Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Carl Aagesen has lived and worked in Chicago since 2004. He is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and the Randy Potter School of Piano Technology. A Professional Piano Technician and lifelong student of music, Carl began teaching privately in 2010. In addition to working as a piano instructor, Carl keeps ChiArts’ fleet of pianos in tune. A frequent guest behind the scenes at innumerable venues, churches, performance halls and recording studios throughout the Chicagoland area, he is daily engaged in the process of finding exactly the sounds to suit the individual needs of each exciting pianist he encounters. Carl is an active member of Chicago ensembles Les Metalliques, Names Divine, Boatist, and the Colm Lennon Band. In his spare time, he rewards his discerning ears by composing, arranging and recording his own music. Evening Airs (2020), Moonbean Champion (2021), and Facades (2022) can be heard on streaming platforms or purchased from Bandcamp.
Melissa Arning (she/her) grew up in the Detroit suburbs, went to college at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and now continues her tour of the Midwest at her home in Chicago. She credits her Midwestern roots with fostering her love of cars, Vernors, and Jello. A busy performer of both opera and oratorio, Ms. Arning’s roles include Ruth in Dark Sisters, Meg in Falstaff, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Cendrillon in Cendrillon, Muse/Nicklausse in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, Despina in Cosi fan tutte, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Mercedes in Carmen. For her work with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Ms. Arning also has two Grammy awards. In her spare time, she is a beekeeper.
Trumpet player and composer Gerald Bailey currently leads several groups combining acoustic instruments and music technology. He has a Bachelors degree in trumpet from the University of Cincinnati and a Masters in jazz arranging from DePaul University. As a sideman he has worked with Belle and Sebastian, Ty Segall, Mono, Father John Misty and Syl Johnson. Gerald plays Adams Trumpets and Flugelhorns.
Anthony Bruno has dedicated his life to music as a performer, educator, and creator. Born into a musical family, playing music has been a hallmark of his existence. He believes creativity and connection is the essence of music performance.
An in-demand saxophonist in Chicago, he has performed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Larry Carlton (Steely Dan), Bobby Watson, Jeff Hamilton, Gerald Clayton, Bobby Broom, and Mary Wilson of The Supremes to name a few. Bruno has also performed at various music festivals such as the New York City Winter Jazz Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Chicago Blues Festival. He has released numerous recordings that can be found on all streaming platforms including multiple releases chosen for Spotify Editorial Playlists. Anthony is also an endorsing artist for Selmer Paris Saxophones and D’Addario Woodwind Products. Bruno’s main musical influences are Jazz, Afro-Cuban, and R&B and considers them the foundational language to his approach to music performance.
As an educator, Bruno has taught at ChiArts since 2010 and has served as the Jazz Coordinator since 2013. In this position, he has taken the Jazz Combo to perform at four Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conferences in Atlanta, Dallas, San Diego, and New Orleans. They have performed with numerous guest artists such as Antonio Hart, Bobby Watson, and Sean Jones. Additionally, he brought the Jazz Combo on a Peer to Peer tour with the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz to San Antonio and Austin, Texas with guest artists Bobby Watson and Lisa Henry. Bruno also organized a tour for the Jazz Combo throughout Los Angeles in 2019 which included performances and clinics at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and the Thelonious Monk Institute at UCLA.
In addition to his teaching at ChiArts, he has served as adjunct faculty at DePaul University teaching the Saxophone Technique course from 2010 to 2015. An experienced guest artist, clinician and arranger, he has worked with such schools and organizations as Dartmouth College, Youth Jazz Ensemble of DuPage, and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. Bruno also served as a guest director for the ILMEA District 1 Jazz Ensemble in 2018.
Anthony Bruno graduated Magna Cum Laude from DePaul University earning a BM in Music Education in 2007. He is a licensed Music Educator in the state of Illinois.
Thomas Clippert savors the wide variety of music available for the guitar, from the early Renaissance to the present day; his performing career regularly takes from solo guitar, to chamber music, to the vast world of improvised music. Tom is a graduate of the Yale School of Music where he studied with Benjamin Verdery and was awarded the Eliot Fisk Guitar Prize. Additional studies include Phillip de Fremery at the Mount Holyoke Guitar Master Class and Patrick Roux at the Domaine Forget Music and Dance Academy in Quebec. In addition to being a founding faculty member at ChiArts, Tom teaches at Oakton Community College. Tom is a regular featured artist at the Interlochen Fingerstyle Guitar Workshop.
