|November 9, 2021– Blue Bear School of Music, San Francisco’s preeminent school for rock, blues, jazz, folk, and pop, celebrates its 50th anniversary this fall. A home for aspiring musicians of all ages and skill levels, the nonprofit organization makes music education accessible to all– guided by the firm belief that making music benefits individuals and their communities.
In honor of Blue Bear’s 50th year, actor/rocker Jack Black has filmed a rendition of David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” in a performance with Blue Bear teen student band, The Dietary Supplements. Here’s Blue Bear’s 50th Anniversary video, which celebrates the history and mission of the school, with help from Jack: https://youtu.be/ScJs5Ey422I
Here’s the full song performance of Jack with Blue Bear’s teen all-star band: https://youtu.be/-vK7_iRzjiY
Black says, “A good friend of mine (Paul Cummins) told me about Blue Bear and the incredible work they’ve been doing. I jumped at the chance to celebrate their 50th anniversary by jamming some Bowie with their teen all-star band. So fun. What an honor. They’ve been teaching kids to rock since 1971! I love Blue Bear…the original school of rock!!!”
To date, Blue Bear has taught 40,000 students, currently 850 per quarter. Through 62 community partnerships, the school has enrolled 4,000 kids in free classes and offers free music education courses in local schools, community centers, churches, and family shelters. With 300 teaching musicians in its history, Blue Bear’s range of courses has grown to include electronic music, DJing, and the Little Bears program for toddlers. Blue Bear also has been the catalyst for dozens of marriages in its community.
Executive Director Dr. Steven Savage — a musician, producer, engineer, teacher, and a co-founder of the organization — returned to lead the school in 2013 after several decades of being a key advisor but less involved in daily operations.
Executive Director Steven Savage said, “For all the growth Blue Bear has enjoyed over the years, and for all the students who’ve come through our doors, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the palpable joy and spirit that we felt when we started in 1971 and continue to feel today. Music changes people’s lives, and to play a role in that process is a rich reward for Blue Bear.”
Over the years, Blue Bear has garnered support from music’s top talent, including Pat Benatar, Cake, Tracy Chapman, Clarence Clemons, Counting Crows, Robert Cray, The Doobie Brothers, Green Day, Bruce Hornsby, Booker T. Jones, Bobby McFerrin, Metallica, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, and Carlos Santana.
The value of music education at Blue Bear has been acknowledged by many of the field’s most accomplished artists:
Steve Earle (GRAMMY Award-winning singer/songwriter and producer): “Before music and other arts virtually vanished from our public schools they were referred to as “electives.” Arts are not electives. They are sustenance for the human spirit and no education is complete without them.”
Don Was (musician, GRAMMY Award-winning record producer and president of Blue Note Records): “No artist can create anything meaningful without a grasp of their medium’s fundamentals and a sense of the work that has preceded them. Blue Bear fills your tank with that high octane fuel–where you subsequently drive the car is up to you!”
Barbara Boxer, (Former Senator from CA): “In these times of deep divides we need music! It brings us together and lifts our spirit. Thanks to Blue Bear School of Music for their fifty years of giving students of all ages a skill that will bring them a lifetime of rewards.”
Blue Bear’s programs include:
- Individual and group instrumental instruction, songwriting, vocal training, DJing, band workshops, electronic music, and more.
- Blue Bear Workshop Bands — student bands take their music around San Francisco, performing at venues including The Fillmore, Café du Nord, Sweetwater, Boom Boom Room, and The Chapel.
- Blue Bear Live features youth all-star bands. These performances have been headlined by artists including Elvin Bishop, Los Lobos, Mavis Staples, and Trombone Shorty
- Outreach Programs bring music to those who need it most. Blue Bear’s 60+ community partnerships include SFUSD, Glide Memorial, Tenderloin Rec Center, Bayview YMCA, and many more.
- Scholarship Program – A longstanding program supported by generous donors and celebrity sponsors including Bobby McFerrin and Carlos Santana.
ABOUT BLUE BEAR SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Established in 1971, Blue Bear School of Music is San Francisco’s preeminent, nonprofit school of rock, blues, jazz, folk, and pop music—empowering people to make the music they love for 50 years. A home for aspiring musicians of all ages and all skill levels, the school offers a wide variety of free music education programs in local schools, community centers, churches, and family shelters through donor support. Over the years, Blue Bear has taught 40,000 students. It has grown and adapted to changes in the music field (adding courses in DJing, electronic music, and digital engineering) and to the needs of its community (adding the Little Bear program for toddlers). Blue Bear is revered by its hometown and has been named one of San Francisco’s Legacy Businesses—a prestigious group of community-serving businesses recognized as valuable cultural assets. The school is led by Executive Director Dr. Steven Savage.
ABOUT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DR. STEVEN SAVAGE
Los Angeles-born Steven Savage is a musician, producer, engineer, teacher, and co-founder/Executive Director of Blue Bear School of Music. He has worked as a professional drummer, including in the rock band Wolfgang & Strauss–with whom he co-founded Blue Bear in 1971. After starting a punk band in 1979 with singer/songwriter Bonnie Hayes, he transitioned from artist to producer, engineer, and manager. Savage’s career has included work with luminaries including BB King, Jack Bruce, Dr John, Robert Cray, Tower of Power, and many more. He has been the primary engineer and/or producer of eight GRAMMY-nominated records and served as the president of the San Francisco chapter of The Recording Academy in 1997-98 and as a National Trustee for the Academy from 1999-2002.
Savage’s love of music is matched by his dedication to education. He began teaching drums at Blue Bear in 1971 and went on to teach recording and musicology at the college level. He earned a Ph.D. in cultural musicology from the University of London and currently teaches musicology at San Francisco State University. Continuing his own drumming education, Savage has studied African music with Ghanaian master drummer Kwaku Dadey—also joining Dadey’s band. He is the author of several books on mixing/mastering and digital audio recording. Dr. Savage and his wife Tamara Bock live in Albany, CA with their two children.
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