JACK DRUMMOND (Violin, Concertmaster)
Jack Drummond is a leader, administrator, advisor, adjunct professor (Lincoln University), and violinist. Trained in the public school system, Drummond’s violin playing has given him the privilege to perform on the streets of Philadelphia and has taken him to places like Carnegie Hall as well as international venues. Through music, he has also been afforded the opportunity to play with greats like Patti Labelle, John Blake, and Thee Phantom. Additionally, Drummond is the Directing Manager of his company Collage Of Talent, LLC—a company geared towards supporting artists and community action.
JORDAN PETTIS (Violin)
Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Jordan Celeste Pettis fell in love with the sound of the violin during middle school. She graduated from the renowned Denver School of the Arts, majoring in classical violin and jazz voice. She studied under Ms. Eugenia Alikhanova, first violinist of the Moscow String Quartet. This rigorous training prepared her for a diverse musical journey performing with the Boston Pops, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and many other artists from classical, to funk, to hip-hop, and more. After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University with a BA in music performance in 2012, she moved to Boston in 2013 to study jazz voice and jazz violin at the New England Conservatory of Music, receiving a Certificate of Jazz Performance in January of 2015.
In 2015, Pettis became a member of The Illharmonic Orchestra and has performed with them at the Tobin Center, The Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall among other fantastic venues.
ALAN LAWSON (Violin)
Born in 1993, Alan Lawson has always had a love for music. At the age of one, he asked his parents for a violin, but they were advised to wait until he was older. In 1997, Lawson was finally granted his wish and began playing the violin at the age of four. Around the same time, he also began composing.
In 2015, Lawson traveled to New York City to perform as a member of The Illharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
As a lover of all music, Lawson has been given many opportunities to continue to bridge the gap between hip-hop and classical music. In 2017, he performed his original composition “Dreams” with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s (CSO) Nouveau Chamber Players at the CSO’s annual Classical Roots Concert, and in 2018, he was given the opportunity to rap with the CSO during one of their Young People’s Concerts, “Express Yourself!” Lawson also rapped with the Cincinnati Pops for their “Mozart’s Neighborhood” concert as a part of their Lollipops series.
Lawson has been blessed with the opportunity to perform in many amazing places around the country such as The White House, Lincoln Center, Cincinnati Music Hall, Disney World, and Carnegie Hall as a member of The Illharmonic Orchestra.
LEE ENGLAND JR. (Violin)
Endorsed by Michael Jordan, formerly signed by Quincy Jones, and supported by the likes of Sean “Diddy” Combs, Lee England Jr. has paved a unique path as a violinist. Although he is classically trained, he is known as “The Soul Violinist,” due to his stylistic blend of R&B, hip-hop, and soul. In addition to his mastery of this instrument, he adds viola, cello, bass, guitar, drums, piano, and voice to his arsenal of sound, allowing him to transcend artistic boundaries of traditional violinists.
In 2009, England cut his elementary school teaching career short to pursue his passion for music by auditioning for MTV’s Making His Band. Captivated by his extraordinary talent, the judges quickly changed the policy of the show to allow “non-traditional” instrumentalists to be considered; as a result, he landed a spot on the show as the sole violinist. Diddy named him the band’s “secret weapon,” and after gaining recognition from the show, he appeared as a guest performer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Mo’Nique Show, performed in concert with Stevie Wonder and Babyface, and opened for rappers Ludacris, Trey Songz, Jermaine Dupri, and Akon. During this time, he was also recruited to produce, compose, and star in several BET commercials.
Shortly afterwards, England was invited to tour with R&B singer K’Jon. During a performance at the 2010 All- Star Weekend for Michael Jordan, Spike Lee, Russell Simmons, Dwayne Wade, and Gabrielle Union, K’Jon allowed England to take a five minute solo. England’s performance was so impressive that Michael Jordan immediately offered him an endorsement deal with his shoe brand, making England one of the first non- athletes to be sponsored by Jordan. Following the endorsement, England has become a well-known entertainer for a variety of events for athletes such as Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade, camps for LeBron James, and halftime shows in 26 NBA arenas. Most notably, he was commissioned to compose music for and star in an NFL commercial for Super Bowl XLVII.
