Our talented student performers:

BrandonBrown-150x200Brandon Brown (violin, vocals, songwriter)
“HSA just gives me an opportunity do what I love doing. The Billie Holiday concert at the Apollo, the tree lighting, onstage at Minton’s…I didn’t really get those opportunities.  I didn’t really want to play violin anymore but when I came to HSA they showed me things that I could do with my violin that I hadn’t thought of before, a jazz style that I wasn’t accustomed to. It made me like playing violin again.”

Brandon was first introduced to his first violin at age 11 and it was love at first sight.  His passion for the violin and help from his violin teacher, Ms. Pottigier, led him to a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for, the Grammy Award winning violinist, Joshua Bell.  He attended Hoff-Barthelson Music School for a year before attending Julliard’s MAP Program.  It was at Julliard in his secondary piano class that Brandon met Mr. Scurlock who introduced him to HSA. Brandon’s love for all that is music also led him to the world of vocals, and Ms.Yolanda Wyns (the Chair of Voice at HSA and HSA’s Music Director) inspired him to create and perform his very own musical  piece. Thanks to HSA he was able to play alongside Maria and Lucia Ahn of the well-known Ahn Trio, at Jazz in Lincoln Center.  Brandon has also done a few performances at Harlem’s historic Jazz restaurant Minton’s.

FosterBrown-150x200Foster Brown (acoustic bass)
Foster Brown embarked on his musical journey at the age of seven at the Brooklyn Bennett School, where he studied the fundamentals of classical piano.  At eleven, under the tutelage of Steve Stanzione, electric bass became Foster’s passion.  He has performed with the Friends and Strangers Band, directed by the renowned Wayne Winston and has studied classical trumpet in the MAP program at the Julliard School.  He is a bass player in the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (Fat Cats) under the direction of Arturo O’Farrill. Foster is a junior at in high school and continues his musical journey on electric bass, acoustic bass and trumpet.


GabrielleGaro-150x200Gabrielle Garo (flute, alto sax)
“I played in the Young Afro Latin Jazz band with Arturo O’Farrill and that’s how I found HSA. HSA has helped me develop and show my talent and actually feel appreciated for what I’m doing.”

This HSA Prep student has received a full scholarship to attend the Berklee Summer Performance Program. She won a solo award in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Regional Festival and the A.F.J Leonard Silver Award to attend any summer program of her choice. She recently performed at the Copacabana Night Club with the Fat Afro Latin Jazz Octet. Gabby is an alumni of the Juilliard Music Advancement Program, Middle School Jazz Academy at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Manhattan School of Music Summer Program and more. She is Reed 1 for, “In the Heights,” playing five instruments- flute, piccolo, alto, tenor, & soprano saxophone and is first chair in the Senior Jazz Band, and Senior Band at her high school.

DominiqueGervais-150x200Dominique Gervais (drums)
“I’ve been studying at HSA since I was three. I started playing drums around the age of 11. To be honest, I just like playing, creating music. I like being able to communicate via vibrations to make you the listener happy.  HSA has helped me cultivate my time and given me the space to practice, like a family.”

Dominque is a student of the drums, violin and piano. Dominque has attended numerous jazz camps including the prestigious 5 week summer camp for outstanding musicians at Berklee College of Music.  He studied jazz styles for drummers at HSA under the direction of drummer/percussionist Rudy Bird. Currently he is a member of the Advance Jazz Combo led by D.D. Jackson and the Fat Afro Latin Jazz Cats with Arturo O’Farrill. Dominque has graced the stages of the Apollo Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space among others and has performed with D.D. Jackson, Hamiet Bluiett, Arturo O”Farrill, Baba Don Eaton, and Reggie Workman.


WeAniMcDonald-150x200We’ani McDonald (vocals)
“I’m happy I decided to go here because at first I was very scared about being in a new setting, but it turned out to be the one of the best decisions I ever made. I had to grow into my confidence and trust in what I do. My vocal coach, Yolanda Wyns, supports all of us.”

Singer, actress, dancer, song writer and producer,  We’Ani McDonald has been playing piano since age 6 and is a Prep Student at HSA and a member of HSA’s Dorothy Maynor Singers. The recipient of the Clive Davis Institute’s Future Music Moguls Merit Scholarship, We’ has sung for the National Urban League Annual Dinner Award, and performed the Older Nala part in the Lion King, Jr. Production at HSA. She also trained and performed with Paquito D’Rivera/Latin Jazz at Berklee School of Music in Boston and sang at Lincoln Center for a Benefit event. We’ has interned with Music Producer Andre Betts and with Ray Chew backstage at Madison Square Garden.


WarnerMeadows-150x200Warner Meadows (piano, keys)
“HSA had given me a wealth of performance opportunities by playing with the band, from Minton’s to Jazz at Lincoln Center to the Apollo. I compose my own music but playing with a group of other people is very different than a solo performance because you have to know everyone’s personalities and styles and how to find a niche within a bigger group.”

