Music Conservatory of Illinois

Meet our Piano Faculty!


Helaine Liebman

Piano and Voice Faculty

Helaine Liebman is a soprano based in Chicago. Her awards and scholarships include second place in the 2022 Central Region NATS Student Auditions, 2021 winner of the Lynne Harvey Foundation Award in honor of Virginia Cooper Maier from the Musicians Club of Women, first place in the 2021 NATS National Student auditions, 2020 Wisconsin District winner of The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and the Joyce Reed Cope and Eckstein Scholarships from Northwestern University. In 2021-2022 season, Helaine made her debut of Exsultate, jubilate by Mozart, Violetta in La Traviata, Mimi in La bohème, and covered Diana in If I Were You by Heggie. Most recently, Helaine covered the role of Donna Elvira at the Aspen Music Festival where she was also a teaching artist. Additionally, she graduated with distinction from the Royal College of Music in London and recently graduated from Northwestern University. Helaine continues her studies as a doctoral student at Northwestern University this fall.




Evan Nelson 

Piano and Voice Faculty

Evan William Nelson is a young lyric baritone from Sinking Spring Pennsylvania. He is a text driven singer who found an affinity for song early in his career. Completing his first performance of Franz Schubert’s monumental song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin in April of 2021.  In addition to song, Evan has performed standard operatic roles such as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte (Peabody Opera Theater), Papageno in Die Zauberflöte (LHSOW), and Top in The Tender Land (West Chester University Opera). Recently he was an Operafest Fellow at the Sewanee Summer music festival. He is currently performing First Experimenter in Chicago Fringe Opera’s workshop of La Jetée. Evan received a B.M. in Vocal Performance with a minor in Historical performance from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied under the tutelage of baritone Randall Scarlata. He is thrilled to be on faculty at the Music Conservatory of Illinois teaching such talented students alongside stellar Colleagues.  

 




Zaira Castillo

Piano Faculty 

Pianist Zaira Castillo holds degrees in piano performance from the University of Oregon and the University of Georgia. Her primary professors have included Alexandre Dossin and Liza Stepanova. She has participated in masterclasses with world-renowned artists such as Simone Dinnerstein, Ran Dank, and Stephen Drury. Zaira has a great passion for contemporary classical music which led her to attend the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance at the New England Conservatory in 2021. She also actively commissions new works and is the founding member of Duo Minimus, a piano duo primarily focused on performing works of the 21st century. 

As a pedagogue, Zaira has worked with several beginner to pre-collegiate students in her private studio. Her teaching philosophy states that every student deserves the opportunity to experience the art of music making in their own unique way. She strives to make any musical experience fun and enjoyable for her students! 






Sonya Ur
Adult Piano Faculty
Sonya Ur, who is a native of the North Shore area began her classical training in piano at the age of 4 and violin at the age of 9. She did most of her musical training in both piano and violin at the Music Institute Of Chicago in Winnetka. She received her Undergraduate degree for piano performance at the University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her Masters for piano performance and pedagogy at Northwestern University in Evanston. Her professional memberships include MTNA, CAMTA, and NSMTA. She currently teaches private piano and is the accompanist for the choir program at Niles West High School in Skokie. She also does accompanying for many Suzuki programs and adjudicates many festivals all over the North Shore.
 
“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Friedrich Nietzsche



Nancy DeHaven
Piano Faculty

Nancy DeHaven has been an active musician and independent piano teacher in the Chicago area for over thirty years. She has a B.A. in Music Theory from DePaul University where she studied classical piano with Melody Lord Lundberg. In addition she studied jazz with Alan Swain in Evanston. She was one of the original staff pianists at Nordstrom Old Orchard when the store opened in 1993 and has extensive experience playing piano in the many hotel lobbies in the greater Chicagoland area, as well as on the cruise ships docked at Navy Pier. She has been a choir director, a worship leader, a camp music director, and continues to compose and arrange music on a regular basis. In a previous life she played guitar and performed solo as a singer-songwriter as well in ensembles performing music as diverse as Balkan and bluegrass. 


           


JP Dizon

Administrative Manager and Voice, Piano, Guitar, and Ukulele Faculty

JP Dizon is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer/arranger, and educator, born and raised in Skokie, IL. He first started learning piano in kindergarten. He has added more instruments along the way of his music career, like voice, tuba, trombone, guitar, and jazz piano. He is a recent graduate from Western Michigan University, with a Bachelor's of Music in Choral/General Music Education. In his time at WMU, he studied jazz voice with Professor Greg Jasperse, and jazz piano with Professor Matthew Fries. In his time in Michigan, he has taught music at K-12 level, sung in and accompanied local church choirs, as well as being a bass voice section leader for the Kalamazoo Bach Festival. 



