All Blue Bear Teacher Bios

Kent BrownKent Brown

Kent Brown was a professional actor, singer and guitarist in Atlanta and the Southeast for 11 years. Kent’s musical career started at age five when his dad taught him how to play the riff to “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” He was quite proud of his new found skill and wanted to show it off, which he did soon after at show-and-tell in kindergarten. When he tried to tell his audience that he also wrote the song, his fraudulence was quickly exposed by the school’s music teacher, who was also in attendance. That was Kent’s first and last attempt at plagiarism, he is proud to say.

Since those scandalous days, Kent has performed with a number of cover bands and original bands of all genres. You can check out his cover band Suite Love Express in an around the Bay Area (or hire them for your wedding!). An instructor at Blue Bear since 2000, Kent teaches group lessons in all levels of acoustic guitar as well as private lessons in acoustic and electric guitar and bass. He’s available rain or shine Monday through Thursday from open to close to make your musical dreams come true. Kent teaches private lessons and group classes.

What students are saying:

  • “Prior to his class, I had never touched a guitar. I joined as a student in my mid 30s, and Kent’s patience and natural ability to teach (any level) has proven to be my musical lighthouse.”
    – David K.
  • “From the beginning, Kent has listened to my aspirations and my lessons have been based on my specific goals. Not only is he is a highly skilled musician, Kent is a fantastic teacher!”
    – Alicia C.
  • “Learning to play a new instrument as an adult can be intimidating, but Kent creates a very relaxed and supportive environment that makes learning fun and enjoyable. With his tips and tricks, I was able to play my favorite songs in just a few months!”
    – Jaclyn H.
  • “He is an outstanding teacher: extremely skilled with an enormous breadth of experience; fun and engaging; patient and encouraging.”
    – Jeremy K.
  • “Kent takes the time to explain everything in plain language so that the whole class understands. He focuses each week’s lesson around a song that incorporates a new chord or technique (usually music that most people know – Beatles, Stones, REM, Pixies, Eagles, etc) which I find is a great way to learn.”
    – Dan S.
  • “With all the knowledge I have learned from Kent, I have been able to write my own songs and play at open mic. I highly recommend you study guitar with him.”
    – Yuchun C.

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Peter CasePeter Case

Peter Case is a three-time Grammy-nominated, performing singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer who brings over 25 years of songwriting experience to his popular Workshops. A founding member of the Nerves and the Plimsouls, Case’s songs are consistently discovered by each new generation, covered and performed by his fellow songwriters (Chris Smither, John Prine and Alejandro Escovedo, among others), and featured on film and television, most recently in True Blood and Friday Night Lights. Peter Case’s current release is HWY 62 on Omnivore Recordings. Peter teaches only group classes.Visit Peter’s website.

What students are saying:

  • “This guy is so experienced at songwriting that his classes are really master classes.” – Riz A.

“Case’s considerable background in punk and electric pop injects his songs with a uniquely incisive quality…even his more laid back ballads connect with a power and passion most others in his field don’t—or can’t– invoke. “ —American Songwriter

“Nearly three decades into his solo career, Peter Case remains one of our best and most compelling singer/songwriters” —All Music Guide

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Lea CentauriLea Centauri

Lea Centauri has been singing since age four. She is the author of two vocal programs: Voicedance for Young Voices and Inner Voice for adults.

A mezzo-soprano, Lea lived in Paris for several years, performing and teaching throughout France as well as in other countries in Europe, in Turkey and in North Africa. She is a vocal coach for all genres – Jazz, Pop, Blues, R&B, Rock, Show Tunes, Hip Hop and Rap – working with both individuals and groups on technique and preparation for recording and performance. Lea is also a songwriter, and teaches beginning piano. She teaches private lessons and group classes.

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T.Lin ChaseT.Lin Chase

T. Lin Chase started out life training to be a concert pianist, but got waylaid at nineteen by life and the siren song of computer science. After a couple of decades of traveling the world deploying software in far flung corners of the globe, she came home to music. Now she writes, records, produces, and spends time working with beginners of all ages who are getting started with drums, keys, guitar, ukulele, bass, singing, concertina, mandolin, banjo, recorder, kazoo … or anything that opens the door to the magic of music!

