OUR TEAM - LEADERSHIP
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
AKIRA NAKANO grew up at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in both piano and percussion, soloing with numerous orchestras throughout Southern California as a youngster. He studied with Dr. Heewon Kwon with master classes from Jeffrey Kahane, Leon Fleischer, Ilana Vered, John Perry and Daniel Pollack. He was the winner of the 1st Annual Herbert Zipper Award in Music Composition amongst other piano competitions. Entering UCLA on a full ride piano performance scholarship, he won the UCLA Concerto Competition and graduated with a B.A. in Film & Television production.
Mr. Nakano spent over twelve years working as a video editor, writer, producer and live event director at TRW Space & Electronics, and went on to have 20+ years of video marketing/communications and film producing experience which will dovetail into the LA Inception Orchestra's Virtual Reality/360 music education program.
Akira's play, "A Concerto for Claire", premiered at Zipper Hall at the Colburn School in 2002. He was the Music Director and on-stage pianist for Lodestone Theatre Ensemble's "Closer Than Ever" (L.A. Times Critics' Choice) in 2009 and resumed classical piano full time in 2010.
Akira returned to the Zipper Hall stage in March 2012 with a solo recital accompanied by Michael Sushel. In September 2013, he paired with the Dream Orchestra in a concert of Liszt, Rachmaninov and several original works. Since then, Akira has appeared as a performer/lecturer as part of the Great Speaker Series at the Beach Club in Santa Monica benefiting the California State Parks Foundation; soloed with the Southeast Symphony; and has played multiple engagements at the Huntington Library President's house for their donor dinners.
Akira is thrilled to be combining his love of classical piano, composition and producing skills in spearheading the Los Angeles Inception Orchestra.
MIYEKO HEISHI has been a teacher and administrator for close to thirty-nine years with the LAUSD before retiring. With a B.A. in Elementary Education and a Master in School Administration from USC, Ms. Heishi taught for six years before becoming a coordinator for the Federal Title I program and curriculum advisor for new teachers in Central Los Angeles. Title I’s goal was to meet the educational needs of children from low-income communities. Miyeko eventually worked as an district evaluator for bilingual programs designed to provide second language learners access to the core curriculum while learning English.
With a strong understanding of students’ needs in the district, Ms. Heishi will help guide the educational component of the LA Inception Orchestra so it can fulfill its goal of bringing music to students of all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds.
International cello soloist, JENESS JOHNSON, combines passion and virtuosity unlike any other cellist of her generation. When the world famous cellist Janos Starker heard her play he named her "The single greatest talent of her generation." Jeness has performed worldwide including in such prestigious concert halls as Severance Hall, The Lincoln Center, The Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Teatro Sociale in Como, Italy, where she was also appointed as Principal Cellist.
Ms. Johnson has performed for former President Jimmy Carter, Pope John Paul II, Yo-Yo Ma, Janos Starker, Mstislav Rostropovich, and has collaborated with artists as diverse as Macy Gray, k.d. lang, Kenny Loggins, James Taylor, The Empire Brass, The Canadian Brass, John Williams, Marilyn Horne, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Vienna Philharmonic, and La Scala Quartet.
Jeness attended the Pacific Music Festival, Spoleto Music Festival, National Repertory Orchestra, Meadowmount School of Music, and is a graduate of the famed Interlochen Arts Academy and The Cleveland Institute of Music. She has developed her own unique improvisational skills and enjoys improvising, composing, and recording as a Cello Soloist for film and television. She is a composer for Crime Sonics, and has her music distributed globally via BMG Music. She currently resides in Los Angeles where she is in high demand as a Cello Soloist, Recording Artist, and Composer.
Director - VIrtual Reality
MEGAN LUBASZKA is a Regional Creative Media Leader at Gensler, the largest architectural firm in the world. Megan has been instrumental in incorporating Virtual and Augmented Reality into Gensler’s daily architectural practice, working both on the development side of VR/AR applications and the socialization and user experience side of the technology. She writes a weekly newsletter called Reality Check that identifies trends in VR/AR and co-hosts weekly VR Jams in which architects from any Gensler office can come together as avatars in the same 3d model for a “virtual site walk” with the building’s design team.
Ms. Lubaszka has guided over 1,000 people through their first Virtual Reality experience. She holds a B.Arch and M.Arch from the Tulane School of Architecture in New Orleans and worked as an architectural designer of retail stores, shopping centers, banks, theme parks & mixed use projects. Megan is a LEED AP through the US Green Building Council and an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, the World Future Society, and serves on the long-range planning committee of the Los Angeles chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute.
ALAN WARHAFTIG is a National Board-Certified English teacher who retired from LAUSD in 2017 after 28 years in the classroom. He served as co-coordinator of the Fairfax Magnet Center for Visual Arts for 18 years.
With the late Sue Knussen, in 1998 he co-founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Music for Educators, which aimed to increase teachers’ appreciation of music and show them ways to include it in the curriculum in every classroom.
He majored in Social Thought and Institutions at Stanford University and plays the compact disc.
