Guitars Over Guns

Chicago

Upcoming Events

Program Locations

Working collaboratively with local schools and the broader community, Guitars Over Guns provides students a wealth of experiences in the arts. All students in the music program learn to read and write contemporary music, play instruments and perform on stage and/or in a recording studio. Performances and gallery displays are also integral to our arts-based mentorship programs.

We are happy to be serving the following schools and community partners:

South Side

  • Art In Motion

  • CICS Lloyd Bond Charter School

  • Gary Comer College Prep Middle School

  • Kenwood Academy High School*

  • Wendell Phillips Academy High School

  • Haven Studio @ Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church

  • Electronic Monitoring Program of The Juvenile Temporary Detention Center

West Side

  • Washington Irving Elementary School*
  • William P. Nixon Elementary School
  • Roberto Clemente Community Academy*

Southwest Side

  • Evergreen Academy Middle School
  • James Shields Middle School 
  • Curie Metro High School*

North Suburbs

  • Mosiac Hub, North Chicago/Waukegan

Summer Programs

  • Camp GOGO @ Covenant Harbor
  • Haven Studio @ Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church
  • Photography & Digital Media @ Kenwood Academy High School*
  • Songwriting & Peer Mentoring Bootcamp @ Curie Metro High School*
  • Guitar & Keyboard Intensive @ Roberto Clemente Community Academy*
*Powered by After School Matters & Ingenuity’s Creative Schools Fund

Chicago

Haven Studios

Located in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, Haven Studios offers a safe space for young people to come together and make their community safer and stronger through artistic expression and outreach.

Meet Our
Chicago Mentors

Our mentors come from different walks of life and artistic paths, all connected by their love for the arts and a passion to pay it forward.

They are Guitars Over Guns’ heart and soul, implementing and customizing our comprehensive curriculum that uses arts-based mentoring as a powerful intervention tool for young people.

Jorge Alvarado

Student engineer

Bobby “Wonderfull” Cooper

Music Production

Neko Cortez

Keys

Cameron “C.A.M.” Currie

Rap

Michael Damani

Guitar

Kathryn Douglas

Vocals

Troy Downey

Guitar

Zaria "Zeeniith" Evans

Photography & Digital Media

Jeremiah "RE@L" Fristoe

Rap & Production

Joaquin Garcia

Drums & Keys

Dana Gatziolis

Guitar, Vocals, Songwriting

Janetta "Netta Sherrell" Goines

Bass, Percussion

David Gueringer

Keys, Production

Dolan Heard_Headshot_Chicago Mentor

Dolan Heard

Drums, Production

Gerard Gueringer

Rap, Production

Henry Hollinshead

Guitar & Production

Chris "Robbin' Horace

Production director, studio engineer, Rap

Jeremy Jamaar “J” Jervis

Music & Video production

Shanae kemp

Vocals & Guitar

Max Lazarus

Keys & Production

Kenneth Leftridge Jr.

Keys & Production

Josh Levine

Keys

Ian "Matt Nai" Lewis

Music Production

Bernard "B" Lilly, Jr

Audio Engineer

Ryan Mayer

Guitar & Drums

Alysha McElroy-Hodges

Vocals

Sakyrah "S-O-S" Morris

Music Production

Kameron "Ron Parks" Parker

Rap, Production

Jesse Parks

Guitar

Darius Peterson

Drums

Andi-A’ja Prophet

Student liason, wellness mentor

Ashley Nicole Russell

Wellness mentor, vocals, songwriting

Jarmiah "Heart Cry" Scott

Poetry

Jackson Shepard

Guitar, Bass & Keys

Natalie Shields

Wellness mentor, Poetry, Spoken word

Dexter Sims

Guitar & Bass

Adam "Eleven" Stein

Guitar & Bass

Evan Thompson

Guitar, Songwriting, Music Production

Mateo Zapata

Photography

Contact Our Chicago Location

Chicago Office

954 W Washington Blvd Suite 400

Chicago, IL 60607

Chicago Blog

Windy City Groovin’

This lively gathering of friends brought together a community of first-time supporters and longtime fans to enjoy epic live performances and more.

