Hard-charging, powerful, immersed in the history of their craft, and passionately swinging the music forward; that’s DIVA – an ensemble of fifteen versatile, multi-generational musicians who expertly balance enthusiastic energy with sophisticated subtlety, virtuosity, and imagination.
Headed by swinging drummer Sherrie Maricle, DIVA exudes the excitement and force found in the tradition of historic big bands, with an eye towards originality. With New York as their home base, DIVA performs all over the world playing original contemporary and mainstream big band jazz composed and arranged specifically for the band and tailored to fit their distinct ensemble sound while highlighting each soloist’s unique personality and style.
Since their premiere performance 30 years ago, DIVA has toured the world to critical and popular acclaim. Performance highlights include Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Dizzy’s Club, Symphony Halls in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Cleveland, and the Hollywood Bowl. International appearances include Le Meridien Hotel in Paris, France; Teatro de Sistina in Rome, Italy; Berlin Jazz Festival in Germany; Salzburg Music Festival in Austria; Bern Jazz Festival in Switzerland; Montreal and Ottawa International Jazz Festivals in Canada; Bogota International Jazz Festival in Colombia; Jamaica Jazz Festival; Zagreb Jazz Festival in Croatia; and the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland.
As if the list of settings in which DIVA has performed isn’t impressive enough, from 2013 – 2020 the band was featured in Maurice Hines’s autobiographical musical Tappin’ Through Life, performing extended theatrical runs throughout the United States. DIVA has also shared the stage, and/or recorded with Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Diane Schuur, Carmen Bradford, Marlena Shaw, DeeDee Bridgewater, Rosemary Clooney, Ann Hampton Callaway, Jack Jones, Clark Terry, Dr. Billy Taylor, Terry Gibbs, Tommy Newsom, Dave Brubeck, and others jazz luminaries.
Notable television, film and Internet appearances include the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Ceremony live from the Kennedy Center; A 2017 PBS special with Maurice Hines for The Kate show; the soundtrack for the 2014 NBC/Macy’s Firework Spectacular; a feature in the award-winning documentary film, The Girls in the Band; multiple appearances on CNN Arts Break; a dedicated segment on CBS Sunday Morning; and musical features as part of The Kennedy Center’s 25th Anniversary Special, the Japanese television network NHK, and Metropol TV in Germany.
DIVA was founded by Stanley Kay, one-time manager and relief drummer for Buddy Rich. In 1990 he heard Sherrie play, was impressed, and decided to create a band of liked-minded, masterful players. In 1992 the search was on, and through a nationwide audition the foundation of DIVA was poured.
The DIVA Jazz Orchestra loves to swing!
Leader & Drummer
From the drum set Sherrie leads The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, her quintet FIVE PLAY, The DIVA Jazz Trio and co-leads the 3Divas.
“Maricle drove the evening’s music along with a contained fury of the power plant of a nuclear submarine…”
From Carnegie Hall, she performs with The New York Pops and from celebrated stages everywhere, she is music director and drummer for Broadway star Maurice Hines. Sherrie is also a busy freelance performer and a published composer/arranger.
Sherrie has received several awards and honors which include a 2014 Ovation award for “Best Music Direction” in Tappin Through Life; the 2009 Mary Lou Williams-Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Award, a 2013 State Department grant for FIVE PLAY to tour Vietnam, a tour grant from Arts International, The Kennedy Center Alliance Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Arts, a grant from Meet the Composer, a Doctoral Fellowship from New York University, the New York City Music Educator’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Education and was twice selected New York University “Music Teacher of the Year.”
Lead Alto Saxophone
Alexa Tarantino is an award-winning, vibrant, young jazz saxophonist, woodwind doubler, composer, and educator.
“Killer soloist...” - Downbeat
Tarantino’s performance highlights include prestigious venues such as the Umbria Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center, the Hollywood Bowl, the Rockport Jazz Festival (Alexa Tarantino Quintet), Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater and the Charlotte Jazz Festival (with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra), and the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (with Earth, Wind & Fire and others). She performs regularly as a leader and sideman with a wide variety of ensembles and genres including Sherrie Maricle & the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, LSAT (her new quintet co-led with baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian), and the Alexa Tarantino Quartet.
