Meet our Doctoral Students

Faith Zúñiga

Faith Zúñiga performs frequently in the Washington, D.C. area, where she is a regular guest in the Music with the Angels Concert Series and the Friday Morning Music Club Concert Series. Faith recently performed Prokofiev Concerto No. 1 and Beethoven Concerto No. 5 with the GMU Symphony. She was a 1st Prize winner of the 2014 George Mason University Concerto Competition and she also won 1st Place in the 2013 Clara Rolland Piano Competition. Additional competition awards include Semifinalist in the Victor Elmaleh Concert Artists Guild Competition and Semifinalist in the Byrd International Piano Competition. She has studied and performed in Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, and the United States, and is currently in the Doctor of Musical Arts program at George Mason University, where she studies with Dr. Anna Balakerskaia. Faith teaches at the Mason Community Arts Academy, the Wolf Trap Foundation for Education, and at home in Woodbridge. She also serves as recording secretary for the Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association and frequently judges area competitions and festivals. Her students have performed throughout the Northern Virginia area, at the Kennedy Center in DC, and at Carnegie Hall in NYC, and have been accepted to study music at James Madison and George Mason Universities, among others.

Stephen Cannistraci

Stephen Cannistraci is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at George Mason University studying with principal euphonium of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, Mark Jenkins. He completed his Master of Music degree at The Pennsylvania State University, studying with professor Velvet Brown. His undergraduate degrees are in Applied Music and Instrumental Music Education from the Eastman School of Music, where he also earned an Arts Leadership Certificate, and a performer’s certificate while studying with Mark Kellogg.

An active performer, Stephen has performed with the Perseverance Band of Lebanon and the Keystone Band of Rehrersburg, serving frequently as a soloist with the Perseverance band. In 2017, he was a soloist with the Penn State Symphonic Wind Ensemble as a co-winner of their concerto competition. He was also the runner-up in the 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference solo competition. Stephen has been fortunate to perform with many large ensembles, including the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Eastman Philharmonia, George Mason University Wind Symphony, Penn State Symphonic Wind Ensemble, as well as the three community bands listed above.

Stephen is active as a chamber musician as well. The Carillon Tuba Quartet was a finalist in the quartet competition at the 2014 International Tuba Euphonium Conference (ITEC), and runner up in the same competition at the 2016 ITEC. While at Eastman, the Carillon Quartet served as the 2014-15 Messinger Chamber Music Fellows, presenting concerts to rural communities in upstate New York. The quartet performed a series of converts in Belleville Illinois in the summer of 2017. Stephen has also performed actively with the Nittany Tuba Quartet at Penn State.

Stephen is excited to be a Presidential Scholar at George Mason University, where he is working to bring the euphonium to a larger audience and create new, engaging works for the instrument.


Michael Walker

Born near Waco, Texas and raised in the Midwest, Michael Walker served in the United States Army music program as alto saxophonist, teacher, Leader and Commander. Initial assignments included the Army Band of the Southwest at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, the NATO Band in Naples, Italy, and the Armed Forces Tri-Service School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia.

Following his first assignment, Walker was selected to teach undergraduate level jazz improvisation, and combo, with added duties teaching jazz and concert band rehearsal techniques to Army, Navy, and Marine Corps students. While a member of the school of music faculty jazz and concert bands, Michael performed with renowned artists Claude T. Smith, Clark Terry, Eddie Daniels, and Stan Mark. After the NATO Band, Walker returned to the School of Music and became head of the jazz band department, responsible for teaching jazz bands and rehearsal techniques.

Eventually becoming an Army Band Officer, Chief Warrant Officer Walker led bands – directing over 300 performances annually.

Michael’s penultimate assignment was as Director of the Army Blues Jazz Ensemble and Associate Bandmaster of The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” The “Blues”, under his leadership, performed more than 600 concerts and clinics annually with performances in our nation’s capital and across the United States. Highlights of these comprised performances at the White House, National Association of Jazz Educators, and Midwest Clinic, performing with legends like Clark Terry, Bill Watros, Arturo Sandoval, Don Menza, Billy Taylor, Stanley Turrentine, Alabama, Gladys Night, and many others. As Associate Bandmaster, Chief Walker conducted ceremonies and concerts for the President, Vice President, Department of Defense leadership, and other luminaries.

Michael retired from the “Topic Lightning” Army Band in Hawaii, and returned to Virginia to become Director, Visual & Performing Arts at Christ Chapel Academy. He earned his Master of Music Education from George Mason University, and is currently in George Mason’s doctoral music education program.

Michael is married to his high school sweetheart Margaretti and lives in Northern Virginia.