Choir, Jazz, Music Industry and Orchestra
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Al Thrash has over 20 years of experience working in the music and entertainment business. He started his career as a college marketing representative with BMG Distribution. Upon graduating, he landed a full-time position in Atlanta, and later Nashville, TN, handling sales and marketing duties for some of BMG’s biggest artists including Outkast, Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Dave Matthews Band, and Usher. After 7 years with the company, he left to pursue his own dreams of entrepreneurship, and partnered with a college friend to launch a music consulting company, Own Music LLC. They were successful in creating events and securing endorsements for music artists with brands such as Coca Cola, Adidas, T Mobile, Essence Music Festival and Miller Coors.
In 2008, Mr. Thrash joined Thirty Tigers, one of the premiere music distribution companies in the industry, and is currently employed as a Project Manager. Thirty Tigers has helped to foster success stories for a number of artists including Carlos Santana, Lupe Fiasco, Aaron Watson, Jason Isbell and CeCe Winans. In 2011, he developed curriculum and began teaching music business courses at Morehouse College, and later taught similar courses at Spelman College, and Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. Mr. Thrash holds an MBA from Clark Atlanta University, and a B.A. in Business Administration from Morehouse College.
Ben Yonas is a Grammy and Latin Grammy-nominated music producer/engineer and artist manager. His credits include a diverse range of artists such as Mos Def, Estelle, TV On The Radio, Ledisi, Mickey Hart, Sammy Hagar, and Rubén Blades. He currently manages a roster of artists, including Grammy winner Rizo, Grammy-nominated violinist Jeremy Kittel, Grammy-nominated hip hop duo Los Rakas, and the Latin Grammy-nominated band Making Movies. Past management clients include Grateful Dead drummer, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mickey Hart and Oakland Hip Hop duo Zion I.
Over the past twenty years, Yonas has developed his production company, Yonas Media. The independent production company is dedicated to supporting artists and their recordings. Yonas Media’s goal is to be a cooperative launching pad for musicians who have an original approach to creating and performing music.
Yonas recently moved to Atlanta from Memphis, where he was an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Memphis for six years and led Memphis’ High Water Records and Music River Publishing Company. While in Memphis, he built and operated his recording studio, The Stove, which was the home of several award-winning albums. The albums included Grammy-nominated Southern Avenue’s Keep On album and Latin Grammy-nominated No Te Calles, a collaboration between Rubén Blades and Making Movies. The Band Camino, a group formed in one of his classes, recorded their debut EP at the Stove, which reached over 100 million streams and helped them secure a major label record deal. Yonas served on the Board of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and the Memphis Rock n’ Soul Museum.
Shortly after moving to Atlanta, Professor Yonas co-created and produced the music documentary Ameri’kana with the band Making Movies. Ameri’kana encourages listeners to experience the rich DNA within the American music story celebrating its true diversity through live streams, podcasts, and television and radio broadcasts. The first pilot episode, which featured Los Lobos, Cedric Burnside, Terence Simien, Making Movies, and Flor De Toloache, aired on PBS in 2021. Ameri’kana received an NEA grant to continue the production of six additional episodes, which will also air on PBS.
Yonas holds a Bachelor of Science in economics and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in jazz piano from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from the University of Memphis.
Jennifer Sengin is the Associate Director of Choral Activities at Georgia State University where she conducts the Women’s Chorus and Choral Union and teaches graduate choral literature, graduate and undergraduate conducting, undergraduate choral methods, and supervises student teachers. Under her direction, the Women’s Chorus recently performed at the Georgia Music Educators Association Conference in January, 2020. Dr. Sengin is very passionate about recruiting. In collaboration with the Director of Choral Activities, she has worked to increase enrollment in the choral program at GSU. In 2021, Dr. Sengin was named a semi-finalist for The American Prize in Conducting–college/university division and the Women’s Chorus was named a semi-finalist in Performance–college/university division.
Dr. Sengin also planned and coordinated the Georgia State Gospel Festival in spring of 2019 with guest artists Bishop Chantel Wright and Callie Day. This festival was a cooperative effort with the GSU Office of Educational Outreach and featured Atlanta area high school, community, church, and collegiate choirs.
An active guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator, and presenter, Dr. Sengin has conducted honor choirs in Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, and New York, and presented sessions with the Dublin Youth Singers (Ireland), NAFME Eastern Division Conference, ACDA Central/North Central Division Conference, Georgia Music Educators Conference, Florida Music Educators Conference, and at the Virtual mirabai Women’s Leadership Retreat among others. Dr. Sengin frequently provides presentations on recruiting and retaining singers, score study and rehearsal strategies, movement as a rehearsal strategy, and building community in the choral rehearsal in both a virtual and in-person settings.
