Experts on "Music"

Joel Balzun

  • Teaching Fellow, Voice

Baritone and composer Joel Balzun holds a master’s degree in vocal performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Jan Opalach and Benton Hess. At Eastman, he was nominated for the Teaching Assistant Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Balzun made his solo debut at the Kennedy Centre in 2014, singing excerpts from Turandot. As a 2016 fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Balzun sang alongside Stephanie Blythe in a concert of American song and Dawn Upshaw and Sanford Sylvan in Shostakovich's brooding Symphony No. 14. Other past appearances include the title role in Don Giovanni, the Four Villains (Les contes d'Hoffmann), Prince Yeletskiy and Count Tomskiy (Pikovaya Dama), Albert (Werther), Belcore (L'elisir d'amore), Dr. Malatesta (Don Pasquale), and Valentin (Faust), among others. His acclaimed performance of Johannes-Passion with the Rochester Bach Festival was broadcast multiple times across the United States.

An avid proponent of the music of living and contemporary composers, Balzun won critical acclaim for his portrayal of the titular Joseph de Rocher in the South Florida premiere of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking with Miami Music Festival. He worked with the composer on this work, as well as the role of Charlie in excerpts from Three Decembers. On the concert stage, he has championed rarely-performed works such as George Rochberg's String Quartet No. 7, as well as Peter Maxwell Davies' virtuosic Eight Songs for a Mad King, and numerous performances of Biola faculty member Robert Denham's Sutter Creek, among others.

Also an accomplished composer, Balzun was a multiple prize-winner in the 2017 SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers. Other accolades include winning the Dallas Wind Symphony’s annual Call for Fanfares and both the Young Composers Prize and the Grand Prize in the National Broadcast Orchestra’s Galaxie Rising Star Composers’ Competition. His music has been performed across the Americas as well as in Asia.

He currently serves on the voice faculties of Biola University and Fullerton College. In addition to teaching voice lessons at both institutions, Balzun also teaches group voices classes and song literature. At Biola, he previously served as the vocal coach and rehearsal pianist for Biola Opera, and the director of Opera Scenes.

For more information, including upcoming performances, visit

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Ron Borczon

  • Area Coordinator, Music Therapy

Ronald M. Borczon, MT-BC, is developing the first Music Therapy Program at Biola University. He also founded the Music Therapy Department at California State University, Northridge in 1984. Borczon has written two music therapy textbooks as well as recorded two CDs featuring him as a classical guitarist. His clinical experience in music therapy spans 40 years and encompasses numerous populations including psychiatric, intellectual and developmental disability, autism, posttraumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. He has presented numerous papers at national and regional conferences, as well as given many public service presentations. He has done extensive work in the area of mass trauma and music therapy helping to set up a program after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the high school shooting at Columbine, Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. He has received many national and regional honors for his pioneering work in the field of music therapy.

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Robert Denham

  • Associate Professor, Music Theory and Composition
  • Composition Area Coordinator

Robert Denham’s music includes works of every genre and has been performed to great acclaim across the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. He has worked closely with Carl St. Clair and the Pacific Symphony Chamber Orchestra, who recently premiered his 65-minute oratorio, Under the Shadow with the Biola University Chorale. Other recent premiers include his three-movement Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (first performed by Brian Bensing and the Cambrian Symphony Orchestra) and "The Way Home" for two sopranos and piano (commissioned by the “Soprani Compagni” trio). Other champions of Denham’s music include Timothy Lees (Concertmaster, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra), Rodney Winther (Conductor, CCM Wind Symphony and Chamber Players), Elizabeth Larson (Credo Trio) and singers Susan Ali, Tyler Thompson and Joel Balzun.

The composer has written a large amount of music specifically for low brass, collaborating with some of the world’s finest tuba and bass trombone players, including Ilan Morgenstern (San Antonio Symphony), Aubrey Ford (Charlotte Symphony), Steven Maxwell (Kansas State University), Charles Koontz (Brass Pacifica), David Kirk (Houston Symphony) and Beth Mitchell (Rolling Thunder Tuba Quartet). Ilan Morgenstern’s album It’s Alive: New Music for Bass Trombone was released in 2016, and exclusively features the music of Robert Denham. The playlist includes one unaccompanied work, several pieces for bass trombone and piano and the complete "Concerto for Bass Trombone and Wind Ensemble" (recorded with Eddie Smith and the University of Redlands Wind Ensemble). See It's Alive CD for more information.

