Russell Lacy


Founder & Percussion

A native of North Carolina, Russell Lacy started playing percussion when he was nine. In high school, Russell studied classical percussion under the noted percussionist and composer Christopher Deane; he completed high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he majored in classical percussion but developed his long-standing interest in jazz. Russell continued his training in Durham at North Carolina Central University, graduating with a concentration in jazz studies.

In 2006, Russell relocated to New York City to pursue a master’s degree at Queens College, dedicated himself to the study of Afro-Latin music with Vince Cherico, and composition and arranging with Michael Mossman, completing his MFA in Spring 2008. Russell has also studied privately with Joe Morrello, Billy Hart, John Riley, and Jeff “Tain” Watts and was selected to participated in the Lake Placid Institute Jazz Improvisation Workshop and the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program.

In his performing career, Russell has shared the stage with John Hart, John Bailey, Frank Kimbrough, Steve Cardenas, Bobby Porcelli, David Berkman, Michael Blake Band, Branford Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo, Eric Reed, Delfayo Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis, Pete McCann, and Gregory Tardy. Since 2008, Russell has concentrated his efforts on developing the Trachy/Lacy Collective, which released Lanky (2009) and performed in venues in the United States including Duke University, College of Charleston, Virginia Tech University and most notably the Kennedy Center.

While continuing to perform in New York City, North Carolina and around the United States, Russell has dedicated himself to music education for the past decade. Before moving to New York, he taught private lessons at Carrboro Music Studios. In New York, Russell served on the faculty of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and Mark Murphy’s Music. In 2011, Russell returned to Durham to focus on teaching and opening Russell Lacy Music.

Joe Westerlund



A native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Joe began his percussive endeavor in 6th grade, playing in concert bands, jazz ensembles, orchestras and show bands. Simultaneously, he started a band with his best friends, many of whom would turn out to be life-long collaborators. Upon graduating high school, Joe continued playing with the band and began studying music at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

After two years of jazz and classical studies, Joe began to develop a curiosity for other approaches to education and musical expression and transferred to Bennington College, where he studied with avant-garde jazz luminary Milford Graves, and composition with Anthony Coleman and Kitty Brazelton. It was there that Joe began a deep study of improvisational methods and worked closely with the college’s dance program.

Upon graduating from Bennington, Joe rejoined his friends in the noted band DeYarmond Edison and moved to North Carolina. DeYarmond Edison then transformed into Megafaun and five years of recording and touring followed.

In 2010 Joe relocated to Los Angeles, where he worked as a session drummer, composer for UCLA dance faculty, and drum technician at Drum Doctors supporting studio legend Jim Keltner, among others. In 2014 Spacebomb Records produced and released Joe’s debut recording as a solo artist, Grandma Sparrow & His Piddletractor Orchestra.

Since returning to NC in 2016, Joe has released two records of percussion music in collaborations with his wife, Carson Efird — Mojave Interlude and The Spontaneous Flow of Consciousness — and has been busy performing and recording with William Tyler, Califone, Arnold Dreyblatt, and Jeanne Jolly. Since 1999, Joe has taught private percussion students, and has visited music schools, high schools and universities around the country as a guest artist. Joe strives to help students achieve their own unique musical vision by developing the necessary techniques and skills to read, transcribe, compose, improvise, and engage with diverse musical communities.

Donovan Cheatham



Donovan Cheatham, a drummer from Richmond, Virginia, has been playing drums since age six, studying drummers such as Max Roach to John Bohnam. He has since completed a Bachelors of Music degree in Jazz Drum Set Performance at North Carolina Central University under the tutelage of Dr. Ira Wiggins, Thomas Taylor and with resident artists Joey Calderazzo and Branford Marsalis.

Donovan has shared the stage with artists including Ellis Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Clifton Anderson, Mary Stallings, Charanee Wade, Al Strong, Wallace Roney, Stephen Riley, Joey Calderazzo, John Brown, and Pieces of a Dream.

