Brandon J. Lesando
Director of Bands, Blue Valley Southwest High School
Mr. Lesando is the Director of Bands at Blue Valley Southwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas after previously serving as the assistant. Starting his music education career in North Florida, Lesando taught instrumental music at Duncan U. Fletcher High School and St. Augustine High School where ensembles under his direction excelled in local and state performance arenas with thriving membership growth. Lesando is a graduate of the University of North Florida where he studied Horn and Euphonium and earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree, Cum Laude. He is currently pursuing his Master of Music Education degree from the University of Colorado – Boulder and is this year’s ECKMEA Outstanding Young Music Educator of the Year.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Lesando enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2004. His assignments included serving as a submarine nuclear weapons technician onboard the USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740 GOLD) and as a Navy Formal Schools instructor for incoming students and fleet sailors at the Trident Training Facility in Kings Bay, GA. In 2011, Lesando was Honorably Discharged from active duty as a Missile Technician, 1st Class (Submarines) with awards for achievement, volunteer service, and good conduct. email
Assistant Director of Bands, Blue Valley Southwest High School
Lauded as an inspiring educator and gifted musician, Allegra Wolff is a graduate assistant for the University of Central Missouri bands, where she assists with all aspects of the instrumental music program and is the director of the award-winning UCM guard program. Influenced by her mentors, Dr. Joseph Parisi, Steven D. Davis, Jeff Hinton, Dr. Julia Baumanis, and Dr. Anthony Pursell, she is incredibly excited to inspire musicians and serve as the Assistant Director of Bands at Blue Valley Southwest High School. Ms. Wolff's recent staff experiences include working with the Pride of Branson High School Bands as a woodwind and guard instructor, the Blue Springs South Jaguar Pride as a woodwind instructor, the University of Central Missouri as the director of the color guard and winter guard program, and Blue Valley Southwest Emerald Regiment as a guard instructor. Allegra holds a bachelor of business administration from the University of Missouri - Kansas City, a bachelor of music education from Missouri Western State University, and graduates with her master's in wind conducting at the University of Central Missouri on May 6, 2022. email
Michelle Van Unen
Director of Bands, Aubry Bend Middle School
Ms. Michelle Van Unen has been the band director at Aubry Bend Middle School since the school opened in 2011. Prior to joining the Blue Valley District, Ms. Van Unen earned her Bachelor of Music Education degree at Arizona State University; taught junior high band for four years in the Mesa (AZ) Public Schools; and subsequently earned her Master of Music in Conducting at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, where she served as a graduate teaching assistant for the band program. Additionally, she has experience working with high school marching bands in Gilbert and Tempe, AZ, and has studied at numerous summer conducting symposia, including Northwestern University, University of North Texas, and Michigan State University. email
Adjunct Music Faculty
Kevin Clarke graduated from the prestigious Peabody Conservatory, and immediately found work as timpanist of the Daejeon Philharmonic in South Korea, where he stayed for 10 years. Kevin was asked to take over the KC Youth Percussion Ensemble in 2016 upon the retirement of percussion education legend Keith Larson. Through the KCYPE students have the opportunity for private instruction on all percussion instruments, riveting ensemble music performance (including performances at the Kauffman Center) and Masterclasses with Local, National, and international soloists and college professors. Students through KCYPE are regularly district and state band members, and have succeeded in local area soloist competitions.
Kevin can be seen in performances with NewEar Chamber Music Ensemble (www.newear.org), as a leader in the KC Youth Percussion Ensemble (www.kcype.org), and, on occasion, with the KC Symphony.
Director of Kansas City Youth Percussion Ensemble
NewEar Contemporary Chamber Music, Principal Percussion
Director of KC Studios
Principal Timpanist, Principal Percussion (retired)
Chacko is a trombonist born and raised in the Kansas City area. He graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance with an emphasis in trombone. Chacko’s works at BAC Music Center in Overland Park as a Sales and Education Representative. Chacko is also a full time musician with the Kansas City Latin Jazz Orchestra, FMO Big Band, Gekko and is a first call for many musical theatre groups around the metro area. He has judged Solo and Ensemble for many districts in Kansas City including KC Metro and Liberty and continues to work with local band programs. He has recorded on notable albums including Marcus Lewis Big Band’s Brass and Boujee. Chacko is a performing artist for BAC and is honored to join the adjunct faculty at BVSW!
Hilary Lowery is a Doctoral student and Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Kansas. She received a Bachelor of Music degree in Clarinet Performance at the University of Oklahoma. During her time at OU, Hilary built a thriving studio of middle and high school students, as well as providing regional high schools with chamber coaching and sectionals.
