Modern Band Summit 2019 Speakers

The Modern Band Summit has been honored to featured speakers/performers like Liberty DeVitto, Isaiah Sharkey, Carmine Appice, David Broza, Bernie Williams, Alex Skolnick, Stu Hamm, Brian Hardgroove of Public Enemy and others. We are thrilled to announce the following special guests, performers, and speakers for the 2019 Modern Band Summit. Keep an eye out for more additions.

David Wish


David Wish

CEO and Founder, 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.

Victor Wooten


Victor Wooten


Who is Victor Lemonte Wooten?
“Who am I? Now, that’s a good question.”

Victor Lemonte Wooten is a unique human being. Born the youngest of five boys, he began learning to play music at the tender age of two. He started performing in nightclubs and theaters as the bassist with the family band at age five, and at age six, was on tour with his brothers opening shows for legendary soul artist Curtis Mayfield. Soon after, he was affectionately known as the 8-year-old Bass Ace, and before graduating high school, he and his brothers had shared the stage with artists such as Stephanie Mills, War, Ramsey Lewis, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Dexter Wansel, and The Temptations. But, this only begins to tell the tale of this Tennessee titan.

Wooten, now a five-time Grammy winner, hit the worldwide scene in 1990 as a founding member of the super-group Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Continuing to blaze a musical trail with the band, Victor has also become widely known for his own Grammy nominated solo recordings and tours.

Among other things, he is a loving husband and father of four, a skilled naturalist and teacher, a published author, a magician and acrobat, and has won every major award given to a bass guitarist including being voted Bassist of the Year in Bass Player Magazine’s readers poll three times (the only person to win it more than once.) In 2011, Rolling Stone Magazine voted Victor one of the Top Ten Bassist of ALL TIME.

“I was born at the right place and the right time to a wonderful family.”

Victor Lemonte Wooten was born September 11, 1964 to military parents on an air force base outside of Boise, Idaho. Soon after, the family packed up and moved on as military families often do. It was during the years stationed in Hawaii that the brothers began performing as a five-piece band. With Regi on guitar, Roy on drums, Rudy on sax, Joseph on keys, and Victor on bass, the Wooten Brothers band was born. Performing in their front yard, the band immediately began honing their skills. Victor credits the brothers’ early ability to play a variety of musical genres to the experience of relocating frequently, the diversity of 1960′s radio stations, and the unwavering support of their parents who provided many opportunities and booked all of their performances.

“My brothers, who were already playing music, knew they needed a bass player to complete the family band. Regi started teaching me as soon as I could sit up straight, and my parents let him do it.”

Victor has been heralded as “the Michael Jordan of the bass” and “one of the most fearless musicians on the planet.” These qualities were evident when, in 1981, his older brother, Roy, recommended him as a bluegrass fiddle player for a job performing at a nearby amusement park. Victor, having never played violin in his life, was thrilled to meet the challenge. He borrowed an instrument from his high school orchestra teacher and immediately began practicing. Quickly learning the most popular fiddle tunes and techniques, he took the job at Busch Gardens’ The Old Country in Williamsburg, VA playing fiddle and bass in the Good Time Country Show.

“I remember getting that call from Roy. He trusted me. I had to learn to be a fiddler real quick, almost over night. I don’t think the people who hired me ever knew I’d never played before.”

What they soon found out was that the brothers were quickly becoming star attractions. The Wooten Brothers rapidly became staple figures and star attractions at the park throughout the 1980′s working in the German, Italian, Country and Bluegrass, and Americana shows.

The years 1980 and 1981 found the brothers performing for US troops overseas as the band for the Busch Gardens USO show. Traveling the world was an eye-opening time of learning for young Victor, but it was one summer performing in the country show that, unbeknownst to him, changed his life forever. That was when he became aware of a unique banjo player named Béla Fleck.

“My brothers and parents were the foundation. They prepared me for just about anything by teaching me to keep my mind open and to learn to adapt.”

