top of page

2024 Convention Performers

Renee Blanche.jpg
Renée Blanche
Mistress of Ceremonies
The voice heard on KCUR on Sunday nights belongs to Renée Blanche, a native of Detroit, Michigan.  She stumbled into radio after ending her military career in El Paso, Texas. Her skills as a volunteer announcer were honed at community radio station KXCR during a three-year stay. Commercial radio was the next stop as a weekend announcer for adult contemporary stations K-LITE and B-94 FM. Renée moved to Kansas City in 1993 and was hired as the midday announcer for KCUR and as a traffic reporter for Metro Traffic Control. Her role as host of the Night Tides program began in September 1994.

Jose Valentino.png
Dr. José Valentino
Featured Evening Performer
Maintaining a vibrant career as an internationally touring cross-genre performing and recording artist (flutist, saxophonist, and bassist), four-time Latin GRAMMY® Award Winner and three-time Latin GRAMMY® Award Nominee, EMMY® Award Winner, 10-time GLOBAL GENIUS® Award Winner, 55-time DOWNBEAT® Music Award Winner (record holder), and 24-time GLOBAL MUSIC® Award Winner (record holder), Dr. José Valentino Ruiz has performed 1400+ concerts as headliner in 
numerous festivals, performing arts centers (including twice at Carnegie Hall), and conferences on six continents (North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia); led 40+ non-profit mission trips; delivered 110+ keynotes, concerts, workshops in academic sectors; consulted numerous Fortune 500 companies; produced 140+ albums and 10 documentaries; and published 60+ peer-reviewed research articles. Dr. Jose Valentino maintains the roles of 1) Director of Music Production at Hayden5; 2) CEO at JV Music Enterprises; 3) Founder and Program Director of the  University of Florida Music Business and Entrepreneurship; and 4) Director of the Global Institute for Music Research's Commission for Entrepreneurship and Leadership. Legendary artists describe Dr. José Valentino’s artistry on the bass guitar as "Very soulful and heartfelt!" (Multi-GRAMMY® Award Winner, John Patitucci) and "Amazing and incredible!" (Bass Magazine’s three-time Bassist of the Year® Award Winner, Victor Wooten); on the saxophone as "Genius!" (Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Paquito D’Rivera) and "Openly and unequivocally speaks beyond" (multi-Oscar® Award Winning film woodwind specialist, Pedro Eustache); and on the flute as "Playing the flute with fire!" (National Endowment of the Arts® Jazz Master, Hubert Laws); and "The best improvisor on flute!" (Lifetime Achievement Award® Winning flutist, Jim Walker).

Offering Private Lessons at the Convention
Shawn Tairyu Head
Featured Evening Performer


With an active performing and recording schedule, and a growing studio of students, Shawn Tairyu Head has dedicated himself to bringing the shakuhachi to new audiences around the world. While he embraces the traditional melodies of the ancient repertoire known as honkyoku, his classical conservatory training and Western spiritual perspective make him equally at home composing and commissioning new works that explore the unique sonic possibilities of the shakuhachi. As a performer, composer, and teacher, his goal is nothing less than a shakuhachi revival.

Hovia Edwards
Featured Evening Performer
Hovia Edwards is from the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, Fort Hall, Idaho.  She is the daughter of Herman Edwards and Nancy Nacki. Her paternal heritage is of the Okanagan-Similkameen band of Keremeos, British Columbia, Canada. Her maternal heritage is of the Shoshone tribe of Fort Hall, Idaho, and the Navajo Nation of Red Mesa, Arizona. Hovia has natural talent for music, especially the Native American flute. Some people ask how her name came to be. The word “Hovia” (Who-vee-ah) is the Shoshone word for “song” or” music.”

Hovia’s songs consist of her own compositions, as well as traditional songs that she enjoys playing for people that have special meaning to her and to others.


Hovia was honored to represent the Goshute Tribe of Utah in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a flutist in the opening ceremonies. It was an awesome event always to be remembered by everyone who was there, and those who watched it on television around the world.

