Steve Helton

Steve Helton not only has the privilege of teaching Drums and Percussion at Sam Ash but he he also is The Learning Center’s Lesson Coordinator. He is a Graduate of Miami University where he majored in English and Creative Writing while also studying Music Theory and Music Performance. As the Lesson Coordinator he takes great pleasure in getting to know each student in order to match them with the right teacher for them. “It’s not just a matter of finding teachers who fit with our students’ schedules, but finding the best teachers in the Cincinnati area who are able to take our students to a higher level of music education and performance.”

Steve has been a Percussionist for over 15 years, studying everything from classical, marching, auxiliary, and drum set. Although percussion is his forte, he also plays bass guitar and has done so in several local bands including Rexy, named Best Unsigned Band of 2007 by Substream Magazine, and the local Pop/Electronic band,
Vito Emmanuel.

He has been teaching since 2004 with students of his going on to perform with several DCI Drum and Bugle Corps, national touring rock bands, and the legendary Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theatre in Chicago, IL. Most recently, Steve was the Drumline instructor of Valley View high school in Germantown, OH.

Steve focuses on teaching all of his student’s basic and advanced rudimentary theories while showing how they can be applied to different genres and various percussion instruments. He plans all of his lessons with the student’s goals in mind and helps develop them into well rounded musicians.

Michael Oakley

Michael Oakley started studying guitar at age 10 under the direction of Jeff Martin and has played for 39 years. He began his professional career at age 15 playing school dances, homecomings and proms around the greater Cincinnati area.

At age 17, Michael began working the local club circuit with various bands. He taught guitar at Buddy Rogers Music, and later attended the University of Cincinnati. In 1984, after a brief period of time playing in the New Your City-based band, 1313, and Florida- based band, Romeo, Michael co-founded the band Hollywood and hit the road for 5 years playing the I-75 circuit, Michigan to south Florida. On occasion, the band traveled south west touring Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and the mid west touring Indian, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. During this time Michael had the opportunity to open shows for various national acts including George Thorogood, Robin Trowler, Pat Travers, Spencer Davis Group, Head East, Wish Bone Ash and Saigon Kick, to name a few.

Michael currently plays pop/blues/jazz in two bands, Unscheduled Flight and Snidely Whiplash, while also playing in the eighties big-hair band, Hollywood, and the progressive rock band, Into The Listening Glass, performing in clubs and for corporate events and regional concerts. Once a month, Michael enjoys leading worship playing contemporary Christian music at Wellspring Community Church and volunteer- teaches a weekly children’s introductory music class at Center of Hope for Women and Children in Middletown.

Michael was chosen as Cincy Magazine’s 2013-2014 Best Music Instructor in their annual Best of the North Awards. In addition to teaching and playing, Michael is also currently on staff at the Underground managing the UG Studios and mentoring bands and offering them the opportunity to create music videos and EPK’s.

Kristen Whalen

Her background is mostly been grounded in classical but she has experience teaching and singing pop, jazz, and musical theater as well. She believes in a well-rounded music education and she like to incorporate music theory and sight reading iKristen Whalen is a graduate of Miami University where she received her Master of Music in vocal performance and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University where she received her Bachelor of Music vocal performance. She has studied music abroad in Austria while she was in her undergraduate program and has participated in a young artist program in Los Angeles that focuses primarily on art song. nto her lessons along with learning repertoire and technique.

She is an active musician in the Cincinnati area and has performed with several local opera companies as well as in Columbus. Kristen is also a soloist at Greenhill Community Church Presbyterian.

Darcy Gray

Dacy McAlister has been singing her whole life. She graduated Princeton high school in 2005, where she performed solos for audiences of over 800. Dacy earned her Associates degree from the University of Cincinnati before majoring in music at Northern Kentucky University. Dacy greatly enjoyed participating in community theatre musicals and has directed and played leading roles in plays and musicals alike.

Dacy immersed herself in jazz combos while at NKU and was privileged to study under the tutelage of several well-known jazz musicians and professors, such as Brian Hogg, Hal Amelia and Phil Burkhead. Dacy also studied voice with Esther Nam and won the Freshman Women’s Division award in the Nats competition. She has performed at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, has multiple concert recordings and has participated in operas, solo foreign-language and large group performances with the Northern Chorale (with Dr. Randy Pennington and Katie Bartlett) and the Women’s Choir. Dacy sang with the Hollywood United Methodist Church Chancel Choir, and recorded in New York City with Samantha Carlson, lead singer for the Swingtime Jazz Band.