Tarantino is currently on faculty for Jazz at Lincoln Center's Youth Programs and previously served as Jazz Saxophone Instructor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Tarantino continues to visit several colleges, high schools, and summer jazz programs across the globe as a guest clinician, including the Rockport Jazz Workshop (MA), of which she is Founder and Director. She holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and is originally from West Hartford, Connecticut.
Tenor Saxophone 1
Saxophonist, flutist, and composer Laura Dreyer is a vibrant, creative voice in the New York jazz scene. Her catchy original compositions combine lyrical melodies with jazz, Brazilian rhythms, funk, and rock, resulting in an exciting, contemporary palette of sound with a strong rhythmic twist. A multi-instrumentalist, Dreyer performs both nationally and internationally with her Brazilian Jazz ensemble, “Laura Dreyer and the Manhattan/Rio Connection,” and is additionally in great demand as a sideperson. Audiences have heard her in the bands of such diverse artists as such as pianist Dom Salvador, Antonio Adolfo, Paula Morelenbaum, Dr. Billy Taylor, Walter Bishop Jr., Mel Lewis, Robert Palmer, Nnenna Freelon, Lea Delaria, Leny Andrade, Portinho, Helcio Milito, saxophonist/author James McBride, Sherrie Maricle and the Diva Jazz Orchestra and, Mark Levine, as well as many others. Laura has recorded four albums as a leader/producer, including Mysterious Encounter (Lavasphere), Free Flying Bird (Sony/Piloo), and Sax in the City (Apria), and Vida. Arte. Amor. (Mayimba Jazz). She is also featured on acclaimed Brazilian pianist Dom Salvador’s newest release, The Art of Samba Jazz, which received a Premio da Musica Brasileira award for Best Instrumental CD. Dreyer has a Bachelor of Arts degree from SUNY Empire State College, where she received a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, and was also a scholarship student at the acclaimed Berklee College of Music. Dreyer studied with noted music educators Andy McGee, Joe Viola, and John LaPorta. In addition, she took private lessons with saxophone greats Joe Henderson, Joe Lovano, and Hal Stein, composers Lyle Mays and Jim McNeely.
Alto Saxophone 2
Mercedes Beckman is a jazz alto saxophonist whose uniquely personal voice has been formed by studying the greats of the jazz tradition, and continues to evolve.
"Breathtaking ... she takes an Eric Dolphy approach to her solo, which adds to the excitement and depth of the performance."- All About Jazz
Mercedes is the newest member of the Jazz Ambassadors, the premiere, touring Army big band as well as the DIVA Jazz Orchestra and is a bandleader of a quintet/sextet with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz for Young People program. She has recently toured a lot with DIVA and with other JFYP bands.
A synesthetic who developed perfect pitch at age 19, Mercedes was mentored by jazz master Bunky Green at the University of North Florida and then went on to complete her master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music where she studied with the great artists John Riley, Donny McCaslin, Rich Perry, Phil Markowitz, and the late Joe Temperley. Mercedes recently completed a tour throughout Mexico with the Marcus Printup Quintet as well as a tour in Canada with local musicians. Mercedes is also very active as an educator; she substitutes for the jazz and classical faculty at Manhattan School of Music Pre-college program, maintains a private studio, and gives guest masterclasses. She is currently working on launching her Women through the Ages project, which translates personal stories into musical events that examine social inequality throughout history and draws parallels between yesteryear and current events.
Tenor Saxophone 2
Born and raised in Southern California, Jade moved to New York in 2020 to pursue her Master’s degree in Music Therapy at New York University, Steinhardt while immersing herself in the jazz scene of New York City. Since living in New York she has played with multiple groups around Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the Diva Jazz Orchestra, Sammy Miller and The Congregation, Bobby Sanabria's Multiverse Big Band, and The Grace Fox Big Band.
