Jazz Studies Program

A comprehensive jazz program consisting of four levels and roughly ten combos.

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Developing High Level Jazz Musicians

Founded by Cliff Gribble in 2004, the Jazz Studies program offers top quality instrumental and jazz training to young musicians from the Greater Milwaukee area, with a focus on urban students whose culture and heritage are deeply rooted in the origins of jazz and Latin jazz music.

Training by top-notch and highly-experienced faculty emphasizes small jazz combo experience, jazz technique, improvisation, instrumental technique and basic to advanced music theory.

The Jazz Studies program develops high level jazz musicians and affords a thorough understanding of various jazz styles, composers, musicians and their music. The program offers jazz training, performing opportunities and clinics with local and national jazz artists to those with limited access to study jazz music.

Musicians are placed in one of the five levels of study according to ability and knowledge of jazz, demonstrated by an audition, a music theory test and/or private lesson or school band instructor recommendation. Continuing students are placed based upon their previous season’s performance, an audition, music theory test and/or combo instructor’s recommendation.

At a Glance

  • Rehearsals generally on Wednesday and Thursday late afternoons/evenings
  • Prerequisites for admission: Grade 6-12 with two years of prior musical experience, or at least one year of school jazz band experience
  • A recommendation from a private teacher or school band instructor is also required
  • Director: Mr. Chris Mell
  • For more information, please call the office at (414) 267-2950 or email general@myso.org

Director and Instructor

Chris Mell

Chris Mell has been playing drums for over two decades. While attending UW-Whitewater pursuing a music degree, he studied and toured with John Becker, Steve Wiest, Ed Shaughnessy, Brad Leahi, Dave Pietro, Mike Spiro and the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. Chris also toured Europe two summers playing the North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival and several club dates in Germany, London and Paris. As a percussion instructor, Chris has taught students ranging in age from 5 to 50 in a large variety of percussion styles. Chris most recently worked with Cudahy Marching band and Franklin High School Marching band. Chris lives in Milwaukee and currently plays with North Cost Orchestra, Eric Jacobson Group, Avengers Assemble and Spanglish. More

Chris Mell has been playing drums for over two decades. While attending UW-Whitewater pursuing a music degree, he studied and toured with John Becker, Steve Wiest, Ed Shaughnessy, Brad Leahi, Dave Pietro, Mike Spiro and the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. Chris also toured Europe two summers playing the North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival and several club dates in Germany, London and Paris.

As a percussion instructor, Chris has taught students ranging in age from 5 to 50 in a large variety of percussion styles. Chris most recently worked with Cudahy Marching band and Franklin High School Marching band.

Chris lives in Milwaukee and currently plays with North Cost Orchestra, Eric Jacobson Group, Avengers Assemble and Spanglish.

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Instructor

Neil Davis

Neil Davis is an emerging talent. He started playing jazz in Milwaukee in 2002. Also in that same year Neil began teaching private lessons to aspiring guitarists at all levels. As time went on he reached a peak of 72 students per week. The grueling schedule led him to yearn for an environment where he could focus his methods on students who were interested in jazz. Davis is honored and excited to be a part of the Jazz Studies Program at MYSO. Neil is sought after as a sideman and also leads his own quartet. He is also half of the Davis\Peplin Duo. As well as playing jazz Neil uses his talent in the world of Modern Dance. He is has been an accompanist for the UWM dance dept. since 2005. More

Neil Davis is an emerging talent.

He started playing jazz in Milwaukee in 2002. Also in that same year Neil began teaching private lessons to aspiring guitarists at all levels.

As time went on he reached a peak of 72 students per week. The grueling schedule led him to yearn for an environment where he could focus his methods on students who were interested in jazz.

Davis is honored and excited to be a part of the Jazz Studies Program at MYSO. Neil is sought after as a sideman and also leads his own quartet. He is also half of the Davis\Peplin Duo.

As well as playing jazz Neil uses his talent in the world of Modern Dance. He is has been an accompanist for the UWM dance dept. since 2005.

