Q & A with Teacher Joshua - Voice/Piano/Trumpet Teacher


1.     Tell us about your musical and teaching background.

In middle school and high school, I was total band and choir nerd. I also performed in school and community musical theatre productions, took lessons, and participated in district and state competitions. I went to college at Oklahoma City University and studied Vocal Music Education. At OCU, I performed in band, operas, and musicals while learning classroom teaching and vocal methods for children, youth, and adults. I then moved to Baltimore, MD to study Voice Performance and Pedagogy at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. There I continued to perform in operas while learning the pedagogy of teaching private lessons. I began teaching voice lessons to instrumentalists at Peabody and taught private lessons in Washington, D.C. After graduation, I moved to Dallas, TX where I began my performance and teaching career in earnest. I performed operas, major choral works, musicals, and concerts with companies all over North Texas and maintained a private voice studio. In all three states, I also directed adult, youth, and children’s choirs in Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches. I am pleased with the balance I have struck between performing a wide variety of works around the country while teaching privately, chorally, and in classrooms in a number of settings.  

2.     How old were you when you started taking music lessons and which instrument did you start with?

I’ve been singing since I was a toddler and started playing trumpet in fifth grade. My first private lessons were in piano when I was eight years old. I began private trumpet and voice lessons in my freshman year of high school.

3.     When did you start taking music seriously and what inspired you to become a musician and music teacher?

I have always taken music seriously, but first I realized how important it was to my identity in middle school when the administration took away the students’ option to be a part of both choir and band in the same school year. I petitioned the principal to allow me to take both courses in lieu of another subject and she allowed it. When I began taking private lessons, I realized that music was the path for me. I honestly couldn’t envision myself doing anything else for a career, so I explored what a career in music entailed. I came to understand that teaching and performing go hand in hand and I now know that teaching makes me a better performer and vice versa.

4.     What do you hope to achieve in teaching students?

Music is my passion and it is my goal to pass that onto my students. Leading a student to their full potential as a musician is the best way to instill that passion in them and to ensure that they don’t lose it, regardless of whether music is an integral part of their career or not. By focusing on the fundamentals of music, music literacy, technique, and musicianship, my students develop self confidence and the ability to fully express what they wish to communicate through music.

5.     What do you love most about teaching?

I live for those “Eureka!” moments in teaching. Learning to sing or play an instrument takes time and certain concepts often need to be repeated quite a bit in a variety of ways. That moment where a concept clicks and a student suddenly realizes the incredible sounds or musical nuances they can make is amazing.  

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

I’ve found that the best deterrent for nerves when I have a performance coming up is to be super prepared. This involves starting to learn my music well ahead of time and spending time on it every single day, even if it’s only fifteen minutes on some days. As a singer, I often have to memorize full operas, including dozens of lines of dialogue or recitative. So engaging in smart practice methods and fully focusing on my music for a period everyday results in me being über prepared by the time a first rehearsal or performance arrives. Most of my students are incredibly busy with school, extracurricular activities, and work. But my “practice tip” is to make time every single day, even if you don’t think it’s long enough, to focus on your art and your music. Whether that’s silent studying or full on practicing, it will make all the difference when it comes to time to perform.

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

I love to cook, so I spend a lot of free time discovering new recipes or experimenting with old favorites. I also always have a good book on hand to settle into and a few Netflix shows for those evenings when I just want to chill. I just moved to California, so I'm already starting to explore all the new sights to see including beaches, hiking trails, and cute communities all around the Bay Area.

Bartholomew Baker Received Silver Medal at US OPEN Concerto Competition

Congratulations to Bartholomew Baker!

On Friday February 23rd, New Mozart’s gifted piano student Bartholomew participated in the Advanced Open Piano Concerto Competition hosted by the United States Open Music Competition (USOMC). This event, the highest of four levels of concerto competition, had eight competitors playing various pieces such as the 1st movement from Chopin’s Concerto #1 Op. 11 in E minor and the 1st movement of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto #1 Op.23 in Bb minor.  Bartholomew, performed the 1st movement of Gershwin’s Concerto in F major. The judges awarded Bartholomew the silver medal of the competition that had a robust field of talented individuals.

Bartholomew began his musical journey in our Harmony Road program when he was 6 years old and currently studies piano with Teacher Larisa. He has shown exceptional talent and dedication over the years. He has already given 2 full length solo recitals, won numerous awards and scholarships over the years.