In early 2016, England performed at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles for an audience consisting of greats such as George Lucas, Elton John, Lady Gaga, and Quincy Jones. Jones was enthralled with his performance and offered to produce a showcase with him at Geffen’s Gil Cates Theatre; subsequently, Jones signed England to his management company, Quincy Jones Productions. England continues to perform at an impressive list of events worldwide and most recently played the intro song for Shinsuke Nakamura’s WWE NXT Takeover entrance.
Furthermore, throughout his time as a street performer, he met and gathered a group of talented musicians to create what is now called The Soul Orchestra. Emphasizing his belief in the power of the collective, he regularly performs with his orchestra and continues to educate children through his non-profit, Love Notes, LLC. England is currently writing his debut album, which reflects his addition of vocals, creating a completely new sound. The album is set to be released 2022.
During the global pandemic, amidst all the chaos and racial crimes of police brutality, Lee took his talents directly to the frontlines, leading violin vigils for Elijah McClain. Through tear gas and tension he marched and uplifted the spirits of affected families and communities with songs that inspired conversation and healing. Though the fight is not over, he is dedicated to unity and economic equality.
TAUHIDA SMITH (Violin)
Tauhida “Tah” Smith is a professional musician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She started playing the violin in her early youth and studied at various schools in the Philadelphia area such as Settlement Music School, Temple University’s Music Preparatory School, Temple University’s Music Scholars Program, the Girard Academic Music Program, and Millersville University. She also began studying the viola in her late adolescent years. Professionally, Smith recognizes herself as a string artist. Her artistry as a classical/contemporary violinist and violist has tremendous range and has afforded her many opportunities to play with orchestral groups, quartets, recording artists, and producers. Smith currently plays with The Illharmonic Orchestra and Stroke Strings.
LEANNE HOLMES (Violin)
Leanne “L-Stringz” Holmes is a hip-hop/R&B violinist from Atlanta, Georgia. Classically trained for 13 years, Holmes has performed at some of the top venues and with some of the top artists to date including: The Atlanta Hawks, The Atlanta Dream, The Harlem Globetrotters, Honda Battle of the Bands, 2Chainz, 50 Cent, and The Illharmonic Orchestra since 2017. Additionally, L-Stringz was featured on Married to Medicine Season 5, Episode 7, “Mama Drama,” and on the Season 3 finale episode of STAR on Fox, “When the Levee Breaks.”
ASALI McINTYRE (Violin)
Asali Ruth-Mandla McIntyre is a freelance violinist, singer-songwriter, and creator living and working in the DC Metropolitan area. She has been a musician for over 30 years, earning a BM in violin performance from The Catholic University Of America in 1999.
McIntyre enjoys performing in diverse ways: creating her own music, being a member of Soulful Symphony, participating in Playback Theatre, playing orchestral and chamber music, and providing music for all occasions—weddings, receptions, funerals, private parties, and the everything in between.
KEUNDIA WOODS (Violin)
While originally from Lexington, Kentucky, Keundia Woods currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has been playing the violin off and on for over 30 years. She grew up loving classical music after her mother introduced her to The Sounds of Philadelphia (TSOP). Her love of string arrangements from classic soul/funk music and hip-hop inspired her to pick up the violin.
When she’s not playing with The Illharmonic, she enjoys playing in a community orchestra in Manhattan called The Downtown Symphony.
MEGAN JENIFER-HARRIS (Violin)
Megan Jenifer-Harris is a teacher, violinist, sound healer, author, Internet marketer, AWAI-trained copywriter, and motivational speaker who always abides by her motto: “live life on purpose with purpose.” Gifted with a myriad of inspirational tools and processes, Jenifer-Harris is driven by her passion for teaching and spreading God’s universal message of love.
Jenifer-Harris is a lover of all things related to the healing arts. She recognizes the importance of relationships and looks for ways to foster healthy partnerships in life and business. Her Healing Place was created to collaborate with skilled healing professionals and create safe spaces for community and personal growth.
