Junior Jazz Academy Faculty

Walter Blanding (Saxophone, Artistic Director)
Walter Blanding was born in Cleveland, OH, and began playing the saxophone at age 6. At age 10, he moved with his family to New York City where, for the next 7 years, he studied with legendary pianist and educator Barry Harris. He continued his studies at the New School University for Social Research, where he also learned with renowned artists Billy Harper, Reggie Workman, Joe Chambers, Jackie Byard, Jimmy Cobb, and more. As a dedicated supporter of education in the arts over the last 18 years, he has taught master classes, clinics and workshops at schools, universities, and institutions in 6 of the 7 continents. Blanding has performed, toured, and recorded with Branford Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, The Count Basie Orchestra, Isaac Hayes, and many others. He is also currently a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and of the Wynton Marsalis Quintet.

Uma Karkala (Alto Saxophone)
Uma Karkala has been active as a music educator for several years, having directed Latin, jazz and symphonic high school bands and serving currently as an adjunct faculty member at Lehman College. She earned her BFA in jazz performance from The New School and a MA in education from Lehman College.

Melissa Aldana (Tenor Saxophone)
A native of Santiago, Chile, Melissa is a rising star in the jazz scene maintaining a busy schedule performing at venues and jazz festivals around the world with her band Crash Trio. She graduated from the Berklee College of Music and was mentored by the jazz legend George Coleman before moving to New York in 2012. In September 2013 Melissa became the first female instrumentalist to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition.

Jarritt Sheel (Trumpet)
Jarritt is a musician and educator originally from Florida where he received his BS in music performance Florida A&M University and MM in jazz studies from Northern Illinois University. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University and a faculty member of the High School Jazz Academy at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Bria Skonberg (Trumpet)
Hailing from Chilliwack, BC, and now living in New York City, Bria expands the vocabulary and traditions of Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet with worldly rhythms and modern jazz variance. She studied with Warren Vache and is best known for her knowledge of classic jazz and creating a style all her own rooted in swampy New Orleans grooves, featuring world percussion and contemporary soul influenced vocals.

James Burton III (Trombone)
James earned an artist diploma and master’s degree in jazz studies from the Juilliard School and served as Director of Jazz Studies at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. He is currently on faculty at the Juilliard School directing the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra as well as faculty with the High School Jazz Academy at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Matt Buttermann (Guitar)
Matt Buttermann is Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Youth Programs Coordinator. In this role, he manages the High School Jazz Academy and serves as director of the JALC Youth Big Band. He is a faculty member at Fordham University, The Bloomingdale School of Music, and Teachers College, Columbia University where he is a doctoral candidate in Music & Music Education. He received his BFA in jazz studies from The City College of New York and MM from William Paterson University.

Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis (Piano)
Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis is a New York-based composer and jazz pianist whose music synthesizes jazz idioms with a deep grounding in classical forms and traditions. Originally from Maryland, Nathan received his BM in composition from Ithaca College and DMA from University of Maryland. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Music at Fordham University.

Dave Baron (Bass)
Dave Baron has played alongside jazz luminaries as Eric Reed, Lew Tabackin, Mary Stallings, Peter Bernstein, Walt Weiskopf, Joe Lovano, Jimmy Greene, Bill Dobbins, Wycliffe Gordon, among others. Dave Baron received his BM from the Eastman School of Music and MM from the Juilliard School. Dave was a semi-finalist in the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Bass Competition.

Kathleen Murray (Bass)
Originally from Westerville, Ohio, Kathleen Murray moved to New York City in 2012 after completing a MM degree in jazz studies at Michigan State University. While at MSU she apprenticed with Director of Jazz Studies and former Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member, world-renowned bassist Rodney Whitaker. Ms. Murray is currently Touring Operations Manager at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Cedric Easton (Drums)
Originally from Columbus, Ohio Cedric performed frequently with such artist as Bobby Floyd, Kenny Banks Sr., Richard Galliano, Dorinda Clark – Cole, and Roy Ayers and toured throughout the world with Christian Howes. Prior to relocating to New York City in 2015, Cedric was the Fine Arts Director for New Covenant Believers’ Church. He is currently serving as the Education Outreach Coordinator at Jazz at Lincoln Center.