Year Round Faculty

Richard Spencer

Richard Spencer

Director
GUITAR, JAZZ STUDIES, CHILDREN’S PROGRAM, ENSEMBLES Undergraduate studies at Berklee College of Music and the University of Texas. B.M. in jazz performance from University of North Texas, 1977; M.M.E. in jazz performance from UNT, 1979; M.B.A from University of Texas, Austin, 1996. Major guitar teachers include: Jack Petersen, John Abercrombie, John Reed, Larry Coryell, Mick Goodrick, and Pat Martino. Recipient of jazz study fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Performing experience includes gigs with Bob Berg, Wallace Roney, Ralph Moore, Tiger Okoshi, and others. Toured and recorded with Chico Hamilton. Former faculty positions at Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX, Eastfield and Cedar Valley Colleges in Dallas, TX and Concordia University Texas in Austin, TX.
Rachel Spencer

Rachel Spencer

Associate Director
TRUMPET, JAZZ STUDIES, ENSEMBLES A versatile and engaging performer, Rachel Spencer’s career has been rich and fulfilling. From big bands to orchestras, brass bands to brass quintets, Rachel is known for her stylistic prowess in a wide range of genres, as well as her clear and expressive tone. Ms. Spencer has shared the stage with many incredible musicians such as Bill Watrous, Sean Jones, Grace Kelly, and Randy Brecker, among others. Her music has afforded her many travel opportunities; She has performed at TMEA, OMEA, the Tanglewood Music Center, and has traveled to Hong Kong as a featured performer in the Chinese New Year Parade. While a graduate student at the University of Texas, she was a member of the UT Wind Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, New Music Ensemble, and was a semifinalist in the National Trumpet Competition graduate solo division. In addition to her performing accomplishments, she was the Director of the Longhorn Jazz Ensemble. As a member of DCI, Rachel was a member of the Bluecoats for 5 years as a lead trumpet player, soloist, and horn sergeant, winning bronze, silver, and gold with the corps. A passionate and well-rounded teacher, Rachel is devoted to the forward motion of music and jazz education and is dedicated to teaching students from all walks of life. She has multiple years experience as band director, private lesson teacher, clinician, and currently serves on brass faculty for the Cadets drum and bugle corps. She is a founding member of Jazz Girls Texas, a Production Central coordinator at the annual Jazz Education Network Conference, and has served on faculty at Longhorn Music Camp. Rachel holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Music and Human Learning and a Bachelor of Music from Capital University in Jazz Studies. Her major teachers and influencers include Rob Parton, Lou Fischer, Marie Spezalie, and Wiff Rudd. In her free time, Rachel enjoys reading, playing with her cats, and doing yoga with her partner.

Paula Spencer

Director
VOICE B.M.E. in voice and clarinet from Arkansas State University, 1975, M.M. in vocal performance from University of North Texas, 1977, and Ph.D. course work in higher education administration from UNT. Master classes with: John Wustman, Phyllis Curtin, Jurgen Jurgens, and Robert Shaw. Participated in seminars on Heinrich Schutz, Schluctern, Germany. Performing experience includes: numerous opera roles, soloist with the ASU male chorus and the UNT madrigals; soloist for various churches and performances with Tupelo Symphony and Boston Pops. Additional performing and recording experience with jazz and show bands in Texas and New England area. Accompanying vocalist with Ray Kent and Andrew Culverwell. Faculty positions have included University of North Texas, Denton, TX, Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX, Christ for the Nations Institute, Dallas, TX and Austin Community College, Austin, TX.
Andre Hayward