She’s received training in music, sound healing, business, kemetic yoga, spirituality, and prosperity from places like Hampton University and Full Sail University and mentors like Lisa Alexander, AWAI, Dan Kennedy, Ronda Cole, Yirser Ra Hotep, Sandy Forster, Carol Look, and Asha Tyson.
Her business The NIA Project, Inc. is a wellness company that teaches self-development, personal growth, and habit strategy through books, workshops, and coaching.
Although she’s a self-published author and has degrees in music engineering technology (BS), business administration (MBA), and internet marketing (IMMS) and a certification in The Alexander Method of Vibrational Sound Therapy, Megan is most proud of her family. She’s a wife and mom of two children and three pups.
Jenifer-Harris is available for speaking engagements, music performances, sound frequency tunings, media interviews and appearances, private life-coaching, private violin, viola, and cello instruction, workshops, seminars, and non-profit events.
MONIQUE SMITH (Viola)
Raised in Boston, Massachusetts and a native of Rhode Island, Monique Smith began her musical journey with the Boston-based music program, Project STEP (String Training Education Program) at four years old. STEP’s comprehensive and rigorous curriculum prepared her for an exciting and impressive musical career. Smith has led viola sections on stages across the country including at The Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and played with artists such as Regina Carter, Terence Blanchard, and Marcus Thompson. Smith has dedicated herself to the study and performance of music representative of the Black diasporic experience.
Classically trained under the tutelage of Dubravka Sajfar Moshfegh, John Ziarko (Project STEP/New England Conservatory Prep School), and Kathryn Lockwood (University of Massachusetts Amherst), Smith applies her exceptional technique and musicality to broad musical styles. Her repertoire includes everything from new classical works by Black composers to hip-hop classics to Afro beats. Through teaching and mentorship, Smith uses her instrument to inspire and uplift her community and the next generation of aspiring Black artists.
CHRYSYN HARP (Viola)
Chrysyn Harp is an international chamber and orchestral violist, performing in Switzerland, France, Norway, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. Harp received her BA in music from Mannes School of Music, where she studied with Lillian Fuchs and Karen Ritscher, and her MFA from the State University of New York at Purchase, where she was a graduate fellow and student of Ira Weller. While studying at Yale University, Harp received her master’s degree in music, and she was the teaching and faculty assistant of Jesse Levine. Harp is currently a member of the viola and violin faculty at the prestigious Settlement Music School in Philadelphia.
CARROLL WALLACE (Viola)
Carroll Wallace is a freelance mixed-media and performance artist and educator who firmly believes that interdisciplinary education and the expressive arts are fundamental in the creation of a compassionate, action-oriented, and progressive society.
Wallace graduated from Denison University with a degree in art, music (viola), and English and with an executive graduate certificate in social entrepreneurship and organizational management from the Global Leaders Program. Current curiosities and research include: language, expression, writing and songwriting, non-formal education, movement arts, innovation, history, politics, ethics, acting, think-tanks, music, laughing, performance art, film, community development, creativity, studying, sports, knowledge exchange, science, circus arts, the brain and learning, food, conflict resolution, and culture.
BRITTANY HARRIS (Cello)
Originally from Detroit, MI, Brittany Harris is a Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist and composer. Harris has performed all over New York’s major venues and shows such as Saturday Night Live with Shawn Mendes, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with Liam Gallagher, Carnegie Hall with the Manhattan Symphonie, The Apollo Theatre, Lincoln Center, and many more.
Harris has over 20 years of musical experience in performance, education, and composition. Currently, she is finishing up her master’s degree from New York University in film scoring and composition.
Other aﬃliations include service on the executive board of The BRIDGE, a Brooklyn based hip-hop orchestra, as the Senior Talent Acquisition Partner and Cellist. Harris is also a composer/co-creator of Good Night Black Child, a podcast of meditations and original folk-tale stories for children.
As a composer, Harris utilizes all the sounds of the orchestra, electronic sounds, hybrid orchestras, ambient sound worlds, jazz, pop, and rock.
