NCA Founder, Executive Director, and Piano Chair
Jacqueline Banks, M. Mus.
Jacqueline Banks was born in England and raised in Miami, Florida. She began taking piano lessons from her mother when she was three years old and began formal piano instruction six month later through the Suzuki method. Until Jacqueline went to college, she was under the tutelage of piano teachers primarily trained from the National Conservatory of Havana, which shaped her musical development and overall style. She studied at the University of Miami's, Frost School of Music's Preparatory Program, Keyboard For Kids, for 5 years before attending Xavier University of Louisiana on a full music scholarship. From Xavier, she earned a Bachelors of Music in Piano performance and was awarded the Sister Elise Sisson Award for excellence in Music; the highest honor awarded from the Xavier's school of music. She also studied vocal performance and music management at Georgia State University. Jacqueline is also a Certified Yamaha Music Educator from the Yamaha Music Education Institute, L.A., Calif. 2013. She earned her certification in Kodaly Methodology from New York University Steinhardt School of Education and Arts Professions. Jacqueline also has a Masters of Music in piano pedagogy from Georgia State University.
Hailed for her distinctive musicality and expressive warmth, American pianist Jacqueline Banks is quickly establishing herself as one of the country's most sought after rising stars for a variety of repertoire specializing works by African American and women composers. Mrs. Banks has a wide range of repertoire from C.P.E Bach, Domenico Scarlatti and Chevalier de Saint-George to Bela Bartok, George Walker and Tania Leon.
Mrs. Banks previous engagements have included recitals in Atlanta, Miami, Washington D.C and New York City. She has performed at such venues as the Levine School of Music, the International Keyboard Institute and Festival, New Orleans Piano Institute and Festival, and annual African American Music Festivals in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Jacqueline Banks has been teaching piano and voice for approximately fourteen years and nine years, respectively. She also teaches composition to musically gifted children. She has held faculty positions at several institutions and nonprofit organizations, and specializes in piano instruction, composition, music history, solfege and the Kodaly Approach to music education. She teaches private piano and group piano classes throughout the DMV area. She has also published a plethora of books, 7 are available on Amazon Books, on the subjects of piano, piano pedagogy, and music education for children Pk-12th grade. Mrs. Banks is also the founder and Executive Director of Music Education Today, a publishing company dedicated to the promotion of cutting edge concepts and applications of music education.
Mrs. Banks' students have placed in several piano competitions including the Rising Star Piano Concerto Competition, where her youngest student was 9 years old, performing Mozart’s Piano concerto in A Major, K. 488. One of her student’s also earned a scholarship to Harvard University for Musical Theater.
Jacqueline Lives and works in Washington, DC with her husband and two daughters.
Voice, Musical Theater and Piano Instructor
Dara Rahming, M.Mus.
Bahamian-born soprano, Dara Rahming has been gracing the concert and operatic stage for almost twenty years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Xavier University of Louisiana and a Masters of Music from the University of Miami. Since completing her education Dara has performed with numerous opera companies in the United States and Abroad.
Highlights of her career begin in 2004 when she worked for the Sarasota Opera as a Studio Artist and performed the role of Medora in Verdi’s “Il Corsaro” and the title role in Puccini’s “Tosca”. Opera News described her as being “excellent” in the role of Medora. The Sun Sentinal also said “Rahming as Medora made one wish her part was larger. The young Bahamian soprano recalled Leontyne Price in looks as well as her sensual sound... Rahming was a poised presence, bringing out the melancholy yearning of her Act 1 Romanza with sensitivity.” After brilliantly performing both Tosca and Medora on the same day she was recognized by the opera company as an Outstanding Returning Studio Artist and was awarded the Daniel R. Mandelker and Marlene N. Harris Fund Grant. She later reprised the role of Tosca with Summer Opera Theatre Company in D.C.; the Washington Post commented that “Rahming sang (the aria) ‘Vissi d'arte’ with hair-raising power." Another highlight in Ms Rahming’s career was when she performed the role of the 1st Lady in Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” with Florida Grand Opera. “Rahming, a most spectacular First Lady. Her voice, beautifully placed and produced, soared over the ensemble with class and great style. Brava!”
Also in 2004, Dara began performing with the New York-Harlem Production’s tour of the Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”, a chapter in her career which has literally taken her singing around the globe. For ten years she worked with this production company, performed leading roles in some of the greatest opera houses and theatres in the world including Bunkamura Orchestra Hall in Tokyo (Japan), Alte Oper in Frankfurt (Germany), Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf (Germany), Teatro Pèrez Galdós in Las Palmas (Spain), Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania, Sicily (Italy), Semperoper in Dresden (Germany), Oper Leipzig (Germany), Komische Oper Berlin (Germany) and Nationaltheater Mannheim (Germany). In 2009 while performing in Sicily one of the local papers wrote “Dara Rahming, in the role of Clara, delights the audience with the celebrated (aria) ‘Summertime’”.
