Staff

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Andrew Johnston - Executive Director And founder

After graduating from DePaul University with degrees in Jazz Studies and Performing Arts Management, Andrew began a two-year teaching commitment with Teach for America. During his two years in the program, Andrew taught music and math at an under-served high school in Nashville. Andrew founded Jazz Empowers in 2014 after seeing the major need for jazz bands in low-income schools. In 2015, the Jazz Empowers pilot program launched in two schools in Nashville. Since the launched of the pilot program, Andrew has led Jazz Empowers to significant growth serving 800 students and raising over $300,000 for jazz education.

Instructors

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Spencer stevens - Nashville

Spencer is an educator and saxophonist from Atlanta, Georgia. He moved to Nashville in 2011 to complete a bachelor’s degree in music education from Trevecca Nazarene University. Spencer recently obtained his master’s degree in jazz studies from Middle Tennessee State University and currently teaches as an assistant band director at Christ Presbyterian Academy. He also works as an orchestra director at Nashville First Church of the Nazarene and as a freelance saxophone and woodwind player in Nashville. Spencer’s passion in education lies in jazz, specifically in improvisation. 

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Danny Fernandez - New York

Currently residing in New York City, Danny is an active Alto Saxophonist/flutist originally from El Paso, TX. He holds a bachelors degree in Music Education from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), as well as a Masters Degree in Woodwind Performance from the California State University Fullerton School of Music.  In 2004, Danny was given the honor of performing with the UTEP Jazz Combo in Washington, D.C. for a celebrity roast of long-time ABC anchorman, and UTEP alumni Sam Donaldson. He also is the founder of Fuego Latino, a Cuban Salsa group. 

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Nicole glover - New York

After studying at William Paterson University, Nicole returned to her hometown of Portland, Oregon in 2011. Upon arrival, she was invited to record on Esperanza Spaulding's Grammy-award winning album "Radio Music Society". She became a pivotal member of several groups lead by international acclaimed multi-instrumentalist George Colligan. Nicole moved to New York City in 2017, where she now resides. She has since recorded and toured with the great Gene Perla, and, additionally, Nicole has had the pleasure of performing with such great musicians as Mulgrew Miller, Wynton Marsalis, Esperanza Spalding, and many more.

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Ricky Sebastian - New Orleans

Ricky attended the University of Southern Lousiana and Berklee College of Music. After studying at college he made a name for himself performing in New Orleans and in New York. Besides being an in demand recording and touring artist, Ricky has also lead his own projects such as The Spirit of Within. He also became the head percussion instructor at the University of New Orleans. Ricky has also performed with many note worthy musicians such as Mike Stern, Jaco Pastorius, John Scofield, and Ellis Marsalis.

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Salvador Velasco - Houston

Salvador is an active performer and educator on the Houston music scene. Salvador recently graduated from the University of Houston where he studied trumpet performance, jazz studies, and graduated with a degree in music education. He currently is the director of jazz at Yes Prep Fifth Ward Charter School.

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Christopher Dixon - Chicago

A native of Chicago, Christopher graduated from Vandercook School Of Music with a degree is music education. Christopher currently teaches music in a variety of settings across the city of Chicago. He is also an active performer, playing in a variety of settings on both trombone and euphonium. He is currently the director of jazz at Muchin College Prep.

 
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Robert Rucker- NYC

Robert received his BA in Music from the University of North Florida and later attended the Manhattan School of Music for his graduate studies. After attending school he taught at various public schools in New York and New Jersey. Robert leads his own group entitled The Robert Rucker Project and produces music for Sony Pictures. He has also performed with artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Eddie Henderson, Dead Prez, and Herb Harris.

 
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Jodi Gladstone- Los Angeles

Jodi obtained her master’s in Music Performance and Music Education. Originally from New York she now lives and Burbank and teaches there through the Long Beach Public School system. Jodi is the director of The Great American Swing Band which performs throughout California. Prestigious venues they have played at include The Hollywood Bowl, The Stardust Ballroom, Paramount Studios, and The House of Blues.

