The rewards for learning to play an instrument are endless.  It is a process which stimulates mental and physical awareness, encourages discipline, and instills sense of accomplishment. For anyone at any age, we at Seattle Piano Academy teach our students far beyond the "basics" of music.  Our creative and progressive approaches help build a strong foundation for a lifelong enjoyment of music.

All instructors at SPA are dedicated pianists with a passion for teaching and have degrees in Piano Performance.

Jinhwa Chon, DMA Univ. of Washington, Indiana University, Eastman School of Music
Britanee Hwee, MM studentUniv. of Washington
Kay Yeh, DMA studentUniv. of Washington
Lidia Kotlova, MMUniv. of Washington, Prokofiev's College of Music (Moscow), Lesnoy Music School
Nina Kemel, MastersRimsky-Korsakov Conservatory of Music (St. Petersburg)
Stephanie Lee, BMUniv. of Washington
Tomoko Maki, DMAUniv. of Washington, Central Washington University, Kunitachi College of Music
Yimo Zhang, DMA studentUniv. of Washington, Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing

Jinhwa Chon, Founder and Teacher. After having worked with students of all ages and levels for over a decade, Jinhwa founded Seattle Piano Academy in 2003 with the goal of providing a unique teaching environment where all students may have a chance to experience a fundamental understanding of piano playing at all stages of learning. Jinhwa encourages students to come with an open mind and a willingness to explore music far beyond learning to read notes, developing the skills to listen for subtle nuances in sound while developing an awareness of their entire body as they play. Jinhwa teaches students to decipher the subtlest differences in sound as they become aware of the physical sensations involved in producing that sound. She strives to help students acquire the necessary tools they need to appreciate music making for life.

From the first lesson, students need learning tools that synthesize the physical aspects of playing the piano with the technical and mental challenges of making the sound "sing." In her doctoral dissertation, Jinhwa presented a fresh look at the fundamental pillars of teaching piano: fluidity and continuity of sound utilizing proper posture. Learning to play classical piano is a life long journey requiring patience, dedication, and, above all, awareness of the challenges, both physical as well as mental. With her passion for teaching piano, Jinhwa encourages and hopes to develop in all students an understanding of the beauty of sound, instilling natural approaches to playing the piano.

Jinhwa holds her Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in piano performance from Eastman School of Music, Indiana University and the University of Washington, respectively. Jinhwa has studied with Craig Sheppard and Bela Siki at the University of Washington. Her teachers also include Nellie Tholen (Lewis & Clark), Rebecca Penneys (Eastman School of Music), Martin Canin (The Julliard School), and Enrica-Cavallo Gulli (Indiana University).

Member, MTNA, Seattle Chapter
Member, National Guild of Piano Teachers

Britanee Hwee grew up in Seattle under the musical tutelage of Marissa Rebadulla-Ramos, winning her first piano competition at age six and having her orchestral debut at age nine playing Haydn's C major concerto. She also competed successfully in the Northwest Chopin Competition and the Washington State Outstanding Artist Competition when she was in grade school. In 2010, she performed in Benaroya Hall as a prize for being a finalist in KING FM's Ten Grands competition. More recently, she was a two-time winner of the University of Washington School of Music Concerto Competition, performing as a featured soloist with the UW Symphony in Meany hall in 2012 and 2014.

Britanee graduated cum laude from the University of Washington with a Bachelors of Music in Piano Performance, studying under Dr. Robin McCabe. She was a recipient of the prestigious Brechemin Scholarship and has performed for many different artists such as Paul Roberts, Sasha Sarkovich, Craig Sheppard, and Steven Spooner. She has also played in chamber ensembles, accompanied for vocalists at the UW, and was part of a four-hands duo with pianist Joseph Dougherty for over two years. Teaching allows her to pass on to students an ability to love and appreciate music. She has experience working with children of all ages, and values an engaging, creative teaching approach that motivates and equips students to succeed. Britanee plans to pursue her Master's degree in Piano Performance in the near future.

Kay Yeh is a piano soloist, collaborator, and accompanist. During her past few years in Seattle, she was the pianist of Trio Camellia with violinist Heather Borror and cellist Yang Lu. In 2015, she joined the UW Wind Ensemble as a pianist.

Kay earned her Master's degree in piano performance from the University of Washington in 2015, and is currently in her Doctoral program under the tutelage of professor Robin McCabe. Prior to coming to Seattle to pursue her passion for piano, Kay's creativity expanded to graphic design and illustration as she earned her Bachelor's degree in Architecture from National Cheng-Kung University in Taiwan.

As a teacher, Kay enjoys bringing music to students of all ages. She considers music a very important part of education, and finds great delight in watching her students learn to play music step by step.