FOUNDING BOARD MEMBERS
DR. HEEWON KWON received her early musical training from her father, Gil Sang Kwon, a renowned Korean composer. At the age of 10, she won the Ewha Children’s Music Competition in Korea. After her family moved to Los Angeles, she performed the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto in G Minor under the direction of her middle school music teacher, Helen Bicknell. Dorothy Bishop, founder and director of the USC School of Music Preparatory Division, now known as the Colburn School of Performing Arts, attended the concert and offered her a scholarship to study at the school. Her teacher, John Weisenfluh, along with his teacher at the university, John Crown, persuaded her to forego her intended math major at UCLA to instead accept a music scholarship at USC, where she received her BM (1974) and MM (1976) degrees in Piano Performance, as well as her Doctor of Musical Arts degree (2006) in Sacred Music. Honored with USC’s Sylvia Kunin Eben Piano Award, she is also a three-time recipient of the Keyboard Departmental Award for excellence in performance, scholarship and leadership.
Dr. Kwon taught at USC from 1974 to 1977, and has been on the piano faculty of the Colburn School of Performing Arts since 1975. Her performances include solo appearances with orchestras, solo recitals, and ensemble recitals in the United States, Europe, and Asia. She has worked with several churches as an organist and music director. From 1999 to 2002, Dr. Kwon taught and was chair of the Instrumental Music Department at Chongshin University, USA and also taught at the Methodist Theological University from 2002 to 2008. In addition to teaching and performing, she enjoys writing music. Her choral works have been published by the Hosanna Publishing Company (2000) and her children’s music by the Korean Music Education Research Committee/Library Publishing Company (2002, 2003). In 1998, the USC Concert Choir premiered her choral composition, Psalm 121.
MICHAEL SUSHEL is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music in New York City and has earned a reputation as an extremely versatile musician, having played and recorded with almost every conceivable type of musical ensemble from classical, jazz, and rock groups to film and records. He has performed in concert with singer B.J. Ward at Carnegie Hall in New York, played for film and TV shows such as the Emmy Awards, appeared in concert with rock groups such as Ambrosia, and recorded for artists as diverse as R&B singer Rick James and composer Daniel Lentz, the latter with whom he toured Japan in 1991.
In the spring of 2003, Mr. Sushel traveled to China to meet with piano faculty and teach young pianists at the Beijing and Shanghai Conservatories. In addition to his performing engagements and private teaching, Michael has served as an adjunct professor of music at Citrus College in Glendora, CA. He currently lives in Utah.
Director of Development
A proud child of immigrants, a first-generation high school graduate and a Berkeley alumnus, WENDY CHEUNG is an advocate for quality education and arts integration in underserved populations.
Prior to working with Inception Orchestra, Ms. Cheung taught high school English, French and Interventional Reading in New Orleans and Atlanta public schools. Wendy has also fought for arts accessibility and violence-free communities in Dakar, Bangkok and the Bay Area.
Director of Morale & Everything
IVY DUONG is currently studying Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles which she transferred to from the University of California, Riverside. She hopes to pursue a career researching Asian cavemen.
Ms. Duong was first introduced to event coordinating in late 2018 when she signed on as a mentor for first-year students at the Asian and Pacific Islander Student Programs at UCR. Since June of 2019, she has been helping another non-profit organization, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics with event and program coordinating on a professional level.
Although Ivy is new to music education, Ivy is excited to help the Los Angeles Inception Orchestra with their efforts to promote and provide a meaningful experience with music for the youth.
Board Advisor - Music Education
RUMI SHIMASAKI received her Bachelor of Music (BM) in Violin Performance from Oberlin Conservatory in 1995 and her Master of Music (MM) in Violin Performance combined with Suzuki Pedagogy from The Cleveland Institute of Music in 1997.
Ms. Shimasaki's teachers and mentors include David Cerone, David Updegraff, Gregory Fulkerson, Yukiko Kamei, and Sybil Maxwell in violin and Michele Higa George and Doris Preucil in Suzuki Pedagogy.
Formerly on the faculty of The Cleveland Institute of Music Preparatory Division, she joined the violin faculty at The Colburn School in 1998. In addition to teaching, she serves as the Suzuki String Program and Violin Coordinator. Ms. Shimasaki performed with the Marina Ensemble (1999 – 2012) and has taught at Suzuki Institutes in Alaska, California, Oregon and Utah. She is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, ASTA, SAA and SMAC/LA.
MARY TOVELLA DOWLING
For Purpose Law Group
MARY TOVELLA DOWLING is a Partner of the firm, and co-chairs For Purpose Law Group’s Nonprofit and Social Enterprise practice areas. She also Chairs the firms Employment and Estate Planning practice areas. She is a passionate representative of her clients, across various industries and sectors. Ms. Dowling holds a B.S., cum laude, in Business Management from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and a J.D., cum laude, from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Using her unique background that couples a strong understanding of business with her legal skills, Ms. Dowling is able to combine her areas of expertise to help her clients create, manage, and maintain successful business pursuits across various sectors.
Ms. Dowling represents a wide variety of public charities, private foundations, and other nonprofit organizations, including museums, religious and faith-based organizations, social welfare organizations, sports-based organizations, business leagues, educational institutions and social clubs. Her practice focuses on providing full service representation and outside general counsel services advising on a full range of nonprofit and tax exempt legal issues with an emphasis on federal, state and local tax laws, including entity formation, applications for federal and state exemption, unrelated business income planning, compliance with public support tests, property tax exemption, nonprofit corporate governance, contracts, joint ventures and corporate compliance.
In addition to her representation of exempt organizations, Ms. Dowling represents social enterprises and other corporate clients on various transactions including business formation, contracts, mergers and acquisitions, dissolutions, joint ventures, and corporate compliance.