Abby Miller Studio Coordinator
Born and raised in Oak Park, IL, Abigail Joy Miller has always been an avid music lover. She started taking bass lessons at the age of 12 at a small, local music store. Shortly after, she found her people and passion at School of Rock and has been involved in one way or another ever since. In 2015 and 2016 Abigail was chosen to represent the elite top 1% of School of Rock students as an international AllStar. As an AllStar, she played and performed around the US, including at places like Gathering of the Vibes, Lollapalooza, Riot Fest and Summerfest. When she was supposed to be going into senior year of high school, she instead joined Dalton Rapattoni, "American Idol" third place finalist, as the bassist and backup singer on The Inspired Attempt tour. After her tour, she graduated early from high school and began living in LA while her peers were going to prom. During her three years residing in Los Angeles, she played bass all around town in her neo-soul band, Bendita. When she wasn’t playing with Bendita, she was going to hip-hop/R&B jams in Hollywood and playing with pop artists such as Anna Akana and Brian Justin Crum. Abigail has accomplished a great deal already at the young age of 21, and she's only just getting started. She is our Studio Coordinator at School of Rock Oak Park.
Adam Instefjord Regional Director
Adam Instefjord is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. Hailing from the NW suburbs of Chicago, Adam first picked up a guitar around the age of 12. After mastering the art of the power chord, he devoted most of his free time to learning every song on every album he had. As a child of mid-90s punk, those first albums consisted of Green Day, Rancid, Offspring, Weezer, etc. Adam started his first band in the eighth grade and never looked back. He has since learned how to sing, play bass and drums, played countless shows with many bands, spent four years in Los Angbeles and toured the country. Adam also studied Audio Recording and Production at The Recording Workshop in Chillicothe, OH. He uses those skills at his recording studio The Space, located at Music Garage Chicago, where he records, produces and mixes a variety of artists as well as his own bands. He is the Regional Director at School of Rock Oak Park.
Al Willis Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher
Al Willis has been playing and performing music almost since he was old enough to walk. From playing the bass for gospel artist Inez Andrews in the early 70s at the tender of age of 10, to performing in the Chicago all-city jazz ensemble with fellow School of Rock instructor Rafe Bradford in the 80s, his music career began at a young age. Al toured and recorded with Grammy award-winning choir, Rev. Milton Brunson and The Thompson Community Singers. He worked as a Nashville session musician in the 1990s. He has performed with Michael McDonald, Patty Austin, Ali Woodson, Jamie Foxx, Billy Paul and Aretha Franklin. He was formerly the guitarist for The Dells and is now touring and performing with The Isley Brothers.
Andy Quirk General Manager
Born and raised in Southern California, Andy Quirk has always been a huge music fan (specifically of rock and heavy metal!). Following his wife here from Denver to support her career (even giving up a promotion for it!), Andy found a second home at our school. Andy has an extensive background in customer service for large, national companies. His customer-oriented skills make him the ideal person to manage our front office and handle our customer relations. He is the General Manager at School of Rock Oak Park.
Amy Renzulli Owner
Amy Renzulli, rocker mom and corporate marketer, is the owner of School of Rock Oak Park. Amy has spent most of her work life building her career in Sales and Marketing at Blue Cross and Blue Shield and at the same time pursuing artistic interests. While she developed her business skills in web marketing, sales strategy and technology adoption, she also hosted art shows, crafted and sold jewelry in local boutiques and galleries, and generally sought opportunities that would enable her to marry her business skills with her love of art. When her daughter, at the time, only 12 years old, attended summer camp at School of Rock Chicago, Amy suggested that they should consider opening a school in Oak Park. Amy learned that the School of Rock was a franchise opportunity and a light bulb went off. She knew that she would be the person to make it happen. In early December 2012, Amy and her ever-supportive husband converted a 50-year-old combination warehouse and office building into the vibrant home of School of Rock Oak Park.