While messing around with a friend’s banjo between shows, the friend commented on Wooten’s unique banjo sound. Because the instrument is tuned different from a bass, Victor’s lines came out sounding pretty strange when he played his friend’s instrument. With a thick southern accent, the friend told him that he sounded just like a banjo player named “Baylor Fleck”. Wooten couldn’t imagine anyone playing a banjo that way, so he sought out to find out who this Baylor guy was. When he finally heard a recording of Béla’s band New Grass Revival, he was hooked.

In 1987, Victor traveled with his friend to Nashville, TN. During their short visit, he connected with the banjoist Fleck for the first time. After their initial meeting, Wooten and Fleck kept in touch and continued sharing musical ideas. In 1988, Wooten found himself living in Nashville. Later that year, Béla and Victor, along with Victor’s inventive brother Roy “Future Man” Wooten, and harmonica & piano wizard Howard Levy, formed the eclectic ensemble Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. With a dozen recordings under their belt, the band has created a completely new sound and has become known for its genre-defying music. Currently, over twenty years later, the band is still going strong.

“Musically, that means not being rigid and not having to play in a certain way.”

A few years after he began touring with the Flecktones, Victor released his first solo project, A Show of Hands. Recorded with only a 4-string bass, no multi-tracking, and a lot of groove and soul, this revolutionary CD was voted one of the most important bass records of all time.

Musicians wanting to learn Victor’s unique style and elusive techniques began seeking him out for lessons and seminars at music stores and schools around the world. These workshops became the training ground that lead to the formation of his acclaimed Bass/Nature Camp in 2000, which eventually expanded into Victor Wooten’s Center for Music and Nature. These “intensive” style programs, now in its thirteenth year, welcome all instrumentation and vocalists, and have helped thousands of people of all ages from all corners of the world enhance their musical and personal lives.

“People frequently thank us for sending their new spouses home.”

In 2009, Wooten Woods became the new home for all of Victor’s camps. The nearly 150-acre retreat, owned by Victor and his wife, is located on the beautiful Duck River west of Nashville, TN. This picturesque retreat center, largely built by the hands and hearts of past students, has provided many more opportunities for Victor and his staff to share their lifelong experiences with others.

“We give students the opportunity to completely let go and be themselves while congregating in a peaceful non-competitive manner on an equal playing ground with each other and their instructors. We’ve found this to be the best environment for learning.”

April 1st, 2008 marked the debut of two new releases by Victor Wooten. Palmystery (Heads Up) is his sixth solo recording and contains a collection of all new music. It features Bootsy Collins, Mike Stern, Keb Mo, Carl Denson, Jd Blair, Derico Watson, Saundra Williams, Anthony Wellington, Steve Bailey, Will Lee, Dennis Chambers, The Lee Boys, The Wooten Brothers, and others. The album showcases Wooten’s jazz composition and arranging skills with songs like “Two Timers”, ‘Flex’, and “Song for my Father”, but also brings to the forefront his artistically humble side with the celebratory track “Bass Tribute” and the thought provoking “I Saw God”.

On the same date, Victor released The Music Lesson-A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music, a self-published novel about Life and Music. The book presold hundreds of copies before its release quickly becoming a “must-read” for musicians world-wide. The choice of using this unconventional approach to sharing unique ideas about music was a surprise to all. Offering an intriguing story full of anecdotes and mysticism, The Music Lesson has helped free the minds of musicians worldwide. Soon after its release, it was picked up and published by the Berkley Publishing Group/ Penguin USA Inc. Now translated into multiple languages, The Music Lesson is currently used as required reading and part of curriculums in study groups, schools, and universities including the prestigious Berklee College of Music and Stanford.

With the success of the book came the release of The Music Lesson audiobook (Tantor Audio). Victor lends his voice as the narrator and main character, but enlisted many of his friends and fellow musicians to read the parts of all the remaining characters. Victor also wrote and performed the musical score to the audio book, which was voted as a one of five finalists at the 2011 Audie Awards (the audio book’s equivalent to the Grammys) in the category of Personal Development.

“My mom always said the world needs more than just good musicians. She said we need good people.”

