June 9 - Rachel Lee O'Brien, Harpist
The 2019 Gold Medal winner of the Houston Symphony’s Ima Hogg Competition, Rachel O’Brien (née Hall) has appeared in Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Houston’s E. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, Cleveland’s Severance Hall, and Blossom Music Center. A winner of Astral Artists’ 2017 National Auditions, O’Brien has received top prizes from such competitions as the Lyon & Healy Awards, the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) Concerto Competition and the Saratoga Harp Colony “Play with the Pros” Competition. She is also the recipient of the Alice Chalifoux Award, and was the 2015 CIM Presser Scholar. O’Brien has been an orchestral harpist with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Akron Symphony Orchestra, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, and a fellow with the National Repertory Orchestra. She has also appeared as soloist with the Houston Symphony Orchestra, members of The Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Repertory Orchestra, and the Cleveland Institute of Music Symphony Orchestra. Passionate about introducing the harp to new audiences, O’Brien maintains a significant and ever-growing following on social media, with more than 40,000 followers on Instagram. She is the author of “Purpose in Practice: 26 Rules for the Practicing Musician,” a book designed to inspire and motivate musicians to achieve bigger goals in their practice sessions. O’Brien also maintains a private studio in Roanoke, Virginia. Rachel O’Brien holds both a Bachelor and a Master of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied harp performance under Yolanda Kondonassis.
July 21 - Justin Craig, Classical Guitarist
Justin graduated from Radford University with a Masters in Music and focus on classical guitar performance. There he studied with Valerie Hartzell and Dr. Robert Trent. He also has a degree in Psychology from RU.
He has instructed guitar and music courses at numerous universities, national festivals and workshops and has had a thriving private studio since 1999. He has been the Suzuki and classical guitar instructor at the Renaissance Music Academy in Blacksburg, Virginia since 2005. There, he teaches students beginning as young as three years old. Many of his students have received regional, statewide and national recognition in competition and audition-based VMEA ensemble performances. Justin is an active classical and jazz performer and recording artist. He performs quite often as a soloist and leader of a variety of groups including a Modern Jazz and Brazilian group. He resides in Blacksburg, Virginia with his wife and three young daughters.
August 25 - Michelle & Tom Jennings, Soprano & Jazz Pianist
Michelle Jennings has appeared Off-Broadway in Mike & Mindy's Wild Weekend Jam at The Players Theatre, A Sketch of New York at The Producers Club Theatre, and Figaro 90210! at The Duke Theatre. In 2021 she was seen in two short films Here For Now and What Made You Who You Are, and the opera feature film Freydis and Gudrid; she also appeared in concert for Kaufman Center's Musical Storefronts. In the 2020-21 season, she sang Musetta in La Boheme in NYC, she was a virtual jazz Christmas concert guest soloist, which streamed in Tokyo, and sang for designer Tia Adeola’s fashion film, which debuted on Vogue.Com. Favorite roles performed in opera and theater include Nellie (South Pacific), Rosalinda (Die Fledermaus) and Fiordiligi (Così fan tuttie). Born and raised in Richmond, Michelle is a co-writer and performer for the operatic comedy Divas Unleashed - The Benefit, which has been presented around the USA. A former school music teacher and public school music advocate, she lives in NYC with her husband, pianist-composer Tom Jennings, and their two kids. Michelle-Jennings.com
Hailed by the Boston Globe as a “highly attuned pianist,” Tom Jennings has performed with artists from a wide array of genres. A native of Roanoke, he has accompanied opera luminaries Ben Heppner and Jerome Hines, cabaret stars Steve Ross and Leslie Uggams, and regularly performs chamber music with New York’s top instrumentalists. His latest album, Sunday Jazz, Vol. 3: Afternoon Chill, was released in March of 2022, and is available on all streaming services. Viewed from Above, a collection of Tom’s works for string quartet, piano, and soprano, was released in December 2020. Tom has appeared on numerous artist recordings, including those by DeShannon Higa, Terry Silverlight, Gary Haase, Steve Sacks, Emily Drennan, Soo Bae, and many others. After earning bachelor's and master's degrees at VCU, he received his Doctor of Musical Arts from Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Constance Keene. Tom’s albums, as well as his many original compositions and arrangements, are available at tomjenningsmusic.com.