MTNA Foundation Fellow Program
The Music Teachers National Association Foundation Fellow Program offers a meaningful method for honoring individuals while supporting the efforts of the MTNA Foundation Fund through a donation to the Foundation Fund in an individual’s name.
Each year, new MTNA Fellows are recognized at the MTNA National Conference. Fellows receive a complimentary ticket to the Gala, an attractive MTNA Fellow certificate and pin. Also, new Fellows are prominently recognized on the Foundation Fund website and their names will appear on a plaque located at the MTNA National Headquarters. A press release will be sent to media outlets selected by the Fellow. Our Fellows
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Congratulations to the 2022-2023 Nominees: Dr. Stephen Pierce & Gail Lew
Dr. Stephen Pierce
South African born pianist, Stephen Pierce enjoys a multi-faceted career as a sought-after teacher, presenter, performer, adjudicator, clinician, and scholar. At the University of Southern California (USC) Thornton School of Music, he is Associate Professor of Practice and oversees the secondary piano and keyboard pedagogy programs while teaching applied piano, and courses in piano pedagogy, and keyboard literature. Stephen also teaches piano privately in Pasadena, CA, and at Interlochen Arts Camp, MI each summer. His students range in age from 6 to adult and have won awards for their playing at the local, state, and national levels.
Stephen holds degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM), and the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and two licentiates of music from the University of South Africa (UNISA). At the University of Pretoria, he graduated as the top student in the Faculty of Humanities and was honored with the Vice-Chancellor and Principal’s medal for academic excellence. At CCM, he won the award for teaching excellence for graduate teaching assistants. Pierce’s mentors include Joseph Stanford, Frank Weinstock, and Michelle Conda.
Stephen has performed in the USA, Canada, Czech Republic, and throughout South Africa, and with artists such as Carol Wincenc, and the flutists of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. During his studies in Cincinnati, he performed with the CCM Philharmonia as a result of winning the CCM Piano Concerto Competition. In South Africa, he has performed with orchestras such as the Natal Philharmonic, the National Symphony, and the Chamber Orchestra of South Africa. Stephen has won prizes and awards for his playing including second prize and two special prizes at the UNISA National Piano Competition in South Africa. He has also received awards for his teaching including the D.J. Rhoode Overseas Scholarship for Piano Pedagogy from the University of South Africa (UNISA). In addition, his performances have been broadcast on South African television and radio.
A regular speaker and clinician throughout the US and South Africa, Stephen has presented masterclasses, workshops, and lectures in South Africa and the United States. He has also given innumerable pedagogical sessions at institutions throughout the country, at conferences such as the MTNA National Conference, and the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP), as well as for arts entities such as The Gilmore, and the International Piano Professionals Association. His articles, reviews and other written contributions have appeared in journals such as American Music Teacher, Clavier Companion, Piano Pedagogy Forum, The California Music Teacher, and The South African Music Teacher, as well on the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Online Teacher Portal, RCM Online Teacher Courses and the Yamaha Educator Suite. At present, Stephen serves as editor of CAPMT Connect, the official journal of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT).
Stephen is also a proud member of the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) College of Examiners, an RCM Certified Teacher, and an RCM Academic Ambassador. At USC, he co-founded the Musician’s Wellness committee, is the faculty advisor for the MTNA USC Collegiate Chapter, and previously served as the Pi Kappa Lambda Eta Chapter Secretary for eight years. At the state level, Stephen is the current Collegiate Chapter State Chair and District 9 Director for the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAMPT), while formerly serving as the CAPMT Vice President for Conferences, and member-at-large for the South. At the national level, Stephen has been a member of the planning committees for both the MTNA National Conference, and the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP), while previously serving on the prestigious MTNA e-Journal Editorial Committee, and the MTNA Teacher Enrichment Grant Committee.
International Piano Judge and Pedagogy Clinician
Gail Lew is an author, editor, arranger, piano teacher, clinician, and nationally-respected leader in the field of piano pedagogy. She is an adjunct professor of applied piano at the college level, an independent studio teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, former Contributing Editor for the American Music Teacher magazine, New Music Reviewer for the California Association of Professional Music Teachers Journal, CAPMT CONNECT, and a judge for piano competitions at state, national, and international events. Gail received her B.A. in piano performance, M.A. in music history, and a Lifetime California State Teaching Credential with specialization in music education. Her master’s thesis on the history of piano pedagogy in the twentieth century garnered a coveted award for best master's thesis at California State University East Bay. In 2011, she won first place for her pedagogy research paper at the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy in Chicago.
