Meet the talented group of teachers who instruct and inspire at Bird:
Matt Funamura: Guitar/Trumpet
Matt is a trumpeter, guitarist, composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist raised in the Sierra Nevada Foothills near Sacramento. At the age of six, he picked up his first guitar and trumpet at the age of 8, beginning his musical journey.
He majored in music performance and jazz studies at American River College in Sacramento, California for two years, during which time he was a freelance musician throughout the West Coast. He then went on to earn a Bachelor of Performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.
Matt has performed with and studied under numerous musicians in a wide range of genres including: Angelique Kidjo, Ingrid Jensen, Tiger Okoshi, Gamble & Huff, Salvador Santana, Joe Gilman, Charles Haynes, Dontae Winslow, Jerry Martini and Victor Mendoza.
Tom Griesser: Saxophone/Clarinet
Tom fell in love with jazz at age 6 while listening to his father’s and uncle’s record collection. He took up clarinet at age 9 and has been playing ever since. He also picked up both alto and tenor sax at age 13, and has been playing baritone sax since age 30. After studying with members of Denver Symphony Orchestra, University of Redlands and Stanford, he began performing professionally in 1992 and plays regular gigs around the Bay Area.
He received a B.A. in music theory and history and a B.A. in psychology from Drew University, and studied drums and percussion privately in New York and San Francisco with Andrew Cyrille, Barry Altschul, Zakir Hussain, Jack Van der Wyck and Richard Perrini.
He also plays piano, marimba and guitar. Dave has toured the U.S, Canada, Europe and the South Seas and is featured on recordings by Iron & the Albatross, Jolie Holland, Sean Hayes, After the End of the World Coretet, and his own Shimmering Leaves. His first string quartet was played at U.C. Berkeley’s Center for New Music and Audio Technology and the S.F. musician’s union hall, and he has written for singers, jazz bands, dance bands, rock bands and other idioms.
Dave taught music in New Traditions, the Video Drums Clinic, and though the auspices of the S.F. Academy of Sciences. He has had hundreds of students from the ages of 3 through 70 and learns much through his teaching practice.
Photo: Andrew Carver
Yemonja Stanley: Voice/Piano
Yemonja Stanley earned her master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2013. Throughout her career she has performed such roles as the Sandman in Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Ginevra in Handel’s Ariodante, Musetta in Puccini’s La bohème, and Miss Jessel in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. She has also been active in outreach programs for youth in the Bay Area. In Fall of 2015, she was a teaching artist with the San Francisco Opera Guild’s Opera à la Carte. During the same season, she sang the title role in the children’s opera: Amazing Grace with Opera Parallèle. In this world premiere she worked directly with the children’s chorus to engage them in the art of storytelling through music.
Uni is Heather Marie Ellison: Voice/Ukulele/Piano
Early Bird Musical Teacher and Vocal, Performance, Ukulele and Beginner Piano Instructor at Bird Music SF
Her band, Uni and her Ukelele began it’s life in 2004 as an outlet for an already accomplished singer to self publish and perform original work independently.
Since that time Uni has released three full albums, numerous E.P’s, collaborations and a covers album ranging from lo -fi indie pop to melodic strings to rock. Uni’s sound has been described as eclectic, infectious pop and not your usual Ukulele fare.
Recipient of the SF Weekly Music Award, Uni has toured all over the USA and Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand and has been the subject of celebrated festival Documentary “The Mighty Uke”
Heather Marie Ellison began singing in nightclubs in a country band at the age of fifteen (grandpa chaperoned). Then later, during the Swing resurgence of the 90’s, sang in a Northern California swing band by the name of The Savoy Swingers.
She caught the eye of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Johnny Otis and was soon back up singing in the Johnny Otis R&B Revue, opening up for such legendary artists as Koko Taylor, Tower of Power, The Four Tops, Ray Charles and James Brown.
So confident was Johnny Otis of Ms Ellison’s potential, he produced a solo album with her entitled Heather Marie With The Johnny Otis Band, ‘Got My Mojo Workin’
During the early 2000’s Heather Marie worked at all three locations of legendary independent record store Amoeba Music before hanging up her name tag to tour the world as Uni and Her Ukelele.
Uni is so pleased to be apart of the Bird Team!
Julian Shippe: Piano/Guitar
Ryan Lukas: Upright and Electric Bass, Guitar, Piano, Drums, Voice
Ryan Lukas is an upright and electric bass player who is versed a diverse range of musical styles. From Afrobeat to Americana, Funk, Jazz, Latin, R&B and Soul he is at home laying down thick bass lines and heavy grooves. After graduating from the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY, Ryan began his professional career freelancing and teaching in Albany, NY and feeling the pull of the West coast he moved to Berkeley in 2007. Upon arriving he began working with a diverse assortment of Bay Area bands including The Flux, Albino!, Persephone’s Bees, and countless jazz combos and singer songwriter projects. His band The Real Nasty was signed in 2009, recorded 3 albums and toured the country. Currently Ryan can be seen with The Real Nasty, American Nomad, The Phillip Percy Pack, Tumbledown House, and a variety of unique and interesting projects.
Matt Xie: Guitar/Piano/Violin/Voice
Matt Xie is currently studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for his Masters in Guitar/Lute Performance. He received his Bachelors of Music in 2016 at the University of California, Irvine, studying with John Schneiderman; a critically acclaimed virtuoso of plucked instruments with an emphasis on repertoire of eighteenth-century lutes and nineteenth-century guitars. Following with that tradition, Matt is pursuing technical proficiency in historical plucked instruments such as Baroque lute, Baroque Guitar, Renaissance Lute, and Theorbo.
During his undergraduate career, Matt has participated in a number of ensembles such as the UCI Guitar Ensemble, UCI Chamber Music Ensemble, UCI Symphony Orchestra, UCI Chamber Choir, and UCI Wind Ensemble.
Lyric Rafn-Stoffer: Voice/Ukulele/Beginning Guitar
Lyric is a singer song-writer, yogi and jazz enthusiast living in Oakland, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lyric has shared songs around the globe, from studying in Thailand to teaching children in Italy. Lyric is one the teachers of the Early Bird music class for 0-5 year olds, a fun and interactive way to introduce little ones to rhythm, melodies and movement. She also teaches private lessons including voice, song writing, ukulele, beginning guitar and bass. Lyric is currently in the process of recording her first EP of original music at Bird Records.