Read More »
Jorge standing, working with production equipment, wearing a red had and black tshirt

Jorge Alvarado

Student Engineer, Haven Studios

My name is Jorge Alvarado and my dream is to become an audio engineer. I’ve had a strong passion for music since a young age, and music gives me the motivation to continue perusing my career.

I am 23 years old, was born in Pilsen, and I’m helping to take care of my family. I want to say thank you to GoGo for giving me opportunity to see new things in my life and being able to meet people  in the industry like Brandon Blackwell, Chance The Rapper, Alicia Keys, Steve O (Beyoncé’s engineer), and Lilo Brown (Lil Wayne’s engineer)

Bobby Wonderfull

Music Production. Gary Comer Middle School

With a sound as warm as his smile, multi-instrumentalist Bobby Wonderfull ferries audiences to a place that feels like home. Come into his kitchen where he’s serving music that is sustaining to the soul and satisfying to the most refined palate. Bobby is FULL of the spirit of jazz, raised by hip-hop, and simply Wonderfull.



Bobby “Wonderfull” Cooper is a multi-faceted instrumentalist, entertainer, and educator. Raised in Chicago’s south suburbs, he attended Thornridge High School where his passion for educating young musicians began to take root. After graduating from Northern Illinois University in 2016, he returned to Chicagoland to teach with Dolton School District 205 and the Griffin Institute of Performing Arts. He has performed with various artists including Solange Knowles, Sir Nose of Parliament Funkadelic, as well as Chicago based bands Leftjones, 2nd Nature, and Alysha Monique and Family.

Neko Cortez

Keys

Neko “Suave” Cortez is a multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, composer, arranger, ethnomusicologist, and educator originally from Dayton, Ohio (the home of the funk), now based
in Chicago. He was introduced to music at a young age through his father, who is a bass player. Neko quickly fell in love with music that makes people dance, and he keeps that rhythm close to his heart. Musically, Neko seeks to act as a vessel for the music that already exists in the universe. He seeks to play honestly and to heal others through music. As an educator, Neko seeks
to guide students towards creating music that is a reflection of life, and to empower students by deepening their musical connection with their identity and ancestors.


In 2010, Neko began attending his city’s performing arts school, Stivers School for the Arts, where he studied both western classical music and Black American Music from 7th-12th grade. After graduating from Stivers in 2016, Neko attended Oberlin Conservatory to continue his study of trombone. At Oberlin Neko studied with Robin Eubanks and Jay Ashby. Inspired by one of his biggest influences, Roger Troutman of Zapp, Neko picked up the talk-box and to this day he pushes the boundaries of the instrument.
In 2019 with the assistance of grant funding, Neko traveled to Indonesia, The Philippines, and Malaysia to conduct research on traditional and folkloric Southeast Asian music and dance. The culmination of this research was the creation of one of Neko’s most distinguishing compositions entitled, “The Kamamatuan Suite”. The suite which is based on a traditional Maguindanao song cycle, seeks to express the musical and cultural duality of the composers identity- being a mixed-race individual and the descendant of immigrants. The composition combines musical and cultural traditions from Southeast Asia with that of Black American Music. The instrumentation is written for a combination of Filipino instruments (such as Kulintang and Gandingan) and western instruments and combines them into one ensemble.


After graduating from Oberlin Conservatory in 2020, Neko spent some time doing studio work as a session player, but settled in Chicago the spring of 2021. He has been playing, teaching, and
writing in the city ever since. Recently Neko released two singles: Waterfalls and Lights On, from his upcoming self-titled debut project Neko Suave. You can find Neko playing all over the city with various projects, including his primary ensemble, Neko Suave and The Purple Method.

Cameron “C.A.M.” Currie

Rap

C.A.M. is a lyricist, born and raised in the Englewood neighborhood. Through hip hop, he paints a vivid picture of what life is like growing up on the Southside of Chicago.

An artist that spreads good vibes, truth and love by not being afraid to talk about difficult topics like politics, injustice, relationships, addressing real-life situations, and using his music as a catalyst for positive change.

