May. 25, 2018
Known by students for his caring personality and his precise musical insights, Robert Denham is currently the area coordinator of our Composition Department. His students appreciate his ability to discuss the fine details of their composition while maintaining a vision of the whole work, and they have been able to glean much wisdom from Denham's active compositional career and broad range of professional experiences. In addition to teaching composition lessons, he also coordinates the New Music Ensemble, teaches theory and composition courses and coordinates annual composition concerts and contests for Biola students.
Education & Influences
Robert Denham's dream since high school had been to play trumpet professionally in a major orchestra, and he dedicated 4-5 hours a day to practice in order to achieve his goal. While he was at Biola, God gave him a desire to compose and ultimately redirected the course of his life as he had seen it. The change began when he entered his first piece, a short set of duets for tuba and trumpet, into the Biola Composition Competition and won third place. He recalls, "I have to say, first of all, that to this day I still don't think I deserved third place; another work on the program, far superior to any of the other works, didn't even place that year. But the Lord used that experience to trigger something in me. Composition immediately became an obsession, and through the course of time has proved to be an enduring passion."
Teachers include Michael Fiday, Joel Hoffman, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Roger Bourland, Ian Krouse and the late Jerry Goldsmith.
A diverse body of work that spans a range of genres, Denham's music has been performed the world over by individuals and groups such as:
His music has been performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia in countless venues. Some of these are
His publishers include:
Denham has received wide recognition and acclaim for his skill, winning the Hvar International Composition Competition (Croatia), the CCM Philharmonia Composition Competition, and the Gluck Brass Quintet Composition Competition. In 1998, he also received the prestigious Stanley Wilson Composer's Award (UCLA), and he has received awards from ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) annually since 2005.
Denham is passionate about exploring the works of recent composers. While studying at Cincinnati, he managed the annual new music festival Music X for four years. At Biola, Denham coordinates the student ensembles that perform in the annual New Music concert, which features less-familiar works by contemporary composers. He strongly believes that the study of contemporary methods opens up new ways of expression. While he acknowledges students' initial trepidation, Denham says "New music encourages students to 'think outside the box,' and that, put quite simply, is how innovation occurs."
The Biola Conservatory has had the blessing and the privilege of having Denham's work performed on campus. He has received several grants and commissions, including one Faculty Research and Development grant for the production of his song cycle, Sutter Creek: 21 Songs for Baritone and Piano, and another for a CD project with bass trombonist Ilan Morgenstern. The Sutter Creek song cycle proved to be an important work in Denham's career as it was taken on tour and performed five times. Other notable works that have been performed at Biola include Three Attributive Psalms for chorus (premiered by the Biola Conservatory Chorale in the Fall of 2008), and Missing Missy for English Horn and orchestra (premiered by the Biola Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in the Fall of 2008). Denham expresses the great joy that he has experienced in working with Conservatory ensembles and students who perform his compositions. He notes, "I've always been impressed with how the student ensembles respond to my music and capture the small nuances …They've always been excited about the opportunity to perform something for the first time, and I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed rehearsing with these students!"
Commissioned specifically for Biola's Year of the Arts (2011–12), Denham's latest work was created as an avenue for reflection at the end of a campus-wide exploration of the topic of sacred spaces and of the role of the arts in strengthening the faith. His oratorio, Under the Shadow: Five Sacred Spaces in a Fallen World was premiered in May 2012, and the concerts were made possible by the financial gifts of Howard and Roberta Ahmanson (Fieldstead and Company), and Biola University. He worked closely with Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony Chamber Orchestra to present two performances: one at Lansing Hall, and the other at Village of Hope, a homeless shelter run by the Orange County Rescue mission.
After the concert, Barry Corey, Biola's president remarked: "The dramatic images and rich lyrics reminded me of John Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Such incredible work and precision in every detail! It was truly a work of art--and a fitting finale event to Biola University's Year of the Arts," (A recording of the performance is accessible online through the Center of Christianity, Culture, and the Arts at http://ccca.biola.edu/resources/2013/oct/1/under-shadow-oratorio/. Hard copies are also available for free plus the cost of shipping and handling through the Conservatory Music Office).
Faith in Action
Under the Shadow, an oratorio on how sacred spaces interact with a fallen world, is perhaps one of the most profound expressions of Denham's faith in Christ. He remarks that writing this oratorio on sacred spaces caused him to reflect seriously on the brokenness of this present world, which he has also personally experienced. Though the oratorio portrays the darkness and pain of the good world God has made, Denham also takes great care to present the triumph of creation's restoration at Christ's return.