Annette Fritts Guitar Teacher
Annette grew up in a music loving family and has no earlier childhood memories than of The Beatles, "A Hard Days Night" and Sundays spent cruising the streets of Logan Square with three teenage uncles to the sounds of the British invasion, Motown, Jim, Jimi and Janis. It was to no one's surprise that most of her boyfriends had a guitar strapped to them, and, eventually weary of watching, she picked up an instrument and began playing herself. She has an extensive background in theatre, both performing and producing. Together with her director husband, they founded, built and operated one of the first commercial venues in the Bucktown area- a 100-seat performance space and art gallery. Annette organized and directed a fundraiser concert for her daughter's second grade class performing hits of the 60s, including a medley from "Hair" and was immediately offered a position teaching guitar. Over the past seven years, she has developed her own technique to get even the youngest guitar enthusiasts playing. She's taught hundreds of kids through Park District programs she initiated in Oak Park, River Forest and Elmwood Park as well as privately in her home studio. Annette is the creator of Guitar Cat and has been seen over the years performing with her band of students, The Cat Pack. She couldn't be happier to join School of Rock Oak Park.
Benji Daniels Bass guitar, keyboard, Rookies and Little Wing Teacher
Benji Daniels is a Chicago born bassist, producer, and educator. He first gained a passion for music at the age of 5, as he began studying the piano. As this passion grew, Benji was referred to the School of Rock in Chicago. Here he flourished as his passion for music became even greater! In 2014, Benji was offered a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, where he majored in Bass Performance. Since graduating Benji has been performing and producing in the Chicago Music Scene. He has performed at venues such as, Rivinia, Canopy Club, Green Mill, Jazz Showcase, and more!
Chris Kimmons Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher
Chris Kimmons moved from West Virginia five years ago to pursue a music career in Chicago. In that short amount of time, he has covered ground in many genres including rock, metal, traditional folk, jazz, fusion and electronic. Having studied music composition at Columbia College Chicago for his first two and a half years in the city, he has studied with many of Chicago's finest musicians. His bands, Can I Get An Amen and Actual Rhinoceros, show his diverse musical interests and his dedication to preserving music history while not allowing the past to inhibit the future.
Dan Leali Drum Teacher
A Native of the Chicago area, Dan received a BM in Jazz Studies from De PAUL University in 1990. He has been playing professionally and teaching full time since 1994. A founding member of local faves Tributosaurus, Dan has also performed with, toured, or played on recordings by the following artists: Singer/songwriters Liz Phair, Jewel, Peter Himmelman and Robbie Fulks, the bands Poi Dog Pondering and Under the Streetlamp, guitarist Fareed Haque and funk jazz group Liquid Soul. Drumming for Theater Productions/Shows (credits include School of Rock 1st National Tour (sub drummer)2017-2019, Music Man at Goodman Theater 2019, Wonderful Town at Goodman Theater 2016, Million Dollar Quartet at Apollo Theater Chicago (2011-2015).
Dave Vazzano Music Director
Dave began his musical journey playing in concert and marching bands throughout grade school and college at Western Illinois University. His passion for rock music started when he bought his first drum set at age 12. Shortly after he started a punk rock band with fellow School of Rock instructor Adam Instefjord and never looked back. Dave is currently playing in a handful of bands in Chicago. He is the founding member of the female-fronted alt-rock band Lights Alive, as well as the drum player for the Chicago punk rock outfits The Mizzerables and The Student Body (a cover band that features rock tunes from the 50s up to today). This year his drumming will be featured on a series of EPs from Lights Alive and on the debut album "Every Last Stitch" from The Mizzerables. He is the Music Director at School of Rock Oak Park.
Emily Blue Guitar Teacher, Piano Teacher, Vocal Instructor
Emily Blue is a pop artist based here in Chicago, IL. She has over 10 years of experience performing and is passionate about vocals, keys, guitar and band-leading. She also plays in Tara Terra with two other School of Rock instructors. She is a guitar teacher, piano teacher and vocal instructor at School of Rock Oak Park.
