Music Faculty

The music faculty of Lone Star College-University Park is composed of over two dozen award-winning teachers and performers, who are specialists in the areas they teach.

Current Faculty

Aaron Alon, DMA - Department Chair
Joseph Nizich, MM - Director of Choirs
Frank Rodriguez - Acting Dean

Justin Langham, DMA (high brass)
Ryan Rongone, MM (low brass)

Mark Buller, DMA
Nicky Sohn, MM

John Vidovic, MM

Lamar Burkhalter

Ying-Chieh Chen, DMA
Phuong Son Bao Nguyen, MM
Mary Katherine Schober, MM
John Vidovic, MM (Class Piano)

Aaron Alon, DMA
Mark Buller, DMA
Melissa Cummins, PhD
Sandra Salstrom, MM

Carlos Lara, BM

David Dietz, MM (cello)
Samuel Park, MM (violin)
Jacob Schafer, MM (violin)
Matthew Weathers, MM (viola)

Aaron Alon, DMA
Mark Buller, DMA
Joseph Nizich, MM
Matthew Reynolds, MM
John Vidovic, MM

Emily Margaret Ceres, MM
Kaitlin DeSpain, MM (choral)
Eric Laine, MM
Laura Lisk-McCallum, MM
Joseph Nizich, MM (choral)
Matthew Reynolds, MM

Katie Hart, MM (oboe/English horn)
Julian Hernandez, MM (clarinet)
Garrett Hudson, MM (flute)


Faculty Bios:

Headshot Photo of Aaron AlonAARON ALON, DMA
Chair of the Visual & Performing Arts
Director of Music, Professor of Music
Office: B12.110  |  281.290.5009

DMA in Composition, Rice University Shepherd School of Music, 2009
MM in Composition, Cleveland Institute of Music, 2005
BA (with honors) in Music, University of Chicago, 2003

Aaron Alon is a composer, writer, filmmaker, and teacher. He founded the Lone Star College-University Park music program in 2017 after serving for five years as a professor of music and lead faculty for the performing arts at Lone Star College-CyFair. He is a two-time winner of the Lone Star College Faculty Excellence Award and was named a Distinguished Faculty Member in 2014. He is also the former director of the composition program at the American Festival for the Arts (2008-2018) and has taught at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, Alvin Community College, and several continuing education programs in the greater Houston area. His music has been performed in concert halls around the world, released on several CDs, and awarded numerous national and international composition honors. Since 2009, most of his work has been as a writer and composer of plays, musicals, and films. He wrote and directed the 2017 award-winning feature film musical BULLY, which has been screened in over thirty film festivals around the world. He was one of six international finalists for the 2022 Fred Ebb Awards for musical theatre writers and one of three international finalists for the 2023 Stanley Drama Award for his musical The Great White Way: the Bert Williams Musical. Aaron is also a YouTube content creator whose channel has had over 9 million views. He is a founding member of Thunderclap Productions, a nonprofit production company dedicated to presenting new and under-recognized plays, musicals and screenplays, and serves as president of its board of directors. Current projects include three new stage musicals and new content for his YouTube channel.

JOSEPH Headshot photo of Joseph NizichNIZICH, MM
Assistant Professor of Music, Director of Choirs

MM in Choral Conducting, New England Conservatory, 2021
BM in Voice Performance, Indiana University 2017
BME in Choral Music Education, Indiana University 2017

Joseph Nizich is a choral conductor, voice teacher, psychoacoustic researcher, and baritone. He holds a master’s degree in Choral Conducting from New England Conservatory, studying under the tutelage of Erica Washburn. He also earned concentrations in Vocal Pedagogy, studying under Dr. Ian Howell, with a focus on the psychoacoustic properties of blend in duetting voices. Joseph has a wide breadth of experience, having conducted middle school, high school, collegiate, community, and professional ensembles. He held posts conducting and assisting groups such as the NEC Concert Choir, the NEC Preparatory School Tourjée Singers, Youth Chorale, and Camerata, the Endicott Singers at Endicott College, the Commonwealth Chorale of Newton, and the Ipswich River Community Chorus. During his time in Boston, he sang with various choral ensembles including the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, singing challenging works such as Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsenk District, which presented performances both at Boston's Symphony Hall and NYC's Carnegie Hall. He is passionate advocate for science-informed rehearsal pedagogy, and his high school choral programs in Indiana and Massachusetts have achieved the highest standards in their respective ISSMA and MICCA State Choral Festivals.

