Meet the Students

Meet the Students



Ben Britton

Saxophonist Ben Britton is an active educator and performer in the U.S. His talents as a musician and composer were first nationally recognized in 2007 when he was selected to participate in a residency at the Kennedy Center as part of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program. Following that, Britton recorded and performed with both world-renowned musicians like Chris Potter and Bobby Sanabria as well as rising stars from the younger generation. His most recent recording as a leader, an EP titled Children at Play, features Philadelphia based musicians and a unique brand of jazz with influences ranging from African music to modern rock. He also performed on the album Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!!, which was nominated for best Latin Jazz Album at the 2011 Latin Grammys. In 2012, Britton participated in two national saxophone competitions placing as a finalist in the Detroit Jazz Festival National Saxophone Competition and winning the First Annual Charlie Parker Cutting Contest hosted by NPR’s 12th Street Jump. 

As an educator Britton has held adjunct teaching positions at various colleges including University of Pennsylvania. He has also published various materials including transcription, play along tracks, solo analysis, various articles on his blog, Everything Saxophone, and two books on saxophone technique. Currently Britton is pursuing a DMA at Eastman school of music and resides in Spencerport, New York with his wife and seven children. 


Julian Tanaka

Multi-instrumentalist Julian Tanaka is a native of Tokyo, Japan and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tanaka is an alumni of the Las Vegas Academy of Performing and Visual Arts and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He completed his Bachelor of Music in Jazz Arranging in 2013. At UNLV, Tanaka studied clarinet with Marina Sturm and composition with Joe Lano. Las Vegas provided the opportunity to apply his studies, performing extensively on saxophone, clarinet and piano.

A member of Bill Dobbins’s jazz writing studio and Charles Pillow’s saxophone studio at Eastman School of Music, Julian is currently pursuing an MM in Jazz Writing. He performs with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble and Harold Danko’s Jazz Performance Workshop.

Tanaka is equally at home playing Jazz, Reggae, Hip-Hop, R&B, and Rock music. His musical endeavors have included the 2012-13 international tour of the Broadway hit musical, Come Fly Away, and a 2013-14 residency with Grammy award winning R&B group, Boyz II Men, at the Mirage Hotel and Casino on The Las Vegas Strip. He leads the Freedom Jazz Trio and writes and arranges for his own quartet.

Tanaka has a sincere interest in education and community engagement. He has frequented the Las Vegas Academy and many Las Vegas elementary schools teaching, performing and conducting workshops.


Colin Gordon

Colin Gordon is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Eastman School of Music under the tutelage of Charles Pillow. In addition to receiving his Master of Music from Eastman, Colin has previously studied at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music and Prince Claus Conservatoire in Groningen, Netherlands, studying with saxophonists such as Steve Wilson, Jon Gordon, Eric Alexander, Michael Moore, and Ramon Ricker. Colin has performed at jazz venues in New York City such as Birdland, Smalls, Smoke, City Winery, and ShapeShifter Lab, and has toured internationally at festivals and jazz clubs in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

In addition to being a performing jazz saxophonist, woodwind doubler, and composer, Colin also enjoys being an active music educator. He currently holds two graduate teaching assistant positions at Eastman and the University of Rochester, and has taught private lessons and conducted masterclasses and clinics at local music schools and high schools.


Joel Boettger

Joel Boettger, originally from Hesston, KS, is currently pursuing a Master’s in Jazz Saxophone and Contemporary Media at the Eastman School of Music where he studies with Charles Pillow. Prior to coming to Eastman, Joel received his B.A. in Music Education from Bethel College in North Newton, KS. At Bethel Joel was an active performer in the Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, Concert Choir and chamber groups. In 2012 Joel won the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra (NMKSO) Young Artists competition culminating in a performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A, which was later broadcast on 90.1 KHCC. Joel was later invited to play second Clarinet in the NMKSO and also acted as the stage manager. While in Kansas Joel was active as a musician performing on multiple woodwinds in operas and musical theatre productions. At Bethel Joel was also honored to play saxophone on the world premiere of Steve Danyew’s “Filled With His Voice”, written for the award winning Bethel College Concert Choir.

In 2013 Joel attended the Jazz at Port Townsend summer workshop where he participated in master classes with Anat Cohen, Terrell Stafford and Wycliffe Gordon. He has also been extremely fortunate to have shared the stage and participated in workshops with Bob Mintzer, Conrad Herwig, Wayne Escoffery and the St. Petersburg String Quartet


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Orlando Madrid a native of Las Cruces, New Mexico and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of New Mexico. At UNM, he studied Classical Saxophone with Professor Eric Lau, Clarinet with Professor Keith Lemmons, and studied and performed extensively with Director of Jazz Studies and Saxophone, Glenn Kostur.

Orlando has performed quite regularly in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe area with nationally renowned guests and many of the best jazz musicians in both areas. He performed with the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra (AJO), Entourage Jazz, popular local band Cactus Tractor, Bobby Shew, Doug Lawrence. He also has had the privilege of sharing the stage with Ingrid Jensen, Marshall Gilkes, Dick Oatts, Jeff Coffin, Tony Lujan, George Stone, Jules Broussard, Eric Alexander, Clay Jenkins, Wynton Marsalis, Jerry Lopez and the Santa fe Horns, and The Temptations. In 2012 Orlando competed in the ISSAC International Saxophone Symposium and Solo Classical Competition and was Semi-Finalist in the Regional MTNA Music Teachers National Association Solo Wind Competition.

Orlando is currently pursuing an MM in Jazz Saxophone Performance and Contemporary Media at Eastman School of Music studying with world renowned performer and teacher, Charles Pillow. He is also a Teaching Assistant at Eastman where he teaches Jazz Saxophone Styles and Analysis and is part of the Jazz Saxophone Studio and well known Eastman School of Music performing Ensemble Saxology under the direction of Professor Charles Pillow.


