2016 Creative Strings Workshop Faculty
Christian Howes, Violin
As an educator, performer and composer, Christian Howes has gained respect from critics and musicians alike. Recently voted #1 in the Downbeat Critics Poll (“Rising Stars/Violin”), the Minneapolis Tribune called Christian “arguably the most intriguing young violinist in jazz.” A former Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music, he performs and conducts master classes around the world, and is the founder of Creative Strings, a 501 (c) (3) organization with a mission to expand music education through online curriculum, outreach in schools, and this annual summer conference. Christian endorses Yamaha string instruments and D’Addario strings.
Alex Hargreaves, Violin
Alex Hargreaves is an active performer, playing on stages around the world including Austin City Limits, A Prairie Home Companion, Grand Ole Opry, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Panama Jazz Festival, Bonnaroo, Newport Jazz Festival, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, as well as venues in the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and South Korea. He is a member of world-renowned mandolinist Mike Marshall’s Big Trio, along with bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers) and has toured with the trio extensively following the 2008 release of their self-titled album on Adventure Music. He recently joined the Turtle Island String Quartet.
Jason Anick, Violin and Mandolin
Based in Boston, Jason Anick is a music instructor at Berklee College of Music who is rapidly making a name for himself in the world of jazz violin and mandolin. In 2007, he won top honors for improvisation in the ATSA Alternative Styles competition and performed with the Robin Nolan Trio at the Montreal Jazz Festival. In 2008, while still a senior at the prestigious Hartt Conservatory, Jason began touring both nationally and internationally with Grammy award-winning Nashville guitar virtuoso John Jorgenson. He went on to record on Jorgenson’s latest CD “One Stolen Night,” which was named one of the top 10 albums of 2010 by the LA Times and Acoustic Guitar Magazine. 2011 marked the release of Jason’s debut solo album “Sleepless,” which was cited by jazzmando.com as “…a must have for any jazz violin/mandolin fans.” His group, the “Rhythm Future Quartet” has been taking U.S. audiences by storm the past 2 years.
Mike Barnett, Fiddle
Burning multi-styles fiddle player, Mike Barnett was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. Michael Barnett has always had a special place in his heart for bluegrass and country music. Since graduating from Berklee College of Music a few years ago, he has played with everyone that is anyone in the fiddle world, including recently on the Colbert show.
Diana Ladio, Fiddle
Diana Ladio graduated with highest honors from the University of Michigan School Of Music, earning a Bachelor of Music in Music Performance and Music Education. She is a studied 5-string fiddler, composer, and classical violist, and co-founded the instrumental fusion trio, The Moxie Strings. In 2015, Diana joined the ranks of legendary Celtic rock outfit, The Elders. Diana has performed alongside Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas, Colin Farrell (Lunasa, The Elders), Jeremy Kittel (Turtle Island String Quartet), Mike Block (Silk Road Ensemble), and on many stages including the Milwaukee Irish Festival, The Fillmore Detroit, and The Electric Forest Festival. You can also find her as the face for long-respected bow-maker, Codabow International, as well as Shar Music’s new non-classical campaign.
Diana has dedicated her career to introducing young players to the excitement and fulfillment found in learning many genres and exploring musical creativity. With The Moxie Strings, Diana has taught clinics in over 100 schools throughout the United States, and has presented sessions at many music education conferences including the 2014 Texas Music Educators Conference and 2015 Massachusetts Music Education Conference.
Current Magazine describes her sound as a “glorious tone that is the hallmark of the classical style, but also the fiery bowings and intricate ornamentation that is Celtic music’s contribution to contemporary world music,” and says (of The Moxie Strings) that the “future of music could be not in better hands.”
Diana will be working with the students of the Youth Program.
Andrea Whitt, Viola/Violin
Andrea Whitt is an exceptionally versatile violist, arranger and composer. While studying classical music in college, her passion for jazz and improvisation began while performing in a Brazilian jazz ensemble and studying intensely under top jazz pedagogues. Andrea received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in viola performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Andrea was a member of Shania Twain’s band during her Las Vegas residency from 2012-2014, performing on viola and fiddle. When Andrea is not on tour, she performs regularly with rock bands in Los Angeles on viola and pedal steel guitar, performs with the String Chix, works as a studio musician, and instructs students in classical and other creative string genres.
