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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Nazan Aktas

Nazan Aktas is a musician who is also passionate about all aspect of arts/performing arts.  She began studying ballet at 3 and continued until the age of 13 when she switched her focus to acting and music.  Nazan picked up the cello at the age of 14 and has been studying and performing ever since!  She graduated from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Music Degree focusing on Classical Performance and Jazz Studies.  Now studying at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, Nazan hopes to keep learning, performing, writing, making art, dancing, acting and traveling.

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, and he is also a sought-after session guitarist. He has recorded numerous sessions at Tiny Telephone Studios, Fantasy, Decibelle, and several others. Aside from 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.

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

Cole Berggren

Cole Odin Berggren is a prominent local DJ who spins vinyl and the occasional CD in locations city and country wide.  In the realm of writing and performing music, he is the songwriter/singer/multi-instrumentalist for his own band, a pulsing, psychedelic, electronic rock band aptly called OWNERSHIP.   Cole is a summer camp drum and DJ instructor.

Suzie Berndt

Patty Boss

Patty Boss (ASCAP) is a pianist and composes music for television, including national feature scoring credits for Emmy winner Bay Windows series in San Francisco “Hope on the Street,” which received recognition and awards, including Northern California Emmy Nomination for Best Documentary.  She has held roles as Audio Lead and Composer for Leapfrog Inc.; Composition Guest Lecturer at New College, San Francisco; Broadcast Mixer for CurrentTV; music production for XBOX advertising; EA Games sound design credits for The Sims, & The Urbz; and keyboardist and backing vocalist for several performing bands.  She holds a degree from Berklee College of Music, piano principal.
 
Her music plays on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN Special Report, Animal Planet, Discovery, NFL, NBA, NFL, UFC, CBS Sports Spectacular, MTV, Bravo, National Geographic Channel, Entertainment Television (E!), TLC, Oxygen Network, TV-One, A&E, FYI Network, History Channel, Travel Channel, VH1, TLC, TV1, Investigation Discovery Network and more.  Recently, Patty’s music has been heard on America’s Got Talent (NBC), For My Man (TV One), American Beauty Star (Lifetime), Fear Factor (MTV), Inside the NBA (NBA TV), The Daily Show (Comedy Central), The Challenge (MTV), and The Journey:  Big Ten Basketball (BTN).  Patty teaches private lessons in piano, music theory, and music recording and production.
 
What students are saying:
  • “Patty has the ability to break down a complicated idea into something into something easier to understand. She has a patient approach to imparting knowledge that is reassuring and inspiring. I have learned tons from her and consider her a big part of my music/composition/audio production learning experience.” – Jess Hatton-Brown, UK performing artist singer-songwriter living and performing in France
  • “Patty creates a safe and welcoming environment for everyone to share openly. She empowers anyone willing to learn by being generous with her time and always offering concise, actionable feedback.” – Sherry Lynn, Music entrepreneur, California
  • “Patty Boss is generous with her time and knowledge. She has a heart to help others become better in the craft of sound production and composition. She is passionate about helping others achieve their best.” – Rebekah Ann Curtis, Singer Songwriter
  • “I saw Patty playing the piano in college. She was so passionate. Someone who loves music that much gotta be a good teacher. And she cares about friends and people.” – Min Lee, Korean artist/painter

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 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.  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.
 
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.

Danny Carnahan

Danny Carnahan is a Grammy-Award-nominated singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer.  He has been performing for more than 30 years, starting with mainly Celtic folk as half of the duo Caswell Carnahan.  He has toured extensively with Robin Williamson and released five albums with Robin Petrie in the 1980s and 1990s. Their album Continental Drift (1987) received an unlikely Grammy Award nomination for Best New Age Album despite being firmly rooted in traditional Scottish and French music.
 
Carnahan is a founding member of Wake The Dead, a band that blends Celtic traditional music and the songs of the Grateful Dead, appearing on all three of their albums to date.  He also released a solo album, “Sky In Your Pocket” in June, 2011. 
 
Danny Carnahan is also the author of three mystery novels, and writes for Acoustic Guitar and Mandolin Magazine.  He teaches music performance, songwriting, and studio production at various northern California colleges.  Danny teaches group ukulele and songwriting for Blue Bear in Albany.

