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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:
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.
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.
1000 W 15th Street
Chicago, IL 60608
Guitarist Mark Anderson is an active performer, composer and arranger in Duo Tandem (with Necati Emirzade), an instrumental guitar duo with a focus on storytelling through music. Their music has been hailed as a “new and exciting polyglot” (Classical Guitar Magazine) and a “wonderful melange” (Minor7th.com), with their latest album Watching the World Go By being chosen as one of the top 10 albums of the year (2018) by Classical Guitar Magazine.
Mark has performed throughout the United States and Europe including at The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley and at the historic Bellapais Monastery in Cyprus with the president of North Cyprus, President Mustafa Akıncı, in attendance. He has also premiered many works for guitar including “Inventions on Um a Zero” (written for Duo Tandem) by João Luiz and “Rising Spirals” by award-winning composer Chinary Ung (U.S. premiere).
In addition to mentoring with Guitars Over Guns, Mark is currently on faculty at Millikin University, Illinois Wesleyan University and the Academy of Movement and Music, as well as maintaining a private studio in Chicago.
Although born in “The LAND” (Cleveland, Ohio), Iyana considers herself an “adopted” Chicago-based Artist, redefining her skills and talents in vocal performance and creative writing. Music; singing is her first love.
“There is power in the words we use and if used in the most creative ways, we can influence great change. Let’s write a song.”
Vocals & Dance
Oliv Blu is a singer/songwriter based out of the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Working within the genres of Neo-Soul, RnB, and Jazz, she has grown up with music and the arts having a profound influence upon her life, and began her journey into the world of professional music in 2016. She entered the realm of music with a collective called Freesole, a group composed of rappers, singers, producers and designers and began to branch out and perform as a solo artist in 2017. Most recently, she has appeared on the NBC television show The Voice, and made it to the Top 13 on the show’s sixteenth season, which began airing February 2019. Music and performing are a passion for Oliv, and through her work she connects with her audience, sharing her light and inspiring others to embrace confidence from within and to love who they are in their own skin. After embarking on a journey of self love through her natural hair journey, she felt that she unlocked what was holding her back from sharing her talents onstage with the world and within 4 short years she went from singing at local open mics to performing on The Voice with coaches John Legend and Blake Shelton. Between her music career and Guitars Over Guns, she hopes to encourage others to embrace their own power and natural beauty so that they too can discover just how far their talents can take them.
Kenneth “Disrupt” Clair is a producer and engineer who has developed his voice through collaboration with a multitude of artists and local nonprofit organizations. By the time he graduated from Chicago’s Little Village-Lawndale High School, Kenneth had already gained experience with Better Boys Foundation and Beats & Bars, a music and mentoring organization he co-founded with his teacher. With musical influences ranging from David Bowie and Quincy Jones, to Kanye West and Queen, Disrupt has learned both the importance of producing and mixing a record, and developed his chops under Add-2 and Dennis Thompson at Guitars Over Guns’ Haven Studio. As a youth mentor, audio engineer, producer and musician, Disrupt now works for Loop Theory, Inc., assisting with artist management, style, and development, helping to create the sound for our next generation.
Founder & Director, Haven Studios
Since the release of his mixtape Tale of Two’s City Vol.2 in 2008, Add-2 has been captivating listeners’ and tastemakers’ ears and imaginations with his unique blend of hip hop, jazz and soul. Through his acrobatic wordplay, his detailed storytelling and his no holds barred social commentary, Add-2 has emerged as a respected voice of clarity in a chaotic world.
After years of perfecting his craft, Add-2 has earned a list of accomplishments many emcees dream of. Having appeared on MTV 2, MTV U, FUSE, HOT97, and Shade 45, he is currently sponsored by major clothing company LRG, has performed alongside legendary hip hop band The Roots and is one of Common’s favorite new emcees. Common had this to say:
“Add-2 […] is somebody who seems like he really cares about the culture and cares about uplifting people, and that’s inspirational to see; I get inspired by people that do that. No matter what age you are or where you’re from, when you’re really trying to do something good, I see that and I’m like, ‘man…’ It’s a good reminder of what I should be doing.”
Add-2 grew up on Chicago’s notorious South Side surrounded by an environment that exposed him to many harsh realities at an early age, from gang violence to drug use and poverty. Born the second of three kids, Add-2 found refuge in his writing, determined not to suffer the mistakes of his friends and peers. Through song, Add-2 began telling his story – a story that he felt wasn’t told often but was desperately needed. A story about survival.
After releasing several critically acclaimed projects such as Save.Our.Souls, More Missed Calls and Between Heaven And Hell, Add-2 gained the attention of Grammy Award-winning hip hop producer 9th Wonder. In October 2013, Add-2 officially signed to 9th Wonder’s music label, JAMLA Records.
Vocals & Songwriting
Originating from the southeast side of Chicago in Avalon Park, R&B/hip hop singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, poet, and freelance model, Ifeanyi Elswith is “one to watch.”
Combining elements of pop, hip hop, and jazz, Elswith brings a fresh spin to all genres. Her slinky soprano vocals and vulnerable “witticisms” shape her inspirational sound.
Born to a Garifuna mother and Kriol father from Belize, Elswith’s Caribbean roots are a fundamental part of her music and brand. Ifeanyi’s girl-next-door vibes, paired with her healing tone, are unique ingredients sure to leave you feeling reflective and encouraged.
Poetry & Creative Writing
“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
Rap & Production
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.