AUDREY WILLIAMS (Cello)
Audrey Williams is a cellist and music educator in the DMV area. One of her life’s pleasures has been to share the joys of music with others as an active member of the music community. When Williams isn’t making or creating music, she can be found volunteering, reading a mystery novel, or taking long walks in nature.
KALEB J. CABELL-PEEBLES (Cello)
Kaleb J. Cabell-Peebles is a young cellist from Northern Virginia, who this year was accepted into the highest ranked high school in the country, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. At just 15, Cabell-Peebles has played the cello since the tender age of 9 where he fell in love with the instrument after hearing the score to Star Wars played by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. That day he came home and claimed that the cello spoke to his spirit and that it was the instrument he wanted to play. Taking his craft seriously over the years Cabell-Peebles has had private lessons and has attended summer music camp at Hampton University three summers in a row, playing in his school’s orchestra in elementary, middle, and high school, always playing first or second chair.
Cabell-Peebles was introduced to Thee Phantom & The Illharmonic Orchestra at a New Year’s Eve Concert. It was there where he witnessed classical music collide with hip-hop so effortlessly for the first time. During a chance encounter after the show where he had the opportunity to meet the Thee Phantom and The Phoenix and tell them about himself, they vowed to keep in touch and offer him the opportunity to play with them when they came back to the area. True to their word, they kept in contact with him over the years. This is his full circle moment.
CHARLES JOURDAN (Double Bass/Electric Bass)
Charles Jourdan is a multi-instrumentalist and music educator from Queens, New York. He performs with many other acts including Experimental Soul-his solo project, Black Tie Brass, and Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti. Jourdan has been rocking with The Illharmonic Orchestra since 2009.
IAN SAUNDERS (Double Bass)
A multi-faceted musician, Ian Saunders enjoys an exciting career as a sought-after bassist and educator. The Virginia native began his studies in his hometown of Norfolk with Christopher White, principal bassist of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Within a year, he received his first major scholarship from R&B legend Ben E. King. Saunders completed his bachelor’s degree under the tutelage of renowned bassist Robert Nairn at The Pennsylvania State University. Saunders continued his graduate studies under Nairn while fulfilling numerous professional engagements.
In 2016, he received his doctorate from the University of Maryland while studying with Robert Oppelt, principal bassist of the National Symphony Orchestra. Soon after graduation, Saunders was accepted into the prestigious Diversity Fellowship program with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in the fall of 2017.
DAPHINE HENDERSON (Double Bass)
Daphine Henderson, a double bassist and vocalist in the DC metro area, will be completing her master’s degree in double bass performance at the University of Maryland College Park this fall, where she recently received two bachelor’s degrees in music performance with concentrations in double bass and soprano voice in spring ’20.
Teaching herself the double bass at age 12, Henderson became extremely involved in music through her high school career, ranging from performing with the Maryland Senior All State Orchestra to being the drum major of her high school marching band. She is actively involved in the University of Maryland School of Music community, performing with ensembles such as the UMD Repertoire Orchestra, UMD Wind Ensemble, UMD Wind Orchestra, and UMD Symphony Orchestra. Henderson also serves as one of the ensemble assistants for the UMD Treble Choir, where she actively engages with and leads her section. She sits as one of the student chairs of the School of Music’s IDEA Committee, which focuses on bringing diversity and inclusive engagement to the music community at College Park.
Henderson is also a founding member of the PAGE (Project for All Gender Equality) for Bassists, where she spoke on a panel at the 2019 and 2021 International Society of Bassists convention. Henderson teaches in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, MD and is an active strings coach for the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra. Henderson is taking steps in her musical career to create an impact and be an inspiration for younger musicians of color that would otherwise not have ample resources and opportunities to pursue their passion. Following the completion of her graduate degree, Henderson plans to continue establishing herself as an advocate and arts administrator for underserved and minority musicians, inspiring others through her love for music.
CANDACE LARK-MASUCCI (Harp)
Candace Lark-Masucci is a native of Philadelphia, where she began piano at seven. After many happy years of piano, she began harp with Mary Anne Coppa at Settlement Music School, and she went on to study with Anne Sullivan, a Curtis Graduate, Curtis teacher, and founder of Harp Mastery.
