Piano Faculty 


“Adventurous and passionate” ( The New Yorker) Ukrainian-born pianist Inna Faliks  has established herself as one of the most exciting, committed, communicative and poetic artists of her generation. Faliks is Head of Piano and Professor of Piano at UCLA. Renowned for her versatility, Faliks is equally at home in the great concerti, standard solo repertoire, chamber music,  interdisciplinary projects and work with contemporary composers. After her acclaimed debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, she has performed on many of the world’s great stages, with numerous orchestras, in solo appearances, and with conductors such as Leonard Slatkin and Keith Lockhart. Critics praise her “signature blend of lithe grace and raw power“ (Lucid Culture), “courage to take risks, expressive intensity and technical perfection” (General Anzeiger, Bonn), “poetry and panoramic vision” (Washington Post), and “riveting passion, playfulness” (Baltimore Sun). Her lauded discography includes a recent all- Beethoven release, “Sound of Verse –  music of Boris Pasternak, Ravel, and Rachmaninoff” – both on MSR Classics,  and a Disklavier recital recording for Yamaha. Upcoming recordings include  “Polonaise-Fantasie, story of a pianist” theater-piano piece,  and her Music/Words new commissions CD.

Faliks’s distinguished career has taken her to numerous recitals and concerti in prestigious venues in the US, Europe and Asia. Winner of many competitions, including the ProMusicis International Award, she has been featured on radio and international television broadcasts, and has performed in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Concert Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paris’ Salle Cortot, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall, LA’s Zipper Hall,  in Festival Internacional de Mexico, Portland Piano International,  Music in the Mountains, Verbier Festival,  Le Poisson Rouge in NYC, Fazioli Series in Italy, Tel Aviv Museum in Israel. She is consistently engaged as concerto soloist with orchestras throughout the US. Recent  highlights include a tour of China in all of its major halls, including Beijing CPA, Shanghai Oriental Arts Theater and Tianjin Grand Theater, many concerti including Rachmaninoff 2 with Greensboro Symphony Festival, Prokofiev 1 and 3 at Peninsula Festival, Clara Schumann Concerto at Wintergren Festival,  and numerous return engagements – at Minnesota Sinfonia, Newport Festival, Bargemusic, Broad Stage Santa Monica, and more.

An artist as committed to genre-bending and new music as she is to the core repertoire, Faliks is currently presenting Reimagine: Ravel and Beethoven, commissioning today’s leading composers such as Timo Andres, Richard Danielpour, Billy Chilrds and Paola Prestini to create responses to pieces of Ravel and Beethoven. She premiered 13 Ways of Looking at the Goldberg – variations by contemporary composers on Bach’s Aria,  She has performed and recorded the unknown piano works of Russian poet Boris Pasternak, appeared in theatrical productions such as “Admission: One Shilling” with Downton Abbey star Lesley Nicol, collaborated with the modern dance troupe Bodytraffic, and  has premiered new works by many contemporary composers, including  Ljova, Clarice Assad, Jan Freidlin, Sean Hickey, Tania Leon, and others.   Faliks  is the founder and curator of Music/Words , a series that pairs together live performances with readings by established contemporary poets. The series has been heard and seen nation-wide for 8 seasons, live and on radio.  www.musicwordsnyc.com

Faliks is in demand as an Artist teacher, and is frequently invited to guest residencies at leading conservatories, festivals and universities internationally. Her own teachers included Leon Fleisher, Boris Petrushansky, Gilbert Kalish, Ann Schein and Emilio del Rosario.


CHRISTOPHER RUSSELL conducts two orchestras in Southern California: the Azusa Pacific University (APU) Symphony and the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) Symphony Orchestra.  He is Associate Professor at APU’s College of Music and the Arts, head of the orchestral conducting area and Chair of the Music Performance Department.  The Los Angeles Times called him “a forcefully dramatic conductor with a strong technique”.   He received his bachelors degree from California State University and his masters degree in conducting from Indiana University.


Recent guest conducting appearances include the MasterWorks Festival in Ohio and Indiana, the Orquestra Sinfônica Heliópolis in São Paulo, Brazil, the International Orchestra Festival and the Yellow River Symphony in Zhengzhou, China,.  He has also conducted orchestras at Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, London’s Central Hall and the Glass Hall of Vienna’s Musikverein.  In 2017 and 2018, he was a judge in the final round of the Hong Kong International Music Festival.  Also in 2018, he presented lectures at the openings of two new theaters in China: the Florence Culture and Arts Exchange Center in Dalian and the Sound of the Phoenix Theater in Qingdao.


