Piano Faculty

Kevin Bales (piano) was a latecomer to jazz, already 17 when he encountered the sounds and structures and became captivated by the freedom and corresponding challenges of the music. But if late to the party, he wasted no time in immersing himself in the celebration, declaring total commitment to what would be his life’s work and backing his announcement by resigning his job and designated career in computer programming. Kevin could commit to jazz with a reasonable degree of expectation. He was already an accomplished pianist, with classical chops refined since the age of 10. So accomplished he was invited to audition for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, then under the direction of its most storied conductor Robert Shaw, at age 16. Kevin’s initial career move was to the University of North Florida and a budding if little-known jazz program.

There he met and performed with, and went on to record and tour with, a number of monumental artists who had settled into that burgeoning North Florida jazz scene. Giants like Wynton Marsalis, Louie Bellson, Eddie Daniels, James Moody, Ben Tucker, Ira Sullivan, Sam Rivers, and Nat Adderley. He counts among his mentors bassist Ben Tucker, multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan, guitar legends Nathen Page and Jack Petersen, and the fiercely individual saxophonist Bunky Green. His meeting with Bunky Green led to five years of tours. His encounter with guitarist Nathen Page blossomed into 15 years of spot tours and four albums. And his work with trumpeter extraordinaire Marcus Printup has become a lifetime association that has included recordings on Blue Note/Capital records.

Ten years touring and recording with vocal iconoclast Rene Marie culminated in the a Grammy Nominated album. Few artists have the patience for teaching – as are few teachers accomplished players. But Kevin has amassed a reputation for his prowess in both professions. While still a senior at North Florida he was drafted into a full teaching load, and continued to be an integral part of the school’s jazz program for upwards of a decade. Today, Kevin manages his own jazz program, overseeing an ambitious schedule of ambitious jazz students.  Kevin has amassed a long list of awards and a reputation as one of the finest jazz pianists performing anywhere. In 1994, less than a decade into jazz, he won the American Pianist Association’s Jazz Piano Competition. In addition to nearly every important jazz venue in the South, he has performed in some of the most acclaimed clubs and festivals in America and around the world: the JVC Jazz Festival in New York, The Bakery in Los Angeles, The Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center jazz series, the Toronto and Edinburgh jazz festivals, and the Moscow Center for the Performing Arts.

Eric Jones (piano) was born in Moultrie, GA.  He started to play piano by ear at the age of 5.  At the age of eleven Eric started to study the trumpet.  At age of 16, he started to take formal lessons on piano and within two years, he was awarded a piano scholarship to Andrew College.  At Andrew College Eric completed his Associate of Music Degree.  After graduation, Eric went on to pursue his B.A. at Armstrong Atlantic State University.  While at AASU, he study under Dr. Kevin Hampton and in 2005 he graduated with a B.A. in Piano.  Since graduation, he has maintain a busy schedule.  Besides giving private lessons, composing and arranging music, he is working on his Masters in Composition from Georgia Southern.  Eric has work with many artist of various genres such as Grammy Award winning artist Esperanza Spaulding, Stewart Copland of the Police, Keith Miller of the Metropolitan Opera just to name a few.  In 2011 Eric premiere his latest work,”Song of Creation”, which combines spiritual, jazz, and african influences to the story of James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation”.

Martin Lesch (piano) Martin Lesch spent most of his young life growing up in New York City where he was raised in a musical family. He was exposed to a wide array of musical influences from a young age but always harbored a deep affection for jazz. After studying with Richard Sorce at NYU through his teens, he graduated high school early to study at Berklee College of Music before settling back down in New York.  Lured by a ripe music scene for working players, he transplanted to the Southeast where he currently resides on Hilton Head Island, SC. After touring and releasing Cd’s with his own band for seven years, he took to producing, musical directing and accompanying various regional and national acts including a long stint with singer/songwriter Angie Aparo, for whom his work was widely acclaimed.
After an encounter with one of the southeast’s iconic jazz figures, Bob Masteller, Lesch was hired to become a regular player at his club, The Jazz Corner, which has now become one of the most regarded venues for jazz musicians in the world. While doing this, Lesch has still found time to be a featured player on various cruise lines and tours, including a residency in China with guitarist Jackson Evans where they played their exciting brand of jazz to sold out audiences for 90 straight days.

Currently, Mr. Lesch is recording his debut Cd in the Jazz genre as a band leader. He performs regularly at The Jazz Corner, including his popular weekly Journey Through Jazz series where Lesch performs a history of jazz retrospective featuring everything from stride to modern piano technique. He also is an active member of the non-profit Junior Jazz Foundation, which carries out a mission to preserve America’s great art form of jazz by educating children and supplying them with the resources to pursue their talents while also promoting the art form to a larger audience.