Previous Featured Modern Band Rockfest Speakers

We’ve had some amazing speakers join us at Modern Band Rockfest. The lineup for 2017 promises to be even more exciting. Stay tuned for updates and announcements.

Denise Odegaard, NafME

Denese Odegaard

NAfME President

Denese Odegaard, National Association for Music Education (NAfME) President (June 2016), is currently the Fargo (North Dakota) Public Schools Performing Arts Curriculum Specialist, and has taught orchestra for 33 years.  National service includes service as a board member on both the American String Teachers Association Board (ASTA) and the NAfME Board. While on the ASTA Board, she was chair of the Committee on School Orchestra and Strings and received the ASTA Citation for Leadership twice.

Victor Wooten, Grammy Award Winning Bassist, Composer, Author and Educator

Victor Wooten

Grammy Award-Winning Bassist, Composer, Author and Educator

He is an innovator, composer, arranger, lecturer, producer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist. He is a skilled naturalist and teacher, a published author, a magician, husband and father of four, and a five-time Grammy award winner. But those gifts only begin to tell the tale of this Tennessee titan.

Victor, known for his solo recordings and tours, and as a member of the Grammy-winning super group, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, has won most every major award given to a bass guitarist. He was voted Bassist of the year by Bass Player Magazine three times and is the only person to have won the award more than once. Full Bio


Carmine Appice

Carmine Appice

Heavy Rock Drummer (Vanilla Fudge)

As drummer for Vanilla Fudge, Carmine Appice set the grooves for the groundbreaking band’s 1967 psychedelic debut, inadvertently inventing Stoner Rock in the process. The Fudge had no precedent. The band was totally unique. Post-Fudge, Bogert and Appice formed Cactus (seen as an influence on King’s X and Van Halen). Post-Cactus, the rhythm section found Grammy-winning Guitar Hero Jeff Beck to form the first supergroup: Beck, Bogert & Appice (BBA).

As an educator, Carmine was the first to legitimize rock drumming with his landmark book, “The Realistic Rock Drum Method“, selling over 500,000 copies (now in video format). He was the first Rock Drummer and Rock Musician to conduct instructional clinics and symposiums around the world, a tradition he continues.

Brian Hardgroove

Brian Hardgroove

Record Producer, Multi-Instrumentalist (on hiatus from Public Enemy)

Hardgroove is a record producer, multi-instrumentalist and is on hiatus from the legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy. His productions include the extraordinary talents of Chuck D (Public Enemy), Steven Tyler & Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Burning Spear, Marc Anthony, Supertramp and The Fine Arts Militia. Hardgroove’s most cherished work is his production of two of China’s premier punk rock bands Demerit and Brain Failure.

Joe Robinson

Joe Robinson

Virtuoso Guitarist, Singer/Songwriter

Twenty­four year old Joe Robinson is considered uniquely gifted as a virtuoso guitarist and singer/songwriter. Hailing from backwoods Temagog, on the mid north coast of NSW, Australia his six­string ability and compositional insight have already earned him a worldwide following.

Based in Nashville, TN since 2010, Joe has toured China, Japan, Europe, Canada, Australia & New Zealand, defining himself as a budding world visionary. He walks a tightrope between the instrumental music that’s put him in the spotlight and a unique fusion of vocally based rock, blues, jazz, and R&B that’s entirely his own. His latest project is “Gemini Vol.2”, a four­song EP out through his own label, JOE’s GARAGE.

Christine Ohlman

Christine Ohlman

The Beehive Queen”, Vocalist, Songwriter & Musicologist (Long-Time Vocalist Saturday Night Live Band)

“I’ve come here tonight to set your souls on fire,” she’ll tell an audience. And she will.

