Study with professional musicians

Vance Music Studios Instructors

Christopher E. Vance
(Studio Director)

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Mr. Vance has been giving private lessons since 1992 in multiple Buffalo and Cleveland locations - many of his former students have gone on to music school (most with scholarships) and many more have become active members of the local music scene. On average, he has about 80 students per week and plays 10-12 gigs per month. In addition to running the studio, Chris is also an Adjunct Professor of Music at Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College.

Chris has consistently been a prolific performer in both the classical and jazz/rock realms throughout his career. He has been the featured soloist on some of the most demanding classical repertoire and has served as Principal Bass of the Bermuda Symphony as well as the Buffalo Opera Company Orchestra. His current projects include guitar work in The Killerwatt Hours, bass work in The Syncopated Sin Swing Band, A duo with Bobby Ferrazza as well as various pick-up gigs on both bass and guitar. He has served as a substitute player for The Buffalo Philharmonic, The Akron Symphony, The Canton Symphony, The Erie Symphony as well as 15 60 75 (www.numbersband.com), Blue Lunch, Cats on Holiday, Steev Inglish (aka "Mr. Downchild"), Wallace Coleman, Michael Civisca, Abundance, Bob Fraser & Friends, Jerry Bruno Productions, Mark Gridley, and Abdou Mboup (Paul Simon, Jean Luc-Ponty) just to name a few. Mr. Vance has recently played with Mike Clark & Jeff Berlin, filled in with Bobby Rydell ('Volare'), and has led a trio that opened for Joey DeFrancesco. He is featured on recordings by Kassaba, Parallels and Cletus Black.

Mr. Vance holds a Master of Music in Double Bass Performance from The Cleveland Institute of Music, a Bachelor of Music in Double Bass Performance from S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo and a Bachelor of Arts in Music Theory - S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo. Primary double bass studies with Scott Haigh (Associate Principal Double Bass- The Cleveland Orchestra), Roger Macchiaroli (Former Assistant Principal Double Bass- Buffalo Philharmonic), and Lawrence Angell (Former Principal Double Bass- The Cleveland Orchestra). Further orchestral studies with principal players of major orchestras including Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and New York; and Double Bass Professors at major music schools including Juiliard, Indiana University, Illinois University, The Hart School, Michigan State and The University of North Texas. Mr. Vance has played under such conductors as Michael Tilson Thomas, Louis Lane, Steven Smith, David Effron, Carl Topilow, James Conlon, David Zinmann and Sydney Harth. Jazz Bass studies with Mike Moser (buffalo-based guitarist), Paul Fergusson (The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra), Mark Dresser, John Lindberg, and Peter Dominguez (jazz bass professor; Oberlin School of Music). Guitar studies with Mike Moser, Bob Frasier and John Stebal Jr. & music theory studies with Dr. Charles Smith. Honors include a C.I.M. scholarship, The Baird Scholarship, The Livingston Gearhardt Award, University and National Deans Lists and a scholarship to attend The Brevard Summer Music Festival in 1997.

In addition, Chris has had some training as a string instrument repair/adjustment technician. He was formerly a shop adjuster for Conn-Selmer's Stringed Instruments Division, as well as a Specifications Consultant for the company. He has also worked for Peter Zaret and Sons Violins - you can read his articles titled, "How to Get The Best Jazz Sound Out Of Your Double Bass", "Making the Transition From Electric Bass to the Double Bass" and "How to Choose a Double Bass" at www.zaretandsonsviolins.com/articles.html. Chris Vance proudly endorses NS Design and their EU5 Electric Upright Basses, as well as Modulus and their Quantum 6 Bass Guitar.


Ernie Krivda

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"No doubt about it, Ernie Krivda is one of the originals of the tenor saxophone" wrote Bill Donaldson for Cadence Magazine about the legendary jazz musician whose 6th decade on the music scene is already filled with a variety of accomplishment. The tenor saxophonist is regarded by critics such as the late Harvey Pekar as "one of the best jazz tenor men in the world". The composer has written countless compositions in multiple genres. The recording artist has well over thirty albums released on a number of record labels with more on the way. The teacher has former students performing and recording all over the world.

