AMERICAN DREAMER is four gifted musicians who bring a heavy dose of strings to their unique blend of Indie-Folk. Each member — Courtney Castaneda, Dana Marie, Camille Schiess, and Sasha Klare-Ayvazian — contributes something distinctive to their rich and remarkable sound. The quartet’s music builds on relatable Folk songs, transformed through bold string arrangements (violin, cello, bass) and resplendent three-part harmony.
American Dreamer’s four members met while pursuing graduate degrees at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas, Austin. They share a lifelong passion for crafting their art and using it to connect with communities and individuals. American Dreamer strives to honor America’s deeply rooted Folk tradition while exploring contemporary elements that roll the genre forward.
American Dreamer has toured nationally and performed widely across Texas. In addition to frequent performances at festivals and noted Austin venues, the group appears regularly at schools, shelters, hospitals, and in rural communities.
“American Dreamer are not your typical folk collective; they approach it from an orchestral plane, ushering in ebullient processions of vibrant, melodious sound that sets their compositions apart from the crowd. Orchestral magic - a grandiose effort.”
"Texas-based quintet cultivates a sense of warmth and wonder with their incredible blend of folk, orchestral, and popular stylings."
"Our new crush."
—Old Settler's Music Festival
"Gorgeous strings and wistful vocals”
"American Dreamer fits a niche in the marketplace, while also having pop appeal."
—Marc Fort, Texas Music Office
Sasha Klare-Ayvazian (vocals, guitar, banjo)
Sasha Klare-Ayvazian grew up Northampton, an arts community tucked in the rustic beauty of Western, MA. The son of a folk singer, Sasha has been playing music in one form or another most of his life. Sasha received a BA in Music Theory from Oberlin College and later a MM in Music Education for the University of Texas, Austin. Sasha now lives in Austin where he formed American Dreamer with friends from UT. Sasha also teaches music, leads ensembles, arranges music for string quartets, composes music for film and commercials, and generally leads an ever-evolving, rich musical life. Sasha is represented by Amuxe Publishing, Chicago.
Dana Marie (vocals, bass)
Dana Marie, originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, holds a Bachelor’s in Music Education from Alma College in Michigan and a Master’s in Bass Performance from University of Texas at Austin, where she studied with DaXun Zhang. She has played with a variety of orchestras in both Michigan and Texas, including the Alma Symphony, Grand Valley Symphony, Round Rock Symphony, UT Symphony Orchestra, UT New Music Ensemble, and UT Wind Ensemble. Dana currently performs in a wide array of settings, including classical, jazz, bluegrass, rock, and folk groups. In addition to performing, Dana is truly passionate about teaching and music education. She currently serves as the Program Coordinator and Assistant Director for the UT Austin String Project with Dr. Laurie Scott. She is also the Bass Teaching Artist for Austin Soundwaves and director of the Prelude Ensemble for the Austin Youth Orchestra. Previously, she held the position of Director of Orchestras at Murchison Middle School. She has been teaching classical double bass privately for 13 years and her students have ranged from beginners of all ages to advanced college-bound young adults. Dana is also involved in community outreach projects that seek to maintain the importance of music performance and education for both young people and adults. Outside of music and teaching, Dana enjoys crafting and spending time with her cats.
Courtney Castaneda (cello)
Courtney Castañeda is the Orchestra Director at the University of Texas Elementary School ( Little Longhorn Orchestra), and also works for the UT Austin String Project and the Center for Music Learning. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both cello performance and psychology from the University of California, Davis and a Master of Music degree in cello performance from Sacramento State University where she was a teacher in the Sacramento State String Project. Most recently, she completed her Master of Music degree in Music and Human Learning from the University of Texas, Austin, and also earned her k-12 teaching certification. A native Texan, Courtney began playing violin and cello thanks to her public elementary school in Houston, and is a strong supporter of public school music education. She taught privately for seven years in northern California, coached chamber music for the Sacramento Youth Symphony’s Summer Chamber Music Workshop, and played in music festivals in Paris and Eisenstadt. Before moving to Austin, Courtney was the Operations Manager for the Sacramento School of Music, and served as the Business Administrator for the Suzuki Music Institute of Dallas for two years. She has received Suzuki Cello Teacher Training from Carey Cheney (Book 1) and Tanya Carey (Books 2 - 6), and Suzuki in the Schools training from Dr. Laurie Scott.
Camille Schiess (vocals, violin)
Originally from Santa Barbara, California, Camille Schiess has given a wide variety of performances in solo, chamber, and orchestral concerts. She received her Master’s Degree at the University of Texas studying under the direction of Brian Lewis. Camille previously got her Bachelor’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She is a three time winner of the Granada Music and Arts Soloist Competition, soloing with members of the Santa Barbara Symphony. Other solo performances recently include the ACO Texas Rising Star competition in 2017. Aside from her performance career, Camille is a violin instructor at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Elementary School, holds her own private teaching studio, and occasionally subs as a section violinist for the Santa Barbara Symphony in California. Her greatest love in her career, beyond her love for performing, is teaching children and inspiring their creativity in music.