Highly praised by the international press, Denis Azabagic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) (he/his), performs concerts around the world, maintaining a balance between his solo recitals, chamber music with the Cavatina Duo and Fandango quartet as well as engagements as soloist with orchestras.
Azabagic’s love for performing extends to sharing with others his knowledge of music making. He frequently offers master classes while on tour, teaches at the University of Illinois and is the head of the guitar department at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
He has won twenty-four prizes in international competitions and Mel Bay has published a book based on his experience and insights on the subject of competitions. Azabagic has recorded 13 CDs for international labels such as Naxos, Cedille, Opera Tres, Bridge records, Neos and Orobroy, as well as two DVDs for the Mel Bay Company. His recordings and live performances are highly praised by music critics, for his elegant approach to music and his unique way of communicating and reaching the audiences’ hearts.
As a guest instrumentalist and soloist Azabagic has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Sacramento Chamber Orchestra, Madrid Symphony, Traverse Symphony, Monterrey Symphony, L’Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Mons, among many others. He has also collaborated with the Casals Quartet, Chicago Chamber Musicians, Civitas Ensemble and Music Now.
His repertoire includes solo and orchestral music from the Baroque era to the present. As half of the active Cavatina Duo (with Eugenia Moliner, flute), he has performed a vast repertoire including many works written expressly for the duo.
Denis Azabagic uses D'Addario strings.
Keith Barnhart (he/his) grew up in rural Montana. He began teaching himself rock guitar at age 13, and by his junior year of high-school was driving several towns over for a classical guitar lesson. He currently lives in Westminster, Colorado where he is an active performer and teacher.
One of Keith’s passions is performing on early plucked instruments including the lute, Baroque guitar and theorbo. He can be heard playing in multiple groups across the front range including the Boulder Bach Festival and UNC’s Ursa Consort. He has had the pleasure of playing basso continuo for opera productions with the University of Colorado, the San Francisco Conservatory, The American Bach Soloists Academy, the Amherst Early Music Academy and the University of Northern Colorado. He also regularly collaborates with local early music performers offering concerts and educational demonstrations.
Believing in music's healing potential, Keith works as a Certified Music Practitioner. He is certified through the Music for Healing and Transition program and plays customized live therapeutic music at the bedside to create a healing environment for patients in hospitals, hospice and nurse care facilities in the area.
As an educator, Keith teaches at several local studios and has sought out opportunities to share music with those who may otherwise not have access. As an instructor with Rocky Ridge Music Academy and Augustana Arts, he has offered ukulele classes to senior residents as well as ukulele and guitar to grade school children. He also teaches annually at Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp.
Keith received his Bachelors in Classical Guitar Performance in 2006 from the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. While there he studied with Ricardo Iznaola, and Jonathan Leathwood. He received his Masters of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory in 2015 with an emphasis in Historical Performance, studying under Richard Savino and Marc Teicholz. Keith graduated in 2018 from the University of Colorado with a Doctorate of Musical Arts. While at CU he studied 10-string guitar with Nicolò Spera and studied the music of Albert Harris.
Daniel Bolshoy is an Assistant Professor in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia, where he directs the guitar program. An Israeli-Canadian guitarist, he has performed as a soloist with over sixty orchestras internationally, and he appears on seven commercial recordings and two documentary films on the Bravo! TV network. His recordings and live performances are often broadcast on CBC Radio, NPR, and various classical music stations.
Dr. Bolshoy holds a D.M. in classical guitar from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. As a teacher, Dr. Bolshoy frequently presents masterclasses for guitar societies, universities, high schools, music festivals, and other organizations. His students have won scholarships to leading universities and conservatories and have won awards in prestigious competitions.
Appalachian guitarist Isaac Brady is a soloist, chamber musician, arranger, and educator. He believes in preserving the music of diverse cultures and implementing them into his performing repertoire and teaching repertoire for his students. Isaac has taught classical guitar, folk, old-time, rock, jazz, blues, and country music to the ages of 6 to 70. He has taught individual and group lessons and co-developed the curriculum for Guitars for Vets in Clarksburg, West Virginia. To better serve his students in the Appalachian region, Isaac attended the Augusta Heritage Center on a scholarship for the Classic Country week where he studied with country musicians Ginny Hawker, Thomas Bryan Eaton, and John Lilly. Isaac has performed in a range of ensembles including jazz combos, classical guitar ensembles, pit orchestras for musicals, and old-time bands in his collegiate and professional career. Isaac has also participated in lessons and masterclasses with Rufus Reid, Matt Wilson, Marty Ashby, Thomas Kikta, David Leisner, Gaëlle Solal, and Matthew Palmer.