In 2009 Ernie Krivda received the Cleveland Arts Prize award for lifetime achievement in music and the lifetime of achievement continues. Krivda who has recently won the Jazz Legends award from Cleveland's Tri-C jazz Festival and a CPAC (Community Partnership of Arts and Culture) Fellowship worth twenty thousand dollars, continues with great energy and passion career that spans over 50 years.

The journey in music that began under his musician father Lou's influence from almost birth to his tutelage at age 6 has taken him from polka bands in his early teens, classes at The Cleveland Institute of Music, the bands of Cleveland greats Eddie Bachus and Bill DeArango in the jazz clubs of Cleveland, to a life in music that includes the mentorship of Cannonball Adderley, tours with Quincy Jones, performances with musicians such as Ell Fitzgerald, Phil Woods, Sarah Vaughn, Buddy DeFranco, Groove Holmes, Terry Gibbs, John Faddis, The Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, David Sanborn, Jackie Wilson and concerts with his own groups at Jazz Clubs and Festivals all over the world.

The musical journey goes on with a new recording for Capri records on the horizon in 2015 and touring that will give audiences an opportunity to hear "The sound that sets him apart" (Applegate music review), and the musician that the venerable Jazz Journal (of the UK) calls "both classic and brand new" .........The Legend Continues....!


Timothy Lane

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Timothy Lane has enjoyed the art of drumming since 1986 . Early studies with local legend Harry Damas, then later during college years with Bob Mckee, Greg Bandy. Advanced studies with Mike Clark of the Headhunters. Clinics and studies with Eric Patton ( Columbus University) , Dave Weckyl, Terry Bozzio, Jack DeJohnette. Tim has also played with the Platters, Mickey Hart, Airto Moriera, Giovanni Hidalgo, and many more. Touring in 2001 opening for Brian Wilson & Paul Simon ( with Michael Jantz Band )

Timothy currently plays around local regions with artists including Tracy Marie (Singer Songwriter), Fester Presley (Delta Blues/ Cajun), Sultans of Bing (Jam Band), Whiskey Island Ramblers (Celtic/Irish), Kynde Sirs (Medieval Music), Cheryl Ann Hawk (Singer Songwriter) & The Revolution Brass Band, just to name a few.

Teaching since 1999. Concepts in reading, listening, and watching. Rock, Latin, Jazz, Funk, Blues, Rhumba, etc. Providing two drumsets at the studio teacher and student watch and learn very well. Timothy has also been collecting vinyl records for years, contributing to his vast knowledge of music history.


Genevieve Gilbert

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Ms. Gilbert, a Lakewood native and Lakewood High School alumni, has been a part of the VMS team since 2011.

Genevieve holds a Bachelors Degree in Violin Performance from Cleveland State University. Teacher's at Cleveland State include Dr. Hanne-berit Hahnemann (irocktheviolin and freelance concert mistress), Eric Eichorn (first violinist of The Cleveland Orchestra) Peter Otto (associate-concertmaster of The Cleveland Orchestra), and Takako Masame (first violin section of The Cleveland Orchestra). Her background and training in orchestral studies include participation in The Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra, where she was able to perform with national artists Mike Garson (keyboardist for David Bowie), Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, and STYX. Further instruction in symphonic and chamber repertoire at Cleveland State University from Dr. Victor Liva, (Cleveland State University), and Brevard Music Festival with Keith Lockhart (Boston Pops Orchestra). Genevieve also studied with Byron Tauchi (Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra) and was coached by Mathew Daline (viola professor at BGSU)

Ms. Gilbert also performs in various trios, quartets, and duos for weddings, and other ceremonies. She can be seen and heard performing with various rock, blues, jazz, and folk bands/ensembles around the Cleveland area.

