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Our Experienced Music Instructors

School of Rock has experienced music instructors

Our Experienced Music Instructors

School of Rock Vienna’s music teachers are experienced musicians devoted to helping students attain musical proficiency. From singing to drums to guitar, our Vienna music instructors inspire and teach students to perform live.

Brian Highsmith Studio Manager

Brian Highsmith is our Vienna Studio Manager where he handles the day-to-day operations of this busy studio. Brian is a DC area native and began playing drums at age 11. His first drum set was actually a stack of Encyclopedia Britannica volumes. Brian has performed in various orchestras, jazz ensembles, marching bands and competitive drum corps throughout high school and college. He has also toured and recorded with several original rock bands, and currently plays with several local acts on the weekends. To this day, he can still attribute his life's successes, confidence, and many friendships to his study and love of music.
Music Director

Travis Adams Music Director

As Music Director, Travis is in charge of all student programs, lessons, live performances, and both student and teacher development here in Vienna. Using his skills as a multi-instrumentalist and experienced teacher, Travis strives to build our students' confidence not just in music but in their every day lives. He holds degrees in both Entertainment Business and Recording Arts from Full Sail University (Orlando, FL). Travis's experiences and endless desire to become a better musician allows him to dig deep to bring a high level of energy and fun to all our lessons and groups at School of Rock.

Travis's journey through music started on the piano at age three, and by nine he had moved on to teaching himself guitar while taking private drum lessons from Bill Richards (Section Leader for The United States Army Band). Throughout high school, Travis marched in the snare line as well as sitting in on various instruments with his friend's bands as much as possible. He has since written, performed and recorded with a number of artists and has held various positions within indie record labels, radio, booking agencies and studios around the US.
Guitar Teacher

Dante Dalton Guitar Teacher

Dante Dalton started playing guitar in 2002 at the age of 15. It wasn't long before he was performing with various bands around the MD/DC/VA area. In 2011, he traveled to Hollywood, CA to attend Musician Institute's GIT program. While there he was taught by some of the top touring and studio musicians in Los Angeles. Trained in many different styles of music, he is an accomplished session player and IMDb-credited film composer. Currently he tours with critically acclaimed DC metal act Gloom.
Guitar Teacher

Bobby Thompson Guitar Teacher

Bobby is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and touring musician. His current project, Revelator Hill, is a collaboration with some of the finest rock and blues musicians in the Washington DC area. Bobby got together with his band, plus a cast of musical all-stars, like Ron Holloway (Gov't Mule, Dizzie Gillespe, Susan Tedeshi) and Tommy Lepson, and began the sessions that would produce the blues-rock album "By The Hand." Released in March 2011 and produced by drummer Gary Crockett, the album represents Bobby's skill with blues and blues-rock, showcasing both his guitar chops and singing. For Bobby, this is the beginning of his album-making career. His second album is already underway. Bobby has plans to record an EP with an array of session musicians to be produced by Todd Wright. Bobby is genuinely excited to be a part of School of Rock and work with our amazing young musicians.

Julian Berkowitz Drum Teacher

Julian Berkowitz is a drum instructor at School of Rock Vienna. He was born in the small town of Easton, CT but moved to Washington, DC. in 2013 to attend George Washington University. During his time at GWU, Julian studied under one of DC’s top Brazilian and Latin jazz drummers, Alejandro Lucini. He's also had the opportunity to learn from several other top drummers in the DMV, including Grammy-winning jazz drummer Quincy Phillips. Julian graduated from GWU in 2017 with a B.A. in political science and sociology with a minor in music.

Upon graduation, Julian has stayed in DC, where he is quickly making a name for himself. He has performed at many of the DMV's top music venues, including The John F. Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, The Smithsonian Museum of American History, The Arts Club of Washington, Twins Jazz Club, Jojo, 49 West, DC9 and Velvet Lounge.

Julian frequently performs with the Julian Berkowitz Organ Trio, JB Quartet, Michel Nirenberg Brazilian Jazz Quartet, The Peter Edelman Trio and The Landon Paddock Group. However, he also plays a number of funk, rock and R&B gigs in the DMV area.