Hovia’s most recent project consists of working with the Opera Theater of Oregon on a new opera, Nu Na-Hup: Sacajawea’s Story, which tells the story of Sacajawea through an Indigenous perspective. On May 13-14, 2023, was a premier of the Prelude and a 35-minute scene of this work, alongside excerpts of orchestral music, opera singing, soundscapes, and presentations of traditional Shoshone music, language, and culture by Hovia and Rose Ann Abrahamson. Hovia was honored to be part of this exciting project.

Offering Private Lessons at
the Convention
Dr. Melissa Keeling
Featured Evening Performer
Acclaimed for performing repertoire ranging from orchestral literature to electronic music, flutist, composer, and educator Dr. Melissa Keeling is based in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Her music has been described as "revelatory" (The Flutist Quarterly), "the most creative flute writing of 2018 next to Bjork ... a delight... stunning and moving” (The Flute View).  Dr. Keeling is a Trevor James International Flute Artist and an Endorsed Artist by K7K Sound. She has published two books: The Electric Flute: A Beginner’s Guide to Playing Flute with Effects (2002) and The Glissando Flute: Handbook for Composers and Performers (2020), which is the first method book for the Glissando Headjoint ever published.

Raman Kalyan
Flutist in the Carnatic Style of Indian Music
Featured Evening Performer

Raman had the honor and privilege of being the first Indian flutist to be a featured performer with the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra in 2019. Raman Kalyan was also instrumental in collaborating with his disciple Ram Mallappa to produce the first-ever 3D printed Carnatic flute. Raman has written two books on Carnatic flute training. In addition, he holds the record for recording more than 500 ragas at around 500 various locations throughout the world.

Raman is a featured artist in the “Miles from India” tour in Paris. He has performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival and the San Francisco Jazz Festival. Raman’s accompaniment for Martha Graham’s documentary The Flute of Krishna has been appreciated globally, and his meditation music YouTube videos have been popular with more than 300,000 views. In addition to performing solo, Raman performs jugalbandhi, jazz, and contemporary world music. He is a pioneer in creating new genres such as music for deep meditation and Bollywood jazz.

Peter Phippen
Summerland Ensemble
Featured Evening Perfomer
Over the past three decades and 25 albums, Peter Phippen’s experiential, natural folk style revealed a penchant for creative and artistic sonic improvisation. He has researched the history and performance technique of traditional flutes from around the world and throughout time. Phippen was the first non-Native American flutist signed to Canyon Records, which released his classic 2003 album, Night Song. Phippen is a Grammy Award nominee, International Acoustic Music Award nominee, multiple Native American Music Awards nominee, and a 2021 Native American-Style Flute Awards Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Phippen is a Projekt Records recording artist specializing in traditional flutes from around the world.


Eliyahu Sills
Featured Evening Performer
Eliyahu Sills is a highly-acclaimed musician of many instruments. He has a deep knowledge of multiple musical traditions, from spiritual music of the Middle East and India to American musics of soul and jazz and their African roots. Known for his authenticity and soulful musicianship, Eliyahu Sills has been performing music for more than 20 years on multiple instruments, including bansuri (the bamboo flute of India), and Turkish and Arabic ney (the reed flute of the Middle East), the upright bass, and the electric bass. He performs throughout the country with his critically-acclaimed bands The Qadim Ensemble, BOLO, and as a solo artist, as well as collaborating with many highly-acclaimed musicians.
Dr. Andra Bohnet
Featured Evening Performer
Dr. Andra Bohnet is a flutist who embraces a rich variety of musical styles with both virtuosity and sensitivity. In addition to her position as Professor of Music at the University of Southern Alabama where she teaches flute, music history/literature, and chamber music, she is the principal flutist with Mobile Symphony Orchestra where she has been a featured soloist on several occasions. She also plays Irish flute, whistle, and Celtic harp in a variety of settings.
Bryan Akipa
Featured Evening Performer


Bryan Akipa grew up on the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Reservation of northeastern South Dakota. He is an Army veteran, elementary teacher, flute maker, and champion traditional dancer.