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Kai ChuKai Chu

Kai Chu began his music education at a young age on piano and graduated from Berklee College of Music studying guitar, voice, and music business. To get to the bottom of things, he has since gravitated toward the bass, now his primary instrument.

Kai has performed for large audiences at such renowned venues as Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado and the LA Forum in Inglewood, California as well as the Warfield and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Other venues he has performed at include Bottom of the Hill, Rickshaw Stop, Red Devil Lounge, Café du Nord, and Slim’s. Kai continues to play professionally and also plays double bass in the San Francisco Civic Symphony. He teaches private lessons and group classes. More at

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Randy ClarkRandy Clark

Randy Clark arrived on the West Coast in the early 1990′s after completing a music degree from Ithaca College. He has since taught hundreds of students in the studios at Haight Ashbury Music and at Blue Bear. He is also the founder of Crowsong, which has released three critically acclaimed records. Surf guru Phil Dirt gave the instrumental album Eternal five stars, calling it “… lush Surfadelic music in the grand tradition.” “Tribal drums, rising thunder…dramatic and commanding…Superb!” writes REVERB CENTRAL, SURF’S UP KFJC 89.7FM. Clark has been called “a master guitarist with a slide style to envy, a vibrato that melts butter, one of the sweetest tones since Ry Cooder and the chops and flash of Blow By Blow Jeff Beck” (Al Muzer, Aquarian Weekly).

Clark has played and recorded with The Mermen, The Billy Nayer Show, Oscar Brown Jr. and many others, and has worked with producer Jeffrey Wood at Berkeley’s Fantasy Studios (Hank Williams III, X, Giant Sand). He has composed film scores for independent festivals in Chicago and San Francisco, contributed music to the Save the Waves Foundation’s documentary Lost Jewel of the Pacific, and worked on many other independent films. Clark is the author of The Alternative Guitar Chord Book (1996), as well as a series of columns for Guitar Player magazine. Randy teaches private lessons and group classes. Learn more at

What students are saying:

  • “Randy Clark is an EXCELLENT slide guitarist and fingerpicker. His technique is pristine and his attention to detail when teaching is awesome. Because of this, if you practice, you can become an excellent slide and/or fingerpicking guitarist in NO TIME!”
    – Riz A.

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Caroline DahlCaroline Dahl

Caroline Dahl plays boogie-woogie, blues and rock piano in bands and solo at many Bay Area clubs. She is frequently seen wearing sequins. Caroline currently plays with the Cajun/American roots band, Tom Rigney and Flambeau. Caroline also plays solo piano regularly on Sundays at Mama’s Royal Cafe in Mill Valley. She has played solo at piano boogie woogie and blues festivals in France, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Canada, and at numerous venues in the United States. She is also an internationally exhibiting textile artist. and YouTube at dahlvideo. Caroline teaches only private lessons.

What students are saying:

  • “Caroline is a great teacher. She is patient, teaches at a pace that is understandable to me and is upbeat and encouraging. I look forward to my lesson every week and always leave motivated to learn more and get better.”

– Mike E.

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Sharman DuranSharman Duran

Sharman Duran, vocalist and keyboardist, has been performing jazz standards, Top 40, Soul, Rock, Pop, and Latin jazz in bands since 1976. She also specializes in teaching music to pre-school children. Sharman teaches private lessons and group classes.

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Brian GireBrian Gire

Brian Gire has been teaching and playing music for over thirty years. Initially inspired by watching the late John Hartford on television, he has developed an eclectic approach that ranges from Bartok to hard rock to Doc Watson. Brian teaches both acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, banjo and ukulele in styles including jazz, blues, classical, blues, bluegrass and more. He teaches private lessons and group classes.

