May 20, 2010

Creative Strings Workshop Faculty

2018 Creative Strings Workshop Faculty (in progress)

2018 Featured Guest Artist:

Rez Abbasi, Guitarist and composer

Voted #1 Rising Star Guitarist in the 2013 DownBeat Critics Poll and placed in the “top-ten Guitarists” in 2015’s poll, Rez Abbasi continues to push boundaries.

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, removed at the age of four to the vastness of Southern California, schooled at the University of Southern California and the Manhattan School of Music in jazz and classical music, along with a pilgrimage in India under the tutelage of master percussionist, Ustad Alla Rakha, Rez Abbasi is a vivid synthesis of all the above stated influences and genres. Making New York home for the past 25 years, Abbasi has developed a unique sound both as a composer and an instrumentalist and is considered by many to be one of the foremost modern jazz guitar players the world over. He has honed his skills with performances throughout Europe, Canada, the U.S., Mexico and India. He has performed and recorded with many jazz greats including, Grammy winner Ruth Brown, Peter Erskine, Kenny Werner, Barre Phillips, Tim Berne, Michael Formanek, Billy Hart, Marvin ‘Smitty’ Smith, Gary Thomas, Dave Douglas, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mike Clark, Tony Malaby, George Brooks, Ronu Majumdar, Kadri Gopalnath, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Marilyn Crispell, Greg Osby, Howard Levy and a host of others

Christian Howes, Violin 

As an educator, performer and composer, Christian Howes has gained respect from critics and musicians alike. 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.  “I design the ensemble experience at CSW so that participants have the opportunity to work closely with bandleaders in rehearsal and performance scenarios. The faculty are handpicked by me to guide you in a journey through their music. ”

Joel Harrison– Guitar and Composition

Named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2010, Joel Harrison is one of the first composer/bandleaders to have bridged the worlds of jazz, classical, Americana, and traditions from India and Africa. Harrison is a two-time winner of the Jazz Composer’s Alliance Composition Competition, and has received support and awards from Chamber Music America, Meet the Composer, the Flagler Cary Trust, NYSCA, New Music USA, and the Jerome Foundation.  He has released 17 CDs since 1995. Much of Joel’s music has featured top improvising string players, and we are thrilled to have him bring his diverse body of work this year for participants to study, interpret, and perform.

Jason Anick, Violin and Mandolin 

jazz mandolinist, jason anickBased 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 ASTA Alternative Styles competition. In 2008, while still a senior at the prestigious Hartt Conservatory, Jason began touring internationally with Grammy award-winning Nashville guitar virtuoso John Jorgenson.  2011 marked the release of Jason’s debut solo album “Sleepless,” which was cited by 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.

Jennifer Vincent, Cello and Bassjennifer vincent jazz cellist

Quoting Monika Herzig – “Jennifer started out as a classical cellist. A common story for jazz women is the transition from a traditionally non-jazz instrument and classical training to jazz. It takes passion and drive to take the leap and build a successful career – Jennifer has certainly achieved all of the above and is now a driving force in the New York music scene. In fact, she has toured the world over with the legendary Duke Ellington orchestra over the last few years. In addition, she is equally at home in Latin styles”.

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. 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.

MikeForfia_Beynon-36Mike Forfia, Bass

Mike Forfia resides in NYC, after recently completing his masters degree from 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.

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 currently free lances in NYC while working for St Peter’s aka The Jazz Church.

Nicole Yarling, Fiddle and Vocals

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 10.43.15 AMMiami-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. ..working in jazz, rock, R and B, experimental music, et al.” Nicole’s musical excursions have brought about stints with Dizzy Gillespie and three years on tour as a featured soloist with Jimmy Buffet. Her chosen instruments are voice, violin and fiddle (in that order).


Micah Thomas, Piano/Composition/Arranging


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.

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 world.

Gabe Valle, Violin/Piano/Bass 


Hailing from New York, violinist and composer Gabe Valle developed his violin skills at William Paterson University, where, while pursuing an undergraduate degree in jazz and classical violin, he immersed himself in the local music scene, playing everything from jazz, pop, and folk to indie rock and funk.

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. He is currently the Minister of Music at Harriman United Methodist Church and piano/violin/voice teacher at Shamrock School of Music, as well as an in-demand free lancer (on three instruments) on the NYC scene.