Before moving to New York, Jade got her Bachelor’s degree in Ethnomusicology from UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, primarily playing and teaching around the greater Los Angeles area. In California, she has performed with artists like David Garfield, Kenny Burrell, Tito Puente Jr. and Johnny Polanco’s Latin Jazz Orchestra, Emil Richards, Matt Harris, and even travelled with Quincy Jones and his production team to Montreux, Switzerland in 2018 to perform for his 85th birthday celebration which featured artists such as Monty Alexander, Jorja Smith, Robert Glasper, and Jacob Collier to name a few.
Jade is dedicated to jazz education and teaches part-time at The Calhoun School while offering private lessons to students and adults of all ages, and is committed to utilizing her music therapy training to serve disenfranchised communities and minority groups. Currently, she sees clients at the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy, an internationally known private clinic at NYU, where she works with children and adults with special needs.
Saxophonist/arranger/educator Leigh Pilzer is a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, and the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. She has toured nationally and internationally with both SJMO and DIVA.
“Pilzer’s baritone saxophone is warm and buzzing with the jazz language.” - All About Jazz
Leigh has performed with her small groups—Leigh Pilzer Startet and Leigh Pilzer's Seven Pointed Star—at many of DMV's top jazz venues including Blues Alley, Keystone Korner, Twins Jazz, Jazz Night in DC at Westminster Presbyterian, the Atlas Performing Arts Center, and Jazz at the Garden, among others.
Leigh’s work has been performed by college and professional jazz ensembles throughout the country. DIVA has recorded a number of her arrangements; her original composition “East Coast Andy” is the opening track on The DIVA Jazz Orchestra 25th Anniversary Project. Other arranging credits include horn section writing for recordings by Chuck Brown and Eva Cassidy and orchestrations for the critically acclaimed show Maurice Hines Tappin’ Thru Life.
Leigh earned her doctorate from George Mason University. She also holds two master's degrees from University of Maryland, and a bachelor's from Berklee College of Music. She is a member of the Jazz Studies Department at University of Maryland, where she teaches Jazz Theory and Jazz Arranging. She has served on faculty of Towson University teaching Jazz History, and at George Mason University teaching Fundamentals of Rock, Blues, and Jazz, an online course she was asked to develop.
California native Jennifer Krupa is an active trombonist and composer in Washington, D.C. A member of the United States Navy Band Commodores jazz ensemble, Jen also performs regularly with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra; Sherrie Maricle and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra; and her own group, JLQ, with saxophonist Leigh Pilzer.
Jen has performed with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wycliffe Gordon, Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, Nancy Wilson, Johnny Mandel, Bill Watrous, Christian McBride, and numerous others.
Jen earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of North Florida, Artist Diploma from The Juilliard School, and a Master of Music from the University of Maryland.
Sara can be heard performing as a member of several well respected NYC institutions including The Birdland Big Band, The Diva Jazz Orchestra, Dave Chamberlain’s Band of Bones, David Berger and the Sultans of Swing, as well as countless composers orchestras.
She is a sought after session musician, credits including among others, The Macy's 4th of July Firework Show and the The Met Gala. Sara's playing can be heard as a member of the Grammy Winning Jazz fusion ensemble Snarky Puppy on albums including: "Bring Us the Bright," "The Only Constant," "The World is Getting Smaller" and "Real to Reel."
Her writing and playing is often featured by the Birdland Big Band, The Diva Jazz Orchestra, and can be heard on numerous albums by the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band including: "Lab 2008," "Lab 2007," "Lab 2006" and "Live at Blues Alley, and by the award winning UTubes Jazz ensemble. She is sought after for commissioned works of music in various styles and ensemble configurations. Sara was a featured artist and commissioned composer at the International Women in Brass Conference in Toronto, Canada. Sara earned both a BMus and MMus degree from UNT while studying composition with Neil Slater and Paris Rutherford and trombone with Steve Wiest and Tony Baker.
In addition to performing and composing, Sara enjoys digging in her garden and collecting day lilies.
Leslie Havens has been with DIVA since 1997. A member of the Artie Shaw Orchestra for ten years, she is on the band’s one and only CD and has performed with them in most of the United States, several times on the Mississippi Queen and the S.S. Norway, and in Taiwan and Brazil.
