2023 – 2024 String Project Faculty
Dr. Laurie Scott
String Project Director
Laurie Scott is Associate Professor of Music and Human Learning at The University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, she serves as the director of The University of Texas String Project and the Musical Lives string program at UT Elementary School. Previous to this appointment, Dr. Scott served as professor of violin and viola and director of music education studies at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. As a university professor she has received both the Teaching Excellence Award from the School of Music and from the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. A former middle and high school orchestra director, she now mentors young professionals toward successful lives as string educators. In every facet of her teaching Dr. Scott serves as an advocate for inclusive and diverse music classrooms, adult music learners, and access to quality music instruction for all children. She is a registered teacher trainer for the Suzuki Association of the Americas and continues to maintain a private violin studio and works weekly with the students in the Musical Lives orchestra program at UT Elementary School. Her former students have become exemplary string educators, professional studio and symphony musicians, and passionate arts advocates. She is co-author with William Dick of the books Mastery for Strings, Level I and II, and From the Stage to the Studio: How Fine Performers become Great Teachers, is co-authored with Cornelia Watkins. Laurie Scott along with William Dick and Winifred Crock, are the co-authors of Learning Together: Sequential Repertoire for Solo Strings or String Ensembles and received a Creating Learning Community award from the SAA for their work related to Suzuki in the Schools. In 2020, Dr. Scott was recognized by alumni as one of the “Texas Ten” most influential and inspiring professors at UT Austin.
Dr. Ruben Balboa
Assistant Director and Program Coordinator
Recognized by the American Viola Society as both an Emerging Artist and Teacher, Dr Ruben Balboa III is quickly becoming a sought-after educator, clinician, and performer. Currently, he serves as Assistant Professor at Southwestern University where he teaches viola and violin and conducts the university orchestra, Adjunct Faculty at The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and Assistant Director of the University of Texas at Austin String Project,
A strong advocate for music education, Dr. Balboa has presented at the Best Practices Teaching Sessions hosted by the National String Project Consortium and given lectures at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University, and classrooms throughout the U.S. He is also grateful to have served on faculty for institutions such as: Austin Soundwaves, Austin Youth Orchestra, Illinois State University, Longhorn String Camp, Texas State University, and YOSA Summer Symphony Camp. He continues to be an invited guest clinician for string methods and orchestral techniques. In 2021, he was invited to be a guest conductor for Region 26’s All-Region Orchestra. Most recently, he was invited to give a masterclass for the American Viola Society Festival & 47th International Viola Congress in Columbus, Georgia.
Additionally, he maintains a diverse private studio of violin and viola students, which includes novice and advanced young learners, avocational adults, and students with learning challenges. Dr. Balboa has made it his mission to prioritize the development of young musicians as much as possible, especially those in areas where quality music education programs are not readily available. He continues this work as a newly appointed board member of the American Viola Society, serving on both the Education Committee and the Access, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee.
Beyond his work as an educator, Dr. Balboa has a multifaceted career as a performer and enjoys working with a variety of musical ensembles. He has performed with The Dallas Opera, Austin Camerata, Abilene Philharmonic, Austin Opera, Celtic Thunder, Evanescence, Il Divo, Las Colinas Symphony, Lindsey Sterling, Mid-Texas Symphony, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, among many others. In 2017, he was invited to perform at the Festival of the Orchestras hosted by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, where he performed Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango for viola and string orchestra.
His passion for chamber music has led him to many unique experiences and collaborations with Anton Nel, Austin Chamber Music Festival, “Beerthoven Concert Series”, Candlelight Concerts, Sandy Yamamoto, and the Miró Quartet. From 2014-2016, he was awarded a teaching assistantship from the University of North Texas to perform with their elite graduate ensemble known as the Bancroft String Quartet which placed as semi-finalists in the Plowman Chamber Music Competition and Festival in 2015. Dr. Balboa later became a founding member of the Favola String Quartet, which won both the Grand Prize and First Place awards at the 2020 Coltman Chamber Music Competition.
One of Dr. Balboa’s biggest joys is presenting recitals of works for viola, voice, and piano with his wife, Dr. Samantha Balboa. This unique ensemble led him to write his doctoral research entitled: “Musical Poetry: An Examination of Works and Texts by Charles Martin Loeffler and Paul Verlaine for Viola, Voice, and Piano”. They continue to search for new repertoire and will begin commissioning new works for them to share with audiences.
