Jennifer (Sarkela) Okonski

Violin Teacher

Jennifer (Sarkela) Okonski

SAA Member


Wilmington, NC
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Jen Sarkela began studying violin with the Suzuki method at age 3 with Holly Smardo in Kansas City. After her family moved to Minnesota and later Chicago, she continued her studies with Mark Zinger at DePaul University while playing in the Midwest Young Artists Orchestra and associated chamber music program. She studied with Steven Shipps at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, before transferring to the State University of New York at Purchase where she completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Violin Performance, studying with Laurie Smukler.

During graduate studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, Jen had a two year internship with world renowned Suzuki pedagogue William Starr, completing her Suzuki Teacher Training in books one through ten. She has also completed additional Suzuki Teacher Training courses with Carrie Reuning-Hummel at Ithaca College. Jen continues to pursue professional development opportunities through attending Suzuki conferences and workshops. She has also explored and studied different genres of music including jazz violin and various fiddle styles.

Jen has been teaching using the Suzuki method since 1998. In addition to maintaining a successful private studio she has taught at workshops and festivals in Colorado, Washington, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, and Illinois. She loves the philosophy that every child can learn to play music, and that she is able to help facilitate that process. Most recently she has been teaching a Suzuki Early Childhood Education music class for infants and toddlers with Suzuki Strings of Denver, and has enjoyed helping parents foster communication skills and strengthen relationships with their children.

As a performer, Jen has been a member of the Steamboat Springs Symphony Orchestra since 2005, as well as performing with the Emerald City Opera, Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra, Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra, Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra.

Jen is passionate about health and wellness, and completed her yoga teacher training certification in 2013. She has taught yoga classes for both kids and adults, and loves empowering people to find simple tools to improve their balance and wellbeing.