Michelle Cormier

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.

Laloc Vallejo

Percussionist from Guanajuato, Mexico, Laloc not only maintains his Mexican musical routes, but connects intimately with the distinct rhythms and musical styles such as Jazz, Manouche, Latin, Flamenco, Brasilian, afro-cuban and afro-peruvian.

He started his studies in 1998 in the Department of Music at the University of Guanajuato, at the same time studying with professors of diverse genres.

He has presented in events and festivals around the world including Romania, Belfort and Bordeaux in France, in the United States (Chicago, Indianapolis and Oregon) and around many states in Mexico including the International Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato. He currently works as a teacher and collaborates in various musical projects around the country.