Warner is a Prep student at the Harlem School of the Arts. In back to back years, he won the Berklee College of Music Judge’s Choice Award for his high school at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival. He has performed at the Apollo Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and numerous other venues. In addition to playing Jazz Piano, Warner composes, produces, and raps. He was selected to attend the prestigious Eastman Jazz Summer Studies program and the Litchfield Jazz Camp.


EllaMoore-150x200Ella Moore (vocals, guitarist, songwriter)
Ella Moore is a singer-songwriter and HSA Prep student, recently chosen to participate in the prestigious Clive Davis Music Moguls program. Originally from Washington D.C. where she was an artist-in-residence at Bloombars, she performed with the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program and attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. She studies Percussion and songwriting at HSA, and has performed her original songs at Minton’s and at Jazz at Lincoln Center at HSA’s annual Gala.


ChristianSmith-150x200Christian Smith (drums/congas)
Christian started his musical journey in NY,NY where he was born and raised. He has been a Prep student at HSA since he was 12 yrs. old.  At HSA, he currently studies drums, Accelerated Musicianship and piano. As the youngest member of the Advanced Jazz Combo, Christian loves to perform. He especially enjoyed the opportunity to play at Milton’s and with Robert Glasper at HSA. His natural ability to play was quiet obvious at an early age. In elementary school he played for ” The Heights Band” at The Duke Ellington School. He moved on to play for the “TEP Combo” and “TEP Concert Band”. Christian has played in churches and is featured in his sister’s soon to be released music video.  He has studied under his Dad (Curtis Smith), Richard Harrison (Boys Club of NY). Currently David Greenaway and D.D. Jackson (HSA) are working on his growth and development as a musician.  Christian plays the bass guitar and writes music.

VirginiaThomas-150x200Virginia Turner (vocals)
“HSA has enabled me to find more opportunities in music. Before I didn’t know how my life was going to go in terms of that, but now I can see a clear path.”

Virginia Turner, a true New Yorker, was born in Brooklyn and raised in Harlem. She is a student at the HSA, where she studies voice with Vocal Chair and Music Director Yolanda Wyns, Composition with Jazz and Contemporary Studies Chair D.D. Jackson, and guitar with John O’Donnell. She has performed on stage with Actor Hugh Jackman for the high school’s annual Benefit and most recently she has performed with the hip hop artist, Common and singer/songwriter, John Legend at Jazz at Lincoln Center.  Virginia has been performing since she was a little girl and is a former child model signed to Generations Model Management.  She has done print and runway work.  Ask her mom and she’ll tell you she was singing in her womb!  Virginia loves music! All music… anything from Classical to Rock!


MatthewWhitaker-150x200Matthew Whitaker (keys, Hammond B3, piano)
“I’ve been studying here since I was seven. The producer of Amateur Night at the Apollo heard me once and had me play there and I ended up playing at and winning Amateur Night at the Apollo.”

Matthew was recently named the youngest Hammond Artist in their 80 year and was part of the documentary series Young Marvels. He completed a new CD produced by Ray Chew and performed at JFA’s “A Great Night in Harlem” honoring Herbie Hancock. He also performed at the Velvet Note in GA, The Apollo Theater’s 80th Anniversary Birthday Celebration, and appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, United Nations Headquarters in NY. He has performed in France at the Jazz a’ Vienne Festival and here in the USA at the New Haven Jazz Festival, as well as with D.D. Jackson in Capri, Italy and with Hamiet Bluiett at the Vision Festival. Matthew attends the Lighthouse Music  School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and The Harlem School of the Arts.


Our incredible instructors:

DDJackson-150x200D.D. Jackson (Chair of Jazz and Contemporary Studies, Director of the HSA Advanced Jazz Combo and producer of the CD)
D.D. Jackson is an accomplished jazz pianist and Emmy-nominated composer/producer whose work spans 12 CD’s, featuring almost entirely original material, ranging from his Juno Award-winning solo piano CD “…so far” to his larger-scale meditation on the events of 9/11, “Suite for New York”. Jackson has performed all over the world and recorded with some of the most distinguished names in jazz and beyond, including Jack Dejohnette, James Carter, David Murray,
and (most recently) Questlove and “The Roots” on their Grammy-nominated CD “Undun”, and on “And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” (for which he also wrote/produced/performed).  Jackson is also a composer for such hit television shows as multiple-Emmy-winners “Peg+Cat” (PBS), and “The Wonder Pets” (Nickelodeon). Jackson is also a Visiting Lecturer at Hunter College and serves as Chair of Jazz and Contemporary Studies at the Harlem School of the Arts. For more information visit and

YolandaWyns-150x200Yolanda Wyns (Director of Music, Voice Chair of HSA)
Yolanda’s experience includes appearing on Broadway in “The Color Purple”. As a vocalist she has worked with renowned artists such as Freddie Jackson, Stephanie Mills, Angie Stone, and Patti Austin. Ms. Wyns is a graduate of LaGuardia high school of Music and Art and an Alumnus of Manhattan School of Music where she studied vocal performance. Her recordings include “Many Faces” available on iTunes. In addition to her acting roles, recording projects and performances, she works with artists to develop their vocal and performance skills through vocal coaching. For more information visit