Headshot Photo of Mark Buller

Adjunct Instructor of Music

DMA in Composition, University of Houston, 2015
MM in Composition, Bob Jones University, 2010
BM in Piano Performance, Bob Jones University, 2008

The music of composer and pianist Mark Buller has been performed in a wide variety of locations from Carnegie Hall to Houston's Wortham Center to venues in Europe, South America and Asia. He has been commissioned by a range of organizations, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera (for two 45-minute operas, an extended choral work, and numerous art songs), the Houston Symphony and River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. For two years, he was a member of the Da Camera of Houston Young Artist Program, which also commissioned a number of chamber works. Buller's three operas to date (all with libretti by Charles Anthony Silvestri) have been performed a combined 190 times, and his art songs have been performed around the world. His chamber works have won awards as well: Regressive Variations won the national Rapido! Composition Contest, and String Quartet No. 3 was the winner of the Sarofim Composition Award.

Headshot Photo of Lamar BurkhalterLAMAR BURKHALTER
Adjunct Instructor of Music
Director of the Percussion Ensemble

Lamar Burkhalter is an award-winning educator, clinician, arranger, and performer.  He currently serves as a full-time clinician and the Music Director for the NFL Houston Texans and recently served as the Music Director for Super Bowl LIVE and the Percussion Entertainment Director for the recent MLB World Series in Houston.  Mr. Burkhalter is the founder and Executive Director of the Percussion One Foundation, a renowned Houston-based independent percussion group that has performed internationally.  He is endorsed by Yamaha Percussion, Evans Drumheads, Zildjian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, and Latin Percussion Music Group.

Emily Margaret Ceres Headshot PhotoEMILY MARGARET CERES
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Vocal Pedagogy and Performance, The Pennsylvania State University, 2022
BM in Vocal Performance, Rice University Shepherd School of Music, 2020

Emily Margaret Ceres, a soprano from Boalsburg, PA, is a dedicated singer and educator.  She is a doctoral teaching fellow in voice at the University of Houston where she is pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts in vocal performance and pedagogy.  She recently appeared as Ernestine in Offenbach’s comedy Monsieur Choufleuri with the Moores Opera Center.  In 2022 she joined Opera Neo in San Diego as a Studio Artist, covering the roles of Serpetta in La finta giardiniera and Ginevra in Ariodante.  The same year, she performed with the Penn State Opera Theatre as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro.  In addition to her work as a singer, she is dedicated to vocal pedagogy research, having written a master’s thesis on identifying and teaching the tongue-tied singer.

Headshot Photo of Ying-Chieh ChenYING-CHIEH CHEN, DMA
Adjunct Instructor of Music

DMA in Piano Performance, University of North Texas, 2020
MM in Piano Performance, Temple University, 2017
BA in Music, National Taiwan Normal University, 2015

Taiwanese pianist Ying-Chieh Chen debuted her solo piano recital at the age of 6 in Taoyuan City, Taiwan. Chen has also given performances in Japan, China and the United States. Prize winner of the Amadeus Piano Competition, the National Prague Piano Competition, and the Seidof Piano Competition in Taiwan, Chen has been invited to perform in Kagawa Concert Hall (Japan), Shenzhen Arts Hall (China), Field Concert Hall (USA), Rock Hall (USA), the Miami Music Festival, New Taipei City Concert Hall, Taoyuan Concert Hall, Jungli Arts Hall (Taiwan), and other venues. In addition, Chen performed in many master classes and received coaching from Gustavo Romero, Ching- Yun Hu, Edith Zvi,Veda Kaplinsky, Anton Nel, Ching- Yun Hu, Marina Lamazov, Jerome Lowenthal, William Heilies, Adam Wodnicki, Alexandre Moutouzkine, Solomon Mikowsky, Aquinas Delle Vigne and Bernd Zack. As an active chamber musician, she toured with her piano trio in Taiwan and Japan in 2010. Chen is also an active teacher, with students from Taiwan to the USA and is active in studying piano pedagogical methods to match the needs of different students. Prior to working at Lone Star College-University Park, Chen taught private studio piano lessons of undergraduate students in University of North Texas and was also on the piano faculty of Lakewood Conservatory of Fine Arts, Park Cities School of Music and Prime Music Institute. She was selected to become a member of Alpha Alpha Chapter of the Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society because of her top academic achievements as a doctoral piano student at the University of North Texas.