What students are saying:

  • “Brian has helped me with all aspects of my guitar playing.”
    – Dan K.
  • “He is a wonderful combination of skill and patience; which I think would be helpful for students at any level.”
    – Larry S.
  • “Working with Brian has been a terrific experience! Besides having the ability to teach a musical instrument to where even I can understand it he makes each session relaxed, interesting and very enjoyable.”
    – Grant P.
  • “I have been attending Brian Gire’s acoustic jam class for some three years. The Thursday evening sessions are invariably the highlight of my week – and I do have a life! Brian exudes an extraordinary combination of musical talent, rare teaching ability, theoretical erudition and encyclopedic grasp of the literature of rock, blues, jazz, swing, traditional, country and just about every other musical genre under the sun, which he enthusiastically shares with his students.”
    – Daniel K.
  • “I have had music lessons off and on since I was seven years old, and Brian is the best music teacher I have ever had. He will teach you what you want to learn, but will also slip you little doses of what you probably should learn.”
    – Deborah A.

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Molly Ann GracelandMolly Ann Graceland

Molly Ann Graceland is a professional singer, songwriter, collaborative vocal improvisation artist, and integrative performer/educator. Her musical offerings infuse multiple genres and are intended to nourish, clear, soothe and strengthen the body, mind, soul, and Spirit. A key component to Molly’s calling as a musician and teacher is improvisation. In 2016, she completed a mastery-level year-long training in Collaborative Vocal Improvisation led by renowned singer and teacher Rhiannon (Alive!, WeBe3, and Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra).

Molly’s journey as a musician, performance artist, learning specialist, tutor, and teacher has included early years of study in classical vocal music, singing lead for a regionally touring country band, two years study of vocal jazz repertoire and performance at The Nashville Jazz Workshop, conferences in brain science for optimal learning, classes in intuition development, professional and personal studies in mindfulness through Marin Mindfulness Institute and Spirit Rock Meditation Center, as well as Movement-Based Expressive Arts Therapy and Education through The Tamalpa Institute. Molly believes in the power of play, and its ability to bring out the best in each of us. As an instructor, she delights in joining together play and focused intention to create works of art, both solo and in collaboration.

Molly works part-time as a holistic learning specialist/academic tutor for children and teens at Marin Country Day School and in her own private practice where she blends music with academic learning. As a performing and teaching musician, she offers live shows of her original music in various Bay Area venues, as well as classes and private lessons for children, teens, and adults studying voice, songwriting, beginning piano, and collaborative vocal improvisation skills.

Learn more at Molly Ann’s website.

Raz KennedyRaz Kennedy

Raz Kennedy has been performing and recording in the San Francisco Bay Area for 40 years. His performance credits include six years as a founding member of Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra, as well as projects with June Watanabe Performance Ensemble, Rebeca Mauleon, Bob Ostertag, Chris Manning, Paula Gallitano, Bonnie Hayes, Linda Tillery, George Coates Performance Works, and Oberlin Dance Company/San Francisco (ODC).

His recording and live credits include backup, ensemble or lead vocals for or with hit song producer Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin), Al Jarreau, Todd Rundgren, Whitney Houston, Bobby McFerrin, Jason Becker, Wael Kabbani of the Iambic Dream Project, Joel Harrison, Mickey Hart, Tevin Campbell, Tony Lindsay, John Santos, Tom Johnston (Doobie Brothers), Kenny Loggins, Rhiannon, Sting, Jeanie Tracy, Claytoven Richardson, Molly Holm, Gerald Alston, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., Earl Klugh, and Lynn Asher, as well as for film, video, television and radio.

As a vocal coach and vocal producer, Raz has multiple Gold and Platinum records to his credit. Clients include: Adam Duritz and members of Counting Crows, Grammy Award winning artists Los Tigres Del Norte, Universal Recording artists Stroke 9, Rancid, Davey Havok of AFI, Aaron Carter, Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Eoin Harrington, Caroline Vreeland, Jack Blades (Night Ranger), Chantelle Paige, A-Teens, Lavay Smith, Hilary Duff, Nicole Riw, members of Metallica, Victoria Theodore (Stevie Wonder Band), Brett Anderson of The Donnas, Joe Bagale, Jasmine Guy, Sakai, Nikita Germaine, Spencer Day, Karina Lombard, James Nash of The Waybacks, Manuel Romero, Jolie Holland, Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Storm Large, Sakis Rouvas, Bamboo Shoots, Will Evankovich of American Drag, Taara Tati (Metal Mother), Forest Sun, Shana Morrison, Noelle Hampton, Rachel Efron, and Jerry Harrison (founding member of Talking Heads).