Lark-Masucci attended the famous Philadelphia High School for the Creative & Performing Arts, where she also furthered her harp studies internationally. Lark-Masucci later attended Arcadia University, pursuing an individualized major of music performance and special education. In her Junior year, Lark-Masucci decided to start her now thriving music studio, Lark Music.
Lark-Masucci is a certified Harp Mastery Coaching harpist all over the country and at all levels to meet specific music goals. She’s the co-founder of Harp Quest, a supplemental harp program for youth. During the summer, Lark-Masucci can be found coaching and mentoring young harpists at Harp In the Mountains in upstate Pennsylvania.
She has performed for countless weddings and events in the tri-state area. She has also performed with many orchestras, including the Lansdown Symphony, Mainline Symphony, and the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. Lark-Masucci is a repeat performer at some of Philadelphia’s top performance venues like The Academy Of Music, The Kimmel Center, and the Wilma Theater. She is a sought-after harpist in the tri-state area performing regularly with various jazz and classical ensembles and collaborating on special projects.
Lark-Masucci has taken her years of experience and coaches musicians to success as The Happy Musician Coach, in which she teaches musicians strategies for a growth mindset for musical success.
RONNAL FORD (Woodwinds)
Dr. Ronnal Ford is the second oboist and English hornist for the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra. He joined the symphony in 2011, and since, he has additionally been featured on alto and tenor saxophones and clarinet. Additionally, Dr. Ford is a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and an adjunct professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
In addition to the Fayetteville Symphony, Dr. Ford performs with the award-winning reed quintet, Quintet Sirocco, and numerous musical theater companies on flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, and bassoon. Dr. Ford also has had the opportunity to perform with the Colour of Music Festival Orchestra, Orchestra Noir, and several large ensembles in North Carolina. He has also performed with several touring groups like Thee Phantom and the Illharmonic and David Hayes’ Sammy Davis Jr. Review. His principal teachers have included Dr. Ashley Barret (oboe), John Ellis (oboe/English horn), Dr. Kelly Burke (clarinet), Dr. Anthony Taylor (clarinet), Dr. Deborah Egekvist (flute/piccolo), Dr. Michael Burns (bassoon), and Dr. Steven Stusek (saxophone).
SANA COLTER (Flute)
While composers such as Bach and Telemann are some of her personal favorites, Colter has a strong music passion for old school (and new school) R&B/hip-hop, pop, jazz, and electronic music. Colter decided to present the world with a blend of multiple genres in her performances and give new context to classical flute performance. As an entrepreneurial musician, thought leader, content creator, advocate for diversity in the arts, and arts administrator, Colter educates many on the diverse history of classical and popular music.
JAMAL JONES (Trumpet)
Jamal Jones is a composer, arranger, and trumpeter from Philadelphia. He is an alumni of the University of the Arts, where he majored in trumpet performance. Jones graduated amongst the top of his class, receiving The Director’s Award, The Mary Louise Beitzel Award for Excellence in Jazz Studies, and The Trumpet Performance Award. In September of 2007, he moved to Holland to pursue a MM in jazz composition and arranging from The Conservatorium van Amsterdam to advance his style of composition and develop an international perspective on the art form.
During his two year stay in Amsterdam, Jones performed, composed, and recorded with original ensembles of his own (varying from a jazz septet to a full big-band), as well as for fellow colleagues and jazz orchestras throughout the Netherlands. Throughout his career, he has worked with John Swana, Archie Shepp, The Amsterdam Jazz Orchestra, Orrin Evans, and the Captain Black Big Band, Donnie McCaslin, Ursula Rucker, the BMI Jazz Orchestra, and other notable musicians. Performance venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Bimhuis, Kimmel Center, and the Amsterdam Blue Note have featured Jones’ arrangements and compositions as well.
JOSEPH JAMAAL (Trumpet)
World-class musician Joseph Jamaal is an Alumnus of Duke Ellington School of the Arts (2002) and Howard University (BA/BS music education/performance 2007). Jamaal has gained invaluable performance and educational experience as a cruise ship musician, bugler for the US Army Band, and music instructor over the last 15+ years.