Since C.A.M. has stepped on the music scene he has performed at various venues, Back 2 School Rallies, and festivals throughout the city of Chicago, such as “ Strides For Peace ” to promote his message of positivity and love through hip hop. In addition, he has opened for DJ Quik, partnered with AT&T, Vans, performed at “Mamby On The Beach,” The African Festival, and Hip Hop In Chinatown.

Currently C.A.M. has released his 2nd EP “In Due Time” for the world to hear everywhere with his lead single “More Than Enough” feat Sam Thousand prod by Sage which can be heard on 91.1 Vocalo Radio, Illanoize Radio and WIIT Fusion Radio. Stay tuned for more updates on C.A.M.

Michael Damani

Guitar

Michael Damani is a next generation Blues artist based in Chicago. His style of Blues he calls “Cosmic Blues’ is a seamless fusion of Funk, R&B Soul and Blues, presented at venues locally and internationally. Damani’s accolades include a longtime partnership with the Original Chicago Blues All-Stars, of which he was member from 2016-2021. Damani has also toured internationally, taking his band overseas for his Australian Tour in early 2020. He’s performed the national anthem at the Milwaukee Bucks arena and has shared the stage with numerous rising stars such as Isaiah Collier, Elizabeth Moen, and Tamarie T & Thee Elektra Kumpany. He is also a multi-instrumentalist, currently playing keyboard for Toronzo Cannon.

Kathryn Douglas

Vocals

Kathryn Douglas is a 27-year-old artist from Chicago, Illinois. She draws inspiration from her multigenerational upbringing and a transformative period of residing in the Bay Area of California for eight years. KatKarasi’s compositions are expressions and poetry from her reflections on life and different ways of interpreting sensations and feelings. Her vocal training comes from a variety of choral singing, lessons, and years of theatrical and vocal stage performances.

Likened to a diverse array of sounds, common comparisons include Amel Larrieux, Yukimi Nagano, Marvin Gaye, and Frank Ocean, reflecting the captivating blend of soulful resonance and ethereal tones that define her voice. She sings and is a fan of many genres including Neo-Soul, R&B, Jazz, Indie/Alt-Rock, Pop, and Blues.

She’s worked with and for the empowerment of youth in Chicago through the exploration of music and the arts for many years. It is a personal belief that having ways to express what’s on your mind becomes a superpower with practice and awareness.

 

Troy Downey

Guitar

Troy Downey is a multi-instrumentalist from Des Moines, IA, living in Chicago, IL as a music instructor and guitar mentor for Guitars over Guns. They perform jazz and classical guitar across the midwest as a solo artist, as well as with the bands, Free Time GT and in a jazz trio/quartet. In addition to guitar, Troy also plays piano and saxophone. Troy releases electronic music and beat tapes online. You can find them @breezegloom on IG, Tik Tok and Youtube.

Troy performs for private events, teaches music lessons across Chicago, and has been learning to program audio software with Java and Javascript. They dream of teaching from their own private studio, and contributing to free open-source audio libraries and programs.

Troy’s favorite musicians and artists include Miles Davis, Kiefer, Sam Wilkes, John Coltrane, of Montreal, Mild High Club and Homeshake (among several others).  In addition to music, Troy is a lover of games of all types. They’ll never turn down an invitation to a card game, board game, video game, a game of basketball or tossing the frisbee.

Zaria “Zeeniith” Evans

Zaria “Zeeniith” Evans

Poetry & Creative Writing

Zaria “(Zee)niith” Evans is a Chicago native and a practicing photographer and cinematographer. She’s been a professional inn her field for almost three years under the tutelage of her mentor. Zaria describes herself as passionate, dedicated, and ambitious and these qualities show themselves in the classroom. She’s a site-coordinator at her alma mater, Kenwood Academy, where she teaches photography and cinema, along with self-love, accountability, and empathy to her high school students. Zaria’s main goal is to give back to her community and use her experiences to foster unity, compassion, discipline, and responsibility in the minds of her students and her friends.

 

“Everything you’ve gone though, even the things you thought would break you, happened so you could make sure the next generation doesn’t have as steep of a learning curve as you did.” —Zeeniith

RE@L

Jeremiah “RE@L” Fristoe

Studio Director, Haven Studio

My name is Jeremiah Fristoe. I’m a songwriter and producer who uses my talents to educate, entertain and better my community. I volunteer my time teaching children and young adults about self-expression and creativity. I use lyricism and digital production to help nurture people’s talents and fine-tune their gifts. My goal is to increase communication, unity and self-love through music and art.