Raz presently produces, writes and arranges vocals for live and studio projects. He has studied Latin Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian music in Cuba and New York, has toured the U.S. and internationally in Europe, Asia and South America. Currently, Raz is producing a multi-media performance art piece with collaborator, Pollyanna Bush, entitled “Talk To Me: Transcending The Communication Break Down.” Raz has acquired a wealth of knowledge pertaining to vocal mechanics and expression from studying with master vocal coaches Jane Sharp, Seth Riggs, William “Hannibal” Means, Tikey Zes, and Miles Griffith. Raz has also been coached by Katie Agresta, Jeanette LoVetri, and Ken Tamplin and explored the Jo Estill singing method. Raz an Authorized CVT (Complete Vocal Technique) Teacher, having studied for nearly 4 years in Copenhagen, Denmark under the direction of Danish master vocal coach/researcher Cathrine Sadolin, (creator & founder of CVT) along with her incredibly talented teaching staff.

Raz teaches primarily group classes at Blue Bear, but is available for limited private lessons on Tuesdays – call 415.673.3600 for pricing.

What students are saying:

  • “Raz Kennedy is an EXCELLENT VOCAL COACH. Also, his Ear Training class is a NEED-TO-TAKE if you really want to be a good musician. Aside from that, you’ll love being around him as he’s just a great guy.”

– Riz A.

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Mindy KnightMindy Knight

Mindy Knight has been singing since she could speak, and from the age of eight she sang in choirs and ensembles of nearly every style. She studied music education, piano and anthropology in addition to receiving her BA in voice from the University of North Texas. Her voice and love of music have taken her to various regions of the world, having performed in Colorado (USA), Brasil, Hungary, Ghana, and throughout Texas. Her favorite styles to sing include Folk music, Jazz, Soul/Motown, and Musical Theater! Mindy is currently half of a two-piece group called Vista, who play around San Francisco.

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Stephanie LamondStephanie Lamond

Stephanie Lamond is a San Diego native who has been playing, writing, and breathing music as long as she can remember. Through assisting with children’s music summer camps, music/brain research in college, and her work in the music business, she’s built a solid foundation of experience in the industry and is excited to share her passion with the next wave of music makers. Her love of piano began at age 5, and her mission as a piano instructor is to be the teacher she wanted when she was learning as a kid- to instill in her students a solid understanding of theory and method using music they want to play, encouraging self expression and creativity throughout the entire learning experience.

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Devin LaneDevin Lane

Devin Lane is a guitarist, singer and songwriter-composer from Petaluma, California. His music career started in 1998 as a saxophonist in his elementary school’s band. He started playing guitar in 2000 and has been writing, performing and recording music ever since.

Devin has performed in several bands. He was a singer, bassist and guitarist of the North Bay band Skylark before leaving on a musical journey of Latin America that saw him performing in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. In Peru he performed as a solo artist and as part of a trio playing Argentinian rock music.

Devin holds a B.A. from UC Santa Barbara where he studied electronic music composition, music theory, piano, and English literature.

Since 2007 Devin has taught guitar as a private instructor as well as in private schools, after-school programs and summer camps. He has also taught bass, drums, piano, voice and recording techniques. Devin teaches private lessons and group classes.

