Photo of  Khari  Lee
Khari Lee
Jazz: Saxophone Jazz

Saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, educator, composer Khari Allen Lee earned his B.S. in Music Education from Auburn University in 2002 and went on to attend the Berklee College of Music as a scholarship recipient. In the spring of 2005, Lee graduated from Berklee with an Artist Diploma in Professional Music and was chosen to become a member of the University of New Orleans Louis Armstrong Quintet. He earned his Masters of Music in 2007 and continued to work in the historic Crescent City as an active, versatile performer and passionate educator with groups and artists including Delfeayo Marsalis, the Treme Brass Band, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Irvin Mayfield, and as a member of faculty at Tulane University and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. After a two-year term as Director of Music at the International School Moshi, Tanzania, East Africa at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, Lee has readily and resolutely returned to New Orleans, the faculty of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and the rich creative atmosphere of one of the world’s most original and inspired cities to continue his soulful work.

Photo of  Jason  Marsalis
Jason Marsalis
Jazz: Percussion, Performance Jazz

Jason Marsalis is the son of pianist and music educator Ellis Marsalis and his wife Dolores, and the youngest sibling of Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo. Together, the four brothers and their patriarch Ellis, comprise New Orleans venerable first family of jazz. Jason was starting to become a seasoned road veteran before the age of nine, even traveling to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston for Delfeayo’s senior recital. In 1991, he auditioned and was accepted NOCCA and continued to hone his skills by playing gigs with his father and brothers, as well as studying orchestral percussion techniques at the venerable Eastern Music Festival during his high school career. Shortly after high school, Marsalis ascended to the drum throne of a new group lead by virtuoso pianist and former sideman for Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts. Despite a demanding touring schedule with Roberts, Marsalis furthered his educational goals by attending Loyola University in New Orleans, as well as studying composition with Roger ######### at Southern University. While Marsalis has worked with such international jazz luminaries as Joe Henderson and Lionel Hampton, he remains visible on the New Orleans scene as well, working with a diverse cross section of bands from Casa Samba (Brazilian) to Neslort (jazz fusion). He is also a co-founder of the Latin jazz group Los Hombres Calientes. The sense of style and tastefulness that Marsalis exhibits in his playing explains why is a highly sought after musician. This style has been well documented on recordings with artists such as the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Marcus Printup and Marcus Roberts to name but a few. He has also produced two albums under his own name, Year of the Drummer (1998) and Music in Motion (2000), as well as producing a reissue of his father’s earlier recorded work, Syndrome (1996).

Photo of  Michael  Pellera
Michael Pellera
Music: Chair, Jazz: Assistant Chair, Jazz Piano and Composition, Jazz Combos Jazz

After studying at Berklee College of Music, Mr. Pellera has been a jazz educator serving New Orleans since 1989.  He taught jazz piano and improvisation for fifteen years at Loyola University before joining NOCCA’s faculty in 2002. In the last 25 years, he has lived in New Orleans and New York, giving his music a unique perspective that draws freely from the influences of the two cities.  As a composer he has created a body of work that encompasses modern jazz harmony, indigenous New Orleans rhythms, and elements of the classic American songbook of the 30’s & 40’s. He has released two critically acclaimed CD’s of his jazz compositions.  His first CD, “Cloud Nine” was released in 1997 and his second CD “Son of Sky” was released in 200l. Both CD’s featured a veritable of “who’s who” of the New Orleans modern jazz scene, such as, Bill Huntington, John Vidacovich, Steve Masakowski, Tony Dagradi, Bill Summers, James Singleton, and Phillip Manuel.  As an arranger and producer he has worked in a variety of contexts from trio to big band.  He has performed with a multitude of great jazz artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Buddy Rich, Branford Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, and Harry Connick Jr.  Some of his former students include Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, Jonathan Batiste, Troy Andrews, Rich Vogel and others who have created distinguished careers for themselves with artists like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Liz Wright, Joni Mitchell, Lenny Kravitz, and Galactic

Photo of  Michael  Rihner
Michael Rihner
Music: Theory, Composition, History, Jazz Big Band, Jazz Combos Jazz

Receiving his B.A. from the University of New Orleans and M.M. from Louisiana State University, Michael Rihner studied jazz music with Ellis Marsalis and Harold Battiste and classical composition and theory with Jerry Sieg and Thomas Mitts, while at UNO.  He studied with Matthew Brown, Steve Beck and Dinos Constantinides while earning his Master of Music degree at LSU.  Rihner has been teaching in the NOCCA Music Department since 1997.  He taught music theory for five years at Loyola University College of Music, six years at Delgado Community College, and two years at Louisiana State University as a graduate assistant.  Rihner is currently the Music Composition professor at the University of New Orleans.  Rihner has received several composition awards, including the Southeastern Composers League Classical Composition Award and the Louisiana Jazz Composers Award sponsored in part by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation via Musicians for Music.  He has worked as a studio musician, producer, and arranger for many years at Festival Recordings Studios in Kenner LA, performing on dozens of various local recordings.  Rihner currently sings part-time with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus and is also currently an active member of the New Orleans Opera Chorus.  He has composed, performed, and produced several original compact discs of his own modern jazz works, performing several times with his fusion jazz group “Rhino” at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as well as many other notable local music venues.  Rihner has also composed several full-scale orchestral suites and symphonic works, including the “New Orleans Suite” which was performed at world-famous Carnegie Hall in New York by GNOYO in 2009.  During the summer months, Rihner is the Entertainment Director and performs nightly in the historic hotels and lodges of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana.

Photo of  Chris  Severin
Chris Severin
Jazz Instructor Jazz