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.
Alba Madrid is the director of the Music Preparatory Division in the School of Music and has been teaching at the elementary, middle, high school and college level since 2006.
Before joining the SFA School of Music, she held the position of head orchestra director at Nikki Rowe High School in McAllen, and assistant orchestra director at Economedes High School in Edinburg. She also taught in the Gulfport School District and Houston Independent School District, both as a music teacher and orchestra director. Many of her students have qualified for All-State and All-Region Orchestras.
An active performer, Madrid has performed with many symphony orchestras including the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, Texarkana Symphony Orchestra and Longview Symphony Orchestra. Prior to moving to Nacogdoches, she performed with many ensembles, including:
- Sinfonia da Camera
- Peoria Symphony Orchestra
- Heartland Festival Orchestra
- Mobile Symphony Orchestra
- Pensacola Symphony Orchestra
- Gulf coast Symphony Orchestra
- and the Valley Symphony Orchestra, where she held the position of principal second violin and performed in the orchestra’s chamber music series.
A native of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, she holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in violin performance from the University of Southern Mississippi, where she studied with professor Stephen Redfield. She also studied with violinist Alexander Brussilovsky at the Rencontres Musicales Internationales des Graves in France, and has continued her studies at the:
- String Project at the University of Michigan
- Dorothy Delay Symposium at the Juilliard School of Music
- and the Retreat for Professional Violinists at the Jacobs School of Music in Indiana.
Madrid's professional affiliations include membership with the American String Teachers Association and Texas Music Educators Association.
Dr. Evgeni Raychev
Born in Russe, Bulgaria, Dr. Evgeni Raychev began his studies on the violoncello at the Vesselin Stoyanov School of Music in Russe with Elka Effremova as his teacher. He further continued his music education with professor Zdravko Yordanov at the Bulgarian Music Academy in Sofia, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees. Upon arriving to the United States in 1997, he attended Florida State University, where he completed his second master's degree and his Doctor of Music with professor Lubomir Georgiev.
Winner of several competitions, Raychev has performed as a soloist with orchestras in the United States, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Colombia. His chamber and solo music experience includes performances in the United States, Bulgaria, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Costa Rica and Italy.
He played for the Bulgarian National Symphony Orchestra for five years during his undergraduate pursuit and served as a principal cellist of FSU Symphony, Chamber and Opera Orchestras, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Southeast Symphony Orchestra, SFA Symphony Orchestra, Texarkana Symphony Orchestra, Longview Symphony Orchestra and East Texas Symphony Orchestra.
For seven years, Raychev played in the Douzet, an ensemble of 12 cellos, alongside the Yodanov, his teacher and ensemble founder. The ensemble was commissioned and premiered several compositions by leading Bulgarian composers.
He joined SFA's School of Music in 2003 and is continuously working on innovative collaborative music projects promoting classical music to high school and college students. He is the founder of Piney Woods Camerata, a student/faculty collaborative conductorless ensemble, Piney Woods Youth Orchestra, and a founding member of the Alazan Piano Trio, an ensemble dedicated to performing compositions by American composers.
In addition to his performance activities, Raychev is a dedicated pedagogue and an ardent advocate of cello ensemble playing who loves workings with musicians of different ages. In fall 2014, he participated in the foundation of the Cello Club, an organization where cello enthusiasts of all ages are prepared online to gather together for a concert at SFA.
Raychev has recorded for Gega New Ltd. and Centaur Records. He currently plays together with his wife, Dr. Jennifer Dalmas, as the Hachidori Duo. In October 2015, the Hachidori Duo was invited to perform Ravel's sonata for violin and cello in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.
Gwyn Williams earned a Bachelor of Arts in music education from Jamestown College in Jamestown, ND, and a Master of Music in vocal performance from Indiana University in Bloomington.
Williams began teaching private lessons in 1977 and has directed and taught in church, private, and public school settings since 1978.
She likes to write songs, and has had several choral pieces published in the church and school market. Williams loves working with kids of all ages. A former resident of Huntsville, AL, she moved to Nacogdoches to be near her children and grandchildren.
An SFA graduate and former Nacogdoches resident, Richard Leppert was happy to return to the Pineywoods in 2021. He previously taught orchestra in Sugar Land for eight years.
An active violist, Leppert plays "anywhere that will have him", but his true passion is teaching orchestra, where he relishes each opportunity to pass along the joy and satisfaction of making music together with friends. Leppert is proud to be the director of the Pineywoods Youth Orchestra and the opportunities this program brings to the Nacogdoches community.
He enjoys spending time with his wife, Missy, their daughter, Sophie, their dog, Gertie, and cats Milo and Millie.
Brenda Josephsen has taught the Suzuki Method since 1985. She is a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, through which she has completed the following teacher trainings:
- Suzuki Principles in Action
- Violin Foundations for 1A and B
- Units one through seven
- Violin Overview units 1 through 6
- and Advanced Repertoire.
Throughout the years, Josephsen has attended enrichment and teacher development classes, as well as various workshops.