Drums & Keys
Joaquin Garcia’s father was a professional drummer in Chicago for over a decade and Jaoquin began playing drums professionally when he was 7. By 9, he had won regional Chicago percussion competitions. Joaquin began formal study of the piano at age 9 and trained as a classical pianist for the next 9 years. After winning a couple piano competitions in 2005 on the city and state level for renditions of Chopin and Lecuona repertoire. Joaquin received a full tuition scholarship to attend Columbia College Chicago as a dual major in composition and performance in classical piano performance. Joaquin began studying the art of Jazz in college and credits that shift to his discovery of Afro-Cuban music a year later as a supplement. Joaquin began performing professionally his junior year of college in Chicago and graduated with honors in 2011. After a year off of academia to acquire more experience and grit, he applied and was accepted with full scholarship to Northwestern University for a Masters in Jazz Studies. Graduating with honors in 2014, Joaquin expanded his professional working base to include New York City and Miami metropolitan areas.
Joaquin is now a national and international touring musician with projects in China, South Korea, Indonesia, and Mexico, and continues to stay active nationally with festivals around the U.S. Joaquin is a masterclass lecturer, recording artist, instructor, music director, and professional pianist in various music scenes with his own debut Jazz album expected to be released in Spring of 2018.
Alex “Tobias Black” Glover is an emcee who speaks the truth through his music. Born in the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, Tobias always had an ear for music. In the 90s, he was introduced to hip hop through Shaq’s first album, Shaq-Diesel. However, his passion for hip hop was truly developed when he discovered the Wu-Tang Clan. “I heard my uncle playing Wu-Tang’s ‘Enter The 36 Chambers,’ and I remembered sneaking to listen to that album.”
From that point forward, Tobias was hooked on hip hop. Writing rhymes and poetry at an early age, he knew he was gifted. When things got tough in life, music and comics were always an outlet to escape.
Tobias has a very eclectic taste in music. He’s always explored various types to influence and sculpt his rhymes and poetry. Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Linkin Park, Coldplay, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common and Wu-Tang Clan were and remain to be his favorites and iconic lyricists. “Music is about self-expression. I feel your music should represent who you are and your real life experiences,” he says. “That’s the truest element of the art. When I write, I think about things I’ve been through, and I always stay true to what I believe. Hip hop has many different components, and I want to focus on the positive, because my city already has a negative image.”
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.
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.”
Community Partnerships Coordinator
Phil Jacobson is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from Chicago, IL. Phil attended University of Miami (FL) where he received a degree in Jazz Vocal Performance from the Frost School of Music in 2008. Since then, he has been performing as an independent artist throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2018, Phil was accepted into the Recording Academy (GRAMMYs) as a voting member and is an active participant in the Chicago chapter.
Phil began his journey with Guitars Over Guns in 2015 as a Mentor and Site Coordinator at Evergreen Academy Middle School in Chicago. Although his focus is on Guitar, he brings his experience with Piano, Drums, Bass and Vocals to the classroom. In addition to being a mentor, Phil has organized multiple networking events that bring together members of the music, education and non-profit communities in Chicago. In 2018, Phil was recognized as the Guitars Over Guns ‘Mentor of The Year (Chicago)’ due to his contributions both in and out of the classroom. As of 2020, Phil officially joined the Guitars Over Guns Leadership Team as the Community Partnerships Coordinator of Chicago.
Outside of his work with Guitars Over Guns and performing solo, Phil can also be found writing, recording and performing with the pop trio, The Shades. The Shades consists of Phil, his brother Mark and Guitars Over Guns’ Regional Director (Chicago), Andrew DeMuro. The Shades have performed at some of Chicago’s most renowned venues such as Navy Pier, House of Blues, City Winery, The Second City, Lincoln Hall and many more. Their most recent EP entitled ‘DRAW’ premiered on Billboard and is available for streaming on all major platforms.
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 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.
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 focusing on his band, Doum Sound, he is consolidating all of this experience into his songwriting and original music. He has worked as a teaching artist for the past 12 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.
With an emphasis on lyrical prowess and a modern melodic twist, Ron Parks is an enigma. With topics including social justice and modern social commentary, his music evokes the question, “When is it a good time to quit, if ever?” His songs range from the legacy of a couch-surfing negro (“Couch surf”) to brag-heavy, aggressive lyrics (“IGAF”), to demanding all opposition to firmly “move” out of his way (“Move”). Built on a base of self-awareness, he uses his unique voice and whimsical lyrics to dissect the many peaks and valleys of his personality and his life to date.
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.
Jarmiah Scott, known on stage as Heart Cry, is a poet and a writer who recently completed her senior year at 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.
Keys & Production
Mirza Shams is a multidisciplinary music artist, sound healer, and community organizer proficient in piano, keys, synth, composing, producing, performing, DJing and teaching. Practicing for over a decade now in different professional settings between studios, stages and classrooms. Featured under the stage name NAXÖ in the Chicago Reader, Chicago Zine Fest, Windy City Times, Chicago Tribune, Philly Weekly, and more. Community outreach experience includes participating in queer festivals and immigrant organizations across the United States as a creative director, workshop presenter, advisory board member, campaigner, and cultural performer. Trained in mental health interventions and CPR. Passionate about using music to heal trauma, raise awareness and create beauty and belonging here in Chicagoland, including by teaching children and folks in under-resourced communities. In 2021, NAXÖ released a 9 songs album called, TESA’A and a 3 songs EP called, 3+4=5. Songs are on queer culture, migration, postcolonialism, healing and re-imagining a better world. Link, https://linktr.ee/naxoriental
Guitar, Bass & Keys
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.
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.
Raised on Chicago’s Southside, Dennis’ 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.