Wooten’s sought-after skills and growing popularity have lead to recordings and performances with artists such as Chick Corea, The Dave Matthews Band, Bootsy Collins, Branford Marsalis, Mike Stern, Prince, India Arie, Keb Mo, Dennis Chambers, Susan Tedeschi, Gov’t Mule, Bruce Hornsby, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Frank Gambale, the legendary Moroccan group Nass El Ghiwane, and many others.

His respected reputation as a teacher and speaker/lecturer on the subjects of both Music and Nature have garnered invitations for him to speak and teach at schools, universities, classes and spiritual centers around the world. Some of these places include Strathmore College, Berklee College of Music, Stanford University, Harvard, Mississippi State, Miami University, Middle Tennessee State University, The Haven (Gabriola Isle BC, Canada), Various Nature Centers and camps, and The NYC “Y” with Dan Levitin, author of “This Is Your Brain On Music”.

Along with recording Grammy winning and Billboard charting albums with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Victor also spearheaded the formation of the super-group SMV with two of his childhood heroes, Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller. He continues to record and tour with the Flecktones, various other artists, and as a solo artist. He also currently leads six to eight camps at Wooten Woods each year (which he takes part in all day every day). With all of this going on, it would seem like Victor Wooten would have no time for anything else, but that is not the case.

Taking matters completely into his own hands, Wooten has recently formed his own record label. Vix Records, Wooten’s self-proclaimed “Label of Love”, entered the scene in 2011 with a re-mastered version of his pioneering debut solo CD. The new version, A Show of Hands 15, contains three bonus tracks and is also released on vinyl.

“If the world were to follow you today, where would you lead them?”

Continuing to grow and always willing to share his gifts with all who desire to learn, it seems that Victor Wooten has no plans of slowing down.

I’m currently writing the sequel to The Music Lesson, and have at least three more books planned after that. I feel like we’re just getting started with the camps and Wooten Woods. Now that we are officially recognized as a not-for-profit organization (501c3), the door is wide open. Vix Records has already released multiple products and we’re not even a year old yet. Writing music for movies and television is the next logical step, and with the amazing team I have helping me, including my manager Danette Albetta, my assistant Dave Welsch, and my wife Holly, I’m sure we’ll accomplish all of our dreams and more. You know, my kids are actually starting to play gigs on their own now. Who knows, I may be able to retire soon and become their manager. I’m just happy that people like what I do and that I have a lot of support. You can’t beat that.

Keep checking in at to stay current with everything Victor Lemonte Wooten has his hands and heart wrapped around. He’s moving quickly, so you’ll have to try hard to keep up. One thing is for sure; you won’t want to miss any of it

Mark Wood


Mark Wood


  • Juilliard Trained
  • Emmy award-winning composer
  • Inventor of the Viper electric violin
  • Original member of Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • Toured and performed with Celine Dion, Billy Joel, Kanye West, Paul McCartney, and many others

Recording artist, performer, producer, inventor, Emmy-winning composer and music education advocate Mark Wood has spent the past four decades electrifying the orchestra industry – literally. Dubbed ‘The Les Paul of The Violin World’ by PBS, Wood is the premier electric violinist of his generation who pioneered the entire genre.

The Juilliard-trained violinist (he attended on full scholarship) first turned the string establishment on its head in the early 1970’s with his invention of the first solid body electric violin. His company Wood Violins is the premier manufacturer of electric violins, violas and cellos worldwide, and he holds the patent for the first-ever self-supporting violin. The company stands behind its claim to have made the most important change to the violin in 400 years and is often referred to as the “Stradivarius of electric violins.” Mark’s signature electric violin invention, the Viper, has found favor with musicians as varied as Lady Gaga’s violinist Judy Kang and Carrie Underwood’s violinist Jimmy Herman, and countless others.

Wood is a world-renowned performer who rose to fame as string master and original member of the internationally acclaimed Trans Siberian Orchestra. A successful solo artist in his own right, Wood writes and records original music for film and television, has released seven solo albums, and tours with his band The Mark Wood Experience (MWE) which features his wife and partner, vocalist Laura Kaye. His commission credits include The Juilliard School and extensive TV broadcast music including The Winter Olympics and The Tour de France (for which he won an Emmy).