Cj Ziarniak

CJ Ziarniak is a jazz saxophonist and educator originating from the Rochester, NY area. He is currently a freshman and is pursuing his Bachelors in Jazz and Contemporary Media as well as a Music Education degree from the prestigious Eastman School of Music.

CJ has been active on the jazz scene since he was in high school. He has played in a variety of selective groups, including the Monroe High School All-County Jazz Ensemble and the Monroe High School All-County Concert Band. He has been a dedicated member of the Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra throughout his high school career. CJ took lessons and classes throughout high school at the Eastman Community Music School and has performed at many local venues, including the Rochester International Jazz Festival, local country clubs and café’s, the State Street Bar and Grille, and on the stage of Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre.

CJ really has a strong passion to perform for others, and really loves his hometown community of Rochester because of the amazing opportunities it gives for him to follow his dreams. CJ plans on graduating from Eastman in the 2017. He is very thankful for the opportunities that the Eastman Community Music School and the Eastman School of Music has given him. He hopes to study abroad his junior year.


Luke Norris

Luke Norris is a native of Long Island, NY and a sophomore at Eastman. He is currently pursuing degrees in both Jazz Saxophone Performance and Music Education, studying saxophone with NY professional Charles Pillow. Prior to coming to Eastman, he performed with various regional ensembles, like the New York All State jazz ensemble and Nassau Suffolk Performing Arts jazz ensemble. He performed under the direction of Michael Davis, Steve Wilson, and Jim Pugh. He has studied privately with New York professionals like Gary Smulyan, Rich Perry, and Ralph Lalama. He participated in the New York Summer Music Festival, playing in various ensembles on both saxophone and clarinet. Luke has won awards for both his compositions and his playing at music festivals in the Northeast. After college, Luke wants to move to New York City and pursue a freelance career. 


Currently a freshmen this year at Eastman, Drew Voghel is a saxophonist from Tolland, CT pursuing his Bachelor’s in jazz performance as well as majoring in computer science and minoring in philosophy at the University’s College of Arts and Sciences.  He has participated in various ensembles and artistic endeavors during his high school career at Loomis Chaffee including the Connecticut Northern Regional Jazz Band, the Connecticut All-State Jazz Band, and his high school jazz ensemble as well as organizing a few independent recitals. 

Having participated in the Litchfield Jazz Festival and CMEA ensembles, Drew has performed under the direction of Claudio Roditi, Todd Coolman, and Steve Wilson.  He has also attended the master classes of Don Braden, Gary Smulyan, and Kris Allen.  Now a member of Charles Pillow’s studio, Drew is excited to start exploring the new performing venues Rochester has to offer. 

After completing his undergraduate degrees, Drew hopes to continue his studies in both music and the sciences.  Extremely grateful for the opportunities that are available to him here in Rochester, he is looking forward to jumping at each and every one that presents itself.

jazz under the stars sax 

At the age of six, Logan picked up a cello.  At the age of eight, she fell in love with the saxophone.  Although she has been a dedicated cellist for the past thirteen years, Logan Mohr is primarily a jazz saxophonist.  As a small town girl from New Hope, Pennsylvania, Logan has adapted well to the close knit community that is Eastman.   She is happily attending The Eastman School of Music and is pursuing her degree in both Jazz Performance and Music Education.  She is studying under the instruction of Charles Pillow and big band director, Rich Thompson.  Logan has made her goals for the next four years at Eastman very clear; she wants to improve her overall musicianship while gaining a better knowledge and understanding of jazz in general.  Her greatest desire is to make a difference.  Logan wants to change the way the world views jazz, and have a significant impact on those who appreciate and value the healing powers of music.  Although women are the minority in most jazz ensembles, Logan is willing to do whatever it takes to inspire young girls to pursue a future in jazz, and therefore increase the amount of women that are involved in the jazz industry today.  She is looking forward to an amazing year full of many opportunities for success and unforgettable experiences.



AJ Worcester is a saxophonist, composer, woodwind doubler, and vocalist from Fryeburg, Maine, currently pursuing a BM in Jazz Performance from the prestigious Eastman School of Music as a student of Charles Pillow.
Prior to enrolling at Eastman, AJ attended Fryeburg Academy, which is nationally reknowned for its music department. While at FA, AJ was privleged to study saxophone, improvisation, harmony, and composition under the tutelage of Eastman graduate Mike Sakash (MM Jazz Composition ’99), as well as vocal technique with Mimi Rolhfing.
AJ has participated in masterclasses lead by the likes of Grammy-winning pianist Laurence Hobgood, David Wells, Brent LaCasce, Kevin Norton, and Dave Pietro. 
This past summer, AJ participated in a tour of Europe with American Musicians Abroad as a featured flute soloist, as well as a member of the choir.
AJ draws influence from musicians such as Ben Wendel, Mark Turner, Ingrid Jensen, Ralph Alessi, Steve Coleman, Lee Konitz, Johnson “Blu” Barnes, and Angel “Homeboy Sandman” del Villar, to name a few.
He aims to create unique music that communicates significant emotional substance through composition and improvisation and share it with those who love music as much as he does. 



Rowan Wolf is a freshman, pursuing a bachelor of music degree in jazz saxophone performance under professor Charles Pillow. Originally from the Boston area, Rowan has studied privately from Ian Carroll, and has taken lessons from Daniel Pencer, Maxim Lubarsky, and Felipe Salles. Rowan received the Louis Armstrong Award as a senior at Belmont High School, and has performed at various venues in and around Boston including Ryles Jazz Club, the Hatch Shell, and Symphony Hall. Rowan has played in many different musical groups, including the MMEA Northeastern Jazz Band and Wind Ensemble, and participated in the Eastman Summer Jazz Studies workshop. Rowan is happy to be in the Eastman community and is always looking forward to meeting new people and creating new music.  