Andre Hayward

VP of Resource and Development
LOWER BRASS, JAZZ IMPROVISATION, ENSEMBLES Andre Hayward is an extremely gifted trombonist with the sound and clarity reminiscent of the late J.J. Johnson. His gospel-tinged approach is refreshing and will warm the hearts of anyone he comes in contact with. He landed his first engagement with trumpeter Roy Hargrove for a European tour after being heard at a jam session during a festival while playing with the Texas Southern University Jazz Ensemble. After Hargrove, Hayward performed and recorded with singer/bandleader Betty Carter for five years in her acclaimed “Jazz Ahead” program. Other acclaimed performers include Joe Williams, Slide Hampton, John Lewis, Mingus Dynasty Big Band, Gerald Wilson, Kirk Whalum, Jimmy Heath, The Duke Ellington Orchestra and Illinois Jacquet’s Big Band. His most recent performance credits are The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The San Francisco Jazz Collective, and The Clayton – Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. In 2003, he received first place and a $20,000 scholarship at the International Thelonious Monk Trombone Competition in Washington, DC. Hayward is also an educator who has conducted numerous clinics and workshops in various parts of the US and overseas. Hayward has served as jazz trombone professor at New School of Jazz & Contemporary Music, New York University, New England Conservatory, Michigan State University, University of Texas – Butler School of Music, and University of North Texas.
Roni Chavez

Roni Chavez

Operations Manager
A teacher by profession, Roni worked for children with special needs for over 10 years in Asia. She founded Blue Special Center in Ho Chi Minh City and established 4 volunteer sites for an international organization helping children with special needs all over the world. She served as a board member and the newsletter editor before voted as the President-Elect of International Association of Special Education. Roni volunteered in Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Malawi. She helped schools setup programs in the community for children with special needs. She spoke in international conferences with the importance of creating preventive measures of sexual harassment towards children, young adults, and adults with special needs. As the ambassador for Internations in Ho Chi Minh City, she organized monthly events to foster expat communities in the city. She aided the growth of the Ho Chi Minh community from 20 active members to over 500 participants during activities. Roni with her love of music has been using songs to teach children social and life skills. Music has played an integral role of the Blue Center Curriculum. Non-verbal students have been very receptive with music as part of teaching.
Jay Leach

Jay Leach

Guitar, Lap Steel, Pedal Steel
Jay Leach is a multi-talented guitarist whose experience ranges from studio work in television, commercials, and motion pictures to multiple albums and guitar books as a solo artist. Jay has many years of playing and recording work in the Los Angeles area, including work in Television and Motion Pictures, including 10 years as principal Pedal Steel Guitarist and utility musician for the TV show American Idol. Jay currently has 8 albums as a solo artist and 3 books with Mel Bay, for Acoustic Guitar, Lap Steel, and Pedal Steel. After many years in Los Angeles, Jay and his wife relocated to the Austin, Texas area. Jay’s credits for TV shows include: American Idol with Kenny Rogers, Touched by an Angel, Matlock, In The Heat of The Night, Murder She Wrote, Jake and the Fatman, cartoon episodes of Lilo & Stich, Hey Arnold, and the Disney Channel's Dumbo's Flying Circus; and many TV and radio commercials such as: IBM, Budweiser, Denny's, McDonald's, Nike, Black Angus Steak House, and Mercedes. Movie soundtrack credits include Mars Attacks, Trip to Bountiful, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Gone Fishin', Tough Enough, A Simple Wish, Smokey and the Bandit III, Urban Cowboy, Big Business, and Six Days and Seven Nights. Jay has worked or recorded with Roy Orbison, Barry Manilow, Gladys Knight, John Denver, The Pointer Sisters, Kirk Whalum, and many others. Jay’s teaching experience includes work as a clinician, guest lecturer, or artist in residence at: California State University, Northridge; Oklahoma State University; Los Angeles Musicians Academy; College of the Canyons, California; Texas jazz & Blues Camp, and others.
Tom Brechtlein

