Festival Workshops


Thank you to all who made this year's Piano Festival Workshop possible. NCMTA was proud to feature two excellent clinicians, Diane W. Higgins and Dr. Mark Tollefsen. The clinicians presented performances of works from the Junior and Senior lists and offered pedagogical insights for each piece.

The workshop was held Saturday, September 19, 2020, at Ruggero Piano in Raleigh, via Zoom. Our local Host was Dr. Yong Im Lee Federle (yilfed@gmail.com).

Workshop Clinicians:


Diane Higgins is an independent piano and composition instructor from the Charlotte area. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance at Salem College, where she studied with Clemmons Sandresky. She has served on the MTNA Board of Directors, MTNA Southern Division (President and Director), and MTNA Local Associations Forum Chair. She is past President of NCMTA, where she has also served as President-Elect (Conference Chair), Vice-President (MTNA Foundation), Treasurer (two terms), Piano Contest Director, Piano Teachers Chair, Scholarship Foundation Chair, Junior Competition Coordinator, and Fall Piano Workshops Chair. Diane has received the MTNA Foundation Fellow award (2007), NCMTA Teacher of the Year award (2012), UNCG Summer Music Camp Hall of Fame award (2012), and three Steinway PG-CH Top Music Teacher awards.

Diane is also past President of the Charlotte Piano Teachers Forum and the Friends of Music at Queens University of Charlotte. She has served as a board member with the Charlotte Music Club, Friends of Music at Salem College, Charlotte MTA, and district chair of NC Federation of Music Clubs Festival.

Her composition students have won first place prizes in state, regional, national and international competitions, and many of these compositions have been published in the National Piano Explorer Magazine, sponsored by Piano Magazine (formally Clavier Companion Magazine). For 26 years, she has served as a UNCG Piano Camp faculty member. She holds national certification from MTNA, and she is an adjudicator for piano, violin, and composition competitions in both North and South Carolina. Her articles and seven book reviews have been published in the AMT. Diane has also been a violinist member with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Winston-Salem Symphony, and Charlotte Civic Orchestra.



Since debuting with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at the age of fifteen, pianist Mark Tollefsen has fashioned an international career as both a soloist and chamber musician, performing in twelve European countries, South Korea, as well as across the United States.

His performances have been presented within numerous concert series and festivals, collaborating with Grammy Award-winning ensemble eighth blackbird as well as members of the Cleveland Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, National Symphony, Lexington Philharmonic, and New World Symphony. Recent highlights include a solo recital in New York at Steinway Hall, a solo recital tour of Florida with performances at Florida State University, Jacksonville University, and Florida A&M University, and a recital at the 2019 International Conference of the College Music Society in Ghent, Belgium. He has also been presented at the University of Michigan, Indiana University, Luther College, Temple University, the UNC School of the Arts and UNC-Greensboro.

Praised for his “tremendously lucid and effortless performances” and as an “exciting discovery” by Fanfare Magazine, Dr. Tollefsen has been a strong advocate of new music. This advocacy has included performances of more than one hundred works by living composers and more than thirty world or regional premieres. His discography includes eight discs for Ablaze Records, Blue Shore Music, Rick Sowash Publishing Co., and MARK Records. The most recent releases, “Millennial Masters, Vol. 8” on Ablaze Records and “American Experiences,” feature premiere recordings of works by David Lipten and Frederic Rzewski, respectively.

A devoted educator, he has taught piano to undergraduate and graduate music majors at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, served as a Visiting Lecturer in Music at Ohio Northern University, and was an Assistant Professor of Piano and Music Theory at Kentucky State University and Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Piano at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. A native of St. Louis, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a Masters of Music and Doctor of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, under the guidance of Michael Chertock. For more information, visit his website at www.marktollefsen.com.