Lea 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 individuals on technique and preparation for recording and performance.  Lea is also a songwriter, and teaches beginning piano.  She teaches only private lessons.

Michael Chulada

Michael Chulada joined Blue Bear in 2015 working at many of our off-site community programs with after-school kids.  While studying for his certificate in early childhood development, the connection was made that Little Bears would be an awesome fit!  Michael has played in many San Francisco bands and has a real knack for picking out fun songs that will get everyone movin’ and shakin’!

Randy Clark

Randy Clark arrived on the West Coast in the early 1990s 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 crowsong.com.
 
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.

Nathan Crowe

Nathan Crowe is a composer, performer, and teacher of music based in San Francisco.  He holds degrees in music composition from St. Olaf College and The San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  As a multi-instrumentalist (French Horn, Electric Bass, Guitar and Piano), he has had the privilege of playing many different roles as both a soloist and in a variety of ensembles, ranging from formal orchestral concert hall settings to collaborative improvisation sessions, freelance gigs, and several bands throughout his career (genres include Classical, Indie, Jazz, Rock/Blues, and Metal).  As a composer, his output reflects the performing environments he’s been in–many times synthesizing elements of the music he loves to listen to and play.  Nathan currently sings as a volunteer with St. Dominic’s Schola Cantorum in Lower Pacific Heights, works as a music librarian at SFCM, and continues to write and record his own music. 

Caroline 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 and sensible shoes.  Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, she earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Kentucky.  She had some classical piano lessons in high school, but soon abandoned them to self-teaching of American popular styles picked up from records and the radio.  Specializing in up-tempo boogie woogie, swing, and blues, 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. carolinedahl.com and YouTube at dahlvideoCaroline 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.

Andre Duque

A San Francisco native, Andre Duque has been producing music for 10+ years and holds a degree in audio production and recording.  He started his musical journey at the age of 5, singing in choirs and listening to his dad play the FUNKY FILIPINO INSTRUMENT.  He played in some bands until his early twenties, when he heard Detroit electro for the first time and knew he had to produce.  Specializing in house and techno, Andre has worked with hip hop, classical, and pop artists of all levels.  He goes hard on the dance floor, is involved with the local electronic music scene, and throws monthly events with his record label Cultivated Frequencies.  Andre teaches electronic music group classes at Blue Bear, and also teaches in our outreach programs.

Sharman 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.

Scott Feichter

Scott Feichter performs with French-American mezzo soprano Mimi Pirard in the group SonoMusette and is a veteran of the Vintage Juke Box Orchestra and the acoustic band Hit Waves Unplugged with French baritone Laurent Fourgo. He studied classical guitar at Indiana University Fort Wayne and jazz guitar at Berklee College of Music in Boston on the road to graduating with a BA in Liberal Arts, minoring in Music, Psychology, and Anthropology. He teaches Classical, Jazz & Blues (Gospel, Traditional, Funk), Latin, Pop & Rock, and Traditional Folk styles.  Scott teaches private guitar, bass and ukulele lessons at our WeWork (SoMa) location.

Brian Gire

Brian Gire has been teaching and playing music for over 35 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, classic rock, folk, classical,  bluegrass, and more.  He teaches private lessons and group classes.  (On banjo, Brian does not teach clawhammer/frailing.)
 
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.
  • “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.