She has performed in Carnegie Hall with Arturo Sandoval, with Aretha Franklin at the Newport Jazz Festival, and for the grand opening of the Hanover Theater with Bernadette Peters and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra. She has toured Europe (including Russia and Serbia) and South America with Paul Anka and performs regularly with the Boston Brass Ensemble, Quintessential Brass and several orchestras and local big bands.
An active music educator, Leslie has been an adjudicator for the Massachusetts Jazz Educators Central District Jazz Festival and teaches private brass lessons at Marlborough, Boylston, Harvard and Sudbury Public Schools. Leslie is also an active freelance tuba player.
Liesl Whitaker is a charter member of DIVA. A world-class lead trumpet player, she can be heard on 6 of DIVA’s 9 CDs: Something’s Coming (1995), Leave It to DIVA (1997), I Believe in You (1999), Live in Concert (2002), TNT: A Tommy Newsom Tribute (2005), and A Swingin’ Life (2014).
Originally from Chicago, Liesl attended Appalachian State University and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she studied trumpet with Bill Adam, Pat Harbison and Joe Phelps. In addition to DIVA, she has performed and/or recorded with the Ed Palermo Big Band, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the WDR Big Band of Cologne, Germany, the Madison Square Garden production of The Wizard of Oz, and pit orchestras for many musicals including Cats, Cabaret, Victor Victoria, Guys and Dolls, Little Me, and Big.
Liesl joined the Army Blues of The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in 2000, becoming the first woman to win a lead position in a premier U.S. military jazz ensemble. She repeated this feat with the Jazz Ambassadors of The U.S. Army Field Band in 2012. She resides in Maryland with her son and daughter.
For over 23 years, trumpeter Jami Dauber has been residing in New York City, performing a wide variety of music, from Broadway and jazz, to salsa and classical. Jami is a widely acclaimed performer, educator, and recording artist. Jami has performed on multiple Broadway shows and is currently the lead trumpet in the orchestra for A Bronx Tale the Musical. She was also a member of the orchestra for the Broadway production of Honeymoon in Vegas, as well as Anything Goes and the Off-Broadway production of Maurice Hines’ Tappin’ Thru Life.
She has been a member of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra and its core quintet FIVE PLAY for over 22 years and has been a long-time band member of The Ellington Legacy, led by Duke’s grandson, Edward Ellington. Jami has performed with the Wycliffe Gordon Big Band, the Christian McBride Big Band, Jason Robert Brown, and many others.
She has an extensive discography, including recordings on Telarc, Ghostlight Records, Universal Music Enterprises, Rock-It Science, Arbors Records, ArtistShare, and can be heard on the original cast recordings of A Bronx Tale the Musical and Honeymoon in Vegas. Jami holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of North Texas.
Barbara Laronga, Trumpet, hails from Massachusetts and has performed extensively throughout the country and internationally. As a member of “The Diva Jazz Orchestra” she performed with such jazz giants as Dave Brubeck, Clark Terry, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Claudio Roditi, Slide Hampton, The New York Pops, Marian McPartland, and Diane Schuur. She has recorded 5 records with DIVA, 1 with “Fiveplay”, and was part of the acclaimed show “Maurice Hines’ Tappin’ Thru Life”.
“A sound section player, Laronga is also a sparkling soloist with fresh ideas and a superb technique.” - Allmusic.com
As a freelancer, she has performed with Aretha Franklin, Mark Wahlberg, Donnie Wahlberg, Dee Dee Bridgewater and at renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Apollo Theater, The Hollywood Bowl, and The Montreal Jazz Festival among others. Her studio work includes “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, “What Happens in Vegas”, “7th Heaven”, “Wheel of Fortune”, and “Jeopardy”, as well as various recordings and live broadcasts. As a soloist, Barbara released her debut jazz CD, “Love Never Dies”, a musical memoir of Sept. 11, 2001.
