MUSIC > Instructors
Meet the talented group of teachers who instruct and inspire at Bird:
Ben Davila | Amy Foote | Matt Funamura | Joaquin Gallegos | Tom Griesser | Brian Keeney | Dave Mihaly | Jill Morgan Brenner | Steve Muñoz | Tim Switzer
Ben Davila: Guitar/Bass/Piano/Drum
Ben Davila has, since 2009, written and recorded a song every week for his blog, The Song Club.
A California native, Davila spent four years studying music in Liverpool, England, where he earned degrees in music and
sound technology. While abroad, Davila performed with a number of bands including the British indie trio
The Wombats, and with his sister,
Camille Davila, who is now a recording artist in the U.K.
Upon returning to California in 2006, Davila began working as a music teacher at the Bird School of Music and playing
in local indie bands. In 2009, Davila and fellow band member Casey Saran challenged each other to begin writing
a song a week. The idea quickly grew into a blog that opened the challenge to anyone. Over the years, friends,
family and perfect strangers have contributed hundreds of songs to The Song Club.
In 2010, Davila released the first year of his Song Club songs on four albums:
Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.
One of the songs from Spring, "Jet Pack," became the theme song for the
Xbox game Jet Pack War. Davila's music has also been featured on KPCC (Los Angeles' NPR affiliate),
San Francisco Weekly,
and on a live educational science show called Seas Of Science, among other places.
Davila also runs a recording studio, Song Club Studios
and a Weekly YouTube Channel.
His band, Ben Davila and the Spectacles, is four-piece indie rock group based in San Francisco.
They released a new self-titled album (Ben Davila and the Spectacles)
January 26, 2013.
Amy Foote: Voice
Soprano Amy Foote has been most recently heard on the operatic stage as Gianetta in The Gondoliers with
Lamplighters Music Theater. She has performed leading roles with multiple Bay Area opera companies including
Laurie in The Tender Land with Berkeley "West Edge" Opera, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with
West Bay Opera in the Schools program and BASOTI, Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore with the San Francisco Opera
a la Carte program, and Elsie in Yeoman of the Guard with Lamplighters Music Theater. Since graduating in
2010 with her MM from the SF Conservatory of Music, Ms. Foote has also premiered contemporary chamber works with
her chamber group, Nonsemble 6, for the SF New Music
Collective, Melos Music composer collective, and on the stages of Switchboard Music Festival and Hot Air Music Festival.
Nonsemble 6 is currently commissioning a series of monodramas from composers in the Bay Area and New York City.
Ms. Foote's repertoire has always included a healthy does of pop music, taking her to perform with various bands in
venues including The Fillmore, Herbst Theater, and South by Southwest. She currently performs with Bay Area bands
Makeunder and Night Genes.
Matt Funamura: Trumpet & Guitar
Matt Funamura is a trumpeter, guitarist, composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist raised in the Sierra Nevada
Foothills near Sacramento. At the age of six, he picked up his first guitar and trumpet at the age of 8, beginning
his musical journey.
He majored in music performance and jazz studies at American River College in Sacramento, California for two
years, during which time he was a freelance musician throughout the West Coast. He then went on to earn a Bachelor
of Performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.
Matt has performed with and studied under numerous musicians in a wide range of genres including: Angelique Kidjo,
Ingrid Jensen, Tiger Okoshi, Gamble & Huff, Salvador Santana, Joe Gilman, Charles Haynes, Dontae Winslow,
Jerry Martini and Victor Mendoza.
Trumpet & Guitar
Joaquin Gallegos: Piano/Drums
Born and raised in Hollister, California, next to the garlic capital of the world,
Joaquin was immersed in music from an early age. Inspired by his grandfather, who would occasionally belt
out passionate Spanish melodies in euphoric times of celebration, Joaquin became fascinated with the vast
range of expression through sound and music.
After studying classical music at SFSU, Joaquin began teaching himself the didjeridoo and overtone singing,
which plunged him deeper into the world of resonance and rhythms. Completely enthralled by sound, he further
explored these ideas while earning his graduate degree. Through playing in experimental, African and Indian ensembles
which would sometimes make use of psychoacoustics and extended techniques, Joaquin fully embraced and to this day
continues to explore the vast versatility of sound waves and vibrations.
Passionate about teaching music, Joaquin strives to learn through his students and the music they delve into.
Constantly developing his teaching methods, Joaquin promotes an open and simplified approach towards creating music.
He wishes to one day more intricately apply his knowledge of improvised music and alternative soundscapes to
inform youngsters about the infinite possibilities of sound.
Joaquin has earned an AA in Behavioral Sciences and a BM and MFA in piano performance. Apart from a love for
philosophy and reading, he enjoys playing in and listening to a wide variety of musical genres; everything from
mariachi, hip hop, jazz, metal, rock and pop, to experimental, free improv, classical, african, microtonal,
ambient and Indian music.
