Q & A with Teacher Val - Cello/Violin Teacher & New Mozart Alum

NMSM Teacher Val.jpg

1. How old were you when you started playing violin/cello and which instrument did you start with?

I started playing the violin when I was in 4th grade at Fairmeadow Elementary School. I switched to cello because I realized I wanted to play an instrument that wasn’t as popular at the time.

2. When did you start taking music seriously and why did you decide to become a musician and music teacher?

I started taking music seriously in 5th grade when I started taking private lessons and joined Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. From then I took everything music related seriously and ended up auditioning and joining many local orchestras while staying in my school’s music program as well. I didn’t decide I wanted to major in music until I was a junior in high school but I was a dedicated musician and making the choice wasn’t difficult.

3. Tell us about your musical and teaching background.

I grew up in Palo Alto, CA and attended JLS and Henry M. Gunn High School. During my years in Palo Alto schools, I was involved in orchestra and started taking lessons at New Mozart when I was in 7th grade. Growing up, I was in Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra from 5th-6th grade and was introduced to playing chamber music at a young age. I started with the Suzuki Method and went up to book 5 until switching to my first concerto and other repertoire. I then joined Golden State Youth Orchestra in 7th grade and made my way up to their highest group in 8th grade. I stayed there for three years and joined Peninsula Youth Orchestra from 11th-12th grade. During my junior year of high school, I was the only high schooler accepted into Stanford Symphony Orchestra and played with students on the college level.

While taking lessons at New Mozart and making music in the many community orchestras I was involved in, I gained insight on how much music can influence a person’s life. It was incredibly important for me to be involved in music because my life felt more fulfilled that way.

I have over 5 years of experience working with young children and have worked with pre-kinder, pre-first, and pre-second graders. I’ve also worked with music students of all ages in schools and summer programs.

5. What do you love most about teaching?

I love teaching because I love seeing growth. All children are like sponges and it’s amazing to see how vulnerable and accepting students are. When teaching, I find myself working to help the needs of my students individually. I’m always working to find the most effective way of teaching my students and do my best to cater to students of all needs. Teaching music is my way of sharing my love for music with the next generation.

6. You're a New Mozart alum now back here teaching the next generation. Can you tell us about your experience of studying at New Mozart?

My years of studying at New Mozart was my pathway to studying music education in college. I took lessons at New Mozart for 6 years and during those years I was introduced to teaching younger students since there was cello studio class at New Mozart. During my time at New Mozart, I was able to work with and see the different levels of students within my own studio and music school. This was so much fun and I continue to find enjoyment working with children of all ages in different settings.

New Mozart was such a supportive environment for my family and I and continues to be today.

7. Do you have a practice tip you want to share with our students?

Students should find some time in their day that’s dedicated to practicing. One tip for success I find the most useful would be scheduling individual days. It’s quick and easy and setting the routine early allows for days that are more productive.

8. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not teaching, practicing, or performing?

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family and the people I love. I’ve recently found myself reading and listening to more podcasts. I also love fashion and make up. Occasionally, I will find myself at the gym but most of the time I enjoy running outside and challenging myself to increase my time and distance.

Teacher Val is accepting cello and violin students of all ages. Call/email to schedule a trial lesson. 650 324 2373 | info@newmozartschool.com

Student Highlight - Alli & Ella Katila-Miikkulainen

 Alli plays at the New Mozart Summer Recital in June 2018

Alli plays at the New Mozart Summer Recital in June 2018

1 What is your name and how old are you?

My name is Alli Katila-Miikkulainen. I'm 10 years old.

2. How long have you been studying music and how old were you when you first started?

I started with Music in Me and I was 4 and a half.

3. What instrument are you studying now, and who is your teacher?

I’m studying piano with Teacher Ella and also clarinet at school.

4. What pieces are you currently working on?

"My Pony," and two duets with my little sister: Waltz and Lyric Piece by
Heinrich Wohlfahrt.

