FAME Staff

The Music Doesn’t Stop Coping with COVID

On March 16th, FAME closed its doors as Maryland went into a shutdown due to the corona virus pandemic. FAME staff spent just one week putting together the FAME Online Learning platform so that we could continue providing service to our youth.

Distance learning has moved education to the home—exposing the inequalities of access to technology both in terms of equipment and the Internet—resulting in students struggling with their studies. FAME embarked on a mission to provide technology equipment and service for all of its students.


This pandemic has resulted in many lost jobs, shuttered businesses, and an overall increase of financial stress and uncertainty in our community. Sadly, our students are feeling this stress as well. FAME is closing the equipment gap by providing each student with a computer and music technology equipment to level the playing field. This technology will facilitate faster and easier access to all FAME Online Learning sessions (music & academic) and also help students participate more effectively in their school distance learning classes.

FAME was fortunate to receive grants that made it possible to provide each student with a custom set of technology to meet their individual needs. Students completed a survey to share the equipment they already owned, which allowed FAME’s tech team to gauge what they may need. Equipment was then ordered, inventoried, labeled, and packed for distribution to students. Each student was assigned a day and time to pick up their new equipment! Joy immediately filled the students’ faces as they realized that they can now learn and create without financial burden of purchasing technology that once held them back.


To ensure that students can participate in their classes and FAME programming, FAME also covers the cost of Internet service for some students who did not have access to it.


Planning, logistics and technology support were provided by Langston Hughes II and Julian W. Wilson — Two FAME Jazz Band Program Alumni and current students at Howard University (Langston) and Berklee College of Music (Julian).

Together We Stand!

This school year began with great promise and optimism.  We started with the addition of six (6) new FAME Jazz Band students and the formal formation of the Musicians in Training (MIT) component of the FAME Jazz Band Program that grew to 11 students.  By March, several major musical performances were completed, including two from our vision board – the Kennedy Center and the Gaylord National Hotel; and academic successes were accomplished.  Plans for our annual spring and summer events and performances were going very well and then… we experienced the devastating loss of our talented and beautiful baritone saxophone student, Ian Thomas. A few days later state and local government officials mandated the closing of area schools and businesses due to COVID-19.  

COVID-19 wiped our annual Spring and Summer activities and special events off the calendar. It also required us to find a different way to continue weekly academic tutoring, music theory, music sectionals, and counseling: high school, college, and career.   With this sudden shift from in-person programming, the FAME staff, instructors, students, and our academic partner, Innovative Study Techniques, developed, evaluated, and launched FAME Online Learning in rapid fashion using the Zoom digital platform.  Instructors used a range of collaboration tools and engagement methods to keep students actively engaged. Extra classes, computers and access to reliable internet service were acquired to keep students on tract with their regular schoolwork.  While the current atmosphere presents challenges, we are committed to ensuring that our students will continue to receive quality academic instruction, support services, and music instruction.  We maintained the same pre- COVID-19 teaching schedules to minimize disruption. 

As we all continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19, we extend our gratitude to the students, parents, partners, and community members for your support that helped us to deliver our programming timely, effectively and with stability at this chaotic time.  Also, thank you to those who have asked how you can support us during the upcoming months. Your continued support via www.FAMEmusic.org/support-fame will help ensure that we continue our important work preparing youth for successful futures.

On behalf of everyone at FAME, stay safe and keep the music playing!

A. Toni Lewis


2020 FAME Jazz Band Program High School Graduates

The year-round FAME Jazz Band Program was established in 2015 to  provide  high  caliber  music  and  academic  support and instruction to middle and high school youth, in  Prince  George’s  County  MD,  who want to take their education to a higher level.

This year we have three stellar musicians graduating with an average GPA of 3.9, $569,900 in college scholarship offers, and acceptance by 22 colleges and universities.


