Ms. Kathy Anzis
Ms. Su-Shing Chiu
Ms. Wendy Chow
Kathy Anzis holds a B.A. degree in music from the University of California, Santa Barbara and an M.A. degree in music history and literature from the University of Southern California. She has taught Yamaha courses since 1984 and was the director of teacher training for the Music Education Division of Yamaha Corporation of America for over 20 years. She continues to work as a consultant for the company. Her articles have been published in several music education journals. She believes strongly in the Yamaha method and watched her own children benefit greatly from it. Kathy loves children and enjoys contributing to their development not only as musicians, but also as young people.
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. 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, MTAC Composers
Today State Chair, and the 2015-2016 MTNA Foundation Fellow. She enjoys training the students grow to love music!
Wendy Chow is a graduate of Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College in NYC, where she received her Bachelors of Arts in Music Education and she was certified in Piano Pedagogy.
Wendy joined Irvine Yamaha Music Center in 2002 and became a certified Yamaha instructor in 2004. As a mother of 2 daughters (11 & 16) who have studied in the Yamaha program since the age of 4, Wendy strongly believes Yamaha’s method cultivates musical ability, creativity and a love of music through its comprehensive education. Therefore, love of music in her students is her goal. One of Wendy’s passions is leading children choir and worship at a local church for the past 10 years.
Ms. Ana Lilia Contreras
Ms. Grace Hsu
Ms. Keiko Ikeda
Irvine & Laguna
Ana was born in Mexico City surrounded by fine arts.
She studied at The National Autonomous University of Mexico and The National Conservatory of Music. She took proficiency courses at Mexico National Center for the Music and the Arts.
She holds a Grade 4 International Music Certification by Y.M.F.Tokyo Japan in Theory, Organ and Piano Performances.
Her eclectic taste in music has taking her through many different routes: from touring music concerts (over 60 tours to US, Guatemala and Mexico) and performing choral masterworks classical that involved performances with major Mexican orchestras and venues (National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, Philharmonic Orchestra of Queretaro. Philharmonic Orchestra of the Bajio, Filarmonia Chamber Orchestra, etc.) She also performed at the prestigious Festival Internacional Cervantino Mexico, The Inter-American Development Bank, and President Ronald Reagan in Washington DC.
She also participated in voice overs (recording 450+ Songs) and in church music/worship arts/drama since her early teen years. She occasionally performs her Latin Music arrangements with her 14 members band.
She was the music producer of “Maraca” (the only kid’s group authorized to sing and dance along with the Disney characters in Latin America). Her music production work includes concerts for Disney, The Disney Club (tv), Coca Cola, Fanta, Wall Mart, Amway, Televisa etc.
After working at Yamaha Mexico since 1975, Ana emigrated to the US in 1998 sponsored by Irvine Yamaha. She collaborates as a Music Education Specialist at Yamaha Music Corporation of America (since 1912), is a MTAC Evaluation and Symposium State chair and is MTAC CT council member (Since 1912). She is a member of the Royal Conservatory of Music.
In Music education, her students have won competitions such as: International Yamaha JOC concerts in Mexico, Canada, Vienna and Nemuno-sato Japan), The Golden Key Composition Competition, ASCAP, Yamaha National Jamboree and JOC Concerts, National Association for Gifted Kids, National Stars of Tomorrow, National composition program PTA, National Piano Explorer Composition Competition and the California and Nevada Search for Talent, in California: SYMF, MTAC, MTNA, PTA, RCM, Prove you Groove, Orange Coast Fair Youth Expo, and MTAC Irvine Festivals.
On her spare time, she loves to study history and archeology and she likes to create videos for her husband’s pastoral work. 2 of her grandkids are enrolled in the JMC 1 class.
Education: National Academy of Arts in Taiwan; Master Degree of Music in Piano Pedagogy from California State University of Fullerton.
After teaching 15 years private piano studio, Joining Irving Yamaha Music Center.
Certified Yamaha Education teacher for 15 years including classes of 3-4 years old Music Wonderland class, Junior Music Course, Young Musician course, Junior Extension Course, Junior Advance Course, Junior Ensemble Course.