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Robert Denham holds a DMA in composition from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM) where he studied with Michael Fiday, Joel Hoffman and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon. His other degrees are from UCLA (MA Composition), where he studied with Roger Bourland, Ian Krouse and the late Jerry Goldsmith, and Biola University (BM, Trumpet Performance). Dr. Denham managed the annual new music festival MusicX for four years, and currently leads the New Music Ensemble at Biola University where he serves as an Associate Professor. He is the winner of the 2017–18 American Prize (wind ensemble/band division); other recent prizes include first prize in the Flute New Music Consortium Composition Competition (solo flute with piano) and an Honorable Mention for the 2017 American Prize (choral division).

An avid conductor, and member of ASCAP, CFAMC and SCI, Denham's music is published by Cimarron Music Publishing, Falls House Press, GIA Publishing, Imagine Music Publishing, Pasquina Publishing Company, Pelican Music Publishing and Tuba Euphonium Press. For recordings and videos of his music and performances, please visit Robert Denham's website.

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Robert Feller

  • Professor
  • Area Coordinator, Woodwinds, Brass and Percussion
  • Director, Symphonic Winds and Brass Ensemble

Robert G. Feller has performed with the California Philharmonic, California Wind Orchestra, the Long Beach Municipal Band, the Rochester Philharmonic, Pasadena Symphony, Pasadena Chamber Orchestra, the Ontario Brass, the Nazareth Brass Quintet and played lead trumpet in dozens of Civic Light Opera productions. Since 1972 he has been a trumpet performer in many of Disneyland’s atmosphere groups, including playing lead trumpet for the nationally acclaimed Symphonic Fantasy Tour. In the course of 10 years, he traveled extensively with the Continental Brass and Singers, conducting and playing trumpet in more than 2000 concerts in over 29 countries Worldwide. Feller was a founding member of Gabriel Brass, a trumpet trio with a four-piece rhythm section, whose crowning achievement was to represent the United States in North and South Korea as well as China.

While serving as a graduate assistant at the Eastman School of Music, Robert G. Feller graduated in 1986 with a master’s degree in Performance and Literature in Trumpet, and was awarded the coveted Performer’s Certificate for outstanding performance. His trumpet teachers have included Barbara Butler (Chicago), Boyde Hood (Los Angeles Philharmonic), Anthony Plog (International Recitalist/ Freiburg School in Germany), John Clyman (Los Angeles), Joan La Rue (Long Beach) and Gary Wiedeman (Huntington Beach).

Feller studied conducting with David Effron (Orchestral, Eastman School of Music), Hans Beer (Orchestral, USC), David Wilson (Choral, USC) and Larry Curtis (Instrumental, CSULB). He was the founder and director of the Professional Christian Wind Ensemble conducting numerous concerts in Southern California and served as the executive producer for Rejouissance, the ensemble’s first CD. For two years he also served as the conductor of the Pacific Brass Ensemble, Southern California’s premier Brass Ensemble.

Currently Feller is the Area Coordinator of Winds and Percussion at the Biola University Conservatory of Music. He also conducts the Symphonic Winds, directs the Brass Ensemble and coaches the Honors Brass Quintet. In addition to teaching Basic and Advanced Instrumental Conducting, Brass Methods, Instrumental Literature for Schools, Guided Research for Instrumental Literature and Pedagogy, he also teaches private trumpet lessons and coordinates other activities related to instrumental music. For 28 years Mr. Feller was the Head Clinician for Disneyland’s Performing Arts Excellence in Entertainment Workshops where he led approximately 4000 film scoring session workshops. He is also a freelance musician and recitalist performing numerous concerts throughout Southern California and overseas each year. He has been a guest soloist for orchestral solo and recital tours to China, Japan and Indonesia with George Boespflug, Marlin Owen and Manami Kawamura as Quartet Biola, and they have a standing invitation to return every year.

Feller is a member of the Musicians Union Local 7, Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), College Band Directors National Conference (CBDNA), California Band Directors Association (CBDA) and a charter member of the International Trumpet Guild (ITG). He is a much sought after honor band conductor, guest clinician, guest adjudicator and seminar speaker.

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David A Horner

  • Professor of Theology and Philosophy

David Horner has taught at the University of Oxford, Denver Seminary, and served as a Visiting Scholar and Research Associate at the University of Colorado. He has lectured in numerous classrooms and university forums nationally and in Europe, and he has written numerous articles and book chapters on ethics, apologetics and ancient and medieval philosophy. Horner serves as Research Scholar for Centers for Christian Study, International, an effort to develop intellectual Christian communities within secular university contexts. He also serves as Executive Director of The Illuminatio Project, whose aim is to bring the light of a classical biblical vision of goodness, truth and beauty into the thinking of the church and culture through strategic research and communication.