Arnell Byrd Guitar Teacher

Arnell Byrd is special combination of guitar virtuoso and talented vocalist and he loves to share the language of music with his students. He studied classical music at PGCC for two years before heading to Howard University for his degree in classical guitar with a voice minor. But he didn't stop there and has studied guitar under some pretty amazing players where he learned jazz, blues, R & B and rock including Fred Karns, Bill Biesecker and Paul Bellenbach to name a few. Arnell has an extensive performing background which includes working with various R & B artists such as Shanice Wilson, Eddie Murphy, The Gap Band, Bernie Wornell of P-Funk, Star Point and Maniquin featuring (vocalist) Kenny Latimore. More recently he has toured with Aaron Carter, younger brother of Nick Carter, and Johnny Gill from New Edition. Arnell has toured extensively throughout America as well as abroad. He has done TV spots for Disney, "The Arsenio Hall Show," and even the first Jay Leno show with Shanice Wilson.

Basil Chiasson Bass Guitar Teacher

Starting on trombone at age nine before moving to tuba and bass at age 15, Basil has always been a practitioner of the low end. Basil holds a minor in music performance from Towson University where he played in several top-level orchestras and chamber ensembles. Basil has recorded and performed on bass for several original bands including Radamanthys, Hyraeth and Funky Duck. Basil specializes in technical metal but has also played rock and funk extensively as well and is no stranger to all of the many styles that electric bass guitar has a home in.

Basil is always looking for new ways to innovate on the instrument, playing six and seven-string fretted and fretless basses as well as traditional four-string. He strives to combine the cerebral intricacies of music with the visceral feelings and emotions of it while always remembering that music is supposed to be fun and inviting, not elitist and exclusive.

Jason Sayell Bass Guitar Teacher

Jason Sayell has been playing electric bass for 18 years, has been performing live in the DMV area for over 10 years, and has recorded on five studio albums, including his most recent release entitled "Solaris" with his current project Gloom. Jason, along with his bandmates in Gloom, continues touring in the US.

Jessica Flores Singing Teacher

Jessica began singing in elementary school, where she gave her first solo performance at the Pageant of Peace with her school choir in DC at age eight. In high school, she was always active in multiple choirs and the musical theater department. Jessica began classical voice training at Montgomery College, under the guidance of Molly Donnelly. She gained experience in a variety of styles ranging from classical to Latin jazz through multiple collaborations with the Montgomery College World Ensemble and Metropolitan Orchestra at MC. While at MC, she helped institute an outreach program with Wheaton High School, bringing the experience of performing with a professional band to kids who were just starting out in choir. She has also performed with the National Philharmonic Chorale and interned for their Summer High School Choral Program. Jessica is currently finishing up her undergrad at UMBC in Music Education with an emphasis in Choral Education. She performs regularly with her band, Tesla's Cat, where she gets to practice being a rock star. She believes that studying music is an integral part of building stronger communities and well-rounded citizens.

John Nicolas Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher

John has been playing bass and guitar professionally for many years. His band, ESTUS, was signed by Columbia Records and band members included not only John but Mark Bell who later became Marky Ramone of The Ramones. John has toured internationally and played guitar/slide guitar for the Eddie Kirkland Blues Band and Quicksilver Messenger Service and, in addition to ESTUS, he formed Fat City in Woodstock, NY. Currently he plays locally with the Rick Sickmen band. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and extensive rock music experience with his students and to 'play it forward' while having fun.

Johnnie Cristaldi Piano Teacher

Johnnie began his study of classical music at age seven. He eventually became a piano student at American University at age 14 and upon finishing high school at Duke Ellington School for the Arts Johnnie studied piano, theory and voice at Peabody Conservatory of Music. His training in keyboards originated at the Georgetown Theatre company with courses of the basics of synthesis and programming of Moog synthesizers.