MELISSA CUMMINS, PhDHeadshot Photo of Melissa Cummins
Adjunct Instructor of Music

PhD in Musicology, University of Kansas, 2017
MM in Musicology, University of South Dakota, 2014
MMEd in Instrumental Music Education, Southeast Missouri State University, 1994
BS in Music Education, Northwest Missouri State University, 1989

Melissa Cummins is an Adjunct Professor of Musicology at Sam Houston State University. Her specialties include French Opera, Women composers in Opera and Musical Theater, and Twentieth-Century music. She has written articles and read papers on Ethel Smyth, Francesca Caccini, and Germaine Tailleferre. In February 2016, she directed the American premiere staging of Tailleferre’s Monsieur Petitpois achète un Château, which was also broadcast on Kansas Public Radio. Her current research includes a deeper analysis of Jacques Offenbach’s operettes and the works of one of his stars, Delphine Ugalde. She recently reviewed The Real Tales of Hoffman and is currently working on a critical edition of Ugalde’s La Halte au Moulin. After completing a 22-year career as a public school band director in Missouri, Melissa taught music history courses at Southeast Missouri State University, Western Iowa Tech Community College, the University of South Dakota, Sam Houston State Universtiy, and has assisted with online classes at the University of Kansas. She is active as a woodwind doubler in pit orchestras, onstage as an actor in plays and musical theater and as a woodwind judge in Missouri and Kansas.

David Dietz Headshot PhotoDAVID DIETZ, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Cello Performance, Rice University, 2022
PD in Cello Performance, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, 2019
BM in Cello Performance, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, 2018

Cellist David Dietz has performed across the US and Europe and is experienced in a variety of settings as both a performer and a teacher. He currently resides in Houston, Texas, where he frequently performs as a chamber, solo and orchestral musician. Recent highlights include performances with MUSIQA Houston, Aperio Ensemble, Monarch Chamber Players, Ars Lyrica, DACAMERA Young Artists, and the Klangspuren Festival in Innsbruck, Austria. David is a founding member of Trio Menil, the Grand Prize and the Odyssey Chamber Music Series Award winner from the 2023 Plowman Chamber Music Competition. He frequently performs with the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and will be joining the Houston Ballet Orchestra for the 2023-2024 season.Anchor

Kaitlin DeSpain Headshot PhotoKAITLIN DESPAIN, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Choral Conducting, University of Kentucky, 2016
BA in Music Education, Marshall University, 2011

Kaitlin DeSpain enjoys a varied career as an educator, conductor, performer, clinician, and arts administrator. As an educator, Kaitlin has served as the Choral Director at middle schools and high schools throughout West Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas, where she has directed choirs and taught courses in music history, music theory, and piano. As a conductor, Kaitlin has worked with a wide variety of ensembles including those at the University of Houston and University of Kentucky, the Houston Chamber Choir, and the Houston Symphony Chorus. As a performer, Kaitlin has extensive experience with an array of ensembles including collegiate, community, church, and symphony choirs. Kaitlin DeSpain is beginning her third year of doctoral studies at the University of Houston studying with Dr. Betsy Cook Weber. She received her Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Kentucky under the tutelage of Dr. Jefferson Johnson and Dr. Lori Hetzel and her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Marshall University. Kaitlin also currently serves as the Director of Operations for the Houston Chamber Choir.Anchor

Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Oboe Performance, Rice University Shepherd School of Music, 2016
BM in Oboe Performance, Eastman School of Music, 2014

Originally from Albany, NY, Katie Hart began playing the oboe at age 9 under the tutelage of Randall Ellis. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree in 2014 at the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Richard Killmer, and her Master of Music degree in 2016 at Rice University, studying with Robert Atherholt. Katie has attended acclaimed music festivals such as the National Orchestral Institute, the Banff Centre’s Masterclass and Orchestral programs, the Sarasota Music Festival, and the National Repertory Orchestra. She has appeared with such renowned orchestras as the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Florida Orchestra, the Louisiana Philharmonic, the San Antonio Symphony, the Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, and the Houston Symphony. Currently residing in Houston, she is a core member of Houston-based ensembles Monarch Chamber Players and Loop38. Katie is an oboe coach at AFA Texas, and maintains a sizable studio of oboe students in the Houston area. When she’s not playing the oboe or making reeds, Katie enjoys yoga, rock climbing, solving the New York Times crossword, and spending time with her two cats Luca and Boone.

Headshot Photo of Julian HernandezJULIAN HERNANDEZ, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Clarinet Performance and Literature, University of Michigan, 2014
BME in Clarinet, Baylor University, 2012

Clarinetist Julian Hernandez enjoys numerous solo, chamber, and orchestral engagements across the U.S. Hernandez currently serves on the board for Chamber Music America, WindSync, and also works as a real estate agent in Houston. As previous clarinetist with WindSync, Hernandez has had the privilege to travel the world performing recitals at venues such as: Carnegie Hall, Ravinia Music Festival, and the Grand Teton Music Festival. Hernandez attended Baylor University, the University of Michigan, and the Eastman School of Music and is a graduate of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas’ Global Leaders Training program that aims to build social music programs in remote and dynamic parts of the world. Through Global Leaders, Hernandez has had the privilege to present masterclasses and build educational residences in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Suriname’s Nationale Volksmuziekschool. His primary teachers include: Dr. Richard Shanley, Alan Olson, Dan Gilbert, and Kenneth Grant.