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Elizabeth Larson

  • Associate Professor, Violin and Chamber Music
  • Area Coordinator, Strings
  • Director, Chamber Music

The Boston Globe has praised Elizabeth Larson’s playing as having “great charm and refinement…and breathtaking virtuosity.” Larson began violin at the age of three, and since first soloing with the Milwaukee Symphony at age seven and the Boston Pops at age 11, she has gone on to perform internationally as a renowned soloist and chamber musician. Her tours have brought her to four continents throughout the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia, and to the concert venues of Boston’s Symphony Hall as soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Weill Hall, Carnegie Hall, Victoria Hall, Geneva, as the featured soloist honoring Lord Yehudi Menuhin and the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. Larson has been heard on radio on National Public Radio (NPR), in a feature program aired throughout the United States and live from the Chicago Public Library. In Korea, her performances have been broadcast both on radio and Korean National Television.

An avid chamber musician, Larson has been a resident artist internationally at the festivals of Ojai, Banff, Caramoor in New York, Kronberg in Germany, and the Verbier Festival, Switzerland. She has collaborated with acclaimed pianists Menahem Pressler, Eugene Istomin and Joseph Kalichstein, as well as with other renowned artists such as Yehudi Menuhin, Boris Pergamenschikow and Gidon Kremer.

For three years, Larson was invited to join Yehudi Menuhin’s prestigious ensemble, Camerata Lysy, Switzerland, performing as soloist and in chamber ensembles throughout Europe and South Africa. While living in Europe, she also performed under the auspices of Live Music Now in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe and the United States. After settling back in the United States, she was a member of the Credo Trio, giving concerts and workshops on integrating music, work and faith for college students throughout the United States.

As a prominent leader in educating future musicians, Larson was Founder and Director of the Geneva Conservatory of Music, a music school she founded in 2002 in New York City and is invited regularly as a Guest Artist to lead masterclasses at music schools, conservatories, and on university campuses throughout the United States and Europe. In the summer, she returns regularly to be a performing and teaching artist at the festivals of Apple Hill, Masterworks and Credo Festival at Oberlin College.

Larson recently released her Chung-Larson-Bae trio CD, Three Strands: The Complete Piano Trios of Brahms under Concert Artists Guild Records, New York, and continues to perform as a recitalist and chamber musician in concert series throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

Larson makes her home with her husband and divides her time between performing and teaching in New York and Los Angeles.

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Barry Liesch

  • Associate Professor, Worship Arts
  • Area Coordinator, Worship Arts

Barry Liesch is the founder of the Worship Arts program at Biola. He also writes curriculum for courses in Improvisation and Pop Theory, and teaches several courses in the Worship Arts department.

Education & Influences

  • Additional studies in Piano with the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada
  • Teachers include Pulitzer-prize winners Bernard Rands and Roger Reynolds

As a nine-year old boy, he was greatly affected by a performance at his church that featured a professional pianist and vocalist; his desire to imitate what he had heard in church reawakened his desire to study the piano, which he had stopped studying a year earlier. At age 12, he began playing in church, and from this point his life of ministry began.

Musical Career

During his youth, Liesch played for many Christian evangelistic events including Youth for Christ rallies and City Wide Evangelistic Crusades. He also toured with Mel Bowker, and played for Billy Graham crusades throughout Canada.

Liesch is also an influential writer and speaker on the topic of music in the church. He has also written articles for prominent ministry journals and developed the website with resources for those involved in church music.

In addition, Liesch has been a guest lecturer and teacher at institutions all over North America, including Azusa Pacific University, Trinity Western University, Regents College, Simpson College, Ashland Seminary, Baylor University, Hope International University, and Canadian Bible College. He also speaks at major worship conferences such as Break Forth and the American Baptist Conference on Worship & Evangelism.

During his undergraduate years, Liesch performed and arranged for World Records of Canada. While at UCSD, Liesch was actively composing music, especially electronic music. He also contributed original arrangements for the CD entitled "Moments with You."

Why Biola?

Teaching at Biola since 1974, Liesch has played a key role in shaping the Conservatory into the program that it is today. He started the Music in Worship program in 2004. He has also written much of the curriculum for core classes within the program. He says, "I saw the need for good pedagogical materials in improvisation and pop theory not only for our own students, but for those already involved in music ministry." Liesch is enthusiastic about teaching his students to the best of his ability, remarking, "We have so many fine students in the Music in Worship program; they are just quality people. These kids are going to go on and do great things. It's a privilege to be able to be a part of their lives."