Donovan brings authenticity and his individual personality to his music. His refined sound and ability to dance the polyrhythmic musical spectrum gives him freedom to play in more than just the Jazz genre, though Jazz is his first love.

He performs regularly as a freelance drummer and leads his own groups as well.

Donovan approaches each student with the same authenticity he approaches music, providing instruction that fits each student’s style, ability, and goals.

Lynn Grissett



A native of Wilmington, NC, Lynn J. Grissett, Jr., started playing the trumpet at age twelve. While attending West Brunswick High School, he excelled in jazz and classical and was regularly selected for All-County, All-State and NC Honors Classical and Jazz Ensembles. Lynn won a scholarship to the Miles Davis Jazz Studies program at UNC-Greensboro, where he graduated in 2009. He then attended NC Central University, completing his MFA in Jazz Performance in 2012. While at NCCU, he worked with Dr. Ira Wiggins and Branford Marsalis. In 2011, while performing with the NCCU Big Band, Lynn was selected as the best jazz soloist at the 50th Villanova Jazz Festival.

During his training, Lynn performed throughout North Carolina, leading his own ensembles and gaining valuable experience performing as a horn player in a wide variety of styles including jazz, classical, gospel, funk, and pop. Lynn also play tenor saxophone, often improvising on both instruments during jazz gigs.

Lynn has shared the stage with Ellis Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Maceo Parker, Andrew Gouche, Larry Graham, Nile Rodgers, Trombone Shorty, Marcus Anderson, Max Wienberg, Dewey Redman, Winard Harper, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Mint Condition, Jennifer Hudson, Ledisi, Judith Hill, Cyrus Chestnut, Ocie Davis, Terri Lynne Carrington, Liv Warfield, and Andy Allo. He also been featured on recordings by Liv Warfield, Judith Hill, and the Grammy-nominated Healing Session by Mint Condition.

Most notably, Lynn had the distinct privilege of performing and recording with Prince as a member of New Power Generation Hornz, the horn section of the band New Power Generation (NPG). Lynn toured with Prince from 2012 until Prince died in 2016 and can be heard on the 2015 record Hit N Run Phase One & Two.

Lynn has performed at many notable venues, shows, and festivals, including Jimmy Kimmel Show, Montreaux Jazz Festival, Arsenio Hall Show, Dakota Jazz Club, Jimmy Fallon Show, Heineken Jazz Festival, Jazz Showcase, and the Brooklyn Bowl.

When not performing and recording, Lynn works with young brass players to achieve a high level of overall musicianship, brass fundamentals and style-specific skills such as improvising in jazz and popular styles.

Jean Jolly

Annalise Stalls

Saxophone, Clarinet & Flute

A native of North Carolina, Annalise Stalls is an active composer, arranger, woodwind doubler and educator in the Triangle. Annalise began playing piano at age five and woodwinds at age eleven. As a high school student, she studied saxophone with Taimur Sullivan of PRISM Quartet at the University of the North Carolina School of the Arts, earning a high school diploma with a concentration in Saxophone Performance and winning third prize in the North American Saxophone Alliance Quartet Competition in 2008. She continued her studies at Arizona State University as a recipient of the Special Talent Award under the tutelage of Dr. Timothy McAllister (LA Philharmonic, PRISM Quartet) from 2008-2010.

In 2010, Stalls switched gears and began her academic career in jazz at the Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program of UNC Greensboro, studying under Steve Haines and Chad Eby. Before completing her B.M. in Jazz Studies in 2013, she earned a DownBeat Student Award for Best Jazz Arrangement of 2012.

Annalise has been performing professionally as a leader and sidewoman since 2007. Her group Zen Poets won the NCCU & Salett Arts Jazz Competition in 2014 and released their debut album Music for Mounds in 2015.

After taking two years in between degrees to compose, arrange, and perform, Annalise is back at completing a Master of Jazz Studies at NC Central University studying under Dr. Ira Wiggins, Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo.