In 1975, a passion ignited in Bryan Akipa to become a self-taught traditional flute maker and traditional flute player. At the time, there were too few artisans hand carving traditional red cedar flutes and playing traditional 

flute music. His spirit of inquiry and enthusiasm for traditional flute playing compelled him to dedicate himself to the art form. Subsequently, Bryan began a life journey with the Indigenous traditional red cedar flute, and he has come to master one of the most fundamental traditions of the Dakota people.

A humble artist, Bryan Akipa prefers that his art and music speak more for him. He envisions a flute performance based on the traditional scale, “Tokeya Inajin,” and matches a number of flutes to each individual song.


“It is my hope the next generation can carry forward the traditions of the Indigenous red cedar flute, to enjoy a cultural journey as I have.” (Bryan Akipa)

Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy
Featured Evening Performers
Suzanne Teng and Gilbert Levy perform throughout the United States and abroad as a duo, as well as with their world music ensemble, Mystic Journey, performing on a variety of global flutes, drums, and stringed instruments. “Mystic Journey lifts the listener to a place where beauty, ecstasy, and tranquility reside” (Whole Life Times) both in recordings and live performances, as demonstrated in venues where they have performed such as the Dalai Lama’s International World Festival of Sacred Music where they were featured artists each year of the festival. They are multi award-winning recording artists whose music has been described as “sensual and serene” by Billboard Magazine, and have been featured on shows such as Americas Got Talent. They have recorded seven critically-acclaimed CDs that have won the Independent Music Awards (twice), International Acoustic Music Awards, Los Angeles Music Awards, Global Music Awards/Gold Medal, New Mexico Music Awards, Akademia Music Awards, InterContinental Music Awards, and Album of the Year from the Native American Style Flute Awards (NAFSA).  A special project for Suzanne and Gilbert was creating a CD compilation of their pieces for the pharmaceutical company Genentech that was distributed to more than 50,000 patients to assist in their recovery.

Offering Private Lessons at the Convention
Ash Dargan
Featured Evening Performer
Ash Dargan is a Larrakia artist, cultural educator, and storyteller from Darwin in the Top End, and one of Australia’s premier performers and recording artists on the Yidaki. His distinct blend of Australian Indigenous instrumental world music has achieved world renown in both recorded works and in live performances since 1996.

Ash's lyrical craft of storytelling and live musical performance has been described as capturing the rhythmic soul of the Australian landscape, whilst reflecting a deep connection and reverence for Aboriginal culture.

Marlon Magdalena
Afternoon Concert Series
Marlon Magdalena is a tribal member of the Pueblo of Jemez, a federally-recognized tribe in New Mexico where he grew up and currently resides. He is an artist, educator, and performer of Native American flutes. Flute and song making is his art. He shares his art with the flutes that he makes and through his performances. Art has been a significant part of his life. Marlon draws and paints, but currently specializes in making several types of flutes found in North America. He is also the Instructional Coordinator at the Jemez Historic Site. He educates the public about Jemez culture through numerous presentations and demonstrations that he gives throughout the year.

Russ Jones
Afternoon Concert Series
Russ Jones is a Utah-based flutist, originally from the mountains of California. His musical journey began with his spiritual trip to Mexico, where he purchased his first flute in 2011. As a self-taught flutist, he first developed a connection with a Native American-style flute, before expanding his arsenal to include flutes from around the world. Russ's first solo album was recorded in 2014, after which he began to perform at house concerts, New Age festivals, and work as a studio musician for film scores. His flute collection includes historical Native American flutes, as well as the shakuhachi and the kaval. Russ has just released a new album Starlite in July 2023.
Jamie and Joe Empert
Afternoon Concert Series

Jamie and Joe Empert are a world music duo from Atlanta, Georgia, who write, perform, and record original music for Native American-style flute and world percussion. Jamie is an accomplished musician and flute players’ competition winner whose passion for the Native American flute came instantly upon hearing it more than 20 years ago. Joe is a percussionist who loves discovering cross-cultural musical influences and sharing them through performance and drum circle facilitation.


