World, Marching & Concert Judges
World Percussion Judges
Valerie Dee Naranjo
Valerie Dee Naranjo (percussionist, vocalist, composer, clinician) known for her pioneering efforts in West African keyboard percussion music, is originally from Southern Colorado. She moved to New York City after completing studies in vocal and instrumental music education (U. of Oklahoma) and Percussion Performance (Ithaca College). In 1996 she and kuor player Barry Olsen garnered a first place award for their playing of the gyil’s traditional repertoire in Ghana’s KOBINE FESTIVAL OF TRADITIONAL MUSIC. They are to date the only non-West Africans to do this.
She plays percussion for NBC’s Saturday Night Live Band, and has recorded and performed with Broadway’s The Lion King, The Philip Glass Ensemble, David Byrne, The Paul Winter Consort, Tori Amos, Airto Moreira, and the international percussion ensemble, MEGADRUMS, which includes Milton Cardona, Zakir Hussein, and Glen Velez.
Recent film score recordings include “Final Fantasy – The Dream Within” and “Frida”. Her work and music have been written about in “Modern Drummer”, “Drum!”, “Rhythm”, “Percussive Notes”, and “World Percussion Rhythm”. She was named “World Music Percussionist of the Year” 2005 and 2008, as winner of DRUM! Magazine Reader’s Poll in that category. She has recorded several CDs of traditional gyil music with Kakraba Lobi and Barry Olsen, and the CD Zie Mwea with Mr. Olsen and Bernard Woma. Her solo Native American CD “Orenda” is on the Ellipsis Arts Label, and her series of sixteen written transcriptions and CDs, “West African Music for the Marimba Soloist” , “Traditional World Music for Western Percussion Ensemble” and “Lewaa’s Dream (Ancient and Contemporary Music for West African Marimba)” are published by Mandara Music.
Valerie endorses Zildjian, Pearl/Adams (Latin and Concert Percussion) and Vic Firth.
Mona Tavakoli is a Los Angeles-based drummer, singer and performer who believes in making music that unites, elevates and connects.While Mona is equally comfortable performing as a drummer and a percussionist, she is especially known for adapting the cajón to unexpected genres such as rock and pop. She began playing the Peruvian percussion instrument as a college student taking a flamenco dance class. She recently designed a signature cajón with LP called The MT Box.
Mona started playing drums at age 11 and blossomed into a tenor drum star in her High School marching band. She began her professional musical career in 1999, when she helped form Raining Jane, an all-female rock band, as a student at UCLA. Mona and Raining Jane co-wrote and recorded YES! (Atlantic Records) with Jason Mraz. Mona and Mraz have been collaborating for nearly a decade, touring worldwide and performing together as a duo on programs such as The Today Show, The David Letterman Show, Ellen, Dancing with the Stars, and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. As the Duo Decibel System, Mona (percussion) and Mraz (guitar/vocals) have performed in Antarctica in support of climate change awareness.
21018 marks Mona’s 9th year directing the Rock n’ Roll Camp For Girls Los Angeles and she promotes music education by hosting rhythm workshops at elementary schools, summer camps and colleges around the country. She has been featured in DRUM!, Tom Tom Magazine and is the recipient of the 2016 She Rocks awards “Inspire Award” for her work with the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.
Mona is currently touring round the world with Persian pop legend Ebi and will tour this summer with Jason Mraz. She endorses DW Drums and Hardware, Gibraltar Hardware, Latin Percussion, Roland, Sabian Cymbals, Sennheiser Microphones and Vater Percussion.
Born in Japan, Noriko Terada started her musical life at the piano when she was just 3. Later, at the age of 11, she began playing percussion and quickly fell in love. During the course of her development, Noriko discovered a passion for many musical styles including Theater Musical, Jazz, World music, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, Pop, R&B and Classical. She also studied classical ballet for 13 years.
