Instructors

All of the instructors associated with The Hickory Music Factory have specific talents and skills. Collectively, they have extensive experience in many fields – music instruction, recording, song writing, performance and more.

Tony Eltora (guitar) 828-638-0939 tonyeltora@gmail.com Tony Eltora grew up in Richmond VA where he attended Virginia Commonwealth University for music. In 1999 Tony moved to Hickory NC where he began teaching private guitar instruction and performing with several local and regional groups.

In 2004 Tony was asked by Rick Cline to help host his annual student concert where students have the opportunity to play on stage with a professional band. In 2005 Tony began taking students to local coffee houses to perform for the public to help further their musical education and also started his “Guitar Camp” for intermediate and advanced guitar students. In 2008 Tony was awarded a grant by the United Arts Council of Catawba County and started Hickory’s first ever “Rock Camp” which was a huge success and draws kids every year from all around the state. In that same year, Tony also started his annual “Christmas Jam” which helps raise money and instruments to scholarship kids for music lessons, camps and classes.

Because of his efforts and love of working with kids, Tony was asked by the Hickory Downtown Development Association to start up the “Teen Stage” at Hickory’s annual Oktoberfest. In addition, Tony host’s a monthly “Open Mic Night” in the community and recently founded the the Hickory Music Factory with Rick Cline. For more information about Tony Eltora, please visit, reverbnation.com/tonyeltora

Rick Cline (drums) 828-320-2959 rickclinenc@gmail.com  As a native of Hickory NC, Cline enjoys a wonderful musical career filled with numerous weekly performances and teaching both privately and at LRU and UNC  Charlotte. He is founder and director of the Piedmont Percussion Program, a program for kids ages 6-18 for 15 years. For his efforts in bringing the cultural arts to the community, he was the recipient of the City of Hickory’s Community Service Award, and the Ukama Award from the African American Cultural Center of Hickory.

Cline performs regularly with the Western Piedmont Symphony and the Hickory Choral Society. The past 11 years, he has hosted “Jazz OnTap” at the Olde Hickory Taproom, which was featured on PBS in the fall of 2002. Cline’s “Hickory Jazz Orchestra”, an 18 piece Big Band, performs yearly for downtown Hickory’s “Swingin Under the Stars” and in 2010 was the recipient of  the “Best Downtown Event in North Carolina” award by the NC Dept of Commerce’s Main Street Center.

Rick has performed with Jerry Lewis, Marie Osmond, The “Diamonds”, Charlie Daniels and many more regional and national acts. He performs in several rock, swing and funk bands on a regular basis. His solo CD ” Must BeThis Tall to Ride” was composed by Cline and has numerous percussion and steel drum ensemble pieces published including his book;  “TOOLS for the Developing Drummer”. Rick Cline holds a Masters in Music Performance from UNC Greensboro.

Alan Mearns (guitar, vocal) 828-228-3583 mearnsa@yahoo.com Alan is a native of Belfast Northern Ireland, switched from the violin to the Guitar at age ten upon watching an older friend play “Johnny Be Good”. He has not looked back since. Entering University with no formal training, he was the first guitarist to ever win the coveted Fletcher Scholarship, the only full ride scholarship available at ASU School of Music. Under the tutelage of Dr Douglas James, he went on to become a prize-winning classical guitarist, earning his Masters Degree in music performance with the world renowned virtuoso Dr Stanley Yates.

Mark “Conrad” Boudreau (mandolin, acoustic guitar) 315-240-4698 ffpizza5@hotmail.com       Steeped in traditional, folk, and blues, Conrad is an accomplished musician. His development and presentation of Rags to Rhythm, mandolin workshop, featured at festivals and music camps is well received.