Jamaal currently teaches at a private school in Hyattsville, MD and is regularly featured throughout the live music community of the DC Metropolitan area.
XAVIER HENDON (Trumpet)
Xavier Alexander Hendon is a native of Jacksonville, FL who has relocated to Virginia Beach, VA. He was raised in a Christian home by military parents with his little brother. He found his love for music in the church where he was a part of the children’s choir and praise step team. His father, Minister Andrew Hendon III, was one of the choir’s co-directors and a big influence in Hendon’s upbringing, journey to Christ, music, and ministry through education.
In 2021, he earned a BM in music education from Norfolk State University (NSU) in Norfolk, VA and began his career as a music educator. Hendon currently is the Vocal/General Music Teacher at Rosemont Elementary School for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. During his tenure at NSU, Hendon was, and continues to be, deeply involved with the university and surrounding communities. Hendon served the Norfolk State University Spartan “Legion” Marching Band as a Head Trumpet Section Leader and Assistant Drum Major. His other affiliations include, the Norfolk State University Jazz Band & Combo, the Norfolk State University Concert Choir, the Norfolk State University Vocal Jazz Ensemble, the National Association for Negro Musicians (Tidewater Area Musicians chapter), the National Association for Music Educators, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America, and Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity Incorporated.
Hendon is an accomplished performer and musician, having performed with and for notable artists such as Chris Brown, Ashanti, Step Afrika, and others. He recently choreographed and was a backup dancer for Hampton Roads local artist, Baby Don FKA Chloe Royal, and has performed at numerous well-renowned venues.
In the future, Hendon intends to earn his MM with an emphasis in pedagogy, theory, and composition, and additional studies in urban affairs. He is the founder and CEO of Anubis Entertainment Associations, LLC, a multimedia platform for booking inquiries under music and dance platforms, and a co-founder of Oxúm Publications, LLC, a Black-owned music publishing company specializing in education and community development.
GARRETT McQUEEN (Bassoon)
Garrett McQueen has enjoyed a successful career as an orchestral musician, working with groups including the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Louisville Orchestra. In addition to remaining active in performance spaces, McQueen is the host and producer behind a number of nationally syndicated radio programs, including The Sound of 13 and The Sounds of Kwanzaa, and he continues to work as a guest radio host in a number of American markets. In the press, McQueen has been noted as “one of America’s most interesting classical musicians,” a “classical agitator,” and “a Black talent in public media that you may not know, but should.” In 2021, The New York Times noted his weekly podcast, TRILLOQUY, as a standout and one that is “required listening for industry leaders and listeners alike.”
BJ SIMMONS (Saxophone)
An American saxophonist, recording artist, and producer, BJ Simmons is a rare instrumental talent capable of reaching mass audiences. He has performed around the world with widely recognized musicians, worked as a resident artist in Bahrain, and contributed to educating countless students in his hometown of Washington, DC. In 2014, Simmons released his solo debut, the groundbreaking Acronyms. The album’s boundary pushing explorations marked the arrival of a major new talent.
Like most artists, Simmons spent much of 2020 reflecting on the state of the world and putting his thoughts to music. After months of quiet meditation, he emerged with his latest major statement We Wear The Mask (2020). Named after Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s classic poem, the album’s complex harmonies and hypnotic rhythms will leave a lasting impression. An adventurous fusion of jazz, funk, and Afro-beat, the album is a compelling portrait of the current state of the world.
The arrangements give Simmons’ supporting cast, including bassist Herman Burney, trumpeter Brandon Woody, drummer Howard “Kingfish” Franklin, percussionist Jabari Exum, and French hornist Abram Mamet the canvas to paint an auditory masterpiece. Listeners will also be thrilled to hear a brief yet magical appearance from a string section. Whether reimagining classics like “In a Sentimental Mood” or collaborating with Dev Duff on the standout title track, this conglomerate shines on every track. With We Wear The Mask, Simmons solidifies his position as an influential composer and musician of this generation.