Jesse Dunn 

Piano Faculty

Jesse Dunn is a dual craftsman in both music composition and piano performance. While studying at the Wheaton College Conservatory, Jesse earned recognition for his solo piano piece, “The Life of an Intel Processor” by taking bronze in the Hal Leonard Piano Composition Competition. He competed twice in the Wheaton College Keyboard Concerto Competition, eventually taking second place with Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto, Op. 38, 3rd mvmt. In 2020 Jesse completed his masters degree studying under Winston Choi at Roosevelt University's Chicago of Performing Arts. As a graduate student Jesse served as TA for non major piano classes, presented lectures to pre-college classes, and maintained private piano students. Recent performances include Music at Grace, Northern Lights Music Festival, CCPA Chamber Showcase, and a Degree Recital for violin. Jesse has been on faculty since August 2020 and currently plays for local recording artists while pursuing chamber music and pedagogy. 




Yi Ding 

Piano Faculty

Yi Ding holds degrees in piano performance from The Juilliard School and New England Conservatory. Yi served as a teaching fellow at the Juilliard Preparatory Division from 2018 to 2020 and coached students through different stages of their musical developments, ranging from their first notes on the piano to their first college auditions. Yi has arranged teaching workshops, masterclass, and community concerts in the US and China through his involvement in the Community Performance & Partnerships Program, which he joined in 2017. As a musician who has worked in communities and conservatories, Yi enjoys working with students of all ages and abilities. Yi is currently a DMA candidate and serving as a teaching assistant at Northwestern University.  





Riley Brown 

Piano, Guitar, and Voice Faculty

Riley is from Green Bay, Wisconsin and has been playing piano and singing for over 15 years. From a young age, Riley participated in many musical productions where he served as the leading role, as well as classically sang in churches and choirs across northeast Wisconsin. He was involved with the Wisconsin School Music Association State Honors Music Project for five years, and the National Association of Music Education All-National Honors Choir for three years. Additionally, Riley has had the distinct honor of performing with Choirs of America at Carnegie Hall. He now studies at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University double majoring in Music Education and Voice Performance as a student of Mark Crayton. 




 

 

Emily Stone 

Piano and Harp Faculty

Harpist and Nashville native Emily Stone is a recent graduate of the Eastman School of Music earning her Bachelor of Music degrees in harp Performance and Music Education with a minor in French. Beginning this fall, she will be pursuing her Master of Music degree in Harp Performance at Northwestern University under the tutelage of Marguerite Lynn Williams. During her time at Eastman, she served as the rotating principal harpist of the Eastman Philharmonia, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the Eastman Musica Nova Ensemble, the Eastman Symphony Orchestra, and the Eastman Wind Orchestra. She has performed with the OSSIA New Music Ensemble in Rochester, NY, the St. Andrew's Chamber Orchestra in Rochester, NY, the Ithaca College Wind Ensemble in Ithaca, NY, the Jazz Orchestra led by Chase Ellison in Rochester, NY, and the Cordancia Chamber Orchestra in Rochester, NY. In 2020, she was a finalist in the American Harp Society's Anne Adams Awards and the recipient of a Performer's Certificate at the Eastman School of Music. Her summer festival experience includes the Mostly Modern Festival (2022) and the Brevard Music Center (2016). 




Nora Harstford  

Piano and Voice Faculty

Nora is a vocalist and music teacher with roots in jazz, folk, and contemporary music genres. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Nora spent her formative years attending rock music camps, participating in musicals, and performing vocal jazz competitively. After moving to Chicago, Nora attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts to earn a Bachelor's of Music. Recently she has performed around Chicago including venues like the Jazz Showcase, Fulton Street Collective, Jazz Union League Club, and much more. Her teaching mission is to create a welcoming and expressive environment for her students to grow and learn. 






 

Meredith Steele 

Cello and Piano Faculty

Meredith Steele is a current graduate student studying Cello Performance at Northwestern University under Professor Han Jorgen Jensen. Steele began her musical studies at the age of four years old at the piano. Meredith has appeared in solo and chamber recitals in music festivals in France, London, and the United States. Recently, Steele was appointed the assistant principal position of the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, and holds a graduate assistantship under Maestro Victor Yampolsky. During her undergraduate studies, she held the principal cello position for four consecutive years.

