Board of Directors



Rebecca Grooms Johnson, NCTM
Columbus, OH

MTNA President Rebecca Grooms Johnson, NCTM, is a nationally respected leader in the field of piano pedagogy. She holds a PhD degree in music education, specializing in piano pedagogy from The Ohio State University. Johnson is an experienced independent piano teacher of all ages and levels of students and has taught piano, class piano and piano pedagogy for many years at the university level. A member of MTNA for almost 30 years, she holds the Permanent Professional Certification designation. Johnson has served in numerous local, state and national leadership positions, including the Central Eastern Ohio District chair and president of Ohio MTA. At the national level, she served as president-elect (2013–2015) and vice president of the Board of Directors (2011–2013), chair of the 2012 New York City National Conference and chair of the 2013 Anaheim National Conference. From 2008 to 2011 Johnson was chair of the MTNA National Certification Commission, where she worked with the commissioners to write and implement the new certification process. She served from 2000 to 2003 as national chair of the MTNA Pedagogy Committee. She was honored to be inducted as a Foundation Fellow in 2009. A widely published writer, Johnson contributes a tri-annual feature in American Music Teacher titled “What’s New in Pedagogy Research.” She is an associate editor for Clavier Companion magazine’s “Perspectives in Pedagogy” page. Johnson is an active clinician, and has presented numerous workshops at MTNA National and State conferences, as well as association meetings in Idaho, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky and Hawaii.


Scott McBride Smith, NCTM
Lawrence, KS

MTNA President-elect Scott McBride Smith, NCTM, is a visionary leader in music education. He is the Cordelia Brown Murphy Professor of Piano Pedagogy at the University of Kansas, a position he assumed in 2010 after teaching prizewinning students in Irvine, California, for 30 years. As CEO of the International Institute for Young Musicians, he leads a summer program that trains gifted young performers from around the world. His philosophical and cognitive approach to music has resulted in appearances before teachers groups across the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia and South America. Smith is co-author of the college text The Well-Tempered Keyboard Teacher and associate editor of Clavier Companion. He is co-author and editor of the groundbreaking series American Popular Piano and co-author of Christopher Norton’s Guide to Microjazz. He is a chamber music coach as well as a piano teacher. The Wakarusa Trio, a university-level group coached by him, were the 2013 MTNA Chamber Music String winners. His pre-college trio, Trio Aer, made its Merkin Hall debut in New York as the Grand Prize winners of the National Young Artist Chamber Music Competition in 2013. Smith received his doctorate from the University of Southern California, where he was co-winner of the Outstanding Graduate in Piano award. He is a past president of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers and a former member of the Music Teachers National Association Board of Directors.

Thickstun_Karen 2.jpg

Vice President

Karen Thickstun, NCTM
Nashville, IN

MTNA Vice President Karen Thickstun, NCTM, is coordinator of piano pedagogy at Butler University, where she also directs the Butler Pedagogy Symposium, Butler Piano Camps and Butler Community Arts School, and advises the Butler MTNA Collegiate Chapter. She maintains an independent studio in Nashville, Indiana. She holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance/economics from Duke University, a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in piano pedagogy from Butler University. Thickstun served as director of the East Central Division and member of the MTNA Board of Directors from 2008–2010 and chaired the Local Association Forum. Thickstun has served on the MTNA nominating committee, Standing Rules committee, Local Association of the Year committee and is currently chair of the Affiliate Grants committee. Thickstun authors a tri-annual column, “It’s All Your Business,” for American Music Teacher. She has presented multiple sessions at MTNA National Conferences and at other conferences. Thickstun has been active in the Indiana MTA as president, trustee, trustees’ chair, newsletter editor, syllabus chair, conference chair, commissioning chair and arts advocacy chair. She received the Distinguished Service Award in 2002 and the Teacher of the Year award in 2008. As founding director of the Butler Community Arts School, Thickstun provides leadership and vision. Serving 1,700 children through private lessons, group classes and camps, instruction is provided by 90 Butler University students that Thickstun mentors in professional teaching practices. Working with after-school programs, community centers and United Way agencies, Thickstun has developed a network of community partners to provide access to the arts for inner-city youth. To fund outreach classes, Thickstun has written and received numerous grants.