Livio Fasullo is a freshman at the Eastman School of Music double majoring in Jazz

Performance and Music Education. Livio studies alto and tenor saxophones in the studio of

Charles Pillow.

Livio Fasullo was born and raised in Albany, NY and attended Albany Public Schools.

For his eighth birthday he received an alto saxophone from his aunt and began to play in his

elementary school band. In 5th grade Livio began to study privately with Christopher Russell

and in 8th grade joined the Empire State Youth Wind and Repertory Jazz Ensembles. In 9th

grade Livio joined the Albany High School Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Michael

Richmond and the Empire State Youth Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Eastman alum

Paul Evoskevich. Throughout high school Livio performed in his own small groups such as the

Tower Six Quartet and the Albany Jazz Collective with fellow high school musicians. In eleventh

grade Livio participated in the New York State All-State Symphonic Band which performed in

Eastman Theater. In Livio`s senior year he was selected to perform in both the New York State

All State and All Eastern Jazz ensembles under the direction of Alan Baylock and Jeff Jarvis

respectively. Livio is currently enrolled at the Eastman School of Music with a double major in

Jazz Performance and Music Education.




  Al Piela

Alex (“Al”) Piela is a trumpet player who hails from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, where he acquired his passion for music performance and education. While a UW-Eau Claire student, Piela spent two years in the school’s top Jazz Ensemble 1 where he embraced the opportunity to play alongside musicians such as Andy Martin, John Pattitucci, Nachito Herrera, and Richard Johnson. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education, he spent a year as a musician, private teacher, guest clinician, and substitute teacher in the Madison area performing in jazz, rock, funk, and classical groups.  He is currently attending Eastman as a Master’s student pursuing a degree in Jazz and Contemporary Media.


Jon Rarick 

Jon Rarick is currently pursuing a Master’s of Music in Jazz Writing at the Eastman School of Music, where he is a member of the studios of Bill Dobbins and Clay Jenkins. Currently, he holds a graduate teaching assistantship and plays in the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble and Jeff Campbell’s Jazz Performance Workshop. He previously studied at Elmhurst College, where he received his B.A. in Composition and Jazz Studies and played in the Elmhurst College Jazz Band under the direction of Doug Beach. As a member of the band, he has performed at festivals and concerts in Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Germany, in addition to participating in the annual Elmhurst College Jazz Festival. He has had the pleasure of sharing the stage with artists such as Dennis Mackrel, Byron Stripling, Gary Smulyan, Bobby Shew, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Ryan Truesdell. 


 Garret Reynolds


Driven by a passion for discovery and beauty in music, Garret Reynolds seeks out colorful and compelling sounds in his compositions and improvisations. He frequently collaborates with artists of other media, scoring for films, animations, and games. As a member of the Catherine Filene Shouse Arts Leadership Program at the Eastman School of Music, Garret has interned with Remote Control Productions in Santa Monica, California and Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Film and Animation. His composition “Shiny Car” was featured as part of an interactive multiplayer installation at the Imagine RIT festival in 2015. Another collaboration, Seas the Day, was featured in the RIT College of Imaging Arts & Sciences 2015 Honors Show. He has also worked on commission by RIT to score music for an informational film, Critical Infrastructure Protection. Additionally, Garret received a Downbeat Student Music Award for his 2014 composition, “Our Time.” Garret can be heard playing trumpet and flugelhorn with the Dave Rivello Ensemble and the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble. He will finish his Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Media at Eastman in 2016. Garret is from Los Angeles, California.


Matt Blom coming from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania began studying trumpet at the age of six and jazz at twelve. He is currently studying Jazz Trumpet under Clay Jenkins at The Eastman School of Music. He has performed with various jazz big bands under directors such as Terell Stafford, Bill Dobbins, Rich Thompson, and Dave Rivello, playing lead trumpet in the Eastman Jazz Lab Band and various section parts in the Eastman Jazz Ensemble and the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble. Matt has performed with jazz big bands and small groups on tour in Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany including performances at The Academy of the Perfomring Arts in Prague and Club Reduta. He has also led small groups in the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Area including Take Four and The Blom Kwiatek Duo.


Christian Crawford is currently a Junior Jazz Trumpet Performance Major at the Eastman School of Music under the direction of Clay Jenkins. He is from Brentwood, NY, a town on Long Island, and is grateful for having a strong music program in his High School. Christian enjoys listening to the styles of Louis Armstrong, Roy Hargrove, and Kenny Dorham. Christian aspires to play in Broadway Pitt Orchesteras, but still hopes to keep jazz in his life with whatever opportunity that comes up. He feels so honored to be part of such an amazing department and is very excited for his final two years at the Eastman School of Music 



Ben Bird

Ben Bird is a freshman Jazz Studies trumpet major. He is from Lincoln, Nebraska and attended Lincoln Southeast High School. In high school, Ben played in the wind ensemble, jazz band, and marching band. He also played principal trumpet in the Lincoln Youth Symphony, and participated in the Nebraska all-state jazz band.




Hailing from sleepy Camarillo, California, Brandon Choi is an improvising trumpet player currently studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. There, he studies primarily with accomplished professor Clay Jenkins among a host of other capable instructors including professors Harold Danko, Bill Dobbins, Jeff Cambell, and Dariusz Terefenko. As well as his performances alongside his professors, Brandon has also had the privilege of playing with today’s jazz greats Joe Martin, Jim McNeely, Bill Holman, and Dave Glasser. Armed with these experiences garnered as a student, Brandon hopes to continue to make music throughout his life.


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A native of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, jazz trumpeter Sam Hill is a recent graduate of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the arts and humanities and a current student at the Eastman School of Music. Sam has held the lead trumpet position in the South Carolina all state jazz band, as well as taken grand prize in the University of North Carolina School for the Arts brass chamber competition. Sam is currently working towards a BMA in Jazz performance from the Eastman School of Music, with hopes to work professionally as a jazz musician in the future. 




