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  • Donny Thompson, M.S., NPA

Introducing JOI's Mentors (2 of 3)

Happy New Year to all of our supporters! We have some truly exciting things planned for 2021 and you'll have a front seat to all of it including more from the newly launched JOI Jazz Orchestra comprised of our professional musicians who work with the Las Vegas Youth Jazz Orchestra, new recordings from the LVYJO, Band Director Academy in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center, and more... in addition to our ongoing highly acclaimed educational and outreach programs. Yes, we're staying busy! CHECK OUT THIS PREMIER OF THE JOI JAZZ ORCHESTRA PERFORMING SHERMAN IRBY'S ARRANGEMENT OF "MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY" WITH VOCALIST AND JOI BOARD MEMBER, CLINT HOLMES!

In this second of a three-part series, I'll be introducing the JOI LVYJO Mentors who are 100% volunteer. All are professional musicians and many have played on stages worldwide and here at home with some of history's greatest legends during the heyday of Vegas showrooms through today.

All of us at JOI express our deepest gratitude to these outstanding members of the local community who offer their passion and expertise to our students and who in turn, "Make A Difference" in their lives and the community we serve.

Sonny Hernandez - Trombone

Sonny Hernandez (MM, Music Education, UNLV; BA, Music Education, Fresno State, CA)

Mr. Hernandez is a retired Clark County School District middle school band director with 28 years of service to the students and community of Las Vegas, NV. He is also a professional bass trombonist and tuba player who has performed in all the house bands on the famed Las Vegas Strip. Sonny earned his Masters of Music Education and Nevada Teaching License as graduate assistant to Professor Emeritus Frank Gagliardi. He started teaching at Helen C. Cannon Junior High School in 1991 and opened Grant Sawyer Middle School in 1993. He had previously taught at Yosemite Middle School in Fresno, CA for two years.

Sonny has lived in Las Vegas since 1980 and started his commercial music career subbing for Ralph Pressler at The Frontier Hotel, then hired by Jimmy Trimble for Sandler and Young and later worked the Folies Bergere. He worked many venues/acts in-between, and was asked by JOI’s Curt Miller to join the Desert Inn Orchestra in 1984.

Some entertainment highlights were Sammy Davis Jr.’s Desert Inn Come Back Special, Lou Rawls’ NAACP Telethon, subbing for Bill Rogers on Jerry Lewis’ Telethon night shift, and being the Fifth Freshman with Russ Gary’s Big Band Express at the Frontier. He also worked with Seth McFarland at ComiCon, many Nevada Pops Star Trek Convention concerts, and recorded with Frank Mantooth on his last CD, “Ladies Sing for Lovers”.

Sonny feels very fortunate to have been associated with “MANY GREAT” Las Vegas musicians, and acts. He has worked for over 90 entertainers such as Billy Eckstein, Sammy Davis Jr., Keely Smith, Steve and Edie, Frank Sinatra Jr., Vic Damone, Jack Jones, Tony Bennett and Michel LeGrand. He was a member of the Vincent Falcone, Jack Eglash, Si Zentner Orchestras, and is a current member of Lady Gaga’s Piano and Jazz Orchestra.

Sonny also works with Walt Boenig’s Big Band, Bruce Harper Big Band, Gary Anderson’s Summitt Band, Dr. Richard McGee’s Nevada Pops, and the fabulous Las Vegas Boneheads led by Curt Miller (our second CD is in the works!)

He has been married to CCSD Counselor Shelly for 30 years and their daughter Stefania is a lab scientist at the Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital. Their cool cats are Phoenix, Sawyer, Tom & Jerry.

John Summers - Saxophones

John Summers is a Las Vegas native, and local professional musician with experience in Saxophones and Woodwinds. He has played a variety of Broadway musicals, including the national tours of Chicago, Movin’ Out, 101 Dalmatians, and most recently played the national tour of The Color Purple. He has played many shows in Las Vegas including, The Producers, Spamalot, Jersey Boys, and Showstoppers. He has also played with many nationally recognized artists, such as Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Brett Eldredge, Johnny Mathis, The Buckinghams, and Frankie Valli, among others.

After graduating from the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts in 2002, John attended the University of Nevada Las Vegas where he earned a Bachelors degree in Jazz Performance on Saxophone in 2006. John returned to the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2011, earning a Masters degree in Jazz Composition in 2013.

John is currently a woodwind para-professional at Green Valley High School in Las Vegas. He continues to perform locally as a freelance professional musician, playing shows across Las Vegas, most notably for the Broadway Series at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Curt Miller - Trombone, Audio Engineer, V.P. JOI Board of Directors

Curt Miller received his education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in music and was subsequently hired by the prestigious Lew Elias Relief Orchestra in Las Vegas to play the lead trombone chair. Over the next 17 years he played the lead trombone chair at the Desert Inn Hotel, The Frontier with Sigfried and Roy, the Caesar’s Palace orchestra, and ultimately became orchestra contractor and assistant musical director for Steve Wynn’s Mirage, Golden Nugget and Treasure Island hotels.

Curt left the full-time music business in 1995 and became CEO of a national leadership training company. In 2002 he started his own technology firm, Anexeon, which is now one of the largest in the state. Curt remained involved in professional music however, and in 2018 Curt was hired to play the lead trombone chair for the Lady Gaga Jazz and Piano shows at the Park Theatre.

“During these past 5 or so years I had been looking for a non-profit organization that I could give my time and experience to when I became aware of the Jazz Outreach Initiative organization. It was exactly what I had been looking for," Curt says. “Also, I have known both Kenny and Gary for many years and I know their hearts are in exactly the right place. When they asked me to join as Vice President, it was a very easy decision! I believe this organization can become a major influence in the music community both locally and nationally”.

Ray Logan – Saxophones, Jazz Language Instructor

Ray Logan is an artist, educator, musician, composer, and humanitarian whose purpose is to use music as a vessel to highlight the importance of honesty, love, and vulnerability in creating a better world for humanity. Growing up in Las Vegas, NV, Ray survived and thrived from the power of music, attending an arts high school and then going on to spend a year at the Eastman School of Music, later transferring to Berklee College of Music. Ray works to cultivate a musical ability that connects the listener to their life experiences in order to curate musical messages that can affect their lives in a meaningful way.

Ray has been a part of the Las Vegas Youth Jazz Orchestra since its inception and instructs students on all saxophones. Ray is also an instructor for Jazz outreach Initiative’s Jazz Language classes teaching the students music theory, arranging, and advanced harmonic concepts.


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