Highlights of her career included tenure as senior piano editor for Kjos Music and director of keyboard publications for Warner Bros. Music, during which time she served as an editor for major recording artists and wrote piano arrangements for the Harry Potter movies. Her editorial projects include the landmark piano textbook Practical Piano Pedagogy, with author Dr. Martha Baker-Jordan, the jazz textbooks Playing Solo Jazz Piano and Jazz Piano Fundamentals with jazz pianist Jeremy Siskind, and many editions of classical, popular, sacred, and piano technique books. She also served as Chairman of the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy Committee on Independent Music Teachers (Princeton, New Jersey) from 2010-2012 and continued to serve on the national committee through 2019. Gail conducts yearly piano workshops throughout the United States including presentations at the Music Teachers National Association Conference, many state music conventions, and the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. Ms. Lew is a member of CAPMT District 2 and encourages her students to participate in events and recitals organized by the new San Francisco/East Bay Chapter. She will be moving into a more active role in 2023 as a member of the state board of CAPMT.
Gail adjudicates yearly for the National Guild of Piano Teachers, California Association of Professional Music Teachers, and the Music Teachers Association of California. In 2011, she was selected to judge at MusiQuest in Pune, India. During the summer of 2016, Ms. Lew served as a judge for national piano exams throughout the People’s Republic of China. Gail continues to train students who have received state, local, and national honors, and who will continue to enjoy a lifetime of musical enjoyment.
2021-2022 Nominee: Mona Wu DeCesare, NCTM
Mona Wu DeCesare, NCTM, is the President of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT). She has also served as CAPMT President-Elect, CAPMT Contemporary Competition State Chair, District 9 President, VP of Competitions, MTNA Competition Chair for CA, and MTNA Senior Performance Coordinator.
Mona is a graduate of UCLA and Aspen Music Festival studied under Aube Tzerko and earned multiple digress in piano performance (BA & MFA). At present, she serves as a music faculty at Moorpark College. She was honored as “Artist/Educator of the Month” in the Piano Education Page of World Wide Web and also received honors from the Art’s Commission of the City of Thousand Oaks.
Wendi Kirby, NCTM
Wendi is the Immediate Past-President of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT - state affiliate for Music Teachers National Association), State Presidents Advisory Council Chair for MTNA, Examiner for Certificate of Merit Program - Music Teachers Association of California, Center Representative for RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music) Founding School and Founding Teacher (RCM) Advanced Specialist (RCM), ARCT, Piano Performance (RCM). Wendi studied piano performance at the University of the Pacific and continues to perform yearly concerts at UOP. She has been teaching private piano and Kindermusik for over 30 years. Wendi is currently the Music Director for Stevenson School, Lower Division in Carmel, California. Wendi is an active performer and composer.
Noreen Wenjen, NCTM
Noreen Wenjen, NCTM, is the Past-President of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT). In 2019, she served as MTNA China Certification Chair, MTNA SPAC Chair, AMT Committee member and MTNA SW Division Director-Elect nominee.
Noreen earned a BM and Artist Diploma, received top prizes from international piano competitions and studied with Joanna Hodges, Stewart Gordon, Nancy Rohr, Peter Yazbeck, and Jim McCormick.
She is the author of Two-Year Waitlist: An Entrepreneurial Guide for Music Teachers. Her work with Fortune 500 companies helped her to become a leader in technology/entrepreneurship. Join her! MTNA 2020 Conference in Chicago
William Wellborn enjoys an active career as a pianist, teacher and lecturer, and has performed and lectured widely over four continents. He received a MM (New England Conservatory) and DMA (University of Texas) in Performance, and a BM in Piano Pedagogy (University of Texas), where his teachers included Gregory Allen, Patricia Zander, and Nancy Garrett, and two leaders in the field of piano pedagogy- Amanda Vick Lethco and Martha Hilley. He has also received coaching from John Perry, Leon Fleisher, Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, Adam Wibrowski, Andrzej Jasinski, and Jerome Lowenthal.
In 2017 he was honored to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT). A faculty member of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 1989, Wellborn teaches piano in the Pre-College division, and Piano Pedagogy in the Collegiate division. His students frequently win top prizes in numerous state, national, and international piano competitions. Wellborn records for the Marco Polo and Cambria Master Recordings labels.
Dr. J Mitzi Kolar, NCTM
Mitzi Kolar, Professor of Music Emerita, San Diego State University, served as Director, Graduate Studies in Music, and taught piano, pedagogy, and research. Her publications include Music in Education, Yamaha Corporation; Celebrate Piano, Stipes Publishing LLC; an improvisation series; and she recorded Ross Finney’s Youth’s Companion, C. F. Peters.
Dr. Kolar has performed or presented workshops and master classes throughout the United States and internationally. A former Vice President and CAPMT Communiqué Newsletter editor, Kolar currently serves as CAPMT District 1 Director and is on the Editorial Committee of CAPMT Connect. She is also a Director, MTAC-San Diego; Past-President of The Musical Merit Foundation, a large music endowment, and she maintains an independent studio.
Edward Francis (in memoriam)
Edward Francis had a teaching career that spanned more than 40 years. He was a member of MTNA, CAPMT, and the Music Teachers’ Association of California (MTAC)-Conejo Valley, where he served as President or Vice-President for many terms. He also previously held board positions with the Glendale Piano Competition and Southwestern Youth Music Festival (SYMF). A favored adjudicator, he served as a judge for countless competitions.
