ABOUT US

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 (University of Washington)
Amanda HarrisDoctoral Candidate (UW)
Jane HeinrichsDoctoral Student (UW)
Lisa ChangIndiana University (MM)
Michael RefvemManhattan School of Music (MM)
Soonmee KimNew England Conservatory (MM)
Tomoko MakiDMA (UW)
Yuliya MininaDMA (UW)


After having worked with students of all ages and levels for over a decade, Jinhwa Chon 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


Amanda Harris, a native of western Washington, is currently working on her Doctorate in piano performance at the University of Washington. Previously, she has studied at Northwestern University (BM in piano performance, BA in German), and Michigan State University (MM in Piano Performance, and MM Piano Pedagogy). She has even spent time in Germany, where she studied abroad for a year at the University of Tubingen.

Her teachers have included Patricia Michaelian (University of Washington), George Vatchnadze (Michigan State University), Dr. Marcia Bostis (Northwestern University), and Wei Tsin Fu (in Tubingen, Germany). Her passion for teaching started while studying at Michigan State University, taking pedagogy classes and finding opportunities to teach both privately, and in a group setting. Harris is also an active accompanist in the greater Seattle area.


Jane Heinrichs is currently a doctoral student in piano performance, studying with Dr. Robin McCabe at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her former teachers include Hungarian pianist Bela Siki at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and Dr. John Cowell at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Jane regularly performs as accompanist for the University of Washington choirs, in addition to solo performances and chamber recitals with vocalists and instrumentalists. Performances in 2014 include a solo recital at the University of Arkansas and a collaborative recital with tenor William Brooke in Salt Lake City.

Jane has had successful piano studios in southern California, Arkansas, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. She was a leader in the Music Teachers Association of California in the Los Angeles area and was a piano faculty member of the Hong Kong International Institute of Music and the University of Arkansas. Her students have been highly rated in auditions and examinations for the National Guild of Piano Teachers, the National Federation of Music Clubs, the Royal School of Music, and the Music Teachers Association of California.

Besides her interests in piano performance, Jane worked in the arts management field in San Francisco, assisting in fundraising and production of the Summer Festival of Music in Golden Gate Park. In her spare time, she enjoys walking the beaches of Puget Sound, hiking the trails of Mt. Rainier, and sharing school experiences with her two college-aged daughters.


Lisa Chang is from Taichung, Taiwan and holds a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. While at IU she received the IU Music Merit award scholarship and studied with Professor Shigeo Neriki.

Lisa regularly collaborates with talent around the world and participated in the 46th Weimar Master Classes where she studied with pianist Paul Badura-Skoda. During the summer of 2013, she had the opportunity to learn with Nadia Boulanger's last student, Professor Emile Naoumoff, and was a scholarship recipient while working as an accompanist for several professors at the Jacobs School.

Although she has received scholarships during most of her studies, Lisa's passion for sharing the gift of music has led her to give music lessons throughout her musical career. Lisa's teaching philosophy is to first understand students and their goals and follow with a plan that will address their particular needs and dreams as a budding performer. Encouraging students' imagination by creating a mental storyline as part of the musical process is a technique that Lisa has found promotes a holistic understanding of music that goes beyond pages of notes that must be memorized.


Michael Refvem is experienced at teaching students of all ages and levels; beginner to advanced. In addition to cultivating a love for making music in his students, he believes finding success in music imbues them with confidence to excel in all other areas of life. For Michael, the art of teaching is as much about showing students how to learn effectively as it is about preparing for concerts. He is passionate about the progress of every one of his students and encourages dedication for those striving for excellence. Above all, he believes a combination of focused studies and persistence will be rewarded with outstanding results. In New York City, Michael was on the faculty of MSM Sunday, a program for young musicians taught by advanced graduate students. He has also coached chamber music for the Marrowstone Music Festival.

Michael is a recent graduate of the Manhattan School of Music (master of music 2014) as a student of Zenon Fishbein and André-Michel Schub. He has performed in master classes for esteemed artists including Gilbert Kalish, Margo Garrett, Jeremy Denk, Stephen Drury, and Frederic Rzewski. At Prague Music Performance Institute and Festival, Michael worked with luminaries Paul Badura-Skoda, Andrei Gavrilov, and Alfred Brendel and collaborated with members of Prague Philharmonia. Michael is an alumnus of Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington (bachelor of music 2011) where he studied with Jeffrey Gilliam. At WWU, Michael was the winner of the concerto competition and debuted its piano series at the Firehouse Arts Center. He has also performed extensively for the Bellingham Festival of Music as soloist and in collaboration with violinist Stefan Jackiw. Highlights from his time at MSM included a performance of Schubert's Trout Quintet in a master class with double bassist Kurt Muroki for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and a master class with world-renowned pianist Stephen Hough.


Soonmee Kim moved to Seattle, WA in June of 2014 from Irvine, CA. She began her piano studies at the age of 8 with Sofia Zukerman and received a Bachelor of Music in piano performance with Eduardo Delgado at California State University, Fullerton as a recipient of the Alicia de Larrocha Scholarship, Ebell Club of Fullerton GFWC Scholarship, Brahinsky-Fromson Memorial Scholarship, and the Wolford Scholarship. She then received a Master of Music in piano performance at the New England Conservatory with Alexander Korsantia and was awarded the New England Conservatory Scholarship and the Beneficent Society Scholarship. Currently, Soonmee is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California under the tutelage of Norman Krieger while residing in Seattle, WA and interning at the Seattle Symphony in the Public Relation and Communications department.

Soonmee has won numerous awards including 1st place at the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, winner of the International Young Artists Peninsula Music Festival, grand prize winner of the Music Associates Concerto Competition, a finalist in the Jacob Flier International Piano Competition, winner of the Young Artist Guild of the Music Teachers' Association of California, a semifinalist at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, and a finalist at the Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition with her trio consisting of piano, violin, and clarinet called The KwonLam Trio. Soonmee is an active performer and has performed all over the United States and most recently in Perugia, Italy.

Soonmee has been teaching students of all ages for over a decade. She is passionate about her work and excited to work with students to share her love for classical music and the piano.


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.


Yuliya Minina, a Ukrainian born pianist, is an active teacher, soloist, and collaborative performer. She started her music education at the age of five at the Stolyarsky school-lyceum for gifted children in Odessa, Ukraine, where she was trained according to traditional Russian music school methods. Graduation from the Stolyarsky school and later from the music academy in her hometown of Odessa, Ukraine, further solidified Yuliya’s commitment to music. She moved to the United States to study in the Master's of Fine Arts Program at the University of California, Irvine. Resolved to pursue a career in music education, Yuliya continued her studies at the University of Washington, Seattle, where she received a doctoral degree in musical arts. Her teachers include Craig Sheppard (University of Washington), Nina Scolnik (University of California, Irvine), Tatiana Shevchenko (Odessa Music Academy), and Eleonora Levinzon (Stolyarsky School).

Yuliya has been teaching piano privately for more than a decade. While studying at UC Irvine, she had an opportunity to further sharpen her teaching skills in a classroom setting, where she independently taught group piano classes, preparing students for a piano proficiency exam. Yuliya’s approach to teaching is shaped by her own experiences as a performer and as a teacher. During individual lessons, Yuliya employs a variety of pedagogical techniques to make music lessons rigorous, yet enjoyable. When working with beginners, she likes strives to structure her lessons around a variety of stimulating activities to keep students actively engaged in the learning process. As students mature, Yuliya focuses on their musicianship by carefully balancing attention to technical details with mastering more subtle elements of the musical language.



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