Paul Brown, Guitar/Composition


Paul Brown has been active in the Columbus jazz scene for decades. He was an integral mentor in Christian Howes’ development as jazz fusion player and composer.

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 

cmr-kris-keithKris’s 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 demand.

His own projects, which he draws from in his ensemble coaching at CSW, 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

Kristopher Keith is the director of The Ohio State University Jazz Ensemble and the Latin Jazz Combo.

George Delancey, Bass/Composition/Arranging

George Delancey bassist

A native of Cambridge, OH, and a student of such prestigious programs as the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Michigan State University Jazz Studies Program, where he studied under Rodney Whitaker. He has worked with notable bandleaders Johnny O’Neal, Wessell Anderson, Willie Jones III, Philip and Winard Harper, Christian Howes, Houston Person, Tia Fuller, Bria Skonberg, as well as many others in New York and throughout the Midwest. He is active nationally as a bandleader and educator, and has worked with programs including Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz for Young People, and Keith Hall’s Summer Drum Intensive. He is also the director of the Midwestern arts initiative Appalachian Muse.

Andy Reiner, Fiddle 

Andy Reiner, an award-winning fiddler, composer and educator originally from Lexington, MA, began playing at age five with the Reiner Family Band. He has since developed his own style featuring creative, rhythmic melodies, and thoughtful fusing of world styles. Earning a BM in Violin Performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston launched Andy into a flurry of touring and teaching around the globe. Andy currently tours both as a solo artist and with groups Half Pelican and Whitewater Ramble, and composes fiddle tunes, songs, new works, and arrangements for string orchestra. He teaches improvisation, composition and fiddle styles privately and at music camps across the US.

Greg Byers, Cello/Bass

Greg started playing cello at The Family Suzuki School of Rochester, NY at age 2.5. By age sixteen, he was a talented cellist, but was frustrated with the lack of personal expression he found in youth orchestras. This led Greg to explore the possibilities of the cello in a jazz context.

After beginning the undergraduate program at University of Miami, Greg wanted to officially switch his major to Studio Music & Jazz, which was initially denied because he was a cellist. Shelly Berg, the current Dean of the Frost School of Music, took over in 2007 and saw Greg’s perseverance. In the end Greg became the first person to double major in Instrumental Performance/Studio Music & Jazz on cello and bass, Summa Cum Laude.

As a performer, Greg enjoys balancing technical prowess and improvisation freedom. Hefty recording experience coupled with perfect pitch allows Greg to work directly with any musician or producer. 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. Greg has trained his music engineering skills while embracing the vibrant sonic palette only available in the mixing process.

Chris Shaw, Voice/Violin/Guitar/Djembe

Multi-instrumentalist Chris Shaw forms half of a duo band with his brother Andy Shaw. Through the years the sibling duo of Andy and Chris Shaw have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with taking their emotionally driven sibling harmony folk music all over Ohio and the country. With Ohio as their base, they have taken their music to Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, New York, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and beyond. In October 2012 they released their first self titled LP. The disc features the brothers playing every instrument including bass guitar, acoustic guitar, drums, violin, djembe, and ukulele. With this method, their first full length culminates in a sound that is truly their own. What’s next for the duo? The answer is more. More shows, more touring, and more recording. The brothers are excited for the future ahead bringing their music to audiences everywhere.

Robert Anderson, Violin

Robert Anderson, a South Carolina native, has been an advocate for creative string playing
since his first exposure to jazz at age 16. Since that time, Robert has been a part of the
contemporary string community, working to expand the role of string instruments non-classical
music and endeavoring to build upon the achievements of pioneering performers in this space
including Stéphane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty, Didier Lockwood, the Turtle Island String Quartet, and Christian Howes. Robert moved to Los Angeles in 2000 seeking performance opportunities with like-minded creative string players. In 2001, he joined the Supernova String Quartet, a collaboration that worked to craft original quartet compositions and arrangements in the jazz idiom.

Robert has been a violin instructor in the Contemporary Music division at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music since 2009, where his responsibilities include applied lessons in non-classical styles and directing the Thornton Pop String Ensemble, which he founded in 2017. Robert studied with Bert Ligon at the University of South Carolina and Bob Mintzer and Russell Ferrante at the University of Southern California. He will complete a master’s degree in jazz studies at USC in the spring of 2018. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Carly and daughter Lydia. Robert performs on Yamaha electric violins.