Liam Bailey (fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar) 615-400-8088 liamthomasbailey@yahoo.com       Liam Bailey graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1997 with a BA in Composition and Film Scoring. He then moved to Fairfield County, Connecticut where he worked in commercial post-production for Playroom Studios and Aberrant Sound.  He worked directly with advertising companies and producers to compose, arrange, perform and produce media for nationally syndicated television commercials including Mattel, American Express, Washington Trust and many others. He also composed and performed music for documentaries on PBS and ESPN and several A&E programs including Pawn Stars and Dog the Bounty Hunter. During this time, he led classes in large group music making and early childhood musical development for the Music Together program of Princeton, NJ. He also taught composition, arranging, musicianship for the Suzuki programs TESS (Talent Education Suzuki School) and Suzuki of Westport, CT. Liam left post-production and teaching in 2006 to pursue his interests on the stage. He has since worked regularly with internationally recognized country artists including Rodney Atkins, Brett Eldredge, Rose Falcon, Jaida Dreyer and many others. He was lucky enough to celebrate seven #1 hit songs while working with Rodney Atkins at Curb Records. For over a decade, he has performed for audiences on landmark stages such as Red Rocks, The Grand Ol Opry, Radio City Music Hall, The Hollywood Bowl, The Beacon Theater and Times Square on New Years Eve. He has supported artists on tv shows including Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, the Tonight Show, Good Morning America and The Today Show and performed with the international tours of Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Brooks and Dunn, Martina McBride, ZZ Top and many others.  He has played on both the ACM and CMA Award programs and has participated in 3 USO tours in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Alaska. As a producer, he has released 3 full length recordings including “the HiMMs”, released in 2005 and featured in Country Weekly Magazine (www.thehimms.com). Most recently, he has produced the new album from “Goodbye Blue”, charting at #8 on the Roots Music Report’s Top 50 Folk Album Chart. He moved to Hickory, NC in 2016 to start a family. He will offer lessons for beginner to intermediate fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin at the Hickory Music Factory in April, 2016. In time, he plans to create interactive ensemble experiences for students interested in performance, production and songwriting.

E’Lon Bruce Jordan-Dunlap (bass) 828-449-4255 Elon.jordan87@gmail.com E’Lon Bruce Jordan-Dunlap is a professional bassist born and raised on Long Island, New York. He now resides in the Foothills of North Carolina where he is know for his affiliation with several musical acts throughout the region. His years of experience have made him well versed in several genres including rock, jazz, funk, R&B, hip hop, soul, and blues. He has worked with several great musicians and artist and has toured nationally within past 5 years with his former original group Yaddatu. E’Lon is currently teaching lessons to beginner and intermediate students that are passionate and are looking to further their ability and knowledge in music.

Luc Valcourt (drums, recording) 828-310-9095 valcourtl@yahoo.com  Luc has over 20 years of experience performing, teaching and in the studio. In 2007 Luc attended The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences where he studied the methods of analog and digital recording. Luc is fluent in most styles of drumming and encourages his students to perform in public and play with other musicians.

Matt Decker (drums, recording) 828-310-1661 mattdeckerdrums@yahoo.com  Matthew Decker is a percussionist, percussion educator, and sound engineer. For the past 17 years, he as been involved in performing and recording music. Decker is a member of The Percussive Arts Society, The Recording Engineers Association, and The American Federation of Musicians. As a child, Matthew was fortunate to begin his percussive studies under Rick Cline.

After high school, Matt attended Lenoir-Rhyne University and the Audio Recording Technology Institute of New York. While in New York, he had the opportunity and privilege to study under Dom Famularo, one of the forefathers of his craft.  Matt has 11 years of experience teaching private percussion lessons including drum-set, marching percussion, classical percussion, and hand-drumming. His students reflect Matthew’s need to remain versatile as a percussionist while integrating modern techniques for a constantly evolving art form. Decker is currently the percussion instructor for the Hickory High Marching Band and performs regularly with Falls Avenue, The Pan Jive Steel Drum Band, The Gahu West African Drumming Ensemble, and the Hickory Community Theater Orchestra. In addition to performing, Matthew remains active in local and regional audio/video production.

