Meet the Teachers

Mallory Dekker

Born and raised in central South Dakota, Mallory discovered at an early age her passion for music and music education. Mallory attended Black Hills State University where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Music Education, with an emphasis in instrumental music. While attending BHSU, Mallory majored in flute while also performing in the BHSU Jazz Band on Alto Saxophone, the BHSU Choir, and the Community Orchestra on String Bass. During her time at BHSU, she co-directed the BHSU Pep Band, as well as assisting to organize events such as the Northern Hills Honors Band.

Before graduation, Mallory accepted the all school band director position in Newcastle, Wyoming, where she taught for 2 1/2 years. After leaving the Newcastle school system, Mallory moved to Moscow, Idaho, where she began work on her Masters of Music Education Degree from Boston University. While her main focus was developing music curriculum for rural music programs, Mallory worked closely with rural and urban school districts and communities all across the country.

In time, Mallory and her family moved back to South Dakota. Being back in her hometown, Mallory took a job at Pierre Music where she not only taught lessons, but helped design and build a beginning summer band program for 5th grade students.

In her music history, Mallory has taught private instrumental and piano lessons since before beginning her undergraduate work.

With her position of Executive Director of the Studio of the Arts, and Band Director at Batchelder’s, Mallory is very anxious to continue to grow the existing programs and work to develop new programs, all to spread the love of music .

Lena Schmitz

Born and raised in Rapid City, Lena has been an avid violinsit for 18 years. She attended Central High School, and later her family moved to Sioux Falls where she graduated from Roosevelt High School. Growing up, Lena immersed herself in the music programs and after high school, ventured to Oklahoma to pursue her dream of teaching music. It was while attending Redlands Community College, Lena began teaching violin lessons and confirmed her passion is in the classroom

After moving back to South Dakota with her family in 2016, Lena has looked for a musical teaching outlet and is thrilled to have found one at Batchelder’s. Lena is excited to be a part of the Batchelder’s family and looks forward to helping her students grow with music. 

Melissa Bumbach

Melissa is an educator, conductor, and singer with experience working with a wide variety of age levels. She was most recently a teaching assistant at the University of Miami Frost School of Music where she is pursuing her Doctorate of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting with a cognate in Music Education, ABD. At UM, Melissa has served as conductor of various choral ensembles, teaching assistant for conducting and choral methods, instructor of the vocal techniques class, and university supervisor for student teachers. She has been awarded two research grants to fund doctoral research in Cuba.
Previously, she was the choral director at Howard Middle School in Marion County, Florida, where she was named the 2012 Howard Middle School Teacher of the Year and awarded a $10,000 grant for her choral program from the TV show GLEE and the National Association for Music Education. Melissa went on to be named the 2012 Marion County Teacher of the Year. Melissa’s choirs consistently earned Superior ratings at Music Performance Assessments.
Melissa served as District Chair for the Florida Vocal Association, overseeing activities for chorus teachers and students in Marion, Sumter, Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties. She has conducted All-County Middle School Chorus in Pasco, Broward, and Palm Beach counties and the Marion County All-County Elementary Chorus and served as adjudicator for Choral and Solo Ensemble Music Performance Assessments for Florida Vocal Association.
Melissa is also a frequent vocal soloist, performing works such as Handel’s “Messiah,” Mozart’s “Coronation Mass,” and Vivaldi’s “Gloria”. In Florida, she sang with numerous local ensembles as a professional soloist and choral singer, including the Na Wai Chamber Choir in Hawai’i, Ocean Reef Chapel Choir, 2nd Avenue Jewish Chorale, Musica Judaica, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church of Coral Gables, Plymouth Congregational Church of Miami, Marion Civic Chorale, Nature Coast Festival Singers, and Ocala Summer Sacred Music Chorale.
Melissa has also recorded with Gloria Estefan and sung the National Anthem at the 2016 CNN Republican Presidential Debate in Miami, FL.
Melissa received her Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting at the University of South Florida, where she was the Graduate Conducting Apprentice for the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Melissa is passionate about the power of music to positively influence lives and build community.

Marilyn Walter

Marilyn is a native to South Dakota and has been teaching at Batchelder’s since 2007. Her college training for elementary education was at Northern State and Huron College. Her music training was from Grace University, Omaha Nebraska. Marilyn taught in the South Dakota public schools and was a music teacher at private schools. During these teaching years, she also taught private piano and voice lessons. She has been teaching private piano lessons for 45 years. When she is not teaching, she likes to read, shop, and spend time with her friends and family- especially her grandchildren.

