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GI JAM: Nils Higdon

GI Jam: Thursday, August 16, 2018 6:00pm-8:00pm


Nils Higdon is one of Chicago’s most prominent young percussionists, having performed at Orchestra Hall, The Green Mill, The Chicago Cultural Center, The Jazz Showcase, and four appearances at the Chicago Jazz Festival. As a drum set artist, Nils has beat time for premier musicians such as Eric Schneider, Joe Rendon. and Dr. Rosephanye Powell. While specializing in drum set and improvised music, he routinely spends evenings and weekends traveling not only between various performances but also between a wide range of musical styles and percussion instruments. It is very common for Nils to spend his evenings playing second line music with the Four Star Brass Band or the music of Spain with Kantuz, and then play timpani and mallet percussion at Grace Church the next morning. 

A strong advocate for original music, Nils was a featured instrumentalist with the Chicago Composers Orchestra for the premier performance of De Rerum, a work by Princeton-based composer, Elliot Cole. Also in the world of modern classical music, he was the featured soloist in Drum Factory, a concerto for drum set with full orchestra, written by Justin Leo Kennedy. Nils also played for the Chicago premier of The Gospel Trinity, a suite of gospel music written by Dr. Rosephanye Powell that utilizes rhythm section and choir. And recently, he performed with the Chicago Youth Symphony on the first ever recording of Grand Slam Jam, a Duke Ellington Composition for orchestra and jazz ensemble. 

As an instructor, Nils teaches applied percussion lessons at Riverside-Brookfield high school and independently as well. He has also been a teaching artist for the Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project and a percussion judge for IMEA District 1. Former students of his have been accepted to Elmhurst College, 

North Central College, Concordia University, and Northwestern University. 

Nils is from Chicago, Illinois where he attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He studied primarily with Rubén Álvarez, Ed Harrison, and Scott Mason. Nils attended the University on both musical and academic scholarships and is the third person in the history of Roosevelt University to complete both the Music School and Scholars Program. In 2008 he earned his Bachelors of Music. 

Nils Higdon is also the survivor of a serious injury to both of his hands, and a severe disorder of the nervous system. His favorite expressions are “Let’s give today a round of applause because we’re here” and, “You get to live on Earth- WHAT A LOCATION!” 

Fall 2018

Bucket Buddies (Ages 5-8)

An introduction to rhythm, notation, and basic percussion techniques. This fun and interactive session is perfect for the future drummer.



Expand your range and increase lip flexibility while building that great brass tone. This session guarantees success for all students.

Woodwind Workout


Increase endurance, articulation, tone quality, and finger technique in a session that is sure to place you at the front of your section.

More Summer Camps

Rhythm Section Camp

A daily course offering reinforcement of fundamentals and technique development. This camp will explore skills associated with reading chord changes, understanding various musical styles, and interpretation.

Writers Workshop with poet, Quentin D. Wright

June 25, 2018-June 28, 2018


Learn creative writing techniques while exploring the depths of your imagination.

Upcoming Events

No upcoming events.

GI JAM: Alysha Monique

GI Jam: Thursday, August 30, 2018

Alysha Monique. Vocalist. Songwriter. Vocal Coach. Lover of the universe. Creating beautiful music with friends that love the craft.

Alysha Monique started performing from a very young age in her hometown's church youth choir. That was the beginning of her newfound love: music. She joined band in 5th grade playing clarinet and that became her sole passion. She eventually learned to play tenor and baritone saxophone in jazz bands through her junior high years. Alysha had a tremendous awakening in high school and began to broaden her musical palette. She finally auditioned and made her school's top chamber choir which made her LOVE to sing again. She began to transition as an instrumentalist to a vocalist full-time.

Alysha started performing professionally in her last years of high school and developed those skills before attending her current undergraduate education at Elmhurst College. In two and a half short years, she quickly built her professional and educational network. 

She's received favorable recognition for her solo & group work from jazz masters including the New York Voices, Janis Siegel, the Vertical Voices, Dee Alexander, Sean Jones and Andy Martin. Throughout her education, Alysha received mentorship from Jennifer Mather, Gayle Bisesi, Susan Moninger, Frank Portolese, Frank Caruso, Doug Beach, and Mike Pinto.

Alysha has experience performing in Pit Orchestras, Neo-Soul & R&B Ensembles, Jazz Combos, Church Choirs, Big Bands, Madrigals, and Acapella Groups. Alysha acts as a strong background vocalist and session artist for several projects. Alysha is proficient on all clarinets, piano and all styles of voice. With several years of music teaching, she loves teaching all levels of musicians from beginner to advanced.

Alysha is currently working on her first full-length studio recorded album which is to be released in early 2017.

