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THE Ne Plus Ultra Jass ORCHESTRA
Sammuel Murry-Hawkins
KJ McElrath
Tom Vredevoogd
Rick Rier
Ron Phillips
Marc Grafe
Mike Connell
Steve Gordon
Dean Bunnell

Sammuel Murry-Hawkins, Orchestra Leader, Vocalist
Sammuel's musical interests were cultivated as a child. At age 10 his parents purchased a flute for the budding musician, and this would remain his primary instrument until age 25, when Sammuel purchased his first banjo ukulele. With this controversial conversion from classical culture to an instrument better suited to the comic tunes of the 1920s, it became obvious that a period of music hitherto unknown to the young man would shape his musical career as well as his personal life. Classically trained in voice in addition to flute, Sammuel's period sound has been influenced largely by Joey Nash, Rudy Vallee, and Russ Colombo. 

KJ McElrath, Piano, Accordion 

A longtime force in the Portland music scene, Kevin has composed and music directed for numerous projects around the Pacific Northwest. His composition, orchestration and performance work is highly inspired by classic jazz and ragtime. He studied with Robert Jager, Dominic Spera, Bill Dobbins, Chuck Israels and John Moawad, and holds a Masters Degree in Composition and Theory from Central Washington University.  K.J., along with his writing partner and director, Steve Coker, won the 2016 Portland Area Musical Theatre Award (PAMTA) for Best Original Song called “You Pull My Strings” from their period noir/vampire/werewolf musical, Dex Dixon! 

Tom Vredevoogd, Resonator Guitar, Banjo

Tom Vredevoogd, recieved his MFA from Ohio University.  Award-winning instrumentalist, Tom teaches in his own jazz-focused preschool. Tom was a member of the late vocal legend and Pink Martini co-founder, Lyndee Mah’s last musical project, The A String Ensemble. 

Rick Rier, Trumpet

Rick is a Portland native and life-long musician. Rick has played trumpet, trombone, and flugelhorn in a variety of settings from competitive Drum and Bugle Corps ensembles, club bands, and musical theatre ensembles. Rick recently completed a 38 year career as a teacher in the Portland School District and is currently the J.V. Basketball coach at Beaverton High School.

Ron Phillips, Trumpet

Ron Phillips has an extensive career playing in many ensembles, including, but not limited to: Pendleton High School Band, Pendleton Rangers Drum & Bugle Corp, Dixieland Jazz Quartet, Blue Mountain Community College Pep Band (Director), 298th & 392nd US Army Bands, The Royal Dukes Dance Orchestra (Petersburg, VA), The Gasoline Band (Europe), Mount Hood Community College “B” Band, Thara Memory’s Community Band, Corp Vets Percussion Ensemble, Get A Life Marching Band, Northwest Venture, Brass From The Past and Brass Attack Drum & Bugle Corps (Seattle), One More Time Around Again Marching Band, Portland Community Wind Ensemble, Power Pep Band, and The Beat Goes On Marching Band. Ron's talents include performing on a variety of horns, including: cornet, trumpet, flugelhorn, piston rotor bugle, kanstul 3 valve bugle, soprano trombone.

Marc Grafe, Alto Sax, Clarinet

Multi-instrumentalist Marc Grafe is a Portland native and a multi-instrumentalist appearing in such groups as Newport Symphony, Columbia Symphony, Bravo! Symphony and Little Ballet Company on the classical side; Soundstage Rhythm Orchestra, Love of Life Orchestra, Point Blank Silence, the legendary latin funk band Felicidades on another side; pit orchestras at Broadway Rose, Newmark Theater, Lakewood Theater, and Gilbert and Sullivan for Mocks Crest Productions on yet another. A composer, arranger, conductor, sound designer and recording engineer (his magic touch appears on albums released through Nonesuch, Lyrichord, CRI, Cramps and Lovely Music), he is a Straubinger certified flute and clarinet repair technician.

