Guitar, percussion, lead vocals, arranger, composer
Born in Havana, Cuba, Michael (Mike) Eyia started classical guitar lessons at the age of 10 under the tutelage of world renowned Cuban guitarist and composer Dr. Leo Brower. After leaving Cuba due to the unstable political climate, Mike came to the U.S. and settled in Lansing, Michigan. He studied music at Michigan State University and Lansing Community College. Later he became an instructor at LCC and taught various music courses over a period of about 10 years. Over time, his passion for Cuban style music persisted. In the late 70’s and in preparation for the U.S. Bicentennial Celebration, Mike formed RITMO to introduce and educate people in a different style of Latin music. The group at the time consisted of a six piece band, as well as a 24 piece dance troupe. Mike choreographed a number of Cuban pieces including a danzon, a guaracha, cha cha cha and a conga and backed the dance troupe with his live band. The troupe traveled around the Mid West and performed for venues all over Michigan and as far south as Dayton, Ohio. The group earned a number of accolades along the way including a Tribute from the Michigan State Legislature. In 1984, the group grew to it’s current 10 piece orchestra. Throughout the years, the group has shared the stage with a number of recording artists such as Los Lobos, Salsa great Oscar D’Leon, Pete Escovido, Wycliff Gordon at the E. Lansing Summer Solstice Jazz Festival, and The Bangles among others. Mike is the director and sole active member from the original group. Mike is also a founding member of Jazz Alliance of Mid-MIchigan (JAMM), a local organization founded to promote Jazz music in the Mid-Michigan area.
Pianist, arranger and composer
Dennis Therrian, a classically-trained pianist, is the consummate professional musician and performer.For more than 30 years Dennis has been a mainstay on the legendary Michigan (and Motown) musical scene, having performed with bands entertaining audiences with a full range of styles, from rock n' roll, salsa and big band, to contemporary/acoustic jazz and blues. Performing has also taken Dennis around the world and blessed him with the opportunity to play with some of the music industry's giants.
For the past 15 years, Dennis' original scores have graced more than a dozen feature films, in genres ranging from horror, fantasy and drama, to Biblical, murder mystery, and comedy. “The Red, White and Blue Project,” a recently completed documentary and flagship film for the critically-acclaimed “Outside the Wire: The Forgotten Children of Afghanistan”, is Dennis’ latest accomplishment. Dennis also served as musical director and sound designer in a recent commercial video for JBL which included The Who and Carlos Santana as featured artists. Dennis' career and talents only begin as a musical performer and composer. In addition to supervising all aspects of studio post-production for“Red, White and Blue Project” - from editing and sound design, to composing original music and scores – Dennis has added “Producer” to his portfolio and career responsibilities.
Dennis has been performing with Orquesta RITMO for most of the last 8 years, including opening for Pete Escovido at the Flint Jazz Fest, and performing with trombonist Wycliff Gordon at the East Lansing Solstice Jazz Fest
Timbales, congas, latin percussion
James Rodriguez has had an aspiring musical career from a young age. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, James is of Puerto Rican descent. James’ astounding talents include being a full percussionist, music director, vocalist and composer. In 2006, he won the Detroit Music Award for “Outstanding World Percussionist” and has been nominated for “Outstanding World Artist/Group” as part of the band Orquesta Sensacional. James has opened up for many notable artists such as Aventura, Monchi y Alexandra, and Earth, Wind and Fire. He also opened up for El Gran Combo and was featured in one of their performances. In addition, James has had the privilege to perform with Tito Puente Jr. Most recently, he opened for Pete Escovido this summer at the Flint Jazz Festival with a smaller version of Mike Eyia’s Orquesta RITMO
Terrence Newman has taught at the Flint School of Performing Arts since 2003. He is a former student of the Julliard School of Music, New York City, NY studying with Phil Palombi. He is experienced in Jazz, Salsa, Classical and Popular music. Terry has attended master classes by: Ron Carter, Christian McBride, John Pattitucci and Ray Drumand. An experienced musician, his professional engagements include concerts, clubs, and festivals such as Detroit/Montreux Jazz Festival, New York and Greenwich Village Jazz Festivals, Kassel Jazz Festival, Germany and the Blue Note, New York City. He has toured Europe with Shanghai Blue and the Schlicht/Romano Group, recorded for off-off Broadway productions and has been a musical production director and leader. Terry is active in the Latin music scene performing currently with Orquesta Ritmo and has performed with Groupo Aye, Armando Vega and Pepe Espinosa.
Tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute
Saxophonist Jonathon Gewirtz has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Brazil in various ensembles including classical, jazz, funk, R&B, and pop. Jonathon performs throughout Michigan on a regular basis with the R&B band, Summer of Sol as well as with Orquesta Ritmo. He is also a member Layers: Lansing Community College Faculty Jazz Quartet and the Hillcats: Hillsdale College Faculty Jazz Sextet. Jonathon has also performed with the Jimmy Dorsey Big Band, the Midland Symphony Orchestra, and the Lansing Symphony Big Band. In addition to private saxophone lessons and conducting multiple jazz bands, Jonathon teaches a variety of music classes at Lansing Community College, Olivet College, and Hillsdale College.
Congas, latin percussion
The remaining members of the full 10 piece band vary. Mike brings in rising talent from the Michigan State University (MSU) Jazz Studies Program, mainly to fill out the horn section though at times those musicians may also be seen on percussion. In addition, jazz faculty from MSU, Lansing Community College, and Hillsdale college are often part of the Orquesta Ritmo ensemble. The versatility and ability of the current band is such that Mike can break it up to fit the occasion. Performing as a duo, trio, quartet....all the way up to a slightly smaller (7-piece) version of the full band, Orquesta Ritmo never fails to energize audiences in the genres of salsa, Afro-Cuban jazz, and latin jazz.