In 2021, Isaac began his Doctorate of Musical Arts at Arizona State University with a teaching assistantship where he teaches group guitar classes, applied lessons for undergraduate guitar majors, and coaches undergraduate guitar ensembles. While studying at Arizona State University, he will be working under guitar virtuoso Ji Yeon “Jiji” Kim. In May 2021, he received his Master of Music degree from Shenandoah Conservatory, where he studied with renowned guitar pedagogue Julian Gray. He first attended West Virginia University where he began his classical and jazz guitar studies under the tutelage of Scott Elliott and Anthony Ambroso. He graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Instrumental Performance (Classical Guitar) and a minor in jazz studies.
Praised by Classical Guitar Magazine as “confident and quite extraordinary,” Korean guitarist, Bokyung Byun (she/hers) enjoys a reputation as one of the most sought-after guitarists of her generation. Ms. Byun holds the distinction of being the first female winner of the prestigious JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, where Falletta herself described Byun’s performance as "stunning, showcasing her gorgeous tone, immaculate technique, and sophisticated musicianship. She is a winner in every sense of the word.” This win is among many wherein Ms. Byun excelled in the competitive circuit, including first-prize finishes at the Frances Walton Competition, the Montreal International Classical Guitar Competition, and the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Competition.
A bevy of orchestras, festivals, workshops, and guitar societies look to Ms. Byun for solo performances and masterclasses. In recent seasons, Ms. Byun has performed as a soloist with orchestras, including the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Utah Symphony, West Los Angeles Symphony, among others. Her solo recital highlights include performances at the Philadelphia Guitar Festival, Toronto Guitar Weekend, Guitar Montréal, and Ellnora | The Guitar Festival.
As a passionate teaching artist, Ms. Byun was selected as a teaching artist fellow for The Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program, Morse Teaching Artist Fellowship, and McCabe Guitar Fellowship for four consecutive years. She has also organized and performed interactive concerts for the Young People's Concert Series of Lincoln Center. Since 2016, she has been serving as a chamber music instructor at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Born in Seoul, Korea, Ms. Byun began playing guitar at the age of six. She is now based in Los Angeles, where she is pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Southern California as the recipient of the prestigious International Artist Fellowship. She holds Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School.
At the tender age of 16, Russ sold a pig to buy his first guitar. A Texas native transplanted to Colorado, Russ Callison (he/his) actively performs and teaches in the Denver metro area. Since earning his Master’s Degree in 2015, Russ has performed extensively in the US internationally, including a residency in France with his guitar & cello duo Solazur, a tour of Scotland with guitar duo Derelict Hands, and last summer performed at the Bali Arts Festival (PKB) as a member of Gamelan Tunas Mekar.
His formal training began at Collin College where he studied under Sabine Madriguera, There he participated in her award-winning One O’Clock Ensemble and earned two first prizes at the Brownsville Guitar Festival and Competition (2007 and 2010). While at Collin College, he was also awarded first prize in the advanced division of Collin College’s Annual Guitar Competition.
Russ attended the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music where he earned his Master’s degree under the tutelage of internationally acclaimed performers and pedagogues, Ricardo Iznaola and Jonathan Leathwood. His final recital at DU was recognized as one of the university's Outstanding Recitals in May 2015, and shortly after Derelict Hands took top prize in the ensemble division of the Southern Guitar Festival.
Doris Ćosić started her music path at the age of six in Velenje, Slovenia. Doris’s passion for music combined with her interest in medicine reflects in her collaboration with different non-profit organizations and outreach programs, as well as her desire to further research the field of music therapy. Another one of her passions is advocating for women in music and working on projects that showcase women composers and performers. She also continues to promote music of her heritage, and regularly performs compositions by Balkan composers.
Doris graduated with honors from USC Thornton School of Music in 2022, and she is continuing her studies there with Brian Head, Scott Tennant, and Bill Kanengiser in pursuit of a master’s degree. She has worked with many world-renowned guitarists throughout the years and learned from the very best, such as David Russell, Pepe Romero, Paolo Pegoraro, Mak Grgić, Gabriel Bianco, Margarita Escarpa, Paul O’Dette and many others.
She’s been competing on a national and international level since 2009; she’s received first prizes at a national and international level. Her most recent achievements are second prize at Gohar&Ovanes Andriassian Guitar Competition in Los Angeles (2019), and first prize at both CalASTA Los Angeles and CalASTA State Guitar competition (2020). She’s performed at numerous occasions, one of them being the GFA Las Vegas Symposium (2020). In 2020, she recorded her first solo videos at Guitar Salon International and was featured in their Artist Spotlight. She is currently a volunteer at LAC+USC Medical Center’s music program and enjoys sharing her love for music with their patients and staff. She also works at Virtual Guitar Orchestra as an assistant editor, where she’s created the very first all-women Virtual Guitar Orchestra in collaboration with Grammy-nominated Clarice Assad. She is actively participating in USC Guitar Orchestra and was the music director of USC all women a cappella group “Sirens” for two years, with which she recorded two albums.