Genesis Dorsey


High School:
Surrattsville High School

COLLEGE ATTENDING IN FALL: Morgan State University

MAJOR/MINOR: Construction Management/Business Administration


Rohan Gabay II

Electric Bass

High School:
Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High Schooll

COLLEGE ATTENDING IN FALL: Mount St. Mary’s University



Shomari Hall


High School:
Eleanor Roosevelt


MAJOR/MINOR: Music /Business

Kudos to FAME Jazz Band Program students

Who competed and won positions in prestigious bands and programs

Cydni Brown

FAME Jazz Band Captain: 1st Chair, Clarinet: Mid-Atlantic Honor Band, Shenandoah University.


Lante’ Evans

1st Chair trombone, Mid-Atlantic Honor Band – Shenandoah University, Maryland All State Band, and the Prince George’s County Band; and Tanglewood Institute Summer Band Camp Scholarship.


Joshua Groves

1st Chair trumpet, Washington Archdiocesan Music Teachers Council WAMTC Honors Orchestra.


Jared Jefferson

1st Chair, Trombone, WAMTC Honors Orchestra, 1st Chair Catholic University of America Honors Band, and 5th Chair Maryland Music Educators Association All State Senior Band.


Leah Ross

Percussion, Dean’s Scholarship to Brown University’s Summer Program; Berklee Creative Entrepreneurship Program, and Bullis School Chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society.

FAME Online Learning

In March 2020, FAME went from conducting all in-person academic tutoring and music instruction to online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This transition to distance learning, as noted in the CEO’s letter,  was accomplished in one week due to the full support of all FAME team members, Innovative Study Techniques, students and parents. 

With our new FAME Online Learning program we were able to continue our programming: music sectionals, music theory, music workshops and academic tutoring. Below are photos from some of the sessions.

The Lewis Prize for Music — a creative arts philanthropy — announced on June 16th that FAME – Foundation for the Advancement of Music & Education received The Lewis Prize for Music COVID-19 Community Response Fund Grant. A total of $1.25 million was distributed to 32 Creative Youth Development (CYD) organizations, ranging in amounts from $25,000 – $50,000, across the U.S. that have adapted and responded to the pressing needs of the young people they serve amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The funds are providing direct support to creative youth development music programs and leaders across the country who are taking a leadership role and responding to their community’s need in the face of COVID-19. https://www.thelewisprize.org

Welcome FAME’s New Team Members


Dr. Matt Rynes

Matt is the inaugural Music Director of FAME’s new Musicians in Training (MIT), a component of the FAME Jazz Band Program designed to build musical skills amongst developing young musicians.  He also serves as the saxophone instructor for the FAME Jazz Band.

Matt began his clarinet studies in high school and attended Towson University on scholarship.  He received his masters from the University of Michigan, and received his doctorate from the University of Maryland (UMD) in December 2019.  He has been a regular member of the Baltimore/ Washington classical music scene having performed with the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society, Kennedy Center, Washington Chamber Orchestra, and many more.  Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Matt’s aim as a performer is to engage the greater Mid-Atlantic area through a variety of musical styles from classical, jazz and contemporary chamber music.

Dr. Melissa Morales

Melissa joined the FAME team in the fall of 2019 serving as Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer. She is a clarinetist and educator originally from New Orleans, LA who came to Maryland in 2016 to pursue her doctorate at the University of Maryland (UMD). She manages the scheduling, record management, data analysis, and office administration. Melissa recently initiated and managed FAME’s Online Learning Program to continue programming during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Melissa is an active musician in the DMV both teaching lessons and workshops as well as performing. She served as the 2018-2019 artist in residence at Collington Continuing Care Retirement Community in Bowie, MD, artist in residence in Talbot County, performed as part of the Riverdale Chamber Music Society, National Music Festival – Resonance Chamber Series, and was invited to perform at Forum Cultural Guanajuato in Leon City, Mexico. She served as clarinetist for the Potomac Winds; and currently serves as second clarinet with the Apollo Orchestra. She has performed in numerous venues i.e.  the Kennedy Center, Strathmore and Meyerhoff, Annapolis Opera, and Symphony Center.