Dr. Sengin earned her doctorate at Michigan State University, where she studied with Drs. David Rayl, Sandra Snow, and Jonathan Reed. At Michigan State, Dr. Sengin directed the Women’s Glee Club and led several large-scale recruitment events. In addition, she received the Dissertation Completion Award for her document that explores topics of performing culturally diverse repertoire, culturally relevant pedagogy, and cultural appropriation. She earned a Master’s degree from Ithaca College, where she studied conducting with Dr. Janet Galván and Lawrence Doebler and holds a Bachelor’s degree from The College of New Jersey
Prior to pursuing doctoral studies, Dr. Sengin was the Director of Choirs at East Brunswick High School in New Jersey. Under her direction, the choirs performed at Carnegie Hall, the New Jersey State Theatre, and Princeton Chapel on the Princeton University Campus. During her tenure, Dr. Sengin nearly doubled enrollment in the choir program (from 150 to over 270 students) and founded the Men’s and Women’s choral ensembles.
Dr. Sengin currently serves on the National Board of the National Collegiate Choral Organization, the R&R Chair for Youth and Student Activities on the GA-ACDA Board and as Faculty/Administrator of the Choral Music Experience for Choral Teacher Education course at Michigan State University, and has taught additional courses at Michigan State and Central Connecticut State Universities. She has published and contributed to articles in the Choral Journal and Tempo Magazine, and currently sings in The American Prize-winning ensemble, mirabai, under the direction of Sandra Snow.
Dr. Gordon Vernick is a Professor of Music and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Georgia State University. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY; a Master of Music from the University of Miami, and a Doctor of Arts from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley.
As a professional trumpet player, he has performed in all musical mediums from symphony orchestra to jazz quartet and has free-lanced all over the world. He is currently active as a clinician, an adjudicator, and as a freelance trumpet player.
As a jazz educator he is the past president of the Georgia Association of Jazz Educators and past chair of the International Association of Jazz Educators Curriculum Committee. He is currently the Director of the Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra and the musical director of the Rialto Jazz for Kids middle school jazz outreach program.
He is director of the GSU Faculty Jazztet which performs regularly in Atlanta and has appeared at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, the High Museum Jazz Series, the International Association for Jazz Education Conference and many other venues. He has performed with such world-renown jazz artists as Kenny Werner, Clare Fischer, John Hart, Kevin Hays, Conrad Herwig, Marc Copland, Randy Brecker, Paul McCandless, and others. As a clinician/teacher he has served residencies and performed at the Conservatory of San Juan, P.R., the Taipei American School in Taiwan, the Singapore American School, the Bangkok International School, Columbia College Chicago, The Conservatory of Bordeaux, the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and the Royal Northern Conservatory of Manchester, U.K.
His podcasts, Jazz Insights, have been featured on a number of websites including the New York Times and have been downloaded over 12 million times since May 2009 His CD, The Strangest Thing, was released on Jbird Records in May 2008 and his latest CD, Destination, was released in May 2012. He is a Van Laar trumpet clinician.
Described by her colleagues as a musician who will energize an ensemble like no other conductor, Georgia brings excitement and love for music from the podium that is truly amazing. The results of her work can be seen in the students she teaches; she encourages them not only to become better musicians, but better people as well.
Mrs. Ekonomou has been a String Educator/Conductor for 40 years. She is the former Director of Orchestras at The Paideia School (Atlanta, Georgia), where she conducted The Paideia Chamber Orchestra and The Paideia Junior Chamber Orchestra. In January 2017, Ekonomou was awarded the “Georgia American String Teachers Association” Lifetime Achievement Award, in honor of her contribution to Musical Excellence in the State of Georgia.
Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Music Education from Northwestern University. At Northwestern, she studied Violin with Samuel Magad, and performed in the Northwestern Chorus with Margaret Hillis. Following Northwestern she received a Master of Music Education from Georgia State University. Additionally, she spent 3 summers studying conducting at the Conductor’s Institute in South Carolina under Harold Farberman, Donald Portnoy, Dan Lewis, and John Giordano.
Her teaching career began in the Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. After teaching in the public schools, she became the Director of Orchestras at the Lovett School in Atlanta. While at Lovett, the Lovett Chamber Orchestra performed at the 1990 MENC National Conference in Washington DC. Her Lovett Orchestras also performed at the 1997 GMEA (Georgia Music Educators Association) Conference in Savannah, and at the 1997 IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educator’s) Conference in Atlanta.
In 1991, she was awarded Lovett’s Woodward Award for excellence in teaching.