Mike Connell, Tenor Sax, Clarinet

Mike is playing again after a 35 year hiatus, performing on tenor saxophone and clarinet. Mike also plays in the New Horizons Big Band of Tualatin. Inspirations are Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Pete Fountain, Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Art Pepper, Don Menza. 

Steve Gordon, Alto Sax, Clarinet

Steve started his musical education on the accordion at the age of 7 and then took up the clarinet and saxophone in school. He played his way through college on clarinet,  alto saxophone, and accordion, gaining experience in the award winning UC Berkeley Jazz Ensembles and traveling with a circus band for two months each summer. Experiences with the Jazz Ensembles included backing up Sonny Rollins, Hubert Laws, Ed Shaughnessy, Freddie Hubbard in the 70s. In recent years Steve has played with many local orchestras and bands and is a regular member of the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra.  He also enjoys playing chamber music and is an active member of the clarinet quintet “Clarinets à la Mode.” His original composition and performance of “Ravenna” on accordion can be heard in the Sony Pictures Movie “Jodorowsky’s Dune” (2014).

Dean Bunnell, Percussion

Dean Bunnell began playing percussion in middle school. He continued his involvement with academic music programs throughout high school and university where he played in various concert bands, symphony orchestras, jazz bands, and percussion ensembles. He has also played in many community groups over the years including big bands, jazz combos, rock bands, and musical theater productions. Dean even worked as a cruise ship musician where he learned how to play while being sea-sick.

Mark Vehrencamp, Tuba

Mark grew up in Southern California, but moved north to attend the University of Oregon and begin his career in the Pacific Northwest. He received his BM in music education and became the band and orchestra director at Oregon City High School. Mark joined the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1999. His passion for playing the tuba sparked an expansion of his collection to include eight tubas, each with its own special musical purpose. Mark has played with the Oregon Symphony, Eugene Symphony, Portland Columbia Symphony, Portland Festival Symphony, Portland Chamber Orchestra and Big Horn Brass. Mark is the proud father of two and for the past 40 years has exercised his daytime passion as a locomotive engineer for the Southern Pacific/Union Pacific Railroad. Mark is a proud lifetime member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 99.


Bryant Byers, Trombone

Born on the isle of Manhattan into the nourishing roots of New York Jazz and the Broadway scene, Bryant Byers moved from the steel and glass of The Big Apple to be raised on the gilded shores of Gidget’s Malibu. Bryant has played concerts ranging from world renowned soprano Sumi Jo and legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma to icons, Tony Bennet and Johnny Mathis. TV.s American Idol seasons 1, 2, & 3. Films: Lalo Schifrin sound tracks Rush Hour II, and III and After The Sunset with Selma Hayek. Other recordings with iconic entertainers include, Steve Lawrence, Keely Smith, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Michael Feinstein. Bryant, now living in the mossy environs of The Pacific Northwest, enjoys painting and sketching as well as teaching private students and coaching after school music programs and playing classic Jass. Member Local #99.

Matt Goodling, Tenor, Tritone Trio

Matt Goodling has not performed in almost a decade and is delighted and grateful to be performing once again with Tritone Trio and The Ne Plus Ultra Jass Orchestra. A Pacific Northwest Native, Matt has been featured in many region musical theatre productions. In addition to his vocal prowess, he is also a very adept sound technician. He currently resides in Portland with his lovely wife Angela Baldino who without her help, he would not be up to snuff.

Timothy Lafolette, Baritone, Tritone Trio

Timothy Lafolette has been performing in the Portland area for the better part of the past 10 years. He was last seen as Mary Sunshine in Chicago at the Brunish Theater. He has been in productions at Mock’s Crest (Die Fledermaus), Northwest Children’s Theater (Beauty and the Beast), Lakewood Theater (Music Man, Hello Dolly!, and Oklahoma!), Gallery Theater (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Student Prince, Man of La Mancha), Live Onstage (Tommy), Metropolitan Community Theatre (Rent), and The Christmas Revels. Lately, he has been primarily singing in the Portland Opera Chorus (for most of the past 9 seasons), and working as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner/Psychiatric Services Manager in the Portland area.

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