Navigate Our Site
Search Site

Ensemble Faculty

Scott Agster

Scott Agster

Assistant Department Head, Ensembles

Dr. Scott Agster has performed all over the world with such distinguished groups as The UNT One O’Clock Lab Band, The Dallas Jazz Orchestra, Salsa del Soul, the Matt Sawyer Orchestra, Snowblind (founding member and composer), Jack Brass Band, G8, Bella Galla Big Band, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, and The Skunkfoot Seven. Scott has had the opportunity to work and perform with many acclaimed artists including Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Dave Douglas, Phil Woods, Nicholas Payton, Stefan Karlsson, Slide Hampton, and Paul McKee. He’s recorded 21 CDs including several KJOS Music Big Band Samplers; The Music of Frank Sinatra (Bella Galla Big Band); Traditionally Speaking (Jack Brass Band); Taking Shape (Snowblind) and Run With It! (Hip-hop group G8). Scott was also a founding member and arranger for the Vector Trombone Quartet, which was a finalist in the International Trombone Association Quartet Competition in Helsinki, Finland in 2003. Scott is currently active as a clinician on low brass techniques and improvisation. Scott's recent research to determine modern trends in jazz curricula around the United States has been highlighted during the 2007 IAJE conference in New York.

Read more
Jeff Bailey

Jeff Bailey

Department Head, Bass

Jeff Bailey has performed in a wide variety of musical settings as a musician, composer, and producer. He has performed with world-renowned jazz artists Captain McDuff, Craig Taborn, James Carter, Nachito Herrera, Eric Garvat, Rodney Jones, Dave King, Brian Lynch, Wessel Anderson, Peruvian guitar master Andrés Prado, and James Moody. Never one to be pigeonholed into one style, Jeff has also toured and performed with Keri Noble, Joey McIntyre (NKOTB), Tommy Barbarella (Prince), Charles Lazarus (Minnesota Orchestra), Reverend Billy Steele, Jennifer Kimball, Heather Headley, and Charley Drayton. Jeff has also logged time on the road touring and giving clinics in the U.S., Germany, France, Italy, South America, and Japan. Jeff has served as musical director for Keith Antar Mason and the Hittite Empire and the Black Fathers and Sons project at the B.A.M. Next Wave Festival in New York, with photographer Albert Chong and writer Quincy Troupe. Jeff has also received accolades for producing a Minnesota Music Award-winning CD for Alicia Wiley, receiving a Best of the Twin Cities Award as a founding member of Moveable Feast, and a Minnesota Music Award nomination for best Bass Player of the Year.

Read more
Eva Beneke

Eva Beneke

A native of East-Berlin, Dr. Eva Beneke is an unstoppable performer. Highlights of her career include appearances with the German Symphony Orchestra under Kent Nagano, invitations to international festivals in Perú, Germany, Lithuania, the U.S. and Canada and a live performance with Carrie Underwood at the 2010 American Country Music Awards. Beneke’s debut CD, Coming Home, was released to wide critical acclaim in 2010. Her performances have been broadcasted internationally and her arrangements for guitar ensemble are gaining international recognition. The American publishing-house Clearnote Music published two of her guitar compositions in 2009.

Beneke began her studies at the Berlin University of Arts with Martin Rennert. She then received the prestigious solo artist diploma at the Franz Liszt Hochschule in Weimar where she trained extensively with Thomas Müller-Pering, one of Germany’s most influential guitarists. In 2012, Beneke received a doctorate with honors from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, after having studied with Grammy® winning guitarist Scott Tennant and jazz-guitar legend Bruce Forman. In the Fall of 2012, Eva Beneke joined the faculty at McNally Smith College of Music.

If you are interested in studying classical guitar with Dr. Eva Beneke, please click here to learn more about McNally Smith's Master of Music in Performance degree.