Member of Music Teacher Association California since 1997.
Teaching music and piano performance is my passion, I love children and enjoy around them. Watching students growing musically within the years from their childhood through teenage to high school graduation is the best accomplishment of my career.
- Master of Arts: Piano Pedagogy (California State University, Fullerton, School of Music)
- Member of MTNA, CAPMT, MENC, MTAC
- YAMAHA Music Education System Certified instructor (Irvine/Laguna Yamaha Music Centers)
- RCM-The Royal Conservatory of Music Certified Teacher (Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced)
Ms. Keiko ‘Katie’ Ikeda is teaching private piano lessons, and enjoys teaching composition, early musicianship/advanced keyboard ensemble classes at the Yamaha Music Centers in Irvine and Aliso Viejo. Her students call her, “Ms. Katie.”
Keiko ‘Katie’ Ikeda began piano and musicianship lessons at a Yamaha Music School in Japan at the age of four. Later, she received private piano instructions with Mrs. Kuniko Fujiwara and Mr. Hiroyuki Yabu, voice lessons with Mrs. Minako Otsu, and music theory and composition with Mr. Shin Uchiyama. Upon completing her Bachelor’s Degree in International Civilization at Seinan Gakuin University, she joined the The Kyushu Symphony Orchestra (Fukuoka, Japan) as a member of the administrative office for 5 years, and taught music and English at Nihon Gakugeisya as Yamaha System Certified instructor. After she moved to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she took piano lessons at Victoria Conservatory of Music with Mrs. Kristine Beny and Dr. Michael Redshaw, and participated in master classes with Mrs. Winifred Scott Wood.
Since moving to California, she further studied piano with Dr. Rob Watson, music education with Dr. Dennis Siebenaler, conducting with Dr. Mitchell Fennell at California State University, Fullerton School of Music, and received a Masters Degree in Piano Pedagogy under the guidance of Dr. Martha Baker-Jordan. She received piano instructions from Dr. Mikhail Korzhev, Mr. Nigel Hutchison (London, UK), Ms. Susan de Burgh (Victoria, CA) and Mr. Leonid Levitsky as well.
She started playing clarinet at age 12, and was a member of Seinan Gakuin University Wind Ensemble, which received a silver prize at All Japan Wind Ensemble Competition. In the U.S., she was a member of UC Irvine Wind Ensemble, and CSU Fullerton Wind Ensemble. She especially appreciates the clarinet instruction she received since college years, with Mr. Toru Mizusaki (Kyushu Symphony Orchestra, Japan), Prof. Håkan Rosengren (CSU Fullerton, CA), and Mr. Nuno Silva (Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra, Portugal). Currently, she enjoys playing with biennial CSU Fullerton Alumni Band when the schedule allows.
Her students were awarded with many prizes at local and statewide events. In past years, her students were awarded as MTAC Composers Today State Contest’s 2nd place (in 2017), 1st & 3rd place winners (in 2019), and 2nd & 3rd place winners (in 2020). She served as a branch president of MTAC Orange Coast Cities Branch for the years 2009-2011, and was a board member for 2012-2013, 2014-2015. Currently she is serving as branch Certificate of Merit Teacher Work Coordinator, and is one of MTAC Composers Today State Council Members.
Ms. Grace Kuo
Ms. Jun Kurasako
Ms. Satomi Otsubo
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Grace Kuo began her piano studies at the age of four. During her childhood, she took group lessons at YAMAHA music school, through which she received solid ear training and developed her perfect pitch.
Grace has taught piano more than 30 years and many of her students have won the prizes at piano competitions. She has faith in her students and inspires the students to enjoy the journey of learning music. Grace has been the piano grade examiner for more than 10 years and was the seminar instructor in Taiwan. She won the first place in the Taipei Piano Competition and was awarded Honorable Mention in the final round in the Taiwan Piano Competition. In addition, she has accompanying the choirs for many years since her childhood. Grace currently accompanies two choirs at Bread of Life Christian Church in Torrance. Grace also plays chamber music, and she has accompanied several violinists for their recitals and competitions.
