A native of Winnipeg Manitoba, Matt Abraham holds a Bachelor of Music (Percussion) and a Bachelor of Education (Instrumental Music) from the University of Manitoba, where he received the Dr. Robert Fletcher Medal and Prize in Education. Principal percussion instructors include Jauvon Gilliam (National Symphony Orchestra, Washington) and Jeremy Epp (Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit). As a freelance musician, Matt started his professional career at the age of 18 with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra where he was part of a JUNO nominated recording project. In addition to his frequent appearances with the Winnipeg Symphony he has often appeared with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Manitoba Opera Association, various musical theatre companies, and a variety of solo artists on drum set and percussion.
As an adjudicator and clinician, Matt has been invited to work with several honour bands, festivals, and schools across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Northwest Ontario. He has been invited to present guest lectures and work with students at a number of post-secondary institutions, and has acted as an instructor (Percussion / Percussion Techniques) for both the University of Manitoba and Canadian Mennonite University. He is currently the Program Leader for the Performing Arts department at Vincent Massey Collegiate with a teaching load that includes concert and jazz bands, and is a proud Ludwig-Musser performing artist.
Matt Abraham will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Strong Beat-ginnings: Starting and Developing Percussionists clinic.
Dr. Shelley Axelson is currently an Assistant Professor of Music Education and Assistant Director of Bands at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Her duties include conducting the Symphonic Band and teaching courses in conducting, instrumental methods, and music education. She also serves as an academic advisor, faculty advisor for Sigma Alpha Iota, and created a Campus Band and Pep Band so students majoring in a subject other than music would have an opportunity to continue their musical education and experiences.
Dr. Axelson earned her undergraduate degree in music education from the University of South Florida, where she studied conducting with Jerry Junkin, Michael Votta, and Mallory Thompson. She continued her training by earning a Master of Music degree in Conducting at the University of Michigan, where her principal teacher was H. Robert Reynolds. After graduating from Michigan, she taught at Pasco Middle School in Dade City, Florida (where she co-authored the Secondary Music Curriculum), and Richardson Junior High in Richardson, Texas.
After earning her Doctorate in Conducting with Mallory Thompson at Northwestern University, Dr. Axelson was appointed Director of Bands at Central College in Pella, Iowa where she was responsible for running all aspects of the band program. After three years in Iowa, she relocated to Indianapolis, Indiana to become the Assistant Director of Bands at the University of Indianapolis. In 2009, she joined the faculty of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
Dr. Axelson is a highly sought after conductor, clinician, presenter, and adjudicator for professional development events, band festivals, honor bands, and conferences throughout the United States and Canada. She recently presented at the National Association for Music Education Regional Conference in Atlantic City and the Mid-West Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago.
Dr. Axelson is a proud member of the College Music Society, College Band Directors National Association, New Jersey Music Educators Association, and Sigma Alpha Iota.
Dr. Shelley Axelson will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Concert Band Repertoire clinic.
Brian Balmages is an award-winning composer and conductor. His music has been performed throughout the world with commissions ranging from elementary schools to professional orchestras. World premieres include prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. His music was also performed as part of the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service, which was attended by both President Obama and Vice President Biden. He is a recipient of the A. Austin Harding Award from the American School Band Directors Association, won the 2020 NBA William D. Revelli Composition Contest with his work Love and Light, and was awarded the inaugural James Madison University Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Visual and Performing Arts. In the same year, he was commissioned by his other alma mater, the University of Miami, to compose music for the inauguration of the institution’s 6th president, Dr. Julio Frenk.
As a conductor, Mr. Balmages enjoys regular engagements with all-state and region bands and orchestras, as well as university and professional ensembles throughout the world. Notable guest conducting appearances have included the Midwest Clinic, Western International Band Clinic, College Band Directors Conference, American School Band Directors Association National Conference, numerous state ASTA conferences and others. Additional conducting appearances have included the Kennedy Center and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall as well as band and orchestra engagements in Australia, Canada and Italy. Currently, he is Director of Instrumental Publications for The FJH Music Company and Assistant Director of Bands and Orchestras at Towson University.
Brian Balmages will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Adaptable Band clinic.
Since returning to Calgary from New York City in 2011, Gareth Bane has continued to push the boundaries of the Baritone Saxophone. Modern improvisational Jazz concepts and the roots of Blues combine with a “take-no-prisoners” approach to the horn thus creating a unique and powerful voice on that instrument. He holds a Masters in Jazz Performance from Rutgers University where he studied under legendary saxophonist Ralph Bowen and, most recently, his Bachelor of Education at the University of Calgary.