Embracing a multicultural language, while investing in a variety of disciplines within the music itself, composer, bandleader, drummer and lyricist Gustavo Cortiñas continues to surpass himself in the breadth of his work. “Cortiñas’ music is uplifting, robust, melodic, and gets your body moving; it’s an exciting blend of the artist’s musical influences from jazz and Latin America, including his native Mexico” (DOWNBEAT). This can be heard on his four records as a leader, “Snapshot” (2013), “a Smörgåsbord of the moods and nuances that make up the human experience,” (Jazziz); “ESSE” (2017) “a fascinating musical realization, exploration, and distillation of the works of Hegel, Aristotle, Descartes, Plato, and other brilliant minds” (AllAboutJazz); and “Desafío Candente” (2021), “a musical palimpsest that carries the weight of the history of colonialism and neocolonialism of the entire southern part of the Americas” (LatinJazzNet). On his latest release, “Kind Regards / Saludos Afectuosos”, Cortiñas gives life, through music, to words that attempt to build bridges and understanding in times of borders and ignorance; words that focus on our feet and the dust on which they walk, instead of the stars under which they dream. A graduate of Loyola University New Orleans (BM Jazz, Minor in Philosophy), and Northwestern University (MM Jazz), Gustavo Cortiñas has developed a successful career in the US for over a decade, leading and accompanying ensembles in renowned stages and festivals in North America, Latin America, Asia, and Europe. During his time in Chicago, Gustavo has become one of the most sought out drummers, performing and recording with Javier Red’s Imagery Converter, Matt Peterson, Kitt Lyles, Erik Skov, Emily Kuhn, Michael Hudson-Casanova, Roy McGrath, Kyle Madsen, and the Carla Campopiano Trio, among other ensembles. Cortiñas is a member of the Chicago Jazz Composer’s Collective, performing regularly for their monthly residency at Chicago’s very own Green Mill. Gustavo Cortiñas is a proud endorser of Canopus Drums & Bosphorus Cymbals, and has been recipient of grants from the Mexican National Endowment of the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. His album Desafío Candente, a sprawling meditation on Latin American life and struggles, earned a well-deserved spot in Jazziz Magazine’s list of the 2021’s Best Releases, and was listed among the Jazz Journalist’s Association Top Latin Jazz Albums of 2021, among other critical praise. Born and raised in Mexico, son to a Uruguayan university professor and a Mexican elementary school teacher, Cortiñas grew up surrounded by books of all kinds, ranging from religion and philosophy, to history, economics and art. Music was just as diverse: be it through voice of Chavela Vargas, Wagner’s operas, the revolutionary cry of Rock en Español, or the soothing songs of Edith Piaf, music of all kinds was always there. At age 10, he fell in love with the drums, and was soon seduced by the syncopated and improvised beat of Jazz. This love inspired a journey far from home. First traveling to New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, and later Chicago, the place he now calls home. This journey set the foundation for his work: Latin American folklore, classical music, and jazz; philosophy, religion and the Latin American cry for justice. These experiences and streams of inspiration forge the unique voice of an expansive artist who will continue to defy categorization in many years to come. Gustavo is extremely thankful of all the great musicians, mentors, and human beings he has been privileged enough to learn from along the way. Some that stand out are Gabriela Fouilloux, León Cortiñas, Andrés Cortiñas, Andrés Suárez, Agustín Yela, Anne-Marie Garas, Santiago Fortson, Rodrigo Jiménez, Hernán Hecht, Wayne Maureau, Johnny Vidacovich, John Mahoney, Tony Dagradi, Janna Saslaw, William Horne, Victor Goines and Willie Jones III. Cortiñas is invested in giving this back and sharing what he has learned. He started as the drum set instructor at the Edron Academy in Mexico City in 2004. Since then, Gustavo has had an extensive private studio, and also taught master classes in Mexico, Puerto Rico, China, Ecuador, Argentina, and around the US. He has been teaching at Flatts & Sharpe Music Academy since 2014, and has been a guest artist with the jazz small ensembles at Northwestern University. From 2019-21 Cortiñas worked as a Jazz Director at the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory. Since 2018 Gustavo has been an assistant conductor of the jazz combos and jazz orchestras at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. IL and currently teaches drums at the prestigious Chicago High School for the Arts.
