Meet Our Team


Jacob Szekely:  Artistic Director/Founder/Cello

Jacob Szekely was born in Brooklyn New York in 1979, and grew up in a musical family where his talent was recognized early on. He was accepted to study classical cello performance at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy for high school before attending The Cleveland Institute of Music for his Bachelor’s Degree and The University of Southern California for graduate studies.

Jacob lives in Los Angeles where he is in great demand as a sideman and session player having appeared in hundreds of commercials, television shows and movie scores. Jacob has been a featured performer or solo cellist with such popular artists as Mary J Blige, Jay Z, Ellie Goulding, Averil Levigne and Rush and on such Television shows as Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles to name a few. In addition to his busy schedule as a performer, Mr. Szekely is also active as a composer and arranger and has collaborated with a wide range of artists and ensembles from string quartets and world music groups to commissions for chamber orchestra and children's choir.

In 2007, Jacob expanded his role as musical ambassador through the co founding and artistic directorship of String Project Los Angeles, a music school and resource for the alternative string playing community throughout the world located in Venice California. In addition to String Project Los Angeles, Jacob has also conducted residencies and master classes across the united states at UCLA, Cal Arts, The Berklee School of Music, Oklahoma State University, Ithaca College and The American String Teachers Association’s national conference to name a few. Jacob has also served on the summer faculty of numerous summer festivals including The New Directions In Cello Festival and Christian Howes’ Creative Strings Workshop, with whom he co authored an article in the July 2012 issue of The Strad advising string teachers on how to approach improvisation.

In 2013, Jacob launched The Improvisor’s Guide to the cello, the first ever comprehensive video learning series designed to address the unique challenges classically trained cellists face when approaching creative string playing. In 2015 Jacob released the debut album for his new trio, which has received worldwide acclaim from The Strad and Strings Magazine to the International Review of Music.


Luis Mascaro Violin

Part of a new generation of creative string players, Brazilian violinist Luis Alberto is not afraid of using his solid classical background to explore new musical ideas, techniques, and sounds.

Luis was one of the few selected musicians to perform live at the 50th Grammy Awards with the Foo Fighters and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) in the YouTube contest “My Grammy Moment” in 2008, among thousands of video submissions.

Being one of the few classical trained violinists in his native country to explore alternative styles and techniques on the violin, Luis begun his studies at the age of 9, becoming the concertmaster of his city’s conservatory youth orchestra at 11. Luis holds a double bachelor degree in violin performance and popular music from Campinas State University (UNICAMP) in Brazil. First string player to graduate from the Popular Music degree at that University, he started more and more to venture in different styles such as jazz and Brazilian music. At that time, his activities included founding the only Brazilian Mahavishnu Orchestra cover band, touring with the Comboio Big Band and playing frequently with Chôro musicians.

In 2005 Luis was awarded full assistantship and scholarship to study at The University of Southern Mississippi, where he had the opportunity to study jazz and improvisation with saxophonist and educator Larry Panella. Luis worked as a Teaching Assistant for the jazz program, teaching improvisation I and II, and coaching the jazz combos as well. After that, he went to study at the University of New Mexico, where he got his MM in violin performance, under the guidance of Dr. Carmelo de los Santos, also on a full assistantship and scholarship award.

As a classical musician, Luis has worked and played recitals, solos, and performed with innumerous orchestras in different stages in South America, USA and Italy with orchestras such as Campinas Symphony, São José dos Campos Symphony, Gulfcoast Symphony, Mississippi Symphony, Meridian Symphony, Mobile Symphony, Santa Fé Pro-Musica, Baton Rouge Symphony, Las Cruces Symphony, among others. Luis has performed under the direction of great conductors such as Stefano Miceli, Roberto Minczuk, Karl Martin, and world renowned Kurt Masur. Under Masur’s baton, Luis recorded Mahler’s symphony no.1 and Barber’s adagio, in 2005.

This solid traditional education combined with his passion for Brazilian Music and Jazz are making Luis Alberto one of the most engaged and original violinists to develop a creative and unique language that combines popular music and violin playing. He is comfortable playing from Brazilian Choro melodies to intricate bebop tunes, going through fusion, progressive rock and many other styles. Luis researches and explores the use of pick-ups and electric violins, and has a thorough understanding of amplification and the use of effects for string instruments.

Mike Valerio Bass

Michael Valerio is one of the most in-demand bassists in the Los Angeles studio scene. In fact, you’ve probably listened to Mike play bass more than just about any bass player. If you’ve ever heard a soundtrack from John Williams, Hans Zimmer, or Danny Elfman in the past couple of decades, you’ve probably heard Mike playing bass on it.

Charlie Bisharat Violin

Charlie Bisharat is a Grammy-winning violinist who has toured and/or recorded with numerous notable artists. He was a member ofShadowfax, who won a Best New Age Performance Grammy in 1988 for Folksongs for a Nuclear Village. He has toured with Yanniduring the Reflections of Passion, Revolution in Sound, Dare to Dream and Yanni Live, The Symphony Concerts 1993 concert tours. He is also featured on John Tesh's live concert video Live at Red Rocks. Bisharat accompanied Tesh in live shows as his "co-writer" and "co-producer".[1]

Bisharat's work can be heard in more than 200 recordings, including soundtracks such as Swordfish, Texas Rangers and Steal Big Steal Little. He also had cameo performances in Austin Powers in Goldmember and The Drew Carey Show and Friends. Bisharat has written and recorded a jazz improvisational book and CD, "Beyond Classical Violin" for Cherry Lane Music.

Eric Benning Luthier

Eric Benning began making his first violin under the direction of his violinmaking parents, Hans and Nancy Benning, at the age of 9. Working only Saturdays and vacation days, Eric completed the violin at age 11. This was the beginning of a passionate desire to make instruments and to follow in the proud tradition of his family.

In 1997 Eric began studying with renown craftsman Carl Becker Jr., son of Carl Becker Sr., the celebrated Chicago maker who passed on his tradition of master violinmaking to Paul Toenniges, founder of Studio City Music, and to Hans and Nancy Benning. Eric spent time in Mittenwald, Germany learning the craft of elaborate scroll making, a skill and talent he's been widely recognized for.

Over the years, Eric continued making violins, violas and cellos and even a few viola d'amores while continuing his studies with Becker perfecting the old world style and working traditions that mark his current work. Eric has made over 100 instruments to date and is constantly working and learning to perfect his art.

Scott Fraser Engineer

Scott Fraser is a legend in the LA recording scene and knows more about sound design for electric strings than anyone around.  In addition to engineering, producing or mastering over 600 albums for a wide variety of artists and genres, Scott Fraser has toured as sound designer with the Kronos Quartet since 1992, & received a Grammy nomination for producing & engineering Kronos' 2005 CD "You've Stolen My Heart", featuring renowned Bollywood diva Asha Bhosle.

Noah Needleman Engineer

Noah Needleman has been making records for 16 years as an artist, producer, engineer, and mixer. His music has been featured on television, film, and radio, and has worked with grammy award winnings producers and musicians.