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Instructor

Ken Wiele

An active musician and educator, Ken Wiele is a sought after clinician and performer. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts from Lawrence University, Ken served as a teacher of band and orchestra in Appleton and Kenosha before accepting a position as Associate Lecturer of Jazz Trombone at the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He performs regularly on extended contract with Princess Cruises as well as locally with various entertainment companies and bands. He currently teaches through the Milwaukee Lutheran High School Association. Throughout his life, Ken has been surrounded and influenced by exemplary music teachers. His grandfather was a legendary band director in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His father is one of Wisconsin’s premier music educators--a semifinalist for the Grammy Educator Award. Ken’s instructors throughout his years in school have provided him with outstanding teaching models. Ken began trombone with Racine's legendary brass teacher Johnny Hemkes. During his time at Lawrence, Ken studied under Fred Sturm and Nick Keelan. More

An active musician and educator, Ken Wiele is a sought after clinician and performer. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts from Lawrence University, Ken served as a teacher of band and orchestra in Appleton and Kenosha before accepting a position as Associate Lecturer of Jazz Trombone at the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

He performs regularly on extended contract with Princess Cruises as well as locally with various entertainment companies and bands. He currently teaches through the Milwaukee Lutheran High School Association.

Throughout his life, Ken has been surrounded and influenced by exemplary music teachers. His grandfather was a legendary band director in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His father is one of Wisconsin’s premier music educators–a semifinalist for the Grammy Educator Award. Ken’s instructors throughout his years in school have provided him with outstanding teaching models.

Ken began trombone with Racine’s legendary brass teacher Johnny Hemkes. During his time at Lawrence, Ken studied under Fred Sturm and Nick Keelan.

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Instructor

John Simons

John Simons has been playing music professionally since his late teens. His formal training began on the trombone while in middle school and he picked up the guitar and bass shortly thereafter. Since then, he has studied at UW-Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and privately with musicians from the symphony and the jazz community. He continues to play out mostly on upright and electric bass, and is privileged to share the stage with many of Milwaukee’s finest musicians. His current projects include playing with the North Coast Orchestra, the Stomata Trio, and the Carlos Adames trio. John has taught in MYSO’s Jazz Studies program since 2011 and teaches math during the day at a local K-8 school on Milwaukee’s South Side. More

John Simons has been playing music professionally since his late teens. His formal training began on the trombone while in middle school and he picked up the guitar and bass shortly thereafter.

Since then, he has studied at UW-Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and privately with musicians from the symphony and the jazz community. He continues to play out mostly on upright and electric bass, and is privileged to share the stage with many of Milwaukee’s finest musicians.

His current projects include playing with the North Coast Orchestra, the Stomata Trio, and the Carlos Adames trio.

John has taught in MYSO’s Jazz Studies program since 2011 and teaches math during the day at a local K-8 school on Milwaukee’s South Side.

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Instructor

Jeno Somlai

eno Somlai is a jazz and Latin jazz musician.  Since first playing professionally at the age of 13, Jeno has worked with a variety of musicians and now spearheads his own projects. His latest is the Jeno Somlai Sextet, a Latin jazz group heavily influenced by a variety of styles in the Afro-Cuban/Latin genres. The group’s first CD was released in 2004. Jeno can been seen currently playing with D’Calle Son, The Donna Woodall Group, Eric Jacobson, Isla Adentro and Luis Diaz. More

eno Somlai is a jazz and Latin jazz musician.  Since first playing professionally at the age of 13, Jeno has worked with a variety of musicians and now spearheads his own projects.

His latest is the Jeno Somlai Sextet, a Latin jazz group heavily influenced by a variety of styles in the Afro-Cuban/Latin genres. The group’s first CD was released in 2004.

Jeno can been seen currently playing with D’Calle Son, The Donna Woodall Group, Eric Jacobson, Isla Adentro and Luis Diaz.

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Instructor

Jason Goldsmith

Jason Goldsmith is a fourth generation musician who started playing piano at age three. By age eight, he could play guitar, banjo, and mandolin. In fourth grade, Jason wanted to play trumpet in the school band, but his braces cut his lips when he played, so he switched to saxophone as a compromise. He didn't take the instrument very seriously until, at the age of 15, he encountered a Charlie Parker recording. That record lit a spark and inspired him to practice with renewed interest. Since that time, he has pursued the art of improvisation. Jason attended UW-Whitewater, where he received his bachelor's degree in saxophone performance under the tutelage of Maynard Ferguson alum Steve Wiest, who is currently professor of jazz at North Texas University. He played in the UWW Jazz Symposium, which provided opportunities to play in European jazz festivals, as well as alongside some of our country's finest jazz musicians, including Ernie Watts, Ed Shaughnessy, Vinnie Calioutta, Bob Mintzer, James Moody, Slide Hampton, Brad Lehli, Dave Pietro, Tim Reis, and Rick Margitza. He also served as a jazz clinician at UWW's jazz camp for five years. Jason moved to Milwaukee in 2003 and has performed with local… More