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Jeanne Robison

  • Professor, Voice and Opera
  • Area Coordinator, Voice

Jeanne Robison has served as Voice Area Coordinator at the Conservatory since 1995 and served as director of opera from 1995–2014. Under her leadership, enrollment in the voice area almost tripled between 1998 and 2007 and students under her tutelage have gone on to esteemed graduate schools including Eastman, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes, Peabody, USC, Boston University, Michigan State, Florida State, AJ Fletcher Opera Program and The Royal Academy of Music and Guild Hall in London. She has had students placing and winning voice competitions every year since she first entered students in the Southern Regional NATS Competition in 1986. Her graduates have gone on to successful careers as high school choral directors, university voice teachers and international opera singers.

Robison received her bachelor's degree in Music Education and her master's in Vocal Performance at Kent State University and continued her graduate studies, earning a Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. There she began her directorial training serving as an assistant director to renowned opera director and bass Italo Tajo. She was the first doctoral candidate at CCM to study opera direction and production as her secondary field, and was the first student to include direction as part of her doctoral lecture recital, Verdi as stage director. Before coming to Biola, Robison taught at the University of Minnesota, Duluth in 1976, Mansfield State University, Delta State University and John Brown University. The opera programs she pioneered at Delta State, JBU and Biola still thrive.

Robison has directed more than 30 productions including scenes from operas, productions of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, Patience, The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore and Trial by Jury; one-act operas including Menotti's The Telephone, The Medium and The Old Maid and the Thief; Puccini's Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi; Mozart’s Cosi fan tuttè, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute; Bizet’s Carmen; Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor; Poulenc’s Dialogue of the Camelites; Adamo’s Little Women.

Robison has sung numerous roles with college opera workshops and professional companies, including the Ohio Light Opera Company, Duluth-Superior Opera Association, Des Moines Metro Summer Opera Festival and the CCM Opera Theatre and Opera Studio and has performed with regional orchestras in Ohio, Mississippi, and Arkansas. She has performed over 30 recitals through the years singing a wide variety of works from the Middle Ages through the 20thc including songs and arias by composers Argento, Bach, Barber, Bellini, Britten, Chausson, Chopin, Debussy, Donizetti, Duparc, Fauré Gershwin, Grieg, Handel, Victor Herbert, Ives, Liszt, Machaut, MacDowell, Mahler, Marx, Meyerbeer, Milhaud, Mozart, Poulenc, Puccini, Purcell, Rameau, Rorem, Roussel, A. Scarlatti, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, Trimble, Verdi, Walton and Wolf.

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Joshua Smith

  • Assistant Professor, Torrey Honors
Dr. Joshua Smith is a literary and American studies scholar. His primary research centers on nineteenth-century American thought and the conceptual influence of the American West. He is most interested in the ways that American territorial expansion and frontier mythology shape antebellum writing and national identity. His research has forged links between such disparate subjects as Nat Turner, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Ellison, Quentin Tarantino and Toni Morrison. 

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Victor Velazquez

  • Associate Professor of Modern Languages

Victor Velazquez is currently a modern language professor at Biola University. He is a member of the Modern Language Association, American Association of Teachers of French and American Association of Teachers of Spanish, Portuguese and Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA). Velazquez invests in his community and serves as a volunteer speaker for Child S.H.A.R.E., an organization that supports and encourages faith communities through the foster care and adoption process. He received his bachelor’s degree in comparative literature and master’s degree/doctorate in French Language and Literature from the University of California, Irvine. While working towards his doctorate, he was honored through several awards such as the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Award. Velazquez previously taught at Mount San Antonio College, Coastline Community College and University of California, Irvine.

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Allen L. Yeh

  • Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies

Allen Yeh is a missiologist who specializes in Latin America and China. He also has other academic interests in history, classical music, homiletics, social justice, the California missions, the Maya, and biographical interest in Jonathan Edwards (America's greatest theologian) and Adoniram Judson (America's first intercontinental missionary). He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia. He earned his B.A. from Yale, M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell, M.Th. from Edinburgh, and D.Phil. from Oxford. Despite this alphabet soup, he believes that experience is the greatest teacher of all (besides the Bible). As such, Allen has been to over 60 countries on every continent, to study, do missions work, and experience the culture. As Mark Twain said in 1857, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." He is joyfully married to Arianna Molloy, a professor in Biola's Communication Studies Department.

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