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School of Fine Arts

Mervin Machuca

Director School of Fine Arts

Mervin is a native Houstonian who started his passion for music at the young age of 15. He taught himself to play the piano before seeking out other means to help develop and enhance his musical skills. He has been playing piano/keys for over 17 years with emphasis in Jazz. Throughout the years, he has taken the roles of Music Director, Audio/Media Director, Co-Producer, Piano Instructor as well as a gigging musician playing in the Houston area. Teaching is a passion that motivates him to pass down what he has learned thru his experience. Besides playing and teaching, he enjoys working as an Audio Engineer for private and corporate events. He currently resides in Katy, TX with his wife and two kids.

Jose Betancourt

Piano Teacher

Jose Betancourt began his musical studies at the age of 6 years old. He studied music at the conservatory of “Jose Angel Lamas” in Caracas, Venezuela. During his time there he was classically trained in piano performance, composition, musical production, and earned a Bachelor degree in education and a Masters in Music. Starting his musical career at such an early age has allowed him to expand his knowledge in a variety of musical styles such as jazz, latin, contemporary, classical, and many more. He was ordained as Music Minister, and has served in different areas within the ministry. He has served in churches in Houston, Texas, and Tampa, Florida. He has participated in multiple recordings for national, and international Christian artists as producer, arranger, and director. Jose Betancourt was the academic coordinator for the national institution of “Canzion”, now he serves as the principal director of “Centro De Estudios Musicales.” He also has experience as a Musical Director for different Christian and secular touring artist. He is currently serving at Champion Forest Baptist Church as the Music Director.

Amber Camp

Bass, Guitar, Piano, and Violin Teacher

Amber Camp is a passionate Christian worship artist, educator, and multi-instrumentalist specializing in performance and production. She grew up being exposed to many music learning opportunities through church, school, and private study. She eventually went on to study music at Suny University of Buffalo, New York for composition, performance and music learning theory. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Masters in Music Education in 2010 and teaching formally Grades K-12, Orchestra. Her career has allowed her to eventually touring, song writing, producing, and performing with many sacred and secular artists all over the world.

Melinda Harrison

Piano and Voice Teacher

Melinda Harrison, soprano, holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance and Music Education from Ithaca College in New York and a Master of Music degree in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from The University of Houston. As an active music educator, vocal pedagogue, and performer, Melinda enjoys teaching students of all ages and skill levels, and holds New York State Teacher Certification. She currently serves as Adjunct Professor of Voice at Lone Star College in Tomball, TX. She is also on the voice faculty at the School of Fine Arts at Houston First Baptist Church and is the Soprano Section Leader at St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Gethsemane Campus. Melinda’s performance credits include several recitals, concerts, and work with the Cypress Symphony, the Moores Opera Center, the Ithaca College Opera, the Florence Voice Seminar in Italy, and the Crittenden Opera Studio in Washington, D.C.

Katie LaRue

Flute Teacher

An active performer and proponent of music education, Katie LaRue is excited to have recently returned ‘home’ to her native Houston from Austin. In Austin, she was the adjunct flute professor at Concordia University, Austin, and Concordia Community Music Academy where she was able to share her joy through music with students of all ages. She was actively involved as President of the Austin Flute Society and performed frequently with the Austin Avatar Wind Quintet and as principal flutist with the Austin Wind Symphony and Austin Cinematic Symphony. She also enjoyed assisting with the Austin Civic Symphony as the Principal substitute.

Now back in Houston, she enjoys maintaining a free-lance music career, performing and singing on staff for the St. Martin’s Episocpal music program. Mrs. LaRue was also a founding board member for the Houston Symphony Young Professionals Backstage, promoting classical music and symphony membership to a younger audience, and is thrilled to be back to her ‘hometown’.

Sunjung Lee

Piano Teacher

Sunjung Lee is a Korean-born pianist who is actively performing solo and ensemble. She also enjoys teaching private and group piano classes. Her favorite part of teaching is to share the joy of playing the piano and learning music with her students, and to help students understand the principal of music. She received her Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance from the University of Kansas. She received her Master of Music previously from the University of Houston as a student of Tali Morgulis, and earned a Performer's Diploma from Indiana University-Bloomington while studying with Karen Shaw. Lee has performed with several orchestras as featured soloist including the Kansas University Orchestra, Hansei University Orchestra, and Korean Philharmonic Orchestra. She also was involved in the AURA contemporary ensemble. She performed at many music festivals including Busan International Music Festival, Music Fest Perugia, Atlantic Music Festival, Beijing International Music Festival and Academy, and Winter Euro Music Festival. As a collaborative pianist, she has performed many chamber concerts, including with the Borromeo Quartet, and attended the Atlantic Music Festival as a fellow pianist. She recorded duo piano music with Tali Morgurlis on a CD released by American Recording. She has also performed on KUHF Houston Public Radio on 87.9.

