Keith Acuncius – Trumpet Keith Acuncius has been the Director of Bands at Rampart High School since June of 2014. Mr. Acuncius received Bachelor of Music Education and Bachelor of Music in Trumpet Performance Degrees 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. Keith is also a member of the Colorado Brass Ensemble, and plays regularly with the John Saunder’s Band. Keith is excited to be a member of the Academy Jazz Ensemble and continue to learn and perform with the band.
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.
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.
Timothy S. Baird – Trumpet Tim Baird is a professional musician heavily involved in the Colorado music scene. When he is not performing, Tim is also a music educator in the Colorado public school system helping to teach the next generation the joys of Music. Tim also enjoys a well cooked steak.
Bruce Blomquist – Bass Trombone Bruce joined the Academy Jazz Ensemble in 2018. He attended the Eastman School of Music, San Francisco Conservatory and Northwestern University before joining the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, under the direction of conductor Michael Tilson-Thomas. While in college he won the prestigious International Trombone Association Bass Trombone Concerto Competition and was invited to perform at the ITA’s international conference. His orchestral career includes performances with the Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, and San Francisco Symphonies as well as touring with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra throughout Japan. In 2005 Bruce moved to Colorado with his family and works in the beer industry. Bruce is also a member of the Pikes Peak Brass Band in Colorado Springs, Colorado..
Rich Brown – Trumpet Rich is a retired USAF medic with 30 years of active duty service. While in the Air Force, he completed a world tour with Air Force Entertainment’s Tops in Blue as a solo trumpeter.
Rich now resides in Colorado Springs and can be found playing throughout the area.
Justin Carpenter – 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 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 in 2003, he landed a teaching position in Colorado Springs. He received his M.Ed. Educational Leadership in 2021 and is currently an assistant high school principal. Justin occasionally performs with many ensembles around Colorado, including the Springs Contemporary Big Band, and Rocky Mountain Wind Symphony, and is a proud member of the John Saunders Band. He is also a master saxophone technician focusing on custom saxophone repair and restoration. Justin enjoys all the outdoor activities that Colorado has to offer, taking road trips, and spending time with his wife, Michael (also an educator), 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.
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 both music education and jazz performance, with an emphasis in drum set, from the University of Northern Colorado where he studied under Jim White and had opportunities to play with many amazing musicians including Jeff Coffin, Alex Sipiagin, and Randy Brecker. Joe currently resides in Colorado Springs, where he teaches band in Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 and maintains a private percussion studio as well as an active gig schedule with numerous jazz groups in town.
Raleigh E. Eversole, IV – Saxophone Raleigh E. Eversole, IV, is in his 25th year of public school teaching in Colorado. “Butch” is the Academic Chair for the Performing Arts and Director of Bands at Palmer Ridge High School. He is a member of the inaugural faculty and served on the Core Planning Team for Palmer Ridge. Prior to his position at Palmer Ridge High School, Butch taught at Lewis-Palmer High School, Manitou Springs High School, and Manitou Springs Middle School, He has taught saxophone at Colorado College at conducted at the LeBam International Summer Band Camp in Beirut, Lebanon. His groups have performed six times at the CMEA Conference and five times at the Music for All National Festival. Butch holds a Bachelor of Arts in music education from Shepherd University in West Virginia and a Master of Music in saxophone performance from the University of Northern Colorado.
Butch remains active as a saxophonist, performing regularly with the Springs Contemporary Jazz Big Band. Other free-lance opportunities have included appearances with such diverse artists as the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, the Temptations, Dan Akroyd, and Trisha Yearwood.
Butch recently completed a 2-year term as President of the Colorado Music Educators Association (CMEA). He has also served as the Chair of the CMEA Instrumental Council and as the Southern Region Representative to the Colorado Bandmasters Association. Other professional memberships include Phi Beta Mu and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Mr. Eversole was the 2010 Colorado designee in School Band and Orchestra magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference,” and was named the 2012 “Distinguished Arts Teacher” by the Pikes Peak Arts Council. He resides in Monument with his wife, Cynthia (also a music educator), and their 13-year old twins. In his spare time, he enjoys ice-fishing at his estate in Hawaii.