Tom Brechtlein

MASTERCLASSES, DRUMSET, ENSEMBLES
Tom Brechtlein grew up in East Meadow, Long Island and gravitated to drums after listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In junior high, his attention turned to big band jazz, and he became attracted to the music of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. His investigation of jazz led him to Dave Brubeck's drummer Joe Morello and then to modern giants like Elvin Jones and Tony Williams as well as legends like Papa Jo Jones, Max Roach and Philly Joe Jones. "When I was 18," he recalls, "I saw Chick Corea's Return To Forever on PBS Television; and I remember sitting there thinking, ' I'm going to play with that guy someday.'" Two years later, in 1978, he auditioned with Corea and got the gig. He remained in the band till 1983, at which point he joined Wayne Shorter's band. There followed extensive road work with guitarist Al Di Meola and violinist Jean Luc Ponty before Tom finally hooked up with Robben Ford in 1986.
Justin Vasquez

Justin Vasquez

VP of Media Operations
SAXOPHONE, IMPROV, JAZZ STUDIES Evolution and a fiercely open-minded approach to composition are the hallmarks of saxophonist Justin Vasquez. His writing, filled with surprises and twists, crosses boundaries of jazz, contemporary, country, classical, and singer/songwriter aesthetics. His sound, aggressive and muscular, bears the lineage of greats like Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Kenny Garrett and Michael Brecker yet is immediately identifiable. B.M. in jazz performance from the University of Texas in Austin 2005. Recipient of ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award in 2009. Influential teachers include Dick Oatts, Eddie Daniels, Vincent Herring, Dan Haerle, Andy Laverne, Jeff Hellmer. Recording/touring/performing experience with Randy Brecker (Brecker Brothers), Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets), Mike Stern (Miles Davis), Manhattan Transfer, Bob Brookmeyer (Stan Getz), Dave Liebman (Miles Davis), Tom Harrell, Gerry Gibbs, VV Brown, Gretchen Parlato, Janek Gwizdala, Jojo Mayer. Justin has over a decade of experience teaching saxophone performance as well as composition and improvisation.
Chris Alcaraz

Chris Alcaraz

Bass, Violin, Guitar, Ensembles
Chris Alcaraz has been playing music since his four-year-old hands first held a violin. He learned to play guitar at seven, electric bass at eight and double bass at nine. Chris attended Arizona State University on a Jazz scholarship and played double bass in the University Symphony. Upon moving to Austin, Chris began playing and touring with Texas Tornado, Ernie Durawa, and Ernie pianist Wiley Cousins. Chris toured Scandinavian, relocated to Finland, recorded his first solo album with the group , and moved to London -- where his singles "Anne" and "To Your Heart" received national airplay on BBC Radio 2. Returning to the States, Chris formed his own band and was introduced to teaching by his early mentor Bud Dimock, who also taught jazz giants Grant Geissman and Stanley Jordan. Chris serves as Bassist, Vocalist and Musical Director for DURAWA with Ernie Durawa and Will Knaak (Blue October) -- and as the Bassist for NY Blues Hall of Fame artist, Murali Coryell, in Murali’s Texas based touring group with Ernie Durawa. Genres range across the spectrum: rock, blues, soul, country, jazz. As Chris says "The music is about peace, love, togetherness and improving the human condition. Now is the time for these messages to be heard and shared. We are all part of 'One Human Race' together. To survive and thrive, we have to do this together."
David R. Aldridge