SHANYSE STRICKLAND (French Horn)
Shanyse Strickland is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, and arranger. While French horn is her primary instrument, Strickland plays a variety of woodwind and brass instruments.
Originally from Akron, OH, Strickland has led a life full of music in various shapes, forms and sizes. While pursuing her undergrad at Youngstown State University, she played trombone and flute for the reuniting Ohio Players, under the direction of the bands piano player and songwriter, Billy Beck. In 2016, Strickland was the winner of the International Horn Symposium’s jazz competition. After moving to NJ, Strickland performed at the 2019 and 2021 Heisman Trophy Ceremony aired on ESPN, along with performing and recording parts for an NBA commercial.
Expanding her love for writing music, Strickland has written and published four original works, one of which was performed by the horn section of the New Haven Symphony titled “Moods.” Strickland has written commissioned works for brass faculty at the University of North Texas, along with many other soloists around the country.
TIMOTHY B. JOHNSON (Trombone)
Originally from Baltimore, MD, music has been integral to the life and development of Timothy B. Johnson, Jr. His earliest instrument was voice and from a young age he performed with vocal studios, the Children’s Chorus of MD, the Annapolis Opera Company, and community groups in the Maryland area. At age 11, his love for music and performance blossomed to include study on the trombone. Throughout his life he has shared his musical talent, performing works of all genres. His trombone experience includes performing in jazz, marching, and symphonic bands, and orchestral compositions with varied educational, religious, community, and professional ensembles around the DC, Maryland, and Virginia areas.
While attending Howard University, majoring in international business with a music minor, he led the trombone section and began his experience with conducting and composition. More recently, he reinvented his conducting style by completing choral and instrumental conducting at Morgan State University where he earned a BA in music performance.
Since 2007, trombonist Johnson has worked with trombone ensembles and individual musicians and was blessed to perform internationally in 2008 and 2009. Currently Johnson is a graduate student at Howard University in the Chadwick A. Boseman division of the Fine Arts School of Music, majoring in music performance. He feels his commitment to the trombone will create a more diverse legacy as he continues playing at the professional level.
Some of his professional music accomplishments include membership in Howard University’s Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity Inc. and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He also led trombone sections to receive “Section of the Year” awards on numerous occasions. Another momentous musical experience was performing in President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Parade in 2008. He has attended and performed at the National Black Band Director’s Consortium. To further commitment to the musical profession, service to the community and to the development of talent, trombonist Johnson provides trombone lessons to gifted young musicians.
RASHAAN SALAAM (Trombone)
Rashaan Salaam is a jazz trombonist, composer, and arranger, who hails from Miami, FL. At a young age, he became obsessed with music. His background is originally from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, where he was first influenced by Caribbean calypso and soca music. However, he didn’t begin playing music until the third grade when his mother signed him up for piano lessons. In the fifth grade, he transferred to Bethune Elementary, a performing arts school in Hollywood, FL. It was there that he was first given a trombone and introduced to masters such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and J.J. Johnson.
Salaam is currently a resident trombonist for Jazz at Lincoln Center where he has taken the stage with renowned artists like Wynton Marsalis, Ben Vereen, Nat Adderley Jr., Nicole Henry, Wycliffe Gordon, Roy Hargrove, Reggie Workman, and many more.
Salaam has also performed at notable festivals such as the Monterey and Montreal Jazz Festivals. He is currently enrolled at The Juilliard School.
JASMINE PIGOTT (Tuba)
Jasmine “Jazzie” Pigott is a tuba player, composer, podcaster, and writer based in Baltimore, MD. Believing in the power of representation, Pigott is a solo performer on a mission to empower the next generation of musicians of color. She has placed in numerous solo competitions, including first place in Peabody’s Yale Gordon Competition and bronze in the Leonard Falcone Tuba Student Competition, and is currently working on an EP: Revolution: The Next Generation of Tuba Music. Pigott is a co-founder and historian of the Chromatic Brass Collective. Outside of music, Pigott is a certified personal trainer and runs a blog and podcast, Harmony and Healing, centered around health and wellness for musicians. She holds degrees from Ithaca College (BM) and Michigan State University (MM) and is working on her DMA in tuba performance at the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University.
