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.

Angela Miracle Gladue




Chinobay of Uganda


La Chiny


LEAF International Costa Rica


Masankho Banda



Tribal Hip-Hop

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.

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, Ersel “Garfield” BoganGary 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, Robyn Josephs, Cynde Allen, Christina Ruiz, Cristal Rose-Fox, Vanessa Guerro, James Love, Jenny Pickens

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.

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.

Otto “Aquaboogy” Vazquez

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

Agustín Palomo Ramos

Agustín is the co-director of music and PreK-12th music teacher at the Odyssey School in Asheville. He is a lifetime member of the IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) union, Asheville chapter #278. Agustin is a national and international musical artist born in San Jose, Costa Rica. He earned a degree in Music & Social Behavioral Sciences from the University of Central Florida (UCF), and later attended Florida State University for Jazz Studies. He has been a Qualified Professional in North Carolina and has over 20 years of experience working with the IDD (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) community.

As a drummer and percussionist he performs, tours, and is a recording artist with his bands. Agustin is currently featured in the original rock band ExciterBox, who have a newly released album. He plays with Zabumba, a Brazilian drumline and dance troupe based in Asheville, NC. Some past ensembles include the 1995 Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps and Walt Disney World (3 ensembles). He has also played in several orchestras/symphonies, concert bands, percussion ensembles, steel drum bands, jazz bands, marching bands, percussion for theater productions and many pop/rock bands.

Since 2021, he has been the music teacher at the Odyssey School in Asheville NC for pre-kindergarten through high school students. He is a resident teaching artist at LEAF Global Arts (Schools & Streets program) in Asheville, NC. His music pedagogy work has included Winter Park and Trinity high schools in Florida, The Austin Waldorf School in Texas, and as a percussion master class clinician at festivals and conventions. He arranged and composed for Appalachian State University, UCF, Wake Forest, and high schools.

Agustín is also a live event producer and a sound mixing engineer whose Front of House/Monitor A1 work can be heard with XL Live Media USA, IATSE, local production companies and independently. Some of his past crews in Austin, TX include the Bass Concert Hall, Erwin Center, and numerous events (Broadway Across America with The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Mama Mia!, Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, George Strait, John Meyer, Neil Young, George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic, SXSW, Austin City Limits, Santana, Willie Nelson, Blueman Group, Tom Petty, and Deadmau5). In New York City his credits include work at Studio Instrument Rentals (SIR), Rocket Studios, and more (Fiona Apple, Beyonce, Trey Anastasio, LL Cool J, My Chemical Romance, Burning Spear and The Foo Fighters).


McKinney is a bass player, singer, songwriter, and empowerment speaker living in Asheville, N.C. She got her start performing at an early age. Growing up in West Virginia, in a music school owned by her mother, she was immersed in music and joined her first band at age 7 with her best friend and drummer, Ary’an Graham. The all-girl band started playing professionally when they were just 11 years old. As teenagers, the band made the decision that they wanted to make a change in the world with their music. They started touring the East Coast with an empowerment message aimed at their peers in middle and high school. They were on a mission to connect people and to send out a message that “There is Hope.” They aimed to destigmatize mental health issues and let kids and other young adults know that they were not alone. 

Melissa McKinney

Melissa McKinney is a music educator, songwriter, and event curator, with a passion for connection and building community. Her mission is to give a platform for youths to share their voices and to help them grow their confidence so they can stand up for what they believe in and make a difference in the world around them. 

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.


The incomparable and uber-talented Chinobay is a Ugandan musician and Educator who has led workshops, camps, and residencies worldwide. He is the founder and producer of Dance of Hope, Africa’s leading youth-based arts education program that allows youth from vulnerable communities to lead music and dance workshops, extended residencies, while connecting with global communities through cross-cultural experiences. While his music may at first seem foreign, Chinobay illustrates the shared roots of global musical styles with those of his native Uganda and its surrounding regions of Africa, highlighting the history and connection Africa has with the rest of the world. He has visited hundreds of schools, colleges, and learning institutions to introduce Africa’s history, music, and culture to students in classroom settings.

