Brooklyn Music Factory Faculty & Admin Music teachers - Private Lesson & Bands


Emily Strong, Jason Vance, Michelle Ziles


Brett Gleason, Ben Healy, Max Farber, Nich Mueller, Kaitlin Pelkey, Tippan Phasuk, Christina Schwedler, Kathryn Selman


Nich Mueller, Kaitlin Pelkey, Tippan Phasuk, Christina Schwedler, Kathryn Selman

Guitar & Bass

Nils Becker, Dan Garcia, Sergio Rivera, Stephen Selman, Rob Taylor


Andrew Burns, Vito Roccoforte, Davis Rowan, Nikolaus Schuhbeck

Band Program

Max Farber, Dan Garcia, Danita Pappas, Tippan Phasuk, Vito Roccoforte, Nikolaus Schuhbeck, Rick Smith, Rob Taylor

BMF Factory Team

Hilary Gardner, John Speck, Kai Sorensen, Jessica Tolliver

BMF Co-Founders

Peira Moinester, Nate Shaw

Hilary Gardner

Meet Our Faculty

Registration & Billing Guru

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 



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.

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: 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.

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.

 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:

Benjamin Healy

Meet Our Faculty

Piano Teacher, Director of Private Lesson Program 

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



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

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: 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.

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.

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:

Peira Moinester

Meet Our Faculty

Founder; Director of Junior Band Program

Favorite Food: Apples

Favorite Animal: Dolphins

Main instrument: Guitar/voice 

Other instruments: I dabble. 


Favorite part of your job: I love helping good teachers become great teachers!


Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: 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!

Other hobbies: Be with my family!

 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

Meet Our Faculty

Piano Teacher; UX Designer for Big Music Games

Favorite FoodÉtouffée & cajun cookin!

Favorite Animal: Red Fox

Main instrument: Piano 

Other instruments: Voice & drums!


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!

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: 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.

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

 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)

You can learn more here:


Sergio Rivera

music teacher brooklyn music factory

Guitar & Jr. Band Teacher

Favorite FoodPernil

Favorite Animal: Cat

Main instrument: Guitar

Other instruments: Bass & piano 


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

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: 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.

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

Fun fact: I’m a collector of vinyl and comics
Bands/groups/projects: Bodega Dream 

You can learn more here:


Nikolaus Schuhbeck

Meet Our Faculty

Drum & Adv. Band Teacher; Director of Adult Bands & Friday Night Lights

Favorite Food: That completely depends on the situation, but I could live on olives, hummus, lebane and pita, or the nachos at the Jalopy Tavern.

Favorite Animal: Besides my dog Cookie, it has always been the giraffe, because as a child I was convinced that one day I would saddle one and ride it through the bush.

Main instrument: Drums 

Other instruments: Guitar, bass 


Favorite part of your job: I love sharing wisdom with my adult bands & advanced students, and digging into concepts rather than just skill exercises.  

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: I was fascinated with pictures in music magazines, and then got lucky growing up in a funk town…it was a natural progression from there. I had great mentors all my life, and they absolutely convinced me to follow my intuition, which was to become a musician; my great great grandfather was a clarinetist in Bavaria, I guess there’s some DNA involved as well.

Other hobbies: Crash hotel lobbies with my fiancé Rachael.

 Fun fact: I am working hard on building a library of offensive jokes.
Bands/groups/projects: The David Kolker Band; M5; Holding Back Entirely; The Avalanches, BK; AvAiL;

You can learn more here:



Kathryn Selman

Meet Our Faculty

Voice, Piano & Adv. Band Teacher; 

Director of Marketing

Favorite Food: Tacos!

Favorite Animal: Red panda 

Main instrument: Voice 

Other instruments: Piano, ukulele, learning mandolin & bass


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. 

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: 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. 

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!

Fun fact: I love Brazilian music, and I often sing in Portuguese. (I speak a little too!) 

Bands/groups/projects: I have my own band where we play my original music, as well as some Brazilian and folk music. I also have a folk duo called Valley Light where I sing and play bass/mandolin.

You can learn more here:



Stephen Selman

Meet Our Faculty

Guitar Teacher; Director of Big Music Games

Favorite Food: Cheesecake. Specifically cherry cheesecake. I don’t even have that much of a sweet tooth but you can’t mess with cheesecake.

Favorite Animal: The Owl. Any owl really – they’re the most majestic creatures.

Main instrument: Guitar 

Other instruments: Vocals (I love harmonies), Keys (especially organ), Drums, Bass, Banjo, Dobro, Clarinet, Trumpet (about once I year… but that’s my first instrument in fact).


Favorite part of your job: I love teaching older students who are either just starting to play, or are just realizing that THIS is what they need to be doing. Also, constantly reassessing what it is I know, possibly learned the hard way, and repackaging that for someone else in a way that let’s them skip a heartache or three. That moment where I see the lightbulb go off (sorry for the cliche), and know that I helped that happen for them sooner. I believe that anyone with the drive to learn will do so with or without my help, but a good teacher is a shortcut to fun. That’s a great role!

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: My brother and I were both trumpet players, in our granddad’s footsteps (who played professionally for a period in England). I took piano lessons as well. I loved doing both, and felt like they came fairly easy to me. Jonathan (the brother) came home with a white Fender strat one day and it blew my mind. It never even occurred to me that that was an option. We shared the guitar for the first year, and I was obsessed. My 13th birthday the next year my dad bought me my own, a cherry-red yamaha SG copy that I still have. Playing guitar took up the majority of my hours for the following 8 years or so. My learning to play was VERY tightly bound to my friend Matt, a drummer. Playing together with him kept me going, and was at least 50% of the reason why I wanted to do it every day.

Other hobbies: Astronomy is my biggest passion outside of music. I am satisfied to stay at a telescope for hours on a cosmic walk. No matter how many times you go back, there is always something new to find in the night sky (even in NYC). You can catch me at public viewing sessions with the Amateur Astronomers Association, and I strongly recommend you check it out.

Fun fact: Much as I love the city, I’d often rather be camping. I grew up with easy access to the Appalachians, and would love to hike the entire AT one day.

Bands/groups/projects: I play guitar and sing in the band The Big Parade, Played the Acetone Organ for the synth punk-inspired Dagger Shores and am currently working on a roots-based project called Valley Light with Kathryn Selman.

You can learn more here: The Big Parade, and Dagger Shores



Nate Shaw

Meet Our Faculty

Founder;  BMF & BMG Visionary 

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 keyboards like the Hammond B3)

Other instruments: Drums, Dabble in Guitar, Uke, & Melodica



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

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: 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 through music.

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

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 

You can learn more here:




Kai M Sorensen

Meet Our Faculty

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


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.

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: 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!

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!

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.

You can learn more here:




Rob Taylor

Meet Our Faculty

Guitar & Bass Faculty, Band Teacher 

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. 


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.

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?

A: 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.

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

 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.

You can learn more here:




Jessica Tolliver

Meet Our Faculty

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!


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.

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

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

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

Meet Our Faculty

Director of MiniKeys, MiniKeys Teacher 

Favorite Food: Peanut butter

Favorite Animal: Octopus

Main instrument: Banjo

Other instruments: Spoons, Harmonica, Drums, Bass, Guitar, Piano



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

Q:When and why did you discover you wanted to be a musician, or work closely with music?
A: 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.

Other hobbies: Storytelling & Theater for Young Audiences 

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:









We are located in Gowanus/Park Slope between 3rd and 4th Ave. Closest subway stop is the Union St. R, or a short walk from Atlantic Barclay’s Center. 

295 Douglass St. Buzzer #4 Brooklyn, NY