Ernie Gonzalez – 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 the Academy Jazz Ensemble, he also performs with the Peak Big Band. Ernie also performed with a local community band, Little London Winds, and has subbed for various big bands in the area. His hobbies include traveling, going to the gym and watching the Dallas Cowboys.
Jon Hutchison – Trombone Jon taught instrumental, choral and elementary music for 45 years until retiring in June 2022. The last 12 years he taught at Academy Endeavour elementary school in Academy School District 20. While at Academy Endeavour his choir was selected to perform at the Colorado Music Educators Clinic and Conference and he was twice selected the Academy Endeavour Teacher of the Year. Jon was selected as the Academy School District 20 “Elementary Educator of the Year” in 2015.
Following graduation from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education degree his career took him to Kansas, Minnesota, Denver, Monument, and Colorado Springs. Jon received his Master of Music Education degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 1992. He has also been the music director and worship leader at several churches. Jon served on the CMEA General Music Council for two years, and for ten years on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Elementary All-State Choir, including two years as chairman. He enjoys playing in AJE.
Sarah Loyer- 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 – 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.
Mike Van Arsdale – Music Director
Mike received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Music Performance and Music Education from the University of Akron, OH. He served 29 years as a saxophonist with the U.S. Air Force Bands. While with the Air Force Academy Band, Mike was the musical director for the critically-acclaimed Falconaires. In 2018, Mike assisted in starting Colorado Springs’ jazz radio station, Jazz935, where he worked as an on-air host for two years.
Mike also served on the music faculties of Ashland University, The College of Wooster, and Colorado College. He currently sits on the board of The Pikes Peak Jazz And Swing Society. Mike is married to Tina Van Arsdale. They have 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren.
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.
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.
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 groundbreaking 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.
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 as 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.
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 for Yamaha and previously worked for Music & Arts as the Southern Colorado Education Sales Representative. Josh 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!
Sheri Van Buren – Saxophone After completing a music education degree at Michigan State University, Sheri 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, Mrs. Van Buren likes adventures in the great Colorado outdoors. She has a goal of hiking all 54 Colorado 14ers.
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 on 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 bandleader 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.
Rose Dunphey is a choral and instrumental teacher in D38 with a BA and Master of Music Education from the University of Oregon, where she studied Trombone with Jeff Williams and played bass on an athletic scholarship with the Green Garter Band. She has traveled Europe extensively as a staff member with the Sound of America. She is the conductor of the Tri-Lakes Music Association in Monument. She plays classical and fingerstyle guitar for local events and has a large private studio of brass, bassoon, and jazz bass students. She loves to play, teach, arrange and conduct music; when she is not doing that she is baking, riding a mountain bike, or enjoying family time with her husband and two teens.
Originally from Melbourne Florida, Brad Eastin has lived in Colorado Springs since 1985. He was awarded a Masters in Music from The University of South Florida in 1979. After graduation he worked as a professional musician in the Tampa and Orlando area, he performed on Tenor and Soprano Saxophone as well as Flute for four years with The Dick Rivers Group. He also worked with Frankie Lane, Cab Calloway, Rosemary Clooney, Frank Gorshin, and James Darrin as well as performing at the Kool Jazz Festival in Orlando Florida in 1982. He joined the US Air Force Band at Robins AFB Georgia in 1983. He moved to Colorado Springs in 1985 after auditioning and winning a position at USAF Academy Band. He became a member of the Premier Jazz Ensemble “The Falconaires” playing with Randy Brecker, Bob Mintzer, Ed Shaunessey, Louie Belson, Jon Hendricks, and Diane Schurr. During this period the Falconaires performed at the Wichita, UNC Greeley, and Fullerton College Jazz Festivals. They were also invited to play at the International Association of Jazz Educators Convention as well a Music-Fest Canada. In 1996 Brad became the leader of USAF Academy Band group “Blue Steel” designing and implementing a “Stay in School Show” aimed at high school and middle school students. He produced this show for over 124,000 students nation-wide. He retired from the USAF Academy Band in August of 2003 and joined the faculty at CSU-Pueblo in 2004 teaching saxophone, clarinet, and jazz studies. Brad continues to perform in the Colorado Front Range area with his own jazz quartet, trio, The Colorado Springs Contemporary Big Band, George Whitesell, and His All-Stars, Orchestro Sabaroso as well as many other artists and performers.