Gary Arrasmith – Trumpet Gary taught instrumental music in Oklahoma and Colorado for 25 years prior to working as a school administrator where he continues to guide and encourage students to be at their best. He received his Bachelors in Music Education from the University of Oklahoma and a Masters of Arts in Leadership from the University of Colorado.
His bands have consistently been recognized for their exemplary performances locally, nation-wide, and internationally. He was Colorado’s 2003 and 2006 designee in School Band and Orchestra magazine’s annual “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” and a two-time Colorado State Champion Director.
Gary enjoys adjudicating music competitions across the country and clinics groups in Colorado when available. He loves spending time with his children and truly appreciates being able to continue to play his horn in the AJE.
Sheri Brown – Alto Saxophone After completing a music education degree at Michigan State University, Sheri Brown decided she couldn’t get quite enough of the saxophone. She completed a master’s degree in (classical) saxophone performance from The Hartt School, University of Hartford in 2006, after which she taught private saxophone and chamber music for The Hartt School Community Division and as a freelance musician. She is in her third year of teaching band at Sabin Middle School in CSSD11 and loves helping these young musicians grow! Miss Brown has performed and competed at the Adolphe Sax International Competition, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the World Saxophone Congress, numerous North American Saxophone Alliance regional and national conferences, and as a substitute with the US Coast Guard Band, and is excited to be part of the Academy Jazz Ensemble. When she’s not teaching or playing, Miss Brown likes adventures in the great Colorado outdoors. She has a goal of hiking all 54 Colorado 14ers.
Justin Carpenter – Alto Saxophone Justin grew up in a small town in the Four-Corners area of New Mexico. After completing three years as a biology major at a small community college, he realized his true calling and transferred to the University of New Mexico where he studied classical saxophone and music education. Shortly after graduating from UNM, he landed a teaching position in Colorado Springs. After his 13th year of teaching band and orchestra, Justin is still loving every minute of it. Justin occasionally performs with many ensembles around Colorado, including the Springs Contemporary Big Band, Rocky Mountain Wind Symphony, and the John Saunders Band. Justin enjoys all the outdoor activities that Colorado has to offer, taking road trips, and spending time with his wife, Michael and their dog, Keegan.
Jon Crystal – Guitar Our guitarist Jon Crystal is originally from Southern California and is married, has one child and has been a member since 2011. Mr. Crystal started playing guitar through classic rock, however he considers Jazz and Blues to be home. He is influenced by many different musicians and guitar players including Pat Martino, Ray Brown and the great drummer Jeff Hamilton. Jon states that he turned his focus to jazz after hearing a Joe Pass album (Joy Spring) given to him as a gift from his older brother and has been chasing the Jazz sound ever since.
Jon Crystal studied guitar at Miami Dade College with the great bass player Ranses Colon and guitarist Sandy Polltrack, but Tom Lippincott the guitar professor at Florida International University had the greatest impact on his playing and how he views his musical voice in life. Mr. Crystal comes from musical family and states “just about everyone on both sides of my family plays some kind musical instrument”, in fact his older brother Dennis Crystal is the amazing director of the music studies at Newberry Park High School in Southern California.
These days Jon plays Jazz with the Big Band and also in combo format as more of life pursuit always looking for the next great chord, riff or song to be played.
David Hudson – Piano David resigned from a successful engineering career at the end of 2015 in order to pursue his life-long passion for music; he became the pianist for Academy Jazz Ensemble less than 4 weeks later. David played piano in the high school jazz band and attended Mira Costa College earning an AA in Music with a focus in combo performance and jazz choir. David transferred to Cal Poly SLO where he was the accompanist for the jazz choir and played with various jazz and top-40 bands while working towards his BSME. He relocated to Colorado Springs in 1984 and was immediately active in the local music scene becoming a regular performer at the world renown Broadmoor Hotel. In addition to playing with AJE, David is the band leader for his own Colorado Country and Masquerade Bands, he’s the Music Director for two local churches, and he regularly performs as a soloist and with several other jazz, rock and country bands. David enjoys the Colorado outdoors, he was actively involved in Boy Scouts for many years while raising his identical twin sons, and he has an MBA from UCCS.
Jon Hutchison – Trombone Jon teaches music at Academy Endeavour Elementary School in Colorado Springs’ Academy School District 20. Following graduation from Kansas State University in 1976 his music career has taken him to Kansas, Minnesota, Denver, Monument and Colorado Springs where he has taught band, choir, drama and elementary music and has been the music director in several churches. Jon received his Master of Music Education degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 1992. In 2015 his school choir had the honor of performing at the Colorado Music Educators Clinic/Conference. Academy District 20 named him the 2015-2016 “Charles W. Tewell Elementary Educator of the Year”. His career has also included contracting choirs and singing back-up for Celine Dion, Michael Bolton and Barry Manilow at Fiddlers Green and Red Rocks amphitheaters in Denver. He currently serves as Chairman of the Colorado Elementary All-State Choir. Jon resides in Monument with his wife Cindy where enjoys the Colorado outdoors and maintains a private teaching studio.