Read more
Gary Gratz

Gary Gratz

Gary has been a professional musician for 45+ years, working throughout the industry as a performer, composer, arranger and programmer. He studied piano with Lorna Michelson, Herb Wigley, Manfredo Fest, and Jill Dawe; Organ with Stephen Gabrielsen and Peter Hendrickson; and Guitar and Viola with True Sackrison and Ewa Bujak. Gary has performed with Tony Sandler, Marilyn McCoo, Robert Robinson, Brian Duncan, Ernie Watts, Othello Molineaux, Tim Ries, and the Minnesota Vikings Band. He continues to perform regularly with Marv Dahlgren, Yolanda Bruce, Cynthia Johnson, Judi Donaghy, the Sevilles, The Sleepers, his own band and others. As a composer/ synthesist with Herb Pilhofer Music, Gary composed music and designed sounds for numerous national TV ads including spots for Coca Cola, Discover Card, Target, and Porsche. He also performed on the soundtrack for the movie “Beautiful Girls” and coached the lead actor, Timothy Hutton, in piano technique. Gary hols a B.A. in Music from Augsburg College and a M.M. in Music Education from Boston University.

Read more
Shai Hayo

Shai Hayo

Shai Hayo is a percussionist and educator who specializes in traditional and contemporary drumming styles of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and West Africa. He has performed and taught nationally and interntaionally, sharing the stage with artists and ensembles, such as Tony Orlando, Ann Margaret., Shelie E. Andy Montanez, Nachito Herrera, Sowah Mensah, Paracumbe, Shi-Daa Cultural Troupe, Salsa del Soul, The Macalester College African Music Ensemble, the Minnesota Orchestra, and, most currently, Paul Anka. An experienced language instructor, Shai teaches Spanish I and II in the Liberal Arts division.

Hayo holds degrees in Anthropology (B.A. Macalester College, 1996) and Education (MaEd, Hamline University, 2006) and has carried out anthropological and ethnomusicological research in Puerto Rico (1994 - 1995) and Ghana, West Africa (1998).

Read more

Kevin Werner Hohlstein

Before moving to the Twin Cities, Kevin Werner Hohlstein completed a BA in Music at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and while in school had the opportunity to work with the Eau Claire Children’s Theater and Fanny Hill Dinner Theater. Calling the Twin Cities home since 1995, he has worked as a performer with Cardinal Theatricals, Theater in the Round, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Ashland Productions; Jarvis Mundi Productions, Season’s Players and the Minnesota Opera. Kevin has also directed for New Breath Productions, Ashland Productions, wrote and directed for Minnesota PerformDance and Unity Christ Church and has also worked with many companies across the Twin Cities metro and in western Wisconsin as choreographer and music director – including McNally Smith College of Music, Eight Ball Productions, Ashland Productions, and Heritage Theater.

In addition to being a member of the voice faculty at McNally Smith College of Music, he teaches voice out of his home studio and is proud to be a founding member of the Twin Cities Cabaret Artists Network (TCCAN).

Read more
Joe Horton

Joseph Horton

“Blair eschews typical hip-hop self-aggrandizement in favor of an honest, plain-spoken rapping style that owes more to contemporary literature and a healthy regimen of NPR than it does to the posturing of his musical forebears.” – City Pages

Before choosing the stage name Eric Blair, it's no surprise that Twin Cities-based emcee and fiction writer Joe Horton turned to one of his favorite writers for inspiration. Eric Blair is the given name of the author better known to the world as George Orwell. Horton's lyrics reflect the explorative tone of Orwell's work, following an often shaded and winding path through the trappings of social, emotional and intellectual conformity.

Early in his career, Horton wrote and performed spoken-word pieces at coffee shops in his native Milwaukee. While studying Psychology at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, Horton began transitioning to songs, longer poems and short stories.

After moving to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Horton began seriously writing prose and enrolled in the MFA program at Hamline University. He is currently working on an experimental novella entitled "Gods of Mischief." Horton is also currently working with the Loft Literary Center as a Youth Mentor.

Horton is best known as the emcee for alternative hip-hop trio No Bird Sing, whose debut LP (self-titled) received local and national attention for its unique approach to the genre.

