Brian HighsmithStudio 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.
Travis AdamsMusic 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.
Dante DaltonGuitar 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.
Bobby ThompsonGuitar 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 BerkowitzDrum 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 ByrdGuitar 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 ChiassonBass 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 SayellBass 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 FloresSinging 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 NicolasGuitar 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 CristaldiPiano 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.
Ryan TaylorPiano Teacher
Ryan is a composer, improviser, author, music theorist, pianist, music producer and teacher. He has won awards for his original music, such as his first place award for Best Original Film Score in the Montgomery County Film Festival in 2011. He also has performed in prestigious venues like the Takoma Park Jazz Festival and the Siemens Competition Awards Ceremony hosted in the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.
Ryan writes and performs in a variety of styles ranging from classical to jazz to electronic. He has experience writing music for large ensembles such as orchestras and jazz big bands. As a music producer, he has worked with big and small groups of musicians alike in professional-level recording studio environments. His expertise also extends to the mixing, mastering and synthesis applications of music technology that have become so central to the modern music industry.
Ryan holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music in Contemporary Writing and Production. He was accepted in 2013 with a scholarship and finished the four-year program only two and a half years later. He has studied with great teachers such as the amazing composer and concert pianist Jeffrey Chappell. He has also studied guitar performance on the side and experiments with different instruments whenever he can. In recent years, Ryan has focused on teaching workshops, classes for small groups, private lessons and on creating his new book, "The Theory and Creation of Music."
Ricardo "PNut" JohnsonBass 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 UnclesSinging 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.