Coming from Oconomowoc Wisconsin, Nathan Kay is a freshman at the Eastman School of Music. He is pursuing a degree in Jazz Trumpet performance. Along with performance, Nathan also loves to compose on the side. He started out trumpet in 5th grade, but never took it seriously until high school. Once there, he discovered his true passion for music. In his sophomore year, he starting playing in his high school’s Jazz 1, where he fell in love with the art of improvisation. Nathan has also had the wonderful opportunity to study with Jazz trumpet player Russ Johnson. Currently, Nathan is excited to be studying with Doug Prosser and Clay Jenkins at the Eastman School of Music.

Since Nathan discovered Jazz, he has participated in a number of ensemble groups and summer camps. For 3 years, he was a member of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Youth Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Curt Hanrahan. In the spring of 2015 this band premiered Nathan’s first complete jazz ensemble composition. His composition also won an award in the WSMA state wide competition for being best in class. Nathan was also a member of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra Jazz Studies program, where he had the opportunity to learn, play around the city, and compose. For two years, Nathan was also a member of the Wisconsin all-state jazz Ensemble directed my Steve Wiest (2013) and Steve Houghton (2014). In the summer of 2014, Nathan attended the Interlochen Fine Arts Camp and won the Fine Arts award for Jazz. In his senior year of high school, he received recognition in the Green Bay Jazz festival and Milwaukee conservatory festival for outstanding Jazz soloist.


 aaron eckart

Aaron Eckert is a first year Masters student at the Eastman School of Music. He is a candidate for Masters Degrees in both Jazz Studies & Contemporary Media Performance (trombone) and Performance and Literature (euphonium). Aaron currently studies both jazz trombone and euphonium with Mark Kellogg, Associate Professor of Euphonium and Trombone.

Aaron graduated this past spring from Eastern Illinois University with degrees in Music Education and Jazz Studies. While at Eastern, Aaron had the great privilege of studying with Dr. Jemmie Robertson, Assistant Professor of Trombone and Euphonium and Paul Johnston, Associate Professor of Jazz Studies and Jazz Piano.


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William Zimmer started playing the trombone at the age of 8. He received the instrument as gift from his grandfather. Will’s early musical development was aided by instruction from Even Dobbins, Nick Finzer, and Howard Potter. Will has had the pleasure of playing the Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra, where he had the opportunity to compete with his peers in the Essentially Ellington competition and Mingus competition in New York City. After graduating high school, William attended the Breklee College of music.There had the pleasure of studying with Phil Wilson, Jason Palmer, John Fiatia, and Ralph Peterson. Will is currently attending the Eastman School of Music for a masters in Jazz. 

Abe Nouri 

Originally from Harrisonburg, Virginia, Abe Nouri started playing the trombone in 8th grade after studying voice, piano, clarinet, oboe, and guitar. After participating in the  District V Jazz Band his sophomore year of high school, Abe knew he wanted to study jazz in college. In 2013, he was involved in the summer jazz camp at Eastman, and fell in love with the school. Before attending Eastman in the fall of 2014, Abe participated in Harrisonburg High School’s marching band (Brass Captain and Executive Board Member) and musical theater (Les Mis- Marius, Thoroughly Modern Millie- Jimmy, and Oklahoma!- Curly) programs. He also participated in the jazz small group class at James Madison University his senior year. He has played with Mark Mullins and Craig Klein with the band “Bonerama” at multiple music festivals and venues. Abe plans to finish his performance degree at Eastman and to continue to do graduate work in New York City. 



Trombonist Adrian Eldridge is a current freshman at the Eastman School of Music, studying jazz and contemporary media in addition to pursuing a BS in engineering at the University of Rochester. Adrian is from Seattle, Washington, and studied classical and jazz trombone with Jeff Hay for eight years before coming to Eastman. During his senior year in high school, Adrian had the opportunity to play lead trombone in the Shoreline Community College Big Band and the Bellevue College Jazz Ensemble. While playing with these groups, Adrian won awards at the Reno Jazz Festival and the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Festival. At Eastman, Adrian studies trombone with Mark Kellogg and plays with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble.



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Jack Courtright is studying Jazz Trombone Performance at the Eastman School of Music under the tutelage of Professor Mark Kellogg. Jack is from Apple Valley, Minnesota, where he began playing trombone at age 10, joined his school’s jazz ensemble at age 12, and started composing and arranging at age 13. To this day, arranging and playing trombone remain his two greatest passions. In high school he was a four-year member of the Minnesota Youth Jazz Band, a three-year member of the highly selective Dakota Combo, and two-year lead trombonist in the MMEA All-State Jazz Ensemble. He has had the privilege of performing several times at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, the Iowa City Jazz Festival, and the Eau Claire Jazz Festival, where he won two “Outstanding Soloist” awards. Jack is incredibly excited to be working with the wonderful students and faculty at Eastman.


Peter Gooch is a native of Wooster, Ohio and a freshman at Eastman. He is currently pursuing bachelor degrees in Jazz Trombone Performance and Music Education under the tutelage of Mark Kellogg. Before coming to Eastman, Peter performed with many different community and regional ensembles. Peter has performed with the College of Wooster Jazz Ensemble, The College of Wooster Symphonic Band, The Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra, and the Ohio All-State Jazz Ensemble. Peter is an active composer, with works performed by professional and college ensembles. As a classical performer, Peter doubles on trombone and euphonium. The summer of 2015 was Peter’s first summer as an orchestra trombonist for the Ohio Light Opera, an operetta company based in Wooster, Ohio. The ten-week festival performs seven running titles, which include musical theater and light opera, amounting to almost 60 total performances a season. Peter’s future aspirations lie in Conducting, Performance, and Education.





 Carlos Sanchez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He completed his Bachelor degree in Jazz and Caribbean Music at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico.  He then worked as a Jazz Guitarist in Rochester,New York and took classes with Bob Sneider. In 2015 he started his Master Degree in Jazz Performance at Eastman School of Music.