Ary’an Graham

Ary’an Graham is a drummer and guitar player. Originally from West Virginia, Ary’an grew up touring the East Coast with The One Voice Project. She also tours with Create Your State, a multimedia tour that visits rural areas and teaches residents how to transform their communities through music. Ary’an continues to play drums with her best friend and bass player of 16 years, McKinney. Ary’an has been teaching drums for 10 years and enjoys all genres of music. 

Irvegg Romero-Gallegos

Irvegg is from Azcapotzalco, México City. His godfather from Senegal was an influence for him to learn and explore West African culture while keeping the roots and traditions from México. Irvegg is a djembe player and also a breakdancer with more than two decades of experience.

Joe Carroll

Joe Carroll began improvising at Appalachian State University in 2007 and taught workshops and classes at the Asheville Improv Collective. Joe has performed at the Dirty South Improv Festival, NC Comedy Arts Festival, Asheville Yes Fest, AIC Fest, Hell Yes Fest, the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival, and Chicago’s Annoyance Theater. He currently performs in his one man show “JOLO,” the all-star ensemble The No-See-Ums, and comedy duo Mabel’s Baby. Joe enjoys the unexplored territory of improvisation and encourages his students to find their own unique approach to the craft.

Monika Guerra

Born in Miami, Florida, with a mixed heritage (Colombian Father and German Mother), Monika began her dance training at 4 years old. She sang and studied musical theatre in high school and decided to pursue a dance career. She studied with Tamalyn Dallal in Miami and became a troupe member of The Middle Eastern Dance Exchange, where she toured and produced a sold-out theater production called “Emerald Dreams.” Monika has worked in the entertainment business for top entertainment companies, performed in choreographed shows and videos, and taught classes. She has been dancing professionally for the past 25 years in Miami, New York, and abroad.

Heena Patel

Heena was a child of Indian immigrants in Canada and she grew up immersed in South Asian culture within her community, but she didn’t see it reflected in the mainstream. Her professional career has focused on amplifying South Asian arts and culture in the dominant performing arts sector. The founder and CEO of MELA Arts Connect, her mission is to nurture the ecosystem around South Asian performing arts and community in thoughtful and context-driven ways. Over the years and through MELA, Heena has done this as a producer, agent-manager, mentor, artist, consultant, curator, producer, and diversity and equity advocate.

Derian Blane

Derian Blane is a singer/songwriter who plays guitar. Soulful and heavily influenced by R&B, this spunky young woman is creating her first album. With a passion for inspiring youths, Derian grew up playing music with her friends, touring to share a message of unity and empathy. She recently moved to Asheville and is immersing herself in the creative community there. She aims to make her whole life filled with music, creativity, and community. 

André Lassalle

Accomplished guitarist André Lassalle has played with greats such as the legendary Miles Davis, Robert Irving III, John Schofield, Huey Lewis, Melvin Sparks, Dee-Lite (Power Of Love Guitar Mix), Michael Hampton from George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic band, Vernon Reid from the group Living Colour, and he most recently performed onstage at the Beacon Theater in N.Y. with Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin (guitarist with Howlin’ Wolf), Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones), and Robert Randolph (Family Band). André is proud to be a part of the Queen Esther Marrow and The Harlem Gospel Singers band. He considers it an honor to work with a woman who has helped set the path for American music as we know it today and takes the responsibility very seriously. A host of styles are in André’s arsenal, from rock and reggae to rhythm and blues. 

Edwin Salas

Edwin is a Mexican puppeteer, raised in Costa Rica, whose international acclaim in the art form has led him all over the world, allowing him to reach larger audiences and bridge seemingly greater divides. He is recognized as a performance artist in dance and theater as well as a mixed-media visual artist, specializing in sculpting of puppets using wood, plastic, paper, cardboard, and more. His themes range from social activism to cultural storytelling, folklore, mental illness, and beyond. Edwin is also passionate about working with people of all ages to illuminate their self-expression through puppetry. In his programs, Edwin teaches different puppetry techniques, material manipulation, and the process of story craft to assist youths in sharing their authentic selves, highlighting the significance of each child’s presence and unique perspective in this wide world.