In addition to his continued solo and commission work, Wood has collaborated with and appeared alongside some of the biggest names in music such as Lenny Kravitz, Celine Dion, and Kanye West. Wood had the honor of performing with legendary artists such as Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Steven Tyler, and Roger Daltry. He also starred in a Kanye West produced national Pepsi TV commercial and has appeared on the world’s most venerable stages including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Madison Square Garden.

But Mark’s true passion is music education. His groundbreaking music education program Electrify Your Strings!™ (now in its 18th year) is an immersive rock and roll workshop and concert series for school music departments that boosts student self-esteem and helps raise much-needed funds. Mark and his team of Artist Mentors visit upwards of 75 schools per year. EYS has been featured on NBC-TV’s The Today Show, CBS Evening News, CBS Morning News, and regional media outlets.

Mark has dedicated his career to providing educators with the opportunity to ignite their students’ passions and to inspire students to open their minds and unlock their potential. His book “Electrify Your Strings: The Mark Wood Improvisational Violin Method” (published by Cherry Lane/Hal Leonard) is regarded as the definitive electric violin method book. The first in a series of forthcoming educational books, Wood is passionate about providing educators and students with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. His new curriculum, “Rockin’ Strings,” published by Hal Leonard and developed with assistance from Dr. Bob Gillespie from Ohio State University, is expected to change the way prospective music educators are taught at the college and university level.

A genuine family man, Wood runs his operations alongside his wife, business partner, and longtime collaborator Laura Kaye out of their home in New York. In addition to EYS, Wood and his family run the annual Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp and Festival, celebrating its 10th year in 2019, as well as The Mark Wood Music Foundation, a 501-C3 dedicated to supporting music and the arts in America’s underserved communities.

With hundreds of thousands of students reached, millions of dollars raised to help high school music departments across the US, and countless school orchestra programs saved from the chopping block because of funds raised through his efforts, Mark Wood has proven himself a man of ideas, action and results. Showing no signs of slowing down, the multi faceted visionary continues to write, perform, record, invent and inspire. As a matter of fact, Mark Wood is just getting started.


Laura Kaye


Laura Kaye


Singer, songwriter, performer, and vocal coach Laura Kaye has spent the last 18 years empowering young singers as part of the Electrify Your Choir component of Electrify Your Strings, a groundbreaking music education program she runs with world-renowned electric violinist Mark Wood, her husband and partner. Utilizing techniques developed during her own extensive career in the music industry, Laura coaches students to tap into their individual creative potential through self-expression, performance techniques, and more.

Laura is Vice President and co-owner of Electrify Your Strings, Wood Violins, MWROC Music Festival, and also heads the Mark Wood Music Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose mission is to support America’s young musicians and their underserved schools.

As a recording artist and session vocalist, Laura has worked with legendary musicians such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Lenny Kravitz and Sean Lennon and has been featured on countless television shows and advertisements. Laura is also a solo musician who continues to write, record, and perform.

Instagram/Twitter: @laurakayemusic

Dinah Gretsch


Dinah Gretsch

Gretsch, Executive Vice President and CFO

Dinah Gretsch serves as Executive Vice President and CFO of the Savannah, GA-based Gretsch Company, a globally recognized manufacturer of high-quality drums and guitars since 1883.

A prominent figure in the musical instruments industry for forty years, Dinah has been recognized with numerous prestigious awards and accolades. In 2003 the Atlanta Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) presented her with the Heroes Award, a distinction awarded to community leaders in the music industry. In 2008 she was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame for her significant contributions to the music industry. In 2014 the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Georgia Southern University honored her with the prestigious Betty Foy Sanders Patrons of the Arts Award. That same year she was honored by the Women’s International Music Network (WiMN) with the She Rocks Award for her leadership in the music industry.