Lidia Kotlova was born in a family of musicians in Lesnoy, Urals and has been playing the piano since she was four. She graduated from Lesnoy Music school with a major in piano performance and earned a Bachelor's degree from Sergei Prokofiev's College of Music in Moscow. In 2011 Lidia came to the U.S. and has got her Masters in piano performance degree at the University of Washington under the guidance of professor Robin McCabe.

Lidia likes to perform a lot and has numerous awards: She won the Seattle Russian Piano Festival Competition and the Bach and Viennese Competitions 2012. She played at Autumn Evenings concert at Benaroya Nordstrom Recital Hall as part of Russian Chamber Music Foundation and for the King FM Live broadcast show. Her performance was chosen for SeaTac airport's Experience the City of Music project in 2012.

As a student at the University of Washington, Lidia had two unique opportunities: She was invited to play on the Benaroya Hall stage a brand new piece composed by Joel Durand (associate Director of School of Music and Chair of the Composition department) called Le Tombeau de Rameau with the UW symphony, conducted by Prof. David Rahbee and with the guidance of maestro Ludovic Morlot. For the second opportunity, her performance became part of the documentary magazine When The War Ends, featured by the UW television and the UW magazine Three Sixty Degrees.

Currently, Lidia is an often invited pianist for the Steinway and Sons galleries and KUOW broadcasts. She is also a well-known and favorite pianist among senior residents of the Seattle area for charity performances, as well as in South India and Central Russia for concerts and master classes.

Lidia enjoys time with her husband and two sons, a cat, and a dog. She likes Indian culture and music and speaks Hindi fluently.

Nina Kemel, a native of St. Petersburg, holds both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Piano Performance from the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory of Music in St. Petersburg, Russia. She found her passion for teaching at various music schools in St. Petersburg. Since then she has taught at a number of music schools in Tel-Aviv conservatories in Israel. As a resident of Seattle for over 20 years, Nina devotes her time to teaching students of all ages and levels with her warm personality and meticulous teaching style. Throughout her career, her students have gone on to earn numerous awards and scholarships.

Stephanie Lee grew up in Bellevue, Washington and began studying the piano at age six with Tatiana Lanford. In her high school years she won several local competitions, and since then has accompanied for the Seattle Chinese Arts Group Choir and performed in various community events. She has had experience performing in masterclasses for pianists including Vadym Kholodenko, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Marilyn Nonken, and has recently performed in concerts as part of New England Conservatory's 2016 Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice.

In June 2016, Stephanie graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor's degree in piano performance, studying under Dainius Vaicekonis and Cristina Valdes. She currently serves as treasurer for the Washington State Federated Music Clubs, and is making plans for further education in the near future. As a hobby she plays in the Zhenlun cello orchestra, composes contemporary music, and finds time to pursue interests in art and literature between teaching and other responsibilities. She believes that self-awareness in every student's playing is crucial, and to know that making music to express themselves can be immensely satisfying.

Tomoko Maki, born in Tokyo, Japan, is a solo piano performer, collaborative musician, and teacher. She holds her Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from Kunitachi College of Music and her Master of Music degree in piano performance from Central Washington University. In addition to having attended Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, France, Tomoko has recently received her Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree at the University of Washington under Prof. Robin McCabe. Her dissertation, titled Connections Across Oceans: Debussy, Impressionism, and "The Floating World (Ukiyo-e)" of Japanese Art, focuses on the Japanese art world which Debussy loved and its influence on his creativity as a musician and composer. Tomoko has performed in master classes for Dmitri Alexeev, Stephen Drury, and Malcolm Bilson at the UW School of Music, where she has been a recipient of Helen Crowe Snelling Music Award and Ruth Sutton Watters Endowed Scholarship.

Tomoko is passionate about teaching both children and adults. The two main focuses of her piano teaching are developing good practicing habits and providing a positive learning experience.

Yimo Zhang is a Chinese pianist currently pursuing her Doctrate of Musical Arts program under the tutelage of Dr. Robin McCabe at the University of Washington, where she serves as a Teaching Assistant for the School of Music.

Yimo's passion and dedication for playing the piano have led her to study in the class of Dr. Tamas Ungar at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas during 2014-2016 and with Mr. and Mrs. Pridonoff at the University of Cincinnati during 2012-2014. She has studied at Interlochen Arts Academy with scholarship in 2007. While in China, she has studied with Xinning Zhang, a part of Central Conservatory of Music, in Beijing.

Yimo actively performs in local festivals and communities, where audiences acclaim her sensitive and expressive artistry. She has premiered Paul Schoenfield's piano music "Peccadillos" at Texas Christian University. In 2017, she was the gold medalist of the Bach Festival of Seattle International Festival and Competition. As a student at University of Washington, she has appeared as a soloist and collaborator at Meany Hall, with the Seattle Piano Institute and UW modern ensemble.

Her career goal is to bring a high standard of classical music to the wider world, and to pass on her knowledge of music to a younger generation of students.

FORMER INSTRUCTORS : Please click here for a list of former teachers.