While attending Cleveland State University, Genevieve studied violin pedagogy under the tutelage of Dr. Hahnemann, and has also been an instructor in The Community String Project. Other teaching experiences include: Lakewood Rock On! and Classical Academy directed by Beth Hankins (Lakewood City Schools), Summer Community String Project (CSU), and a week long string camp in Taipei, Taiwan. Genevieve holds a license in the Mark O'Connor Fiddle Method (books I and II for violin and orchestra)


Jeff Schimelpfenig

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Jeffrey Schimelpfenig is a graduate of Cleveland State University with a degree in Cello Performance and is licensed to teach K-12 Music in the State of Ohio. Mr. Schimelpfenig is currently the Master Teacher of CSU's String Project and the lower string specialist for Cuyahoga Community College ArtPrep String Orchestra Program. Additionally, Mr. Schimelpfenig served as the cello specialist for the past three sessions of Baldwin Wallace Conservatory Outreach summer String Camp. An active performer in Northeast Ohio Mr. Schimelpfenig has performed with the Mansfield Symphony (principal), Ashland Symphony (asst. principal), and the Lima, Erie, and Akron Symphonies as well as the Apollo and Arion String Ensembles.


Dan Maier

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Dan attended Berklee School and New England Conservatory and studied jazz piano with Lennie Tristano, Jaki Byard, Ran Blake, and classical piano with Andreus Kuprevicius, George Haddad, and Margaret "Madame" Chaloff. Over the years in New York City and Ohio, he has worked with Benny Carter, Gary Burton, Clark Terry, Louis Bellson, Junior Cook, Sammy Nestico, Urbie Green, Melvin Sparks, Valery Ponomarev, Roy Hargrove, Howard Roberts, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, Sammy Davis, Linda Hopkins, Rich Little, Suzanne Somers, Marvin Hamlisch, Dakota Staton, Ron McCrobe, Jim Dale, Pat Suzuki, Dick Contino, Frank Gorshin, Jerry Vale, Al Martino, the Mills Brothers, Lesley Gore, Grandpa Jones, Sammy Kaye, Orson Welles, Pat Boone, Bobby Rydell, Rita Moreno, Henny Youngman, Noel Harrison, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Robert Lockwood Jr., and Tommy Tune.

In New York, Dan was a member of Blood, Sweat, and Tears with David Clayton-Thomas, and played and toured with Philip Glass and Woody Herman. Also played in jazz groups with John Webber, Mike Formanek, Ed Schuller, Jeff Anderson, Harold Danko, Todd Strait, Ed Sterbens, Jamey Haddad, Bill DeArango, Dave Stryker, Billy Drewes, Joan Johnson, Ron Vincent, Joe Lovano, Jiggs Whigam, duos w. Ken Werner, Fred Hersch, Jim McNeely, Hilton Ruiz, Amy London, Nora McCarthy, Greg Bandy, Jimmy Ponder, In Cleveland he has been working with Dave Sterner, Glenn Davis, Ray Porello, Mark Gonder, Jack Schantz, Ernie Krivda, Paul Ferguson, Howie Smith, Nan O'Malley, Evelyn Wright, Ki Allen, Maria Jacobs, Trish O'Brian, Bill Rudman, Reed Simon, Joe Bell, Marty Block, and Roy King. He is currently a member of the North Coast Jazz Collective (northcoastjazzcollective.com) with 3 released CD's of original compositions and working on a 4th, the Mojo Big Band, True North Jazz Ensemble, and he leads his own trio/groups, and is also a sideman in many local venues, such as the Waterbury CoachHouse with Doris Long and Dallas Coffey, and has a house trio for national acts at the jazz club NightTown, where he recently led jazz trios for Cheryl Bentine of Manhattan Transfer, Nicole Henry, Alexis Cole, Jackie Ryan, Ann Hampton Callaway, Nancy Kelly, Gay Marshall, Benny Golson, and Eric Alexander.

He has also been a steady member of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra and Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, and has played piano/keyboard for many local theatres and touring productions at Playhouse Square. He plays with Joe Bell and the Swing Lizards, folk/rock group Green Diamond Zephyr, and has served as music director for Blessed Trinity Catholic Church for 2 years, music instructor at the Music Settlement, as well as organist/pianist at a number of churches, venues, and synagogues in Cleveland, including: The Carmelite Monastery, 1st Church Christian Scientist, First Church Unitarian, St James, St Clement, St.Paul's Episcopal, Pilgrim Congregational, Archwood UCCC, Boulevard Presbyterian, VA Hospital Chapel, the National Day of Prayer, Green Road Synagogue, and Temple Emmanu-El.


Michael Abbadini

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Mike Abbadini is a graduate of Cleveland State University with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. He is certified to teach K-12 Music in Ohio and has experience in general music, band, and choir. He has 17 years of piano experience, taking from notable instructors such as Javier Gonzalez and Dr. Robert Cassidy.