Joaquin Garcia

Drums & Keys

Winning Midwest regional drum/percussion competitions by age 9, I would delve into formal study of the piano by the next year, training in the classical arts.  
 
By 2005, aged 15, I won city and state level competitions for interpretations of Chopin and Lecuona and earned a full tuition scholarship to attend Columbia College Chicago as a dual major in composition/performance in classical piano performance upon graduating high school. 
 
I would have an inspirational encounter with Jazz music and switch disciplines just months after entering undergrad.  A year removed from graduation I applied and was accepted with full scholarship to Northwestern University for my M.M.  in Jazz Studies. Graduating with honors in 2014, I expanded my professional working base to include New York City, Mexico City, Memphis, and Miami metropolitan areas.  

I currently tour and record world-wide whilst remaining active nationally with festivals around the U.S.   I am a masterclass lecturer, instructor, music director, and professional pianist in various music scenes.   I tour/perform regularly with multiple award-winning and Grammy-winning artists such as Telmary Díaz, Mireya Ramos, Yissy García, Paula Herrera, Pibo Marquez, Jonathan Suazo, Eddie Palmieri Orchestra, DLG, Frankie Negron, Michael Stuart, El Canario, Tito Nieves, & Gilberto Santa Rosa, to name a few. 
 
Debut project as a bandleader is coming spring of 2024 under a jazz/Afro-Cuban style band called “Temática”. Stay tuned for more fun!

dana gatziolis

Guitar, Vocals, Songwriting

Born and raised just outside of Chicago, Dana is a singer-songwriter and a writer of poetry and prose. Her songwriting hints at an ever-evolving desire to experience life in all of its fullness – embracing the beauty to be found in life’s highs and lows. 

Brimming with passion for people and creativity, she aims to live with no stone left unturned. Her love for storytelling and hunger for a full, vibrant life gives her voice and songs an earthy, soulful, yet approachable sound. Friendly folk may be the perfect description. You can find her albums and latest singles available for streaming on all platforms.

Dana has found so much joy in mentoring with Guitars Over Guns. She loves helping her students to find their voice and build confidence through songwriting. 

You can connect with Dana on Instagram where she has links to all of her music, inspiration, her podcast and any upcoming gigs! 

Janetta "Netta Sherrell" Goines

Bass, Percussion

Netta Sherrell is a Multi-instrumentalist, Educator & Mentor, born and raised on the south side of Chicago. She has extensive knowledge in venue operations and event management and has worked for companies such as Disney, Broadway in Chicago and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. While building a foundation in arts and entertainment management, she has also continued to pursue her dreams of becoming a full time musician. Netta currently tours with the Tony Award Winning Broadway Musical, ”SIX” as the bassist and strives to use her resources and experience to educate youth and young adults on the importance of marketing, networking, music production and music performance. www.nettasherrellbass.com

Netta has been seen on the hit tv series, EMPIRE, recorded for the Netflix film “Wendell & Wild” directed by Jordan Peele, appeared in music videos and recorded several records for multiple artists across the country. You can also catch her playing with her band “Free Your Dreams.” Netta Sherrell is an endorsed artist with Lakland Basses and Mono

David Gueringer

David Gueringer

Keys & Production

Along with performing music for 20 years, David is a skilled composer and songwriter, specializing in emotively driven compositions. As a shy and nerdy kid, music and storytelling helped David become comfortable in self-expression and expand his perspective of the world. His life’s work is to inspire others to be creative, open-minded leaders through music and storytelling.

Gerard Gueringer

Rap & Production

Gerard Gueringer is a sound engineer, producer, rapper and songwriter from the Southside of Chicago, IL. While being a consumer and writer for most of his younger years he would discover his passion for sound in 2015. Since then he has served as an engineer for artists throughout Chicago and executive produced three projects with his collective “BLOTR/W” where he is also featured as a rapper and singer. “The process of creating music is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Being able to create resonance with the tools and instruments we are given is greatly underestimated. It has the potential to influence big changes in the world.”

