Founder and Executive Director


Founder and Executive Director

Daniel is a native of Helsingborg, Sweden and has lived in the U.S. for 13 years where he has performed in various musicals on and off Broadway and toured with bands throughout the country. Prior to arriving in the states, he attended the Academy of Fine Arts and the Music Theatre Academy of Gothenburg where he received degrees in Music and Music Theatre. He also toured Europe with various acts from musicals and show reviews to bands of different backgrounds. Daniel is a trained vocalist/guitarist/bassist and has taught as a vocal coach for years. He has been involved in leading worship for youth and adults at Hope Church and many other churches. He has also been involved in church productions for both children and adults. He is a studio musician and has had the opportunity to be part of many different projects. He and his wife, Katie Johannesson, are currently working on an album of their own and playing at different venues. Daniel has a clear and simple vision for students attending Passion Academy. It is his passion to help students develop a strong foundation in everything related to the arts. He believes that faith and character are built by worshiping through the arts and are essential key factors in people’s growth and education.

Operations and Strings Director


Operations Director
Strings Program Director
Violin Mentor

Jonathan (or Jon by the people that are closest to him), is a native of Woodbridge, Virginia. He has been studying classical violin since he was 7 years old under the Suzuki method. In high school, he was involved with the Youth Orchestra of Prince William County (YOPW) where they were invited to play at Carnegie Hall in 2006.

He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011, with a B.A in music and a minor in general business where he studied under great musicians who have performed with several symphonies including the Richmond Symphony.

He now resides in Richmond’s Byrd Park area where he teaches private violin and freelances for weddings and other musical projects. He is entering his third season as a community member of University of Richmond Symphony Orchestra. He currently is involved with the worship team at Harvest Renewal Church.

When he is not playing violin or teaching you can find him running, biking, or pretty much doing anything outdoors.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician.

I know this may seem like a cliché answer; however, it’s the only way to accurately describe this life-changing event. I feel that the violin picked me. I was watching a program on PBS when I was seven years old, and a famous violinist is using his crutches to walk to a chair center stage. I don’t remember the piece, but I remember seeing him transform from a man with a physical disability to a performer commanding and captivating the attention of his audience members—particularly me. From then on, I was hooked. The violinist was playing with such fervor and emotion along with a huge orchestra behind him; I was done for. I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life without even realizing it yet. All I could do at that moment was point at the TV with a confident finger and say at the top of my lungs, “That’s what I want to do!” Well, you know the rest; as they always say, “The rest was history”. Oh, and that famous violinist who walked out with the crutches was none other than Itzhak Perlman.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Stephane Grappelli, Punch Brothers, Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Sade, Quincy Jones, Temper Trap, George Benson, Tchaikovsky, Drake, Piazzolla, Debussy; Earth, Wind and Fire, Sinatra, Hall and Oates, Taylor Swift (Tay-Tay just gets me); the list could just go on and on.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and non-musical?

Quincy Jones (Have you read his autobiography?)
Steve Martin (He’s hilarious. Also read, Born Standing Up)
Julia Cameron (Read, The Artist’s Way, series; it completely changed and modeled me into the creative force I am now.)

If you could follow in any musician’s footsteps, who would it be?

Quincy Jones —definitely; again read his autobiography,  It’s incredible. But Jones has to be my guy because of his sheer determination and ambition that helped him succeed and work on numerous, well recognized projects.

He taught himself trumpet by sitting outside of jazz clubs. He created a band to tour around Europe, only to make enough money, at a time, to get to the next gig and barely enough to get back home; Miles Davis felt threaten by him, he produced countless hits and albums (look at Michael Jackson), and most importantly he was executive producer for the greatest television show ever created, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—Need I say more?

If you had the ability to pick anybody to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

Stephane Grappelli. His improv at gypsy jazz is something I aspire to.

What are your plans for the future of your music?

To continue improving and working on my craft as a violinist and teacher, to eventually start or run my own music school, to release an album of my own music, compose, tour, play at an outdoor music festival, and have my own PBS special.

Jonathan Lingerfelt Bio Pic 2



Dance Program Director


Program Director

Sarah Ruppel Bullis Bio Pic with LogoSarah Ruppel Bullis is originally from Annapolis, MD where she began her dance studies at the age of four with Ballet Theatre of Maryland, under the direction of Edward Stewart. Before graduating high school she continued her training in Washington D.C. at the Kirov Academy and later at the Washington School of Ballet, under the direction of Mary Day. She spent her summers attending ballet training programs at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and American Ballet Theatre of New York City. After graduating high school, she studied in the B.F.A program of the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati for one year and then was invited to move to New York City to train professionally with Edward Ellison. In 2006 Sarah joined the Richmond Ballet as a trainee and later continued to enjoy a professional career with the Sarasota Ballet of Florida, under the direction of Iain Webb. Sarah’s classical ballet repertoire includes a variety of roles performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Anna Karenina, Checkmate, Cinderella, Coppelia, Don Quixote, Facade, The Nutcracker, Les Patineurs, Paquita, Pineapple Poll, Serenade, The Sleeping Beauty, Les Sylphides, Two Pigeons, Who Cares? and Valse Fantasy. She currently performs independently with local choreographers as well as with her own choreography.

Since 1997 Sarah has been independently teaching children’s ballet camps in the Annapolis and Richmond area. Her strong passion for teaching dance led her to join the Richmond Ballet faculty in 2010. In addition, she currently is an independent ballet and creative movement teacher with the Weinstein Jewish Community Center, Cartwheels and Coffee, and the Goddard School of Short Pump, and she is a barre fitness teacher at The Barre Boutique. In the Richmond area she has also guest taught at the Chester Performing Arts Studio, Regency Dance Academy, Central Virginia Dance Academy, and Country Club of Virginia. Establishing her own world-class dance program has been Sarah’s life-long commitment, and she is thrilled to join the incredibly talented team at Passion Academy.

Photo by Rutsen Eagle Photography

Worship Leadership


Worship Leadership Mentor

Randall Goulard is a pastor with a heart for other ministry leaders, especially worship leaders…or worship “pastors” as he calls them. He also happens to be a musician and a worship leader himself. Randall’s goal and passion is to see worship leaders thrive in their roles as ministry leaders, but also in their lives as worshipers who are called to pastor other worshipers into their identity as sons and daughters of the King.

Randall has been involved in worship for almost 20 years, as a pianist, a singer and a worship leader. He has had the opportunity to lead extensively in multiple settings (colleges, traditional church services, modern contemporary church services, blended services and on the road with youth ministry groups). He truly has a heart for seeing the full breadth and depth of what we call “worship” come alive in worship leaders, in individuals who call themselves followers of Christ, in the body of Christ (what we call “the church”), and in the lives of the local communities we call “churches”.

Growing up in the church, Randall always had questions about himself and his life with God. “Am I good enough?” “Do I have to perform well in my life in order to experience God?” “Can I be loved and accepted without performing up in front of people?” “Will I ever be able to live up to my own expectations?” “These are the questions I used to live in, the questions that led me into years of searching for my identity. Sadly I didn’t find it in the serving the church, or in serving the world.”