Rey Rodriguez, Guitar Coordinator
Rey Rodriguez is a junior attending the University of Texas at Austin. Born in 2000 and raised in Austin Texas, Rey has been playing classical guitar since the age of 12. Rey has been a part of many different classical guitar ensembles throughout the years including Bedichek Middle School Advanced Guitar, Crockett High School Advanced Guitar, as well as the Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra where he toured with ACGYO to perform at the San Francisco conservatory of Music in 2019. Rey has been a teacher with String project for three years now. Rey is a passionate Classical Guitar teacher who wants to share his skills with those who are in the same position he was in as a middle school student and inspire them to make amazing music. His other passions include Composing and Gaming. Rey has received master classes with Andrew Zohn (Columbus State University), Joseph Palmer (University of Mary Hardin-Baylor), Nicholas Ciraldo ( University of Southern Mississippi), Mark Cruz ( Texas State University), Irina Kulikova, Bokyung Byun, and Tengyue Zhang. Rey was also taught by Tony Mariano, Matthew Gillen, Jeremy Osborn, and Jody Moseley. Rey currently studies with Dragos Ilie as well as Professor Adam Holzman. Rey is currently pursuing a BA in music at The University of Texas at Austin.
Madeliene Coronado, guitar
Madeliene Coronado is currently in her second year of pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Music Education at the University of Texas at Austin. She started learning classical guitar at the age of 9 and participated at the TFMC festivals where she has been a six time All-State winner throughout middle and high school. Along with classical guitar, Madeliene is a State solo and ensemble winner in both Flute and Piano and participated in the All-Region bands throughout middle and high school. While at UT, she has been a part of many different ensembles including Wind, choir, and Conjunto ensembles. Madeliene is working towards a future career in Music Therapy and is always looking for an opportunity to use her knowledge and love of music and teaching to serve others. Outside of music, Madeliene likes to swim, read, and is the biggest Mac & Cheese fan you will ever meet.
Alyse French, double bass
Alyse French is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Music in Music Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She graduated from Plano East Senior High School in 2019, where she participated in the school orchestra and All-Region orchestras. In high school, Alyse participated in a program called United Sound, in which she taught special needs students how to play string instruments. Alyse now studies in the studio of Joel Braun at UT and has performed in the University Orchestra. Alyse hopes to give students the experiences they need to enjoy performing and making music. In her free time, Alyse likes to read and listen to music.
Gonzalo Kikuchi, double bass
Gonzalo Kochi Kikuchi has a Bachelor of Music from Ball State University, where he graduated cum laude. During his stay in the United States, Gonzalo participated in different festivals such as the Eastern Music Festival and the National Audition Intensive. As an orchestral musician, Gonzalo has played as the principal bassist of the Ball State Symphony Orchestra, Eastern Music Festival Student Orchestra, the New Music Ensemble Orchestra, the Lynn Philharmonia and the Symphony Orchestra of the National Conservatory of Music in Lima, Peru. In addition, Gonzalo has played in various orchestras, including the National Symphony Orchestra of Peru, the National Youth Symphony Orchestra of Peru, and the Romanza Symphony Orchestra. Throughout his life, Gonzalo has obtained different awards and recognitions. In 2014, he earned second place in the Raymi Bass Competition, held in Lima, Peru. In 2018, he earned an honorable mention in the soloist competition at Ball State University. In 2019, Gonzalo was awarded the Hilary Hahn Award by Ball State for his excellence as a performer. Throughout the years, Gonzalo has studied under the guidance of Joel Braun, Ju-Fang Liu, Marcos Machado and Timothy Cobb. Gonzalo is currently pursuing his DMA studies at the University of Texas at Austin, studying under the guidance of Prof. Joel Braun.
Madison Garrett is a second year cellist at the University of Texas at Austin. She graduated from Tomball Memorial Highschool in 2021 and has participated in numerous ensembles throughout high school, such as the Houston Youth Symphony, Virtuosi of Houston, and Region/All-State orchestras. She currently studies with Bion Tsang and has also worked with Daniel Saenz, Evgeni Raychev, and Maki Kubota of the Houston Symphony. Madison is currently a member of the UT Symphony orchestra and enjoys doing chamber music, volunteer work, and performing for nursing homes on the side. Madison is passionate about making music accessible to everyone and promoting diversity and inclusion in education. Aside from music, Madison also enjoys taking care of her many plants and going on new adventures with friends.