Henry Hollinshead

Guitar & Production

Henry Hollinshead is a Chicago based producer, instrumentalist, artist, and engineer from Raleigh, North Carolina. Growing up playing violin and guitar, he realized his creative side after being introduced to the music production software Ableton. He then became infatuated with music production, and focused his free time towards growing as an artist. Through his alias Hollowhead, he has released multiple solo projects as well as collaborative efforts with other artists. Prior to becoming more invested in music production, he was a lifelong competitive swimmer, which led him to various leadership and mentor opportunities. Playing music has always been something that has helped him take his mind off of life’s stressors, and he is excited to help others find that same passion through Guitars Over Guns.

Chris "Robbin" Horace

Production Director, Studio Engineer

Chris Robbin is a music recording artist and producer raised on the South Side of Chicago, but born in Detroit. His narrative-based delivery spins whimsical imagery on top of soulful instrumentals.

Jeremy Jamaar “J” Jervis

Music & Video Production

Jeremy Jamaar “J” Jervis is a creative artist with decades of experience in creating art work, producing music and video production. Growing up in the North Chicago/Waukegan area as well as The Bahamas has influenced him in many artistic ways. J believes people aren’t one dimensional and have the liberty and ability to create many things on different levels. He has a passion for helping others find and utilize their gifts and talents with hopes that they find purpose in life by using them. J is committed to learning, to expand his knowledge and is dedicated to teaching what he knows to the next generation. He is looking to be a positive influence in his community.

Shanae Kemp

Vocals & Guitar

Mezzo-Soprano Shanae Kemp is respected for the passion she brings both on and off the stage. As a native of Nassau, The Bahamas, Shanae was immersed in a rich musical culture that influenced her desire of performance. She received her undergraduate degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Illinois. During her time there, Shanae was heavily involved in many ensembles and through teaching experience developed her skills both in the classroom and private settings. She has worked with students of many different ages and skill levels providing them with not only an educational experience, but also a fun and organized way to learn music.

Shanae continued her studies receiving a masters degree in Opera Performance from The

University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. She went on to perform as an artist with The Dallas Opera and The MTD Theater gracing the stage in roles such as Carmen in Carmen, Azucena in Il Trovatore, Indiana Elliot in The Mother of Us All, Ottone in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera, and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd to name a few. As a mentor, Shanae aspires to uplift her students through the love of music and authentic expression.

 

Max Lazarus

Keys & Production

Max Lazarus is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, sound engineer, and educator based in Chicago, IL. He stays busy performing, recording, and producing with Family Junket, an artist collective involving his older brothers and extended family, focused on creating healing spaces, community, and parties. 

Max performs saxophone, flute, keyboards, and other woodwinds and horns regularly around the city, collaborates often with movement artists, facilitates sound meditations, and is grateful to work in music classes across CPS.

Kenneth Leftridge Jr.

Keys & Production

Kenneth Leftridge Jr. is a saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and arranger. Hailing from the south suburbs of Chicago, Country Club Hills, Illinois, he started playing saxophone in 03’, studied music at Rich Central High School in Olympia Fields then pursued a degree in Jazz Performance at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois. After college, Ken has had the privilege to play concerts with many great artist including: Solange, The Lionel Hampton, Jenifer Hudson, Carl Thomas, The Cliff Wallace Big Band, The O’Mys, Sam Trump, Swamp Dogg, Matt Muse, No Name, Manny Torres, Wyatt Wadell, Shawnee Dez, Sydney Jay, Ryan Alexander and many other amazing acts. 

Josh Levine

Josh Levine

Keys

Josh Levine is a Chicago-based musician and actor. He is currently an ensemble member of Theater Unspeakable and performs as the keyboardist for Lunar Ticks. Along with his main projects, Josh teaches privately and works with different groups to devise new work.

Ian "Matt Nai" Lewis

Production

Ian “Matt Nai” Lewis, born and raised on the south side of Chicago, started his journey of music production as a means of escape from the pandemic just to find that he had a knack for it. Now he uses music production as a means to share his original point of view on music and give others a moment to move and to have fun!