Horton has performed with acts such as Saul Williams, P.O.S., Peter Wolf Crier, Heiruspecs, Derrick Brown, Kill the Vultures and Lookbook.

Discography: Careless Talk (2008, Hyder Ali), No Bird Sing (2009, No Bird Sing)

Read more
Steve Jennings

Steve Jennings

Department Head, Ensembles

Steve Jennings has explored many musical styles including rock, classical, jazz, funk, gospel, country, and blues. He has worked professionally in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN area since his first studio recording in 1991 after six years on the road with top forty dance bands. Jennings was initially inspired by the music of Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, and the Doors. He experience in jazz music arrived in the form of violinist Jean Luc Ponty, the propulsive energy of Tony Williams, and the expressive funk of Billy Cobham.

The jazz and rock collaborations continue today in Story City, a modern instrumental group led by Jennings. In addition, Steve tours with violin virtuoso Randy Sabien and the electric funky bluegrass leaning Over and Back Band. He has performed with Regina Williams, Moore By Four, the Brian Kinney Band, Jevetta Steele, Paul Mayasich, the Platters, Ron Thompson and his Resistors, and Best Kept Secret. Jennings produced his first jazz record in 1995 with his own Jazztet, featuring clarinetist Dave O’Mara, bassist Keith Boyles, and the late great Bobby Peterson on piano. While primarily self-taught, Steve has welcomed periodic lessons with jazz drummers Phil Hey, Ed Soph, legend Gordy Knutson, and New Orleans street beat jazz guru John Vidacovich. His inspiration continues on in search of new musical experiences and creative collaborations while pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership from Augsburg College.

Read more
Tim Lyles

Tim Lyles

Tim's career includes a wide range of accomplishments in television production, recording studio session work, producing, arranging, engineering, studio management, and multi-instrumental live performance. Having studied with Memphis area sessionmen and Bill Bresnahan in Boston, his university studies culminated in working with artist-in-residence, Aaron Copland, and visiting artists, Gunther Schuller and electronic music pioneer, Vladimir Ussachevsky. Tim has toured nationally in a 14-piece horn band and shared the stage with Carole King, The Beach Boys, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Merle Haggard, Ann Margaret, and many more. He also maintains a long-running contingent of private guitar students.

Read more
Adam Meckler

Adam Meckler

Adam Meckler is a trumpet player, composer, and educator living in Minneapolis, MN. He is an Edwards Instrument Co. Performing Artist and Clinician, and leads The Adam Meckler Orchestra (AMO), an 18 piece big band that plays his original compositions. The AMO's debut album 'When the Clouds Look Like This' was listed among 2014's Best Jazz Releases by iTunes. Adam holds faculty positions in trumpet and Jazz at McNally Smith College of Music, and MacPhail Center for Music. He tours and records with Youngblood Brass Band and Nooky Jones, and plays regularly with a host of bands around the Twin Cities including Lulu's Playground, The Jana Nyberg Group, Jack Brass Band, The Graydon Peterson Quartet, and The Pete Whitman X-Tet. His latest release 'Wander' by the Adam Meckler Quintet is now available through www.shiftingparadigmrecords.com.

Read more
Chris Olson

Christopher Olson

An experienced performer as a soloist and with a wide variety of musicians, Chris Olson holds an M.M. degree in Jazz Studies/Performance from the University of North Texas and a B.M. degree in Music Education from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. Chris is on the board of directors of the Minnesota Guitar Society, and teaches at guitar and jazz camps in Shell Lake, Wisconsin and here at McNally Smith. Chris has been a performer and clinician at camps and festivals from Green Bay, WI to Cordoba, Argentina.

Read more
Shon Parker

Shon Parker

Shon Parker is a diverse vocalist, arranger and educator with a variety of experience in styles including pop, rock, opera, classical, jazz and more. Shon earned his M.M. from Western Michigan University in Performance and his B.A. in Music from Washington State University with a minor in jazz studies. Shon has studied with Steve Zegree, Diana Spradling, Sheila Converse and John Weiss.

