Meet Our Teaching Faculty

San Francisco’s Best Music Teachers & Educators

 

Our Team, One Commitment

Our faculty is deeply committed to teaching as a profession, dedicated to helping students meet their unique goals.

Blue Bear teachers also work as musicians, expert in their individual crafts, with significant experience in the music industry.

Teacher Bios

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Derek Barber

Derek Barber is a Bay Area-based guitarist, songwriter, and music educator. In 2008, Barber graduated from the University of Michigan with a BFA in Jazz Improvisation in Guitar. On a full-ride scholarship to the University’s School of Music, he studied privately with internationally-acclaimed Jazz musicians/educators Geri Allen and Robert Hurst. There, he honed his improvisation, transcription, and music theory – skills he brings to his musical pursuits as well as to his fifteen-plus years of teaching.
An active contributor and member of critically acclaimed Bay Area bands Bells Atlas, Astronauts, etc., Barber’s solo project is Perhapsy.  He is also a sought-after session guitarist, with recording credits at Tiny Telephone Studios, Fantasy, Decibelle, and several others. Aside from his experience in teaching, music composition, recording, editing, and mixing, Barber is also a regularly hired visual artist.
He believes in a cheerful and professional attitude towards teaching his students and is a firm believer that music and art is a truly exciting and life-long pursuit.  Derek teaches private lessons in guitar, bass, and ukulele. Request a lesson with Derek.

Stellar songwriting with some especially gorgeous guitar work from Derek Barber.
– Premier Guitar Magazine
Derek Barber’s guitar work flits from jagged edges to smooth licks like vogue.
– AFROPUNK

Kent 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 newfound 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.  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, ukulele, and bass.
 
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) have 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.

Imam Hamdani

Imam Hamdani is a Bay Area-based guitarist, producer, and music educator. In 2018, Imam graduated from Berklee College of Music with a BA in Contemporary Writing and Production. While at Berklee he was selected as one of five guitar players to perform at Berklee’s Guitar Showcase. Since then, Imam toured with Boston Music Award winner Ali Mcguirk and performed with acts such as Binky Griptite & Orchestra and BT ALC BIG BAND to name a few.
Imam is also a Composer. In 2018 he worked with Nathan Barr, composer for the TV show The Americans, and since has scored multiple short films and documentaries. He currently works for BoomBox Sound as a freelance composer.  
Currently, Imam is leading his project Imam Collective while studying Indian Classical Music at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael. 
Imam teaches private lessons in guitar, bass, and ukulele.

J.T. Locke

J.T. Locke has been playing guitar, writing and arranging songs for over 25 years. He has recorded and performed across the country for over ten years and has taught professionally since 2007.  J.T. trained at the PCC Music program in Portland and M.I.T in Los Angeles. He has played, performed, 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, helping students create, learn and perform all types of music.  Teaching levels range from beginner to advanced.  He has had great success teaching songwriting and composition, and also instructs 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 in guitar, bass, and ukulele, group classes, summer camps, and is Co-Director of Blue Bear’s All Star Band program.
 
What students are saying:
  • “J.T. 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.

Richard Michos

A full-time musician since 1995, Richard Michos shares his extensive expertise of all aspects of guitar techniques with students beginning to advanced.  He has performed extensively, locally and internationally, and is an established studio player and music producer.  Originally inspired by classic rock, his education includes music composition and technology degrees from UC San Diego, and he studied jazz guitar at Berklee College of Music in Boston and with virtuoso Tuck Andress.
 
As a music producer, he has recorded albums for record labels such as Universal, Hearts of Space, Sony Music, and City of Tribes. He is well versed in music from India, as well as other world music styles. In recording, Richard specializes in fusing traditional melodic forms with modern grooves and instrumentation.  His album credits include the groups Shabaz, Georges Lammam, and Riffat Sultana (available on iTunes) who have been reviewed with stars by Billboard and highly rated on world music radio charts.  His music has also been featured on NPR, as well as in Rhythm and Folk Roots magazines. In addition, he has worked with artists including Quincy Jones, Narada Michael Walden, Richard Bona, Cheb Khaled, and has performed at venues such as the Greek Theatre LA, Montreal Jazz Festival, LA’s Grand Performances, and “We are the Future” in Rome. Richard’s solo performances display a rich tapestry of sound and influences, playing a mix of pop, international, latin, light jazz, and classic rock styles.
 
Richard is available for private lessons in guitar, ukulele, bass, and beginning piano, and also teaches group ukulele.  He enjoys teaching adult students of all levels and loves to work with kids and teenagers as well. His teaching methods include using songs that students like as a vehicle for learning about playing techniques and music structure.
 
“I love to teach music to all ages and have taught hundreds of people. Every student is different, and I can guide each toward their musical goals. I am a clear, patient, and understanding teacher who is able to meet you where you are on your musical journey, and assist you in expanding your knowledge and mastery of music and the instrument. Usually having a whole lot of fun along the way!” – Richard
 
What students are saying:
  • “Richard has been teaching my son ukulele and electric guitar for over a year. Richard is a fantastic guitar player and a great teacher. He has a knack for knowing what will keep the child interested and engaged and is willing to be flexible to make sure that his students develop a passion. My son has gone from dreading practice to not having enough hours in the day to play to his heart’s content. He now wants to be a professional guitar player!”

Kevin Mullane

Kevin Mullane graduated from Columbia College in Chicago with a B.A. in Music.  He has taught students of all ages and levels in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, focusing on the individual student’s development of the skills necessary to enjoy playing the music they love. He has been a performing musician for many years and currently plays guitar and sings lead vocals with the Bay Area bands System 9 and The Nakano Jazz Quintet.
 
Kevin teaches electric and acoustic guitar, bass guitar, voice, ukulele, and band classes, using song suggestions from students as a vehicle to learn about chords, melody, rhythm, song structure, and technique. Students can explore theory, harmony, and composition in a variety of styles, including rock, jazz, blues, soul, funk, folk, and more.  He encourages students to play music on their own, jam with friends, or perform with a band. Whether you want to pursue music professionally or simply develop your skills and have fun, Kevin offers all levels of instruction.
 

Lucia Pontoniere

A native of San Francisco, Lucia Pontoniere began playing violin at the age of 6. After pursuing classical violin seriously for 10 years, she began to explore other styles of music on the violin, including jazz, Irish, Scottish, and old-time fiddle. Lucia graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Violin Performance and American Roots Music. During and after college she toured the country and recorded albums with her band The Ladles, a space where she began to explore writing songs and playing the guitar. Lucia teaches all styles of violin as well as guitar, voice, ukulele, songwriting, and beginner piano. She particularly likes to work with violinists who have mostly played in a classical setting and are looking to explore other styles of music. She loves teaching and her music philosophy is built upon the idea that we should always follow the spark of our creativity.

Janak Ramachandran

Janak Ramachandran has been playing guitar for the better part of two decades and teaching it for more than 15 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. 
 
Janak 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 musiclessonguru.com and secretsofsinging.com.  Janak teaches private lessons in guitar, voice, ukulele, bass, and piano, and group voice and guitar classes at Blue Bear.
 
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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