Prof. Francis’s college teaching career began at Oxnard College in 1981. He served on that faculty for more than 20 years. He also taught at Ventura College and then most recently a member of the applied music faculty at Moorpark College where he was “Artist-in-Residence” with his piano duo partner, Mona We DeCesare, NCTM. He joined the music faculty at Pepperdine University in 1996 and the faculty at California State University, Northridge in 2010, where he was the Coordinator of Piano Pedagogy.
Dr. Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Music degrees from the University of South Carolina, and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California. From 1996 to 2012 he served on the faculty of the Colburn School of Performing Arts, and from 1996 until 2004 was the Director of the Pianist Program at the Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana, California, a nationally recognized pre-professional arts conservatory.
Dr. Cook has served on the Executive Board of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (including as President), is a former Research Program Specialist with the Music Intelligence Neural Development Institute at the University of California, Irvine, and is currently Chair of the Piano Department at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, and Associate Professor of Music at Whittier College.
Arleen M Pickett
Arleen has been devoted to the music education of children throughout her professional life. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts from the University of the Pacific and her Master of Arts in Music Education from University of California, Berkeley with emphases in piano and organ performance. After teaching music in the public school system, she served as the Director of Music in the Schools for many years through the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View. In this capacity, she brought sequential, skills-based music experiences to thousands of children on the Peninsula.
A highlight of her career has been working with other dedicated and talented teachers across the state through the California Association of Professional Music Teachers. She has served in many capacities, including nine years on the state board and, most recently, six years as president of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter.
Arleen maintains an active private piano studio in Los Gatos, and is a church organist.
Dr. Jennifer Snow is a well-established educator and performer. She has held key leadership positions with The Royal Conservatory, Chromatik, and served as keyboard faculty at UCLA. Her students hold professional positions internationally. A frequently invited speaker and clinician, Jennifer has presented at state, national, and international conferences. She has published pedagogy articles and is an active adjudicator.
Jennifer has served on the CAPMT Exeuctive Board since 2010 and as President since April 2015. She has also served on the MTNA AMT National Editoral Board, National Teacher of the Year Committee, and 2011 National Conference Program Committee. A passionate educator, Jennifer has also appeared as a collaborative pianist throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
To her students, a lesson with award-winning teacher Su-Shing Chiu means fun, hard work, and a lot of love and caring. A native of Taiwan, Su-Shing comes from a long line of educators and musicians. Her love of teaching can be traced to her two grandfathers, both educators. “One grandfather founded a school and devoted his life to it,” Su-Shing says. “He always said that the beginning is the most important. If you do it wrong, you affect the entire life of the student. He made me realize the importance of early education.”
Su-Shing received both her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Taiwan. Extensive work in psychology and child development contributes to her success with students. She taught all levels of YAMAHA classes in Taiwan, from beginners to advanced; she joined the Irvine YAMAHA Music School staff in 1986, where she currently teaches the Special Advanced Courses. She also teaches private piano students are her own studio. When asked what kind of student she likes teaching best, Su-Shing replied, “I love any kind of student. I’m not choosy about my students — I just try to understand them and help each one at his or her own level. If they can improve and grow to love music, I feel happy.”
Su-Shing Chiu is the CAPMT Piano Auditions & Ensemble Auditions State Chair. She has perennial winners in the MTNA Composition Competition at the State, Southwest Division, and National Level.
Past CAPMT State President Sue Field is a pianist and mezzo-soprano. She grew up in the UK and arrived in the United States in 1982 with her family. She sang with Opera Colorado and San Diego Opera.
In San Diego she directed staged performances of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, with her studio. Sue has worked in various churches over many years as mezzo-soprano, pianist, organist, and Music Director. She served on the San Francisco Board of NATS and holds a Diploma in Piano Performance.
Sue attended Lady Spencer Churchill College, Oxford and is currently MTNA Southwest Division Director-Elect.
Scott McBride Smith, NCTM
Formerly District 8
Scott McBride Smith is past Vice-President, Conference and past President of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT). He is currently the Cordelia Brown Murphy Professor of Piano at the University of Kansas. A recognized leader in music education, Dr. McBride Smith’s philosophical and cognitive approach, combined with a sense of humor, has made him an audience favorite in workshops and master classes around the world. He is President of the International Institute for Young Musicians, co-author of the college pedagogy text The Well-Tempered Keyboard Teacher, Associate Editor of Clavier Companion, and co-author of American Popular Piano.
Darlene Vlasek, NCTM
Darlene Vlasek has been an independent piano and organ teacher for over 50 years. Her recording of organ compositions by Grigore Nica was broadcast during the 2008 ceremony inducting him into Romania’s Musicians Hall of Fame. Ms. Vlasek has served on the CAPMT State Executive Board for over 22 years and was State President from 2003–2007. She was President of the MTNA State Presidents Advisory Council in 2006–2007. Currently, she is CAPMT State Parliamentarian and is on the CPMT District 3 Board of Directors. She received her education at CSU San Diego, CSU San Jose, and UCLA. Her teachers include Elfrieda Baum, organ, and Bruce Sutherland, piano.