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Music Lessons

Course Offerings

We currently offer instruction in the following:
Banjo: Tom Nechville
Bass (electric): Ric Oliva
Drums: Chris Gray
Fiddle/Violin: James Plattes
Guitar (acoustic & electric): Ric Oliva (all levels)
James Plattes (beginner to intermediate)
Harmonica: James Plattes
Jimmy Russell
Mandolin: James Plattes
Songwriting: Ric Oliva
Voice: Jimmy Russell

Our instructors are independent contractors so please contact them directly for rates and availability.



(612) 875-4484

Chris Gray is a drummer from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area where he has lived all his life. Chris graduated from Jefferson High School and like many drummers in Bloomington he studied studies with Elliot Fine. Elliot became the primary influence in ChrisÕ drumming, initiating the love of Jazz music that Chris still carries with him now. ElliotÕs unique style of teaching and experienced knowledge of the drums helped give Chris an understanding of Jazz, Rock, Latin and Reggae drumming. Chris went on to study at MusicTech College (now McNally Smith College) where he graduated with an Associate Applied Science degree in Percussion Performance. While attending classes at MusicTech, Chris studied with Drummers, Gordy Knutson, Dave Stanoch, Paul Steuber, and Marv Dahlgren. Along with vocalist/guitarist Doug Otto, Chris formed the band, Dreaming Paris, which played shows until 2002. Some of the other projects he has been involved with are: Whiskey Plates (Blues/Rock), The Freshnest (hip-hop), and The Foundation (Reggae/Funk). In the late summer of 2004 Chris began playing trap-kit with the singer/songwriter Javier Trejo (formerly of The Beads and current guitarist/vocalist of New Primitives) and they continue to play frequently around the Twin Cities along with Rich Casey (of the bluegrass band The Boot Draggers) on upright bass (Trejo, Casey, and Gray Tuesday nights at Terminal Bar). Chris also plays in a folk band called Clementine Pickers (also with Doug Otto) and in two jazz combos, Real Book Jazz and Rad Jacket.



(952) 888-9710

Tom is available for banjo instruction and bluegrass ensembles.


(612) 701-2439

Ric Oliva graduated Magna cum Laude from Berklee College of Music in 1998. At Berklee, he received the Peter Koleta award for Contemporary Writing. After college, Ric moved back to Mpls where he is active as a performer and teacher. Ric Oliva has very diverse musical interests and talents. He has been interested in music since the age of five and has been pursuing his career since he was 12. Ric graduated Magna Cum Laude from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Contemporary Writing and Production. At Berklee he received the Peter Kaleta Award for his achievements in the field of Commercial Arranging. He is foremost a guitarist/composer with talents in all styles of music ranging from heavy metal to jazz fusion to 20th century composition. He is also a talented songwriter, producer, teacher and conductor. He has performed at many venues from Epcot Center in Florida to the H.H. Humphrey Metrodome and Orchestra Hall in Minnesota. He has collaborated with artists such as J.D. Steele (Prince, Steele Family), Jimmy Russell (Prince), Doriel Demps (Sounds of Blackness), and Fred Steele, Jr. (Sounds of Blackness, Steele Family). He has also written music for Television and Radio. He is currently pursuing his writing and studio career and is available for music lessons, recording, performing and collaboration.


(612) 861-2954

Teaching experience

1972 - 1974 Violin at Bud’s Music, Hopkins, MN.
1974 - 1976 Violin lessons at Schmidt Music, Robbinsdale, MN.
1976 - 1983 Violin and fiddle at West Bank School of Music, Minneapolis.
1986 - 1990 Violin and fiddle at West Bank School of Music, Mpls, MN. Directed student ensembles performing blues and popular music.
1991 Open U. Implemented and taught course in songwriting.
1998 - present Traditional and Suzuki private violin lessons at The Minnesota Valley School of Music, Richfield, MN. Also teaching fiddle and mandolin. Leading Suzuki Group violin classes and fiddle ensemble group classes.
2003 - Present Fiddle, harmonica and mandolin instructor at Homestead Pickin’ Parlor, Richfield, MN.


1990 - 1991 University of Minnesota, Mpls, MN. Suzuki violin pedagogy. Mark Bjork instructor. Certified for books 1 through 4.
1986 UCLA Music composition. Burt Goldstein instructor.
1979 - 1980 Private instruction: Jazz improvisation with Eddie Berger, Mpls, MN.
1972 - 1974 Minneapolis Community College, Mpls, MN. Courses completed: history of classical music, history of jazz, introductory piano, voice, classical violin.
1973 - 1976 Private classical violin instruction with Richard Adams, Asst. Concertmaster MN Orchestra.
1995 Master class with Vassar Clements.
1959 Commence violin studies.

Twin Cities’ Theatre experience

2002 Played fiddle, mandolin and harmonica in the Old Log Theatre production “Cotton Patch Gospel”.
1999 Fiddler and guitarist in the Ordway production of “Always Patsy Cline”.
1986 Guthrie Theatre production of “Leon, Lena (and Lenz). Played fiddle and mandolin.
1975 Fiddler in The Minneapolis Children’s Theatre production of “Tom Sawyer.”

Professional Experience

1986 - Present Director and CEO of Violin-A-Gram, a romantic musical telegram service.
1986 - Present Violinist, mandolinist, harmonica player & Director of Larkspur Strings.
1983 - 1986 performing multi-instrumentalist and studio recording artist in Los Angles, CA.
1982 Violin, guitar, mandolin and vocalist with RCA recording artists The Daisy Dillman Band.
1975 Nationwide tour with Olivia Newton-John. Performance on “The Midnight Special.”
1973 - 1983 Extensive nightclub and studio recording work in Minneapolis/St Paul area.

Published Articles

1995 Inside Bluegrass: “Master class with Vassar Clements” & “Buying a Bluegrass Mandolin.”
1991 Strings Magazine: Interview and transcription of original violin piece titled “Praveena.”
1990 Strings Magazine: “The strolling Violinist.”
1987 Frets Magazine: “Start writing your own tunes: Seven steps to success.”


Winner, West Bank School of Music Jazz Composer Series 1989.
Winner, Intermedia Arts Sound Images showcase competition (Amazonian Dreamscapes) 1990.
MN Music Academy Award 1988.


The Gypsy Fiddle Player (1980). Received airplay on WCCO, KFAI, KTCZ @ KTWN in Mpls, MN.
First Ray of Sunlight (1997).
In the Moment (2005)


Twin Cities Musician’s Union American Federation of Musicians Local #30-73.
Minnesota Valley School of Music.


James “Jimmy” Russell
(612) 729-7226

Jimmy Russell has been performing blues, soul, R&B, and Jazz music since the 1960s. He had a Billboard Hit with The King Cobras called "Thank You Baby". His current project, appropriately named "Soul Shack Sessions", is a mixture of original and cover music. Music from the Soul.

Jimmy Russell is available for private and group vocal lessons.



Music Downloads

Visit The Multimedia Room for MP3s of Nechville Artists.