Learn more at

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Libby LavellaLibby Lavella

Australian born Libby Lavella is a Grammy-nominated singer and vocal coach. Libby has taught signed artists and non-singers as well. When Mark Webber was cast to play the lead singer for Universal Pictures’ “Scott Pilgrim vs The World,” Mark had no experience singing and could not match pitch, let alone sing a soundtrack Beck had written. Mark was sent to Libby for a vocal evaluation and after two weeks of lessons, Mark went into the studio and recorded all his own vocals with Nigel Goodrich for the soundtrack and for the film. She has also worked with Universal Records’ Grammy-nominated artist Gustavo Galindo (Libby received Grammy nomination for her background vocals on his first single “Te Perdi”), Wendy Melvoin (Prince), Courtney Love, Jamie Lynn Spears, Pia Mia, Blush (Quincy Jones), Nik & Sam (Nickelodeon), Daphne Blunt (Radio Disney), Drama Drama – (Mollee Gray, Jordan Lane Price, Natalie Goenaga, Madisen Hill, Michelle Dion), Kes (5DE), Savvy (STARZ/Cash Money Records), Jessica Bendinger (Stick It!, Bring It On), Brian Lebarton (Beck/Feist), Drew Taubenfeld (Demi Lovato), Devin Bronson (Avril Lavigne), Julianna Raye (Chrysalis), Jeserae (Luc Robitaille), Ben Schmidt (Timothy B Schmidt), cast members of Buffy, and was also the resident vocal coach on set for MTV’s “ROCK THE CRADLE” finale. Libby was vocal coach and vocal producer of the CBS pilot Joey Dakota working with Craig Honer. Libby has sung on albums or performances with Smash Mouth, Wendy & Lisa (Prince), Frank Gambale, Kate Ceberano (Mushroom), Big Syke (Tupac), Universal’s “Curious George” movies and TV episodes, “Walk Of Shame” and lots more. Libby brings an insider’s knowledge of the business having also worked as a production coordinator on albums for Seal, Robi Rosa and Ricky Martin. In addition to helping other artists realize their potential and being a part of the team, Libby has released three albums and performed in venues all over. In 2015 she released an EP with her LA-based harmony group The Amber. Libby teaches group voice classes and is also available for special Artist Vocal Development private lessons (call for price and availability).

What students are saying:

  • Libby is a brilliant teacher. Not only can she explain in basic terms as to what the mechanics are involved with singing but she knows how to support everyone’s effort to reach a higher level. I have never taken a singing class before and believed I could not sing. Libby changed this for me.
    – Janice S.

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Sean LeahySean Leahy

Berklee grad Sean Leahy has toured the States and Europe with Kofy Brown, Red Archibald, Marginal Prophets, Boomshanka, Four Year Bender, Guitarmageddon and London Street. An experienced guitar teacher, Sean released his first solo project in 2008. Learn more at Sean teaches private lessons and group classes.

What students are saying:

  • “Sean is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and he knows how to teach music on the fly. He can quickly strip down complicated songs, whether it’s keys, rhythm and lead guitar parts, or the back up singer’s note, and have you sounding good within the first day of playing with your new band.”
    – Brett O.

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J.T. LockeJ.T. Locke

J.T. Locke has been playing guitar, writing and arranging songs for over 25years. He has recorded and performed across the country for over ten years and has taught professionally since 2007. J.T. trained at PCC Music program in Portland and M.I.T in Los Angeles. He has played .peformed and recorded with many great musicians, including The Wildhearts, Genitortures, Gilby Clarke (GNR), Dizzy Reed (GNR), CC Deville (Poison), Ryan Roxie (Alice Cooper), Slim Jim Phantom (The Stray Cats), Greg D’Angelo (White Lion), Dee Dee Ramone (The Ramones), Guttermouth, Eric Dover (Jellyfish), Rex Brown (Pantera), and Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath).

J.T. has given private instruction and personal tutoring to students of all ages in rock/jazz/classical/blues/metal/pop and other styles, on both guitar and bass. He has developed and worked with lots of youth programs in helping creating and learning all types of music for them to play and perform.Teaching levels include: beginner-advanced. He has had great success with teaching how to write and create music. He teaches students to develop their talents as a songwriter using layering/harmonies vocal melodies and, finally, teaching students how to utilize their own ear for training. Each student learns all the tools, techniques and theory to help write and create. This allows each student to maximize their own potential and develop their own style.

His current band is Deathtrap America, which is recording their next album and performing all over the Bay Area. J.T. teaches private lessons and group classes.