Billy Petitto

Originally from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, Billy Petito is currently studying Music Education and Jazz Guitar with Bob Sneider at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. 

Billy began music study at age 6 with classical piano lessons, and began playing the guitar at age 10. After being self taught for several years, Billy began to study with Chad Leader, the lead guitarist in the army premier band Pershing’s Own “Downrange.” Chad trained Billy in many genres – jazz, classical, funk, rock, fusion, metal, folk, bluegrass, etc. – in order to help him develop into a versatile performance-ready musician. Chad also introduced Billy into the world of recording, production, and music technology, all interests that he continues to pursue professionally, and for fun. 

At Eastman, in addition to studying Jazz Guitar and Music Education, Billy discovered an interest in composition and arranging, both activities he intends to pursue professionally. Through an internship with Bruce Chianese, owner of Mad Cow Music and Sound – an LA based post-production and film scoring studio – Billy discovered a passion for film and commercial scoring. Billy is currently studying composition independently with various members of Eastman’s prestigious faculty, most notably Dave Rivello, Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media. 

Billy has been commissioned to arrange for various groups including The Elden String Quartet and the University of Rochester Yellowjackets, and has been commissioned to score several short films, including Khorvash Kayati’s Unlucky Bird and Stephen Markowitz’s award-winning Hands of Flame. Billy has participated in groups such as the Metropolitan Jazz Academy Orchestra, the Maryland All-State Jazz band, Levine School Select Jazz Combo, the Eastman Lab Band, the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, Collossus, and has shared the stage with names such as Paul Carr, Carmen Bradford, and Warren Wolf. Billy also regularly collaborates and records guitar tracks on commercial pieces for brand name companies. Other notable accomplishments include winning the guitar position in the Maryland All-State Jazz Band, Metropolitan Jazz Academy Orchestra, the Levine School Select Jazz Combo, and placing as a finalist at an audition for the army premier band Pershing’s Own. Billy intends to complete his BA in Music Education with a double major in Music Education and Jazz guitar, and then pursing film scoring and music production in his graduate studies.


Chris xu 

Christopher Xu is currently pursuing a dual degree in Jazz Performance and Music Education. Born and raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, Christopher began studying piano at age 5, switching to guitar later, teaching himself to play the instrument. He started studying jazz at age 17 under the tutelage of Berklee professor Jon Damian. Versed in several styles, Christopher played in various settings in and around the Boston area, most notably the New England Conservatory Youth Jazz Orchestra, Senior Districts, and every jazz group in his high school, which he competed in and won several times in the national Mingus and Berklee Jazz Festivals, the UNH Jazz Festival (where Christopher won an Outstanding Soloist award), and the 2013 Ellington Festival. In addition playing jazz, Christopher has led several local rock bands in the Boston area and started the first student band in his Chinese School, where he composed music and taught others how to play their instruments, both in individual and group settings. Christopher currently studies with renowned jazz guitarist Bob Sneider.

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Blake Pattengale is a jazz guitarist hailing from Maine. In addition to leading his solo jazz project at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, Blake has performed in a wide variety of ensembles and is comfortable in all popular genres. In the past he has studied at Concordia University where he was at the top of his class and received the Charles Ellison Scholarship. Currently he is studying jazz guitar with Bob Sneider at the Eastman School of Music. Apart from music, Blake is an avid runner and has coached middle school track and field. He looks forward to sharing his music and creativity with the Rochester community. 


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Garrett Mader first became fascinated with music at age at age 10ng when he heard the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”, and was amazed by how the song managed to make a statement while sounding so nonsensical. Since then he has enjoyed the challenges of: playing classical Bass in his local All-County Youth orchestra, playing Jazz Guitar in the National Jazz Workshop’s All-Star Band (under the direction of Alan Baylock, the new director for UNT’s One-O-Clock band, and working with both Doc Severinson and Wynton Marsalis), playing Pop Guitar and Ukulele in his high school’s pit orchestra, and playing with The Vurge, a local band, at venues ranging from Downtown Silver Spring to Fontana’s in New York City. He enjoys playing and listening to all styles of music. Garrett is also an Eagle Scout and loves to spend time backpacking or day-hiking. Garrett is studying Jazz Guitar Performance with Bob Sneider at the Eastman school of music, and is looking forward to knowing Rochester better over the next four years.  


Dylan Henderson was born in 1997 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania but has been living on Long Island since he was 5. He began learning guitar at the age of 7 but only started focusing on Jazz in his junior year of high school. He attended Kings Park High School in Kings Park NY, and now studies at the Eastman School of Music (Class of 2019), pursuing a BM in Jazz guitar. He is a member of Bob Sneider’s Jazz Performance Workshop, as well as the Jazz Workshop Ensemble.  



Jeff Benetar

Jeff Benatar is a Jazz Pianist pursuing his DMA at the Eastman School of Music. Benatar is the instructor of the Jazz History and Analysis course for non-majors, a Teaching Assistant for Jazz Theory and Aural Musicianship courses, and a teaching intern at the Eastman Community Music School. Benatar is currently a student of Harold Danko; he has also had lessons with Stanley Cowell, Bill Dobbins, Dariusz Terefenko, and Tamir Hendelman. He has performed with Pat LaBarbera, Melba Joyce, Bob Sneider, Vaughn Weister’s Famous Jazz Orchestra, The Rick Brunetto Big Band, The Tony Lewis Swing Orchestra, The Ohio State University Faculty Combo, and as guest soloist with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. Benatar earned a BM at The Ohio State University under direction of Mark Flugge and a MA in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers-Newark, The State University of New Jersey, under the direction of Dr. Lewis Porter.