But as Jesus so often does, he used these very questions to lead Randall into his ministry journey, and more importantly into the arms of the Father, the only place where true worship can begin. This journey began with a call to leave the business world and give himself full-time to ministry. Randall eventually completed a M.A. in Pastoral Studies with an emphasis in Church Leadership and Development and Worship Leadership and has been a worship pastor for the past 6 years, recently moving with his family from California to Richmond.

“My wife and I met as worship leaders, and my pride and joy is found in us worshiping as a family. Worship is about the presence and the revelation of God Himself, in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. It’s about the everyday joy of life rooted in who I am in my Father. It’s not about music, it’s not about a job.”

Randall is very excited about leading a brand new course specifically designed for worship leaders called The Art of Worship ©.


Drum and Art Mentor


Drum and Art Mentor

Forrest Young is a 30-year veteran musician/composer, and an award-winning illustrator. His first drawings were of “choo choo” trains and dinosaurs when he was three. That youthful excitement for visual expression has increased ever since. Forrest graduated magna cum laude in 2002 from Virginia Commonwealth University’s school of Communication Arts & Design, and then went on to study at The Illustration Academy. His work has been featured in The Society of Illustrators, Spectrum Fantasy Art, CMYK Magazine, National Education Association, and many other publications. Many of Forrest’s skills were honed by working with the master muralist, Happy The Artist, on countless large-scale projects, using pre-digital, hands-on methods. Over the past decade, he has taught art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, The Visual Arts Center of Richmond, Fairfax, Lynchburg and Henrico County public school systems, and almost every library in the state. Some examples of Forrest’s custom artwork can be viewed at ArtThruZ.

Not long after picking up crayons, Forrest picked up drum sticks and found pure magic in percussive expression. This passion for music led him to learning to play the drums and piano. His first public performance was a talent show at age 13, performing Led Zeppelin’s Rock & Roll and Stairway To Heaven on drum set. While at VCU, Forrest studied Jazz & Classical Performance in their prestigious music program. Since the mid-90s, Forrest has cultivated a multi-faceted career in the studio and the concert scene as, The Emergency Drummer. He has filled in the “missing” beats with an incredibly diverse list of musicians to include: Dane Alderson (Yellowjackets bassist), DJ Williams (Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe), René Marie (Jazz Legend), and Butch Taylor (The Dave Mathews Band). His drumming and percussion work can be heard on several Emmy winning PBS documentary soundtracks, such as The Sailor Bob Story and The Kennedy Half Century. Being able to improvise in any style has also allowed him to connect with the world of dance as an accompanist, performing for classes at The Richmond Ballet, VCU’s Modern Dance department, and University of Richmond since 2002. Forrest has also composed pieces for choreography, which have been performed at Richmond’s Grace Street Theater.

Forrest is constantly curious and inspired by the music and visual art he learns of through his students and peers. Believing that there is and has always been a vast connection between peoples through how they express their creative spirit drives his passion to share knowledge, wisdom, and skills with young artists each day.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician.

There was always great music playing in the house when I was growing up. Mom and I would clean the house together on Saturdays and listen to records by The Beatles, Billy Joel, Kenny Rogers, Three Dog Night, Blood Sweat and Tears, The Band, Helen Ready, and musicals like My Fair Lady, Fiddler On The Roof, and Camelot. My dad turned my on to the world of jazz, sharing his love for Chuck Mangione, Dave Brubeck, Ahmad Jamal, and classical guitarists like, Andres Segovia. All of this got absorbed into my being and became part of who I am, musically.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Some of my favorite illustrators are NC Wyeth, Michael Whelan, Jean Henri Gaston Giraud (Meobius), and Gary Kelley, the latter of which I was lucky enough to study with at The Illustration Academy. As for drummers, that would have to start (when I was a teen) with John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and Neal Peart of Rush, and then graduating to Dave Weckl when I heard Chick Corea’s Akoustic Band album for the first time (which I purchased on vinyl at a thrift store, my first LP).

Today, I love most anything new and adventurous. Esperanza Spalding has broken new ground with her, “Emily’s D-Evolution,” album. And, a recent student at Passion Academy introduced me to Joywave for the first time. Great grooves! Really, I find that wen people create music with true love for it in their hearts, it’s always a joy to hear.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and non-musical?

The night sky. Shadows and reflections of light. Clouds. Silence. Quietly playing the piano in the dark. Walks in the woods. Watching my wife, Holly, laugh and dance.

If you could follow in any artist’s footsteps, who would it be?

That’s a tough one, since I believe that inspiration gained from other artists is best used as motivation to find your own unique artistic voice. Not to take anything away from the people I look up to and who have given me such an immense wealth of knowledge to draw from in both the visual arts and music. What’s great today is how easily we can find information about any art form and how it is created, giving us the ability to try more new things and learn more about ourselves in the process!

If you had the ability to pick anybody to collaborate with, who would it be?

Well, it would have to be Kit Watkins. He’s a multi-instrumentalist with over 27 albums under his belt. He’s been writing and recording in his home studio since the 80s and is highly regarded as one of the best in ambient and progressive music. I highly recommend for everyone to check out his music!

I am honored to say that two other amazing musicians on my list, guitarist Brian Mesko, and bassist Dane Alderson, have just finished recording an album with me of all original instrumental material. It’s due to be released on iTunes and the usual suspects later this year. Dane, who hails from Perth, Australia, has been holding down the bass chair for the Grammy Winning jazz group, The Yellowjackets, since March of last year and is simply blowing everyone away with his unique voice on the instrument. Brian, who teaches at The Jefferson Center Music Lab in Roanoke, captivated my ears with his melodic and rhythmic command when he used to play with The Rootdowns. He and Dane are both kindred spirits for me when it comes to playing live and finding chemistry in the moment.

What are your plans for the future of your music/art?

I have always wanted to host a radio program devoted to sharing all of the amazing music I have heard over the years with folks who maybe have not been exposed to it yet. I love making connections with artists, songs, genres and expressive styles, which might not be apparent at first. It’s partially an organizational thing for me too because I tend to be a little nutty when it comes to drawing parallels through observation.

Forrest Young Pic 3

Guitar, Voice and Media Mentor


Guitar and Voice Mentor
Artist and Band Development
Media Production Mentorjoel-woods-media-pic

No stranger to the stage, Joel has performed for thousands of people, most notably as a featured artist at the 2015 Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Continuing his musical journey here in RVA, Joel remains an enthusiastic performer throughout the local music scene. You might recognize him from RVA Has Talent, the Monument Ave 10k, or many of the open mic nights around town. Additionally, Joel regularly ministers in worship with two local congregations in the Richmond area, bringing his experience in music back to where it began: singing in church with his family.

As a young artist himself, Joel has experienced many challenges. One large obstacle for any performer lies in creating a following to share their music. This is no easy task, especially in a world of noise; yet in a few short years, Joel has grown his YouTube channel to over two thousand subscribers and over two hundred thousand views. Joel will empower his students to never give up and pursue every opportunity they are given.