Headshot Photo of Garrett HudsonGARRETT HUDSON, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Flute Performance, Rice University Shepherd School of Music, 2011
BM in Flute Performance, University of British Columbia, 2007

Recognized by the Winnipeg Free Press for “shaking up the classical music world," Garrett Hudson is known for his charismatic stage presence and highly personal voice on the flute. The young Canadian’s roots lie in Winnipeg, Manitoba where he emerged at the age of 16 in a solo debut with the Winnipeg Symphony. Before embarking upon a dynamic career as an international soloist, instructor, orchestral and chamber musician, Garrett held positions in some of North America's leading professional training orchestras including the National Academy Orchestra of Canada and l’Orchestre de la Francophonie in Montreal, Quebec and participated in other world­-class training programs such as the Young Artists Program through Ottawa's National Arts Center. Garrett completed a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of British Columbia, studying under Scottish flutist Lorna McGhee and earned his Masters of Music degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music under the tutelage of renowned flute pedagogue Leone Buyse. Since 2009 Garrett has served as flutist with WindSync, an ensemble considered to be one of North America’s foremost emerging chamber forces and a recent Gold Medalist in the National Fischoff Chamber Music Competition and winner of the Concert Artists Guild international competition for artist management.

Headshot Photo of Eric LaineERIC LAINE, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Vocal Performance, University of North Texas, 2020
BM in Music Education, University of Houston, 2016

Acknowledged for his “vocal allure” and “fiery declamation” (San Diego Story), Eric Laine, tenor, has performed with Opera in the Heights, Toronto Summer Music Festival, American Baroque Opera Co., Houston Symphony, Symphony of the Hills, Mercury Chamber Orchestra, Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra, Tyler Civic Chorale, Moores Opera Center, and University of North Texas Opera Theatre, among others. Recently, he made his European debut as Il Podestà in La finata giardiniera with the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest. He later reprised the role with Opera Neo in San Diego, CA, where he also sang Odoardo in Ariodante. Other 2021-2022 season highlights include Henrik in A Little Night Music and Vašek in The Bartered Bride with Moores Opera Center, along with several recital and concert appearances. Eric is a doctoral teaching fellow in applied voice and vocal pedagogy at the University of Houston Moores School of Music and is also completing coursework for a Certificate in Vocology at the Utah Center for Vocology in Salt Lake City, UT under the tutelage of Dr. Ingo Titze.

Headshot Photo of Justin LanghamJUSTIN LANGHAM, DMA
Adjunct Instructor of Music

Doctor of Musical Arts in Trumpet Performance (minor in Choral Conducting), University of Houston, 2022
MM in Trumpet Performance, University of Houston, 2015
BM in Trumpet Performance & Composition, University of Alabama, 2013

Justin is a musician, composer, conductor, and teacher based in Houston, Texas. Originally from Mobile, Alabama, he earned a double Bachelor of Music from the University of Alabama in 2013, followed by his Master of Music degree from the University of Houston, where he is currently completing his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in trumpet and choral conducting. As a performer, Justin maintains an active schedule around the U.S. and abroad, often as a member of internationally-renown trumpet and organ duo, Deux Voix (“Two Voices”). He is also an award-winning composer and arranger with premieres in Italy, Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the United States. An avid educator, Justin maintains a private teaching studio and has been on faculty at Lone Star College-Montgomery since 2015, teaching high brass, music theory, and aural skills. Justin also currently serves as Director of Music at First United Methodist Church in Missouri City, Texas.