Jen McKeeman, viola
Jennifer McKeeman is pursuing her PhD in Music and Human Learning from the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a Masters of Music and a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Texas at Austin where she had the privilege to study viola with Roger Myers and music education with Dr. Laurie Scott and Dr. Robert Duke.
A native Austinite, Jennifer began playing viola in sixth grade in South Austin. She owes her inspiration to become a music teacher to the incredible music directors and private lessons teachers that she had studied with while in public school orchestra. Jennifer has taught privately in the Austin and San Antonio areas since 2010 with a broad range of ages and experience levels. She has had the honor of attending various summer music festivals including the Sewanee Summer Music Festival, Marrowstone Music Festival, and the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival.
Most recently, Jennifer was the Orchestra Director at David Lee “Tex” Hill Middle School in San Antonio, TX for four years. Jennifer started when the school first opened, building the orchestra and fifth grade strings programs from the ground up. The Tex Hill Orchestras have earned consistent UIL Sweepstakes in addition to multiple “Best in Class” and “Overall Outstanding” honors in festivals held in New Braunfels, TX and Corpus Christi, TX.
Jennifer is thrilled to be back in her hometown doing what she loves: teaching and studying music. Her philosophy that any child can and should play music with excellence and joy is behind all of her teaching moments. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys writing, seeing live music, and spending time with friends and family.
Justin Lader, viola
Justin Lader is a graduate student pursuing the PhD program in Music in Human Learning at UT Austin. Mr. Lader holds a Master’s Degree in Viola Performance from the University of Oregon and received his Bachelor’s of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory. His principal teachers have been Leslie Straka, Peter Slowik, Karen Ritscher, and Roger Chase. Besides expertise in classical music, he is a specialist in Middle-Eastern improvisation, Celtic fiddle, and electronic music.
Mr. Lader began teaching private lessons in 2008 while completing his studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He served as orchestra department coordinator and faculty instructor at the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts – Community Music School from 2009-2017, teaching both violin and viola. From 2010-2016 Mr. Lader served as an Adjunct Instructor teaching private lessons, coaching chamber music and group classes at the University of Oregon’s Community Music Institute and Suzuki Strings Program. From 2013-2014 Mr. Lader taught world music at the The Village School, a Public Charter School inspired by Waldorf Education, in Eugene, Oregon. From 2014 to 2019 he conducted the strings program at the Eugene Waldorf School. In 2015 he created, directed, and taught at The Shedd Institutes Chamber Strings camp. The summer of 2016 he taught and directed The Shedd’s Chamber Music Camp, in addition to the Beginning Strings Camp. Also in the summer of 2016, he was also a guest instructor at the Off The Hook Arts Summer Music Workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado.
As a freelance artist Mr. Lader regularly performs throughout the West Coast with renowned Celtic Harper, David Helfand. The duo performs original and traditional music that is influenced by Middle Eastern, Celtic, and Indian styles. Together with David Helfand, the duo has released three albums, “Through the Portal,” “From a Distant Time: Inspirations from the Celtic Lands,’ and “After the Rain.”
Other collaborative projects include recording and performing with Jake McNeillie and Company, This Patch of Sky, We Have A Ghost, and Albert Howell. Additionally, Mr. Lader performs outreach work with CardioStart International, offering live concerts to support the organization’s mission in providing free heart surgeries in developing countries.
Melody Lihou, cello
Melody Lihou is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Music Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is under the direction of Joshua Gindele and is a member of the University Orchestra. In 2019, Melody graduated from Atascocita High School in Humble, Texas where she was a member of the Chamber Orchestra, multiple All-Region orchestras, and was an Officer for the program. She was also a member of the Houston Youth Symphony and taught local cello students throughout high school. After graduating, Melody hopes to be an orchestra director in a public school and wants to inspire and enrich students’ lives within the haven of the orchestra classroom.
Patricio Lopez, double bass
Roxy Moore, cello
Roxanna Moore is a junior in the school of Social Work at the university of Texas at Austin. She began playing cello in a string project program in her home town of San Marcos, TX. Roxy continued to study and play cello in her local community orchestra, school orchestra, and later joined the Austin Youth Orchestra. She began studying with Bion Tsang at the University of Texas and, also in 2019, started as an intern with the UT String Project.
