CEO & Artistic Director
Annie Leese Thistle
Annie established PAAM in the summer of 2009, facilitating its growth with the help of dedicated faculty and staff from humble beginnings in a church hall to a thriving community with state-of-the-art facilities and premier training in the performing arts. She is proud to continue to bring her expertise and passion for theater and dance to the students of Marin and the greater Bay Area. The surrounding community is of great importance to Annie, partnering with local schools and organizations to bring dance, theater and entertainment to children and adults throughout Marin. She has contributed to programs at Edna Maguire, Tam Valley Elementary, Strawberry Point, Old Firehouse Preschool, Marin Day Schools, Marin Primary, St. Patricks, St. Marks, St. Hilary, Mill Valley Library Fund and Marin Charitable Organizations. She is a proud supporter of Kiddo! and Spark, among other school arts providers and nonprofits. Annie donned her first tutu at the age of 3. Her first love was dance, yet she found true passion in musical theater, combining her love of singing and acting with her inherent love of dance. Performing arts has been the ultimate outlet for creative expression, release and exercise throughout her entire life. Annie graduated summa cum laude from Boston College and is a proud graduate of San Domenico Middle School and Saint Ignatius College Preparatory. Annie has trained at the University of Louisville Dance Academy, Louisville Ballet, Marin Dance Theater, Marin Theater Company, Scott Pearson (Voice, NYC), Jeannette Neill Dance Studio and Steps on Broadway. Her professional career includes work with Boston dance companies, regional theater productions (most notably onstage with Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie), and representation with STARS San Francisco. Her teaching career has included faculty positions at Walnut Hill School and Performing Arts Connection as well as a multitude of freelance positions in the dance and drama departments at schools such as Newton North High School and Middlesex Community College. Annie resides in Mill Valley with her three children. She is thankful for her incredibly supportive family and loves bringing her kids to the studio. PAAM is her main passion and home away from home. It is a dream come true to have so many young artists also consider PAAM their second home.
Administrative Manager & Executive Assistant
Matthew McCoy is a passion-driven artist; having produced, directed, designed and managed large scale musicals, black-box plays, solo cabarets, high-end galas and magic production shows. With over 10+ years in Entertainment. McCoy has worked professionally in regional theaters across the country and overseas; San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, London, and Shanghai, China.
Matthew brings an extensive arts background having received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from Coastal Carolina University. Matthew has served in different capacities after relocating to San Francisco in 2012. Casting Director and Associate Artistic Director at Berkeley Playhouse, Performance Manager for the San Francisco Dungeon (themed entertainment), performing arts educator, proven track record of successful live events, managed lucrative fundraising campaigns, as well as directed and choreographed for Berkeley Playhouse, The Performing Arts Academy of Marin, 6th Street Playhouse, Altarena Playhouse, and CMT San Jose.
Matthew was the Founder and served as Artistic Director for Bay Area Musicals until 2020. Bay Area Musicals was an award-winning musical theater company that served over 30,000 patrons a year since opening in 2015 in San Francisco. Matthew is a freelance consultant and director for entertainment productions, shows, themed experiences, immersive attractions, musicals, reviews and things yet to be imagined. The passion of the arts bleeds into his style of leadership and management, inspiring those around while creating an exciting, inclusive, diverse, safe, and fun environment to work and excel in.
Theater Arts Director & Production Manager
Katlin is a Bay Area native and descendant of a long family history of actors, performers and musicians. She spent her childhood deeply involved in performing arts, beginning ballet as a toddler with Miss Tilly at the Rayna Allen School of Dancing in San Francisco and continuing on to dance and musical theater with Marilyn Izdebski Productions in San Anselmo. Through middle and high school, Katlin took voice lessons with award winning opera singer Marian Marsh. Katlin attended Terra Linda High School for her freshman and sophomore years, then completed her junior and senior years and graduated from San Domenico School. Katlin received her BA in Music from Sonoma State University, where her studies focused on recording production and vocal performance. Throughout college she performed as a member of several choral groups including the Sonoma State Chamber Choir and the MiraCosta Jazz Ensemble. During this time, Katlin was a coach for the Sebastopol Sea Serpents and taught swimming lessons at Ann Curtis School of Swimming. Following college, Katlin spent time in the San Diego radio industry, working for both Finest City Broadcasting and Clear Channel Communications in production and scheduling. Her voice could often be heard on popular stations such as Rock 105.3 and 91X. In 2009, she moved on to music booking at The Rosebud Agency in San Francisco, representing Grammy winning artists such as Mavis Staples and JJ Cale. Coming on board in June 2012 with a renewed passion for dance and theater, Katlin found her home at PAAM and is delighted to continue building her career in the performing arts as Theater Arts Director and Production Manager.