David R. Aldridge

Drum set, Kids Drum Circles
David is a native Austinite who relocated to the East Coast as a teen, where he began his drum studies at The Percussion Center, an old-school brick and mortar drum store in Newport, Delaware. He studied with Dick Kenny and Joe Brancato (Musicians Institute) and took occasional lessons from four-way coordination master and visiting instructor Jim Chapin. Summer camps at Towson University in Maryland exposed David to the Stan Kenton Orchestra and lessons with Peter Erskine, and over the years, David was fortunate to have opportunities to study further with Erskine in Los Angeles, along with occasionally study with master drummers including Ed Soph, Randy Jones, Ron Davis, David Garibaldi, and Mitchell Peters. Odd meter explorer Hank Levy conducted extended jazz ensemble clinics in Delaware which introduced David to Levy's unique and Indian drumming-influence brand of jazz, and he later attended Towson University as a music major to study further under Hank Levy. A brief study with Terry Bozzio in Los Angeles inspired David to write The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II, a systematic introduction to the underlying structure of rhythm pattern development and vocabulary patterns. Music theory has long had hundreds of texts addressing the study tonal organization, while rhythm pattern theory has received relatively little attention paid to rhythmic organization. The Elements of Rhythm series is one of the most comprehensive studies of the subject, with David having been invited to offer a presentation on these books at Rhythm Production and Perception #14 conference at the University of Birmingham, in Birmingham, England. In addition to his focus as a drum set educator, David continues to play locally in Austin returning to Texas after many years in California, where he played in jazz and blues bands in Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, and the greater Los Angeles area. To date, his highlight musical experience remains having recorded with the legendary Crazy World of Arthur Brown on the classic Requiem, with a featured song ("Busha-Busha") earning rotation on MTV. David's secondary focus is the conducting of kids drum circles, with an emphasis on addressing children with Tourette Syndrome. Beginning in 2013, David held drum circles in Southern California with support from Remo Percussion, which also helped David conduct a joint-teaching opportunity for kids in Birmingham, England. As Covid-19 subsides, David will be resuming this special area of focus to bring percussion experiences for kids to explore. As a composer and multi-instrumentalist, David believes drummers should be exposed to not merely learning how to play the drum set, but also how to listen to and interact with another instrumentalist. To facilitate this learning process, he occasionally doubles up on bass or guitar to help students learn how to work best a band member.
Michael Bahan

Michael Bahan

DRUMS
Michael Bahan began his career on a Slingerland snare at the age of nine, taking lessons from Jeff Ryder at Kirk Scott’s Drum City in San Antonio, TX. He immersed himself in the world of percussion and began playing and working at the age of fourteen, being dubbed ‘Baby Drummer’ by band mates twice his age. While in college, Michael played in the theater pit and college pep band at Columbia College in Columbia, MO, while also playing in the local scene. He began his teaching career when his Latin/West African percussion teacher, Neftali Medina, volunteered him to teach a group class through the Carver Cultural Community Center in San Antonio. This began a career that has taken Michael from the North East and San Antonio Independent School Districts in San Antonio to Jeff Ryder Drum Shop in Austin to Uganda, Africa, teaching percussion to students of all ages. He is always looking to expand his knowledge and is currently a student of the drum set, tabla, sitar and bata. Michael’s passion for music drives his desire to expand his knowledge of percussion and he has maintained a steady playing, session and teaching career for nearly 30 years. Currently, Michael can be found playing, teaching and recording in the Austin, TX music scene. Since 2012, Michael has also been the owner/operator of Cascade Studios Austin, which is a full-service and fully equipped rehearsal/recording studio located in North Central Austin. Cascade Studios has developed into a small community where musicians are able to go practice, record, and teach their craft. Michael endorses/plays Soultone Cymbals and Bopworks Drumsticks and a bunch of different drums!
Brad Houser

Brad Houser

Saxophone, Guitar
Brad Houser is, among other things, the founding member of Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, and Critters Buggin. He is an active ingredient in the Austin music matrix, playing regularly with Josh Perdue, Matt Hubbard, Grouchy Like Riley and Zydeco Blanco. Houser has been a saxophone teacher with Anthropos Arts since 2004. Houser also teaches electric bass. He and his wife Kirilola formed Diamond Booms in 2020 and recently showcased at SXSW and have released an EP on Bandcamp called “Pheasant Sleep”. Also, in 2019 Reverend Guitars debuted his signature model bass, the Basshouser Fatfish 32.
María Del Toro

