Artists in Residence

2018 Artists in Residence

Carefully selected for their superb credentials and talent for working with young people, our Artists in Residence are professional artists at the top of their fields. They share their experience and enthusiasm in an intensive workshop structure, spending the week guiding and inspiring teens to express their own creativity.

Live from Long Beach, CA it’s JCC Maccabi ArtsFest®!

Acting/Improv Artist in Residence

Lisa Melinn earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drama from the Professional Actor Training School at Syracuse University.She has taught acting and improv to students of all ages, for Farmington Hills Schools, The Second City/Detroit, Michigan Actors Studio, Water Works Theatre Company, Michigan Youth Theatre, and Oakland

Community College’s Theatre Program. This past year, Lisa has definitely stepped outside her “improv comfort zone,” with roles such as Rosencrantz in an all-female production of Hamlet, and the epic role of Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth Rex. Lisa is thrilled to be returning to JCC Maccabi® ArtsFest® for a fifth year of fun, laughs, friends, and learning! Favorite roles include Zillah in A Bright Room Called Day (The Ringwald), Jessie in ‘Night Mother (Breathe Art Theatre Project), and Tina in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding (Detroit Actor’s Guild).

Dance Artist in Residence

Jimmy Locust is the artistic director and owner of Locust Performing Arts Center. He has shared his talents internationally, working with superstars Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Quincy Jones and Debbie Allen. He has appeared in music videos and films and has performed at the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, and MTV Video Music Awards.

Jimmy was one of the head choreographers for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and was nominated for an American Choreography Award in 2001 for his work on Warner Brothers’ television show Nikki. Jimmy worked on the Justin Bieber tour in 2010 and as choreographer for the CW Television Network’s The

Next with hosts John Rich, Joe Jonas, Nelly and Gloria Estefan. Jimmy has also choreographed commercials for both international and national markets, including
Sanyo (Japan) with Nicholas Cage and most recently,
Rapid Advance (U.S.) which is currently running.

Locally, he has choreographed for the Stamford Symphony’s Gala and Curtain Call Theatre as well as numerous high school productions. He also designed and wrote dance education curricula for Domus, Chester-Addison Community Center, Stamford Family YMCA, REACH Prep and Horizons.

Jimmy has been a studio owner, master teacher and choreographer in the Fairfield County area for over ten years. He is founder and director of Harmony Nation, an anti-bullying educational program that performs at area schools. He also directs Locust Contemporary Dance Works, a youth company with performances throughout the year culminating in a New York City concert, as well as Hip Hop’s Finest and FOCUS Hip Hop pre-professional groups. Locust was appointed by the renowned Boca Ballet Theatre in Florida as a returning faculty member for their summer residency program. Recently, Jimmy was selected to be a dance adjudicator (2015) and the Dance Artist in Residence (2016, 2017, 2018) for the JCC Maccabi Games® and ArtsFest®. Locust’s multi- faceted lifestyle is chronicled in his reality show Locust Under 5’.

Musical Theater Artist in Residence

Eric Gutman currently lives in Huntington Woods, Michigan with his wife and two daughters. He is a regular at such theaters as Tipping Point Theatre in Northville, Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester and the Gem & Century Theatres in Detroit— where he has performed in countless shows including the Michigan premier of the Pulitzer Prize winning musical, Next to Normal.

Before his move back home, his claim to fame was performing for almost three years in the Tony and Grammy Award-winning sensation Jersey Boys. In his run with this extraordinary show, Eric performed over 1,000 shows in six different roles (including three of the Four Seasons) as well as one of the few actors to play

live instruments on stage. Eric has also been a company member for over 10 years with the off-Broadway and touring companies of Forbidden Broadway and Forbidden Hollywood, where he has played in over 100 different theatres across the country as well as a featured performer with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

Eric made his feature film debut in the highly acclaimed motion picture Real Steel opposite Hugh Jackman. Other on-camera credits include the films North of South, West of East and The Giant Mechanical Man; and musical guest spots for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC). Other broadcast appearances include regional commercials, singing the National Anthem for the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bears, as well as the last MLB All-Star Game held at the old Yankee Stadium.

Currently, Eric is busy promoting and performing in his one-man biopic musical aptly titled, Eric Gutman: From Broadway to Obscurity, which is touring to many theatres across the Country.

Eric holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music theatre performance from Western Michigan University. He is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association since 1999 and the American Federation of Musicians.

Rock Band Artist in Residence

Joining us for his 11th summer is Josh Nelson, a gifted multi-instrumentalist and songwriter whose work is celebrated and integrated into the repertoire of congregations, camps, and communities around the world. Whether appearing solo or with an elite ensemble of world-class musicians, Josh’s presence and performance style is high-energy and captivating. His music builds community, lifting up congregations and concert audiences alike through experiences that are at once energizing and deeply moving. Classically trained and equally versed in rock, jazz and world music, Josh combines his broad range of influences into a breathtaking musical style that is accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Josh previously served as director of jazz programs and an adjunct

professor at Boston University. He performs professionally on as many as 13 different instruments (though not at the same time) he is most widely considered an extraordinary guitarist, pianist, and vocalist.

Hailed by Time Magazine as a “star of the New Jewish Music,” Josh is the music director for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial Convention and faculty for the Hava Nashira Music. He also serves as a member of the URJ faculty of expert practitioners, is the recipient of a PresenTense NYC Fellowship, and is an active member of the Schusterman ROI Community. Josh leads High Holiday services at New York’s historic 92Y, and is the founder and creative director of THEWAREHOUSE, an alternative Shabbat experience for unaffiliated young Jews in major metropolitan areas.

