Born with a passion for percussion and Latin music, Tony Ayala started his professional career at an early age, as the conguero for Rafy Castro y Su Orquesta in the 1980s, which evolved into the award-winning Salsa Syndicate. Thereafter he joined Claudio y la Orquesta, making his directorial debut with Salsa Power.
In the 1990s, Tony got involved in a new genre of music, Pop Rock, with award winners Sister Moon with whom he made a music video, recorded and toured. Also during this time, he had the privilege of working with local and international sensations-LaChazz Jazz Ensemble, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Love Monkeys, Punto de Vista, and Bahia.
He has shared the stage with internationally-known artists such as Eddie Santiago, Anthony Cruz, Papo Rivera, Edwin Cepeda, Edwin Sanchez, and Kid Rock’s drummer Stephanie Wildenburg. His repertoire includes recordings with Del Bennet, the Bystanders, Alaria Taylor, Barbara Stephan, Johnny Padilla, and Keith Polvermucker.
Recently, Tony’s love for music and eclectic experiences have given rise to his first original salsa band and WAMI award winner Nabori with whom he also produced music and recorded.
At this time, he is eagerly working on his newest project with a unique twist in salsa called D’CalleSon.
Neil Davis is an emerging talent.
He started playing jazz in Milwaukee in 2002. Also in that same year Neil began teaching private lessons to aspiring guitarists at all levels.
As time went on he reached a peak of 72 students per week. The grueling schedule led him to yearn for an environment where he could focus his methods on students who were interested in jazz.
Davis is honored and excited to be a part of the Jazz Studies Program at MYSO. Neil is sought after as a sideman and also leads his own quartet. He is also half of the Davis\Peplin Duo.
As well as playing jazz Neil uses his talent in the world of Modern Dance. He is has been an accompanist for the UWM dance dept. since 2005.
Jason Goldsmith is a fourth generation musician who started playing piano at age three. By age eight, he could play guitar, banjo, and mandolin. In fourth grade, Jason wanted to play trumpet in the school band, but his braces cut his lips when he played, so he switched to saxophone as a compromise. He didn’t take the instrument very seriously until, at the age of 15, he encountered a Charlie Parker recording. That record lit a spark and inspired him to practice with renewed interest. Since that time, he has pursued the art of improvisation.
Jason attended UW-Whitewater, where he received his bachelor’s degree in saxophone performance under the tutelage of Maynard Ferguson alum Steve Wiest, who is currently professor of jazz at North Texas University. He played in the UWW Jazz Symposium, which provided opportunities to play in European jazz festivals, as well as alongside some of our country’s finest jazz musicians, including Ernie Watts, Ed Shaughnessy, Vinnie Calioutta, Bob Mintzer, James Moody, Slide Hampton, Brad Lehli, Dave Pietro, Tim Reis, and Rick Margitza. He also served as a jazz clinician at UWW’s jazz camp for five years.
Jason moved to Milwaukee in 2003 and has performed with local bands including The Booze Brothers, Cold Sweat, Paradise String Band, The Paul Silbergleit Quintet, The Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra, Rockin’ Robins, The Pipe Circus, and The Acid Sextet. He’s also performed with The Temptations and The Dorsey Brothers Band.
Currently, Jason can be heard playing his sax locally with The North Coast Orchestra, with polka icon Steve Meisner, and of course, with the All-Star SUPERband. Watch for Jason’s new jazz quintet to make a splash on the local scene in the near future.
Chris Mell has been playing drums for over two decades. While attending UW-Whitewater pursuing a music degree, he studied and toured with John Becker, Steve Wiest, Ed Shaughnessy, Brad Leahi, Dave Pietro, Mike Spiro and the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. Chris also toured Europe two summers playing the North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival and several club dates in Germany, London and Paris.
As a percussion instructor, Chris has taught students ranging in age from 5 to 50 in a large variety of percussion styles. Chris most recently worked with Cudahy Marching band and Franklin High School Marching band.
Chris lives in Milwaukee and currently plays with North Cost Orchestra, Eric Jacobson Group, Avengers Assemble and Spanglish.
A MYSO alumnus, Isaiah Simons has been playing the double bass for the past 15 years. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a Master of Music degree from Michigan State University, where he studied on a full graduate fellowship.
Isaiah performs throughout the Milwaukee area as a sideman with a wide variety of local musicians, and also holds a contract as a section bassist in the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. He has also toured throughout Canada for the past three summers with the Orchestre de la Francophonie, where he performed as principal bass.
In addition to his work as a musician, Isaiah enjoys cooking, and is an avid Milwaukee Bucks fan.
John Simons has been playing music professionally since his late teens. His formal training began on the trombone while in middle school and he picked up the guitar and bass shortly thereafter.
Since then, he has studied at UW-Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and privately with musicians from the symphony and the jazz community. He continues to play out mostly on upright and electric bass, and is privileged to share the stage with many of Milwaukee’s finest musicians.
His current projects include playing with the North Coast Orchestra, the Stomata Trio, and the Carlos Adames trio.
John has taught in MYSO’s Jazz Studies program since 2011 and teaches math during the day at a local K-8 school on Milwaukee’s South Side.
Jeno Somlai is a jazz and Latin jazz musician. Since first playing professionally at the age of 13, Jeno has worked with a variety of musicians and now spearheads his own projects.
His latest is the Jeno Somlai Sextet, a Latin jazz group heavily influenced by a variety of styles in the Afro-Cuban/Latin genres. The group’s first CD was released in 2004.
Jeno can been seen currently playing with D’Calle Son, The Donna Woodall Group, Eric Jacobson, Isla Adentro and Luis Diaz.