At his core, Joel is an artist. Gaining a interest in photography and filmmaking to further his music career with a professional look, Joel bought his first digital SLR camera several years ago. He began to study and experiment with the camera and it became more than just a hobby. Several lenses and cameras later, he can tell you the “ins and outs” of shooting photos or videos. If you want to learn how to be ready to photograph landscapes, portraits, weddings, senior photos, and know how to use the best settings to capture that perfect moment; this media class is where you start. In addition to producing most of Passion Academy’s media, Joel runs his own photography and video business.

Joel is thrilled to be partnered with Passion Academy and grateful for this continued opportunity to mentor aspiring talent.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician.

Growing up in a family of musicians, I started performing with them when I was about 3 years old. A few years later, I started playing the guitar, and with the help of some inspiring teachers, I learned how to accompany myself. In high school, I began playing small gigs and uploading my music to Youtube. Around that time, I realized that performing was my passion.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

John Mayer, John Legend, Tyler Ward, Kevin Garrett, Allen Stone, Jon Bellion, Maroon 5, Tori Kelly, Oh Wonder—just to name a few.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and non-musical?

Josh Woods (brother), John Mayer, Tyler Ward

If you could follow in any musician’s footsteps, who would it be?

Tori Kelly—she’s always herself, and she’s talented…just a bit.

If you had the ability to pick anybody to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

Tori Kelly, Justin Bieber, or Tyler Ward.

What are your plans for the future of your music?

Keep growing. Play more gigs, record more often, write more songs, release an EP…perform at Bonnaroo…again.

Joel Woods Pics

Piano Mentor


Piano Mentor

Joy Weaver Price began piano lessons with her mother at age 5. Music and the arts have always been at the center of her life, and once she graduated high school she realized she couldn’t imagine a life without them. Choosing to focus on piano, Joy went on to study at James Madison University and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance with a minor in Music Industry. Moving to the Richmond area in 2014, Joy has enjoyed familiarizing herself with the arts scene. She is a pianist at the Richmond Ballet, additionally playing for their outreach program, ‘Minds in Motion’. She also serves as the Director of Traditional Music at River Road UMC. Her other musical specialties include voice and saxophone. With a deep seated passion for music and helping others achieve their goals, Joy looks forward to teaching with Passion Academy!

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Naturally as a female pianist I love Regina Spektor. Her lyrics have carried me through many tough times! I’m inspired by the way Yann Tiersen composes for piano, and my favorite classical composer is Chopin by a longshot. Other artists and bands I love are Nickel Creek, Jacob Collier, and Lady Gaga, although there isn’t all too much music I don’t like.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and non-musical?

My Dad is my greatest inspiration as a mentor. He showed me how important it is to have a figure in your life who sees every moment as an opportunity to learn from each other and laugh. He supported me in every endeavor, no matter how big or small. I believe if everyone had this kind of mentorship, the world would be a kinder place.

Musically, I am inspired by almost any soul who writes their own songs or works with others to write songs with reckless abandon, or who performs without fear of what people think. That’s what I strive for!

If you could follow in any musician’s footsteps, who would it be?

Regina Spektor.

If you had the ability to pick anybody to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

I would love to collaborate with Sarah Watkins, Sean Watkins, Chris Thile (!!!!!!!!), and Alison Krauss.

What are your plans for the future of your music?

I would love to reach a larger audience with my music, whether it’s solo piano, working with a band, or songwriting. Being on stage makes me the happiest! I have a dream of offering scholarship lessons and mentorship to underprivileged children and regularly performing.

Voice Mentor


Voice MentorIMG_0183

Stacie is well known in Richmond and surrounding areas for her outstanding vocal talent. She has performed regularly in concerts, workshops and studios, as well as operatic and gospel genres. She was bitten by the music bug at age 4 starting with playing the piano which then led to singing.

She has also worked with an array of local recording artists including American songwriter and producer Matthew E. White, singing background vocals for his album “Outer Face” and Christian recording artist Katelyn McCarter, singing background vocals. As some of Stacie’s past works, she was featured as one of two leading soloist alongside a full orchestra, rock band and choir singing “Some Threads for Eleanor and Jude,” a Beatle’s arrangement by world renowned Jazz professor Doug Richards. She has performed with many choirs, including VCU’s Commonwealth Singers and has even did some theatrical work as a cast member to the hit Broadway musical “Ragtime” when performed at The Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center. She’s been featured in the children’s choir for “The Nutcracker,” performed by the Richmond Ballet and Orchestra for 4 years. In 2004, Stacie received Best Female Vocalist in Maryland. Her vocal stylings have also been heard at local weddings, funerals, and Masonic banquets. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, she received her Bachelors of Music degree and started teaching privately for voice and piano. She’s worked for Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church as a music leader for worship for 2 years as well as St. Peter’s Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Virginia directing their youth choir. Stacie currently works for Henrico Police Department as a communications officer, but is still dedicated to her music. She is currently singing with Jake Holmes’ group In Due Season and used often as a background vocalist for different artists in the area.

Stacie has a huge passion for music and is known for her sharp ear when it comes to harmonies. She is a fan of all genres of music, but Christian and Gospel are her heart. The works of Cece Winans, Etta James, and Mahalia Jackson has influenced her style of singing. With God being first in her life, she has been truly blessed with her talent and ability to help others learn and grow musically. Stacie is also a member of Brown Grove Baptist Church in Ashland, Va. She continues to strive for perfection in her musical endeavors and is eager to see what God has in store for her.


Piano and Saxophone Mentor


Piano and Saxophone Mentor

Joel Ingram is a Richmond, Virginia native and has been playing piano since he was 7 years old. He gained extensive music experience at a young age through piano lessons, playing and singing in church and school choirs, and playing the saxophone throughout middle school and high school bands. Joel studied music for a year at Chowan University before transferring to Radford University and graduating with a Religious Studies Degree. He then went on to complete his Master of Divinity degree at The Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in 2011. During his time at Chowan and Radford Joel toured North Carolina with a worship band, playing at youth retreats and conferences across the state. Joel helped found two successful local bands in Richmond that toured regionally, and currently is the contemporary worship leader at Chester Baptist Church where he leads worship and teaches a youth worship collective band of all skill levels to sing and play in a worship setting.



Guitar and Voice Mentor


Guitar and Voice Mentor

Starting with the violin, Alex began her love her music at a very young age. After the violin, she fell in love with the guitar and the piano. A few years later, she joined her school’s worship team and played bass every weekday morning, developing her love for stage performance. For a couple years, Alex learned how to collaborate with other musicians as well as the importance of stage presence. During this time, she joined a chorus which went on to compete in national competitions. Alex then moved on to lead worship at a school for a couple years, and became heavily involved at her church. Soon after, she was asked to help start the children’s ministry at a new location for a large church. Now she is pursuing an Early and Elementary Education degree at Virginia Commonwealth University and sharing her love for music by teaching at Passion Academy.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician.