Mika Syms, cello
Kendall Weaver, viola
Kendall Weaver is a violist at the Butler School of Music, majoring in Music Studies. He graduated from Austin High School in 2021 and participated in All-City Orchestra for 6 straight years as well as competed in Solo UIL for all 4 years of high school, advancing each year to State Level. He has studied Solo work with Eugenie Edmonds and chamber music with Patrice Calixte. He is a member of the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra and has completed training in Suzuki ECC and Violin. Aside from studying music, Kendall has enjoyed performing with the Austin High School Quartet for the past few years at various special events throughout the city of Austin. Kendall owes his inspiration to become a music teacher to his middle school and high school orchestra conductors as well as his private lesson teachers. In his free time, Kendall enjoys playing video games and writing his own music.
Jiyu Yan, cello
Jiyu is a cellist native to Austin, Texas. Currently about to enter his second year in his Music Studies program here at the Butler School of Music, Jiyu is very fortunate and privileged to have received the incredible mentorship that he has had from various music educators all throughout his life. He first picked up his cello at the age of five and has never looked back since. Previously under the guidance of Dr. Shu-Yi Scott, Jiyu currently studies cello under the tutelage of Joshua Gindele. His formative musical experiences include participating in the Austin Chamber Music Center and TMEA All-Region Orchestra, as well as in the McNeil High School Orchestra program, where he was section leader for 3 years. Throughout his childhood, he has loved getting his friends together to go around town playing chamber music at various places. Sure, it’s about the music and hard work, but it’s also about meeting new people and hanging out. Jiyu hopes that he can continue to do so, as well as facilitate that for others, for a long time. Every Child Can certified, trained in Cello Teaching Strategies, and Suzuki cello pedagogy certified up to the level of Unit 2, Jiyu knows that children are young people with their own autonomy and unique capabilities. He hopes that he can pass on the love and appreciation for music-making that his educators imparted on to him to all. Jiyu believes in the transformative power of collective creative action as being a part of the social activity that humans do together as a means of expressing ourselves and creating our world. He highly prioritizes social connections to other human beings, and sees music education as valuable component of what it takes to build stronger community relationships. In his free time, jiyu loves crafting, making his own clothes, cooking for his friends, gardening, hiking, and spending time out in nature.
Thomas Gougeon, violin
Thomas Gougeon has been studying violin since the age of three. Born in Toronto, Canada, Thomas learned violin through the Suzuki method and Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Exams. Thomas moved to Houston his freshman year of High School where he went to the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA). He studied with Rodica Gonzalez of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and Dr. Kristen Yon. Thomas is now pursuing a Violin Performance Degree at the University of Texas at Austin and currently studying under Sandy Yamamoto.
Dean Roberts, viola
Preston (Dean) Roberts is entering his first year pursuing a Masters of Music in Viola Performance at the University of Texas-Butler School of Music. He recently graduated from the University of Missouri, earning a Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance, and has represented the University Philharmonic as the principal violist for three years. With UPO, he has performed the World Premier of Mass: A Celebration of Love and Joy composed by André Thomas at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City, and has also performed theater works ranging from musicals such as Terrance McNally’s Ragtime, to operas including Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. During his time at Mizzou, he achieved First Place in the Missouri Music Teachers Association (MMTA) Upper Class Strings Competition in 2021 and 2022, was a finalist in both the 2022 MU Emerging Artist Competition and the 2022 MU Concerto Competition, and became principal violist in the 2022 Missouri All State Collegiate Orchestra, under the direction of Christopher Lees. He recently was awarded the Kimmel Friends of Music Distinguished String Player of 2023. He has contributed his expertise to groups such as 7th Column, University of Missouri Chamber Soloists, and MU Camerata.
Roberts currently teaches with the University of Texas String Project, and has taught with the Missouri String Project, the Missouri Academy of Music, and the Missouri Symphony Conservatory, where he aims to inspire the next generation of musicians. Roberts has traveled to perform across the midwest with groups such as the Southside Philharmonic, the Quincy Symphony, and the award winning Leme Ensemble. He also has contributed to groups close to home, as he has performed with the Odyssey Chamber Series, and served as principal violist for the Missouri Symphony, along with the Columbia Civic Orchestra. Roberts has also been distinguished as a violinist, as he was awarded Concertmaster of the 2022 Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity National Convention Orchestra: Sinfonia Strings, under the direction of Dr. Peter Wilson. Roberts has received instruction from Morgan Owen and Leslie Perna, and Roger Myers.