Wendy Freeland, JSU Music Academy Director
Dr. Wendy Freeland is a Professor of Music at Jacksonville State University. Hailing from West Virginia, she completed her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in piano performance at the University of South Carolina under the tutelage of John Kenneth Adams. Her Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance was received from Florida Atlantic University where she studied with Heather Coltman and Judith Burganger. She completed both the academic and performance honors programs, and was named University Scholar.
She enjoys performing as soloist and collaborative artist. She has performed at the Alabama Music Teachers State Conference, the Alabama Music Educators National Conference, and the National Flute Convention, as well as at universities and other venues throughout the country. She was honored to present and perform at the World Piano Conference in Novi Sad, Serbia in 2011, and has performed in Sweden, Italy, and Korea.
Jacksonville State University has granted her the annual “Faculty Research Award” several times in recognition of her performances and presentations. She offers presentations such as “Technique: A Sound Approach,” organizes the annual Foothills Piano Festival on the campus of JSU, and is a Past President of the Alabama Music Teachers Association. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music, a Friend of the Arts in Sigma Alpha Iota, a member of Phi Kappa Lambda, The American Matthay Association, the Music Teachers National Association, and the World Piano Teachers Association.
Diane Chong, Strings Instructor
Diane Chong, sought-after violinist and teacher in the region, brings to the JSU Academy a wealth of knowledge and experience. Originating from South Korea, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Violin Performance from Sook Myung Women’s University in Seoul. She has held the position of First Violinist in the Seoul Symphony Orchestra and the Christian Broadcast Orchestra. She currently is the First Violinist and Assistant Concertmaster for the Gadsden Symphony Orchestra, and the First Violinist and Concertmaster for the JSU Community Orchestra. Ms. Chong received her Master of Arts in Music at JSU in 2015, and has been teaching students in the region through the Gadsden Cultural Art Center, the Cheaha Creative Art Center, The Donoho School and Faith Christian School. A highly sought-after teacher, she was awarded the American String Teachers Association Strings Teacher of the Year in 2010, and received the Benjamin Johnson Jr. Award for Distinguished Service to the Etowah Youth Orchestra in 2017.
Robin Thompson, Keyboard Instructor
Robin Thompson has enjoyed sharing her passion for the piano with students of all ages throughout the southeast. She earned a Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano Performance from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a Master of Music Degree in Piano Pedagogy from Columbus State University in Georgia. During her graduate studies, she served as graduate assistant, piano instructor for the preparatory program, and collaborative pianist. She was a faculty member at the UTC Cadet Conservatory for 18 years and also provided piano instruction to various schools in the Chattanooga area.
Since moving to Anniston, she has enjoyed teaching students at the Donoho School, Ascension Leadership Academy, and Heritage Hall Arts Camp in Talladega. She enjoys collaborating with other musicians, especially in cello and piano performance, as well as worship music.
Mrs. Thompson has additional early childhood music pedagogy training in the Kindermusik and Suzuki methods and is a member of the National Federation of Music Clubs.
Allyson West, Keyboard Instructor
Allyson West joined the music faculty at Jacksonville State University as adjunct staff pianist and instructor in 2021. She also served on music faculty at the University of South Florida as Collaborative Coordinator, a position West held from the fall of 2019 to January 2022. Her studies include a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Music degree in Performance from Delta State University. West started her collaborative career in 2006 at Charleston Southern University where she served on staff as the instrumental accompanist for almost nine years. Moving to Arkansas in 2015, she served on staff at Ouachita Baptist University and the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, serving both vocal and instrumental departments. In these settings, she served at multiple music camps and festivals in both teaching and collaborative roles. She has also worked as rehearsal and performance pianist for multiple choirs and musical theater productions. Outside the university setting, West has collaborated with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the Little Rock Wind Symphony Chamber Ensembles. In addition to collaboration, West has had opportunities to serve as a solo performer, lecturer, judge and teacher. She has performed in three Steinway series concerts and in Piobbico, Italy, at the Brancaleoni Piano Festival. Her lecturing experience includes “Efficient and Effective Practice Methods for Music Learning” for the collaborative team at Ouachita Baptist University and “Online Piano Lessons- the Basics” at the 2018 USF Performing Arts Medicine Conference (P.A.M.A.) Symposium. As judge, she has worked for the Federation Festival in Little Rock, Arkansas. West has maintained her piano studio for over 20 students and currently teaches through online and face-to-face instruction.
Abby Parks, Guitar, Mandolin and Banjo Instructor
Abby Parks has offered private instruction in stringed instruments since 1996. She earned a B.A. in Music Performance in 2005 from Jacksonville State University, with a focus on classical guitar. While she specializes in finger-style guitar and three finger banjo, she teaches flat-picking style on guitar and mandolin, and covers music genres like bluegrass, blues, pop, and rock in her instruction. She released two CD’s of original songs, doing all the instrumentation on Moving On and working with acclaimed producer Doug Smith (Soundcell Studios, Huntsville, AL) on The Homeplace. She’s performed solo across the Southeast and has most recently performed with the band On the Fence. She was on the Board of Directors for the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance from 2017-2021 and the President of the Board from 2019-2021. She’s also the host of The Folk Renaissance Radio Show on 91.9 WLJS and maintains a folk music blog by the same name.
Rachel Park, Keyboard Instructor
Dr. Rachel Park is an assistant professor of piano at the Jacksonville State University. Have given more than a thousand concerts and recitals with various soloists, ensembles, and orchestras throughout the States and overseas, including performing in Carnegie Hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium in New York, the Crystal Cathedral in California, and at the Embassy of Korea in Washington D.C. She dedicated herself to the piano performance and music education with practical applications and insight gained through her wide performance experience.
Park received her Doctoral of Musical Arts in Church Music and Piano Performance degree from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX where she earned her Master of Music degree. She graduated from the Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul, South Korea for her Bachelor of Music degree. She has been a recipient of numerous awards throughout her career and named as an honorary ambassador for the nonprofit international organizations such as the Food for the Hungry International, the Africa Future Foundation in South Korea, and Good Neighbors in the USA. Besides of five CD recordings with the Pilgrim Ensemble and King’s Brass, Park released her piano solo album The Love and My Songs with her own arrangements.
Currently serving Alabama Music Teachers Associates as the First Vice President, Park is an active member of the MTNA, ASCAP, and Asian Society of Music in New York as well. She is looking forward to present her debut recital at Carnegie Hall in March 2023. In her free time, she loves to cook Korean dishes for her family and friends. Rachel and her husband Ezra are proud parents of three lovely children.
Susan Di Biase, Cello Instructor
Susan Di Biase’s lifelong love of the cello began when she was six years old. Today she enjoys sharing her love of music with others through teaching and performing.
Ms. Di Biase is a founding member of the JSU Community Orchestra, and serves the Gadsden Symphony Orchestra as principal cellist. She enjoys playing chamber music for local ensembles including the Jesu Joy String Quartet, the Jacksonville Opera Theatre’s pit orchestra, and her students’ ensemble, A Bouquet of Cellos.
Ms. Di Biase received her Master of Arts in Music at JSU in 2014, while studying cello technique with Craig Hultgren and Jessica Messere. She has registered additional training in cello pedagogy through Unit Three with the Suzuki Association of the Americas. She is especially delighted to welcome adult beginners and new cello students of any age and level of musical experience.
Ms. Di Biase is a longtime faculty member of the Community School for the Arts in Gadsden. She teaches music theory and aural skills at Gadsden State Community College. She lives in Jacksonville with her husband Carmine, a violinist, and their six cats.
Keith LaBenne, String Orchestra Director