Evan Opitz Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher
Evan is a multi-instrumentalist composer with a primary focus on guitar and vocals. Committed to a life of practice and study for 15 years, he holds a bachelor's degree in Jazz Guitar from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he studied with world famous musicians Larry Gray (Benny Golson, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Pass) and Jim Pugh (Steely Dan, Michael Jackson). Currently Evan plays with several different musical groups that write and perform original creative music exclusively. These groups include The Phantom Broadcast, Two Sets of Eyes, Rebecca Rego and the Trainmen, and Fiona Grey. His group Rebecca Rego and the Trainmen recently worked with Beau Sorenson (Death Cab For Cutie, Garbage) in the studio of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver/Volcano Choir) at April Base in Eaux Claire, WI. He has also recorded session guitar for quite a few artists including Travis Orbin (Darkest Hour/Sky Eats Airplane). Evan's multiple projects cross quite a few genres including indie rock, pop, hip-hop, folk, Americana, jazz, post-punk, prog and metal. After spending countless days and nights touring, writing, recording and networking, Evan hopes to share his personal experience instilling only the truest hope and desire of musical knowledge in his students.
Heidie Malnassy Vocal Instructor
Heidie Malnassy has been charming audiences with her voice since the age of 11. A natural performer, she has proven time and time again that music is her calling and passion. Receiving her Bachelor of Music in Contemporary and Urban Popular Music from Columbia College Chicago, Heidie has gained extensive knowledge in vocal performance, songwriting, production and music business. She has also had the chance to perform and collaborate with several highly acclaimed musicians, including Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriters Paula Cole and Jim Lauderdale, multi-talented singer/songwriter and guitarist Charlie Sexton, and Todd Rundgren through Columbia’s Master Class/Residency program. Currently you can find Heidie as a vocalist and songwriter for several independent music projects, and performing regularly as the band leader and lead singer of one of Chicago's top event bands, Velocity. She released her first solo debut EP, “No Love Like Our Love," in 2016. Heidie loves her role as a vocal instructor at School of Rock Oak Park and is honored to have joined the many incredibly talented musicians here.
Jaci Jepson Vocal Instructor
Jaci Jepson, also known by her stage name J Leigh, is a Columbia College Chicago alumni with a BA in Vocal Performance. Her calling for music and performance started at just five years old as she put on shows for her family and friends whenever she had the chance. With natural stage presence, extensive knowledge in vocal technique/stylization, songwriting, studio experience and her new single “Paragon” on the horizon, J Leigh has refined her craft over the years. She is not only a vocalist, but a storyteller who shares and lives out her journey with emotional grace. She has had the pleasure of performing at many venues/events in the Chicago area, such as The House of Blues and the Chicago Blues Festival. J Leigh is actively building upon her portfolio, artistry, and musicianship by taking/seeking out every musical opportunity that comes her way. She is thrilled to be working at School of Rock Oak Park, not just as a vocal instructor but as a mentor who helps her students unleash their musical passion and potential as her mentors/idols have done for her.
Jack Mahon Studio Coordinator
Jack Mahon is a vocalist, guitarist and all-out music nerd born and raised in Chicago, IL. A School of Rock devotee since 2007, his love for all things School of Rock is well-known and matched by few. After graduating out of School of Rock, he earned a B.A. in Music from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where he performed and toured nationally with their elite choral ensemble, The Macalester College Concert Choir. He studied jazz and contemporary voice with Sean Turner and Rachel Holder, composed and premiered new classical works under the instruction of Randall Bauer, and led Off-Kilter, an all-gender vocal jazz a cappella group. A musician of diverse interests, he is currently pursuing an M.M. in Musicology at Northwestern University. He’s an obsessive music listener and student with wide-ranging tastes and interests, from black metal to Beethoven, from techno to Thin Lizzy. He is our Studio Coordinator at School of Rock Oak Park.
Jeannie Fehr Studio Coordinator
Born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri, Jeannie began piano lessons in 2004 after buying Green Day’s “American Idiot” album. That first CD purchase began her journey as a professional musician. Her inspiration varies from Led Zeppelin, Queen, Janis Joplin and Evanescence to Bob Marley, Widespread Panic, The Head & The Heart, and Fruition just to name a few.
At 14 she started playing in her first rock band and teaching piano lessons while adding voice, guitar, clarinet, and alto saxophone along the way. Jeannie involved herself in the music industry outside of music lessons. She tutored music theory at a community college, earned a piano scholarship at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, sold and fixed instruments, took on disc jockey gigs, recorded two albums, volunteered as a board member for Queen City Rock Camp, and played shows for organizations like Boys & Girls Club and Girl Scouts of America.
