Garrett Méndez – Artistic Director
Garrett has been involved in El Sistema music education for the better part of a decade, having travelled to Acarigua, Venezuela in 2009 to see the movement at its roots. He participated in the inaugural conference of El Sistema USA, he has been a guest instructor with the Baltimore OrchKids and Brazil’s Orquestrando A Vida, and he was a consultant in the creation of Bravo Waterbury here in Connecticut. Garrett is currently the Director of Instrumental Music at King School, in Stamford. Garrett is also the Artistic Director of the Archipelago Project, an acclaimed chamber music ensemble and organization that is dedicated to advocating the musical arts through performance, residency, and consultation. Garrett has toured with The Archipelago Project across the United States, Europe and South America. An active performer, Garrett is currently the Bass Trombonist with the Bridgeport Symphony and has played with prestigious ensembles throughout the Midwest such as the Detroit Chamber Winds. He has also performed with groups including the Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Sigmund Romberg Orchestra, and as a backup musician to jazz greats such as John Clayton and Dee Dee Bridgewater. An active educator as well as a performer, Garrett has been the Adjunct Professor of Trombone at Albion College in Albion, MI (2002), as well as serving as a sabbatical replacement for Elliot Chasnov’s University of Illinois Trombone Studio (Spring Semester 2005). Garrett is currently working on his Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Illinois, and has received a Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Trombone Performance and Chamber Music from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Ian Taylor – Executive Director
Ian has been a part of PROJECT MUSIC since its inception, and assumed the role of Executive Director in 2017. Prior to working with PROJECT MUSIC, Ian worked as a music teacher in various schools in New York, Connecticut, and the US Virgin Islands. He continues to teach a private trumpet studio, and regularly leads music classes at the King School in Stamford. In addition to earning a Bachelors Degree in Music Education from the State University of New York College at Fredonia, Ian studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in 2012, and is a graduate of the YOA Global Leaders Program. In recent years, Ian has worked with several organizations within the US El Sistema movement, and is a recurring clinician with Vive La Música in Panguipulli, Chile. An active musician himself, Ian has studied and performed on three continents, and currently does the majority of his playing with theatre orchestras, and with his Dixieland jazz band.
Willie Bruno – Percussion Teaching Artist
Willie Bruno is a native of Darien, Connecticut and holds a Bachelor of Music in performance from Berklee College of Music, after graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2013. He has played in various jazz and rock groups performing for private and public functions as well as in pits for musical theatre throughout the East coast. During high school, Willie was chosen as the first chair drummer for the Connecticut All State High School Jazz Band in 2006. Over the course of his career, Willie has had the opportunity to perform with such great musicians as Rufus Reid, John Scofield, Maria Schneider, Dave Liebman, Vic Juris, Bob Franceschini, the Dafnis Prieto trio, and more. Willie has collaborated in performance with other El Sistema-inspired organizations including Baltimore’s OrchKids program, and Bridges: Harmony Through Music from Vienna, VA. He is excited to be able to share his love for music and instill the same passion and joy in his students!
Cara Grimaldi – Vocal Teaching Artist
Cara Grimaldi is a Stamford, Connecticut native and holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Music Education from Boston University. Cara currently teaches elementary music at Greens Farms Academy in Westport, CT, and has taught at King Low Heywood Thomas School in Stamford, CT, and in the Wellesley Public School district in Wellesley, MA, where she completed her student teaching. Upon graduation, Cara received the Most Promising Future Music Educator Award from the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA), and the Music Education Honors Award from the College of Fine Arts at Boston University. Cara is also a devoted musical theatre, opera, and choral singer. Recently, she has performed the roles of Our Lady of the Spa in CNR Drama’s production of NINE, and was seen as Johanna in Boston University’s production of Sweeney Todd. Cara was also a member of Boston University’s Symphonic Chorus, Chamber Chorus, and Concert Chorus. She currently studies voice under the tutelage of American soprano Carolann Page.
Joe Kozlowski – Trumpet Teaching Artist
Joe Kozlowski is an active jazz trumpet player, composer and educator in the southern Connecticut area. Originally from Rochester, NY, Joe studied jazz and contemporary media at the Eastman School of Music under the direction of Clay Jenkins, Dave Rivello, and Bill Dobbins, among others. Aside from his work at Project Music, he leads a variety of small jazz ensembles, including the genre bending quintet Little Vikings. He has had the honor of performing in such festivals as the Rochester Fringe Festival, Corn Hill Festival and the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. As well as leading his own groups, Joe often plays the role of a sideman and can be heard on the 17 piece big band’s self-titled album “Colossus.”
Julie Lee – Flute Teaching Artist
Born and raised in South Korea, Julie began piano studies at age 5, and flute at the age of 10 when she immigrated to the United States. She immersed in thorough classical music training in high school, where she was selected to be principal flutist for numerous Connecticut Regional/All-State and Hartt School Community Division ensembles. She continued with conservatory training at State University of New York at Purchase, where she received a B.M. in flute performance under the tutelage of Tara O’Connor. Throughout her collegiate studies, she performed frequently in solo, chamber, and orchestral settings. A versatile and progressive musician, she enjoys taking on a variety of styles, with a growing repertoire that ranges from the Baroque period to 21st century. She is a highly sought-after contemporary and new music flutist, regularly premiering new works by living composers. She has also collaborated with accomplished singer-songwriters such as Natalie Merchant, Mitski, and Elijah Wolf-Christensen, in studio and live performances.
In addition to performing, Julie is a strong advocate for music outreach and education. Formerly, she hosted a series of classical music concerts and lectures for senior citizens at Atria Senior Living (Rye Brook, NY). She continues to be a devoted educator, and is delighted to be sharing her passion with students at Project Music.
Marja Thompson – Strings Teaching Artist
Marja Thompson is the string director for Project Music’s Waterside Elementary School Outreach Program. Starting with beginner group classes that progress to orchestral type settings with three levels of violin, she helps students as young as 2nd grade to gain a concrete foundation in music. Marja uses a combination of classic violin studies to comprise her program and best suit the students’ needs. Marja started playing piano at the age of 7, and added the violin only two years later. For over 10 years, she studied violin privately under Salvatore Princiotti, and also for 7 years in Stamford Young Artists Philharmonic. Music has always been a huge part of her life, and she has taken every opportunity to learn new instruments, whether self-taught or instructed. Marja also teaches private lessons ranging from violin, to beginner piano, viola and guitar. She believes that “without music, life would B flat.”
Colin Walters – Woodwind Teaching Artist