Christian Cruz is a Mexican-American classical musician. As a native of Los Angeles, he grew up surrounded by the rock and hip hop scenes while simultaneously being influenced by the Latin American music of his own heritage. As a young guitarist he played rock in Hollywood venues such as the Whiskey A Go Go and the Roxy.
Christian began his studies as a professional musician at Fullerton College, where he focused on classical guitar and composition. He has studied classical guitar with Dr. Steve Thachuk and Grammy award winners William Kanengiser and John Dearman. Christian participated in the second annual Master in Classical Guitar Performance program in Seville where he performed numerous times at the chapel in the Alcázar of Seville.
He has received several awards including Best Composition Award and Audience Choice Award for his adaptation of so together, a poem written by former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera for the 2020 Fresno State Art Song Composition Competition as well as the 2020 Volterra Project Composers Award for his guitar trio Suite Homenajes.
Christian has a Bachelor of Music from California State University Northridge and a Master of Music from Southern California's Thornton School of Music both in classical guitar performance. He also holds a Master of Arts in Music Composition from Fresno State where he studied with Dr. Kenneth Froelich and Dr. Benjamin Boone.
Born into a multicultural and musical family, Sara grew up in Calabria, Southern Italy. After discovering music at an early age, she started playing guitar when she was nine and obtained her degree in Classical Guitar Performance from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome.
Sara is an active performing artist, composer and educator with musical influences that span many genres. Since 2015, Sara has led the musical project “Sara and Kenny” (www.saraandkenny.com). She has lived in Rome, Tallinn, Milwaukee, London, Berlin, and now Chicago.
Joseph is a guitarist and pedagogue who is best known for his chamber and solo performances and innovative music instruction. He is an active performer, collaborating in Flute and Guitar Duos, Guitar Duos and mixed ensemble performances in New York City, Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas. He regularly commissions new works by international up-and-coming composers, most notably, his recent collaborations with Cypriot Aris Antoniades in “The Tree of Life.” As a soloist, he brings his historically informed playing and deep knowledge of the guitar’s greatest repertoire to every piece and concert program. Joseph is best known for his sensitive and evocative playing of the works of Giuliani, Sor, Bach, Santiago de Murcia, and Narvaez.
As a pedagogue, he has held positions at University Nevada Reno, The Bronx Conservatory of Music, and Ezra Guitar where he instructed students in Music Appreciation at the collegiate level and individual classical guitar technique every week. Currently, Joseph is based in the Los Angeles area and teaches students of all levels and backgrounds through his collaboration with Lead Guitar and others. He received his Bachelor's and Masters at the Manhattan School of Music in collaboration with David Leisner and David Starobin and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at the USC Thornton School of Music in collaboration with William Kanengiser. At USC, he was awarded a Teaching Assistantship in Musicology where he assists in the instruction of music appreciation
as it relates to world music.
Nicholas Epple is pursuing his DMA in classical guitar at the University of Arizona with Tom Patterson and artists in residence David Russell, Odair Assad and Sergio Assad. Nicholas received first prize at the David Russell Bach competition in 2017 and was awarded second place at the Domaine Forget International Competition in Quebec in 2018. Nicholas has performed in France, Italy, Canada, and the states in workshops, festivals, and competitions. In the summer of 2015 he was awarded a full scholarship to study with Antigoni Goni in Volterra, Italy.
Pablo Gonzalez started studying classical guitar at the age of 14 at the Liceo Experimental Artístico under Professor Eduardo Gomez. In 2000, he began studies at the School of Fine Arts of the Universidad de Chile under Professor Ernesto Quezada, one of the most influential and prestigious pedagogues in the Chilean classical guitar scene. In 2010, Pablo was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue his Master's Degree in guitar performance at the University of Arizona under Prof. Thomas Patterson, being the first classical guitar performer ever in his native country to receive such an award. In 2011, he was awarded a Becas Chile (Chilean government award) scholarship to complement his Fulbright award. Upon graduation in 2013, Pablo was the recipient of a second Becas Chile award to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Arizona, as well as an invitation to serve as a guest artist in the Latin American Guitar Festival in Chicago.
Pablo also has actively participated in the Tucson classical guitar scene. In October 2015, he performed for a private event organized by the Arizona Opera that took place at the historic Sosa Carrillo Freemont House, receiving tremendous positive accolades from attendees and organizers. He was recently a finalist in the prestigious Third Annual David Russell Bach Prize.
Bin Hu has performed in Austria, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, the Philippines, Spain, and the United States as a soloist, chamber musician, and soloist with orchestra. Among the works he has premiered, one of the highlightsof his career includes a world premiere of a guitar concerto composed by Jorge Rodriguez-Caballero with the Pärnu City Orchestra in Estonia.
