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Faculty and Staff

Grace Xia Zhao

Associate Professor, Music
(909) 448-4919
Founders Hall / La Verne

Pianist Dr. Grace Xia Zhao is an award-winning, international solo and chamber music artist, with credits that include performances in the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and China. Her performances have been broadcasted on KUSC (Los Angeles) and KASP (Aspen) and her playing has been characterized as being, “performed at the highest level, with incredible musical sensibilities and beauty.”

Dr. Zhao began her music education at the age of three in Sichuan, China. Awarded with a full-tuition scholarship to study at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, she went on to earn a BM, MM, and Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Piano Performance, with minors in Music Education, Ethnomusicology and Electro-Acoustic Media. Upon graduation, she was inducted into the Pi Kappa Lamda National Music Honor Society for her exceptional academic achievements. Her mentors include some of the most influential artists and teachers of our time, Antoinette Perry, Yang Hanguo, John Perry and Andrzej Jasinski to name a few. Dr. Zhao is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of La Verne.

Dr. Zhao lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.  Besides all things piano, she loves all kinds of music.  Other interests of hers include psychology, athletic training, architecture and cooking.

Educational Background

BM, MM, DMA, University of Southern California.

Andres Espinoza Agurto

Assistant Professor, Music
(909) 448-4916
Founders Hall / La Verne

A native of Chile, Dr. Andrés Espinoza Agurto has been playing percussion since he was 8 years old. He studied Afro-Cuban percussion at the Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA) in La Habana, Cuba, graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music, receiving a BM in Jazz Composition, and holds an MM in Jazz studies and Ethnomusicology from the University of York (England). He received his PhD in Ethnomusicology from Boston University in 2014. His dissertation is entitled Una Sola Casa: Salsa Consciente and the Poetics of the Meta-barrio, and analyzes the impact of Salsa music as a forging element of social and political identity within Latino and Latin American communities. Other research interests include the application of ethnomusicology to jazz performance and composition, Afro-Latino music, modern art music, and Spanish language rap. He is also the composer, musical director, and percussionist of the Andres Espinoza World Jazz Ensemble, the Andres Espinoza Octet, and the Latin fusion sextet Los Songos Jalapeños. He has performed and taught in many countries around the world, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, England, Italy, Mexico, Peru, and the United States, and has been a faculty member at Roxbury Community College, Boston University, Emmanuel college, and the University of Maine system.

Educational Background

  • PhD., Ethnomusicology, Boston University.
  • M.A., Ethnomusicology/Jazz Studies, University of York (UK)
  • B.A., Jazz Composition Berklee College of Music

Reed Gratz

Chair, Music
(909) 448-4915
Founders Hall / La Verne

Reed Gratz is a Professor of Music and department chair at the University of La Verne. He has taught at Washington State University, University of Miami, University of Innsbruck, Utrecht Conservatory and Leiden University in the Netherlands, and Claremont McKenna College.

He is on the Advisory Board of the American Jazz Institute along with Mort Sahl, Lee Konitz, and Mark Masters. Gratz has been awarded a jazz composition grant from the NEA; a research grant in African-American music by the NEH; two Senior Fulbright Lectureships, one at the University of Innsbruck, the other, the Walt Whitman Distinguished Chair of American Culture Studies at the Leiden University; and the Excellence in Teaching Award for undergraduate faculty at the University of La Verne. He is a member of the University of La Verne Academy. Professor Gratz has received three Who’s Who Among American Teachers awards since 2002. Reed has worked with George Russell, Herb Alpert, Bruce Hornsby, John Patitucci, Barbara Morrison, Alex Acuna, Konstantin Ruchadze, and many others. He has composed music for a dozen plays. Five of his recent CDs are Below Sealevel and Piano, View From the South and The Reed Gratz Band featuring Michael O’Neill, and Quaadrille.

Educational Background

  • M.M. (Jazz Composition) New England Conservatory;
  • A.B. (Music Theory) Manchester College.
  • D.M.A. (Composition) University of Miami School of Music

Irene Messoloras

Associate Professor, Music, Voice & Chorus
(909) 448-4918
Founders Hall / La Verne

Dedicated to inspiring musicians and audiences through a determined passion for musical excellence, Dr. Irene Messoloras maintains an active career as a highly sought music educator, conductor, clinician and adjudicator. Her ensembles have delivered meaningful and inspirational performances across the United States and on the international stage in both Europe and in Asia.

As an award-winning professor at the University of La Verne, Dr. Messoloras leads the voice area as Director of Choral Activities & Head of Vocal Studies. She conducts the University Chamber Singers, University Chorale, and teaches choral conducting. Under her baton, the ULV choirs have performed in annual international tours; participating in festivals and singing to sold out audiences throughout Europe. Before coming to the University of La Verne, Dr. Messoloras served as Director of Choirs at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, and, before there, Gonzaga University.

Most recently, Dr. Messoloras’s ensembles have performed for the National Association of Music Educators (NAfME) national conference, the Oklahoma State Music Educators conference, at Carnegie Hall and Beijing Concert Hall, respectively. They have also produced professional music videos with nationally recognized composers, and have performed in national media campaigns.

Additionally, Dr. Messoloras also serves as the Minister of Music for the Crystal Cathedral Ministries and conducts the world renowned Hour of Power Choir in the weekly international Christian television program, Hour of Power. She is also the Artistic Director of the Claremont based Mountainside Master Chorale, an ensemble which focuses on choral/orchestral masterworks.

Dr. Messoloras received her doctor of musical arts degree in choral conducting from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music under the mentorship of Donald Neuen.

Educational Background

D.M.A., Choral Conducting, University of California, Los Angeles

Michael Ryan

Instructor, Music
(909) 448-4922
Founders Hall

Michael teaches private guitar instruction, class guitar, guitar ensemble and songwriting at the University of La Verne.

Michael performs throughout California and every summer in Europe. His production company produces and performs three unique concerts with an ensemble of musicians and dancers: “Gypsy Passion”, “Spirit of Ireland” and “Brazilian Nights”. Michael has five internationally distributed CDs: “Between Earth and Sky”, “Romance”, “What If”, “A Classical Guitar Christmas”, and  “Carnaval de Guitarras”.

Michael is a member of ASCAP, (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishes)

Educational Background

  • MA in Music, California State University, Chico;
  • BA in Music, University of La Verne.

Adjunct Faculty

Name and Title Phone Email
Steve Alaniz
Michael Boos
Music History and Appreciation
Pebber Brown
Fundamentals of Music; Music Theory IV; Applied Electric Bass; Applied Electric Guitar
(909) 445-9000
Marge MohWei Chen Hribar
Applied Piano; Piano Workshop; Sight-Singing & Ear Training
Zach DeChance
Piano Accompanist
Bob Dominquez
Applied Drums and Percussion
Jonathan Johnson
Piano Accompanist
Rafael Liebich
Artist in Residence; Applied Piano; Piano Workshop
Ariel Pisturino
Applied Voice
Ellen Rondina
West African Drum Ensembles Director; Chamber Ensembles Director; Applied Flute; Music History and Appreciation
Michael Skidgel
Applied Voice
Todd Strange
Applied Voice
Courtney Taylor
Applied Voice
Jackie Tu
Applied Piano; Piano Workshop
Rachel Vetter Huang
La Verne Symphony Orchestra Director; Applied Violin
Joshua Williams
Pep Band Director; Applied Brass


Name and Title Phone Email
Dalton Lamberth
Music Department/Morgan Auditorium Manager
(909) 448-4917