About Us

Free to Be Me Studio of Performing Arts provides quality performance training in a positive, enthusiastic, nurturing, and embracing environment. Through classes, workshops, camps, performance opportunities, and unique experiences our students learn essential life skills such as teamwork, respect, responsibility, care and compassion. We always strive to make the Free to Be Me experience a memorable one that will shape our students in whatever path they choose to take. We emphasize the importance of character both on and off the stage and work to inspire each student to BE a positive light out in the community.

Our Mission: Free to Be Me was founded on a dream that educators can meet each student exactly where they are and breathe courage into them as performers, while infusing them with self-confidence, self-respect, self-compassion, self-discipline, and lots and lots of self-love. At Free to Be Me we encourage the celebration of each and every student and their abilities and talents. Most importantly we encourage FUN!

Our Instructors

Vanessa Knowles

Executive Director

Vanessa Knowles is the proud owner and Executive Director of Free to Be Me Studio of Performing Arts and Dynamix Competition Team. Vanessa has performed professionally and for fun in various choirs, theater groups, all-star and college cheerleading teams, college theatre & dance productions, and amusement parks including Universal Studios and Disneyland. Vanessa has trained with The Continental Singers and Young Americans and has participated in performance tours throughout the United States and Mexico. In 2021, Vanessa was honored to be selected as a Regional Director for Team USA for the World Championships of Performing Arts.

After 17 years working as a Staff Assistant, Assistant Director, and Director, Vanessa decided to follow her dream of combining her studies in Early Childhood Education, Sociology and Psychology with Theatre Arts Education. She created Free To Be Me as a space that would be safe, nurturing, and inviting for anyone. Students are encouraged to be exactly who they are while they practice being the best version of themselves on and off the stage. Vanessa is proud to have created a one-of-a-kind studio that aims to prepare students not just for the stage, but for their eventual journey into adulthood.

Vanessa would like to thank all of the influential people who helped guide her on this journey throughout her years in the arts including all of the directors, choreographers, and families who have encouraged, critiqued, and given me the opportunity to grow time and time again. A heartfelt ” Thank You” to my BAMS, for helping me take the leap and believing in me. My greatest joy is getting to wake up every day and feel purpose in my work.

Katie Majors

Musical Director

Katie Majors is a prominent Vocal Teacher working in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. Katie grew up doing professional musical theater and sang with the Pacific Chorale Children’s Chorus for many years, working under famous conductors such as Carl St. Clair and John Alexander in regular performances at the Performing Arts Center and Verizon Amphitheater. She first studied private voice under Jan Ritschel. After high school, she finally decided to follow in the footsteps of her father and try her hand at rock music, and for several years played in bands in the Hollywood and Orange County areas. While playing in the LA, and OC music scene, she began studying voice under Seth Riggs and associates, and more extensively under celebrity vocal coach/analyst James Lugo of American Idol and Vocal Asylum in Hollywood. Katie later went on to work on her degree in Music Education at Cal State Fullerton, putting herself through school by playing weekly gigs in a classic rock duo at Captain Jacks in Sunset Beach. During her time at CSUF, Katie found a new love for classical music and opera, as she toured and studied choral singing and conducting under John Alexander and Rob Istad of the Pacific Choral. 

 

She has been teaching voice for 7 years now, more recently focusing on training in Speech Level Singing. She vocally trains many students from APA and OSHA  and coaches vocalists from the OC and LA music scene including the lead singer of The Devious Means (Best Indie Band OC Music Awards 2014) and the winner of The Voice of Signal Hill, Kaycee Carpenter. She musically directs for high schools and theater companies in Orange County. Katie has now found a role in bringing up the next generation of musical talent, but you can still find her playing gigs throughout Southern California. 

Abby Kurtz

Competition Choreographer

Abby Kurtz is a former student of the Young Americans College of performing arts, where she had the opportunity to teach performance arts workshops throughout the US and Japan. Abby spent much of her life performing and has over thirteen years of dance experience, and has choreographed for many performing arts programs in schools and throughout Orange County. Abby Joined the Free to Be Team in 2019 and has loved getting to work with kids of all ages. Abby is passionate about body positivity and helping people learn to be more confident in their own skin by embracing movement and dance.  She is currently enjoying choreographing for Dynamix Competition Team and teaching adults how to use dance and movement as a healing modality. 

Kenzie Riddle

Competition Coordinator & Executive Assistant

Kenzie Riddle is a 2020 graduate of the Academy of Performing Arts, and is currently pursuing a degree in Nursing. While Kenzie has a passion for medical science, her first love has always been the stage. Kenzie has performed in countless community theatre productions and has worked and performed at Free to Be Me for the past 5 years. She is a proud member of Team USA for the World Championships of Performing Arts, and although she misses being a student on the Dynamix Competition team she is enjoying her new roles as a Competition Coordinator and Executive Assistant and has loved being able to spend some time in the classroom teaching FTBEME’S Leadership Academy and Musical Theater WorkShops. 

Paige Taylor

After School Program Director

Paige Taylor (she/her) works as a theatre director and youth educator throughout Orange and Garden Grove and has been performing since she was a young girl. Raised in Orange County, California and graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a BA in Theatre Arts with a directing emphasis, she has spent over 5 years with Free To Be Me Performing Arts Academy directing youth troupes and running after school programs through Los Alamitos Educational Foundation. Her directing and acting work can been seen on the stages of Canyon High School, Empty Room Radio (a spectral playhouse), Lime Arts Productions, and Garage Center Theatre. 

Essense Florie Jasperse

Dance Instructor

Essence Florie Jasperse is a professional teacher, dancer, and choreographer from Thousand Oaks, California. Essence graduated from California Lutheran University (CLU) in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. With a strong passion for teaching dance, Essence decided to pursue a career in education. In 2015, she obtained her teaching credential in Physical Education from CLU, followed by a Master’s degree in Education, with an emphasis on Teacher Leadership. 

Essence has extensive training in multiple styles of dance including ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and heels, and has been teaching dance for over 10 years. Additionally, she has trained and choreographed for many promising dancers and upcoming recording artists in the Los Angeles area, including Evan Craft, Djoir Jordan, and Juliet Piper. Essence has performed and choreographed for a number of artists around the world including the Ciclovida Tour with Evan Craft in South America and the Name On It Tour with Djoir Jordan in the Middle East. Currently, she is dancing for The Vixens, an all-female heels dance company directed by David Slaney, and C8 Dynasty Dance Company. Finally, Essence is passionate about helping dancers meet their goals and fulfill their greatest potential both in dance on and off the dance floor.