During her graduate studies at San Diego State University, she learned piano performance with Dr. Karen Follingstad and piano pedagogy with Dr. Kolar, the co-author of “Celebrate Piano!”. She also has studied with Dr. Shun-Lin Chou from CSULB and Prof. Lois Roberts. Grace Kuo received the Mu Phi Epsilon Scholarship, the Norma Kayser Memorial Endowment for the Arts Scholarship, juries honors and was selected to perform in the master class for Kenny Broberg, the 2017 Cliburn Silver Medalist. Prior to teaching at Torrance YAMAHA music center in 2014, she taught at Greene Music Yamaha music school in San Diego. She is currently an active member of MTAC at South Bay branch; she would like to continue her passion for teaching, as well as piano performance, and chamber music.
Jun Kurasako is a graduate of the Los Angeles High School for the Arts, and she has studied with Dr. Lev Vlassenko, and Dr. Luba Edlina-Dubinsky at Indiana University. She graduated Cal State University of Dominguez Hills where she studied with Dr. Konstantin Sirounian and Dr. Stephen Moore. She placed 3rd in the 1999 Paul Dukas International Competition held in Italy and has performed with the Carson-Dominguez Symphony Orchestra in 2000. Jun graduated from the Junior Special Advanced Course at JACCC Yamaha Music School in Los Angeles. She performed her Original Composition “The New Frontier” with Orchestras in San Antonio, Idyllwild, Toronto, and the Tokyo Symphony for a UNICEF Benefit Concert held in Tokyo. She has been teaching at Yamaha since 2002.
Satomi Otsubo received her B.M. and M.M. in piano performance from Indiana University South Bend. During her school years, she was selected to perform as a soloist with the school orchestra.
She joined Irvine Yamaha Music Center over 20 years ago and is a certified Yamaha Music System Instructor. She and her students have received awards, including 1st place in the Keyboard Ensemble Category at Yamaha’s Annual Music Camp for consecutive 4 years. In 2008, she was invited to conduct the Keyboard Ensemble Workshop at the Yamaha Music Camp.
Satomi is an active member of the Music Teachers Association of California. Her students have received awards in piano Festivals and Composer’s Today, and have passed various levels, including the highest level in Certificate of Merit.
Besides teaching at Yamaha, she is an adjunct instructor at East Los Angeles College.
Ms. Akiko Taniguchi
Ms. Elisa Tseng
Akiko Taniguchi received her Bachelor degree in Music and Master degree in Music focusing on piano performance from California State University Long Beach, recently known as Bob Cole Conservatory of Music. She is a certified Yamaha instructor and Grade Examiner teaching numerous group students and private students at Torrance Yamaha Music Center and most of them start piano at the age of 4 and continue all the way through college. She is also an active member of MTAC and CAPMT as well as MTNA.
Her career of piano started at the age of 4, while her 2-year-elder sister had learned violin already, seeming hard to hold the instrument with its right position and make a beautiful sound with a violin bow. Hence she asked parents to learn the piano instead. Meanwhile, as she was interested in popular music as well, she started to learn the Electone at Yamaha Music School in Tokyo and her performance was awarded at Yamaha Electone Festival in Japan in 1997 and 1998.
Her motto of teaching is to know that each student is very different and to always remind herself of importance to approach each student by the appropriate way of teaching depending on their interest, the pace of understanding, and technical progression itself.
She has been serving a volunteer accompanist of Japanese Chorus Group and anniversary volunteer concert at Boyle Heights Nursing Home since 3.11, 2011 of Japan Tsunami Disaster, but was not able to do in 2020 because of pandemic. She is recently enjoying making virtual duet videos with violin by her sister in Japan and also enjoying to watch the live streaming of various piano competitions. This year, she is especially looking forward to watching 18th Chopin International Piano Competition in October, 2021 which was postponed into this year from 2020 because of pandemic and Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in November, 2021. She likes to see many young gifted artists appearing on the music scene.
I began studying music at age of 6 and discovered my passion for becoming a music teacher .So while attending high school and college in Indonesia, I also pursued music at the Institute of Music and completed the requirements necessary to be a music educator and have taught for months before joining yamaha.