From playing classical music at Orchestra Hall to rock music on Warped Tour, Rebecca is a violinist, songwriter, producer, and educator who has used her classical music training to focus on innovating and blend genre lines. The genre-bending efforts began in undergrad at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, when she founded the rock band, The Lifeline. She used her training to give the band a unique performance quality, utilizing live looping techniques, as well as sequencing and sampling to enhance the presence of her violin. As a result she has graced the stages of many of the city’s finest venues such as Metro, House of Blues, Aragon Ballroom, Lincoln Hall, Beat Kitchen, Bottom Lounge, Double Door, Soldier Field, Subterranean, Cubby Bear and Goose Island Wrigleyville. In addition, she’s also been a part of many festivals and tours, such as SXSW, CMJ, Taste of Chicago, Taste of Chaos Tour, Warped Tour, Milwaukee Summerfest, and Q101 Block Party which further expand her influence. Rebecca Faber has worked with some of the best engineers and producers in the country. Names like Steve Albini (Nirvana), Chris Shepard (Chicago Recording Company), Sean O’Keefe (Plain White T’s), and Johnny Rioux (The Bruisers, Social Distortion, Street Dogs) are just a few of the diverse individuals that have helped Rebecca hone her craft and continue to innovate. As a result of work in the recording industry, she has become a voting member of The Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences, voting for the Grammys in both the musician categories and the Producers and Engineering Wing. She is also an ASCAP member and recipient of the ASCAP Plus Award in two consecutive years. In the spirit of giving back and inspiring others to use music as an outlet, Rebecca has taught in various settings, including privately, through the Ravinia Festival, at the Chicago High School for the Arts, and through online content on Reverb.com. Growing up in Chicago, Rebecca studied pre-college at the Merit School of Music, Midwest Young Artists’ Program, and studying privately under Laura Miller (Lyric Opera of Chicago). She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, studying violin performance under Peter Schaffer (Concertmaster, San Francisco Symphony). Continuing studies/additional training include playing master classes and lessons with David Kim (Concertmaster, Philadelphia Orchestra), Nathan Cole (Assistant Concertmaster, LA Philharmonic), Lisa-Beth Lambert (National Symphony), Cornelius Chiu (Chicago Symphony), Christopher Wu (Pittsburgh Symphony), and studied chamber music under the Avalon String Quartet.
Erica Lessie is a freelance cellist in the Chicago area, working in a broad range of styles across many facets of the Chicago music scene. Erica has performed on the Oprah Winfrey show with both Whitney Houston and Seal, and has also appeared with Diana Krall, Andrea Bocelli, Peter Cetera, the Four Tops and Johnny Mathis. She is an auxiliary member of the rock band Tributosaurus and co-founder of Cherchez la Femme, a musical ensemble dedicated to presenting the arts expressed by women across the millennium. Ms. Lessie also developed Cellos of Unusual Shape, a solo presentation that explores the diversity of variant cellos. Currently, she teaches at DePaul University Community Music Division, Sherwood Community Music School at Columbia College and Chicago High School for the Arts. She has composed duets for flute/cello and piccolo/toy piano and is creating a collection of short pieces for solo cello. Ms. Lessie works with the Cello Museum as a research contributor and author of music and book reviews. Ms. Lessie received a B.M. from Indiana University, where she studied cello with Fritz Magg and chamber music with Rostislav Dubinsky and James Buswell. At Florida State University she earned an M.M. and completed coursework for a D.M.A.
Patrick currently free-lances in the Chicagoland area, teaching and gigging. He is a full time member of the Rockford Symphony and has performed with the Grant Park Music Festival, Southern Illinois Music Festival, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Elgin, Kalamazoo, Illinois, Elmhurst, South Bend, Quad City Symphonies as well as the Illinois and Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Highland Park Strings. Other groups include OperaModa, Chicago Opera Vanguard, and the Downers Grove Choral Society. Patrick has also performed with the Chicago Shakespeare, Goodman, Paramount, Drury Lane, Timeline, Porchlight, Marriott, Writer’s, Royal George and Court Theatre Companies, as well as the American Girl Revue. Other performances include soloing at Carnegie Hall, Chicago Cultural Center’s Sunday Salon Series, and playing on WFMT. Aside from performing, He was a clarinet play-tester/technician at the Conn-Selmer factory in Kenosha, WI. Currently, Patrick is an Artist Clinician for D’Addario Woodwinds and provides free educational classes to schools in the Chicagoland area. As a teacher, he holds studios at Concordia University, Moraine Valley Community College, The Chicago High School for the Arts, and the First Conservatory of LaGrange. Patrick received his Masters from Northwestern University and Bachelors from Middle Tennessee State University.
