As the winner of international competitions, Tong Yan has claimed first prize at the International Music Competition of Union Francaise des Artistes Musiciens in Paris, the International Violin Competition in Kazakhstan, the International Chinese Violin Competition in New York, and the string winner at the Gisborne International Orchestral Instruments Competition in New Zealand. She has also placed in the top 3 at the Andrea Postacchini International Violin Competition in Italy and the Brahms International Violin Competition in Austria. Tong has had many recitals and solo performances with orchestras in Austria, Italy, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, China, Canada, and the US.
Tong is currently an active chamber musician and has participated in festivals such as the Summer Strings Academy in Australia, Canada’s Morningside Music Bridge, Colorado College Summer Music Festival, Bar Harbor Music Festival in Maine, Pacific Music Festival in Japan, Spoleto Music Festival in South Carolina, Britt Music Festival in Oregon, and the Meadowmount Summer School in New York.
Tong Yan joined the Houston Symphony in January of 2012 while perusing her Graduate Diploma at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Donald Weilerstein.
Tong Yan also holds a Masters Degree in Music from NEC, and a split Bachelors Degree from the Vienna University of Fine Arts, Joseph Haydn Conservatory and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Her teachers include Elisabeth Kropfitsch, Klaus Maetzl and Marilyn McDonald.
Violin & Viola Faculty
Boris Blagoev was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and began his musical education at the age of 6 at the National Music School Liubomir Pipkov in Sofia, Bulgaria. His first violin teacher was his mother, Julia Angelova, a violin pedagogue at the National Music School.
Mr. Blagoev gave his first solo recital at the age of 10. During his primary studies, he received numerous awards for excellence in solo and chamber music performances and won first prizes at various competitions including the National Music School Concerto Competition in 1996; National Competition for Hungarian Music Bella Bartok in Sofia, 1997 and the National Competition for Young Violinists in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1998.
In 1998, Mr. Blagoev was accepted in the National Academy of Music Prof. Pancho Vladigerov in Sofia, where he studied with Prof. Dora Ivanova and Prof. Verka Stefanova, Concertmaster of the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Blagoev won several competitions including: the National Competition for German and Austrian Music, Burgas, Bulgaria, 2000; Dobrin Petkov International Violin Competition, Plovdiv, Bulgaria in 2001 and the Hungarian Music Competition in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2002. He was also awarded the prize for Best Performance of W. A. Mozart’s violin concerto at the Semmering Summer Music Festival, Semmering, Austria 2002.
Since 2002, Mr. Blagoev moved to USA where he received his Masters and Doctoral of Music degrees at Louisiana State University. During 2003-2010 Mr. Blagoev held tenure positions with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and Acadiana Symphony Orchestra, and was the Associate concertmaster of the Natchez Opera Orchestra, Natchez Mississippi 2004-2007. He also participated in the Round Top Music Festival and the Heber Springs Chamber Music Festival.
During 2010 Mr. Blagoev attended Carnegie Melon University’s Music School. Following that in 2013, he completed a Performance Diploma Degree at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University under the tutelage of Prof. Kevork Mardirossian.
Recently, Mr. Blagoev has moved to NYC Area and is currently on the faculty of Long Island Conservatory of Music in Mineola, NY. In December of 2013, Mr. Blagoev performed with the Mineola Chamber Ensemble in a performance recorded for the Public Broadcast System and in November 2014 performed at the Brooklyn College of Music.
Currently Mr. Blagoev holds an Assistant Principle Second Violin Position with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, and Substitute Position with The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, New Orleans.
Kevin Hwang began Suzuki Method violin lessons at age five and received his undergraduate and masters degree in Violin Performance at the Moore's School of Music in the University of Houston.
He studied with several distinguished violinists including Roland and Almita Vamos, professors of Northwestern University and Emanuel Borok, former Concert Master of Dallas Symphony. Kevin was a member of Houston Regional Symphonies and of the Texas All-State Symphony Orchestra for four consecutive years during high school.
In 2003, he won the first place of the Houston Young Artist Competition. He also received Honorable Mention in the Moore's School Concerto Competition in 2004 and was a finalist in the Schlern International Music Festival Competition in 2006.
Kevin has been teaching violin in the Houston area for 12 years. His students enjoy playing at the top of their school orchestras, consistently winning the highest honors at UIL Solo and Ensemble, and winning spots in TMEA Region orchestras.