As well as having an active performance career, she is also on faculty at 3 colleges in Los Angeles, and has taught for the Midori Foundation, The New York Pops Outreach, and Grammys in the Schools programs. Barbara is also featured on the educational thumb drive for “The Girls in the Band” documentary. She received her MM from Manhattan School of Music, and her BM from UMASS Lowell.
French-Canadian born, New York City based trumpeter, composer and bandleader Rachel Therrien boasts an enviable career. She is considered one of the most promising jazz musicians in the Quebec music scene, playing a wide variety of music styles and rhythms.
"One of the brightest and most creatively accomplished trumpeters on today’s jazz scene." - Hot House
Winner of the 2015 TD Grand Prize Jazz Award at the renowned Montreal International Jazz Festival, nominated at the 2018 Independent Music Award in New York City for Best Jazz Album Producer and winner of the 2016 Stingray Jazz Rising Star Award, Rachel Therrien performed as a solo artist in many clubs, festivals and on television throughout the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean.
Rachel holds a bachelor degree in jazz performance from the University of Montreal, a degree in arts management, a music certificate from Instituto Supérior de Arte (Havana, Cuba) and was selected to participate in the Banff Center Jazz and Creative Music workshop held by Dave Douglas and Vijay Iyer in 2012. She has worked with a large number of mentors and teachers such as Laurie Frink, John McNeil, Ron DiLauro, Elpidio Chappotin, Jorge Rubio, Jonathan Finlayson, Clarence Penn, Ralph Alessi and many more.
Tomoko Ohno has performed at Lincoln Center, Weill Recital, Carnegie Hall, The Blue Note, Birdland, in addition to appearing on live radio broadcasts by WBGO and WNYC, and ABC TV's Good Morning America. She has performed and/or recorded with Slide Hampton, Claudio Roditi, James Spaulding, Rufus Reid, The John Lee Quartet, The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Big Band and Sherry Maricle and the Diva Jazz Orchestra, as well as working as a side musician with such diverse musical ensembles as the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble and The Spirit of Life Ensemble.
Miss Ohno also leads her own group, and has released three CDs on the Japan-based Tokuma label. In 1997 her first album, ìPowder Blueî was released, and in 1999 her second album, ìAffirmationî was released, followed in 2000 by the album "Natural Woman." Her album "Shadows of Spring" (recorded in Argentina) was released by MDR Records in 2005. "Tomoko Ohno in Buenos Aires" was also released by MDR Records in 2007. The duet album with legendary Argentine guitarist Ricardo Lew " From Tokio to Buenos Aires " was released in 2011 spring. The duo added the cellist Nestor Tedesco from Teatro Colon and released Tango/Jazz album " Tres Sabores " in 2016. Miss Ohno and bassist Jay Leonhart released their duo album " Don't You Wish !" in 2018 and planning a California tour in 2018 summer. She also performed for Brazilian drummer Samuel Martinelle's debut album " Crossing Paths" with Claudio Roditi and Marcus McLaurine and it is scheduled to be released in spring 2018.
Miss Ohno is also active as a composer, and has been the recipient of a grant from The Meet The Composer Foundation. Commissioned works include pieces written for the Englewinds Chamber Ensemble.
Noriko Ueda is originally from Hyogo, Japan. Her interest in music began early in her life, studying classical piano at the age of 4. At 16, she began playing the electric bass. At age 18, she began her career with the upright bass. Noriko was the B.E.S.T. scholarship recipient for the Berklee College of Music in Boston where she majored in Jazz Composition, graduating in 1997. She then relocated to NY.
“She totally rocked the band with her huge, rich, and clear swinging sound." - Rufus Reid
Noriko has performed at many historical jazz venues include Carnegie Hall, Blue Note NY, Jazz at Lincoln Center - Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Kennedy Center, Birdland and Small’s. She also performed, toured and recorded with various groups including the legendary Frank Wess Quintet and his Nonet, Ted Rosenthal Trio, Sherrie Maricle and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Five Play, Grady Tate Band, Harry Whitaker Band, Marion Cowings, Makoto Ozone and Terumasa Hino.