SMART Orchestra Staff

Dr. David C. Cole distinguished career as a conductor, educator, and violinist has taken him all over the country and all around the world. He has served as the Director of Orchestral Activities and Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he conducted the University Symphony and directed the string chamber music program. Dr. Cole has previously led the orchestra programs at Sam Houston State University, Northern Kentucky University, the University of Utah, Southern Utah University and Northern Michigan University and has taught in the Waco, Texas public schools. Dr. Cole holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from West Virginia University (Magna cum Laude), a Master of Arts in Orchestral Conducting from The University of Iowa, a Master of Music in Violin Performance from Baylor University and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Orchestral Conducting from The University of Arizona. In addition to his university teaching, Dr. Cole served as the Youth Symphony conductor for the Southwest Florida Symphony’s Youth Orchestra program. He led the orchestra in their appearances at Carnegie Hall in New York City and at the Capital Orchestra Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. He has held the post of Music Director with two community orchestras, the Waupaca Area Orchestra in Wisconsin and the Orchestra of Southern Utah. His guest conducting appearances include concerts with the Southwest Florida Symphony in Fort Myers, Florida, the National Conservatory Orchestra in Bogotá, Colombia, the Pleven Philharmonic in Pleven, Bulgaria, the Orquestra de Camera de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Mexico, the Baylor Symphony Orchestra in Waco, Texas, the El Alto Municpal Youth Orchestra in La Paz, Bolivia, and the Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra. He has worked with distinguished soloists and ensembles including Metropolitan Opera tenor Stanford Olsen, jazz pianist Danilo Pérez and the performing troupe of “Beethoven’s Wig.” In 2001, he was selected as one of four conductors to record the national anthems heard during the Medals Ceremonies at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Dr. Cole has assisted in the training of young conductors through lessons and master classes at the Colombia National Conservatory, the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla in Puebla, Mexico, the El Alto Municipal Youth Orchestra and at Baylor University. In 2007, Dr. Cole was named the Kentucky Music Educators Association District 6 College/University Teacher of the Year. Dr. Cole appears frequently as guest conductor and orchestra clinician with youth orchestras and high school groups throughout the United States and served as an adjudicator and clinician for Festivals at Sea. Dr. Cole has performed as a violinist in the Waco Symphony, the San Angelo Symphony, the Flower Mound Symphony, the Tucson Pops, the Seven Hills Sinfonietta, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra, the Cincinnati Civic Orchestra, the Traverse Symphony, the Keweenaw Symphony, the Sault Symphony in Ontario, Canada and as a member of the Presque Isle Piano Trio.

Maryssa Chartier joined SMART Orchestra for its 14th season as the orchestra’s principal flutist. She is a native of Louisiana, where she graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a Bachelor’s in Instrumental Music Education in 2020. She was an active member of the Spirit of the Southland marching band, where she served as woodwind section leader and later, undergraduate assistant. During her time at Southeastern Louisiana University, she performed with various ensembles including Wind Symphony, Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Opera pit orchestra, and various chamber groups. Maryssa furthered her education at Texas State University, where she graduated with a Master’s in Flute Performance and Pedagogy. At TXST, she performed as principal flute with the Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra. She also performed in varying chamber groups, including a flute choir and a woodwind quintet. Maryssa is a flute teacher in the central Texas area, teaching in New Braunfels ISD, San Marcos ISD, Hays ISD, Austin ISD, and Lake Travis ISD. She specializes in teaching beginner flutists but teaches flutists of all ability levels. She also has experience coaching chamber groups and large sectionals. Maryssa is very excited to be a part of the SMART orchestra because it gives her the opportunity to continue performing while teaching a studio of over 40 flutists. Other than music, Maryssa loves spending time with her two cats, Pico, and Beans. 

