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.
Calida Jones – Director of Development & Advocacy
Calida Jones began studying the piano at the age of 3 while attending Nursery School, and switched to violin at the age of 6 when she entered Thomas G. Pullen Performing Arts School in Landover, Maryland. In 2012, Calida was hired by the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra to design and implement the El Sistema inspired program “Bravo Waterbury!” (Bravo). She continued her work in Waterbury until August of 2018. She continues to consult with organizations all over the country.
An accomplished musician, social justice advocate and educator, Calida’s work has taken her all over the world teaching and performing. Calida is passionate about intentional purposeful teaching and community engagement. She is committed to correlating the art of teaching to life skills, and community building. During her tenure as the Artistic Director of Bravo in Waterbury, she had the privilege of creating dozens of community collaborations, as well as ongoing performance opportunities for the youth in Waterbury. Calida has had the privilege of speaking multiple times at the prestigious Yale School of Music, Duke University, Ravinia, The Connecticut State Capitol, The Hartt School of Music, and was a TEDx speaker in San Jose, CA.
A graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Bachelors of Fine Arts in Violin Performance), she received her Masters in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy from The Hartt School of Music. Calida is honored and humbled to have received awards, and honors during her career including a scholar fellowship at the Aspen Festival of Ideas, The Elizabeth Mahaffey Fellowship, a Grammy nomination for the Music Educator Excellence Award, the Father Thomas H. Dwyer Humanitarian Award for her work in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the 2018 CT Arts Hero Award in Waterbury CT. Calida serves on the Board of El Sistema USA, and chairs the Racial Diversity and Cultural Understanding Committee; she also serves on the board of the CT Arts Alliance as well as the Taskforce for the After-School Socio-Emotional Understanding Team.
Kayla Coker – Site Coordinator
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!
Owen Caprell – Low Brass Teaching Artist
Owen Caprell is a freelance trombone player and music educator in the greater New York City area. Versed in a wide range of styles, he has performed with big bands, orchestras, chamber ensembles, and more. After attending high school in South Carolina, Owen earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver in 2009. He then attended the University of Utah, earning his Masters of Music in performance in 2011. He began his teaching career while in Utah with a small private studio, and has been teaching since. He is currently on faculty at Dwight-Englewood, in Englewood, NJ, and Project Music, in Stamford, CT. Outside of music, Owen enjoys cycling, cooking, and getting outside.
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.
Tommy Weeks – Woodwind Teaching Artist
Tommy Weeks is a saxophonist from Connecticut. His projects are the Syracuse NY based hip hop/funk outfit Sophistafunk as well as the northeasts’ premier brass band the Funky Dawgz. He has played on stages all over the world from Spain to New Orleans to Madison Square Garden.
He has been playing saxophone since he was 11 years old and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. While his roots are in Connecticut, Tommy has traveled the globe and shared the stage with countless artists such as Dispatch, Trombone Shorty, the Regiment Horns, Lettuce, Vulfpeck, Kung Fu, Chadwick Stokes, Pete Francis, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, the Grammy award winning Rebirth Brass Band, Soul Rebels Brass Band, Glen David Andrews, Argonaut&Wasp and Big Sams Funky Nation, just to name a few. Tommy is also a big music education ambassador; he and the Funky Dawgz have created their own after school brass band program for underprivileged children in Hartford CT who want to further themselves in the arts. He frequently visits schools to work with their jazz bands, and with students individually in private lessons.