Long-time Saturday Night Live Band’s vocalist (since 1992), Christine’s legendary voice and stage presence (known as “The Beehive Queen” for her towering blonde hairdo) have most recently been featured on:

  • Five national Top 10 lists for her 2010 The Deep End
  • Top Americana vocalist on Alternate’s 2013 Readers’ Poll
  • Her voice graced the recent 40th Anniversary SNL Broadcast, and she wowed the crowd at the SNL40 post-show concert onstage with Jimmy Fallon, Elvis Costello and the B-52s
  • The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (guest shot with Black 47)
  • The 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Concert in Cleveland (filmed by HBO)
  • The Carnegie Hall tribute to the Rolling Stones
  • . . . and much, much more

Elaine Thomas

Elaine Thomas

Director in the Visual and Performing Arts Department, Dallas Independent School District

Elaine Thomas is a Director in the Visual and Performing Arts Department for the Dallas Independent School District. Prior to becoming a director, she was the Instructional Specialist for Elementary Fine Arts and an elementary music teacher in Dallas ISD for 35 years. She graduated from the University of North Texas in 1970 with a Bachelor of Music Education and in 1997 from Dallas Baptist University with a Masters of Educational Administration. Her achievements include PTA Life membership; Station KDFW-TV “Class Act” Teacher of the Year 1992; Who’s Who in American Education 2007 and 2011; and Who’s Who in America 2010 and 2011. She was one of four finalists for Teacher of the Year for the Dallas Independent School District in 1999-2000 and 2004-2005.

Hal Abeles

Hal Abeles

Professor of Music and Music Education,
Teachers College, Columbia University

Dr. Harold Abeles is a Professor of Music and Music Education at Teachers College, Columbia University where he serves as the Co-director of the Center for Arts Education Research. He has written numerous articles and books on music education. He is the co-author of the Foundations of Music Education and the co-editor of Critical Issues in Music Education: Contemporary Theory and Practice. His research has focused on the evaluation of community-based arts organizations, the assessment of instrumental instruction, the sex-stereotyping of musical instruments, and the evaluation of applied music instructors.

Scott C. Shuler

Scott C. Shuler

Arts education presenter/consultant

Arts education presenter/consultant Scott C. Shuler formerly served as Connecticut’s Arts Education specialist as well as a school district assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, college professor, K-12 instrumental and general music teacher, and church choir director. Dr. Shuler helped write America’s first National Music Standards in 1994; co-chaired writing the National Core Music standards issued in 2014; co-chaired the 1997 music NAEP Assessment and CCSSO’s SCASS/Arts interstate arts assessment consortium; served as president of NAfME: The National Association for Music Education; and currently co-chairs NAfME’s Model Cornerstone Assessment Task Force. He holds awards for teaching, writing, service and leadership from several state and national organizations.

Erik Tarkiainen, Harman

Erik Tarkiainen

Vice President Global Marketing, HARMAN

Erik Tarkiainen joined HARMAN as the Vice President, Global Marketing for the Professional Division in June 2014. Erik is responsible for driving the global marketing strategy and execution of marketing initiatives across the Professional Division. He is a seasoned marketing and product management leader with more than 24 years of experience holding senior roles with Professional Audio and Consumer companies, including Bose, Cakewalk, iZotope, Line 6, and Erik has a BSEE with a minor in Electronic Music from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduate coursework in acoustics and audio signal processing from Penn State and an MBA in marketing from Boston University.

Warren Zanes, Rock and Roll Forever Foundation

Warren Zanes

Rock and Roll Forever Foundation

Dr. Warren Zanes joined The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation as executive director after several years as Vice President of Education and Public Programs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. At the Rock Hall he rebuilt the K-12 programming, launched a new distance learning project, and served as a visiting professor at Case Western Reserve University, in addition to producing public programs featuring artists from Aretha Franklin to Jerry Lee Lewis, Grandmaster Flash, and many more.

Robert Cutietta, USC Thornton School of Music

Robert Cutietta

USC Thornton School of Music

Robert Cutietta is Dean of the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. Since 2002, he has overseen and expansion in endowment, programs, and space while building on the traditional quality of education that is the school’s trademark. Under his leadership, the school has introduced innovative new degrees in music education, arts journalism visual and performing arts studies, choral music, vocal jazz and the groundbreaking popular music performance program.


Patricia Shehan


Patricia Shehan Campbell

University of Washington School of Music

Patricia Shehan Campbell teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music education, including music for children, world music pedagogy, sociology of music, and research methods. In Fall 2010, she was appointed chair of the Ethnomusicology program and holds dual appointments in Music Education and Ethnomusicology. She was named Donald E. Petersen Professor of Music in 2000, and continues to hold this appointment offered to accomplished faculty at the University of Washington.