Executive Director

Jeremy Sustaita has performed as a SMART Orchestra clarinetist since its 9th season and is currently serving his 2nd season as the SMART Orchestra’s executive director. Jeremy served as the president of the board of directors for over 4 years prior to this appointment. He is the SMART Orchestra’s principal clarinetist and he began playing clarinet in the SMCISD over 30 years ago and studied under Mr. Sabin in high school and Dr. David Pino at SWTSU (Southwest Texas State University). Outside of SMART, Jeremy is a licensed insurer for one of the top three Insurance companies in the United States and holds 30 state licenses. Aside from performing in several central Texas wind ensembles/ orchestras, he is also an avid composer, composing arrangements for friends, fellow musicians/educators, and his clarinet students as tailored teaching resources. In addition to composing arrangements for chamber ensembles in many previous SMART Sessions Recitals, Jeremy also recently wrote his first complete orchestral arrangement—Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”, which was debuted by the SMART Orchestra in our season 11 Pops Concert: A Tribute to Motown. In his free time, Jeremy likes to spend time with family, friends, and his FOUR dogs.

Board of Directors

DJ Castilleja started with the SMART Orchestra in 2021 as a very talented section leader for our French horn section. He has been playing the French horn since 1992 when he began learning in Middle School. A few words from DJ: “What I love about performing in an orchestra is the multi-faceted art form that it is. First is the art of writing a piece of music that someone dedicated heart and soul to composing, sometimes taking months or years. Then each individual performer gets a piece of the big picture and has to be an artist in their own parts with their own instruments. All the individuals then come together to form one big piece of art in the performance all done in real-time by the leading of a conductor“.

Kwin Lara has performed with the SMART Orchestra for 4 seasons and has served as our VP of Community Relations for 2 years. You may see her playing the flute in the orchestra, but she also really loves singing, and performing on the guitar, and the piano. (Over 30 years now if you can believe that!) She loves being creative outside of music with my work as an esthetician and as a custom cake baker with unique cupcakes, cake pops, and birthday cakes for all ages. *Shameless plug* Kwintessential Cakes & Spa keeps her creative side flowing outside of music with Smart.  Now if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she also has 2 beautiful children who have her active with dance and soccer events. Kwin also loves to travel all over the place which includes riding alongside her motorcycle ministry; 3 Angel’s Messengers, where she has been the President of her San Antonio chapter for 4 years.  God has definitely been a stronghold in her life and she would love to share personally if anyone would like to know more. Kwin is usually behind the decorations at our performances as well!

Cathy Stoughton is currently in her third season with the SMART orchestra. She is a native of San Marcos, TX, and a 1993 graduate of SMHS, where she served as the principal trumpet player and as the trumpet section leader from 1990-1993. She was also placed as a member of the All-Region band where she had the opportunity to represent SMHS. After graduation and upon receipt of softball and music scholarships to Texas Lutheran University she continued her education and is about to begin her 23rd year of teaching, 19 of which have been at SMHS, where she is the head softball coach and teaches geometry. She recently began her pursuit of a master’s degree in mathematics. Cathy is excited to have this opportunity to pursue her passion for music with such an amazing organization and the wonderful people of which it is comprised. She is married to Craig, and they have two children, Cailyn & Cayden.

Mikki Hanson (Bio Coming Soon.)

Chris Higbie joined the SMART Orchestra in the fall of 2021 and is serving his first term on the board. He began playing trombone in 1995 and as a high school sophomore, he found his calling on the bass trombone. The following fall he earned a position as the principal trombonist and would also serve as the section leader – a position he maintained for 2 more years. He also placed in the All-Region band in HS. His most memorable moment during this time was being invited to travel across Europe as a Texas Lone Star Ambassador of Music. After graduating H.S. he studied music performance at SWTSU, where he had the opportunity to play in many of the school’s performing groups as a freshman, including the orchestra, which was his first love. He also enjoyed performing with the school’s top-tier jazz ensemble, directed by Freddie Mendoza, but not before performing with the Jazz Orchestra where he was featured as a soloist. During his time at SWT, he taught private lessons and toured with the jazz ensemble for recruitment and competitions. He spent a period of time away from music to pursue other interests; however, after losing his mother to cancer in 2013, he rediscovered the healing power of music and returned to playing. Currently, he plays in multiple ensembles in the greater South Austin/Hill Country area while also managing operations for the family business. He also began playing tuba in performing ensembles in 2018. In his spare time, he enjoys photography, arranging and composing music, working on his cars, playing disc golf, learning new instruments, practicing, going on road trips, and having fun with friends.



