an honorable mention in the New York Composers Circle’s 2019 John Eaton Memorial Composition Competition and his works have been lauded in several publications for their ingenuity and passion. In 2016, Derek joined the ICEBERG collective, a select and diverse group of emerging New York composers. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Theory and Composition from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He then went on to receive his Master of Music and Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music while studying with Dr. Reiko Füting and Dr. Richard Danielpour.

Dr. Cooper acts as Associate Dean of Musicianship and Educational Technology for Hoff-Barthelson Music School where he also teaches composition and music technology along with directing the school’s Compose Yourself! Festival in collaboration with Copland House.  In addition, he is an instructor at the Manhattan School of Music and teaches music theory at Ramapo College of New Jersey’s School of Contemporary Arts, and oversees the composition department for Manhattan School of Music’s Summer Division.

Derek began 2022 with a new YouTube channel dedicated to in-depth breakdowns and analysis of the music in Star Wars media called Star Wars Music Analysis. Later in 2022, Derek collaborated with Decoda and poet Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz on Goodbye which garnered immediate praise as it enjoyed a national tour. This was followed by the premiere of his most recent orchestral work Beneath Stars which premiered in Dallastown, Pennsylvania before being performed in Walt Disney World as well.

His music is published through his website as well as Knightwind Music, JustATheory Press, and NewMusicShelf. For more information and to hear samples of Derek’s work, visit:

April Johnson – Associate Dean of Performance and Private Instruction

April Johnson - Violin Teacher - Hoff-Barthelson Music School

April Johnson has been part of the Hoff-Barthelson Music School family for 30 years. She started her career as the Dean of the Mount Vernon Music Academy, a satellite of HBMS. She has since served on its Faculty Council, Faculty Committee, and Friends Volunteer Committee and continued her robust teaching schedule as a member of the violin, Suzuki violin, and chamber music faculty.

As a violinist, Ms. Johnson has performed throughout the U.S. as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral freelancer. She has appeared as concertmaster with the NY Chamber Soloists Orchestra, Jupiter Symphony, the Galatea Ensemble, the Queens Oratorio Society, and the Canton Symphony (OH). She has also performed with the Norwalk Symphony, the Ridgefield, Bridgeport, New Haven, Fairfield, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestras, and the Pennsylvania Philharmonia. She has recorded with Lyrichord, Dorian, and Newport Classics labels. As a member of the New York Chamber Soloists, Solace Quartet and the Oracle Trio she has performed throughout North and South America.

Ms. Johnson received her Bachelor of Music degree with honors in violin performance from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. She continued her professional studies with Burton Kaplan, Joyce Robbins and with Masao Kawasaki and Itzhak Perlman of the Brooklyn College Conservatory.

She maintains a private violin teaching studio at her home. During the summer months, she joins the Kinhaven Music School Adult Chamber Music Workshop faculty in Vermont.