Ernie Gonzalez – Bari Saxophone Ernie Gonzalez comes to Colorado Springs from Falfurrias, Texas. He graduated from Texas Lutheran College with a Music Education degree, but wanted to continue performing in a band, so he joined the Air Force and the Norad Band. After a couple of years, he transferred to the Air Force Academy Band and continued there until his retirement from the Air Force. He then started working for Progressive Insurance as a customer support representative and continued as a claims adjuster. He has also worked for School District 11 as a computer and library technician. In addition to playing with Academy Jazz Ensemble, Ernie also performs with a local community band, Little London Winds, and subs for various big bands in the area. His hobbies include travelling, going to the gym and watching the Dallas Cowboys.
Sarah Loyer- Alto Saxophone Sarah grew up in Monument, CO and attended the University of Northern Colorado majoring in Music Education. While at UNC she performed in a variety of ensembles and studied under Brad Behn and Bil Jackson. She graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in December, 2009. Mrs. Loyer maintains a studio of private clarinet students in addition to teaching at Bear Creek Elementary. She has been a member of the Loveland Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Wind Ensemble and currently performs with the Academy Jazz Ensemble. Mrs. Loyer currently resides in Monument, Colorado with her husband and loves to spend her weekends out running the local trails.
Dan Mariotti – Tenor Saxophone Dan lives in Palmer Lake, CO with his wife & two children and works developing web-based software for a government contractor. He graduated from Colorado State University where he was heavily involved in music including marching band, jazz band, wind ensemble, saxophone quartet, jazz combo, and the men’s music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. He teaches private lessons on saxophone and banjo, and sings with his church choir. Dan is a Registered Piano Technician with the Piano Technician’s Guild, a member of the North American Saxophone Alliance, and is involved with the ɸMA Alumni Association of the Rockies. Outside of music Dan enjoys traveling, gardening, wandering the Colorado foothills, and spending time with his family. Dan is the owner of Altitude Piano Company and can be contacted for piano services (tuning, regulation, repair, restoration) at www.altitudepiano.com.
Keith Acuncius – Trumpet Keith Acuncius has been the Director of Bands at Rampart High School since June of 2014. Previously, Mr. Acuncius taught at Olathe Middle and High Schools in Olathe, Colorado. Under Mr. Acuncius’s direction the Rampart High School Marching band has continued a long tradition of excellence as finalists in the Colorado Bandmaster’s Association State Championships, and at the Bands of America Regional Championships in St. George, UT. The Rampart High School Advanced Jazz Band has also received superior ratings and was a featured performer at the “Dazzle” Jazz Club in the Denver Metro area; the Rampart High School Winter Guard was the Scholastic A Champion in 2015 and won their class at the Winter Guard International Regional in Denver. The Rampart High School Advanced Jazz Band has recently been selected to perform at the Colorado Music Educators Clinic and Conference in 2017.
In his time as Band Director at Olathe Middle and High Schools, Mr. Acuncius was responsible for the growth and development of a band program that more than doubled in size. He was awarded the Montrose County School District “Teacher of the Year” award in 2013.
Mr. Acuncius received his Bachelor of Music Education Degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He earned his Masters of Music with an emphasis in Instrumental Conducting from Sam Houston State University in 2014.
In his free time Keith likes to hike with his dog, Chloe, and ski as often as possible.
Matt Amundson – Trumpet Matt is originally from Minnesota where he received his BA from the University of Minnesota, Morris in music education, and then moved to Colorado to begin his teaching career. He taught band for eight years, the last three in Colorado Springs. After hanging up the teaching gig, Matt is enjoying his new career as an Education Representative for Meeker Music, and teaching lessons in his trumpet studio. Matt loves playing around town in many groups including: The Academy Jazz Ensemble, The Rocky Mountain Wind Symphony, The Little London Winds, and The Pikes Peak Philharmonic. Matt has had the privilege to have played with such greats as: Wayne Bergeron, Byron Stripling, Larry Foyen, Vaughn Nark, Eric Marienthal, Ed Calle, Kenni Holmen, Kim Park, Butch Thomson, John Fedchock – to name a few.
Jack Yonce – Trombone Jack recently retired after 28 years as a public school music teacher, spending the last 21 years as the Director of Bands at Cheyenne Mountain High School. Groups under Jack’s direction have performed at the CMEA Conference 13 times, the Bands of America National Concert Band Festival three times, Carnegie Hall 3 times, the Kennedy Center, the Fiesta Bowl National Pageant of Bands, the Hollywood Christmas Parade, and numerous community and professional venues. Jack has twice been named the Cheyenne Mountain HS Teacher of the Year, was a Gateway High School “Unique Teacher of the Year”, received the Phi Beta Mu Most Outstanding Band Director Award, was the 2018 Colorado Bandmasters Hall of Fame Recipient, and was named the CU-Boulder College of Music Outstanding Alumnus. He is also an elected member of the American Bandmasters Association. Jack is excited to be a part of the Academy Jazz Ensemble and to have time to focus on playing trombone.
Timothy S. Baird – Trumpet Tim is an educator and professional musician in the Colorado Springs area. Being called a “brilliant and talented musician filled with passion for teaching and performing” by Producer Sean Hennessey, Tim has performed with groups that encompass all types and genres of music while also teaching music education in public schools.
