Meet the Piano Camp Faculty!
Fiorella Araya-Cheng - Piano
Fiorella Araya-Cheng was born in Costa Rica, where she earned her B.A. in Piano Performance (honors) at the University of Costa Rica under the instruction of Sara Feterman Rotkopf. After winning the international piano competition “Maria Clara Cullel Teixidó” for two years (2000 and 2002), she traveled to the United States to pursue her master’s degree. She earned her M.M. in Piano Performance and Pedagogy in 2005, under the instruction of Ena Bronstein Barton at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey, with a full scholarship. She has studied piano pedagogy with Phyllis Lehrer, James Goldsworthy, Ingrid Clarfield and Jean Stackhouse, and private piano lessons with Brian Ganz and James Goldsworthy. From 2005 to 2011 she served as Early Childhood and Artist Piano Faculty at the Westminster Conservatory of Music in Princeton, NJ. She has also given master classes for the Young Artist Program at Westminster Conservatory as well as given lectures for the Professional Development Certificate Program for Piano Teachers at Westminster Choir College. Currently, Fiorella is an active member of the New Jersey Music Teachers Association, and has an active private piano studio in Princeton, New Jersey, where her students participate regularly in piano competitions, festivals, and perform for the community. Many of her students have won several awards and performed at recognized halls such as Merkin Hall, Lincoln Center and Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall. She regularly serves as an adjudicator for the NJMTA’s Piano Festival as well as the SMEA Piano Evaluations.
Ben Cahill - Jazz Piano
B.S., electrical engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; University of Miami, recording engineering and jazz program. Studied music analysis and composition under Eastman School of Music's Dr. Ernest Livingstone, studied jazz piano performance under Dave Roitstein and Vince Lawrence Maggio, studied jazz performance and composition with Westminster's Laurie Altman and wrote several compositions played in Westminster Jazz Faculty recitals. Has written and arranged a number of choral and handbell pieces for Presbyterian Church, Flemington, NJ, at which he also studies organ, and served as church's Youth Choir director. Perfomance experience: currently plays in various jazz and rock ensembles in the NJ area. Conservatory faculty since 2003.
Ikumi Hiraiwa - Musicianship
Born in Japan, pianist Ikumi Hiraiwa, NCTM, holds B.A. from UCLA and M.M. from Westminster Choir College of Rider University. While Ms. Hiraiwa performs and accompanies locally, she has recently performed both solo and collaborative piano in prestigious venues such as the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia and Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, New York City. She is the recipient of first place at Westminster Piano Graduate Competition in 2006, and UCLA Benno Rubinyi Competition in 2005. Her principal piano teachers include James Goldsworthy, Victor Labenske, Walter Ponce and Jennifer Snow. Ms. Hiraiwa studied piano pedagogy with Ingrid Clarfield, James Goldsworthy, Phyllis Alpert Lehrer, Jennifer Snow, and Betty Stoloff.
Ms. Hiraiwa has coached at UCLA Summer Chamber Music Institute, taught basic musicianship at Point Loma Keyboard Institute, San Diego, CA, and instructed Keep It Going and Try It Out Camp at Westminster Conservatory of Music in Princeton, NJ.
Currently, Ms. Hiraiwa is a member of MTNA and NJMTA. She has a private studio in Lawrenceville, NJ and is on faculty at Westminster Conservatory of Music, teaching piano and theory and accompanying Suzuki Violin classes, since 2006.
Megan Hofreiter - Director/Piano
Megan Hofreiter is a pianist and teacher based in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Since 2003 she has taught private piano lessons at Westminster Conservatory of Music, where she is also co-director of Westminster Conservatory's summer Piano Camp, and co-director of Westminster Conservatory's summer Jazz Combo Boot Camp. She maintains a successful independent piano studio in Lawrenceville.
Megan has performed as a soloist and collaborative pianist, and is a frequent accompanist in student recitals and competitions. She has been a staff accompanist at the American Repertory Ballet's Princeton Ballet School and Princeton University.
Megan is an active member of Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) and New Jersey Music Teachers Association (NJMTA), serving on the executive board since 2006. As a board member of NJMTA, she has served as Recording Secretary and Spring Piano Festival chair; she is currently Yearbook Editor. In 2007, she was recognized by MTNA as a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music.
Megan holds degrees from Westminster Choir College of Rider University (M.M. with distinction, Piano Pedagogy and Performance) and from Columbus State University (B.M., Piano Performance, pedagogy emphasis). Her primary teachers were Phyllis Alpert Lehrer, Betty Anne Díaz, and Linda Dyson. She studied piano pedagogy with Ingrid Clarfield, Phyllis Alpert Lehrer, James Goldsworthy, Jean Stackhouse, and Steve Clark.
Julia Kovalev - Piano/Musicianship
Julia Kovalev is a musicologist and pianist. She received her Master of Music degree with distinction in Russia and her Bachelor of Music degree in Ukraine. A highlight of her studies involved postgraduate research on Hildegard of Bingen, one of the first known women composers, which she conducted at The Russian Institute of the History of the Arts in St. Petersburg.
