Our Director

Stella Kotova

Stella Kotova was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (one of the former Soviet Republics). She emigrated to the United States in 1979 and settled in Chicago, IL where she attended DePaul University to pursue a degree in Piano Performance. Concurrent with her studies, she began performing throughout the Chicago area, playing piano and singing in five languages.

In 1985, Stella moved to Tustin, CA where she she began teaching. She opened Orange County Music School School in 1999 and assembled an international faculty of highly credentialed music teachers to offer individual and group lessons for a variety of instruments.

From classical to jazz to pop, Stella's repertoire embraces music in all its forms, and allows her to share her love of music with a wide range of young and adult students. Stella belongs to the Music Teachers' Association of Southern California (MTAC - Orange Coast Cities Branch) through which her students may participate in Theory, Musicianship and Performance testing at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

In addition to teaching, Stella continues to perform as a solo pianist and accompanist, providing music for all occasions and venues. She has recorded numerous CDs, both solo and in collaboration with Southern California musicians. She has also composed and arranged original children's music including a collection of pieces that accompany a fairy tale book series produced for the Vietnamese community.

Stella believes that music is a universal language that stirs the soul, unites cultures even bridges generation gaps. It is a gift that we can all share - an invitation to a better world of peace and harmony.

Our Teachers

Allison Zema

Allison is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance at University of California, Irvine and will be graduating in June of 2013. She has performed both as a member of many world-renowned choirs at the university as well as a soloist in venues such as the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. Allison is classically trained in opera and also specializes in vocal jazz, musical theater and pop. Her multi-dimensional background of ballet, drama and piano also influence her unique and fun teaching style. She has been teaching voice since 2010 and is incredibly passionate about her student's development in both technique and performance.

Wenjing Liu

Described as a passionate, yet intense pianist full of musicality, Wenjing Liu, a solo performer and chamber musician, has performed throughout the United States, China, and Italy. A solo pianist of national and international acclaim, Dr. Liu received the first-prize at the American Protťgť International Competition in New York City, Asia Teenager Piano Competition in China, second-prize in the 17th American Piano Competition of Yantai China, and was also a finalist in the Schlern International Piano Competition in Italy and The Kankakee Piano Concerto Competition in the United States. As a chamber musician, she performed in various groups and venues including Carnegie Hall in New York City and V?ls Town Hall in Italy.

Wenjing Liuís success has seen her perform all over the world in recitals and festival performances in Italy, China, and the United States. Besides her Carnegie Hall debut in 2015, other notable appearances include performances in the China Embassy in Washington D.C, and Steinway Hall in New York City. She has also performed at the Amalfi Coast Music Festival (Italy), Schlern Music Festival (Italy), PianoSummer in New Paltz (New York), and Rebecca Pennys Piano Festival (Florida). In addition, Dr. Liu is often invited by universities as a guest artist to give solo recitals, such as University of Tennessee, Illinois State University and Iowa Wesleyan University. She has given solo master classes performances for numerous renowned pianists such as John Perry, Aldo Ciccolini, Vladimir Feltsman, Paul Badura-Scoda, and Susan Starr.

Dr. Wenjing Liu held the Piano Teaching Assistant position at the University of Iowa. This position allowed her to teach group piano classes and non-major piano lessons. Additionally, she frequently collaborated with the UI symphony band as a principle pianist, the UI opera production as a rehearsal pianist, and played numerous chamber music concerts with the UI School of Music faculty and students. Besides performance engagements at school, Liu also voluntarily performed for local communities such as the University of Iowa Hospital Center and Old Capital Piano Sundays Music Series in Iowa City, and Seal Beach Scholarship Fund Rising Program.

Beginning her piano studies at the early age of 6, Wenjing Liu holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance and Piano Pedagogy from University of Iowa under the guidance of Russian pianist Ksenia Nosikova, and a Master of Music in Piano Performance and Collaborative Piano from Illinois State University. Her other instructors include Yuanji Fan, Gellert Modos, and Tuyen Tonnu.

Huan Yang

Huan Yang, born in Canton, a native of China. Huan got the first prize for Chinese Music in Hong Kong and a second place winner of the American Protege International Piano & Strings Competition and the Woodruff Scholar award. He has performed concerts in China, Hong Kong, Philippines and the New York's Carnegie Well Recital Hall. He is studying in Thornton School of Music USC now.

