Vancouver musician Michelle Cormier’s wide-ranging musical interests have given her a broad array of musical experiences – studying classical guitar at Vancouver Community College, performing with the Balinese ensemble Gamelan Gita Asmara, teaching guitar, and directing Canada’s first children’s mariachi band. Michelle’s work explores the links between distant musical cultures – through guitar playing, percussion, singing, performance, and education. She has also studied Afro-cuban rhythms and arrangements with Israel Berriel (of Matanzas, Cuba), Sigfrido Borbon (of Guantanamo, Cuba) and Alfonso Borges (of Santiago de Cuba). As director, instructor and administrator of School of Groove, Michelle takes students on an exploration of the musical traditions of Cuba, Brazil, parts of Africa and around the Caribbean. To satisfy her own passion for Spanish and Latin American music, Michelle directs an all-female Mariachi band and works with other local musicians, including Katheryn Petersen (accordion) and Elmar Spanier (bass) on presenting traditional Argentine tango as Los Porteños del Norte.
Israel (Toto) Berriel
Toto is a traditional Afro-Cuban percussionist and vocalist from Matanzas, Cuba. Toto began his professional music career at the young age of 16 in Los Yumurinos, a group formed by the children of the famous groups Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and AfroCuba de Matanzas, two well recognized traditional AfroCuban groups. In 1988 he joined AfroCuba de Matanzas. He worked with AfroCuba de Matanzas for two years until he was invited to join the world’s best-known Rumba group, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.Toto worked with the Los Muñequitos for twelve years learning the entire AfroCuban repertoire. A naturally gifted vocalist with a distinctive sound, his easy charm, charisma and his Cuban warmth, make Toto an exceptional and approachable music teacher. His classes are both comfortable and challenging; and the combination makes for a productive working environment. Although Toto is deeply rooted in the AfroCuban traditions, he is also comfortable in different musical environment such as jazz, modern music, soul and funk amongst others. Toto has toured worldwide in countries such as, Canada, United States, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France and Korea, singing, playing and teaching in various workshops.
Robin grew up in Victoria and had the good fortune of being mentored by renowned percussionist and educator Sal Ferreras at UVic as a teenager, studying classical percussion with a major focus on marimba. Robin soon fell in love with the rhythms of salsa and Latin percussion and followed this passion to the LA Music Academy where he studied jazz, latin and pop percussion with Billy Hulting (Zappa plays Zappa), Jerry Steinholtz (Diana Ross), Michael Shapiro (Sergio Mendes) among others before moving to Vancouver.
Since 2008 Robin has become a regular fixture on the B.C. festival circuit, collaborating with a wide spectrum of folk and world artists. His recent touring engagements have led him to Europe, Mexico, China, the U.S. and Canada. He has followed his love of world music to Cuba, Guinea, Mali, and Mexico studying under master drummers and marimbists of those respective traditions. He currently performs with world music groups Locarno, Mazacote, Tambura Rasa, and The Robin Layne Band. He is in demand as a freelance percussionist for recordings, performances and tours. Recent highlights include working with Juno Award winning artists Quique Escamilla, The Paperboys, Donne Roberts (African Guitar Summit), Alpha Yaya Diallo, Celso Machado and Silk Road Music.
Equally at home on a festival stage or in a classroom, Robin strongly believes that the gift of music should be accessible to everyone. He is the senior percussion instructor at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music and the Artistic Director of the World Rhythms for Youth Society. In his spare time, Robin is working on his debut album set for release later this year.