Evan Abounassar


Remee Ashley


Jerome Gillespie


Solomon Gottfried


Rodney James-Spann

tenor sax

Lucas Hahn


Alex Laurenzi

alto sax

Luca Mendoza


Luca Rodoni


Ethan Santos


Max Schwartz


Alec Smith



Evan, from Yorba Linda, CA, plays all over southern California at various service events and with honor groups such as Music Center’s Spotlight Awards, National YoungArts Foundation, The Grammy® Jazz Band, and the California All-State Bands. He has been recognized with outstanding soloist awards at the Fullerton, Reno, Irvine and Monterey jazz festivals. Evan loves to play “old swing music,” with a fondness for Louis Armstrong, but likes bebop, hard bop and modern jazz as well. In the realm of newer jazz, he cites two Vail Jazz Workshop alumni, Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet, 2000) and Gerald Clayton (piano, 2002), among his favorite influences. In addition, Evan admires Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis for their technical prowess and original lines. He’s looking forward to the challenges of the Vail Jazz Workshop and learning some new ways to listen and play.

REMEE ASHLEY | trombone

Hailing from Berkeley, CA, Remee has studied trombone, trumpet, tuba, French horn and Sousaphone in both jazz and classical settings. He has played in the Berkeley High Chamber Winds & Orchestra, Jazz Combo, the San Francisco Jazz High School All-Stars, as well as other bands and combos. He began playing jazz at 11, and frequently raided his great grandmother’s record collection to savor The Ink Spots, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Earl “Fatha” Hines and others. His educational goals include a Master’s and Doctorate in music performance and education, including a role as a music teacher. In the meantime, in addition to snowboarding and camping, he gives music lessons (brass instruments) to elementary and middle school kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford lessons. He looks to his time in Vail to enhance his improvisation skills while benefiting from his exposure to other Workshoppers and their mentors.


Although his first instrument was the violin, Jerome started taking drum lessons at six after watching the drummer at his church. By sixth grade he had gravitated toward jazz and is now at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, where he plays in a variety of bands and combos. He was first place winner of the MusicDoingGood scholarship all-star award, was selected Outstanding Soloist at the Moores School of Jazz Festival, and Jerome has participated in a variety of regional and All State jazz bands. He considers himself a straight ahead drummer but derives his inspiration from many jazz eras; he especially appreciates drummers with a creative melodic sense. His principal goal for the Vail Jazz Workshop is to become a better musician while enhancing his soloing skills.


Solomon started playing piano at six, and switched to the bass when he was twelve—the double bass was the instrument he always wanted to play and his parents relented when they decided he was big enough to handle the instrument. Though a Berkeley, CA resident, Solomon attends the Interlochen (MI) Arts Academy. At Interlochen he has played and performed with multiple jazz combos, big bands and the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra, including a tour of China where he taught local classical musicians how to improvise. He has received multiple Outstanding Musician and soloist awards, both at Interlochen and in the Bay Area. Tutored and influenced by several former Vail Jazz Workshop alumni, Solomon is excited about the opportunity to lift his ensemble playing skills to a new level and benefit from playing with the master mentors, and fellow students, in the Workshop.


Born and raised in Brooklyn, Rodney’s first instrument was piano but he migrated to the tenor sax, and jazz, in middle school. While in middle school, he was accepted to the Juilliard Music Advancement Program, and today he conducts master classes and teaches music theory to other students. Rodney has won scholarships to attend the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College division jazz studies program, Skidmore Jazz Institute and Berklee College of Music Five Week Performance Program in 2014, winning a full scholarship to that program again in 2015. He is now in his second year with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra, having been the youngest member selected for that honor. Last year Rodney was the youngest musician to win the Young Lion’s Award from the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium and, in 2015, he was a member of the 46 Street jazz combo, being awarded first place in the Charles Mingus competition. He’s excited to be participating in the Vail Jazz Workshop largely due to the strength of the faculty.

LUCAS HAHN | piano

Lucas, born in San Jose, CA but now living in nearby Santa Cruz, started piano lessons at seven, focusing on jazz but adding classical tutoring at ten. Having the good fortune of living near a renowned jazz club, Lucas was exposed to a variety of top jazz piano players, studying with several and eventually performing at a variety of venues in the SF area. At 12 he attended the Stanford Jazz Workshop’s Jazz Camp and Jazz Residency where he met his current teacher, jazz piano great Taylor Eigsti. He has received the YoungArts Merit Award and has been honored with a number of Outstanding Musicianship and performance awards for both his classical and jazz work. Lucas lists Ambrose Akinmusire (Vail Jazz Workshop 2000) among his most important influences, and looks forward to backing up the horn ensembles and furthering his rhythm section skills in this year’s Vail Jazz Workshop.

