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private lessons at JCS

Jazz Central Studios works with Twin Cities' finest professional working musicians to provide private lessons, clinics and educational opportunities for youth and adults in the Twin Cities' Metro. Private lessons are held at JCS seven days a week and our primary pedagogical focus is on Jazz and Contemporary Music. Jazz Central Studios encourages collaboration and education among musicians of wide and varied experience. Our teachers are all professional working musicians who work in the Twin Cities jazz community and beyond. By taking lessons at JCS you not only learn how to play an instrument but you also get to work with someone who can help you connect to the scene and the music community at large. For inquires, or to sign up for lessons please reach out to one of our teachers today!

Lesson Scholarship

If you would like to provide assistance to students of jazz, please donate to our lesson scholarship fund. Your donation will provide financial aid to students in need.

Meet Our Instructors

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Pete James Johnson
(drums)

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Pete James Johnson is a drummer, composer and educator in the Twin Cities - most often seen playing Jazz and improvised music but is at home in a variety of musical worlds. He performs with local artists such as the Zacc Harris Group, Bryan Nichols, Javier Santiago, Omar Abdulkarim, Dosh, Michael Cain, Chris Bates’ Red 5, Will Kjeer, Barbara Cohen, Andrew Walesch, Nooky Jones, Adam Meckler, Aaron Hedenstrom, JazzMN Orchestra, Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra, and Adam Bohanan. Additionally Pete has also played with international artists such as the Bob Mintzer Big Band, Alan Broadbent, Russ Ferrante, Alex Hahn, Alan Pasqua, Bob Sheppard, and 20-time Grammy-Winning producer, Al Schmitt.

 

As an educator Pete has taught at The College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, The University of Minnesota Morris, Hamline University, University of Southern California, and has served as a clinician and guest artist at Jazz Festivals around the Midwest. Pete’s primary instructors were Peter Erskine (Weather Report, Steely Dan), Ndugu Chancler (Miles Davis, Michael Jackson), Bill platt (Cincinnati Symphony) Ambrose Akinmusire and National Medal of Arts recipient Morten Lauridson.

 

As a composer/arranger, Pete primarily composes for television, film and media. He has composed music for the 2020 and 2022 Olympic Games, NBC, FOX, Peacock, Amazon Prime, Netflix, MTV, USA, E!, national advertisements and European films. 

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Sophia Kaufmann
(upright and electric bass)

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Sophia Kaufmann is a Minneapolis-based upright and electric bassist from Oakland, California. Kaufmann graduated from Macalester College in 2023 with degrees in music and sociology and now teaches private lessons and workshops around the Twin Cities. She grew up playing jazz and rock around the Bay Area in the Oakland East-Side All Stars, combos at the California Jazz Conservatory, and in her own rock bands. Sophia participated in the Stanford Jazz Workshop for multiple summers and was awarded a full merit scholarship to attend the workshop in 2019. At Macalester, Sophia was the manager and upright bassist for the big band, Mac Jazz and she performs regularly in jazz combos around the Twin Cities. Sophia currently writes songs and plays in the rock band, Bakermiller Pink. The group has an EP released on all streaming platforms and they are currently producing a full-length album.

 

Sophia has experience teaching students of all ages and experience levels. In addition to private lessons, she teaches in Walker West’s Experience Jazz Program and Women in Jazz High School Combo. Sophia is passionate about familiarizing students with multiple genres and fostering their ability to collaborate with other musicians.

 

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Jake Baldwin
(Trumpet)

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Jake Baldwin is a trumpet player based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stylistic versatility has made him one of the busiest freelance trumpet players in the Midwest. You can hear him with groups ranging from the iconic Four Freshmen to the Minnesota Orchestra. In 2023 Jake won a grammy for his contributions to the videogame “Assassin’s Creed: Ragnarok”

 

He has two releases under his own name. 2021’s “Where You’re Planted” and 2023’s “Misc. Items” which gained critical acclaim from Dowbeat Magazine.

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Dan Carpel
(upright and electric bass)

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Dan Carpel is an upright and electric bass player based in the Twin Cities who has worked with local artists such as Javi Santiago, Zacc Harris, Omar Abdulkarim, Pete James Johnson, Jake Baldwin, Bryan Nichols, JC Sanford, Abinnet Berhanu and Steve Kenny. He frequently performed with singer/guitarist Mary Cutrufello as well as Sonny Knight and the Lakers, and recently became a part of Dylan Hicks’ Small Screens.

