Why We Teach
At West Valley Music Center, we believe that music lessons will enrich your soul—and your life. Studies have shown that learning music helps with coordination, concentration, the ability to cope with stress, and learning ability. In addition, according to data from the College Board, students who study music consistently score higher on the SAT than those who don’t. Mastering an instrument allows the student to feel a sense of accomplishment and a desire to move on to the next challenge. These feelings of pride improve confidence both in the classroom and at work.
How We Teach
At West Valley Music Center, the first lesson is always free! We offer private, one-on-one music lessons to provide you with the most beneficial way to develop your musical skills, and we'll place you or your child with the music teacher who is the best fit for your musical goals. You'll learn in colorful, cheerful music rooms in encouraging, inspiring surroundings with the best teachers in the San Fernando Valley. The positive incentives we provide our students, such as milestone certificates and yearly recitals, help them value commitment while they reach achievable goals.
What We Teach
We offer our students:
Keyboard and Piano lessons
Viola, cello, and violin lessons
Banjo and ukulele lessons
Cornet and trumpet lessons
Tuba and trombone lessons
Piccolo and flute lessons
Percussion and drum lessons
West Valley Music Center has—hands down—the best teaching staff in the San Fernando Valley. Our music teachers have been teaching for a minimum of five years and are highly experienced at teaching all age and skill levels—from the very young to the very wise, from the eager beginner to the accomplished musician. Because we are also professional musicians with extensive experience in the music industry, we are able to offer exceptional expertise to our students.
Alexa Ramirez is a multitalented cellist, singer and composer, who performs and teaches in the Los Angeles area and abroad. Born and raised in Germany, Alexa started playing the cello at the age of four, and continued her studies in Chicago after immigrating to the USA in 1996. Alexa received her BA in music from the prestigious Oberlin College (2006), and recently earned an MFA in film music composition from Columbia College, Chicago (2010). With ten years of teaching experience, Alexa Ramirez is a dedicated and passionate cello teacher who has helped students of all ages and levels gain facility on the cello. As a certified Suzuki teacher, Alexa uses Suzuki as well as other methodologies to help build a relaxed and efficient cello technique as well as a strong ear and sense of musicianship. Aside from her classical training, Alexa has been deeply involved in numerous music genres, performing and recording her cello and voice in Irish, Rock, and Latin American music.
Jeff Gold is a gifted musician and instructor schooled at the prestigious Aaron Copland School of Music in New York. He has been teaching private music lessons on clarinet, saxophone, and guitar for more than two decades and has conducted elementary and middle school orchestras, including holding an orchestra director position at the esteemed Sinai Akiba Academy for more than 17 years. There, he led their performances at such distinguished venues as Carnegie Hall, Disneyland, the Century Park Plaza Hotel, and Hollywood’s Wilshire Ebell Theater. A talented and entertaining performer, Jeff has played concerts throughout the United States and has also hosted one of the longest running, non-commercial music shows on cable television in the Los Angeles area. Jeff’s experience and love of teaching make West Valley Music Center the ideal place to bring your family for unparalleled musical enrichment.
A 1997 graduate of the guitar program at CalArts, Andre LaFosse has studied classical, avant garde, jazz, rock, Balkan, hip hop, North Indian, ambient, Indonesian, and many other musical styles. He has played and/or shared performance bills with David Torn, Terry Riley, Michael Manring, Mike Keneally, Kronos Quartet, Carl Stone, Matmos, and many others. His solo work has been the subject of an episode of WNYC radio's New Sounds program, and has been used as an element in the original scores for several Hollywood films. He is a two-time performer at the New York Guitar Festival, and has been profiled in numerous media outlets, including Guitar Player, Alternative Press, MOJO, Electronic Musician, 20th Century Guitar, Tape Op, and many others.