Tarah Singh

Tarah Singh is a visionary, working in any media to communicate with the world around her. She relies on brushstrokes, color, and textures in paintings or sculptures to initiate emotional conversations with her audience. She is a multifaceted artist who also is creating and exploring as a lighting designer, fashion/hairstylist, business consultant, set designer, chef, welder, painter, and mother. She strongly believes artists serve the roles of historians and inventors who bring solutions into existence. Tarah has created paintings, sculptures, murals, floor plans, events, community, gardens, businesses, relationships, and life. Her daughters Alexandra and Sydney Stilber are part of her life’s work; she encourages them to experience new forms of expression and sustainability at every turn.

Marsha Almodovar

Marsha Almodovar is a mother, painter, writer, and activist. She currently works for a local non-profit. She has facilitated racial equity and inclusion training for local area nonprofits and for-profit businesses. She is a mixed-medium painter and uses her art to highlight social justice issues. She recently published a Spanish-language children’s book. Marsha has served on numerous boards and commissions that align with her personal mission of art and inclusion within the city of Asheville. 

Paul Gladstone

Paul Gladstone is a multi-instrumentalist and producer. His primary instruments are drums and guitar, but he also dabbles in piano, xylophones, sitar, mandolin, or anything else that makes noise. With an insatiable hunger for anything musical, he is always expanding his horizons and absorbing new genres and musical languages. In 2013, he learned to play the balafon (xylophone) while studying abroad in Ghana. After graduating with a B.A. in Music Performance from Skidmore College, he spent several years in NYC’s world-class jazz scene, surrounding himself with veterans of the culture and honing his craft.

Kelsey Moseley

Kelsey Moseley first learned to draw from their Makua Hānai and, long after leaving the community, went on to study design and illustration at the Atlanta Art Institute. They have an extensive background in floral design, conversational works, printing, and prop making. Kelsey considers themself to be a holistic student of the world and brings art as a bridge to their students in aspects of connecting lessons, each other, and emotions.

Madison Link

Madison Link is an Asheville native who loves spending time in nature, exploring with her daughter Bella, and photographing their experiences and environment along the way. She graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development in 2010. Madison worked as an early childhood teacher for two years. She started working with LEAF Global Arts as a volunteer at the first LEAF Downtown in the summer of 2015. Madison joined the Easel Rider team in 2016. 


Molly Graves is a long-time member of Anam Cara Theatre Company’s experimental theater ensemble Accordion Time Machine, based on the work — and sharing many of the tenets — of The Neo-Futurists of Chicago and New York. While experimental and devised work is her true theater love, Molly has also studied traditional theater, as well as improv, Shakespeare, and Lucid Body for performing artists, and has taught script analysis and scene study classes. She is also a film and television actor, with experience in both regional and national projects.

Nicholas Hope

Nicholas Hope is known as a humble musician with a deep respect for his craft. Nik was born in High Point, NC, in a home filled with jazz, soul, and more genres originating from Black music styles. With this influence and a natural musical talent, he was drawn to finding his instrument. He was known to have a hyper energy often too intense for others. He considered other instruments, but when he picked up drumsticks, a spark radiated and a lifelong expression
began. He attended and played in the marching band for TW Andrews High School.

While in high school, he earned a scholarship to the Greensboro Music Academy where his talents were nurtured, and he was able to grow as a percussionist and drummer. He was the first recipient of the John Coltrane scholarship, which allowed him to study music at Appalachian State University. There, he was a member of the percussion and jazz ensembles, and was the drum kit player for the university’s steel pan band. After graduating college, he focused on developing as a professional drummer for a number of touring bands. For the past 26 years, Nik has toured across the United States and internationally from Caribbean Islands to Western Europe and to Japan to perform for a USO program.

Nik lives in Asheville, where he continues to play with several local and touring acts and with his primary band, Empire Strikes Brass. He enjoys teaching and giving drum clinics for youths and adults. Sharing his talents and helping others develop their skills is a deep passion for Nik. He is thrilled to join LEAF Global Arts to spread the medicine of music and culture, and to broaden drumming
opportunities for local youths.

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!

Mayani is a Maasai boy from longido Arusha. He went to boarding school at 6 years old and lost his Maasai language and tradition. Since joining the LEAF program, he has learned to sing Maasai songs, practiced the ‘jump’ tradition and wear Maasai shukas (traditional clothing). Mayani is extremely happy and is currently teaching other youth the culture.