Katie Carmer had just moved to Arizona from Michigan when she took a risk and answered an ad on Craigslist for a bluegrass band seeking a cellist. Despite knowing nothing about bluegrass music, she quickly picked up the new style and broadened her musical horizons. Trained in the classical tradition since kindergarten, she went on to study philosophy and cello performance at the University of Notre Dame. She moved to Arizona to become a high school humanities teacher and went on to earn her Master's Degree in education policy from Stanford University. Katie currently works for a college access program in Arizona, supporting high schoolers in their journey to become first-generation college students. Katie is married to Chester, whom she fell in love with at their first Racecars rehearsal.
Chester Carmer took a chance on a Cragislist ad that Francisco posted seeking a mandolin player to join his band, and he hasn't turned back. 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; in addition to picking tunes, he serves as the lead singer for Cisco & the Racecars. Chester earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering at ASU and is employed as an senior software engineer with Synapse Studios. He is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Software Engineering. In his spare time he also plays fiddle and mandolin for the country band The American Longspurs.
Mark Hickler, a Boston native, is an active member of the Phoenix 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 rhythm guitarist in 2013, but he was no stranger to the band members, having taught many of them to play when they were children.
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. Mark is a professional banjo builder and was honored by the Musical Instrument Museum of Arizona when they bought his Arizona Banjo built for the 2012 bicentennial for their permanent collection. His passion was and continues to be mentoring young musicians.
Originally from Cameroon, Joelle Tambe-Ebot joined the Jam Pak Blues 'N' Grass Neighborhood Band the very same day as Francisco back in 1999. She started on guitar, but in junior high she took up the bass as the orchestra had no one to play. After taking a hiatus from music while attending ASU to earn a kineseology degree, she was invited to play bass for Cisco & The Racecars and quickly picked up where she left off. When she isn't picking the bass or singing Gerswhin, she continues to work as a master technician in a leading physical therapy firm and is preparing for her Master's Degree in Physical Therapy. Joelle is also a competitive ballroom dancer specializing in west coast swing.
Francisco Briseno, originally from Hermosillo, Mexico, started playing banjo at seven years old. He quickly became lead banjo player in the Jam Pak Blues 'N Grass Neighborhood band, learning the difficult three-finger Earl Scruggs style of playing. Since then, he has continued to teach, mentor, and perform with Jam Pak and has evolved into a band leader and manager. Francisco realized his long-time dream by winning the Arizona State Banjo Championship in Wickenburg Fall of 2014. He was also one of the three musicians for "Burning in the Night," a theater production based on the story of Dale Wasserman. Francisco has a degree in mathematics from Arizona State University and is employed as an Accounts Receivable Specialist for STORE Capital in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Classically trained violinist Giselle Lee picked up the violin at the age of 12. With a strong desire to branch out into other styles, she found her way to the Jam Pak Blues 'N' Grass Neighborhood Band. There, she not only discovered bluegrass-stylefiddling, but also fell in love with the banjo. She has won the Specialty Instrument Contest in Wickenburg twice with her clawhammer banjo playing. With Cisco & The Racecars Giselle plays fiddle and sings lead and harmony. In the summer of 2014, Giselle toured in China for five weeks as a member of Dr. Peter Rolland's Americana Ensemble. Now a graduate of Arizona State University, with a major in biology, Giselle is contemplating her next adventure which will likely include medical school. She continues to teach at Music Maker Workshops and to mentor the young people of Jam Pak.