Sylvia Coats, NCTM
Derby, KS

MTNA Secretary-Treasurer Sylvia Coats, NCTM, retired in May 2014 after 27 years as professor of piano pedagogy and class piano at Wichita State University. She authored Thinking as You Play: Teaching Piano in Individual and Group Lessons, published by Indiana University Press. The Sotto Voce Trio, of which Coats was a member for 25 years, produced three CDs of their commissioned works. Her credits include articles in Clavier Companion and American Music Teacher and presentations at conferences throughout the United States and internationally in Brazil, Greece, Italy, Malaysia and China. Coats has held many offices in MTNA including the Board of Directors, National Certification chair, and West Central Division Young Artist and Chamber Music Competition chair. She recently completed a term as president of the South Central Kansas Music Teachers Association.

Christensen__Kenneth.jpgImmediate Past President

Kenneth J. Christensen, NCTM
Bozeman, MT

MTNA Immediate Past President Kenneth Christensen, NCTM, has appeared as a soloist and collaborative artist throughout the United States, England, China and the Phillipines. As a collaborative artist, he has performed with renowned singers the late Jerome Hines and Pablo Elvira from New York's Metropolitan Opera Company and with composers and conductors John Rutter and Sir Richard Wilcox. Christensen's piano duo "2 Pianos 4 Hands" performed its New York recital debut in April 2006 at Carnegie Hall. Christensen holds a bachelor's degree from Montana State University and a master's degree from the University of Montana. While on the faculty at the Montana State University School of Music, he received the prestigious "Award in Excellence in Teaching." He resides in Bozeman, Montana, where he is active as an independent piano teacher and is in demand as a clinician, adjudicator and presenter. Christensen has been actively involved in MTNA for 16 years, serving in leadership positions at the local and state level as secretary and treasurer, president-elect and president for the Montana State MTA. Leadership at the national level includes MTNA Northwest Division President from 2004-2006 and he served on the MTNA Board of Directors from 2006-2008. Christensen has been a member of MTNA's Summit Planning Committee, Membership Committee, Collaborative Performance Task Force, Pedagogy Saturday Committee, State Affiliate Grant Committee and Partnership Review Committee. He was past chair of the Collaborative Performance Forum and was chair of the 2009 Conference Planning Committee. 

Ingle_G.jpgExecutive Director & CEO

Gary L. Ingle
Cincinnati, OH

Gary L. Ingle is Executive Director and CEO of Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), the oldest music teacher association in the United States. Founded in 1876, MTNA is a professional association of 24,000 studio music teachers who teach in independent and collegiate settings nationwide. MTNA's mission is to advance the value of music teaching and music making to society and to support the professionalism of music teachers. Dr. Ingle is a career professional in association management and academia. Prior to his December 1996 appointment to MTNA, he was executive director of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Music Fraternity in Evansville, Indiana. At Phi Mu Alpha, he oversaw the fraternity's work with more than 200 collegiate chapters across the country, as well as the activities of the Sinfonia Foundation. Dr. Ingle's academic career spanned 10 years with Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. During his tenure, he attained the rank of full professor of music and served as Chair of the department of music, as Dean of the Casebolt School of Fine Arts, and ultimately as Vice President for Enrollment Management. As a conductor, he directed his choirs on four international tours: to continental Europe, to Great Britain, and two to the Far East. While in Asia, his choirs sang for the Far East Broadcasting Company and in Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Ingle holds the doctor of musical arts degree with emphases in conducting, voice, and higher education administration from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music at Samford University in Birmingham. Additional studies include the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham. Dr. Ingle currently serves as the president of the National Music Council of the United States, which represents the U.S. to the International Music Council (established by the United Nations and a part of UNESCO). Since April 2008 he has served on the Board of Directors of the International Music Council. In October 2007 he was elected to the Finance Commission of the International Music Council at its biennial General Assembly in Beijing, China. He also served on the Steering Committee for the IMC's first World Forum on Music held in Los Angeles, California in 2005. Dr. Ingle is a member of the advisory board of From the Top, the public radio program dedicated to encouraging, supporting and celebrating the commitment of young people to music and the arts. He is also is a member of the editorial advisory board for the magazine, Making Music: Better Living Through Recreational Music Making, a magazine devoted to the health and wellness benefits of music making. Since 1998, he has served on the Board of Trustees of the American Classical Music Hall of Fame, serving as secretary of the board from 2000-2003 and currently as the chair of the Professional Organizations Advisory Council.A frequent speaker and panelist, he has given addresses in 44 states as well as to music associations in Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Eastern and Western Europe, and South America, including the International Society for Music Education, the European Music Teachers Association, the International Music Council, the National Association of Schools of Music, NAMM: The International Music Products Association, the College Music Society, Piano Technicians Guild, Canadian Federation of Music Teachers Associations, the Global Summit of the Music Products Industry, the Music Publishers Association, and the Music Council for the Three Americas. Dr. Ingle is listed in the International Who's Who in Music, Who's Who in America, Outstanding Young Men of America, Community Leaders and Noteworthy Americans, the Dictionary of International Biography and other prominent biographical resources.


