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.

Sarah Bouse

Piano Teacher

Sarah Bouse started teaching piano when she was 14 years old under the direction of her private piano teacher in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her love for teaching and performing encouraged her to attend Belmont University, where she was able to double major in piano performance and piano pedagogy. She also completed aSpanish language minor. Her diverse background in these three areas of study prepared her well for graduate school. Sarah graduated magna cum laude from Belmont University in 2013, after which she moved to Houston, Texas to attend Rice University. Sarah completed a Master of Music in Vocal Coaching degree at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in May 2016. She was privileged to study under Thomas Jaber, who continues to influence her teaching and performing. This unique program is designed to teach pianists how to coach opera singers in their diction, musicality, and acting. She loved her time at Rice and was fortunate to perform in over twenty recitals and productions during her time there. Sarah was privileged to represent Rice University and make her Kennedy Center debut in the Conservatory Project concert in Washington, D.C. in February 2016.

Sarah has had the opportunity to work at Interlochen Center for the Arts in northern Michigan for three summers as a Piano Teaching Assistant. This prestigious fine arts camp provided a wonderful opportunity for Sarah to put her pedagogy knowledge to good use. She worked with students ranging in age from eight to eighteen years old and was able to teach group classes, coach ensembles, and supervise practice hours. Not only was this great teaching experience, but Sarah also loved spending time on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and enjoyed getting to know other musicians from around the world.

Sarah’s interests are not confined to music study. Through the language department at Rice University, she was able to study Italian in Genoa, Italy, for a month in summer 2014. She was thrilled to return to Italy in the summer of 2015 for three months to continue to refine her language skills through two different study abroad programs and travel. In the summers of 2016 and 2017, Sarah was both staff pianist and assistant director at an opera program in Lucca, Italy. She loved continuing to learn and grow as a musician while also teaching singers about the Italian language. Of course, Sarah also indulged in the other beautiful parts of Italian culture - coffee, art, and delicious food!

Robb Brunson

Drama Teacher

Robb has performed in Youth Choirs, Pageants and Youth Camps/Retreats. Having forged his passion for the arts, he majored in Theater at the prestigious University of Houston and studied Technical Theater and Acting and had the honor of training with the ADPlayers theater company. Robb worked for the ADPlayers out of college for 6 years and later founded the InterActive Theater Company with 3 other actor/teachers in 1997. It is about to begin its 15th season as a creative children's theater company. He has written over 20 children's theater plays and collaborated with Houston's First Baptist Church on three Christmas Celebration musicals. Robb's passions have extended across the arts and include Puppets, Swordplay and Legos.

Donna Dvorak

French Horn Teacher

Donna Dvorak, a native of Springfield, Missouri, graduated from Drury University with a Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance. She played horn with both the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, and the Springfield Regional Opera Orchestra for 26 years.

In addition, she was adjunct professor of horn at Drury University, Missouri State University, Southwest Baptist University, and has served on the faculty of the Missouri Fine Arts Academy. She was a long time member of the Chamber Orchestra of the Ozarks, has performed dozens of musicals with Springfield Little Theatre, has played for numerous variety shows in Branson, Missouri, and is often called upon for solo performances, as well as ensemble and recording-studio work. As a member of the International Horn Society, Donna has performed as soloist at many regional IHS workshops.

When she moved to Houston in 2004, Donna joined the Houston Symphonic Band, where she served as their solo hornist for 10 years. In addition, after three years as principal hornist with the Texas Medical Center Orchestra, she joined the Baytown Symphony in 2010 and continues to serve as their principal hornist. She has also been active with the Kingwood Camerata, the Scordatura Music Society, the Houston Symphonic Winds, and the Brazos Wind Symphony. Donna also plays regularly with the Cypress Philharmonic, and the newly restored Woodlands Symphony Orchestra. In addition to these performing groups she continues to be in demand as a clinician and adjudicator, maintains a private teaching studio, and is an active free lance musician in the area.

Donna has had the joy of being able to play her horn in concerts at the Royal Military School of Music in London, England; at St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland; on the Great Wall of China; and most recently in concerts both in Nairobi and on the Maasai Mara (Serengeti Plains) of Kenya, Africa. She enjoys participating in the worship ministry of Houston’s First Baptist Church Orchestra, and is happily married to composer, Robert Dvorak.