Russell has conducted numerous premieres, including the first U.S. performances of works by Tansy Davies, Brett Dean, Jonathan Harvey, Anders Hillborg, Tristan Keuris, Magnus Lindberg, Per Nørgård, Kaija Saariaho and Éric Tanguy.  Premiere highlights include conducting the U.S. premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Stockholm Diary for string orchestra with the APU Symphony Orchestra and the world and European premieres of the orchestral version of Michael Daugherty’s Lost Vegas. 


Russell’s musical interest also extends to performing rarely-heard older music including the U.S. or California premieres of many works from the early and mid-20th century.  An advocate for conducting American music abroad, he conducted the Australian and Brazilian premieres of Ives’ 2nd Symphony.   Russell conducted the world premiere of the Symphony in A composed in 1878 by Leopold Damrosch with the APU Symphony.  They recorded an all-Damrosch disc which was internationally released on the British record label Toccata Classics.


The “American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers” has awarded him their prestigious Award for Programming of Contemporary Music for youth orchestras on ten occasions.  Seven of those times, he was awarded first place in the United States.


Russell is a regular pre-concert lecturer for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall.  For them, he has interviewed some of the most important classical musicians of our time including conductors Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jaap van Zweden, pianist Emanuel Ax, violinists Leila Josefowicz and Vadim Repin, and cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Li-Wei Qin.


Pianist Dr. JAMES LENT is Lecturer and Coordinator of Instrumental Collaborative Piano at UCLA in addition to serving as a coach and accompanist for vocal studies. James completed his DMA at the Yale School of Music under teachers Boris Berman, Claude Frank, and Peter Frankl. He made his Alabama Symphony debut to critical acclaim performing Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 on 24 hours' notice to replace Andre Watts.

He has performed with the Vancouver Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Shanghai Philharmonic, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, the Utah Symphony and the Florida West Coast Symphony, among others, and as solo recitalist at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany, for the National Chopin Foundation in Miami, at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where he premiered a new work written for him by American composer Frederic Rzewski.

Mr. Lent has performed with the renowned Paris-based Ensemble Intercontemporain under the direction of Pierre Boulez in a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, and his performances have been heard on National Public Radio.

His numerous awards include prizes in the New York Concert Artists Guild International Competition, the National Chopin Competition, the Washington International Piano Competition at the Kennedy Center, the Olga Koussevitsky Piano Competition in New York, and the Houston Symphony Ima Hogg National Young Artist Competition.He was a fellowship recipient at the Aspen Music Festival, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Sarasota Music Festival, and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, where he studied with Jerome Lowenthal.

James also teaches at AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) as collaborative pianist, vocal coach, and musical director. He has also served on the summer faculty at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival. 


Pianist Inga Kapouler Gartner, originally from Riga, Latvia, is a graduate of both the St. Petersburg Conservatory (Bachelor of Music and Master of Music) and The Juilliard School (Advanced Certificate in Piano Performance, Master of Music in Piano Performance, and Post Graduate Artist Diploma in Music Performance). An accomplished performer as soloist and chamber musician, she has won numerous prizes and awards, including the Rubinstein Prize, the Five Towns International Piano Competition, and Diploma and Special Prize at the International Piano Competition in Senigallia, Italy. Upon her graduation from Juilliard, she won the Gina Bachauer Piano Competition Chopin Prize (New York), leading to her feature on WQXR’s Young Artist Showcase with Robert Sherman.

Ms. Kapouler Gartner went on to perform throughout the US, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Israel, Italy, England, and Belgium at prestigious venues such as New York’s Merkin Hall and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie, Los Angeles’s Zipper Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, Latvia’s Philharmonic Hall, and others. TheNew York Times described her playing as “finely nuanced and thoroughly menacing,” the New York Sun felt she “caught the spirit of exaggeration for strikingly effective results,” and as a chamber performer London’s Musical Opinion hailed her “beautiful accompaniment.”

Ms. Kapouler Gartner was an annual guest artist with the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players for 10 years, where she collaborated and shared the stage with members of the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. She was also a longtime accompanist for New York’s renowned art song master class series, The Joy of Singing with Paul Sperry.