Andrew Duncan is a trained professional trumpeter in the Los Angeles area with over twenty years of experience playing in orchestras, bands, and recording sessions throughout the Southland. He has a Bachelor of Music degree in trumpet performance from California State University, Northridge, where he studied with Roy Poper and Bill Bing. He has also studied with Malcolm McNab, Howie Shear, Bob Senescu, and Arturo Sandoval. Along with his professional career, he has over ten years of experience teaching trumpet in all styles from classical to jazz to rock, and has been teaching students at the West Valley Music Center for more than five years.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Chris’s love of drums and percussion propelled him to study formally throughout his early years, culminating in his studying with the principal percussionist for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He went on to tour extensively with jazz bands as well as show bands, and backed up international artists. His move to Los Angeles enabled him to study with musicians who have extensive resumes in Jazz, Funk, Rock, and Latin scenes. An active member of the Los Angeles musical community, he performs with a variety of artists, records film scores and soundtracks for major motion pictures, and records and plays with his own Jazz trio. Chris has been teaching drums for over twenty years, ranging from five-year-old beginners to adult professionals, and has taught many kids who have gone on to have success in the music business. Having studied his instrument for over 40 years, he has never stopped, constantly curious not only how to make him self a better musician/drummer but also how to be a better teacher. For more information about Chris, visit his website at chrisblondal.com.
Drums, Guitar, Bass Guitar
Colin Sauers began playing guitar at age 11 and electric bass at age 12. By the time he was in his early twenties, he had formed two bands and toured the United States and South America playing the bass for a traveling Las Vegas show. He received an Associate in Arts degree from Los Angeles Valley College; while he was a student there, he played string bass in the LAVC Symphony Orchestra under the conductor Ted Lynn. He has studied with the legendary Carol Kaye, studio great Harvey Newmark, L.A. studio legend Joe Osborn, and jazz fusion great Gregg Lee, among others. In addition to performing, Colin has done extensive studio work in and around Los Angeles with the likes of Diana Ross, James Brown, and Weird Al Yankovic, contributing his talents on albums playing bass, percussion, guitar, and even the kazoo. He has been teaching bass, guitar, and drums for more than 20 years and continues to perform; he currently plays bass with the soft-rock cover band Dakota.
Piano, Voice, Harmonica, Trombone, Trumpet, Ukulele
Danny began his musical life at the age of five, singing harmony in a gospel group with his brothers. He picked up the trombone in elementary school, and began teaching himself piano, guitar, and ukulele. His band The Peppermint Trolley Co. hit the charts with Baby You Come Rolling ’Cross My Mind, and they also recorded the theme song for the Brady Bunchtelevision show. In subsequent years, he released another six LPs and a number of singles with his two bands, Bones and The Faragher Brothers. He has both written for and performed on television, and has also sung and played on the recordings of such musical giants as Ringo Starr and The Pointer Sisters. He was the musical director for the play Working at Santa Monica’s Mayfair Theater and was a featured vocalist with the LA Jazz Choir. He sings every holiday season with the a cappella group the Caroling Company, has a vocal doo wop group, Daddy Cool, and performs in concert as a solo singer-songwriter. Danny loves teaching music, something he began in 1998, and has a full roster of students who are learning from this seasoned musician.
David Cohen is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Originally from Arizona, this established composer and songwriter has toured throughout the United States and Europe. He has extensive experience playing Broadway touring shows, and he has also written music for television and film. He currently performs weekly at the Derby in Arcadia, is the musical director at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, and is also the musical director of the long-running show Day After Day, a tribute to Doris Day. With more than twenty years of teaching experience, David is a patient and warm instructor who teaches all levels and styles of piano, and specializes in teaching students how to improvise both pop and jazz.