A passionate chamber musician, Meredith has appeared in performances throughout the United States with highly acclaimed musicians such as Miriam Fred, Paul Biss, Cathy Cho, Xiao-Dong Wang, Natasha Brofsky, Colin Carr, Marcy Rosen, Edward Arron, Zvi Plesser, Peter Wiley, and Jeffrey Solow. She has also studied with Paul Katz at the Online Solo Strings Initiative in 2019, and is an alumna of the Meadowmount School of Music as an assistant to Hans Jensen.




 

 

Tiffany Melvin 

Piano and Voice Faculty

Born in Kalamazoo, MI, Tiffany Melvin holds a Bachelor's of Music focused in vocal performance and music education from Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. As a performer, she is trained in the classical vocal technique, but her roots lie in music theater and jazz. She has been singing and performing since the age of 4! Tiffany's theatrical resume contains more than 30 roles ranging from Belle in Beauty and the Beast, to Lucy from The Beggars Opera. She has participated in masterclasses with notable composers and coaches such as Jake Heggie and Martin Katz. She has placed in multiple competitions such as NATS and Classical Singer. Tiffany has a strong passion for performance but also for her students. As an educator, Tiffany encourages exploration in the world of music. Her educational motto is "To build musicians that are literate, expressive performers and conscious consumers of ALL kinds of music." 






Han Geul Lee  

Piano Faculty

Han Geul Lee is a pianist, composer, producer and electronics performer. Starting with Piano lessons at the age of fourteen, he has won numerous competitions and performed chamber and solo recitals across the United States and Europe. He received full scholarships to Eastman School of Music and Manhattan School of Music for Piano Performance. Han expresses his curiosity and passion for music in every form - from difficult classical repertoire to exploring sonic capabilities of contemporary and electronic music. An active electroacoustic composer, Han's digital output ranges from experimental acousmatic works to hip-hop and dance with everything in between. Currently he's developing a solo set of piano and electronics with immersive VR artist collaborations for mind-opening experiences while simultaneously evolving new and rarely performed music. 


 
 



 



 Gabriela Lara

Violin and Piano Faculty

Gabriela Lara began her music studies at age 8 in the Music Conservatorio Vicente Emilio Sojo, in Venezuela. She later became a member of the Latin American Violin Academy, studying under Jose Francisco del Castillo and Francisco Diaz. She has worked with renowned conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel and Sir Simon Rattel, as well as performed in masterclass for Ilya Kaler and Ray Chen. She was the 2019 concerto competition winner at Roosevelt University, where she obtained her degree in Violin Performance. She has also performed as a soloist with prestigious groups such as the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra and Caracas Symphony Orchestra. 








Joshua Achiron

Assistant Administrative Manager, Guitar and Piano Faculty 


Joshua Achiron is a guitarist and composer from Atlanta GA. He earned his Bachelor's degree in classical and jazz performance at the Eastman School of Music and his masters at Berklee college of music in jazz performance. He has been nationally recognized as a jazz and classical soloist by the Wilson Center Guitar Competition. He has shared the stage with Marquis Hill, Wyclife Gordon and John Deversa. He currently resides in Chicago expanding on his playing and teaching career.    







Lam Wong

Piano Faculty

Lam Wong made his debut as a classical pianist with Liszt's 12 Études d'exécution transcendante at the age of fourteen. Since then, he has appeared in concert venues in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chicago, and New York. He is also winner of Lillian Fuchs Competition, Dover Competition, and finalist of MTNA Chamber Music Competition. Wong holds a bachelor’s degree from Manhattan School of Music, and a master’s from Yale School of Music. He is currently pursuing Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance and pedagogy at Northwestern University, studying with James Giles. As a piano performance and pedagogy dual major, Wong also works closely with the Director of Piano Pedagogy, Dr. Marcia Bosits, at Northwestern University, where he teaches precollege students from Northwestern community, conducts lessons for non-major students from the university, and leads group classes at various levels. His other pedagogy works also include Piano Clinics (a master class series focusing on solving pianistic problems), and specialty areas in sight-reading, a topic which he presented at the Collegiate Chapter Poster Session at the ISMTA Conference.