Some other notable performances include her Washington National Opera debut singing, on separate nights, the roles of Lily and Serena in the company’s first ever production of “Porgy and Bess” at the Kennedy Center in 2005. Of the opening night performance, the Washington Post said “Dara Rahming brought a commanding authority to the part of Lily”. She also added the role of Bess to her repertoire in 2007 and performed it with the Oakland East Bay Symphony in California and then a full staged version later that year with Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis. Her most recent performance of the opera was as the role of Clara in the New Orleans Opera 2010 production. The Times Picayune describes her opening of the aria ‘Summertime’ as being simply “sublime”.
After witnessing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2005 Dara began a Benefit Recital Series designed to raise money for her alma mater, Xavier University located in the heart of New Orleans. For the last nine years, she has proudly served her alma mater as a member of their esteemed faculty, working with and mentoring young musicians. Since moving to New Orleans Ms. Rahming has maintained a busy performing schedule and has added several new roles to her repertoire. The title role of William Grant Still’s opera, “Minette Fontaine” with OperaCreole, Minerva in Opera Louisiane’s adaption of Monteverdi’s “Ulysses”, Sylvie in Dan Shore’s opera “Freedom Ride” and the title role of Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha” both with Orquesta Sinfònica de Minerìa under the baton of Carlos Miguel Prieto. Dara looks forward to again working with Maestro Prieto singing excerpts from “Treemonisha” later this Summer with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra(LPO).
Choir and Musical Theater Director
Voice, and Piano
Dr. Felicia Lively, D.M.A.
Felicia Imre (Colvin) Lively came to the DC area in the early 1980’s. Both a performer and teacher, she has been a music educator of General Vocal music in Montgomery County Public schools for 30 plus years. She studied voice with the late Todd Duncan (Gershwin’s original Porgy in his Opera Porgy and Bess). Her performances include classical recitals, cabaret style shows, operetta, opera and featured as a soloist with local churches and choruses. She received her Doctorate of Musical Arts in education in 2007. Dr. Lively has maintained a private studio of students for 20 years, teaching both voice and piano. She has also served as music specialist and director of Round House Summer Camp- Takoma Park location. In the public schools Dr. Lively has presented opera composed for her students, student created ballad operas, children’s musical plays and Broadway Jr. productions as well as choral programs twice a year. Additionally, Dr. Lively has led students in singing the National Anthem before local baseball games for 23 years.
Flute, and Woodwinds
Ceylon Mitchell, B.M.E, M.M.Ed, M.Mus.
Ceylon Narvelle Mitchell II is an active freelance performer and music educator in the Washington D.C. metro area. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Maryland School of Music in College Park under Ms. Leah Arsenault. Recent achievements include the 2015 National Music Festival Symphony Orchestra, the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra, and the 2014 Young Alaskan Artist Award where he received a monetary award and performed a debut recital in his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska. This summer, Mr. Mitchell was named the new Flute Choir Conductor with the Potomac Valley Youth Orchestra. He has previously served as a teaching artist with the Boston Flute Academy and director of the Boston University Flute Ensemble. Previous studies include music performance and education at Boston University and the University of Rochester. Mr. Mitchell has performed in various masterclasses and workshops for professional flutists such as Sir James Galway, Paul Edmund-Davies, Trevor Wye, and Marianne Gedigian. His previous mentors include Dr. William Montgomery, Professor Linda Toote, Dr. Sandra Nicolucci, Dr. Carmen Lemoine, Ms. Corinne McVee, and Ms. Sharon Nowak.
Percussion, Drum-set, and African Drums
Eric Lewis, M. Mus.
Eric Lewis is a graduate of the Duke Ellington High School of the Arts. He also attended the University of the District of Columbia. Mr. Lewis has studied with many master musicians from all over the world, including Rashied Ali, Abdou konte, Baba Ngoma, and others. For eight years he was a drummer with Washington's top West African dance troupe, Kankouran. He has also lead his own groups including All Souls Percussion Choir, and the H.A.P. Children's Percussion Ensemble. He was a drummer at the Action Chapel Ministries where he worked on his first CD project titled (2 Hands 1 Beat). Among the internationally-known musicians with whom he has worked are Roy Ayers, Oliver Lake, and Sun Ra.
Guitar, Ukulele, Composition, and Music Theory
Julien xuereb, M.Mus. Grad.Dip.
