Teaching Artists

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Diana Chittester is known for her signature percussive “guitar acrobatics” (Buffalo ArtVoice), bold vocals, and “intelligent and articulate lyrics” (Music Connection Magazine). Taking to the stage as a solo performer for most of her early career, Diana began to develop a unique multi-part playing style when she imitated a 3-piece band on a solo acoustic guitar. Percussive thumping, popping bass lines and melodic picking patterns became a signature sound that elevated Chittester from bars and coffee shops to folk clubs and Performing Arts Centers. Diana Chittester combines her professional experience from both performing and teaching to create an array of workshops designed to meet the needs of students in our community. 


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Raymond DeForest is  a forty year resident of Cleveland Heights, and Cleveland native, he gives private Bass lessons at the Fairmount School of Music. He is a full time musician and performs regularly with Blue Lunch (Swing & Blues), Spider Stompers (Roots, Americana) Anthony Lovano Project ( Blues, Rock), and the Tom Shaper Duo (Jazz). He has been involved with Roots of American Music from its beginning, and has performed hundreds of school programs and community concerts. He is a first call sub for many groups around town. 


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Ray Flanagan is a musical artist from Northeast Ohio. A chameleon in the local scene, he can be found delivering his own songs intimately in his dynamic solo performances, rocking and rolling with his band The Authorities, or playing sideman to any number of bands and artists around town. To date, he has opened for artists such as Train, Dennis DeYoung, Tim Reynolds, Malcolm Holcombe, Chuck Prophet, Marc Ford, BoDeans, and Low Cut Connie.


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Sam Hooper has an alluring blend of blues, rock, jazz and funk that has thrilled audiences in China, Finland, and Japan, while his songs have been heard on TV’s "All My Children" and "The Young and the Restless.” A graduate of Florida's University of Miami School of Music and an alumni of Berklee College of Music's Songwriting Program in Boston, guitarist, singer-songwriter, Hooper is also an experienced educator. Most recently, he joined Roots of American Music (ROAM) in Cleveland as a Teaching Artist. In this position, he leads classes of high school students in writing, recording and performing songs together about diversity and intolerance for the STOP THE HATE program. He also teaches guitar and ukulele classes to kids in the afterschool program at Fatima Family Center. 


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Bethany Joy  is an indie-folk singer and guitarist out of Cleveland, Ohio. She started releasing music in 2015 with a self-titled solo EP recorded in Nashville, TN. Bethany then joined locally acclaimed group The Speedbumps in 2016, touring the Midwest singing backup vocals and playing keys. She can be heard on their 2017 album “When The Darkness Comes.” Since touring with The Speedbumps, Bethany has formed a four-piece band called Thieves of Joy. They are scheduled to release their first EP in 2019, recorded with David Mayfield in Canton, OH. Bethany plays a range of instruments including guitar, piano and percussion but is most recognized for her vocals and harmonies. She is a founding member of the local Beatles cover band, “Dig a Pony,” as well as an original duo project with her partner Daniel Socha. Bethany's musical influence comes from a variety of genres and artists including Nick Drake, Jose Gonzalez, and Adrienne Lenker. In February 2019 Bethany released her second solo EP, “Afterglow”. She continues to perform most weekends in Northeast Ohio. Bethany has also been an interpreter for the deaf beginning in 2013 and currently works as an interpreter for Purple Communications.


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Kyle Kidd is a national touring artist based out of Cleveland, Ohio. Kyle has been making music as a professional vocalist for 15+ years. He has also been a contestant on American Idol. Kyle has a passion for all music but he truly enjoys jazz. Kyle joined ROAM as a teaching artist in 2018 with the Stop the Hate program. He has dedicated his time to working with youth when not touring. Kyle has also served in many positions working in the Cleveland community supporting youth and young adult development. During this time he has been doing work to support youth who have aged out of foster care, the LGBTQ+ community as well as youth with development disabilities. Kyle is one of the lead vocalist of Mourning [A] BLKstar (Cleveland-based Band). Kyle has had the opportunity to tour internationally with the band. Also, having the opportunity to perform at The Kennedy Center which is a highlight for him thus far. Some of Kyle’s vocal inspiration are Sarah Vaughn, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin.


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Brent Kirby started working with Roots of American Music 17 years ago, and has been called by many of his peers one of Cleveland’s hardest working musicians. In 2013, Brent Kirby was voted “Best Singer” and also “Best Male Vocal” by the Cleveland Scene, and 2012, he was voted “Best Musician”. When he is not playing solo or with his band, called His Luck, he writes the tunes and fronts the Jack Fords (2007, 2009 Best Rock Band Cleveland Scene), leads the monthly revival of Gram Parsons with his band The New Soft Shoe, and plays drums for the talented Cleveland holiday band, the Ohio City Singers. His 10 x 3 Songwriter showcase weekly series at Brothers Lounge has created an encouraging,vibrant original music scene.


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Kate Kooser is a singer songwriter and educator from Cleveland, OH.  She received her degree in Jazz Studies from Bowling Green State University in 2013 and is currently pursuing a Masters in Speech Language Pathology. Kate is a soloist at St. Dominic Church in Shaker Heights and the director of music at The Church in Silver Lake. She has participated in vocal ensembles around the Northeast Ohio area. She is a private voice instructor and teaches voice lessons and classes at The Music Settlement, Tri-C Creative Arts Academy, Cleveland Montessori through Roots of American Music, and other locations. Kate also served as the director of the New York Voices Vocal Jazz Camps for 4 years in Bowling Green, OH, Ithaca, NY, and Ptuj, Slovenia. In 2018, Kate co-directed a chorus for the Contemporary Youth Orchestra's performance with Kenny Loggins. She also sang background vocals on the concert with Loggins. Kate performs mostly folk and country music, drawing influences from the Texas songwriter traditions, and contemporary folk artists. She has performed around Cleveland at establishments like The Barking Spider, Brothers Lounge, Nighttown, The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, and the GAR Hall (Peninsula), as well as regionally in Michigan and New York. In addition to being a solo performer, Kate finds great joy in singing harmonies. She has had the pleasure of backing up Kenny Loggins, Terence Blanchard, Catie Curtis, Charlie Mosbrook, Laura Webster, GS Harper, and more. You can also hear Kate as a part of the duo Juniper Dust, performing twopart harmonies and guitar work with Matt Harmon.


