Megan Leigh Johnson- Founder/Owner & Lead Cellist
Megan began playing the cello as a young child in Atlanta, GA. After moving to the SC low-country in 2004, she studied with Damian Kremer and Natalia Khoma in Charleston, SC. Through her high school studies, she was an active part of the Beaufort, SC classical music scene, regularly performing with the Beaufort Chamber Orchestra. She was principal cellist of the Beaufort Youth Orchestra through grade school, eventually teaching cello students in the area. She began performing for weddings/special events over 10 years ago, and has since played/organized hundreds of events. She attended the University of North Carolina in Greensboro as a Cello Performance Major, then finished her studies with Natalia Khoma at the College of Charleston, completing her Bachelor’s degree in Cello Performance.
Megan has been honored to share the stage with Yo-Yo Ma, Andres Cardenes, Bela Fleck, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, William Preucil, and many other world-renowned musicians. She attended the advanced division of Brevard Music Festival. Currently living in Asheville, NC, she enjoys performing with the Johnson City Symphony, STACE, and her regular string trio consisting of harp, violin, and cello. She will be sure that your wedding/special event music is performed at the highest level of professionalism, only hiring the most talented musicians in the region.
In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter and partner, Tate. Hiking, calendars, fun-colored pens, traveling to new places, & meeting new people are some of Megan’s favorite activities.
Some of her favorite artists (and requests) are Thom Yorke, Samuel Barber, Metallica, Evanescence, Tool, The Cranberries, anything Baroque, soundtrack music, Linkin Park, & Imogen Heap.
She chooses to donate to Helpmate to support domestic violence awareness. She believes in healthy, happy love (whatever that looks like for you). Carolina Music Planner supports LGBTQ clients with open arms.
Harpist & Assistant Manager
Michelle is a professional harpist, pianist, and illustrator who lives in Asheville with her husband, their awesome daughter, a dog named Zoe and a fish named Princess Fluffy Pants. Michelle started playing music at the age of eight but didn’t sit behind a harp until she was sixteen. After one year of harp lessons, she was encouraged to audition for the Florida State University’s College of Music to gain experience. She was not only accepted but was offered a full scholarship on the spot! What?! And just like that, she was a music major.
She graduated from FSU with a degree in Music Therapy and concentration in Harp Performance in 2007. She has since worked as a Board Certified Music Therapist and Professional Harpist in diverse settings such as Hospice, Assisted Living Centers, Rehabilitation Clinics, Cancer Centers, Regional Hospitals, Private Residences, Hotels, and many, many, many Event Venues. She even performed in prison a few times! After which, she likes to tell her family she spent the evening in prison again.
Her career accomplishments so far include pioneering a successful Music Therapy Program at Mission Regional Hospital and being interviewed twice about music therapy for national and local news stories! She was also featured in a local Subaru Commercial! Sadly, did not receive a Subaru in compensation.
She enjoys life as a mom during the week, keeping her toddler from drawing on walls and herself during chats with brides and other clients on the phone. On the weekends she's a Professional Harpist playing events all around WNC. She's Asheville’s Alternative Harpist, known for repertoire beyond traditional and classical music, including pop, jazz, and rock.
Some of her favorite requests are from bands and artists like Radiohead, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Alice in Chains, Bob Marley, The Cranberries, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Alanis Morissette, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Moody Blues, David Bowie, The Beatles and Nirvana. When she's not playing fun sets of music around town, she enjoys baking, hiking, art projects, illustrating funny comics about slugs and other critters and reading Green Eggs and Ham to her daughter for the 2,345th time and counting.
Michelle's experience as a professional musician and music therapist has left her with a profound appreciation of the power of live music and how it can make events magical and leave people feeling changed for the better. She's excited about working with Carolina Music Planner in providing a larger volume and variety of awesome music to awesome events all over the Carolinas and beyond! There's a lot of combined experience and vision all coming together at CMP and Michelle is thrilled to have a hand in providing live music to a growing and happy audience.
Paul- Violinist, Violist, & Mandolin
Paul is originally from Augusta, GA, where he studied Suzuki Violin Method from age three until graduating high school from Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School. In middle school, he began playing in chamber music ensembles for weddings and similar events through his Suzuki & orchestra teachers. Paul graduated from UNCA’s Music Technology program in 2008 with distinction in music tech & music theory, playing in the University Scholarship Quartet & Symphony for all 8 semesters, jazz combos for 4, and extracurricular bluegrass throughout.
During his thirteen years in Asheville, he has played violin & sung in bluegrass, jazz, rock, and tango bands. In the classical realm, Paul is a regular member of the Asheville Symphony, Hendersonville Symphony, and Brevard Philharmonic as principal second violinist. He subs regularly with Johnson City Symphony, Symphony Orchestra Augusta, Western Piedmont Symphony, and Blue Ridge (Community) Orchestra. He has been teaching full-time since 2014, when he also took up viola, and in 2016 was certified by Mark O’Connor in the “O’Connor Method” books I & II for violin. When not playing weddings, he busks with his string quartets regularly in downtown Asheville, taking Beethoven, Dvorak, tangos, Radiohead, Michael Jackson, and Led Zeppelin to the streets.