With a core belief that music has the power to change children’s lives in a positive way, Dinah established the Mrs. G’s Music Foundation in 2010 to fund music teachers, support artist residencies, and supply musical instruments to rural schools in the Low Country. She also provides grants to children to attend guitar and drum camps, all in furtherance of the Gretsch family mission to “enrich lives through participations in music.”

Dinah devotes much of her spare time serving on the boards of the Georgia Music Foundation, Loyola High School in New York City, Thomas Heyward School in Ridgeland, SC, and WiMN.

Michael Blakeslee


Michael Blakeslee

Executive Director of the National Association for Music Education (NafMe)

Michael Blakeslee is Executive Director of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). He received B.A.s in music and psychology and an M.A. in music composition from the University of Virginia, where he managed the electronic music lab. He has taught at institutions in the United States and abroad, notably at Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Universidad de Los Andes, and the Universidad Nacional Pedagógica de Colombia. He has composed musical works for a variety of media, and is the author of articles on music and music education. At NAfME Blakeslee has served as editor of the award-winning Music Educators Journal and of Teaching Music magazine, and many NAfME publications. He has directed the development of music education initiatives and innovative online tools for music education. In 1994, he was editor of the National Standards for Arts Education: What Every Young American Should Know and Be Able to Do in the Arts. In 2010, he managed the process that resulted in the 21st Century Arts Skills Map, published by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. And he served on the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards leadership team in the development of the 2014 Core Arts Standards.

Kathleen D. Sanz


Kathleen D. Sanz


Kathleen D. Sanz received her B.A. and M.A. in Music Education from the University of South Florida, and her Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Colorado. Presently she is the President and CEO of the Center for Fine Arts Education in Tallahassee, Florida. Prior to that Ms. Sanz served as the Supervisor of Curriculum and Instructional Services and Co-Directed the District School Board of Pasco County Curriculum Department from 2007-2011. From 1985-2006 she supervised the Fine Arts at the K-12 level. Her past teaching experience includes 8 years as a music educator at the elementary level.

Ms. Sanz has been instrumental throughout her career in curriculum and assessment development and implementation at the district and state level.

Ms. Sanz served as a grant evaluator of U.S. Department of Education “Professional Development in Arts Education” (PDAE) grants for the Hillsborough County, Florida public schools. She also developed and received grants from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs for the Florida Music Educators Association awarded annually from 2011-2016.

Ms. Sanz is Past President of the Southern Division of NAfME, as well as Past President of the Florida Music Educators Association. Ms. Sanz has also served as President of the Florida School Music Association, 2010-2011. Currently, Ms. Sanz is the State Executive of the Florida Music Educators Association.

“The rapidly changing external environment, due to social, technological, economic, and political variables poses a major challenge, as well as an opportunity for music education. What will the education of our students look like in public/private schools, virtual/online education, charter schools, and in home education during 2018-2020? This is a serious question that will need multiple solutions.

  • The social variables of diversity in students and teachers that are in many of our schools pose an issue for music educators. We need to be aware of the demographics that are ever changing and ensure that our music programs reflect this diversity both in terms of students and teachers.
  • The use and non-use of technology in the schools and in homes provide challenges particularly for the “have-nots”. We must also address the fact that our digital natives catch on so quickly where many of our teachers have not had the resources to keep up.
  • Economics that include our students of poverty and the lack of adequate funding for teacher salaries and teaching resources needed to educate the nation’s children needs to be seriously reviewed as it is a tremendous problem. The national, state, and local governments need to make a priority of educating the “whole child” that includes a commitment to music education with funding.
  • The political scene with national, state, and local mandates have placed teachers in difficult situations with extensive testing, low morale, school choice/school vouchers etc.
  • Secondary music education including the lack of requirements for middle school music and the expanded student offerings of AP and honors classes causes difficulties for students to stay in an ensemble through all four years of high school.

Each of these issues causes a major challenge with teacher shortages in our schools. Teachers are leaving or not entering the field due to national, state, and local mandates. Throughout the nation, there are the lack of certified/licensed and QUALIFIED teachers to fill our classrooms. In addition, the lack of funding for education in general and music education specifically needs to be addressed.

