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Meet Our Educators

JazzArts Academy programs are led by many of the Charlotte region’s most experienced music educators. These professional musicians and teaching artists offer extensive and diverse experience in the jazz education field and provide students of all ages enriched learning opportunities.

In addition to the faculty below, we consistently enhance our programs with special guests from around the region and around the country.

Lovell Bradford

Lovell Bradford, piano

Adjunct professor of piano at Davidson College, where he also studied Music and Art, is well known and played on a number of top recordings in both the Gospel and Jazz traditions. Bradford is a native of Gary Indiana. His first musical influences were in church where his first teacher, his grandmother, played every Sunday. His gifts grew and took him to Central State University where he would broaden his musical sphere of influences. He began playing in the jazz scene of Columbus, OH before moving to Charlotte, NC. Lovell has performed with artists such as Pharez Whitted, Slide Hampton, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Wes “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Ronnie Burrage, and many others.

Johnny Conga, multi-percussionist

Johnny Conga has been performing for 55 years, as a world renowned “multi-percussionist-specialist”, in the Art of Afro-Cuban/Caribbean drumming and music. As a performer, he has been in 150 bands, done 17 international tours, and worked with over 100 major artists including Paquito D’Riviera, the Jackson Five, Willie Bobo, and Gloria Ganyor. As educator, Johnny is an ethnomusicologist, teaching a Latin jazz style percussion and drum curriculum for over 35 years.  Johnny started playing the congas professionally at age 16 in New York, has traveled and performed all over the world, and now calls North Carolina his home for the past several years.

Troy Conn

Troy Conn, guitar

Troy Conn started playing guitar at age thirteen. Soon after, he was playing shows before he could even drive himself to them. By sixteen, he was on the scene performing in local rock clubs. At UNC Charlotte, Troy studied classical guitar and, after graduating, was invited to study at Berklee Guitar Sessions under a full scholarship. Versatile in jazz, classical, and rock, Troy has performed across the country and overseas. He is a native to Charlotte, NC, where he regularly plays with his own bands – Ocie Davis Trio, Ron Brendle Quartet, Al Sergel IVtet, and Bunky Moon- as well as with local musicians and with artists on tour. Troy often utilizes his diverse background in styles to perform with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and numerous pit orchestras. When he ‘s not playing, he’s often teaching and mentoring younger musicians, from elementary school through the university level. His latest CD, “Old and New,” was released in Spring 2018.

Ocie Davis

Ocie Davis, drums

Los Angeles native Ocie Davis was introduced to the drums at age seven. Now an internationally recognized musician, educator, and composer, he has traveled around the world performing at festivals and venues with some of the most influential figures in jazz. Some of those notable musicians include Ellis Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Christian Scott, Nicholas Payton, and Donald Harrison, who called Ocie ‘one of the premiere drummers in jazz’. Ocie has also had the distinction of being recognized as a Jazz All-Star by New Orleans Magazine.

Sean Higgins

Sean Higgins, piano

Pianist and composer, Sean Higgins is an international touring and recording artist acting as a musical ambassador to audiences worldwide. While classically trained, his own group offers a modern take on the jazz trio configuration. Higgins enjoys exploring many musical genres and has played keyboards in many commercial settings such as R&B, pop, and fusion.

Julio Jeri, trumpet

Julio Jeri is a trumpet artist originally from Peru. He has served as director, conductor, or musician for the Charlotte Jazz Orchestra, Children’s Theater of Charlotte, Central Brass Band, Orquesta K’che, and many more. Julio holds a bachelor’s degree from Wingate University, a master’s from UNC School of the Arts, and is currently pursuing a Doctoral of Musical Arts in trumpet performance at UNC Greensboro. He teaches privately at University of North Carolina School of the Arts Community Music School and has taught at numerous middle and high schools across North Carolina. It is his passion to share the gift of music, collaboration, and perseverance and to mentor students.

Carl Ratliff

Carl Ratliff, saxophone

A celebrated Charlotte-Mecklenburg middle school music teacher, Carl earned the Master of Arts in Teaching in Music Education from Winthrop University. Currently, he is the Director of Bands at South Charlotte Middle School. His students have been selected by audition as members of the All-State, All-District, and All-County Bands as well as All-State Jazz and All- Region Jazz Bands and Charlotte Junior Youth Symphony Orchestra. During last school year, Carl was selected Teacher of the Year (second time) at South Charlotte Middle School.

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