ALEX LAURENZI | alto sax

Alex of Mountain Lakes, NJ, began studying the violin at six, adding the alto sax to his studies three years later. After a succession of music camps, band camps and combos, he attended the Manhattan School of Music Precollege Jazz Division and various summer workshops such as the Skidmore Jazz Institute and Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony. He won the DownBeat Student Award for best junior high school soloist, the Essentially Ellington Outstanding Alto Saxophonist Award, was cited by YoungArts Jazz for his solo work, and he also won a spot in the 2015 Grammy® Band. He performs with his own quartet at venues in NJ, often with several Vail Jazz Workshop alumni. While at Vail, Alex intends to absorb as much as possible from the amazing faculty, as well as the expertise and technique of other Workshoppers. He’s hopeful of identifying and improving some of his weaknesses and to advance his ensemble playing.


Hailing from Santa Monica, CA, Luca is a member of combos in various school bands, as well as several other independent trios and quartets. A Monterey NextGen Finalist, Luca has received multiple awards for both his classical and jazz piano playing. These include several DownBeat Student Music Awards (including best composition), and honors from the LA Music Center, National YoungArts Foundation, the Glendale Classical Piano Competition, and the Southwest Youth Music Festival. Luca enjoys a variety of jazz—among his influences are several Vail Jazz Workshop alumni—but above all his main source of inspiration is Keith Jarrett. His goal for the Workshop, aside from learning from the stellar faculty, is to play with “the best musicians in America,” citing the Workshop’s preeminent reputation for developing both talent and lifelong musical relationships.

LUCA RODONI | trumpet

A native and resident of Bozeman, MT, Luca currently attends Park City (UT) High School where he takes advantage of a plethora of instruction and performance opportunities. For the past two years, he has been selected for the Jazz Band of America and was a semi-finalist for the 2015 National Trumpet Competition Jazz Division, also being selected as a 2015 YoungArts National Merit Scholar. Luca was selected as a member of the Telluride Jazz Festival Student All-Stars and has received outstanding soloist awards at several jazz festivals where he has shared the stage with many prominent professionals. He has also won numerous scholarships to attend various jazz camps and workshops. A student of jazz history, he gravitates to trumpet masters who emphasize melodic and harmonic approaches to improvisation. Luca looks forward to benefiting from Vail Jazz Workshop instruction to develop his own sound and musical voice, introducing more space and ease into his solos, and experiencing the Workshop’s well-deserved reputation for increasing playing endurance.

ETHAN SANTOS | trombone

Ethan, from Fresno, CA, attends Buchanan High School where he plays bass trombone in the symphony orchestra, principal euphonium in the wind ensemble, and lead trombone in the Jazz Band, which recently won a DownBeat Student Music Award for Outstanding performance. He has studied trombone, bass trombone, euphonium and piano in both jazz and classical settings. Winner of numerous jazz workshop & festival scholarships, Ethan has participated in the Stanford Jazz Institute, the California Band Director’s Association Honor Concert Band, the California Orchestra Director’s Association Honors Symphony Orchestra, the Cal Poly All-State Music Festival Honor Jazz Band and the 2015 GRAMMY® Camp-Jazz Session big band. Ethan teaches young children recorder, and gives trombone and music theory lessons. His hopes for the Vail Jazz Workshop are to further develop his improvisation skills and become a better communicator musically in the small jazz ensemble setting.


Max, a Boston native now living in Berkeley, CA, began his musical pursuits in first grade on piano and guitar, later picking up the banjo and bass (both upright and electric). He started composing and arranging jazz at 10, with a little bluegrass thrown in for good measure. Active in a wide range of local and regional bands, Max has been included in the California All-State Honor Jazz Band, SFJAZZ High School All-Stars, Grammy® Camp combos and has won multiple honors at the Next Generation Monterey Jazz Festival, Folsom Jazz Festival, Mingus Jazz Competition and others. He plays regularly at Bay Area venues such as Yoshi’s and the SFJAZZ Center. Although Max is a regular listener to Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and the Basie band, he’s hopeful that the Vail Jazz Workshop will teach him to be an even better listener, enhancing his aural skills in all musical contexts to facilitate a higher level of interactive performance.

ALEC SMITH | drums

Born in Pasadena, Alec now lives in Glendora, CA and attends Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. He has won scholarships to the Stanford Jazz Institute and Centrum Jazz Workshop (where he played in Terell Staffor’d Combo), and has performed at a variety of venues around the LA area. He is active in a variety of combos and jazz performance groups, and was a member of the 2015 Jazz Band of America. Alec’s musical tastes gravitate to classic straight ahead jazz, especially big band music, and he enjoys listening to drummers who can create many colors and textures in their playing. He looks forward to being evaluated by the Workshop instructors, learning about how they process music and interact, and getting insight about how to create more meaningful musical conversations through performances with the faculty and other students.