Elizabeth "Elz" Henderson

Being known for genre-bending and crowd-pleasing, Elz has mastered the art of reading the crowd and fitting the mood and setting of any party while always maintaining her musical integrity.  Growing up listening to breakbeats, techno, and house music along with discovering classic rock, jazz, hip-hop, and funk music she learned how to incorporate all of these elements together to create some serious flavor.  Her parents were both opera singers so she has raised with a great appreciation and passion for music.  She studied piano and violin throughout her youth and into Highschool.  She got interested in electronic music by going to local underground raves in San Francisco and saw her first female DJ and became inspired to learn how to use turntables herself to express her love for music.  Her first DJ gig was in 1998 and she has been hitting the floor running ever since.  In March 2008 Elz graduated from Ex’pression College with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Sound Arts, and after graduation, she spent the summer interning for DJ Shadow.  She assisted in preparation for the launch of DJ Shadow Digital (The DJ Shadow Digital Store) and processed sound samples for the Dj Shadow digital store.  She has releases on Muzimo Records, Harlum Muziq, Look Out Records, and has just joined the Tech House label Laser Native as their newest resident artist.  In 2015 she studied Ableton at Sequence One in Oakland and then went on to work as a Music Curator and Audio Engineer at the DJ app, Crossfader.  She has performed gigs at the SXM festival in St. Maartin, BPM festival in Mexico, Coachella, WMC in Miami, Member’s Only in New York, Los Angeles, Vegas, Seattle, Burning Man and all over the Bay Area at clubs such as Audio, The Great Northern, Monarch, 1015 Folsom, The End Up, DNA Lounge, Ruby Skye, Temple, and The Clift Hotel. She has DJ residencies with the Burning Man camp The Kazbah and Bay Area monthly event called Common Ground.  She also teaches therapeutic beatmaking workshops for elementary and middle school children using Ableton and the Push with the nonprofit Today’s Future Sound throughout the Bay Area.  Her mission is to use music as a tool to heal people by giving them a safe space to be themselves, while injecting them with positivity via the best music to dance to.  Elz teaches Blue Bears adult DJ classes at Monarch.

Jacob Hoffman

Jacob Hoffman has been teaching and performing music since 2004.  He specializes in folk, country, blues, and rock, though he loves delving into all styles with his guitar, banjo, bass, and ukulele students.  Growing up with Rolling Stones, Billie Holiday, Grateful Dead, and Joni Mitchell on the turntable, he studied where their music came from and found his deepest inspiration from American roots artists of the early recording era.
Jacob is a community teaching artist who organizes classes, jams, festivals, and gatherings that focus on the folk process—where people are passing down old techniques, improvising together, and creating new traditions.  He grew up singing in a choir and picked up guitar at age 13.  Next came bass, then banjo, then a pile of other stringed things.  He strives for his students (youth, adults, ensembles) to learn musical skills and truths that transcend whatever instrument(s) they use.  He loves to facilitate open-minded, creative collaborations and seeks to lead in a way that inspires individuals to express their own ideas and musical understandings.
Jacob’s first touring band, The Powder Kegs, won a 2007 talent contest live on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.  He has toured nationally and internationally with Tumbling Bones, a vocal-centric folk band combining old-time, bluegrass and rock ‘n’ roll.  They were chosen as U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassadors to perform and teach in Eastern Europe in 2014 and 2015.
He grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and lived in Portland, Maine for ten years before moving to the East Bay.  He loves to square dance and swing dance, is a budding fiddler and a sucker for scratchy field recordings, and some day wants to learn ragtime piano.  Jacob teaches group classes and private lessons at Blue Bear.

Rachel Hoiem

“It brings me great joy to see my love of music passed on to new generations.”  Rachel Hoiem incorporates off-the-wall fun songs, amazing boogie-woogie piano, and epic percussion breakdowns.  Born and raised in San Francisco, she has a B.A. in music from SF State.  Rachel also plays guitar and ukulele.

Raz Kennedy

VOICE & MUSIC EDUCATION 
Throughout his career, Raz Kennedy has acquired a wealth of knowledge pertaining to vocal mechanics and expression through intensive study with master vocal coaches Jane Sharp, Seth Riggs, William “Hannibal” Means and Miles Griffith.  Raz has also been coached by Katie Agresta, Jeanette LoVetri, and Ken Tamplin and explored the Jo Estill singing method.  Most recently, Raz became an Authorized CVT (Complete Vocal Technique) Teacher, having studied for nearly 6 years in Copenhagen, Denmark at the Complete Vocal Institute under the direction of master vocal coach/researcher, Cathrine Sadolin.  Additional musical study includes work with Tikey Zes at San Jose State College, Phil Matson at Foothill College, Andy Narell, Julian “Pepo” Priester, and Carolyn Brandy.
 
