Katie Carmer, at the time a first year teacher here in Arizona, took a risk and answered an ad on Craigslist 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 in cello performance, and a Dean of Instruction at Mesa Preparatory, a Great Hearts Academy, she has earned her Master's Degree in Education from Stanford University. Falling in love with Chester Carmer, also a Racecar, has been a beautiful highlight in the life of this band. Cisco & The Racecars played for their wonderful wedding and they now make their home in Phoenix.
Francisco Briseno, a little boy from Mexico, was discovered at Galveston Elementary in Chandler, Arizona, when Anni Beach, founder 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 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 , a graduate in mathematics at Arizona State University , is employed as a Portfolio Operations Associate for S.T.O.R.E. Capitol in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Industrial Engineering at ASU. Music, which was never part of his family heritage, has changed the course of his life.
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 rhythm 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 when he moved from Boston. 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 was a founding member of the award-winning old-time country band Greenwood Sidee.
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.
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 -stylefiddling, 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 won numerous awards throughout the State of Arizona including several first place awards at the Wickenburg Four Corners State Championships. 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 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 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.
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 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 a competitive ballroom dancer specializing in Latin styles of dance. She has recently been seen on the runway in high end modeling jobs and in her very spare time she draws and does photography.
Chester Carmer took a chance on an ad on Craigslist 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 completed a second major in Mechanical Engineering at ASU and is employed as an engineer with Intel in Chandler. He is currently working on a Master's Degree in Software Engineering. 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". The best part of all, he fell in love with Katie, the cello player, and with great joy and excitement they married and now make their home in Phoenix.
Cisco and The Racecars