A teaching artist is a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills, curiosities and habits of mind of an educator, who can effectively engage a wide range of people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts.
— Eric Booth

Nationally recognized, Award Winning - team 



Dr. Dave Wilken, Program Coordinator

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Dr. Wilken studied composition at Illinois Wesleyan University, jazz studies at DePaul University, and trombone performance at Ball State University. He has taught music at Indiana Wesleyan University, Adams State College, University of North Carolina at Asheville, and Western Carolina University, Owen High School. Based in Asheville, NC, he performs as a freelance trombonist in the region, directs the Asheville Jazz Orchestra and the Land of the Sky Symphonic Band. He also composes and arranges music for a variety of student and professional ensembles. While a graduate student Dr. Wilken developed an interest in how brass embouchures function after a lesson with trombonist Doug Elliott. His dissertation topic explored the physical characteristics that can make different players’ embouchures function correctly in very different ways. He continues to study brass embouchures in detail and is devoted to making this under-recognized topic more accessible to teachers and brass musicians.


Shambra Watkins, Academic Support Specialist


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Shambra Hall Watkins graduated from Western Carolina University in 1992 receiving a BA in Early Childhood Education/Birth-Kindergarten Licensure. She taught 7 years through the Community Action Opportunities of Madison and Buncombe Counties Head Start Program. She has served as a Kindergarten teacher at Hall Fletcher Elementary School for 11 years. Shambra is a musician. She has years of experiences with singing on the Western Carolina University Chorus, Western Carolina Inspirational Gospel Choir, and with her church choir. Shambra is currently re-learning how to play the clarinet along with her MW! students. She has a passion for teaching young children. As MW! Academic Support Specialist, she assists students in learning the early fundamentals of academics while learning music. She believes that musical experiences provide students with the opportunity to socialize and learn self-regulation as students are able to sing, dance and play instruments together while also learning how to share, take turns, learn cultural awareness, and increase fine and large motor skills.  Shambra feels strongly that Music Works! helps close the achievement gap by providing students’ the opportunity to learn important academic skills while enjoying and learning music.


Josh Finkler - Percussion Teaching Artist


Josh Finkler, originally from Connecticut, found his way down to Asheville in 1999 to study at Warren Wilson College. Josh earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and immediately began a career in mental health. After working locally in this field for several years, he decided to pursue a new passion, music education. Mr. Josh earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC in 2010. There, he focused on choral music, elementary music education and classical training in voice. For the past five years, Josh has worked in public, charter and private schools in Asheville, gathering a strong understanding of both general and music education. In January 2016, Josh launched his new music education business, Finkletones, located at Roots + Wings Creative Campus. Finkletones provides private and group music instruction for all types and ages of musicians. In addition to growing Finkletones, Mr. Josh is a Teaching Assistant at Roots + Wings Visual Arts Preschool.  In his spare time, he can be found singing with and serving on the board for the Asheville Choral Society, working on his house, mt. biking, playing with his “furbabies” or enjoying life with his partner.


Laura Blackley - Musicianship Teaching Artist

Laura Blackley is a singer, songwriter and purveyor of high lonesome Appalachian blues and soul. She was an on-air host and producer for seven years at WNCW 88.7 FM in Spindale, NC, spotlighting regional music, women in roots music, and bluegrass and old-time. She has played in many bands, traveled many back roads and interstates, enjoys digging up old tunes and hearing the stories behind them. She believes that music has a healing power and is a communal act. She's excited to share her passion and her music. 


Aaron Price - Kindergarten Teaching Artist


Aaron is a lifelong musician very honored and excited to be a part of the MusicWorks team. Fluent as a vocalist, pianist, and guitarist, he brings a wide musical and performance background to the program. As a theater musical director, youth camp music-instructor, and church music director Aaron is always seeking to build a team and bring out the best in the group. Aaron comes from a long matriarchal line of piano teachers and choir directors! In addition to teaching individual music lessons, he is active in the Asheville music scene, performing regularly with several notable acts including Wham Bam Bowie Band, The Zealots, and The Jeff Thompson Band.




Anilia Hornsby - Program Assistant/Chief Happiness Officer


Anilia Hornsby was born just outside Petionville, Haiti to missionary parents.  She moved to the US in 1987, fleeing with her family as political violence escalated. After spending time in south west Virginia she moved to Baltimore and worked at Johns Hopkins University where she ran an outdoor movie series every summer and coordinated student activities for high school students coming into take college courses during the summer. She also traveled all over the country teaching senior citizens about the changes to Medicare.  In 2009 she became a mother and since then has focused on playing with children and learning from her son and daughter.  In the time left over from that she is an avid sewer and knitter.  You can find her nose stuck in a book at the beginning and end of almost every day.