My musical interest began as a child, surrounded by musicians, it felt like my destiny to pick up an instrument. I first learned to play the violin and honed the skills of sight reading, notes, and laid a classical foundation. After a few years, I moved on to the piano and took lessons for several years. The piano remains one of my favorite instruments to play, and a supporting player in the rest of my musical background. A few years later, my stepfather introduced the guitar to me, and I fell in love; he taught me basic chords and strum patterns, and I took off running from there. Soon after that, I joined a choir to train my vocal chords and learn how to properly sing. During this time, an opportunity presented itself to play bass in a band, so I learned to play bass and played with them for about four years. After that I lead a worship team, singing and playing guitar once a week. All of these experiences lead to me exploring as many instruments as possible and falling in love with music.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

I have a wide range of favorite artists, Weezer, Kiss, OAR, Green Day, Billy Joel, and so many others. Most of my favorite artists became my favorites because my parents would constantly play these bands around me while I was growing up.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and nonmusical?

My stepfather is one of my biggest inspirations musically, to have him constantly playing while I grew up inspired me to learn as many instruments as possible. My friends have also been a huge influence in my life, most of my peers play instruments and have encouraged me to learn different styles and reach out of my comfort zone to new areas.

If you could follow in any musician’s footsteps, who would it be?

As much as I love other artists, I feel like music is a very personal experience and I would much rather stand apart from everyone else. I would love to make as much of a difference as I can with my music.

If you had the ability to pick anybody to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

I think I would love to collaborate with a couple different bands to see how differently they deal with music. I would love to work with Weezer and OAR, because they have a sound that I love to listen to. OAR has more meaningful songs with their writing, however Weezer has a very fun and catchy sound.

What are your plans for the future of your music?

I hope to play music throughout all my life. I love playing at different venues and in several different bands. The biggest thing I hope to do in my music is make a difference in someone’s life. I have played all around the world, in several different countries, and the most powerful moments have been deep in worship in the poorest of countries. I would love to spend as much of my life as I can worshiping and celebrating with the most genuine people all around the world.

Voice, Piano & Production Mentor


Voice, Piano & Production Mentor

Josh Woods Profile Pic SquareJosh Woods is a talented recordist and producer whose goal is to unlock an artist’s creative potential.

Josh began singing and playing the piano at a very young age, and continued studying and performing throughout his school years. These early experiences would later shape his views on music. After graduating from high school in 2007, Josh enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served four years of active duty. This time in the military reinforced his desire to pursue a career in music. After honorably completing his term of service, Josh attended James Madison University for further training and networking opportunities. The following year, he founded j2 Music Productions and began making a name for himself, working alongside many talented artists and bands.

Josh’s experience spans across all genres, and his passion will be evident from your first session. Whether you are recording an album or learning about the latest trends in audio, Josh will inspire you and give you the tools to succeed in the ever-changing field of music production.

Currently, Josh is completing his Bachelor’s of Music at JMU. He is a member of several vocal ensembles, student manager of the JMU recording studio, and Artistic Director and Arranger for The Overtones, JMU’s premier co-ed a cappella group.

Treasure by The JMU Overtones (Josh singing lead)

Strengths: Recording, Mixing, Mastering, Sound Production, Choral Arrangement, Vocals and Keys

j2 Music Productions maintains an office in Passion Academy studios where Josh records, mixes and masters many of his projects. Josh also teaches our Production classes and helps with our Band Development Program and Passion Camp productions.


Piano Mentor


Piano Mentor

Clara started playing piano at age 6, and has been playing ever since. Throughout her life, music has always been a huge inspiration, and a great way for her to express herself. The moment it all clicked for her was when she was able to use the skills she had been taught to learn one of her favorite classical pieces on her own. She draws inspiration from all across the board- from pianist Jon Schmidt to composer Michael Giacchino to indie folk artist The Tallest Man on Earth. Having had wonderful mentors teaching her in the past, and a sister who went through music school, Clara feels inspired to help budding pianists and artists find their own ways of playing, and giving them the tools so that they, too, can be the driving force in their musical adventures. In the future, Clara will continue to learn and play, and will hopefully be able to incorporate her music into her career path in Psychology.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician.

I first started playing piano when I was about six years old. I wanted to play so that I could be like my older sister, she was such a big influence on me. I think she was honestly one of the driving factors in me pursuing music for so long. When I was twelve, I snuck one of her piano books and learned a song that she had played, and for me, that was one of my biggest accomplishments- to take the skills I had been taught and using them to emulate someone I looked up to so much.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

I definitely love classical and romantic pianists – Claude Debussy is one of my favorite composers of all time. I also love Jon Schmidt, Michael Giacchino, The Tallest Man on Earth, Vampire Weekend, Paul Simon, Hall and Oates, Billy Joel, and Mac DeMarco (among numerous others).

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and non-musical?

Absolutely my family is a huge source of inspiration to me. Another inspiration is Kristian Matsson.

If you could follow in any musician’s footsteps, who would it be?

Kristian Matsson. Definitely not the most widely known or acclaimed musician, but his work (under the stage name The Tallest Man on Earth) is so full of truth and meaning, and stems so strongly from his own experiences and personal life, it is something I try to emulate all of the time. He didn’t start of at all thinking he would be a full time musician, releasing songs on the side, just for the sake of making music that he loves. That turned into numerous albums, beautiful songs, and inspiring words. His ability to speak in metaphors and stories continues to astound me.

If you had ability to pick anybody to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

Honestly, I would love to collaborate with Billy Joel. I grew up listening to his music, and to take part in his songwriting talent and musical legacy would be a dream come true.

What are you plans for the future of your music?

In the future, I hope to develop more fully my own style of writing and playing. I hope to inspire students to find what they love about music and let it lead them where it will. I want to use my knowledge of music to aid me in my career path with psychology, and continue writing and playing for as long as possible.

Drum Mentor

TREY HARRELLacademy, passion academy, richmond music center, richmond music, music lessons, guitar lessons, drum lessons, piano lessons, music, guitar, drums, piano, keys, keyboard, keyboard lessons, voice lessons, singing lessons, vocal lessons, voice, singing, dance, dancing, dance lessons, lessons, music, recording, recording studio, recording academy, logic pro, logic pro lessons, pro tools, pro tools lessons, mixing, worship music, worship bands, worship, worship leader, leadership training, training, music training, sound engineering, band, bands, bass, bass guitar, bass lessons, percussion, percussion lessons, spoken word, rap, songwriting, song, writing, ballet, tap, jazz, preschool, childcare, pre k, artist management, talent agency, booking agency, talent agent, tour manager, musician, music teacher, guitar teacher, piano teacher, drum teacher, percussion teacher, free lessons, voice teacher, vocal teacher, rehearsal, rehearsal space

Drum Mentor

Trey realized his gift from God to play drums at a very young age. He played for his home church in Baltimore, Maryland for many years before relocating to Richmond, VA. Over the years he has been blessed with a wealth of experience in playing in a church/worship setting. Since his start he has played locally for numerous bands, choirs, and ensembles.

