Dr. Mario Ajero
Dr. Mario Ajero earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in music from Temple University in Philadelphia, and his PhD in Music Education with a concentration in piano pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to joining SFA, he served as coordinator of class piano for Temple University's Music Prep Division and a lecturer in piano for Temple University's Boyer College of Music and Dance.
Ajero has authored articles for Piano Magazine and American Music Teacher and has presented at the Music Teachers National Association National Conference and National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. He has been featured in a series of webinars from The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy entitled Teaching in the Time of COVID-19: Resources for Online Instruction.
Internationally recognized as an authority in incorporating technology in piano pedagogy and music education, he has presented at every major piano pedagogy conference in the United States and has been invited to perform and present in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China and Germany.
Ajero's engagements include being:
- keynote presenter at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference
- featured presenter at the Summer Summit at The Royal Conservatory
- and being invited to present on technology to teach keyboard remotely for The Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
His piano pedagogy students also have given presentations at the Texas Music Teachers Association Convention and judged for a number of competitions and festivals across the nation.
James Faucett earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in music at SFA. Also certified in piano pedagogy, Faucett teaches private lessons through the SFA Music Preparatory division.
Faucett served as an instructor during 2003-07 at Panola College in Carthage teaching applied piano, class piano and serving as accompanist for the show choir. Faucett has performed regionally as a soloist, accompanist and chamber pianist.
Margaret (Maggie) Hinchliffe received a Master of Music in collaborative piano from the Eastman School of Music and Bachelor of Music in piano performance and pedagogy from Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music.
She is a pianist with a focus in the collaborative arts. Before joining SFA, she was the pianist for Boulder Opera Company in Boulder, Colorado, playing for productions of "Il Trovatore", "Le Nozze di Figaro", "La Bohème" and "L'enfant et les sortilèges."
Hinchliffe has performed with vocal partners in the United States, Austria and Germany, including master classes for Julius Drake, Graham Johnson, Martin Katz, Libby Larsen and Alan Smith. An advocate for new music and interdisciplinary art, Hinchliffe has:
- premiered operas, art songs and other works with piano
- commissioned composers and poets through her podcast "How It's Musically Made"
- and written poems for musical commissions.
In 2021, she was awarded the Career Performance Grant from Sigma Alpha Iota and the Virginia Allison Collaborative Piano Award from the National Federation of Music Clubs. She has spent summers as a pianist and fellow for:
- Classic Lyric Arts
- Hawaii Performing Arts Festival
- Aspen Music Festival and School
- and others.
Hinchliffe has a private piano studio and enjoys running, hiking, reading and traveling.
American organist, conductor and harpsichordist Weston Jennings joined SFA's School of Music faculty in the fall of 2020. Before moving to Texas in 2017, he was instructor of undergraduate and secondary organ at Yale College. Jennings also has served on the faculty of the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp in Michigan, the Department of Music at The King’s School, in Canterbury, England, and taught and performed at several Pipe Organ Encounters across America.
Having first encountered the pipe organ at the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp at the age of 16, Jennings later graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree and the prestigious Performer's Certificate at the Eastman School of Music. He graduated from the Yale School of Music and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music with his Master of Music degree.
Prior to his studies at Yale, he completed two years in England as the Organ Scholar of Canterbury Cathedral and Chelmsford Cathedral. During this time, he also was appointed the first Organ Scholar to the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Following his recital debut at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 2009, Mr. Jennings has performed across the United States and Europe, including:
- Westminster Abbey in London
- St. Paul’s Cathedral in London
- Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York
- The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles
- The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver
- the Chapel of the Queen’s College in Oxford, England
- The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow, Russia
- Royaumont Abbey in France
- and the Berliner Dom in Germany.
As a soloist, Jennings has performed with:
- The Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale
- The Yale Concert Band
- the New Haven Chorale
- The Yale Symphony Orchestra
- and members of the Rapides Symphony Orchestra.
As a part of the London Handel Festival, he collaborated with the Apollo Baroque Consort in a concert of Handel Organ Concertos from Mayfair's Grosvenor Chapel. His performances and interviews have been broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and American Public Media's Pipedreams.
Jennings currently resides in Tyler where he serves as director of music and organist of First Presbyterian Church, as well as artistic and executive director of the Tyler Civic Chorale. He also is the music director of New Texas Sinfonia, Texas' newest chamber orchestra.
Dr. Ping-Ting Lan
Dr. Ping-Ting Lan earned her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in piano performance from the University of North Texas, where she was awarded a teaching fellowship to teach applied piano lessons and class piano. She studied with Professor Adam Wodnicki.
Lan joined SFA's School of Music faculty in 2000, frequently performing both solo and chamber recitals. She also performs duo piano recitals with her husband, Dr. James Pitts. Lan has performed with the SFA choirs and with the SFA Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to teaching within the School of Music, Lan teaches an intermediate-adult piano class through the SFA Music Preparatory Division and maintains a large private piano studio. She also teaches in the annual SFA summer piano camp, Piano in the Pines.
Lan has served as an adjudicator for several festivals and competitions, including the Music Teachers' Association for Dallas, Plano, Waco, Kilgore and Midland. She is the president of the Nacogdoches Music Teachers Association.
Lan is the organist of Christ Episcopal Church in Nacogdoches.
Dr. Minhae Lee
Dr. Minhae Lee earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in piano performance at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. She also attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and the Manhattan School of Music, where she was awarded a full scholarship to study with Dr. Solomon Mikowsky. At Michigan State University, Lee earned the following degrees:
- Master of Music in piano pedagogy
- Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance
- and Doctor of Musical Arts in collaborative piano.
