Meet the Best Music Teachers in Brooklyn

Meet the Brooklyn Music Factory Family!

brooklyn music factory

Brooklyn Music Factory Teachers

Nils Becker - guitar 

Andrew Burns - drums

Brett Gleason - guitar, piano 

Benjamin Healy - piano, Director of Private Lesson program 

Drew Krasner - piano, bands

Andrew Links - piano, bands

Nich Mueller- piano, UX Designer for Big Music Games

Kaitlin Pelkey - piano, voice

Tippan Phasuk- piano, voice, bands

Sergio Rivera- guitar, bass, bands

Christina Schwedler - piano, voice, bands

Rick Smith- bands

Rob Taylor- guitar, bass, bands

Karen Tennison - piano, voice

MiniKeys 

Jason Vance- Director of MiniKeys

BMF Admin 

Hilary Gardner - Registration & Billing Maven

Kathryn Selman- Director of Marketing  

Stephen Selman- Director of Big Music Games  

Kai M Sorensen- Systems Ninja 

John Speck - Facilities Dude 

Jessica Tolliver- Director of Administration & Sales 

Our Co-founders  

Peira Moinester - Camp Director, Junior Band Director 

Camp Manager

Nils Becker -Guitar

Nils Becker Guitar teacher at Brooklyn Music Factory

Favorite Food: Pizza

Favorite Animal: Anteater  

Main instrument: Guitar Other Instruments: Voice

Other hobbies: Make breakfast. And read. And write.  

Favorite part of your job: Hearing my students play on BMF gigs!  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I can't even recall a single moment where I discovered that I wanted to be a musician. It was always very clear to me that that's what I wanted to do. But it must've been around the time I was rocking out to punk rock songs on an inflatable guitar with no idea what they were even singing about. And that was before I picked up an actual guitar, so I think I was 6 or 7 years old. 

Fun fact: I hate bananas.  

Bands/groups/projects: Mostly my solo project.  

Find Out More Here: http://nilsbeckermusic.com  


Andrew Burns - Drums 

Favorite Food: Fruit

Favorite Animal: Dog

Main instrument: Drums Other Instruments: Piano

Other hobbies: Act, read, and follow the Green Bay Packers  

Favorite part of your job: Enjoying music with my students  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? When I first heard swing music (my father's 78s), I stood straight up in my chair and couldn't sit down. For some days, weeks, and months afterward, playing the drums was on my mind constantly. There were many key moments after that, but hearing my father's swing 78s really kicked it off. I would say that was the day I started down this path.

Fun fact: I recently took a train ride all across the country.  

Bands/groups/projects: I currently play all the drum tracks for the PBS animated series "Peg + Cat." I also write and record my own songs.  


Hilary Gardner - Registration & Billing Maven

Favorite Food: There's no way I can answer that briefly! I LOVE to cook & eat so it's impossible to narrow this down too much; I've got a special place in my heart for Northern Italian food, though. My idea of heaven is nibbling on an assortment of cicheti in Venice, sipping on an Aperol Spritz.

Favorite Animal: As a Leo, I'm very partial to cats.  

Main instrument: Voice Other Instruments: A little bit of piano, a (VERY) little bit of ukulele. It's best if I stick to singing!  

Other hobbies: I love to write, cook, and eat. I'm also passionate about exploring New York City's endless cultural and culinary treasures, and I travel to Italy whenever possible.

Favorite part of your job: I love helping families find the perfect band, private lesson, or camp! And I'm always blown away by the dedication and kindness of BMF's amazing teachers and staff. I LOVE that BMF is a community of people who truly understand the value of music-making for everyone, from little kids all the way up through adulthood. It's extraordinary to be a part of a community that brings so much joy to our families AND creates sustainable livelihoods for musicians. Anyone who's made a living in the performing arts knows how groundbreaking BMF's philosophy is and it's been thrilling to see how much we've grown over the years. I'm so excited to be a part of BMF's future.