5. How often do you practice?

I try to practice every day. I am a morning person, so I play the piano
first thing when I wake up

6. What do you like best about studying piano?I love the sound!

7. Tell us about your interests or accomplishments outside of music.

I fence and I like building things like robots.

8. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Be an author.

 Ella plays at the New Mozart Summer Recital in June 2018

Ella plays at the New Mozart Summer Recital in June 2018

1 What is your name and how old are you?

My name is Ella Katila-Miikkulainen. I'm 7 years old.

2. How long have you been studying music and how old were you when you first started?

My first music class was Harmony Road 1 and I was 4 and a half years old.

3. What instruments are you studying now, and who are your teachers?

I’m learning piano with Teacher Ella and voice with Teacher Diane.

4. What pieces are you currently working on?

I play March of Pioneers (it's so hard) and Sick Doll, and two duets with
my big sister: Waltz and Lyric Piece by Heinrich Wohlfahrt.

I sing "Cruella de Vil" (it rhymes with my name!) from Disney's 101
Dalmatians and "Maybe" from the Musical Annie.

5. How often do you practice?

I try to practice often, most nights of the week.

6. What do you like best about studying piano and voice?

I like when I play the piano and sing at the same time.

7. Tell us about your interests or accomplishments outside of music.

I love soccer.

8. What do you want to be when you grow up?

A famous soccer player.

Questions to Alli and Ella's parents:

1. What are you most proud of in regards to Alli and Ella's music study?

They are developing a fundamental appreciation and love for music that we
hope will last their whole life. It is not always easy, but they
are learning to persevere and take pride in their progress.

2. Why do you think music education is important for children, and why is it important for your family?

Enjoyment of music is such a big part of life. The discipline and
determination that's required to learn to play an instrument prepares
children for other challenges as well.

3. There are many choices in music lessons; why did you choose New Mozart?

The teachers are professional and supportive, and the twice-year recitals
are a positive and encouraging experience. We also love supporting a
school in our local neighborhood.

New Mozart October Practice Challengers

Congratulations to New Mozart October Practice Challengers!

Nearly 80 New Mozartians joined us in this journey to become better musicians. Challengers ranged from students who just started lessons with us to advanced students practicing Beethoven, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff.

Scroll down to see the full list of October Practice Challengers. Join us in the November Practice Challenge and let’s make music together!

New Mozart October Practice Challengers

Arya Agarwal

Skye Bailey

Bartholomew Baker

Alice Cavalotti

Justin Chao

Simon Chen

Abigail Cheng

Penelope Cheung

Siddharth Chidambaram

Diya Contractor

Avarya Das

Dhriti Deepak

Arielle Dror

Emma Hahn-Harik

Aaron Ho

Arya Iyer

Neil Iyer

Vidyut Jagadish

Avni Jain

Zoe Jovanovic

Alli Katila-Miikkulainen

Ella Katila-Miikkulainen

Kai Kawaguchi

Max Klein

Sasha Kumar

Joshua Lee

Jackson Leung

Paul Liu

Itamar Livne-Kricheli

Rianne Lui

Emma Marquardt

Anish Mathan

Elle Mathew

Shyam Murali

Ava Ng

Gavin Ng

Anja Nilsen

Ian Nilsen

Elena Overby

Sofia Overby

Paloma Paldi Bracho

Naisha Pandey

Nikita Pitre

Mira Poeta

Rhea Prakash

Lucas Qiang

Clara Qiang

Nehemiah Rajan

Leila Safa

Rohan Sangani

Matias Santisteban

Felix Sarris

Menaja Sathyaprakash

Elias Sha

Sophie Shand

Sherry Shao

Meghna Singh

Kipling Song

Claire Spence

Emma Spence

Maira Srivastava

Lara Stanojevic

Kelly Tanaka

Vadim Titoruk

Zoe Vasilyeva

Matias Velasquez

Helen Wang

Shibing Wang

Jordan Wong

Ayla Yarnall

Olivia Yu

Sophie Yu

Miya Yu

Ayla Zuberi

Zaid Zuberi

New Mozart Students in Heidelberg with CHMYO (July 26 - Aug 5)


This has been amazing 10 days for the New Mozart students who were selected to participate in the prestigious European youth orchestra program, CHMYO (Cambridge-Heidelberg-Montpellier-Youth-Orchestra).