In demand as both a performer and educator, Gareth has worked for numerous music projects and institutions both in Calgary, AB and abroad. He has worked with many local groups from the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra to Steelytown as well as international groups such as Jens Lindemann's Big Band and The Temptations. Gareth currently splits his time between performing as a founding member of Baritone Madness and teaching Band at a local Middle School in Calgary.
Gareth Bane will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Deep Listening and Found Percussion - Learning Musical Literacy Without Horns clinic.
Megan Benjafield is a proud arts educator who has been teaching secondary school for over 20 years. She is currently teaching as a member of the team in the HWDSB Audition Based Program of the Arts at Glendale Secondary School. She also spent over 10 years at Etobicoke School of the Arts in the Music and Music Theatre departments. She has taught strings in both a classroom setting and private studios.
Megan has been playing the violin for over 40 years. She studied under Hans Bauer, Marta Hidy, Florien Moskovici, MaryBeth Doherty and Joe Istok. She also spent many joyful summers training at the Interprovincial Music Camp on Lake Manitoulin, and spent a summer at the Chautauqua Institute. Megan has performed professionally with the Niagara Symphony, the Oshawa Durham Symphony and Symphony Hamilton.
Megan has been a proud member of the Board of Directors for the Ontario Strings Association for four years. In that capacity, she was the chair of the Ontario Strings Association Youth Orchestra committee and is currently holds the Professional Development portfolio. She is passionate about mentoring and collaborating with teachers.
Megan is delighted to partner, once again, with Long & McQuade to introduce strings teachers to educational compositions for their strings programs.
Megan Benjafield will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's String Orchestra Repertoire clinic.
Samuel Bergstrom is on the music faculty at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Minneapolis, Minnesota where he directs the concert band and guitar ensemble. His position also includes teaching classes in music education, world music, rock and roll history, fundamentals, and music appreciation. He received his B.M. in Music Education from Augsburg College (Minneapolis) and his M.A. in Music Education from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul). A guitarist specializing in classical and jazz styles, Samuel also plays bass and trombone. He has served on the board of the Minnesota Band Directors Association and as the state chair for jazz education on the Minnesota Music Educators Association board of directors (MMEA). Samuel has also served as the guitar and modern band chair for MMEA and has presented multiple sessions at MMEA’s annual conference, including leading his college’s guitar ensemble in a performance. Samuel has served as a guest director, clinician, and guest artist at various schools throughout Minnesota and has had articles published by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), MMEA, as well as other state music education associations.
Samuel Bergstrom and Lynn Tucker will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Guitar & Ukulele clinic.
Percussionist, composer, & educator Nathan Daughtrey (b. 1975) is a musical chameleon who uses his wide-ranging talents to adapt comfortably to a variety of environments. As a performing artist and clinician for Yamaha percussion, Vic Firth sticks & mallets, Zildjian cymbals, and Black Swamp accessories, he has performed and given masterclasses and clinics throughout the United States and across three continents. Most recently, Nathan performed as a concerto soloist with the Korean Navy Band with composer David Gillingham conducting as part of the Jeju International Wind Ensemble Festival. Nathan has recorded two solo marimba albums to date – "Spiral Passages" and "The Yuletide Marimba" – and has appeared on several other albums, including a recent collaboration with euphoniumist Brian Meixner (Praxis) and a recording of Emma Lou Diemer's "Concerto in One Movement for Marimba & Orchestra" with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Pacific Ridge).
With publications for percussion ensemble, concert band, orchestra, chamber ensembles, and soloists as well as an ever-growing number of commissions, Nathan balances his performing with composing, and to great acclaim. He is the only composer in the history of the Percussive Arts Society International Composition Contest to procure both 2nd and 3rd place in the same year with his percussion ensemble works "Limerick Daydreams" and "Adaptation," respectively. Nathan's compositions appear regularly on performances at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, the Bands of America National Music Festival, and in concert halls and other performance venues around the world. His works have also been recorded on several albums by respected performers, including the TCU Percussion Orchestra, the University of North Texas Wind Symphony, the Phonix Reflexion Percussion Ensemble (Tokyo), the FSU Percussion Ensemble, the Mushashino Academia Wind Symphony (Tokyo), and the RoseWind Duo. All of his compositions and arrangements are published by C. Alan Publications.
