Marla Bailey
Bio Picture Kai Tawa
Guitar Instructor/101 Director (Group A)

Kai has been playing guitar for nearly 5 years, spending 3 as an enthusiastic, ambitious, and talented student at the School of Rock. He successfully auditioned into the prestigious Showband his first try and stayed in for over 2 years, with one of his last shows with the group being at the invitation-only NAMM convention in Anaheim. Ever eager to teach, Kai would often volunteer to co-direct and teach in programs such as 101 and seasonal boot-camps long before his official employment. He is known around the school for his stage presence, lively playing style, friendly demeanor, extremely high singing range, and his love for the tambourine. His most beloved influences include: Queen, Pink Floyd, Michael Hedges, Joe Hisaishi, Eric Whitacre, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Metallica, Dio, Rush, Stevie Wonder, Stray Cats, and more. When he’s not playing music, Kai enjoys hiking, fencing, skiing, tea, video games, and being in the company of his friends and family.
“If a picture says a thousand words, then a song sings a thousand pictures.”-Kai Tawa

Bio Picture Jake Bills
Bass Instructor

Jake starting playing bass around age 11. Around age 14, he was informed about the School of Rock program and joined. During his time there, he had the opportunity to share the stage with the likes of Napoleon Murphy Brock (Frank Zappa) and Earl Slick (of David Bowie and John Lennon fame). He toured twice as an All Star during his time at School of Rock. Most recently, Jake won the Best Bassist award for his participation in the 2011 School Jam USA Battle of the Bands held in Anaheim, California. All this led to him joining the staff. He is currently studying for a Bachelors of Music in Jazz Performance at the University of Utah as well as performing locally with his groups Harlem Shuffle, and Squash. Squash was a finalist in the 2012 School Jam USA Battle of The Bands.

Bio Picture Van Christensen
Drum Instructor/Show Director

Van Christensen has been playing the drums for over 30 years. His early influences were Buddy Rich, Neil Peart, John Bonham, and Terry Bozzio. At the age of 17, Van played his first professional musical and his first Bar gig. His high school jazz band took 2nd in State and he won "Outstanding Soloist" and "Outstanding Rhythm Section" awards. By 19, Van was playing in multiple bands and recording and giging regularly. In the years that followed, Van has had the pleasure of sharing the stage with many well-known acts including; The Smashing Pumpkins, The Strokes, Panic At The Disco, She Wants Revenge, and The Neon Trees. Van played drums for the Plan B Theatre Company's production of "Hedwig & The Angry Inch" in 2002, 2005, and 2012. He has also been playing drums in the Salt Lake Acting Company's production, "Saturday's Voyeur", 2006-2011. Van has been on staff with The School of Rock since 2005. He teaches all styles of music including Rock, Jazz, and Latin with an emphasis on good technique and reading skills. Van is currently playing drums for the Suicycles, Danger Hailstorm, Hello Amsterdam, Wires, Black Satellite, and Totem & Taboo.

Bio Picture Matt Howitz
Show coordinator, Drum Instructor

Matt Howitz is a graduate of the School of Rock program, spending nearly 5 years participating with the "Show Band" and "All Star" groups around the country.  During his time in Show Band and as an "All Star", Matt garnered the reputation for being a very solid and entertaining drummer. When on stage, Matt has the innate ability to carry his love of music over the drum kit and have it reach his band mates and even further out into the audience. Matt spent his early days listening to mostly 90's punk, such as Rancid, The Offspring, NOFX, but later became influenced by bands like Iron Maiden and Neil Young, a result of participating in the School of Rock.  With first hand experience as a student of the program, he has become a great coordinator for School of Rock seasonal shows. Matt also teaches drum lessons. His light hearted personality coupled with his passion for playing music and entertaining audiences make him a popular instructor and mentor at School of Rock.  He's well versed in many styles of drumming, including rock, country, reggae, funk, metal, etc. Whatever style Matt is playing, one thing is for sure, it will be played well and will be very entertaining.

Bio Picture Monty Dillon
Guitar Instructor/Show Director

Monty has been playing guitar for 10 years and started teaching in 2008. He grew up on the likes of Metallica, Joe Satriani, Michael Hedges, and extensive music theory alongside brother Ed. He has been involved in many different musical styles since then. He played jazz trumpet extensively, including lead in West Side Story and winning his high school's Best Soloist award. He has played in local metal group Epsilon Minus for several years and also performed with local bluegrass acts. He has been a member of the University of Utah Classical Guitar Ensemble for the past four years and has had compositions featured in all of their performances. His influences come heavily from metal bands such as Immortal and Dimmu Borgir, classic rock like Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton, and Latin composers such as Villa-Lobos and Isaac Albeniz. He will graduate from the University of Utah's composition program this fall.

Bio Picture Zak Newsom
Resident Rock Star/Guitar Instructor
Bio Picture Donna Gibbons
Vocal and Keyboard Instructor

Donna, the daughter of a PhD in Music education, was immersed in music at a very young age.  She started working as a professional musician at age 12 with her dad and brothers and went on to perform with other bands, as a solo artist, and also worked in concert promotion all before the age of 19. Working back stage at the Terrace Ballroom she met and later married Rich Williams the guitarist for Kansas and performed with the band as a back-up vocalist on the albums Audio Visions and Vinyl Confessions. She then sang with David Pack and Ronnie James Dio on Kerry Livgren’s album Seeds of Change. In Atlanta, Donna  worked with the late producer/engineer/guitarist Brian Jobson (songwriting partner, co-producer for commercials, backing vocalist and vocal arranger) and with Trammel Starks (musical director  for Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Holiday, Peabo Bryson, Exec w/ Intersound records, and creator of Taliesin Orchestra and Jet Stream) as a singer. Donna also did synth programming and production for clients that Trammell didn’t have time for. After moving to Kansas City Donna performed with popular regional bands Synergy and Rare Form and continued to write and record. A partnership with well known jazz pianist Greg Richter blossomed into one of Kansas City’s top jazz acts and earned her a place at the opening of the Gem Theater alongside Harry Belafonte, Pat Metheny, Diane Reeves, Tony Bennet, and other popular jazz artists. Since moving to Salt Lake City Donna has worked as a studio vocalist and has shared her skills as a keyboardist/vocalist  on tour with Ike Willis, (Frank Zappa guitar player and vocalist) and  Zappa tribute band Chunga’s Revenge, with local dance/funk/party bands H-Street and  TwentyFourVII, and 80s retro band StuK. Donna’s songs have been recorded by Rich Gibbons and Felicia (Sorensen) Ferarre, siblings, who have made their own indelible mark in the music world. She continues to write and record under the name EMANATE. She was with School of Rock from 2005 to 2008 and is excited to be back!

Bio Picture Chris Stevenson
Guitar Instructor