I also obtained YMES in music education and taught the YMES method (private lesson) in years 1988-1999 in Indonesia.
I then migrated to the US and continued teaching at both individual and group levels after becoming a certified yamaha instructor at Irvine Yamaha Music center (2003- present)
I am a member of RCM and my students have enrolled in the certificate of RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music) as well as the certificate of YMES (Yamaha Music Education System). My students’ other accomplishments include winning compositions on PTA reflections.
I have taught students whose ages range from 4 years old to teenagers.
Beyond promoting rigorous attainment for every student, I have always strived above all to share a love and appreciation of music, through my enthusiastic embrace of this rewarding, lifelong endeavor.
Ms. Barbara Abrahams
Guitar, Songwriting & Vocal Teacher
Mr. Rod Browarny
Clarinet, Flute & Saxophone Teacher
Irvine & Torrance
Mr. Javier Castillo
Guitar & Ukulele Teacher
Barbara is originally from Rhode Island, and has studied voice performance and music at Rhode Island College , Berkeley School of Music and privately with Marge Rivingston , Vocal coach to the Stars.
Barbara performed in many professional radio and television shows in Rhode Island, and Boston prior to moving to sunny southern California. She is also a songwriter and has won several music competitions with her original music.
Since moving to Orange County, she has been providing entertainment for southern Californians at various venues. Barbara is Director, Lead singer and twelve string guitarist in her band Calypso , and has been teaching voice and guitar since the age of 16.
Barbara offers Voice and harmonization lessons, beginning , intermediate and advanced guitar lesson levels. Additionally , she offers private songwriting and poetry writing sessions.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Mr. Rodney Browarny started out as a professional musician at 20 years old and has made it his career for over 40 years. He specializes in woodwind clarinet, saxophone, and flute. As a musician, Mr. Rod has worked with many great performers such as Louie Bellison, Stix Hooper, Keith Grecko, and Sunny Stitt, to name a few. He has also performed in his own band, as well as many other bands, at various hotels and restaurant venues like the Hilton Hotel, Hyatt Hotel, and Hollywood Palladium, and in jazz clubs like the Blue Parrot.
Mr. Rod began teaching professionally in his late-20s at various music studios before officially working for the Irvine Yamaha Music Center on March 26, 2000. He has been with the South Bay Yamaha schools since then. Mr. Rod has experience working both one-on-one with students and in classroom settings. His unique quality is his old-school style as a professional teacher, strongly pushing for the student’s No.1 sound. Many of his students have made it to the Advanced Band at the local Irvine schools, and several have stayed with him for up to 7 years. He teaches all styles of music, from classical to jazz. Reliable and dedicated, Mr. Rod takes pride in passing on his enthusiasm to his students, a quality that he hopes will last for their lifetimes.
Javier Castillo is a guitarist from Los Angeles, California. Javier’s interest in guitar began as a young teen when during middle school his friends introduced him to the heavy rock stylings of Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Rush, and Van Halen. Those initial influences inspired him to pick up the guitar and to inspire him to eventually pursue a long time career in music. It was in college where Javier put his focus into classical and Jazz guitar, culminating into a B.M. in Music Performance from Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California.
Throughout his twenty years journey as a musician, Javier has been a freelance musician, playing for various groups and projects across Southern California such as The BCCM Studio Orchestra in Cal State Long Beach. Javier offers years of experience in private lessons in guitar, bass, and ukulele, as well as private tutoring in music theory. Javier Castillo currently works at the Yamaha Music School in Cerritos, as well as the Yamaha Music Center in Irvine, California.
Ms. Carmen Ceja
Viola & Violin Teacher
Ms. Julie Choi
Mr. Alexander Granger
Viola & Violin Teacher
I received both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Piano performance from University of Southern California.
I have excelled in Piano performance winning numerous awards prior to attending University in Seoul, Korea. While at U.S.C., I was an honor student receiving many scholarships and even had the opportunity to study Piano with the world-renowned pianist, Daniel Pollack. Daniel Pollack has influenced me immensely in reaching the elite level of Piano performance and also in honoring teaching techniques for my own students.