María Del Toro

VIOLIN, VIOLA, Alexander Technique
She began her violin studies with Fernando Medina at the Escuela Libre de Música in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music in 2010, where she studied with teachers Omar Velázquez on violin and Emanuel Olivieri on viola. After suffering an injury as a teenager, Del Toro has dedicated herself to studying the Alexander Technique under the care of Karen Langevin, Rose Bronec, and Rick Carbaugh. In 2013 she obtained the certification of the American Society of Alexander Technique (AmSat) upon graduating from the Alexander Technique Urbana in Illinois, United States. With almost 20 years of experience teaching violin and viola to people of all ages, Del Toro has taught at Metropolitan Music Arts in Puerto Rico and at the Community Center for the Arts (C4A) in Urbana, Illinois. Currently, she still serves as a bilingual liaison between C4A and the Havana Music School, a music school in Cuba with which C4A began a relationship in 2019.
Daniel Dufour

Daniel Dufour

PERCUSSION, DRUMSET, ENSEMBLES
B.M in in Percussion Performance at Sam Houston State University M.M in Jazz Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Daniel has had the opportunity to play with many great musicians including Pete Rodriquez, Gabriel Santiago, Justin Vasquez, Lynn Seaton, Mitch Watkins, Suzi Stern, Andre Hayward, Ephraim Owens, Elias Haslinger, Red Young, Kevin Lovejoy, Woody Witt, Joe LoCascio, Rotem Sivan, Randy Brecker, Luis Perdomo, Roberto Quintero, Maria Schneider, and Joshua Redman. Daniel has been a part of many festivals in the greater South East region of Texas. Such appearances included the Corpus Christi Jazz Festival, the Jazz Alive Festival in San Antonio, the SHSU Bill Watrous Jazz Festival, and the Temple College Jazz Festival. His teachers include Jeff Hellmer, Wayne Salzmann, John Mills, John Fremgen, Aric Schneller, and John Lane. Daniel is an endorsing artist for Aquarian Drum Heads, Innovative Percussion Sticks, and the A&F Drum Company.

Mike Harris

GUITAR, BASS, VIOLIN, VIOLA, MANDOLIN
B.M. in theory from University of North Texas, 1978, Magna Cum Laude; M.M. in guitar performance from UNT, 1983; Master classes with Oscar Ghiglia, Eliot Fisk, Paul O’dette, Robert Guthrie and others. Multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, violin, viola, mandolin) with extensive performing experience in diverse styles, including classical, rock, country, and jazz, and has worked extensively with Arthur Brown, Jimmy Carl Black, and Kim Fowley. Over twenty years of teaching experience, including five years at University of North Texas as a teaching fellow and adjunct faculty member. Instructor positions at St. Stephen’s, Childbloom, Austin Guitar School, Three Muses School, and Austin Piano & Strings.

Dave Lee

TRUMPET, JAZZ STUDIES, ENSEMBLES
B.S. in ministries & music from Howard Payne University. Graduate studies at Episcopal Theological Seminary. Ensemble director of the NAJO, Mainstream Jazz Quintet, Rhythm Congress Band, and the Ken Ragsdale Orchestra. Worship leader and choir director for the Sanctuary, and additional music ministry directing experience in the Seattle and Austin areas. Extensive private trumpet teaching experience and ensemble directing, ranging from small groups to large jazz orchestras, in a diverse range of musical styles.

John X Reed

GUITAR, ENSEMBLES
Early music studies on guitar and fiddle at age 8 with his father and grandfather on a farm in eastern New Mexico. Attended Texas Tech University, where he embarked on what would become long term musical associations with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jesse “Guitar” Taylor and Ponty Bone. Extensive performing experience throughout the United States and Europe. Recorded and toured with many artists, including: Freda and the Firedogs, Doug Sahm, Roky Erickson, Marcia Ball, Lucinda Williams, James Polk, Kimmie Rhodes, Alvin Crow, Kenneth Threadgill, The Lucky Tomblin Band, the Texana Dames, and Denny Freeman, Carnegie Hall performance with Doug Sahm. Over 30 years teaching experience, and has been a major teacher and influence on a number of excellent guitarists.
Peggy Stern

