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Teaching Artists

At the start of each academic year, LEAF Schools & Streets works to match available Artist in Residence, Resident & Easel Rider Teaching Artists with community centers and after-school programs for year-round programming. Teaching Artists work with youth, teaching them their performing art through rich, hands-on learning experiences that culminate with an opportunity for youth to perform on-stage at LEAF, or complete a final visual arts project, as well as other performance and workshop opportunities throughout their individual communities.

Easel Rider – Asheville’s Mobile Art Lab – is all about connecting people and art, and that’s exactly what these Teaching Artists do! Today, LEAF has a growing roster of 10+ Easel Rider Teaching Artists that facilitate a visual art project related to the theme of the community event or cultural art craft. Easel Rider Mobile Art Lab is used in many different capacities: after-school programs, community functions, specific school activities, outdoor activities & camps – reaching roughly reaching roughly 3,623+ youth at over 170 events in 2019.

Vanessa Maria Guerrero

Co-president of Asheville Latinos Achieving Success

Madison Link

LEAF Vendor Co-Director, Realtor

Chaka Gordon

Writer, Community Organizer, and Teacher

Edwin Salas

Mexican Puppeteer, dancer and plastic artist

Ashley Rivera

Soap Maker, Potter, Painter, Up-Cycler, and Collage Extraordinaire

Tarah Singh

lighting designer, stylist, consultant, chef, welder, painter, mother

Marsha Almodovar

Mother, Teacher, Painter, Entrepreneur and Activist

Cristal Rose Fox

Clay Artist

Liliana Lopez

Painter, Watercolor Artist

Robyn Josephs

Multimedia Artist and Creative Educator

Jenny Pickens

Artist & Muralist

At the start of each academic year, LEAF Schools & Streets works to match available Artist in Residence, Resident & Easel Rider Teaching Artists with community centers and after-school programs for year-round programming. Teaching Artists work with youth, teaching them their performing art through rich, hands-on learning experiences that culminate with an opportunity for youth to perform on-stage at LEAF, or complete a final visual arts project, as well as other performance and workshop opportunities throughout their individual communities.

In 2021, Visiting Teaching Artists are Virtual and in Very Small Groups

Want to Empower Youth
through Cultural Arts Education?


Former LEAF Schools & Streets Resident Teaching Artists

Amy Hamilton, Artimus Pyle, Asheville Urban Arts Institute, Ben Gradison, Bobby Fish, Christine Garvin, Dave Hamilton, DJ Kutzu, Dominique Scales, Edward Link, Edwin Salas, Erinn Hartley, Gary Bradley, Graham Hackett with Catalyst Poetix, Hunab-Kru, Imhotep, Ingrid Johnson, James Nave’, Jeanette Zwieg, Jeff Knorr, Jess Wharton, Jonathan Santos, Jon Cooley, Katie Oaks, Kelly Hanson, Kenya Webster, Kuumba Zuwena, Larissa Lopez, Lisa Abeling, Lola York, Lyric, Melanie MacNeil, Melina Palumbo, Michael Hayes, Nadirah Rahman, Nina Ruffini, Teren Gaskin, Ryulee Park, Skyler Goff, Kylie Irvin

LEAF Schools & Streets has a long legacy of talented teaching artists who have helped shaped who we are, where we’ve been, and have helped pave the way for where we may go.  We are forever grateful for their contributions and we honor them as an integral part of our organization.

Nex Millen

Nex Millen is an accomplished Music Producer, Artist, and DJ from the city of
Philadelphia.  He has 20 years of experience in the music entertainment industry, not
only as an artist, but also in the fields of Music Retail, Music Marketing, and Artist


 Nex’s journey from performing artist to teaching artist began in 2006 when he began
teaching a Hip Hop Culture Program with The Fellowship Farm summer program for
inner city teens.  In 2012, Nex began teaching DJ and Modern Music Theory classes at
Boom Room Studios in Philadelphia.  Three years later and newly relocated in
Asheville, NC, he partnered with LEAF Community Arts as a welcome addition to the

ONEmic Studio and EMErgence programs.  

Nex is passionate about teaching the culture of music and recognizing its impact in our
day to day lives.  “Music helps us to truly live in harmony with ourselves,” Millen


Along with guiding youth to strengthen their musical talents and find their musical paths,
Nex emphasizes the importance of learning different aspects of the music industry. As
major labels step back from the forefront and the rise of independent artists continues,
it’s important for anyone who is interested in having a career in music to have a good
understanding about how the industry operates behind the scenes.  