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I literally never considered doing anything other than singing. Somehow, even in my hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, where jazz was nonexistent and moose routinely ambled through my backyard, I always knew I would be a singer and live in New York City. The greatest stroke of luck in my life has been having parents and teachers who have believed in and encouraged me from childhood through the present day. Music has been a source of comfort, euphoria, healing, and happiness every day of my life, and my greatest ambition is to be of service through the music I make with others.

Fun fact: I wrote Ella Fitzgerald a fan letter when I was 12 and she sent me an autographed photo that I cherish to this day.  

Bands/groups/projects: In addition to my solo endeavors (my first record, "The Great City," was released on Anzic Records in 2014 and my upcoming album, "The Late Set," will be released on Anzic Records on Oct. 2017), I'm a member of DUCHESS, a close-harmony trio in the style of the Boswell Sisters.  

Find Out More Here: hilarygardner.com


Courtney Gilbert - Camp Manager

Favorite Food: Mexican food! Favorite Animal: Elephant  

Main instrument: Voice Other Instruments: Ukulele  

Other hobbies: I enjoy telling silly jokes, spending time with my family and laughing as much as possible. I love working with children and find it to be one of the most rewarding jobs one can have! They have such an amazing view of the world that most people lose sight of as they grow older. Kids keep everything interesting :)  

Favorite part of your job: I love getting to know our campers. Each one has their own musical story and so many of them are able to experience something new in their musical journey here at BMF. It’s an amazing thing to witness!

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? When I was a small child, I always liked to sing, but never thought about singing for others. Once I got myself on a stage and sang for the first time in front of an audience, I knew I wanted to keep doing that, for as long as I could. My family luckily was always playing music and singing together - it was a big inspiration for me. Throughout my life, music has always been there for all emotions and stages of life. Certain music reminds me of certain times. Singing is so important to me and I will continue to make sure that music remains a huge part of my life. I’m so grateful to be able to share my love of music and see that same love blossom in our young campers.

Fun fact: My name, when jumbled, is Glittery Bouncer!  

Bands/groups/projects: I’m the lead singer in a 90’s cover band called Stoop Kids.  


Brett Gleason - Piano, Guitar

Faculty coming soon

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Ben Healy - Piano, Director of Private Lesson Dept. 

Ben Healy Piano Teacher

Favorite Food: Breakfast at Tom’s Restaurant in Brooklyn: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, OJ & coffee  

Favorite Animal: Giraffe  

Main instrument: Piano Other Instruments: Saxophone, drums, voice, ukulele

Other hobbies: Playing trains with my son. Hiking with my wife. Talking with my dad. Exploring new technology with my brother. Indulging in my mom’s signature Christmas cookies.  

Favorite part of your job: Developing relationships with my students and their families  

Music has always been a part of my life. Both my parents play piano and I started taking lessons at age 3. Over the years I had a number of teachers who helped to instill the joy of making music. One was Doris Robinson, who lived right across the alley from me and cheerfully guided my early explorations on the piano and, later, the alto saxophone. Another, who I met around age 12 to begin studying jazz, was Nate Shaw. Much of what I do today can be traced back to my parents discovering Nate’s business card on the bulletin board of a coffee shop across the street from my junior high in St. Paul, Minnesota. I took private lessons with Nate and participated in a few summer jazz camps organized by a local band he played in called the Motion Poets. Those experiences inspired me to pursue a degree in music, which eventually led me to The New School for Jazz and later to work for Nate as he founded Brooklyn Music Factory.  

Fun fact: I’m 6’6″. Despite being asked almost daily, I don’t really play basketball.  

Bands/groups/projects: My jazz trio; David Coss Trio; duo with bassist Tod Hedrick  

Find Out More Here: benjaminhealy.com


Drew Krasner - Piano, Bands

Favorite Food: Pineapple

Favorite Animal: Arctic fox  

Main instrument: Piano Other Instruments: Saxophone, clarinet, voice, guitar, bass  

Other hobbies: I enjoy playing any sport that involves a ball, writing poetry and stories, and anything that gets me outside into the natural world: swimming, hiking, climbing, camping.  