Denise Guthrie Filip (vocal, piano) 828-234-9714 denise.filip@itpbarcode.com Denise graduated from Indiana State University with a B.A. in Music Education. She has taught in public schools in Illinois and North Carolina. She has directed church choirs since the age of eighteen in various denominations, and credits her strong sacred music training from her home church, First United Methodist, Warren, Ohio. After moving to Hickory, North Carolina in 1982, Denise joined the Hickory Choral Society and has been a member for 28 years, taking some years off to raise children. She has directed children’s choirs and handbell choirs at Holy Trinity Lutheran, Hickory; Zion Lutheran, Hickory; and First Presbyterian, Hickory, and is currently Handbell Director at New Jerusalem Lutheran Church, Hickory. She also has led music teams for contemporary worship at Zion Lutheran, Holy Trinity and First Presbyterian churches. Denise has also directed music for several adult and children’s shows at the Hickory Community Theatre, as well as played keyboard in the orchestra. Her direction of “Singing in the Rain” earned her a Metrolina Theatre Best Musical Direction Award.

From 1989-1985, she maintained a 25+ voice and piano studio, participated in the North Carolina Federation performance program, where she also served as an adjudicator. She had been a judge for Rotarian Idol Auditions for four years. She also has served on the Boards of Women’s Resource Center, Hickory Choral Society (Past President), and currently serves on the Board of the Western Piedmont Symphony in Hickory. Her love of music is a family affair – married to Michael Filip, percussionist, for 32 years, they have two sons who perform on various instruments.

Laura Greene (piano, flute, violin) 828-244-8642 laurasmusicacademy@gmail.com  Laura has over 20 years of experience performing and teaching. She studied piano, flute, guitar, and percussion at Lenoir-Rhyne University and graduated with a degree in music in December of 2007. Laura is also a youth music director at her church and is fluent in music styles ranging from classical to contemporary.

Maria Elisa Grosso (violin, viola) 828-781-7803 mary.ely8889@gmail.com  Maria Elisa Grosso (Meg) is an Italian musician and singer. She teaches violin, viola, fiddle, voice for all levels and piano for beginners. She has a violin degree at Conservatorio “G. Puccini” in Gallarate and an opera voice degree at Conservatorio “G. Cantelli” in Novara. She also attended 5 years of classical piano and 8 years viola private lessons and master classes. Besides, her repertoire includes rock, pop and folk fiddle and she achieved level I and II of the O’Connor Method Teacher Training Program (the method focuses on folk fiddle tunes, improvisation, and is great for both kids and adults). She has been teaching in Varese (Italy) for 10 years and in Charlotte (NC) for 1 year in private and group lessons, to students of mixed ages and mixed nationalities: she speaks English, Spanish, German and French. As violin and viola player, she collaborated with many symphonic orchestras, holding concerts all over Italy and Switzerland and recorded for Italian Television. As a fiddler, she played with many folk rock, country and folk metal bands and recorded 4 albums. As opera singer, she debuted in the role of Morgana in the Haendel’s baroque opera Alcina and holds concerts between Italy and U.S.A.

John Alexander (sax, clarinet) 704-854-3415 johnjaz@att.net  John Alexander is Gastonia, NC native who received his music education at Erskine College in Due West, SC and at the University Of Miami in Miami, FL where he received a Master of Music degree in Jazz Pedagogy.   While in Florida he was a member of jazz great Ira Sullivan’s group of young protégés, and performed with Curtis Fuller and the Woody Herman Orchestra.

Since returning to Gastonia in 1992 Alexander has performed in most of the festivals and venues in the Charlotte area.  This year will mark his tenth year, with the group Big Octave, at Blue Restaurant and Bar in downtown Charlotte.   As a member of the Charlotte Jazz Orchestra he has written arrangements of more than fifteen of his original compositions as well as arrangements of jazz standards for the orchestra featuring vocalist Rene Ebalaroza.  His other performing credits include sixteen years with The Monday Night All Stars, chosen by Charlotte’s Creative Loafing as 2000’s Best Local R&B or Blues Artist/Group; Brothers, a five piece jazz quintet which was chosen as Best Local Jazz group by the editors of Charlotte’s Best magazine in 1999; and Carolina Sax And Rhythm, an eight piece jazz group including five saxophones, piano, bass, and drums for which he also composes and arranges.

As a member of a cultural delegation representing Gastonia, Alexander visited and performed at the annual spring festival in Gastonia’s sister city of Gotha, Germany in May, 2000.  He also performed in Okinawa in December, 1999 as a member of the Ron Brendle Quartet.