Jeannie graduated with her Bachelors in Geology and Music Minor at Missouri State University in 2017. When she was not studying rocks, she worked at School of Rock Springfield as a Studio Coordinator, Lesson Instructor, String Technician, and Junior Performance Program Director. Jeannie recently moved to Chicago, IL and is excited to be in the School of Rock Community.
Jennifer Malone Vocal Instructor
Jennifer is a veteran music director whose imagination and curriculum expertise have helped School of Rock Oak Park become the largest school in the international system. She is a four-time School of Rock AllStar director and has served on content and innovation boards at the corporate level over her many years with the company. Jennifer is a voice teacher who loves coaching students of all levels to perform at their personal best through personalized training, biodynamics and stage prep. As a director, Jennifer challenges players to step out of their comfort zones and develop the skills needed to be free and authentic on stage. Jennifer served as School of Rock Oak Park’s Music Director and developed programming, show seasons and touring groups, and oversaw the artistic direction of the school. As Music Experience Director of the new AMP (Awaken Musical Power) program for team-building, Jennifer aims to offer non-musicians the opportunity to experience the magic of group music through learning to spark breakthroughs of their own. Jennifer holds an M.Phil in Irish Theatre from Trinity College Dublin and a BFA in Acting from Kent State University. She performs regularly with the band 1976 and has a long performing resume that includes musical theater, jazz, roots, rock and punk. She lives in Oak Park with her husband and two kids and spends her free time volunteering and engaged in social justice. She is a vocal instructor at School of Rock Oak Park.
Jimmy Kowalczyk Drum Teacher
Jimmy Kowalczyk has been a Musician/Educator in Chicago for 10+ Years. You can most likely catch him on the weekends gigging with his band, “The Hat Guys,” a prominent local cover band established since 2003. He is also involved in a wide array of personal projects, from dual-drummer psych rock in “The Tomblands,” to his contemporary Americana project “Poor Calvin,” with his fellow co-worker Evan Opitz (guitar).
Jimmy is still continuing his music education after obtaining a degree in music technology, and he is currently mentoring under renowned jazz drummer Steve Lyman. “My mission is to guide students and prepare them for success whether you are a beginner or are looking to pursue your instrument to the highest degree. I believe playing the drums can be enjoyed at any capacity, and I hope to inspire you on your musical journey.”
Jim Lunsford Piano Teacher, Vocal Instructor
A chance encounter with a ukulele at the tender age of nine launched Jim Lunsford on a life-long rock and roll adventure. Teenage garage bands in the Arizona desert led to years of touring and recording in musical styles that ranged from rock, blues and R&B to cumbia, salsa and musical theater. Along the way, he has been privileged to work with a number of great artists, including Bonnie Raitt, John Mayall, Bo Diddley, The Four Tops, Bobby 'Blue' Bland, Delbert McClinton, Dallas Taylor, 'Gatemouth' Brown and Luther Allison. During his musical travels, Jim took de-tours to study classical piano, music theory and earn a Masters in Choral Conducting at Arizona State University. Having invested all that time and money in higher education, he switched tracks to a career as a high school and college instructor (though he continued to gig in every city between Tucson and Seattle, as well as in Chicagoland, Europe, Australia and New Zealand). After toiling valiantly for 25 years in classrooms from Berwyn to the border of Mexico, Jim retired from the Latin School of Chicago, and he is thrilled to be returning to his rock roots as a member of the amazing staff at School of Rock Oak Park. In addition to teaching here, he records and performs with his roots-rock band The Hurtin' Kind. His favorite bands are The Beatles and Los Lobos. He loves teaching music to young people.
Joe Thomas Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher
"Smoking" Joe Thomas has been a mainstay on the Chicago blues scene. He has played with local, national and international legends such as Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Koko Taylor, Lurrie Bell, Carrie Bell, Otis Clay, Mojo Buford and Elvin Bishop. For 22 years he served as the music director for The Underground Wonder Bar. Joe, as bassist, has toured with the Mandingo Griot Society in the countries of Germany, France, Greece, Finland, Amsterdam and the entire continent of Europe. He has toured, as bassist, with the Kinzey Report throughout the state of California during the period of 1995-2005. Joe also played and toured worldwide with the world renowned Buddy Miles (drummer for Jimi Hendrix).