The duo released their debut album Take Flight – Around the World on the Native American Flute in 2019. The song “Peggy’s Cove” received an award nomination for Best Song, Solo Flute in the Native American Style Flute Awards in 2020. They are diligently working on a collection of new music that they expect to release by the end of 2023. Their body of work is constantly evolving to add new and interesting instruments into their eclectic mix of world music.

Sandi Horton
Afternoon Concert Series
Sandi Horton is passionate about composing and performing music and poetry. In 2022, she documented 109 Native American-style flute performances on Zoom and 46 performances of her Native American-style flute music at live venues. Original music compositions are performed by Sandi on her three-hour long CDs: Native Flute Journeys 1, 2, and 3 (2018, 2020, 2022). Her music has been featured many times on One World Music Radio. Sandi was honored to be selected for second place  in the 2022 Best Flute Single for "Mordovian Moods" by One World Music Radio, May 2023. In June 2023, she performed in London, United Kingdom, at the Majic Forest Arts Showcase. In the summer of 2021, she participated in a week-long retreat with R. Carlos Nakai in Montana. In April 2019, Sandi performed her music and poetry at the ARAS Art and Psyche International Conference in Santa Barbara, California. She has traveled throughout Europe, South America, China, and North America sharing music and poetry wherever she finds an opportunity. Sandi is the chairperson of the Waco WordFest and has been the editor of its yearly international anthology for ten years. She completed a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Texas Tech University and a Master of Science degree in Educational Psychology from Baylor University. She worked in public schools as a band director and as school counselor for 20 years.

Liesbet Leroy
Afternoon Concert Series
Liesbet Leroy is a Dutch recording artist and composer with a great passion for the Native American-style flute. She is known for her meditative, relaxing, and healing music. She often combines her flute playing with her other world instruments, ambient pads, and nature sounds. Liesbet especially loves playing bass and drone flutes because of their soothing vibes. Playing the flute from the heart is like meditating to her, as it brings in the here-and-now, letting the breath flow freely. Since 2017, Liesbet has been performing at spiritual festivals and in yoga studios, giving chakra balancing meditation concerts and sound baths. She also accompanies yoga classes with the enchanting voice of the Native American-style flute. Liesbet has won several international awards for her music and music videos.
Ján Demenčík
Afternoon Concert Series
Ján Demenčík is a clarinetist, saxophonist, and fujara player, a performing and recording artist, composer, arranger, and music educator. He studied at the State Conservatory of Music in Žilina (Slovakia, 1994) and the State Conservatory of Jazz Music in Chambéry (France, 2008). For this performance, Ján will play the fujara, koncovka, and the six-hole shepherd's flute. He will perform original compositions inspired by both Slovak traditional music and world music.

Dr. Daniel Pardo
Afternoon Concert Series

Daniel Pardo works regularly as a studio musician in orchestral and commercial settings, fusing Western Classical traditions with ethnic sounds and technology. Born in Bogota, Colombia, his performer/producer roles have led to special collaborations in recordings and tours with artists and producers in Los Angeles, Nashville, and Dallas. Daniel frequently performs in conferences for the National Flute Association, Jazz Education Network, and Texas Music Educators Association. He offers concerts and masterclasses at universities in North and South America, as well as flute associations in the United States, Colombia, Peru, and Hong Kong.


While in the United States military, Daniel played principal flute with the Marine Band San Diego, Marine Forces Pacific in Hawaii, and the 36th ID Texas Army National Guard Band. Daniel holds music performance degrees from Texas State University (Bachelor of Music), and the University of North Texas (Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts). He currently lives in Houston, where he is Assistant Professor of Flute at Prairie View A&M University. Daniel is a Yamaha Performing Artist and Clinician.

