Meet the City Hearts Team
Our teachers are the backbone of City Hearts programs. Faculty members are professionals in their respective fields, have extensive experience teaching in our community, and are trained in Multiple Intelligences, California Visual and Performing Arts standards, and the new National Core Arts Standards.
Check out this video to see some of our teachers at work!
Executive Director & Founder
Sherry Jason, City Hearts Co-Founder, was a soloist with Ballet Concerto and has taught dance for 50 years. She received her B.A. in psychology from UCLA, and her Juris Doctor from Southwestern University School of Law. While with the L.A. County Public Defender’s Office, Juvenile Division, she met her husband attorney Bob Jason. Sherry and Bob’s philosophy on the nature of delinquency, intervention and prevention, and how the arts transform a child’s life led them to found City Hearts in 1985.
Guitarist, songwriter, and sound engineer Calvin Banks has performed and recorded with Stevie Wonder, George Thorogood, REO Speedwagon, Bo Diddley, Big Mountain, and others. He has worked with music technology companies, and has taught digital audio recording, music improvisation, and songwriting, Calvin specializes in teaching in a way that connects a rich grassroots and traditional musical history with powerful social and literary content. This is his 2nd year with City Hearts.
Karen Furno is an accomplished actress, singer, and dancer and has worked extensively as a performer, director, and choreographer. She recently portrayed Dora in EQUUS at the Chandler Studio Theatre that won the LA Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Revival. She has been in television shows (The Practice, Ally McBeal), and films (The DTS Project, Christmas with the Kranks). She also teaches a wide variety of classes through STAR Education. This is her 6th year with City Hearts.
Gwendolyn Oliver is an actor, dancer, and singer. She was a Master Teacher at the San Jose High School for the Performing Arts, and co-owned the Dance Etc. studio. She has choreographed West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and Music Man, as well as several professional sports cheerleading squads. She studied with Uta Hagen and Stella Adler, and is a Groundlings-trained improv artist. Her first short film is winning awards at festivals nation-wide. This is her 14th year with City Hearts.
Katie Dalsemer has a B.A in art, an M.A. in film and a rich background in both portraiture and photojournalism. She’s won awards and exhibitions for her stunning journalistic work. Katie is also lead photographer for the Topanga Messenger newspaper. She teaches beginning and advanced Photography with classes that focus on bringing unique individual artistic visions to life, as well as learning technical photographic skills. This is her 20th year with City Hearts.
Dennis Gersten is a performer, director, playwright and Theatre teacher in Los Angeles, and a member of AEA and SAG/AFTRA. He is co-artistic director of Theatre Unlimited and runs T.U. Studios in the Noho Arts District of North Hollywood. Dennis is a founding member of Stagewrights, Inc., a playwrights' theatre company in New York City, now more than thirty years old. He has taught acting, directing, introduction to Theatre, and scene study, in the Theatre School at Los Angeles Valley College, as well as Theatre programs for at-risk students from the third grade through high school, with East LA Classic Theatre and Inside Out Community Arts/P.S.Arts. This is his first year with City Hearts.
Juan Parada is from El Salvador raised in Los Angeles, CA. Juan is an actor, director, producer and teacher of theater. His acting work has been done internationally in El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. In the US Juan has worked with distinguished theaters such as Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Center for New Performance / CalArts Duende, Cornerstone Theatre Company, Laborer Theater Without Borders, and San Francisco Festival of the Arts. Juan holds a BA in Acting and Directing from California State University in Long Beach (CSULB), and Masters (MFA) in Acting from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Juan is the Artistic Director and one of the founders of Off The Tracks Theater Company.
Brian Nieman is a professional photographer and educator. His artwork has appeared in Polaroid Magazine, the L.A. Times, and The Peace Project Book among others. His work has been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and is in private collections throughout the U.S. and Europe. His workshops for ‘at-risk’ youth have been sponsored by the L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs, the Women’s Caucus for the Arts, and LA Artcore. This is his 6th year with City Hearts.
Yvonne Senat is a professional actor and contemporary dancer. She acquired her B.A. in Theatre Arts from Cal State Long Beach, and M.A. in Acting from the University of South Carolina. Some of her stage credits include the roles of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, and Gertrude in Hamlet. She has taught Hip Hop at the University of S. Carolina, with Hip Hop professional, Jessi Noel; and dance at the CA Academy of Math & Science HS, Dominguez Hills, CA. This is her 3rd year with City Hearts.
Raúl Vega’s award winning photographs have appeared in foremost magazines such as Time, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Vogue, InStyle, Glamour, and Andy Warhol’s Interview. He received the National Publications Design Award for his Time cover of Carl Sagan and the National Gold Key Award for Interior Architectural Photography. Several of his portraits are collected in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Raul has taught photography classes at Otis College of Art & Design, and the Summer Institute for the Gifted at UCLA. This is his 5th year with City Hearts.