What students are saying:

  • “JT has been awesome to work with! Part drill sergeant, cheerleader, spiritual guru, fashion police and now great friend he has given me musical knowledge and ability way beyond my expectations!”
    – Alan N.

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Shaun McGonegalShaun McGonegal
Shaun McGonegal is a seasoned drummer with over 30 years of extensive experience in live performance and studio work. Along with his contributions on many albums, he holds the title of Groove Crew Member, actively consulting for the site. His formal training began at Ontario College of Percussion and continued studies with Pete Magadini, John Pickering, and jazz great Tony Williams.

He has mastered variety of styles, from Rock, R&B, Blues and Funk, to Latin, Jazz and Hip-hop. With his music reaching international acclaim, he has worked with Freddie Hubbard, Richard Kermode (from Santana and Janis Joplin), Ron Wilson (Sun Ra and His Alter Destiny 21st Century Omniverse Arkestra) and Cliff Adams (Kool and the Gang).

He was the band leader of the great R&B/Funk group Uptown Rulers and can also be heard on the recent release Sounds of Santa Cruz and the soon to be released albums by his current bands Shaggy J, and the Ratchilds. Shaun has shared his knowledge as a teacher for over 25 years.

As the head of the drum department at Blue Bear, he has developed a flexible curriculum adapted for students of all ages and skill levels. His unique methods of teaching drum fundamentals earned him the 2007 Blue Bear School of Music Lifetime Achievement Award. Shaun’s patience and encouraging approach provides students the skills and confidence needed to learn all aspects of drum set performance. More at Shaun teaches only private lessons.

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ab Menonab Menon

ab Menon started playing music at a young age and graduated from Sonoma State University with a B.M. in Jazz Studies and Applied Music. He teaches guitar and keyboards and has experience performing in groups ranging from New Orleans jazz to progressive rock to Celtic music.

Currently he plays guitar with Tempest, a Celtic rock group on Magna Carta Records, Cabbagehead, his own creative project blending hard bop and progressive rock, and Token Girl, a jazz-influenced interpretation of bassline-driven pop music. Some of ab’s notable performances include the 2016 Philadelphia Folk Festival, the 2015 and 2016 Strawberry Music Festivals, and the 2013 Cotati Jazz Festival.

ab’s teaching philosophy is based on Victor Lin’s doctoral dissertation, “Practice makes personal: A study of the formative experiences of jazz pianists.” Lin studied five great jazz pianists from different generations and his findings can be distilled into four two-sided points that make an excellent guide for any musician.
1. Playing by ear & reading
2. Social listening & individual study of recordings
3. Frequent, low-stakes performance (club dates, jam sessions) & infrequent high-stakes performance (recitals)
4. Casual social playing (the hang and jam) & individual practice

ab’s approach to teaching uses material that students are interested in as a vehicle for learning about different elements of music.

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Joe MorganJoe Morgan

Joe Morgan studied voice from 1977-1985 at Northern Illinois University and at DePaul University. With experience ranging from traditional and contemporary choral ensembles to singer/songwriter material, Joe has worked with a wide range of vocalists to help them achieve both vocal health and emotional connection in their singing.

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Tennessee MowreyTennessee Mowrey

Tennessee Mowrey is a Bay Area native who has been a musician for as long as he can remember. A multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter who has written for folk, rock, reggae, and punk bands, he has also written numerous film and theater scores. He is proficient in guitar, bass, drum kit, hand percussion, mandolin, and ukulele. He has released multiple self-produced solo albums, as well as albums with his various bands, including Borneo and Electric Tiger Lily. He has played at the Sweetwater and at the Mountain Play (really!), and currently teaches in Blue Bear’s All-Star Band Program. Tennessee graduated from Wesleyan University with High Honors in Music in 2014. He teaches private lessons and All Star Bands.

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Lauren OnaLauren Ona

Lauren Ona, vocalist, musician, songwriter and entertainer, is driven by the act of inspiring and being inspired by others. Her teachings consist of helping her students to understand the physiology of the voice itself and to find and learn about their own voice on a deeper, more personal and transformational level. She performs regularly with various corporate bands, and also appeared on ABC’s first season of the TV show “Rising Star.”

