25th Anniversary Gala Concert scheduled for Saturday, March 14 is postponed until further notice. Read more here

Our anniversary concert, Unity Gala: 25 years of connecting people through Music and Dance is getting closer! Our Academy is made up of such wonderful people from all over the world, so to celebrate our diversity, in the last 25 days leading up to the big event, we will be featuring some faculty members and families from different parts of the globe 🌍! 


Nickolas Brown

My Dad and I were born in Tucson, AZ, and my Mom was born in DaNang Vietnam. In terms of music, Vietnam has everything from hip hop to traditional Vietnamese music which has a strong Chinese influence.

The academy has taught me to be disciplined in my studies whether it be school or the actual music I am playing. It has given me an amazing amount of knowledge about music including music theory. When I joined the Jazz Band at Catalina Foothills High School, my knowledge put me way ahead of most of the students there. It  also seems to have helped me in math and my grades shows that. Whether I was 5 years old or 15, the training I receive every week has given and continues to give me the confidence to play in from of many people without getting nervous. That confidence is also brought about in many other things that I do. Probably the best thing is I get to play beautiful classical music. It gives much joy putting in hard work and being able to play amazing classical pieces, and watching people enjoy them also. Some day I will be playing for my own family. 

Taiwan and Hong Kong

Austin Lee

I was born in the US in Southern California. My mom was born in Taiwan and dad in Hong Kong. As for the music from the countries my parents were born in, I have mainly listened to some popular music from these countries and they’re similar to American pop music, except in Mandarin or Cantonese.

I have been studying piano at the Music and Dance Academy for exactly ten years. Studying music for almost my whole life has taught me something valuable. Learning music is not for showing off, it is a source to release your emotions, to forget about everything and completely focus on the beauty of something you are able to play. You might not take music as a major, but it will stay with you forever.


Janine Piek

I was born in the Philippines.  My family immigrated to the US when I was 5. I started in music at age 3 in the Philippines as a singer, and eventually went on to violin in the United States, where I attended a performing arts high school, and went on to earn bachelor and graduate degrees in music from the University of Arizona.

Brought about by colonialism under other countries, music in the Philippines has evolved with different influences. Pre-colonial rule, most Filipino music was evocative of nature. The Spanish conquest brought in Rondalya music, any group of stringed instruments that are played using a plectrum or pick. There are several Filipino-made instruments modeled after the guitar. These instruments are made from indigenous Philippine wood and the picks are made from tortoise-shell. Another evolution took place with American occupation and today American pop culture is the dominant force in music along with Korean pop, however, there has been a revival of Spanish-folk music seen recently!

I have been teaching violin at the Music & Dance Academy since 2011. I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever known in my life at the Academy, faculty and students alike!


Tamara Khachatryan

I was born in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Most of my family were musicians. I started learning violin at Sarajev School of Music at 6 years old. After my graduation from Sarajev Music School, I decided to be a violinist. In that same year, I started college at Arno Babajanyan University of Music. I moved to Aleppo, Syria in 1998 and I started my career as a music teacher and Violinist.

Armenia has long been a strategic point and a meeting ground for large empires. Romans, Iranians, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols all passed through Armenia, both destroying some things and adding their own influences. Armenian music takes some characteristics from Middle Eastern music traditions. It is essentially monophonic and with a strong tonal center. However, it’s rhythm, melody, and dynamics reveal the influence of Western music as well. 

I started to work at Music & Dance Academy in 2015. The Academy is not just a job or place where I work, it is the best place to meet great friends and students too.


Fadi Iskandar

I am from Aleppo, Syria. I began teaching at the Academy in 2017.

Aleppo is a multi ethnic city, where you can hear music from everywhere. There is Syrian, Armenian, Kurdish, Turkish, Egyptian, Iraqi, Lebanese, and music from other countries too. The music styles are vast as well – Classical, Jazz, Gypsy, and more!

Our traditions and culture are often expressed through dance. The Dabka is a very popular dance in the countrysides of Syria. Dances such as Alsamah Dance, sword dance for the men, or dancing with the hands is found more in the cities.

Music and Dance Academy is a second home now -for me, my wife, Tamara, and our daughter Angelina. We are so lucky to be members of the academy’s family.


Mireya Obregón

I am from Mexico and have been teaching at the Academy for about 5 months.

The music in Mexico is really diverse, and people in general are very tuned into this diversity. I grew up listening to all kinds of music, from Norteñas, Trova, Latin pop and alternative Mexican artists, to Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles. I wasn’t exposed to the classical music scene until I left my hometown to go study at a conservatory in Mexico City. The classical music scene and the scholarship emanating from it is very strong there, and there’s a very interesting contemporary music scene too.