The lack of relevant professional development and the continuity and collaboration between K-12 and higher education poses a challenge. We need for both the K-12 community and higher education to make a conscience effort to connect with K-12 teachers to ensure that the student teachers are aware and prepared to enter the music education profession.

What are the major challenges facing NAfME?

Membership. Due to the changing school environment, demographics of our nation, economics, and politics, membership that meets the needs of today’s music educators is a significant challenge. Music educators need to know why and what they are joining as members.

Maintaining a strong focus on advocacy at the national level and assisting state MEAs with their advocacy efforts is a challenge, but vital to our association.

Professional development that addresses the varied needs of the membership, including comprehensive training for K-20 in curriculum and assessment and training in non-traditional subject areas is critically important. Ensuring that the annual conference addresses all areas from early childhood, middle school, high school, and college.

Addressing the continuously changing national regulations (e.g., IRS, Department of Labor) to assist state MEAs to be in compliance.

NAfME needs to build structures, based on the power of music education, that will not only strengthen NAfME, but also education at large by being the leader in addressing the challenges faced in education.

We need to listen to our members through all of the MEAs and assist the states that are having the most difficulties with building their membership through strong membership campaigns, particularly our smaller states that may not have the resources that are needed to expand their membership.

NAfME needs to address the significant teacher shortage in many of our states. We need to make a concerted effort to focus on students to enter the profession through leadership training, TriM, and NAfME collegiate chapters. Assist states with accurate reporting to governmental agencies on status of the teacher shortage (e.g., U.S. Department of Education: Teacher Shortage Area Nationwide List). This is important, as state governments need to be aware of the music teacher shortage so they will add resources to improve this situation.

We need to expand opportunities to bring together K-12 and higher education to further develop a K-20 system.

Provide leadership training for the state MEAs and the six NAfME Divisions.

We need to collect data and strengthen research on the status of music education. These data are particularly important for effective advocacy. NAfME needs to continue to support strong policy research as part of its advocacy plan. Develop an Environmental Scan process that systematically surveys and interprets data to identify external opportunities and threats. In addition, assist states in conducting an environmental scan for their state, particularly in states with limited resources. NAfME needs to develop a method that enables decision makers both to understand the external environment and the interconnections of its various sectors and to translate this understanding into planning and decision making processes.

NAfME needs to conduct research to provide status reports to governmental agencies and advocate for programs based on the status reports on the importance of music education for all students.

Develop a system and ways for MEAs to share successes and ways to address problems that may exist in other MEAs. This should be conducted, in addition to the National Assembly.

The National office should work with state executives on the regulations and compliance issues that are brought about at the federal level.

NAfME can and does make a difference.”

Charles Limb


Charles Limb


Dr. Charles Limb is the Francis A. Sooy Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the Chief of the Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery at UC San Francisco. He is also the Director of the Douglas Grant Cochlear Implant Center at UCSF and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Neurosurgery.

Dr. Limb received his undergraduate degree at Harvard University and his medical training at Yale University School of Medicine, followed by surgical residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and fellowship in Neurotology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in functional neuroimaging at the National Institutes of Health. He was at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1996 to 2015, where he was Associate Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and a Faculty Member at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. In 2015, he joined the UCSF Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Dr. Limb’s expertise covers the full scope of otology and neurotology, with a focus on the treatment of hearing loss and auditory disorders. His current areas of research focus on the study of the neural basis of musical creativity as well as the study of music perception in deaf individuals with cochlear implants. He is the past Editor-in-Chief of Trends in Amplification and an Editorial Board member of the journals Otology and Neurotology and Music and Medicine. His work has received international attention and has been featured by National Public Radio, TED, National Geographic, the New York Times, PBS, CNN, Scientific American, the British Broadcasting Company, the Smithsonian Institute, the Library of Congress, the Sundance Film Festival, SF Jazz, Canadian Broadcasting Company, the Kennedy Center, National Institutes of Health, San Diego Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the American Museum of Natural History.