Shon’s experiences at Western Michigan University, as a member of the internationally renowned vocal jazz group Gold Company, included highlight performances at the IAJE conference in New York City, the Issac Stern Auditorium in Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the International Inventors Hall of Fame Ceremony in Akron, Ohio.

As a member of Gold Company, Shon also shared the stage with artists including Jennifer Barnes, Fred Hersch, Darmon Meader, Roger Treece and Janis Siegel. Shon served as assistant director to GC’s sister group, Gold Company II. Recently, Shon has been performing with the Shon Parker Quintet and the Weedies. He has also performed as a member of the Idaho-Washington Chorale, including a bass solo performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor.

On top of teaching, Shon also coordinates school’s vocal festivals, and is a member of the Minnesota Music Educators Association.

Read more
Jennifer Parker

Jennifer Scovell Parker

Interim Department Head, Voice

A Wisconsin native, Jennifer (Scovell) Parker is proud to be with McNally Smith College of Music. She is active as a performer, educator, arranger, clinician and adjudicator. Jennifer earned an M.M. from Western Michigan University in Jazz Performance and her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in Jazz Studies. She was privileged to study with Linda Parins, Christine Salerno and Sunny Wilkinson.

As a performer she leads the Jennifer Parker Quartet, which allows her the opportunity to write and arrange.  She has enjoyed making music with numerous musical groups and special artists over the years including Jazz Northwest, Mark Levine, The Scovell-Sponcia Project, The Times, Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, Idaho-Washington Chorale, Frank Sinatra Tribute Band, Ziji Brazilian Jazz, Bay City Swing and Double Take.

With her heart in education, Jennifer spends a great deal of time as a guest artist, clinician and director at music festivals, camps and in classroom outreach. Her vocal arrangements are often performed by college and high school vocal jazz ensembles. She has made demonstration recordings for Hal Leonard Music Publishing and The Complete Guide to Teaching Vocal Jazz, written by Dr. Stephen Zegree.

Jennifer is a member of J.E.N and is the Repertoire & Standards Chair of Jazz Choirs for the Minnesota Chapter of ACDA.

Read more
Randy Sabien

Randy Sabien

Department Head, Strings

Randy Sabien founded and chaired the jazz string department at Berklee College of Music, where he also performed with, and produced albums for, folk musician Jim Post (of the 1960s group Friend & Lover).  Randy Sabien is one of those rare string musicians to be hailed as both a violinist and a fiddler.  Sabien has been a frequent guest on “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Austin City Limits” and has toured the world playing in different styles and with many of music’s great stars.  Randy is also a highly-regarded educator and author of instructional texts.

Read more
Mike Salow

Michael Salow

Michael Salow

‍Mike Salow is a graduate of McNally Smith College of Music and received a B.M. in Guitar Performance with a Music Business Minor (Cum Laude). He’s played with various acts, with genres ranging from jazz/fusion to hip-hop; metal to country.

Mike has toured throughout the Midwest over the years, most recently with rock quartet, Chester Bay. The band has been featured in magazines such as Rolling Stone and Relix, they’ve had national radio airplay, and have had their music placed in television and film. Additionally they’ve shared the stage with national acts like Candlebox, Los Lobos, Fitz and the Tantrums, Great White, and The Avett Brothers. Chester Bay has recorded and released two full length albums; “Get Free” and the most recent, “Changes with the Midwest Moon”.

Outside of McNally Smith, Mike teaches at several other schools throughout the greater Twin Cities area as well as having a number of private students. He also makes monthly video tutorials for InfiniteGuitar.com.

Mike has been featured on TruthInShredding.com, received an Outstanding Solo award at the Elmhurst Jazz festival with the Kirkwood Community College Big Band, and has also had success in online guitar competitions, placing 1st in one, and was a finalist in two others.