PERFORMANCE CREDITS
Raz’s eclectic performance credits include serving as a founding member of the internationally acclaimed Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra and performing as a background vocalist on recordings for many legendary artists, including Whitney Houston,  Al Jarreau, and Kenny Loggins.  Raz was co-founder with Pollyanna Bush of “The Porazone Love Project.”  Raz has also provided backing vocals on the stage for Narada Michael Walden, Sting, Santana, Rebeca Mauleon, Jennifer Berezan and Mickey Hart among many others.  Raz currently performs in his very own live performance project, “The Raz Kennedy Show,” comprised of Raz on lead vocals, guitarist Matthew Charles Heulitt, bassist Kai Eckhardt and drummer Hassan Hurd.
 
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY 
For nearly four decades, Raz has professionally trained and coached singers of all ages, levels, and every musical style.  As a vocal instructor, his mission is to place the desires and wishes of each singer first and foremost.  He achieves the best results in enabling the singer to attain his or her goals by using teaching methods and pedagogical tools that work in harmony with how the voice functions most naturally, not against it.
 
His teaching methods are based in scientific analysis of vocal anatomy, as well as in a rich understanding of music history and ethnomusicology.  With this knowledge as the foundation of his teaching, he is most effective in helping singers to achieve expressive and dynamic, free and easy, healthy, and safe approaches to singing.
 
WHAT INSPIRES RAZ TO TEACH AND WHY HE LOVES MUSIC
With over 40 years of extensive formal training, integrated with Raz’s personal and professional singing experience, Raz has come to believe that any healthy person can learn to sing well without vocal hinderance or discrepancy whatsoever.  It is his intention to be an advocate for, and to assist anyone, who desires to explore the expressive liberating experience of singing.
 
Raz teaches a group class at Blue Bear.

Devin Lane

Devin Lane is a musician, songwriter, and producer from California.  He has been performing and writing music since 1998 and teaching since 2007.  A multi-instrumentalist who specializes in guitar, singing, and songwriting, Devin also teaches piano, bass, drums, ukulele, and recording production.  He has written and produced several albums and toured the U.S. and Canada with his project Gentle Return, and previously with Real Real Talk.  He regularly writes music and performs in the Bay Area and elsewhere.  Fluent in Spanish, Devin has traveled extensively in Latin America, performing in Mexico, Colombia and Peru.  He has also produced audio for podcasts and video games.  Devin holds a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in music from U.C. Santa Barbara; he has also studied with professors at San Francisco City College.  Learn more at devinlane.net.
 
In addition to teaching at Blue Bear, Devin has taught at public and independent schools, after school programs, and has given talks at Santa Clara University.  As a teacher, Devin embodies a love of music which helps inspire his students to find the music they love, motivating them to progress on their instrument and in their art.  He works with students’ interests as motivation for technical training that guides them toward their desired goals as part of a well-rounded musical education.  He works with students of all ages.  Devin loves artists like Radiohead, St. Vincent, Elliott Smith, Julien Baker, and Frank Ocean.  He also loves baking bread, hiking, and riding his bicycle.  Devin teaches private lessons and group classes at Blue Bear.
 
What students are saying:
  • “Devin is an awesome teacher! My daughter is making fast progress and has a lot of fun learning to play the electric guitar.” – Daphne K.
  • I love my lessons with Devin. He’s easy to talk to to tell him what I’m stuck on. He’s really creative and flexible and finds lots of ways to help me improve. – Lilly Q.
  • Devin keeps Lilly engaged and interested. He’s really patient, builds great rapport and tailors his coaching to her interests and needs. He’s also great at explaining what I, as a very non-musical parent, can do to support her. – Helen Q.