Favorite part of your job: A student making a connection from one area of music to another, or from one area of music to another aspect of life is the most fulfilling thing as a teacher. At its most effective, teaching is about helping set up the student's internal web of connectivities and fostering them to begin making these connections on their own. 

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? My life has been marked by many ongoing epiphanies that have solidified my desire to make music with other people. The first and most catalytic discovery began at age 10 and involved a trio of friends that I played with--three curious kids trading off on piano, guitar, and drums. We were each exploring all these instruments at the same time that we were learning valuable personal lessons about ourselves; how to learn, how to create, how to communicate, how to cooperate. We went from trying trick shots on the basketball court to trying out new rhythms and forms. We made little melodies and beats out of the sounds of everyday objects. There was a fluidity and crossover between music-making and all facets of life. Global connections were made inside and across brains. Things not only made more sense, but this new level of understanding came with a side of meaning and purpose, which we came to realize was the main meal. This tight-knit relationship opened my eyes and ears to the universality of music as language and salve, to its power to create and strengthen human connections. I've been hooked ever since.  

Fun fact: I can jump really high.  

Bands/groups/projects: Apartment Sessions ; Iceland Soundscape Trio

Find Out More Here: Apartment Sessions; Iceland Soundscape Trio


Peira Moinester - Co-founder

Favorite Food: Apples

Favorite Animal: Dolphin

Main instrument: Guitar/voice Other Instruments: I dabble

Other hobbies: Be with my family!  

Favorite part of your job: I love helping teachers succeed, I love getting to know our community of families

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?: I honestly don't remember a time I didn't want to play music. When I was 3 years old I would drag my parents to the community musicals right here in Park Slope, some of which I still remember! Music has always been a part of my life! 

Fun fact: I have lived in Brooklyn my whole life, my father lived in Brooklyn his whole life, his parents lived in Brooklyn most of their lives. My other grandfather grew up in Brooklyn, and his father owned a dry goods store in Fort Greene. We are a Brooklyn family all the way!  

Bands/groups/projects: Raising my 2 small children is a project. Not much space for anything else! I look forward to playing in a band again when they get a bit older. 


Nich Mueller - Piano, UX designer for Big Music Games

Favorite Food: Étouffée & cajun cookin! Favorite Animal: Red Fox! Main instrument: Piano Other Instruments: Voice & drums 

Other hobbies: Enjoy nature and take care of my self! Find fun ways of getting exercise and take pictures along the way!

Favorite part of your job: I love the sense of community and teamwork at Brooklyn Music Factory. I feel like everybody supports each other and we're all stronger happier people because of it!  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I was fascinated at how music can tell a story when I was a kid. I loved writing my own songs and finding ways of sharing my story with other people. I learned a little later in life that music is even more fun and exciting when you're committed to creating your story with other people! That's what making music is all about for me.

Fun fact: When I was a kid I did a lot of competitive public speaking and placed 11th in a national competition!  

Bands/groups/projects: Four Corners (modern vocal jazz quartet), Juliet Varnedoe Quartet (early 20's swing music), Nich Mueller and Culture in Flames (contemporary singer-songwriter), Father Knows Best Session (weekly free jazz session in Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Find Out More Here: nichmueller.com  


Danita Pappas - Bands

Danita music teacher at Brooklyn Music Factory

Favorite Food: Cream cheese

Favorite Animal: Beluga whale

Main instrument: Voice & clarinet Other Instruments: A little piano, euphonium, recorder, tambourine 

Other hobbies: Photography! Exploring NYC! Broadway Musicals! Traveling! 

Favorite part of your job: I really love Jam Band! Seeing kids experiment with all the instruments and helping them feel like a rockstar no matter their ability level.  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I remember in elementary school, the high school band came and played for us. I was fascinated with how so many people came together to make something so beautiful. In 5th grade, I picked up the clarinet and I’ve never put it down. In college, I discovered a passion for teaching music to kids and there is something truly magical about watching a child discover their own love of music. 