Co-Director, BAYPAC Dance Company
Originally from Danville, California, Alicia began studying dance at the age of four at The Ballet School Performing Arts in Walnut Creek, where she studied classical ballet under the direction of Lareen Fender over the next 14 years. Throughout high school, she was heavily involved in her school’s competitive dance and cheer programs, where she performed in Disneyland, went to dance conventions, competed at the National level, and won the Student Director’s Award for her choreography in her senior year. She went on to Arizona State University, where she studied contemporary ballet and modern dance. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and earned her BFA in Dance Choreography in 2008. At age 19, she began teaching ballet and jazz at a local dance studio, and over the course of the next 9 years she built her career throughout the Phoenix Metro Valley as a highly regarded competitive dance instructor/choreographer, guest artist and AZ Certified Dance Educator. In 2011, she was recruited to be a founding member and principal dancer of Phoenix’s contemporary jazz company, MarioCo Dance, which she performed and choreographed with over the next two years. By the end of her tenure in Arizona she was a master teacher for all ages and levels of ballet, jazz, contemporary and acro, with numerous award-winning pieces from prestigious national dance competitions, and had trained many students who eventually went on to dance in college or have successful professional dance careers themselves. In 2014 she moved back to the Bay Area and immediately began working at the Performing Arts Academy of Marin (PAAM). She has been one of the main dance faculty members since her arrival, teaching ballet, jazz, contemporary/lyrical, and helped build PAAM’s acro program. She has also been a main choreographer and rehearsal director for PAAM’s competitive dance company (now called BAYPAC Dance Company), and eventually being promoted to Co-Director of BAYPAC Dance Company. She continues to choreograph and teach at PAAM full time, as well as be a recurring guest artist/choreographer for Napa High School Spiritleaders. She loves to call PAAM her second home, watching her students grow up and thrive in the arts, and looks forward to many more years to come!
Studio Coordinator & Client Experience Ambassador
Ashley came to California 2 years ago after growing up in Tennessee. She moved out west to be closer to family and she is the newest member of the PAAM administrative staff. Her love for dance, theater, and helping others have followed her all the way out west where she continues to learn and grow in the artistic community. She fell in love with the Bay Area for it’s art, live music, comedy, and wonderful people. When she’s not working you can find her exploring a beach, painting, listening to records or joking with her closest friends.
She has previous experience in dance, theater and improv/comedy and attended a university for Theater and Communications.
She has 13 years in customer service, with a background in retail and office administration.
Being a part of a creative community, such as PAAM, where people are driven, caring and highly skilled at their role is truly inspiring to her.
Ashley is sociable and likes to provide an optimistic atmosphere to the people around her to benefit their experiences.
Her passion for the Arts and success with positive people interactions have landed her the exciting new role of Studio Coordinator & Client Ambassador.
Tammy is a Central Coast native who moved to Northern California in 2004. She has always had a love for the dance world. She danced and did gymnastics as a child, and was on the cheerleading and dance team in junior high and high school. Tammy's entire career has been in customer service and hospitality. Out of high school she was a camp counselor for the local YMCA for several years, then worked at IN-N-OUT Burger for 6.5 years. She was a store trainer and a shift leader. She has taught EMT classes and worked as a shift leader of a video rental store. After children Tammy began working in the dance industry behind the scenes by taking care of accounts and bookkeeping. She has fantastic organization skills and attention to detail and now works behind the scenes as PAAM's highly effective Accounts Director, overseeing database management, updating class schedules, facilitating private lessons, all while simultaneously providing clients with excellent customer service. Tammy has a son and a daughter whom she adores and in her spare time, enjoys being in the sun, nature and spending time with those closest to her.