As an educator, Nathan served as a Visiting Lecturer of Percussion for three years at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he taught applied percussion and conducted the Percussion Ensemble. He also served as a sabbatical replacement at the University of Oklahoma, where he taught undergraduate and graduate percussion students and conducted the world-renowned OU Percussion Orchestra. Dr. Daughtrey most recently completed a six-year stint as Visiting Lecturer of Percussion and Music Composition at High Point University (NC), where he taught applied lessons, directed the percussion ensemble and worked in collaboration with the School of Communication, Department of Dance, and Department of Theatre. Nathan is currently the Director of Operations for C. Alan Publications.
When not performing or composing, Dr. Daughtrey can be found running the trails and greenways in his hometown of Greensboro, NC, where he is outnumbered three-to-one by his wife Katie, daughter Penelope, and dog Gertrude.
Dr. Nathan Daughtrey will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Repertoire for Developing and Advanced Percussion Ensemble clinic.
A life-long choral singer, Ray currently sings in the award-winning choir at Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, as well as in the Vancouver Cantata Singers. He also holds a Bachelor of Music degree from University of Ottawa and a Masters of Music degree from University of British Columbia, both in performance clarinet. Other choirs he has sung in include Ottawa Cantata Singers, Vancouver Bach Choir, West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir, and Chor Leoni. A choral music specialist, Ray worked for many years at Northwest Music, and more recently at Long & McQuade. His services to choral music have led to him receiving the Willan Award from the British Columbia Choral Federation.
Ray Horst and Willi Zwozdesky will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Easy Choral, High School - Adult and Established High School & Community Choirs and Christmas & Winter Holiday, High School - Adult and Middle School Choral clinics.
Dr. Brad Nix currently serves as an editor for Hal Leonard, where he works in the sacred choral division. As a widely recognized composer and arranger, he has written for many of the nation’s major publishers and has well over 120 pieces in print. He frequently travels throughout the country as a clinician for reading sessions and conferences. In addition to his work in the music industry, Brad serves on the staff of First Baptist Church of Bastrop, TX. His responsibilities at the church include planning worship, leading worship, and directing several choral and instrumental ensembles.
Brad previously served for many years as Associate Professor of Music and Department Chair at Sterling College, located in Sterling, KS. At Sterling College, he taught music theory, composition, orchestration, applied piano, and group piano. Originally from Dallas, GA, Brad received his DMA degree from The University of Colorado at Boulder.
Dr. Brad Nix will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Sacred Choral clinic.
Dr. Mark Sirett is an award-winning conductor and composer from Kingston ON. He is Founding Artistic Director of the Cantabile Choirs, a multi-choir educational programme consisting of 275 singers in seven choirs. He holds both M.A. and D.M.A. in choral conducting and pedagogy from the University of Iowa and has taught at Western University, the University of Alberta, and Queen’s University.
A widely-recognized composer, Mark has almost 200 compositions published in North America and Europe. His works have been performed, recorded and broadcast by amateur and professional choirs worldwide, including Chanticleer and Vocalessence. His original compositions have twice been awarded Outstanding Choral Composition from Choral Canada.
As a conductor, choirs under Mark’s direction have received numerous provincial, national and international awards including the CBC Choral Competition. He is recipient of the Jury Prize for Imaginative and Creative Programming at the Cork International Choral Festival, Ireland and Outstanding Conductor, Young Prague Festival. He is recipient of the President’s Leadership Award from Choirs Ontario and Mayor’s Award—Creator from the City of Kingston.
He has served as a clinician, presenter or adjudicator for many conferences and festivals including Chorus America, Choral Canada, the Royal Canadian College of Organists, and many Canadian provincial choral federations. Mark Sirett has been guest conductor for the University of Toronto, Choral Symposium; Asia-Pacific Honours High School Festival (Korea); Association of Music in International Schools Honours Choir (Luxembourg); Unisong (NAC, Ottawa); Ontario Youth Choir, and honours choirs in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Dr. Mark Sirett will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Advanced College - Community Choirs clinic.
Allison Tipler is an Elementary music teacher (K-5) in the Peel District School Board in Ontario, Canada since 2006. She is an Orff Specialist and an Orff Levels Instructor. She teaches the movement component of the Orff Levels at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Allison is a student of yoga and became a Power Yoga Canada and Little Pretzels Instructor (Children's Yoga) in 2012. She started incorporating yoga into her music classes, she realized how well yoga movements and Orff pedagogy could work together. Allison’s students frequently learn musical concepts and move at the same time. Allison is thrilled to share this winning combination with the Long and McQuade community!