Johnie's began his professional experience as a session pianist/keyboardist musician for Malaco Studios, laying down keyboard tracks for various recording artists. He then began playing keyboards for and writing for recording group Natural High. Later on he toured with blues artist ZZ Hill and R&B artist Johnny Taylor. Upon completion of tours, Johnnie put together the funk/rock/prince tribute band Starz based out of the Gulf Coast. They released a local area hit called "My Secret World" and had the opportunity to open for The Deele, Bar Kays and Mothers Finest. Upon relocating to the DC area, he performed as a solo, duo and trio, as well as various cover bands in the area such as Clay Hunt, N2N, Framewerk, Jerx and his own band Flipside. Currently Johnnie is a hired gun for various cover bands in the area in a variety of styles such as rock, big band, funk, dance, top 40 and as household keyboardist for the Spirit of Washington Cruise line.

Kelton Norris Drum Teacher

Kelton Norris is a passionate and goal-driven musician and educator who strives to inspire and motivate students of all ages through music. With a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s in Jazz Studies, Kelton has years of experience teaching in public schools and as a private and ensemble instructor. Having served as a drummer for the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, not to mention his accomplishment of being names DC’s Top Jazz Drummer of 2016, he can be seen performing regularly at major venues around town. He is a drum teacher at School of Rock Vienna.

Ricardo "PNut" Johnson Bass Guitar Teacher

A DC native, Ricardo "PNut" Johnson began his musical journey on the bass in the fifth grade when he received his first instrument, a Sears electric guitar. He enjoyed the guitar but then he heard the bass in Rufus and Chaka Khan's "Sweet Thing" and from that point on he knew he wanted to be a bass player. Hearing of his new obsession, his uncle, a bass player in his own right, loaned him a bass and challenged him to see what he could learn by the time he got back from the road and the rest is history. During his years in the D.C. area, he played with various groups in a variety of styles. He played with the sensational vocal group Prim Degree, the cutting edge gospel group God's Creation, vocalist Gloria Brown and blues great Memphis Gold. In the 90's he toured Europe with the blues legend Memphis Gold. After years of playing on stage he decided to go get his music degree and attended the Music Tech College of Music, now called McNalley Smith, in Minneapolis, MN. After graduation he stayed in Minnesota for 10 years, where he was very active in the music scene and where he taught many aspiring musicians. He played with the blues group The HooDoo Kings, the 12-piece group Arayastone, the reggae mainstay Dred I Dred, the funk band Down with Gravity, jazz guitarist John Penny and a host of others. He is a consummate bass player and works at his craft continuously. In 2007 he attended Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey's Bass at the Beach and later that year he also attended Victor Wooten's Bass Nature Camp. He learned many things at these camps and has integrated them into his playing and teaching. Tired of the cold of Minnesota and homesick for the sights and sounds of D.C., he moved back in the area in 2011. He has played with a number of groups since being back and is happy to be a part of the School of Rock family.

Tara Uncles Singing Teacher

Recent graduate and NOVA native Tara Uncles has been singing and performing for most of her life and attained a B.S. in Music Production and Recording Arts from Elon University. During her time in college, she participated in various ensembles such as playing guitar in marching band, singing in Jazz Band and Elon's Electric Ensemble (which focused on more contemporary pieces including originals) in order to expand her versatility as a vocalist and performer. She also is an avid songwriter and has arranged several songs for her ensembles while at school. Under the direction of several voice teachers over the years, Tara has trained in classical and contemporary music. She utilizes many aspects of her professors' guidance into her own teaching style by creating a balance between fundamentals of classical voice training and contemporary performance style to blend and allow for the voice to grow and develop as lessons progress. She emphasizes the importance of basic vocal training in order for the students to create their own style and grow into their own voice.

Audrey Harris Piano Teacher, Singing Teacher

A lifelong singer, Audrey recalls fondly his earliest singing memory was in the children's choir at his grandmother's church. Even in elementary school, Audrey was always asked to sing at school events. This continued through high school and led him to pursue music performance in college. He started his first group consisting of a guitar, drummer, horn player and himself. They regularly performed on the local radio station's "The High Low and Hot Show" in his home town of High Point, North Carolina. Audrey received a music scholarship to North Carolina AT State University where he studied with Frank Boulware of the Manhattan School of Music. A versatile performer, in college he sang roles in "Show Boat," "Man of La Mancha" and various other shows and operatic arias of the classical and romantic periods in addition to various rock and jazz bands. Audrey was invited to sing in the master class of George Shirley (Metropolitan and International Operatic tenor) and has performed master classes at the North Carolina School of the Arts. In the course of his career Audrey spent time in New York and sang with Voices Inc., the East Side Singers, and for the bi-centennial performance of "US," a musical tribute to America's first 200 years. He also performed in an off-Broadway pilot of "New Breed is Now the Seed." Audrey has continued to sing with a number of small ensembles locally and has found his passion in teaching the next generation of vocalists at School of Rock.