 Dacy’s voice lessons are creative and enthusiastic. She is encouraging and caring, and excels at identifying and developing students’ strengths. She works from several popular piano method series books and will find the right path for you. Her favorite genres of music are gospel, rock and jazz. Besides teaching, Dacy also works as a congregational vocalist Intern at Sharonville United Methodist Church, and has enjoyed working at the Blue Ash YMCA Day Camp as a professional after-school care administrator. Her passion for children and teaching culminate into effective and fun teaching methods for all ages. At Pleasant Ridge Montessori, Dacy created the Cincy Afterschool Youth Choir, which had 80 participants, 2 large group performances and a televised performance with the CEO of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati,  Sandy Walker.  Dacy also works part-time for Ulmer & Berne, Attorneys. Fun facts about Dacy are that she is an identical twin with roots in the South; she recently picked up playing guitar, and the biggest Elvis fan you’ll ever meet!

Billy Aszman

Billy Aszman joins Sam Ash with 14 years of experience playing guitar. Having studied under his uncle Jeff Pence, founding member of rock band Blessid Union of Souls, Billy has been exposed to the professional music industry all his life and has a healthy appreciation for all musical instruments.
He specializes in both acoustic and punk styles and was the youngest musician ever to join local punk legends SS20. With experience founding and playing in numerous bands, not only as a guitarist but also as lead singer and drummer, Billy has played everywhere from talent shows and coffee houses to medium-sized venues.
Currently, Billy serves in the Army Reserves after 5 years of active duty service. He’s pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Environmental Science at University of Cincinnati. His unique mix of education and experience has provided him with the necessary knowledge and skills to teach beginner guitarists all they need to know. He looks forward to meeting you!

Niko Kordalis

Niko Kordalis has 7 years experience playing the alto saxophone in a concert band setting and 9 years playing the guitar in a variety of settings and musical styles. He has earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Guitar Performance from the Jazz Studies Program at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. His background in music includes playing Blues, Rock, Funk, R&B, Hip-Hop, and Jazz.

Niko studied with James E. Smith (Chairman of Jazz Studies at Central State University, adjunct faculty at UC) for 5 years. While at the conservatory, Niko played with the Jazz Lab Band under the direction of Dominic Marino for 2.5 years and played in the combos of Cincinnati jazz musicians including Marc Fields, Scott Belck, and John Von Ohlen. 


Niko has been educated in music theory, music history, composition, basic keyboard skills, basic recording techniques, and general performance practices. Although guitar is his primary instrument, Niko also teaches electric bass and saxophone. This background allows Niko to teach beginners of any age or further the education and skills of advanced players in a variety of musical styles. He is currently an active musician in the Cincinnati music scene.


Ken Taylor

Ken Taylor is a music educator with over thirty-three years of service in public schools and colleges. He has taught in Michigan, Ohio, and Arizona. Mr. Taylor also remains an active player in commercial, symphonic, and jazz ensembles.

  He most recently has taught trumpet at both Phoenix and Scottsdale Community Colleges in Arizona. His experience in public school music has equipped him to teach all brass and woodwind instruments. 

  Taylor has earned Bachelors and Masters degrees from Miami University. In Arizona, he played with the Scottsdale Symphony, La Forza Chamber Orchestra, Superstition and Sonoran Serenade big bands, Bad Cactus Brass Band, and his own Golden Era Dance Band. Prior to moving to Arizona, he played with the Northern Kentucky Symphony, Miami University Jazz Ensemble, and Miami’s Campus Owls big band

Bob Raleigh

Bob Raleigh has 45 years of self taught experience on the drum set. Bob played in his high school concert band under the direction of Al Letzler, former trombone player for the Tommy Dorsey Band. During that time he began his professional career sitting in for established bands that were playing private parties and other venues. He also played for the Queen City Cadets Drum and Bugle Corp. After graduation and a stint in the United States Navy, Bob played with Livingston Road, which was a classic R&B band. He then joined the Gathering, which was a Top/40 band and traveled the west coast playing hotel and dinner circuits.