As an educator, Ms. Kapouler Gartner was a teaching assistant at the Juilliard Pre-College Division to her professor Oxana Yablonskaya before becoming a permanent member of the faculty at The Lucy Moses and Elaine Kaufman Musical Center in New York. In 2014 she relocated to the Los Angeles area to join the piano faculty at the prestigious Colburn School’s Community of Performing Arts. She is also the piano/vocal coach at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music.


JOEL CLIFFT earned his doctoral degree from the University of Southern California while studying with Dr. Alan Smith and Bernadene Blaha. Dr. Clifft’s primary area of study was keyboard collaborative arts, with minor fields in solo piano, music theory, and composition. He graduated Pi Kappa Lambda and was chosen as the “Most Outstanding Graduate” at both the Master’s and Doctoral levels. Dr. Clifft attended USC on a full scholarship and in addition, was a recipient of the Gwendolyn Koldofsky scholarship. 

As an active collaborative pianist, Dr. Joel Clifft has performed in concert with many world-class musicians, including violinist Midori, erhu player, Ma Xiao Hui and clarinetist, Ken Grant. He has extensive international performance experience, appearing in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Brazil, Korea, China and Singapore. He also performed a solo and collaborative program at the United Nations in New York. 

Dr. Clifft is Director of Keyboard Studies at Azusa Pacific University, where he teaches piano, music theory, accompanying and ear training courses. He is also an adjunct faculty member at USC where he teaches collaborative piano. In addition, he has served as a judge for many competitions, including MTAC and MTNA, local, regional and state competitions.  

As a software developer, Dr. Clifft created Music Theory Pro, an iPhone app for music education. The app teaches Music Theory and Ear Training using cutting-edge technology. To date, the app has received more than 120,000 downloads. In 2013 Music Theory Pro was expanded to mac computers and iPads and a second app, Jazz Chords Pro, was released during the same year. A third app, Music Theory Professor, is expected to release later this year. 

Dr. Clifft has also developed a passion for studio singing. In recent months he has provided vocals for Universal Pictures, The Paramount Group, and Dreamworks.


Dr. Shen Yiwen is a Chinese conductor, composer, and pianist. He currently serves as the assistant conductor of the Prince George’s Philharmonic (MD), co-director of the University of Maryland Repertoire Orchestra, and the assistant conductor of the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra. Previous positions include the assistant conductor of the National Ballet of China Symphony Orchestra as well as the prep conductor of the Juilliard Orchestra. He has worked with the North Czech Philharmonic and the Karlovy Vary Symphony in Czech Republic, the MÁV Symphony Orchestra in Hungary, the Orchestra of Magna Graecia in Italy, and the Royal Camerata and the Bucharest Philharmonic in Romania. He has performed in master classes led by Alan Gilbert, Ludovic Morlot, Jorma Panula, Christian Ehwald, David Itkin, Charles Olivieri-Munroe, Maurice Peress, and Sigmund Thorp. He also attended the Monteux School & Music Festival from 2015-2018.


As a composer, Yiwen’s music has been performed in all six habitable continents and hailed as “a jaunty, vibrantly scored canvas” and “with a lucid, economical lyricism” by the New York Times. His compositional awards include the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award, Gena Raps String Quartet Award, Arthur Friedman Prize, 1st prize from SCI/ASCAP Composition Commission, 2nd prize from the First China Clarinet Composition Competition, winners of the Nashville Symphony’s Composer Lab, Minnesota Orchestra’s Composer Institute and the Albany Symphony’s Composer to Center Stage Competition, two top prizes from Chinese National Composition Competitions, Chinese Golden Bell Award, and Distinguished Achievement of the Year in Music Composition in Shanghai. Other career highlights are major orchestral premieres with the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero, American Symphony under Leon Botstein, Beijing Symphony under Lin Da-ye, Albany Symphony under David Alan Miller, Juilliard Orchestra under Jeffrey Milarsky, and Bard Conservatory Orchestra for its first international tour of China. His full-length ballet, Crane Whisperer, commissioned by the National Ballet of China and premiered in 2015, was toured to 30-40 cities in China with more than 50 performances within the first year of the production. The ballet received its European debut in July 2017 in Hamburg, Germany.