He is also music director for gtownsound, LLC, which produced Reunion 2011, A Rhythm & Blues Revival, a DVD featuring four Gastonia bands from the 60’s and 70’s and including The Counts, of which he is an original member.

His recording credits include contributing his original composition “Stargazer” to drummer Les Demerle’s On Fire recording for Pablo Records; the title tune for the south Florida big band Atlantean Driftwood’s Melts In Your Mouth recording; compositions, arrangements, and performance on Ira Sullivan: With Strings Attached; Atlantic Blue for Earth Songs; Out Of Nowhere by vocalist Toshiko Watabe; and Brothers with pianist Gary Marcus; You Need ‘Dis, released in December of 2001 and including all original compositions;  Debt To Heaven, including jazz arrangements of traditional hymns. His latest release, Big Octave, with the bassist Ron Brendle and drummer Chris Garges, is an adventurous collection of original compositions, jam tunes, and works by Ornette Coleman and the Beatles; and Many Hands, a CD of original compositions reflecting an array of contemporary musical styles.

Mark Hefner (trumpet) 828-851-3030 hefnermark@hotmail.com Mark Hefner is a professional trumpet player and teacher with over 25 years experience. After being selected to attend Governors School of North Carolina as a sophomore in high school he continued his music education at Mars Hill College. Mark has performed in many musical settings including Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum House Band, Lou Vuto’s A Tribute to Elvis Band, Lenoir Rhyne University Jazz Ensemble and Concert Band, The Bruce Long Orchestra, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church brass ensembles, Tri-City Baptist Church Orchestra and Praise Band, Hickory Choral Society orchestra, and The Hickory Jazz Orchestra. In addition to teaching private lessons, Mark was also the brass instructor at Tri-City Academy of Music and Arts for two years.

Rick Hefner (sax, flute, ukulele) 828-638-0501 rickhefner@gmail.com Wayne Hefner is a Musician, Saxophonist, Flutist, Composer, Arranger and Recording Artist/Producer. He studied Saxophone, Flute and Jazz Improvisation/Composition at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington under the instruction of Dr Frank Bongiorno. While attending UNCW Rick was the Recipient of the Adcock Scholarship and numerous performance awards. He also attended master classes and clinics conducted by Michael Brecker, Pat Labarbera, Slide Hampton, Bruce Foreman, Rich Matteson and Jimmy Heath. His professional career spans over 3 decades performing in diverse musical settings such as Theatre, Jazz Ensembles, Blues and R&B groups as well as solo performances. Rick has had the good fortune of playing with many renowned artists including Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, The Four Tops, Four Lads, Crystals, Tokens, Red Skelton, Bobby Rydell and Taj Mahal. He now lives in western North Carolina where he is a member of several professional Bands and offers private lessons. He is also founder of Lake Park Records and Ricks Music Service offering high quality, affordable music transcriptions and arrangements.

Christa Buff (music therapist) 828-962-8938 christa.buff@yahoo.com Christa Buff, MT-BC is a nationally board certified music therapist. Christa earned her bachelor degree (cum laude) in Music Therapy, as well as a minor in Psychology, from Queens University of Charlotte where she studied classical guitar. Prior to completing her studies in Charlotte, Christa also obtained an associate degree in fine arts in music (with honors) from Catawba Valley Community College, also studying classical guitar.

Christa successfully completed her certification board exam after a 9-month music therapy internship. Christa received training at Levine Children’s Hospital, (Charlotte), Holy Angels (Belmont), Special Kare for Special Kids (Gastonia), and Roots and Wings Music Therapy (Charlotte). She received specialized training working with children, adolescents, and adults with developmental and/or behavioral diagnoses as well as co-treating within an interdisciplinary team.

Originally from the Hickory area, she has performed with the Pan Jive Steel Drum Band since 1999. She volunteers with DrumSTRONG (Drums for Cures), and Levine Children’s Hospital in the Ryan Seacrest Studio. In addition to percussion, Christa also enjoys playing guitar, ukulele, and piano.

Christa is passionate about providing person centered therapy. Her services are grounded by a humanistic approach.

Intern Teachers

Katherine Reese (drums)