During his High School years, he was very involved in the marching band as section leader and coordinator for the drumline. During that time he gained a lot of experience on how to teach drummers with little to no training, as well as how to better apply rudimental abilities behind the drumset.

Trey has been teaching drums in the Richmond area since 2007 providing in-home lessons to youth and adults alike. He has proven to be a valuable asset to the drum community through his skills and vast technical knowledge. Trey currently plays at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Midlothian, VA.

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Voice and Piano Mentor


Voice and Piano Mentor

Abigail is no stranger to Richmond. She grew up just around the corner in Mechanicsville. She began to sing by the age of twelve through many school events such as concerts, musicals, All District, and All State choirs. Through school events, she learned that her blessing couldn’t be wasted. After high school, she attended Virginia Commonwealth University. She studied classical singing and discovered that opera was a passion of hers. You may have seen her in a few VCU opera productions. She played the Third Lady in “The Magic Flute,” Ms. Todd in “The Old Maid and The Thief,” The Witch in “Hansel and Gretel,” Sally in “Die Fledermaus,” and Sister Osmina in “Suor Angelica. Through some of those operas, her cast at VCU went on to win first and second place for The National Opera Association for their productions of “The Old maid and The Thief “ and “Hansel and Gretel.” She graduated in December 2012 with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance.

Now you can find her singing background vocals for our other voice mentor Katelyn McCarter. She began singing with Katelyn while both attending VCU. You can also find Abigail singing for Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. At church, she is the worship leader for their 5pm Campus Ministry service, helps lead a choir for the 8:45am and 11am services, and organizes the youth to perform for their Youth Music Sundays. She has always enjoyed working with children and considers it to be an honor to have the opportunity to mentor the youth.


Viola Mentor


Viola Mentor

Scott was raised in Chesterfield, Virginia where he first began playing viola at Matoaca Middle School twelve years ago. He attended St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, receiving the William Carter Bowles Memorial Music Prize at graduation.

A member of the VCU Symphony, Scott is on track to graduate this semester with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a minor in general business. In his time at VCU, Scott has studied under several members of the Richmond Symphony, as well as many other esteemed, talented musicians.

Currently living in Manchester, Scott is a part of the Matoaca Christian Fellowship worship team. He is also a contemporary classical composer, having composed pieces for string quartet, string trio, and solo piano, among others.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician.

It was about twelve years ago: I remember sitting in the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall at the VCU Singleton Center, where I now perform with the VCU Symphony. My mom took me to see the VCU Symphony play, with a solo viola player in front. This violist had won the VCU Concerto Competition, and the sound she evoked from her instrument was like none other I had ever heard. The vast array of colors and the deep tone were more than enough to convince me that I needed to start playing the viola. The rest is history.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Philip Glass, J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Gidon Kremer, David Garrett, Fritz Kreisler, Vivaldi, Haydn, Debussy, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, John Williams, Wim Mertens.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and non-musical?

Definitely Philip Glass. His music just speaks to me for some reason, and his life story is very inspirational. Daniel Myssyk, the conductor of the VCU Symphony, is also a huge inspiration for me: he expects the best from every single person in the symphony, yet he is still compassionate.

If you had the ability to pick anybody to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

Again, Philip Glass. Getting the opportunity to collaborate with him would be a dream come true for me. I have many musical ideas that I would love to throw his way.

What are your plans for the future of your music?

To always keep honing my craft as a violist and teacher, and to never stop learning more about the vast subjects of music. Also, to work in recording studios as an engineer and one day own a studio. My main goal is to eventually develop a unique sound which I can indubitably call my own.

Guitar Mentor


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Combining a passion for playing rock, classical, and jazz music; Jeremy Hook is a guitarist that is always striving to create something new. Having played in many rock bands while studying jazz guitar in his hometown of Fredericksburg, Jeremy developed a taste for combining styles and techniques from the many genres he loves.

Jeremy started playing the electric guitar over ten years ago, and has sense expanded his playing to acoustic, finger-style, nylon, and extended ranged instruments; such as 7 and 8 string guitars. He firmly believes that learning music is a rich and endless journey, and enjoys mentoring students to discover their own musical path. The current step of Jeremy’s musical journey is studying classical guitar at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he is in pursuit of obtaining his Bachelors in Music Performance.

Aside from playing the guitar, Jeremy possess a deep love for composing music. Rather it be songwriting for his progressive rock band, Epiphany, or arranging music for video games/film; Jeremy believes that creating art is the most important, and wonderful thing a musician can do.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician.

Having been exposed to my father’s record collection of 60’s/70’s music at a very young age, I learned to admire musicianship and the art of songwriting while still in elementary school. When I listened to bands from his collection, such as Cream and Yes, the guitar always managed to capture my attention beyond all else.

At age 12, I expressed my interest in music to my uncle who plays guitar, who proceeded let me try out his Fender Stratocaster. As an adolescent teen, life seems very uncertain; but when I picked up that guitar, for the first time in my life I experienced something that I knew was meant to be. In that moment, nearly twelve years ago, I discovered that there was nothing more in life that I wanted to do than to play guitar.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

It’s certainly difficult to choose my favorite artists when I have so many from so many different genres!

From traditional rock music; I would have to say that no artist has had a bigger influence on me than The Beatles and heavy metal legends, Metallica.

In modern music; I religiously follow progressive rock bands Animals as Leaders and Dream Theater.

In classical music; I always gravitate back to the compositions of J.S. Bach, as well as my classical guitar hero Francisco Tárrega.

In jazz; I deeply connect to the works of early jazz composers like Dave Brubeck and Charlie Parker; but I also share a passion for modern players such as Pat   Metheney, Allan Holdsworth, and pianist Hiromi Uehara.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and non-musical?

Musically, the joy of composing, progressing, and playing keep me inspired to continue my musical path.

Non-musically, there is no bigger non-musical inspiration than the love and compassion I receive from my wife.

If you could follow in any musician’s footsteps, who would it be?

As interesting as it could be to follow the footsteps of a hero, I would rather walk my own path. I’m a firm believer in borrowing and learning from your idols, but you should strive to forge your own way in life.

If you had the ability to pick anybody to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

Honestly the choices are endless, I would love the opportunity to write with all my heroes! I think the greatest honor of all time would be able to create music with Paul McCartney. Paul can write the most memorable, emotionally moving songs with even the simplest of chord progressions. I would love to tap into his writing process.

What are your plans for the future of your music?

My dream career would be to compose music for film and video games, while simultaneously teaching; be it in academia or private instruction. I plan to complete my Bachelors of Music at VCU and pay my dues performing locally. After becoming a seasoned musician in Richmond, I intend to continue my education in pursuit of earning a Ph.D. in Musical Composition.

Guitar Mentor


Guitar Mentor

Elliot Johnson is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, and producer from Richmond, Virginia. Guitar is his primary instrument. In addition, he plays drums, bass and piano. He is currently enrolled in classical studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, with a concentration in classical guitar.

Elliot started playing electric guitar at age thirteen, refining his skills by playing in bands with friends and multiple church worship teams. Over the years he grew into a well-rounded performer of contemporary music. Through his personal experience and formal training at VCU, he has developed an extensive knowledge of theory, a keen listening ear, and a versatile improvisational technique.

