Residential Staff


Karim Merchant, Head Counselor
Karim was born in 1977 in London, England. He was already studying classical piano and violin when, at 16, he became attracted to jazz. As a teenager, he won several competitions, including the Daily Telegraph Young Jazz and Perrier Young Jazz Competitions.

From 1996 until 2000 he studied both jazz and classical piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, graduating with a Bachelor of Music Degree in jazz. While there, he participated in numerous workshops and lessons, including some given by artists such as Dave Liebman, John Patitucci, John Taylor, James Williams, and Randy Brecker. Ex-Dexter Gordon pianist Kirk Lightsey and ex-Jazz Messengers pianist Donald Brown are also among his former teachers.

From July 2000 until August 2004 he maintained a professional career as one of London’s most in-demand jazz musicians. During this time he played at many of London's top jazz establishments. He has also played at many other venues elsewhere in the UK and Europe, and jazz festivals such as Brecon (Wales), Manchester and Bratislava.

As a Masters degree student at Manhattan School of Music from 2004 until 2006, he studied under Kenny Barron. Since graduating, he has played at many venues, including some of New York’s staple jazz clubs like the Jazz Gallery, the 55 Bar and Fat Cat. He also plays regularly at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.

A sought-after teacher, he maintains a private studio, as well as being a teaching artist for the New York-based charity Midori & Friends. His other musical interests include contemporary gospel music, R'n'B and hip-hop, but he is always keen to discover new sounds and musical styles.

Manhattan School of Music Precollege faculty since 2007.   


Heather Dahl, Residential Counselor
Clarinetist Heather Dahl enjoys a wide ranging career as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral performer and devoted music educator. She is equally at home performing in esteemed concert venues such as Carnegie Hall and Chicago’s Symphony Center as she is performing in schools, libraries and senior centers throughout the community. Heather has performed with Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, New Haven Symphony, Reading Symphony, and Chicago Civic Orchestra, is a founding member of Tempest Winds and the Aeros Quintet and has received numerous honors and awards including Grand Prize in the International Clarinet Association Orchestra Competition. Heather received her Bachelor of Music from the University of Michigan and her Master of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music.


Ashley DiFranza, Residential Counselor
Ashley DiFranza is a singer, actress, and director based in Boston, Massachusetts. She studied at the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Quinnipiac University.

She has returned to assistant direct at Quinnipiac University after graduation, as well as at Manhattan School of Music’s Camp MSM. Directing and assistant directing projects include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Nine, Beauty and The Beast (Junior), Iolanthe, Twelfth Night, Spring Awakening, Guys & Dolls (Junior), and Carousel.

As an actress/singer, Ashley has had the opportunity to perform in venues across Boston, Connecticut, and New York City. Some favorite past roles include Jackie in Mauritius, Female Greek Chorus in How I Learned To Drive, Virginia in The Clean House, Miss Prism in Ernest In Love, Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man, and Madame De La Grande Bouche in Beauty And The Beast


Yara Farahmand, Residential Counselor
Yara Farahmand has been involved in theater and music all her life. Based in Boston Massachusetts, she takes pride in having been engaged in many elements of performing arts. Directing and assistant directing projects have included Arabian Nights, Shadowbox, Guys & Dolls, and Carousel. Having earned her Bachelor's degree from Quinnipiac University, Yara spent much of her time in university participating in a collegiate level acapella group. She also had her plays produced on stages in Boston and New York City. Yara has had the opportunity to perform in various venues in Boston, Connecticut, and New York City. Some favorite past roles include Martha (Spring Awakening), Bananas (House of Blue Leaves), Master of Ceremonies (Chicago), and Velma (Hairspray).


Kayla Fuentes, Residential Counselor 

Kayla Fuentes is originally from Starkville, Mississippi.  She is a recent graduate with a masters of music degree  from Manhattan School of Music and studies voice with Mignon Dunn. She graduated from Mississippi College in 2014 with a B. M. in Vocal Performance. While at Mississippi College she performed the roles of Old Maid from Menotti’s Old Maid and the Thief, Madame Thenardier from Schönberg’s Les Miserables, Emma Goldman from Glaherty’s Ragtime, and as part of the chorus in many other productions.  She has had the opportunity to collaborate with members of the Mississippi Symphony  and worked with the Mississippi Opera Company Chorus. During her first semester at Manhattan School of Music, Kayla sang in the chorus of the mainstage opera, Macbeth. She now works for The National Opera Center America as a contracted Education Associate working with the Opera Teens program and NOTES, an educational resource for teachers nationwide.


Remy LeBoeuf, Residential Counselor
Saxophonist and composer, Remy Le Boeuf envisions his approach to composition and improvisation as never veering far from the roots of language. Le Boeuf often employs literary elements to fuel his compositions as in is his recent collaboration with Le Boeuf Brothers + JACK Quartet entitled, "A Dream: The Musical Imagination of Franz Kafka” commissioned by Chamber Music America. He has also received commissions and awards from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, the American Composers Forum, SFJAZZ, and the ASCAP Foundation. Le Boeuf currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. 


Sean Richey, Residential Counselor
Sean Richey is a performing artist and music educator living in New York City. As an active freelance guitarist, Sean has performed with a variety of different productions at venues such Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, Monterey Jazz Festival, The Cutting Room, Central Park SummerStage, Rockwood Music Hall, National Center for the Performing Arts (Mumbai, India), The Mahindra Blues Festival, and many others. 

Sean is the recipient of two Student Composition Awards for "Best Original Songs" from DownBeat Magazine. He has also received the Monterey Jazz Festival's Gerald Wilson Big Band Composition Award and the New York Regional Scholarship Award for Jazz Guitar from NFAA Young Arts.

On faculty at Camp MSM at Manhattan School of Music since 2012, Sean teaches guitar, composition, and songwriting classes, as well as leads the R&B ensembles. From 2013-2015, he worked with the True School of Music in Mumbai, India as Head of the Guitar Department (2013), Course Director of Foundations Program (2014), & Course Director of Professional Certificate Program (2015). Sean has also taught for the Larchmont Music Academy and the Camp Encore/Coda in Maine. He now runs his own private teaching studio in Brooklyn NYC. 

During his studies at MSM, Sean studied with Chris Rosenberg. Sean graduated from the Manhattan School of Music's Jazz Arts Program in 2012, receiving his BA in Jazz Performance and the Outreach Commencement Award.


Raul Rios, Residential Counselor
Residential counselor Raul Rios is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in classical trumpet performance from the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music. In addition to his classical trumpet studies with Professor Roberto Ramirez at the Conservatorio del Musica, he has worked with instructors from Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School including David Krauss, Allan Dean and Joseph Foley. Raul is also a singer and has recorded children’s CDs and commercials in Spain and Puerto Rico. He has also toured Puerto Rico as an actor in more than 200 performances at schools and colleges. Raul is bilingual in Spanish and English.