Sue Boyd Price, SMPI Administrator


Ellen Elder 2018Dr. Ellen Elder (SMPI Director)—Dr. Ellen Price Elder is Assistant Professor of Piano at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she teaches applied piano to graduate and undergraduate piano majors, teaches class piano, and collaborates with faculty and guest artists.  She has performed throughout the United States and South America as soloist, collaborator, and masterclass clinician.  In addition to her college teaching, Dr. Elder also serves as founder and director of the Southern Miss Piano Institute. 

She holds the D.M.A. in Piano Pedagogy and Performance and the M.M. in Piano Performance and Literature from the University of Michigan.  She received her B.M. in Piano Performance from the University of Southern Mississippi.  She has served on the faculties of the University of Michigan, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Eastern Michigan University, Schoolcraft College, and William Carey University.  She has taught on the summer piano faculties of the University of Michigan All-State Program at Interlochen, the University of Michigan Summer Arts Institute, and the FestivalSouth Piano Concerto Academy.

Dr. Elder is the winner of many competitions and awards, both for solo performance and teaching.  She was the first place winner of the Ann Arbor Society for the Musical Arts Competition and the Lansing Matinee Musicale Competition, and second place winner of the Memphis International Beethoven Sonata Competition.  She was the recipient of the Steinway & Sons Top Teacher Award, the MTNA Star Award, as well as the Joanne A. Smith Piano Pedagogy Award for class piano teaching (for two consecutive years).  In 2009, she was selected to receive the HEADWAE Award (Higher Education Appreciation Day/Working for Academic Excellence) established in 1988 by the Mississippi Legislature to honor faculty who have contributed to the promotion of academic excellence at each of the state's public and private institutions. 

She has appeared as soloist with the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Mississippi Symphony Chamber Orchestra, and the Hattiesburg City Band.  She has also performed with the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the University of Michigan Philharmonia Orchestra, as winner of the concerto competitions at those institutions.  She is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician throughout the southeastern United States and beyond.  Dr. Elder is an active member of the local and state music teacher organizations, and currently serves as Immediate Past President of the Mississippi Music Teachers Association, and President of the Hattiesburg Music Teachers League.


Le BaiLe Bai is currently pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance from the University of Southern Mississippi, and studies with Dr. Ellen Elder.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and Master’s degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy Research with honors from Central China Normal University (Wuhan, China).  She has taught group piano lessons in Central China Normal University during 2015-2016, and was a recipient of the 1st class scholarship in Central China Normal University during 2015-2017.  Le Bai has performed as soloist in the Perugia Music Festival in Italy and the Hartford International Classical Music Festival.

 Dino Henriquez





Dino Henriquez is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Piano Performance from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he is a student of Dr. Ellen Elder.  He is the first place award winner of the Mississippi Music Teachers Association Junior-Senior Solo Competition, and the Graduate Solo Competition (the only undergraduate competitor in that event).  He was awarded the Undergraduate Student of the Year 2016 by the College of Arts and Letters at USM.  Originally from Honduras, Dino attended Universidad Privada de San Pedro Sula (Private University of San Pedro Sula).  While in Honduras he performed as a soloist with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Honduras, and collaborated with many well-known soloists.  Mr. Henriquez currently serves as the Worship Leader at Iglesia Vida, Hattiesburg, MS.


Valerica Muller






Valerica Muller began studying piano at the age of four years old at “Lycee Dimitrie Cuclin” in the city of Galati, located on the east side of Romania, with the influence of her father, who was himself a musician.  She won several prestigious awards in Europe, including two music and arts Olympiads.  Upon graduation with a degree in piano performance and teaching, she moved to Vicenza, Italy, where she taught piano for four years.  In 2007 she moved to Bamberg, Germany, where she led the development of the first piano class to be taught in the “SKIESUnlimited” programs.  In January 2012, she won the first prize in the Fayetteville, North Carolina Piano Festival. 


She received her Bachelor of Science in Music Education with a concentration in keyboard from Fayetteville State University in May 2017, under the guidance of Dr. Amanda Virelles.  She also served on the piano faculty of the Snyder Music Academy in Fayetteville.  Currently, she is a second year master’s student, pursuing a degree in piano performance at USM.  In the future she plans to continue her graduate studies and teach piano at the collegiate level. 


Ms. Muller is past president of the Fayetteville Piano Teachers Association, and an active member of the Music Teachers National Association.