Carlos Lara Headshot PhotoCARLOS LARA, BM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

BM in Music, Sam Houston State University, 2004

Carlos Lara is currently in his nineteenth year as orchestra director at Klein Collins High School in Klein, Texas. His appointments include maintaining a successful program for strings students from the elementary through to the secondary level; creating satellite programs like the Full Orchestra, a group comprised of students from band and orchestra; and directing the newly formed Klein Collins Mariachi Tigre. In addition to his teaching, Carlos is the musical director and conductor for the Opus 99 Youth Orchestra, the concertmaster for The Woodlands Methodist Church’s music ministry orchestra and was recently a finalist for the position of conductor of Symphony North of Houston. Carlos also serves many roles for the Klein ISD Fine Arts department including consultant for the district fifth grade strings program and the outreach efforts for summer music programs in the Klein, TX community. He also serves the Texas Music Educators Association as Region IX Mariachi Coordinator. In his free time, Carlos performs throughout the Houston for the music booking agency Third Floor Strings.  He earned a Bachelor of Music from Sam Houston State University where he studied violin with Andrew Wilson and conducting with Carol Smith and Allen Hightower.  Carlos is a native of Corpus Christi, TX, where he spent his youth learning to play the violin and making a living as a mariachi musician. Memberships include TMAA and TMEA also serving on numerous occasions as all-state orchestra organizer and personal liaison to all-state conductors Larry Livingston (USC), Jeffrey Grogan (Oklahoma City University), Anthony Maiello (George Mason University), and Raymond Harvey (Kalamazoo Symphony). Sought after as both adjudicator and clinician in the Houston area, Carlos enjoys conducting symphony orchestras and musicals; teaching music camps across Texas and performing with the Klein Collins HS Mariachi Tigre.  He resides in Spring, TX with his wife Erin, and his two children Carlos and Gema. Carlos is happy to be a member of the community he teaches in, and in his spare time, can be found playing with his kids and cheering on his various favorite soccer and football teams.

Laura Lisk-McCallum Headshot PhotoLAURA LISK-MCCALLUM, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Vocal Performance, Louisiana State University, 2021
BM in Vocal Performance, University of Houston, 2016

Laura Lisk-McCallum, mezzo soprano, is a native Houstonian who enjoys performing locally and maintaining her private voice studio. She has sung all over the world, from choral competitions with the Moores Concert Chorale in Magdeburg and Marktoberdorf, Germany to touring with the Christ Church Cathedral Choir in England, Scotland, and Ireland. She lived in Milan, Italy for a year after completing her undergraduate degree and credits her time there for her love of Italian food and the pursuit of la dolce vita. She has had the pleasure of performing with the HGO Chorus in their productions of Turandot and The Flying Dutchman. Other groups she has performed with include Mercury Orchestra Houston, Cantare Houston, and Suono Chamber Choir. Favorite past operatic roles include Sesto in Giulio Cesare (Turner-Fisher Center for Opera) and Vera Boronel in The Consul (Moores Opera Center). She is based in Cypress, TX where she lives with her wife and dog.

Headshot Photo of Phuong Son Bao Nguyen

Adjunct Instructor of Music

Graduate Certificate in Music Performance, University of Houston, 2018
MM in Piano Performance & Pedagogy, University of Houston, 2016
BM in Piano Performance, Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music, 2014

Phuong Son Bao Nguyen is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Born to a musical family, Phuong studied at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music before earning her Masters in Piano Performance & Pedagogy at the University of Houston. A top prizewinner of many international piano competitions including the Texas Music Teachers Association Young Artist Piano Performance Contest, High Point University Piano Competition, Ruth Burr Piano Competition, Mid-Texas Symphony Young Artist Competition, and the Yamaha Cup, Phuong also performed as a piano soloist for the Clear Lake Symphony as well as various events at the University of Houston. Phuong currently lives in Tomball with her husband and newborn son, where she runs a private piano studio for gifted students.

Headshot Photo of Samuel ParkSAMUEL PARK, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Violin Performance, The Juilliard School, 2016
BM in Violin Performance, Cleveland Institute of Music, 2014

An Arizona native, Sam made his solo debut with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra at the age of 15. He has since participated in prestigious music festivals such as the Tanglewood Music Center, the Pacific Music Festival and Music Academy of the West. Recent performances included collaborations with renowned artists such as Gil Shaham, Desmond Hoebig, Brinton Smith, Phillip and David Ying, and the Orion String Quartet. Sam is currently studying at Rice University. Major teachers include Paul Kantor, Joel Smirnoff, Joan Kwuon, and Catherine Cho.

