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Lessons at Music Lab

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Music Lab offers private instruction on a variety of instruments. Lessons at Music Lab are available for all ages.

If you or your child are interested in setting up a lesson schedule at Music Lab with one of our instructors please email jharman[at]jeffcenter[dot]org or call 540.685.2309. We are happy to meet and discuss what works best for you and/or your child.

Meet our instructors:

About:

CELLO -
ALEXANDER FOWLER has been playing the cello as an orchestra member, a 
chamber musician, and soloist for over a decade. He has held positions with the 
American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, the Brevard Music Center Orchestra, and the 
Virginia All State Orchestra, where he was assistant principal. His studies in chamber 
music have taken him to various festivals as far as New Mexico and Arcidosso, Tuscany 
in Italy. In competitions Alexander has won multiple grand prize awards at the University 
of New Mexico's Annual Bach Competition. Alexander has also performed in master 
classes for some of the world's top performers and pedagogues, including Zuill Bailey, 
Emmanuelle Bertrand, and David Finckel, and Steve Doane. Alexander is also an active 
teacher, working with such organizations as the Virginia Tech String Project and the 
Jefferson Center Music Lab in Roanoke, VA, which strive to bring string and music 
education to students and schools throughout the New River Valley.
 
GUITAR & BASS -
BRIAN MESKO was raised in a musical family in Little Rock, AR. He began piano 
lessons at age 8 and switched to guitar at age 10. He continued formal lessons through 
high school, at which time he studied Jazz Theory & Ensemble for college credit under 
Michael Carenbauer (who studied under Pat Metheny at Berklee) at the University of AR 
Little Rock. During junior high Brian learned drums and bass, and has continued 
developing them professionally along side the guitar. While completing a bachelor’s 
degree in Recording Industry at Middle TN State, Mesko lived in or near Nashville from 
1997-2005 and played with such international jazz greats as Les McCann, Tony Monaco, 
Dr. Lonnie Smith, John Jorgensen and Jeff Coffin. He also worked with Roland 
Gresham, The Tao Jones, Sam Brooker, Greg Bryant, Chris West, Moe Denham, Nioshi 
Jackson, and Charles Treadway. After moving to central Virginia in 2005, Brian has been 
privileged to play with such artists as Robert Jospe, John D’earth, Bobby Read, Charles 
Owens, Jonah Kane-West, The Rootdowns, Lew Taylor, Graham Spice, Juliana Marques, 
The Nicholson Brothers, Liz Barnes, Ray Caddell, any many more. He has also shared 
the stage with blues legend Bob Margolin, Vegas staple Wayne Newton, Groove 
Collective, and the DJ Williams Projekt.
 
http://brianmesko.com/
 
VOICE -
BROOKE TOLLEY is lyric coloratura soprano from Virginia. As a former member of 
Opera Roanoke’s Young Artist Apprentice Program she made her professional debut as 
Kate Pinkerton in their production of Madama Butterfly in the spring of 2011, under the 
baton of Scott Williamson. Also as an Apprentice Artist, she sang in productions of Il 
Trovatore, Carmen, Der fliegende Holländer, and the Pirates of Penzance. As a Young 
Artist with Asheville Lyric Opera she performed for two months in a scenes and outreach 
program where she sang roles such as Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Frasquita (Carmen), 
Lakmé (Lakmé) and Musetta (La bohème) as well as covering the role of Carrie in Rogers 
and Hammerstein’s Carousel. In the fall of 2013, she returned to Opera Roanoke to cover 
The Queen of the Night in their production of The Magic Flute. Recent performances 
include the Plaintiff in Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera, Trial by Jury with Opera Roanoke 
and the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute with Chicago Summer Opera, Annina in 
Verdi’s La Traviata with Capitol Opera Raleigh, as well as Johanna Barker in Sweeney 
Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Brooke holds a bachelor of music degree from 
Liberty University and a master of music degree from Radford University.
 
KEYBOARDS -
JAMIEL ALLEN was born in Key West, Fla., and spent part of his childhood in 
Ecuador. He comes from a family of musicians and artists who encouraged his love of the 
arts. Jamiel began playing guitar and trumpet at the age of 10-11. While he excelled at 
trumpet in school, he discovered his love for the piano on his own. After teaching himself 
to play for a year, he began taking lessons from world-class pianist and teacher Franko 
Richmond. Jamiel has lived in Floyd, Va. since 2006, and is an active 
recording/performing/touring artist and musician for hire. Jamiel has been a founding 
member of several bands, performed on more than 20 CDs, and toured nationally and 
internationally. He is also a songwriter and a singer, excelling at harmonies and vocal 
layering.
 
DRUMS –
JOSH SMELSER took up music from a very young age studying piano under his 
mother’s instruction. He continued to cultivate his passion and natural talent as an 
instrumentalist studying trumpet through middle school and high school, but it was when 
he sat down at a drum kit for the first time at age 14 that he found his true calling as a 
musician. As a native born Roanoker, Josh played trumpet and drum kit for the Northside 
High School Symphonic and Jazz bands winning the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award his 
senior year. He also marched on tenor drums for the Pride of Northside Marching band. 
He continued his studies in Lynchburg, VA earning a degree in Worship and Music 
Ministries from Liberty University. After he graduated from Liberty, Josh remained in 
Lynchburg teaching music lessons as the Director of Percussion at the Mendez Academy 
of Music and traveling up and down the East Coast performing with various bands and 
musical acts. In 2012 he moved back to his hometown of Roanoke and quickly became 
an established drummer on the local music scene playing with many of Roanoke's 
favorite entertainers. Josh is very excited to further his passion for teaching as he joins 
the team at the Downtown Music Lab!
 
WEST AFRICA HAND DRUMMING -
OTU KOJO came to the United States with the Kusun Ensemble, an extraordinary group
of musicians and dancers based in Ghana, West Africa. With reviews proclaiming the 
Kusun Ensemble’s sound as a “revival of a vital art,” the band is now considered one of 
Ghana’s most innovative and powerful music and dance ensembles. Otu has blended the 
authentic sounds of traditional West African hand drumming with the exuberance of 
Highlife music and the complexity of African jazz, developing a unique Ghanian sound 
and bringing the tropical passion of West African music to West Virginia.
 
VIOLIN -
LEAH HOWARD
Leah Howard has been fascinated with the violin ever since she picked it up for the first time when she was ten, and played Jingle Bells. A few months later, she performed the song solo for her elementary school, and joined her first youth orchestra. Leah started formal, private Suzuki training the following year, when she moved from Oregon to California, and continued to study violin in school and privately, throughout her high school years. Some of her early musical experience includes playing in her high school orchestra, professional strolling violinist, violinist in a professional youth quartet, and playing violin in a community philharmonic orchestra. Soon after moving to Roanoke in 2002, Leah joined the Valley Chamber Orchestra as a violinist, publicist and board member for two and a half years, while she pursued her degree in Commercial Design and the Arts, at Hollins University. Leah was very active in the Music Department at Hollins, where she studied music theory, Latin American Music, and Bach, as well as taking private voice and violin lessons. She is proud to have been awarded a surprise scholarship by the head of the Music Department. Using the Suzuki Method, which emphasizes listening to music, as well as technique and theory, Leah’s students can learn the fundamental foundational tools that will make it possible to play any kind of music they enjoy. Now a Hollins University Alumna and professional Violin Instructor, Performer and Graphic Designer, Leah enjoys sharing music, which she considers to be one of the most beautiful gifts in her life, with others.