Annalise offers a holistic perspective on teaching music, borrowing from her experience working in the Montessori environment and her study and practice of the Alexander Technique. She believes in cultivating a fertile environment for developing criticality and curiosity while guiding her students to express their voices through their instruments.

Matt Douglas

Matt Douglas

Saxophone, Clarinet & Flute

Matt Douglas is a jazz saxophone and woodwinds player who floats back and forth between the jazz pack and the world of singer/songwriters. After graduating from New York University’s jazz program, Matt wandered off to Central Europe on a Fulbright Scholarship to study Hungarian folk music and began writing his own indie-pop songs.

After two years of escapism, Matt headed to Raleigh, where he formed The Proclivities. The group released its first album Predispositions (2006) to rave reviews. In 2007, The Proclivities recorded a soundtrack for an independent film called Coney Island (Blackwater Films), and in 2008 they released their masterpiece, Handguns & Dancing Shoes.

In 2009, Matt joined up with country legend Caitlin Cary to form The Small Ponds; they released their first album on Last Chance Records in 2010. Matt has shared the stage with Josh Ritter, Erin McKeown, Ani Difranco, Bobby Bare Jr., The Old Ceremony, American Aquarium, Hammer No More The Fingers, Anton Sword, Laura Cortese, Stephen Kellogg, and many more. Matt can be heard as a guest artist on Josh Ritter’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (Sony), Mark Erelli’s Delivered (Signature Sounds), and on Erin McKeown’s most recent release Hundreds of Lions (Righteous Babe).

When Matt is not on the road touring, he can be found teaching at Russell Lacy Music where he brings 10 years of private instruction experience and inspiration.

Ti Harmon

Ti Harmon


Ti Harmon, hailing from Philadelphia, began singing at age five. She completed her BA in drama at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and her MM of Jazz Studies in Composition and Arranging at North Carolina Central University.

Ti began her professional career working as a jazz vocalist in Madrid, Spain, where she freelanced with a wide range of groups. In addition to singing jazz, Ti has worked in multiple genres as well as performing studio session work for radio and television.

Ti moved to Paris in 2009 and launched the Ti Harmon Project, which debuted at the Frontenay Jazz Festival in Frontenay, France. In 2010, she released her first album, entitled Somewhere Between featuring special guest Kirk Lightsey.

In 2011, the Ti Harmon Project won the prix du public at the Crest Jazz Festival in Crest, France, and in 2012, Ti recorded her second album, Story to Tell, with an independent French label, including her own original compositions. Ti has also toured Asia and Europe as a band leader and featured artist. Ti instills in her students a strong technical foundation and an understanding of how to sing in all genres while also helping young musicians find and focus on their area of interest.

Anne-Claire Niver

Anne-Claire Niver


Anne-Claire Niver has been making noise as early and as often in her life as she can remember. She began singing in choirs at church at age six and trained in music theatre and classical styles all through middle and high school. She cut her teeth in the acclaimed drama program at Enloe Magnet High School.

Anne-Claire received her BA of Music in Voice Performance from UNC Greensboro, studying under Dr. Carla LeFevre. It was there that she honed her ability to sing a variety of styles, from classical to jazz and pop. Anne-Claire received additional training from Meredith Monk (The House Foundation for the Arts NYC), Patrick Hansen (McGill University), and Susan Roberts (Frankfurt Opera).

She has twice attended the Brevard Music Center, where she sang the roles of Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites and Jenny Diver in Threepenny Opera. Other favorite roles include Ado Annie (Oklahoma), Mrs. Lovett (Sweeney Todd), and La tasse chinoise (L'Enfant et les sortileges).

Anne-Claire is a prolific songwriter with two full length albums, Anne-Claire (2015) and I Still Look For You (2018). Her albums feature collaborations with Phil Cook (Megafaun, Guitarheels) and Libby Rodenbough (Mipso).

Anne-Claire provides practical and accessible technical guidance to her students, while encouraging them to trust their own instincts when interpreting music. She believes that vocal training should be rooted in fundamentals while leaving room for spontaneity and creativity.