Matthew Reynolds Headshot PhotoMATTHEW REYNOLDS, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Voice Performance, University of Oklahoma, 2022
MM in Musicology, University of Oklahoma, 2022
BA in Music and Urban Studies, Trinity University, 2017

A dynamic performer praised for his “vocal assurance” in a variety of musical styles, Matthew Reynolds, baritone, is quickly gathering performance experience across the United States in operatic, musical theatre, and concert repertoire. Following his debut with the Ohio Light Opera in 2022, Matthew returned as a Resident Young Artist with the company in 2023 for their 44th festival season, appearing in the roles of Bud Frump in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Mordred in Camelot, the Boatswain’s Mate in H.M.S. Pinafore, and Cavarelli in Arizona Lady. The same year, Matthew also performed the role of Fiorello and covered Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Neo in San Diego, CA. In 2021, he joined Opera NexGen for their inaugural production, performing Guglielmo in the company’s virtual, live production of Così fan tutte. Matthew is also passionate about performing the works of living composers; in 2021, he had the pleasure to perform the role of Roger Chillingworth in Lori Laitman’s adaptation of The Scarlet Letter with the University of Oklahoma Opera Theatre. He will join the Houston Grand Opera chorus in 2024 in their production of Parsifal. Equally at home on the concert stage, Matthew will be a featured soloist with the Mercury Chamber Orchestra in October 2023, and was a soloist with the Messiah Festival of the Arts in their 2022 performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. He has also appeared as a soloist in performances of Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Coffee Cantata, and Fauré’s Requiem in D minor. An accomplished choral singer, Matthew was a member of the inaugural cohort of the Voces8 United States Scholars. Matthew is a native of Waco, TX. His musicological research centers on American musical theatre, and his master’s thesis was entitled “Catching up with Cabaret: Finding Deeper Meaning in a Never-Ending Adaptation.” Matthew also serves as a private voice instructor at Deer Park High School.

Headshot Photo of Ryan RongoneRYAN RONGONE, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Performance, Rice University Shepherd School of Music, 2014
BM in Performance, Penn State University, 2012

Ryan Rongone maintains an active freelance career as a trombonist in the Houston area. Currently, he is the Acting Second Trombonist with the Houston Symphony, Principal Trombonist of the Magnolia City Brass Band, and a member of the Houston Brass Quintet. He is also a regular substitute with the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Jazz Orchestra. His career includes performances with Renee Fleming, Ryan Shaw, Dave Bennett, Tony DeSare, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Lionel Cole, Chris Botti, Sal Lozano, Jonas Kaufmann, and Johnny Mathis.

Headshot Photo of Sandra SalstromSANDRA SALSTROM, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Ethnomusicology & Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 1990
BM in Ethnomusicology & Anthropology (magna cum laude), Univ. of Washington, 1984
AA, North Seattle Community College, 1980

Sandra Salstrom is a Houston-based harpist and musicologist who has been teaching for the Lone Star College System since 2002. Her areas of interest include ethnomusicology, systematic musicology, anthropology, harp performance, acting and computers.  In the early 1990s, she published several articles on the music industry. She is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Kappa Lambda and Phi Theta Kappa honor societies. In addition to her courses on Lone Star College campuses, Salstrom has been an active harpist and harp teacher in Houston, Austin and Seattle.

Jacob Schafer Headshot PhotoJACOB SCHAFER, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Violin Performance, Rice University, 2018
BA in Music and in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, Yale University, 2015

Jacob Schafer is a multifaceted violinist dedicated to compelling and thoughtful performances of works old and new. Based in Houston, he is a core member of Loop38 and Kinetic Ensemble and regularly performs with Houston Grand Opera and Ballet Orchestras, Mercury Chamber Orchestra, Bach Society Houston, Musiqa, and the Houston Symphony. Recent performance highlights include world premieres by Steven Banks and Du Yun; piano trio concerts in Leipzig, Germany; and collaborations with Anthony McGill, Renée Fleming, and the late Leon Fleisher. Festival appearances have included Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Norfolk New Music Workshop, Sarasota Music Festival, and Tanglewood Music Center. He is currently pursuing a DMA at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music under the tutelage of Paul Kantor.

Headshot Photo of Mary Katherine SchoberMARY KATHERINE SCHOBER, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Piano Performance, University of Houston Moores School of Music, 2018
BM in Piano Performance, Louisiana State University - Baton Rouge, 2016

Pianist Mary Katherine Schober has built a versatile career as a freelance musician, private teacher, and adjunct instructor in the Houston area. She performs regularly at retirement homes, community events, and other venues, and plays organ for St. Andrew Lutheran Church. Mary Katherine accompanies choir, band, and orchestra programs in multiple school districts, both middle and high schools. She teaches private lessons at Annunciation Orthodox School as well as running her independent studio. She holds an adjunct teaching position at Lone Star College-University Park, where she teaches class piano. Mary Katherine’s professional activities have included founding the annual MTNA at UH Young Artist Gala and organizing an outreach concert for victims of Hurricane Harvey; she also presented her independent research, “The Impact of Emotion and Mindset in the Music Studio,” at the 2018 Texas Music Teachers’ Association Convention.