I am also an active member of the Music Teachers Association of California. I have been teaching at Irvine Yamaha Music Center since 1998.
Heralded as “superb” by the San Francisco Classical Voice, violinist/violist Alex Granger maintains a thriving performance career as a chamber musician, concertmaster, and soloist. His string quartet was recently invited to be in residence at the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna to present the complete Schoenberg String Quartets. From 2014-2019, Alex led the critically acclaimed conductorless
Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra as concertmaster, receiving praise from the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. Alex has dedicated much of his energy over the past decade to performing in retirement homes, homeless shelters, and Title I elementary schools, bringing classical music to audiences who are unable to attend live concerts. During the summers Alex is a faculty member at Porterville Strings, providing guidance for young, talented, energetic music students in one of central California’s most underserved communities.
Alex is a member of the viola section in the Long Beach Symphony and holds degrees from Biola University and USC’s Thornton School of Music, where he studied with Henry Gronnier, Bing Wang, and world renowned violinist Midori Goto.
Ms. Marcy Hokama
Ms. Julianne Huh
Irvine & Laguna
Ms. Goly Lessani
Ms. Marcy started training in classical piano at the age of 4. At the age of 7, she won her first major piano competition and since then has won many awards and competitions on regional, state, and international levels. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Piano Performance from the University of California, Los Angeles with a concentration in Classical Music.
She has been teaching for over 20 years, giving private lessons as well as group lessons in over 20 schools throughout New York. She has also taught at the Elementary School Main Campus at Le Lycee Fraincais de Los Angeles for several years. Although she is a Southern California native, Ms. Marcy has also lived in Brooklyn, New York for ten years where she had found her own piano school and played in the band Oh Halo, performing at venues all throughout New York City. She has also been involved in projects composing music for short documentaries.
As her teaching philosophy, Ms. Marcy believes in allowing her students to lead while she learns their personalities and abilities in order to support and guide them in a way where they can understand and flourish in their own unique ways. She understands that being able to relate to each child on a personal level is just as important as teaching them piano skills and strives to encourage her students to look forward to their piano lessons every week because they feel supported and safe in their learning environment.
Ms. Julianne Huh joined the Irvine and Laguna Yamaha Music Centers in 2003. She has taught piano for over 30 years in the US and abroad. Ms. Julianne received her B.A. from the University of Jordan and completed a music program at the Royal School of Music. She began teaching music at the College De La Salle.
Ms. Julianne enjoys teaching the piano very much and is experienced teaching students of various ages, from young children to adults. Her aim is to encourage students to develop a love for music and continue playing throughout their lives.
Golnaz Lessani was born in Tehran, Iran, and has studied music since the age of 12. She attended the Tehran School of Music and graduated with a diploma. She continued her education at the University of Applied Science and Technology, where she earned her Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degree in piano performance.
In 2007 Lessani moved to the United States to pursue higher education and began fulfilling her dream of starting a career in the U.S. She took classes at Saddleback College, where she had the privilege to be mentored by Dr. Kirill Gliadkovsky. After years of study at Saddleback College, she attended the California State University of Long Beach. There, she earned her Master’s Degree in piano performance under the tutelage of Dr. Shun-Lin Chou.
Throughout her education, Lessani has had the opportunity to learn from and perform for renowned pianists and professors worldwide, including Daniel Pollack, John Perry, Stewart Gordan, and Eduardo Delgado. She has won several scholarships and awards participating in competitions such as Saddleback College’s Concerto Competition.
Lessani frequently commutes between Orange County and Los Angeles and shares her music with both students and audiences. In addition to her private students, she works as a private instructor at the respected Irvine Yamaha Music Center. She has been a member of the Music Teachers Association of California for ten years, and many of her students have won branch and state honors.
Lessani has performed in various formats; as an instrumentalist, soloist, accompanist, and vocalist. She has performed at venues ranging from local retirement homes to sold-out shows at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Recently, she has been working with legendary Persian artist Ebi, who has traveled worldwide, including the Middle East, Australia, North America, and Europe.