Bob Morrison, Quadrant Arts Education Research

Bob Morrison

Quadrant Arts Education Research

Robert B. Morrison has a long history as a supporter of music education and is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading advocates for music and arts in education and in society. He is the founder of Quadrant Arts Education Research, the nation’s leading arts education research and intelligence organization. Mr. Morrison’s leadership in research, public policy and advocacy efforts has led to significant advancements in access to music and arts education programs across the nation.


Paula Fuga

Paula Fuga

Praised for her originality in song composition and ability to stir the deepest emotions with spellbinding and soulful vocals, Paula Fuga has established herself as one of Hawai’i’s most respected live performers.

At an early age, she faced the vulnerabilities of living homeless on the beach, seeing the destruction of drugs and violence. Despite having overcome such adversity quite successfully, she is living her career with much gratitude and humility. Fuga relentlessly strives to inspire youth across the world, sharing her story of perseverance and hope.

Roger Brown, Berklee College of Music

Roger Brown

Berklee College of Music

When Berklee College of Music President Roger H. Brown assumed his post at the college in 2004, he brought a rich palette of professional and life experiences to the job. Skills accrued playing recording sessions as a drummer in New York, administering United Nations humanitarian operations in Southeast Asia and Africa, and founding a company with his wife that became a corporation valued at over $1 billion and employing 19,000 people have contributed to his effective leadership at the world’s largest college of contemporary music.


John Kratus, Michigan State University

John Kratus

Michigan State University

John Kratus is professor of music education at Michigan State University. He has published his ideas on music curriculum and creativity in leading journals and has presented his ideas to teachers around the world.


Nadine Levitt, Wurrly

Nadine Levitt


Nadine is a Swiss born, German, Kiwi, US transplant, wine collector, mom of two toddlers and holds several patents in the fitness and technology sector. A professional opera singer and songwriter who has performed extensively all over the United States, and the world, Nadine has shared the stage with David Foster, Roger Daltry, Christina Perri, and Steven Tyler to name but a few. In 2013 she founded a label & publishing company (Feel Like A Giant & FLAG Publishing), and through those deals formed partnerships with TAP Management and Interscope Records. The need for a platform such as Wurrly was born out of her personal need as a singer. “Not everyone can afford a pianist to accompany them, and location and economic differences should not be a barrier to entry for self expression.” Nadine also holds a Law and Arts Degree (Majoring in languages and translation) from Auckland University (New Zealand). Nadine joined the Little Kids Rock board of directors in 2016 as an independent voting member.


Liberty DeVitto

Liberty DeVitto

Legendary Drummer & Recording Artist (Billy Joel)

DeVitto’s life was changed forever on February 9, 1964, the night he saw The Beatles on TV. The camera showed girls screaming and crying at the band’s performance, and the young DeVitto thought, “What a great way to meet girls!” In November of 1968, Liberty was on the road with Detroit rocker Mitch Ryder banging out Mitch’s hits “Jenny Take A Ride,” “Devil With A Blue Dress On,” and “Sock It To Me Baby.” Right after Mitch Ryder, Liberty got a gig with Long Island alumni Richie Supa, and had his first recording experience. The album Supa’s Jamboree was recorded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1969/1970, and was produced by Buddy Buie of Classics IV and Atlanta Rhythm Section fame.

Liberty was driving Supa’s equipment van when it hit some black ice and flipped. Liberty sustained serious injures, and for a year he was unable to play the drums. To ease back in to playing, he took a steady gig at a catering hall on Long Island. During this period the group Topper was formed, featuring Liberty on drums, Doug Stegmeyer on bass, Russell Javors on guitar and vocals, and Howie Emerson on guitar. With the addition of sax player Richie Cannata and the replacement of Emerson with David Brown in 1978, Topper became Billy Joel’s band.

Liberty resides in Brooklyn, New York and loves what he was born to do—play drums. Liberty’s years on tour and experiences with numerous artists brings insight to The Sessions along with his gift of communications skills and motivational speaking.

Dave Wish, Little Kids Rock

Dave Wish

Little Kids Rock

Dave Wish is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that funds and runs one of the largest, free instrumental music programs in US public schools today, having served nearly 500,000 low-income children in 14 states. A recognized social entrepreneur, Dave has been awarded numerous honors for his work in the field, including prestigious fellowships from Ashoka, The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, The Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation, and The Goldhirsh Foundation.