Winning the first prize of the 2016 David Russell Bach Prize, a competition judged solely by GRAMMY Award-winner David Russell, has earned Hu a reputation as a Bach interpreter. As scholar and educator, Hu has been invited to conservatories and conferences in China and South American countries to present a variety of topics on Baroque performance practices on guitar. Moreover, his all-Bach CD,Ciaccona, produced by Eudora Records in Spain, has received critical acclaim worldwide. Hu is also the founding member of Duo Chinoiserie, an award-winning ensemble combining the classical guitar with the Chinese guzheng (zither)to create an inspired new canon of classical repertoire. Their debut album CHINOISERIE produced by PARMA Records was awarded the Silver Medal from the Global Music Awards.
Hu’s undergraduate studies were with Heiki Mätlik at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, Estonia. He then moved to Salzburg, Austria to study with Marco Tamayo at the Universität Mozarteum and earned his Master of Arts degree with distinction. He currently holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Arizona and was part of the studio of Professor Thomas Patterson. Within the framework of his studies, Hu also took part in master classes taught by Sérgio and Odair Assad, David Russell, and Ricardo Gallén, among others.
Erdong Li is a very active virtuoso guitarist. He is currently teaching in William Pu Music Academy in Atlanta. He is working for the CSU Guitar Symposium as the artistic director. Mr.Li was teaching in Columbus State University as an adjunct faculty, he was also teaching the guitar class for the music therapy department in the Central Conservatory of Music in China.
Erdong started playing guitar when he was 11 years old. He finished his Bachelor degree in the Central Conservatory of Music in China, and got his artist diploma and master degree in the Columbus State University with Dr.Andrew Zohn in the America.
Erdong has gotten many prizes in international and national competitions. He took 2nd prize in the youth group of Seoul International Guitar Festival, and 2nd place in division 1 of the Troy University Guitar Festival, 3rd place in division 1 of the Southern Guitar Competition. And He was in the final round of the CSU concerto competition. Also he is playing in the W.E. Duo with the virtuoso violinist Weiru Sheng. They took the 1st prize in the ensemble division of the Southern Guitar Festival.
Erdong has been touring in China during the summer. The W.E. Duo had 14 concerts in the summer of 2017 and 6 concerts in 2018 in China. He had 10 concerts in all different cities in China with Dr.Andrew Zohn in the Li & Zohn Guitar Duo in 2019 summer, most of which were sold out.
Zhivko Nikolov was born in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. He started playing classical guitar when he was 11 and his interest in the instrument guided the choice to continue his musical education at the “Prof. Pancho Vladigerov” National School of Music and Fine Arts in Burgas, Bulgaria. During his youth studies he often performed as a soloist and with ensemble on various occasions such as: guitar seminars, festivals, and concerts.
Zhivko Nikolov moved permanently to the United States in 2007, and shortly after auditioned he was awarded a talent scholarship to continue his education in the Music Conservatory of Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Since then, he had studied under the supervision of the well-known performer and Professor Denis Azabagic.
Mr. Nikolov has had the exceptional chance to meet and perform for several world-known artists such as: Marcin Dylla, Paul Galbraith, Elena Papandreo, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Nicholas Golouses, Mathew Cochran, Eduardo Catemario, Zoran Dukic, Aniello Desiderio, and Berta Rojas. He has appeared on Make Music Chicago’s events as a soloist and a chamber musician, and his performances have been broadcasted on WFMT, Chicago. In June 2019 he appeared as a soloist, judge, and ensemble coordinator at the Chicago Guitar Festival.
Zhivko Nikolov participated and won prizes in the following competitions: “Singing Strings” (Gotse Delchev, 2003), The Balkan Classical Guitar Contest (Kyustendil, 2003), “Varban Varbanov Competition” (Burgas, 2004), 2nd prize in Louisville International Solo Competition (Kentucky, 2011) and a finalist in Wilson Guitar Competition (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2014). He was also among the semifinalists in Rosario Guitar Competition (South Carolina), and Indiana International Guitar Competition (Bloomington, Indiana).
Teaching since 2006, Mr. Nikolov is currently teaching in Gasse School of Music, and and he is also Master Guitar Instructor for the program Lead Guitar (University of Arizona, Tucson) where he helps more than 200 students per week in a group setting.
Zhivko established his own music studio in 2017 under the name 6VibeZ Music Inc. His students perform on various occasions, participate in concerts, and have won prizes in the following competition: Chicago Guitar Festival (Chicago), SAM Competition (Chicago), Latin Arts Guitar Competition (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Indiana International Guitar Festival (Bloomington, Indiana).
At present, Mr. Nikolov teaches and performs in the Chicago area both as a soloist and in a duet with the flute-guitar Duo “Eutopia”.
Renowned for his dedication and sincere love for guitar music, Rubén Portillo has been
praised as "one of the most gifted guitarists" by three-time Latin Grammy Awards
nominee classical guitarist, Berta Rojas.