Tom Griesser: Saxophone/Clarinet
Tom Griesser fell in love with jazz at age 6 while listening to his father's and uncle's record collection.
He took up clarinet at age 9 and has been playing ever since. He also picked up both alto and tenor sax at age 13,
and has been playing baritone sax since age 30. After studying with members of Denver Symphony Orchestra, University
of Redlands and Stanford, he began performing professionally in 1992 and plays regular gigs around the Bay Area.
Brian Keeney: Guitar
Brian Keeney is a guitarist and singer/songwriter who has been performing in the Bay Area for 26 years.
Brian's approach to music has always been rooted in the element of joyful exploration, and he brings that
passion to his playing and teaching. His technique has an "organic" nature to it, making it approachable
for fellow musicians, students or those who enjoy just listening.
Dave Mihaly: Drums/Guitar/Bass
Dave has been teaching music for 31 years, in New York, New Jersey and California.
He received a B.A. in music theory and history and a B.A. in psychology from Drew University,
and studied drums and percussion privately in New York and San Francisco with Andrew Cyrille,
Barry Altschul, Zakir Hussain, Jack Van der Wyck and Richard Perrini.
He also plays piano, marimba and guitar. Mihaly has toured the U.S, Canada, Europe and the
South Seas and is featured on recordings by Iron & the Albatross, Jolie Holland, Sean Hayes,
After the End of the World Coretet, and his own Shimmering Leaves. His first string quartet
was played at U.C. Berkeley's Center for New Music and Audio Technology and the
S.F. musician's union hall, and he has written for singers, jazz bands, dance bands, rock bands
and other idioms.
Mihaly taught music in New Traditions, the Video Drums Clinic, and though the auspices of the
S.F. Academy of Sciences. He has had hundreds of students from the ages of 3 through 70 and
learns much through his teaching practice.
More info: davemihaly.com
Photo: Andrew Carver
Jill Morgan Brenner: Voice/Piano/Violin
A native of Syracuse NY, soprano Jill Morgan Brenner has always been involved in music, having played violin and piano
since the age of ten. In 2011, Jill sang with the Syracuse University Orchestra as the aria competition winner at
Syracuse University. Jill is a recipient of the Paul L. & Phyllis Wattis Foundation Scholarship, Anna Freeland Memorial
Prize, and the Vocal Department Award at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Along with her private studies, Jill has accompanied singers, instrumentalists, churches and choirs since she was
12 years old. She has played violin with the Orchestre Symphonique de Conservatoire in Strasbourg, France and the
Syracuse University Orchestra. She has performed as a pit musician for Thoroughly Modern Millie, Parade,
FAME, and West Side Story along with multiple chamber groups of classical and contemporary music.
An enthusiast of contemporary music, she made her San Francisco Conservatory of Music debut in 2011 as Julie in
David Conte's Firebird Motel and premiered Elliot Encarnación's Troilus and Achilles as the
goddess Athena. Some of her roles include Beth in Mark Adamo's Little Women, Countess in Mozart's
Le nozze di Figaro and The 2nd Lady in Die Zauberflöte.
Jill received her Bachelor's Degree in Vocal Performance from Syracuse University's Setnor School of Music in
and her Master's Degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
More info: jillmorganbrenner.com
Jill Morgan Brenner
Steve Muñoz: Guitar/Bass/Piano/Voice
Born and raised in Chicago by a musical family, Stephen was the youngest of six children. His parents immigrated from
the Philippines, bringing their background in education to new jobs and a new life in America.
Steve owes much musical gratitude to his mentor and uncle, Fr. Eoli Roselada, who invited Steve to sit down and
learn a song on the piano at a young age. Since then, he has pursued every musical experience that he could get
his hands on.
After three years performing and teaching in Japan, Steve has relocated to the Bay Area to continue sharing
his passion and pursing a musical life as a performer, instructor, composer and innovator. He is happy to be
part of the Bird family, mentoring new generations of music-minded people.
Tim Switzer: Piano/Guitar/Bass/Drums
Tim is a South Bay native whose musical path has explored many diverse styles and traditions. Branching out from
classical piano training throughout his childhood, he opened his ears to jazz in middle school and rock in high school,
playing in jazz combos and rock bands alike. Thirsting for more, he enrolled in the Ethnomusicology program at
UCLA and explored many musical traditions from across the globe. Performing in Chinese, North Indian, Indonesian
and Middle Eastern ensembles, while continuing to study jazz, has molded him into the musician he is today.
Tim is a self-proclaimed "music theory nerd" who stresses the importance of understanding music as well as playing it.
Through theory and ear training (as well as teaching songs and technique), he tries to foster well-rounded musicians
who can adapt to playing in many environments and discover their own paths.