Heywood_Gail.jpgGail Alix Heywood, NCTM
East Central Division, Rudolph, Wisconsin

Gail Heywood, NCTM, is an independent music teacher with a BA degree in music from Central Connecticut State University. Since joining MTNA, she has been Stevens Point [Wisconsin] Area MTA president, state MTA membership secretary, webmaster, Foundation Fund chair and state president.

McFarlane_Grace.jpegGrace McFarlane
Eastern Division, Washington, D.C.

Grace McFarlane maintains a private studio in Washington, D.C., and is on the faculty at the Levine School of Music. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. McFarlane is involved in the Washington, D.C., MTA, chairing several events and serving as president from 2005–2007. She served on the MTNA Local Association Grants Committee from 2007–2011.

Peterson_Jani.jpgJani J. Peterson, NCTM
Northwest Division, Moscow, Idaho

Jani Peterson, NCTM, maintains a private studio in Moscow, Idaho. She holds a BM degree from Willamette University and an M.M. degree from the University of Idaho. As a Washington State MTA member, Peterson has served in many capacities at the local and state levels including state president, chairing the SPAC for MTNA, and in 2011–12 as the MTNA Northwest Division Performance Competition chair.

Ard_Sharon.jpegSharon S. Ard, NCTM
South Central Division, El Dorado, Arkansas

Sharon Ard, NCTM, has an MM degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BM degree from Henderson State University. She maintains an independent piano studio and teaches at Southern Arkansas University. Ard has served as South Central Division Certification commissioner and Arkansas State MTA president. Currently, she is the ASMTA Competitions chair. Ard was named 1998 ASMTA Independent Music Teacher of the Year.

Hebda_Marc.jpgMarc J. Hebda
Southern Division, Tallahassee, Florida

Marc Hebda is the former president of Florida State Music Teachers Association, previously serving as vice president both for District and Local Associations and for Membership. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance and an artist’s diploma from the Royal College of Music, London. He has studied with John Browning, Jerome Rose, Benjamin Kaplan and Leonard Mastrogiacomo. Hebda is an independent piano instructor, and is an active adjudicator and collaborative musician.

Chao-Cason_Helen.jpgHelen S. Chao-Casano, NCTM
Southwest Division, Honolulu, Hawaii

Helen Chao-Casano, NCTM, is the director of Punahou Music School in Honolulu. She holds degrees from Crane School of Music and Northwestern University. Chao-Casano also completed performance studies at the St. Petersburg Piano Institute. She has taught at Northwestern University Music Academy, DePaul University, Brigham Young University-Hawaii and University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Torkelson_Suzanne.jpgSuzanne Torkelson, NCTM
West Central Division, Waverly, Iowa

Suzanne Torkelson, NCTM, has served as the West Central Division Certification commissioner, Division Competition official accompanist, MTNA Competitions chair at various levels and as a state officer. She is professor of piano at Wartburg College and holds a DMA degree from the University of Iowa and an MM degree from Kansas State University.