Performance highlights include: International Symphony of Peace Prayers, Mt. Fuji, Japan; March of the Living, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland; South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin, Texas; Limmud Conferences, Warwick, U.K. and Istanbul, Turkey; international conventions for each of the major youth movements in the United States (NFTY, USY, BBYO, etc.); URJ Biennial

Conventions; the USCJ Centennial Convention; JCCs of North America Biennial; CAJE conferences; and JCC Maccabi ArtsFest, Jewish music festivals, synagogues, concert halls, and JCCs across the country. Most recently, Josh entered into an artistic collaboration with Neshama Carlebach, daughter of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Their unprecedented partnership merges two very different Jewish journeys and traditions into a singularly meaningful and uplifting musical experience that brings newfound unity to the Jewish people, both in the diaspora and Israel.

Josh lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. with his two young sons and a goldfish named Dorothy.

Vocal Music Artist in Residence

Steven Clausen is a Southern California native. He graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a bachelor’s degree in music education and also attended California State University, Los Angeles where he received a master’s degree in choral conducting. He has been teaching middle school chorus for over 20 years and during those years he has several times served as an honor choir director, adjudicator and vocal coach. His choirs have earned top honors at state and local festivals and several of his students have gone on to become choir directors or professional musicians themselves. He is currently serving as the artistic director for the newly formed Long Beach Youth Chorus, and earlier this year he was a music faculty member at Chapman University.

Visual Arts Artists in Residence

Gregory Navarro Pickens has dedicated his artistic talents to teaching children and teens about art and how to create it. He has done it through his work as executive director of Artists Reaching Kids, with Koo’s Art Café, the Long Beach and Los Angeles Unified School Districts, and the Orange County High School of the Arts. He has also taught at the college level at Fullerton and Irvine Valley colleges, as well as at California State University at Long Beach.

In addition to many honors from the City of Long Beach, the County of Los Angeles, and the state of California, Pickens has received recognition from Congress for his work. He has twice received distinguished arts awards from the Public Corporation for the Arts (PCA); In 1997 he was named Community Artist of the Year, and in 2002 Pickens received the PCA’s award for Community Arts Leadership. He’s also one of the founders and board members of the ArtExchange Visual Arts Center in downtown Long Beach.

Gregory studied painting at the University of Texas in San Antonio. He painted his first mural in 1987 during his last year of graduate school.

Stephen Elicker is a visual artist who discovered his passion for glass blowing while studying photography in college. The two mediums are not unrelated, involving light and its interaction with color, and rigorous discipline when working with temperatures and timing. But that single class changed the course of his artistic life.

Steve opened his own glassblowing studio in 1993 and is now “pursuing the freedom that glass allows.” Steve has now completed more than 20 projects working in a wide variety of materials and fabrication techniques, including custom fabricated ceramic and glass tile, cast and blown glass, fabricated metal, custom poured concrete processes, sculpted expanded polystyrene, and painted and poured polymers and resins.
Steve has established six production glass studios. These experiences led to his founding of The ArtExchange Visual Art Center in Long Beach, where glassblowing and other industrial arts can be practiced by those lacking facilities of their own. Steve currently sits on the ArtExchange’s board of directors. For his work within the community, Steve has been recognized by the Long Beach Arts Council as the Arts Professional of the Year for 2004, the Algalita Marine Research Foundation Environmental Hero for the year 2001 and received The City of La Verne Excellence in Community Design in 2007.

Social Media Squad Artist in Residence

Sara Nachlis is a writer, editor and social media manager with a long relationship with JCC Maccabi® (she played soccer for the Long Beach delegation for five summers), and the Alpert Jewish Community Center (she attended preschool there and currently serves as their marketing and social media manager). In addition to her work with the Alpert JCC, Sara writes for many digital media publications including Today.com, Country Living and Women’s Day.

Before going freelance, Sara served as the associate editor at Spring.St and as a staff writer for Australia’s Mamamia Women’s Network producing digital, video and social media content for both United States and Australian audiences. But, her

experience isn’t limited to digital media. She worked for many years in television research finding the most hilarious international ads for commercial retrospective projects and learning everything there is know about Coolio as a research assistant for VH1’s Pop-Up Video. That, in addition to years spent working as a project manager for Shazam Media Inc., helping to seamlessly integrate Shazam’s technology into award shows like the Country Music Awards, and for Nuyorican Productions, helping to make sure Jennifer Lopez’s life ran smoothly (you know, as one does) has helped her to get where she is today.

She is especially thrilled to be involved in this year’s JCC Maccabi ArtsFest® as it is being held in honor of her late father, Marvin Nachlis, a longtime coach and supporter of Long Beach JCC Maccabi, and her hero.

Culinary Arts Artist in Residence

Jeffrey Paletz graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco. He has served as a sous chef for the last four years, and has worked at several notable restaurants in the Bay Area. He moved back to Long Beach in 2017 where he is now the executive sous chef for Primal Alchemy Catering Company. In his role, he is in charge of all aspects of culinary operations including the hiring and training of all new culinary team members. Jeffrey’s love of cooking began in his childhood home where he was always testing out new techniques and recipes. Jeffrey grew up at the Alpert JCC, first as a camper and later as a senior camp counselor and Judaic specialist. He is eager to share his culinary knowledge, love of teaching, and can’t wait to work with the JCC Maccabi ArtsFest teens.