Bernard "B" Lilly, Jr

P

Bernard “B” Lilly, Jr. mentors, creates, writes, and performs to inspire others to be their best selves. Born and raised on the westside of Chicago, B has experience as a talent producer, stage manager, musician, actor, youth advocate, curator, and has been pursuing artistry for a decade.

Ryan Mayer

Guitar & Drums

Ryan Mayer is a multi-instrumentalist musician, lyricist, songwriter and producer from Chicago. Over the years, he has collaborated on many diverse projects, from traditional Middle Eastern, North and East African, and Afro-Colombian music, to reggae and hip hop. Currently, he is focusing on recording all the original music he has written during the journey under his artist name, RA’YON I. He has worked as a teaching artist for the past 15 years, spreading his love for music to the youth and inspiring the next generation. In addition to Guitars Over Guns, Ryan also teaches with Ravinia’s Music Discovery Program and Merit School of Music.

Alysha Monique

Vocals

Bold, sensual vocalist, Alysha Monique, mesmerizes audiences with the sultry vocal styling of jazz and soul music. Her endearing aura bewitches listeners into the essence of love, individuality and self-actualization. Surrounded by incredible musicians who strive to push their music to an innovative level, Alysha’s creativity and originality continue to ascend upward. An experience with Alysha is striking, genuine and poignant.

Sakyrah Morris

Production

Chicago based singer, songwriter, and vocal producer, Sakyrah “S-O-S” Morris, has a way of connecting with her audience with her radiant energy and natural charisma. She performs genres including R&B/Soul, Hip-Hop, and Jazz. S-O-S has had the pleasure of gracing the stage for Eric Bennet, Marsha Ambrosius, Ella Mai, as well as being a background vocalist for Fantasia. Outside of pursuing artistry, she is very invested in giving back to the community. S-O-S has been a music educator for the last 4 years working with various nonprofits based on the westside of Chicago. Being the only black woman in her class to graduate from the Audio Design and Production program at Columbia College Chicago has inspired and pushed her to be an example and resource for youth in the city that have similar aspirations. Her goal is to continue to grow her artistry while doing as much as she can for the youth within underserved communities.

Kameron "Ron Parks" Parker

Rap,Production

Ron Parks, a musical enigma, weaves lyrical prowess with modern melodies. His compositions explore topics from social justice to personal struggles, prompting contemplation on perseverance
and the delicate balance between surrender and persistence. Ron’s distinctive voice and whimsical lyrics traverse the intricate contours of his personality and life journey.

A fusion of rapid dancehall influences and reflective commentary, Ron Parks’ tracks like “Right Right” groove with dancehall energy, while “IGAF” exudes bold, unapologetic lyricism. “Kardio” delves into the heart of pursuing dreams, and “Move” commands space with unwavering authority.

Ron Parks has graced the stage at multiple local Chicago venues. He performed at Columbia College’s 2019 Manifest and was a featured performer at Young Chicago Authors’ “Wordplay” open mic in 2018. In 2017 he was direct support for Matt Muse’s “The SiKK Tour” which featured 13 stops across the U.S. and Canada.

Noteable Achievements:

-Spotlighted as a featured performer at Young Chicago Authors’ “Wordplay” open mic (2018)

– Directly supported Matt Muse’s “The SiKK Tour” (2017), spanning 13 vibrant venues across the US & Canada

– Energetically graced stages at Columbia College, NYU, UIC, and NIU

– Catalyst of MDWST CNCT, fostering unity among local artists through curated events.

 

Jesse Parks

Guitar

 I was born in Lewisville, Texas, and I moved to Chicago when I was 6 years old. I am a music producer and musician based in the Chicagoland area.  

I’ve opened for Da Brat, Faith Evans, Al Hudson, One Way, Elephant Man, Twista, Project Pat, Rakim, Chance the Rapper and a few other artists. I have performed on WGNs “Windy City Live” two times, I performed at Millennium Park for the annual blues fest with Rhymefest, I performed at WGCIs Home Turf concert with Shawnna, Reggie Rock Club with Taylor Bennett, Buddy Guy’s Legends, The Elbow Room, The Underground Wonderbar, Sub T, Chicago Theatre and many more.

