As a dynamic, diverse musician, Huifang Chen enjoys a dual career as a performer and an educator.
Ms. Chen received her Bachelor of Music Degree from the Curtis Institute of Music and her Master of Music Degree from the University of Miami in violin performance. She was a member of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra from 1994 until its demise in 2003.
As an educator, Ms. Chen is currently a violin instructor at New World School of the Arts and was Interim Director of Orchestra at Florida International University. Ms. Chen has also taught violin and chamber music at the University of Miami Frost School of Music and at Lynn University. She has led youth orchestras in concert halls such as Arsht Center in Miami and Carnegie Hall in New York City.
As an international violin soloist, Ms. Chen has appeared with many orchestras around the globe. She was the recipient of the 1999 Young Concert Artist of the Year awarded by the National Concert Hall of Taipei, Taiwan and a Concerto Competition Winner at the University of Miami in 2003. She is currently the Concertmaster of the Ars Flores Symphony, a member of the Florida Grand Opera Orchestra, and the founder and the principal violinist of the chamber ensemble Dynamic Strings.
As a recording artist, Maestra Chen appears on dozens of award winning recordings for Sony, EMI, and Warner Brothers.
Alexander Magalong is a Filipino-American conductor, violinist, and violist. He is currently the assistant conductor of the Palm Beach Symphony, the associate conductor of the Frost Symphony Orchestra, and the conductor of the Frost Flute Ensemble. Mr. Magalong was a finalist for music director of the Pikes Peak Philharmonic and has conducted the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, Broadmoor Pops Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, and the Peakharmonic Youth Orchestra. He has premiered and recorded the full orchestra version of Dorothy Hindman’s Setting Century on Albany Records. According to the South Florida Classical Review, “Hindman could not have wished for a better performance, with Magalong keeping the ensemble tight and crisp.” He has also conducted the premier of Fanfares for the Apocalypse by Ken Ueno. Mr. Magalong has been accepted to several prestigious conducting workshops including the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music with Cristian Măcelaru and the Ithaca International Conducting Masterclass with Larry Rachleff.
Having taught high school, junior high, and elementary orchestra for an underprivileged school district for nine years, Mr. Magalong is a passionate advocate for music education in the public schools. Under his direction and active recruitment, his high school program tripled in size, resulting in four ability-based string orchestras, the most of any Colorado high school. In 2011, the Widefield High School Chamber Strings was selected to perform at the Colorado Music Educators Association conference alongside more affluent schools. As a respected educator in Colorado, Mr. Magalong has guest conducted many honor orchestras, festivals, music camps, youth orchestras, and educator conferences in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Westminster, Jefferson County, and the Boulder Valley. He served on the Colorado All-State Orchestra board as Southern Governor for six years and has adjudicated many festivals throughout the state.
Mr. Magalong holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Denver, a Master of Music in Instrumental Conducting from the University of Miami, and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts in Instrumental Conducting from the University of Miami.
Mirlynez Iglesias-Mendez was born in La Habana, Cuba where she started her violin studies at the age of seven. She knows how to play a wide variety of musical styles on the violin. She held membership in the opera and ballet symphonic orchestra in her native country from a young age. Her talents gave her the opportunity to be in one of the most prestigious musical groups, Camerata Romeu, on the island.
Once Mrs. Iglesias-Mendez moved to Miami, Florida, she continued with her music studies receiving a B.M in Violin Performance from Florida International University, a Master’s in Music Education from University of Florida, and most recently an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
Glades Middle School was Mrs. Iglesias-Mendez’ first assignment with the Miami-Dade County Public schools. As Orchestra Director, her outstanding work was noted from the very beginning with her own award of Rookie Teacher of the Year. Her students received numerous superior ratings for the district assessments as well as state festivals. She also trained her orchestra to play all types of music. They were often invited to play for region and district events.
Later, Mrs. Iglesias-Mendez worked as a District String Specialist for the Central Region where she provided professional development as well as developed string programs for many schools in the area. She has also served for the last decade with the Greater Miami Youth Symphony as one of the Chamber Music Conductors and most recently the Strings Orchestra.
Presently, she is the Orchestra Director at Jorge Mas Canosa Middle School where she is developing a string program that not only includes the String Orchestra but also Guitar Ensembles. They have performed for district and South Region events.
She has also conducted the Elementary Honors String Orchestra at the 2014 and 2016 Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent’s Honors Festival.
Erich S. Rivero was born and raised in Miami, Florida and is a product of the Miami-Dade County Public School System where he graduated from Southwest Miami Senior High School in 1990. Mr. Rivero studied trumpet under Mr. Lee Wichmann, Mr. Jack Pinto and Mr. John Georgini. While at FIU, he studied Applied Trumpet with Mr. John Bailey, Mr. Jim Hacker & Mr. Arturo Sandoval and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Music Education in 1996.
He has served as Director of Bands at American High, G. Holmes Braddock High, Miami High, Miami Killian High, and Coral Reef High School. Glades Middle and his first year at Miami Arts Studio 6-12 @Zelda Glazer and twenty fourth year directing bands in the State of Florida. He has conducted Honors Jazz Bands and Symphonic Band in several counties in Florida. In January of 2009, Erich Rivero was awarded the Tom Bishop Award by the Florida Bandmasters Associations State Awards Committee. During the 2010-11 School Year, he was nominated by the Miami Dade County Public Schools Music Supervisor for the Yale Distinguished Music Educators Award. In September 2014 Mr. Rivero was named as a Quarter Finalist for the 2015 Grammy Music Educator Award. Mr. Rivero was chosen as Florida’s Representative for SB&O Magazine’s “50 Directors That Make A Difference” in the United States.
