Mark Dix: Founder of The Downtown Chamber Series, Violist with Phoenix Symphony

Mark Dix, founder and director of Downtown Chamber Series and violist with Phoenix Symphony, photographed at Phoenix Civic Space Park, by Nicki Escudero

Mark Dix, founder and director of The Downtown Chamber Series and violist with Phoenix Symphony, photographed at Phoenix Civic Space Park, by Nicki Escudero

Mark Dix
twitter.com/DTChamberSeries

Mark Dix gives orchestral music in the Valley an edgy twist. The violist for the Phoenix Symphony is the founder and director of The Downtown Chamber Series, which pairs orchestral performers with art gallery settings, for a transfixing aural and visual experience. The 43-year-old Phoenix resident won his Phoenix Symphony position in 1995, and then started Downtown Chamber Series in 2000. The Colorado native is also a talented violinist who teaches violin and viola and moderates the Phoenix Symphony String Ensemble Classroom Concerts.

Catch the next stunning Downtown Chamber Series concert Tuesday, June 10 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale. The concert features Ben Sollee, a cellist/singer-songwriter, along with a string quartet and clarinet.

Learn how Dix hopes to contribute to the Valley through his music, and watch him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

Orchestral musicians don’t pick the city we want to live in and then move there, because there are so few jobs. We open the union newspaper, called the International Musician, and in the back are listings of job openings for orchestras. We then fly at our own expense to those cities and take a rigorous audition. If we win, we move.

The year I was auditioning, in ’95, there were openings in Buffalo (N.Y.), Phoenix and another city. I moved here from New York City after going to grad school at the Manhattan School of Music. I also have a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Continue reading

Stacey Reed Hanlon: The Torch Theatre Improviser, Actor

Stacey Reed Hanlon, The Torch Theatre improviser and actor, photographed in downtown Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Reed Hanlon, The Torch Theatre improviser and actor, photographed in downtown Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Reed Hanlon
twitter.com/TheTorchTheatre

Stacey Reed Hanlon is one of the Valley’s funniest performers. As a veteran actress who got her improvising start in New York City, Reed has brought her natural knack for creating zany characters with strong personalities to Phoenix, helping found the Valley’s longform improv theater The Torch Theatre.

Reed Hanlon, a 37-year-old Phoenix resident and client specialist at Standard Printing Company, has been performing improv in the Valley for almost 10 years, in notable troupes such as Mail Order Bride, Light Rail Pirates, JaxN Reed, and The Foundation. She’s also an instructor at Valley Youth Theatre and The Torch Theatre, and does private musical theater coaching and improv troupe coaching. The talented improviser also has serious acting chops, having taken the stage for memorable gems such as A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55.

You can catch Reed Hanlon on stage with Mail Order Bride, Light Rail Pirates and JaxN Reed at the 13th Annual Phoenix Improv Festival, taking place this Thursday, April 17 through Saturday, April 19, at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix. Read on what drives her passion for theater, as well as to watch her talk about her favorite reasons for living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m originally from Clinton, Ohio and went to college at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to study English and French. I had always wanted to live in New York, and I moved there after college and worked in public relations for about seven years.

I met my boyfriend at the time, now my husband, whose parents had retired here. He moved here to be closer to family and really enjoyed the change of pace. I went through some professional changes in New York, and I missed him, so I decided to give Arizona a try and come out for a year, back in 2005. Here I am nine years later. I never would have thought I’d be living in Phoenix, and I never thought I would move across the country for a boy! Continue reading

John Costello, III: Wild Whirled Music and Fervor Records Co-Owner, Producer

John Costello III, Wild Whirled Music and Fervor Records president, co-founder and co-owner, and music producer, photographed at his studio in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

John Costello III, music producer and Wild Whirled Music and Fervor Records president, co-founder and co-owner, photographed at his studio in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

John Costello, III
twitter.com/JC3Music

John Costello, III writes so much music that’s used for TV and film, sometimes he doesn’t even know a song he’s written has been used in a show or movie until he’s watching it. The 50-year-old Scottsdale resident has written more than 1,000 songs and has released 10 albums, and as co-owner, co-founder and president of local label Fervor Records and music licensing company Wild Whirled Music, the songwriter and producer is responsible for creating soundtracks for everything from popular sitcoms to groundbreaking movies.

A collection of some of his remixed tracks, appropriately titled The Remixes, comes out Tuesday, April 29, and you can hear his music in the trailer for upcoming film Walk of Shame. He also has three songs featured in the upcoming Philip Seymour Hoffman film, God’s Pocket.