Every time I have a piano lesson at the Academy, it helps connect me to my deep love for music; it’s a precious opportunity to discuss the historical conditions that produced whatever repertoire we’re working on, the musical craft of a specific piece, or the problem-solving of a challenging technical passage… Being able to connect with my students’ own love for music and their unique ways of expressing it, to their joy, it’s just a wonderful thing. I feel privileged to be in such a position.


Missy Helton

I’ve been teaching dance at the Music & Dance Academy for 2 years, and my daughter, Charlee, is a ballet dancer here. My dad and I have dual citizenship- in the U.S. and England. My father, Robert Keith Dipper, is my hero, my idol, and my very best friend. He was born in Coventry, England. Before retiring as a Policeman of 25 years in England, he was a soldier in her Majesty’s Brigade of Guards, best known for their ceremonial dress of bearskins, and guarding Buckingham Palace and other royal landmarks in London. 

When he lived in London he loved to go to the theater and see the musical shows. His favorite broadway show is Cats! Most of the shows like West Side Story, Cats and Miss Saigon started in London and then moved to America to New York. We spend our time traveling and seeing the world as a family. I’m so proud of the things my dad has accomplished and truly blessed to be his daughter.  Anyone who crosses his path is lucky to get to meet him.


Mary Woods

I was born in an Icelandic fishing village on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. Music was always a vital part of the culture there. I had many opportunities to sing including joining the adult choir at church when I was 6, and singing in the Icelandic Children’s Choir. I was thrilled to start piano lessons at age 7. (My Mom would make and sell Barbie Doll clothes to pay for my lessons.) I was fortunate to participate in the curriculum and examinations of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Canada has wonderful music festivals where I competed in piano and voice competitions. I have had wonderful and inspiring music teachers from my childhood and into adulthood

I have taught piano for 40 years including the past two and a half years at the Music and Dance Academy. I’ve known our director Nina Tishkevich since she emigrated here in 1989.

I love music and I love children, and I so much enjoy teaching my fine young piano students.


Alimazda and Nurhan Shirazi

Alimazda and Nurhan were born in Tucson and their parents were born in Iran. Learning both traditional and western instruments are very popular in Iran. Persian flute or “Ney” is a popular instrument. 

Nurhan is 4 years old and started violin lessons with Ms. Tamara when he was 3. He enjoys playing violin and practices with his father. He loves Ms. Tamara so much! Alimazda is 6 years old. He started music class when he was three months old with Kindermusik at the Academy, started piano lessons at 3 years old, and added flute when he was about 5. Alimazda has been practicing piano or flute every day – he is so encouraged about the prize at the end of the 25 days.  He says, “Playing piano and flute makes me happy. Practicing music is also fun and helps me focus.”


Katarzyna Zdanska

I am from Poland. Located right in the middle of Europe. Big cultural center, the homeland to many famous composers and musicians like: F. Chopin, H. Wieniawski, I. J. Paderewski, K. Szymanowski, A. Rubinstein, K. Kulka, Z. Donat, W. Ochman, M. Kwiecień and many others. Musical education is highly regarded in my country and each major city, larger town and even little  villages have music schools and educational institutions helping children and young adults become musicians or just improve their music skills

I have been teaching at the MUSIC AND DANCE ACADEMY for over 20 years now. I started in 1996, when Academy was still little, located in a small building at Prince Road. I was also teaching group classes in JCC, which was the Academy’s second location. With a three year break in early 2000s, I have been with Academy practically through all its journey. I watched it grow. I met many fantastic musicians and very interesting people there. I watched my little students turning into big kids, then into adults, who still contact me on social media, reporting news about their success in music and other areas of their lives. 

Music and Dance Academy is a huge and very important part of my professional life. I am there all the time, enjoying each new day bringing new challenges and more MUSIC of all kinds!  


Gopalakrishnan, Darshani Naga, Diya and Maia Mukesh

We are delighted to be a part of this amazing event.  We are from a state called Tamil Nadu, that’s in the southern part of India. Our country is home to beautiful dance styles like, Kuchipidi, Kathak, Bhangra etc. However, our state is known for the famous Bharatanatyam dance that’s performed and taught all around the world. Instruments like mridangam and nadaswaram compare to instruments like drums and flute respectively. 

My girls have been taking flute lessons with Ms. Deena for about two years now and piano lessons from Ms. Kat for a year now.