 

Dan attended Berklee College of Music in Boston where he was in the school’s Monterey Quartet. He was a member of Jason Palmer’s band throughout his time in town, and was a mainstay in their residency at Wally’s Jazz Cafe. His time out east also notably included playing in groups led by Godwin Louis, Ilan Bar-Lavi, and Melissa Aldana.

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Kavyesh Kaviraj
(piano)

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Kavyesh graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2018, with a Bachelor of Music (B.M) degree in Jazz Studies and Contemporary Music. In 2019, Kavyesh received a full tuition grant to pursue a Masters’ degree at Berklee College’s Global Jazz Institute, where he was under the eminent tutelage of several jazz masters including Danilo Perez, Kenny Werner, JoAnne Brackeen among many others. He graduated in 2020 with a Master of Music (M.M) degree in Contemporary Performance.

 

Kavyesh is a member of the jazz quintet Mississippi, set to release their second album in 2022. He has performed with national and international artists from many different genres, including Wynton Marsalis, David Sanchez, Roosevelt Collier, Jay Young and the Lyric Factory, Justin Robinson, Yolande Bruce, Debbie Duncan, Bruce Henry, Nooky Jones, Kevin Washington Quintet, Jamecia Bennett, I Self Devine, Lady Midnight, Desdamona, Toki Wright and several others.

 

Kavyesh is also a passionate music educator, with experience as a private instructor and experience as an educator in music academies and public schools alike. Kavyesh is currently on faculty at the piano department at The University of St Thomas, and is also at the music department at Minneapolis College. Kavyesh is also an instructor for various musical arts at Walker West Music Academy. Kavyesh enjoys leading jazz workshops and teaching music classes for children and youth, and his work takes him across the US. His compositions and arrangements for various ensembles and configurations have been featured on radio, TV and collaborative exhibitions.

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Riley Helgeson

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Riley Helgeson is a freelance trumpet player and composer based in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, MN.

Helgeson has toured North America and Europe with Sonny Knight and the Lakers, Friendly Fires (UK), and his own project, McNasty Brass Band. He has also performed on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” with Minneapolis-based McNasty Brass Band. His performances have been broadcast on MPR, The Current, and "The Lowertown Line" at Twin Cities PBS. He has had the honor to perform with O.A.R., PJ Morton, Marie Osmond, Stokley, Fred Wesley(James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic) and John “Jabo” Starks(Bobby Bland, James Brown).

 

 

Other notable performances include shows at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts (MN), Fitzgerald Theater (MN), the Armory (MN), First Avenue (MN), the Fonda Theater (Los Angeles), The Fillmore (San Francisco), Monterey Jazz Festival (CA), Rochester Jazz Festival (NY), Saratoga Springs Jazz Festival (NY), Twin Cities Jazz Festival (MN), Winnipeg Jazz Festival (MB), and Pori Jazz Festival (Finland).

 

 

Riley serves as the Jazz Program Director for the Shell Lake Arts Center (WI), the oldest jazz camp in the world. He also maintains a private trumpet studio in the Twin Cities, and is trumpet faculty at Century College. Riley Helgeson is an XO Brass artist.

 

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Scott Agster

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Dr. Scott Agster remains active as a clinician, guest artist, and educational leader.  He recently directed the Minnesota All State Jazz Band in February 2021. He has also performed at many educational outreach events as a guest artist, clinician, and adjudicator.  Dr. Agster's mission is to provide high quality music education to students of all ages and ability levels.

 

Dr. Scott Agster is also an active performer.  He is currently a full-time member of several bands including: Salsa del Soul, Brass Band, Snowblind Jazz Quintet, Blue Water Kings and the Explosion Big Band.  He has had the opportunity to perform and work with many acclaimed artists and groups such as: The Doc Severinsen Orchestra, The One O’clock Lab Band, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The JazzMN Big Band, PJ Morton, Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Dave Douglas, Phil Woods, Nicholas Payton, Sheila E., Pinetop Perkins, Aaron Neville, Kenny Loggins, Slide Hampton and Trombone Shorty.  Dr. Agster has also participated in pit orchestras at the Ordway Center, Children’s Theater Company, and the History Theater. 



Dr. Agster earned his Doctor of Musical Arts in Trombone Performance from the University of Minnesota.  He also holds a Master of Music in Trombone Performance and a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of North Texas.

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