Tom Hill

Tom Hill


Tom was raised Holland, Michigan, where music was omnipresent in his childhood. He started on violin as a young child, switched to percussion in grade school, and finally settled on guitar in high school. Directly after high school, Tom served in the U.S. Army on active duty for four years and was a member of the 108th Division Army Band for six years. Tom holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from UNC-Greensboro with an emphasis on jazz.

Tom’s primary teachers have been Mark Mazzatenta, Steven Haines and John Salmon. He has also studied with Bill Hanna, Scott Sawyer, Howard Morgan, Geoff Guthrie, Jonathan Kreisberg, and Tom Quayle.

Tom teaches all levels and all styles of acoustic and electric guitar, developing individualized lesson plans for each student. This approach allows the students to learn the music that most interests them while providing Tom with an opportunity to teach theory, technique, and composition. Tom’s passion for music and teaching is evident in the care he takes with each student’s music education.

Ben Lassiter

Ben Lassiter


Growing up in Greensboro, Ben Lassiter started playing clarinet in elementary school, switching to guitar at age fifteen. Just a few years after picking up the guitar Ben received the 'Outstanding Soloist' award from his high school Jazz Ensemble.

At Appalachian State University Ben studied music, working with saxophonist Todd Wright and guitarists Andy Page and Dr. Douglas James as well as performing with the ASU big band.

Ben is a recent graduate of North Carolina Central University's Masters in Jazz Studies program where he studied with Baron Tymas, Joey Calderazzo, and Dr. Ira Wiggins. He was also a part of the numerous award winning large and small ensembles at NCCU.

An in demand guitarist Ben performs around the Triangle and Triad areas of North Carolina constantly. While being well known as a jazz guitarist Ben's versatility means he can often be heard on gigs of almost any musical genre.

Teaching privately since 2005, Ben has experience working with students of all ages and levels and enjoys broadening students' musical horizons through the study of the guitar's many capabilities.

Aaron Gross

Aaron Gross

Acoustic and Electric Bass

Aaron Gross is a jazz bassist, composer and educator born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. At the age of three he picked up the violin and began the Suzuki method, later taking lessons and playing in ensembles through the Duke University String School. Aaron attended high school at the Durham School of the Arts, where he discovered jazz and learned to play upright and electric bass. His passion for jazz drove him to earn his Bachelor of Music from the Miles Davis Jazz Studies program at UNC-Greensboro. While enrolled, Aaron played in the Jazz Ensemble I under the direction of Chad Eby, which accompanied artists like Aaron Diehl and Rex Richardson.

Aaron returned to Durham to earn the Master of Music degree from North Carolina Central University. While at NCCU, Aaron studied with Branford Marsalis, and travelled to Louisville, New York City, and Natal, Brazil to represent the school in conferences and performances. His arrangements were featured by the NCCU Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Ira Wiggins with guest artists including Mary Stallings, John Fedchock and Ellis Marsalis.

Aaron lives in Durham and performs across North Carolina. He has shared the stage with Chad Eby, Kobie Watkins, Benito Gonzalez, Baron Tymas and Brian Miller. He co-leads the band Zen Poets with saxophonist and fellow RLM faculty Annalise Stalls. The group is a Salett Arts Center/NCCU Jazz Competition winner and successfully funded a 2018 Kickstarter campaign for their album Propensity Parade.

Aaron's teaching philosophy focuses on development of rhythmic feel, technical execution, clarity and depth of tone, and understanding of harmony. He strives to make seemingly esoteric concepts easy to understand for students of all ages. Several of Aaron's students have earned spots in the North Carolina All-State Jazz Band as well as receiving many other honors.

Michael Trinastic

Michael Trinastic

Piano & Composition

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pianist, composer, teacher, and scholar Michael Trinastic has studied piano since he was five years old with private instruction under Kathleen Murray, Ellen Swan Dixon, and Dolores Lenore.