Writing "Soli Deo Gloria" at the bottom of many of his finished works in imitation of J.S. Bach, Denham intentionally reminds his audience (and himself) why he engages in the art of composition. He writes in his personal website, "If I can have some small part in promoting [Christ's eternal] kingdom, then I am satisfied to compose music to His glory."
While Denham has had positive experiences teaching at other institutions, he remarks that there is something unique in the Biola atmosphere. He says, "You just can't beat the atmosphere here at Biola." Teaching at Biola since 2007, he says that his interactions with students provide just one example of the ways he has seen God's grace working in the life of the Biola community. "It's always a blessing to be able to help students find their way, but how often do students return the favor with interest? Here at Biola they do; I've had students extend grace to me in so many ways, not just by their earnest participation in my classes, but also with prayers, warm smiles, and notes of encouragement. Here at Biola we don't just say we believe in Christ, we live it out."
His greatest hope for his students would be that they would come to the realization that all of their skills come directly from the hand of God. He says, "I'm really convicted that when God gives us skills as musicians, perhaps our greatest obligation is to remember that He gave those to us, and we didn't somehow come into possession of them on our own. Pride is ugly, and the moment we achieve something, (let's say we write our first song cycle or something like that), it meets us at the door; it wants a place in our hearts, and our sinful hearts are all too eager to give it a place. There's a tough balance there: we should celebrate the achievement together — a great deal of work and commitment went into making it happen, and it is right to give honor and encouragement; but the credit has to go to the God that made us — our work would amount to nothing if not for Him."
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).
He is currently or has been a member of 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.
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), Music Educators National Conference (MENC), 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.
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.
Ms. Larson has been described as a teacher who mentors her students toward becoming involved collaborators who have a deep understanding of the craftsmanship within the music they play and a joy for sharing it with others. Teaching at Biola since January 2010, her primary responsibilities include teaching applied violin, coaching chamber music, and teaching courses in string literature and string pedagogy. Outside of the Biola classroom, Ms. Larson has an exciting international performance career as a solo and chamber musician, and participates in festivals all over the world both as a performer and instructor. Alumna Amanda Sansonetti ('13) says, "Ms. Larson has a wonderful way of helping her students reach toward the joy of playing music, which is really the heart of excellence in performance. She persistently guides her students toward a deeper level of musicianship and a greater attention to the details, and her desire to use music as ministry is inspiring. Most of all, I am so grateful for the care she shows for her students as whole people; we are continually reminded that we are God's beloved children, first and foremost."
Education and Influences
Ms. Larson gives much credit to her parents for encouraging her in her pursuit of music. "My parents just really saw music as a precious gift from God that we discovered almost by happy accident in our lives, and they wanted to foster that. They never pushed it, but rather provided for it in every way they could; I'm really grateful for that approach they took." She emulates her parents' attitude with her students by presenting the study of music as a joyful pursuit of excellence as worship to God rather than as a means of self-glorification. One of her most influential teachers was Marylou Speaker Churchill, the first woman to hold a principal chair in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Larson began studying with her at age 11, and she notes that Mrs. Churchill inspired her students to love their music rather than to approach it with worry or intimidation. "She was the one who taught her students how to fall in love with music on a daily basis. One thing that she was famous for was, when you looked at her music, rather than a lot of bowings and fingerings, she had hearts over her favorite notes in the music instead. That taught us as her students that music is about loving others, and not just getting the right bowings and fingerings."
As for her love of teaching, she remarks that she learned much from watching her mother, Trudy Larson, as she taught in her home studio. Her mother is the premier teacher on the north shore of Boston, and someone who started a youth orchestra of 8 students in her basement, growing it to a full organization of 300 students today. "She played a big role in showing me how to teach, and how to care for the whole student, and not just how they play…The approach I have ended up taking is because of her example."
Teachers include James Buswell from the New England Conservatory, Franco Gulli at Indiana University, Yfrah Neaman at the Guildhall School of Music in London, Peter Oundjian at Yale University Grad School, and Marylou Speaker Churchill.