His music has also been commissioned and performed by ensembles such as Shanghai Opera House Orchestra, Bowling Green Philharmonic, Aeolus String Quartet, Omer String Quartet, Colorado String Quartet, Da Capo Chamber Players, Music from China Ensemble, TALEA Ensemble, Dal Niente Ensemble, The New York Virtuoso Singers, among others. He was invited to be in residence at the artist colony Yaddo and has been a composition fellow at the Aspen, Atlantic, Bowdoin, Great Lake, and Staunton music festivals. Current projects include a new work to be premiered in Spring 2019 by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and a few multimedia compositions.

Yiwen’s piano playing has been praised as “deftly” by the New York Times and “impeccable” by Seen And Heard International Concert Review. He has soloed with the Bard Conservatory Orchestra and the New Juilliard Ensemble and played with the Axiom Ensemble at Lincoln Center. He can also be heard in recording on Chinese Bamboo Flute Master Tang Junqiao’s Magical Flute of China, released by Channels Classics Records in 2007.

Yiwen holds a dual-Bachelor degree in Composition and German Studies from Bard College and its Conservatory, a Master’s and a Doctoral degree in Composition from The Juilliard School where he also taught from 2011 to 2016, and a Master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Maryland. His composition mentors are Joan Tower, George Tsontakis, Samuel Adler, and Robert Beaser, and his conducting teachers are James Ross, José-Luis Novo, and Michael Jinbo.

In the fall, he will join the Tianjin Juilliard School as its inaugural resident faculty. 


​Chinese-born performing pianist Xiao Chen is actively engaged as a solo and chamber musician. She serves as lecturer and principal musician at University of California, Los Angeles, and music coach at Mount Saint Mary's University. She received her master‘s degree from Juilliard and doctoral degree from UCLA. Ms. Chen is a frequent recitalist and concert artist throughout the U.S., China, and Europe. She has performed many concerts in prestigious halls including Carnegie Hall, Fisher Center for Performing Arts, and Shanghai Concert Hall. Her solo recital in Shanghai Concert Hall was well received and interviewed by Shanghai Youth Daily (“Her energetic, exquisite, breathtaking performance impressed the audience”). Her performance of Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto with UCLA Symphony was the highlight of the concert season.  

Ms. Chen is the prize winner of many competitions, including Frances Walton Competition, American Protege International Competition, The Muse International Competition, The American Prize, ‘London’ Grand Prize Virtuoso International Music Competition, and Steinway & Sons International Youth Piano Competition China Regional Competition. As a winner of Frances Walton Competition, she played a concert tour in Washington State and performed a solo piano program on radio live broadcast concert at Classical KING FM 98.1. She serves as jury in many music and piano competitions, including "Pearl River Keyserburg" International Youth Piano Competition and Hainan Airline Piano Competition. She has been also invited to record for Yamaha's Disklavier Educational Network and Scott Joplin Piano Works Archive. 

Ms. Chen received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree under Inna Faliks from University of California, Los Angeles. She obtained her Master of Music degree at The Juilliard School in New York, where she studied with Jerome Lowenthal. She attended Bard College with a double major – Receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from Bard College Conservatory of Music, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Language and Literature from Bard College. She studied with Melvin Chen at Bard.

Ms. Chen has been invited to perform in numerous music festivals including The Morningside Bridge Summer Festival, Yellow Barn Music Festival, Pianofest Summer Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Manchester Music Festival, and Italy Perugia Music Fest. Over the years, she has worked with such renowned pianists as Gary Graffman, Seymour Lipkin, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Richard Goode, Peter Frankl, Claude Frank, Wu Han, Ann Schein, Paul Schenly, Joseph Lin, Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, and Shanghai Quartet.

Additionally, Ms. Chen has appeared in outreach tours. Last year, she went to 20 schools in Washington States and performed for more than 2000 students. She also often collaborated with Education Through Music – Los Angeles and taught in different schools. In addition, as part of UCLA Gluck Ensemble, she has performed in numerous schools and senior centers in Los Angeles.

Ms. Chen is also an experienced and artistic teacher. She has taught undergraduate piano performance students, as well as piano for students majoring in music education and composition at UCLA. She enjoys giving lectures and speeches on diverse music topics. She successfully presented a two-hour lecture on “Art of listening” in Schoenberg Hall. She has also been invited to give performances and speeches in Santa Monica Emeritus College. 