Rubén Portillo has won many competitions in his native Paraguay, including first prizes
in the “Momento Musical Competition”, “Young Talent Competition” and “Takuare’e
Competition”. Other top awards include an Honorable Mention by the Festival “Lago
Ypacarai” and by the “Takuare’e Cultural Society”.
Rubén is frequently invited to perform for different organizations in Paraguay and United
States. He was invited to perform his arrangement for classical guitar of the United States
National Anthem and Paraguayan National Anthem at the United States Embassy in
Paraguay. His arrangement of the Paraguayan Anthem was the first version for classical
guitar in the original key and was recorded for a music video produced by Telefuturo that
still airs on national television in Paraguay. He has also performed with the Ensemble "Pu
Rory" directed by Berta Rojas.
Rubén Portillo was born in Paraguay and started playing guitar at the age of 7. In
Paraguay, he studied with Agustin Zaracho, Felipe Sosa, Luz Maria Bobadilla and Berta
Rojas and in Argentina, with Victor Villadangos. In 2017 he moved to United States to join
the studio of Manuel Barrueco at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University
where he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Guitar Performance and with a
Master of Music degree in Guitar Performance and Pedagogy. Ruben is a recipient of The
Tuition Scholarship sponsored by the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation and a recipient
of two Honorable Mention from Music For Humanity. In addition, Ruben was awarded by
Johns Hopkins University the James Winship Memorial Prize for good academic
performance and the Randolph S. Rothschild Award for his contributions in the area of
Guitar Performance. He is currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree at
The Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University in Chicago, Il.
Ruben has been teaching private lessons since 2019 and has a great passion to share the
knowledge and expertise with aspiring musicians. In addition to his private studio, he
also presents masterclasses, private/group lessons, and ensemble coachings. Ruben
teaches guitar to all ages, from complete beginners to advanced. With focus on the
fundamentals of performance and proper technique, Ruben helps students achieve their
musical goals and to have a lifelong appreciation of music.
Ryan Roubison (he/his) is a classical guitarist based in Phoenix, Arizona. He has been an active musician in the Phoenix valley for over a decade, specializing in a range of musical styles from classical, to folk, and contemporary art music. He spends much of his time teaching, performing, composing, and arranging. As a multi-instrumentalist, he specializes in teaching guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, and the Irish flute/pennywhistle. Ryan is currently an instructor at the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library, where he teaches guitar and a variety of folk instruments. While working as a teaching assistant at Arizona State University, Ryan taught undergraduate level courses in classical guitar. As a passionate music educator, Ryan believes that the impact of the teacher reaches far beyond technical instruction. During the summer months, Ryan is the music director for the Irish Arts Summer Camp at the Irish Cultural center of Phoenix, and also runs a guitar and ukulele program for children at Keybox Studios in Gilbert, Arizona.
In February 2020, Ryan Roubison was elected by the Friends of St. Patrick Centre, to serve as Arizona’s Young Cultural Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. In the summer of 2022, he will take part in a residency at the St. Patrick Cathedral in Dublin, and will work closely with the Irish Parliament on various projects aimed at fostering positive relations between the U.S.A, Ireland, and the UK. As a representative of Arizona in Ireland, his goal is to promote recognition of the arts in the lives of all people, across all borders. During his travels in Ireland, Ryan will give a series of concerts around the country performing the music from his album ‘Songs from the Willow Glen’ -a collection of Celtic folk music that he’s arranged for the solo guitar.
Ryan holds a Master’s of Music in Guitar performance from Arizona State University.
Born in Biloxi, Mississippi David Sewell (he/his) began playing electric guitar at the age of 13 and by 16 was teaching guitar at a local music store to all ages and levels. His electric guitar influences drew him to classical music where he began his pursuit as a classical guitarist.
David earned his Bachelor's Degree in Guitar Performance at the University of Southern Mississippi under Dr. Nicholas Ciraldo. He was awarded a teaching assistantship at the University of Louisiana and went on to earn his Master’s in Guitar Performance with Dr. Jeffrey George. While earning his DMA at Arizona State University under renowned pedagogue Frank Koonce, David was honored with an additional teaching assistantship, and was privileged to study with South Korean virtuoso JIJI.
David has performed in masterclasses with celebrated guitarists such as Brasil Guitar Duo, Martha Masters, Francisco Bernier, Rene Izquierdo, Anton Baranov, Adam Holzman, and Marcin Dylla. He regularly works with other musicians performing a broad range of genres. As a passionate chamber musician, David has premiered a guitar orchestra piece “By Chants” written by notable composer/guitarist Andrew York with the Arizona Guitar Orchestra and the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. He received first prize in the UL Friends of Music Guitar Competition of 2016. Dr. Sewell’s further accomplishments include an arrangement of Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’s Harpsichord Suite in A Minor for solo guitar. His first solo album of all harpsichord music is set to be released in 2020.