Mike is classically trained in piano and performs multiple modes of music, including jazz, rock, fusion, and funk. He performs in the Cleveland area band, Essential Groove, playing keyboard and organ, and providing backup vocals. He has also performed with the Cleveland POPS Chorus and the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus.


Joe Bonsignore (J. Blues)

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J.Blues has opened shows in the Cleveland area for such legendary greats as Robert Lockwood Jr., John Hammond, David Lindley, Leon Russell, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, Dickey Betts (from the Alman Brothers), Smoking Joe Kubeck and Bnois King, Devon Alman from Honey Tribe, and has also appeared on FOX 8 Morning Show. Starting at the age of fourteen he was, playing gigs in and around New York City, culminating in a sold out performance at "The Limelight" when he was only eighteen. His first record deal came at the age of nineteen when he signed to Amethyst Records, Columbia, SC. Since then, he has produced and recorded two CD's and a single, as well as being featured on Esquire Record's "The Best Of Cleveland Blues" compilation. At the age of twenty he was contacted by Tyco Toys to play on a commercial promotion.

He currently holds an AAS in Jazz Commercial Music from Five Town College, Long Island, NY and a BA in Music Performance from Cleveland State University as well as recently completed a Masters in Music from Cleveland State University under Bob Frasier. He has been teaching guitar to the masses since 1988. If you are looking for an experience in acoustic/electric Blues or Jazz he can help you achieve your dream.


Chuck Smolko

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Chuck Smolko is a professional musician and teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. Currently, he teaches guitar, bass, ukulele and piano to students of all ages and experience. Incorporating music theory and using a variety of teaching styles, his instructional approach is customized to each student based on their interests and learning objectives.

Chuck also performs in a variety of bands, including jazz, classical, rock, Motown and folk music, specifically bass with The Bottom Line Band and bass/guitar/piano with award-winning singer/songwriter Anne E. DeChant. Chuck also performs solo guitar (i.e., wedding ceremonies) and piano (think cocktail hour), and enjoys collaborating with other musicians and artists.

A seasoned performer, Chuck studied jazz at Cleveland State University where he was a student of Bob Frasier, Gary April, Howie Smith and the late Dick Lurie. At CSU, he played guitar in the Big Band and sang in the Chorus. Chuck is a jazz aficionado and is quoted in Jazz Styles (11th Edition) by Mark Gridley, with whom he has performed at various venues across northeast Ohio over the past twenty years. Chuck has extended his talent for improv to the theater as the musical player for improv troupes at Dobama Theatre, Second City- Cleveland and Cabaret Dada.


Mark Brennan

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Mark Brennan, a native Clevelander, began playing guitar at the age of 10. His first influences were from the Ventures and the British invasion, especially the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Shortly afterwards he was playing in rock bands with his brother Matt on drums, developing his ear by learning songs straight from records. Playing in a band became a passion.

In high school, he grew to love acoustic and classical guitar. He spent time playing acoustic music, influenced by The Eagles, CSN, Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, etc. In the 70's, he headed a very popular Cleveland band, The Brennan-Cosma Band, which played a variety of acoustic and rock music, along with originals. He also took up the classical guitar, and began developing his fingerstyle technique.

Mark is a graduate of Cleveland State University (1980), with a Bachelor of Music in Classical Guitar Performance. He also studied Music Composition, and took many Music Education classes. After graduation, he began his private teaching career, teaching electric, acoustic, and classical guitar, along with music theory. He taught in various studios and guitar shops throughout North Eastern Ohio.

In the 80's, Mark took an affection to Progressive rock. With his band Polyphony, he was influenced by the music of Yes, Genesis, Kansas, ELP, Styx, along with a set of prog rock originals.

Currently, Mark is in the regionally successful Pink Floyd tribute band Wish You Were Here. The band performs faithful renderings of the Floyd classics spanning their entire catalog, along with a strong visual stage show. Here, Mark displays his command of the David Gilmour style. Mark also performs in a singer/songwriter duet with his wife Marla, playing the music of James Taylor, Carol King, Neal Young, Joni Mitchell, Beatles, etc., along with current popular singer/songwriter music.