Hailed for his versatile and passionate brand of music-making, performance, and
educational outreach, conductor Andrew Ritchie is currently serving as the
Director of Orchestras at The Chicago High School for the Arts as well as
Orchestra Director for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary & Fine Arts School.
Recently, Andrew held the positions of graduate assistant conductor for
Northwestern’s Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra, Chapel Choir, and
their Contemporary Music Ensemble where he led several world premieres. Before
coming to the Chicago area, he was active with the Colorado Youth Symphony
Orchestra as assistant conductor and made appearances as conductor and chamber
music coach for the Omaha Area Youth Orchestras. Throughout the 2020-21
season, Ritchie held the Mark Sheldon Conducting Internship with the St. Martin’s
Chamber Choir while working as a freelance cellist and vocalist in Denver,
Ritchie holds a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from
Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music studying under Victor Yampolsky.
Andrew also holds a MM from University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music in
Choral Conducting, as well as a Bachelor of Music Education from the University
of Nebraska-Lincoln. He began his teaching career in the Omaha Public Schools
where he taught orchestra, band, and general music to students 4th-12th grade.
Additional mentors include Catherine Sailer, Donald Nally, Stephen Alltop, Bob
Hasty, Aviva Segal, Bill Shomos, and Karen Becker.
Charles Taylor is a native Chicagoan who has been active both as a performer and educator, concert producer and recording Studio owner. A graduate of the Northwestern University School of Music, Charles has toured and produced nationally; in various genres from World Music and Jazz, to Opera and Sacred Concerts. Charles is currently a member of the voice faculty and a conductor for The Chicago High School for the Arts and debuted as the conductor for the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Orchestra’s Youth Vocal Ensemble at Millennium Park’s tribute concert for the late Nelson Mandela. Charles is a board member of the Chicago NATS, and a founding member of the Illinois ACDA Diversity Committee. He is currently working on a pilot for a children’s music education program and a recording of original children’s music entitled “It’s About Me”.
Currently, Dr. Brooks Truly is a full-time percussion instructor and music department administrator at ChiArts. He also serves on the percussion faculty at Roosevelt University, performs regularly with the world fusion group Callaloo and the Chicago Summer Opera, and is a freelance percussionist/timpanist in the Chicago area. Dr. Truly has taught percussion at several universities and secondary schools, and has performed with dozens of orchestras and chamber groups as a section or principal percussionist/timpanist and as a featured soloist, as well as hundreds of drum set, world music, and theater performances throughout the Gulf Coast, South Florida, and Midwest areas. During this time, he has shared the stage with such artists as Lil Greenwood, Bobby Shew, Louie Bellson, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Jim Walker, Yo-Yo Ma, Michel Camilo, Andrea Bocelli, Ramsey Lewis, Paul Potts, Faith Hill, Elvis Costello, Evanescence, Lindsey Stirling, Hanson, Celtic Thunder, Il Volo and Il Divo to name a few, and has worked with such conductors/composers as Scott Speck, Aaron Jay Kernis, Susie Seiter, James Judd, Helmuth Rilling, Sir Andrew Davis, Michael Tilson Thomas, Philippe Entremont, Russell Peck, Placido Domingo, and Phillip Glass, among others, and was a percussionist in the world premiere of Mason Bates’ Music for Percussion and Orchestra. Recently, he was invited to present his doctoral essay, The Afro-Cuban Abakuá as a performance/demonstration at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC). Dr. Truly holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, a Master of Music degree from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of South Alabama, all in the field of Percussion Performance. He is an endorsed performing artist with Remo Drumheads, Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, and is a member of the Black Swamp Percussion Educators Network. Former teachers include Ney Rosauro, Shannon Wood, Ted Atkatz, Richie Bravo, Ed Harrison, Vadim Karpinos, Paul Wertico, Ruben Alvarez, and John Papastefan.