Overview & History

  • . . . San Francisco’s pre-eminent school of rock, blues, jazz, folk and pop music
  • . . . a home for aspiring musicians of all ages and all skill levels
  • . . . a place where each student’s unique talents and goals are recognized and supported
  • . . . a vibrant community, a place for making, learning and sharing music

Blue Bear is . . .

  • 30,000 – # of students since Blue Bear began
  • 1971 – year of Blue Bear’s founding
  • 850 – # of students in Blue Bear programs each quarter
  • 95 – # of known Blue Bear marriages
  • 8 – # of saxophone lessons taken by Paula Poundstone at Blue Bear
  • 1st – we’re the original school of rock and roll!

By the numbers . . .




Non-profit organization Blue Bear School of Music was founded as “Blue Bear Waltzes School of Genuine Music” in the summer of 1971 by a rock band called “Wolfgang & Strauss” – “Wolfgang” was a dog, and “Strauss,” two brothers in the band. Before moving to San Francisco to make their fame and fortune (and to found a music school), they lived in Northern California on the Bear River. When naming the school, the brothers Strauss whimsically recalled Johann Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz,” substituting the Bear River for the Danube, and the rest is history. For a period in the mid-’70s, when the founding members moved on, Blue Bear was run by a co-operative of teachers and students. In 1978 operations moved from the original storefront on Ocean Avenue to Fort Mason Center, where Blue Bear has thrived and evolved to its current state of more than 850 music-loving students per quarter. Blue Bear’s current Board of Trustees and Staff includes former “Wolfgang & Strauss” members Steve Savage (Board President) and Richard Strauss along with Electric Orchestra & Folk Chorus (and Blue Bear Association) member Bonnie Hayes. Day-to-day operations are under the direction of Dennis Criteser, a former student who has been associated with the school for 35+ years.

Photo of Blue Bear Waltzes in 1972
Blue Bear teachers and Association members circa 1972, including original band members (seated l-r) Danny Paik, Steve Strauss, Wolfgang, Steve Savage, and Richard Strauss, along with (standing in first row) Bonnie Hayes, longtime CFO Carol Snow and Chris Hayes (guitarist with Huey Lewis & the News).