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Jazz Ambassadors Biographies

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Saxophone

Sergeant Major Andrew Layton * ***
Sergeant Major Andrew Layton was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, but raised in the great state of Washington. After attending Kentridge High School in Kent, Washington, a school nationally recognized for its excellence in music, he attended the Berklee School of Music. After two years, he transferred to the University of North Texas. While there, he played lead alto saxophone with the prestigious Two O'clock and One O'clock Lab bands. SGM Layton graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1999, and shortly thereafter became the lead alto saxophonist with the Jazz Ambassadors. SGM Layton and his wife Debbie have been married since 2001, and welcomed their first child, Sidney, in the summer of 2009.
Sergeant First Class Patrick Shook **
Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, Sergeant First Class Pat Shook currently plays tenor saxophone and woodwinds with the Jazz Ambassadors. SFC Shook earned a Master of Music degree at the University of North Texas and a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Idaho. When not touring the country with the Jazz Ambassadors, he maintains an active teaching, recording and performing schedule in the Washington, DC and Baltimore areas. As a Summit Records recording artist, SFC Shook has released two albums as co-leader: "The Shook-Russo-Young Quartet featuring Greg Gisbert" and "So Far From Home."
Sergeant First Class Bradford J. Danho
Sergeant First Class Bradford J. Danho is a native of Cranston, Rhode Island and has played tenor saxophone with the Jazz Ambassadors since 2008. SFC Danho earned a Master of Music degree from the University of North Texas, where he played lead alto saxophone with the world-renowned One O'Clock Lab Band and shared the stage with jazz legends such as Phil Woods and Benny Golson. He also received a Bachelor's degree in Music Education from the Hartt School of the University of Hartford. He has studied saxophone with James Riggs and Michael Menapace and flute with Mary-Karen Clardy. SFC Danho has shared the stage with such artists as Bob Mintzer, Maria Schneider, Pete Christlieb, Bill Holman, Eddie Daniels, and Dick Oatts. He is a two-time alumnus of the Henry Mancini Institute and was a finalist in the 2004 North American Saxophone Alliance Jazz Competition.
Sergeant First Class Joshua Fox
Sergeant First Class Joshua Fox, originally from Hesperia, California, started saxophone in the 6th grade and played through high school in both the concert and jazz bands. After high school, he attended Fullerton Community College to study jazz under James Linahon and saxophone with Leo Potts. He later transferred to the University of North Texas where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree while studying under Jim Riggs. After graduation from University of North Texas, SFC Fox became the Associate Director of Bands for the Carroll Independent School District of Southlake, Texas, where he taught concert band, jazz band, and orchestra for grades 6-12. During his time at CISD, SFC Fox helped the jazz program grow from one high school band to eight junior high and high school bands. This culminated in the program's first qualification to the Essentially Ellington Jazz Competition, where they placed within the top 15 high school bands in the nation..
Staff Sergeant Dustin Mollick
Staff Sergeant Dustin Mollick was born in Landstuhl, Germany and raised in Utah, Missouri, Colorado, and Virginia. SSG Mollick earned a Master of Music degree from the University of North Texas, where he was a teaching fellow, and a Bachelor of Music degree from George Mason University. A saxophonist with the prestigious One O'Clock Lab Band directed by Steve Wiest, SSG Mollick performed with Tim Ries, Bernard Fowler, Ravi Coltrane, Darcy James Argue, and Kurt Rosenwinkel. SSG Mollick is also an active graphics designer. His work is featured on several CD releases including "The George Mason Shuffle," "The U-Tubes," "John Kocur: The Smoker," "Introducing Brian Clancy," and "Lab 2011."

