Maestro Hossein Salehi (Santoor, Daf, Tombak, Voice)
Born in 1949 in Tehran, Iran, Maestro Salehi was exposed to traditional Iranian music by his father, Maestro Abbas Salehi, a master violinist. At age seven, Hossein became enamored with the shimmering sound of the Santoor (Persian hammered dulcimer) and began teaching himself to play, along with learning music fundamentals from his father. Later, he studied with some of Iran’s most renowned musicians. Nearly 55 years after striking his first notes, Maestro Salehi’s main goal is to pass on the music he has worked so hard to preserve, and to share his knowledge with those who show a genuine interest in the performing arts. He teaches Santoor, Daf (frame drum), Tombak (goblet drum) and improvisation techniques, and oversees a variety of musical projects over the course of an average year. Throughout his musical career, Maestro Salehi has been the recipient of many awards. In 1998, the Oregon Historical Society recognized Maestro Salehi as a master artist on the Santoor and Persian Music. In 2009, Maestro Salehi founded ArtMax Academy. This non-profit organization has evolved into a platform through which he – and many of his students – have shared their art, and provided the Portland community with a source for enrichment, education, collaboration and creative endeavors.
Babak Salehi (Kamancheh, Tar, Setar, Violin, Voice)
Bobak’s musical journey began at age 8, under the direction of his father Maestro Hossein Salehi, and continued with Maestro Davood Ganjei on the violin. In college, he explored the folk music of Latin America, North India, Southern Spain and North Africa. In 1999 the Oregon Historical Society recognized him as a Master Artist. He has studied Kamancheh (Spiked Fiddle) with crossover recording artist Kayhan Kalhor of Yoyo Ma’s Silk Road Project. He has written and recorded several film and theatrical scores, including a collaborative project with Niloufar Talebi called “Nowruz: Persian Rite of Spring”. Most recently, he joined the Hamsaz Ensemble in Seattle, for the North America debut of the historic works of Abdul-Qadir Maraqi, alongside renowned composer and multi-instrumentalist Ali Samadpour. Bobak has performed with many touring artists and ensembles, including Seffarine, Al-Andalus, Kamand Ensemble, Portland Youth Philharmonic, The Oregon Symphony and Pink Martini.
Nat Hulskamp (Guitar, Oud)
A Portland native, Nat began studying guitar with guitarist/composer Paul Chasman at age seventeen. He was soon introduced to flamenco guitar by Jose Solano. His interest in the influence of Arabic music on flamenco led him to study oud in Morocco. After returning to the US, he moved to Seattle to study ethnomusicology at the University of Washington. There he worked with the groups Carmona Flamenco, The Rez Quartet and others ranging in style from Hungarian Csardas and Gypsy swing to flamenco. In 2000 he co-founded the Vancouver, BC based Arabic/ flamenco group Aire with ney player and singer Emad Armoush. In 2004 he moved to Portland and formed the group Shabava with kamancheh/sehtar/violinist and singer Bobak Salehi. In 2010 he formed the trio Caminhos Cruzados with master jazz guitarist Dan Balmer and Ghanaian percussion virtuoso Israel Annoh. Nat has studied with the top flamenco guitarists of today including, Diego del Morao, Manuel Parrilla, Pepe del Morao, José Antonio Rodriguez and Dani de Morón. In 2012 Nat received a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council to travel to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain to continue studying flamenco guitar with the Morao family. He now resides in Portland, composing and performing with Shabava, the Nat Hulskamp Trio and Seffarine. Nat also teaches guitar and oud in Portland.
Bryan Lewis (Piano, Guitar)
Bryan is a Portland native and a lifelong student of music. His family was full of both amateur and professional musicians so his education unofficially began as soon as he was born. At a young age, Bryan would watch his older sister take piano lessons and soon after began to teach himself to play her songs. Despite his young age, He began piano lessons of his own on the advice of his grandfather Daniel Lewis who was a Professor of Music at The University of Southern California. By the time Bryan was finishing elementary school he had developed an interest for modern band instruments and began taking guitar lessons from the renowned Alex Pothetes. Bryan continued his education at the University of Oregon and then at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, California. After his graduation he began to share his love for music as a teacher working at the prestigious Manhattan Academy in Los Angeles. In addition to teaching, Bryan works as a composer, writing original songs and film scores. Despite a well-rounded education, he continues to read music books and teach himself to play new instruments in his spare time.