For full biography and more information, please visit Jeff Benatar’s website at


Theresa Chen

Theresa Chen is a well-rounded jazz performer, composer/arranger and an educator. She’s a second-year Master student in the department of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media at Eastman School of Music. She’s also a teaching assistant teaching Functional Jazz Piano and secondary jazz piano lessons. Under the instruction of Prof. Harold Danko, she has acknowledged a wide range of jazz styles

Before entering Eastman, Theresa was a 19-year experienced classical pianist graduated from college of music at National Taiwan Normal University(NTNU). She won the 3rd place in piano concerto competition in college of music and several awards in National Student Music Competition. She was also involved in film scoring and her recent musical work “A Moment of Love” was released in August, 2013.

Inspired by renown jazz musicians such as Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, Theresa made up her mind to pursue a career of jazz musician. During her college time, she established the jazz club at NTNU and took part in workshops held by National Taiwan Concert Hall and National Taiwan University’s jazz club. When she was a senior, she was accepted as an exchange student in University of North Texas for Fall 2012, double majoring in classical and jazz piano performance, under the instruction of Prof.Gustavo Romero and Mr. Sergio Pamies.

As the first Taiwanese student studying in Jazz Studies in Eastman, she never stops promoting music of her own culture. In November, 2013, her arrangement on a Taiwanese folk song, “Latin Ferry”, was recorded on an album “The Sound of Antique”. In the album, she was the only arranger who was not a composition major.

During May and June in 2014, she gave a series of clinics at Cheng-Gong University and National Taiwan Normal University.

Currently, Theresa is devoted to advanced research on women jazz pianists and jazz music associated with global issues. Gathering the information around the world of jazz, she aims at helping Taiwan build a complete, professional jazz educational system. She’s also exploring different possibilities of sounds by experimenting and meeting more jazz people from various cultural backgrounds. She believes jazz is a free art form which has multiple cultures among music. Through her music, she hopes to bring love, peace, harmony and warmness to audiences around the world.


Jonathan Adam Fagan is a first-year Masters student in Jazz Piano at the Eastman School of Music, currently studying in the studio of Harold Danko. He is one of the pianists for the Eastman Jazz Ensemble, directed by Bill Dobbins, and a member of a small ensemble directed by Clay Jenkins. Jonathan is also the pianist for a group called “Good Trouble,” a jazz combo out of Appleton, Wisconsin. The group released their first album of original music last summer, and are planning a tour around the midwest for this coming winter. Jonathan is an alumni of Lawrence University (class of 2015), where he had the priviledge of working with Fred Sturm, José Encarnación, and Bill Carrothers. Jonathan was the pianist for the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, which performed with artists as diverse as vocalist Kurt Elling, drummer Peter Erskine, and bassist John Clayton. In addition to immersing himself in the Jazz department, Jonathan remained an active classical pianist, studying with Catherine Kautsky. He won a seat as a Junior Jurist in the Piano Arts National Concerto Competition in 2013, and was featured on Wisconsin’s Public Radio’s broadcast “live from Harper Hall” performing a Chopin étude and an original Jazz composition. He was an accompanying fellow throughout his four years at Lawrence, working with vocal and instrumental students in all musical genres. Originally from Boston, Jonathan performed regularly as a folk pianist with “Apple Crisp,” a piano-vibraphone duo that played for dances around New England. Jonathan also taught improvisation for an after-school music program called “Project Step” at Symphony Hall, Boston. He is an alumni of the Skidmore Jazz Institute, the Berklee 5 Week program, and the Interharmony chamber music program in Arcidosso, Italy.


Julian Garvue is a pianist from Seattle, Washington. He is currently pursuing a double major in jazz performance and music theory from the Eastman School of Music, where he studies with pianist extraordinaire Harold Danko and theorist Bill Marvin. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including an outstanding soloist award at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Essentially Ellington” competition, best overall performer (piano and trumpet) at the Reno Jazz Festival, and “Hamp’s Club” participant at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. More recently, Julian has been recorded on two albums: one (The Red Planet) as a co-leader and co-producer with The Arsonists ( and the other (Live at Kilbourn Hall) produced by Eastman alumnus Scott Healy, award-winning composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and keyboardist for Conan on TBS (


andrew Links

Andrew Links was born in 1993 in Indiana, went to Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis, IN, and now attends Eastman School of Music for a BM in Jazz and Contemporary Media, with a focus on jazz piano (Class of 2016). He is a member of Dave Rivello’s Jazz Performance Workshop, as well as the New Jazz Ensemble.  


Sterling Cozza 

Sterling “Joey” Cozza is a pianist from Sacramento, California. He has been playing piano since he was 5 years old, and began studying jazz at age 12. He attended Rio Americano High School, where he had the honor of performing at events such as the Essentially Ellington Festival at Lincoln Center, the Charles Mingus Festival at the Manhattan School of Music, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and more. He began his private study with Craig Faniani, the original director of Rio Americano, and went on to study for three years with Joseph Gilman, currently the artistic director of the Brubeck Institute.

Sterling continued his studies outside of school at various summer programs, including the 5 Week Summer Performance Program at the Berklee College of Music, the Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, and the Lafayette Summer Jazz Workshop, to all of which he was awarded full scholarships. He also took part in the SFJazz/Mondavi Center High School All Stars program for three years under the direction of Mike McMullen where he honed his small-group playing, studying the music of the SFJazz Collective. He has shared the stage with the likes of Avishai Cohen, Antonio Hart, Robin Eubanks, Donny McCaslin, Matt Wilson, Stefon Harris, Eddie Gomez, the Charles Mingus Big Band, and more. Sterling is grateful to be pursuing his passion at the Eastman School of Music, and is always looking for new musical experiences. 