Trumpet

Sergeant Major Kevin Watt §
Sergeant Major Kevin Watt is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He earned a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Hope College. He has performed with a number of renowned musicians, including Joe Williams, Art Farmer, Arturo Sandoval, Dick Oatts, Butch Miles, and Bobby McFerrin, and has recorded with vocalist Sara Jones, Trio Da Paz, the Jerry Ascione Big Band, and the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band. In addition to his duties as Trumpet Section Leader, soloist, and Assistant Director of the Jazz Ambassadors, SGM Watt works as a recording producer and has helped to produce over ten recordings for The U.S. Army Field Band.
Master Sergeant John Altman
Originally from Long Island, New York, Master Sergeant John Altman joined The U.S. Army Field Band in 1999. After completing his Bachelor of Arts degree at Centre College of Kentucky, MSG Altman performed professionally in the Miami and Chicago areas before completing his Master of Music degree in Jazz Pedagogy and Performance at Northern Illinois University. Since joining the Army Field Band, he has performed in the Concert Band trumpet section (1999-2012), Embassy Brass Quintet, Chamber Brass, and The Federal Brass Instrumentalists. As a lead trumpet player, he has performed and recorded with artists such as Ernie Watts, Slide Hampton, John Fedchock, Harold Jones, Al Martino, Marcus Roberts, Claudio Roditi and Cecil Bridgewater. MSG Altman is the Road Manager for the Jazz Ambassadors and is an official unit photographer for The U.S. Army Field Band.
Master Sergeant Michael Johnston **
Master Sergeant Michael Johnston has served as jazz trumpet soloist with the Jazz Ambassadors since 2000 and Leader of the Jazz Ambassadors Dixieland Band since 2003. He served as a member of the Concert Band of The U.S. Army Field Band from 1991 until 2000. MSG Johnston won first place at the International Trumpet Guild's Jazz Improvisation Competition in 1989 while earning his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of North Florida, graduating in 1991. He has performed with Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat Adderly, Louis Bellson, James Moody, Doc Severinsen, Della Reese, Harry Connick, Jr., Dianne Schuur, Natalie Cole, and the Count Basie Orchestra.
Sergeant First Class Liesl Whitaker
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Sergeant First Class Liesl Whitaker attended Appalachian State University and the University of Cincanniti-College Conservatory of Music. She joined the Army Blues in 2000, becoming the first woman to win a lead position in a premier U.S. military jazz ensemble. She repeated this feat with the Jazz Ambassadors of The U.S. Army Field Band in 2012. SFC Whitaker has performed and/or recorded with the Ed Palermo Big Band, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the WDR Big Band of Cologne, Germany, the Madison Square Garden production of The Wizard of Oz, and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, of which she is a charter member. She performed extensively on Broadway prior to her military service. She resides in Maryland with her son and daughter.
Staff Sergeant Thomas C. Davis
Born in Arkansas and raised in Arlington, Texas, Staff Sergeant Thomas Davis began playing trumpet at the age of 11 and later attended James Martin High School. He received his undergraduate education from the University of North Texas, where he performed with the prestigious One and Two o'clock Lab Bands. Before joining the Jazz Ambassadors in 2013, SSG Davis was an active freelance musician and horn arranger in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He has performed with Gladys Knight, The Temptations, and Dave Brubeck, and has recorded with various gospel acts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. SSG Davis also enjoys composing music, playing electric bass, and working out with kettlebells.

Trombone

Staff Sergeant Luke Brimhall **
From Valrico, Florida, Staff Sergeant Luke Brimhall joined the Jazz Ambassadors in the fall of 2012. SSG Brimhall received a Master of Music degree from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Shortly after earning a bachelors degree, he performed at Disneyland with the All-American College Band in the summer of 2007. SSG Brimhall then went on to perform on cruise ships before pursuing a Masters degree. He can be heard on the One O'Clock Lab Band albums "Lab 2010" and Grammy-nominated "Lab 2009," which was nominated for a Grammy that year for "best large jazz ensemble." SSG Brimhall has accompanied jazz greats such as Slide Hampton, Bill Watrous and Dave Brubeck, and was a top call performing trombonist and educator while living in Texas. SSG Brimhall now lives in Maryland and travels roughly 100 days out of the year performing with the Jazz Ambassadors.
Staff Sergeant Zachary Steele *
Staff Sergeant Zachary Steele was born in Houston, Texas and attended the University of North Texas from 2011-2015. While attending UNT he studied with Tony Baker and Chris Seiter, performed with the UNT Latin Lab Band, the Two O'Clock Lab Band, and the One O'Clock Lab Band, and performed with greats Marshall Gilkes, Doc Severinsen, and Bobby McFerrin. He cites Pat Metheny, Tony Baker, Jan Kagarice, and Jay Saunders as the biggest influences on his music/jazz education. SSG Steele now resides in Maryland with his wife where he enjoys disc golfing and woodworking.
Staff Sergeant Kyle Johnson
Originally fromCollege Station, Texas, Staff Sergeant Kyle Johnson hold degrees from Texas State University and The Juilliard School. In 2011, he was selected to perform with the Disneyland All-American College Band. As a band member, he performed over 200 shows at Disneyland and accompanied guest artists such as John Clayton and Arturo Sandoval. In 2013, he won the International Trombone Association's Carl Fontana Competition and his jazz trombone ensemble Hill Country Jazz Bones won the Eastern Trombone Workshop's Jazz Trombone Ensemble Competition. SSG Johnson enjoys performing jazz and latin music as well as composing and arranging.
Staff Sergeant Sean Casey
Staff Sergeant Sean Casey hails from Lake Jackson, Texas, just south of Houston. He began playing trombone at 10 years old. Sean has had a wide variety of musical experiences including performances with the ACDA honor choir, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute's Wind Ensemble, and the 2008 Gibson-Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensemble. He was named as a finalist in the 2009 International Trombone Association's Yaxley competition, and he performed more recently with the 2011 Disneyland All-American Collegiate Band. While studying at the University of North Texas, SSG was a member of the Two O'Clock Lab Band for three years under the direction of Steve Wiest. His other interests include photography, graphic design, metal, leather and wood work, audio engineering, and architecture.