Ben Harper
Featured Evening Performer
Ben Harper has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education from the University of South Alabama. He was originally a flutist and is now a guitarist and bassist. For the past 25 years, Ben has performed with bands in many different styles, including Celtic, rock, and  jazz, as well as musicals. The most successful of these bands was Mithril, playing with his college flute professor, Dr. Andra Bohnet. Mithril was a Celtic ensemble which performed across the country for 13 years. Ben Harper has had several different jobs in the music field, including  a stint in Public Radio, running a record store, and, since 2003, has worked behind the scenes for the Mobile Symphony Orchestra as the Director of Operations/Orchestra Personnel Manager. 

Ben Harper will be performing with Dr. Andra Bohnet.
Faisal Zedan
Featured Evening Performer
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, and raised in Oum Dbaib, Syria, Faisal Zedan grew up impassioned with the derbakki drum. At the age of 15, he embarked on a journey of learning through exposure to a wide repertoire of Arabic classical and contemporary music. A great love for the drumming and years of practice resulted in a mastery of Arabic percussion instruments including the derbekki, dahullah, riq, and def (Arabic/Turkish frame drum).

Faisal Zedan will be performing with Eliyahu Sills.

Greg Pattillo
Beat Box Flutist
Featured Evening Performer
Greg Pattillo is recognized throughout the world for his redefinition of flute sound. Greg was lauded by The New York Times as “the best person in the world at what he does.” His groundbreaking performance videos on YouTube, showcasing 

“beatbox flute,” have been viewed more than 100 million times. As an internationally-acclaimed performer, educator, and clinician, Greg can be found both on the concert stage and on the streets, subways, and parks, sharing and preaching his innovative sound.

After earning both a Bachelors and Masters degree from the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music, Greg spent time as the acting principal flute of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, he became a founding member of the Collaborative Arts Insurgency, and organized the 16th and Mission Thursday night gathering for performers in San Francisco. He is also a founding member of the PROJECT Trio, formed in 2007, which travels worldwide focusing on performance and music educational initiatives. Though noteworthy for his innovations combining beatbox and flute, Pattillo deserves recognition as an arranger and composer who infuses elements of jazz and hip hop into his compositions for flute and Project Trio.
Jonny Lipford
Featured Evening Performer

Jonny Lipford, a celebrated musician with more than 15 years of experience, has made significant contributions to the music industry with his expertise in the Native American-style flute. As a performer, he has captivated audiences as large as 14,000 people. As a recording artist, Jonny boasts numerous albums and awards. His passion for music and education continues to inspire the global flute community.

Jonny also leads the Horizons Flute School, an online learning platform that provides comprehensive flute education to more than a thousand students globally. The school offers courses, workshops, memberships, and lessons catering to all levels of flute proficiency.

Ethirajan Ramanujan

Featured Evening Performer


A software engineer by profession, Ethirajan had the initial training from Ramanathapuram Sri. M.N. Kandaswamy Pillai. Later, he had the initial and advanced training from Sri. Sivashankara Reddy (disciple of Sri. M.N.Kandaswamy Pillai). Currently, he has the versatile training from Sangita Kalanidhi Sri. T.K. Murthy.


Ethirajan has been a regular performer in the Chennai music season, and has played in many prestigious venues in India, with more than 1,500 concerts to his credit. He has toured many cities within the United States, with performances at prestigious festivals including the Cleveland Tyagaraja Festival, Festival of Nations, and the World Music Festival International Veena Festival.

Ethirajan has also worked with many dance companies to provide support to Indian classical dance. He is one of the sought-after mridangist in the mid-west for many productions and arengetrams. Ethirajan has also toured within the United States for many of the dance arengetrams in Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, St. Louis, Portland, and Rochester, to name a few.

Ethirajan Ramanujan will be performing with Raman Kalyan

bottom of page