From 1990-2003, Ekonomou served as assistant conductor of the “Georgia Tech Orchestra”, “Emory Symphony Orchestra” and the “Georgia University Orchestra”.
Presently she conducts the Atlanta Festival Chamber Orchestra in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 2000, Ekonomou began teaching at the Paideia School. Under her leadership, The Paideia Chamber Orchestra performed at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center in 2005, at Jordan Hall in Boston in 2007, and the Ryman Theater in Nashville. Her groups consistently received Superior ratings at Local and National competitions.
A violinist, she performed with the Atlanta Opera Orchestra, and with the Woman’s Jazz Orchestra of Los Angeles, the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra, the Emory Chamber Players and other ensembles in the Atlanta area. Additionally, Georgia is a violinist with the Greek Islanders and The Aegeans.
In 2006, Ekonomou founded the Atlanta Junior Chamber Orchestra, the preparatory orchestra of the Emory Symphony Youth Orchestra. Under her leadership, AJCO has become the premier orchestra in the Atlanta Area for students in grades 7-9.
In 2014 and 2016, she conducted the Intermediate Symphony Orchestra at the Interlochen Summer Arts Festival.
Mrs. Ekonomou is a member of GMEA, ASTA, and Nafme and has served on the advisory committee for the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, and on the national Membership committee for ASTA.
She is active throughout the United States as a conductor, clinician and adjudicator.
The Georgia State University Summer Music Institute – Choral Track will kick off its second year in 2023. The program focuses on choral ensemble skills. Students will study great repertoire, work with our fantastic director as a full ensemble twice per day, participate in intensive sectional rehearsals twice per day, and attend special topic seminars. In these sessions, students will learn about leadership, music theory/conducting, and musicianship, as well as attend a faculty recital. Georgia State University’s School of Music has specially designed this program to educate and inspire young minds through exposure to the rich depth of choral music. Along the way, students will learn to work creatively as a team, gain self-esteem and problem-solving skills, and develop a greater respect for unfamiliar arts.
The Georgia State University Summer Music Institute – Jazz Track, formerly the Summer Jazz Workshop, has earned a reputation for offering an outstanding program over the last 12 years. The summer program focuses on jazz combos coached by one of our renowned faculty members. This year’s faculty includes camp director Gordon Vernick, and based on the number of student combos, may include jazz instructors Kevin Bales, Robert Boone, Dave Frackenpohl, Joe Grandsen, Randy Hoexter, John Sandfort, and Tim Aucoin.
Summer Music Institute instructors are educators and performers dedicated to providing an intensive learning experience for musicians from middle school through high school. Classes in jazz improvisation, jazz theory, combo performance, and master class sessions allow students the opportunity to grow and develop to their fullest potential.
The Jazz Track develops the next generation of Jazz artists and preserves the great American art form. Students involved in the workshop are matched in a combo with other players of the same ability level. As the week progresses, students not only learn musicianship, but will gain the by-products of dedication to a craft – self-esteem, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving skills, good citizenship, and respect for culture. Participants will enjoy five full days of small combo instruction, improvisation classes, instrumental master classes, guest clinicians, and a final concert performance.
The Georgia State University Summer Music Institute – Music Industry Track, is in its first year with the Summer Music Institute. The summer program focuses on the music industry and recording technology of today’s music. The instruction will focus on writing, recording and business models in the the music industry.
Summer Music Institute instructors are educators and performers dedicated to providing an intensive learning experience for musicians from middle school through high school. Participants will take part in sessions on:
Studio Recording: Hands-on recording session with Georgia State student engineers in the Georgia State School of Music recording studio.
Labs: Training to use DAW systems for producing and recording original music.
Music Business: Time with industry professionals in the Music Business as students discuss career paths and learn the fundamentals of the business.
Special Topics: Each day will feature a different topic or guest artist providing insight into the music industry and music business.
The Georgia State University Summer Music Institute – Orchestral Track will kick off its second year in 2023. The program focuses on orchestral ensemble skills. Students will study great repertoire, work with our fantastic director as a full ensemble twice per day, participate in intensive sectional rehearsals twice per day, and attend special topic seminars. In these sessions, students will learn about leadership, music theory/conducting, and musicianship, as well as attend a faculty recital. Georgia State University’s School of Music has specially designed this program to educate and inspire young minds through exposure to the rich depth of orchestral music. Along the way, students will learn to work creatively as a team, gain self-esteem and problem-solving skills, and develop a greater respect for unfamiliar arts.
Registration is open to any middle or high school student with at least 2 years of previous musical experience in orchestra or choir. No audition is required. To guarantee your spot, register by June 1.