Ms. Laurie Kono-Merchant
Piano & Composition Teacher
Mr. Ken Nagatani
Ms. Maki Noma
Piano & Vocal Teacher
A former student of the Yamaha Music Education System, Ms. Laurie has a long history of performances in concerts and competitions across the globe, mainly in Japan, Spain, and France.
At the age of 15, she performed her own piano concerto with the New Japan Philharmonic under the baton of Maestro Keniichiro Kobayashi, in the presence of the Princess of Japan.
She received her Bachelors of Music degree from the University of Southern California and Masters of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music, studying not only piano, but improvisation and composition as well.
In 2007, Ms. Laurie made her solo piano recital debut at Carnegie Hall, and continues to perform in various prestigious concert venues.
A music educator with over 20 years of experience, she maintained a busy teaching schedule in New York City for the past 13 years, where many of her students performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Steinway Hall. Her students have gone on to attend prestigious conservatories such as the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music.
Since joining Torrance Yamaha Music Center in 2017, two of Ms. Laurie’s composition students have been selected to perform at the prestigious Yamaha International Highlights Concert held in Singapore (2019) and Malaysia (2020).
Ken Nagatani received both a Master of Music and a Graduate Performance Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Manuel Barrueco, and completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California in 2006 as a student of William Kanengiser. He has been the recipient of several honors and awards, including the Mary Pickford Foundation Endowed Scholarship in Classical Guitar and the Jack Marshall Memorial Scholarship while at USC. Ken has been active as a performer and teacher in Southern California for the past 22 years and is currently an adjunct instructor at East Los Angeles College, Glendale Community College and Long Beach Community College. He has certified training in the Suzuki method, and teaches classical, popular and folk styles in both private and group settings.
Maki Noma has released albums and an EP as a singer-songwriter in England and Japan. Her first album charted No. 1 in the album category on the iTunes Japan Music Charts. BBC Radio reviewed her EP commending her voice as “The voice from heaven.”
Maki has performed as a solo musician at a handful of prestigious venues including: The Royal Opera House — England’s largest opera theater, ICA — the biggest art center in London, Motion Blue — a Blue Note sponsored night club, and Club Ikspiari — a Disney-affiliated venue in Japan.
As a vocalist Maki has performed at a Tokyo Collection, fashion show and her vocal has been used in commercials for SONY and Nestle. Her voice was also featured in the theme song for a TV show, Tokyo Eye, which premiered on NHK WORLD.
As a music composer, Maki has composed music for major companies such as SONY, Google, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, HONDA, “Gran Turismo” series by Play Station 3, FIFA World Cup, Panasonic, and FRED PERRY. She has also composed soundtracks for a variety of independent films, one of which received an award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Mr. Ron Robbins
Flute, Saxophone, Trumpet & Vocal Teacher
Irvine & Laguna
Ms. Shoko Robbins
Irvine & Laguna
Ms. Yuri Sakiyama
Ron Robbins is now in his ninth year as a Yamaha instructor. Trumpet, saxophone, flute, and vocals–he brings a lifetime of live-performing and recording-studio experience to students of all ages and proficiency levels. “Versatility” is Ron’s middle-name (well not literally), as his average teaching day might include helping a young flute player prepare her Honors Orchestra audition-piece, inspiring a jazz-band high-schooler on his trumpet-solo assignment, playing saxophone duets with an adult beginner, or making studio quality recordings of a 12yr.-old aspiring singer using his own custom-made backing tracks.
Ron Robbins’ musical career began at CSUN, where he majored in trumpet, privately studying with the legendary John Clyman. Even while he was soloist with that university’s award-winning jazz-band, Ron was already a “working musician” playing five nights/week with various local bands. Recording with L.A.’s famous Latin-rock group “Tierra” (produced by Willie Bobo}, his horn solo was featured on their hit-song “Gonna Find Her.” By then, Ron had moved to Orange County, playing top nightspots with various local artists.
“Ron Robbins Ensemble” was born out of his emerging new facet as singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (sax/flute/trumpet/conga-drums). With musical partner, keyboardist Tim Heintz (Chaka Khan, Michael MacDonald, George Benson), his debut “smooth-jazz” CD “Skyward” gained national radio airplay and Tower Records sales. Two Japanese productions followed (Alfa Records), “Round Twilight” and “Lovebird,” produced by Grammy Award winner Kazu Matsui. Japanese radio/TV/commercials have featured thirteen of Ron’s original songs and studio recordings.