Peggy Stern

PIANO, ENSEMBLES, JAZZ STUDIES
Peggy has worked and toured with many wonderful musicians: Lee Konitz, Diane Schuur, David “Fathead” Newman, Jay Clayton, Gary Peacock, Gene Bertoncini, Bud Shank, Red Holloway, Thomas Chapin, Machito, Puck Fair, Bobby Shew, Stanley Turrentine, Gerry Mulligan, Eddie Henderson, Emily Remler, to name a few. Peggy has toured throughout Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan. In addition, Peggy has worked as an educator for the past 20 years, at colleges in the US. She has given workshops throughout Europe (Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Italy), and the US. Since May 2013, Peggy makes her home in Austin, Texas, to be near her family. Joining the vibrant music scene there, she intends to create a new (for her) musical genre, to add to her already eclectic tastes (Latin, Classical, Brazilian, Progressive and Free jazz, etc). She calls it Cowboy Jazz, with a 2017 release entitled Shine On. 2015 saw the release of her 13th CD, a chamber jazz recording entitled Z Octet.
Nikita Storojev

Nikita Storojev

PRIVATE VOCAL STUDIES & COACHING
Nikita Storojev is a Russian bass vocalist, who after receiving his degree in philosophy, entered the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. Upon winning the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition, he became a principal soloist at the Bolshoi Theater and the Moscow Philharmonic Society. He speaks Russian, French, English, German, Spanish, and Italian. Mr. Storojev has performed in the world’s major opera houses, concert halls and appeared in international festivals in Vienna, Paris, London, Milan, New York, San Francisco, Florence, Munich, Berlin, etc. His vast repertoire today consists of over 50 operatic roles and more than 300 classical songs. He has twenty-five commercial CDs and five DVDs, performed and recorded under the direction of conductors such as Mstislav Rostropovich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir John Pritchard, Claudio Abbado, Neeme Jarvi, John Nelson, Marius Jansons, Gennady Rozhdestvenski etc., and with singers such as Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. Mr. Storojev has taught many students in several countries, and is currently is an Associate Professor of Voice and Opera at the University of Texas Butler School of Music. Eighteen of his students have won international singing competitions in Europe. In the last four years, while teaching at The University of Texas, his students have won national competitions, participated in young artist programs, and begun professional careers. As a teacher, Mr. Storojev has also presented master classes around the world in Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, and Mexico, as well as in the United States. In addition to his professorship at UT, Mr. Storojev has opened his Austin vocal teaching studio to the community for students who desire to perform at their highest vocal level possible. Recent engagements for Mr. Storojev include the roles of the Police-Sergeant and the Old Prisoner in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with Christian Badea and the Baltimore Opera; a program of excerpts from Boris Godunov and Prince Igor with Peter Bay and the Austin Symphony Orchestra; more performances of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, conducted by Donald Runnicles at the San Francisco Opera; a performance of the role of King Dodon in Le Coq d’Or with the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. An extensive list of additional recent engagements for Mr. Storojev, and additional information, can be found at the following link, http://www.music.utexas.edu/directory/details.aspx?id=10

Tatiana Storozheva

PIANO, ACCOMPANIST, VOCAL COACH
Tatiana Storozheva is a professional pianist, accompanist and vocal coach. She was born and raised in Yekaterinburg, Russia and attended a special music school for gifted children. She received her Master’s Degree from the Mussorgsky Conservatory in Yekaterinburg in Piano Performance, Opera Coach, Piano Teacher and Collaborative Piano. Mrs. Storozheva served as Head Coach at the Yekaterinburg Opera for 22 years. She also accompanied soloists in recital, served as soloist of the Yekaterinburg Philharmonia Society, and was the Artistic Director, Conductor and Pianist for Musical Theater, Yekaterinburg. For her work in opera, Mrs. Storozheva was named an Honored Artist of Russia. She also received the Best Accompanist award at the Mussorgsky competition. Her repertoire consists of numerous operas and over 300 hundred songs in Russian, Italian, German, French and English. Mrs. Storozheva has also made several recordings with internationally recognized Russian singers such Nikita Storojev and Valentin Zacharov. During the course of her career she has prepared and accompanied singers in national and international vocal competitions such as the Glinka Competition and the Rimsky-Korsakov Competition in Russia and the Belvedere in Vienna. She has participated in many festivals in Germany, France, Belgium and Hungary and served as coach, assisting Mstislav Rostropovich, in a production of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain. Additional collaborative engagements include Baltimore Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Moscow, Bard Festival in New York, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, Poland, and Washington, D.C. Tatiana is a vocal coach and accompanist for University of Texas Butler School of Music students.
Chris Young