In addition to being a skilled musician, Elliot is also a talented amateur producer. His recent self-titled EP combines the very best of his musicianship, songwriting, and production skills. Using his custom-made backing track system, Elliot frequently performs his own songs and covers of popular tunes in the Richmond area.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician.

I saw my friend at youth group playing some power chords on a strat when it struck me that playing the electric guitar is the coolest thing ever. So when I got home I got my dad to show me some chords on his electric guitar and worked up from there.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

My top three favorite artists are Zedd, Bach, and John Mayer.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and non-musical?

My top three artists I previously mentioned are definitely my biggest musical inspirations. Zedd, because his album Clarity exemplifies truly great electronic dance music. Bach, because his music is so intellectual and yet so expressive. John Mayer is one of the most sensible and listenable artists out there, and I really identify with a his vocal/guitar style a lot. My biggest non-musical inspirations are my life experiences, I always strive to make my songwriting/lyrics authentically represent who I am and where I’ve been.

If you could follow in any musician’s footsteps, who would it be?

I’m really aiming to follow in the footsteps of Daft Punk, in particular with their record “Random Access Memories.” The big hits on their album like “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself To Dance” exemplify a really organic, retro style of dance music that lands squarely in my desired sound/feel. I want to be that artist on the radio who plays dance music but with the organic sound of real instruments. That kind of vibe is really refreshing & effective in a pop world that’s dominated by synthesizers and drum machines.

If you had the ability to pick anybody to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

I want to grab John Mayer and have him play lead guitar on one of my EDM tracks. It would make for a really interesting cross-genre club track.

What are your plans for the future of your music?

While I’m wrapping up my music degree at VCU, my plan is to take every opportunity I can to perform and make connections. Even if it’s just an open mic at a local restaurant, I’m getting out there and sharing my music with people. Once I’ve worked my way into the scene, I’m going to start working toward being a touring performing artist. I’m also getting an education in production, so that’s a possibility as well. I could end up moving to Nashville or LA, but for now I’m going to see how far I can get in Richmond.

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Guitar Mentor


Guitar Mentor

Sarah Thorne was born in Glen Allen, VA, where she was raised in a strong Christian environment as a homeschool student and discovered her passion for the arts at a very early age.

She excelled as a guitar student after starting private lessons at the age of 13, and by age of 16, Sarah began to regularly lead worship for the local church she attended at that time. Through this opportunity, she acquired valuable experience in leadership, teamwork, playing with bands, performing, songwriting, and singing. By the age of 17, she began tinkering with home recording as a pass-time, but soon demonstrated that she had “natural ear” for editing, mixing, and mastering. This discovery led to her creating own music, writing original pieces that defy genres and carry heavy-hitting truths. Her songs aim to carry raw intensity as well as her Christian perspective on the struggles life can bring.

Sarah graduated high school in 2014 and currently studies guitar performance and worship leadership through Cruse Institute for the Arts: an accredited Christian online music college. Sarah plans on graduating with her BA in Music Ministry and then continuing her studies through Liberty University towards her Master’s degree. As of now, she serves as an acoustic guitar player and vocalist for her church and continues to produce music through her personal recording studio. In addition to playing the guitar, she enjoys drawing, writing, and studying psychology and theology. Sarah plays both the both acoustic and electric guitar, rhythm and lead styles, and can sing and play simultaneously. She also has been learning to play the bass guitar, and has even been known to dabble at the keyboard. Often known for her knack at learning new things quickly, Sarah loves to challenge her abilities to grow to new heights, all for God’s glory.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician:

I’ve always found myself drawn to rock music when it came on the radio…but it always seemed to lack the “grr” that I wanted to hear. When I heard the band Skillet for the first time in middle school, my mind was blown. Finally, I had found a style of music that suited my tastes! I instantly decided that I wanted to play music like that one day, to impact people for Christ and play intense, powerful music. It wasn’t long after that that I began taking guitar lessons.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Skillet, RED, Linkin Park, Too Close to Touch, Wage War, For All Eternity, and Thousand Foot Krutch are some of my favorites, just to name a few…I even enjoy a little rap, orchestral/movie trailer music, and the blues. Honestly, it’s probably easier to tell you who and what I don’t like, since it’s a smaller list! I like a bit of everything and everyone. I view genres as paint colors rather than complete pictures…each one adds something unique to this world, and a good artist knows how to blend them together into a masterpiece. The more inbred a genre becomes, the less creative it is.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical and non-musical?

My best friend is probably my biggest non-musical inspiration. She is a published Christian fantasy author, and her book series has had a tremendous impact on me for as long as we have been friends, which has been basically our entire lives. Her stories have played a role in influencing my songwriting, and even though the series is fictional, I find myself relating to the emotional struggles and moral dilemmas on a deeply personal level. I want people to be able to identify with my music the way that I identify with her characters.

Musically, I’m heavily influenced by rock and metal (especially hard rock and metalcore, as respective sub-genres). I love the mixture of intensity, drop-tuned guitars, catchy lead hooks, and explosive solos…but as I said before, I try to draw inspiration from a little bit of everything.

If you could follow in any musician’s footsteps, who would it be?

Ben Kasica, the former guitarist of Skillet, is probably my biggest inspiration as a musician. He went on to be a producer after he retired from the band. I’d love to follow a similar path…perform for a few years, and then settle down behind a control board in a studio and help other artists “make it”.

I also really am inspired by a kid named Cole Rolland, who is an incredible guitarist and collaborates with other musicians to make remakes of popular songs with a heavier twist. He also writes his own original music and produces it, and is a very successful independent artist.

Lastly, I’m inspired by none other than the founders of Passion Academy. One of my aspirations in life is to one day be a successful businesswoman in the music industry. Seeing a similar dream fulfilled through Daniel and Derek is hugely encouraging.

If you had the ability to pick anyone to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

I honestly would love to collaborate with NF. He is a rapper, so his musical approach is different from what I normally listen to…but his emotional intensity really appeals to me. Also, I think it would be super cool to work with guys like Hans Zimmer and people who make epic cinematic music.

What are your plans for the future of your music?

As of Spring 2017, I am in the process of writing and recording original songs for my debut album, which I plan to release in August. I also am working on making covers to worship songs that I have been remixing with a rockier edge. I hope to one day tour with my own band and minister to youth through my music, speaking engagements, and even comedy.  I want to be able to reach people from all backgrounds through living a Christ-Honoring life without conforming to the “Christian” stereotype in the music industry. I would love to have a successful career as a performing artist and eventually produce for other young artists full-time.  My dream is to one day run a cutting-edge recording studio and ministry for artists.

EMP and Live Sound Mentor


Live Sound, Recording, Production, Sound Design and DJ Mentor Matthew Walsh Bio Pic Square

Matthew is a creative and technical individual with experience in live and studio audio engineering, DJing, and production.