Contemporary & Improvisation
Originally from Reykjavik, Iceland, and a graduate of UC Berkeley, Aushi Oskarsdottir started her professional dance career at the age of 13 with video, television and commercial work. She attended Alvin Ailey American Dance Center’s Summer Intensive for two years, and also trained at Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, and with Savage Jazz. In addition to being the Assistant Director of Dance Fusion Company in Walnut Creek and founding the Dance Program at SOCAPA (School of Creative and Performing Arts) in New York, Aushi has had the privilege of working all throughout the U.S. and abroad. Some of her recent work includes creating an ensemble piece for Mark Foehringer’s CCDA, teaching master classes in Costa Rica (where she also did her Pilates training), Nicaragua, Mexico and Iceland, and choreographing for the premiere of Pixar's Toy Story 3. As one of the founding faculty members of Jazz Dance Fest in Costa Rica, she has taught alongside and collaborated with some of the dance world's biggest names. Prior to her concentration on dance education, Aushi performed and traveled extensively, working with Santana, Deborah Cox, MC Hammer, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bebe, Apple, Oracle, E*Trade, Microsoft, and Bill Graham Presents, among others. Additionally, she has worked as a stylist for Nautica Jeans, Cosmopolitan and NY Fashion Week, and as a producer for Q-Tip's interview show Artist to Artist. While teaching remains her passion, Aushi has also delved into dance video and audio production, and she has a collection of her work on SOCAPA’s YouTube channel. This is her fourth year at the Performing Arts Academy of Marin, where she has had the pleasure of choreographing for, and training the BAYPAC dancers.
Cassidy Rae is a passionate dance educator and former professional international dancer with 10+ years teaching expertise. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Cassidy Rae Stoker received her pre-professional training from Ballet Internationale in Indianapolis, Indiana and The Juilliard School in New York, New York before completing her BFA from the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase. She danced professionally with Tulsa Ballet Theatre of Oklahoma, TAKE Dance Company of New York and Tania Perez-Salas Compania de Danza of Mexico City, Mexico. She has also travelled as a solo artist, joining projects she has found intriguing, challenging and meaningful to her. Cassidy has graced stages from the quaint to the contemporary and historic across the globe. Some of her favorites include Stadttheater Fürth in Germany, Shanghai Grand Theater in China, and Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center in Israel.
Youth Programs, Dance Instruction & Theater Arts
Claire Calalo Berry
In 2010, Claire founded for change dance collective, which explores deeply collaborative practices in the creation of professional concert dance performance. Formerly an Adjunct Lecturer in modern dance and choreography at Santa Clara University, Claire has also taught dance in private studios, high schools, and community settings, in addition to leading movement and choreography workshops in Belize, Nicaragua, and Spain. Her professional performance credits include works by Tandy Beal, Nina Haft, Angela Demmel, Sue Li Jue, Nhan Ho, Kristin Damrow, and Lauren Baines, among others. As a dance maker, teacher, and dance advocate, Claire’s greatest joy comes from witnessing the small discoveries we make when we move. She believes that in these expressive moments, we find our purpose, joy, and identity, and ultimately come to understand more about ourselves and our ability to impact our communities. In 2010, Claire founded for change dance collective, which explores deeply collaborative practices in the creation of professional concert dance performance. Formerly an Adjunct Lecturer in modern dance and choreography at Santa Clara University, Claire has also taught dance in private studios, high schools, and community settings, in addition to leading movement and choreography workshops in Belize, Nicaragua, and Spain. Her professional performance credits include works by Tandy Beal, Nina Haft, Angela Demmel, Sue Li Jue, Nhan Ho, Kristin Damrow, and Lauren Baines, among others. As a dance maker, teacher, and dance advocate, Claire’s greatest joy comes from witnessing the small discoveries we make when we move. She believes that in these expressive moments, we find our purpose, joy, and identity, and ultimately come to understand more about ourselves and our ability to impact our communities.