Mr. Rivero is an active member of the Dade County Music Educators Association, Florida Bandmasters Association, Florida Music Educators Association, NAfME, National Association for Music Education, Miami Arts Studio @ Zelda Glazer PTO, National Association of Educators, National Band Association, and the Jazz Education Network. Erich Rivero is a Certified Adjudicator for the Florida Bandmasters Association in the areas of Jazz, Solos & Ensembles, and Marching Band. Mr. Rivero also directs the Greater Miami Youth Symphony Jazz Combo and Jazz Bands and directed their GMYS Summer Camps and Jazz Intensive Camps. Rivero has served as an officer in FBA District XVI in the capacity of Secretary and Chairman twice over. In addition, he has also served on the State Board for the Florida Bandmasters Association and was the FBA Jazz Committee Chairman for the State from May 2016-18. Mr. Rivero is the National Band Association Jazz Committee Chairman as of July of 2018.
Nerissa Manela, MPhil, MT-BC grew up in New Jersey playing violin in orchestras including the Garden State Youth Philharmonic, New Jersey State Youth Orchestra, Georgian Court University Orchestra, Kean University Orchestra, and has performed in Italy with All American Youth in Concert and in England and Germany with the Cambridge University Musical Society Orchestra.
Nerissa moved to Miami to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and Music Therapy at the University of Miami. She completed her music therapy internship at The Music Therapy Center of California in San Diego, after which she moved to England to complete her Master’s degree in Arts, Creativity, Education and Culture at the University of Cambridge.
Nerissa returned to Miami in 2016, where she teaches elementary general music, chorus, and strings in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Additionally, she teaches privately and has been involved as a musician with many summer groups, including Greater Miami Youth Symphony’s summer camp. Her professional memberships include the National Association for Music Education, Florida Music Educators Association, Florida Elementary Music Educators Association, Dade County Music Educators Association, and National Educators Association.
Nerissa also directs Miami Jam Sessions, a music therapy socialization group for teens and young adults with special needs, which takes place on the University of Miami campus in partnership with The Donna E. Shalala MusicReach Program. Nerissa continues to play violin and performs throughout Miami-Dade county with the Alhambra Orchestra.
Oliver Diez, MDCPS 2020 Teacher of the Year, born and raised in Hialeah, received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Florida International University in 1999 and promptly began his teaching career at Palmetto Elementary School where he still teaches today. Throughout the past years he has helped develop a strong music program by starting a chorus, string orchestra, salsa dancers club, a full concert band, and a jazz ensemble. He was named Rookie Teacher of the Year in 1999 and Teacher of the Year in 2003. His groups have performed throughout the communities of Pinecrest and Miami. In 2007 he was chosen to direct the Recorder Ensemble at the Superintendent Honors Music Festival. Mr. Diez’s Palmetto Singers and Concert Band have received countless Superior ratings at the annual Music U.S.A. Festival in Orlando, Florida where his concert band has been declared one of the three top elementary concert bands in the state. His jazz combo performed at the Superintendent’s Holiday Program in 2010. Recently Mr. Diez received a proclamation from the Mayor of the Village of Pinecrest naming June 7th, 2011 “Oliver Diez Day.”
Brent A. Mounger received his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Stetson University. While at Stetson he began an active role in music education. During the Fall of 2004, he took on the assignment of conducting the school’s Brass Ensemble. Later in 2006, he petitioned the faculty, with the help of Dr. Bobby Adams, to create a new ensemble for woodwinds – Chamber Winds. In 2005, Mr. Mounger was President-Elect for the Florida Collegiate Music Educator’s National Conference and served as President in 2006. While President of FCMENC, he restructured the statewide organization and was able to increase the association’s membership. A partnership program was also established where larger universities in Florida were zoned with smaller universities and community colleges to help establish links and communication between future music educators. Mr. Mounger also served on the Florida Music Educator’s Association State Board from 2005-2007.
Currently Brent Mounger is the Wind Ensemble Director at New World School of the Arts, and from 2007 until 2011 he served as Director of Bands at Coral Reef Senior High School. While at Coral Reef the Wind Ensemble received national acclaim and was invited to perform at the 2011 National Concert Band Festival. Under Mr. Mounger’s direction, the Coral Reef Senior High band program received Superior ratings at District and State Jazz and Concert Assessments. Graduates from his programs attend the New England Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory, Stetson University, University of Miami Frost School of Music, The Florida State University College of Music, Berklee College of Music and the University of Florida School of Music.
Brent Mounger is the Bass Trombonist with the Miami Wind Symphony, a professional Wind Ensemble in South Florida. His professional memberships include: the College Band Directors National Association, the National Band Association, the Music Educators’ National Conference, the Florida Music Educators’ Association, the Florida Bandmasters Association, and Phi Mu Alpha
Gabriel Godoy is a young and rising musician and educator in South Florida. A Miami-native, Gabriel earned his Associate of Arts at Miami Dade College. He continued to pursue his musical career by earning a Bachelor of Music degree in the fall of 2016 from the University of Miami Frost School of music. At the Frost School, Gabriel was an active performer, playing in the Studio Jazz Band as well as a member of the highly acclaimed Frost Sextet. As a member of the sextet Gabriel found a passion for educating when the group traveled to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico to teach at the Fundación Tónica camp as well as perform at the Jalisco Jazz Festival.
With the inspiration from Mexico, Gabriel continued his passion for educating by attending Florida State University College of Music for a graduate degree as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. At FSU, Gabriel conducted a small jazz combo and a large jazz ensemble, private lessons, as well as teaching an undergraduate jazz history course. Gabriel earned his Master of Music degree from FSU in the spring of 2019.