Read more

Travis Schilling

Performing over 200 shows a year, Travis can be seen in a multitude of musical settings, including musical theater, jazz, and pop country. Travis was one of the founding members of the Atlantis Quartet. Their first record, Again Too Soon, received strong reviews on both the local and national level. As an educator, Travis has been teaching bass for over twelve years and has written his own method book, Bassic Training. Since joining the McNally Smith faculty, Travis has helped develop several programs, including a slap bass course, and a master class series, which have included such artists as Bryan Beller and Gary Willis.

Read more

Peter Schimke

Peter began playing piano and drums at the age of eight. The music collection of his older brother, which included records by artists like B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Jimmy Hendrix, and the Beatles, provided his earliest rock influences. By the age of twelve he was playing boogie-woogie and blues piano, while singing with his older brother’s blues band. After sitting in on vocals, keyboards and drums with bands throughout his teens, Peter’s first professional gig was with the New Psychenauts.

He went on to be lead singer for the Swingin’ Combo; both bands were part of the early MPLS rock scene that launched the Replacements and Husker Du. It was about this time that he played his first professional rock gigs on keyboard, most notably with Hammond organ with blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite at the Blue Max on Maui. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant and a scholarship to the Banff Arts Centre. Peter has also studied classical piano with James D. Johnson and Gary Kirkpatrick of the Verdehr Trio. He studied jazz piano with Brazilian pianist Manfredo Fest, Jim McNeely and Memphis born Harold Mabern.

Over the years Peter has either toured, performed or recorded with, among others, Iffy, Likehell, Art Farmer, Tom Harrell, Fareed Haque, Mark Murphy (co-produced “The Latin Porter” for Ben Sidran’s Go Jazz label, Julee Cruise of “Twin Peaks”, El Buho, Jeff Sipe, Victor Wooten, Estaire Godinez, Rita Coolidge and many more. Most recently, Peter has recorded a live concert with saxophonist Jerry Bergonzie that will be released on DVD as well as collaboration with Marcos Casal to be released on the label Universal Spain. He is also singing, playing and composing for his own new solo project that is currently in production.

Read more
Dave Schmalenberger

David Schmalenberger

David Schmalenberger has recently performed with Pooch’s Playhouse (jazz quintet), the Are You Experienced? Hendrix ensemble, the Laura Caviani trio, Alma Brasileira, the Jazz Imports, jazz vocalists Debbie Duncan, Judi Donaghy, Connie Evingson, Charmin Michelle, and Dennis Spears, Vocal Essence, the The Jesters (jazz quintet), and Synergy (a 10-piece dance band). Schmalenberger has also performed on drumset/percussion with SCHAG (jazz percussion duo with Dave Hagedorn), JazzMN Big Band, John Scofield, Conrad Herwig, Kevin Mahogany, Benny Weinbeck trio, Russ Peterson Big Band, Marvin Stamm, The BigTime Jazz Orchestra, the Cedar Avenue Big Band, Tim Ries, Larry Grenadier, Richard Davis, Steve Turre, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Cab Calloway, Rufus Reid, the Fifth Dimension, and The Mills Brothers; as well as productions at the Ordway and Children’s Theatre Company. David was a featured soloist and principal timpanist with both the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra (Duluth, MN) and the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra. He also toured with the Summit Brass Ensemble and the Intergalatic Contemporary Ensemble (I.C.E.).

David's articles "Ed Blackwell's African Influences" and "African Rhythm: Perceptions of a Westerner" were both published in the Percussive Notes periodical. His drumset composition,"I Remember,"is published by HoneyRock Music. David has presented scholarly papers and clinics for the Percussive Arts Society (PAS), Society for American Music (SAM), the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA), and the International Association of Jazz Education (IAJE).

He has studied the traditional music of Africa and the Diaspora for several years, including travels to Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Trinidad, and Brazil. Schmalenberger has recorded with Connie Evingson, the Joel Shapira quartet, Charmin Michelle, the Garth Alper trio, I.C.E., the Bigtime Jazz Orchestra, the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, Equilibrium, and SCHAG. He recently recorded the soundtrack for productions at the Ordway and the Children’s Theatre Company. David is also active as a clinician offering workshops in jazz, percussion, and world music. He has served as adjudicator/clinician for several jazz festivals including those in Eau Claire, WI, Mankato, MN, Lamberton, MN, Roseville, MN, and Greeley, Colorado.