Brinton Averil Smith
Hailed for “stunningly beautiful” performances by the American Record Guide, cellist Brinton Averil Smith continues to garner rave reviews, praising virtuosic performances with musical ideals rooted in the golden age of string playing. His debut recording of Miklós Rózsa’s Cello Concerto with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra won international critical acclaim, with Gramophone praising Smith as a “hugely eloquent, impassioned soloist,” and his recording of chamber music of Fauré with Gil Shaham was chosen by numerous critics as one of the year’s best albums. A passionate advocate of compelling unfamiliar repertoire, Mr. Smith recently gave the North American premiers of rediscovered works of Jean Sibelius and Alexander Zemlinsky, and his performances have been broadcast on CBS’s Sunday Morning and on the radio throughout the U.S., including American Public Media’s Performance Today and Symphonycast.
Mr. Smith has appeared regularly as a soloist with the Houston Symphony since joining the orchestra as principal cellist in 2005. Prior to this, he was the first musician chosen by Lorin Maazel to join the New York Philharmonic and the principal cellist of the San Diego and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestras. In addition to his solo activities, he has collaborated in chamber music performances with musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Gil Shaham, Cho-Liang Lin, James Ehnes, Lynn Harrell, Sarah Chang, Dawn Upshaw and members of the Beaux Arts Trio and the Guarneri, Emerson, Juilliard, Cleveland, and Berg quartets. Mr. Smith is also a faculty member of the Shepherd School of music at Rice University and the Aspen Music Festival.
The son of a mathematician and a pianist, Brinton Averil Smith was admitted to Arizona State University at age 10, where he took courses in mathematics and German and, at age 17, completed a B.A. in mathematics. He then became a student of Eleonore Schoenfeld at the University of Southern California, where he was also a teaching assistant in the mathematics department and completed work for an M.A. in mathematics at age 19. He subsequently studied with the renowned cellist Zara Nelsova at The Juilliard School, where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, writing on the playing of Emanuel Feuermann. Mr. Smith resides in Houston with his wife, the pianist Evelyn Chen, their daughter, Calista, and two slightly evil, but kind-hearted dogs. For further information, please visit
Bing Wei, a cellist native of China, has performed extensively as a soloist, chamber and orchestra musician throughout the United States, Asia and Europe. Ms. Wei has performed with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra and Oriental Symphony Orchestra. She has participated in various music festivals including the Tanglewood Music Festival, Texas Music Festival, Lake District International Music Festival (UK) and Astona International Music Festival (Switzerland).
Ms. Wei began playing piano at the age of eight and cello at the age of ten. She made an impression as a talented and energetic performer in 2007 when she presented her debut concert in Wuhan, China. One year later, Ms. Wei won a full scholarship from Yong Sieh Toh Conservatory of Music and the National University of Singapore government fund to complete her Bachelor of Music degree. She received her Master of Music Degree with Professor Norman Fischer from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University with a full scholarship. Ms.Wei is
currently pursuing a Certificate of Music Performance with Anthony Kitai at the Moores School of Music at University of Houston. Ms. Wei loves teaching and she strives to share her music passion with every student!
A native Houstonian, cellist Andrew Cavazos has performed in Italy, China, Puerto Rico and across the United States. Mr. Cavazos has appeared as a soloist with the Houston Heights Orchestra and the Conroe Symphony Orchestra, and has performed on Houston Public Radio's "The Front Row." He has performed with members of the Chicago, Houston, Galveston, and Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestras, among others, and formerly served as the principal cellist of the Cypress Philharmonic and Houston Heights Orchestra. He has appeared as a guest artist at the University of St. Thomas and Houston Baptist University.
Mr. Cavazos holds degrees from the University of Houston and from Sam Houston State University. His teachers have included Anthony Kitai and Daniel Saenz, and he has performed in master classes given by Mischa Maisky, Alexander Rudin, Mike Block, Brinton Averil Smith, Desmond Hoebig, Suren Bagratuni, Carter Enyeart, and the Escher and Katalyst String Quartets. Additionally, he has spent summers performing at the Schlern International Music Festival in Völs am Schlern, Italy, and as the principal cellist with the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra in Branson, Missouri.