Jason Goldsmith is a fourth generation musician who started playing piano at age three. By age eight, he could play guitar, banjo, and mandolin. In fourth grade, Jason wanted to play trumpet in the school band, but his braces cut his lips when he played, so he switched to saxophone as a compromise. He didn’t take the instrument very seriously until, at the age of 15, he encountered a Charlie Parker recording. That record lit a spark and inspired him to practice with renewed interest. Since that time, he has pursued the art of improvisation.

Jason attended UW-Whitewater, where he received his bachelor’s degree in saxophone performance under the tutelage of Maynard Ferguson alum Steve Wiest, who is currently professor of jazz at North Texas University. He played in the UWW Jazz Symposium, which provided opportunities to play in European jazz festivals, as well as alongside some of our country’s finest jazz musicians, including Ernie Watts, Ed Shaughnessy, Vinnie Calioutta, Bob Mintzer, James Moody, Slide Hampton, Brad Lehli, Dave Pietro, Tim Reis, and Rick Margitza. He also served as a jazz clinician at UWW’s jazz camp for five years.

Jason moved to Milwaukee in 2003 and has performed with local bands including The Booze Brothers, Cold Sweat, Paradise String Band, The Paul Silbergleit Quintet, The Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra, Rockin’ Robins, The Pipe Circus, and The Acid Sextet. He’s also performed with The Temptations and The Dorsey Brothers Band.

Currently, Jason can be heard playing his sax locally with The North Coast Orchestra, with polka icon Steve Meisner, and of course, with the All-Star SUPERband. Watch for Jason’s new jazz quintet to make a splash on the local scene in the near future.

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Instructor

Dean Lea

Dean Lea is a well known and accomplished pianist and keyboardist in the Milwaukee area. He is the recipient of the 2003 Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award as instrumentalist-keyboardist of the year, and also shared in the 2004 WAMI Paul Spencer Band award. Lea has enjoyed a varied career having been artist in residence pianist and music director for public radio’s Hotel Milwaukee for more than seven years; he was pianist in the musical, “Jazz,” house pianist for the Heidel House and the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and he has played at many area hotels including the Wyndham, Pfister, Sheraton, Embassy Suites and the Hilton. A respected musician, Lea has accompanied many Hollywood stars including Hildegard and Dinah Shore and Doc Severinsen. He has also played with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra and with jazz artists Richie Cole, Frank Morgan, Berkeley Fudge. Lea began studying piano at the age of four with the late Emily Herrwig at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. At six he studied classical piano at the Conservatory with the late Adelaide Banaszynski and continued with her until he was 18, winning numerous awards for his accomplishments from the Conservatory, Music Teachers’ Associations and city competitions. He also… More

Dean Lea is a well known and accomplished pianist and keyboardist in the Milwaukee area. He is the recipient of the 2003 Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award as instrumentalist-keyboardist of the year, and also shared in the 2004 WAMI Paul Spencer Band award.

Lea has enjoyed a varied career having been artist in residence pianist and music director for public radio’s Hotel Milwaukee for more than seven years; he was pianist in the musical, “Jazz,” house pianist for the Heidel House and the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and he has played at many area hotels including the Wyndham, Pfister, Sheraton, Embassy Suites and the Hilton.

A respected musician, Lea has accompanied many Hollywood stars including Hildegard and Dinah Shore and Doc Severinsen. He has also played with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra and with jazz artists Richie Cole, Frank Morgan, Berkeley Fudge.

Lea began studying piano at the age of four with the late Emily Herrwig at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. At six he studied classical piano at the Conservatory with the late Adelaide Banaszynski and continued with her until he was 18, winning numerous awards for his accomplishments from the Conservatory, Music Teachers’ Associations and city competitions. He also studied with the late jazz artist Tony King and with the late piano great Will Green.

He graduated from University School of Milwaukee and attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University.

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Each student is required to audition to become a member of MYSO. Being a MYSO member is a rewarding experience that drives a student’s musical, learning, and social skills.

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