While completing her degrees, Lee worked as an adjunct faculty member of piano at Alma College, Michigan State University's College of Music and its Community Music School in East Lansing and Detroit, and as an instructor at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Equally at home as both a solo and collaborative pianist, she has held a staff position as collaborative pianist at:
- the Jeju International Brass Competition
- the Manhattan School of Music
- the Manhattan in the Mountains Summer Festival
- Michigan State University
- Central Michigan State University
- and the Aspen Music Festival and School as a full scholarship pianist.
Prior to joining SFA's School of Music in 2021, Lee played for numerous master classes and recitals at Yale School of Music in 2020, during which time she was named as the only Collaborative Piano Fellow and worked closely with renowned musicians and pedagogues such as:
- Ani Kavafian
- Shoko Aki
- Ettore Causa
- Paul Watkins
- Ransom Wilson
- Stephen Taylor
- and David Shifrin.
As an active chamber musician and strong supporter of new music, Lee has premiered numerous works for piano and varied chamber music ensembles. She was a prize winner in the Barbara Wagner Chamber Music Competition at Michigan State University as a member of the Lumi Trio (clarinet, violin and piano).
Lee has been a winner at the:
- North Shore Musicians Club Competition in Chicago
- Honors Concerto Competition at Michigan State University
- NTD International Piano Competition
- Golden Classical Music Awards International Competition
- TBC Daegu Broadcasting Competition
- and the Daejin University Piano Competition.
Dr. Thomas Nixon
Dr. Thomas Nixon received his bachelor's degree in piano performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he was a student of Eugene and Elisabeth Pridonoff. His master's degree in piano performance and Doctor of Musical Arts in collaborative piano were earned at Arizona State University, where he was a student of Russell Ryan and Robert Hamilton.
Nixon is a prizewinner of numerous competitions including the:
- Jacob Flier International Piano Competition
- ASU Concert of Soloists Concerto Competition
- and the Nashville Symphony Curb Records Competition.
He has performed with:
- Carmel Bach Festival
- Phoenix Symphony
- Arizona Opera
- Ballet Arizona
- Phoenix Boys Choir
- Lyric Opera Theatre
- Arizona State University Orchestra
- Knoxville Symphony
- and Knoxville Choral Society.
Nixon also has participated in master classes with Phillip Kawin, Vladimir Feltsman, Warren Jones, Martin Katz and Denyce Graves.
In high demand as a collaborative pianist, Nixon has worked with many important artists, including:
- Maestro Charles Bruffy
- conductor of the Grammy Award winning Phoenix Chorale
- and several stars from Broadway and television, including Megan Hilty and Alfie Boe.
Dr. Nixon joined SFA's School of Music faculty in 2018.
Dr. Ron Petti
Pianist Dr. Ron Petti joined SFA's School of Music faculty in 1999. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in piano performance at Heidelberg College and Bowling Green State University, and his Doctor of Music in piano performance/chamber music and accompanying from Florida State University.
Petti is the accompanist for many ongoing events in the School of Music, including: faculty and guest artist recitals, choral ensembles, opera productions, and student degree recitals.
He also coaches graduate and undergraduate vocal majors at SFA. Prior to this appointment, he was the staff accompanist at SFA, and has served as vocal coach with the Florida State Opera, coach/accompanist for the Opera Program and instructor of piano in the Preparatory Department at Heidelberg College in Ohio, and instructor of piano at The Saint Francis School of Music in Tiffin in Ohio.
As a collaborative artist, Petti maintains a demanding concert schedule with SFA guest artists and faculty, including regular performances with his wife, flutist Christina Guenther. As a soloist, he has performed recitals and presented masterclasses in piano, served as an adjudicator in piano competitions and has concertized throughout the United States.
He has been an accompanist at the Music Teachers National Association's National Convention in Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has served as accompanist for SFA's A Cappella Choir for several European tours.
Petti recorded the album "Playing Favorites" with trombonist Dr. Deb Scott and is on an album featuring the works of composer Dr. Stephen Lias.
He was a presenter at the 2019 and 2013 Texas Music Teachers Association conventions and also is published in Clavier Companion. Petti has been a member of the musical staff at Opera East Texas and performed at various conferences and festivals, including:
- National Association of Composers/USA composition conference
- Estes Park Chamber Music Festival in Colorado
- National Association of Teachers of Singing Conventions throughout Texas and Oklahoma
- NASA Saxophone Convention
- Texas Flute Society
- Mid-South Flute Festival
- and the International Trombone Festival.
Dr. James Pitts
Dr. James Pitts began his piano studies with his mother, Dr. Ruth Pitts. He earned his bachelor's degree at Baylor University and received his master's degree and Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance from the University of North Texas, where he was a pupil of the eminent artist, Vladimir Viardo.
Pitts joined SFA's School of Music fall 2000. He is an active solo performer, giving recitals frequently and was a semi-finalist in the International Competition of 20th Century Piano Music in Orleans, France. He also been a soloist with:
- Waco Symphony Orchestra
- Central Texas Orchestra
- Houston Civic Orchestra
- North Dallas Symphony Orchestra
- and the University of North Texas Orchestra.
He maintains a very active schedule as a collaborative pianist, performing in faculty, guest artist and student recitals, competitions, auditions and master classes. He also has taught applied piano, class piano and a two-semester survey of piano literature.