Allyson Dinh (cello), Roshelle Bunuan (violin), and Sheel Pant (violin) along with 90 other talented young musicians from Cambridge, Heidelberg, and Montpellier practiced and rehearsed 6-7 hours daily.  This intense but friendly and supportive environment allowed the young musicians to discover, learn, and achieve exponential musical growth.  The afternoon-evening schedule was also packed with sightseeing and other fun activities.  We have returned home having made lifelong friends.  

Though we were from 4 different countries and spoke 3 different languages, we connected and communicated with the language of music and the resulting final concert at the beautiful Heidelberg Castle was absolutely magical. We were in awe witnessing what talented young musicians can accomplish in 10 days of exceptional music making.

CHMYO conductors Georg Schmidt-Thomée (Heidelberg) Matthew Gunn (Cambridge) and Olivier Vaissette (Montpellier) led the orchestra in 2.5 hour concert on August 4th - showcasing demanding repertoire of Saint-Saens, Strauss, Mendelssohn, Kern, Wagner, Skriabin, Schumann, Liszt, Weber, and Brahms. 

We want to express our heartfelt thanks to the city of Heidelberg and our home city of Palo Alto, the CHMYO conductors, host families, and all the staff members and volunteers from Heidelberg, Cambridge, Montpellier, and Palo Alto who made this possible.  Special thanks to Neighbors Abroad for administering this program to celebrate the commencement of the sister city relationship between Palo Alto and Heidelberg.  We greatly appreciate the help of Bob Wenzlau, president of Neighbors Abroad, and his Heidelberg-Team for making this trip possible. 

More pictures are coming soon...


Photo credit:  Photo 1 & 3 - Schloss Heidelberg.  Photo 11 - Heidelberg Marketing.  Photo 13 & 14 - Paul Lee.  All other photos by Christine Shin


New Mozart Student Bartholomew Baker's 2nd Solo Recital

Our piano student Bartholomew Baker gave his 2nd solo piano recital at the beautiful Menlo Atherton Performing Arts Center on June 18th.

He performed pieces by Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin, Scriabin, Grieg, Rachmaninoff, Copland, Tchaikovsky, Lecuona, and his own compositions!  We couldn't be prouder! 

Bartholomew started with our Harmony Road program http://www.newmozartschool.com/why-harmony-road/ and now studies piano with Teacher Larisa.   He has received awards at the US Open Competition, as well as scholarships to attend the prestigious Interlochen Arts Camp. 

New Mozart Summer Concerts Raised $10850


Over 200 students - from our young musicians performing for the very first time to advanced students wowing the audience with their virtuosic performances - performed on June 3, 9, & 10.  

Sharing the gift of music with not only our loved ones but those in underserved communities has been our tradition since New Mozart began in 2004.  And we did it again this summer! We're happy to report that the 10 concerts raised $10850 for our favorite charities. (Escuela CaracolCommon Hope, & Music in the Schools Foundation)  Over the years, we've raised over 100k through our recitals.

Congratulations again to all New Mozart performers for your music and your contribution to our community.

Congratulations to New Mozart Honor Students 2018!

Honor Students 2018.jpg

Congratulations to New Mozart Honor Students 2018 for making the Honor Roll this year!  This is an honor and a great accomplishment. 

New Mozart Honor Students were handpicked by their teachers for their determination and dedication to their musical study. 

We are very proud of every one of the students who made the Honor Roll this year!