Justin de la Cruz

Piano, Guitar, Voice and Ukulele Faculty

Justin de la Cruz has been playing piano since the age of nine and has developed into a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist over the course of his musical career. During his high school years is when he began to grow his passion for music and hone in on his skills. As a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, he played cello in orchestra, bass in jazz band, and sang in choir and vocal jazz ensemble. His work as an ensemble singer has led him to the ILMEA honors choir and to Mexico's and several other state's jazz festivals as part of one of the top high school vocal jazz ensembles in the country. You can find him gigging in the Chicagoland area as an R&B and jazz solo artist. Bridging his passion for jazz and contemporary music with his desire to teach, he is currently studying vocal jazz and working towards a Bachelor of Music in music education at DePaul University. 




 

Rodolfo Faistauer

Piano Faculty

Brazilian pianist Rodolfo Faistauer has appeared in solo and chamber music recitals in France, Germany, Austria, Brazil and the United States. Rodolfo holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, where he also taught at the pre-college division. He continued his piano studies in France at the Strasbourg Conservatory and in Germany at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich. Rodolfo is now a doctoral student in Piano Performance at Northwestern University where he studies with James Giles.

During his years in Europe, Rodolfo worked actively as a piano teacher with a variety of students. At Northwestern University, he worked closely with the Piano Pedagogy Department as a teacher of the non-major piano program and also collaborating with the Piano Clinic Project with his fellow doctoral students, a project of masterclasses that promotes efficient and productive piano practice for non-majors.

  



 


Autumn Selover
Harp and Piano Faculty

Autumn Selover is a freelance harpist and teacher based in the Chicagoland area. Her work ranges from solo, traditional orchestral, and chamber to innovative works involving electronic processing, hip-hop, mixed media works, and improvisation. An advocate of education and community outreach, Autumn works with student musicians and composers from both classical and non-classical backgrounds. Autumn has been playing the harp for seventeen years and the piano for nineteen years. She received a BM in Harp Performance from Northwestern University and is currently pursuing her Masters under Lynn Williams, the principal harpist of the Lyric Opera. Autumn is co-founder of both Sonder Trio and deafrabbit duo. Recently, she has performed with the Chicago Composers Orchestra at the Thirsty Ears Street Music Festival, and has toured with Fifth House Ensemble for a live-score performances of the video game, Journey. She has appeared as a guest artist with Zafa Collective and Chicago’s premier conductorless orchestra, Unsupervised. Autumn is also a recording artist with the Voic(ed) Project, an organization promoting new music by new, young, and underrepresented composers.




 
Joy Yelenosky   
    

Piano and Voice Faculty

Joy Yelenosky has been involved in various prestigious international music programs from an early age.
Joy received a full scholarship during her certification in Piano Performance from the “Conservatorio Julian Aguirre” in Argentina, where she took part of summer intensive training and annual examinations. She has been an active participant at the Florence Opera Seminar (Italy), the Torgau International Artist Workshop (Germany), and the Stonybrook International Piano festival of New York (NY) and worked at several professional organizations as a choir soloist/singer, sectional leader, language repetitor and accompanist at the piano. She was selected as a Young Steinway Talent to perform a full piano solo recital at the age of 16. Joy also has a passion for languages and has studied and worked at intensive language schools based in Germany and Paris (France),
Joy is not, however, only tied to one style of music; in high school, Joy was a member of one of the country’s top Vocal Jazz ensembles that traveled to Mexico and many states and participated as a soloist at multiple festivals. Music has connected Joy to people all over the world and she’s looking forward to inspiring her students to reach for their dreams and musical goals as well. Joy obtained her Classical Voice Performance degree at the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA at Roosevelt University) and is currently working on her Master's degree in Vocal Performance at Notre Dame University.




Rachel Peters  

Violin and Piano Faculty        

Rachel Peters is a violinist whose musical career has taken her to performances in Chicago, Beijing, Shanghai, London, and more. Rachel grow up playing both the violin and the piano! Previously she studied at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music and at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts with a concentration in violin where she received the Artistic Director’s Award for her artistic excellence. Rachel first debuted as a soloist with the SCPA Chamber Orchestra in 2008 and has then gone on to perform with the Northern Kentucky University Preparatory Orchestra and the University of Cincinnati Pre-College Chamber Orchestra along with other ensembles. She has participated in master classes with artists such as Emanuel Ax,  Joshua Bell, Leonidas Kavakos, Janet Sung, and Benjamin Zander.  She is currently a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and is a co-founder of the Seraphina Ensemble, a contemporary chamber music group that aims to promote the works of living composers. Rachel has completed her Master’s Degree in Music Performance at Northwestern University under the direction of Gerardo Ribeiro.