Mr. Cavazos has taught at the University of St. Thomas Music Preparatory School, where he formed the UST MPS Cello Choir, the Houston Youth Symphony Coda Program, the Conroe Symphony Youth Orchestra in Conroe, Texas, and the Huntsville Youth Orchestra in Huntsville, Texas. He maintains a private studio in Katy, Texas and frequently appears as a clinician in Katy and Houston. His private students have earned spots in Region Orchestras, Music Festivals, and Music Schools across the country.
Oboe & Ear Training Faculty
Oboist Wei Wang has enjoyed giving performances for audiences in China, Europe, and the United States. He has played in venues in Beijing, Wuhan, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Houston, performing both symphonic and opera repertoires. From 2015 to 2017, Wang has served as the principal oboe of Guiyang Symphony Orchestra and the baton of Maestro Rico Saccani .Since 2007, Wang has served as principal oboe of the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra.
As an active performing oboist, Wang is also engaged with the community. From 2006 to 2010, Wang has given many lecture recitals, solo performances, and chamber music to the local groups in Ohio with the program Access to the Arts. Wang has performed in schools, senior centers and hospitals. Additionally, as a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, he worked with the teaching program Distance Learning to demonstrate the oboe to elementary school students.
Wang, born in Beijing, China, began studying oboe at age of 11 with Weidong Wei, principal oboe of the China Symphony Orchestra and Oboe Professor at the Central Conservatory of Music. He attended the middle school of the Central Conservatory in Beijing before coming to the U.S. in 2004 to study with Francisco Castillo at the Idyllwild Arts Academy. Wang completed his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2010 and 2012 respectively, having studied with Cleveland Orchestra principal, Frank Rosenwein. After getting his second Master of Music degree in 2014 at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Wang continues his studying with Robert Atherholt, who is the former principal of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Currently, Wang is a Performance Certificate student at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston.
Ms. Mei is an active recital soloist and chamber musician. She has been trained systematically and professionally in piano performance since she was six years old. In 1997, she entered the elementary school affiliated to Shanghai Conservatory of music with honors throughout to high school. During high school period, she participated in many performances and competitions; among them, Shanghai regional Piano Competition brought her to be on higher level of profession. She won the second prize and honored as talented young artist.
In August of 2006, she entered University of Wyoming with full scholarship, and has acquired her bachelor degree in piano performance in 2011, and also acquired her master degree in piano performance and pedagogy. She is the winner of the 2006 MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) Young Artist Piano Performance Wyoming State Competition and won the MTNA young Artist Piano performance Northwest Division in same season. She was first prize recipient at both Snowy Range Piano Competition and Jacoby Concerto Competition in 2013. Her many solo performances and recitals were held in China, Korea and Canada while she was attending university.
Enthusiastic, strict but fun, these words were said by her students after 10 years of teaching. She has a great passion towards performing in public, but she found greater love in teaching.
Roksana Savitski, a native of Russia, began music lessons when she was seven years old and discovered her passion for piano. For over 30 years, she has been teaching piano and performing as a collaborative pianist. She received her Master of Music degree in Piano Performance and Music Education in Ukraine. In 1985, Roksana joined the piano faculty at the First Music School in Vinnytsya, Ukraine, teaching children from elementary through high school age. In addition to her faculty position, Roksana collaborated with string, woodwind, and brass players, many of whom receivered high standings in prestigious music competitions in collaboration with her. Simultaneously, she worked as a performing accompanist at Ukrainian State Opera Theater since 1989. Roksana also accompanied choirs and vocal ensembles at First Baptist Church in Vinnytsya, Ukraine.
In 1999, Roksana moved to Warsaw, Poland and started her own private piano studio, teaching both children and adults. She was also on faculty at Chopin Elementary Music School and Szymanowski Complex of Public Music Schools. She was also on music faculty at Warsaw Baptist Theological Seminary where she instructed prospective worship leaders. Roksana became an established teacher during her 17 years in Warsaw and her students won top prizes at numerous piano competition across Poland, including the J. S. Bach Competition, Alla Polaca Competition, and Piano Miniature Competition. She also continued her work as a collaborative pianist and was a sought-after accompanist, working with soloists and choirs in elementary and middle schools.
In 2016, Roksana and her husband moved to Houston to join their four sons, all of whom are musicians. Last fall, Roksana was a juror at the 10th Chopin Youth Piano Competition and her new students successfully participated in Baroque Festival and Contest later that year. In February 2018, Roksana’s students won prizes at Houston Music Teachers Association Piano Contest, just after a few months of lessons.