Josh Harris

Voice Teacher

Josh Harris, Tenor, holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from California Baptist University in Riverside, California. Josh has had the opportunity to perform with the Palm Springs Opera, at Disneyland in Anaheim and as a soloist and tenor section leader in concerts and worship services all across Southern California with the California Baptist University Choir & Orchestra. He regularly leads worship services at Houston’s First Baptist Church as a member of the staff and leads Elevate Student Worship – a program dedicated to allowing the over 100 students involved to develop and utilize their gifts in the arts in a group setting. The group incorporates several of the arts including choir, orchestra, rhythm section, drama, dancing, journalism, visual arts and audio production.

In addition to being a vocalist, Josh has been trained as an instrumentalist, playing the saxophone and piano and has played all across the U.S. from Southern California to Washington D.C. including playing with the Navy Band at Pearl Harbor as well as in Canada and El Salvador.

Melinda Harrison

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.

Sunhwa Kim

Piano Teacher

Sunhwa Kim started learning piano at age 5 in South Korea and moved to U.S for her higher education. She received her Bachelor Degree in Music Education in piano and choral conducting from the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music where she studied piano with Dr. Tali Morgulis and choral studies with Dr. Betsy Cook Weber. She received music scholarship and accompanies students. She taught public school music in Frostwood Elementary and Stratford High School Choir. She serves in children’s music ministries at Seoul Baptist Church of Houston and teaches private piano studio.

Katy 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’.

Sherry Merritt

Woodwind Teacher

Sherry Merritt began her musical career in Hurst, Texas, and continued through high school and college while studying clarinet with Richard Pickar, principal clarinetist with the Houston Symphony. While at Sam Houston State University, she was principal clarinet in the Sam Houston Wind Ensemble.

After receiving her Music degree, she has taught band and clarinet in the Houston area for more than 35 years. Ms. Merritt's bands have won many honors, including more than 25 sweepstakes awards, and several of her bands were selected Outstanding Band in competitions throughout the state.

Ms. Merritt has had numerous students place top honors in All-Region and All-State bands and Solo Competition in Texas.

Currently, she is Director of Instrumental Music at First Baptist Academy in Houston.

She is a member of Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, and Association of Texas Small School Bands.

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.

Jack Potts

Photography Teacher

Jack Potts has established himself as a fine art portrait photographer, performing gallery shows and taking personal commissions. His lens captures not just a body, but a soul, as he strives to understand his subjects and see them as God does—beautiful and distinct.

Jack stretches himself to do anything necessary to present the image his clients want. So far, this has included painting an entire room (including the couch) white for a band shoot, buying 300 heads of lettuce to make a dress. He's taken photos for catalogues and other commercial works, but his first love will always be capturing in images the uniqueness of each human being.

He is currently working on a book with his two sons. When Jack is not behind the camera he devotes himself to his other loves: family, faith and teaching. Jack has been married since 1995, and finds himself constantly entertained by his 4 children. His favorite photography students are his sons, the oldest, Jackson began apprenticing with him in 2007 and now shooting on his own.

He pursues a relationship with God, the eternal source of all creativity.

Mark Rios

Trumpet and Bass Teacher

Mark Rios graduated from Elsik High School in Alief in 1992. He then began his studies in Music Education at Houston Baptist University. In 1997, he graduated from HBU with a Bachelor of Music Education. In the Fall of 1997 Mr. Rios began his graduate studies at The Moores School of Music at the University of Houston. He graduated with his Masters Degree in Applied Performance in Trumpet in 1999

Mr. Rios has taught privately throughout Houston in Alief ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Houston ISD, and at Houston Baptist University. He has been a featured artist with many performing groups throughout Texas. His performance venues include orchestra, big band jazz, brass quintet, chamber music, and freelance work. He has performed for various political engagements from Democratic Party engagements to The National Republic Convention. He has also performed at the prestigious Texas Music Educators Convention in San Antonio, TX. Highly involved with his church orchestra, Mr. Rios is the president of the orchestra at Houston's First Baptist Church. Currently, Mr. Rios is an active freelance musician in the Houston area and is in demand throughout the United States.

Mr. Rios began his full-time teaching career in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in 1999. He taught band at Watkins Middle School from 1999 to 2006. From the Fall of 2006 to the present, Mr. Rios has taught Kahla Middle School as the Head Director of Bands. His students have been very successful earning top chairs in various Region Bands and also at the All-State level.