Through SFA's Suzuki Institute for Young Violinists, she teaches students from three years of age to adults. Her eligible students to participate in All-Region Orchestra and the Pineywoods Youth Orchestra. Her students also have performed all over East Texas from festivals to weddings.
Brenda has performed with the Virginia Beach Community Orchestra, Orchestra of the Pines, Vista String Quartet, Selah Strings, East Texas Praise Symphony and various other venues in the community.
She is a member of the America String Teachers Association.
A Nacogdoches native, Emily Farrell credits SFA and the Music Preparatory Division as having a significant impact on her musical background. After starting piano lessons as a child, she studied under a string of beloved teachers, finishing out her high school career under the tutelage of Linda Parr. Farrell continued her piano studies with SFA's School of Music, graduating in the fall 2013 with a degree in piano performance.
She maintained a vibrant piano studio of more than 30 students while also holding a part-time elementary music teacher position at Regents Academy in Nacogdoches. In 2016, her teaching position transitioned to full time, before she eventually traded the classroom for the nursery in 2019.
Farrell is trained with Kindermusik International and enjoys working at the Music Prep House, offering Kindermusik classes to some of Nacogdoches' youngest citizens.
She has accompanied many local groups throughout the years, most notably the students in the Suzuki Institute for Young Violinists and the Rotary Club of Nacogdoches. Other accompaniments include violin studios and instrumentalists from across the region for UIL competitions. When her schedule allows, Farrell still plays for church services, weddings and events.
Farrell's passion is teaching music to young children and her greatest joy is teaching her young daughter, Virginia. She lives in rural Nacogdoches with her husband, Robert, their daughter and two lovable pups.
A graduate from SFA with a bachelor's degree in piano performance, Kaden Harman studied primarily with Dr. Ping-Ting Lan with additional instruction from Dr. James Pitts. He also studied collaborative piano with Dr. Ron Petti.
Harman started learning piano at the age of four and became a student within SFA's Music Preparatory Division at the age of six, participating in numerous festivals and competitions. He has performed extensively as a solo and collaborative performer for many years, and taught private lessons before returning to the Music Prep House as a piano instructor and accompanist for the Suzuki Institute and SFA Strings Project.
As a student in SFA's School of Music, he collaborated with many vocalists and instrumentalists, and performed with graduate choirs and the SFA Symphony Orchestra. He also received several scholarships, including:
- SFA Keyboard Scholarship
- Shirley R. Watterston Scholarship for Collaborative Piano
- John Dickson Music Scholarship
- Mamie Middlebrook Music Scholarship
In 2022, Harman received the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts Dean’s Award in Music. Recipients of the Dean’s Awards, which was established by the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts Dean’s Circle, are selected by the faculty of their respective schools on the basis of their potential to further develop their artistic goals and serve as role models.
He is a member of both the Texas and National Music Teachers Associations.
Harman is excited for the opportunity to give back to the Music Preparatory Division, and has a desire to teach piano to students of all ages and enable them to experience the wonders of making music. He also is active in the worship ministry and serves as pianist at Calvary Baptist Church.
Linda Parr is from northeast Ohio and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in piano performance from Kent State University. She received additional piano study at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music and the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, Austria. Teachers included Violet Todd, Frederic Schoettler, Noel Flores and Tung Kwong-Kwong.
Parr is a duo pianist with her husband, Andrew, has been an accompanist for many vocal and instrumental recitals and played in master classes of Josef Gingold, Yo-Yo Ma and Gerard Souzay. She served as a chamber pianist for the Cleveland Orchestra's summer Blossom Music Festival at Kent State University and performed in national chamber music concerts presented by the Si-Yo Young Artists Series.
In response to a Cleveland Institute of Music performance of the Dvorak Piano Quintet, music critic Robert Finn wrote "…the performance took on a colorful and brilliant cast. Tempos were swift as can be… Parr was again an assertive pianist, making her colleagues work to match her sound and style."
Parr has performed with the Harrington String Quartet and several artists, including:
- Kenneth Goldsmith
- Isidor Saslav
- Elbert Pruitt
- Terry King
- Raphael Sanders
- John Goodall
- Charles Gavin
- Nathan Nabb
- and cellist Misha Quint.
Alongside violinist Isidor Saslav, cellist Paul Christopher and pianist Andrew Parr, she was a pianist with the Sylvan Chamber Ensemble, a Texas Commission on the Arts touring group, for 10 years. Performances included duos, trios, quartets; featured Rachmaninoff, Ravel and Brahms programs; children's concerts; and the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Longview Symphony and SFA Symphony Orchestra.
She has collaborated with:
- Geneva Fung in "The Carnival of the Animals" by composer Camille Saint-SaënsSaint-Saens
- Jennifer Dalmas in "The Three Concertmasters" sponsored by the Longview Symphony
- Dalmas and cellist Evgeni Raychev in piano trio concerts at SFA and the Belcher Center of LeTourneau University.
