Our musicians are hand-picked for musical excellence and professionalism. Meet some of them here!
Kevin O’Brien has performed and recorded on upright bass in almost every conceivable style, spanning jazz, classical, rock, folk and world music. He has performed in concert halls and music festivals throughout the U.S. and has toured with many groups including Big Wheelie & the Hubcaps, Dempsey Station, The Jazzabels, and Babik. Kevin has also performed on over a hundred recordings and his song “Chipotle” has received national radio airplay.
As bassist for Babik, Kevin helped create the first symphonic program in North America to feature the music of legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Babik performed this music in a series of symphonic concerts, including two with The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Among other honors, the band was named ‘Buffalo’s Best Jazz Act’ for 6 consecutive years. Kevin currently loves to perform at String Brothers’ events and with the gypsy jazz band, The Hot Club of Buffalo. Kevin owns and operates The String Brothers, so when you give us a call you’ll be speaking with Kevin.
Alan Reed has performed in concert halls from Kleinhans to Lincoln Center with such stars as Sarah Brighton, Engelbert Humperdink, Dion Warwick, Lou Rawls, Smokey Robinson, Mainheim Steamroller and Soprano Mary Beth Wrobel. He has also performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Erie Philharmonic & WNY Opera Unlimited.
Mr. Reed received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from SUNY Fredonia, and a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance from the University at Buffalo. He is in his 30th year as a string teacher, currently teaching in the Orchard Park School District where his Elementary Orchestra has earned “Gold with Distinction” ratings at NYSSMA Festivals while performing completely from memory. He resides in West Seneca with his wife and three children.
Dave Schiavone. Woodwind player Dave Schiavone has toured both nationally and internationally with the bands of Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, and Doc Severinson. He has performed with The Buffalo Philharmonic, The Amherst Saxophone Quartet and with a wide range of artists including Nancy Wilson, Natalie Cole, Harry Connick Jr., Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra Jr., Kenny Rogers, Louis Bellson and Aretha Franklin, to name just a few.
Dave is a graduate of the University at Buffalo Music School and also attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. In addition, he served for three years as saxophonist and flutist in the 324th and 327th U.S. Army Bands. He is currently director of the University at Buffalo Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo programs as well as being a saxophone/clarinet instructor at Buffalo State College, Canisius College, and Villa Maria College. Dave also runs an extensive private teaching practice.
Ivan Docenko is one of the most versatile and in-demand musicians in Western New York. As staff accompanist at Buffalo State College Ivan accompanies Music Department events and other performances across the campus. He is keyboardist for the Camerata di Sant’Antonio, the Johann Strauss Orchestra of Buffalo, and Buffalo Tango Orkestra; he also serves as organist/pianist for St. Luke’s Anglican Church in East Aurora.
Ivan holds a B.F.A. in piano performance from the University at Buffalo, where he studied with Stephen Manes and Frina Arschanska Boldt. Musical associations include collaborative performances with the Chopin Singing Society, Paderewski Singing Society, Amherst Male Glee Club, Opera Buffs of WNY, Opera-Lytes, Buffalo Opera Unlimited, Chromatic Club, Community Music School and Lancaster Opera House. He also does freelance work and performances with his violinist brother Gregory.
E.J. Koeppel has enjoyed a prolific career as a performer and educator, winning countless awards and scholarships. In 1981, while teaching at colleges and music stores, he joined an acoustic jazz outfit called The Norris Quartet; this proved to be the catalyst for his deep love of jazz violin. Soon after, he had the good fortune to meet one of his violin heroes, Stephane Grappelli. E.J. is currently one of the most sought-after musicians in the Buffalo area for both jazz and classical music. He is a member of the gypsy swing band The Hot Club of Buffalo. He’s also the instrumental music teacher in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School district.
Stu Weissman. A veteran of the Buffalo music scene, guitarist Stu Weissman has displayed his talents in nearly every venue large and small. He has performed at Kleinhans Music Hall with The Buffalo Philharmonic, but he is also at home in more intimate settings like corner bistros and coffee-houses. Stu led the 67th Ave band, which was often featured at the Tralfamadore Café in downtown Buffalo. His dazzling guitar playing has also been featured at the Buffalo Jazz Workshop’s summer concert series on the steps of the Albright Knox.
Stu is also known for his extensive public and private performances on solo guitar as well as guitar-and-bass duos. He is very quick to speak reverently of his local influences: guitarist James Clark, and pianists Joe Madison and Al Tinney. In addition to The String Brothers, Stu currently performs in Weissman’s Aces, a jazz combo which features his talented sons.
Jim Beishline is recognized for his superb style exhibited in his fine arrangements and piano performances. He has toured the country with many well-known performers including Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Spyro Gyra, and Michael Civisca. He currently prefers to perform in and around the Western New York region. Jim is frequently called upon to accompany national artists who visit the Buffalo area, such as his 2013 performance with Aretha Franklin. Beishline’s piano styles span the spectrum from blues to jazz and his versatile talent is featured on many recordings.