After moving to Boston and graduating from Berklee College of Music, Noriko joined the Video Game Orchestra (VGO) with whom she performed at concerts, festivals and conventions all over the world. She was also featured on soundtrack recordings for popular video games such as Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy XIII-3 Lightning Returns. In 2012, she joined the multi award-winning theater/dance group, TAP DOGS and toured extensively with them throughout Asia Australia, Europe and the Middle East
More recently, the multi-percussionist has collaborated with a host of Grammy Award-winning artists, composers and producers including Anjelique Kidjo, Oscar Stagnaro, Don Was, Alan Silvestri, Jorge Drexler, Jamey Haddad, John Weston, Kenwood Dennard and Emily Elbert. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
Marching Percussion Judges
Just 21 years old, 2017 Hit Like A Girl Marching Percussion Champion Anastasiya Kostromina (aka AJDrumz) was born in Russia but raised in Brooklyn, New York, USA. AJ began drumming by teaching herself how to play snare drum at the age of 9 and eventually became section leader of the Drumline, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band and Orchestra at Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton High School. Later, she studied snare drum with former Blue Devil Pete Sapadin and drumset with George Gray (Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire).
AJ remains extremely active in the New York City drumming scene. She is creative and social media director for the arts & entertainment company “ChopUniversity”, a member of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets drumline and has performed at venues such as the Carnegie Hall, Apollo Theater, Tribeca Film Festival, Brooklyn Museum and Barclay’s Center. AJ’s drumming was featured in Tom Tom magazine’s Oral History Of Female Drummers, at the 2016 Kenzo and H&M fashion show and on “Play’n Drums” with renowned drummer/educator Dave Natal. Along with HLAG Champions Helly and AP Tobler, she was a featured performer at the Hit Like A Girl Showcase at PASIC 2017.
Today, her active schedule takes her all over the country playing marching snare drum with Performance Paradigm, an entertainment company that produces entertainment for major corporate events. She is a private teacher (in the NYC area and on Skype) and a clinician. She also plays drumset for a few artists in the New York music scene.
In addition to her musical skills, AJ is a talented photographer, videographer, online content creator and social media specialist. She also holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and an Associate’s degree in Business Administration.
Part of DCI and BOA Champion drumlines, Mark Perrett is a prominent and multi-faceted marching arts educator in the percussion community. He has been teaching and performing in the marching area for the past 15 years and has co-authored and published 9 method books, multiple warm ups for drumline and solo literature that is used by percussionists all over the world. He is the Co-Founder of the world-renowned contemporary percussion education brand, The Grid Book Series.
Along with The Grid Book Series co-founder, John Lluvera, Mark has presented master classes and collaborated with percussion groups, ensembles and departments at leading universities such as University of Southern Alabama, University of Central Florida, University of South Florida, NCCU, FAMU, FIU, FSU and many more. He has also collaborated on multi-media presentations with Championship DCI drum corps, including The Cadets, The Blue Devils, Santa Clara Vanguard, Bluecoats and Madison Scouts.
Mark continues to push the boundaries of percussion education with The Grid Book Series and innovates the way drumming is taught online with over 5 million impressions a year across multiple social media platforms. In addition to his talents as a percussion educator, Mark earned a Master’s Degree in Architecture + Community Design from the University of South Florida and is well-versed in graphic design, marketing, photography, videography, apparel design, social media, content creation, branding, and web design.
Sandi Rennick is one of the foremost artists and educators in the world of marching percussion. Currently Percussion Manager for Santa Clara Vanguard and percussion instructor at Flower Mound High School in Texas, Sandi has extensive teaching and arranging experience with a variety of groups, including the 16-time PASIC Champion University of North Texas Indoor Drumline, Drum Corps International finalists Carolina Crown (1998-2004), and Phantom Regiment (2003-2010). The Phantom Regiment was awarded the DCI Fred Sanford High Percussion Award in 2006, 2008, and 2010, and won the DCI World Championship in 2008.
Sandi is a graduate of the University of North Texas, where she earned a B.M. and M.M. in Percussion Performance, and was an original cast member of the Tony and Emmy Award-winning production “Blast!— performing in London, England and as a featured soloist on tour throughout the United States. She also serves on the Marching Percussion Committee of the Percussive Arts Society.