Denean Dyson

Holding a BA in music from CSU Fullerton School of Music, Denean Dyson is a free spirited Mezzo-Soprano with a true love for music. Classically trained yet accomplished in many genres including Jazz, Soul and R&B, Denean continues to showcase her artistry as a soloist throughout the US and abroad in various public performances and recitals, for USO Tours, and for corporate and private events. Her vocal capabilities have bestowed her the privilege of performing with many well-known artists including singer/actress Reba McEntire, famed Mezzo-Soprano Susan Graham, and jazz legend Barbara Morrison and have more recently earned her a featured solo in the premiere performance and Delos Music recording of Jake Heggieís Choral Opera "The Radio Hour." Since her graduation from CSUF in 2010, Denean has also been performing locally with several choral ensembles, including the Long Beach Camerata Singers, The Pacific Chorale, The John Alexander Singers, a chamber ensemble comprised of singers who are the professional core of The Pacific Chorale, and for gifted conductors like Gustavo Dudamel, John Williams, Ludwig Wicki, Keith Lockhart, and Carl St. Clair.

Denean is driven by the emotion and inspiration music can bring, and sharing that harmony with the world is her joy. She is excited to share her experience and methods with her students, helping each student find a passion for music and obtain the technique and performance confidence they need so they too can share their art with the world.

Brittany Su

Brittany Su was born and raised in Southern California. At an early age, she was attracted to the sound of the violin and began taking lessons. As she progressed, so did her passion and hunger for music. It was her teacher and mentor Anne Thatcher that truly changed and guided her musical trajectory. In her youth, Ms. Su has participated in many orchestras and traveled around the world performing in places such as Austria, Leipzig, Vienna, and many other places. She had also served as the associate concertmistress for the Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra where she won their solo competition and made her first debut with orchestra in 2006. She went on to further her musical education at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, receiving a Bachelors of Music in violin performance. During her time at the Peabody Institute, she had the privilege of studying under Shirley Givens (studied with Ivan Galamian and is also a faculty at The Juilliard School) and Keng-Yuen Tseng (studied with Erick Friedman, silver medalist of the Queen Elisabeth International Violin Competition, faculty and Chair in Strings at Peabody). Along with many other mentors in the violin world such as Bing Wang (concertmistress of the LA Philharmonic), Ms. Su's heart and vision for music has been sculpted to want to share it and use it as a universal language that speaks to our souls. She continues to perform both solo and collaboratively with other musicians. As a teacher, she desires to guide others well into becoming a true musician and show them how to take music beyond the notes.

Christian Lopez

Christian Lopez is a trombonist, pianist, and composer/arranger based out of Orange County, CA. Christian received his masters degree in Bass Trombone Performance from Northwestern University, and specializes in classical, jazz, Latin, worship, and alternative trombone playing. Christian has performed all over the U.S., China, and Europe and was recently named a finalist in the 2014 Donald Yaxley International Trombone Association Bass Trombone Competition. His bass trombone playing can be heard on soundtracks scored by L.A. film composer Brian Ralston, on Indie rock sensation Calexico's CD Algiers, and also on his recordings of his band run with his brother, affectionately known as the LoBros.

As a pianist, Christian has a special affinity for Latin and jazz styles of piano playing. He has studied jazz piano with Professor Emeritus and former Director of Jazz studies at the University of Arizona (Composer/Arranger for Linda Ronstadt, Fight Club, Fairly Odd Parents). On piano, Christian has performed with jazz combos, big bands, praise bands, world-music groups, and salsa bands.

As a teacher, Christian has helped students reach their potential through sound teaching, encouragement, and a strong belief in each individual student's ability for improvement. Christian has taught masterclasses and privately, with his students achieving success in earning All-State Band and Orchestra honors.

Scott Grady

Scott Grady is a composer and guitarist from Fullerton California. After earning a B.A. in music from the University of Rio Grande, he attended California State University Fullerton where he completed a masterís degree in music composition and theory. Scott has composed music for the concert stage as well as several short films. While his formal instrumental training is in classical guitar, Scott has studied, performed, and taught many different styles of music which include rock, blues, flamenco, eastern European dance music, and West African drumming. As guitarist/composer/bassist, he is currently working with his own rock-based chamber music ensemble and has performed with such groups as CLAW (Contemporary L.A. Winds) and the CSUF guitar orchestra.