Headshot Photo of Daniel SillimanDANIEL SILLIMAN, PhD
Adjunct Instructor of Music

PhD in Music Composition, Princeton University, 2023
MFA in Music Composition, Princeton University, 2017
BM in Composition, University of Southern California, 2015

Daniel Silliman is a teacher, composer, performer, and electronic musician originally from the Houston area. He has presented work at venues throughout the United States and abroad, including Carnegie Hall, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), The Kitchen, and The Stone. Daniel has previously taught courses in theory, composition, and music technology at Princeton University and Manhattan College; and from 2017-2020, he worked at Underwolf Records, an independent record label and presenting organization based in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Nicky Sohn Headshot PhotoNICKY SOHN, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Composition, The Juilliard School, 2016
BM in Composition, Mannes College of Music, 2014

Selected as one of the "Cool 100" by Houston CityBook Magazine, alongside icons like Simone Biles and Megan Thee Stallion, composer Nicky Sohn stands as a versatile and sought-after talent across the United States, Europe, and Asia. With a distinctive style characterized by jazz-inspired, rhythmically driven themes, Sohn's compositions have earned high praise, being compared to "John Adams' 'Short Ride in a Fast Machine' on steroids" (YourObserver), described as "dynamic and full of vitality" (The Korea Defense Daily), and celebrated for her "elegant wonder" (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). Recent highlights include an orchestral premiere by the St. Louis Symphony overseen by John Adams, orchestral commissions and performances from National Orchestra Institute and Festival with Marin Alsop, Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, Annapolis Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, National Theater of Korea, Sarasota Orchestra, and the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra under Hugh Wolf, and chamber commissions and performances from Isidore Quartet and Sarah Rothenberg, Bergamot Quartet, and River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. Kinetic Ensemble's album, featuring Sohn's music, achieved the remarkable feat of debuting at number one on the Billboard Traditional Classical Albums chart. Nicky Sohn is currently pursuing a fully-funded doctoral degree at the Shepherd School of Music of Rice University.

Headshot Photo of John VidovicJOHN VIDOVIC, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music
MM in Guitar Performance, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 2019
MM in Composition, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 2017
BA in Music, UCLA, 2011
John Vidovic is a composer, arranger, guitarist and instructor for guitar, piano, theory and composition. He received his B.A. from UCLA (2011) and 2 M.M. degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music: in Composition (2017) with David Garner and in Guitar Performance (2019) with David Tanenbaum. He spent the summers of 2014 and 2015 studying in Paris at La Schola Cantorum with David Conte and Michel Merlet. He has done masterclasses and performances with notable performers and composers, such as Roland Dyens, Judicael Perroy, Los Romeros, Vince Peterson and Caroline Shaw. Aside from the immense passion he has for music, he also enjoys playing volleyball, golf, camping, working on cars and enjoying a good-hearted laugh.

Headshot Photo of Matthew WeathersMATTHEW WEATHERS, MM
Adjunct Instructor of Music

MM in Viola Performance, Northwestern University, 2019
BM in Viola Performance, Oberlin Conservatory, 2017

Violist Matthew Weathers is a Houston-based performer and teacher. He is an active performer of works by living composers, and has premiered dozens of works as both a soloist and ensemble member. Recent projects include collaborations with Houston-based Loop38 and Chicago-based Zafa Collective. Matthew has been a Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center for the past two years and will be returning for a third summer in 2020. He has also attended the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, Brevard Music Center, and Duxbury Music Festival. Matthew’s primary teachers include Ivo-Jan van der Werff, Helen Callus, Kirsten Docter, and Michael Strauss. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Staff Accompanists

Headshot Photo of Mei-En ChouMEI-EN CHOU, DMA
Staff Accompanist

DMA in Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music, Eastman School of Music, 2020
MM in Piano Performance, University of North Texas, 2008
BFA in Music, National Taiwan Normal University, 2003

Internationally trained pianist Mei-En Chou grew up surrounded by classical music and developed a passion for music and life. Seeking to inspire diverse audiences through performance and teaching, Dr. Chou maintains a private studio, teaches at Tallowood Academy of Fine Arts, and actively serves as a freelance pianist in the Houston area. With the love of chamber music, she has shared the stage with distinguished performers in many states and has appeared as a soloist with several orchestras. Her performance with the North Texas Wind Symphony of the Husa Concertino was released as part of the CD "Domains" in December 2008 (GIA Publications). As a passionate teacher who always loves sharing music with others, Dr. Chou taught at Louisiana College (Pineville, LA) as an Assistant Professor and Artist in Residence from 2008-2016. For five years, she was the Director of the Junior Level of the Louisiana International Piano Competition. In addition to serving as an adjudicator for competitions and festivals, she has also taught at Calvary Conservatory of Music (Alexandria, LA), Heart & Soul Creative Arts Academy (Frisco, TX), and certified as a high school music instructor from the Ministry of Education (Taipei, Taiwan). In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and observing the antics of their neighborhood ducks.