Luciana Proaño (Dance)
Luciana Proaño; dancer percussionist, visual artist, yogini from Peru with extensive career in Europe, Mexico and South America. She is a founder member and artistic director of Inka Jam, Latin American Music and Dance. She is also artist in Residence for Young Audiences and the Right Brain Initiative as well as co-director at the Beach Elementary Sun Dance Folklore school. Formerly a member of the Zulu group Metaphorhythms in England and assistant director of the National Choreographic Center in France. She was founder director of Aceituna Albina in Peru, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and Dance Theater Workshop. Recipient of French government fellowship as well as multiple grants from RACC in Portland. She has created over 40 full length multimedia shows and has appeared in venues such as: Lincoln Center NY, American Dance Festival, Dance Theater Workshop NY, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, etc. She is the mother of three and loves teaching which she has been doing since age 10.
Parastoo Emadi (Calligrapher & Designer)
Parastoo Emadi, Calligrapher & Designer, B.Sc. Industrial Design, joined to ArtMax educational team in 2014 as Classic Persian Calligraphy Instructor. She has been creating Graphic & Calligraphy art forms as well as developing silhouette design using calligraphy. She is the recipient of the Advanced Level Certificate from Calligraphy Association of Iran.
Azar Salehi (Art & Farsi Teacher)
Lifelong lover of literature and the arts, Azar Salehi spent her youth exploring the Farsi language through the works of traditional and contemporary Persian poets and developing a passion for spoken-word poetry which she used to marry literature and performing art.
A graphic designer and later cosmetologist by trade, Azar found time to write and direct original children’s plays in 1990 through 2005, hosted a children’s show on KBOO’s (Persian Hour) for over 5 years, and has been teaching Farsi language lessons to all ages and proficiency levels for over twenty years. Azar currently works as an aesthetician but finds time to indulge her passion for the arts through painting and ongoing leading Farsi language classes, workshops, and day camps at ArtMax Academy.
Paul Evansmith (Piano, Sax, Flute)
An experienced multi-instrumentalist specializing in composition for film/dance and improvised music, Paul's main backgrounds are from American Jazz, Classical, an eclectic mix of international styles as well as “just everyday soundscapes.” A writer as well, Paul breathes poetry into whatever instrument he touches. Paul majored in classical oboe and saxophone performance, as well as studying flute, percussion, and music composition first in a commercial music degree at Cal State Long Beach and continuing at Arizona State University. In Arizona, he worked as a staff composer and accompanist for ASU’s dance department and professional theater companies. Currently, he works for the Lewis and Clark dance department accompanying classes as well as performing with various projects around Portland. Some of those associations are Raz, Vagabond Opera & Hungry Opera Machine, AnnaPaul and the Bearded Lady, Wanderlust Circus Orchestra, Klezmocracy, Three for Silver, Baksana, The Cedar Project, and many more.
Julie Blair (Pre-K Fundamentals)
Julie Blair is a retired educator with over forty years of experience. She was a classroom teacher for over twenty years, before serving as a reading specialist and then as a school principal. As a classroom teacher, she taught preschool through twelfth grade. She also taught a reading class through Portland State University to teachers. Her educational career was enhanced by working in multiple socio-economic and multicultural communities.
She obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree from San Diego State University, her Master of Science Degree from Portland State University, and her Administrative Certificate from Lewis and Clark College. As a young child, she started playing violin and used music as a teaching tool throughout her career. In the ArtMax programming, Ms. Blair will use call and response, songs, movement, poetry, verse choir, and creative drama. Ms. Blair encourages murals and other student-created art mediums to be used in final performances to tie all of the arts together.
Her love of music has embraced her life with many opportunities. In 2014, she played violin in the performance of ‘South Pacific’ at the Performing Arts Center in Newport, was the Assistant Director for strings at St. James School from 2011-2015 in Lincoln City, sang with the Milwaukie Singers from 2017-2019 and is a ballroom dancer.
Ms. Blair has served on the Board of Directors for the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center; Media, Arts, Technology Institute (MATI); and presently serves on the Board for Oregon Partners of the Americas/Costa Rica. She is the mother of three adult children and has four grandchildren.