Concert Percussion Judges
Passionate about educating the next generation of young musicians, Gwendolyn Dease is professor of percussion at the Michigan State University College of Music. She is currently on the faculty at the Brevard Music Center and has served on the faculty for the Filarmonica Joven de Colombia and the Interlochen Arts Camp. Gwendolyn also gives master classes at universities throughout the US and abroad.
In addition, Dease has maintained a career as an active solo, chamber, and orchestral musician. She has performed throughout the United States, Asia and South America and is currently principal percussionist with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra and the Brevard Music Center Orchestra. She has also performed with the Detroit Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the Solisti New York Orchestra, the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Traverse Symphony Orchestra.
Dease was the winner of the Keiko Abe Prize at the second World Marimba competition in Okaya, Japan, the top prize winner at the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts’ ARTS competition and was a recipient of the Michigan State University Teacher Scholar Award. She was awarded the performer’s certificate from the Eastman School of Music and has also been the recipient of the Outstanding Young Musician award from the Peabody Conservatory and the Yale Alumni Award.
Dease’s impressive discography includes four solo CDs: “Marimba Suites”, “Boomslang: New Works for Marimba”, “Idle Fancies” and “Beguiled”. Her collaborative projects include “Textures” (Percussion Chamber Music by Paul Lansky) and “In the Shadow of No Towers” (The Phillip Glass Double Timpani Concerto).
Dease began her musical career very early, studying piano and violin at the age of two. She has studied with world-renowned professors Robert van Sice, Keiko Abe, and John Beck and holds degrees from the Interlochen Arts Academy, Eastman School of Music, Peabody Conservatory, and the Yale School of Music.
Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Theresa Dimond began her percussion studies with Mervin Britton at age 8. Upon moving to Los Angeles, she attended the University of Southern California where she studied with Ken Watson, earning a B.M., M.M. and D.M.A. in Music Performance. She also studied with Mitchell Peters, Neil De Ponte, F. Michael Combs and the late Charlie Owens.
Dr. Dimond has been a featured soloist at the Aspen, Sun Valley and Tanglewood Summer Music Festivals and is currently the principal percussionist of the LA Master Chorale, Pasadena Symphony and the multiple Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. She is Principal Timpanist of Muse/ique and the California Philharmonic and has also performed with the LA Philharmonic and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under the direction of preeminent conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Jeffrey Kahane, Placido Domingo, Herbert Blomstedt, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gustavo Dudamel and James Conlon.
In addition to her live performances, Theresa has recorded with Pierre Boulez, Lalo Schifrin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kurt Masur, Dawn Upshaw, and Grant Gershon. Her soundtrack credits include The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, Far from Heaven, The Dewey Cox Story, Rush Hour 3, Rocky 5, and Edward Scissorhands, to name but a few.
Dr. Dimond serves on the faculties of UCLA, UC Irvine, Pomona College, Whittier College and Cerritos College. In 1998, she founded TouchDown Publications, a music publishing company which edits and publishes opera percussion parts.
Dani, a Louisville, Kentucky native, discovered her love for rhythm at the early age of 7 and by the age of 8, Markham was gigging regularly with the Louisville Leopard Percussionists. During her early years, Markham was featured in Modern Drummer Magazine and received nation-wide attention for her drumming and xylophone ragtime chops. Markham continued her pursuit in music, receiving a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Miami’s esteemed Frost School of Music. While attending the University of Miami, Markham expanded her studies in world music including Brazilian, Afro-Beat, and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Her recent collaborations include critically acclaimed indie-rock band, Tune-Yards, Sonya Tayeh’s you”ll still call me by name and, most recently, Grammy award winner, Childish Gambino. Markham performed live at the 2018 Grammy Awards with Childish Gambino. Markham has also appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” “Conan,” “Jools Holland,” and has performed alongside comedian, Dave Chapelle. Markham appeared on the judge panel this year for the international Hit Like A Girl drum competition and actively engages in programs that inspire the youth and women through drumming and creative expression. Markham is currently based in Brooklyn, New York and is an official LP (Latin Percussion) Artist and Endorsee.