Matt Tate Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher
Matt Tate is a Chicago-based artist, guitarist, composer and instructor. For the last 10 years he has been dedicated to performing solo and in bands. Currently, he is composing music for a Solo Stick record, launching a new website, touring, and working on multiple recording/performing collaborations (metal-math-prog-experimental). His current musical leanings are in the vein of the technical death shred of Blotted Science and the rhythmic madness of Frank Zappa, the interlocking poly-rhythmic spiderwebs of King Crimson and the stark, overwhelming beauty of Arvo Part.
Matt Velasco Drum Teacher
Matt believes a good teacher is forever a student because there is always something to be learned or improved upon. The seed of his love for music was planted around the age of five on the piano, and nurtured by his very musically inclined family. Through his formative years he had formal training with multiple instruments including guitar, violin and the drum set. After a few years of a musical hiatus, after high school and a stint at massage therapy school, Matt realized his true passion was for music. He decided to pursue music seriously and since 2012 has been performing with various ensembles throughout the city of Chicago. As a proponent of diversifying his range of skills in music, he has taken on teaching as a new chapter in his career. He hopes to inspire and challenge his students, and is excited to be a part of the magical, burgeoning community at School of Rock Oak Park!
Max Carrillo Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher
As a Columbia College Graduate, Max Carrillo has gone on to become a fill-in touring guitarist for rock group Remada. Along with being a singer-songwriter, he is also the front man and manager for Chicago's hard rock quartet UnderFire. He has played various venues such as House of Blues, Metro, Bottom Lounge, Toads Place and Webster Theatre. Max has also shared the stage with notable acts such as Saving Abel, Cavo, Lights Alive and Three Years Hollow.
Max is currently working on session work and is the guitarist for the Detroit rock band A War Within. A War Within has toured with bands such as Bless The Fall, The Word Alive, Ded, The Plot In You and many others. Max looks forward to inspiring students, along with sharing his love and knowledge of music with them. He is a guitar teacher and bass guitar teacher at School of Rock Oak Park.
Michael Brooks Piano Teacher, Singing Teacher
Michael Brooks has been studying music since the age of four, when he started piano lessons and first heard his parents' vinyl copy of "Pet Sounds." While being trained in classical piano, Brooks eventually found himself drawn to Billy Joel, Ben Folds and rock operas. He studied music, theatre and voice at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI before moving to Chicago with his indie pop/piano rock band Common Shiner. In his 12-year tenure with that project Brooks charted nationally in the AC format (thanks to major support from Midwestern radio stations), toured the continental US and made a slasher movie parody music video that went viral across the globe with over 12 million views. Brooks has also voiced radio commercials and characters nationally, and won a Kennedy Center Special Award for Theatrical Sound Design in 2006. Current endeavors include Otter Finn, Foster, Front Runners and solo projects.
Michael Hilgendorf Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher
Michael Hilgendorf began his musical journey when he picked up the guitar at age 11. Coming from a family of 70s and 80s rock and metal purists, his early interests included Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix, among others. He played his first bar gig fronting a power trio at age 12. While in high school, Michael began to develop an interest in jazz, which led to a series of educational ventures, including camps at Wayne State University and the Berklee College of Music.
Michael’s developments as a musician led him to Chicago in 2016 when he began attending Columbia College Chicago. In the four years he spent there, he grew immensely as a musician, building up his skills as a guitarist, improviser, arranger, and composer. While at Columbia, Michael had the opportunity to study and perform with many world-renowned musicians, including Bernard Purdie, Cassandra O’Neal, Donny McCaslin, Kendrick Scott, Isaiah Sharkey, and many more. When not in school, Michael spent his time playing in the city as a solo guitarist, an accompanist, and in many different small and large ensemble settings for a wide variety of clientele.
Teaching has always been a part of Michael’s life: His first job was teaching guitar lessons at a local studio in his hometown at the age of 16. He also worked as a guitar tutor for Columbia College Chicago during his time there, as well as teaching several students in his free time out of his apartment. Michael believes that being an inspiring, supportive, and fun music instructor is one of the greatest things about being a musician, so he is beyond happy to be a part of the School of Rock team!
