Artist-in-Residence and Co-founder
CHETAN TIERRA, a Yamaha Artist, pianist, composer and teacher, has delighted audiences across the globe in recital, as soloist with orchestra, and on radio and TV. He has performed on some of the world’s most renowned concert stages after making strong and winning appearances in the most prestigious international piano competitions such as the Queen Elisabeth, Van Cliburn, Jose Iturbi, Hilton Head, New Orleans, Unisa, and Seoul. The NY Concert Review praised his 2006 Carnegie Hall debut as “magnificent”, and his charismatic persona and emotional style have led to many praises from audiences and critics alike. His students regularly win local, national and international competitions and go on to study at top conservatories. Recently, for 2 years running, his students have won first and second prize in the San Diego Concerto Competition. His attention to detail, nuance, deep artistic expression and systematic approach to building a world class technique has made him one of the most in demand teachers in San Diego.
Melissa Evans Tierra
Academy Chair and Co-founder
MELISSA EVANS TIERRA is an American concert pianist, and teacher known for her avant garde approach to music and performance. She received her BM degree from Baylor University, studying with James Williams and her MM degree from The Cleveland Institute of Music, studying with Cliburn winning pianist, Antonio Pompa-Baldi. She also received a Postgraduate Diploma from the Koninklijk Vlaams Conservatorium in Antwerp, Belgium, studying with Levente Kende. Mrs. Tierra has performed recitals in Austria, Italy, Belgium, and Israel and has been highly praised for her interpretation of modern music, frequently premiering new works on her recitals. She has studied with many other notable teachers including Jerome Rose, Kum Sing Lee, Alon Goldstein and honed her craft of modern music with composers, Lowell Liebermann, Jo Verdis, Jacob Adams and Chetan Tierra focusing on their works specifically. Melissa has also won several notable performance awards and been featured on radio and television. She was recently featured in The San Diego Union Tribune for her latest concert.
BRENDAN NGUYEN displays uncommon versatility as a performer, artist, and thinker. His bold programming style, infusion of technology, and extravagantly produced concert concepts aim to explore new musical territory while casting a contemporary eye on the established canon. Brendan has performed at the REDCAT Theater, the Monday Evening Concert series, wasteLAnd, The Stone, and has recorded with Carrier and Populist Records. He is currently working with long-time colleague mezzo-soprano Leslie Leytham on a new concert series called PROJECT [BLANK]. Brendan’s enthusiasm for contemporary music has lead to a number of premieres and commissions, including works by Wojtek Blecharz, Aaron Helgeson, Nicholas Deyoe, Clint McCallum, Beat Furrer, and Pulitzer Prize winner Roger Reynolds. He has also worked with composers George Crumb, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Lewis Nielson, and has performed with violinist David Bowlin, pianist Aleck Karis, and percussionist Steven Schick. Brendan is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and UC San Diego.
Distinguished Artist Faculty
Distinguished Artist Faculty
LESI MEI, classical pianist, manifests dazzling virtuosity and stunning musicality the moment her fingers touch the keys. She was the first call pianist for Beijing International Orchestra before traveling the U.S. from coast to coast, performing in such festivals as the Mostly Modern Festival in Saratoga Springs, International Keyboard Institute and Festival in New York City, and Olympiad Piano Festival in Colorado Springs, where she was a semifinalist in the concerto competition. Her performance diploma hails from the European Music Institute in Vienna, under the tutelage of the esteemed Professor Martin Hughes. Other notable teachers she studied with include Peter Vinograde, Joyce Yang, Ilya Yakushev, Blair McMillen, Victor Rosenbaum, Jeffrey Swan, and Geoffrey Burleson.
Lesi holds a Master of Music in Piano Performance from San Diego State University, a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology from Florida State University, and a Bachelor of Engineering in Biological Engineering from the Beijing Institute of Technology.
SETH QUAY is a pianist, performer, artist and educator with a diverse portfolio of musical and life experiences. Receiving his BM in Piano Performance from the University of Montana in 2011, Seth began working as a professional pianist at the Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park, performing around 30 hours each week for hotel audiences. He has experience in improvisation, jazz, pop, singing, rock bands, drumset and percussion instruments, alongside an exceptionally well-rounded classical training. He has performed internationally throughout the US and Europe and refined his performance and teaching skills under the guidance of prominent artists and pedagogues such as Francine Kay and Chee-Hwa Tan. He has also worked intimately with internationally-recognized contemporary composers including David Maslanka, Daniel Schnyder, and Gernot Wolfgang. Completing a MM in Piano Pedagogy and Performance in 2020 from the University of Denver has uniquely prepared him to teach, with specialized training and research on the process of learning. Active as a certified yoga teacher, Seth believes in incorporating mindfulness techniques into lessons to reduce tension and create deep connections with the music. His holistic approach allows students to flourish as musicians and individuals.
DAVID FRASER, a classical pianist, composer, and teacher, has been playing the piano for over 30 years. He attended the University of Utah on a half-tuition performance piano scholarship during which he was offered a position as the staff accompanist for the head of the vocal department, Dr. David Power. His five-year tenure as the staff accompanist for the University of Utah included accompanying the opera workshop program as well as numerous vocalists and instrumentalists for auditions, juries, recordings, and competitions, to include the Metropolitan Opera Western Region Competition. David worked as a staff accompanist for San Diego State University’s opera workshop program and was the accompanist for the San Diego Men’s Chorus, which included notable collaborations with San Diego Opera and San Diego Symphony. He is an accomplished classical piano composer and has performed solo piano works at the Salt Lake Tabernacle, Abravanel Hall, and Eccles Theater. David studied with distinguished teachers including Dr. Audrey Grigsby, Professor Lenora Ford Brown, Dr. Paul Dorgan, and Dr. Brendan Nguyen.