Upon returning to Cincinnati to raise his family, Bob played at the Dixie Electric Company which was a Disco and Country venue. He also joined the Scar Band who often fronted Cincinnati Slim and the Headhunters playing R&B. Adding to his eclectic style, Bob played with The Franz Klaber Orchestra, which was a German folk band playing various events to include Oktoberfest Cincinnati. His last stint was with the Classix, which lasted 20 years playing Top/40 Classic Rock, Big Band, and Motown. The Classix played for private parties in the Tri-State area at such venues as the Phoenix, The Cincinnati Club, and the Hyde Park Country Club to name a few.

All of the experiences, his natural talent, and passion for drumming, have contributed to Bob’s amazing versatility and ability to play all genres. Bob has given private drum lessons in the past and enjoys sharing his knowledge, skills, and expertise on the set


Bill Bullock

Bill Bullock has been playing drums since he was nine years old. He continued pounding the skins throughout junior high and high school in jazz, symphonic and concert band. In 1988 Bill joined Graceland Records band Flock 14/World Theater and toured the Midwest. Five years later, he joined Detroit’s Small Stone Records band Roundhead and opened for national acts such as Filter, Smashing Pumpkins, and Marilyn Manson. After a short stint in Afghan Whigs Soundman Steve Girton’s band Sistern, Bill went joined (in) Camera in 2003, and played the 2005 MidPoint Music Festival (MPMF) with the band. In April 2010 he formed Soapland with local veterans from Viva La Foxx, Roundhead and The Wolverton Brothers. In September 2010 Soapland played MPMF. In April 2011, Bill recorded with Soapland on the group’s album tilted “The Inflatable Real”.

In 2013 Bill joined the local veteran band Tonefarmer which also features members of Sleep Theatre, Mara, Nathan Holscher, and The Underwoods.


Tobe Donohue

Born Tobias, “Tobe” Donohue studied audio and video production, theatre production, lighting and acting at CCM, and graduated with a Fine Arts degree in electronic media in 2000. He was awarded for his pioneering efforts in founding Bearcast radio, nominated as Top Student and hired as a head audio engineer/producer/assistant video editor for Hammond Communications Group.

Tobe performed as “Casual T”, pushing the edge of technology, through skratching, sampling, vocoders and synths/drum machines, and blurring the lines between rock, hip-hop and modern music. His band, LazyRocket, recorded with Robbie Novemberevel in L.A. He joined The Animal Crackers, (music-recycling), placing 2nd in the Technics DMC U.S. Competition in 2004, 1st in 2006 and 4th out of 8 countries in the World Chanpionship in London. Tobe has been involved not only in pro-level engineering and world-class production, but also artist development, with names like DJ Hi-Tek, Def-Jam, Aftermath and Piakhan.

Tobe started Manimal records and worked with the legendatry Bootsy Collins, in Pro Tools, and as head engineer, producer and Dj for Bootsy and Bootzilla Productions on the rookie year Nike commercial for LeBron James and video games like GT4, ATV2 and NBA Jams.

Tobe did his first pilot episode for a tv show “Klowns on Tour”, featuring Bootsy and friends, also recording the album “Christmas is Forever”. With Bootsy, he co-wrote Bengals (NFL) songs, was a co-member of “Science Faxtion”, and provided music for Don Kings “Prize Fighter” video game. Tobe was crew chief and stage manager for Bootsy and the Hardest Working Band’s James Brown Tribute Tour, running a show with two bands and a crew of 28, across europe and Japan.

Tobe mixed, produced and co-wrote “Junk Yard Waltz”, the newest release from funk bass blaster Freekbass, and, in 2009, worked with Samuel L. Jackson on a Gatorade project for Tiger Woods, produced by Bootsy Collins. He later teamed back up with Freekbass for the Athletic Department theme song for Notre Dame, “We Are ND”.

Rick Kitchen

Rick Kitchen found his way into sound design and engineering first, as a hobby, which grew to mixing for various venues and bands around Cincinnati. Rick is the co-owner of S&R Audio, an independent sound production company, and is the house engineer at Jags Steak and Seafood in West Chester.

Students of Rick’s will learn how to blend and balance, as well as what equipment is best coupled with specific boards. Rick takes the time to ensure that each student fully grasps the nuances of what makes for great sound and sound engineering. Rick also works in logistics operations and sales management and was a former manager of the Pro-Audio department at Sam Ash Music Store in Cincinnati.