Joey Jenkins Drum Teacher

Born and raised in Takoma Park, Joey Jenkins is a musician in the DMV who has found his way to School of Rock in his search for a way to spread confidence and enthusiasm through music. Joey believes that nurturing the artist in each of us from an early age is crucial for development of communication and other interpersonal life skills, whether or not they become a professional musician. Joey started playing music in a rock band in high school and continued studying music until his competency and consistency led him to a place of joy and stability. Today, Joey plays in several local groups and encourages people of all ages to play music through public and private meet-ups where they can perform and jam with musicians of any caliber. His understanding of music theory, fluid adaptation to numerous styles and patience with others can be readily observed both in the classroom and on stage. Joey is primarily a drummer, but also plays and teaches guitar, bass and vocal performance.

Kirby Jayes Guitar Teacher

Kirby Jayes is a prolific guitarist and songwriter who has been playing guitar for 14 years and has been writing and playing original music in bands of all varieties since he was 15. He has has been an actively touring musician since 2013. His most recent musical enterprises are the surrealist Americana band Birthrates and music/poetry project Bread Internet, which he records at home and releases in monthly EP installments. Kirby solidified his songwriting chops at Beloit College, where he received a grant to travel and study DIY music across America, earned his BA in American Literature and Creative Writing and performed in jazz, folk, rock and punk bands. After graduation he began teaching at a School of Rock location in Wexford, PA, and now can be found at any of the School of Rock DC locations. Kirby is passionate about bringing the joy of musical expression to his School of Rock students and believes that there’s never been a more accessible or exciting time to be making music. He believes in the transformative power of learning to work together as a band and enjoys working with beginner and intermediate students to illustrate the musical potential within every student, no matter who they are.

Brian Fayle Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher, Drum Teacher

Brian Fayle started playing both guitar and drums at age 12, and bass guitar at age 16, and began teaching private in-home lessons by age 18. He has taught at both Leechford Music and Music by Steve & Friends based around Raleigh, N.C. from 2013-2016. Brian joined School of Rock Cary in July 2017, where he taught for one year straight. He is knowledgable in blues music, blues rock and southern rock styles. Brian knows many jazz chords as well as several scale types on guitar and bass. He was a member of high school drum line from freshman through senior years of high school, scoring highly in competitions for the entire marching band as well as the drum line placements. He won a songwriting competition in his junior year of high school called Reflections, winning second place Best Original Song in the competition. He's studied both blues and some jazz guitar styles under Greg Hyslop (who played guitar for such notable musicians as Dizzy Gillespie) at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. He has an Associate of Arts degree from Wake Technical Community College, and he incorporated a few music history and music theory courses throughout his college term
with said degree. Brian has been in two notable bands in the Raleigh, N.C. area known as Arise and Space Francis, and he has frequented many popular open mic spots in that area, playing full-length shows with popular Raleigh area headliner bands. These venues include spots like Lincoln Theatre, Pour House, Berkeley Cafe and Deep South. He has written close to 70 original songs, and these encompass self-composed guitar, bass, drums, vocals and some keyboard and harmony/backing vocal parts.

Brian Bissen Guitar Teacher

Brian Bissen was born in California, but raised in the DC Metro Area. Brian originally started out playing bass, but eventually changed to guitar at the age of 14. His grandfather was the one who got him interested in the instrument and he has been playing guitar for about 11 years now. Brian has performed with several bands since high school, and graduated from Towson University in 2015, where he studied Audio Production. His hobbies outside of music are skateboarding and video games. Brian's currently active in the local DC Band, Gloom. He is a guitar teacher at School of Rock Vienna.