Langston Hughes II

Langston was named Music Director of the FAME Jazz Ensemble last year.  He  is an exceptionally motivated sophomore at Howard University majoring in Saxophone Jazz Studies with a minor in Flute. He has received numerous local and national awards for his volunteer work and musical performances.  Throughout high school he won State and local competitions, including the Berklee College of Music and NAACP National ACT-SO.

Langston was selected by the legendary Nat Adderly, Jr., as an inaugural member of the year-round FAME Jazz Band Program (FJBP), where he competed with over 45 top students for his position. On his own time, he serves as a mentor and tutor to other musicians. His belief is that next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure on earth.

Ava Morton

Ava serves as FAME’s  College and Career readiness Advisor.  She has worked in several industries: retail, telecommunications, and education; non-profit (United Negro College Fund-Special Programs Corporation) secondary education (Charles County Public Schools) higher education (College of Southern Maryland).  Ava started “Keeping Students on Track LLC” in 2017 to provide students and their families educational support during the high school years. It prepares students for life after high school whether it be College, Career or the Workforce. 

A graduate of Hampton University, Ava brings over 30 years of experience in the areas of Corporate Training & Development, Human Resources Management, Talent Pipeline Development Corporate Diversity and Inclusion and College and Career Readiness.  Ms. Morton evaluates assessment data, student academic and music diagnostics, coordinate schedules for periodic assessments along with annual evaluations.

Eric McMillan

Eric joined FAME as music advisor on the 2019 FAME Jazz Band CD, Yesterday Is Today. Later he served as an instructor in the Instrument Intensive Summer Program at the University of Maryland College Park.  Currently, Eric serves as the trumpet instructor for the FAME Jazz Band Program.

Eric taught trumpet at Morgan State University and The District of Columbia Youth Orchestra.  He also served as band director and trumpet instructor at the Duke Ellington School of The Arts in Washington, DC.  Currently, Mr. McMillan is a music teacher in the DC Public School System.

Eric graduated from Howard University with a B.M. in Music Education and a M.M in Trumpet Performance. 

Lorraine Montana

Lorraine serves as FAME’s Trombone instructor.  She is a Music Education major at the University of Maryland College Park and is currently studying trombone with Aaron LaVere. During her high school career, Lorraine participated in the Ohio State University Honor Bands, the Capital University Honors Wind Ensemble, and the Columbus Youth Jazz Bands. Lorraine also spent time at the Ohio State University Jazz Camp. At the University of Maryland, Lorraine has played in numerous ensembles including the Wind Ensemble and she was recently selected to the College Band Directors National Association’s Eastern Intercollegiate Band.


Allyn Johnson

Allyn serves as Master Piano Instructor for all FAME Jazz Band Program pianists and provides one-on-one musical training and performance guidance.  Allyn is the  Jazz Studies Director at the University of the District of Columbia.

Allyn is a native multi-talented musician, composer, arranger and producer whose trademark sound gives brilliance and fortitude to the art of jazz improvisation.  In 2019, he saluted the women and men behind the Apollo 11 mission with an ensemble debuting a new suite – written in honor of the moon landing.    The suite, commissioned by NEWorks Productions, explored the intense emotion of the experience and its aftermath for the astronauts.  It also foregrounds behind the scenes contributors who helped to put the first humans on the moon the “hidden figures”.

Mark Copeland

Mark  serves as music advisor to FAME’s CEO and program managers; and he conducts workshops.

Mark is a Pianist, Organist, Keyboardist, Music Producer, Composer, Arranger, Songwriter, and Educator. He is versatile in all forms of Contemporary music. He graduated from the Baltimore School for the Arts and Graduate with a Contemporary Writing,  and a Production Degree from Berklee College of Music. Mark is also a professor in the Ensemble Department at Berklee College of Music.  Mark has played for and shared the stage with numerous artist such as Patti Labelle, Regina Belle, Al Jarreau, Brian McKnight, Jeffrey Osborn, Kenny Lattimore, Yolanda Adams, Walter Beasley, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright and Elan Trotman just to name a few…

FAME Alum – Where are they now?