Residing now in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr. David Sewell is a guitarist, arranger, educator and instructor for Lead Guitar. He is devoted to arranging unique repertoire for the guitar and teaching his students a wide variety of styles and techniques.
Justin Sheppard was born in 1979 in the small Georgia town of Tifton. He started guitar at the age of 11, and then joined band in middle school. Loving music throughout school, he played euphonium, jazz trombone, concert tuba, and marched baritone horn. He attended UGA for several years, studying music performance and education, and then served over a decade in the US Navy, enlisting as a nuclear reactor operator and later serving as a Surface Warfare Officer. After the Navy, Justin returned to his first love, guitar music.
He finished a BS in Classical Guitar Performance from UGA while studying under international performer and Professor of Guitar, Dr. Daniel Bolshoy. He also holds degrees in Criminal Justice from FSU, Nuclear Engineering Technologies from Thomas Edison State University and studied in the masters program International Business and Change Management at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow. Justin enjoys a full schedule of private students at both Vivo Music and Arts Academy in Cumming and Cambridge Academy of Music in Johns Creek.
When not practicing, performing, or putting on students’ performance events, Justin enjoys opening students’ eyes to the full range of the guitar’s music, capabilities, and history.
Andrew Lesley Smith (he/his) is a classical guitarist based in Phoenix, Arizona, where he performs both as a solo artist and as a founding member of the Augustine Strings sponsored ensemble Petrichor Duo. Recent notable performances include the Pinnacle Chamber Series, the Spirit of the Senses Concert Series, and former Senator John McCain’s state funeral at the personal request of the First Lady of Arizona. His playing is influenced by his interest in both very old and very new music for the guitar. In addition to performing his own compositions for solo guitar, Andrew frequently collaborates with composers to develop, premier, and publish new repertoire. Published works dedicated to Andrew can be found through Productions d’Oz and Tradurre Musica. He has been awarded travel grants to both perform and study internationally in Spain and Quebec.
As an educator, Andrew has taught guitar and music theory both privately and in the classroom to students of all ages and has spent multiple years on the teaching staff of the Texas Music Festival - Classical Minds. With Lead Guitar, Andrew works with hundreds of public school students in Phoenix and throughout Arizona each week, often traveling to the Apache and Navajo reservations. Andrew holds a Master of Music in Guitar Performance from ASU, where he taught undergraduate music majors as a Teaching Assistant for the renowned scholar Frank Koonce. Andrew began studying the guitar with the French guitarist Valerie Hartzell, and he completed his undergraduate degree with honors under Steve Kostelnik at Southwestern University. In addition to playing and teaching guitar, Andrew also builds guitars in his spare time. He has built both electric and classical guitars, and recently studied classical lutherie under master builder Sergei de Jonge. When he is away from the guitar, Andrew enjoys hiking, camping and backpacking throughout the southwest.
Fabrício received his Master of Music from Northwestern University and his Bachelor in classical guitar performance in the National Conservatory of Peru. Originally from Peru, he enjoys performing and teaching. He has taken master classes from internationally known guitarists such as Eduardo Fernandez, Oscar Ghiglia, and Judicael Perroy.
Fabrício has over 10 years of experience teaching all levels using a variety of methods and is a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas. He has taught master classes and performed around Peru and the US. He is currently living in Chicago were he teaches in a private and group setting.
James Terrell is a guitarist, composer and music educator currently based in Athens, Georgia. He holds degrees in music from Columbus State University (B.M. Performance, guitar, 2007) and the University of Massachusetts (M.M. Composition, 2011) and is pursuing the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Georgia (Performance, guitar). He is an active performer both as a soloist and in chamber ensembles, and his repertoire spans the history of the guitar, from the Renaissance to premieres of new music by composers such as Kevin Day and Samuel Hoyland.
As a composer, Mr. Terrell has written concert music for all manner of ensembles and soloists as well as orchestral music and works for fixed media. Recently his compositions have been played by the Atlanta Symphony and Robert Spano and at the New Music on the Bayou festival. His principal teachers are Andrew Zohn and Daniel Bolshoy (guitar), and Bruce MacCombie, Salvatore Macchia and Adrian Childs (composition).
Alfredo "Freddy" Vazquez (he/his) has been amazing the stage since the age of 17 after his solo debut in Salzburg, Austria. Mr. Vazquez has won and placed in numerous guitar competitions such as the William Wolf, Thomas Schaffer, Maricopa County Artist of Promise competitions and, most recently, the Memphis International Competition.