Fun fact: It took me 15 years to get my Bachelors degrees and only 1 to get my Masters degree.  


Kaitlin Pelkey - Voice, Piano

Faculty coming soon

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Tippan Phasuk - Voice, Piano, Bands 

Favorite Food: Som Tam (Papaya Salad)  

Favorite Animal: Labrador  

Main instrument: Voice Other Instruments: Piano

Other hobbies: Mindfullness and being healthy - I love running, meditating, working out, eating colorful food, having inspiring conversations with interesting humans, visiting new places, and breathing fresh air.  

Favorite part of your job: Seeing my students grow musically and as people <3  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I discovered that I wanted to become an artist and educator when I realized that it was my way to contribute to the community. Through my songs and performances, I recognized that I was able to help, heal and bring joy into other peoples lives. As an extension, I realized that I was also able to inspire and share knowledge to upcoming generations to fulfill their own dreams through my teaching. 

Fun fact: I´ve lived on three continents and I speak three languages - English, Thai, and Swedish  

Bands/groups/projects: My debut album- produced by Michael League of Snarky Puppy under my artist name "Sirintip" which was released on GroundUP Music in the spring of 2018.

Find Out More Here: www.sirintipofficial.com  


Sergio Rivera - Guitar, Bass, Bands

Favorite Food: Pernil

Favorite Animal: Cat

Main instrument: Guitar Other Instruments: Bass & Piano

Other hobbies: I love reading and trying to make my own comic books.  

Favorite part of your job: My favorite part about teaching is sharing new music and techniques with students.  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? When I was 14 my sister came home with an acoustic guitar that only had 4 strings. I remember picking it up and thinking, "this is exactly what I've been missing in my life." I spent the entire summer working and saving up so I could buy my very own guitar with 6 strings. I haven't looked back. Music has been one of the most therapeutic and life changing aspects in my life.  

Fun fact: I'm a collector of vinyl and comics  

Bands/groups/projects: Bodega Dream  

Find Out More Here: bodegadream.bandcamp.com  


Davis Rowan - Drums 

Favorite Food: Mexican

Favorite Animal: Dog 

Main instrument: Drum set Other Instruments: Guitar, Piano  

Other hobbies: Running & rock climbing  

Favorite part of your job: I love seeing a drummers face light up when they learn something new.  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I found a drum set in my neighbors attic while we where playing with Legos. It was love at first sight and I've never looked back! 

Fun fact: I'm currently training for the Philadelphia marathon.  

Bands/groups/projects: Sunrides, various session work  

Find Out More Here: https://soundcloud.com/sunrides


Christina Schwedler - Voice, Piano, Bands 

Faculty coming soon

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Kathryn Selman - Director of Marketing 

Kat Selman Director of Marketing

Favorite Food: TACOS!

Favorite Animal: Red panda. Also every dog.  

Main instrument: Voice Other Instruments: Piano, ukulele, bass & mandolin. 

Other hobbies: I love being outside in nature, whether at a park, or hiking deep in the woods, or enjoying the beach. I also love to read, cook, and do crafty creative stuff at home!  

Favorite part of your job: I love working with girls and young women, whether on piano or in voice. I love helping them find their own individual voice, and building their creative confidence through music and songwriting. 

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I remember my parents taking me to see Phantom of the Opera in 3rd grade, and from then on I was obsessed. My Mom got me the piano book and I learned how to sing and play ALL of the songs. From there, I became more and more involved in music – choir, piano lessons, band (clarinet), songwriting, coffee houses, and singing with friends. I eventually went on to complete my undergraduate and masters degree at the University of North Texas in Jazz Studies/Voice, with a year of study at a music conservatory in Barcelona, Spain between the two degrees. I love music as a creative outlet and way to tell stories, and how it connects humans together whether they are performing, listening, or supporting behind the scenes. 

Fun fact: I love Brazilian music, and I often sing in Portuguese.  