Maria Cherni

Maria has a long history in the music field. After getting her diploma in teaching piano and concertmaster, she worked with the students for 20 years in her native town of ternopil, Ukraine, while raising her beautiful twin daughters. In 1997 Maria and her family came to the United States and by lucky circumstances, settled in Rapid City, where she continues teaching piano lessons. Maria is proud of her students, and she loves the beautiful Black Hills and good natured people that live there. She is grateful for the opportunity she has in America, her children, and to Matt Batchelder for taking her under his wing.

Carolyn Preber

Carolyn has been teaching piano students of all ages for more than 25 years. Her experience includes teaching for 9 years at Nancy Theilen’s School of Piano, and private lessons in her home before joining Batchelders in 1999. While growing up in Wisconsin, she trained with a private teacher affiliated with the Sherwood Music Schools of Chicago and earned her piano teacher’s certificate there. Graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a BD degree in Elementary Education led Carolyn to teach fourth and fifth grade in Madison, Wisconsin. Since moving to Rapid City in 1987, she has been employed by Rapid City Area Schools as a substitute teacher. Carolyn’s other interests are her family, grandchildren, house plants, garden, travel, and reading.

Joseph O’Rourke

Joseph is a classical pianist born and raised in New York City. He was born into a family of musicians, his mother being a jazz pianist and vocalist while his father a jazz drummer. His relatives include his Grandfather Al Levitt and Uncle Sean Levitt O’Rourke who are both widely recognized in the international jazz community. Joseph has studied at The Juilliard School and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. He studied Music Theory under Derek Weiland, Piano Pedagogy under Paul Sheftel and Piano under the renown Taiwanese Concert Pianist Shih-Yi Chiang. His performances include substantial works by Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Bach, Mozart and Chopin. Joseph has taught piano for 8 years, and currently resides happily in Rapid City with close family as of June of this year.

Jim Bingham

Jim teaches guitar, mandolin and electric bass, and he’s glad to be teaching here at Batchelder’s.

He began his formal studies taking lessons in classical guitar and double bass with instructors at the Hart College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, and he went on to play in various road bands in a variety of styles including folk, country, blues and western swing.  In addition, Jim has been an adjunct faculty member with the University of Colorado at Denver Music Industry Studies program where he taught classes in music business and music publishing.   Jim believes that lessons should be fun and he looks forward to sharing his love for guitar with his students.  When he’s not practicing, Jim enjoys traveling, discovering new restaurants and playing with his Golden Retrievers.  And you might catch him playing fiddle at one of the local bluegrass jams.

Tom Frear

Tom is a percussionist and guitarist who has been playing and performing for close to 15 years. Having graduated from Chadron State College in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Music Business, he moved to Rapid City to join the internationally known Brandon Jones Band. However, this is not Tom’s first experience with performing in a band; while attending Chadron State College, Tom collaborated with two other friends to form the Blue Street Band which played various genres of music including the Blues, Jazz, Soul, Classic Rock, and even Raggae. Next to performing, he has experience in the recording studio, as well as 6 years teaching private lessons.

Tom has earned various awards, including the Award of Excellence from the Chadron State College Music Department, the Outstanding Solo Award on guitar for 4 consecutive years in a row at the UNC Greely Jazz Festival. He has also attended attended the NAMM Show in Anaheim, Claifornia, as part of Generation Next in past years.

Becky Atchley

Becky Atchley has been involved with music her entire life, both has a lover of listening in a very musical family and an avid creative student of life.

Trained classically as a pianist and vocalist, she went on to pursue a degree in Music Engineering and Production, to further her dream of film scoring. This lead to her entering into the world of music business through both large and small label employment as a coach, talent scout, and public relations agent.

During this time, she recorded and performed multiple albums as a solo singer songwriter, as well as with her band, The Noise.
Throughout her experiences, she enjoyed gaining additional experience as a preschool director and teacher prior to college.
This lead to her creating a wide variety of early childhood education music programs in schools and studios in Colorado, Oregon and Wyoming.

Realizing all too well through personal loss, the connection between the mind and the creative arts, Becky pursued her degrees in Clinical Psychology and Music Therapy.