Pamela Connolly Headshot PhotoPAMELA CONNOLLY, BM
Staff Accompanist

Associate Diploma (ARCT) in Piano Performance, Royal Conservatory of Toronto, 1992
BM in Piano Performance, University of Calgary, 1991

Pamela Connolly has many years of experience as a vocal, instrumental and choral collaborator. Raised in Calgary, Canada, she has worked with several Calgary-area music teachers, and has coached string students in the Mount Royal College Academy for Gifted Youth. Pamela was also rehearsal accompanist for the Festival Chorus of Calgary for 11 seasons. Since relocating to Houston in 2005, Pamela has been active in working with several area schools, performing with students in UIL Solo and Ensemble Contests at both the local and state level. She was also on staff with the Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas for nine seasons, accompanying them on tours within the US, as well as to Canada and Europe.

Headshot Photo of Marshall N. DaviesMARSHALL N. DAVIES, DMA
Staff Accompanist

DMA in Performance and Literature (Piano), Eastman School of Music, 1996
M.M. in Performance and Literature (Piano), Eastman School of Music, 1992
B.M. in Piano Performance and Pedagogy, Brigham Young University, 1990

Marshall N. Davies plays piano at colleges, churches and dance classes, collaborating with instrumentalists, vocalists, dancers and ensembles in classical and sacred music, musical theatre and jazz. He plays regularly at LSC-University Park, LSC-Montgomery, Houston Ballet Academy, Plymouth United Church of Christ, UCC, and Resurrection Lutheran Church, and is active and in demand as a freelance player and collaborator in many other venues. Dr. Davies taught piano and jazz improvisation & style as a faculty member at Sam Houston State University and, while living in Taiwan, as Assistant Professor Part-Time both at NSYSU in Kaosiung and at Tainan Technology University. He also played in the Dizzy Jazz Band in Taipei. As a student he won Graduate Teaching Awards five years (1990-1995) to teach for the Eastman School of Music Department of Theory. At BYU he won Leonard Pennario and E. Mona Smith scholarships and the Piano Performance Award (1990).

Headshot Photo of Kevin Guess

Staff Accompanist

MM in Music Theory, University of Houston, 1996
BM in Composition, University of Houston, 1989

Since graduating from the University of Houston, where he studied composition with Dr. Michael Horvit and Carlisle Floyd, and piano with Robert Brownlee and Carlisle Floyd, Mr. Guess has divided his time between teaching, performing, and composing. He has served in a variety of musical roles, including pianist for the Houston Ballet Academy, Houston Grand Opera’s Opera-to-Go, HITS Theater and Orchestra X, staff accompanist for Lonestar College, Lee College, and the St. Francis Episcopal School, accompanist for master classes and recitals, music director for musical productions with the HITS Theater, and Lonestar College North Harris, jazz pianist, church musician, and composer of music for theater and education. His piano ensemble piece, Hey Ya’, Hey! is scheduled to be premiered at the TMTA Convention in Houston in June 2020. Mr. Guess has maintained a full studio of private students for over 20 years, teaching piano, theory, composition and jazz. His private students regularly place in local contests and score high marks in National Piano Guild Auditions, and in TMTA and ABRSM examinations. In addition, he has taught piano, theory and ear training at San Jacinto College and Lone Star College North Harris. Always interested in making learning more effective and enjoyable for his students, he is currently developing a piano method aiming to draw together the best ideas and methods of the past century and the natural learning abilities with which children are born.

Headshot Photo of Ben SiebenBEN SIEBEN, MM
Staff Accompanist

MM in Collaborative Piano, University of Colorado Boulder, 2017
MM in Piano Performance, University of Utah, 2012
BM in Piano Performance, Houston Baptist University, 2010

Ben Sieben is an accomplished collaborative pianist from Bay City, Texas. He is passionate about vocal, instrumental, and choral accompanying and primarily works in these fields, along with gigging and playing church music.  He also enjoys running, skiing, and traveling whenever possible.

Degree Abbreviations

  • AA (Associate of Arts)
  • AD (Artist Diploma)
  • BA (Bachelor of Arts)
  • BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts)
  • BM (Bachelor of Music)
  • BME (Bachelor of Music Education)
  • DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts)
  • MFA (Master of Fine Arts)
  • MM (Master of Music)
  • MMEd (Master of Music Education)
  • PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

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