David Olivas is a saxophonist, pianist, arranger, and songwriter. He has studied saxophone with Eric Marienthal (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Chick Corea Elektrik Band) John Purcell (Jack DeJohnette, World Saxophone Quartet), Dr. Shannon LeClaire, Walter Beasley, Dino Govoni, and Kristen Strom (Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra). After earning his B.A. in Saxophone Performance from the Berklee College of Music, David moved to Los Angeles, CA where he has worked as a sideman for many local acts. His alto saxophone and piano playing can be heard in the movie One In The Gun (starring James Russo and Robert Davi) on the song Addicted, which David co-wrote with singer Chadwick Johnson. His flute playing appears on the track Just My Thang by artist Rosalee, featuring Snoop Dogg. After two years touring the U.S. playing tenor sax and flute in I Love Lucy: Live On Stage, David has returned to Los Angeles to continue his study of the saxophone and teach at West Valley Music Center.
JI YOUNG WHEELER
Pianist Ji Young Wheeler graduated from SunHwa Art High School and then attended Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul, Korea. As an undergraduate student in Piano Performance, she won many scholarships and had joint and solo recitals. She attained her MFA from California Institute of the Arts, where studied Piano Performance and collaborated with a diverse group of fellow international artists from all musical genres and other artistic fields, performing in solo recitals and ensemble performances. Her work as an accompanist for master classes and workshops in opera, voice, and collaborative instruments earned her various prizes and scholarships. After graduation, she began her teaching career and continued to perform as well. She annually participates in various events as a member of the Music Teacher’s Association of California and the Southwestern Youth Music Festival, and is the membership Secretary of SCVMTAC. Ji Young and her sister Ji Won Lee have created a piano ensemble called One Heart. They are the musical directors and featured performers for benefit recitals in Korea and the USA and donate the proceeds to various charities.
John N. Nevolo grew up in New Jersey with a family of musicians. It was at an early age of 10 years old that he knew music was his passion to pursue as a lifetime career. After discovering guitar, he realized the never ending possibilities with the Instrument. After graduating from Musicians Institute in Hollywood and years of performing around the world, he decided it was time to pass on his knowledge and expertise and teach other up and coming musicians the art of music. His goal for his students is to study the instrument and also guide them so they can find their passion in the music. John is the current guitarist for Stone Soul, a tribute band to R&B and Motown. His impressive performance resume includes guitarist credits with international artist Noelia, pop artist Tiffany, Helen Reddy, and Branscombe Richmond and the Renegade Posse. John has also performed with members of The Who, The Wallflowers, Rod Stewart, and many more. He has won several accolades as a guitarist, including winner the 2007 and 2009 King of the Blues competition finals.
Jon began classical piano at age 8 (with nuns who smacked his hands with rulers). By 1983, at age 18, he was teaching piano in Sydney Australia, having graduated 10 years of Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) syllabus. He toured Australia and New Zealand with numerous pro bands before moving to the United States in 1993 on a recording contract, for which he composed, produced and performed three original albums. Jon’s roots are classical, and his band life is rock and roll, branching into session work in all styles: blues, gospel, Top 40, country, hip hop, standards. He also works as a producer, composer, performer, vocalist, and manager. Among his countless live performances: The Sunset Strip (Roxy, Whiskey, Troubadour, etc.), The Queen Mary, The Palace, Disneyland, LAPD Ride, Universal City, House of Blues. Jon provides not only excellent technical musicianship training, he also encourages his students to play by ear, bring in favorite pieces to learn from CDs or sheet music and, most importantly, to have fun. All without using a ruler.
Stepan (Steve) Zarikyan is a graduate of the Tchaikovsky School of Music, a special school for talented students in Yerevan, Armenia. He started taking violin lesson at age six. After moving to the United States, Stepan continued his education at California State University, Los Angeles, in the class of Joe Ketendjian, who was a student of the famous Dorothy Delay from the Julliard School of Music. During college, and continuing after graduation, he played with various orchestras, such as Whittier Chamber Orchestra, Santa Monica Chamber Orchestra, and Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra. In 1990, Stepan began teaching at the Yamaha Music School as well as privately. Currently, he is a permanent faculty member at the Tchaikovsky School of Music as well as at West Valley Music Center, where he teaches violin, viola, and chamber music.