I started out at the legendary Checkerboard Lounge and was quickly called to play guitar at other venues  and eventually began to headline at various shows around Chicago. I’ve played at many other clubs and events outside of Chicago including ”So Far Sounds” (in both New York and Chicago) and various others.

A'ja Prophet

Student Liason, Wellness Mentor

Andi A’ja is a vibrant yet passionate queer multidisciplinary artist, community doula, healer, shaman, and wellness mentor. Hailing from Chicago’s south side, they have dedicated their life to nurturing creativity, supporting their community, and creating safe spaces. 

Their art, spanning various mediums, explores identity and queerness, sparking change and conversations. As a community doula, they offer unwavering support during the transformative stages of not just birth and parenthood but life as well! Andi also serves as a healer and shaman, guiding others toward physical and spiritual wellness. A fierce advocate for social justice, Andi amplifies marginalized voices, leaving an indelible mark on their beloved community.

Ashley Nicole Russell

Wellness Mentor, Vocals, Songwriting

Ashley Nicole is a female singer, vocal coach, vocal producer, and songwriter from Chicago. She started singing at the age of 3 years old, and her grandmother discovered her vocal capability.

Throughout her musical career, being an alumna of Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, she has sung Acapella and Chorus. Taking musical lessons herself, she further learned Opera, in the Italian language, from music teacher,  Lana Manson in South Side Chicago. Having a theatre background, she has performed in musicals such as Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, and Hairspray performances at the Beverly Art Center, and eventually became assistant stage director at Urban Theatre Company in Humboldt Park. 

This elevated her to being a vocal coach by the age of 18, teaching grammar school children of South Side Chicago and adults. Since then she has also become a vocal producer and songwriter, gaining credits on mainstream artist albums. Majors in Business Music Management and International Studies.

Jarmiah “Heart Cry” Scott

Poetry & Spoken Word

Jarmiah Scott, known on stage as Heart Cry, is a poet and a writer. A graduate of the Chicago Military Academy in Bronzeville, she first joined Guitars Over Guns as an eighth grade student at Beethoven Elementary School, and has since been a member of our Hip Hop & Entrepreneurship program through After School Matters, Guitars Over Guns R.I.S.E., and Haven Studio, where she writes and records under the direction of Add-2.

Heart Cry is a passionate advocate for social justice. In 2018, she was selected to perform in Breakout LIVE, a showcase of Chicago’s most inspiring activists, artists, and entrepreneurs at the iconic Studebaker Theater, where she shared the stage with Pinqy Ring, Hamilton actor Ari Asfar, and others. She has also performed for CreativeMornings, WVON, Chicago Peace Fellows, Google, the Obama Foundation, and countless others.

Since graduating, she has focused on writing, releasing, and copyrighting her poetry, while serving her community as a volunteer and peer mentor. Her friends describe her as a talented, generous, and dedicated friend who inspires them through her words and actions.

Jackson Shepard

Guitar, Bass & Keys

Jackson Shepard is a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, and producer from Hartland, Wisconsin; currently residing in Chicago, IL. He has performed alongside artists including J Hope, Maurice Brown, Eryn Allen Kane, MonoNeon, Makaya McCraven, Matt Jones Orchestra, Brittany Campbell, and Braxton Cook; and has produced for artists including Silas Short, Latice Crawford, Denzel Lavell, Adam Ness, and Makena Hartlin. 

His main project ‘Human Bloom’, with vocalist Imani Rousselle, is planning on releasing their 2nd album this year. He is currently wrapping up his debut solo project set to be released in 2023. The album, almost entirely recorded from home, explores various forms of electronica, jazz, soul, ambient, and experimental music.

Natalie Shields

Wellness Mentor, Poetry, Spoken Word

Natalie Shields is a spoken word poet, artist, visionary, and art collector. She hails from the city of Chicago, where she attended catholic schools. Currently, she is in university to attain her bachelors in psychology. It has always been a dream of hers to work with kids of all different cultures and backgrounds. Her experience varies from working on a military naval daycare in Great Lakes, being a juvenile detention officer, and being a case manager for kids ages 0-18 to being a youth services coordinator. Natalie says, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and is living testimony to that!

