Ben Pila - Music Alumnus
Benjamin Pila is the only classical guitarist that has been chosen to be a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Mr. Pila has performed in Alice Tully Hall, Avery-Fisher Hall and the Kaplan Penthouse in New York City’s Lincoln Center, at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and in Harris Concert Hall in Aspen, Colorado. He has played alongside Bonita Boyd of the Eastman School of Music and Grammy® Award winning artists David and Philip Ying. Mr. Pila was also invited to perform at the 2007, 2008 and 2011 September 11th Commemoration Ceremonies at Ground Zero in New York City.
Mr. Pila’s playing has been featured on the Today Show on NBC as well as on the National Public Radio program From the Top. He was awarded ASCAP’s Best Performance of a Contemporary Work and was the Young Artist of the Year in the Florida Chapter of the American String Teacher’s Association. Mr. Pila was the grand prize winner of the Tampa Bay Symphony’s Concerto Competition and has won prizes in the ASTA National Solo Competition, the NFAA youngARTS Competition, and the National Guitar Workshop Solo Competition. In 2002, he was the first guitarist to receive the Ruth Eckerd Hall Scholarship in the Performing Arts.
Benjamin received his Master’s degree from The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Sharon Isbin, and his Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University studying under Bruce Holzman. He is currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California under Scott Tennant of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.
Eric Darius - Music Alumnus
With the release of 2004's Night on the Town, saxophonist Eric Darius was prophetically hailed, Best Debut Artist of the Year by Smooth Jazz News, alerting the world that an exciting and vibrant new artist was officially embarking upon his destined mission to take the idiom to scintillating new heights. Noted for his searing and unrelenting passion and energy, Eric's albums and live performances earn him new fans at every turn, as well as industry and critical acclaim. His last album Just Getting Started debuted in the Top 10 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart, remained there for nine consecutive weeks, and featured four hit singles.
Living in Tampa, Florida, Eric has exceptional access to the cutting edge of pop sounds, considering the vibrant mix of Latin and African-American traditions and trends simmering and mixing there. "I pay attention to pop radio and go to clubs just to see what people are listening to," Darius shares. "It gives me a lot of inspiration, and also helps me to be aware of what’s relevant in today’s music.”
By age 11—after only playing for one year—Eric was chosen to be in Sonny LaRosa and America's Youngest Jazz Band, which consisted of young musicians, ages 5-12. The group toured the country and even played at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Throughout Eric’s young, illustrious career, he’s had the tremendous opportunity to travel and perform worldwide with groups, such as the Blake High School Jazz Ensemble, the University of South Florida Jazztet, and with his own band to Japan, Indonesia, France, Italy, and many other countries. In addition, he has also shared the stage with countless notable artists, such as Prince, Brian McKnight, George Benson, Wynton Marsalis, and Dionne Warwick, just to name a few.
Liana Repass - Drawing, Painting and Dance Alumnus
Liana Repass is an aerialist and a visual artist. Her visual arts education began at Howard W Blake School of the Arts, where she majored in drawing and painting while also studying with the dance department. After graduation from Blake in 1999, she continued her studies at Atlanta College of Art, where she graduated with a BFA in drawing. She is currently represented by Mason Murer Fine Art in Atlanta, Ga.
Liana is also a self trained aerialist, calling upon her extensive background in artistic gymnastics and ballet. Before being accepted into New England Center for Circus Arts last summer, she completed a nine month program focusing on doubled trapeze, acrobatics and aerial silks. She is a founding member of Atlanta's Entanglement Circus Troupe, performing in venues and arts events throughout the Southeast. Liana has worked with Cirque du Soleil's social outreach program Cirque du Monde since 2006.