Meet some of the instructors who provide accent reduction and accent comprehension training for the Accent Reduction Institute.
With a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Theatre and a Master's Degree in Vocal Performance, Katherine Altobello has been teaching and performing for many years. Katherine’s musical versatility has enabled her to perform in a variety of operas, musicals, recitals, and oratorio works throughout the nation. She first became involved in the field of accent reduction due to her fascination with voice and human speech. Katherine has studied diction and phonetic patterns in Spanish, Italian, French, German, and English. She enjoys helping clients improve their American pronunciation, as many have shared with her the increased confidence they have following the training. Improving their ability to be understood has helped her participants be more successful in their field, and that is so rewarding. Katherine finds her work with ARI to be particularly unique, as she has the opportunity to meet and work with clients from all over the world.
Katherine loves to sing and listen to all types of music. Traveling, cooking, and spending time with friends and family are also some of her favorite activities.
Caryn Shapiro earned her B.A. in Child Psychology and her M.S. in Speech and Language Pathology. Caryn has over 15 years of teaching experience, both with the Ann Arbor Public Schools and in private industry as an accent reduction specialist. She has lived in Mexico and Israel, is fluent in Spanish, and has basic proficiency with Hebrew.
Caryn appreciates first-hand the effort it takes to have mastery in another language. She has traveled extensively in Asia, Mexico, and Western and Eastern Europe. She loves meeting people from other cultures and particularly enjoys learning about their customs, music, and foods. Caryn is passionate about trying new recipes! Her world travels and adventurous palate have led her to create a cookbook of favorite dishes, including Indian, Mexican, Moroccan and Iraqi specialties.
Caryn loves spending as much time as possible with her three daughters. Her kitchen is known as “grand central” when her children and their friends are home! She also enjoys entertaining, kayaking, exercising, tandem biking and reading.
Marjorie Melnick completed her Bachelor's of Arts at Wesleyan University and her Master's degree at Juilliard School of Music. She has been an instructor for many years, including her work as a member of the voice faculty at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, a string teacher in the Amherst Public Schools, and an instructor at Deerfield Academy. Marjorie is fluent in German and English and continues to study French and Italian. When asked why she is devoted to accent reduction, Marjorie explains that after having lived abroad for twelve years, she understands the difficulty of having limited command of another language and what a difference mastering another language makes in one’s everyday and working life.
Marjorie states she is passionate about “all things vocal - vocal production, language and diction, acting and projection.” She loves to teach and has done so throughout her life, including teaching strings, voice, vocal diction, English, and accent reduction. She greatly enjoys photography and reading. She reports she and her dog take wonderful long walks each day in the wilderness.
Nancy Perez completed her B.A. at the University of Pittsburg, her M.A. in Linguistics at the University of Michigan, and her Ph.D. is Linguistics at the University of Michigan. Nancy has worked at a number of schools and universities, including the University of Michigan, Oakland University, Centro Venezolano Americano in Venezuela, the University of Pittsburg, and the English Language School in Puebla, Mexico. She has lived in Mexico and Venezuela and has studied Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian, French, and Tagalog.
Nancy comes from a strong multicultural background, growing up with a mix of mainstream American, Pennsylvania German, and Filipino cultures. From an early age she has had a strong desire to learn about other people around the world, as well as the differences that distinguish individual countries and regions. She believes her marriage to a Venezuelan constantly reminds her of the nuances of intercultural communication and understanding.
Nancy states she would like to help foreign nationals feel comfortable in the U.S. by helping them be better understood and to better understand the people they interact with. Also, she would like to act as an extra support for those experiencing culture shock, as she has experienced it herself. She is passionate about continuing research on Mesoamerica and loves to read mysteries and Jane Austen novels. She also enjoys listening to many types of music, dancing, and traveling to places she has never visited before.
Dr. Megan Besley received her D.M.A and M.A. degrees in Voice Performance at the University of Michigan, and her B.M in Music Education from Northern Illinois University. During her music studies she learned to speak and translate multiple languages (Italian, German and French) and studied diction in many others (Spanish, Czech, Russian, Swedish, and Mandarin), training her fine ears in the nuances of language. Her professional singing pursuits have also allowed her to travel and experience many different cultures. Megan has been an accent reduction specialist for many years, and loves using her education and experience to give others the ability to modify their production of sounds. She finds it incredibly gratifying to help people of all language backgrounds become more skilled and confident speakers. In addition to her work as an accent reduction specialist, Megan has performed professional engagements as a soprano soloist with opera houses and symphonies such as Florida Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Palm Beach Symphony and Omaha Symphony; and has taught singing and diction (German, French, Italian) as an Adjunct Professor at New York University and Harold Washington College in Chicago.
When not teaching, Megan enjoys travel, the arts, spending time with her family, and outdoor activities.
Graduating from the University of Michigan with Honors, Tatiana Martinez also completed academic research that focused on individuals with non-native English speaking backgrounds. She worked as an English-Spanish interpreter for the automotive industry and assists with such non-profit organizations as Project Community and Gilda's Club.
Tatiana grew up in a bilingual household and is fluent in Spanish. She has a profound love of language and has studied French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. Moreover, her extensive traveling includes spending considerable time in Colombia, Ecuador, China, Italy, the Netherlands, and Japan. This travel, together with her upbringing, enables her to understand and empathize with the frustration her students experience when others do not understand them. She believes she can help her participants reach a higher level of communication, in which they can be understood and clearly communicate their expertise, both in their personal and professional lives. She especially enjoys the camaraderie that unites participants in her group classes as they work together and forge bonds with one another.
Tatiana is passionate about theater, reading, traveling, and baking. She hopes to continue her travels throughout the world.
Virginia Hamori-Ota earned her B.A. in French, her M.A. in Linguistics/French, and her Ph.D. in Higher Education Organizational Behavior and Management. Virginia has over twenty years of teaching experience, including EFL in France and Japan, Accent Reduction, Cross-Cultural Communication, and Leadership Theory and Practice. Furthermore, she grew up in a bilingual household and has studied several foreign languages. She is proficient in French, Japanese, and Hungarian. Virginia lived and worked in France for twelve years and in Japan for six years. She has also traveled extensively in Western and Eastern Europe, as well as Asia. She states her desire to serve foreign nationals arises from her love of meeting people from around the world. She has friends from all the continents, except Antarctica, though she admits she does know someone who spent three months there! She also enjoys engaging in conversation with people and sharing ideas about culture, customs, food, art and cinema.
Virginia feels passionate about raising her two children, ages fifteen and thirteen, and likes playing tennis and swimming. She is also a self-proclaimed "movie buff" who especially enjoys classic movies, as well as independent and foreign films.
"I used to dread talking on the phone. I was always trying to find ways to write; if I write then the person can read it. Talking on the phone was so awful, but now I have a telephone conversation and nobody asks me to repeat myself. It's really exciting!"
- Yasmin Zakari, ARI Participant and ESL Student