Max Berlin

Born and raised in the metro-Detroit area, Max Berlin began piano lessons at the ripe age of eight.  Although reluctant at first, he soon began to enjoy and find creative expression in the piano–taking an even greater interest in music theory and composition, which soon developed into an interest of the jazz idiom.  Since then, Max has written professionally for several kinds of ensembles and musical genres, including everything from woodwind quintets to big bands.  Pianistically, Max has led three piano trios, performed with four professional jazz orchestras, and was the founding member of a Detroit-based klezmer band.  In addition, he has played in several pit orchestras for musical theater productions, often serving as pianist, conductor, and musical director.  Now, as a freshman in college, Max is currently studying under Bill Dobbins and Harold Danko as a jazz composition major.





Mike Forfia is a native of Akron, Ohio and currently resides in Rochester, New York. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Akron in 2012 and is currently pursuing an MM in Jazz Double Bass Performance and Contemporary Media at the Eastman School of Music.

Forfia is a product of the varied and vibrant music scene in northeast Ohio. Equally at home on upright and electric bass, his musical experiences have led him to perform in settings from free-jazz improvisation to sight-reading with national tours of Broadway musicals and many things in between.

Notable performances and professional associations include a 2011 summer tour with the World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, the touring cast of Wicked, the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra, violinist Christian Howes, and various recording and sideman projects. 

Mike Forfia was the 1st prize winner of the 2015 International Society of Bassists Scott LaFaro Jazz Bass competition, and a finalist in the 2013 Airmen of Note jazz bass audition. He began his studies at Eastman in the fall of 2014 as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, where he is a candidate for the Arts Leadership Certificate, the Programming Director and Producer of the Jazz@Eastman: Past, Present, and Future radio program and Administrator of the Eastman Gig Service.


Tyrone Allen

Tyrone Allen began his musical journey on recorder at the young age of 3. From there he moved on to guitar, next electric bass with his church in junior high, and would never look back after switching to upright bass for his high school jazz ensemble. Tyrone continues to play for his church and regularly gigs at restaurants and bars in DC, being very close to his hometown; Temple Hills, Maryland. Some of the places he has played include Columbia Station, Twins Jazz Club, Bohemia Caverns, and the Kennedy Center. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in classical bass as well as jazz bass, under the instruction of James VanDemark and Jeff Campbell respectively.


Eugene Bisdikian  

Eugene Bisdikian is a bass player currently in his sophomore year. He started playing upright bass at the age of 9 in his elementary school’s orchestra, and picked up the bass guitar a year later. He studied both Classical and Jazz throughout grade school under the instruction of various teachers including Harvie S and Michael Goetz. He performed in several groups featuring various other styles of music as well, many of which were put together through the Lagond Music School, a music school led by Eastman alumnus Charlie Lagond. Through Lagond Music he has been on three tours as part of various Jazz/Latin/Funk groups: two in the eastern United States and one in and around Montreal. He attended the New York State School Music Association’s All-State Orchestra programs in 2012 and 2013, playing in both the String and Symphony Orchestras. In 2013 he was also named a finalist in the National YoungArts Foundation’s competition under the Jazz Double Bass category. For the past two summers he has co-taught ensembles and theory classes at Lagond Music’s college prep program.


Jakob Ebers (BM 2017) is majoring in jazz studies and contemporary media under the supervision of Professor Jeff Campbell.  Jakob started playing the upright bass in his elementary school orchestra at the age of nine, and began private studies with jazz bassist Rick Petrone at the age of ten.  Jakob participated in jazz ensembles through the “Summer Jazz” program run by Rick Petrone and Joe Corsello for six years.  In “Summer Jazz” Jakob worked with jazz greats like Joe Magnarelli, Ralth Lalama and Charles Tolliver.  He also attended master classes with artists such as Linc Milliman, Peter Bernstein, Doug Weiss and Bill Stewart.  In 2012, Jakob was selected by the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) to perform as bassist with the New York All-State Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Jakob has played in pit orchestras for the musicals “A Little Night Music” (Stephen Sondheim) and “Once Upon a Mattress” (Mary Rodgers), and performs with various jazz groups in western Connecticut, New York’s Hudson Valley and Rochester.  At Eastman, Jakob plays in the Eastman Lab Band under the direction of Professor Rich Thompson and in Saxology under the direction of Professor Charles Pillow.


Taylor Kroma Headshot

Taylor Kromo is a (jazz) bassist currently studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Originally from Naperville, Illinois, she participated in both the Midwest Young Artists big band, as well as the Illinois All-State Honors Jazz Combo.  In 2013 and 2014, she received the North Shore Jazz Festival’s “Outstanding Soloist” Award.  She played cello and bass throughout her career at Naperville North High School, where she participated in the orchestra, pit orchestra, jazz band, and was the Drum Major of the Marching Band.  Taylor founded Healing Hearts with Harmony, a benefit concert at Naperville North High School, that has raised several thousand dollars for various charities so far.  She is now studying bass with a double major in Jazz and Contemporary Media and Music Education. Taylor aspires to continue doing work as a freelancing musician and eventually teach jazz bass at a collegiate level.  



Born in Northeaster Pennsylvania, Scott Kwiatek was raised in a family of musicians. His first experience in music was performing in jam sessions with his older siblings. Consisting of a guitarist and drummer, his brothers pushed for him to begin bass studies at the age of 9. Immediately showing a natural enjoyment of music and theory, Scott pushed to perform at higher levels and in different styles.

Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School gave him a great starting point in jazz education by performing in big bands and small groups. Quickly, he fell in love with the improvisation and orchestration aspects of jazz. Freshman year meant the beginning of upright bass studies and a beloved summer program termed The Performing arts Institute of Wyoming Seminary. There, Scott was first introduced to Eastman by alumni and factually who worked at this camp.

Deciding to follow music as a career, Scott saw Eastman as his top choice school to continue learning and performing as a bassist. His high school jazz band was best in state all 4 years he was a part of the group and he earned his place in All-State Band. After being accepted into Eastman, only Scott’s gratitude surpassed his excitement to work and learn with the greats he looked up to. Now in his second year, he looks to continue his path in pursuit of a career in Jazz. 