Andrea has performed and recorded with other artists including Kendrick Lamar, Iggy Azalea, Stevie Wonder, Deep Purple, Hunter Hayes, Mister Wives, Far East Movement, Harry Connick Jr., Cee-Lo Green, One Republic, John Legend, Kelly Rowland, and Natalie Cole. She has appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, ACM Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Latin Grammys, The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and a featured role as a violist on national commercials.
A pioneer in creative string pedagogy and performance, Andrea was commissioned to write two pieces for the International Viola Congress. As a guest clinician for schools and music conferences, she instructs young string players in improvisation and multi-genre performances. Andrea is a Yamaha Strings artist, and performs on a Yamaha SVV-200 viola.
Andrea will be working with the students in the Youth Program.
Cedric Easton, Drums
From the moment Cedric Easton could walk, he was playing the drums. At the age of 4, Easton began playing in church and won his first regional music competition at age 8 through the FOX KIDS television network.
He has performed with internationally recognized jazz musicians such as Wess Anderson, WyCliff Gordon, and Kenny Banks, Sr., and has played in Christian Howes’ band for over ten years.
While Cedric has been immersed in the music of jazz, he has always stuck with his roots — gospel music, having performed with nationally recognized gospel artists such as Detrick Haddon, Dorinda Clark Cole, and Marvin Sapp. After serving for years as musical director of the New Covenant Believer’s Church and as a faculty member of Jazz Arts Group’s Jazz Academy in Columbus, he now resides in NYC and works for Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Mike Forfia, Bass
Mike Forfia is a native of Akron, Ohio and currently resides in NYC. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Akron in 2012 and an MM in Jazz Double Bass Performance and Contemporary Media at the Eastman School of Music.
Equally at home on upright and electric bass, he regularly performs in settings from free-jazz improvisation to classical sight-reading.
Notable performances and professional associations include a 2011 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.
Nicole Yarling, Fiddle and Vocals
Miami-based Nicole Yarling defies description – performing on voice, violin and fiddle with technical skill and personality to boot. According to the Miami Sun Sentinel, “Every musical hat fits Nicole Yarling. For more than a decade, she has been a part of South Florida’s musical world as a singer and violinist, working in jazz, rock, R and B, experimental music and a few other styles that defy description. “Nicole’s musical excursions have brought about stints with Dizzy Gillespie, and three years on tour as a featured soloist with Jimmy Buffet. She also participated on Buffet’s platinum-selling CD, Fruit Cakes, and then went on to do eight worldwide tours with her own project, Little Nicky and the Slicks. Her myriad of personal influences have created a product that begs attention across the board. Her chosen instruments are voice, violin and fiddle (in that order). Nicole is a rich velvet voice with technical skill and personality to boot! She is a rising star in the jazz community who, like many others, has been at it for years.
Greg Byers, Cello and Bass
Throughout his lifelong pursuit of music, Greg Byers has become an idiosyncratic performer, composer, educator, and producer. Greg started playing cello at The Family Suzuki School of Rochester, NY at 2 1/2. By age sixteen, thanks to several mentors, Greg began to explore the possibilities of the cello in a jazz context. After beginning the undergraduate program at University of Miami, he ultimately earned the designation of being the first person to graduate as a jazz cellist.
After working in the Miami music scene, Greg decided to explore opportunities in Los Angeles. LA taught the importance of viewing music from the perspective of not only the performer, but also the composer, music engineer, and business person, so he applied these skills to his debut EP Some Dark, Beautiful Morning. He decided to continue his higher learning at McNally Smith College of Music, where he graduated with a Master of Music in Performance.
As a performer, Greg enjoys working in the studio as much as playing shows. As a composer, he strives for melodies that reach the layman, and harmonies that challenge the stereotypes of Western popular music. As an educator, Greg is passionate about helping students avoid the pitfalls of traditional music instruction, with the student truncated from any sort of creativity or expression. Rather, Greg works to bring out the creative potential residing in every student by integrating improvisation, theory, and ear training into his pedagogy. As a producer, Greg endeavors to tell the stories embedded in every piece of music with clarity and precision.