Janice Mitchell. Janice’s vocal career includes five world tours as a backup singer for Ray Charles (…yes, she was a Raelette!). She has also provided backup vocals for Stevie Wonder, Fabian, and many other musical legends. Janice has recorded with a long list of musical giants including Jimmy Smith, Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, Les McCann, and many others. Movie fans may recognize Janice from her appearance and vocals in the film “Uptown Saturday Night.” We are lucky to have Ms. Mitchell currently living and performing in the Western New York region.
Bud Fadale comes from a family of Buffalo music royalty. As a young man he played bass for the U.S. Army Band while stationed in in Berlin Germany where he performed with legends like Carmel Jones, Slide Hampton and Duke Ellington. It was also in Berlin where he became a student of the revered bass instructor Rainier Zepperitz who was principal soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic. After performing professionally in Columbus Ohio, Bud returned to Buffalo where he has remained an in-demand bassist on the local jazz scene. ‘How Time Goes By’ is a newly discovered live recording from the 1980’s which was released in early 2013. It features the superb piano playing of Bud’s late mother, Anne, joined by Bud on bass and his brother, Charlie, on drums.
Joe Mankowski is well known throughout Western New York as a premier Cocktail and Stride Pianist. Many will remember him as the former organist for The Buffalo Sabres who introduced the “Roving Organist” concept. Joe specializes in the American piano music of the early 20th Century. He loves playing Ragtime and Novelty piano, such as those made popular by piano rolls. Joe’s true specialty however is in Harlem Stride Piano. This is a style of piano made popular by artists like Thomas “Fats” Waller, where the player tries to imitate the sound of two people at a piano. Joe regularly competes at the “World’s Old Time Piano Championship” where he has placed within the top 10 for five straight years. Joe is also an accomplished accordionist.
Kelly Cartus comes from a musical family and has been playing violin since she was 4 years old. Throughout her childhood and teen years she frequently accompanied her father, a professional musician and educator, to his various performances. Kelly’s love and passion for music grew from watching and listening to these performances. After earning her BFA in music education from The University at Buffalo she moved to Salt Lake City where she taught in public schools and at The University of Utah. In 1995 Kelly happily returned to WNY and earned her Master’s Degree in Music Education at SUNY Fredonia.
In addition to The String Brothers, Kelly currently performs with The Amherst Symphony and The Amherst Chamber Ensemble; she is also first violin in the ‘Essential Elegance’ String Quartet.’ Kelly teaches in WNY public schools and maintains a successful private lesson studio. She is also a Nationally Board Certified Massage Therapist who enjoys rowing, skiing, hiking and promoting health and wellness in the WNY community.
John Allen has played flute and saxophone for some of Buffalo’s premiere jazz and dance bands, including Atmosphere, Orchestra Bomplene with Wendell Rivera, and his own group The Allen Street Jazz Band, featuring Rose Bond. But John is probably best known for his spirited performances with The Outer Circle Orchestra, one of the most revered world music bands in Buffalo history. Mr. Allen is also an exceptional finger-style guitarist who performs in a wide variety of styles and settings. In his performances with The String Brothers, John displays his exceptional talents on all three of his chosen instruments.
John Werick. Bassist John Werick was born and raised in Buffalo, NY where he continues to reside and perform. In addition to his musical studies at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and Buffalo State College, Werick studied electric bass, music theory and jazz improvisation with legendary Western New York musician Jim Kipler during the 1970’s. A decade later he completed several years of bass violin studies with renowned bassist and educator Bill Staebell.
Throughout his thirty year-plus career as a freelance jazz bassist, Werick has performed with many of the area’s finest native and visiting musicians and bandleaders including Al Tinney, Wallly Jedermann, Dave Schiavone, Paul Preston, Carol McLaughlin, John Allen, Bobby Jones, Ernie Krivda, Chu Nero, Bruce Johnstone and many more. Over the years, his regular musical group associations have included The String Brothers, Natural Elements, Sam Falzone and The Buffalo Jazz Workshop, Ted Howes and The Nickel City Clippers, and The Magpies.
Joe Brancato resides in Western New York where he serves as tutor/evaluator at Empire State College. He studied at The Berklee College of Music in Boston as well as The University at Buffalo. “When I Fall in Love” and “Broadway Revisited” are among the recordings Joe has made on the QRS music label. He is also featured as co-leader on the “Hidden Treasures” release from the Dave Schiavone/Joe Brancato Quartet. Mr. Brancato is well versed and performs in all styles of piano playing. He has been teaching privately for 35 years, offering instruction for beginning to advanced students. Joe is also currently the jazz piano instructor at The Community Music School of Buffalo.