Mikailo Kasha hails from Mountain View, California. He is pursuing a BM in jazz and contemporary media, and studies under Professor Jeff Campbell. Mikailo began studying music at the age of four, starting with classical piano. At age twelve, he picked up the upright bass, playing in the junior high classical and jazz ensembles. Throughout high school, Mikailo participated in summer jazz programs at Florida State University, Stanford University, and the Eastman School of Music. He previously studied under Seward McCain, Frank Tusa, David Wong, Larry Grenadier, and Rodney Jordan before beginning his studies with Jeff Campbell. Mikailo has been involved in jazz ensembles such as the San Jose High School All-Stars under Grammy award-winning Aaron Lington, the San Francisco High School All-Stars under Paul Contos, and the California All-State jazz ensemble under Joey Sellers. In addition to jazz bass, Mikailo has performed in pit orchestras, marching bands, wind ensembles, chamber ensembles,  and has experience directing both small jazz combos and big bands.



Chase Ellison cymbal1

Drummer, Chase Ellison, originally hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico now calls Rochester, New York home as he pursues a Master of Music with an emphasis on performance in the Jazz Studies & Contemporary Media Department at the Eastman School of Music. Additionally, Chase is a graduate teaching assistant with various roles and responsibilities within the Jazz & Contemporary Media Department including teaching individual studio lessons. Prior to his studies at the Eastman School of Music, Chase earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education at the University of New Mexico graduating with cum laude honors, and also spent time cutting his teeth in the city of Detroit with its rich legacy of world-renown jazz artists.

Along with having the fortunate opportunity to have been mentored by some of the greats in the music, Chase has also been afforded numerous opportunities to share the stage with world class jazz musicians in a smaller group setting at venues in music festivals and jazz clubs throughout the country. Among the artists he has been honored to perform and/or record with include – legendary father of Vocalese and 8 time Grammy Award Winner/NEA Jazz Master Jon Hendricks, trumpeter Bobby Shew, tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence, vocalist Tommy Gearhart, legendary gospel artist Rance Allen, and many other notables in the big band & orchestra settings too, such as NEA Jazz Master composer/pianist/arranger/bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi, tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin, trumpeter Scott Wendholt, and Eastman alumn trombonist John Fedchock.


 George Darrah


George Darrah is a drummer, composer/arranger and educator from Boston, Massachusetts.George graduated from the University of Tampa in 2011. Since graduating, he has maintained actively writing, playing and teaching throughout New England. He has worked with some of New England’s finest jazz musicians and has performed for President Barack Obama, Governor Duval Patrick (MA) and has performed on The Today Show. A member of Bill Dobbin’s composition studio, George will be pursuing an MM in Jazz Composition and Contemporary Media. In addition, He will be performing with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Bill Dobbins and Clay Jenkins’ Jazz Performance Workshop.


Stephen Morris

Stephen Morris was born in 1994 in Southern California, growing up in Aliso Viejo before beginning a new chapter on the East coast. Prior to transferring to Eastman as a sophomore, Stephen studied drum set and jazz at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo under Paul Johnson, in addition to also studying with Matt Witek and Brian Carmody. While at Saddleback’s jazz program under Joey Sellers, Stephen was a percussionist and drummer for the school’s wind ensemble, symphonic orchestra, Saddleback Big Band and several jazz combos. He graduated Magna Cum Laud in May of 2014 with an Associate’s Degree in Fine and Applied Arts. Stephen participated in the 2013 University of California, San Diego jazz camp on full tuition scholarship, studying under Willie Joe Jones III and Mark Ferber and performing in one of the top ensembles led by Gilbert CastelIanos, In addition to studying under Rich Thompson on scholarship at Eastman, Stephen also currently studies under Jeff Hamilton back in Southern California.

Stephen Morris most recently participated this past summer as a member of the 2014 Disneyland All-American College Band with 20 of the top college musicians from across the country. During the 11 weeks at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, Stephen performed with John Clayton, Jiggs Whigham, Wayne Bergeron, Ron Carter, Rex Richardson, and Sal Lazano. Stephen has also performed with Katisse Buckingham, Charles McPherson, Kirsten Edkins, and Tony Malaby. Stephen can currently be heard on the Saddleback College Big Band’s 2013 debut self-titled Christmas album, and also on the 2014 Disneyland All-American College Band CD on drum set, Latin percussion, and tenor drums recorded at Capitol Records in Los Angeles.


 Daniel sunshine

Daniel Sunshine is a Sophomore from Los Angeles, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Drums under Professor Rich Thompson. He is a graduate of Harvard-Westlake High School, where he led the school’s top jazz group and received the Jerry Margolis Jazz Award as a senior. In 2013 he played in the Colburn School of Music Thursday Night Band and was a semi-finalist in the Music Center Spotlight Awards for Jazz. In his Freshman year at Eastman, his Composition “Song For Avalon” was featured on the Jazz at Eastman 2014 CD. He currently performs with the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble conducted by Dave Rivello.


Matt Bent 

Matt Bent is a current freshman at Eastman School of Music. Originally from Red Bank, New Jersey, Matt has previously studied with Steve Johns, Dion Parson, and Cecil Brooks. Matt has also participated in various music programs including the NJPAC Jazz for Teens, the Mason Gross Summer Workshop, The William Paterson Summer workshop, and The Eastman Summer Jazz Studies workshop. Currently a member of the Clayton Faris Trio, Matt is honored to be a part of the Eastman community.



Andrew Tachine is a Freshman at the Eastman School of Music studying jazz drum set. He comes from Red Bank, New Jersey where he began studying drums at the age of 7. Before he became a student at Eastman, Andrew participated in several music programs such as the Rutgers Mason Gross Summer Jazz Institute, the New Jersey All Shore Chorus, and the New Jersey All State Jazz Ensemble. Andrew has dreamed of a career in music for a long time and believes that Eastman is the perfect place for him to prepare for success.