Meet the Directors
Rhythm Project Director / Virginia International PANFest Director
Accomplished musician, clinician, and educator, Dave Longfellow is distinguished by his success as a performer, composer, and arranger of steel band music. Recognized for his hard work and dedication to the art form by his colleagues, he is an exceptional teacher and mentor.
Longfellow began playing steel pans at the age of ten in his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia where steel pan pioneer Dr. Elliot “Ellie” Mannette established himself in the early 1990’s. He would soon go on to perform with some of the most visible personalities in the steel drum world including: Andy Narell, Ken “Professor” Philmore, Ray Holman, Robert Greenidge, Liam Teague, Duvonne Stewart, Jit Samaroo, and many others. Longfellow traveled to Trinidad & Tobago to play with the world-famous BP Renegades Steel Orchestra at 16 years-old during the 2000 carnival season and returned in 2004 to study abroad at the University of the West Indies and perform with the Renegades again. Longfellow recently returned from Trinidad where he performed with birdsong, Renegades, and Supernovas steel orchestras in the 2013, 2015, and 2017 & 2020 Panorama seasons respectively.
In 2001, Longfellow started his own quintet focused on the performance of progressive Latin jazz. His group, The Dave Longfellow Ensemble (also known as The DLE), is dedicated to creating new musical expressions involving steel pans, and to spreading the beauty and versatility of these instruments to new audiences. The DLE has recorded two CD’s, The DLE: Vol. 1 (2005) and their self-titled release, The Dave Longfellow Ensemble (2009).
As a composer and clinician, Longfellow travels throughout the country for events at various high schools, universities, and festivals. He was recently commissioned for two premier steel band compositions at Lone Star College (Just In Time) and San Jacinto State College (The History of the Steel Pan).
Longfellow received his B.M and M.M. from West Virginia University where he served as co-director and arranger for the WVU Steel Band from 2002 to 2006. He currently serves as Director of the Rhythm Project and Director of the Virginia International PANFest at the Virginia Arts Festival, is Executive Director of the Ellie Mannette Festival of Steel, and is a part-time member of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
Rhythm Project Associate Director / Virginia International PANFest Coordinator
Daron Roberts, M.M. is a multi-faceted percussionist, composer, educator and performer with a refined artistic style that draws from Afro-Caribbean and Latin idioms. Born and raised in the beautiful twin island of Trinidad & Tobago, Roberts found his rhythm for music as a toddler and began performing by the tender age of two.
With numerous accolades under his belt such as the Trinidad National Youth Award for Music, various titles in the Trinidad & Tobago Music Festival and being the youngest in the country to earn the Trinity Guildhall ATCL Diploma in Drum Kit, Roberts has made it a mission to be an ambassador of Trinidadian culture and heritage. He has been invited as a guest artist/clinician to numerous collegiate and community programs around the US, and has performed at many national and international music festivals such as the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, Festival de Musica Ocobo, and Festival Internacional de Ensambles de Percusión Costa Rica.
The sounds of this young percussionist can be heard on recordings such as “Pure Gold” & “Under the Sapodilla Tree” by Golden Hands Steel Orchestra, “Music Over Me” by gospel-jazz vocalist - Kezie Peters, “Scatterbrain” by funk-fusion band - Friends Fly South, and his debut album “F.A.B. 105” by his latin-jazz trio - LAC Connection. Along with these records, Roberts has shared the stage with world class musicians such as Liam Teague, Andy Narell, Victor Provost, Richie Gajate Garcia, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Dan Hearle, Bill Summers, and Raf Robertson just to name a few.
Daron Roberts earned his Master’s Degree in Steelpan Performance from Northern Illinois University, and his Bachelors in Percussion Performance from the University of Southern Mississippi with a minor in Recording Industry. Roberts is currently based in Norfolk, VA where he serves as the Rhythm Project Associate Director.
Rhythm Project Assistant Director / Virginia International PANFest Operations Manager
Accomplished percussionist and highly involved music educator, Audrey Holden is a pillar of community, creating environments that provide young learners with opportunities to strengthen their relationship with music and peers. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, she combined her heavy hitting Texas music education with her love of the steel pan.
Audrey graduated from McCallum High School as a member of the McCallum Fine Arts Academy. There she excelled in a number of percussion ensemble and chamber settings, which is where she was first introduced to steel band. Her exposure to the melodious tone of the steel pan in McCallum’s Knights of Steel program launched her love for the instrument, leading her to pursue higher levels of involvement in the pan community. In 2017, she traveled to Antigua with Tuner Emily Lemmerman to perform with West Side Symphony in their Panorama competition, and later attended the building workshop at the Festival of Steel in Morgantown, West Virginia, where she built her own historical single second pan. Audrey continued her education at TCU earning a BME with a specialization in percussion instrumental music. While at TCU, she performed with their Percussion Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra, Wind Symphony, and marching band. Her individual achievements include competing as a finalist in the 2019 TCU Concerto Competition performing double seconds concerto Summer Springs by Louis Raymond-Kolker, launching KitchenSync Percussion, a percussion duo focused on commissioning new repertoire, and being named the most outstanding graduating senior in the TCU School of Music.
Wielding creativity and innovation as strong suits, Audrey spent her time in the 2020 quarantine co-creating and producing a virtual early music class with Inside Out Steelband, a non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas. The interactive Zoom program, Inside Out Sprouts! was created for children under the age of 5 to continue their musical development while connecting with a new virtual community from the safety of home. Inside Out Sprouts! completed five month-long seasons and has featured all manner of guests, including Liam Teague, Daron Roberts, and Cara Wildman. Audrey’s easygoing nature and sense of humor makes her time teaching students of all ages both rewarding and entertaining. In addition to her involvement in early music classes, Audrey spent several years as a camp counselor at Heart O’ the Hills month long summer camp. There, she was able to broaden her community outreach, teaching and connecting to campers ages 6-16. While she served as assistant program director in 2018, Audrey was the recipient of Kitty’s Corner, awarded to the most influential counselor of the summer voted on by the entire staff.
Audrey prides herself in being a source of positivity and finds strength as a leader in her ability to spark inspiration and motivation in the people around her. She seeks to continually develop, create and share her musical artistry with those in her community and beyond. Her position as assistant director at the Rhythm Project in Norfolk, Virginia is a blend of these talents and ambitions, and she is excited to contribute to her new students and wonderful staff at the Virginia Arts Festival.