OUR FINE ARTS TEAM

Melissa Driscoll

Theatre Director

Melissa "MJ" Alexander Driscoll, also known as Ms. MAD or Ms. A is the theatre director and teacher at LBJ & LASA High Schools, she has served in this position for 16 years. She is the proud sponsor of the Alley Cat Players & Student Council. MJ is an artist, story-teller and teacher and she sees all three as a calling and a social service.

Ms. MAD is passionate about art for change, impact, protest and justice. She is equally passionate about creating safe places for students through the arts to learn, process, and grow at life skills. She loves building, designing and construction as much as acting and prides herself on having a department where both excel. Swing students (educated in with Tech & Acting) are the pride and joy of ACP!

In addition to all things theatre she loves her Student Council and enjoys supporting their commitment to the LASA student body and it's traditions! She hopes to one day run a school dance where not a single person complains about the song choices or the food & drinks!

A great lover of sports, you will find Ms. MAD on the sidelines of many games, especially football and she is excited to cheer Raptors & Jaguars next year! Lastly she would like everyone to know that she will produce "Footloose the Musical" again as soon as it seems right, don't fret!

Ponder East

Band Director

I grew up in Nacgodoches, TX from age 4-18. There are many teachers and musicians in my family, and it was a rather easy step to go into music education in college. After graduating from the University of North Texas in Denton in the late 90's, I began my teaching career, first teaching at Wylie Intermediate School in Wylie, TX. I then moved to Grapevine Middle School where I was the assistant band director for three years. I then moved to Austin in summer of 2001.

I taught private saxophone, clarinet, and flute lessons exclusively for two years before landing a half-time job as jazz band director at LBJ High School in 2003. I've been here ever since. I became a full-time band director around 2011, teaching all aspects of the program.

As a professional musician, I said yes to every gig that came my way for a long time, before finding some circles of friends and musicians, who have given me many chances to record, perform, and learn about life as a performing musician. I've recorded on several albums, toured a little bit, played SXSW a few times, and once at ACL.

In 2005 I married and now my wife and I have two boys, 9 and 4. I'm the only child of my mom and dad; I have two half-brothers, and a half-sister from my dad and my step-mom, as well as a step-brother from my mom and step-dad.

I've traveled to France (3 times), Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and China. I highly recommend traveling outside of the United States! Even though the world keeps getting smaller, it's still a big place, with lots to see and learn.

Paige Edwards

Drill Team, Dance, Yoga

In Houston, TX, Ms. Edwards began her dance education around the age of five at APAC Studio with a focus on ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical. Some of her favorite adolescent memories were during her Drill Team days as a Jersey Village Gold Duster where she helped lead the team each year.

In 2013, she graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor's in Business Administration and a Dance Minor. While attending A&M, she performed and taught with student organizations such as Fade to Black and Dance Arts Society. In the summer of 2014, she completed a dance & business internship through Performing Arts Abroad in Barcelona, Spain with Varium Espai de Moviment.

After a few years of teaching dance instruction to various studios in Austin, she began her journey into Public School Education by completing her EC-12 Physical Education and 9-12 Dance Certification. She always hoped to lead a team of her own, and although the journey was not direct, she is thankful for all of the various roles she held prior. In the Fall of 2018, she became the Dance Teacher and Drill Team Director for LASA/LBJ. She is cultivating a strong LASA Dance program and hopes to for years to come. Dance, is a beautiful source of creativity, health, friendship, and a way to connect with your community, and she loves to inspire these joys within her students.

Most recently, Ms. Edwards obtained her 200 hour RYT Certification through Wanderlust's Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training. She incorporates many Yogic practices such as meditation, movement, and overall health and wellness into her teachings too.

In addition to teaching and practicing dance and yoga, she loves spending time with her cats and puppy, exploring the outdoors, seeing live music, gardening, quality family and friend time, and continually learning new things!

Jessica Fisher

Visual Arts & Fashion Design

Originally from Plano, Texas, I grew up oil painting and drawing with my Grandma every weekend as a kid. Once in high school my love of art became more than a hobby and I knew that one day I wanted to be an art teacher because of the tremendous impact my AP art teacher had made on me.

I graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BFA (emphasis in Drawing, Painting and Printmaking) and a minor in k-12 education. In 2010 I moved to Austin to begin my first year of teaching at LASA. This will be my 11th year of teaching visual arts and my 3rd year teaching fashion design.

I live in Austin with my husband, daughter Faye, and our dog Denver. My parents and siblings all moved to Austin from Dallas four years ago, it is so nice to have the whole family here!

Some of my hobbies outside of art and fashion design include collecting mid century modern furniture, vintage shopping and spending time with family.

Liz Hewitt

Art

I graduated from LASA in 2006 and from UNT with a BFA in 2009. I’m married to a scientist and we have 3 kids William, Nico and Ryn. Our family loves to cook, work on building projects and explore the outdoors together. As a child, I was drawn to craft and design, but disliked drawing. I started many pop-up shops selling jewelry, handmade bags and baked goods. I found art classes discouraging and felt they focused on those “gifted” at drawing, not students like me. It was not until college that I learned different approaches to the craft of drawing and learned to embrace my own style and preferences. It was my experiences at LASA that made me pursue a teaching career. In my academic classes teachers always encouraged me to trust myself, try different strategies and to never give up. I strive to emulate those mindsets with my Art instruction. This year begins my 12th year teaching at LASA. I believe that we can all do anything, we just need to trust ourselves, try new approaches and be patient with ourselves.