Along with competing and performing, Mr. Vazquez has been a dedicated educator for many years. While in his early music education at Glendale Community College, under the tutelage of Charles Hulihan in classical guitar performance, he was a tutor and section leader for beginning guitar classes and ensembles. While studying with Prof. Tom Patterson and Dr. Renato Serrano at the University of Arizona while earning his Bachelors' Degree in Music, Mr. Vazquez had the opportunity to have multiple lessons with Grammy award winners David Russell, Sergio Assad, and Odair Assad each year. Mr. Vazquez has performed in master classes with world-renowned artists, such as Marcin Dylla, Judicael Perroy, Rene Izquerdo, Carlos Perez, and Vladimir Gorbach. In 2014, Mr. Vazquez won 1st Place in the William Wolf Competition, winning a 2015 Jeremy Cooper guitar.
Mr. Vazquez has premiered pieces and worked with many composers, such as Brad Richter’s guitar duo concerto “Last Man Standing” commissioned for the Tucson Guitar Society Orchestra and Phil Moloso’s “Guitar Trio.” During his graduate career at Oklahoma City University, studying with Matt Denman, Stephan Lochbaum, and Lynn McGrath, he had the opportunity to dive even deeper into music education. Being a part of two teams: one that created a local guitar curriculum for local high school programs; and a second that was associated with the guitar curriculum for ASTA (American String Teacher Association). During that time, Mr.Vazquez developed and instructed a guitar “technique boot camp” for the undergraduate class while also conducting the OCU Freshmen Guitar Ensemble. Alfredo Vazquez currently resides in Tucson, Arizona and is an adjunct guitar professor at Cochise Community College.
A recipient of the Augustine Foundation Scholarship, Mateo is an Ecuadorian born Classical Guitarist who performs in venues across the globe and has given recitals in Iceland, New York, Dominican Republic and Ecuador. Mateo's passion for new music has led him to commission works from Ecuadorian composers and to actively perform Latin American repertoire. Mateo started his career as a guitar teacher at an early age and he believes in the understanding of the cultural and historical context of music as a core element of his student's musical training. Mateo, has been faculty at: National conservatory of Ecuador, New York City Guitar School and Brooklyn Center for Musical Arts.
Jaxon Williams (he/his) began the study of classical guitar at the age of seven. He has won prizes in numerous classical guitar competitions including the OSAA Classical Guitar Competition, Sierra Nevada International Guitar Competition, San Francisco Bay International Guitar Competition, Pacific Guitar Festival and Competition, and most recently a winner of the Beverly Hills National Auditions. Jaxon is also an alumni of the Aspen Music Festival, where he studied with Juilliard's Sharon Isbin, and he holds a Master's of Music in Guitar Performance from Arizona State University with Frank Koonce, where he was the sole recipient of the Burns Guitar Scholarship and also was awarded a Graduate Teaching Assistantship. He is also a 2015/16 Fulbright Scholar, winning the grant to study Flamenco and Spanish repertoire in Seville, Spain. While there he studied with Francisco Bernier, Zoran Dukic, and Judicael Perroy as part of an International Performance program, while simultaneously studying Flamenco guitar at the renowned Fundación Cristina Heerén.
Jaxon is currently a Doctoral Candidate at USC’s Thornton School of Music, where he was awarded the position of Graduate Teaching Assistant. There, he teaches introductory guitar courses and studies performance with William Kanengiser of the renowned LAGQ, as well as Scott Tennant and Brian Head. He also studies Flamenco with virtuoso guitarist Adam del Monte.
As a performer, he stays busy playing solo recitals and performing chamber music in various groups. Jaxon also plays Flamenco guitar, and has gives performances in both the USA and Spain.
As a teacher, Jaxon has worked with Lead Guitar in over 12 different schools in 3 different states, with hundreds of collective students. He was recently promoted to Lead Guitar's Regional Director for California, where Jaxon also works at USC as the Graduate Teaching Assistant teaching undergraduate level guitar courses.
As a recording artist, Jaxon has 3 albums: his self-titled debut album, his album La Catedral, which features works from Spain and Latin America, and his most recent album Far and Away. Jaxon also works as a studio guitarist, writing songs for commercials and/or adding guitar parts into music for original artists.
Erin Young is a musician and arts administrator based in Los Angeles. She received both her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Classical Guitar Performance at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music where she studied with Scott Tennant, Brian Head, and Jason Yoshida. Erin has a passion for early music and was an active member of the USC Baroque Sinfonia, a period-instrument ensemble specializing in music from the seventeenth through mid-eighteenth century. She has performed with the early music ensemble, Ciaramella, and plays frequently with the Los Angeles based Delirium Musicum ensemble.
Erin worked in online music education as Head of Guitar at tonebase.co for over two years and is a certified Suzuki Guitar instructor. She currently works as Operations and Program Director for the international guitar education nonprofit Kithara Project, as Assistant Director of Elemental Guitar for nonprofit Elemental Music, and is actively involved with the Guitar Foundation of America, where she works as a Counselor for the annual GFA Guitar Summit.