Catching up with Jesenia Jackson, Michael De’Jour Thomas and Alonzo Williams.

Jesenia graduated from New York University with a Master of Music: Screen Scoring degree in May.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Piano Performance in 2018 from Spelman College.





Michael De’Jour played a major musical role in the Showtime Sports Documentary, Basketball County: In the Water.





Alonzo graduated Magna Cum Laude from O’Fallon Township High School in Illinois.  He received $52,000 in scholarships to attend the University of Missouri Columbia Honor College Program. Alonzo will major in Computer Science.


In honor of Ms. Hartridge’s legacy, mother of FAME’s Founder – A. Toni Lewis, we started the Louise V. Hartridge Scholarship Fund which will be awarded to graduating high school seniors and/or college students at the end of each academic year starting in Spring 2021.  See Ways to Support FAME to make a contribution.  Note “Louise V. Hartridge Scholarship Fund”  in the memo section of your contribution.

Special Thanks to Bob & Deena

In March, Robert King and his wife, Deena Barlev  made a generous donation of a low mileage 2006 Acura TL.  The car will be used to transport FAME staff and musicians to performances and program activities.

Tribute to Ian Thomas, baritone

As we celebrate the accomplishments and plans of our graduates, they are with heavy hearts because their fellow musician, Ian Thomas,  isn’t graduating with them.  Ian passed on March 6th. He was a senior at Henry A. Wise Jr. High School, and was planning to major in music. Although he was only with us for a year he was a dedicated member of the FAME Jazz Band Program.  Ian was a member of the FAME Jazz Band, the FAME Jazz Ensemble, and attended weekly STEM tutoring, and Music Theory — he put in the work needed to ensure that he ended the year at the top in all areas.  Dr. Knight, reminisces that “Ian came into his audition with confidence, charm, a big smile, and one of the most beautiful baritone saxophones ever. We knew immediately that he was going to ace the audition and be a good fit for our music organization.

He became the anchor of the saxophone section and showed great leadership and responsibility with great rigor. He was very cooperative was always prepared.”

Ian left an unforgettable mark on all our hearts.  Rest in peace!

About FAME…

About FAME…

FAME – Foundation for the Advancement of Music & Education is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit serving the Greater Washington Metropolitan Region.  Its mission is to give every youth musician the best opportunity to succeed in life by providing music instruction and academic support. Our programs enhance young lives through quality musical experiences and inspires young minds to take charge of their lives.  FAME’s programs include:

FAME Jazz Band Program (31 youth) is a community-based program that improves students’ musicianship and appreciation for Jazz, and provides opportunities for students to showcase their talents, increase their academic skills, and learn the discipline for college and career success. This program includes the Jazz Band, Jazz Ensemble, and Musicians in Training.

FAME Summer Music Program (200 youth) provides safe places and structured activities for students during summer months through fun music workshops that incorporate STEM learning, exposure to the college environment, and music industry related majors and career opportunities.  The workshops include Music Technology Workshop. Vocal Workshop, Songwriting Workshop, and a Jazz Band Summer Music Intensive.

Music is Central (approximately 2000 students) supports school-day and after school music programs in local elementary, middle, and high schools by providing supplemental music instructors, materials, supplies, instruments and opportunities to share a performance stage with Fame Jazz Band and professional musicians. Additionally, FAME provides scholarships to public school teachers to purchase items for their classrooms or address student needs.

Auditions FAME Jazz Band Program

FAME will accept applications for its year-round FAME Jazz Band Program (FJBP) in August. FJBP was established in 2015 to provide year-round high caliber music and academic support and instruction to talented middle and high school youth who are serious about music and want to take their skills to a higher level.  Home-schooled students are also invited to apply.

This program is ideal for youth who want to enjoy a unique opportunity to grow musically and academically while having fun with other youth musicians. Applicants must live or attend school in Prince George’s County, MD.

Stay tuned at www.FAMEmusic.org


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