Jeremy Jones Lawson is from Memphis TN and a graduate of University of Memphis with a Degree in Dance Education. His career in Dance/Musical Theater started with Bridging Souls Production Dance Company were he was the Rehearsal Director under the Direction of Tamara Parish. Later he began to work with Playhouse on the Square where he played in several productions. He played Lead Dancer or Singer for ensemble in "The Color Purple" By Alice Walker. Jeremy is now based out of San Francisco/Bay Area & has performed at Oakland Pride opening up for En Vouge, Shelia E. & Chaka Khan with New Style Motherlode under the Direction of Corey Action. Jeremy has been performing as a dancer and instructor for Rae Agency through PAAM Performing Arts Academy, The Exploratorium Industry Showcase, Hotel Zelos Grand Opening, Facebook Commercial, Dropbox Holiday Party, Warriors, SF Momma Live Art Exhibition, Dreamforce Flashmob, Oracle World and lead dancer for Linked InHoliday Production, Levi’s Stadium Santa Clara.
Kristen graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and a B.S. in Business Administration. She also attended the Young Conservatory of A.C.T. in San Francisco. At the age of 8 she was cast in an island wide production of The Sound of Music as Brigitta in Guam and has been hooked on performing ever since! Throughout her school years she was either entertaining audiences in district-wide musicals or school plays. Before joining PAAM Kristen started the Performing Arts Program at her children’s elementary school and was a Director there for five years. Kristen is committed to helping students creatively express themselves in a safe environment. She loves watching students grow in confidence through musical theater!
Laura Lunde is originally from Walnut Creek, California. She began her early training with Danville Ballet, Central West Ballet, Contra Costa Ballet, and the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. under the Artistic Director Oleg Vinogradov. In 2008, Ms. Lunde toured internationally with the Tasmanian Classical Ballet in Australia. She has worked with professional companies across the United States such as Manassas Ballet Theatre, Sierra Nevada Ballet, Columbia City Ballet, and Ballet Tucson. Ms. Lunde has been featured in principal roles such as the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker”, Kitri from “Don Quixote”, Odette from “Swan Lake”, pas des deux from “Spring Waters” as well as roles from many other classical and contemporary works such as George Balanchine’s “Concerto Barocco”, “Walpurgisnacht”, and “Donizetti Variations”. Ms. Lunde now resides in San Francisco and became a ballet teacher with the Performing Arts Academy of Marin in 2020.
Liam Robertson (he/him) has had a varied career in the theatre as an actor, musician, director, and theatrical designer. He’s a multi-instrumentalist in Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Guitar, and Piano among other instruments and has been practicing martial arts such as Aikido, Karate, and Tai Chi for about a dozen years. In addition to playing and teaching music since he was in high school, he’s spent time performing in the bay area at Berkeley Rep, SF Playhouse, Berkeley Playhouse, Cal Shakes, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and the Curran among others. A former Director of Education at Marin Theatre Company, and a teacher of music and theatre in Marin County since 2008, he has worked with Performing Arts Academy of Marin since 2017 and loves the supportive atmosphere of the faculty and administration at PAAM in bringing quality arts education to all of its students. Some of his greatest joys in teaching are cultivating and affirming the unique expressions of every student, while helping them along their way to grow as better human beings.
Theater Arts & Vocal Instruction
Sara Rosenbloom fell in love with dance at 3 years old. Living in Los Angeles she had incredible opportunities to study under the best in the business. She studied at the Performing Arts Center, Millennium, and The Edge. By age 10 she was dancing 23 hours a week, studying Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop, and Contemporary. She studied voice under Lis Lewis, Monte Ralstin (Old Deuteronomy, Cats), Marsha Bagwell(Big Momma, Chicago). She moved on to get her BFA in Musical Theater from the University of Arizona in 2007. She has performed for theater companies in Arizona and California and still does. Her other passion in life is teaching children. Having the opportunity to convey the passion and dedication she has through dance to the next generation is a dream come true. She taught her first hip hop class in 2000, and directed her first musical in 2004. She ran her own private dance company in Los Angeles for 3 years before she moved up to the bay area and found PAAM. Sara is very excited to be a part of a studio that cares as much about the students themselves as their training. She has loved being a part of the PAAM-ily for most of the last decade. Whether the students will turn this love of dance and theater into a career, or use these tools to learn a hard work ethic and dedication, she is happy to share in this part of their lives.
