Ashley Shabankareh has over 7 years experience in music education, coupled with a background in the Music Industry. She received her M.M. from Loyola University, New Orleans, with a concentration on conducting and brass instruments. Ashley is a certified K-12 music educator and spent her early years in New Orleans working not only as an after-school music teacher at places such as St. Paul's Episcopal school, but also as the General Music Instructor at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School. After deciding to take a break from music instruction, she served as a consultant and aided in the creation the curriculum and program guidelines for the Tulane University Music Rising Program. Ashley has also performed as a freelance musician with big name acts such as Aretha Franklin, Allen Toussaint, Jimmy Buffett, Theresa Andersson, and The Toasters. Named Director of Programs of the Preservation Hall Foundation in 2013, Ashley strives to push forward programming that empowers the youth of New Orleans through music education and mentorship, while preserving and protecting the cultural heritage that is such an integral part of the Preservation Hall legacy. In 2016, she was named a Top Female Achiever by New Orleans Magazine, a New Orleans Hero by the Times-Picayune, and a Woman of the Year by New Orleans City Business.
Dr. Thomas Jessen Adams is a historian and writer. A 20 year resident of New Orleans, he writes frequently on New Orleans issues for outlets like The Huffington Post and Jacobin and is the author of the books Working in the Big Easy: The History and Politics of Labor in New Orleans and the forthcoming New Orleans As Subject: Beyond Authenticity and Exceptionalism. He works closely with a variety of labor unions and organizations in New Orleans and teaches History and American Studies at the University of Sydney.
Jody Towers has worked in the advertising and marketing field for over 20 years, and is currently an Account Director at Peter A Mayer Advertising. She has led advertising programs for clients in the consumer package goods and restaurants industries, as well as business to business, utilities, governmental, and tourism and attractions accounts. Jody is a strategic marketing thinker with a team perspective. She excels at leading teams to solutions founded in the open and collaborative bringing together of multiple viewpoints and areas of expertise. Over the years, Jody has served on various boards including the New Orleans Advertising Club, New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, Sweet Home New Orleans, and Music and Culture Coalition New Orleans. Nothing frustrates her more than injustice. And nothing makes her happier than dancing in the sunshine to great music.
An interest in Cuban politics and African Diaspora culture within Latin America led her to New Orleans where she received an MA and PhD in Latin American Studies at Tulane University. Frazier’s graduate studies in Cuba and Brazil aligned with her interest in contemporary music, specifically hip hop, and public performance. Frazier frequently plays violin with performance organizations and musicians around the city. She has performed with several local New Orleans musicians and performances artists. Frazier has taught several university-level courses, including: Spanish, Latin American Studies, and African Diaspora-related courses on the university level at Tulane University, Xavier University, Wofford College, and Southern University of New Orleans. She has lectured and presented seminars and workshops on diversity, African Diaspora culture, contemporary music and performance all around the country. She has also worked with various advocacy groups and non-profit organizations in New Orleans, for instance a college access and completion program organization called: College Track and Make Music NOLA, a music and performance program for local New Orleans students. Frazier is currently the Assistant Director for the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University and manages the Music Rising at Tulane website.
Tara Kennedy a is a professional drummer and percussionist who has played the streets and clubs of New Orleans for the past 17 years. With a background in dance, theater, and music, she has been a performer her whole life. Tara's unique combination of New Orleans traditional jazz rhythms with Latin and African percussion is the result of years of playing in the city she loves. She is a staunch advocate for buskers, having learned at the side of the city's beloved elders, such as Tuba Fats, Norman and Lionel "Unc" Batiste, and Roselyn Lionheart. Tara currently performs with her husband in the Willow Family Band. As a mother of three, she is also a Special Education teacher who advocated for student's rights.
Calvin Johnson, Jr. was born into a rich musical heritage where Jazz, Classical and Funk/Soul artists on both sides of his family have paved the way. A graduate of the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and University of New Orleans Business School (UNO). In addition to his repertoire of international concert performances, Johnson is also a Preservation Hall and Louis Armstrong Foundation School Ambassador, where he leads jazz workshops in the public schools of New Orleans. Of the many projects Calvin finds himself involved in are ChapterSOUL, a New Orleans based future NOLA funk band that keeps a busy tour schedule, and Native Son, which he formed as a tribute to his great city. Native Son's self-titled 2015 release was a critically acclaimed album having been voted as one of the top releases of 2015 by Offbeat Voters Poll as well as being on of the Top 10 selling albums of that years acclaimed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.