Michael Morgan Music Director
Michael Morgan has been playing music for close to 10 years, and has roots in The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, but loves all kinds of music genres, such as jazz, funk, rock, blues, classical, metal, folk, bluegrass and lots in between! He believes there is always more to learn when it comes to music and strives to keep improving as a musician and a teacher. We're very happy to have him! He is the Music Director at School of Rock Oak Park.
Michelle Cohen Rookies Instructor, Little Wing Instructor
Michelle Cohen has loved music all her life. After taking a break from teaching preschool and being in a band to focus on raising her kids, and driving them to music lessons, she’s happy to be back working with music. Drumming and singing in a couple of local bands feeds her soul, while teaching the youngest students at School of Rock Oak Park gives her joy and fills her heart.
Morgen Hare Marketing and Social Media Specialist
Morgen Hare was brought up in music since she was six and hasn't stopped since. She started off dancing at age four, then added piano at six and voice at seven to continue her musical education. Originally from Minnesota, she developed a love for music the moment she was introduced to The Jackson 5 and Earth, Wind and Fire. After high school, she moved to Chicago, graduated from Columbia College and is currently a full-time professional vocalist. As she grew so did her skills as they developed and blossomed into a thriving career. Having performed at Carnegie Hall in NY, Summerfest in Milwaukee and the Vic and Aragon Theaters in Chicago, Morgen is just as comfortable in front of large crowds as small ones. Whether it's working as a studio singer, recording for TV and radio commercials or live shows, her love for music never ceases. She has a passion for all types of music, ranging from classical, hip-hop, rock and soul to musical theater, R&B and everything in between. Morgen also has an avid passion for health, fitness and nutrition. In college, she got her yoga certification and studies nutrition on the side. In other words, her affinity for life, love. and music emanates in all she does. She is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at School of Rock Oak Park.
Nick Fane Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher
Nick grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago and started his life in music by picking up a bass guitar at age 15. Influenced by bands like Rush, The Who, Tool and Soundgarden, he became immersed in every element of the musical process, from songwriting to music production and beyond. After earning his Bachelor's of Music from Columbia College Chicago in 2013, he spent four years with the Nick Moss Band, an internationally known blues/rock band. Pulling on experience gained from years of touring the continental United States, northern Europe and beyond, he works with his students to fully enrich their musical lives, as well as make them better players.
Rafe Bradford Bass Guitar Teacher
Rafe has been playing bass since age 11 and gigging professionally since age 16. He is a native Oak Parker who is returning from many years of playing and recording in Los Angeles, where he was most recently the bass player for Bonnie Hunt's daytime talk show band. Rafe majored in double bass performance at The University of Illinois, where he played in the orchestra, ensembles and jazz band, and was mentored by John Garvey. He has toured with and played with a host of stars, including Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Nancy Wilson, Mavis Staples, Michael McDermott, Alice Peacock, Poi Dog Pondering and Sons of The Never Wrong. He was in the live band of "The Tom Joyner Morning Show." Rafe also played on many jingles, including compositions for "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and McDonald's. We are very happy that Rafe's musical journey is also bringing him to School of Rock Oak Park, where he will influence another generation of musicians.
Reid Libby Guitar Teacher, Bass Guitar Teacher
Raised on the theatrical virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix, Weird Al Yankovic, The Beatles and the Marx Brothers, Reid has been juxtaposing guitar and performance since seventh grade. In 2013, as he was majoring in Theatre Performance and Literary Studies at Beloit College, Reid began writing and recording music that integrated the braininess of literature and theatricality of drama. Reid's music was compelling and successful, culminating in Reid performing a song written for his theatre professor at his own commencement. After graduation, Reid expanded into a genre he calls "theatre pop" with the first of four feature-length concept albums. Sharing a name with its protagonist, "Birdbrain" explores art's delicate balance between music and words in a 76-minute whirlwind of sketches, songs, dialogue, sound experiments and poetry.