Libby Lavella

Australian-born Libby Lavella is a singer and vocal coach with a B.A. in linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley and a Post-Baccalaureate in Speech, Language Pathology. In addition to her private lessons and workshops, Libby’s professional credits involve working on such projects as Universal’s ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’, CW’s ‘Joey Dakota’ and MTV’s ‘Rock the Cradle’. Lavella’s holistic approach to her clients’ performance and understanding of the linguistic mechanisms that allow us to vocalize have made her a formidable resource for singers and professional speakers with a wide variety of needs. Former and current students include Pat Monahan, Peter Himmelman, Joe Gebbia, Wendy Melvoin, Asia Chow, Courtney Love, Mark Webber, Teresa Palmer, Quincy Jones protégés Blush, Universal Records’ Grammy-nominated artist Gustavo Galindo (Libby received Grammy nomination for her background vocals on his first single ‘Te Perdi’), Beck keyboardist Brian LeBarton, Demi Lovato guitarist Drew Taubenfeld, Megan Rose (Season 13 The Voice), Jaime Lynn Spears, Chrysalis songwriter Julianna Raye, and Daniel French, multi-instrumentalist for the Chicano alt-folk band Las Cafeteras. She was also the resident vocal coach on set for MTV’s ‘ROCK THE CRADLE’, vocal coach and vocal producer of the CBS pilot Joey Dakota working with Craig Honer. Libby has sung on albums or performed with Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions (Mazzy Star), 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, Libby has released three solo albums, and EP with her harmony project ‘RLLS’ (formerly The Amber) and performed in venues all over.  Libby teaches group voice classes in Albany.
 
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.

Sean Leahy

Berklee College of Music 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 seanleahymusic.com.  Sean teaches private lessons and band workshops.
 
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.

Francesca Lee

Francesca Lee graduated from Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts (Music) in 2002 majoring in pop vocal performance and songwriting with disciplines in both guitar and keyboard.  She is best known for her soulful/sultry vocals and music that merges styles of Folk, Pop, Blues, and Jazz.
 
During her residency in the U.K., Francesca performed as a backup singer for the popular televised awards show, The Top of the Pop Awards at The Manchester Arena alongside artists like Nellie Furtado, Tom Jones, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Minogue, Wyclef, and Travis.  She was also featured in a pilot episode for the MTV Networks show (The Real World).  She recorded her first debut independent album with Scottish Sony recording artist Sandi Thom, who later topped the Billboard charts in the U.K. with her song “I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker.”
 
In 2004 she moved to San Francisco and established herself in the Bay Area music scene as a singer-songwriter.  A top ten regional finalist in The Lilith Fair Talent Search through Ourstage.com, songs from her album The Pieces Left, produced by Michael Winger, Executive Director for NARAS (The Grammys), was featured on KFOG’S LOCAL Scene Vol. 6 and Songwriters Unplugged-Live at Yoshi’s.
 
She has been working as a professional musician in The Bay Area since 2004 and has been a staff show producer for Bread & Roses Presents since 2010.  She is passionate about guiding students on how to discover their own unique sound, carve out their niche, and how to develop their craft as singer-songwriters.  She has also served as a previous judge for West Coast Songwriter’s monthly songwriting showcase & competition.
 
Francesca teaches private lessons and group classes.

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 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, 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 and group classes, 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.

Elias Mathus

Elías Mathus is a multi-instrumentalist who was born and raised in the Bay Area.  He started playing guitar and bass at eight years of age; as he got older he added drums and piano and as many other instruments as he could.  He has played at the Chapel, Bottom of the Hill, the Fillmore, and many other venues in the Bay Area.  He loves many genres of music, but he’s most known for playing metal, punk, and jazz.  Elias teaches private lessons and group classes, and is also a summer camp instructor.

Shaun McGonegal

Shaun McGonegal is a seasoned drummer with extensive experience in live performance and studio work. Along with his contributions on many albums, he holds the title of GrooveZoo.com Groove Crew Member, actively consulting for the site. His formal training began at Ontario College of Percussion, and continued in studies with Pete Magadini, John Pickering, and jazz great Tony Williams.
 
He has mastered a 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.
 
Shaun has shared his knowledge as a teacher for over 30 years. 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 mojodrums.com. Shaun teaches only private lessons at a studio near the Balboa BART station.

ab 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 R&B.  Currently he plays with Soul Glitch, a live interpretation of EDM-inspired conscious pop while also freelancing as a jazz guitarist.  Some of ab’s notable performances include the Philadelphia Folk Festivals (’16 and ’18), the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (’17 and ’18), and the Strawberry Music Festival (’15 and ’16). 
 
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.  He teaches private lessons in guitar and piano.

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 and bass, 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!”

