Monica Ellis, bassoon

Monica Ellis, bassoon

Bassoonist Monica Ellis, a native of Pittsburgh, PA, discovered the joy of making music at the age of 4. Encouraged by her father, the late jazz saxophonist Clarence Oden, she began playing the clarinet, saxophone and later the piano. After being introduced to the bassoon in middle school, she studied with Mark Pancerev of the Pittsburgh Symphony throughout high school.

Ms. Ellis went on to receive her Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, studying with George Sakakeeny. While at Oberlin she participated as both an instructor and performer in the Panama Project; a month long camp for young Panamanian students. She then received her Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School and also attended Manhattan School of Music in the Orchestral Performance Program, studying with Frank Morelli at both institutions.

Residing in Harlem, Ms. Ellis is an active New York freelancer, having performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Absolute Ensemble, Perspectives Ensemble, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, just to name a few. 

Also a passionate teacher, she has taught at Conservatories of Music at Purchase College and Brooklyn College, Mannes College of Music Preparatory Division and Juilliard's Music Advancement Program. She is also a well renowned clinician, and has given masterclasses and solo recital performances across the country.

Jeff Scott, french horn/composer

Jeff Scott, french horn/composer

A native of Queens, NY, Jeff Scott started the French horn at age 14, receiving an anonymous gift scholarship to go to the Brooklyn College Preparatory Division. An even greater gift came from his first teacher, Carolyn Clark, who taught the young Mr. Scott for free during his high school years, giving him the opportunity to study music when resources were not available. He received his bachelor's degree from Manhattan School of Music (studying with David Jolley), and master's degree from SUNY at Stony Brook (studying with William Purvis). He later continued his horn studies with Scott Brubaker and the late Jerome Ashby. Mr. Scott's performance credits are many and varied. They include The Lion King orchestra (on Broadway, New York) 1997-2005, and the 1994 revival of Showboat 1994-1997. He has been a member of the Alvin Ailey and Dance Theater of Harlem orchestras since 1995 and has performed numerous times under the direction of Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Mr. Scott is also the french hornist in the internationally acclaimed wind quintet “Imani Winds”.

Mr. Scott has also experienced good fortune as a studio musician. He can be heard on movie soundtracks scored by Terrence Blanchard, Tan Dun and on commercial recordings with notable artists such as Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Chris Brubeck, Chico O'Farill, Robin Eubanks, Freddy Cole and Jimmy Heath, among others. Additionally, he has toured with artists such as Barbra Streisand and the late Luther Vandross.

Mr. Scott's arranging and composing credits are many, and include scoring the off-Broadway production of Becoming Something, The Canada Lee Story, the staged production of Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot!, and many original works for solo winds as well as wind, brass and jazz ensembles. His works are published by International Opus, Trevco Music, To The Fore Music and self-published at Music by The Breadman.

Mr. Scott has been on the horn faculty of the music department at Montclair State University (New Jersey) since 2002

Mark Dover, clarinet

Mark Dover, clarinet

Praised by Opera News for his “exemplary clarinet playing,” Mark Dover’s vast array of musical experiences have helped him quickly establish himself as one of the most diverse clarinetists of his generation. Since moving to New York in 2010 Mark has performed at many of the major concert halls, including Carnegie Hall and Weill Recital Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Merkin Hall and Symphony Space. As an orchestral musician, Dover has performed with The Detroit Symphony under Leonard Slatkin, The Cleveland Orchestra under David Zinman at Kent/Blossom, numerous times with The New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Symphony in C in New Jersey, and Chamber Orchestra of New York. He has performed as a member of The Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in Charleston, South Carolina for two seasons, as well as at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan. In 2015, Mark performed the world premiere of Michael Thurber’s Quadruple Concerto, “Three Musketeers” commissioned by and broadcasted nationally on NPR’s From The Top with the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra and soloists Kris Bowers, Charles Yang and Michael Thurber. Mark has also worked closely with the New York based conductor-less chamber orchestra Shattered Glass, with whom he performed the Copland Clarinet Concerto.

In addition to his work in the classical world, Dover has an extensive background in jazz and improvised music. He held the clarinet chair for over 300 performances of the acclaimed OffBroadway musical Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812. Currently Mark can frequently be heard as a substitute musician on the Broadway show Matilda. He has performed and/or recorded with numerous jazz, pop and musical theatre artists, including The Temptations, Vulfpeck, Bernard Purdie, Edward Simon, Brian Blade, Dave Binney, Scott Colley, Cyrille Aimée, Darren Criss, Dave Malloy, Phillipa Soo, Stephen Pasquale, Adam Deitch, Michael Thurber, Charles Yang, and many more. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy, Mark received his Masters of Music from Manhattan School of Music, and his Bachelor of Music from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. His major teachers include David Krakauer, Deborah Chodacki, Nathan Williams, and Jay DeVries. 

Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboe

Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboe

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Toyin Spellman-Diaz has built a reputation as a world-class oboist. As an orchestral musician, Ms. Spellman-Diaz has performed in the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Orpheus and Orchestra of St. Lukes. She has performed numerous solo works with the Chicago Civic Orchestra, Manhattan Virtuosi, the Antara Ensemble and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC where she was hailed as having a “smooth, controlled tone and excellent technique” by the Washington Post.

Her chamber music credits outside of Imani Winds include playing with such esteemed groups as Alarm Will Sound and Camerata Pacifica. Ms. Spellman-Diaz graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory where she achieved her Bachelor of Music degree, and received her Masters and Professional Studies degrees from Manhattan School of Music. She is on faculty at Brooklyn College.

Valerie Coleman, flute/composer

Valerie Coleman, flute/composer

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Valerie Coleman began her music studies at the age of eleven and by the age of fourteen, had written three symphonies and won several local and state competitions. Valerie is not only the founder of Imani Winds, but is a resident composer of the ensemble, giving Imani Winds their signature piece Umoja (which is listed as one of the "Top 101 Great American Works" by Chamber Music America). In addition to her significant contributions to wind quintet literature, Valerie has a works list for various winds, brass, strings and full orchestra published by International Opus and in the near future, Theodore Presser.


Prior to her solo debut at Carnegie Hall, Valerie was the understudy for flutist Eugenia Zukerman at Lincoln Center, featured soloist in the Mannes 2000 Bach Festival, two-time laureate of the Young Artist Competition at Boston University, recipient of the Aspen Music Festival Wombwell Kentucky Award, and was the inaugural recipient of the Michelle E. Sahm Memorial Award at the Tanglewood Festival. Recently, she appeared as guest artist at the Chenango Music Festival, teaching artist for Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, was recipient of Meet the Composer's Edward and Sally Van Lier Memorial Award, and was showcased on the New York classical radio station WQXR. Most Recently, she is a recipient of the Multi-Arts Production Fund - a grant given to "support innovative new works in all disciplines and traditions of performing arts."

Valerie has a Double Bachelor's degree in Theory/Composition and Flute Performance from Boston University and a Master's degree in Flute Performance from the Mannes College of Music. She studied flute with Julius Baker, Alan Weiss, and Mark Sparks; composition with Martin Amlin and Randall Woolf; and has served on the faculty of The Juilliard School's Music Advancement Program and Interschool Orchestras of New York. Currently, she is on the advisory panel of the National Flute Association.