Mr. Rios continues to strive for excellence from his students and demands a strong performance level. He continues to make music learning an enjoyable experience for his students and provides a warm environment for all of his students to foster positive learning.

Sergei Savitski

Piano Teacher

Sergei Savitski received his Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music where he studied piano with Dr. Tali Morgulis. Born in Ukraine, Sergei moved to Poland at age 11, then later moved to the U.S. in 2007 to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music , where he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance. He began studying piano at age 7, and since then, has performed as a soloist, collaborative pianist, and chamber musician extensively. Most recently, Sergei was selected from among hundreds of pianists worldwide as a Semi-Finalist in the 2012 Wideman International Piano Competition in Shreveport, Louisiana. Last summer, he and his wife Katrina were invited to perform at the Colorado College Summer Music Festival in Colorado Springs where they worked with some of the best musicians in North America. In Cleveland, he was an active member of the CIM outreach program, and also performed at the Cleveland Clinic for several years as a musician in the Music Therapy Program. As a teacher, Sergei has taught at Cleveland Montessori school, Cleveland School of the Arts and Houston Music Institute, and has also taught undergraduate music theory classes at the University of Houston. He currently serves as a music director and performer at St. James Lutheran Church.

Donald Stolte

Guitar Teacher

Donnie Stolte first picked up the guitar at the age of 13. Since that time he has gone on to graduate from Boston’s highly esteemed music college, Berklee College of music; and travel all over the world with Brazilian Superstar, and Latin Grammy award winner, Thalles Roberto. Donnie originally got his start as a freshman in high school playing guitar in the youth band at his home church. Donnie was quickly promoted to band director of the youth band and eventually made to the main sanctuary; where he was the youngest musician on the stage. His skill and character paved the way for him and created many opportunities to work with a vast assortment of musicians, producers, and artist’s such as Grammy Award winning producer Aaron Lindsey (Marvin Sapp, Fred Hammond, etc), Marvin McQuitty (Fred Hammond, Mary Mary), and Josh and Cora Dunham (Prince, Joe Jonas, Pink), to name a few. Donnie can currently be found on the road with Thalles Roberto, Danilo Montero, and Cindy Ratcliff.

Anthony Tran

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.

HanQing Zhou

Piano Teacher

HanQing Zhou is an up and coming 80s generation pianist who is committed to connecting to today’s audiences by offering strong interpretations of the historical and contemporary repertoire. As a soloist he has performed in orchestral and recital settings. His debut was with the Firelands Symphony Orchestra, performing the Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto under James Feddeck. He has given solo and chamber performance at Warner Concert Hall, Kulas Recital Hall in Ohio, Neier Recital Hall in Chengdu, and Duncan Recital Hall, Dudley recital hall, Dowling recital hall, University of Houston Opera House, Stude Concert Hall in Houston.

Born in Chengdu, a southern city of China, HanQing attended the precollege program of Sichuan Conservatory of Music where he studied with Professor Huang Jing and Zheng DaXin. He came to the United States for his Bachelor’s Degree of Piano performance at Oberlin conservatory of music with Professor Peter Takacs. He completed his Masters Degree at Rice University, Shepherd School of Music, with Dr. Robert Roux. Now he is pursuing his Doctoral degree in University of Houston under the guidance of Nancy Weems. He has also participated in many music festivals and master classes with artists such as Leon Fleisher, Paul Badura-Skoda, John Lill, Nalita True, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Tomas Ungar, Vladimir Fletsman, and Angela Hewitt.

HanQing received the international award and Dean’s scholarship from Oberlin Conservatory and is a recipient of the Dr. Margaret Ann Goldstein Prize from Rice University and C.W fellowship from University of Houston. He is also a prize winner of many competitions including DCS international piano competition, Ruth Burr Piano Competition, Firelands Symphony Orchestra Concerto Completion, the Hong Kong Mozart Piano Competition, Gu Lang Yu National Competition.

In addition to performing, Hanqing is an experienced piano instructor. He received his pedagogical education from successful teachers including Alicia Shirley, John Weems, Nancy Weems and Sohyoung Park. Hanqing believes there is always a way to lead any type of student toward understanding and enjoyment of every musical idea. Music is communication. The purpose of musical education is to open the mind, to understand a way to express the deepest feelings of human being.