“We are providing people with the knowledge they need to succeed,” Millen says.  “That

is one of the reasons I’m a Teaching Artist.”

Otto “Aquaboogy” Vazquez

Otto is an internationally acclaimed Broadway dancer, instructor,
choreographer & street dancer. Aquaboogy (who honed his craft in Miami & New York) has stellar credits: Pitt Bull, Ne-Yo, Kanye West, i-Luminate from America’s Got Talent, Diesel NYC, Dr. Pepper’s 2013 “One in a Billion” Nat’l Commercial, toured the world with the Broadway Series show, “Break, The Urban Funk Spectacular”, Cirque Du Soliel, Donald Trump, Run DMC, VH1, MTV, The Heat, The Knicks etc. Aside from an impressive dancing career, Otto enjoys teaching the trade to others, and leads workshops on dance with his wife, Jessica, around the nation – teaching about the history and culture behind hip-hop dance.

Melvin A.C. Howell

Melvin is an internationally cultured choreographer who has been transforming and molding lives, while evolving the art of dance since the age of nine. His approach is to “spread positivity, encouragement and guidance through dance.” With a background in fitness, art, and many different cultural styles of dance, Melvin brings a unique vision to the art. His visionary style and technique promotes growth physically, mentally, and emotionally. His style encourages a strengthened body, mind, foundation, and creative capacity. As a movement expert and master instructor in Hip Hop, Street Dance, and Animation, students can expect to learn, smile, laugh and grow as they are taken on a scientific and mathematical journey of body control. Students will learn to move unrealistically, like a robot or a cartoon, in a safe and healthy way through the understanding of their bodies, muscles, joints, and different angles. 

Adama Dembele

Adama Dembele is a master djembefola (djembe player) from the Ivory Coast, West Africa. Born into a family of musicians, he has toured several continents with various major acts such as Oumou Sangare, Salif Keita, Affou Keita, Sogona Djata and many others. Adama has played in several drum and dance companies such as Yelembad’abidjan, Ensemble Koteba, Congoba and many more. In 2002, in collaboration with Siriki Sanogo, Adama founded Djembeso CI Drum and Dance Ensemble. “Djembeso” in the West African dialect Bambara means “the house of djembe.” Adama chose that name because his family has been playing the djembe for 33 generations and his native home was known as the house where the djembe is played. In 2005, Adama moved to the U.S. to perform and teach the sacred art of West African drumming. Since then he has played in major cities all over the United States. Currently, Adama resides in Asheville, NC, where he frequently performs and teaches authentic rhythms from Ivory Coast, Mali, and Guinea, West Africa.

Ashleigh Goff

Ashleigh Goff has a BA in Contemporary Theater and Performance from Manchester Metropolitan University in England. She has been involved in theater for over 20 years and in that time has amassed an array of knowledge on many things on stage and off. She has acted, directed, stage managed, worked run crew and taught across the country. Some of her favorite teaching credits include working with Tanglewood Summer Camp, Traveling Players Ensemble and traveling with Poetry Alive!. She is the director and founder of the Montford Moppets a local Asheville youth Classics and Shakespeare troupe in partnership with Montford Park Players. She is delighted to be working with LEAF!

Agustin Frederic

Influenced by the vibrant and diverse musical traditions of his home-country of Costa Rica, Agustin pursued an education in music, social behavioral sciences, and jazz studies in Florida, catapulting him into the world of musicianship. He is a performer, touring and recording drummer and percussionist, sound engineer, music producer, and composer, with esteemed credits across the United States. As a percussion teacher, Agustin’s mission is to awaken life, positivity, and joy. Agustin accesses his extensive repertoire of knowledge and skill in drum set, orchestral percussion, hand drums (Latin, African, Middle Eastern), marching and rudimental percussion, percussion ensemble, and Brazilian percussion to custom tailor programs that cater to the needs and goals of the individual or group. No matter the aim, percussion’s global roots can offer a direction.

