Roderick Vester, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Email: | cell: 901-462-4475

When Dr. Roderick Vester discovered the piano at the age of five, it quickly became apparent that his talents surpassed those of other children his age. His fascination with the piano, and later the organ, created a lifelong passion for music theory, harmony, and the structure of music. Hello world.


Roderick has served as an accompanist for a plethora of national recording artists including Oleta Adams, Lamar Campbell, Kurt Carr, Aretha Franklin, Kelly Price, LeAndria Johnson, Judith Christie-McAllister, V. Michael McKay, Richard Smallwood, Tye Tribbett, and Cece Winans. In 2013, Roderick served as accompanist and instrumental director for the Sounds of Celebration Concert with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. As a musician, producer, and arranger, Roderick has been credited with over twenty-seven music CDs.

Roderick has also worked as a recurring arranger and producer for The United Methodist Publishing House. As a composer, Roderick’s music has been published in the Total Praise Hymnal: Songs and Other Worship Resources for Every Generation.

Roderick served as Director of Music at First Baptist Church-Broad (FBCB) for seven years. Under his direction, the repertoire of the Music Ministry of FBCB expanded greatly through its incorporation of anthems, classical, jazz idioms, and spiritual songs. The Sanctuary Choir of FBCB was nominated for Best Choir by the Best in Black Awards Memphis July 2017. His concert successes included:

  • December 2012, the Sounds for the Season Christmas Concert featured Grammy nominated artist Sheri Jones-Moffett
  • December 2014, the He Brought Joy Christmas Concert featured Grammy Award Winner Smokie Norful
  • December 2017, A Soulful Christmas Concert featured the PRIZM Chamber Orchestra

Joining PRIZM

Roderick joined the PRIZM Ensemble in Fall 2016 as Program Director, where he concentrated efforts on school recruitment for the Festival, and expansion of the PRIZM in Schools (PITS) program. In Spring 2017, he was promoted to Director of Operations and Educational Programming. He accepted the role of Interim Executive Director in August 2017, and was later appointed Executive Director in February 2018.

Rod holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, a Master's degree in Counseling, a Master's degree in Musicology, and a Ph.D. in Music Education. Rod's scholarly research examines the musical enculturation, transmission, and preservation of the African American gospel piano style in the 21st century.

Marissa Manthongkham, D.M.A.

Director of Operations and Educational Programming


Music has always been an integral part of Marissa’s life and she’s thrilled to return to her hometown and contribute to PRIZM and the Memphis musical community.


Dr. Marissa Manthongkham is a graduate of Michigan State University, earning a Doctorate of Musical Arts in clarinet performance. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Music in performance from Baylor University. She studied under Guy Yehuda, Richard Shanley, Victor Chavez and Gary Sperl.

A devoted advocate for music education and performance, Marissa has established herself as a professional woodwind instructor and pedagogue in conjunction with dynamic performances that have catapulted her musical career. With more than 14 years of music education experience, most recently Marissa taught at the Michigan State University Community Music School and instructed undergraduate courses and lessons at Baylor University along with facilitating teaching studios in Tennessee and Washington State. As a resident artist at the 2017 Philadelphia International Summer Music Festival, Marissa coached chamber ensembles, studied with Ricardo Morales and served as principal clarinet of the college and professional division orchestra. She volunteered as a clarinet instructor at The Joy of Music School, a nonprofit organization that provides free lessons and musical equipment for youth in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 2016, Marissa was introduced to the PRIZM program and served as an instructor and performer during the International Chamber Music Camp and Festival.

Another component of Marissa’s scholarly work includes a performance tour of seven chamber music concerts in Kolkata, India, where she coached students from various backgrounds and collaborated with Indian educators. She also performed an LGBTQ rendition of “Orpheus and Eurydice” by Ricky Ian Gordon with the Arbor Opera Theater of Michigan, allowing her to expand her insight of a well-known work in a modern setting. She has performed and collaborated with established composers and conductors, including John Mackey, Paul Dooley, Eric Ewazen, Kensho Watanabe and Colonel John R. Bourgeois, and also performed in masterclasses for renowned pedagogues Kenneth Grant, Julie Deroche, Phil Paglialonga, Frank Morelli, Kimberly Fisher and Paul Cigan. Finally, Marissa has won countless talent awards for her clarinet performance at preliminary competitions within the Miss America Organization earning more than $9,000 in scholarships.