Julia began teaching piano, music theory and composition in her native town of Chernigov. She has taught at music schools and colleges in Ukraine, Russia and the United States. Her professional experience in Princeton area includes teaching at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts, and accompanying at Princeton Ballet School. She has been a faculty member of Westminster Conservatory of Music since 2011, and also teaches at the Conservatory’s Honors Music Program.
Ms. Kovalev is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music. She is a Board member of the NJMTA and the Coordinator of the MTNA Students Composition Competition in New Jersey.
Suzanne Lehrer - Director/Piano/Art
Suzanne Lehrer has been on the Westminster Conservatory faculty since 1998. She also runs a successful independent piano studio in Princeton. Ms. Lehrer teaches private lessons and group piano classes to students of all ages. She prepares her student to have a love of music, competence with music reading and interpretation of the piano repertoire and prepares her students to feel comfortable performing. Suzanne founded the Westminster Conservatory Piano Camp in 2004 and looks forward to the twelfth summer of Westminster Conservatory Piano Camp in July of 2015.
Ms. Lehrer graduated from Westminster Choir College of Rider University with a Master of Music in Piano Performance where she studied with Jose Ramos-Santana. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Music with a concentration in piano and a minor in English Literature from the University of Rochester. As part of her undergraduate education, she studied classical and jazz piano at the Eastman School of Music. Other teachers include: Harvey Wedeen, German Diez, Jonathan Bass, Ena Bronstein Barton and Betty Stoloff, along with her mother, Phyllis Alpert Lehrer.
Suzanne Lehrer has performed in many recitals at Westminster Conservatory. She has also performed in Massachusetts at The Rivers School and in New York City’s Weill Hall as part of composer, Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee’s Marathon Recitals. She has participated in and performed at chamber music festivals in Massachusetts and in Switzerland.
Ms. Lehrer is an active member of the Music Teachers National Association, the New Jersey Music Teacher’s Association (NJMTA) as well as the Piano Teacher’s Forum. She has served on the board for NJMTA, The Steinway Society and was recently invited to serve on the board for the Princeton Summer Concert Series.
Ms. Lehrer continues her piano studies with Ena Bronstein Barton and also studies the guitar with Monica Mugan. She especially enjoys taking care of her two children, Sylvie and Alex.
Fang-Ting Liu - Piano
Born in Taiwan, pianist Fang-Ting Liu (NCTM) made her New York debut as a solo pianist with Manhattan Festival Symphony Orchestra and Princeton Symphony Orchestra. She began her music studies in piano, violin, and organ with exclusive training in Taiwan, Europe and the United States. Her concert appearances have included soloist, vocal accompanist and chamber musician. She performed at the celebrated series master classes of Claudio Arrau’s 100-year-old birthday in New York City; gave a solo concert in Government’s Mansion of New Jersey; performed in the celebration of the 135th Anniversary of Philadelphia Chinatown and participated in the 2006 North America -Taiwanese Culture Festival-Performing Arts (St. Louis, Missouri). Her recordings include the live complete album of Spanisches Liederbuch by Hugo Wolf.
Ms. Liu earned a Master of Music degree with distinction in Piano Performance and Piano Accompanying-Coaching from Westminster Choir College of Rider University; B.A. in Piano from Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan. Her teachers include piano studies with Christiana Lin, Ena Bronstein Barton and German Diez (both pupils of Claudio Arrau); piano accompanying-coaching with J.J. Penna and Dalton Baldwin. She has been the recipient of many scholarships, prizes and also participated in numbers of master classes, conferences and music festivals.
Currently, she is on the piano faculty of Westminster Conservatory of Rider University and also a member of Music Teacher National Association and NJMTA. In addition to teaching at Westminster, she maintains a private piano studio in Princeton, New Jersey. She has devoted much time in teaching individual piano and coaching young musicians in the art of collaborative music. Her students have won awards in various piano festivals and competitions and performed in major concert halls in Tri-State areas. They also have served volunteer works to the local community through music performances and mentored music studies for under-privileged children.
John Paul Velez - Jazz Piano
Pianist and vocalist John Paul Velez received his Bachelor of Music degree in music education from Westminster Choir College of Rider University in 2004. He received the A. Cox Fellowship and L. Hood Fenn Scholarships in piano. In 2008, John received his Master of Arts degree in music education from Teacher’s College Columbia University.
Jazz studies have been with world-renowned Latin jazz pianist Hector Martignon, and Princeton native Laurie Altman. Since 2010, John serves as the coordinator for the improvisation department of the Young Artist Program for Westminster Conservatory. There he teaches improvisation classes for students ages 9-17.
Since 2005, John has held the position of vocal music teacher for the Littlebrook School of the Princeton Public Schools’ district.
A performing jazz and pop/rock ensemble, “Trio Velez,” was created by John to continue his endeavors in the playing world. Compositions can be heard at www.soundcloud.com/triovelez