Chris Young

Guitar
Chris began playing the guitar at the age of eight, influenced by blues and rock greats Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eddie Van Halen and began studying classical guitar at age ten. At age thirteen, Chris won Houston’s “Best Guitarist in Houston Under 18” in the rock category. While attending the University of Miami under music scholarship, he performed in the award-winning University of Miami Concert Jazz Band and played with jazz greats Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano and others. He also played in several bands and with numerous local artists including Christian R&B artist Neville Peter and Nashville piano-rocker Gabe Dixon. Upon graduating from college, Chris coached a jazz guitar ensemble of five undergraduate guitarists and a rhythm section at the University of Miami and prepared them for two annual concerts. He also led the jazz guitar program at Miami’s arts magnet high school, “New World School of the Arts” and taught jazz improvisation to a large class of multi-instrumentalist and moonlighted as a wedding guitarist during this time. Chris moved to New York City in 2000 and soon began playing guitar for neo-soul diva Angie Stone. He toured nationally in support of her album, “Mahogany Soul” and appeared on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, “Live at the Apollo” and BET’s “106th and Park”. Chris later moved to Japan in 2004 and recorded and/or toured the US and Japan with Interscope Records avant garde R&B artist Bilal Oliver, African pop singer and superstar fusion bassist Richard Bona and Japanese jazz pioneer and saxophonist Sadao Watanabe. Now living in Austin, Texas, Chris can be found performing regularly with ‘Eastern Soul’ artist Nagavalli, originally from Mumbai, whose music intersperses elements of Indian ragas, rock, jazz, electronica, rap and soul. Along with balancing performing, songwriting and recording, Chris teaches guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, drums and voice to a wide variety of students.
Margo Zelle

Margo Zelle

Voice
Margo Zelle is an RnB, Jazz, and Pop singer-songwriter who aims to encapsulate and express musical and emotional concepts that are often less seen in popular music, as well as teach other musicians how to love music, and in particular jazz and music theory. Margo grew up in Austin, TX, which is where she first stepped foot on a stage, starting the fire inside her that still passionately burns. In Austin, Margo primarily worked under Joe Morales, and she sang at popular venues like Stubbs, The Mohawk, Parker Jazz Club, Monk’s Jazz club, and the Elephant Room. She continues to perform in both Austin and Low Angeles with bands and solo. Margo enjoyed growing up singing in the Austin Jazz Club, and Morales, who runs the club says, “Margo Zelle is a talented up-and-coming R&B recording artist. Her show is a high- energy mix of original music with virtuoso jazzy vocals.” Margo now attends the University of Southern California as a jazz voice major, taking lessons with legends such as Sara Gazarek, Katie Thiroux, and Patrice Rushen. Through just the New School of Music, she has worked with phenomenal musicians such as Christian McBride, Andre Hayward, Don Braden, Bill Evans, Peggy Stern, Emmett Cohen, and more. Margo also loves teaching and has taught in Austin and LA since 2018, teaching at Band Aid School of Music, privately, and through the Thornton Community Engagement Program (TCEP, USC). She is also a social media marketer and manager, and she is even famous on tiktok (@margozelle)! Margo hopes to record and release an album in 2023.