Tim routinely performs in Groove Collective (a nine piece funk/rock/soul band), the Pueblo Symphony Orchestra, and the Village 7 Church ensemble. He has also performed with the Pikes Peak Brass Band (NABBA participants), PSO Faculty Quintet, and CHASED (Bill Chase Tribute Band); along with being asked to perform with the Colorado Chamber Orchestra. Tim has also performed in musicals/theatre, chamber groups, jazz bands, and as a solo artist in numerous military and civic events.
Tim has a Bachelors of Music Education from Texas Tech University and a Masters in Music Performance from the University of Wyoming. Tim is excited to join the Academy Jazz Ensemble.
Joe Darpino – Drums Born and raised in Colorado Springs, Joe Darpino is an active drummer, percussionist, and educator throughout the state of Colorado. Joe holds degrees in music education and jazz performance, with an emphasis in drum set, from the University of Northern Colorado where he studied under Jim White. During his time at UNC, Joe participated in numerous ensembles ranging from concert repertoire, to jazz, to rock. As a result, Joe has had opportunities to play with Jeff Coffin, Randy Brecker, and Alex Sipiagin, as well as open for the legendary rock group, ZZ Top. Joe’s engagement with the All Angles Jazz Orchestra allowed him to record with Alex Sipiagin and win a Downbeat Student Music Award. Joe currently resides in Colorado Springs, where he teaches music at primary and secondary levels in Widefield District 3 and Fountain District 8.
Josh Prewett – Trombone Josh Prewett is an expert low brass specialist who performs and teaches throughout Colorado in addition to playing lead trombone with the Academy Jazz Ensemble. Josh currently works Yamaha and previously worked for Music & Arts as the Southern Colorado Education Sales Representative, taught Band at Timberveiw Middle School in Colorado Springs where his program received the Colorado Bandmasters Association “Program of Excellence” award three years in a row and his Jazz Band and Symphonic Band performed at the Colorado Music Educators Clinic/Conference in 2011 and 2012. He currently performs with such groups as the Castle Rock Trombone Quartet, Academy Jazz Ensemble, Bad Grammar Overload, and the John Saunders Band. He also teaches at many of the top music programs in Southern Colorado. Josh is an avid Colorado sports fan to the point where he got engaged at a Colorado Rockies game and he bleeds Orange & Blue. Go Broncos!
Cody Jackson – Bass Trombone Currently, Cody is a JH/HS band director at The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. He is finishing his second year at TCA and 6th year teaching overall, having come from the Fort Collins/Loveland area where he also taught middle school band at Lesher Middle School. He now serves as bass trombonist for Academy Jazz Ensemble, Principal Trombone for the Rocky Mountain Wind Symphony and also is a substitute for the Pikes Peak Brass Band, Colorado Brass Company (Ft. Collins), Canyon Winds and other performing ensembles in the area. Cody enjoys spending time with his wife, hiking, disc golfing and enjoys his free time wherever he can find it.
Bud Gordon – Trumpet Bud grew up in Los Angeles and attended Eagle Rock H.S. with well known Jazzers Bassist Scott Colley, Guitarist Larry Koonse, Drummer Carlos Vega, and legendary Trumpeter Roger Ingram.
After fulfilling obligations with the Monterey Jazz Festival New Generations band, Bud toured the world as Ray Charles’ first trumpeter. Freelancing in Los Angeles’ vibrant and eclectic music scene followed. During this time he also performed in a variety of recording situations, including some of the first sessions for the ground breaking cartoon “Ren & Stimpy”.
After moving to Colorado Springs, Bud joined the Springs Contemporary Jazz Big Band, performed a number of musicals at the FAC’s Repertory Theater, and has played with many of the area’s finest musicians. With drummer and percussionist Dennis Bueno, Bud co-founded Colorado Springs Salsa band Orquesta Sabroso.
Bud also performed at the Red Note Jazz festivals here in the Springs both with his own and as a member of ensembles led by Brad Eastin and Alan Joseph. And with this current group, Bud has refocused on the jazz classics that inspired his love of jazz. Along with jazz and dance standards, the group performs contemporary, latin-infused jazz with sophisticated harmonies and a crackling three-horn front line. Bud was also a member of Phil Allen’s Thin Air jazz ensemble and is happy now to join the Academy Jazz Ensemble as well as being a fresh face in the Denver Jazz Orchestra.
Douglas Arndt – Electric Bass Doug played woodwinds in high school before switching to low brass in college. He entered the Navy as a tuba and trombone player and learned bass at the Naval School of Music. He served in several fleet bands, including a Mediterranean cruise aboard the USS Forrestal. After his Navy tour, he returned to college, where he earned a degree in music theory and composition. Prior to joining the Academy Jazz Ensemble, he was Assistant Conductor of the Pikes Peak Philharmonic and sang tenor in Vocal Fusion. His arrangements for Wind Ensemble and Brass Band have been performed by many groups in the Front Range and across the country. Doug also has a degree in software and a 37+ year IT career.