Teresa is a freelance violinist who currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina. She has played professionally for over 25 years in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. She currently plays with the Asheville Symphony, South Carolina Philharmonic, & Greenville Symphony. She has also been part of small ensemble groups that specialize in weddings, receptions, and corporate events and most recently co-founded Cabaletta Strings.
Teresa earned her Bachelors degree in violin performance from Converse College where she was concert master. During her college days she was selected to play the Spoleto Festival in Italy with Sweelinck Conservatory of Amsterdam. She also spent summers studying at Brevard Music Center in Brevard N.C.
Some of Teresa’s musical highlights have been performing with Edwin McCain, Ray Charles, Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, Mark O’Conner, Roberta flack, Moody Blues, and Seven Nations. During her free time, Teresa enjoys drawing her whimsical art, playing piano, volunteering at animal rescues, and spending time with her 2 dogs.
Rachael began her violin studies at the age of two. She made her professional debut with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra at the age of 16, and continued her violin studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Rachael has held positions with the Asheville, Greenville, Charleston, and West Virginia symphonies, and most recently served as Performing and Visual Arts Coordinator at Chautauqua Institution, a nine-week summer festival in Western New York. During her time at Chautauqua Institution, she oversaw all of the institution's arts education and community engagement initiatives, including in-school residencies for students with disabilities made possible through grant funding from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In addition to the standard classical repertoire, Rachael is deeply
committed to exploring musical diversity and the broader scope of the fine arts spectrum. Her work has been lauded for its diverse programming, thought-provoking subject matter and mission of social change through the power of music. Rachael lives in Morganton with her husband, and maintains an active Music Together® teaching schedule and private studio for gifted students.
Mariya Potapova, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, grew up in a family of musicians. Mariya began studying violin at age 8 with professor Polonskaya at the Music Academy #16 of St. Petersburg. Upon graduation, she began taking lessons with Vladimir Gentselt of St. Petersburg Philharmonic. Potapova moved to the United States in 1999, where she started studying with world-renowned professor Vadim Voyler. In 2006, she had taken the first place in Blue Ridge Concerto Competition and performed with Blue Ridge Civic Orchestra. Currently Mariya holds two BA degrees from University of North Carolina, Asheville in Psychology and Music. She is a member of Asheville Symphony Orchestra, Greenville Symphony, SC, and also performs with Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Mariya is a faculty member of the Asheville Music School and Academy for the Arts and a member of the Opal String Quartet and Temple Trio, both located in Asheville,NC.
JORGE started his musical studies at the age of 4 with piano and then included violin at age 8. A native from Monterrey City, Mexico, he graduated from the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey (ESMDM) in 2006. He also has a Bachelor in Communication Sciences from Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM). Jorge holds an MM degree in Violin Performance from Baylor University (2012). Since coming back to Greensboro, Jorge has held principal positions in regional orchestras in NC and the surrounding states. Currently, he performs with Roanoke Symphony, Greensboro Symphony, Winston-Salem Symphony, Symphony of the Mountains and subs with Asheville and Charleston Symphonies. Before joining the string faculty at MANC, Jorge served as an adjunct faculty with the Southeastern Community College and taught at the American Institute in Monterrey. He also performed with the state orchestra in Monterrey City and toured Portugal and Spain with Mexican folk groups. Jorge enjoys crossover styles of classical music as well as folk style music. Jorge is comfortable teaching both in English and Spanish and tries to include some of his piano formation in the study of music theory for all of his string students.
Marie Cole (Cello, Music Mind Games, and Early Childhood Music) has a B.M. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.M. from the University of Connecticut, both with an emphasis in cello performance. She performs regularly with the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra (TN), Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra (NC), and the Brevard Philharmonic (NC). Mariehas taught cello, Music Mind Games, and early childhood music for over fifteen years in the various regions she has lived in. These places include Asheville, NC, Washington, DC, Rockville and Frederick, MD, Cumberland, PA, and Manchester, CT. During the summer Marie enjoys performing for many different kinds of events (especially weddings) as well as teaching at summer music camps. At the Blue Ridge Suzuki String Camp (VA), she teaches Music Mind Games, cello, chamber music and early childhood music classes. Other summer camp teaching experiences have included being the camp director for Joyful Noise’s Music and Arts’ day camp (NC), teaching Music Mind Games at the Alexandria Suzuki Guitar Institute (VA) as well as teaching cello and Music Mind Games at the Peaks to Plains Suzuki Institute (CO). She currently resides in Rutherford County in North Carolina on a beautiful farm overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. She teaches lessons and classes at her home studio and lessons online. For the past 6 years, she has been the music instructor for Central United Methodist Church’s preschool in downtown Asheville. She also performs around the area at such places like Lake Lure and the Biltmore Estate. Her greatest joys are taking care of her little girl and spending time with her family!
