8th Annual
Rhythms of Diversity

June 24- July 1, 2019

This project is funded in part by the GRASSROOTS ARTS PROGRAM of the North Carolina Arts Council,
a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, through the Asheville Area Arts Council

This event is funded in part by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority
Festivals and Cultural Events Funding Program. 

 2019 Teachers/Performers

subject to change


Four Time Grammy Winner, Glen Velez is the founding Father of the modern frame drum movement and is regarded as a legendary figure among musicians and audiences world-wide. Velez brought a new genre of drumming to the contemporary music scene by creating his own performance style inspired by years of percussion and frame drumming studies from various cultures. Velez’s virtuosic combinations of hand movements, finger techniques, along with his original compositional style, which incorporates stepping, drum language and Central Asian Overtone singing (split-tone singing), has undoubtedly opened new possibilities for musicians around the globe, resulting in a shift in modern percussion.



The Healing Power of Music, The Magic Art of Improvisation, The Spirituality of Rhythm
Ta Ka Di Mi Doo-dn Be-Op Di Mi Ta Ka thom doom DHUM Jaah nu sah pah … “ Don't ask. Just listen. Because you have to hear it to believe it. It’s a staccato swing that’s alive– essential and timeless - passionately explored by an artist named for a river that has spawned centuries of accomplishment and creativity. For Rhythm Vocalist Loire Cotler, life has always been about the natural rhythm of the universe which has propelled her into a life, like her music, that is defined by pure cadence and pulse. Loire has now done no less than create an entirely new genre using the intimate power of her voice as a rhythm instrument. 


River Guerguerian, Director of Asheville Rhythm, draws upon his richly diverse experiences, to play across a remarkable span of musical genres and traditions, both obscure and mainstream. As a highly regarded studio musician, River has recorded on over 250 albums and film soundtracks. He has performed with such groups as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, New Music Consort, Tibetan Singing Bowl Ensemble, Paul Winter Consort, Talujon Percussion Ensemble, Lizz Wright, Chuck Berry, Sophie B. Hawkins, and Ziggy Marley and The Gipsy Kings. 


Naghmeh Farahmand is a Persian percussionist from a musical family and grew up in a house full of drums. Her father, Mahmoud Farahmand, is one of the leading percussion masters of Iran. She has studied tonbak, santoor, daf: all traditional Persian and Kurdish intruments. Naghmeh has performed in many well known Iranian traditional bands in Iran and festivals around the world.  She has performed with Hassan Nahid, Iranian master of the ney and Hengameh Akhavan, a singer of traditional music. She now lives in Canada where she explores world music: Arabian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Indian and Jazz. She teaches master classes and workshops internationally.


Adama Dembele is a master djembéfola (djembe player) from Ivory Coast, West Africa. Born into a family of musicians, he has toured several continents with various major acts such Oumou Sangare, Salif Keita, Affou Keita, Sogona Djata and many others. Adama has played in several drum and dance companies including Yelemba d'Abidjan, Ensemble Koteba, and Congoba. 
Before coming to the United States Adama founded Djembeso Drum and Dance Ensemble. "Djembeso" in the West African dialect Bambará means "the house of djembe". Adama chose that name because his family has been playing the djembe for 33 generations and his native home was known as the house where the djembe is played. People from all over the world have come there to study and experience this rich cultural tradition.  


Gamelan Yowana Sari has been a performing Balinese Art Ensemble since 2011. The group is currently in residence at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. They’ve recently returned from a two week tour in Indonesia, performing in Pengosekan, Bali, at the home of the extraordinary composer I Dewa Ketut Alit. Gamelan YS performed two of Alit’s works along with other kreasi baru (new works) by Evan Ziporyn and Pak Windha. Gamelan YS has a long relationship with Alit as a constant source of encouragement and instruction. The group plans to return in 2019 for a longer tour of the island.


Adam Maalouf's music is found where the modern meets the ancient, where the Pan-tam (or handpan) meets traditional styles of music from around the globe brought together using both organic and electronic drums, beats and synthesizers. Pan-tam is the name of the "flying saucer" instrument invented in the year 2000, and the word stems from the combination of the Pan from Trinidad, and the Ghatam (clay pot drum) from South India. A New York City based composer and performer, Adam has shared his music in venues across the world including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, MoMA, St. Basil's Cathedral, Tanglewood, Wolf Trap, The BANFF Center and Austin City Limits. As a collaborator, Adam has performed with ensembles such as The Brooklyn Raga Massive, Pink Martini, Ensemble Signal, The Atlanta Symphony, The National Arabic Orchestra, The Asheville Percussion All-Stars and The Gil Evan's Centennial Project. Adam performs regularly as a solo artist and with his world music project "Future Tribe".  


For over 10 years, Zabumba has been Asheville’s hometown Samba ensemble.
They bring high energy artistry to Brazilian folkloric music.

Otto Vazquez, known to the Hip Hop and entertainment world as “Aquaboogy,” is a prolific dancer, choreographer, educator, author and filmmaker. This time-tested talent has transcended all levels of the dance life, from touring the world with Broadway/Off-Broadway shows like “Break!” from NYC, to being a talent on national/international commercials. He's worked alongside and toured with big-name artists since the 1990's; he became a celebrated cruise ship dancer and choreographer, to becoming one of the most circulated educators in the United States and abroad. His most recent credits include starring in a Hip Hop musical called "Enter the Zoot Suit Riot", in a film he wrote and choreographed, released in 2018. Otto lives in Asheville, NC. Otto will be joined by his dancer/wife, Jessica, Aka, Goldilox.


Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Megan Sprague is a Sound Practitioner. She began studying traditional singing bowl meditation with Mani Carter, a Nepalese woman. Megan explored a variety of sound healing modalities with leading instructors Diane Mandle, Dr. John Beaulieu, Silvia Nakkach, and Phillipe and Lea Garner.  In 2014, she became certified as a Sound Practitioner at the Sage Center for the Healing Arts in New York. Since then, she has completed a Gong Master course with the legendary Don Contreaux as well as a two week intensive at the Dome Center, in Spain.  Restorative Sounds is the name of Megan’s practice, where she facilitates experiences of awakening the heart into “Health, Happiness, and Harmony.”


Percussionist Michael Lipsey has performed at festivals in Bali, London, Lisbon, Madrid, Berlin, Mexico City, Taipei, Macao, Tokyo, La Jolla, New York, Moscow, Bogota and France. Michael is the founding member of Talujon Percussion and has also performed with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Steve Reich, Bang on a Can, Tan Dun, New York New Music Ensemble and Riverside Symphony. He has recorded for Sony Records, Red Poppy Records, Nonesuch, Albany, Capstone and Mode. Michael has performed throughout the world and given master classes at numerous schools including the Juilliard School of Music and California School of the Arts. Michael is a full-time Professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music at CUNY, Queens College and Director of the Percussion Program and the New Music Ensemble.


Dr. Diana Loomer is an active percussionist and music educator. She graduated with a D.M.A. in Percussion Performance from the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a M.M. from Indiana University and a B.M. from Appalachian State University in Percussion Performance. She has studied with teachers including Thomas Burritt, Tony Edwards, John Tafoya, Kevin Bobo, Steve Houghton, Michael Spiro, Rob Falvo, Craig Hetrick, and Braham Dembar.  
Currently, Diana is teaching and performing in the Asheville, NC area. In addition to her private lesson studio, she is the director of the "Steely Pan Steel Band" at Appalachian State University and an adjunct percussion professor at Western Carolina University. She has taught at The University of Texas, and at Indiana University.


A North Carolina native, Sue Ford is a singer-songwriter-multi instrumentalist. She has been teaching music to Asheville preschoolers through middle-schoolers since 2003.
Sue is a composer, writing choral music for Womansong as well as her students. She has performed for 50 years and released an album of originals in 2004. She has won first place in the Mountain Xpress “Best Music Teacher” four years running. Sue Ford, former director of Evergreen’s EMBE Marimba Band, is launching a new venture called Village Marimba.  Sue continues to spread the joy of playing marimba music in a community ensemble.


Chris and Eliot will be joining our Teaching Artists for the Saturday night concert at Diana Wortham Theatre to perform various original pieces with them. Chris is a composer and multi-instrumentalist well known for his unusual stringed instruments, Indian dotar and Turkish cumbus oud. Eliot plays the upright bass with masterful grace, for which he has won two Grammy Awards. Both men are master musicians and play internationally. When joined by River, they become the much loved
Free Planet Radio.


Brandi Mizilca is an accomplished Asheville-based artist who has has studied dance and movement her entire life and Middle Eastern music and dance since 1993. She has performed solo and with various ensembles throughout the U.S. as a dancer, choreographer, and musician and is especially known for her electrifying improvisational belly-dance performances to live music. In addition to teaching and performing her signature style of dance, which she calls “Transformational Bellydance,” Brandi Mizilca also performs as a drummer and multi-instrumentalist, teaches percussion classes for women, and works with Asheville Rhythm. 


Brian T. Carter is a Music Performer, Educator and Group Drumming Facilitator, based in Asheville, NC.  As an in-demand Drumset Artist/Middle Eastern Percussionist, he’s known for his danceable groove, joyful presence and articulate musicality.  He’s shared the stage with such notables as Glen Velez, Shane Shanahan and Raquy Danzinger, as a member of her band, Raquy and The Cavemen.  As an educator, Brian brings tangible passion, 25 years of diverse experiences and clarity of explanation to his students.  He is the founder and former C.D.O. (Chief Drumming Officer) of Brooklyn Drum Circles.   He holds an MA in Music Education from the Aaron Copland School of Music and is a trained REMO Health Rhythms Facilitator. 



Billy Zanski has been sharing his passion for the healing power of sound for over 20 years. Billy is the owner and operator of Skinny Beats Sound Shop located in downtown Asheville. His sound healing work is centered around creating space for individuals to go inward and connect with the unique energy that the sounds call in. Billy has also studied percussion in Guinea, West Africa, which deeply influences his perception of rhythm.  

Asheville-Percussion Festival_DjembeDuman.jpeg


Greg Pratt, Kaleb Lavender, Adam Kovatch, Charmaine Kirsch, Sarah Yancey, Breanna Pratt



Silver Drummer Girl has been performing for 15 years as a living statue. Having started in New Orleans as Joan of Arc, she quickly turned from gold to Silver Drummer Girl. Drumming is important to her and helps to be more interactive with the crowd. “As I perform over the years I enjoy seeing new generations of families come to the watch the show. The slow training of my muscles to be still has created a street stage act that takes years to pull off. The result is a career I never realized I would have for so long and a way to silently bond with people of all ages.”

previous artists