Allan Moon

Allan Moon graduated in 1993 from SF State with a degree in Music Performance.  He has extensive knowledge of classical, jazz and popular music styles and literature.  With over 40 years of piano, guitar and bass performance experience in both live and recording environments, he has participated in several performance tours across the US.  He has formal training in piano performance, music theory, composition and orchestration.  Allan teaches private lessons only.

Joe 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.  Joe teaches private lessons and group classes.

Tennessee 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!). Tennessee graduated from Wesleyan University with High Honors in Music in 2014. He has limited availability for private lessons.

Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson has been performing, recording and teaching in the Bay Area for over 30 years.  He has toured extensively in Europe and stateside with Mitch Woods and Steve Lucky, among others. Jim is currently performing and touring with Mo’fone, Beaufunk,The New Squatoolas and the Jim Peterson Quartet.  His early studies include time at Blue Bear Waltzes School of Genuine Music in 1972, College of Alameda with mentor Bill Bell, Hayward State University, and finally at the Berklee College of Music.  Jim’s teaching philosophy is that because everyone learns differently and at their own pace, every lesson should be tailored for the individual. General music theory is a part of his lessons as he sees the “big picture” an important part to learning to play an instrument.  Jim’s band workshops have one main focus:  Have fun playing the music you love with others!  Jim teaches private lessons and band workshops.

Sophie Pipia

Sophie Pipia is a pianist and accordionist from Washington State.  She has taught elementary school music since 2015, first in Central Oregon through Ethos Music Center’s Rural Outreach Program, and then throughout Bay Area public schools with the nonprofit organization, Music for Minors.
 
She founded and directed the Madras Children’s Choir, and has directed numerous children’s musicals in the Pacific Northwest.  Sophie currently teaches private lessons in piano and accordion.  She is thrilled to be a part of the Blue Bear School of Music team, and continue to share her love of music with students throughout the Bay Area.

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 and group 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.

Mike 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.

Mari Ronimois

Mari Ronimois is an experienced musician, singer-songwriter, performing artist, and aspiring music composer and producer.  Growing up in Estonia, she started her musical education with seven years of classical piano, followed by six years of training in pop-jazz singing. At the age of 14 she started to write original music for her first band that she formed with her best friends.  Ever since, she has been working in a wide range of genres and collaborating with musicians all over the world.  Mari has been a frontwoman in rock bands and has performed in musicals (lead role in Estonian version of High School Musical), piano bars, and cruise ship show production groups.  
 
Her current studies in San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Technology and Applied Composition program have provided her new skills in composing for film and video games, as well as inspired her to broaden her songwriting and performing methods with electronic music.  
 
Mari believes in creating communities through the universal language of music and that knowledge increases with sharing.  Utilizing a variety of teaching methods from previous teachers, she has found an efficient way to encourage children to express themselves through music, and is motivated to make their first experience of studying music as enjoyable as possible.

Mark 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 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 15 years.  When not performing, Mark enjoys teaching, and although his last name is Schuh, he generally prefers to avoid footwear.  Mark teaches band workshops.
 
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.

Karen Segal

Karen Segal, Girls Rock!! camp teacher, has been teaching bands in the Bay Area since 2000 and has been rocking out since she was 11 years old. She has performed at the Hard Rock Cafe, Bottom of the Hill, Yoshi’s SF, the Jazzschool, Savanna Jazz, Rassela’s, the Elbo Room and Cafe Du Nord. Karen teaches band at Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Francisco and at Nea Community Learning Center in Alameda. She has a diploma from the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, a Master’s of Education from UCLA, and a California State Teaching Certificate.

Erin 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.

Bob Tatum

Bob Tatum, a graduate of PIT (Percussion Institute of Technology), has been teaching drums and performing in the Bay Area for the past 20 years.  In addition to being the house drummer for the Blue Lamp in San Francisco, Bob has played with bands and artists such as Jimmy Two Times, Noelle Hampton, Storm Large, Bonnie Hayes, and Heather Combs.  He is very excited to be involved with Blue Bear’s Summer Camps program because, well, it’s just plain cool.

John 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

Amanda 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.  Amanda teaches private lessons and band workshops and is Co-Director of our All Star Band Program.

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