Happy Retreat Request for Qualifications

Robert Sykes – Jazz Pianist

Jazz pianist, Robert Sykes, has been teaching and performing professionally for the past forty years in the Washington, DC area. He maintains an active performing schedule as a free-lance pianist,  and has performed at various venues, including The Kennedy Center, Blues Alley, Carter Baron Amphitheatre, Lisner Auditorium, The Phillips Collection, The Hirshorn Museum, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Hillwood Museum, The Barns of Wolftrap, and the Swiss Embassy.

Robert is often called to perform at functions hosted by notable Washington dignitaries, including a reception for the Ambassador of Japan, a retirement party in the home of former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, and receptions for Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Robert has been a faculty member of the Jazz department at Levine Music in Washington, DC since 1994. He is the former Chair of the Jazz Faculty, during which he coordinated Master classes with Kenny Werner, Stanley Cowell, and Shiela Jordan. Performing in Levine Music’s Spracker MasterClass Series, Robert has had the pleasure of accompanying legendary vocalists Sheila Jordan and Nina Freelon. He is also a founding member of the Levine Faculty Jazz Trio. Robert is a frequent contributor to concerts at Levine Music and area Embassies with the jazz faculty, and he also coordinates the Levine Entertains agency, which assists community members who want to hire Levine faculty for private events. www.levinemusic.org

Robert joined the adjunct music faculty at Shepherd University School of Music, Shepherdstown, WV in 2021.  He teaches jazz piano applied lessons and Class Jazz Piano, as well as performances with the jazz faculty. In 2018, he was also on the Jazz Camp faculty for middle and high schoolers.

Robert can be heard on his own recording, Four + Four, featuring the Robert Sykes Quintet. This album includes four jazz standards and four original compositions. He also recorded a Christmas album in 2021 with the Antietam Jazz Collective, featuring Scott Silbert, Anita Thomas, and Gary Montanaro. Locally, he has performed at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, the Washington County Library Noteworthy Concert series, and at the Bavarian Inn and Big Cork Vineyards. His website is www.robertsykesjazz.com.


Gary Montanaro – Jazz Drummer

Gary Montanaro is a professional jazz drummer who has been performing in the DC Metropolitan area for over 20 years. Originally from New York, he began playing drums at the age of 9 and played with a variety of music groups throughout High School. He minored in music at Towson University where he studied under Berkeley Graduate drum instructor, Grant Menefee and went on to study privately with some of the area’s finest jazz drummers such as Dominic Smith. Gary was fortunate to receive several lessons with the late, great local jazz drumming legend, Mike Smith. He has performed at the various local venues such as Blues Alley, Twins, Bohemian Caverns and more. He was the Music Coordinator and Manager of Houston’s Woodmont Grill’s “Live Jazz Nightly” venue for over 12 years. He could be seen performing there 5 nights each week until the recent COVID restrictions in March have put their live music venue on hold.


Anita Thomas – Multi-Instrumentalist

Multi-instrumentalist Anita Thomas delights audiences with her energy, exceptional skill and sincerity. Equally adept at playing clarinet, saxophone and acoustic bass, Anita can be heard performing in jazz as well as classical ensembles. Originally from Sydney, Australia she has now made her home in the USA. She enjoyed a successful musical career in Australia, releasing 2 CD’s and touring with
virtuosic, multi-instrumentalist James Morrison, John Morrison’s Swing City Big Band, the Mell-o-tones and also her own jazz quintet. In 2001 Anita moved to the Los Angeles area and quickly became an active performing and recording artist on the West Coast. She also began studying with jazz masters Jeff Clayton (saxophone) and Eugene “the Senator” J Wright (bass). Since 2008, Anita has resided in the greater Baltimore/Washington DC area where she has performed with the Brooks Tegler Big Band, Craig Gildner and the Blue Crescent Syncopators and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. In 2019 Anita toured back to Australia and New Zealand with The Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Rick Gerber. She was featured playing didjeridoo on the Grammy-nominated composition by Tim Davies, “Counting To Infinity,” and has recorded for soundtracks and with the famed children’s entertainment group, The Wiggles. In 2014, she released her third CD,
“Dominos.” Featuring original compositions, the album has been described as “hard swinging, quirky and fun…jazz from the heart.”



Karen Gray – Jazz Vocalist

Karen Gray is a Washington DC-based jazz vocalist whose love of the repertoire is evident in her sensitive and expressive interpretation. She’s a big fan of the music of Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Cy Coleman, and her favorite lyricist, Johnny Mercer. Karen’s area performance resume includes: The Kennedy Center, The Smithsonian Jazz Cafe, Adams Morgan Day, The Shepherdstown Opera House, Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, and 1000s of club dates and private events. She is a frequent and enthusiastic collaborator with the Bob Sykes ensemble.