Meet the Staff

Connor Challey

Low Brass Instructor, North Dakota State University
Director, Gold Star Athletic Bands

M.M., Colorado State University
B.M., University of Miami

Connor Challey is the Director of Athletic Bands and Instructor of Low Brass at North Dakota State University. In addition to Athletic Band commitments, he instructs brass chamber ensembles and a variety of courses at the Music School, as well as teaches private lessons for all Low Brass at NDSU. Challey performed as a soloist with the NDSU Wind Symphony on the 2018 concert tour. Prior to his time at NDSU, he instructed Breathing Gym at The University of Miami and with System Blue, a division of Blue Devils Performing arts on their Blue Devils International Tour. He holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Tuba Performance from Colorado State University. His teachers include Samuel Pilafian, Patrick Sheridan, Aaron Tindall, Stephen Dombrowski, and Velvet Brown.

Growing up in California, Challey was involved in a range of musical activities. While living in the Bay Area, he instructed Guitar, Bass, and Drum Set lessons while also playing in multiple Rock, Metal, and Punk Bands. Challey is a chartering member of the Beta Psi Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and a member of The International Tuba Euphonium Association. He currently resides in Fargo, North Dakota.

Dr. Matthew Winarski

Assistant Director, Gold Star Athletic Bands

D.M.A., M.M., North Dakota State University
B.M.E., University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire

Dr. Matthew Winarski is the Assistant Director of Athletic Bands at North Dakota State University. Dr. Winarski has worked with the Gold Star Marching Band in various capacities since 2017, when he started as a graduate assistant at NDSU. With over a decade of marching band teaching and leadership, he brings a wide depth of experience and knowledge to the GSMB staff. He has worked with both high school and collegiate marching bands across the United States, including Alexandria Area High School Marching Band (MN), the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Blugold Marching Band and Athletic Band, and the University of Memphis "Mighty Sound of the South" Marching Band. Dr. Winarski has also worked with marching ensembles internationally, including the Colegio De Bagaces Marching Band in Bagaces, Costa Rica, and the Stabekk Skoles Musikkorps Smgardistene in Stabekk, Norway. Outside of his marching band role at NDSU, he also works also the Instrumental Ensembles Manager at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.

Dr. Winarski earned his D.M.A. in Instrumental Conducting degree from the North Dakota State University's Challey School of Music, where he also received his Master of Music in Instrumental Conducting and Music Education. He received his Bachelor of Music Education from UW - Eau Claire.

Dr. Winarski is a member of several music organizations on the regional and national level, including the College Music Society, National Association for Music Educators, Minnesota Band Directors Association, the Minnesota Music Educators Associations, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and Tau Beta Sigma. He lives in Fargo with his husband and their dogs; Colby and Cheddar. The four enjoy traveling around the upper Midwest and visiting various state and national parks.

Lindsay Poock

Color Guard Instructor

Elias Youngblom

Drumline Instructor

Lindsay is a Gold Star Marching Band Alumni from 2006-2009. She graduated from MSUM in 2010. She was able to be a part of the band through the Tri-College program. She grew up in Wadena MN, that had a small marching band. It was through that experience that she grew her passion for Color Guard. She has been back as an instructor for the Color Guard at NDSU since 2016. She has been the instructor for the guard at Moorhead High School as well since 2014. Her passion is teaching and instructing everyone no matter what their experience level. She strives to create an environment of support and collaboration within the team. Along with creating a unified visual effect for the band.

Her roles within the band include choreographing routines for the shows, instructing/teaching basics to match all individual skill levels. She ensures that every student feels comfortable with the routines and ensure that they are challenging but fun. She also helps out where ever else she can for the band.

Lindsay lives in Moorhead with her husband, 2 busy boys, Charlie (6) and Barrett(3), and her dog, Jack. She tends to bring the boys to practice to make sure that they develop the love for the band that she has, and Bison football too. Often times you will find her busy chasing her boys and camping with her family.

Elias Youngblom has worked as a freelance marching percussion instructor in North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009. He has composed and arranged percussion music for several high school and independent marching ensembles in the region. The writing and instructing has helped lead to several top percussion awards from various judging circuits.

Mr. Youngblom has also performed with many successful ensembles. He was cymbal section leader in an MPA state Champion winter drumline, Trumpet section leader in a YIM State Champion marching band, and earned the position of snare section leader with Chops Drum and Bugle Corps. He also performed with the Gold Star Marching Band and Winter Drumline for 4 years while completing an undergraduate degree in Instrumental Music Education from North Dakota State University.

Mr. Youngblom currently serves as one of the marching percussion instructors and arrangers with the Gold Star Marching band and Gold Star Winter Drumline.

Meet the Graduate Assistants

Jon Karels

Graduate Assistant

B.S. K-12 Instrumental Music Education, Minnesota State University-Mankato

Bryan Lewis

Graduate Assistant

Bachelors and Masters in Tuba Performance, Ithica College

Jon Karels will serve as a Graduate Assistant with the Gold Star Marching Band while pursuing a M.M in Percussion Performance at NDSU. Jon has extensive experience in the marching arts, which includes performing with Chops Percussion Indoor (2016), Minnesota Brass Indoor (2017-2020), and River City Rhythm Indoor (2022) on tenor drums. Additionally, he has performed with Minnesota Brass Drum and Bugle Corps (2014-2016) on trumpet and mellophone, Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps (2017) on trumpet, Govenaires Drum and Bugle Corps (2018) as a trumpet soloist, and with the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps (2019) as a trumpet soloist.

Originally from St. Cloud Minnesota, Jon was formally trained on trumpet. It was through the marching arts where his passion for percussion emerged. He attended St. Cloud State University, where he performed with the Wind Ensemble and Brass Ensemble on trumpet, before transferring to Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he performed with the Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band on lead trumpet, as well as a percussionist with Percussion Ensemble and Athletic Bands. Additionally, Jon instructed the drumline for the Maverick Machine Athletic Bands from 2018-2021, including the opportunity to compose the halftime music for the drumline in 2020. His teachers include Dr. Takako Senn, Dr. Jonathan Brandt, Dr. Douglas Snapp, and Michael Thursby.

Bryan Lewis will serve as a graduate assistant with the Gold Star Marching Band while pursuing a DMA instrumental conducting at NDSU.  Bryan has wide ranging experience in the band world, including as a performer, conductor, and marching band director. He served as the marching band director for Seneca High School from 2015-2017, taking his ensemble to the Disney World to participate in the Main Street USA Marching Band parade. His band placed well in competition, with frequent commendations from judges.

Bryan served as interim conductor of the Erie-based Gem City Band, was a a founding member of the Ithaca College Klezmorim, a member of the Northcoast Brass Company, the Page Community Band, and a current member of the Lake Aggasiz Wind Symphony.

Bryan spent the last five years as a K-12 music instructor, teaching general music and directing the high school choir and bands in Tower City and Hope, ND respectively. His choir and bands consistently received high ratings in contest. Originally from Erie, PA, Bryan received his bachelors and masters in tuba performance from Ithaca College. His teachers include Lowell Hepler, Dave Unland, and Velvet Brown. He maintains a private instrumental instruction studio, teaching flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, french horn, trombone, euphonium, tuba, and percussion.