Jorge Maldonado Piano Teacher

Jorge Maldonado began as a jazz piano player at an early age before becoming a composer. He was part of the Peruvian band Big Pollo Funk and toured Peru playing original funk and hip-hop tunes. His passion for composition arose while enjoying Brazilian rhythms, which are present in many of his early works. He experimented by transferring his rhythmical ideas to visual works, which led him to study Film and Video Game Scoring at the Berklee College of Music. Since then, Jorge has had the opportunity to perform with many famous artists, including Susana Baca, Oscar Stagnaro, Alex Acuña, Thomas Chase and Ramon Stagnaro. He has also worked as the music assistant for the renowned 90s TV show composer Thomas Chase, for whom he still composes musical tracks. He enjoys working with students of all levels and helping students express themselves on stage and in composition as well. He is a piano teacher at School of Rock Silver Spring.

Chris Horton Guitar Teacher

Chris Horton began playing guitar at age 13, and trained in all things rock and metal with highly respected guitarist Matt Aub. Chris was also formally trained in jazz studies and performed with the academically acclaimed West Springfield Jazz Combo in Fairfax County, VA.

As of 2018, Chris is a touring guitarist for the metal band Alukah, in which he toured around the U.S. playing some of the most prominent metal festivals in the country. In addition to touring, he has recently completed his first EP with Baltimore-based metal band Apex. Chris also has experience as both an audio technician and live sound engineer for numerous local acts and theatre companies In the DC area. Having performed in such well-known venues as The Whisky a Go Go, Jammin' Java, Baltimore Soundstage and Power Plant Live, Chris has an extensive range of experience in knowing what’s expected of any School of Rock student who’s hoping to perform and take their musical journey seriously. Chris is also a former House Band member and student of School of Rock, and can provide each student with unique insight and a clear vision for the musical aspirations they wish to achieve. He is a guitar teacher at School of Rock Vienna.

Sean Pietras Guitar Teacher

Sean Pietras' passion for the performing arts has been evident since his first lead role onstage as a fifth grader. But it was at the age of 12 (when he received his first guitar) that his true love for music and performing was realized. After years of rigorous study, dedicated practice and playing on hundreds of stages throughout his youth, Sean began sharing his unique style and approach as a guitar instructor and vocal coach in his late 20s. From there his students have gone on to attend world-renowned music colleges such as Peabody and Berklee College of Music, and have broken into the industry on more independent ventures by recording their own albums with Sean's help. He has also shared both the studio and the stage with tons of great acts and has played around the country supporting them along the way, playing places like BB King’s Blues Lounge in Nashville (with Marcell and the Truth) and making solo appearances at SXSW in Austin. Sean's experiences have allowed for some great perspectives to provide his School of Rock Vienna students with in his position as a guitar teacher.

Andy Reed Drum Teacher

Andy has been playing drums since age seven, and in a professional capacity has been actively gigging and playing live shows for about a decade. On top of touring with the pop-rock group Rhett Repko, studio work with Spanish hard rock band New Order of Existence and session work on the side, Andy strives to be a voice in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia music community. His best words of advice for up-and-coming musicians is simple: practice whenever you can. He is a drum teacher at School of Rock Vienna.

Keith Butler Drum Teacher

Keith Butler, a Winston-Salem, NC native, is a drummer motivated by the tradition and future of the drum set. While at university in Wilmington, North Carolina he studied privately with Thomas Taylor and Michael D'Angelo. Prior to relocating to D.C., Keith was a member of several North Carolina bands including Onward, Soldiers, Mike Blair and The Stonewalls, Justin Lacy and The Swimming Machine, and Temple5. He has performed extensively as well as recorded several albums/projects with each group. In D.C. Keith is a member of two groups, Fiasco and The New World, and works regularly as a sideman for area jazz musicians. With influences such as Art Taylor, Joe Chambers, Tony Reedus and Billy Higgins, he seeks to support the band in any style and push the music forward. He is a drum teacher at School of Rock Vienna.

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