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Pamela ParkerPamela Parker

Pamela Parker is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist schooled in classical, jazz, blues, classic rock, recording, songwriting, producing and performing. She holds two degrees in music, has started two music schools, works at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco, and has been practicing music since the age of 7, including piano, violin, drums, bass, guitar, singing, songwriting and recording.

Pamela has developed a songwriting workshop that uses the effects of color to create each song from start to finish. She has been teaching music, songwriting and recording to all ages since 2001, all the while performing with her own rock band. To date, she has released four albums. More at Pamela teaches private lessons and group classes.

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Jim PetersonJim Peterson

Jim Peterson, local saxophone sideman, recorded and toured with Mumbo Gumbo for more than a decade. He now performs with Mitch Woods, Steve Lucky and others, both Stateside and on extensive European tours of duty. More… Jim teaches private lessons and group classes.

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Ilya PortnovIlya Portnov

Ilya Portnov is an innovative and technically advanced harmonica player who transforms its rustic simplicity into a sophisticated, expressive sound capable of conveying the most challenging music. As a world citizen, Ilya is equally comfortable swinging a Brazilian choro, navigating a sinewy Balkan dance, or celebrating harmonica’s roots in the blues.

In 2014, Ilya completed a Masters at the prestigious New England Conservatory (Boston, MA) and is the only person playing diatonic harmonica to have done so. Ilya has recorded and performed with a number of groups at venues and festivals throughout the United States, Europe and Russia. Ilya teaches private lessons and seminars.

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Janak RamachandranJanak Ramachandran

Janak Ramachandran has been playing guitar for the better part of two decades and teaching it for more than 10 years. His acoustic guitar technique is designed to progressively build the skills needed to become a one-man or one-woman band. With the use of songs specifically chosen for their instructive value, Janak’s teaching approach can take you from your first notes and chords to the complex rhythms, chord progressions and scale knowledge that can make you a complete guitar player. Electric guitar shares many skills in common with the acoustic guitar, of course, but Janak’s electric approach includes more tailored skill building with regards to both the tools of phrasing (particularly as it applies to single note lead work) and the aesthetic variety of different chord styles. Since Janak also teaches voice and songwriting, he is a one-stop shop for anyone wanting to eventually sing and play together, whether learning to create their own music or interpreting the songs of others. He teaches private lessons and group classes.

Janak Ramachandran began his vocal training at the age of six and eventually studied more professionally following college in various styles including Bel Canto and Speech Level Singing. By combining ideas from these and other vocal schools of thought (e.g., Alexander Technique), he forms his foundational vocal philosophy, upon which he layers his own technique. He has had success coaching beginning students unable to match pitch to eventually perform on stage as well as guide professional singers in the studio when recording an album. He has fronted (both with and without an instrument) numerous bands, performed in musicals as well as dramatic and comic stage plays, and developed an acting technique for singers and instrumentalists designed specifically for musicians performing on stage. In 2008, Janak’s band Bottoms Up! was the top cover band in a California battle of the bands competition. His teaching credits include the children of Todd Rundgren and Linda Ronstadt as well as numerous local musicians in bands like Tainted Love and The Doorslammers, some of whom have studied with Janak for years.

Learn more about Janak at and

What students are saying:

  • “Every week is challenging, requiring lots of practice in between, but rewarding because skills that seemed impossible when they’re introduced come easily within a couple weeks. The variety and progression by which skills are introduced simply cannot be reproduced in a self-taught environment & the group setting provides the additional motivation to practice during the week. I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon Janak from the beginning and I highly recommend him to anyone similarly looking to learn guitar from the ground up!”
    – Forbes H.

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Mike RaoMike Rao

Mike Rao, a graduate of G.I.T. in Los Angeles, studied solo jazz guitar with Ted Green. He loves blues and classic rock and has more than a decade of teaching experience. Mike teaches private lessons and group classes.

What students are saying:

  • “I had never played guitar before starting lessons with Mike – he even had to teach me how to hold a pick! I have learned a ton from Mike over the years and still look forward to my lessons each week.”

– Kathy M.