Parr was an SFA faculty member for 24 years, teaching piano in the School of Music. She has served as associate director, co-director and director of the Music Preparatory Division, and was instrumental in helping the division to gain associate membership as the first Texas school accredited by the National Guild for Community Schools of the Arts. She assisted with the development of SFA's Piano Pedagogy certificate and the Bachelor of Music in performance with a concentration in piano pedagogy. She was director of a community college keyboard conference hosted by SFA. She also has served as a guest teacher-clinician with:
- SFA's Piano in the Pines
- Sam Houston State University
- Southern Methodist University's Institute for Young Pianists
- Campamento Internacional de Piano in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
- and InterHarmony International Music Festival in Arcidosso, Italy.
She is a member of the national music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda, National Guild of Piano Teachers, and has twice served as president of the Nacogdoches Symphony Club. A member of Music Teachers National Association, Parr served in 2023-24 as the Texas MTA Teacher Recognition chair and vice-president for the local Nacogdoches MTA. She has served as an adjudicator for TMTA District and State piano performance contests as well as festivals and competitions throughout the state. As faculty advisor for the SFA collegiate student chapter, Parr traveled to the MTNA National Conference in Minneapolis where she accepted the MTNA National Student Chapter of the Year award on behalf of the chapter's outstanding service.
Dr. Andrew Parr
Dr. Andrew Parr, a native of Northeast Ohio, began piano study at the age of five. He furthered his education at Kent State University, the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, Austria, and Yale University, earning his Doctor of Musical Arts. His teachers include Claude Frank, Tung Kwong-Kwong, Noel Flores, Dieter Weber, Marcel Ciampi (in Paris, France) and Ward Davenny. At Yale University, regarding Parr's performance of his piano variations, composer Aaron Copland said, "...he performed the work as though he had written it himself."
Parr was a faculty member with SFA's School of Music for 38 years before retiring in 2021. During his tenure, he performed extensively in solo, chamber and concerto settings, with highlights including performances of:
- Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major with the Ft. Worth Chamber Orchestra
- Aaron Copland Piano Concerto with the Belgrade Philharmonic in former Yugoslavia
- and Chopin's Concerto No. 2 in F Minor on tour with the San Antonio Symphony.
Other concerto performances included:
- Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C
- Brahms’s Concerto No. 2 in B-flat
- Schumann’s Concerto in A Minor
- Mendelssohn’s Concerto No. 1 in G Minor
- Beethoven's Choral Fantasy
- Beethoven's Triple Concerto
- Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos
- and Gerald Finzi's Eclogue.
He was a member of the Sylvan Chamber Ensemble, a piano trio listed on the Texas Commission of the Arts touring roster, for more than 10 years. He continues to perform as a duo pianist with his wife, Linda.
Parr has presented guest recitals and master classes at Texas universities, regionally and in international venues. Additional accomplishments include:
- Summer 2013: Invited to join the piano faculty at the Vienna Piano Academy in Vienna, Austria.
- Summer 2015: Helped to create the first international piano camp, Campamento Internacional de Piano in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
- Summer 2016: Included among the artist faculty of the InterHarmony International Music Festival in Arcidosso, Italy.
- November 2016: Served on the jury of the second international Iberoamericano competition for young pianists, held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Presented a solo recital and master classes at two universities in Hong Kong
Taught master classes at the Central Conservatory and Renmin University of China in Beijing
Taught master classes in Datong, People's Republic of China.
Although he's retired for teaching full time at SFA, Parr continues musical activities. He continues to enjoy teaching through SFA's Music Preparatory Division and is the organist at First United Methodist Church in Nacogdoches.
Originally from Kent, Ohio, Mary Cooper earned a bachelor's degree from Kent State University and a master's degree from SFA. Her teachers included Aletha Wood Bay, Tung Kwong-Kwong and Andrew Parr. While at Kent State University, she served as staff accompanist for the Blossom Music Festival and the university's school of music.
She has been an accompanist for:
- Nacogdoches Repertory Opera Workshop
- SFA's A Capella Choir
- SFA's summer opera
- and SFA's flute festival.
Cooper also has participated in SFA's Music in the Pines Festival. She has accompanied more than 300 student and faculty recitals at Kent State University and SFA.
Her extensive career includes accompanying musicals for community, college and dinner theaters, including the Lamp-Lite Theater in Nacogdoches. She has coached and accompanied vocalists for competition and recitals in East Texas and the Pacific Northwest, and has performed in the cities of Bellingham, Washington; Ellensburg, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington.
Cooper joined SFA's Music Preparatory Division as a piano instructor in 1983. She was inducted into the national music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda in 1985 and is a member of the Nacogdoches Music Teachers Association and the National Guild of Piano Teachers.
SFA Intern Instructors
In addition to our faculty instructors, we also offer classes taught by SFA students pursuing their degree in the School of Music.
Strings Project Lead Teacher/Violin and Viola Instructor
Strings Project Teacher
Suzuki Violin Instructor