Her future aspirations would be to be a guidance counselor for kids, to continue doing this line of work as a wellness mentor. It is enriching, and extends care to all parties involved. She says, “It’s healing for you, too, healing somebody else.” Natalie enjoys meditating, something she does daily, and writing affirmations. Natalie hopes to change the lives of the young people. “I wish that somebody would have told me this when I was growing up. You grow up alone but don’t have to be alone. You have all the support and tools that you need to become successful.” 

Dexter Sims

Dexter Sims

Guitar & Bass

Dexter Sims has been a Bassist in the Chicago area for more that two decades. He is originally from the south side of Chicago. He has lived on the east coast, in the Boston area and in New York; and studied music at the Berklee College of Music.

In addition to working with Guitars Over Guns Chicago, Dexter has worked or performed with Maggie Brown, Oscar Brown Jr., Harold Mabern, Milt Trenier, George Freeman, Bobby Broom, Alex Bugnon, Robert Irving III, Sherry Scott (formerly with Earth, Wind and Fire), Randy Weston, Ernie Wilkins, Phil Cohran, and many more.

He has been featured on a number of television and radio shows: Channel 62 – “The Cutting Edge with Darryll King”, Cable Access Channel- “What’s the 411”, ABC Channel 7 – “Chicago Christmas Special with Bill Campbell”.

Dexter has traveled to many U. S. cities and internationally. Dexter is also Bassist with the “Wooten Choral Ensemble”, a gospel group that has toured the world over the last half century.

Dexter currently has a CD available “Peace of Mind”, and has had his music featured on commercials by Marriott and others.

Adam “Eleven” Stein

Guitar & Bass

Adam Stein (Adam Eleven) was born and raised in Chicago, IL. He started playing drums at six years old, then guitar, bass, and piano in the years to follow. He is a self-taught musician, recording artist, producer, and promoter who is actively gigging on electric bass guitar with one cover band, one tribute band, and one original band. Additionally, you can find Adam playing drums for several improv comedy shows. Credentials include: Working alongside DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill, opening for Soul Asylum, performances at Taste of Chicago, Summer Fest Wisconsin, House of Blues, Hard Rock Cafe, Sketch Fest, and many street festivals/venues around the city. Adam Stein is a DePaul University alumnus holding a Bachelor’s degree is Psychology with a focus on human development. 

Dennis Thompson

Dennis Thompson

Mixed Media Specialist

Raised on Chicago’s Southside, Dennis Thompson’s musical education began at the age of 4 with the piano, transitioning to the violin then alto sax and finally drums though his college career. During his undergraduate years at NIU, Dennis began to develop his production skills, working with local artists and finally focusing on producing the group he co-founded, H2O Soul. Upon graduating from NIU, he attended Columbia to pursue his Masters in Music Business. Dennis worked in music advertising at a Chicago Production House called Genuine Music, creating original compositions and sound design for major brands from 2006-2011. Now focused on teaching production and engineering at the Haven Studio, collaborating with other artists and serving the local music community through his nonprofit, Khemistry, Dennis hopes to work through music to make his voice heard and make a positive difference.

Evan Thompson

Guitar, Songwriting, Music Production

I am passionate about music, teaching, and equal access to education. Currently, I am co-producing a musical event called “O Death”, which is an electroacoustic exploration of north atlantic folk songs about death. 

I am a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who creates dynamic music productions featuring lush vocals and harmonies. I am also a songwriter with my own discography and a credit on ACM winner Lainey Wilson’s debut album, “Tougher”. 

Mateo Zapata

Photography

Mateo Zapata, born in Bogota, Colombia is of Colombian & Chilean descent. As a creative at the intersection of the arts, photojournalism, and community advocacy his work is dedicated to documenting narratives from across Chicago. Mateo has worked with La Casa Norte, Chicago Public Schools, San Jose Obrero Mission, YWCA Chicago, Pa’lante! HBO Max, Equiticity, Chicago White Sox, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. His experience in multimedia production ranges from working on documentaries, producing public service announcements, directing broadcast ads, and ideating national brand campaigns while also helping develop initiatives to raise awareness of the need to end police violence in Black & Brown communities.