Akshat Jain is an artist committed to outreach and civic practices through music and his voice as a tubist. Akshat is currently an active performer and teacher throughout the Chicago area. He joined the faculty at the Merit School of Music in January 2019. Besides his responsibilities as faculty at the Merit School of Music, he maintains a private studio and teaches at Fremd HS, Lane Tech HS, and Proviso Math and Science Academy. Besides regular work at these schools, he has also coached for students at the People's School of Music, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Interlochen Center for the Arts.
As an active performer, Akshat believes that you must be versatile to be a successful 21st-century musician. He actively performs as a chamber musician, jazz, popular, classical, orchestral, wind band, and contemporary repertoire. Some personal highlights of organizations he has enjoyed working with include Aspen Music Festival, New Chicago Brass, Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the Western Brass Quintet, Spectrum Brass, Chicago Composers Orchestra, Fire Thief, Kalamazoo Symphony, Muncie Symphony, Jazz Workshop at DePaul University under the direction of Dana Hall, J-Livi and the party, Sousaphones Against Hate, including many more. He is also the co-founder of Origin Brass, a Chicago based brass quintet focused on new music.
Akshat holds a MM from DePaul University and holds degrees from Ball State University (BM) and the Interlochen Arts Academy (HS). Originally from Vadodara, India, he has lived in Zambia, Thailand, Canada, and the United States.
His talents have taken him to the Aspen Music Festival for two consecutive summers; OperaMaya Festival in Cancún, Mexico; the Bay View Music Festival in Petoskey, Michigan; Fresh Inc Music Festival in Kenosha, Wisconsin and the Seoul International Community Orchestra Festival in Seoul, South Korea.
His principal teachers include Floyd Cooley, Warren Deck, Matthew Lyon, Anthony Kniffen, Thomas Riccobono, Gene Pokorny, and Andy Smith.
Illinois native Catie Hickey leads a multi-faceted career as a trombonist, educator, and arts advocate. Active as a jazz musician, soloist, chamber music artist, and orchestral player, her work has taken her to cities throughout Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Before returning to Chicago, Ms. Hickey was a touring member of the Foothills Brass Quintet. She has performed with the symphonies of St. Louis, Calgary, Rochester, and Sinaloa, Mexico. Locally, Catie is a frequent guest with groups ranging from Lowdown Brass Band to the New Chicago Brass. Committed to expanding the role of the 21st-century musician, Catie's work often takes her beyond the stage and into the broader community. At home in Chicago, she is Instructor of Low Brass for Loyola University, Brass Faculty for the Francis Parker School, and a busy studio instructor in the western suburbs. Each summer, Catie serves on the faculty of the Eastman Summer Trombone Institute. An alumna of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, she is the CoFounder of the Taller de Trombones in Panama, Panama. Catie also enjoys associations with the Trombonanza Festival in Santa Fe, Argentina, and the Urubrass Festival in Montevideo, Uruguay. Catie previously taught trombone and jazz studies at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Ms. Hickey is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Rice University with degrees in both classical performance and jazz studies, as well as obtaining a certificate in Arts Leadership. When not performing or teaching with her overgrown paperclip, Catie is working on her Spanish and faithfully rooting for the Chicago Cubs.
A California native, Taylor is currently bass trombonist of the Sacramento Choral Society Orchestra and was previously bass trombonist with the North State Symphony. After completing his Master of Music Degree at Carnegie Mellon University, Taylor is an active freelancer living in Pittsburgh, PA, where in addition to being a member of The Brass Roots, his diverse performance schedule has ranged from the River City Brass Band and the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass to performing with rock & roll legends The Who, the band Evanescence, and entertainer/actor Hugh Jackman. Taylor has also had the pleasure of playing with the Johnstown Symphony, Erie Philharmonic, and the Westmoreland Symphony.
A lover of travel, Taylor has been fortunate to participate in various Summer music festivals including The National Repertory Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival and School, the Third Coast Trombone Retreat, and the Summer Brass Institute at Menlo. His primary teachers include Jeffrey Dee, Murray Crewe, and Joel Elias. When not playing music, Taylor loves running, exploring, and cooking up new and delicious recipes.
Matthew Kundler is a performer and educator based in Central Illinois, completing a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. As a soloist, Matthew has been awarded prizes and recognition in the Leonard Falcone International Tuba and Euphonium Competition, the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference, the University of Alabama's Concerto Competition, The International
Women's Brass Conference, Northwestern University's Concerto Competition, the Concours Prestige Internationale, the University of Texas's Concerto Competition, and the Army Band's National Collegiate Solo Competition.
Matthew has performed with the International Contemporary Ensemble, Chicago Brass Band, the BackBurner! Tuba Ensemble (the only professional tuba ensemble in the U.S.), and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as performing as a featured soloist with the Brass Band of Huntsville, Mt. Prospect Wind Ensemble, the Kealing Middle School Band, the University of Alabama Brass Ensemble, the Wheaton Municipal Band, and Northwestern University’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble. As a member of the International Tuba and Euphonium Association, Matthew performed recitals as an invited guest artist at the Midwest Regional Tuba and Euphonium Conference, the Southeast Regional Tuba and Euphonium Conference, and the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference.
An advocate for new music, Matthew has performed the premieres of solo works for euphonium by Steve Snowden, Jose Flores, Derek Holden, Matthew Jackfert, Frank Guilino, and Paul McGhee. As a member of the euphonium quartet !ncite, Matthew has commissioned works for this growing genre of euphonium chamber music from composers Dan Kramer, Ian McCollum, Doug Bristol, and Katahj Copley. Matthew also serves as the group's primary arranger, focusing on transcriptions of Romantic art songs and contemporary string quartets.
Matthew is a co-founder of the Diversity Initiative Call for Scores, an organization that promotes the works of composers of underrepresented communities. The organization's first call for scores received over 85 new works of brass chamber music from 27 countries.
Matthew received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and his Master’s degree from Northwestern University. His primary teachers include Rex Martin, Matt Gaunt, Demondrae Thurman, Jeremy Crawford, Martin Cochran, and Charles Villarrubia.