Hannah Welton


Hannah Welton


Driven by her lifelong passion for rock and extensive studies in jazz, Hannah Welton brought a dynamic, multi-faceted history as a world class drummer to her role as the rhythmic backbone of PRINCE’s 3RDEYEGIRL, the legendary artist’s explosive four-piece rock band that features Hannah, Canadian guitarist Donna Grantis and Danish bassist Ida Nielsen.

Formerly the drummer and vocalist of the Chicago based rock trio The Hannah Ford Band, the Milwaukee based crossover Christian band, Bellevue Suite, and her one woman inspirational Peace Love & Drums multi-media show, Welton’s versatile performance history covers all styles of music, from pop and rock to jazz. Launching her professional career at age twelve by joining a blues band with her trumpet playing father in the Windy City, she is the only female to win the Louis Bellson Heritage Days Drums Competition (2006).

Welton’s other regional accolades include being voted “Outstanding Jazz Musician” at Chicago’s New Trier Jazz Festival (2007) and “Outstanding Musician” at Chicago’s Jazz in the Meadows Festival (2007). Ford was named “Best Drummer/Musician” in Suburban Nightlife Magazine’s “Best of the Burbs” readers’ poll in 2008. She was also cast as “L.A. Coulter,” the onstage drummer in the 2011 Chicago Royal George Theatre run of the Whoopi Goldberg produced musical “White Noise.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, where she lived until she moved with her father and brother to Chicago at age 12, Welton was immersed in the performing arts from a young age, dancing from the time she was three and gravitating toward the drums by age seven. She received practical playing experience and ear training as part of her school ensemble, The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists. Her evolution continued through study with some of the world’s greatest drummers and teachers, including Diane Downs, Louie Bellson, Ruben Alvarez, Jerry Steinholtz and Ndugu Chancler. After moving to Chicago, she studied and performed with legends and mentors such as Peter Erskine, Stanton Moore, Danny Seraphine, Johnny Rabb, and multiple Grammy award winner Paul Wertico.

After a childhood focused on Classic Rock influenced by the powerful sound of John Bonham and Led Zeppelin, Welton expanded her scope considerably through scholarship study at the Chicago College of Performing Arts. While continuing her studies with Paul Wertico, she played in the school’s Latin Ensemble, Big Band Orchestra, and studied in the Vocal Jazz Department. She also had the opportunity to play with top touring musicians, including Wynton Marsalis, Butch Miles and Jeff Berlin.

Welton was on a Guitar Center clinic tour conducting master classes when she heard from PRINCE’s representatives that he had discovered her via videos on YouTube and wanted her to come to Paisley Park Studios to jam. Joining PRINCE’s New Power Generation band in the summer of 2012, Welton made her
national television debut with the ensemble on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in October, performing “Rock N’ Roll Love Affair”.

In November of 2012, after receiving direction from PRINCE, Hannah and her husband Joshua set out to find the best female guitarist in the world. Shortly thereafter, they discovered Donna Grantis and invited her to jam. The musical camaraderie between PRINCE, Welton, Nielsen and Grantis was undeniable,
which led to the birth of 3RDEYEGIRL.

Welton performed, recorded and toured with the band from 2012 to 2015, and released the critically acclaimed album, Plectrum Electrum in 2014. 3RDEYEGIRL appeared earlier in 2013 on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” performing the new song “Screwdriver” and the classic early Prince song “Bambi.”

“We are a band of bandleaders, and the experience of working with PRINCE, Donna and Ida is not only exciting and magical, it is also taking my career and my artistry as a drummer to a whole new level,” says Welton. “We all share a powerful work ethic and a desire to create great music. With every rehearsal and
performance we are literally pulling the best out of each other in a crazy and beautiful way.”

Welton is currently working on original material with singer/songwriter, musician, producer, and engineer, husband, Joshua, for their duo group CounterCulture. Stay tuned, it’s only the beginning.

Previous Featured Modern Band Rockfest Speakers

We've had some amazing speakers join us at Modern Band Rockfest in past years.