Sarah grew up in the Bay Area, started dancing at age 2. She was accepted into the Cal Arts dance program in Southern California where she studied under many acclaimed teachers including Debbie Allen and Mia Michaels. She has been involved in multiple dance companies including Body Language, Culture Shock Oakland, and Soul Force San Francisco. She completed her 500 hour yoga training with YogaWorks in 2014 in addition to another 200 hour yoga alliance certification in Ashtanga yoga at Its Yoga San Francisco in 2007. Sarah started teaching kids in 2002, spending several years as a dance teacher & choreographer with the Mount Tamalpais School Theatre Department. In 2009 she started teaching at PAAM and has been ever since. Sarah’s hip hop classes are energetic, fun, and educational. Sarah is a well-loved teacher at PAAM.
Lily Jackson is so excited to be working with PAAM! She received her BA in Theatre from Occidental College, as well as training at the London Dramatic Academy. Lily is a teaching artist, director, and performer working with schools and theatre companies throughout the Bay Area, including Berkeley Playhouse, Throckmorton Theatre, Marin Catholic High School, and the Yes and Kiddo! Foundations.
Ann Dragich tap danced in New York from 2008-2020. Prior to this she studied with Della Davidson and David Grenke at UC Davis. Ann is a current member of tap group Cole Collective, and is a founding member of Guilty Pleasures Cabaret. Ann is in the step company “Momentum” and was featured in Rick Owens Spring 2014 Women’s show at Paris Fashion Week. Ann has presented work in various shows around New York city including the Emerging Choreographer’s Series curated by Mare Nostrom Elements, and Flamenco Certamen USA held at the NYPL Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center. Ann was a Spring 2018 cycle AiRe Artist in Residence at Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana.
Matt Tayao was raised in Oakland, California. At the young age of 17 Matt left the Bay Area with dreams of becoming a professional dancer. Since moving to LA, Matt has taken on Hollywood through dance, film, and television.
Tayao has performed nationally and internationally with superstars such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, P. Diddy, Charlie Puth, Kelly Rowland, Meghan Trainor, and Ke$ha. He has also appeared in various music videos including Enrique Iglesias’ “I Like It” featuring Pitbull/ Lionel Richie. You may have caught Matt on popular shows like MTV Video Music Awards, Teen Choice Awards, The X Factor, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Shake It Up!, and Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. Matt has been fortunate enough to work with companies such as Apple, Bud Light, Disney, Nike, FOX, E!, MTV, Lifetime, and many more.
Aside from working commercially, Matt truthfully enjoys educating the next generation of dancers. He has developed youth dance communities in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and China. His students have gone on to have their own successful careers working with major recording artists such as Michael Jackson, Childish Gamino, Target, Old Navy and more.
In 2015, Tayao was featured in Dance Spirit Magazine as the Director and Choreographer for Movement Lifestyle’s kids program, mLkids. Matt’s overwhelming energy and love for dance is a noteworthy trait. He looks forward to sharing his passion with the world!
On-Camera Acting & Coaching
Melinda Darlington-Bach is an Emmy Award winning filmmaker and acting teacher and a 25- year working veteran SAG/AFTRA actress. Starting in the business as both a runway and fashion model at the age of 16, Melinda made the seamless transition into the world of show business. In both the Los Angeles and Bay Area markets, she has worked in over 65 national commercials, industrials and feature films. Using her superb skills and experience, Melinda has been working for San Francisco Acting Academy teaching and coaching on camera tweens/teens in both theatrical and commercial classes for the last 10 years. Melinda works closely with young talent preparing them with self-tapes, important auditions for Disney, Nickelodeon, Little Rascals, Penny Dreadful, Universal Studios and major feature films including Blue Jasmine directed by Woody Allen. For the past 20 years, Ms. Darlington-Balch has worked as a model/talent scout personally setting up hundreds of auditions for the Bay Area and Los Angeles franchised talent agencies.