Michael holds a Ph.D. in composition from Duke University and a Bachelor of Music from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, where he studied piano and composition. His primary composition teachers have been Scott Lindroth, Stephen Jaffe, Syd Hodkinson, Joanne Metcalf, Philippe Bodin, and M. Lee Suitor. Michael's compositions have been played by the Ciompi Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, pianist Tomoko Nakayama, and violinist Jose Bastardes. His first opera, The Yellow Wallpaper, premiered at Duke in March 2012 sung by soprano Aimee Marcoux, to whom it is dedicated.

His recent scholarly work analyzes the piano music of Dane Rudhyar in light of the French-American composer's theories of tone. He currently serves as pianist at Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, where his pianistic palette has further expanded from his classical upbringing into the Gospel tradition.

Michael has taught piano for 17 years, including a stint at the Waukesha County Conservatory of Music, where he taught a studio of up to forty students, and classes in music theory and history at Duke.

Zach Gossett

Zach Gossett


Durham-based composer and pianist Zachary Gossett cultivates a diverse interest across genres and has performed standards, originals, Latin music, chamber music, solo piano music, liturgical music, and contemporary classical. Attending UNC School of the Arts for High School studying under Eric Larsen, Zach later earned his Bachelors in Music Performance from UNC Chapel Hill on scholarship, studying classical piano with Dr. Clara Yang, and later Jazz/Composition with Dr. Stephen Anderson. At UNC, Zach had the opportunity to write for various small groups, and also have works performed by the UNC Big Band, including an arrangement for Walter Smith III during Walter's 2015 Residency.

Zach holds his Masters in Jazz Composition at NC Central, where he has worked with resident artist Joey Calderazzo, and faculty Dr. Ira Wiggins, Baron Tymas, and Ed Paolantonio. Zach has had the great honor to share the stage with resident artist Branford Marsalis and the NCCU Big Band. Performing locally as a sideman and bandleader, Zach's primary vehicle for composing has been his sextet The Za Um.

Zach is extremely passionate about connecting music with not just other art forms, but with current and historical events in a way to make it a relevant and enriching part of life. As a teacher, Zach emphasizes musicality and rhythm and welcomes all levels of piano students.

Andrew Berinson

Andrew Berinson


Andrew Berinson, a pianist from Raleigh, NC, has been playing piano since age 6, studying classical and contemporary repertoire. He has since completed a Bachelors of Music degree in Jazz Piano Performance at North Carolina Central University under the tutelage of Dr. Ira Wiggins and with resident artists Joey Calderazzo and Branford Marsalis.

Andrew seeks to bring emotion and presence to his music. His influences include jazz and many other genres.

He has shared the stage with Branford Marsalis, Herlin Riley, Mary Stallings, Charanee Wade, Joe Chambers, Wallace Roney, Stephen Riley, Joey Calderazzo and John Brown, among others.

He performs regularly as a sideman and with his own groups.​

Andrew approaches each student individually, tailoring a musical curriculum to student-specific levels, goals, and styles while building a strong musicianship foundation.



Private lessons form the core of Russell Lacy Music. All lessons are one-on-one with one of our university-educated instructors and dedicated to strengthening the student's foundation by focusing on reading, theory, and technique as well as developing repertoire. We use method books as a framework to introduce new concepts, while giving students the freedom to play music that inspires them most. All our teachers bring a passion for music to every lesson.

Learning to perform before an audience is an important component of music education. We strongly encourage all students to develop two contrasting pieces to perform at the annual recital in late May — a technical etude and a piece they select from their own repertoires.

Recitals for the 2019-2020 year are scheduled for May 15, 16, and 17 (2020). Exact times and locations will be scheduled in late March. The deadline to sign up for performing in the recital is March 15th and there is a small fee ($20 to $30) for those who participate in the recital.


Our ensemble program matches up students of similar age and ability, allowing them to create music in a group setting. Adult students are welcome to participate in our adult band program. Instructors guide the bands as they choose songs and rehearse material while learning to listen and work cooperatively. The semester-long program culminates with one of the highlights of the semester — a performance by all the bands at a local venue!  