Marci Bernstein

Marci Bernstein has spent her entire adult life working as an actor, director, producer, playwright and educator. She co-owns Attic Salt Theatre Company, a not-for-profit educational theater company, and has served as the Executive Director for the past twenty-one years. She’s the co-author of three theater education books published by Scholastic, and has toured the country as half of a singing duo for kids. She’s had the good fortune to work for Rosie O’Donnell’s R Family Vacations, where she’s shared stages with the cast of Sesame Street, Andrea McArdle and Titus Burgess. These days you can find her working at Attic Salt’s studio in Woodfin, or directing Youth Production Classes at Asheville Community Theatre.

Samuel Irvin IV

Samuel S. Irvin IV was born close to Asheville in Brevard, NC before relocating to attend college at UNCA, completing a Jazz and Philosophy double major in 2013. The next year, he began teaching at Asheville Music School, having an affinity for music theory, composition and direction. In 2015, Sam began working at Moog Music, in an effort to broaden his understanding of the technology-related aspects of music. His interest in cross-disciplined analysis of the world provides him with constant amazement at
the myriad perspectives that music can be framed in (i.e. Theoretical, psychological, historical, cultural, etc.) “In Physics, every sound is defined by four characteristics: duration, pitch, timbre and intensity. The endless possible combinations of these variables, especially in motion, directly parallels the infinite nature of why any single note of music is ever played.” Whether it is done as a feat of self expression or to bring people together (or both), Sam believes that music is immeasurably valuable to life. An
appreciation for many genres and scenes has inspired a participation in a huge variety of musical projects throughout the more than fifteen years Sam has been playing.  Performing solo classical and jazz chord-melody guitar in addition to trumpet in a local soul band are two main focuses of his currently. Teaming up with LEAF and teaching with Gary Bradley for the Delta House Jazz Band are exciting opportunities for Sam to share his enthusiasm for everything music!

Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith began filmmaking as a teen, where she quickly came to love the medium for its cross between creative potential and technical challenge. Her first project at Carleton College, was a multiple award-winning documentary about four goth teens in Northfield, MN. She immersed herself in the collaborative potential of movie production and taught both as a college student. Her work has been screened twice on PBS, San Francisco & Ft. Lauderdale film festivals, and in the Walker Art Center’s Independent film series; she built a production studio in Key West and used it to make documentaries and commercials. She currently teaches both live-action and stop-motion film to kids of all ages.

Sondra Hall

Sondra loves words as much as she loves bread which is an awful lot. She wholeheartedly believes in the power of the written word to transform both writer and reader and enjoys galavanting around in her imagination with pencil and paper in hand. Because she felt that kids didn’t spend enough time swimming in their imaginations and applying their creative spark to the page, she founded “Take My Word For It!” as a way to bring the adventure that is writing to elementary and middle school kids. For fourteen years, her organization served thousands of students in the San Francisco Bay area, Boston, and northern Virginia. She teamed up with her musician husband Alan to create Alpha-Beat Soup, an innovative program exploring the rich interrelationship between music and words.

Alan Hall

”Teaching is one of the most rewarding and life affirming things I do; and I feel lucky to have the honor of igniting and nourishing a love of drumming and music in my students.”

Alan has been a professional drummer since he was 13 years old. Since that early beginning he’s performed and/or recorded with: “Cirque DuSoliel”, “Teatro Zinzanni San Francisco”, Betty Buckley (of “CATS” fame), toured Europe with international jazz legend Lee Konitz, toured the USA with the Klezmer band “Shirim” and toured Quebec with latin jazz artist Victor Mendoza. He currently composes for his own international virtual orchestra, “Kwirkestra”. He created an after school drumming program for kids in the San Francisco bay area called ‘Rhythm Rocks”, taught at the “Monterey Jazz Festival Summer Jazz Camp”, “Berklee College of Music” in Boston and “The California Jazz Conservatory” in Berkeley. He’s currently a drum teacher at “Jim Beaver’s School of Music”, in Hendersonville, North Carolina. For over 40 years he’s taught private students, classes and workshops to students of all ages and abilities and has developed a varied repertoire of drum teaching materials and styles as a result. Since moving to North Carolina he’s teamed up with his wife Sondra to create a new program melding writing, words and rhythm called “Alpha Beat Soup”.

We appreciate your interest & passion to be a LEAF Teaching Artist!

If you would like to be Resident Teaching Artist, please CLICK HERE!

If you would like to be an Easel Rider Teaching Artist, please CLICK HERE!

If you’d like more information on being a LEAF Teaching Artist in general, please CLICK HERE!