Mark Hickler is an active member of the local music scene as a guitarist, banjo player and singer. He grew up listening to an eclectic mix of blues, jazz, folk and American roots music. But his main love and influence has been the 1920s and 1930s recordings of early country and old-time music.Mark joined Cisco & The Racecars as lead guitar and sometimes plays the banjo and fiddle, too. Mark was no stranger to the band members as he joined Jam Pak as a mentor and teacher in 2001. He was Francisco's banjo teacher and taught guitar and arranging as well. His strong and heart-felt vocals are a hallmark of Cisco & The Racecars. Mark is a founding member of the old-time country band Greenwood Sidee and continues to write music and direct that award-winning band.Mark's expertise in old-time music and arranging helped bring the theater production of "Burning in the Night" music to life for the World Premier in 2013. He now joins the musical trio (including Francisco and Giselle) as a performer for the Mesa Arts Theater and Theaterworks of Peoria in a new presentation of the play.Mark is a banjo builder by profession and was honored by the Musical Instrument Museum when they bought one of Mark's banjos for their permanent collection. His passion is mentoring young musicians.
Katie Buetow, at the time a first year teacher here in Arizona, took a risk and answered an ad on Craig's list for a cello player, bluegrass style.
With her mellow and beautiful cello she met up with Cisco and the other members and soon became a Racecar. Trained in the classical tradition since Kindergarten in Michigan, but loving bluegrass, in no time at all she was flying through some difficult improvisations and creating a new sound for Cisco & The Racecars. She melted the hearts of those who believed cello was not for bluegrass. She has succeeded with her playing to blend, to excite, and enhance the sounds of bluegrass and old-time music. And she has developed her singing style which is just as mellow as her cello.
A graduate of Notre Dame, and a third year teacher at Mesa Preparatory, a Great Hearts Academy, she also helps to mentor the orchestra young people at her school. She is learning to play mandolin and takes it to school to sing songs with her classes. And of course, they love it.
Francisco Briseno, a little boy from Mexico, was discovered at Galveston Elementary when Mrs. Beach of Jam Pak was the music substitute. She had taken bluegrass instruments to the music class and passed them around. Francisco, only seven years old, seemed intent on trying to play the five-string banjo. He was invited to join Jam Pak. And he never quit. He quickly became lead banjo player learning the difficult three-finger Earl Scruggs style of playing. Throughout the years he has continued to teach, mentor, and perform with Jam Pak and has evolved into a band leader and manager. Part of the original Real Deal Band, he finally took the step and formed his own band known as Cisco & The Racecars. They have to date won all the major bluegrass band competitions in the state of Arizona. And Francisco realized his long-time dream and won the Arizona State Banjo Championship in Wickenburg Fall of 2014. He is also one of the three musicians for "Burning in the Night" a theater production based on the story of Dale Wasserman. Francisco will graduate from Arizona State University with a mathematics major in May 2015. Music, which was never part of his family heritage, has changed the course of his life.
Cisco and The Racecars
Classically trained violinist Giselle Lee picked up the violin at the age of 12. With a strong desire to branch out into other styles, probably influenced by her folk music upbringing, she found her way to the Jam Pak Blues 'N' Grass Neighborhood Band, under the direction of Anni Beach. She not only discovered bluegrass -style fiddling, but also stumbled across the banjo. Inspired by the smooth clawhammer style of her soon-to-be teacher and mentor, Mark Hickler, she picked up the banjo in no time, practicing daily with an unrelenting motivation. In 2008 she was invited to join Greenwood Sidee, an old-time band with Mark Hickler and one of the small bands formed out of Jam Pak. Greenwood Sidee has won numerous awards throughout the state of Arizona including several first place awards at the Wickenburg Four Corners State Championships. The band also took second place at Picking in the Pines Bluegrass and Acoustic Festival 2013. She has won the Specialty Instrument Contest in Wickenburg twice with her clawhammer banjo playing. With Cisco & The Racecars she plays fiddle and sings lead and harmony with her powerful, yet sweet and silky voice. Giselle toured in China for five weeks in the summer of 2014 as a member of Dr. Peter Rolland's Americana Ensemble. Now a sophomore at Arizona State University, majoring in biology, she composes songs, plays in three bands and continues to mentor, teach, and be a member of Jam Pak. She is also a member of the musical trio in the theater production of "Burning in the Night", the story of Dale Wasserman.
Joelle Tambe-Ebot joined the Jam Pak Blues 'N' Grass Neighborhood Band the very same day as Francisco back in 1999. Studying the guitar and singing with her sweet voice, she won the hearts of the bluegrass community. In junior high she took up the bass as the orchestra had no one to play. The guitar was put aside and Joelle became a first-class bass player and for many years played for Jam Pak.
During her final year at ASU she was invited to play bass for Cisco & The Racecars and, missing out on the music for a couple of years, she fit back in just perfectly. Her lovely vocals and harmonies are giving the band that very special sound.
Since graduating in kinesiology from ASU she works as a technician in a leading physical therapy firm and is preparing for her Master's Degree in Physical Therapy after which she will join the family business Phoenix Valley Home Health Care. Joelle is also the bass player for Greenwood Sidee, the old-time country band, founded by Mark Hickler of Cisco & The Racecars. And not only all of that, but Joelle is a competitive ballroom dancer and an artist.
Chester Carmer took a chance on an ad on Craig's List and once he heard the pickers of the soon-to-be named "Cisco & The Racecars" band , he said he wanted to be part of such a cool group of pickers. And he hasn't turned back. He fit like a glove into the tight-knit music circle. Originally from Corpus Christi, Texas,
Chester started playing bluegrass after inheriting his grandfather's banjo. Soon afterward, he fell in love with the sound of the fiddle and taught himself how to play. Chester loves the mandolin best of all and can sit for hours just playing tune after tune. He brings his awesome lead singing to the band, his great spirit of fun, songwriting, and all that picking. Chester will soon complete a second major in Mechanical Engineering at ASU and is also serving a full-time internship with Intel in Chandler.
In his spare time he also plays fiddle and mandolin for the country band "The American Longspurs" and indeed even one more band known as "The Senators".