8th Annual

June 24-30, 2019
Details coming soon!

2019 Teachers/Performers to be announced


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.


 2018 Teachers/Performers


Acclaimed percussionist, Kasiva Mutua, of Nairobi, Kenya, is working to elevate the place of the African woman in music. Her exuberant performances reflect a panoply of influences, including afrobeat, zouk, samba, reggae, and soul. Kasiva is a member of the internationally-touring East African music collective, The Nile Project, and has served as a Fellow of the US State Department’s international music exchange project.  In 2017, Kasiva Mutua was named a Global TED Fellow. She now tours the world both as a solo artist and in collaboration with leading talent in an array of genres.



Raquy is a celebrated performer, teacher and performer known for her expertise on the Middle Eastern dumbek or darbuka. She has distinguished herself as a unique phenomenon, specializing in the Turkish split hand technique and has performed with some of the most famous Middle Eastern drummers and given concerts and workshops in the USA, Middle East, Asia, Europe, Russia, and South America. Raquy will be coming from her home in Istanbul, Turkey to share her musical spirit and extensive knowledge with us.



Naghmeh Farahmand is a Persian percussionist from a musical family and grew up in a house of full 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.


Monette Marino began drumming at age eight. She has studied traditional African, Cuban, Brazilian and Korean drumming traveling to Guinea, Cuba and Korea to study with master drummers to deepen her understanding. She apprenticed and later toured with Master Djembe Drummer Mamady Keita, from Guinea, West Africa. Together they have performed in over twenty countries on six continents. Now as a solo artist, Monette currently runs her percussion school, MO’ RHYTHM in California and continues to explore many drumming systems from around the world with deep respect for the cultural heritage preserved and passed on through the language of the drum.


Lisette Santiago is a percussionist, vocalist and composer from Brooklyn, NY. At age nine, she was accepted into the Metropolitan Children’s Opera and later received both jazz and classical vocal training at La Guardia H.S. of Music and Art and Columbia University’s program with The Juilliard School. Versed in Latin percussion, Lisette is recognized as one of a handful of female Bata players.Along with her performance and teaching schedule, she composes, writes, creates percussion instruments and runs a company, Music Across Bridges, that focuses on world music education.


Isabel Castellvi is a versatile cellist, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, songwriter, and music educator.  She has performed, recorded and taught throughout North America, Europe, India, Asia, South and Central America and the Middle East.  These experiences are a great source of inspiration, deepening the understanding of music as a universal language and revealing it's powerful ability to connect people and communities. Isabel aspires to share this oneness through art, creativity and healing practices. She received a Bachelor’s in music performance at DePaul University and a Master's in the Contemporary Performance Program at Manhattan School of Music. After years in New York City, Isabel is now living, teaching and performing in Asheville, NC.   


Jessie Lehmann has an innate passion that she brings to her performances and teaching of traditional West African djembe music. Patient and knowledgeable, she strives to share the culture, music, drumming and dance of West Africa with all communities. She has taught and performed in a wide variety of contexts: elementary through high school residencies, lecture demos, summer and after school programs in public schools, private camps, therapeutic programs and corporate team building. Jessie is currently lead djembe player for the performing ensemble Mosso-Kan under the Director, Barakissa Coulibally of the Ivory Coast and is excited about her new project playing traditional music with Arouna Diarra of Burkina Faso and Biko. 


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.”



Abby the Spoon Lady is one of very few professional spoon players in the United States and has been a professional street performer for over a decade. Abby studied American folk percussion, music, and folklore while traveling the United States by foot and rail. Now an internationally known performer, she plays with some of Asheville’s finest local and visiting musicians at festivals, within venues, and right on the sidewalk. She is currently President of the Asheville Buskers Collective and hosts a radio show on Asheville FM 103.3 called Busker Broadcast, highlighting the street performance scene in Asheville, NC. 


Bonnie Whiting is Chair of Percussion Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. She performs, commissions and records new experimental music for percussion, seeking out projects that involve non-traditional notation, interdisciplinary performance, and the speaking percussionist. Recent work includes a series of performances at the John Cage Centennial Festival in Washington DC, solo appearances with the National Orchestra of Turkmenistan, performances on the original Harry Partch instruments, and as a soloist in Tan Dun's "Water Passion".  Bonnie has performed with many of today's leading new music groups, including the International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, red fish blue fish percussion group, and as an improviser with the University of Washington’s new Intercontinental Experimental Ensemble.


Asheville resident Alli Marshall is a poet, fiction writer, and spoken word artist. She’s a member of the Flatiron Writers and the spoken word troupe Literary Circus, and the arts editor at alternative newsweekly Mountain Xpress. Alli won the 2018 Ramsey Library Community Author Award, the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the 2016 Shrewd Writer Award. Alli’s prose and poetry have been published in the Fredericksburg Literary & Art Review, Blurt!, Shuffle, Our State, MetroPop, FifeLines, and the Asheville Poetry Review. Her recent collaborative productions include “Flying Clothes & Prose” with The Literary Circus for the 2018 Asheville Fringe Arts Festival; and “Sleeping on Rooftops,” a modern hero’s journey told through spoken word, dance, and experimental cello, performed at the 2018 {Re}HAPPENING. 


Aparna Keshaviah is a Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher, and scholar.  She has performed and taught master classes around the U.S. and abroad. In 2016, she helped launch the Dance ARĪS artist residency with the Haywood County Arts Council in western North Carolina. In 2013, she introduced Bharatanatyam to FOX's So You Think You Can Dance judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy & Adam Shankman. While living at the American Academy in Rome in 2010-2011, she developed a simultaneous improvisation of dance and music with composer Dr. Paul Rudy. Aparna resides in Western North Carolina and is currently a Senior Statistician at Mathematica Policy Research.



The hand drummer for world roots rock band, Medicine for the People (Nahko.com) since 2007, Hope has been playing percussion for over twenty years.  Her first teacher was Babatunde Olatunje, and she has studied with master drummers in West Africa, Peru and Brazil.  She is honored to use indigenous instruments on a modern stage.  Hope has also facilitated drum circles and taught rhythm classes to over 2,500 participants.  She also has her own solo music projects, and recently released her third album, 'Bring to Light'!



Brandi Mizilca is a dancer, drummer, and song writer. She has studied movement and dance her entire life and Middle Eastern bellydance since 1993. She has performed and taught both solo and with dance ensembles around the US since 1998. Over the years, she has developed a unique modality of movement that she calls "Transformational Bellydance," a synthesis of the isolated movement and step repertoire of traditional bellydance fused with elements of the both the practice and philosophy of yoga and tai chi.  Brandi Mizilca performs most weekends as both a dancer and a drummer at Asheville's Jerusalem Garden Cafe, where she has been performing regularly since 2000.


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. 


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. Both men are master musicians and play internationally. When joined by River, they become the much loved Free Planet Radio.


previous artists