Jeremiah McConico

Bass, Guitar, and Piano Teacher

Jeremiah McConico, a professional musician and producer, was introduced to the Performing Arts at the early age of seven. Jeremiah excelled in music all throughout grade school. Upon graduating high school, he was awarded a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts where he went on to study Music Production and Engineering. After leaving Berklee, Jeremiah decided to further his musical endeavors exploring different genres of music while touring and recording with a plethora of today’s top recording artists such as JoJo, Jaheim, Mike Posner, Tank, Jill Scott, Daley, Leela James, Regina Belle, Jordin Sparks, BEBE Rexha, Stellar award-winning artist Tye Tribbett, Dove award-winning artist Martha Munizzi and James Fortune as well as Grammy award-winning Israel Houghton and Mary J. Blige.

Now based in Houston, Texas, Jeremiah maintains a vast musical career. He continues to tour and record with multiple artist. He also produces music from his home studio and teaches music lessons at the School of Fine Arts at Houston’s First. He is committed to attaining the highest level of life and music while helping others in the process.

Nikki Moss

Piano and Voice Teacher

A native Houstonian, Nikki has always had a love for music, having grown up in a musical family with piano, trumpet, and drums constantly ringing throughout her household. Her singing career began at a very early age singing at her local church and playing saxophone in both middle school and high school.

Nikki earned her degree in Music Education at Houston Baptist University with Voice as her primary instrument. Her formal training led her to become one of the worship leaders at Houston's First Baptist Church, a position she has held since 2012. Singing on a variety of projects, Nikki has been featured at venues such as the Continental Club, Wortham Theatre, MATCH, Jones Hall (Houston Symphony) Jet Lounge, and South Main Baptist. While Nikki enjoys performing, teaching has her heart. Her passion is to inspire the love of music into her students. Her ultimate goal is for her students to become musically independent and structures her classes to achieve that goal. It's never too late to learn either! Nikki teaches ages 2-92!

Jonathan Olmos

Drums Teacher

Victoria Orta

Piano, Voice, and Violin Teacher

Alisa Pederson

Violin Teacher

Alisa Pederson graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Music degree in music education. Because she was working frequently as a professional violinist, she began her teaching career in 1984 on the elementary level which allowed her more time on the weekends to perform.

She was a choir director for 15 years on the elementary and junior high levels. During this time she trained in Kodaly and Orff teaching methods and was widely sought after as a workshop presenter in vocal music techniques for children.

In 1998 she switched over to junior high orchestra. Her orchestras excelled at the state and national level – placing in the top six in honor orchestra competition and being invited to the Midwest Clinic in Chicago.

After seven years on the junior high level, Mrs. Pederson moved to high school orchestra and remained as an orchestra director at the high school levels until she retired after 30 years in public education in June of 2013.

Throughout her career as an educator she also performed professionally as a violinist, vocalist and pianist. Her group, Encore Strings, is well-known in the Houston area and she performs each weekend in various capacities – with area orchestras, at private parties, weddings, etc. She is a full time contract musician at Houston’s First Baptist Church where she also serves as the organist. In addition, she is sought after to clinic orchestras and judge UIL orchestral competitions throughout the state. Alisa Pederson currently resides in Meadows Place, TX with her husband of 31 years, Vaughan, and her dog Angel.

Anthony Tran

Piano, Violin, and Guitar Teacher

Anthony Tran received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Guitar Performance from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he studied under Christopher Laughlin. He continued his studies under Paul Henry at Roosevelt University while pursuing his M.A in Music Education in Choral conducting.

He has done collaborations through song writing, arrangement, recording, production and performance with a variety of bands and solo artists, in several cities including Houston, Chicago, and Nashville. He also has played guitar, bass, piano/keyboard, and violin at many churches in Chicago and Houston. He currently serves as a guitarist, bassist, pianist, and violinist, leading worship at Second Baptist.