Steve Edwards Guitar Teacher, Piano Teacher
Steve Edwards began playing piano at the age of five and began studying guitar at age 11 after hearing a classical guitar recital at his church on Easter Sunday. Since then, Edwards has concertized throughout the United States and Europe as a recitalist, chamber musician and soloist, and as half of the renowned Edwards-Simmons Guitar Duo. After receiving his bachelor's degree on a scholarship to DePaul University, where he studied with legendary guitarist Leon Borkowski, he pursued his Master's degree at DePaul under the instruction of Mark Maxwell. Steve has studied and worked with such world-famous guitarists as Pepé Romero, Christopher Parkening, Denis Azabagic, Douglas Niedt and Robert Guthrie. An exceptionally talented classical guitarist, Steve Edwards received the distinguished honor of runner-up in the Society of American Musicians Guitar Competition. A versatile chamber musician, Mr. Edwards's preeminent performance career has included collaborations with many notable artists, including flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya, legendary jazz pianist George Shearing and violin virtuoso Gidon Kremer. Recordings of Mr. Edwards have been featured on national broadcasts by Chicago's fine arts radio station, 98.7WFMT, as well as on Radio France. Having played in bands since the age of 11, Mr. Edwards formed the Steve Edwards Orchestra in 1994. He has devoted a lifetime of experience to performing and has appeared in concert with Dave Mason, Buddy Guy and George Shearing. Mr. Edwards is a prolific composer and arranger for film and live theatre. His compositions on Guitarra Azul's debut CD "Mariposa" have received great acclaim as well as enthusiastic reception from audiences nationwide.
Thor Bremer Drum Teacher
Thor Bremer is an in-demand drummer and percussionist throughout the Chicagoland area. He has played drums for such artists as Chase, Steve Edwards Orchestra, 1976, Animal Farm, The Dennis Keith Experience, Guitarola and more. He also performs regularly on marimba and vibraphone in Bowtime and Nine Worlds Ensemble, which he composes for and directs.
Thor received his MFA in Game Music and Audio from University of Chichester, and a BA in Music from UW-Milwaukee, with a focus on percussion performance. In addition to his active performance schedule Thor is also an active composer and sound designer, working for Outlier Studios and Serial Labs, and has released six albums of original music. He is a drum teacher at School of Rock Oak Park.
Tim Johnson Guitar Teacher
Tim Johnson first picked up the guitar over 20 years ago at age 13 and hasn't put it down since. In 2001, he earned a BA in Music Business from Elmhurst College. He has been teaching private guitar and bass lessons consistently since 2000 in the western suburbs and running rock band programs for kids since 2010. When outside of lessons, Tim evenly divides his time between practicing, rehearsals and a plethora of varying live performance situations, including everything from Chicago street festivals to weddings, large events like Riot Fest, big and small club shows and performing on the street. Trying to stay as busy as possible, he has held tenure in countless bands. This constant real world performing experience enriches every lesson. In addition to several original projects that Tim has in the works, he also currently performs extensively in and around Chicago with The Student Body (party rock covers).
Tracy Shepherd Drum Teacher
Tracy Shepherd is a professional drummer and instructor based in Chicago. He has over 20 years of stage and studio experience covering all styles and eras, from swing to rock, blues to Latin, and country to dance/pop/R&B. A Chicago native, Tracy was raised in a musical family. With a father and older brother who were both drummers, his passion for drums and music has been literally life-long. Tracy majored in Music in college and, starting at age nine, has studied under several great teachers, including renowned NBC staff drummer Max Mariash, the late, great Chicago drummer, teacher and band leader Tony Caselli, and classical percussion studies with Mike McLead. Additional private lessons followed with masters such as Rusty Jones and Johnny Rabb.
Tracy’s earliest professional experience started at 13, playing for local Chicago area church and school musical productions. Since then his music career has taken him to venues large and small, from the east coast to Las Vegas and throughout the Midwest, including the Surf Ballroom, Chicago's Orchestra Hall, Metro, Vic Theater, Arcada Theater, Shuba's, House of Blues and many others. Tracy’s playing/recording credits include work with many great Chicago bands and artists. He has also shared the stage with such notables as The Samples, The Radiators, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Edwin McCain, The Grassroots, Jazz is Dead, Buddy Holly’s Crickets, Edan Don Everly, Remembering Ricky Nelson featuring Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, Johnny Rivers and others. In addition to a busy live performance schedule, Tracy is very active in drum education and studies piano and voice in his spare time. He is a drum teacher at School of Rock Oak Park.