Bands/groups/projects: I write my own music, and am releasing my debut album summer of 2018. I also play bass in an all-girl punk band, Lady Bits. 

Find Out More Here: www.katselmanmusic.com ; 

http://www.ladybitsband.com/


Stephen Selman - Director of Big Music Games

Stephen Selman Director of Big Music Games

Favorite Food: Indian

Favorite Animal: The Owl. Any owl. Main instrument: Guitar Other Instruments: Voice, Bass, Keys, Drums, Banjo  

Other hobbies: Astronomy! I go out with the NY amateur astronomers association and help them with their public viewings. You'll find them on the High Line or at Lincoln Center (I help with the viewings at Hunters Point Park). It's instant connection with people - no matter who they are or where they're coming from. It also feeds my love of the outdoors (camping, especially).

Favorite part of your job: Getting to connect not only with the entire BMF community, but getting to meet personally with teachers and students all over the country as Big Music Games grows.  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I had great piano lessons as a kid, and I played trumpet seriously for about 6 years (up until high school). One day my older brother Jonathan came home with an electric guitar. It had never even occurred to me to play, and I was hooked instantly. We shared that guitar and a year later my dad bought me one of my own on my birthday. That really took over EVERYTHING for a long time.

Fun fact: One day I am going to drink coffee in space.  

Bands/groups/projects: Not currently, but past projects include The Big Parade (lead vocals/guitar), and Dagger Shores (Acetone organ and a lot of pedals).  

Find Out More Here: https://thebigparade.bandcamp.com/ http://www.daggershores.com/  


Nate Shaw - Co-founder  

Favorite Food: BBQ

Favorite Animal: My puppy Lulu (a close second is Pearl's Guinea Pig: Oliver Tolliver)  

Main instrument: Piano (and other super funky keybaords like the Hammond B3)  

Other Instruments: Drums, dabble in Guitar, Uke, & Melodica  

Other hobbies: Cook from things I grow and harvest from my tiny urban garden. I also love to read and on occasion knit.  

Favorite part of your job: Absolutely it's building a sense of self in my students.  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I was playing piano in a blues band in Hong Kong (of all places).I was 21 yrs old & living abroad studying Chinese for 3 hours a day. Digging the food and the massive culture shock. It was a Sunday night gig that I did every week. I was just a wide eyed kid who saw everything as a possible. And then one song (a minor blues in E...I remember it perfectly) I played a chord on the piano and all of a sudden felt something shoot through my body that I'm not sure I had ever felt before. It was bliss. It was joy. It was totally real and physical and emotional. That one moment was when I realized that I needed to keep doing music for the rest of my life. My life has continued to be finding ways to feel that daily thorugh music.

Fun fact: I have been to Bali twice to play with a friend who lives there. I'm always willing to travel fro adventure.  

Bands/groups/projects: Gowanus Reggae And Ska Society & J Granelli's trio: Mr Lucky  

Find Out More Here: GowanusReggae.com  


Rick Smith -bands

Faculty coming soon

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Kai M Sorensen - Systems Ninja  

Favorite Food: PIZZA

Favorite Animal: SEA TURTLE (did you need to ask me that!)  

Main instrument: Trumpet Other Instruments: Voice, Piano, Guitar, Percussion  

Other hobbies: I love cooking, being active, and relaxing with loved ones whenever possible. A great combination of these three things has lead to a healthy mind and spirit!  

Favorite part of your job: My favorite part about BMF is designing systems that help our faculty/staff be the best they can be as teachers and as human beings.

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I've always loved music and I come from a musical family so that part was easy. However, music really got ahold of me as a 6 year old when I discovered my Dad's best of the 70's disco records. I would spend hours with headphones on dancing by myself in my room (no joke, you can ask my mom - she walked in on me many times). This joy from music is what I yearn for and I try to evoke that every time I perform, write, or listen. You can't deny Earth Wind & Fire!

Fun fact: I'm from Nebraska and I LOVE corn.  

