Our Staff

Sammy Gonzalez


Since playing his first guitar concert at ten years old, he grew to become an accomplished Classical Guitarist, and bassist for Jacobs Ladder, a nationally recognized rock band.

As a musician, Sammy has played nearly 900+ concerts, gone on 15 US tours, and landed spots at SXSW music festival, Van’s Warped Tour, and national Film Festivals. Owns and operates The Bull Productions, in Miami, where he produces, records, and mixes artists from all genres and backgrounds.

As First Chair in the Miami Beach Classical Guitar Quintet, Sammy toured the U.S. and Japan, winning awards both at regional and national levels.

Sammy graduated New World School of the Arts/University of Florida, studying under Professor Albert Kunze. Sammy has also studied with Rafael Padron (UM), Professor Bruce (FSU) & Adam Holzman (UT) and Kevin Gallagher (the first American to win the prestigious Francisco Tarrega Contest). He has also studied in Master Classes with David Russell, The Assad Brothers, Xufei Yang, LAGQ, Andrew York, Adam Holzman, and Berta Rojas.

Sammy is President/CEO & Co-Founder of the non-profit Young Musicians Unite. Since 2013, Young Musicians Unite (YMU) has been dedicated to providing free in-school and after school music programs to South Florida’s youth. Under the leadership of Sammy Gonzalez, YMU engages youth from at-risk communities with limited or non-existent music programs.

As an educator Sammy has been teaching since 2004. His students have gone on to schools such as New World School of the Arts, Harvard, NYU, Georgetown, Cornell, and Penn State. Many of his students have attended All State and have received a wide range of music awards.

At Miami Beach Senior High School Sammy participated in Jazz Band, Guitar Quartet, Marching Band, Rock Ensemble, Concert Band, and Orchestra. Sammy participated in All State for guitar, jazz band, and orchestra all four years, received straight superiors at solos & ensembles, and was the schools Silver Knight Music nominee.

Zach Larmer

Chief Operating Officer

Grammy nominated jazz musician with roots in funk, soul, and bluegrass, Zach is the recipient of multiple DownBeat awards and is a graduate of the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. He has appeared on numerous albums and television programs, written for the Steve Miller Band, and shared the stage with artists such as Albert and Jimmy Heath, Mark O'Connor, and Brian Lynch. Currently, Zach's efforts are centered around his quartet, the Zach Larmer Electric Band.

Alan Valadares

Director of Guitar Programming

Over a decade ago, Alan Valladares’ passion for music began when his father exposed him to the music of Paco De Lucia. By the age of 17, Alan received private classical guitar lessons with Dr. Federico Bonacossa and by age 19 he gained acceptance at New World School of the Arts to study Classical Guitar Performance with Dr. Albert Kunze.

Alan Valladares is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Classical Guitar Performance under Dr. Rafael Padron at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. He also teaches with Music After School in Palm Beach and frequently works with Compositum Musicae Novae, a not-for-profit organization working towards new artistic expressions in music, dance and the visual and literary arts. He has worked with Young Musicians Unite since 2013 sharing his talent and devotion to music with the students.

Juan Pelaez

Director of Rock Ensemble Programming

Born and raised in Medellin, Colombia, Juan remembers the presence of music since day one. Because of the variety of music tastes within the members of his family, he was exposed from a very early age to different styles of music. This planted the seed for his eclectic approach that can be found in his music today.

At the age of 12, he got his first guitar and a year later he began playing with his first band and writing his first songs. Since then, music has played a very important part in his life. In 2006, Juan moved to the United States to study Jazz Guitar and Music Production at Miami Dade College and continued studying Music Composition at New World School of the Arts.

Juan has participated in different music projects as a guitarist and as a composer for film and video commercials. He sings and plays guitar for the eclectic latin rock band, Atajos. Juan is also the founder and director of Animalia Music Fest, an annual music festival that promotes animal rights awareness while collecting funds for animal shelters in need around the world.

Juan has more than 10 years of experience teaching music. He believes that in general, Music and Art are fundamental for the construction of a better society.

Melanie Greenwald

Communication Director

Melanie joined Young Musicians Unite as Communications Director in January 2017. She has a bachelors degree in accounting from Lehigh University and provides communication and administrative support to the YMU team. With three children who study music and two currently participating in the YMU program she has been a big supporter of YMU and Sammy Gonzalez for many years and is very excited to become a part of the team.

Jean Caze

Director of Jazz Programming

Winner of the 2004 National Trumpet Jazz Competition, 2006 International Trumpet Guild Jazz Competition, and second place in the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, Jean Caze has emerged as one of today’s most beautiful trumpet voices. Jean has performed with Michael Bublé, Herbie Hancock, Roberta Flack, and Al Jarreau to name a few.

“Strong, and unexpectedly diverse, Mr. Caze confidently evoked Miles Davis on a pensive ballad, “Old Folks,” and a brisk anthem, “My Shining Hour.”

Nate Chinen, The New York Times

Javier Nero

Trombone/Jazz Programing

Javier Nero is a jazz trombonist, composer, and arranger whose musicianship is already receiving significant recognition. Mr. Nero has won first place in 4 international jazz solo competitions including the 2011 International Trombone Association’s Carl Fontana Competition, the ITA’s 2013 JJ Johnson Competition, the 2014 American Trombone Workshop National Jazz Solo Competition, and most recently the 2015 Texas State Trombone Symposium Jazz Trombone competition.

Nero currently holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Juilliard School, a Master of Music from University of Miami in Studio/Jazz Writing, and recently graduated in May, 2017 with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree with a cognate (minor) in classical trombone performance at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.

Caleb Alcime

Director of Drum Line Programming

Playing drums ever since the age of nine, Caleb Alcime plays genres ranging from jazz to gospel, hip hop, RnB and latin. In high demand Caleb is currently performing in multiple bands across Miami. Rising through programs such as Young Musicians Unite and Guitars Over Guns, Caleb has gained insight on youth development on a personal level.

“As much as I tried to run away from this instrument it has stuck with me and haunted me; brought me joy and made me depressed. It sounds like I am talking about a relationship with a women however it's the relationship I have with my drums. Drums have somewhat become a part of me and I can't let it go no matter how hard I try. God has given me this gift to be his mouth piece and help people understand there's hope and peace available for those who are deep in sorrow.”

Caleb Alcime

Christian Rodriguez

Drum Line Programming

Christian Rodriguez was born and raised on Miami Beach, Fl. Thanks to his rock and roll mother and father, he embraced music and fell in love with playing percussion. After attending all local schools in the area, he got his AA at Miami Dade College and also spent 5 years performing with local acts and shows outside of the state. Rodriguez ia currently pursuing his BA at F.I.U.

Maria Zdralea

Maria Zdralea is a Romanian-born classical pianist and educator currently residing in South Florida.

Maria graduated from New World School of the Arts/University of Florida where she received a full scholarship to study under the tutelage of distinguished pianist Ciro Fodere. She has collaborated and soloed with Sarasota Orchestra, NuDeco Ensemble, and Miami Symphony Orchestra as well as given numerous solo and chamber music recitals.

In 2013, Maria was a finalist and 3rd place winner with an Honorable Mention at the Music Teachers National Association Piano Competition - Florida. She was awarded 1st Place in the South Florida Young Artist Solo Competition and she won the New World School of the Arts Concerto Competition both times she participated, in 2013 and 2015.

She was distinguished with the Excellence Diploma from the Romanian Government for her results at the Romanian National Music Olympics and was selected as a finalist for the National Selection of “Eurovision Young Musicians” – Bucharest, Romania.