Micah Thomas, Piano
Micah Thomas is a jazz pianist based in New York City. Born in 1997 and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Micah started taking piano lessons when he was two years old.
During middle and high school, Micah was the pianist for the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra for five years. From his sophomore year onwards, Micah began gigging regularly with violinist Christian Howes, accompanying him on tours across the country. He also appeared as a guest artist several times with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, appearing alongside such luminaries as Tia Fuller, Lewis Nash and Gerald Clayton. Micah was a member of the 2013 Vail Jazz Workshop and the 2014 Brubeck Jazz Colony.
Micah recently moved from Ohio to New York to pursue a BM in Jazz Studies at the Juilliard School, and is already performing with world-class musicians in venues across the city including Smalls Jazz Club, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, and Jazz at Kitano.
Gabe Valle, Violin / Piano / Bass
Gabe’s musical endeavors have brought him venues such as the Lycian Theatre, Eisenhower Hall, The Blue Note, Webster Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Bamboozle. He was also heard on NPR station WJFF for an hour long interview in 2010 featuring himself and jazz guitarist Carl Storckman. That same year, Gabe traveled to play in the Bach Around the Clock Festival in New Orleans, LA with the Allegro Orchestra. Gabe continues to make appearances throughout the five boroughs and the Tri-State area. He has performed/recorded with artists such as Anne Hampton Calloway, Sherrie Maricle, John Feeny, Adam Nussbaum, Christa Benion, Steven Reineke, Robert Sabin, Jermaine Paul, Tao Seeger-Rodriguez and Barrage. Gabe has studied with a range of musicians including John Blake Jr., Scott Tixier, Bill Mobley, Andy Stein, and Steve LaSpina. He is currently the Minister of Music at Harriman United Methodist Church and piano/violin/voice teacher at Shamrock School of Music.
Paul Brown, Guitar
Guitarist and educator Paul Brown has been active in the Columbus jazz scene for decades – he is likely best known for his time leading Paul Brown’s Science Gravy Orchestra and for his current stint in the bad the band “Flippo,” which you can catch at Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza and other venues around town.
Paul Brown was awarded “Best Unsigned Guitarist, 1990” and 2nd place in the “Ultimate Guitar Competition 1992” by Guitar Player Magazine. In addition he was Capital University’s Featured Composer at their New Music Festivals in 1999 and 2003 and Denison University’s featured guitarist at their 2004 Jazz Guitar Festival. Paul has been a professional musician most of his life and is well versed in all American guitar styles, including Rock, Pop, Folk, Blues, Country and Jazz. Paul’s 40+ years of teaching experience include seminars at Capital University, Denison University and Fort Hayes High School for the Arts as well as an adjunct professorship of guitar at Kenyon College.
Kris Keith, Flute Saxophone
For over two decades, Kris Keith has made a name for himself in the local music scene in Columbus, Ohio. His reputation as a strong woodwind doubler and his ability to perform a wide range of musical styles from jazz to classical, from Cuban to Brazilian, from rock to funk, has kept him in high demand as a sideman and session player.
Some of the Columbus groups he performs with regularly include the Paradise Island Band, HooDoo Soul Band, and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. Since 1999 Kris has performed in the pit orchestra for over 20 Columbus Broadway Series performances at the Ohio Theater and the Palace Theater. His woodwind doubles include flute, alto flute, piccolo, recorder, penny whistle, and clarinet as well as soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. Kris has worked with major artists including Billy Taylor, Lew Tabackin, Diane Schuur, Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney, Aretha Franklin, John Clayton, Andrea Bocelli, Hubert Laws, Mark Levine, Rufus Reid, and Dr. John.
His own projects include:
- La Charanga Tres, a ten-piece orchestra celebrating the music of Cuba
- Trio Classique, featuring classical and baroque chamber music for flute, violin and cello
- Minan-Dya, a jazz ensemble featuring Kris’ original compositions with a focus on American/Latin jazz
- Jazz For Kids, a program designed by Kris and his colleagues to introduce jazz to K-3rd grade students including an artist residency program, “Building the Blues.”
Kristopher Keith is the director of The Ohio State University Jazz Ensemble and the Latin Jazz Combo; he resides in Dublin, Ohio.