Matthew is a Richmond, VA native who spent his early childhood years learning Suzuki piano before pursuing musical theatre. In High School, he worked as a student volunteer sound tech for CharacterWorks Theatre which initialized his interest in music production and live sound. Soon after, he began volunteering with Hope Church’s tech team and worked their Easter Services at the Carpenter Center and Altria Theatre.

He completed two summer internships with Hope Church’s Worship Arts department where he focused on improving technical operations within the church. In 2014, Matthew was brought on staff with CharacterWorks as a live sound engineer.

In addition to attending VCU, Matthew is also the Technical Assistant for Hope Church’s Midtown Campus and he owns and operates a DJ business for weddings, parties and events.

Matthew directed Passion Academy’s 2015 Winter Showcase and has produced music for artists in their Artist Development Program including songs on Danielle Allen’s debut EP.

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Matthew is excited to be directing this year’s Electronic Music Production and Recording Engineering Camp which focuses on developing production techniques, arranging tracks, exploring sounds and understanding all the tools needed to create and record original music.

In this camp, students will learn Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an a producer and developing your own sound through a series of sketches and experimentation. Originality is an essential concept when producing music and the EMP Camp promotes the action of finding your inner musical ideas.

• Comprehensive and interactive learning with Ableton Live 9 software
• Collaboration with other individuals within the Electronic Music Production and Artist Development Program
• Education on sound design and synthesis
• Remix opportunities
• Multi-genre music appreciation
• Use of Passion Academy’s Recording Studio
• Hands on learning with physical synthesizers
• Compose and produce original music
• Live performance experiences


Voice and Guitar Mentor


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Twenty-two year old Emma Davis is an artist and musician who relocated to Richmond in 2014 as a transfer student at Virginia Commonwealth University after attending the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where she studied Voice. Growing up in Charlottesville, Virginia, she picked up her first guitar at the age of eleven and began singing soon after. Around this time, she began opening her ears to new sounds and found herself gaining much of her admiration and inspiration from the likes of Lauryn Hill and John Mayer. It gave Emma some of the foundations of her unique acoustic/hip- hop and R&B sound. With this soulful sound, she gained much popularity on the Internet and the Richmond music scene with her unique acoustic and soulful renditions of many popular songs.

It was during her high school years that she gained a background to her methods of teaching and mentoring the youth she works with, when she regularly attended the Music Resource Center, a program that caters to the youth by fostering positive relationships and growth through the expression of music. This opportunity gave Emma much of the background that she learned to utilize in her unique, fun, hands-on approach to teaching, working, and giving back to the youth through music.

Tell us a little bit about your musical background; when you first started, the first experience that made you want to become a musician.

Growing up, I was always surrounded by music. My dad played guitar and piano as well as sang. I began playing piano when I was seven and only played for about three years before moving on to violin. I played violin for about four years and never really enjoyed it very much. I was always very shy about singing in front of people until I was about fourteen. The only person I would ever sing in front of was my Dad. I used to sing with my Dad a lot between the age of ten and thirteen, he would play piano or guitar and I would sing. For Christmas when I was thirteen, my Dad got me my first guitar. I immediately loved playing and wanted to learn as much as possible. Throughout middle school and high school, I learned as many songs as I could and became much more comfortable with singing and performing in front of others.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Patty Griffin, John Legend, Adele, Dixie Chicks, Anthony Hamilton, Lauryn Hill, Ed Sheeran, Andy Grammar, Musiq Soulchild, Ben Howard, Bob Marley, Dave Matthews Band, and many others.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, musical, and non-musical?

My Dad, Bob Marley, Adele, Lauryn Hill, Mother Teresa, Patty Griffin.

If you could follow in any musician’s footsteps, who would it be?

This is a hard one. Probably Adele, she is just so talented and carries herself in the best way.

If you had the ability to pick anybody to collaborate with musically, who would it be?

Patty Griffin, Adele, or John Legend.

What are your plans for the future of your music?

To continue to learn and play as much as possible, and become a better musician….as well as become more comfortable with writing my own songs, something I struggle with; perform more, and work towards recording my own album.

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Dance Mentor


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Born and raised in Chester, Virginia, Desmin found his love of dance later in life at the age of 18. After attending college and earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science, he decided that he would make dance a major part of his life and career. A majority of his dance training comes from attending numerous workshops throughout the DMV and North Carolina for 2 years where he was exposed to many different styles of dance including modern, breaking, freestyling, and more.

Desmin trained and performed with Blank Canvas, a college hip hop crew at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has also performed with Pace Setters Dance Crew at the 2015 World of Dance exhibition in New Jersey. Desmin has taught several hip hop workshops as well as being one of the instructors for National Dance Day at Dogtown Dance Theatre in Richmond.

Currently, he teaches Boys Pop at Passion Dance and hip hop around the Richmond area and enjoys sharing his passion of choreography and movement. Desmin continues to seek training, teaching, and performance opportunities throughout Virginia and is more than eager to see what lies ahead.



Dance Mentor


Dance MentorSophie Bio Pic

Sophie is originally from Raleigh, NC. Her dance experience began when she was five years old at the Raleigh School of Ballet. As her skills developed, she joined their Professional Division at the age of thirteen, which is Raleigh School of Ballet’s program that recognizes potential in young aspiring dancers. Sophie then continued her dance studies at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts as a ballet major for three years. During that time, she attended summer programs at the Miami City Ballet and Richmond Ballet. After graduating high school, Sophie moved to Richmond, Virginia to begin dancing with the Richmond Ballet as a Trainee. Recently, Sophie joined the Stavna Ballet as a company member in Midlothian, Virginia under the direction of Shannon McConville. She also serves a role as a substitute teacher at the Stavna Ballet. Sophie has performed in numerous pieces including Valse Fantasy, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Divertimento, Paquita, La Source and Kingdom choreographed by Larry Keigwin.

Currently, Sophie is pursuing Nutrition Science and Business degrees. She hopes to utilize these degrees to help further her ability to serve her students’ needs. Sophie has a deep appreciation for the arts and loves children. She has over six years of experience with caring for children of all ages and has served in multiple roles working with children.

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Dance Mentor


Dance Mentor Savannah head shot

Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, Savannah started taking dance at the age of three at a locally owned studio, eventually joining its “junior company” for aspiring young dancers. At age twelve, she began to focus more seriously on ballet and began classes at City Ballet. While there, she received commendable and highly commendable marks on all six Cecchetti Council of America exams, competed at the Youth American Grand Prix, served as a teaching assistant for young dancers, and taught private ballet lessons.  Savannah also danced corps roles in Carolina Ballet’s productions of The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, and Sleeping Beauty. Savannah began attending University of North Carolina School of the Arts as a ballet major at age fifteen, where she pursued both her studies and her ballet training under instructors such as Ethan Stiefel, Susan Jaffe, and Nina Danilova. At UNCSA, Savannah performed in works including The Nutcracker, Paquita, George Balanchine’s Symphonie Concertante and La Source, Swan Lake, Susan Jaffe’s Polovtsian Dances, and James Kudelka’s Gazebo Dances. Savannah received an award for academic and artistic merit each year at UNCSA, and also choreographed pieces on both herself and fellow dancers which were shown each spring. From ages thirteen to age eighteen, Savannah trained during the summer at The Rock School, Joffrey South, Carolina Ballet, The School of American Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and finally Richmond Ballet. Following graduation from UNCSA, Savannah relocated to Richmond and spent two years as a trainee in the Richmond Ballet company, performing in pieces such as Cinderella, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, and Serenade.