  • “Mike Rao has a style that is so patient and laid back that you don’t realize how far out he’s pushing you. Then one day it hits you that you just improvised for 16 bars, and fell right back into the rhythm so the next student can solo –on a song that, last week, you didn’t even know how to play!”
    –Brian G.
  • “Mike Rao has been an amazing guitar/music teacher. When I began lessons with him I was a 48 year-old non-musician. 8 years later I am playing, learning and comprehending guitar far past my wildest fantasies.” – Ian E.
  • “Year after year, Thursday nights with Mike = best hour of my week.”
    – Brett O.

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Emilie SchattmanEmilie Schattman

Emilie Schattman is a pianist and singer, songwriter and teacher. She studied jazz voice and performance at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City from 2011-2012 and graduated in May 2015 with a BA in Environmental Science from Barnard College of Columbia University. She’s performed in NYC, Connecticut and also in Antarctica while working as a research technician on a long-term ecological study. She also plays solo piano and voice weekly at Le Colonial in San Francisco and at other venues in the city.

Mark SchuhMark Schuh

Mark Schuh has been playing and performing for years and years and years and years. Mark has studied music in many elements, perhaps most notably with the infamous Joan Wildman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and with Bay Area jazz guru Jeff Massanari. Mark is the lead guitarist for SF’s New Orleans-inspired Fatcat.

Mark has been hired to compose music for cable television, industrial film, and other potentially impressive sounding things. He’s toured the country as a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and singer in numerous projects. Mark can often be found singing and playing solo guitar at SF’s Durty Nelly’s, where he’s been a resident musician for the last 10 years. When not performing, Mark enjoys teaching, and although his last name is Schuh, he generally prefers to avoid footwear. Mark teaches private lessons and group classes.

What students are saying:

  • “Mark is a great musician and fun teacher who will inspire you to play better each week. You’ll be ready for the show.”

– Brett O.

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Erin TadenaErin Tadena

Erin Tadena is a lifelong musician who is currently working at Laughing Tiger Recording as an engineer, technician and assistant studio and social media manager. Prior to working at Laughing Tiger, Erin logged ten years of live sound experience. Erin received an Associates Degree for Recording Arts from Los Medanos College. Mid-way through his degree, he was hired by the college to work as an engineer and technician in the recording arts department and continues there as part of the staff, instructing and tutoring students..

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John TurnerJohn Turner

With an early background in trumpet, piano and voice in concert bands, marching bands, community symphony orchestras and barbershop quartets, John Turner eventually settled on the keys, touring with national recording groups and working as a session player. He has also accompanied cabaret acts and played for Top 40 and show bands, upscale restaurants, five-star hotels, corporate events, and private parties. John teaches only private lessons.

What students are saying:

  • “I am a mid-forties professional with absolutely zero musical experience. I started in November of 2012 and this was my first musical lesson of any form. Although Fort Mason is far for me to travel, I have never considered changing my teacher, because John has an ability to make it interesting and change the lesson based on what you need so that it never gets boring. Even when I feel completely stuck and think I just don’t have the time to devote to it, John finds some way from his wonder tool kit to make me produce a little break through.”

– Sabine

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Amanda VanderMeerAmanda VanderMeer

Amanda VanderMeer graduated with high honors from Portland Community College’s Professional Music Program and has been playing and writing music for twenty-five years, touring the globe and releasing two studio albums. Since 2006, she has taught a wide range of ages in drums, piano, vocals, music theory, and songwriting. She plays drums in her current band Deathtrap America.

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Full teacher directory:

Kent Brown |Peter Case | Lea Centauri | T.Lin Chase | Kai Chu | Randy Clark | Caroline Dahl | Sharman Duran | Brian Gire | Raz Kennedy
Devin Lane | Libby Lavella | Sean Leahy | JT Locke | Shaun McGonegal | ab Menon | Joe Morgan Tennessee Mowrey | Lauren Ona
Pamela Parker | Jim Peterson | Ilya Portnov | Janak Ramachandran | Mike Rao | Mark Schuh | Erin Tadena | John Turner | Amanda VanderMeer