As a performer, Hilary has performed with wind ensembles and orchestras in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and abroad. She has recently performed with the Classical Beat Festival 2019, touring in cities across Germany. Hilary is currently a member of the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble, playing Eb Clarinet, and a member of the KU Symphony Orchestra. While a member of the OU Wind Symphony, she was selected for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association Intercollegiate Honor Band, under the baton of Eugene Corporon. In 2011 she performed the Weber Concertino as a concerto competition winner with the Oklahoma City Symphonic Band. Hilary has also had the honor of performing in a side-by-side concert with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and performed as a soloist at the Belgian Clarinet Academy, playing Weber Concerto No.2.
Hilary has had the privilege of working with artists such as Boris Allakhverdyan (Principal Clarinet in the Metropolitan Opera), Bill Hudgins (Principal Clarinet in the Boston Symphony Orchestra), Robert Spring (Professor of Clarinet at Arizona State University), and Julia Heinen (Professor of Clarinet at California State University, Northridge). She has also performed in Masterclasses with Roeland Hendrix at the University of Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium, and Scott Andrews at the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory.
Hilary has been the Assistant Coordinator of the Midwestern Music Camps, Prairie Winds Music Festival, and Graduate Teaching Staff for the Marching Jayhawks at the University of Kansas.Hilary was a staff coordinator at the University of Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium from 2010 to 2014. She was in charge of registration, creating programs, monitoring masterclasses, and managing artist recitals for the symposium. Hilary was also a volunteer at ClarinetFest 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas, where she was in charge of similar duties. Hilary is currently a student of Dr. Stephanie Zelnick at the University of Kansas. Previous instructors include Dr. David Etheridge, Dr. Suzanne Tirk, Bradford Behn, and Dr. Jane Carl.
David Thal is a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, where he earned a degree in trumpet performance and played in the Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Paul Popiel. David is a freelance trumpet player and private lessons teacher in the greater Kansas City area, and is always looking to gain new students. His business card reads “Senior Executive of Taking Care of Business.” David’s credits as a performer include 2 summers in Drum Corps International where he marched on trumpet with the Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps and the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps. This is his first year working with Southwest, beginning with the 2019 marching season working as a visual and music specialist. Other credits include: Glass Bandit fusion funk band, Bravura chamber orchestra, and the University of Kansas Marching Jayhawks.
Elizabeth Valle is currently completing a Masters from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance in Music Theory. She also has an undergraduate degree from Midamerica Nazarene University in Harp Pedagogy. During graduate school, she was the principal harpist for the UMKC Orchestra, as well the featured harpist for the Midwest Chamber Ensemble in 2013 and 2014. She has also performed with multiple other professional ensembles in the Kansas City area. Elizabeth has been teaching music to students in the Kansas City area for fourteen years, and has been active in many of the local music associations such as OMTA, KCMTA, and MAMA. In addition, she is currently the President of the Kansas City Lyra Chapter of the American Harp Society. Elizabeth has also chaired or co-chaired many large events in the KC area, including: the OMTA Solo Festival, the Lyra Chapter KC Harp Weekend, and the KC Harp Competition.
A native of Kansas City, bassoonist Austin Way joined the faculty at Washburn University as the Professor of Bassoon in the fall of 2017 and also performs as a freelance musician with groups such as the Kansas City Symphony and other local ensembles. Prior to this he was the Second Bassoonist of the Orquesta Sinfónica Sinaloa de las Artes during its 2015 to 2016 season, and served as Acting Principal Bassoonist for the 2016 to 2017 season, where he had the opportunity to tour with the orchestra throughout Mexico, including a performance in December of 2016 in Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the orchestra.
As a chamber musician Mr. Way performed with Pittsburgh’s Incidental Chamber Players during its inaugural season of 2014 to 2015, as well as collaborating with musicians across to country in chamber music performances in Los Angeles, Aspen, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh among others. As an advocate for new music he has had the opportunity to work with many composers, and can be heard performing as the Principal Bassoonist on a recorded collection of concertos for soloists with wind ensemble by Leonardo Balada, recorded for the Naxos Label. Mr. Way has also performed as part of a double reed consort in recital at the 2010 International Double Reed Society Conference in Norman, Oklahoma as both a bassoonist and contrabassoonist. From 2012 to 2015 he held a bassoon and contrabassoon fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival and School where he spent these summers performing in the faculty orchestras.
Involved in the community as well, Mr. Way has maintained a focus on community outreach, including his partnership with Musicians With A Mission during his time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Through this organization he was able to team up with colleagues and take programs of solo and chamber music to retirement homes and senior groups around the city, as well as performing selections of music from around the world for the University of Pittsburgh’s Nationality Rooms, a festival to celebrate the cultures of the world. Mr. Way holds degrees from the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance as well as Carnegie Mellon University. His primary teachers include Marita Abner, Nancy Goeres, and Per Hannevold.
Professor of Bassoon
Washburn University, Department of Music