In the spring of 2015, Savannah completed her Bachelor of the Arts in English, and is currently pursuing her Masters of Arts in English at VCU. She is thrilled to be teaching dance at Passion Academy, and is excited to share her love and knowledge of the arts with her students.

Dance Mentor


Dance Mentor

Megan Tatum is a musical theatre performer/choreographer and feels absolutely blessed to join the Passion team.  She grew up in Chester, Virginia training in all styles of dance at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, Richmond Ballet, and Chesterfield School of Ballet under the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus.  Megan is a kid at heart and loves working and dancing with children of all ages and abilities.  She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary with a B.S. in Kinesiology and Health Sciences Pre-Physical Therapy and a B.A. in Integration of Dance, Music, and Theatre Performance.  Megan has taught and choreographed all over Virginia at Broadway Dance Arts, Virginia Regional Ballet, SPARC, Dogwood Dell, Swift Creek Mill, and Henrico High School Center for the Arts to name a few.  Megan most recently worked with Virginia Repertory Theatre on A Christmas Story (Dance Captain/Featured Ensemble) and Junie B. Jones the Musical (Associate Choreographer/May/Mommy/Grace).  She lives in New York City, when not traveling to teach and perform, and assists physical therapists with Broadway and ballet companies such as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Wicked, and Matilda.

Megan believes in not just teaching students to dance and perform but also to understand their body and how it moves so that they can have long and active lives enjoying whatever their passion may be.  She has performed professionally all over the country with Midtown Arts Center (Mary Poppins), Compass Rose Theater (Brigadoon), Alluvion Stage Company (Beauty and the Beast), Riverside Dinner Theatre (West Side Story), Virginia Musical Theatre (Little Mermaid, Legally Blonde, Children of Eden, Mame), and at Busch Gardens (Christmas Town).  Megan is so excited to share her joy for life and dance with the people she is able to mentor at Passion Academy.

Connect with Megan


Dance Mentor


Dance Mentor

Jessica Perez Bio PicJessica is originally from Frederick, MD. Her dance experience began when she was Seven years old at the Frederick School of Classical Ballet. From 2003 to 2007 Jessica attended the Miami city ballet summer intensive; and after graduation of high school, she joined the Miami City Ballet School as a pre-professional dance student. During her time at Miami City Ballet School, Jessica was able to perform with the Miami City ballet Professional Company, including an original work by Miami City Ballet called “Lounge 2200.” Jessica then Danced Professionally in Los Angeles with the Pacific Dance center; she additionally taught for Pacific Dance Center’s school. She later moved closer to home and became a faculty member of Mid Maryland Performing Arts Center in Frederick, MD. Jessica has recently moved to the Richmond area and is thrilled to begin her teaching journey at Passion Academy. Jessica has performed in numerous classical and neoclassical pieces including; Allegro Brillante, Carnival of the Animals, Valse Fantasy, Jewels, Lounge 2200, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Paquita, and Raymonda.

Jessica is currently pursuing Dance Education and Business degrees. She hopes to apply these degrees to help further her ability to serve her students’ needs. Jessica has a profound admiration for the arts and loves working with children. She has over ten years of teaching experience and has two children of her own.

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Dance Mentor


Dance Mentor

Brianna Little began her studies in Greensboro, North Carolina.  She continued exploring her passion throughout her formative years. Intensives included North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston Salem, and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in New York City. It was during these experiences that Brianna discovered her love for modern dance.

Weaver Academy for Performing and Visual Arts, gave Brianna the opportunity to study under Emily Brenner. This is where she developed her interest in movement studies.  Brianna received a BFA in Dance Education from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. During college she began exploring the idea of choreographic intent having set several difference dance pieces on her colleges. She has had the honor of performing works by wonderful professors/directors who provided her with valuable instruction and opportunities.  Some of which included, Janet Lily, Duane Cyrus, B.J Sullivan, Robin Gee and Nathan Trice. In 2016 Brianna graduated cum laude and began her professional and education career. Brianna is a member of Delta Chi Xi Honorary Dance Fraternity, Alpha Chapter and is excited to have the opportunity to work with the RVA Dance Collective 2016-2017 season. Brianna is also excited to continue her journey at Passion Academy.

Dance Mentor


Dance Mentor

A Raleigh, North Carolina native, Stephanie began dancing when she was three years old at a local dance studio. Her love for dance grew rapidly and she began to explore different styles of dance including ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, and hip-hop. By the age of 11, she decided that she wanted to pursue a career in ballet, and started training rigorously. During this time, she participated in five Cecchetti Council of America Exams and received commendable and highly commendable on each one, competed at Youth America Grand Prix and won top twelve in her division, taught private ballet lessons, and assisted in dance classes for at her studio. Stephanie also danced corps roles in Carolina Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker and La Sylphide throughout this time in her dance education.

Desiring to further her ballet training, Stephanie attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for high school, learning from world-renowned instructors such as Susan Jaffe, Ethan Stiefel, Warren Conover, and Nina Danilova. At UNCSA, Stephanie had the opportunity to perform George Balanchine’s Symphonie Concertante and La Source, Ethan Stiefel’s The Nutcracker, Susan Jaffe’s Polovtsian Dances, James Kudelka’s Gazebo Dances, Paquita, and Swan Lake. From ages eleven to seventeen, Stephanie participated various summer training intensives such as Joffrey South, The Rock School, The School of American Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Ballet, and Richmond Ballet.

Following a year as a trainee with the Richmond Ballet, Stephanie was offered a contract to dance professionally in Richmond Ballet II, where she danced for three years. During this time she performed ballets such as Stoner Winslett’s The Nutcracker, Malcolm Burn’s Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella, George Balanchine’s Serenade and The Four Temperaments, Nicholas Berizoff’s Don Quixote, Marius Petipa’s La Bayadere, Salvatorre Aiello’s Rite of Spring, and Bill Soleau’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Stephanie took college classes while working full time as a professional ballerina and graduated in the spring of 2016 with a B.A. in Liberal Studies. Stephanie is excited to join the staff at Passion Academy and aims to bring young dancers along in a positive, encouraging environment.

Connect with Stephanie


Founder and President


Founder and President

Derek Smith is a Texas native, husband, father of two and has been in Richmond for over 20 years. He began playing drums and percussion at 13 years old and jumped at every opportunity to play in High School and College. He attended Virginia Commonwealth University where he majored in Business, Marketing and Jazz Performance. Derek is a successful entrepreneur who has owned and operated several businesses ranging from eCommerce to digital media advertising, mobile application development, information security training and business development consultation. He has been passionately involved in Worship Arts for many years and continues to volunteer his time and talents at Hope Church.