DENNARD WATSON (Keyboard)
Dennard Watson is a keyboardist, programmer, arranger, and producer originally from Baltimore MD currently living in Philadelphia PA.
Watson has had the pleasure of working for a wide range of artists such as Desiigner, Alicia Keys, Megan Thee Stallion, Damian D.O.L.L.A., Kindred the Family Soul, and Melba Moore. He has been blessed to have had his musical arrangements heard on TV and award shows including the Soul Train Awards, NBA All Star Weekend, Billboard Music Awards, Kids Choice Awards, and the Grammys.
ISSA BIBBINS (Pianist)
Issa Bibbins is a pianist, songwriter, rapper, music director, and content curator. Bibbins is the owner and founder of Pearl for the World Publishing, which specializes in connecting corporations and nonprofits to original music that focuses on inspiration and social justice. Some of Pearl for the World’s publishing clients include: The American Red Cross Association, The Boston Red Sox, the Boston chapter of the NAACP, Brandeis University, Harvard University, The Verizon Innovative Learning Small Business Partnership, and many more. Issa was also awarded the Berklee Urban Service Award in 2017. The award honors those who inspire social change in the Greater Boston area.
Bibbins’ compositions have been used across the country to add artistic expression to communities and the work of social activism. “We Keep On Running” was an inspirational music video to help the city heal after the tragic Boston marathon bombing. The song was featured by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) as a theme song at some of its races and other events. “Mother Nature,” was another song written and produced by Bibbins to promote social change and environmental awareness. This song was adopted by a national environmental organization called Green for All and was marketed as an Earth Day anthem speaking out against environmental neglect. Another one of his latest compositions, “Shine through Me,” was performed at The Strand Theater in Boston MA, during Kirk Franklin’s Twenty Years in One Night world tour. “Undiagnosed” from Bibbins’ most recent project The Treatment won first place in the hip-hop category of the 2019 USA Songwriting Competition and was used as an educational tool in the The Cory Johnson Program for Post Traumatic Healing (CJP)
He has composed music that has been used for several independent films, most recently the film Come on In by Daniel Callahan. Bibbins has also served as a guest panelist at the 1261 Film Festival’s “Power of Music” forum.” With From A Distance, Bibbins makes his debut in web series and entertainment worlds in the dual role of Co-Writer and Co-Executive Producer.
ARIANNA CALLOWAY (ARI LaSHELL) (Vocalist)
Ari LaShell is a soul singer, songwriter, and producer from Atlanta, GA by way of Detroit, MI. She is a May 2020 graduate of the illustrious Hampton University in Hampton, VA and has performed at world-renowned venues such as The Sydney Opera House in Australia, The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and many more. Ari LaShell is well versed in various genres but specializes in neo-soul and jazz. She also works in film and television full time with experience in both the production and art departments. She has worked on the TV series Cobra Kai and is currently working in the art department on a film with Marvel Studios. When Ari LaShell is not working or performing, she spends her free time teaching vocal lessons, volunteering, and practicing mixology.
KHANNER MILAN (Vocalist)
Khanner Milan is a performing artist, arts educator, mental health advocate, and the reigning Miss Northeast North America. This DC Metropolitan area native has been performing through song across the nation’s capital since the age of 9 in venues like the National Cathedral, international embassies, and the White House for the inaugural activities of the 44th President of the United States. Previous credits include: Lady in Blue in For Colored Girls, Judine in Hairspray, Crystal in Little Shop of Horrors, and Madame de la Grande Bouche in Beauty and the Beast.
Beyond the stage, Milan has utilized her gifts and talents serving as a voice for those silenced by mental illness and suicide. She founded the Movement of Hope in 2016, diminishing the stigma surrounding mental wellness while providing suicide prevention education. Combining her passion for arts and advocacy, she holds a BA in music performance from Hampton University and an MA in pastoral counseling from Liberty University, while pursuing an Ed.D. in community care and counseling.
Milan is a proud member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity as well as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. From arias to jazz, plays to pageant appearances, Milan is determined to make each presentation inspiring for all generations.