As a composer, Julien began working on his first solo album, Introspection, in 2006 and subsequently completed it in 2014. The ten-piece album, released in May 2015, outlines aspects of the human experience including: time, death, love, remembrance, and humanity’s place in the universe. The Atlantic Guitar Quartet premiered one of his latest works, Dialogues for Guitar Quartet, in 2015 at the Engineers Club in Baltimore, MD. Julien is now actively working on his second solo album for classical guitar. One of his latest composition, Through the Telescope, depicts the experience of looking at several distant objects in space. The inspiration was drawn from a unique outdoor performance scenario in which Julien played guitar, and the residents of the Springwell Senior Living Community observed stars through a telescope.
Under the guidance of Maestro Julian Gray, Julien Xuereb graduated from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Music degree specializing in Guitar Performance and Pedagogy in 2015, and a Graduate Performance Diploma in 2017.
Dance and Musical Theater Choreographer
Robbin Tasha-Ford, B.F.A. Julliard
Robbin Tasha-Ford attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts and has a B.F.A. in Dance from The Juilliard School. Robbin Tasha-Ford is a Master Teacher and has taught and choreographed for Spelman College, Loyola Marymount, and UCLA.
Ms. Tasha-Ford has had an extremely successful dance career on stage and in film and television. She has danced with The Washington Ballet, Capital Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company and Ailey II. Some of Tasha-Ford’s screen credits include Coming to America, What's Love Got to Do with It, Rent, Stompin at the Savoy and Disney’s The Smurfs. Some of her television credits include the Academy Awards for five years, Soul Train Awards, Billboard Awards, American Music Awards, and Grammys for various artists. She has danced and choreographed for many icons of the music business such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Barry White, Earth Wind and Fire, and The Isley Brothers.
In addition to an extensive residency as instructor and choreographer for The Washington Ballet organization, she was head of the Ballet Department at Suitland High School CVPA Program until June of 2015. Not only is Tasha-Ford the premier dance teacher at the National Conservatory of Arts, but she is also the Assistant Director of the original Chocolate Nutcracker; A Laverne Reed Production, as well as the Founder and Artistic Director of the D.C. Dance Theatre Company. DCDTC was formed in 2012 and made its debut at the 2013 International American Black Dance Conference to rave reviews. Tasha-Ford has also established The Ballet Bootcamp, which is a series of intensive ballet workshops designed as a study program of classical ballet technique for young dancers.
Cello and Youth Chamber Ensemble Coordinator
Johnny Walker Jr., B.Mus.
Mr. Walker received his Bachelors of Arts in Music Performance from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. While at UMBC, he was a recipient of the Maryland Distinguished Scholarship for Young Collegiate Artists and continued to freelance. He also served as the principal cellist for the UMBC Symphony and performed with UMBC Chamber Players, New Music Ensemble, Cello Choir, and Collegium ensembles.
During his youth, Mr. Walker participated in the National Symphony’s Youth Day Orchestra, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute’s Young Artists Orchestra, the Endless Mountain Music Festival, and the inaugural Festival Baltimore music festival performing Brahm ’s complete cello sonatas.
He made his solo debut with the Prince George’s County Senior Orchestra performing Corelli’s Christmas Concerto with Master Sergeant Christopher Shieh of the President’s Own at the Kennedy Center.
After receiving his undergraduate degree, Mr. Walker performed and collaborated with numerous musicians and ensembles such as the Bel Canto Singers of the Bahamas, Larry Graham and Graham Central Station, Esperanza Spalding, the Lancaster McLean Symphonies, the Baltimore Boom Bap Society, Oakwood University’s Gospel Choir, Jonathan Carney with UMBC’s string faculty, and with the world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Woodwinds Specialist. Flutes, Saxophones, and Clarinet
Fred Foss, B. Mus.
Mr. Foss is the unofficial “dean” of DC sax players. His a master jazz artist with a legacy of creating musicians that have become prominent professional musicians. Fred Foss was a student of the Jackie McLean school of playing, and even though musicians usually move to New York City in search of opportunities a smaller jazz scene can't provide, reedman Fred Foss sought a change of pace. He moved to the District from his New York hometown at age 30, after making several tour visits with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. Today, he consistently stuns audiences with the searing warmth of his alto saxophone’s tone, and his swinging sensitivity on ballads. On both sax and flute, Fred Foss is a force. The skillful use of his flawless technique and his bold sound has made him D.C. saxophone royalty. When he hasn't been on the road with musicians like Abdullah Ibrahim or Hugh Masekela, he's been a hard-swinging presence on the D.C. music scene, especially as a youth music educator.
Fred Foss has mentored many of the city’s great talents and now he brings his knowledge and experience to the students of the National Conservatory of Arts. Mr. Foss is an honored and very successful educator whose youth jazz ensembles have graduated a number of exceptional adherents, from trumpeter Wallace Roney to saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed. In addition to his horns and teaching exploits, Fred Foss has also served as president of the thoroughly unique Listening Group, a 25-year old collective of jazz enthusiasts and intellectuals