Picture 1 - Publicity photo for his 2018 solo piano recital
Picture 2 - Playing Bach at New Mozart Honors Recital 2013
Picture 3 - In Harmony Road classroom  in 2009

Claire Spence Placed 1st at US OPEN Piano Competition

Congratulations to Claire Spence who received the 1st place award at US Open Piano Competition. She competed in one of the highest solo levels and was recognized by the jurors for her pianistic talent and exquisite interpretation.

Clare is in the 8th grade at the Lycee Francais de San Francisco.  She developed a deep love of  music in Harmony Road (Toddler Tunes) which she started at 2 years old. She has continued on with Dr. Alexander studying the piano and she also sings in a nationally recognized choir.  Between piano lessons, music practice and singing, she spends 16-17 hours per week on music.  She has two sisters who play violin and cello.

Picture 1 - Claire at US Open Piano Competition 2019
Picture 2 - Claire's US Open 1st Place Certificate
Picture 3 - Claire in New Mozart's Harmony Road (Music in Me)  in 2009

Vinca Lu Placed 3rd at US Open Competition


Congratulations to Vinca Lu who placed 3rd place at the US OPEN Piano Competition in the Open solo for Romantic composer, level 6, the highest level for open solo event.

In this competition for the most talented emerging pianists, Vinca played Chopin’s Etude #1 in F Minor from Trois Nouvelles Etudes. She also placed 4th on the showcase Piano solo Junior group (this is for the advanced students with age group requirement). She played 2 pieces: Chopin’s Valse, Op. 64 No. 2 in C# Minor and Beethoven’s Allegro from Sonata, Op. 2 No. 1 in F Minor.

Vinca is a gifted young pianist with perfect pitch who started in our Harmony Road program as a 4 year old. She has aced through all the levels (skipping a few) and has been studying with Dr. Alexander who has taken her piano playing to the highest level.

She has participated in the US Open music competition in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and won 1st place every year, cross the categories of contemporary elementary level, Baroque intermediate level and mid-level open solo.

Annabel Zhao Placed 2nd Place at NATS Singing Festival


We’re so proud of Teacher Diane’s student Annabel who participated NATS competition twice and won second place in her category in both competitions.

On Nov 3 2018, she won 2nd place in SFBAC NATS Musical Theater / CCM Competition.

On March 2 2019, she won 2nd place in SFBAC NATS Classical Competition.

Annabel is a vibrant nine year old currently in 4th grade. She loves singing and has been taking voice lessons with Teacher Diane since May 2018. In her own words, “lessons with Ms Diane are the best lessons” she has ever taken. Teacher Diane has helped her overcome her stage fright and has instilled a deeper love of music and singing.

Congratulations Annabel for all your accomplishments.

New Mozart November Practice Challengers

Congratulations to New Mozart November Practice Challengers for successfully completing the challenge!

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

Email info@newmozartschool.com for more info or to sign up.

New Mozart November Practice Challengers

Skye Bailey
Bartholomew Baker
Louis Belot
Alice Cavalotti
Justin Chao
Simon Chen
Penelope Cheung
Justine Chu
Wyatt Chu
Diya Contractor
Avarya Das
Dhriti Deepak
Shalin Dwivedi
Marcos Goyenechea
Austin Guydish
Emma Hahn-Harik
Aaron Ho
Vidyut Jagadish
Avni Jain
Zoe Jovanovic
Colette Kanada
Alli Katila-Miikkulainen
Anika Kaushik
Kai Kawaguchi
Kai Knutson
Mei Knutson
Sasha Kumar
Jackson Leung
Itamar Livne-Kricheli
Annika Mao
Emma Marquardt
Emily Marquez
Elle Mathew
Iona McRitchie
Ivar McRitchie
Ella Miikkulainen-Katila
Shyam Murali
Mira Poeta
Rhea Prakash
Lucas Qiang
Clara Qiang
Leila Safa
Rohan Sangani
Matias Santisteban
Menaja Sathyaprakash
Meghna Singh
Kipling Song
Maira Srivastava
Kelly Tanaka
Marcus Tang
Vadim Titoruk
Zoe Vasilyeva
Matias Velasquez
Coco Vilcovsky
Raewen Yan
Olivia Yu
Ryan Zhu

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.