Schmalenberger received his DMA in Percussion Performance and World Music from West Virginia University, Master of Music Degree in Orchestral Percussion from the University of Michigan, and Bachelors Degree in Jazz Studies from Capital University.
David endorses Paiste cymbals.

Read more

Maria Vejdani

Maria Vejdani has studied, coached, and performed a variety of musical styles. By fusing her love of classical, jazz, global and electronic music, Maria is creating a unique voice in the Twin Cities music scene. Maria holds a BA in Vocal Music Education from Luther College in Decorah, IA and recently completed her MM in Vocal Performance at McNally Smith College of Music. During her undergraduate career she sang in the world renowned Luther College Nordic Choir under the direction of Craig Arnold. As a graduate student, Maria was a member and Assistant Director of the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, member of the World Vocal Ensemble, Associate Director of the MSCM Chorus and served as the Voice Department Teaching Assistant.

Maria is an active member of the Minnesota choral community. She is a frequent presenter, clinician, and adjudicator, most recently at the MMEA Winter Conference (2015), Perpich Center for Arts Education (2015), and the McNally Smith Vocal Jazz Festival (2015 & 2016). She currently serves as Adjunct Voice Faculty and Executive Director of the MSCM Chorus. Maria performs regularly in the Twin Cities with guitarist, Tomás Simpson, in their jazz duo, Tempestad. She is currently working on a solo EP.

Read more
Kevin Washington

Kevin Washington

Kevin’s stellar skills have been featured in Modern Drummer Magazine, however his dedication to drumming began as soon as he could hold the sticks. And with teachers of such excellent caliber like Max Roach and Roy Brooks, it was almost impossible for him to go wrong.

In 1996 Washington moved to New York City to study jazz at the New School for Social Research. He performed all over New York with different musical groups such as The Chico Freeman Quartet, Arnie Lawrence, Antonio Hart and James Carter to name a few.  During his stay in New York he was also a Rhythm Instructor at the Harlem School of the Arts.

Since leaving New York, Washington has been traversing the Twin Cities area with his highly sought after drum performance skills. Washington has accompanied various visiting musicians, such as Brian Lynch, Steve Slagle and Dave Stryker, David ‘Fat Head’ Newman, Rodney Jones and James Carter.

He is the lead drummer with The Kevin Washington trio and Moveable Feast; who released their second CD in 2002 and are in the process of recording their third. He can also be found playing with other great musicians such as Cuban pianist Nachito Herrera, the incomparable members of Jazz is NOW! and vocalist Bruce Henry.

In July 2003, Kevin, along with the Doug Little Quartet, embarked upon a month long European tour that covered locations including Germany, France, and Italy. In April 2006, Kevin accompanied Afro-Peruvian guitarist Andres Prado to Lima, Peru and performed at various music venues during a 10-day tour.

Kevin is currently working on his solo CD project that will include many of the top musicians in Minneapolis.

Read more
Pete Whitman

Pete Whitman

Department Head, Brass & Woodwinds

Pete has spent over 25 years teaching and playing professionally as a saxophonist, flutist, and clarinetist. He has toured the U.S., Japan, and Brazil with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and has also performed with such distinguished ensembles and musicians as the Minnesota Orchestra, Jack McDuff, Curtis Fuller, the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Jazz MN Big Band, JAZZAX saxophone quartet, Andres Prado and Laura Caviani. Whitman has also recorded extensively as a sideman and has three CD’s out under his name: “Departure Point” (Igmod Records) “The Sound of  Water” (Artegra) and "Where’s When" (Artegra). His latest CD, “Where’s When” features the X-tet, a ten-piece ensemble led by Whitman, and received a four star rating by DownBeat Magazine (Feb.04).

For more about Pete Whitman, go to www.petewhitman.com.

Read more