“Promise of Spring” is the latest recording (iTunes, Youtube) featuring a collection of Ron Robbins Ensemble music, including an updated version of the Japanese-pop song “Hariyo-Koi” which Ron recorded with wife Shoko, to commemorate Japan’s 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster.
Shoko began her lifelong love-affair with the piano growing up in Fukushima, Japan. Musical studies continued throughout her college years (Japan National University of Yamagata), where she majored in Piano and minored in trumpet. After graduation, Shoko began teaching not only piano, but also Music-Theory, Composition, Electone, Vocal-Training, Musical Theatre and Drums to students ranging in age from two to forty-two.
Her career with YAMAHA was distinguished by hundreds of award-winning students, including sixteen-year-old Takuya W. He won the first-place award in an all-Japan piano competition in 07, after nine years of study with Shoko. But he wasn’t the only one to receive high honors then—Shoko was named “Top-Teacher of the year.”
Shoko eventually taught at four YAMAHA schools in four different cities in Japan. She also moonlighted as keyboardist in several local bands, playing everything from classic American pop to Japanese Jazz-Fusion. Shoko moved to Orange County in 2008, marrying Jazz-Musician Ron Robbins.
Soon, Shoko began teaching piano to a growing group of American students, while serving as accompanist for the Saddleback College Chamber Music Ensemble. Back home in Fukushima, Japan’s 2011 disaster struck. In memory of the tragic event, to raise money for Japanese charities, Shoko and her husband Ron recorded a new version of the famous pop song “Haruyo-Koi”. This led to YAMAHA School’s owner Kimiko Fujita hiring her to teach there.
An active MTAC member since 2012, Shoko has been a regular performer at OC Japan Fair since 2016 as part of the smooth-jazz Ron Robbins Ensemble, and leader of her own vocal trio.
Relocating recently to California, Yuri Sakiyama holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance and Piano Pedagogy from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Masters of Piano performance at Northern Illinois University. She studied at The Music Institute of Chicago under the directions of Emilio V. Del Rosario, Constance Hughes, and at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under Dr. William Heiles, and Piano pedagogy under Dr. Christos Tsitsaros. Upon graduation, Yuri has been employed as a private piano instructor, group theory instructor, and as a piano accompanist for students of all ages in private music Schools in Illinois and California. Yuri’s teaching experience extends Illinois State and Northern Illinois University where she taught as a group piano instructor.
Yuri organized and directed special musical events and recitals annually for students. She is also a member of MTAC (Music Teachers Association of California). Yuri performs in both solo and collaborative recitals in California and Japan and has won many piano competitions such as PTNA Piano competitions in Japan, and MTNA Competitions in Illinois. Yuri enjoys playing tennis, hiking, and traveling. She also loves animal and volunteers at animal shelter in the weekends.
Mr. Ark Sano
Piano (Classic / Jazz) Teacher
Ms. Chiacheng Sen
Piano, Viola & Violin Teacher
Ms. Chiai Tajima
Irvine & Torrance
Ark Sano has appeared as a jazz pianist in numerous albums including his two leader albums and four CDs with legendary group Black/Note from prestigious labels such as Columbia and Impulse. While he has appeared on live TV, radio and online broadcasting shows internationally, Ark’s abundant performing experience also extends to major Jazz festivals such as North Sea, JVC, Montreal, Monterey and Victoria.
He graduated from Berklee College of Music with the honor of Summa Cum Laude and is the finalist of Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 1989. His musical activity expands to performing with his group, as well as in the style of solo piano, both classical and jazz music in live shows and concerts. He is also composing/arranging for various group and ensemble including Japan America Chamber Ensemble, for which he serves as the music director. Besides being the conductor of the ensemble, he is the assistant conductor of Palisades Symphony and Symphony 47 Orchestra.