Mark is looking forward to extending his 35 years of performing and teaching experience to the students of Vance Music Studios. His philosophy is about developing a passion for the guitar and being the best musician you can be; being true to yourself and developing a personal style, and truly expressing your heart through your music.


Dan Wenninger

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Dan Wenninger can be seen performing with the Revolution Brass Band, Oblique Orchestra, Nitebridge, and Trepanning Trio. In the past he has performed and recorded with Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band, Mifune, Fuzzhead, Infinite Number of Sounds, Pureplex, Scarcity of Tanks, The Rhythm Syndicate, Becky Boyd & Real Life, Lounge Kitty, and Cat's On Holiday. His current project, Oblique Orchestra, is a free jazz ensemble that explores spontaneous free improvisation. They have four albums out on the Infinite Number of Sounds label. They are also the house band at 1Way, a monthly new/free music showcase which presents and documents local experimental, new, and free music. Dan curates the music at this event. He also organizes and hosts a monthly free improvisation session called OutLab: Experiments in Improvised Music that takes place at the Bop Stop. He holds a B.A. from the University of Toledo and an Associates degree in Jazz Studies from Cuyahoga Community College. He has studied saxophone under Ernie Krivda, Jay Miglia, and Matt James. He has over 15 years of teaching experience in all styles of music including: jazz, blues, classical, and improvisation. He teaches all ages, from beginners to adults.


Steven Magni

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Mr. Magni is currently completing his undergraduate degree at Cleveland State University where he studies jazz trumpet performance. He plays in numerous groups in town such as the Skatch Anderson Orchestra, Sammy DeLeon's salsa band, Nite Bridge, the Cleveland State Big Band and his original group Essential Groove. He also does a lot of freelance gigs like musicals at Cain Park and church services for the holidays. He will finish his degree in Fall of 2016.


Felipe Brito

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Felipe Brito is the winner of the Burnham International Graduate Student Fellowship Award 2015. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, he was awarded both the Artistic Excellence Award Fellowship and the Anthony & Olimpio Barbera Scholarship by Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. Felipe is also a finalist in the 2014 IU Brass Concerto Competition and recently was selected to the final round of the 5th Latin American Music Recording Competition in 2015.

In 2013, he performed Danish composer Launy Grondahl's Concerto as a soloist with the Campinas State University (UNICAMP) Symphony Orchestra in Brazil. In 2010, he performed Swiss composer Erick-Larsson's Concertino as a soloist with the same ensemble. In 2009, he fronted the Villa-Lobos Symphonic Band, performing the solo from Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov's Concerto. At UNICAMP, Felipe was the Assistant Teacher of Trombone at the Pre-College of Music. In his native city of Itu, he served as the Band Director at the Anglo High School.

Felipe earned a Bachelor's Degree in Trombone Performance at UNICAMP, where he studied under Robson de Nadai. He also received his Performance Diploma from the Sao Paulo State School of Music, where he studied under Gilberto Gianelli and Carlos Freitas. In May of 2013, shortly after completing his Performance Diploma at JSOM, Felipe went on tour, performing the Tomasi Concerto, Hindemith Sonata, and Telemann Sonata in several cities throughout Brazil, including Campinas, Piracicaba, and Sao Paulo.

Felipe is the Principal Trombone for the Cleveland Opera Theater Orchestra and Substitute Trombone for the Canton Symphony Orchestra. He recently finished his Master's Degree at JSOM with Peter Ellefson, former trombone of Seattle Symphony Orchestra and is currently pursuing his Artist Diploma at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), where he was awarded with a full institutional scholarship. Felipe studies under Massimo La Rosa at CIM, Principal Trombone of the Cleveland Orchestra.


Carly Wilber

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Carly Wilber, a native of Lakewood, is our voice instructor. She is a recent graduate of Wittenberg University with a B.M. in Music Performance. While a student at Wittenberg, Carly took a semester abroad to study music history, performance, and culture in Vienna, Austria. Carly has consistently been involved in various musical theater productions, jazz performances, and singing groups such as The Ladies Vocal Trio and The Wittenberg Chamber Singers. Carly is a seasoned instructor, and keep on the look out for Carly's upcoming local performances.


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