Pianist and avid chamber musician Margarita Rovenskaya has performed extensively in the US and abroad, with solo and chamber recitals in venues such as Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall. Winner of the Mary Smart International Concerto Competition, Westminster Piano Concerto Competition, Connecticut Young Artist Competition, and American Fine Arts Festival, Ms. Rovenskaya is based in New York City. She is Co-Adjunct faculty at Rutgers University, served as Adjunct Piano Instructor at New York University, and is currently piano faculty at several studios and schools in NYC. 


Born in Ukraine, Margarita Rovenskaya began studying the piano at the age of six in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance at Oberlin Conservatory in May 2012, her Masters in Piano Studies at New York University in May 2014, and is currently earning her Doctorate of Musical Arts at Rutgers University. Her teachers include Efrem Briskin, Peter Takacs, Eteri Andjaparidze, and Vladimir Valjarevic.

Ms. Rovenskaya especially enjoys chamber music, and has collaborated with internationally acclaimed artists, including recitals with concertmaster of Russian orchestra Moscow Virtuosi, Alexey Lundin. In summer of 2013, she also performed in Vermont as part of the six-week Manchester Music Festival chamber series. In the summer of 2015, Margarita was Visiting Artist and Piano Fellow at the Heifetz Institute, where she coached and performed the chamber music of quintets and trios, as well as with her duo partner, cellist Kevin Mills. Ms. Rovenskaya has performed several trios in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie hall as a winner of the Chamber Music Prize at the American Festival of Fine Arts. Her performances also include premieres of new music, such as the US premier of Frank Ticheli’s Clarinet Concerto, where she was the orchestral pianist, and Christopher Dietz’s premiere of Sonoromoro for chamber orchestra, piano and percussion. Ms. Rovenskaya's piano quartet, Desdemona Quartet, is currently collaborating with composers Peter Kramer, Cassandra Venaglia, and Kat Vokes for commissioned piano quartets. 


Ms. Rovenskaya's solo performances include international venues at the Sulzbach-Rosenberg International Music Festival in Germany, the International Academy of Music at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana in Italy, as well as festivals such as the Summit Music Festival, PianoSummer at New Paltz, Beethoven Institute at Mannes, and Round Top Festival Institute. In the summer of 2014, she ran the international Summit Music Festival as General Manager, where she also performed both solo and chamber music.

TONG WANG (2018 Faculty)

Tong Wang currently serves as a piano lecturer in Wuhan Conservatory of Music in China. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Manhattan School of Music and Master’s degree from The Juilliard School. She is the prize winner of numerous international piano competitions, including the Thousand Islands International Piano Competition, Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, Helen Cohn award for outstanding chamber musician, and the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition. She is also a full scholarship and grant recipient at Fontainebleau Music Festival and International Keyboard festival. Ms. Wang made her orchestral debut with Sussex Concert Orchestra in 2010. She has played recitals in the USA, UK, Spain, France and major cities in China. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Manhattan School of Music and Master’s degree from The Juilliard School. Her teachers include Solomon Mikowsky, Gordon Fergus-Thompson,  Matti Raekallio and James Giles. 

KEVIN GAN (2018 Faculty)

Chinese Canadian pianist Kevin Nan Gan is active as a solo pianist, teacher, and music scholar. He received his master degree from The Juilliard School, where he studied under the tutelage of Julian Martin. He taught at music department at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies for three years. He is currently enrolled in the DMA program at Arizona State University, where he is also working as a teaching assistant. He received many prizes in competitions, including Kiwanis Piano Competition, the Ontario Music Festival Piano Competition, Knigge Competition and McGill University Concerto Competition. He was invited to perform in orchestral, solo and chamber concerts in Canada, The United States, France, Spain, Austria and China. As a scholarship recipient, he attended numerous music festivals including Centre d’Arts Orford , Mozarteum Summer Music Academy, International Gijon Piano Festival, Music Alp and Valencia International Festival. His solo album Loeschorn’s Etudes Op.67 is just released in 2018.

Kevin has great interest in period keyboard instrument. Since 2010, he took fortepiano lessons and from renowned fortepianist Tom Beghin and Audrey Axinn. Since 2017, he has been studying harpsichord with Kimberly Marshall.

He is also active as a music scholar. He has been invited to give lectures across China. His essay on Chinese instrument will be published in the journal Chinese Literature and Culture. In addition, he has signed the contract to translate A Handbook to Chopin’s Works by George Jonson from English to Chinese.

He served as jury member in the 2015 Hong Kong International Piano Invitation Competition.

Please reload