Guitar

Staff Sergeant Jonathan Epley
Staff Sergeant Jonathan Epley earned a Master of Music degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Louisville. He studied guitar under Craig Wagner and arranging/composition under John LaBarbera. He has performed with Jamey Aebersold, David "Fathead" Newman, and Delfeayo Marsalis, among others. Before joining The U.S. Army Field Band in 2011, SSG Epley served with the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus in Heidelberg, Germany.

Drums

Staff Sergeant Wesley Anderson

Bass

Staff Sergeant Hamilton Price
Originally from Jonesboro, Arkansas, Staff Sergeant Hamilton Price began playing tuba at 14 and switched his focus to the upright bass at 17. He received his Bachelor's degree in Classical Double Bass Performance from the University of Texas at Austin. SSG Price studied improvised music with bassist John Fremgen and pianist Jeff Hellmer. He played in Gerry Gibbs' Thrasher Band for five years in and around Texas, backing up Ravi Coltrane and Tom Harrell, among others. In 2006, Hamilton moved to Los Angeles, where he was thrust into the vibrant and diverse L.A. music scene. With L.A. as a base, he toured nationally and internationally with the likes of Billy Childs and Eric Reed. SSG Price has been featured on numerous albums, including the twice Grammy-nominated "When Lights Are Low" with vocalist Denise Donatelli and pianist Geoffrey Keezer. SSG Price is one of the newest members of the Jazz Ambassadors, and is an avid runner.

Vocalist

Master Sergeant Marva Lewis
Born in Denison, Texas, Master Sergeant Marva Lewis earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a minor in Hotel and Restaurant Management at Wiley College, where she was a member of the Wiley A Cappella Choir. A Gulf War veteran, MSG Lewis was a fuel handler in Desert Storm and Desert Shield with the First Cavalry Division. She is an alumni of the U.S. Army Soldier Show, and has served as Principal Vocalist for the Jazz Knights at the United States Military Academy. MSG Lewis attributes her eclectic taste for music to her father, who always surrounded her with music, and her grandmother, who made her go to church choir rehearsal.

Piano

Master Sergeant Timothy Young
Master Sergeant Timothy L. Young, piano, joined the Jazz Ambassadors in 1998 and has been a member of the Jazztet since its inception in 1999. He earned a Master of Music degree from the University of North Texas in 1997 and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Shenandoah University, and toured Japan, China, and Germany with the Shenandoah University Jazz Orchestra. He has performed and done clinics with Lou Marini, Charles MacPhearson, Steve Swallow, Ray Anderson, "Doc" Cheatham, Mark Tamaro, Vince DiMartino, Clint Strong, Joe LaBarbera, and Rebecca Parris.

Audio Engineer

Staff Sergeant Richard Furr
Staff Sergeant Ricky Furr was born and raised in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and received his Bachelor of Music degree in Commercial Music from Shenandoah University in 2008. He has performed with ensembles in a range of genres from pop/rock to jazz and classical, including a performance at the fames Carnegie Hall with the Shenandoah University Wind Ensemble. Before joining the Jazz Ambassadors in 2014, SSG Furr worked as a freelance studio and live sound engineer as well as teaching music production and audio.

§ = Element Leader
*** = group leader
** = section leader
* = lead player