In 2017, Chiacheng Sen won the first prize in the Australian Vocal and Concerto Competition, second prize in the International Music Competition Grand Prize Virtuoso in Rome, third prize in the Risingstars Grandprix in Berlin. In previous years, she also won the first prize in the USOMC in Oakland, American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition which led to her Carnegie Hall debut. She had also won first prize in United States Open Music Competition, second prize in the Performing Arts Scholarship Foundation, Second prize in International Young Artist Piano Competition in Washington DC. When Chiacheng was 12, she won her first competition in the Creative Art Competition hosted by Taiwan Television and Min Sheng Bao. She played Jeux D’eau by Ravel and won cash prize of 20000 NTD.
Chiacheng Sen received master degree from the New England Conservatory of Music and doctoral degree in Piano Performance with full scholarship from UC Santa Barbara. She worked in the UCSB music department as a collaborative piano teaching assistant for four years, teaching both undergraduate and graduate students. After graduation in 2011, Chiacheng worked at East Los Angeles College, Orange County School of the Arts, and Long Beach City College and other music schools as piano instructor and staff pianist. In 2018, Chiacheng collaborated with renowned violinist/ composer Jeremy Cohen from Quartet San Francisco in a memorial concert of Raymond Scott at Colony Theatre. Besides her career as an extraordinary pianist with wide interests, she also plays with the Orchestra Collective of Orange County as a violinist.
Chiai Tajima is an avid chamber and orchestral musician with a versatile career as a performer, collaborator and mentor. She has performed in a variety of settings, ranging from coveted venues across the globe such as Carnegie Hall to homeless shelters and nursing homes. She has served as concertmaster of the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in Japan as well as the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra in Germany. Throughout the year, she performs as a substitute member of the San Diego Symphony. In addition to her orchestral collaborations, Chiai is a founding member of the Ubuntu String Quartet and was recently invited to hold a residency at the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna to perform the complete Schoenberg string quartets. She is also an artist at Le Salon De Musique, a chamber music series based at The Music Center in Los Angeles. Chiai spends summers teaching at Porterville Strings, providing mentorship to one of the many underserved communities in central California. She has also participated in numerous community engagement concerts throughout Los Angeles, visiting homeless shelters, nursing homes, and Title I elementary schools to bring classical music to audiences who are unable to attend live performances.
Chiai holds a Bachelor and Masters degree from The Juilliard School, where she studied with Masao Kawasaki as a recipient of the Irene Diamond Graduate Fellowship. She also studied with Bing Wang at The USC Thornton School of Music where she completed her Graduate Certificate.
Mr. Miguel Ivan Velazquez
Guitar & Ukulele Teacher
Ms. Miwako (May) Watanabe
Miguel Velazquez is a classical guitarist based out of Southern California. He became fascinated with the guitar at the age of 15 and has been playing ever since. He began his classical studies at age of 18 and went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Music degree from California State University, Northridge in classical guitar studies where he was the recipient of the Arts Council Scholarship. He has studied under the careful guidance of John Dearman, Mathew Greif and Steven Thachuk. Miguel’s teaching style extends from classical to fingerstyle, folk, rock and blues. He has been teaching throughout schools in the South Bay area for over 5 years where he has had the opportunity to teach students young and adult of different backgrounds and musical goals. As an active member in his community educating the youth, he received an award for outstanding community educator. As a musical educator, Miguel understands the importance of tailoring his teachings to better suit the student and their musical aspirations.
Ms. May acquired her Ph.D In Musicology from Tokyo University of the Arts in 2013, where she also obtained her bachelors and masters degrees. She has experience as a lecturer of western classical music and music, delivering presentations at Colombia University, UC Berkeley . She has also co-authored Exploring Musical Harmony, published by Ongaku-no-tomo-sha in 2019. A decorated musician, she has been supported by the Agency of Cultural Affairs Government of Japan, The Japan Society for Promotion of Science, Dentsu-Ikueikai Fellowship, and the Society for Music Theory.
Ms. May moved to the U.S. in 2015, having been teaching piano and music theory to students of various levels since then. She has also prepared students for various examinations such as the ABRSM, RCM, CM, and AP Music Theory. She has lived in Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.