GI JAM: Michael Salter


GI Jam: Thursday, August 9, 2018

“Michael​ ​has​ ​a​ ​deep​ ​knowledge​ ​of​ ​musical​ ​history​ ​coupled​ ​with​ ​an​ ​acute​ ​awareness​ ​of​ ​where
music​ ​is​ ​today.”
Miguel Zenon-award winning saxophonist, composer and bandleader
Known for his unique musical voice, Michael Salter
(b.1979, Chicago) is constantly creating beautiful,
genre-defying music. Since graduating from Northern
Illinois University, he has performed in a wide range of
musical settings such as latin music, classical, modern
jazz and R&B at such venues as Carnegie Hall, the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Symphony Center, and
The Chicago Jazz Festival with international
performances at The Montreux Jazz Festival,The Vienne
Jazz Festival, and The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Since beginning his musical studies at the age of 10,
Michael has studied with a long list of great musicians.
He began his bass clarinet studies under mentor Dr.
Gregory Barrett (Northern Illinois University) and
continued his studies with Lawrie Bloom of the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra. Michael's saxophone studies were
with jazz icons, David Sanchez, Miguel Zenon and
Roscoe Mitchell.
As an active recording musician, Michael was nominated
for a Grammy award for a salsa big band recording with
Angel Melendez and the 911 Mambo Orchestra. Since
July 2008, Michael has been a member of Orbert Davis'
Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, playing bass clarinet and
tenor saxophone and continues to have a busy performing and recording schedule with them. The
Chicago Jazz Philharmonic's latest CD, 'Havana Blue', was listed as one of the best CD's of 2016 by
Downbeat Magazine. He has also performed with The Chicago Sinfonietta, the AACM and with
musicians such as Danilo Perez, Ari Brown, Clark Terry and Lincoln Center Orchestra’s Victor
In addition to his performances as a musician, Michael is also a prolific composer. His music
incorporates elements from both his classical and jazz training with compositions that range from
jazz trios to full orchestral suites. He leads his own group, Freakjar, is a member of many other
groups as a side-man and has recently become a Red Bull Studios recording artist. Michael has also
been commissioned to compose pieces for professional orchestras such as Orchestra Filarmonica di
Torino in Torino, Italy.
Due to the positive and long lasting impact his mentors have had on him, Michael is also a
passionate and dedicated educator. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at Elgin Community
College, and as Artist-In-Residence at UNICACH (Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas)
located in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico. He is also a Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Teaching Artist, which
allows musicians from the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic to work directly with youth from the ChicagoPublic Schools throughout the year.

GI Jam: Hurricane Reggae Band

August 2, 2018 4pm-6pm

Hailing from the exotic isle of Dominica, Cleve “Hurricane” Jean Jacques has been a professional musician since he could remember. Hurricane’s musical career began at the tender age of fourteen, when he was performing as lead guitarist and vocalist for the Island’s leading band. Hurricane continued to develop in strength as a song writer, musical arranger, and entertainer. In 1986, he entered the arena of calypso and for the next fourteen years touched the hearts and lives of people all over the world.

At competition level, he has been crowned Calypso King three times at the national level in his own country as well as three times Road March King. He was also crowned Caribbean King in 1996 and came seventh in the World Monarch Competition. In 2012, Hurricane was inducted into the Dominica Calypso “Kaiso” Hall of Fame.

Over the years, Hurricane has performed in Europe, Central America, South America, Canada, the United States, and almost all of the Caribbean Islands. Hurricane has opened for or performed alongside of Calypso King of the World Mighty Sparrow, Arrow, Ziggy Marley, Shaggy, Luciano, Morgan Heritage, Steel Pulse and more.

Presently, Hurricane resides in Chicago heading The Hurricane Reggae Band, which has won the Chicago Music Award for Best Reggae Entertainer for two years running in 2013 and 2014. The band performs as a quartet or an orchestra featuring a brass section or steel pan. Hurricane also performs as a solo artist thrilling audiences with his true musical talent.

Get ready to experience a true Caribbean vibe, a total party package with reggae, soca, calypso, a little jazz and blues and a taste of a real island culture and sound from the Hurricane.

Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Jazz.Academy

 Jazz Academy - Summer 

Summer Jazz Academy is a two-week, full-day (8:30am - 5:00pm) intensive camp designed for music students of all levels, ages 10-17.  

Camp runs from Monday, July 16 through Friday, July 27, 2018 - Monday through Friday - at Chicago State University.

In addition, students are exposed to other artistic disciplines, civic engagement, and college and career counseling.  Each day is capped off with a professional performance by guest artists. The program is taught by world-class musicians with goals to help sustain an important art form, provide crucial life skills,and open doors to higher education. 

Questions? Contact

Sarah Pietlicki, Program Manager

Tel. (603) 275.2905 text or call


GI Jams

Every Thursday 6pm-8pm (Food Provided)

The GI Jams are designed to give students a practical and educational platform to harness and develop their individual skills while learning professionalism and performance etiquette while sharing the stage with some of the greatest musicians and educators in the Midwest.

Each week a different professional musician will host the GI Jams. The set-lists are made available one week prior to the GI Jam.  Students may sign up for no more than 2 selections and may add their name as a "Stand BY" on as many selections as they desire.

If you are a professional musician who would like to volunteer at the Griffin Institute by hosting a Jam Session, please contact us at (708) 973-4354 or educate@thegriffininstitute.org

GI JAM: Nils Higdon

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Blue Bossa


Billie's Bounce

There Will Never Be Another You

GI Spotlight

Our CEO/President is named a Semi-Finalist for the 2017 Grammy Award for Music Educator. Congratulations Dr. Griffin

GI Student, Jamal Cole, inducted into the National Honor Society


On Wednesday, October 25, 2017, Jamal received a great honor by being inducted into the National Honor Society. Jamal is a Junior at Hillcrest High School in Country Club Hills, IL. under the musical direction of Valeaka Freeman. We are extremely proud of this phenomenal young man.

Contact Us

The Griffin Institute of Performing Arts

14200 Chicago Rd Unit 117, Dolton, Illinois 60419, United States

(708) 973-4354

Drop us a line!