Robert B. Reid started playing the violin at the age of three. His Mother and Grandmother started working with him as his mother is a professional violinist as well. Robert has performed with many professional orchestras including the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, East Texas Symphony Orchestra, Abilene Philharmonic, Longview Symphony Orchestra, Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra, South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Marshall Symphony Orchestra, et al. Robert played first violin for the Candlelight String Quartet in Dallas, Texas for over fifteen (15) years, performing at hundreds of weddings and other ceremonies in the Dallas/Fort Worth area as well as Oklahoma. Robert also toured Europe and the UK with youth ensembles. Robert holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and an MBA from Texas Woman’s University. His violin teachers include Motoi Takeda (Dallas Symphony Orchestra), Norma Davidson (TWU), and Brian Lewis (University of Texas.) He was awarded as an outstanding recital series at Texas Woman’s University as well as the Chilton S. Powell Outstanding Performing Artist. Robert is also fascinated with the history of violin making (lutherie) and bow making and has done research and presentations on the topic.

Student Interns

Vas Sitler is a Violinist currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Violin Performance at Texas State University. He has served as a member of the TXST Symphony for three years and is currently the Principal Second Violinist. He has also had the opportunity to perform with Mariachi Nueva Generacíon, the top-performing group at Texas State University. He is also an advocate for chamber music and is a part of three chamber ensembles including a string quartet and a violin duo. He has played with SMART Orchestra as an intern for two and a half years and has held leadership positions such as Principal Second and Concertmaster. 

Leonardo Huerta Lima is an aspiring composer and current undergraduate student at the UTSA School of Music where he studies composition and piano. Having started in the realm of choir through public school choral programs, Leo has a strong choral background and holds experience in directing and conducting choirs. He has also had the opportunity to learn piano and double bass and began his orchestral journey with SMART Orchestra in the fall of their 13th season.  Leo is excited to return as an intern this season and grateful for the opportunity to play with amazing local musicians and help bring classical/orchestral music to San Marcos and its surrounding areas.

Jenna Stone is currently a senior at Texas State University studying for a degree in music performance with a concentration in clarinet. Currently in her college career, she has performed with the Texas State Symphony Orchestra as well as the Texas State Wind Symphony. During her time, she has earned the principal clarinet position of the Wind Symphony for two consecutive semesters. On the side, she is a member of the university’s clarinet choir and enjoys performing in smaller ensembles when she can. Additionally, Jenna teaches private lessons and masterclasses at Akins High School and Hays High School, respectively. This will be Jenna’s third year as a member of the SMART Orchestra and her second year as a SMART Intern. During her time with the orchestra, she has truly enjoyed the experience it has given her. She is extremely excited to see where the orchestra is headed this season and cannot wait to work as an intern!

Austin Chavez is an aspiring musician and current student at Austin Community College majoring in Music Performance. His focus instruments are trumpet and piano. Austin began playing trumpet at the age of 5. During his junior year in high school, he began performing with SMART Orchestra alternating second and first parts. During his senior year in high school Austin played jazz chamber music. He has the honor to perform with the Jazz Ambassadors of the United States Army Field Band. During the same year Austin performed piano for the opening reception for the Walkers Gallery. Austin is currently lead trumpet for recording artist Laura Ann y La Distancia and lead trumpet for a local Texas State student band Dawn Atlas. Austin plans on continuing performing with SMART Orchestra and earn his Bachelors degree in Music Performance at Texas State University.