In 2002, Nora began playing cello in Beaufort, South Carolina. With encouragement from her family and her teacher, she began taking private lessons and joined her local youth orchestra. This musically nurturing path lead to college where Nora earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. In her seventeen years of playing, she has raised money for care packages for military working dogs and service members during Operation Iraqi Freedom and taught private lessons to students who have gone on to perform internationally. Nora has played everything from Baroque operas to 21st century compositions and has shared the stage with acts such as Kansas, Béla Fleck, and the Kruger Brothers. Recently, she has played with the Western Piedmont Symphony, the Brevard Philharmonic, and the Hendersonville Symphony. In her spare time, Nora likes to garden, fish, and travel.
Brian is an internationally-acclaimed pianist, composer, and recording artist who has been thrilling audiences throughout North America for 25 years. Brian’s diverse repertoire has earned him the opportunity to share the stage with a wide array of well-known and accomplished musicians, most-recently with American Idol winner Caleb Johnson.
From churches to arenas, concert halls to festivals, Brian excels musically on any stage. Most recently Brian opened for rock legends KISS for the first half of their Freedom To Rock Tour performing 18 shows for over 100,000 people in arenas across the U.S. and Canada. He is also keyboard player with Meat Loaf’s Neverland Express.
As a performer, he has shared the stage with such legendary musicians as KISS, Sammy Hagar, Joan Jett, Cheap Trick, Jason Bonham, Michael Anthony, Michael Bolton, Clay Aiken, Warren Haynes, Cliff Williams, Artimus Pyle, Bobby McFerrin, Olga Kern, Steep Canyon Rangers, Umphrey’s McGee, Gov’t Mule, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Shenandoah, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Bernie Worrell, Marcus King and many others. Brian can be seen in video clips on FOX's American Idol season 13, live on LA Today morning news and in an Interscope Records music video with Caleb Johnson and Marie Digby. As a recording artist, Brian has worked with Grammy Award-winning Producer Karl Richardson.
An accomplished composer of solo piano music, Brian’s solo piano album Ascension has gained world-wide attention and his music was selected for the official iOS New Age Piano app with over one million downloads worldwide. He has recorded several solo piano albums as well as recorded as a session player on dozens of records. Brian’s compositions have been featured in podcasts, online radio, and film and has charted in the top 20 on the Zone Music Charts.
Brian began playing the piano over 25 years ago, and by age 12 was performing professionally for audiences across Northeast Ohio. Following high school he attended Ohio University, studying with renowned pianist Richard Syracuse and earning degrees in piano performance and pedagogy. He performed with a variety of groups at the collegiate level, from accompanying other classical musicians to joining larger ensembles to forming popular local rock groups headlining in clubs. After college, Brian relocated to Asheville, NC, where he has established a thriving piano studio in West Asheville and performs regularly as a solo musician and as a member and bandleader of Orange Krush, as well as with other local bands and ensembles.
Brian is highly-accomplished in a wide variety of genres, including classical, pop, jazz, church and electronic music. His music is available on iTunes and most major platforms.
Mike- Guitarist & Bassist
Bassist/composer Mike has been playing music since early childhood. His first instruments were guitar, violin, piano and drums. It wasn’t until he was attending Western Carolina University that he discovered the bass. His affinity for the instrument was immediately apparent. Within a few years he was performing regularly and became one of the most sought after bassists in the Southeast. From the beginning he was writing his own music. He joined the creative young jazz group, the Taken Back Quartet. This ensemble soon became a fixture on the thriving Asheville music scene. They played to a loyal almost cult-like following.
In 2001, the members of the quartet along with Sharon LaMotte formed the Jazz Composers Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to the presentation and documentation of original, instrumental jazz. The Forum became a mainstay of the local music fabric as Mike and the Taken Back Quartet accompanied guest composers in concert presentations. Mike’s involvement grew with the forum whose activities now include workshops, presentations in grade schools and tours of venues throughout the region. He has presented his own music multiple times as leader and in the capacity of ‘Composer-in-Residence’.
Since 2004, Mike has been a member of the band Cotangent, a New York based group led by pianist/composer Bill Gerhardt. He has played on two recordings with this band, “Stained Glass” and “Thrive”. He also appears on Tony Moreno’s “Trio Music” (Art of Life Records). He has performed with Joe Locke, Ingrid Jensen, Randy Brecker, Frank Kimbrough, Kendra Shank, Ron Horton, Marc Mommaas and Tim Horner among others. A truly gifted musician, Mike is finding himself more in demand than ever as he performs in jazz clubs in New York, throughout the Carolinas and continues to be a force with the Jazz Composers Forum.