Michael Kotur

Michael Kotur was born the youngest into an extremely musical family. He studied piano formally from ages 6 to 13, and acquired his first guitar 2 years later. By his 21st birthday, he was touring with American Entertainment Productions based out of Columbus, Ohio. After nearly 3 years of this, he then received a full music scholarship to Central State University.

Michael graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jazz Studies. He studied there with James Smith, who was also the jazz guitar professor at CCM. Upon completing his degree, he has played thousands of gigs in vastly diverse genres, including jazz, blues, funk, folk, rock, and country. His diverse playing experiences allow him to relate to any aspiring guitarist.

Michael took his first student in 1986. Since then, he has taught well over 55,000 private music lessons spanning 29 years. He has devoted his occupational life to expanding his students well being, as well as his own. His curriculum is highly individualistic, allowing the student to point the direction of study.

Erik Jon Barrett

Erik is a product of the 80s Northern California metal guitar scene. He often jokes that if his rock and roll story were ever told, it would have to be called “Almost”. He’s been playing guitar for 41 years and songwriting for more than 36 years. He specializes in Blues, Rock, and Metal.

What you’ll get out of spending time with Erik is part philosophy, soloing & finding your guitar voice, how to play with feel, how to develop your timing, and finding that killer tone.

He’s all about “learning what you love”. You’ll walk away, day one, playing something that you didn’t think you could. From learning your favorite riff or lick to learning a song or taking it and making it “all yours”. He’s also ready to work on your original material or strengthening your soloing & speed or taking the deep dive into “theory”.

Erik is really good at keeping things fun and focused. He is also a veteran of The United States Marine Corps and is a Registered Nurse.

Ben Jose

Ben Jose has been playing music since he could read. Though he started with piano, guitar piqued his interest at the beginning of high school, and his repertoire has expanded to include bass and drums since then. Ben has been playing guitar for 8 years and is currently in school, working towards a Music Education degree. 

He grew up listening to acoustic folk and country, but finds enjoyment with any style of playing. His current favorites include heavy metal and classic rock. He has an interest in music theory and teaching younger students who are new to music.

Ben has played classic rock all over Cincinnati with his former band Haze, including The Mad Frog, the Thompson House, and Fountain Square, and currently writes and records music for himself.




Steve Helton

Steve Helton not only has the privilege of teaching Drums and Percussion at Sam Ash but he he also is The Learning Center’s Lesson Coordinator. He is a Graduate of Miami University where he majored in English and Creative Writing while also studying Music Theory and Music Performance. As the Lesson Coordinator he takes great pleasure in getting to know each student in order to match them with the right teacher for them. “It’s not just a matter of finding teachers who fit with our students’ schedules, but finding the best teachers in the Cincinnati area who are able to take our students to a higher level of music education and performance.”

Steve has been a Percussionist for over 15 years, studying everything from classical, marching, auxiliary, and drum set. Although percussion is his forte, he also plays bass guitar and has done so in several local bands including Rexy, named Best Unsigned Band of 2007 by Substream Magazine, and the local Pop/Electronic band,
Vito Emmanuel.

He has been teaching since 2004 with students of his going on to perform with several DCI Drum and Bugle Corps, national touring rock bands, and the legendary Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theatre in Chicago, IL. Most recently, Steve was the Drumline instructor of Valley View high school in Germantown, OH.

Steve focuses on teaching all of his student’s basic and advanced rudimentary theories while showing how they can be applied to different genres and various percussion instruments. He plans all of his lessons with the student’s goals in mind and helps develop them into well rounded musicians.

Michael Oakley

Michael Oakley started studying guitar at age 10 under the direction of Jeff Martin and has played for 39 years. He began his professional career at age 15 playing school dances, homecomings and proms around the greater Cincinnati area.

At age 17, Michael began working the local club circuit with various bands. He taught guitar at Buddy Rogers Music, and later attended the University of Cincinnati. In 1984, after a brief period of time playing in the New Your City-based band, 1313, and Florida- based band, Romeo, Michael co-founded the band Hollywood and hit the road for 5 years playing the I-75 circuit, Michigan to south Florida. On occasion, the band traveled south west touring Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and the mid west touring Indian, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. During this time Michael had the opportunity to open shows for various national acts including George Thorogood, Robin Trowler, Pat Travers, Spencer Davis Group, Head East, Wish Bone Ash and Saigon Kick, to name a few.

Michael currently plays pop/blues/jazz in two bands, Unscheduled Flight and Snidely Whiplash, while also playing in the eighties big-hair band, Hollywood, and the progressive rock band, Into The Listening Glass, performing in clubs and for corporate events and regional concerts. Once a month, Michael enjoys leading worship playing contemporary Christian music at Wellspring Community Church and volunteer- teaches a weekly children’s introductory music class at Center of Hope for Women and Children in Middletown.

Michael was chosen as Cincy Magazine’s 2013-2014 Best Music Instructor in their annual Best of the North Awards. In addition to teaching and playing, Michael is also currently on staff at the Underground managing the UG Studios and mentoring bands and offering them the opportunity to create music videos and EPK’s.