Meet the Teachers

Our instructors connect with each student through virtual programs that include learning materials, games, recording, live-streaming, and assignments. These same programs allow every student to connect with other artists, both who attend our studios, and those from others around the country. This enables further potential for learning through jam sessions and game-play.

Mallory Dekker

Born and raised in central South Dakota, Mallory discovered at an early age her passion for music and music education. Mallory attended Black Hills State University where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Music Education, with an emphasis in instrumental music. While attending BHSU, Mallory majored in flute while also performing in the BHSU Jazz Band on Alto Saxophone, the BHSU Choir, and the Community Orchestra on String Bass. During her time at BHSU, she co-directed the BHSU Pep Band, as well as assisting to organize events such as the Northern Hills Honors Band.

Before graduation, Mallory accepted the all school band director position in Newcastle, Wyoming, where she taught for 2 1/2 years. After leaving the Newcastle school system, Mallory moved to Moscow, Idaho, where she began work on her Masters of Music Education Degree from Boston University. While her main focus was developing music curriculum for rural music programs, Mallory worked closely with rural and urban school districts and communities all across the country.

In time, Mallory and her family moved back to South Dakota. Being back in her hometown, Mallory took a job at Pierre Music where she not only taught lessons, but helped design and build a beginning summer band program for 5th grade students.

In her music history, Mallory has taught private instrumental and piano lessons since before beginning her undergraduate work.

With her position of Executive Director of the Studio of the Arts, and Band Director at Batchelder’s, Mallory is very anxious to continue to grow the existing programs and work to develop new programs, all to spread the love of music .


Lena Schmitz

Born and raised in Rapid City, Lena has been an avid violinsit for 18 years. She attended Central High School, and later her family moved to Sioux Falls where she graduated from Roosevelt High School. Growing up, Lena immersed herself in the music programs and after high school, ventured to Oklahoma to pursue her dream of teaching music. It was while attending Redlands Community College, Lena began teaching violin lessons and confirmed her passion is in the classroom.

After moving back to South Dakota with her family in 2016, Lena has looked for a musical teaching outlet and is thrilled to have found one at Batchelder’s. Lena is excited to be a part of the Batchelder’s family and looks forward to helping her students grow with music.

Carolyn Preber

Carolyn has been teaching piano students of all ages for more than 25 years. Her experience includes teaching for 9 years at Nancy Theilen’s School of Piano, and private lessons in her home before joining Batchelders in 1999. While growing up in Wisconsin, she trained with a private teacher affiliated with the Sherwood Music Schools of Chicago and earned her piano teacher’s certificate there. Graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a BD degree in Elementary Education led Carolyn to teach fourth and fifth grade in Madison, Wisconsin. Since moving to Rapid City in 1987, she has been employed by Rapid City Area Schools as a substitute teacher. Carolyn’s other interests are her family, grandchildren, house plants, garden, travel, and reading.

Marilyn Walters

Marilyn is a native to South Dakota and has been teaching at Batchelder’s since 2007. Her college training for elementary education was at Northern State and Huron College. Her music training was from Grace University, Omaha Nebraska. Marilyn taught in the South Dakota public schools and was a music teacher at private schools. During these teaching years, she also taught private piano and voice lessons. She has been teaching private piano lessons for 45 years. When she is not teaching, she likes to read, shop, and spend time with her friends and family- especially her grandchildren.

Maria Cherni

Maria has a long history in the music field. After getting her diploma in teaching piano and concertmaster, she worked with the students for 20 years in her native town of ternopil, Ukraine, while raising her beautiful twin daughters. In 1997 Maria and her family came to the United States and by lucky circumstances, settled in Rapid City, where she continues teaching piano lessons. Maria is proud of her students, and she loves the beautiful Black Hills and good natured people that live there. She is grateful for the opportunity she has in America, her children, and to Matt Batchelder for taking her under his wing.

Jim Bingham

Jim teaches guitar, mandolin and electric bass, and he’s glad to be teaching here at Batchelder’s.

He began his formal studies taking lessons in classical guitar and double bass with instructors at the Hart College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, and he went on to play in various road bands in a variety of styles including folk, country, blues and western swing. In addition, Jim has been an adjunct faculty member with the University of Colorado at Denver Music Industry Studies program where he taught classes in music business and music publishing. Jim believes that lessons should be fun and he looks forward to sharing his love for guitar with his students. When he’s not practicing, Jim enjoys traveling, discovering new restaurants and playing with his Golden Retrievers. And you might catch him playing fiddle at one of the local bluegrass jams

Steven Matlock

Raised in a small town from South-Central Arkansas, Steven learned to play piano at the age of 11. Steven first began his piano playing by teaching himself to sight-read music before taking traditional lessons; he credits this early time as the foundation of his passion for playing the piano.

Steven realizes that people can interact and relate with one another through music. With 15 years of experience playing the piano, he believes that music is a universal language you can take with you no matter where you travel or what walk of life you are from.

Steven moved from Arkansas to the beautiful Black Hills of Rapid City in the fall of 2017. Once here Steven discovered Batchelder’s was hiring, and a place where he wanted to help people become better musicians through teaching piano. Steven is honored to be a part of the Batchelder’s family and excited to use his talent to help musicians further their own budding talent!

Joseph O’Rourke

Joseph is a classical pianist born and raised in New York City. He was born into a family of musicians, his mother being a jazz pianist and vocalist while his father a jazz drummer. His relatives include his Grandfather Al Levitt and Uncle Sean Levitt O’Rourke who are both widely recognized in the international jazz community. Joseph has studied at The Juilliard School and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. He studied Music Theory under Derek Weiland, Piano Pedagogy under Paul Sheftel and Piano under the renown Taiwanese Concert Pianist Shih-Yi Chiang. His performances include substantial works by Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Bach, Mozart and Chopin. Joseph has taught piano for 8 years, and currently resides happily in Rapid City with close family as of June of this year.

Jacquie Phillips

Jacqueline began piano lessons in elementary school, and after taking several years off, became an avid player since 2007. Jacqueline came to Batchelder’s last November to learn violin and quickly came to love being surrounded by others who share her passion for music. She is excited to become part of the Batchelder’s family. Jacqueline has had a long-term goal of teaching piano, and throughout the past year has been focusing on training to become a piano instructor and further advancing her skillset. Jacqueline believes children have a great capacity for learning and gain great joy from their accomplishments. In this way, she aims to make lessons fun and fulfilling for students as they see all they can accomplish, in order to give them a life-long love of learning and of music.

Jacqueline has a wide variety of music genres she enjoys and loves incorporating them into her piano repertoire. In her free-time she enjoys hiking, cycling, movies, reading, and traveling.

Ali Kennedy

Ali comes from a long line of musicians, being the 8th generation in her family to teach music. She began her musical training during her early elementary years, which included learning to play the piano, followed by the flute. During her schooling, she participated in symphonic band, marching band, and the wind section of the school orchestra. Outside of school, she regularly participated in church choir, which her father was usually directing. She went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music, with an emphasis in vocal and choral music, from Dakota Wesleyan University. Her professional experience includes teaching piano, flute and voice lessons, as well as directing several children’s choirs over the years. Currently, she regularly performs throughout the Black Hills region in a small vocal and instrumental ensemble, as a soloist, in local church choirs, and occasionally as an accompanist.

Ali believes strongly in providing a solid musical foundation. She particularly is interested in making sure students have a good understanding of music theory, and includes theory in all lessons, whether they be in piano, flute, or voice. Aside from teaching theory, she hopes to instill a love and appreciation for music, and believes everyone can benefit from music lessons. She enjoys working with students of all ages.





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