Rachel Horvitz

Orchestra

Rachel Horvitz received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Texas at Austin in 2001. While at UT she studied under distinguished cello professor Phyllis Young and regularly performed with the UT Cello Choir and the UT Symphony, along with teaching in the UT String Project. In 2013 she earned a Masters in Secondary Education from Texas State University as part of the Partnership for Teacher Excellence Program sponsored by the Eanes Education Foundation. Ms. Horvitz has just concluded her twentieth year of teaching in the Austin public schools, including Director of Orchestras at Hill Country Middle School in Eanes ISD from 2008 to 2021 and previously at Lamar Middle School in Austin ISD from 2001 to 2008. During her tenure at HCMS the Hill Country Middle School Full Orchestra was named the Texas Music Educators Association Full Honor Orchestra. The HCMS Full Orchestra went on to earn an invitation to perform at the 71st Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference in December 2017. She has coached with Longhorn Music Camp and the Austin Chamber Music Center and serves as a region clinician and UIL adjudicator in Central Texas. She has served as conducting faculty with Austin Youth Orchestra for a collective nine years and is currently in her fourth year as conductor of the Sinfonietta Orchestra. Her professional memberships include Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Orchestra Directors Association and Texas Music Adjudicators Association. Ms. Horvitz has dedicated much of her free time to performing in local orchestras and chamber groups including Temple and Georgetown Symphony and Musical Discovery Chamber Players. In her spare time she enjoys reading, listening to records, making the perfect cup of coffee, gardening and planning her next trip to the beach.

David Lester

Guitar

David Lester is a guitar performer and teacher in the Austin area. He holds a Master of Music in Music Theory and Classical Guitar Performance from Texas State University and a Bachelor of Music in Classical Guitar Performance from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. David has studied under notable guitarists Philip Hii, Mark Cruz, and Chad Ibison.

A native Texan, David has performed around the Victoria, Corpus Christi, and Austin area for private and public events since 2007. Such performances include: guest artist for the Corpus Christi Lichenstein Quartet, a solo recital for the Portland Concerts Across the Bay series, in-house guitarist for the Corpus Christi Aurora Arts Theatre (Cabaret, Rocky Horror Show, and Footloose), and guest artist for Austin’s SoCo Women’s Chorus.

David began teaching guitar in 2008 and has taught at his own private studio, Victoria College, and Texas State University. Through the course of his teaching, it is his goal to instill in his students the competency to utilize the guitar as a means for their artistic expression. Students who follow his teaching will not only learn to hear music as a form of expression, but will also learn to be proficient enough with a guitar to treat it as one.

Deric Lewis

Choir, Piano, AP Music Theory

Deric J. Lewis, is an accomplished musician/songwriter in multiple genres including Classical, Jazz, Pop, and Gospel. After graduating from Huston-Tillotson University (Austin, Texas) with a degree in Classical Piano Performance, he sought a postgraduate degree from Howard University (Washington D.C.). As a performer, Deric has traveled to several foreign countries and most major cities in America sharing the stage with national artists. His recording choir “Deric Lewis & The Church Choir” is currently signed & featured on three national releases. Deric has been called upon to assemble and train choirs for celebrities such as Diana Ross and Damon Albarn (Assembled, rehearsed, and sang background vocals for the Warner Bros. International artist’s SXSW appearances on Jimmy Kimmel-LIVE & his American tour which included The Tonight Show, The Governor’s Ball (NYC), The Bonnaroo Festival, Irving Plaza (NYC), The Royal (Boston), and the Fox Theater (Atlanta). Deric has been called upon to perform for celebrity weddings including the Jessica Simpson/Nick Lache wedding and the Nancy Mckeon wedding, and to score songbooks for gospel artists such as The Texas Mass Choir, Norman Hutchins, and Chester D.T. Baldwin. Deric is also the organist for the Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas and a proud member of the most esteemed Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Deric is also a music educator. He holds an EC-12 certification in Music and is employed by AISD. He heads the Choral Department and teaches AP Music Theory & Piano at The Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Early College High School. Under his leadership, the LBJ Concert Choir has made remarkable strides towards excellence culminating in their “Sweepstakes” award in Varsity, Mixed 5A at the Texas UIL Concert/Sight-reading competition.

Brian Mayer

Band Director

Originally from Austin, TX, I graduated from LASA in 2006 and from the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas in 2011. After graduating from UT, I was thrilled to return to my alma mater and get to teach such passionate and driven students. I am currently going into my 10th year at LBJ/LASA, and my 5th year as Head Band Director. During my time at LBJ/LASA, I have been a huge believer in collaboration. Every year, I work with Mrs. Backstrom to put together a Full Orchestra, as well as Mrs. Driscoll to put together a Spring Musical (in which I conduct the Pit Orchestra). I am passionate about fine arts being the perfect medium for creating good citizens. The collaborative nature of band and the performing arts teaches not only creativity, but also empathy, grit, and the importance of hard work and dedication. My other passion in life is rock climbing. It’s been something that I have been a huge part of my life for over a decade. It has opened up all sorts of adventures across the world, from climbing a 2500ft cliff in Mexico, to spending a week climbing on a remote island off of the cost of Greece. I find that rock climbing is the perfect balance of pushing your comfort zone and still providing a mental challenge alongside the physical one.A more recent adventure in my life, is I now have two incredible, sweet, BIG dogs at home. Eliza, a 1 year old lab mix coming in at around 50lbs, and Winnie, an 11 month old great pyrenees mix who weighs about 80lbs. We like to compare their personalities to Tigger and Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.