Get to know the musician, who talks about how local musicians can get involved with the label, better below, and keep reading to see a video of Costello name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents moved out here when I was in 7th grade. My grandparents were retiring, so I got transplanted. I left Chicago kicking and screaming, because I thought it was so incredible, but I’m happy my family moved out here. I had some health issues as a little kid, asthma and allergies, so Chicago was a really bad place to live. I went to Paradise Valley High School, and ASU for a short time. Continue reading

Sean Watson: Phoenix DJ for Bar Smith, Crescent Ballroom

Sean Watson, Phoenix DJ at Bar Smith, Crescent Ballroom and around the Valley, photographed at Lux Central, by Nicki Escudero

Sean Watson, Phoenix DJ at Bar Smith, Crescent Ballroom and around the Valley, photographed at Lux Central, by Nicki Escudero

Sean Watson
Facebook.com/DJSeanWatson

It’s impossible not to dance at a Sean Watson show. The professional DJ, a 42-year-old Phoenix resident who has commanded the masses to move for more than eight years, plays a mix of electronic dance music and popular hits that make anyone a fan. He’s just as energetic as his music, smiling and bouncing up and down to the beats, as a stunning visual show lights up the dance floor.

Catch him at his rowdy Friday night parties at Bar Smith in Phoenix every week from 9 p.m.-2 a.m., at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix Saturday’s from midnight- 2 a.m., and at Civic Space Park in Phoenix Thursday’s and Friday’s from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. He also plays special shows and will DJ a new Thursday night residency at new Phoenix venue The Local, starting at the end of April.

Watson, who’s also a music producer, talked about what it takes to become a professional DJ. Keep scrolling to watch a video of the longtime Arizonan name his five favorite reasons for living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

My family. I was born in Walnut Creek, California and came here when my parents moved here when I was 1 year old. I went to Brophy (college Preparatory) High School and to Northern Arizona University for a couple years. Continue reading

Pam Gaber: CEO of Gabriel’s Angels Pet Therapy Program

Pam Gaber, CEO of Gabriel's Angels, pet therapy for abused and at-risk children, photographed at her office in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Pam Gaber, CEO of Gabriel’s Angels, pet therapy for abused and at-risk children, photographed at her office in Phoenix with therapy dog Micah, by Nicki Escudero

Pam Gaber
twitter.com/GabrielsAngels

Pam Gaber just wanted to bring some light into the lives of at-risk children when she brought her dog, Gabriel, to visit the kids at Crisis Nursery in Phoenix while she was volunteering there back in 1999. His impact inspired her to start nonprofit Gabriel’s Angels, which connects therapy dogs with at-risk youth, going strong since 2000 and now serving 13,500 Valley kids a year. Gaber, a 57-year-old Scottsdale resident, ditched the corporate life to work full-time as CEO for Gabriel’s Angels, which now has 11 full-time employees and 175 therapy dog teams, as well as a therapy miniature horse, bunny and cat.

Gabriel’s Angels serves kids all over the state, from Tucson to Prescott, Sedona and Cottonwood, and is funded through individuals, corporate grants and events. The nonprofit hosts a breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore Friday, May 2, which is free to the public — find more information here. The organization is also partnering with Brad Jaffe, owner of Dogological dog teaching program, for his crowdfunding campaign for an upcoming dog training DVD — donate to the campaign, and a portion of the funds raised go toward Gabriel’s Angels.

Gaber, also the author of a memoir, Gabriel’s Angels: The Story of the Dog Who Inspired a Revolution, talked about how her passion for helping has turned into a new career. Scroll down to watch a video of her talking about her favorite reasons for living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

My corporate career. I was working for a pharmaceutical company in Florida before moving to Dallas, and then I was moved to Phoenix in 1989. I was born in New Jersey and grew up on the West coast of Florida. Continue reading

Brandy Hotchner: Artistic Director of Arizona Actors Academy

Brandy Hotchner, artistic director of Arizona Actors Academy and resident instructor at Phoenix Theatre, photographed at Phoenix Theatre, by Nicki Escudero

Brandy Hotchner, artistic director of Arizona Actors Academy and resident instructor at Phoenix Theatre, photographed at Phoenix Theatre, by Nicki Escudero

Brandy Hotchner
twitter.com/azactorsacademy

If you’re looking for a serious career in acting, taking a class by Brandy Hotchner is a great start. The 42-year-old Scottsdale resident and Denver native is a resident instructor at Phoenix Theatre and the artistic director for Arizona Actors Academy, which offers method acting, master acting, on-camera, Shakespeare, teen and improvisation classes to locals. Hotchner’s had the acting bug since she was a little kid and has extensive experience, including time in New York City.

Hotchner is passionate about improving the Arizona arts scene and talked about what the public can do to help. Read on to hear her talk about her five favorite reasons for loving living in Arizona, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came here from New York in 2002. I had been there more than a decade and had all the ups and downs of an acting and directing career out there.