Bands/groups/projects: I currently tour and record with "Evolfo". A garage/soul rock band based out of Brooklyn and signed to Royal Potato Family Records. This is my main musical outlet and I truly enjoy every second I spend with these guys on the road, on the stage, in the studio or navigating the indy music scene. I also freelance as a trumpet artist and record on various projects frequently.

Find Out More Here: www.evolfo.com  


John Speck - Facilities Dude 

Faculty coming soon

Favorite Food: Avocado

Favorite Animal: My daughter is a "monkey bird."  

Main instrument: Trombone Other Instruments: Tuba, production, a little guitar and piano  

Other hobbies: I love outdoor activities: hiking, swimming, riding bikes.

Favorite part of your job: I love being a part of an inclusive community that supports and fosters creativity in children and adults.  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I had a very passionate and intense Jazz Band Director in High School. We would practice every morning at 6:45 am and he would hold us to a very high standard. As a result, our Band was very well-respected in the community and even bested much larger schools at State-wide competitions. There was a moment when the great Sax and Flute musician Bud Shank came to "sit in" with our Jazz Band and stuck around to chat with us after class. I remember being inspired by his message and thinking that there couldn't be anything as fulfilling as being able to improvise effortlessly and make a career out of music.  

Fun fact: My last name means Bacon in German.  

Bands/groups/projects: Ola Fresca, NYC Ska Orchestra, The Heroes of Toolik, occasionally my own Jazz group: "Specktet"

Find Out More Here: www.johnspeckmusic.com  


Emily Strong - MiniKeys 

Emily Strong MiniKeys at Brooklyn Music Factory

Favorite Food: Vegan Pizza! Favorite Animal: The sloth

Main instrument: Voice Other Instruments: Guitar

Other hobbies: I take improv classes at the UCB theatre and I write plays and musicals. I'm also finishing a Bachelors degree in theatre.  

Favorite part of your job: Seeing children really connecting with a lesson or piece of music. When they understand, their eyes light up! :) I love love love teaching our youngest musicians in MiniKeys!  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? Ive always been very sensitive to music. I'm told that even as a child -- every time a slow song would came on, I would start to cry (sorry Mom!) :). I am a singer and songwriter, I express myself through music and it's always been a large part of my life. I am happy and at peace when I am creating or surrounded by music.

Fun fact: My previous band "The Distractions" were selected to be the opening act for comedian Bob Newhart at the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in 2015.  

Bands/groups/projects: Emily Strong Music  

Find Out More Here: EmilyStrongMusic.com


Rob Taylor - Guitar, Bass, Bands

Favorite Food: My favorite kind of food is the kind of food that makes me feel GREAT. For me, this usually involves a lot of the color GREEN. 

Favorite Animal: The Cheetah. It’s really fast.  

Main instrument: My main instrument is the Double Bass. Electric Bass comes in close as 2nd. Other Instruments: I also play the guitar. And I love to play the drums and piano too.  

Other hobbies: Travel, Hike, Swim, Run, Read, Play Hackey Sack.  

Favorite part of your job: Being an outlet for kids to find modes of expression and excursive discipline side by side. The relationship between a student and teacher within music is very special, as each individuals relationship to music can be. This can forge an impactful experience for both, as it surely did for me as a student, and already has as a teacher. I could say much more.

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I’ve been in bands performing and recording albums since I was 12. It feels like it’s something that has always been a part of my life, and something that I’ve always identified with. In terms of making music my profession, well that moment occurred in an auditorium when I was offered a scholarship to Berklee. I realized that it was possible to make it a “Real Life” at that moment.

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Bands/groups/projects: I’m involved in a number of groups as a freelance bassist. In recent times I’ve been working more consistently with some singer songwriters whose music lies between the idioms of Folk & Jazz, namely: Rob Flax, Benjamin Furman, and Allegra Krieger.