Holly Holmes (she/hers) is Lead Guitar's primary administrator, managing everything from scheduling and communications with our partner schools to finance and grant-writing. She has worked as an administrator for both non-profit and for-profit arts organizations, including as a jazz programming intern for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Holly earned a PhD in ethno-musicology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and conducted dissertation research in Brazil as a 2011 Fulbright Scholar. Holly has taught jazz voice, music theory, and world music courses at universities and conservatories in the US and the UK and in Brazil she did so in fluent Portuguese. She has released two albums as a jazz vocalist.
Having benefited from excellent arts classes in the public schools of her native state of Wisconsin, Holly is impassioned to build upon Lead Guitar's arts education programming for those students most in need.
Marina Jarrette (she/hers) is an active actress, singer-songwriter, and director who believes strongly in arts accessibility and the transformative power of music.
Marina earned her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance with an emphasis in Music Theatre from Arizona State University, as well as certifications in State, Foundational, and Federal Grant Writing from the ASU Lodestar Nonprofit Center. She has performed with multiple regional companies, including The Phoenix Theatre Company, Arizona Broadway Theatre, and The Phoenix Symphony. Her work as a singer-songwriter debuted at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City, and she wrote and composed a new musical (Legendary) which was a finalist at the Headwaters New Play Festival in Colorado, a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Musical Theatre Conference, and an invitational recipient for the ASCAP New Musical Workshop with Stephen Schwartz in Los Angeles. She has directed for projects like the Seattle 48-Hour Film Festival, Parade, and ROAR! A Celebration. She has also worked with The Bridge Initiative, an Arizona-based nonprofit advocating for gender equity in the arts, attending board meetings and serving on the audience building committee and the artistic selection committee for the Bechdel 2.0 New Works Festival.
Marina is passionate about the inherent value of artistic expression in all forms, and is excited to be helping Lead Guitar champion accessible music education for everyone.
Director of Instruction and Regional Director for Colorado
Nick Lenio (he/his) has dedicated the past 10 years to music education in public schools and has been teaching with Lead Guitar since 2013. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in Instrumental Conducting from Messiah College. Nick served as Director of Bands at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, PA for three years before moving to Colorado to be the Director of Bands at Basalt Middle School and Basalt High School.
During the 7 years that Nick directed the 5th-12th grade bands at Basalt, the program grew from ~150 students to over 330 students. In 2015, Nick was named “Music Teacher of the Year” by Jazz Aspen Snowmass. In 2016, he was nominated and became a semi-finalist for the GRAMMY Music Educator Award.
His New Orleans-style street band, the Basalt StreetHorns, has performed for many local events and as an opening act for groups such as Train, Andy Grammer, Michael Franti, and Lionel Richie. As a local musician, Nick is in high demand; performing on guitar, bass guitar, and trombone.
Outside of the classroom, Nick spends as much time as possible trail running, rock climbing, mountain biking, and snowboarding with his wife and pups.
Brad Richter (he/his) is the executive director and co-founder of Lead Guitar. Equal parts performer, composer, and educator he has made nearly one-thousand concert appearances in North America and Europe - more than fifty of which were aired on NPR’s Performance Today. Since completing his Master’s degree in classical guitar at The Royal College of Music in London, Brad has performed around the globe with artists such as nine-time Grammy winner David Finckel. Brad is the winner of the National Fingerpicking Championship, the International Composer’s Guild Competition, and the National Music Teachers Association’s commissioned composer award, and he was the first guitarist ever to win the Royal College of Music’s Thomas Mohrherr Prize. He is a sought-after collaborator with artists such as cellist Viktor Uzur with whom he tours as the Richter Uzur Duo, his former mentor from the Royal College of Music, Carlos Bonell, and Broadway star Ben Vereen, as well as The Pacifica String Quartet and The Phoenix Chorale. Brad also enjoys several long-term collaborations as an artist-in-residence, including more than a decade with the Aspen Music Festival and School.
As a composer, Brad is known for his own brand of genre-mashing chamber music. Winner of the International Composer’s Guild Competition, his major commissions have included Navigating Lake Bonneville, a concert-length work for Weber State University; Duo Concerto for Cello and Guitar, co-written with Viktor Uzur for the Jackson Symphony Orchestra; Fragments Transcending, premiered by David Finckel; Devil in the Details, commissioned by the National Music Teachers Association; and the musical score for an episode of the Emmy award-winning PBS series The Desert Speaks. Brad’s collections of concert music for solo guitar are published by Mel Bay, Acoustic Music Records, GSP, and Sky Island Music.
In his role as Director of Outreach for the College of Fine Arts at the University of Arizona, Brad collaborates with CFA faculty and leaders in the field of arts education to develop and operate the CFA in Schools programs, based on the Lead Guitar model. Between Lead Guitar and CFA in Schools, he oversees a carefully selected staff of 23 part- and full-time arts professionals in operating programs in 60 schools in five states.