Board Of Directors

Marshall Towe - Board President

Marshall spent a career as a technology executive with Motorloa, QUALCOMM and VeriSign having lived in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Australia.  He was most recently a founding partner of two electric vehicle start-up and  the sole founder of Cascadiant Energy, a Singapore based green tech company that provided clean energy solutions to companies to their shrink carbon footprints by deploying all forms green energy.  His company was acquired by private equity in 2017 and Marshall joined the board of the start-up Nearify.    Marshall has a long history of philanthropic causes as the founder of Sustainable Philanthropy and founder and Chairman of the Singapore International Jazz Festival, as well as serving on multiple advisory boards including Restore Haiti, Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia, the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Asia Green Energy Forum.

 

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Marqo Patton - Board Vice president

Dr. MarQo Patton hails from Columbus, OH, but has lived in Nashville, TN since attending Fisk University. Graduating from Fisk with a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Music Business, Patton is a former member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. While there, he served as an intern for the Nashville chapter of The Recording Academy. He later earned an M.Ed. in Instructional Practice, and the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Lipscomb University. Dr. Patton has taught in Metro Nashville Public Schools for eight years, six years as a founding Music Industry teacher at Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School. Currently, he’s a Faculty Fellow of Music Business at Belmont University. Additionally as an artist and consultant, Patton manages Jusreall Music Group Global, LLC (JMGG). More information is available at jmgroupglobal.com.

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Warren HAwkins - Nashville

Originally from Birmingham, AL, Warren earned a B.B.A. in Finance and B.S. in Political Science from the University of Georgia. After graduating, he taught 6th grade math teach in Stone Mountain, GA through Teach for America. He went on earn a M.Ed focusing on technology and innovation from the Harvard Graduate School, which transitioned him to become the founding Director of Operations as KIPP Nashville College Prep, a top performing charter school in North Nashville. Warren currently manages driver growth in Tennessee and Indiana for Lyft and spends most weekends at the dog park with his Beagle named Maddy. 

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Larraine Voll Morris - Nashville

Formerly from New York City and the Washington, DC area, Larraine is a new resident to Nashville, where she retired from Marriott International Headquarters in Maryland.  As a new Board member, Larraine brings extensive experience in business and strategic planning having held numerous executive positions in global sales, marketing and operations at Marriott.  Since retiring and moving to Nashville, Larraine established Strategic Insight Advisors, whose mission is to help non-profits tackle key business issues, develop strategic plans and create solutions for the future. Larraine believes in the importance of Jazz Empower’s mission to keep music and  jazz alive through our schools and exposing and inspiring the next generation to its roots, soul and life long influence.

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Jordan Holland - Nashville

Jordan Holland hails from Columbus, Ohio. Jordan is Graduate of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Art where he obtained a Masters of Music in Performance. Jordan graduated from Fisk University with a Bachelors degree in Music with a concentration in Vocal Performance. Jordan continually works diligently at perfecting his craft and is eager and pleased to present his artistry to the world. Presently, Jordan resides in Nashville, TN, where he is operating in his craft and love of music. Jordan lends his artistry to many different productions and concerts as an artist and soloist, session singer, and also as a background singer for well know local artist. Jordan also works at Vanderbilt University with Residential Colleges.

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Frank Giovetti - Nashville

Frank devotes most of his time to small business. An indie artist and business owner, Frank operates at the forefront of branding and entrepreneurship in the digital era.  He holds an MBA from Lipscomb University and has experience within hospitality, brand development, and sales. With high achievement in education and business at a young age, he readily shares his insight and innovative thinking with the Jazz Empowers Board.

 

Social Media Director

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Chet zenor - chicago

Born in Austin, TX and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Chet currently attends DePaul University where he studies performing arts management and jazz guitar in the School of Music. An active musician in the city, he performs in acts that play rock, jazz, folk, and hip-hop music and has served as marketing intern at venues including The Whistler and Sleeping Village. As an intern at Jazz Empowers, Chet assists in marketing and media for the organization. He believes in Jazz Empowers mission and the transformative power of music education.

Administrative Intern

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Aimee Nawrocki - Chicago

Born in the Chicagoland Area, Aimee attended Elmhurst College to study jazz guitar. In 2019 she graduated with her double major in Music Business and Jazz Studies. Currently, she leads her own jazz group and performs in the Chicagoland area. She also attends various jam session in Chicago and teaches regularly. As a Jazz Empowers intern Aimee assists with social media, arranging, and contract work. While interning at Jazz Empowers Aimee is able to pursue her goal of spreading jazz education to children through out America.