New Mozart Distinguished Honor Students 2018

Adithya Sathyanarayanan
Allyson Dinh
Andrew Wang
Ava Espinoza
Bartholomew Baker
Claire Spence
Emma Spence
Evelyn Janeau Harrington
Juliette Rudelle
Katie Park-Beardsley
Lauren Zhang
Marvin Shang
Maya Cheng
Meghna Singh
Mei Tsai Knutson
Mio Wakatsuki
Mira Poeta
Paul McBurney
Paulina Bonilla
Ria Cuellar-Koh
Roshelle Bunuan
Sadhya Ananth
Vinca Lu
Zoe Jovanovic

New Mozart Honor Students 2018

Aashi Agarwal
Abigail Cheng
Adi Banwasi
Alex Yan
Alli Katila-Miikkulainen
Allison Zhuang
Amanda Dharmawan
Anika Kaushik
Anja Nilsen
Arushi Gupta
Beth Wahl
Caren Wang
Carl Mankos
Chloe Wu
Claire Fisher
Cori Duncan
Divya Mathur
Elijah Leppert
Ella Miikkulainen-Katila
Emma Wang
Evelyn Juneau Harrington
Fiona Fedora
Hannah Xu
Irene Wang
Ishir Gupta
Jay Masnaghetti
Jeremy Huang
Jerome Wu
Josh Yesupatham
JP Conrad
Kai Knutson
Katie Park-Beardsley
Kayla Davis
Kelly Tanaka
Kelsey Lu
Lauren Yan
Leo Kargin
Liam Van Mansom
Lilah Davis
Luca Vostrejs
Lucas Tan
Lucy Hwangbo
Lucy Nemerov
Lukas Jelks
Matias Velasquez
Matias Santisteban
Max Klein
Maya Franz
Meagan Angelo
Megan Xu
Megan Murphy-Chutorian
Mercedes Khan
Michael Zhang
Neil Iyer
Raeva Parikh
Rhea Mudgal
Robert Vetter
Romila Gargeshwari
Ryan Liu
Sachi Hwangbo
Sarabeth Huang
Shubham Mandal
Shyam Murali
Sienna Larney
Simon Braun
Sofia Overby
Sophie Wu
Theo Conrad
Upasana Halder
Vera Serebryanaya
Violet Pasmooij
Zach Vakili
Zoe Ferring


Student Highlight - Allyson Dinh

 Allyson at the New Mozart Winter Student Recital on Dec. 3, 2017.

Allyson at the New Mozart Winter Student Recital on Dec. 3, 2017.

1 What is your name and how old are you?

My name is Allyson Dinh and I will turn 13 on March 16th.

2. What instrument are you currently studying, and who is your teacher?

I have been playing the cello with Teacher Cynthia since June 2015 and also study viola with Dr. Elizabeth. 

3. What pieces are you currently working on?

I am working on the first Bach Suite and I recently worked on “The Swan”  by Camille Saint-Saëns.

4. How often do you practice?

I try my best to practice everyday.  I spend between 15-60 minutes 6-7 times a week.

5. Why do you like playing the cello?

I like playing the cello because it has a warm and earthy tone, and it brings me to my happy place whenever I hear or play cello music.

6. You've been selected to join the prestigious Cambridge-Heidelberg-Montpellier Youth Symphony this summer.  What do you hope to achieve through this experience?

I am so excited to experience German culture, food, landmarks, and their general lifestyle as I stay with my host family in Heidelberg.  I also hope to understand the similarities and differences between young musicians from the UK, Germany, and France.  Most importantly, I want to experience an intensive music program and also learn from my fellow young musicians in Europe what playing music means to them.

7. Tell us about your interests or accomplishments outside of music.  

I am a Freestyle 5 figure skater at Winter Lodge, the only outdoor ice skating rink in the Bay Area. I have been skating for almost five years and I’m a member of three performing teams (Ice Crystals, Jazz, and Specialty Group) and skate 4 times a week. Sometimes I also help with my brother’s Boy Scout troop at donation drives and fundraisers.

8. What do you want to be when you grow up?  

I want to be a pediatrician when I grow up so that I can work with children and watch them grow up and progress in life.  My pediatrician has been taking care of my brother and me since the day we were born. It seems like a truly challenging and rewarding job.

Allyson is one of the three New Mozart students accepted to attend the prestigious CHMYO (Cambridge-Heidelberg-Montpellier-Youth-Orchestra) in Heidelberg, Germany this summer.