We offer this program in the fall and spring for the entire semester. In the summer, we offer intensive band camps, including include a full week of band rehearsals to prepare for a final performance.

Acceptance to the Ensemble Program is based on teacher recommendation.
Please let us know if you or your child would like to be considered.

Ensembles run into two semester long sessions during the Fall (September through Mid-December) and Spring (February through Mid-May). For more information please email russell at: russell@russelllacymusic.com.


Workshops are in a small group format and offer a unique opportunity to expand on topics covered in private lessons. Faculty teach in their areas of expertise, exploring topics such as:

-Music Theory
-Background Singing

Workshops are most often single sessions but in some cases, they are two or three meetings. The workshop offerings and schedule is posted on our Facebook page and are also emailed out to all current students.



1014 Lamond Avenue
Durham NC 27701
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Russell Lacy Music holds a singular and unwavering focus on helping our students become the best musicians they can be. We don't sell instruments or offer dance classes: we are passionate about teaching music — it's what we do.

We also know that music is made of two distinct parts: Craft & Art.

Craft is the way you hold your instrument and move your hands; it's the scale you use to improvise over a particular chord. Mastering craft allows you to to sight-read a piece of music and to listen to a recording and play it right away by ear. The Russell Lacy Music faculty has the rigorous training and commitment to craft to ensure that every student obtains a strong foundation.

Art is something else: it is the intangible feeling that made you want to play music in the first place. At Russell Lacy Music, none of us has ever forgotten what initially drew us to music, and we want to make sure that you never forget what inspires you.

Each learning experience at Russell Lacy Music balances Craft & Art to keep each student advancing and motivated.




To get started, email russell@russelllacymusic.com to schedule a 1/2-price trial lesson.

$32 per 30 minute lesson
$48 per 45 minute lesson
$64 per 60 minute lesson

Lesson fees are paid at the beginning of each month for the specific number of lessons that are scheduled for that month by RLM. Each student in enrolled in a auto-pay plan that charges on the 2nd day of each month (or following business day if the 2nd is a weekend or holiday). E-check, debit and credit cards are accepted.

If stopping lessons please give notice by the 15th of the month and you will be removed the schedule and auto-pay plan for the upcoming month.


Gift certificates are available to purchase in any monetary amount to be used towards private, ensemble or group classes.

To purchase a gift certificate please email: russell@russelllacymusic.com


Although we do not offer refunds for missed lessons, one missed lesson per month can be made up if 24-hours notice is given prior to the missed lesson. Missed lessons and lessons cancelled with less than 24-hours notice cannot be made up or refunded under any circumstances.

If you cancel a lesson with 24 hours notice you will be but on the list of students needing make up lessons and as make up lessons time become available you will be scheduled in for the make up lesson.

In the event that a instructor must miss a lesson a suitable substitute teacher will be provided so lessons always happen at the regular time for students.

Lessons take place at the same time on a weekly basis. 

Here are dates for lessons through July 2020.

To take lessons, you will need to purchase an instrument and necessary accessories to allow you to practice at home. If you need to help deciding what instrument to buy, your instructor can help make a recommendation during your trial lesson. It is difficult to make a generic recommendation regarding starter instruments, since many factors such as age and budget will determine the best instrument choice for any student.

For piano, it is fine to start with a keyboard. For drums/percussion, it is recommended to start with a practice pad.

All students regardless of age or level should bring an assignment book to every lesson. A spiral-bound notebook will suffice, but a book of music manuscript paper is preferred. 

All students should also have a metronome. There are many good metronome apps available for the iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch and Android devices. If you don't have one of these devices, this Korg is a good choice.

For intermediate students, please bring all books and materials to the first lesson; your instructor will advise on what additional materials you will need to purchase.

For beginner students, please consult the following list to purchase everything you will need (except for the instrument) for starting lessons.