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Melissa Santa Cruz 2.JPG


Academy Chair and Co-founder

MELISSA is an American concert pianist and teacher known for her avant garde approach to music and performance. She frequently records and performs works written by living composers and in many cases introduces audiences to world premiers of new music. Currently, her concert concepts weave together other multimedia productions with the music, creating a unique and more connective experience for her audience. Known as the pianist who is 'a force of nature,' she commands a large presence for her small stature, dazzling audiences with her virtuosity and musicality while cleverly conjuring those listening to think outside the box. 


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. 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. In 2021, she was featured in a full page interview with the San Diego Union Tribune for her concept concert, 'Compassion for a Modern World'. Also, in 2023, she was featured in another full page interview with the San Diego Union Tribune for her latest concept concert, 'Healing and Hope'.

Other recent performances include Project [BLANK]'s Working Title presenting her concept 'Primal Therapy', a performance incorporating scream therapy as a means to release emotion through music as well as a premier of Yifan Guo's latest work 'Assembled Diary', a piece composed for piano, actor, conducted ensemble, videos, and electronics at UCSD. She has also recently performed world premiers of new works by Luca Moscardi, Ezio Roba, Lorenzo Milani, Jo Verdis, Chetan Tierra, and Jacob Adams.


Melissa is currently co-founder and Academy Chair for the San Diego Piano Academy which not only teaches students in the San Diego area but also worldwide through several online course programs. Her students have won top prizes in local and international competitions for piano performance and composition. She resides in San Diego, CA with her husband, Chetan Tierra who is also a concert pianist and composer.

“Melissa is not just an extraordinary piano teacher but a mentor for anyone who is serious about the piano. She has always been very patient and adapted her teaching to our child’s strengths, her learning style and personal goals, inspiring her to work towards high standards both technically and musically.” - Raul

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