Ms. Larson began her studies at the age of 3 and gave her recital debut at the age of 6. One year later, she gave her orchestral solo debut performing with the Milwaukee Symphony in a series of 10 concerts. She went on to solo with the Boston Pops at age 11. Since then, she has performed concerts throughout the world and has numerous prestigious honors to her credit. The Boston Globe has praised her playing as having "great charm and refinement…and capable of breathtaking virtuosity." She has performed in such halls as Symphony Hall, Boston with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Weill Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Kennedy Center, and Victoria Hall, Geneva, as the featured soloist in a concert honoring Lord Yehudi Menuhin on the day of his death.
Her solo tours have brought her to four continents in concerts throughout the U.S., Japan, England, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Finland, Taiwan, South Korea, Estonia and India. Ms. Larson has been heard on radio on NPR, both in feature programs aired throughout the U.S. and also live in performance from the Chicago Public Library. In Korea, her performances have been broadcast both on radio and Korean National TV.
An avid chamber musician, Ms. Larson has been a Resident Artist at festivals including the Banff Festival for the Arts, the Caramoor Festival, New York, where she collaborated with pianist Joseph Kalichstein, Prussia Cove, England, and the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. She has also collaborated with pianist Menahem Pressler and in a series of chamber music performances with Gidon Kremer, Boris Pergamenschikow, and Eugene Istomin at the Kronberg Festival in Germany. For two years, she was invited to join Yehudi Menuhin's prestigious chamber ensemble, the Camerata Lysy, Switzerland, performing as soloist and in chamber ensembles throughout Europe, and on tour to South Africa. This led to three additional years of performances as the violinist of Duo Shanti under the auspices of Live Music Now in the UK and in the concert venues of Europe and the U.S. She was also a member of the Credo Trio from 2009-2012, the performance and touring ensemble of the Credo Festival, giving concerts and workshops on integrating music, work, and faith throughout the U.S.
This season, Elizabeth will be performing as recitalist and chamber musician in concert series throughout the U.S. and Europe. Ms. Larson continues to serve as Consultant for Angelos Mission Ensemble, an intensive chamber music program, dedicated to the development of young leaders in chamber music and the arts. In the summers, she returns to the festivals of Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, Credo Festival and Masterworks, where she performs and is on faculty each summer. Ms. Larson was most recently the Founder, Director and Instructor at the Geneva Conservatory of Music, a music school in New York City, which she founded in 2002, and divides her time between performing and teaching, residing in both New York and Los Angeles.
Faith in Action
For Ms. Larson, her music was often the way in which God met her and taught her. "I think I knew from a young age that this was something I wanted to do," she recalls."I wanted to speak through music, and I wanted people to know about God through the process. I wanted to know more about God through music, and that's what He used to teach me more about Him and draw me closer to who He is." As she has traveled around the globe to teach and to perform, she has seen God's hand at work in weaving together her circumstances. "If there is one thing that I learned it is that God certainly has full control over where I am and when. I just need to always follow His loving lead. And I can truly trust that because I learned that taking this leap [into Biola]." During lessons and in studio class, Ms. Larson encourages her students to think and to discuss the ways in which they can live out their faith in the larger artistic community. "Music is one of the most powerful ways that God brings us into His presence," she notes. The way that she shows her students to approach their performances is a clear manifestation of this attitude of worship.
During Biola's campus-wide Year of the Arts (2011-2012), Ms. Larson played a crucial role as the Founder and Coordinator for the Random Acts of Culture: A Moving concert series. This project facilitated weekly 30-minute casual concerts performed by students "at random" all over campus in order to minister to the Biola community and to explore the concept of transforming venues into sacred spaces. Through her efforts in the Conservatory, students have more opportunities to serve their university with their musical gifts, and to bless people beyond our campus, as well as to bring more awareness of the arts to the wider community. An example of this is the music recorded by the Biola Honors String Quartet.
Ms. Larson sees her interactions with her students as an enriching part of her experience at Biola. "The students are hungry to learn about their craft, about God, and about each other. They are open about sharing what they are learning, and so the family atmosphere allows us to easily learn from each other and not just from the professor. I have found that in the string department, there is a close-knit family who can trust each other. We are free to make mistakes, to learn, and then grow." Her desire for her students is that they would learn to trust God and worship Him through their efforts. "Great music comes out of a heart that trusts Him and a willingness to spend the time developing one's gifts…wherever that may lead."
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
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.
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 worshipinfo.com 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."
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."
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.
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.
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.