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.
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.
DR. MELVIN ARMSTRONG
Director - TIE(a) - S.T.E.E.A.M.
DR, MELVIN ARMSTRONG has a personal and professional core value of reciprocity related
to empowering and mentoring members of minority communities, be it class, race, sexual orientation
or religious affiliation, to question their life and the world around them. His life’s narrative led him to
asking a lot of questions related to the race, religion, politics, education and social phenomena. These
questions became the lessons and curriculum that he then created for myself through education in
support of my graduate study journey and dissertation topic. Dr. Armstrong has dedicated every part of his graduate studies and professional contributions to the study of access in STEEAM. From working with students at an Upward Bound Program to research in the college of education to lecturing at California State University, Los Angeles; the core of his commitment
is evident in all of the work.
Melvin is a researcher and practitioner in support of uplifting and empowering the future generation of
scholars. His dissertation topic was Philosophical Blindness and the Black Subject: The Deconstruction of a Discipline. In addition, he has taught a variety of courses out of the Sociology Department at California State University, Los Angeles such as: Race Ethnicity in America, Race, Activism, & Emotion, Race, Class & Gender, Black Philosophy, African American Religion as Civic Culture and Global Citizenship Education.
His greatest accomplishment through this work is that his story, life experience, research and practice is a platform for students to begin to break down society, systems and structures to question the world around them.
Through TIE(a) - S.T.E.E.A.M., Melvin looks forward to learning, sharing, reflecting and growing as a
scholar and contributor to so-called disadvantaged youth by helping them become future scholars,
leaders and innovators.
Director - VR
Myanmar-American Entertainer ADRIAN ZAW is best known for his role in the Emmy Award Winning Show "Satacracy 88" as Aerial Zim & SyFy Original Show "The Resistance" as Syrus Primoris.
Currently, Mr. Zaw serves as the CEO of ZAW Inc. and working as an Executive Producer at ZAW STUDIOS. Adrian strives to support his fellow filmmakers by sharing resources while also contributing to Non-Profits, Charities with his BEYOND THE INFLUENCE TEAM by giving them a voice to share their stories so that we may all be the change we want to see in the world.
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.
Board Advisor, Past Director
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.