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Jason Patrick Meyers with his gritty vocals and acoustic guitar stylings, Jason Patrick Meyers captures the spirit of the blue-collar worker in his music.  Digging deep into what is real, he connects to his listeners with a well-crafted lyrical adventure of honesty lurking in every song. A 22 year veteran of the Cleveland music scene, Jason has played the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Convention Center, The House of Blues and all of the major venues in Northeast Ohio as well as many venues throughout the eastern half of the United States.  In addition to performing, he can also be heard on the radio every Monday and Saturday night. He spins the bands and musicians from Northeast Ohio as host of NEORocks on WJCU 88.7 FM. As an active member of the Cleveland music scene, Jason works as Music Liaison for Brite Winter- A music and arts festival held annually in Cleveland, Ohio with the mission of embracing Cleveland's winter "by celebrating with light, fire, art, music, games and snow.”  Jason also donates performances to non-profit causes and events throughout the year. He also works with the local nonprofit, Roots of American Music, as a teaching artist in schools throughout the greater Cleveland area. 


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Jack Mizenko joined ROAM in 2007 after teaching special education in the Cleveland Schools for thirty years. Jack has been a ROAM teaching artist since then, and also served as Education Coordinator from 2010 to 2013. 

Jack has worked on a wide variety of school residencies, after-school programs, and professional development workshops for teachers. He has also programmed interactive music sessions for disabled adults as well as for seniors. Jack plays guitar, mandolin, harmonica, and sings. He loves writing songs with his audiences, from first-graders to seniors. Since 2002, Jack has co-hosted music at the Root Café in Lakewood every Monday evening.


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Charlie Mosbrook is an award-winning songwriter, performer, and advocate for American folk music. Beginning his career in 1988 as a street musician, he quickly became a popular open mic host throughout Northeast Ohio. From these early roots he nurtured his songwriting, musicianship, and stagecraft and today performs for major festivals and concert series throughout the US. His recordings of original and traditional songs have earned him rotation on many popular folk radio programs around the world. As a folk music advocate Charlie continues to organize local open mics and serves as the president for Folknet and vice president to FARM (Folk Alliance Region Midwest).


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Kevin T Richards is ROAM’s Artistic Director. He founded Roots of American Music in 1999 and currently is the chief administrator. ROAM, is a nonprofit music education organization located in Cleveland Heights, Ohio which provides arts-integrated education to individuals of all ages and abilities. Kevin directed "First Voice, Ohio" a documentary ROAM produced in 2011 which was aired by PBS , which showcases artists from across the state demonstrating various styles of traditional music. Kevin plays a vast array of instruments including electric and acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin. Averaging 200 performances annually, he has appeared at the National Folk Festival and Merlefest and entertained audiences across the US in concerts, in schools, on radio and television for over a quarter century. He has shared the stage with Blues Hall of Famer, Robert Jr. Lockwood, John Hammond, and Rock Hall inductee, Jorma Kaukonen. Kevin’s mastery of American roots music has led to collaborations with the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Western Reserve Historical Society and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Kevin recently released his third CD called “Cannonball” by his old time string band trio, the SpYder Stompers.


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 Afi Scruggs  is a vocalist who plays blues, traditional and contemporary African American gospel, old time and bluegrass on the electric bass, piano and keyboards.  She has studied and performed music for more than 50 years. Her private instructors included Ed Ridley, pianist, 1994 – 1996, jazz pianist Neal Creque, 1996 – 2000, Rob White, electric bass, 2013 to present. I enrolled in the jazz studies program at Tri-C from 1996 to 1998 and taken classes in MIDI – 2009, Audio for Video, 2011. She also attended intensive music camps at Augusta Heritage in 2000, 2001, and 2007. She has been a ROAM teaching artist since 2004. She is the electric bassist for the Antioch Baptist Church Gospel Choir and for the choirs at Progressive Baptist Church.


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Tam Sivertson as the Roots of American Music Project Assistant, Tam coordinates the implementation of residency programs and serves as the primary point of contact between the partner schools/program sites and ROAM.  He arranges project schedules with schools/sites and ROAM teaching artists, assists with program evaluation and tracks project expenses and artist payroll. Tam Sivertson earned a Bachelor of Music – Percussion Performance Major from Berklee College of Music in May 1985. He continued his studies in music education and taught elementary music Preschool – Grade 8 for nineteen years. He continues to teach preschool music part time and plays drums professionally in the greater Cleveland area. Tam has completed three levels of Orff Schulwerk teacher training and one level of Kodaly teacher training.


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Alisha Stahnke has been a singer song writer since she picked up her guitar at 9. She is now the front women of local indie grunge band Punch Drunk Tagalongs and has been a teaching artist at ROAM for two years. Alisha started Punch Drunk Tagalongs in Septemeber of 2015. Since then they have released their debut album "Hazy", played at the Rock Hall, played the main stage at Brite Winter, toured the east coast, received a grant from the Panza Foundation, and so much more. When Alisha is not busy rocking out, she loves to be a part of the classroom. She enjoys using creativity to approach each educational experience different from the last. She can be found using an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drum machine, or looper at any given point.