Find Out More Here: www.robtaylormusic.com


Karen Tennison - Voice, Piano 

Favorite Food: In Texas, Salt Lick BBQ & VeraCruz Tacos, but in NYC, Thai food! Favorite Animal: Cheetah Main instrument: Voice Other Instruments: Piano  

Other hobbies: I really enjoy listening to true crime podcasts, playing with my cat, Tex, and eating Thai food.  

Favorite part of your job: That moment when you can see the lightbulb shine bright and the student plays the piece perfectly and/or passionately and/or joyfully.  

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? I've been singing since before I can remember. My family tells me I used to sing my own version of The Little Mermaid song because Ariel was my favorite (obviously). I was always part of a choir growing up, but got passionate about jazz when I was around 12 years old and bought myself my first Ella Fitzgerald CD "Starlit Hour". I joined my first jazz band my senior year of high school, my first jazz choir my freshman year of college, and had my first jazz gig a few years after that. I am now working on my masters degree in jazz performance at Queens College and am studying with Aubrey Johnson. 

Fun fact: I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in biology. I also just moved here from Austin, Texas  

Bands/groups/projects: The Karen Tennison Project  

Find Out More Here: www.karentennison.com 


Jessica Tolliver - Director of Administration

Favorite Food: A lobster roll on a dock in Maine.  

Favorite Animal: Our family menagerie (a dog, a cat and a guinea pig)  

Main instrument: Beginning bass!

Other hobbies: I love to be outdoors--hiking and traveling to places with big skies and fresh air.  

Favorite part of your job: I try to make sure the whole BMF community has what they need to create awesome music together every day.

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?: Nate and I were in a heavy metal cover band together in college. I played the drums!

Fun fact: A movie--"Trail of the Lonesome Pine" starring a young Henry Fonda--was made about a (real!) family feud in Kentucky, involving my Tolliver ancestors. Henry Fonda played a Tolliver!  

Bands/groups/projects: Annual family holiday video!



Jason Vance - Director of MiniKeys

Favorite Food: Peanut butter

Favorite Animal: Octopus

Main instrument: Banjo Other Instruments: Spoons, Harmonica, Drums, Bass, Guitar, Piano  

Other hobbies: Storytelling & Theater for Young Audiences  

Favorite part of your job: I love tapping the imagination of the very young and creating a playful environment to learn music together

When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music? Growing up we would visit my grandparents on the weekends in the mountains of West Virginia. My Pa-paw (grandpa) and uncles would all sit around the porch and play and my Ma-maw (grandma) and Dad would flatfoot. I learned to flatfoot early on and the music was always the highlight of our family gatherings. I tried early on with guitar & piano but always had sub-par teachers adhering to a particular book. As an adult, still trying to learn, it was hard to carve out enough time to give music the focus it required. Finally I discovered the spoons, which allowed me an instrument I was good enough to join jams with. Determined to be a musician, at 25 I moved to that mountaintop in West Virginia to learn music. That provided me with enough of a basis that when I moved to New York the following year (and had the good fortune of finding jazz musicians as roommates on craigslist) I was on a steady incline. My roommates showed me the practice required to be able to play and I started carrying my banjo with me all the time to play as much as possible.

Fun fact: I have a One-Man Band  

Bands/groups/projects: I perform with the Electric Doyenne, myk freedman & the myk freedmans, Society for Misfit Puppets, and Trusty Sidekick 

Find Out More Here: http://theelectricdoyenne.squarespace.com/  


Michelle Zilles - MiniKeys

Faculty coming soon

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Main instrument: Other Instruments:  

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We like it here :) 


Our team comes from all over the map from California to Nebraska, Florida to Texas, Germany & Sweden! We are not just a music school; we are a mission-driven company intent on growing a body of 100,000 students worldwide with the tools needed to connect with others and build something bigger than themselves through music. Playing & performing in bands. Writing & sharing songs. Jamming around the campfire or around the world. We grow musicians for life and are changing a generation of music-making families.

BMF Faculty hang

"Your teachers are relatable to both kids and parents, they know the kids by name and they make making music FUN! We love BMF!"

- Megan, a BMF Mom