Allison Tipler will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Orff and Movement in the Elementary Classroom clinic.
Lynn Tucker is Associate Professor, Teaching Stream at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media, Music and Culture program. She has also served in multiple administrative capacities with focus on curriculum, communications and recruitment, and experiential learning. Lynn has proudly conducted the UTSC Concert Band since 2004, and teaches courses in community music, elementary musicianship, and small ensembles. Additionally, with the support of a Healthy Campus Grant, she founded and facilitates This Uke’s for U-TSC, a weekly ukulele session open to all members of the campus community. Engaging people in lifelong music-making is at the forefront of her work with teaching and research interests in community music, facilitation, avocational music-making, and leadership. Lynn is President of the Ontario Band Association, Co-Editor of the Canadian Winds/Vents Canadiens, professional journal of the Canadian Band Association, and serves on the board of the Coalition for Music Education in Canada. Lynn's dedication to fostering accessible music-making opportunities for students regardless of career path was recognized with a Canadian Music Educators’ Association Excellence in Leadership Award.
Lynn Tucker and Samuel Bergstrom will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Guitar & Ukulele clinic.
Bijon Watson’s career as a musician and educator spans more than 25 years and has taken him around the globe to perform for audiences worldwide. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Bijon attended the New England Conservatory of Music Preparatory School, and the University of Southern California, and was a member of the 1994 Disney All-American College Band and 1995 Disney/Grammy All-American College Jazz Band.
Bijon’s love for big band jazz inspired him to become a student of the great bands of the past and present and he has become a sought after and in-demand lead trumpet player. Bijon is the lead trumpet for the Grammy-nominated Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Grammy- nominated John Daversa Progressive Big Band, the Grammy-nominated John Beasley’s Monkestra, José Rizo’s Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars, the late Gerald Wilson Jazz Orchestra, and many other jazz, salsa, and pop bands throughout the United States and Internationally.
Bijon’s recording and/or live performance and touring credits are vast and the short list includes iconic artists such as Natalie Cole, Michael Bublé, Justin Timberlake, Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall, Michael Jackson, Arturo Sandoval, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Joe Williams, Queen Latifah, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Nicholas Payton, Rosemary Clooney, Steve Tyrell, Eric Benét, Jamiroquai, Prince, Barbara Morrison, Dianne Reeves, Nancy Wilson, Alicia Keys, Chaka Khan, Luis Miguel, Enrique Iglesias, The Temptations, and Gladys Knight.
On television, Bijon has performed on episodes of “American Idol”, “The Voice”, and “The Tonight Show”, as well as Grammy Awards shows, The BET Music Awards, and “Dancing With The Stars”. Bijon’s film appearances include appearing in the award-winning film “La La Land” and recording on several soundtracks with studios such as Paramount, Fox, and Disney, including “Epic”, “Despicable Me 2”, and “The Secret Life of Pets”.
As a classically trained musician, Bijon has had the opportunity to perform as a guest with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Los Angeles Opera, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony, and the San Francisco Symphony.
Bijon is also the Artistic Director of the Jazz Eclectic Concert Series in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the Artistic Director of Jazz for Laguna Beach Live! in Laguna Beach, California.
A dedicated educator, Bijon is a sought-after clinician who gives master classes and clinics to colleges, and high schools throughout the United States, and Europe, as well as maintaining a private lesson studio.
Bijon Watson will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Jazz Ensemble Repertoire (All Levels) clinic.
Now in his 40th season as conductor of the Vancouver Men’s Chorus, Willi Zwozdesky is widely-known as a choral conductor and for his work as an arranger, which join together to form a large part of an active musical career that also includes music publishing, arts management, and the promotion of choral music through the global print music industry. He completed a Master of Music in choral conducting and a Master of Arts in music theory at the University of Washington in 1981. At the core of Zwozdesky’s career are his choral arrangements, which are regularly programmed by leading choirs across Canada and abroad. His long-term dedication to choral music has been recognized with both a Legacy Award from GALA Choruses and a Willan Award from the British Columbia Choral Federation. Today, in addition to his freelance work as a choral clinician, he serves as the Executive Director of the BCCF, as a board member of Choral Canada, and as a choral specialist for Long & McQuade Music in Vancouver.
Willi Zwozdesky and Ray Horst will be leading 2021 Reading Sessions's Easy Choral, High School - Adult and Established High School & Community Choirs and Christmas & Winter Holiday, High School - Adult and Middle School Choral clinics.