September 11th (2001) was a very personally traumatic event for me, and after about a year, the city just didn’t feel like home for me anymore. Many of my friends and colleagues had moved to L.A. and were loving the beach and seemed to be pursuing a career with a little less strife. I left New York to go to L.A., and my family was here, so I stopped here along the way to regroup. That first week here, I met who would become my now-husband. Within a year, I was married and had my first baby, and here I am. Continue reading

Tammy Wadina: Owner of OMW Plumbing

Tammy Wadina, owner of OMW Plumbing, photographed at Kierland Commons in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Tammy Wadina, owner of OMW Plumbing, photographed at Kierland Commons in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero


Tammy Wadina
twitter.com/OMWPlumbing

You may not associate women with plumbing, but Tammy Wadina is one local lady who’s changing perceptions in the Valley. The 39-year-old Cave Creek resident owns OMW Plumbing, a 24/7, same-day plumbing company serving the entire Valley, as well as Tucson. Wadina, a licensed plumber, says she applies the same hospitality values she gleaned from her restaurant industry experience to her plumbing business she began in 2012, while her background in marketing and advertising has also been beneficial as a business owner.

Read on for Wadina’s plumbing maintenance tips, as well as to hear five reasons why she loves living in the Valley, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m from Greenfield, Wisconsin and moved here with my sister when I graduated college with a degree in business administration and hospitality management from Mount Mary College 14 years ago. We had aunts and uncles we had visited here, and we wanted to move to a warmer climate. Continue reading

Eddie Johnson: Phoenix Suns Announcer for Fox Sports Arizona

Eddie Johnson
twitter.com/Jumpshot8

Eddie Johnson brings a unique insider’s view to his role as a Phoenix Suns announcer for Fox Sports Arizona — from 1987-1990, he played with the Suns, and has been calling their games for the past 14 years. The 54-year-old Paradise Valley resident and 17-year NBA veteran is also a motivational speaker, basketball journalist for HoopsHype.com, and author of the book, You Big Dummy: An Athlete’s “SIMPLE” Guide to a Successful Career!, which he says offers words of wisdom and inspiration for readers to follow their dreams.

He offered up his insight on the Suns’ season, as well as why he loves living in the Valley in a video, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was almost forced to come here because I was traded from (the) Sacramento (Kings) to Phoenix, but I wasn’t forced to make it my home. I decided to make it my home after being traded here and playing for the Suns. I came to the Suns in 1987 and got traded from Phoenix to (the) Seattle (Supersonics) in ’90. (My wife and I) still had a house here in Phoenix, and we upgraded and bought another house here while I was in Seattle. Continue reading

Brad Jaffe: Owner of Dogological Dog Teaching Program

Brad Jaffe, owner of Dogological Dog Teaching Program, photographed at his Dogological headquarters in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Brad Jaffe, owner of Dogological Dog Teaching Program, with Gabriel’s Angels therapy dog Micah, photographed at his Dogological headquarters in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Brad Jaffe
twitter.com/Dogological

Brad Jaffe believes dogs should have an active part in their own training, which is why his Dogological method is all about working with the dogs as opposed to bribing or punishing them. Since 1999, the 46-year-old Phoenix resident has trained more than 6,000 dogs in private lessons and group classes. He also works with a greyhound rescue program with inmates at the Eloy Detention Center.

Now, Jaffe is getting ready to launch his first series of dog training DVDs and is currently promoting a crowdfunding campaign to help with post-production, a portion of which will go towards Gabriel’s Angels, a local nonprofit that brings therapy animals together with at-risk youth. You can donate to the campaign through March 14. Get to know Jaffe, who also wrote a dog communication-themed book called Conversations with Courtney, below. He also names his five favorite reasons for living in the Valley — keep scrolling for the video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came out here in 1984 and went to high school for a year at Chaparral High School because my aunt and uncle lived here, and I wanted to experience it. I loved it for the weather but moved away for awhile before coming back in ’94. I was born in Detroit. Continue reading

Rachel Meier: Owner of RPM Spin Drop-Saddle Spin Studio

Rachel Meier, owner of RPM Spin in Scottsdale, photographed in her studio, by Nicki Escudero

Rachel Meier, owner of RPM Spin in Scottsdale, photographed in her studio, by Nicki Escudero

Rachel Meier
twitter.com/RPMSpin2014

For three years, Rachel Meier taught one of the most well-attended cycling classes at LA Fitness, with students packing the room to catch her high-energy, super-challenging work-outs. This past January, the 31-year-old Scottsdale resident broke out on her own, opening one of the only drop-saddle spin studios in the North Valley, RPM Spin. Her boutique studio is filled with Revmaster Pro bikes from LeMond, complete with computers that sync with Polar heart rate monitors, so you can take your workout home and sync it with the app. There are also LED lighting effects, with lights changing colors throughout the ride that cause garments to glow in the dark.

Meier, who also is an instructor at her studio, talked about what it was like to make the leap to business owner, as well as what people can expect from a drop-saddle class. Scroll down to hear her talk about her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

The weather. I moved here in August of 2006, and am originally from Cortland, New York. I went to the University at Buffalo, and graduated with a double major in English and Communication. Continue reading