Ivan Dantas

Ivan Dantas was born in S„o Paulo, Brazil. At seven years old he had his first contact with the violin through the Suzuki Method. He was accepted at the S„o Paulo State School of Music at the age of 16, where he received his Conservatory Diploma in violin. There he studied with his teacher and mentor, Inna Meltser Rakevich, a Russian violinist who graduated from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in the class of Vladimir Bronin. Parallel to his violin studies, Mr. Dantas completed his B.M. in Music Composition at S„o Paulo State University. He received a full scholarship from that institution to study for a semester at the University of Georgia. He has participated in many orchestras (Tom Jobim Orchestra, Port of Santos Orchestra, UGA Orchestra, UGA Opera Ensemble, CSUN Orchestra), chamber ensembles, as well as recorded in studio for singers, played on theater plays, and performed in musical theater. Currently he is studying with Dr. Lorenz Gamma (a student of Mark Kaplan, Steven Staryk, and Franco Gulli), at California State University Northridge, to obtain his Masters Degree in Violin Performance. His teaching philosophy is that all people should have contact with music and everyone is capable of learning any instrument. He believes that each student needs a tailored approach that takes advantage of each individual strengths that the student shows, in this way he will feel motivated to develop his own personal artistic expression through music.

Fatima Rizvi

Fatima immensely enjoys sharing her passion for the vocal arts with students of all ages and abilities! Her background in classical vocal performance provides her with insight in teaching diverse genres of music. She believes that strong technical foundations are critical for a musicianís growth as a performer and artist.

Fatima is an active musician in the Orange County area with a passion especially for choral music and opera. She has also performed in recitals and opera productions at the University of California, Irvine, where she received her BA in Music in 2012, and at Cal State Fullerton, where she is currently pursuing a master's degree in vocal performance.

Regina Golovina

Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan of Jewish descent, Regina Golovina began her music studies in the Special Music School named after V. Uspensky. She is a dedicated adherent of the old Russian Music School. At the age of seven she started playing cello and piano. In 1999, Regina entered the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan and got Bachelorís degree with award. During her studies period Regina participated in numerous competitions, concerts and festivals. Her solo appearances include: performances with National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan, with Chamber orchestras: "Turkistan" and "Singing Strings", and an Ensemble of the modern music "Omnibus". She also was involved in the teaching program in Tashkent and always had many students. In 2007, Regina was accepted at Temple University Boyer College of Music and Dance with a full scholarship. During her studies at Temple University she played with TUSO in Kimmel Center and Carnegie Hall. Regina and her friends gave a first performance to a trio by a wonderful composer Andre Singer in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. She was a concerto competition winner. During her studies Regina took part in masterclasses with such great and famous cellists as Janos Starker and Lynn Harrell. She likes playing with orchestras, in chamber ensembles, as well as enjoys teaching children and always happy when they show good results and make a noticeable progress. In her teaching practice Regina encourages students to have fun, but be serious about making the most of their practice time.

Jeff O'Neal

Jeff O'Neal is a music educator specializing in wind instruments from Dallas, Texas. He received his bachelors in music from the University of Texas at Arlington and later went on to receive his Orff Schulwerk Certification from Southern Methodist University. Jeff has spent the last decade in the Dallas area teaching everything from beginning instrumentalists, full wind band, chamber ensembles, Orff instrumental ensembles and even primary music to elementary students. He has also performed with many ensembles and bands during his time there ranging from brass bands, wind ensembles and even rock ní roll bands. Recently Jeff and his family made the move out to the west coast to begin a new chapter closer to the beach. Jeff wishes to enrich studentís lives with music and not only teach an understanding of the art, but how to be successful throughout life with the skills they acquire. During his free time Jeff enjoys surfing, composing, art and the occasional trip to Disneyland.

Joseph Dhanens

Joseph is a classical bass-baritone. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance, Voice at Loyola Marymount University, where he studied classical voice under Dr. Karl Snider, performed solo, operatic and choral literature and helped found two a cappella groups. He obtained his Master of Music Performance, Voice from CSU, Fullerton under the guidance of voice teacher Dr. Mark Goodrich. CSUF performances include operatic scenes and full operatic roles such as Frank in Die Fledermaus, Cascada in The Merry Widow and Don Alfonso in an abridged version of Cosž fan tutte. He currently works as a regional classical solo artist and private voice teacher for classical, pop and musical theater styles in LA and Orange County.

Teaching voice is about teaching the person. Every student has a unique combination of natural talent, skills, strengths, and deficits and it the teacherís duty to address them with a personalized teaching plan. Since students respond to information differently, a teacher must be able to adjust the format and/or medium of their information accordingly. Flexibility, open-minds, determination and communication are vital to progress and most importantly, lessons should be fun.

“ There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself. ”

- Johann Sebastian Bach

Did you know?

The "average" piano has 88 keys, of these, 36 are black keys commonly known as "sharps". There are also some pianos made with 85 keys and one with more than 88!

The first note (on a standard 88 note keyboard) is A . The exact middle of the keyboard is not middle C, it is actually the space between E and F above "middle" C. The last note of the keyboard is C.

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